Chapter 2.2: The Bloody Hand

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"You know what I miss?" Enrick Bromborne asked his older brother, Alec, as they stood on the manor's upstairs veranda, sipping 40-year-old wine from dazzling, crystal goblets

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"You know what I miss?" Enrick Bromborne asked his older brother, Alec, as they stood on the manor's upstairs veranda, sipping 40-year-old wine from dazzling, crystal goblets. "The excitement of the Bloody Hand before he was caught."

"The Bloody Hand?" said Alec. "The mass murderer?"

Enrick grinned wickedly.

The Bloody Hand was the most vicious murderer Pent had seen in a generation, killing at random and leaving no damming evidence of his crimes, only a single, unmistakable calling card: a handprint, always the victim's, in blood. For three years he prowled the streets of Pent at night, his list of victims lengthening until the names couldn't fit on a single parchment. The city's bailiff had been put on the case and had nearly driven himself to madness in search of the murderer who became known as the Bloody Hand. There was no pattern to his kills. The blood trail included commons, peasants, and nobility alike.

The Bloody Hand may have eluded capture forever were it not for a fateful winter night when a regular patrol of city guardsmen stumbled by chance upon his latest murder in progress. A fight ensued between the Bloody Hand and the half-dozen guardsmen, and the vicious killer felled three and grievously injured a fourth before finally succumbing to their iron shackles, spitting threats and profanities all the while.

"You know he is still alive? Locked in a dungeon at Castle Bromborne. Father doesn't believe in capital punishment." Enrick revolved his eyes melodramatically.

Alec thought it more than a little unsettling knowing such a horrible person slept within the very same walls he slept.

"I wonder why father didn't lock him up on the Triplets."

"Those dungeons are busy. Criminals in and out all the time. But at the Bromborne mansion things are quieter. And there is a special place so deep father knew he would never hear another person's voice again." Enrick grinned terribly. "A couple of times late at night when I was a squire, I wanted to go down there and talk to him. Imagine all of the stories the Bloody Hand could tell."

Alec frowned. "Let's talk about something else."

Enrick laughed once, then promptly shifted to his usual favorite topic: "You know what angers me right to the fucking balls? That fucking usurper Greenborne strutting around like he knows everything. The way he talked to me last night about the history of House Bromborne. How does that lowblood get off telling me about my own family?"

"You never bothered learning the history of House Bromborne, Enrick. Jeffrey could forget twice as much even as father knows and still be the leading expert on the subject. He's gifted. That's why father gave him the throne."

"Your throne."

"Not mine! Not by right!" Alec sipped the wine. "At least, not then."

"Father is a fool."

"Father is what he is. We have to trust him."

"And when he's gone? We just let Greenborne sit on our throne? It will be up to you, you know. You could end the stewardship."

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