The Needle and the Sword

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   At the sudden commotion coming from the courtyard, Ora looked up from her sewing -- a sudden sense of dread clenched her stomach.  There could be no mistaking the clopping of horse's hooves, the hails of the guards, or the orders to call Mistress Trista.  It couldn't be time. Not yet. Not again.  She stared down at the growing pattern of black stitches on the red gown.   She had just finished a single lonely petal of what would become a simple flower.  After all these years, despite her fading eyes and the slight tremble in her hands, she could still add beauty to the plain.  But she doubted if she would be allowed to complete the pattern anytime soon.

    New victims had arrived.

    She tried to ignore the sound drifting up to the tower window, tried to make her needle go back into the fabric.  But her hand stayed frozen and her fingers stiff and unmoving.  Fighting the impulse, but unable to resist, her gaze slowly drifted across the cold stone of the wall to the slit of a window which provided the light for her work.  From her stool, all she could see was the calm blue sky and a few lazy clouds -- belying the clamor she heard below.

    It was better not to look, she told herself.  Better not to see them at all.  She turned back to the robe and managed to get her fingers started on another careful stitch... when she heard a change in the situation below.  An exclamation of pain.  And the wail of a child.


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