Monk saw the smoke from the farmer’s barn and spread the alarm, but they didn’t have much time to do anything but be present when Braska and his men rode into their yard. Marston happened to be rich enough to be able to pay the price he asked for, but he didn’t have the manpower to stop him from taking as much of his herds as he could drive off, despite having been able to meet the lord’s unrealistic demands. He was broke now in more ways than one. He had no more money to buy more cattle and no breeding stock to fall back on. He couldn’t even pay his hands for their hard work. He was otherwise unharmed, but he was helpless to meet the demands next time, and next time would come all too soon.
Stunned at the audacity of the demands and the threats of destruction if the demands were not met, Monk turned away from the fading dust trail and spotted yet another smoke smudge on the horizon, this one was somewhat closer and smaller. With horror, he grabbed the nearest horse and rode it as hard as he could to his home. He dismounted to silence and smoke. Ashes drifted in the breeze. There was little left of his small house. There was no happy greeting from his wife. No squeals of delight from his daughter or coos from his son. There was nothing but the wind, and now his wail of agony and loss.
As he stood there and blindly read the signature on the notice left on a post in his front yard, a memory surfaced in his mind, an old memory, a memory of a man walking up behind his mother and sliding his knife into her back while her home burned. It was the same man who had come by today; he hadn’t recognized him. Lord Braska was a man long overdue for judgment. Lord Braska had taken too much from him.
Marston and most of his hands rode up as Monk was placing the remains of his babies into the blackened arms of his wife as she lay in her grave. “Monk, I’m so sorry,” he said with feelings so deep he was unable to say anything else.
“Monk is dead,” replied Daniel with a flat voice.
“No, Monk, you can’t mean that. It’s not right.”
“No, you don’t understand,” said Daniel as he paused after placing the remains of his son in the grave. “I’m not going to kill myself. I have been foolish. I thought I could just hide here as Monk. I deluded myself that I could continue to hide here and be happy for the rest of my life, that anything would be better than claiming the crown. But now I know that that is not possible and a certain cousin of mine has a lot to answer for. He has made a fatal mistake. He has taken too much from me. He owes me.” The last words were uttered with venom lacing every word and it left his audience speechless.