The town was on fire. blazing in the winter air, thrashing against house after house, burning till all was but ash and cinder. Many tried and failed to smother the flames, but all that remained of that seaside town was that of the manor house, on top of the steep hill, that none but the owners of the house traveled along. The house looked down at its town, safe in the shade of its trees. It grew a haunting shadow over the burning town, seeping into the darkness, dancing and gliding. The night was full of screams, and the manor took pleasure in it, shining in moon lit night. The town carried on to burn into the early hours of morning, by then smoke filled the crisp chilled air. The mayor of the town was a stout man, no more the young foolish youth he was, his face was slick with sweat and warming red, as he rushed into a darken coach, he wheezed breath, as he watched from his window the destruction of his town.
"Oh dear," he mumbled, "oh, dear, oh dear."
A younger fellow, a few years the mayor's junior sat next to the large man, polishing his monocle, sitting with ease, his expression showing no sign of distress much unlike his fellow passenger.
"Please do calm down, Mr Hather. I am sure all will be well." The man's voice was uninterested and dull, he carried on to look down at his monocle as he spoke, wiping off a stain on the glass with his handkerchief, he hummed disappointment when the smudge would not come off. "His lordship shall not be too angry, you have done worse."
"Worse? Worse!" The fat man repeated, "i have served this town for forty years, never have i done such a thing, never! Oh dear, oh dear, he will have me hanged for this."
The younger man hummed once more, "perhaps," he agreed, "but it was out of all our control. His lordship will see that."
"He will want someone to blame." The mayor argued.
"And he shall. Do not worry yourself so Mr Hather, all will be well."
The mayor caught an odd look from the man as his head lifted up to gaze out the window, the sun glaring in their eyes, seeing a small smile on his lips, one that the young man rarely showed in front of others, a smile of joy. It was a blissful moment that ended far too fast, as they entered the unsteady paths of the wood. Out from between the trees, the two men could see glimpses of the steep hill, paved in frost, there were no flowers, though in spring and summer, many would be tempted to tread onto the lord's high hill in hopes to collect the myriad of wild flowers that seem to grow there. But none would, none foolish enough, not even children would dare to step a foot.
The coach rocked and shook as it traveled along the uncleared path, moving across the fallen twigs and pebbles.
The younger man growled, holding on to the top of the coach.
"This blooming road, I curse it, for nothing in this world has ever caused me such discomfort as it has."
"His lordship could be kinder in clearing the road for his visitors."
The man huffed, "he'd dare not, for it would only encourage the likes of us to bother him more than the given occasion."
But soon the rocking stopped as the gates to the large manor house came into view. The sound of the coachman jumping down from his seat, cracked in the still air, as the coach jolted, startling the poor mayor, whose heart he would swear was near given out.
The coachman soon returned, gently guiding the four horses through to the graveled entrance of the manor. The coach came at a peaceful stop by the house's doors. The large mayor took no time in climbing out, landing on the gravel with a thud, his companion following behind, straightening his jacket and coat as he gained his footing. The mayor held a cane at his side, a thing that had been in use for nearly two years, the dough like man finding new aches in his back almost everyday. He traveled at a slow pace towards the doors four stone steps, walking up one foot at a time, till he reached the two wooden doors. The mayor lifted his cane, knocking it against the door three times. Each knock dooming, echoing behind the closed doors. A footman appeared a middle aged man, his white gloves curled around the doors handle, his other placed behind his back, his feet shuffled to the side allowing both men inside.
As both walked in they were welcomed by the sight of the lords valet.
"His lordship is in the study. Waiting." The man informs, a hard look plastered on his face.
"Well, we should not keep him waiting, should we?" The man spoke sweetly his dull uninterested tone vanishing, as another footman helped to remove the man's coat, draping over his arm, as the same who answered the door took the mayor's coat.
The valet returned a strained smile towards the man, as he bowed his head, out reaching his arm to the stairs.
"This way then."
Both men followed the valet, climbing the stairs, the mayor taking much struggle in the exercise, panting for breath, as his hands laced in sweat gripped the banisters for support, his body swaying with every movement. They arrived at the top of the stairs, moving down towards a long corridor lined in red carpets, and white walls. The valet stopped at the fifth door to the right, standing still for but a moment, then knocking.
"Enter," a deep voice rumbled, muttering from inside. The valet turned to the two men nodding his head for them to go in.
The mayor opened the door, though his hands did tremble as they locked around the handle pushing it open, again he was slow walking in, easing with caution.
"Close the door." The voice ordered.
The Mayor could not help but swallow the lump growing in his throat as he did so. His body spinning to face the lord.
"My good mayor." The lord began, his tall paper like silhouette facing towards one of his shelves, placing a book back into its spot. His face concealed in mornings light, by shadow and glare. "Is it not pleasant to have such friends visit me in the morning hours?" Turning he strides to his desk, sitting down upon a wood carved chair, layered nicely with black leaver.
"My lord-" the mayor tried to begin,
The lord held up his hand, ceasing his words. "Had I not asked you one thing? One simple thing?"
"Please my lord i had not-"
"Yet here I sit as my town burns into embers. How, may I ask Mr Hather, did you manage such a thing?"
"My lord i-" but his quaking words stopped as the man next to him interjected.
"My lord it was not in Mr Hathers control, the flames grew too fast and spread before any could do anything to help."
The lord leaned his front forwards, his cold dark eyes staring at the man.
"Is that so Mr Peterson."
"I know well, I was there when the flames had begun."
The lord leaned back on his chair. "That still does not solve my problem, in getting rid of one you have created another for me Mr Hather."
"Then perhaps we can solve this with something that has bothered us both, my lord." Peterson suggested.
The lord turned his head slightly, "how so?"
Peterson smiled, lowering his eyes, "Mr Collin, his beliefs have been rather dangerous to our way of life, and he being a neighbor, it would not be too hard to convict him."
The lord nodded, "do you agree Mr Hather?"
The mayor seemed unbalanced by question, but nodded eagerly, "certainly my lord."
He turned back to the smiling Mr Peterson, "i trust you will see to it that such things will happen, yes?"
"Of course my lord," he bowed deeply, keeping the smile on his lips. The lord nodded his head,
"Good, good. The two of you may leave now." He spoke with a wave of his hand, going back down to his desk opening up a draw and picking out paper, preparing to write.
Both Peterson and the mayor moved out in a flurry closing the door gently. As both stepped down the stairs, once again being led by the lord's valet, the mayor could not help to glance at the man, still wearing that fool's grin, his face flushed and full of excitement. The footman helped both men into their coats as they opened the manors doors, the valet said no words to the men only watching as the doors closed behind them.
Once the two were back into the coach, the fat man began to speak.
"That was devious of you." He barely whispered.
Peterson made no response, only looking out his side, as the coach began to move.
"Charles." The mayor said more urgently. "Charles, he is your wife's brother."
Peterson took a heavy sigh, "and?" He questioned, not a hint of remorse in his voice.
"To have him tried and convicted, to be hanged, Charles you can not be‐"
"But I am, Thomas. would you rather it be you?"
"Of course not." He spoke quickly, "but what will Berta say? What of your wife?"
Peterson began to laugh, "her feelings carry little matter into this, i am surprised you even care, why not even Friday last you were boasting how you would jollily see his head detached from his body."
"I do not think different, the man needs to learn his place, but he is your brother by law, surely you feel somewhat sorry for the man?"
"No," Peterson said in a breath, "I don't."