Chapter 13: An Ultimatum, a Pardon, & an Expedition

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"Hide!" Carmen whispered to Ward.

Mr. Carmichael had already gone to the door. Ward dove back behind the couch. He heard the front door open, muffled voices, then heavy footsteps in the hall. Two pairs of shoes clopped down the hall and upstairs.

A silky voice said: "May I have a seat?"

"Please," Mr. Carmichael said.

The sofa screamed as Tamerlane lowered himself onto it. Ward could hear the Brother's short breath, and smell his sandalwood perfume.

"What are they doing?" Mrs. Carmichael said.

"Searching your house. I would like you to remain here."

The silence that followed was broken by something crashing to the floor upstairs and Grandmere Anna crying out.

"Sit down Mrs. Carmichael," Tamerlane said. "They will not hurt her."

There was a long silence in the room. Occasionally something thumped upstairs.

"What's your name, child?" said Tamerlane.


"How old are you?"

"Twelve sir."

"Please, call me Brother."

"Yes Brother."

"I saw a black fel outside on the street." He let that hang in the air for a moment before continuing. "The ancients believed the appearance of a black fel foretold tragedy. Did you know this?"

"No Brother."

"I would be surprised if you had. They had the most peculiar beliefs, didn't they?"

The question didn't seem to require an answer. The room grew silent again.

The silence was eventually broken by the sound of two men descending the staircase.

"We found this bag on the girl's bed, Brother."

"Please empty it on the table," Tamerlane said.

There was a rustling, and the sound of several objects being placed on the glass tabletop.

"What's that?" Tamerlane said suddenly.

"It looks like -" the other man began.

"It's a hairbrush," Carmen said weakly. "Dad made it for me. Twist it."


"Go on. Twist it."

There was a click. "Oh," the man said. "A hairbrush."

"Well, come on," Tamerlane said, "empty the bag."

"That's all there is."

Ward heard the man turn the bag upside down and shake it, a few grains of dirt pattering down onto the table. He found he was able to breathe again.

"Keep searching," Tamerlane said.

The men went back upstairs.

A shaft of light from the sinking sun crossed the room and picked out motes of dust whirling in the air; Ward watched the dust and tried hard not to sneeze. As the urge passed and the room darkened he found himself, incredibly, beginning to doze off. Before he could fall asleep though, Tamerlane spoke.

"I've been hearing stories, Mr. Carmichael. About a boy with the Star of Al-Kahf on his foot. Why these whispers?"

"People are superstitious, Brother."

"Do you believe the stories? That the Dark Traveller was cast into the pit of Eden? That his descendant will return at the End of Days?"

"I think – there's some truth in all stories."

"A wise answer. And I agree. Nothing comes from nothing."

The guards re-entered the room.

"We found these in the attic, hidden in the ceiling," one of them said.

Ward heard several objects clatter onto the table.

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