Chapter 18.2

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"How's your Grandmere?" Corvus said.

"Okay," Carmen said. "Back to normal, I guess." She squinted at him. "How did you know about that law?"

He motioned towards the bookshelf behind him. "There's an old saying, that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. The Brotherhood rewrote the history of David Nassar to suit their own ends. A demon, carried away by a flock of birds." He smiled. "But he was no demon. He was a man. An unusual man yes, but a man just the same. And no flock of birds carried him away. His noose broke, and he was pardoned under the same law your Grandmere invoked the other day."

"What if Carmen's Grandmere didn't wake up?" Ward said. "What if they got there too late?"

"Then things would have been difficult."

"And why weren't you there?"

"I was."

"I didn't see you."

"Yes you did."

Ward thought back. The crowd hissing and booing. Snapper's moon face in the stalls. The brothers like birds of prey in the front row. The Blankets. Grandmere Anna's voice rising over the crowd, the Red pausing over the lever that released the trapdoors...

"The executioner," Ward said.

Corvus smiled. "After I left you here I went to the Derricks. Ludwig was already there of course - I'd sent him to rally the archons as soon as I learned the execution had been scheduled. I, well - disabled the executioner, changed into his cloak, gagged him, and pushed him out of sight beneath the gallows. He would have been a very confused man when he woke, I imagine."

"How did you disable him?" Carmen said.

"With a stout piece of timber. More blackleaf?"

"No thank you."

Corvus leaned back in the armchair, the cup held between both hands. Ward had once seen a slee holding an apple like that as it dangled by its tail from the branch of a tree. Grim opened his yellow eyes, regarded the old man for a moment, then closed them again.

"Is the fire in Parliament out yet?" Corvus said.

Carmen nodded. "Dad told me it took days. They'd only just get it put out in one place and it'd spring up again somewhere else."

They all laughed.

"It was a helpful diversion," Corvus said. "Perhaps Nick had been planning it for a while. It may have all been in place, like a bonfire, just waiting for Jacob to come along with a match."


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