"Your first one?" whispered an old man beside him. He looked searchingly at Ward. Ward nodded.
"No sight for a boy."
"What about them?" Ward said, pointing up at the benches, where a number of families were settled, as if on a picnic.
The old man said nothing.
"Who's that?" Ward said, pointing in the direction of the men in the cassocks. It wasn't necessary to be more specific.
"Brother Tamerlane. Here for ceremonial purposes only of course."
Two crimson-uniformed men were leading a man and a woman in grey clothes to the scaffold. The prisoners' hands were bound behind their backs. The woman tottered on the steps leading up to the platform – the audience as a body leaned forward in anticipation – but then the guard righted her and nudged her up the steps. The audience pulled back and sighed.
When the prisoners were in place before the nooses one of the thin Brothers rose to his feet.
"Anders Jamieson, you are convicted of two counts of High Treason, and one count of conspiring against the State by means of sorcery. Do you have anything to say in your defence?"
When he replied, the man's voice was oddly calm. He didn't look at the Brother who had spoken, but past him to Tamerlane. "Our only crime was curiosity. But you Brother – you will burn in Eden for your crimes."
Tamerlane appeared not to have heard anything. His chin resting on one hand, he looked steadily up at the platform, as if gazing out a coach window at passing countryside.
"Very well," said the thin brother. He turned to the other prisoner. "Stephanie Jamieson, you are convicted of two counts of High Treason, and one count of conspiring against the State by means of sorcery. Do you have anything to say in your defence?"
The woman ignored the Brother and turned to the man beside her. "I love you," she said. "I will love you forever."
The crowd went silent. An archon cawed mournfully.
The Brother coughed, as if to break the spell of the woman's words, and continued: "I hereby release you from the custody of the Brotherhood of Hatto and pass you over to the State for the execution of your sentences."
"Clever, isn't it?" the old man whispered to Ward. "They let the State do their dirty work for them. Is it not written in the Great Book that no man of the cloth may kill?"
The guards carried out their work quickly and efficiently then. Ward turned away at the last moment, but heard the trapdoors clunk open and the ropes snap taut. The crowd cheered.
Ward chanced a look up at the scaffold. The bodies were twitching, but he had gone hunting on the island with Jaggles often enough to know that this happened after death. When they were finally still, the guards cut them down. It occurred to Ward what the things in the cages were.
"They're a warning," the old man said, following his gaze. "All who travel up and down the river see them. They're coated in tar to preserve them."
Ward, revolted, forced his gaze away from the cages, to where a black coach drawn by four black horses had pulled up to the curb. The brothers were climbing inside. The horses seemed ill-fed and dull, and the coach looked in need of a coat of paint. Ward wondered why such important people used such drab transport. The guards in crimson, on the other hand, were climbing into a coach that was gleaming and magisterial, the horses shining, red plumes fluttering from the roof.
When Ward turned back to ask the old man about this, he had vanished. He peered through the crowd, which was now moving off into the city, but couldn't see him. It made him uneasy.
If you've come this far you have abominable taste.
What other awful books have you read?
YOU ARE READING
The Seven Sleepers | The Cave of Wonders: Book 1Adventure
HIGHEST RANK #1 in Adventure. Ward has no idea why the Brotherhood want him dead. Knowing he will soon join the tarred corpses by the riverside, he falls in with the only person who can protect him: master criminal Saint Nick. Nick's empire of subwa...