Chapter 18.5

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"Is that what you've been doing?" Ward said. "Guarding the lab?"

Corvus nodded. "That was the task entrusted to me."

"By who?"

"Well that is a long story, for another time."

"But if you didn't want anyone to get in there why'd you give the Oliphant to Slops?" Carmen said.

"If the Brotherhood don't kill me old age will. I had a son, but he died. If I died Al-Kahf would be left unguarded. But who was I to pass this secret down to? Anna suggested her grandson."

"Grandmere knew?" Carmen said.

"Some of it. Your family's relationship with the Sleepers goes back a long way."

"She said that David Nassar gave my grandpere the avory," Carmen said. "But it couldn't have been the same David Nassar who -"

"One wouldn't think so," Corvus said. "Anyway, I made a copy of the Oliphant and gave it to Rupert. And, well you know the rest. I underestimated him, and you Carmen – and especially you Ward. I couldn't have foreseen you would be able to read the Old Language. That is – highly unusual."

He paused, as if waiting for Ward to explain. When Ward didn't, he went on. "I'd been hoping to slowly introduce Rupert to my secret. But then something the barman from the Slough and Bellows said made me wonder if I hadn't already given too much away. Handel Snapper had come in the night before, and a strange man had started a conversation with him. The barman overheard them. Well, his rat did."

"He's a Dolittler too?" Carmen said.

"Dolittlers are rare, but not as rare as the Brotherhood would have us think. This stranger poured rather more rum into Snapper than he was accustomed to, and showed him an object; the barman was too far away to see it properly but I suspect it was an artifact. In the course of their conversation it came out that some young people had been asking about the Oliphant. Snapper's only saving grace was that he didn't name you."

"So that's how Tamerlane found out," Carmen said. "And he would've got Uncle Franklin to do some snooping around, and discovered that Slops had the flute."

"Snapper saved my life," Ward said.

"He's an excellent man," Corvus said, "but his mania for old things quite banishes his reason sometimes."

Ward couldn't honestly defend Snapper against this charge.

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Your mania for underpants quite banishes your reason sometimes.

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