Chapter 13.5

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The next morning Nick sent for them. They found him in his office. If he had been up all night it didn't show: his eyes were burning, seeming to illuminate the dreary office, but his body was relaxed, like that of a snake. The Oliphant lay on his desk.

Carmen's eyes narrowed when she saw it, but Nick held up his hand before she could speak. "I know about your parents," he said. "I guess Brother Tamerlane made you an offer?"

She just glared at him.

"He will take this," he motioned towards the Oliphant, "then he will execute your parents. Perhaps you too." He leaned forward, propping his elbows on the desk and resting his chin on his hands. "But I can free them."

"Why wouldn't you anyway?" Carmen said. "My pere told me you used to be friends."

"Yes," Nick said softly. "We were, once."

"Would you just  let him die?" Carmen said.

"It was long ago. Things come between friends."

"I think you're afraid."

"Me?" Nick smiled bemusedly.

"Not of being caught," Carmen said. "I think you're afraid of my pere."

Nick looked away. When he spoke it was to the map on the wall. "I've seen dozens hang. Should I have saved them all? And if I did, wouldn't the Brothers just come up with some new and crueller punishment? Besides, your pere would rather hang than be rescued by me."

"I don't believe that," Carmen said.

"Then you don't know him well as you think you do," he said, turning back to her. "But it doesn't matter. We have something right here that can destroy the Brotherhood once and for all." He indicated the Oliphant.

"What if you're wrong?" Slops said.

"Then I will free them myself. You have my word. And the word of Nicolas Faust, unlike that of Brother Tamerlane, is a binding contract."

There was a long silence.

So I show you where – where it is?" Carmen said. "And if it turns out to be nothing you'll set my parents free anyway? And if it's – what you think it is -"

"If it's still necessary to rescue your parents you have my word that I'll see it done." He reached across the desk. Carmen looked at his hand for a moment before taking it in her own. They shook.

"What about Corvus?" Ward said.

"He was spotted on the outskirts of Xandra Wood this morning, heading east. This is our chance. But we need to move fast. It would be foolish to underestimate him: that old man is more than he seems."

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  This is where things start getting hairy. If you're going to pike, now's the time to return to Lower Sooksville, Wimperton.

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