Chapter 5.6

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"Most regrettable," Mr Blanket said. "She was a school friend of yours I believe?"

"I – I'll make the blackleaf," Carmen's mere said. She glanced at her daughter, her face white, and left the room.

Mr Blanket had taken to gazing at the ceiling, cupping his chin with one hand like a philosopher. "Appalling business," he said, to the ceiling at first, then lowering his chin and forming a steeple beneath it with his fat pink fingers. "The Ministry of Social Investigation had been monitoring them for months. When they raided the house they found several forbidden objects, including books, and some incriminating notes."

"Minor crimes," Carmen's pere said. "A death sentence seems extreme."

"There's more," Mr Blanket said. He leaned across the table and his voice dropped to a whisper. "It appears they were looking for the Seven Sleepers."

Carmen, who had been slipping off into torpor, was suddenly alert.

"But the Brotherhood wrote that off as a myth long ago," her father said. "It's in the – what do they call it?"

"Metaphorical Canon," Mr Blanket said. "Hattoist Scholars still inquire into the Canon. The problem is that the Jamiesons are not Hattoist scholars. And they were already under surveillance for other indiscretions."

"But the story is pure nonsense," Carmen's pere said. "Nobody would really try to wake them."

"Extremely heretical nonsense nonetheless," Mr Blanket said.

"What happens if you wake them?" Carmen said. She noticed that even Clarence and Daphne were leaning forward now.

"That is not a story for young people," Mrs Blanket said, emerging from an unusual spell of silence.

"Yet an execution is a sight for young eyes?" Carmen's pere said.

"It's part of their education," she snapped at her brother. "Fairy tales are not."

"I'm quite happy to answer my daughter's question," Carmen's pere said softly.

"I want to know too!" Daphne burst out, but she immediately reddened and cast her eyes down as an icy glare from Mrs Blanket shot across the table.

"They've heard this much," Mr Blanket said. "They can hear the rest. If nothing else it will demonstrate how silly the story is."

Janice Blanket became quite still and silent at this. Those who knew her would have recognised these symptoms as indicative of a seething white-hot rage. Mr Blanket was surely experienced enough to recognise it; on the other hand he was not unknown to intentionally inspire it.

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I do hope you're enjoying this extremely heretical nonsense.

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