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The griffins boy, p.29
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       The Griffin's Boy, p.29

           Julia Hughes

  Face down in the "sacred" earth of the rooftop, Kattin sobbed and giggled uncontrollably. Neb and Alfred ignored her hysterics and bound her arms, wrists, knees and ankles. When they'd finished Neb glanced up. In one corner of the roof top, Samara still snuggled up to Balkind. They appeared to be half asleep and a sudden weariness flooded through Neb. But then he glanced across to the stairwell and his senses were on full alert again. In the pre-dawn light, he saw a bunch of white faces peering from grey shadows. One of the shadows detached itself and with a bowed head, crept towards Neb and Alfred. Halting an arm's length away, the man spoke: 'Excuse me … sir, but it's almost time to ring "first bell".' His voice quavered and his eyes flickered from Vander's decapitated corpse, to Father Thomas' body.

  Swiping his hair back from his forehead, Alfred stood and he too glanced around the rooftop. He seemed to feel some explanation was called for. Pointing at Kattin he raised his voice and said: 'This woman has lost her wits. Take her to the infirmary. Make certain she's not allowed to escape.' Other grey robed figures crept forwards, their faces pale and frightened. They kept their heads bowed, both in deference and in an effort not to look around them. Neb felt an overwhelming sorrow for the bewildered men and women. It seemed Alfred shared his compassion.

  'Father Thomas and Sister Catherine dabbled in matters they didn't fully understand. From now on, things will be different. We will clean up this mess and start anew.'

  One of the grey robes dared to lift his head, 'but … the morning bell … Sir. Shall I ring it?'

  Alfred shook his head. 'No,' he said gently, 'there will be no more bell ringing and no more compulsory worship. If your spirit moves you to prayer, then pray, my friend.'

  A collective sigh of relief swept around the rooftop. The figures inside the grey robes seemed to straighten, their faces cleared and they began to do Alfred's bidding. One even started to whistle and when no reprimand came, the others joined in. Neb leaned against the table and watched as they manhandled bodies almost cheerfully; there were no tears over Father Thomas' death. When the last of the grey robes and their burdens disappear down the staircase, Alfred slumped onto the table beside Neb. He puffed with relief and then his brow wrinkled in thought. As if trying to convince himself, Alfred said 'I can't leave here until Eric recovers from his leg wound. I may as well guide these poor folk, at least until they can stand on their own feet and learn to act for themselves.'

  Neb grinned, punched Alfred's arm and made a rare jest: 'Your first chore should be for all their robes to be dyed: red, green, yellow – all the colours imaginable – except black!'

  Then he walked over to Balkind and Samara, and began shaking them awake.




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