Home > Curse of the Bane (Wardstone Chronicles #2)(15)

Curse of the Bane (Wardstone Chronicles #2)(15)
Author: Joseph Delaney

‘Aye,’ said the Spook. ‘There’s just the two of us left now. Five brothers dead and gone.’

‘John, I must tell you, the Quis—’

‘Yes, I know,’ said the Spook, an edge of impatience in his voice.

‘Then you must be going. It’s not safe for either of you here,’ said his brother, acknowledging me with a nod.

‘No, Andrew, we’re not going anywhere until I’ve done what needs to be done. So I’d like you to make me a special key again,’ the Spook told him. ‘For the gate.’

Andrew started. ‘Nay, John, don’t be a fool,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘I wouldn’t have come here if I’d known you wanted that. Have you forgotten the curse?’

‘Hush,’ said the Spook. ‘Not in front of the boy. Keep your silly superstitious nonsense to yourself.’

‘Curse?’ I asked, suddenly curious.

‘See what you’ve done?’ my master hissed angrily to his brother. ‘It’s nothing,’ he said, turning to me.

‘I don’t believe in such rubbish and neither should you.’

‘Well, I’ve buried one brother today,’ said Andrew. ‘Get yourself home now, before I find myself burying another. The Quisitor would love to get his hands on the County Spook. Get back to Chipenden while you still can.’

‘I’m not leaving, Andrew, and that’s final. I’ve got a job to do here, Quisitor or no Quisitor,’ the Spook said firmly. ‘So are you going to help or not?’

‘That’ss not the point, and you know it!’ Andrew insisted. ‘I’ve always helped you before, haven’t I?

When have I ever let you down? But this is madness. You risk burning just by being here. This isn’t the time to meddle with that thing again,’ he said, gesturing towards the alley entrance and raising his eyes towards the steeple. ‘And think of the boy - you can’t drag him into this. Not now. Come back again in the spring when the Quisitor’s gone and we’ll talk again. You’d be a fool to attempt anything now. You can’t take on the Bane and the Quisitor - you’re not a young man, nor a well one by the looks of you.’

As they spoke, I looked up at the steeple myself. I suspected that it could be seen from almost anywhere in the town and that the whole town was also visible from the steeple. There were four small windows right near the top, just below the cross. From there you’d be able to see every rooftop in Priestown, most of the streets and a lot of the people, including us.

The Spook had told me that the Bane could use people, get inside their heads and peer out through their eyes. I shivered, wondering if one of the priests was up there now, the Bane using him to watch us from the darkness inside the spire.

But the Spook wasn’t for changing his mind. ‘Come on, Andrew, think on! How many times have you told me that the dark’s getting stronger in this town? That the priests are becoming more corrupt, that people are afraid? And think about the double tithes and the Quisitor stealing land, and burning innocent women and girls. What’s turned the priests and corrupted them so much? What terrible force makes good men inflict such atrocities or stand by and let them happen?

Why, this very day the lad here has seen his friend carted off to certain death. Aye, the Bane is to blame, and the Bane must be stopped now. Do you really think I can let this go on for half a year more?

How many more innocent people will have been burned by then, or will perish this winter through poverty, hunger and cold if I don’t do something? The town is rife with rumours of sightings down in the catacombs. If they’re true then the Bane is growing in strength and power, turning from a spirit into a creature clothed in flesh. Soon it could return to its original form, a manifestation of the evil spirit that tyrannized the Little People. And then where will we all be? How easy will it be then for it to terrify or trick someone into opening that gate? No, it’s as plain as the nose on your face. I’ve got to act now to rid Priestown of the dark, before the Bane’s power grows any stronger. So I’ll ask you again, one more time. Will you make me a key?’

For a moment the Spook’s brother buried his face in his hands just like one of the old women saying her prayers in church. Finally he looked up and nodded. ‘I still have the mould from last time. I’ll have the key ready first thing tomorrow morning. I must be dafter than you,’ he said.

‘Good man,’ replied the Spook. ‘I knew you wouldn’t let me down. I’ll call for it at first light.’

‘This time I hope you know what you’re doing when you get down there!’

The Spook’s face reddened with anger. Tou do your job, brother, and I’ll do mine!’ he said.

With that, Andrew stood up, gave a world-weary sigh and walked off without even a backward glance.

‘Right, lad,’ said the Spook, ‘you leave first. Go back to your room and stay there till tomorrow.

Andrew’s shop is down Friargate. I’ll have collected the key and will be ready to meet you about twenty minutes after dawn. There shouldn’t be many people about that early. Remember where you were standing earlier when the Quisitor rode by?’

I nodded.

‘Be on the nearest corner, lad. Don’t be late. And remember, we must continue to fast. Oh, and one more thing: don’t forget my bag. I think we might be needing it.’

My mind whirled on the way back to the inn. What should I fear most: a powerful man who would hunt me down and burn me at the stake? Or a fearsome creature that had beaten my master in his prime and, through the eyes of a priest, might be watching me at this very moment from the windows high in the steeple?

As I glanced up at the cathedral my eye caught the blackness of a priest’s cassock nearby. I averted my gaze but not before I’d noted the priest: Father Cairns. Luckily the pavement was busy and he was staring straight ahead and didn’t even glance in my direction. I was relieved, for had he seen me here, so close to my inn, it wouldn’t have taken much for him to work out where I might be staying. The Spook had said he was harmless but I couldn’t help thinking the fewer people who knew who we were and where we were staying, the better. But my relief was short-lived for when I got back to my room there was a note pinned to the door.

Thomas,

If you would save your masters life, come to my confessional this evening at seven. After that it will be too late.

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