The French Executioner

The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys Read Free Book Online

Book: The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys Read Free Book Online
Authors: C.C. Humphreys
wretched creature is asleep!’ he cried, the sound choking in his throat. To have told that tale, to have relived it again,
     all for nothing? Such little hope had burnt within him, and even that was now extinguished.
I will die here. My vow to Anne Boleyn is broken.
    He eyed the Fugger in despair.
    Then the Fugger stirred beneath him. A flick of the right arm knocked Felix’s skull down the midden’s slopes. Shaking spread
     through his body until all was a-twitch – arms, legs, head. With a leap, the Fugger was on his feet and whirling. All the
     while sounds poured from his mouth, words in a multitude of tongues, shrieks, moans and gibbers.
    With a mighty croak, the raven rose to circle above, adding its harsh voice to the cacophony. Slowly, slowly, the din died,
     the caws of man and bird became muted, the caperings eased. When it had come down to a mere shuddering, the Fugger suddenly
     leapt up to the cage, thrust his left hand through the bars and, swinging there, fixed Jean with a maddened stare.
    ‘Who told you?’ he shrieked. ‘Heh? Come on, come on, someone has sent you to torment me, told you my life, given you this
     weapon to use against me.’
    ‘I do not know—’ Jean began, but the Fugger began swinging the cage hard.
    ‘Then you saw!’ he yelled. ‘You saw, then fashioned your story, so clever. Admit it and it will go easier for you, I will
     give you a swift end. Your story was all lies! Lies, lies!’
    ‘Monsieur,’ Jean said as calmly as he could, ‘I know nothing of your life. I have told you the truth of mine. That is all.’
    The Fugger swayed there, staring at Jean for a moment longer. Then he cried out, ‘Tell me you didn’t know about this!’ And
     he thrust his right arm into Jean’s face. It ended in a stump.
    A moment of choice for the caged man. The Fugger in reach of his cramped arms. Grab, twist, hurt, force him to swing the cage
     over to the crossbar, force him to grab the key. Decisive actions, and the seizing of a chance, any chance, had meant survival
     on a score of battlefields.
thought Jean,
seize another now.
    And yet, in that moment’s hesitation he remembered another savaged wrist, transforming the one before him now; and seeing
     it somehow made him recognise, deep within the maddened, moon-bright eyes of the Fugger, the same pain, the same appeal he
     had seen just a week before in the Tower of London.
    Slowly, Jean closed his fingers on the tortured flesh before him, held it gently for a moment. It was the nearest thing to
     a caress he could manage. The Fugger fell back as if struck and lay again on the midden. There was no movement save for the
     tears cascading down his face.
    In the long silence that followed, broken only by the Fugger’s crying, Jean wondered if he’d just let his one chance of freedom
     fall from the cage. To put his trust in the humanity of a madman? What had he been thinking? And he was not reassured when
     the sounds below him changed from muffled weeping to a rasping, crackling sound that he came to realise could only be laughter.
    ‘Oh Daemon, dear,’ laughed the Fugger. ‘It really is such a good story. And so unbelievable that it could only be true.’
    As suddenly as the laughter had begun, it stopped. The Fugger sat up, wiped a grimy sleeve across his face and said, ‘These
     men who put you here. They have taken the hand of the Queen?’
    ‘I do not know. It is said there is power in relics. If so, there must be a great power in this one.’
    ‘And who has stolen it?’
    ‘You said before one was called “the Archbishop”. She warned me there would be those who sought to use her after death for
     their own ends.’
    ‘He was called “Archbishop” by the other. It made him very angry. Such illustrious visitors, I thought. That’s when I knew
     you were special.’
    ‘An archbishop makes sense. Do you know where from?’
    ‘No. But I heard him talk of Siena.’
    ‘And this other,

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