Trial of the Six

The nuns are drunk; they’ve asked us to bring them the head of Catraz before the sun rises. Lyonn chews off the tip of her thumbnail and spits it to the floor beside Sister Baobosa’s club foot.

“How much?”

“Name your price,” Sister Baobosa says.

Lyonn strokes her chin. My sister was once the greatest warrior in Marrion, but then the wine took her. Now she’s thirty-five and all of eighteen stone, with a belly like a burlap sack ripping at the seams.

“Twelve pieces for me,” she says. “And twelve more for my brother.”

The nuns take in my pubescent moustache and coffee-coloured arms bedecked in jewellery. I expect them to make the sign to acknowledge our mutual faith, but Sister Haerga simply curls a lip. “Why do you need the boy?”

“Prayer,” Lyonn says, delighting in the irony. “Yves is my second, and that’s my offer. Take it or find someone else.”

The nuns confer. The eldest wraps her bony knuckles on the corner table. She gestures in one of the now-defunct finger languages. A few nod in agreement while another belches loudly, as though to settle the matter.

Sister Baobosa stands and drains her flagon, upends it on her head-dress so wine trickles down her cheeks and coif. She approaches, and the stench of her halitosis almost makes me gag.

“How old are you, pretty boy?”

“Seventeen,” I answer.

She extends a crooked finger and traces the yellow nail down my jawline. I stare at her purple teeth and the nuggets of plaque between them.

“You ever killed a woman, Yves?”

I scan the nuns’ faces. “I follow the six,” I say simply, gesturing to my necklaces.

“It was Yves who insisted on bringing you an offering,” Lyonn explains. “He suggested oranges from the orchards of Suiz. I assured him you would prefer the wine.”

Sister Baobosa grins indulgently. “Twelve pieces now, and the rest when you return. Go and sin for us. You have the blessing of the spirits.”

“And don’t forget to bring us the head,” another barks from the back. “We believe only in what we can see.”

They guffaw as Lyonn makes for the door. I linger for one final look at the sisters.

“You forgot to bless it,” I remind them. “The wine.”

Sister Haerga withdraws the flagon from her lips and extends her wine-stained tongue. She makes the sign of the six spirits on her wrinkled forehead, then dredges up a knot of phlegm in her throat and launches it at the floor. It hits the cold stone with a slapping sound, like a slug being catapulted against a wall.


Lyonn beckons me to the door. I follow her out of the Priory with the sisters still cackling into their drinks.