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The Sacrifice picks up after Small Sam and The Kid arrive at the Tower of London at the end of The Dead. Though Sam finds safety and friendship at the Tower with Jordan Hordern’s crew, he can’t settle down. The only thing he wants is to be reunited with his sister, Ella. Despite Ed’s protests, Sam and the Kid strike out westward, through the no-go zone.
Meanwhile, Shadowman is tracking Saint George across north London, watching him build up his army. Shadowman knows that Saint George is an extremely dangerous threat, but no one will take his warnings seriously.
Books by Charlie Higson
YOUNG BOND SERIES
Double or Die
By Royal Command
SilverFin: The Graphic Novel
THE ENEMY SERIES
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
—The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot
Small Sam wasn’t dead. His sister and his friends all thought that he’d been killed, that the grown-ups who’d snatched him from the parking lot behind Waitrose had eaten him, but right now he was walking across the grounds of the Tower of London with the Kid and a load of other children. They were heading for the White Tower, a big square lump with smaller towers at each corner that sat bang in the middle of the castle on a small hill. Sam, who was something of an expert on castles, knew all about the White Tower. It was the keep, the first part of the castle to be built here. William the Conqueror had started the building work in the eleventh century, with stone specially brought over from France, and his son, William II, had finished it.
Sam felt like he was living in a dream. He’d always been obsessed with knights and castles and fantasy. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d seen the Lord of the Rings films. And now here he was, actually living in a real-life castle. Some of the other kids even wore armor and carried medieval weapons. Though they had to leave them at the door as they filed inside.
The boy in charge, General Jordan Hordern, had called a council of war, and everybody in the castle was expected to attend, even newcomers like Sam and the Kid.
Once inside, they climbed to an upper floor, where there was a big room with windows on all sides. They found places to sit on the wooden benches that were arranged around the edges. Sam, who had visited the Tower several times, tried to remember what this room used to look like. He couldn’t picture it. The local kids had removed the exhibits and returned it to how it must have looked in the Middle Ages. There were banners and pennants hanging on the bare stone walls, and candles lit the dark interior. A long table had been set up across one end, and behind it stood four guards with halberds—double-handed weapons that looked like a cross between an ax and a spear. There was a smaller table to one side where two girls and a boy sat, writing on loose sheets of paper.
Ed came over to Sam and the Kid. It was Ed who’d found the two of them a few days ago, wandering, tired and wet, along the road that led to the Tower, and he’d taken it on himself to look after them. He still couldn’t quite get his head around the fact that they’d survived for so long out there by themselves and had made it here alive. It was up to him now to make sure they stayed that way. By finding them, they had become his responsibility.
“You just sit here and listen, okay?” he said. “Just watch.”
He glanced at the Kid. He was an odd boy, odd and unpredictable, and had his own way of talking. He was prone to speaking out, and Ed didn’t want him to pipe up during the council.
“What’s going on?” Sam whispered.
“To tell you the truth, I’m not sure,” Ed replied. “But I have to be over at the council table with the other captains. I’ll explain anything you don’t understand afterward.”
He looked at the Kid again, holding his gaze.
“Don’t be tempted to join in. All right?”
“Aye, aye, Skippy. Message received and misunderstood.”
“Seriously, Kid, zip it.”
The Kid zipped it, miming the action.
“I’m as much in the dark as you are,” Ed went on. “General Hordern called a special meeting of the council, so I guess he’ll tell us what this is all about.”
“That’s him there, isn’t it?” said Sam, and Ed turned to see a boy with thick glasses come into the room flanked by two more guards.
“That’s him. I better go. Remember, zip it.”
Sam watched Ed go and take his place with several other kids who were settling down at the long table. Sam suddenly felt nervous. Aside from Ed, he didn’t really know anyone else here. He felt like a new boy starting in big school. Other kids were always whispering about him and pointing. He felt safe with Ed. He’d been a bit scared of him at first. Ed had an ugly scar down one side of his face that pulled it out of shape, but Sam had soon learned that he was kind and friendly and not frightening at all. Sometimes, though, Ed would go quiet and stare into the distance. Sam didn’t say anything, but he knew that Ed was sad about something. He didn’t need to ask what. They were all sad in their own ways. They’d all lost family and friends.
Sam and the Kid had been left alone for their first couple of days at the Tower. They’d been given food and allowed to sleep for most of the time. Now they were feeling more normal, and Ed had offered to show them around properly. They’d just been getting ready when they’d been told to come to the meeting.
Jordan Hordern sat down, flanked by four boys and three girls. He waited, blank-faced and unreadable behind glasses that were held together by Band-Aids around the bridge of the nose and one arm.
He waited for the room to fall silent. Didn’t have to say anything. It was understood.
He looked around.
General Hordern couldn’t tell anyone, but the truth was that he could hardly see anything at all anymore. It wasn’t just that the lenses in his glasses were scratched and old. His eyesight was steadily getting worse. There were dark patches in the center of his vision. It was still clear around the edges, so he had to look sideways at things to see them properly. He’d never liked to look people in the eye before, and now it was nearly impossible.
He wouldn’t let the idea enter his thoughts, but it was there, lurking in the back of his mind. He was going blind. What use would he be then? How could he keep his position in charge here at the Tower if he couldn’t see anything?
It was important that nobody knew. For now he had unquestioned power over everyone at the Tower.
The kids sat in absolute silence. He was pleased. He’d known teachers at school who could never get a class to shut up. Jordan had given them hell, and now here he was, just a boy, able to control more than a hundred kids.
Sam couldn’t take his eyes off the general. Jordan scared him. There was a stillness and a coldness about him. He was like a statue or a big old crocodile at the zoo. Sitting there without moving. Who knew what weird thoughts were going on behind that calm exterior?
Sam could feel the tension in the room. As Ed had explained to them, nobody knew what this meeting was about, but by the look of Jordan it was something serious.
At last the general spoke.
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s get started.”
Sam had been expecting something medieval, full of verilys and thees and thous, and aye instead of yes. It was a surprise to hear Jordan talking so normally. But why not? They weren’t really in the Middle Ages, were they? They were in the middle of London in the twenty-first century.
“This is a special meeting of the war council. In fact, it’s a military tribunal. Which means it’s a trial.”
The kids on the side table started writing furiously. A hum and murmur went around the room, but it was quickly silenced when Jordan raised his hand. Everyone was looking around, though, trying to figure out who wasn’t there. Who might have been arrested.
“A boy has been caught trying to steal food from the storerooms. As you know, when I took control, I wrote up a list of rules, and stealing is one of the worst crimes on it, especially stealing food. You all know the rules. So there’s no excuse for breaking them. Having said that, I want this trial to be fair. So I will give the suspect a hearing. Bring him in.”
All heads twisted around now toward the doors as a boy was shoved through them, his hands tied behind his back, an armed guard on either side of him. He was tall and fair-haired and had a bruise on one cheek. His shirt was slightly torn. He looked like he’d been crying, his eyes all red and swollen. Mixed emotions—fear, anger, defiance, hatred, and embarrassment—flickered across his features.
The boy was made to stand in front of the big table, and his hands were untied. Everyone in the room was staring at him.
“What is your name?” Jordan asked.
“You know my name, Jordan, you asshole,” said the boy, and a couple of the kids giggled. Jordan didn’t react; his expression didn’t change; he didn’t even blink. He remained cold, blank, patient.
“Tell us your full name.”
Jordan raised his head now and stared at the boy. He so rarely looked directly at anyone that the effect was quite powerful. The boy dropped his own gaze.
“Bren, Brendan, Eldridge.”
“And what have you been charged with, Bren?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, this is stupid. This isn’t a proper court. We’re all just kids. I know I did wrong. So give me a slap and let’s get on with our lives.”
“What have you been charged with, Bren?”
“Stealing! You know it’s stealing, okay? I stole some canned fruit. Big deal, boo hoo. Naughty me.”
Jordan looked over toward the side table.
“The charge is stealing food.”
“Big deal,” said Bren.
Jordan paused for a few seconds before going on. “Without food we die,” he said.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” Brendan gave Jordan a dismissive look.
Jordan ignored him. “Stealing from other kids is one of the worst things you can do,” he said. “If we don’t look out for one another, we’re all going to die. Therefore, Brendan, I reckon stealing food is as bad a crime as murder.”
“Oh, come off it, Jordan. It was just some canned peaches.”
“Yes, it was. You know it was.”
Again Jordan turned to the side table.
“Make a note of that. The suspect has admitted to stealing the peaches.”
“Hey,” said Bren. “No, I didn’t. I was talking hypothetically.”
“I’m going to call Captain Ford for evidence,” said Jordan, and he nodded to the boy sitting on his right, who had long straight black hair and Japanese features. The boy stood up.
“For the record, can you state your full name and occupation, rank, and regiment?” said Jordan.
“Just do it, Tomoki.”
“My name is Tomoki Ford. Captain of the Tower Watch.”
“Can you tell us how you caught the thief?”
“Alleged thief,” said Bren. “If we’re going to have a proper trial, then I’m innocent until proven guilty, aren’t I?”
“You’ve already made a confession,” said Jordan.
“I wasn’t under oath.”
“We don’t bother with that. You already said you stole the cans of fruit.”
“Okay,” said Tomoki. “About ten days ago Captain Reynolds of the Service Corps came to see me. He told me that he thought someone was stealing from the Tower stores. He’d noticed some small things had gone missing, and when he checked he found out that other stuff was gone as well.”
He took out a piece of paper from his pocket and showed it to General Hordern. “I’ve written it all down. Do you want me to read it out?”
“No, just give it to the clerks afterward.”
“Okay, so anyway, Captain Reynolds got his team to check much more carefully every morning and evening. It was soon obvious that stuff was being nicked nearly every night. Just small amounts—the thief probably thought that it wouldn’t be noticeable. I told you about it a week ago.” This was addressed to Jordan, who nodded. “And you told me to put a special watch on the stores. We built a hiding place and took turns to stake them out. We saw Bren come in just after midnight last night—he had his own key—and we saw him take three cans of peaches away in a backpack. We followed him back to his room in the Casemates and arrested him.”
“All right, all right. This is boring,” said Bren. “Three cans of peaches. I admit it.”
“Once we’d locked Bren up, we searched his room,” Tomoki went on. “And we found all this.”
Tomoki paused as three kids brought in boxes packed with food. The murmuring started up again. Someone whistled. Bren’s head drooped and he looked ashamed.
“Do you admit that you stole all this as well?” Jordan asked.
“Yes,” said Bren quietly.
“Were you working alone?”
Bren nodded and Jordan asked Tomoki if he agreed.
“We don’t think there was anyone else in on it. That’s why we followed him, to make sure.”
“Do you want to say anything else, Bren?” asked Jordan. “I can’t really see the point, but if you want to.”
“No. I don’t want to say anything. Just…I’m sorry, I suppose. It was stupid.”
“Saying you’re sorry won’t change what you done,” said Jordan. “You’re a coward, Brendan. Stealing off of other kids. You’re a traitor. You don’t care about anyone except yourself.”
“Yeah, all right,” said Brendan. “I said I’m sorry.”
“Okay,” said Jordan. “So if nobody has any objections, then I reckon you’re guilty.”
“Yeah, okay. I’m guilty.”
Tomoki sat down. “So what’s the sentence, then?” he asked.
“As I said”—Jordan stared at Brendan—“I think stealing food from other kids is as bad as murder. So the sentence is death.”
Nooooo!” Brendan launched himself across the table at Jordan, and the whole place went crazy. Kids were jumping up out of their seats, all shouting at once. This had taken them totally by surprise. Brendan, who was screaming a torrent of filthy abuse at Jordan, tried to wrestle him to the ground. He wasn’t getting anywhere. Jordan was immensely strong and managed to throw off his attacker, seemingly without any effort at all. He rolled Brendan onto his front and pinned him to the ground, pulling his arm up behind his back. He held him there, increasing the pressure on his arm until Brendan begged him to stop.
Dusty and bedraggled, with dirt clinging to the tears on his cheeks, Brendan stood up. There was snot streaming from his nose, and his eyes were so raw and swollen it looked like they’d been punched.
“Take him outside,” said Jordan, no hint of emotion in his voice.
Jordan headed for the doors, and the guards who had brought Brendan in retied his hands and dragged him along behind. The other kids were still in turmoil, milling around, talking excitedly to each other, eyes wide, waving their hands, not quite believing that this was happening.
Sam sat there, a concerned expression on his face, too young to understand his feelings. He didn’t know the boy, Brendan, but he was shocked by what had happened.
“Heavy-duty,” said the Kid. “Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition.”
“Do you think they’ll really do it?” said Sam.
“Don’t ask me,” said the Kid. “I’m a stranger here myself. But strangers have left on longer trains before.”
Ed came over to them; he had a boy with him who Sam recognized. He was called Kyle and rarely left Ed’s side. Kyle was big and loud, always telling dirty jokes, very different from Ed. He acted as a sort of bodyguard for Ed, who, it seemed, could do nothing to shake the big square-headed boy off.
“You okay?” Ed asked, squatting down so that he was at the same level as the younger kids.
“Does this happen a lot?” Sam asked, and Ed shook his head.
“Never before. A few kids have been punished for things, but never like this. We better go and see what’s happening.”
“Will Jordan really do it?”
“God knows. I have no idea how his brain works.”
“I think it’s cool,” said Kyle, grinning like an idiot. “This is gonna be good.”
“What?” Kyle gaped at Ed with an expression of wide-eyed innocence.
As Sam stood up, Kyle winked at him and said, “Baaaaaa,” making little horns with his fingers.
“Shut it, Kyle,” Ed snapped. Kyle just laughed.
“Why did you do that?” Sam asked. “I heard someone else make a sheep noise yesterday.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Ed put a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll tell you about it some other time.”
Sam wanted to know now, but it was clear that Ed wasn’t going to talk about it. He and Kyle strode on ahead, and Sam and the Kid followed them out to where everyone was assembling on Tower Green. Sam was familiar with this corner of the castle. He’d been sleeping in a room in one of the medieval timber-framed houses that lined the green on two sides. If it wasn’t for the fact that most of the grass had been dug up and replaced with vegetables, it did very much resemble a traditional village green. In addition to the houses, there was a small stone church, and you could imagine you were deep in the English countryside rather than in the heart of London.
Brendan had been dragged to a cobbled area in the center of the green, where a chopping block was set up. It was a replica, dragged out of an exhibition in one of the towers, but it was solid enough, and next to it was a large and very real ax. Jordan must have arranged for this to be done while everyone was inside.
“This is where they used to chop people’s heads off in Henry the Eighth’s time,” Sam told the Kid. “I read about it. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were both executed here.”
Ed shook his head at the sight of the block and ax. “Jordan’s gone nuts,” he said. “This isn’t right.”
Brendan’s friends were crowding around Jordan, all talking at once, like soccer players arguing about a penalty decision with a referee. Jordan ignored them and came over to say a few words to Kyle, who nodded. Then he stood on the block to address the crowd.
“You may think this is harsh,” he shouted. “But if we don’t take our laws seriously, there’s no point in having them. Without laws we’d be just like animals. The punishment for murder is death, we all agreed on that—”
“Only because we thought it would never happen,” a girl shouted from the crowd.
“That’s irrelevant,” said Jordan.
“Who said stealing food was as bad as murder anyway?” asked another girl. It was clear that Jordan’s decision was not a popular one. The kids were scared and angry.
“I did,” said Jordan. “And I stick to it. Food is very precious now. As I said, if we don’t have food, we die.”
Ed pushed his way to the front of the crowd and walked right up to Jordan. “No one wants this,” he said. “Stop it now.”
“He has to be punished.”
“Yeah? Okay, so who the hell are you going to get to cut his bloody head off, huh? Or are you going to do it yourself?”
“Me,” said Kyle, stepping forward. “I’m going to do it!” He picked up the ax and took a couple of practice swings, kids jumping out of the way.
“Don’t be stupid, Kyle,” Ed protested.
Kyle shrugged. “It’s a difficult job, but someone’s got to do it.”
Jordan instructed his guards to hold Brendan down on the block, but now even they were having second thoughts. They refused and backed off, hands up in surrender.
Jordan took hold of Brendan himself, ripped the shirt from his back, and forced him to kneel over the block, his bare neck on the rough wood.
“Now be a man, Bren,” he said, holding him firmly in place. “Don’t struggle. Accept your punishment.”
“This isn’t fair,” Brendan sobbed. “You can’t do this.”
“He’s right.” Ed stood between Kyle and Brendan. “You’re not going to do this, Jordan. You go on about what would happen if the law breaks down, but as far as I can see, if we start killing each other, then law already has broken down. For God’s sake, the world’s dangerous enough as it is without you making it worse. I won’t let this happen. And I reckon most people here will back me up.”
“So what do we do with him?” asked Jordan calmly. “How do we punish him?”
“There’s another punishment. We talked about it when we drew up the rules. It’s still pretty heavy, but if you insist on making a point…”
“What punishment is that, Ed?”
“You know what it is. You made it up. If it’s the only way, then do it. But it’s still your decision, not mine. I’m just reminding you of the option. Personally I think Bren’s been punished enough.”
“What is it?” said one of the girls who had shouted out before. “What are you going to do to him?”
Jordan thought for a while, his strong hands gripping Brendan. “Okay,” he said at last, and let Brendan go. “Ed’s asked me to be soft, and this time I will be. But I want you all to remember this. The law’s the law. We didn’t make the rules for a joke. If you break them it’s serious.”
“What’s the other punishment?” the girl repeated. “Tell us.”
Sam, Ed, and the Kid were standing on top of Byward Tower, the inner gatehouse at the castle. They were leaning on the battlements, looking down as Brendan was led out of the gates and along the walkway toward the outer gatehouse, Middle Tower, which had been the main visitors’ entrance to the castle. The walkway passed over the flooded moat, and once again, with the traffic of London stilled, the crowds gone, and the kids in their shining armor, Sam felt like he had slipped back in time to the Middle Ages.
There was a gang of kids working in the moat, standing up to their thighs in water the color of coffee. They were covered in mud and were working with shovels and buckets, slopping muck everywhere. They looked up and stared as Brendan went past, then returned to their work.
Brendan walked with his head and shoulders slumped. He’d been given a pack with some food in it—some of the same food he’d stolen—a sleeping bag, a bottle of water, a sword, and a knife. Four boys with halberds marched beside him. Kyle, Tomoki, and Jordan Hordern walked at the head of the little procession; a small group of Brendan’s friends brought up the rear. Nobody else had come to see him leave. It was too unsettling. This was nearly as bad as cutting his head off. Everyone in the Tower feared being alone in the outside world.
“What’ll happen to him, d’you think?” Sam asked.
Ed sighed. “I hope he finds some other kids, another settlement. There must be some out there.”
“Like at Buckingham Palace,” said Sam.
“What’s at Buckingham Palace?” Ed asked.
“My sister, Ella. She went there with all my friends. Another boy told them it was safe.”
“I hope he was right, for her sake.” Ed smiled at Sam, the scar making it look like a snarl.
“She’s still alive,” said Sam. “I know she is.”
“Yeah, I’m sure she is. But it’s hard to get there from here. He’d have to go through the no-go zone.”
“Okay.” Ed pointed westward, toward St. Paul’s Cathedral, then swung his arm slowly round to the north.
“We don’t ever go that way,” he said. “It’s the old City of London, the business district. Not many houses or shops, so not much food to be found. Plus, it’s weird in there. The sickos are dangerous and unpredictable. How you two ever made it through alive I will never know.”
“We was half stupid, a third lucky, and three-quarters ferocious,” said the Kid. Ed nodded, frowning slightly. Sam hardly noticed the Kid’s weird way of speaking anymore, but Ed was obviously still getting used to it.
“Well, that’s the no-go zone. From Aldgate in the north, down past the Bank of England to London Bridge. It cuts us off from central London. So, whatever you do, don’t go back into the no-go zone, okay?”
“Roger wilco Johnson.”
Ed continued sweeping his arm around, like the hand of a clock making a full circle.
“To the east is fine,” he said. “And it’s safe to cross over Tower Bridge. It’s quiet that way.”
Sam looked at the bridge. It was the famous one that could be raised up and down to let ships through, and it had tall spiky towers at either end.
There was a shout, and they returned their attention to what was happening below. Brendan had made it through Middle Tower and was being taken across the wide-open space that lay to the immediate west of the castle, where several cars were parked and the kids had collected piles of scrap. Ed watched the sad little group of children, the scarred side of his face twitching.
“Maybe he’ll be fine,” he said. “I mean, you two sprouts made it by yourselves. Brendan’s a pretty big guy, knows how to fight. There haven’t been a lot of sicko sightings lately. Yeah, he’ll be fine.”
“Do you really think that?” said Sam.
PRAISE FOR THE ENEMY
"The Enemy grabs you by the throat . . . and bites off your ear. It's kids versus zombies and no one is playing nice. The action--and boy, is there action--takes us through a London transformed by the unexplained illness that has turned every adult into a shuffling, drooling, kid-crunching machine. Bonus: zombie royals. Sheer fun." Michael Grant, author of the Gone series
PRAISE FOR THE ENEMY
"...the action is of the first order. Higson writes with a firestorm velocity that inspires to the sweeping reach of Stephen King's The Stand." ALA Booklist
PRAISE FOR THE DEAD
". . . Higson delivers an action-packed summer read." Kirkus
PRAISE FOR THE FEAR
"The third book in Higson's terrifying zombie series will continue to enthrall horror fans." VOYA
- On Sale
- Jun 11, 2013
- Page Count
- 496 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers