The Key
side. The so-called Master and the two grey-clad men from Dammsjön Lake loom over Matilda. The Master doesn’t look in the slightest bit merry now.
    ‘Observe these!’ the Master says, pointing at the tools. ‘The Council has not always been as civilised as it is today. Yet we will not hesitate if using such instruments on you is what is required to make you talk.’
    Christ, how Ida hates that fat monster. He is so absolutely fucking
evil
.
    Matilda seems about to pass out at any moment from sheer terror. But she looks the Master in the eye.
    ‘A new Chosen One will come,’ she tells him. ‘Someone who is stronger than I am.’
    The Master slams his fist against the table so hard that his torture toolkit rattles and Matilda shudders in her chair.
    ‘Dear Matilda.’ Ehrenskiöld comes closer to her. ‘Answer the Master. Why did you give up your powers? Is there any way in which you can get them back?’
    ‘I did so for all your sakes,’ Matilda says between clenched teeth. ‘For the sake of the world.’
    ‘You outrageous little slut,’ Fatso roars. His face has gone bright red.
    Matilda flinches where she sits but still looks straight at him.
    ‘What you do to me is no great matter,’ she says. ‘I will not tell you more than I have. I am sworn to silence.’
    ‘Is that so?
Sworn
, have you?’ the Master shouts at top volume.
    ‘Yes.’
    ‘And who has induced you to do so?’
    ‘Go ahead and tell him!’ Ida says.
    She wants Matilda to speak out, wants her to save herself. But Matilda only shakes her head. And, of course, Ida knows how all this will end. In her dreams, she was there in the prison wagon with Matilda when she was transported to her place of execution. And she woke with the smell of smoke from the pyre still in her hair.
    ‘The time was so very close,’ Fatso says. ‘Our names would have gone down in history, become immortal! The final portal!’
    His face turns from red to purple and he is breathing heavily through the nose. Ida thinks he might have a heart attack. Hopefully.
    ‘Master,’ Ehrenskiöld intervenes. ‘This girl has clearly lost her mind—’
    ‘Already, there are rumours doing the rounds in the village!’ the Master interrupts. ‘Well, let her be tried for practising witchcraft. It would be a suitable punishment.’
    Nicolaus draws breath. But he still does not speak. Just stares at the floor.
    ‘With respect, Master,’ Ehrenskiöld says, ‘this is surely too harsh?’
    ‘What? There’s room for two on the fire!’
    Ehrenskiöld looks down. Says nothing more.
    ‘We will stay in this godforsaken hole until justice is done. Arrest her,’ the Master commands.
    His grey henchmen pull Matilda from the chair.
    ‘Don’t touch me,’ she cries.
    She twists and struggles but she hasn’t got a chance. They are laughing as they drag her from the room. The Master follows them. Ida knows that none of them will survive their stay in Engelsfors. Nicolaus will lock the church door while they are inside and set it on fire. Good.
    Fatso will end up as roast pork.
    Nicolaus crosses the floor to the chair where Matilda had been sitting just moments earlier. He touches the back of the chair. Then slumps slowly down until he crouches on the floor.
    ‘I have sent her to her death,’ he whispers. ‘I have murdered my own child.’
    Ehrenskiöld is by his side now and pulls him upright. ‘You must stay calm.’
    ‘Henrik, what shall I do? Dear friend … help me.’
    Henrik Ehrenskiöld glances quickly over his shoulder, then leans over to whisper in Nicolaus’s ear. Ida has to get closer to hear him.
    ‘I’ll help you. I’ll see to it that the judge in Matilda’s trial is me. And I’ll think of a way to soothe the Master’s ire.’
    Nicolaus tries to respond but is choking with grief. Henrik Ehrenskiöld hugs him.
    Ida stares at the two men. It is so confusing. Henrik’s compassion seems utterly genuine. And yet, it must be
him
… the man who was Nicolaus’s old

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