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Somehow she must finally have fallen asleep. When she awoke the crown was gone, and Tom was lying innocently beside her, his eyes tight shut. They opened slowly as she looked at him, and for an instant she thought she glimpsed a trace of guilt in them, and then he smiled and began to behave just as he had done during the last few months.

But something had changed. Little by little it began to show. Perhaps it was not his fault, she told herself, and therefore not hers, the increasing violence in the North and the East even while he and many of those he had summoned to his Round Table Conference, including many of those who had marched with her, tried to find a solution to the racial tensions that had led her to march. It was not his fault, she repeated, when first one and then another of the terrorist groups, the Tigers and Wolves and Bears in the North, the Lions and Shadows in the South, as they called themselves, declared that they would not accept any solution that emerged from the talks; in her heart of hearts however she had for some time now begun to feel that, if Tom had finalised an agreement on the basis of the discussions and shown himself determined to implement it, the sheer relief of the vast majority of the population would have strengthened him and all would have been well.


But, as the Beasts issued contrasting statements on all sides, Tom began to stall. Then, one by one, those who had marched with her were assassinated, and the Tamils who had been in parliament and not been killed in the great conflagration in the helicopter, and those senior members of the Marxist parties who had survived and been drawn into the talks, and all the others who had supported these in trying to reach a generally acceptable settlement. Tom claimed that they had all been killed either by extremists of the other race who disliked them, or by extremists of their own who thought they were giving away too much, but Phyllis was suspicious. If that was the case, it was inexplicable that all those who had refused to compromise at the Conference, leaders of all the religious sects whom Tom had insisted on inviting on the grounds that he could not possibly hurt their feelings, and various defence and allied advisers to the government, all continued to survive and indeed to thrive.

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