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A Parlor Scene at the Gangplank

Malus and Tobias had finished sweeping up from the evening’s drinkers and revelers and were looking forward to locking up and enjoying the rest of the night.

“We’re closed!” Malus said as he heard the door click open.

“Yes, I know,” said the voice of the customer. The two bartenders stopped what they were doing as they looked up to see Brother Lapis darkening the doorway.

“Is this an official visit?” Malus asked, recalling their earlier visit with Father Pizzaro.

Brother Lapis walked behind the bar and brought up a bottle of wine and put an empty pitcher under Malus’ favorite tap and pulled at it. “Not yet it isn’t. But if I hadn’t seen you both in broad daylight today I would have brought my crossbow.”

Tobias, who instinctively distrusted the clerics, looked uneasily at Malus. Malus did not appear to be concerned. “You,” continued Brother Lapis, looking at Tobias. “What’s your name? Beer or wine for you?”

“He likes wine,” Malus cut in.

Brother Lapis brought up two wine glasses and a thick beer glass. “He can’t speak for himself?”

“Tobias,” Tobias said after a pause.

“Tobias,” said Brother Lapis. “That’s greek. What’s your real name?”

Tobias thought for a moment. “My name was Toby… Tobit Butterfield.”

Brother Lapis brought the pitcher of ale and the bottle of wine over to a table, then set the glasses out. He brought over a third chair and motioned the two to sit and drink with him. He looked at Malus’ face, still smooth and unshaven, and Tobias’, who had the faint curls that had yet to had been a full beard. It fit the pattern he had been observing. Brother Lapis poured for Tobias first, then himself. “I have a theory I’ve been working on. Maybe you can help. I’m trying to find information on the Great Fire of New Babbage. I think you might be old enough to remember it.”

Malus sat and poured himself a beer, interested in where the conversation was going. Tobias took a long drink. “I don’t remember much. I was very sick. I was in a hospital when it was over.”

Brother Lapis held Tobias’ gaze. “Why are you afraid of Father Moonwall?”

“He was going to kill us all!” Tobias blurted out.

“All? You mean the missing class. Father Moonwall told me a class had died in the fire.”

“No, that’s not right!” Tobias drank more. “Father told us the city had been destroyed. That we were better, that someday we would… that we had to prepare ourselves for when it was time to go back to the surface and take our places and rebuild society…”

“Father who? How many of you are there?”

Malus spoke up. “He means Dr. Foehammer. My grandfather.”

Brother Lapis leaned back in his chair, relaxing now that his bluff had paid out. More pieces fell into place. That strange woman that Reliable was so scared of the year before, and the sick old man that enraged Father Moonwall when he came asking for funding were part of this. The Church must have been covering this up for a long time. If he had uncovered this much on his own, an inquisitor would uncover even more. He wondered what it would take to make Tobias crack if it came to that.

“But civilization is not destroyed,” said Brother Lapis. “And here you are.”

“Father never lied to us. He was wise. He was… It wasn’t supposed to be like this!”

Lapis paused, calculating the moment. “What does logic tell you, Brother? You were a brother.”

Lapis refilled Tobias’ glass and let him contemplate the conundrum of Foehammer’s doctrine.

“Now what?” asked Malus, pouring himself a second beer.

“Now,” said Brother Lapis, “we are going to have a pleasant night of drinking, and you are both going to tell me everything you know about Doctor Foehammer. And Martin, whatever you can remember about how you damaged your eyes when you were still a student. I want to make an estimate on how far outside of the Church this matter reached.”

“Why should we?” Tobias returned to his distrustful stance.

“Because there is an inquisition on the way here from the Church in Ravila, and I think it would benefit all of our interests if I am able to guide that investigation away from the things we don’t want anyone to know about. I’ve seen what these people will do to a den of vampires. If there are more like you, Tobias, it would also be in their best interests that you inform me about what I should not to know.”

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