It was well into the wee hours of the night when Scottie and Sky finished the dinner the brothers had graciously shared with them. They sat on a sofa in front of a fire in the darkened study along with Brother Nimbus in a nearby chair. He had dismissed the novices that had provided music for the evening hours ago so they could go to bed. The walls were lined with books and well carved desks, just as they had seen in Babbage. Only here in Ravila the furniture, tapestries and architecture were more elaborate. The couple had heard from Lapis that the Church had more influence here. What they saw seemed to be confirmation of that.
The men sipped on Ravilan red while Sky drank some cocoa she had brought with her. Brother Nimbus had the blunderbus they brought laid across his lap, closely examining it with a magnifier as he chatted with the couple.
“So, what terrible things can I tell you about Dominic,” Paul started, smiling mischievously. “How many women is he in trouble with these days? I suppose you know about his women?”
Scottie snorted while Sky’s eyes became wider. “He did seduce our bartender without us finding out about it,” said Scottie. “It was when she broke up with him that we found out.”
“Yes, that sounds like Dominic,” smiled Brother Nimbus. “Did he tell you how he got his name? When he first came here as a boy, the proctors thought he was dumb as a rock. He would have told you it was for his ability for keeping calm under pressure, which is also true. Lapis. The Rock.”
Sky smiled widely at the revelation.
“Truth is, he is hard of hearing. He came to us from the artillery, you see, where he was discovered to have a knack for canon calculations. You could have a quiet conversation behind his back and he’d never know it. He came from a family of no consequence, so little attention was paid to him. Little positive attention, that is. Once the Fathers discovered he could not hear what was being said from the back of the hall, things went better academically. He used to wander into the vampire quarter because he could not hear the constables warning him to turn back. It is very dangerous for the young to go into there, you see. There are places where there would be no legal recourse.”
Scottie’s face was a picture of disbelief, “The vamps really do publicly control an entire quarter of the city? That’s…astounding. How the hell do they get away with that?”
Nimbus gave a dismissive shrug, his finger carefully lifting up the hammer of the blunderbus. “It’s been that way for as long as anyone remembers. The Church protects this quarter. They have their Blood Quarter. There are also others, too. Sometimes I think this city will never rise above the feudal age. My theory is that someone in a noble family became infected. He would have had the luxury of time to become a powerful player of court intrigue, and things simply progressed from there.”
The clocks chimed around them, the bells in the tower above ringing out four o’clock. Brother Nimbus stood and gingerly placed the blunderbuss on a nearby desk. “But it is late. I have kept you up far too long, and tomorrow will be a long day.”
Scottie extended his hand to Nimbus, who gave a quick shake, “Thank you very much for the hospitality, Brother, we greatly appreciate it.”
“And for your stories,” said Sky enthusiastically. “What happens tomorrow?”
“The prisons are full.” He said that as if they would understand his meaning.
The Melniks stood waiting, both with confused expressions.
“Tomorrow there will be a Hanging Festival.”
((Special thanks goes to Brother Lapis for his collaboration efforts in this adventure.
(See also: Scottie and I did not write this alone.) ))