Rudyard and Lapis had fallen back to let their young charges talk excitedly among themselves as they walked back to the Church. The boys swaggered under the now familiar weight of their weapons and quivers, secretly hoping someone would see them. Lapis smiled knowingly, but kept a watchful eye for horseplay. If there were any such things as training crossbows, the Church certainly didn’t own any. These were real weapons, and he demanded that his students carried them as such.
“Remember when that was us?” asked Rudyard, smiling.
“Yeah. First time any of you gave me any respect,” jested Lapis.
“You were the dumb kid from the army, and a charity case at that. I was mad with envy when you got picked for patrols before I did.”
“I always thought it was because I was considered to be more expendable.”
Rudyard was quiet at that, mulling a possibility that hadn’t occured to him before, and listened to the banter of the boys ahead of them, which had turned to high spirited giggling as they tried to imagine what a vampire looked like.
“I’ll say we had a lot more motivation to get good at it as fast as we could. They don’t know how lucky they are. I wonder if they even think vampires are real.”
Lapis nodded at Rudyard’s observation.
“That’s what this really is about, isn’t it? This isn’t about hunting yarble. I know how you think Dom. You don’t do anything without an agenda.”
Lapis gave Rudy a glance but said nothing.
“Who do you think it is?”
Lapis shrugged. “They’re young, it is the right time for them to learn precision skills. Some outdoor activity is a good break from the books.”
“You’re right, but I still call bullshit,” scolded Rudyard. “If we had a Miguel, I wouldn’t have to ask. I’d just take him on my rounds. He used to freak out if one was in the room, but I never could figure out how he knew.”
“Call it whatever you want to. I’m the swordmaster, and I say they learn crossbow.”
The adults caught up with the boys at the door of the cathedral. Lapis opened the door that lead to the armory in the lower levels of the ancient edifice, and supervised putting everything back in its proper place. When it was done, Rudyard called for them to go get cleaned up before supper. Rudyard put his hand on Lapis’ shoulder to stop him from leaving with the rest.
“Dom, we need to talk. You don’t look good.”
“It’s nothing, Eli. I’ve just hit a wall with Moonwall’s project, that’s all.”
“No, you really don’t look good. Why don’t you go have a night.’
“I would, but I’m broke. We don’t get our stipends for another week.”
“You never could hold onto money.” Rudyard brought a small roll of bills out from his waistcoat. “Here, take mine. Go have a night.”
“I can’t take this,” protested Lapis.
“Yes, you can. You’re my meal-ticket, and it’s my job to keep you in good working order.”
Lapis sighed, knowing Rudyard was right, and took the proffered money, then, together, they went up to Perdido Street to see what Sister Loxley had prepared for the evening meal.
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