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The Institute Rolls

Previously: Official Correspondence

The main thing Father Nimbus in Ravila wanted Brother Lapis to gather for him was the names. Names of all the students, both clerical and given, since Juris Pizzaro had been teaching at the Institute. The first 10 years were easy enough, then some digging in the archives brought more to the surface. Brother Lapis knew that Father Pizzaro had been with the institute since he was a Brother like himself, having arrived in New Babbage 51 years ago. This year should be his 52nd class yet Lapis held only 46 rolls. Brother Rudyard speculated that the break in records was due to the Great Fire.

However, there was a problem with that. It was standard practice among the Huberites to reconstruct records from available memory to keep a continuous history. Brother Lapis pushed that thought to the side to begin the chore of annotating the lists he had. He found himself anticipating with some pleasure the possible trends that should appear in the history he was compiling. For every student, he had to note the outcome of each: who had left, and at what age, who had continued, who had become layman, who had taken Orders. Above all, which ones had achieved a level at which they could be conditioned to attaining the Archimedian State.

That was the whole point of the school program, to find and train those that were capable of attaining the feats of memory and calculation that the clergy was famous for. Pizzaro’s success rate was legendary. Lapis himself wondered what he would have been capable of, had he been raised in New Babbage.

It was tedious work. There were many laymen, a church education was a guarantee of a good profession in accounting and calculation, though not all had the interest to keep their former association with the Brothers once they had entered the workforce. The most trusted of these would be employed by bankers. Particularly talented students, especially those from good families, usually went on to the Academy of Industry and studied engineering. The children of the messenger corps turned out to be very useful in locating the current locations of many names on the list without having to ask questions among the older clergy. He made a mental note never to underestimate the mass of their collective knowledge about the comings and goings of city folk.

Still, the matter of the broken record troubled him. Lapis found an opportunity to ask Father Pizzaro during their daily discussions, but shook his head and begged off being able to recall. He was having more bad days as his dementia continued to progress, so Brother Lapis did not press the issue. Rudyard and James were unable to find anything in the stacks either.

He would have to approach Father Moonwall about it. But how to do that without letting him know the wallet of documents that had arrived from Ravila?

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  1. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis February 16, 2014

    “Fire!” pronounced old Father Moonwall, his mouth tightly shut thereafter.

    “But Father, why were the records not reconstructed from the mnemonists? We have always preserved our legacy.” Brother Lapis knew, in fact, that Father Moonwall preserved quite a bit of information. His apartments were filled to the ceiling with boxes of paperwork that no one, no one, was allowed to touch.

    “You underestimate the impact the Great Fire had on the culture of this city, Dominic. Only our cathedral stood afterwards. The walls were sound, but the roof had to be reconstructed. Our most precious books were preserved by carrying them into the dungeons.”

    “By the students?”

    “No. Not by the students. The rectory, the archives, the churchyard, all lost. We were fools to build in wood.”

    “But there were survivors…”

    Father Moonwall cut off Brother Lapis’ questions. “No one wants to remember what we lost. The School was closed. There were no students to be had until those who could afford to send us their sons had recovered from their own losses.”

    The silence that followed taunted Lapis. He did not normally continue once Father Moonwall had had his say, but this time, something larger was missing. “That is not our way, Father,” insisted Lapis. “I am a repository. Will you say my life is meaningless too?”

    Father Moonwall raised his hands towards his ears. “Cease your questions, Dominic! The class was lost. The entire class. They perished in the fire.”

    Lapis’ mouth hung slack, arrested mid-protest by Father Moonwall’s revelation.

    “Forgive me Father. I had no idea.”

    “You will forget this,” Moonwall intoned ominously. “Or you will be sent to a cloister as suits a repository of your value.”

    “Yes Father.”

    Defeated, Brother Lapis returned to his regular work. Father Moonwall stayed in his office a long time, alone with his memories.

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