Ora Moonwall sat at his table staring at the plate of boiled spinach. He ground his old worn molars together as he peered sideways at Juris Pizarro. He was just about to shovel his first mouthful when a tremendous knock announced an unwelcome intrusion into his evening meal. Moonwall snapped his head toward Pizarro who merely shrugged and continued to spoon spinach into his mouth.
With a mixture of grunt and growl, Moonwall rose from the table and slowly made his way to the door. The offensive visitor continued to knock insistently. Moonwall slowly opened the door, glaring at it as it swung back as if it were the door itself that had the insolence to interrupt him at his evening meal.
Reliable stood in the hallway, foot thumping a staccato beat upon the hardwood floor. The bent old man looked down upon her, as if for the first time.
Reliable merely stammered as she thrust the envelope she had clutched tightly in her paws into his chest. She then turned to run but Moonwall’s big meaty hand caught her by the collar and held her fast.
“You expect me to respond to this myself, child?” He pulled her into the room and shut the door. He then tore open the envelope and read the brief missive with an ever increasing scowl wrinkling his face. “Child! Go find Brother Lapis and bring him here. Immediately!” He rapped her on the back of the head with large bony knuckles.
With a squeak, the messenger gratefully dashed out and kept to the upper balconies rather than going back out to the street.
“Juris!” said Moonwall looking over at Pizarro. “It is from that madman Joseph Foehammer.” He paused, frowning down at the message. “He is ‘demanding’ a meeting.”
Moonwall went to his desk and retrieved paper, quill, and ink, before returning to the table with Pizarro. Without taking a moment to ponder, he began to write. He was just tucking it into an envelope when the still frightened messenger returned with the school swordmaster.
“We have a situation,” droned Moonwall. “Let the child take this letter to that abomination on the street. Dominic, cover her from the dormitory.”
Lapis did not ask any questions but escorted the girl down to the front door of the Institute and picked up the crossbow he kept hanging near the hearth. “You count to 30, slowly, then go out the front door and do your job.” He disappeared up the stairs before she could nod in reply.
Moonwall stood on a balcony, between two grotesque gargoyles, observing.
The knock upon the door was so soft Moonwall couldn’t be sure he’d actually heard it. He stared at the door until the knock was repeated, this time with more force. “Dominic,” he looked over at Lapis. “Get the door.”
A moment later, Joseph Foehammer entered the room and removed his hat. He glanced at Lapis who stood by the door with his crossbow in hand.
“I assure you, that is most unnecessary.” said Joseph. Moonwall and Pizarro remained seated and silent.
“Brother Juris…” Joseph began.
“Father.” interrupted Moonwall, peevishly. “He is Father Pizarro to you now.”
“If you will excuse me, Father Pizarro, old habits die hard.” said Joseph, turning to Pizarro and bowing slightly. “I don’t wish to take up any more of your time than is necessary. So let me get straight to the purpose of my visit.”
“We know the purpose of your visit.” said Moonwall. “It is to extort money.”
“Can it be called ‘extortion’ when one is merely collecting what one is owed?” Joseph snapped.
“What one is owed?” Moonwall shouted as he slammed his hand down on the table. “Tell me doctor – what do you owe us for cleaning up the mess you left behind?”
“I need to get to Falun and there is little time…”
“Falun?” Pizarro spoke up for the first time. He and Moonwall exchanged glances.
Moonwall looked back at Joseph. “After all these years. You cannot possibly be still considering…”
“I have never stopped considering.” said Joseph, taking a step further into the room. Lapis stepped forward. Joseph glanced to his side and hesitated.
“I am not asking for even a fraction of what is rightfully mine. All I want is enough money to get to Falun. You owe me!”
“We owe you nothing!” Moonwall’s bellow echoed off the stonewalls. “And I do not take kindly to threats! Be gone! Should you unwisely choose to return, it will be an arrow which meets you at the door.”
Joseph looked down at his waistcoat and smoothed it out for a moment before looking back up. He looked again at Lapis, and then Pizarro before returning his gaze to Moonwall. Each passing second of silence served to increase the tension exponentially.
“You may send me off,” Joseph began. “But you cannot dismiss me. You cannot ignore me or what I did while in your service. I have sacrificed fifty years to complete the work you paid me to start! You sit here in your…” Joseph looked around. “your lavish and opulent trappings. You disgust me. Your lack of vision, your small minded petty ways. You’ve grown fat, Brother Ora…”
“Father!” shouted Moonwall.
“Old and fat! My children will feast upon you, they will suck the marrow from your bones as your greasy bile runs down their chins. The church is in ruins and we will gorge ourselves upon the carnage. You are already dead. Dead old men clinging to the past. Clinging to the comforts of their cage! Your time is done. The new world order is upon us!”
A smile slowly worked its way across Moonwall’s withered face as Dr Foehammer ranted. “It would seem that failed potential runs in your family,” he said, as he glanced over at Lapis and nodded. Dominic stepped forward and took Joseph by the arm. Joseph flinched away, smoothed out his waistcoat then turned and walked toward the door.
“Wait!” Joseph halted in the door that Lapis was holding open for him. “What do you mean, runs in my family?”
“You have an heir,” growled Lapis as he pushed Joseph out the door. “Maybe he will loan you your money.”