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Tribute for Thomas

There were easier things to do than lead a ram through the catacombs. Tobias tugged on the rope that was tied around the neck of the young sheep that he had bartered for from the odd young shepherdess, coaxing it along the broken path. The ram did not like the darkness. It would have been easier to carry it, but that would create other problems, as the ceiling was often as uneven as the floor.

Leviticus intercepted him before he made it to the chamber where Thomas kept council and took the animal from him. They walked together in silence the rest of the way. The unmistakable funk of human bodies was in the air, stronger than he had ever remembered it. He regretted not leaving his good shirt and waistcoat behind before entering the underground. In the dim lighting, he could see the filth they lived in. Had it always been thus, or was this Thomas’ doing since Father was lost? Surface life had changed his perceptions.

“Tobias,” said Thomas, who’d taken to calling himself the Prince of the Dunsany. “Is this a gift you bring to atone for being so late in coming?”

“A tribute from the surface.” Tobias gestured towards the ram, which stood bleating in terror beside his escort. If Thomas had ill intentions toward him for not finding the missing journal, Tobias had calculated that the ram would distract him and his followers. It was not often that fresh red meat came to the caverns. Already he could see that the ram was the center of attention for everyone in the room except for Thomas. He must be eating well these days.

“The boy acquired this?” said Thomas.

“I acquired it,” said Tobias, shifting the conversation away from Malus, “I bring it to you out of regard for our kinship.”

“I am impressed. You have proven adept at blending with those above,” Thomas nodded. “That should make your task of finding and delivering Father’s book easier.” Thomas reached out a hand and touched the ram, combing his long white fingers through it’s thick, lanolin-heavy wool. Thomas closed his fingers into a fist, gripping the ram tightly. “Or have you brought me that today as well?”

“No Thomas. I fear it may be out of our reach. I have reason to think that it may be in the hands of our enemy, the church.”

“Well,” said Thomas, releasing the ram and bringing his hand to his face. The heady scent of the beast was strong upon his fingertips, soon they would feast and fill these cavern “If that is the case your task should be easier not harder. Perhaps you should pay a visit to your old teachers. You have grown fat, Tobias. Are you still one of us? I wish you to prepare that offering so that we might feast upon it. Together.”

Tobias began stripping off his clothing to save them from the blood ahead. “I need a knife,” doing his best to ignore Leviticus’s derisive laugh.

“I see you still have a sense of humour,” Thomas smiled. “How wonderful those above have not squashed it. Now, prepare the offering, Tobias.”

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