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Twilight at the Sneaky Vole

Brother Scorpio looked into the canal, wondering how things had turned so bad so quickly. He and Lapis had been ordered to find and shut down the urchin drinking facility at once, as a service to public health and for the welfare of the children.

“We should have brought Lox with us.” he said off-handedly to Lapis, who took Scorpio’s cassock when he handed it to him. Scorpio kicked off his shoes and sighed as he looked into the murky canal water. He held his breath and jumped in.

Brother Scorpio had kept his distance from the little shack, looking on in dismay as several urchins sat on makeshift chairs eating gherkins and carrying on a lively conversation with Brother Lapis. The shack in which the apparent ringleader sat looked as though the roof would fall in at any moment. The little ringleader was listing off his wares, which included bottles with a rancid, fishy flavor to the liquor, some “fancy wine”, and ginger beer, as well as plenty of pickles.

Brother Lapis was ordering one of the runners named Ruddy through a sobriety test. Scorpio began to try to reason with the urchins. That was his first mistake.

He tried to impress upon them a value of an education, especially to the ringleader named Tepic. Aside from the tail and ears, the boy would be a perfect candidate for the Church’s education program. Alas, the children were not inclined to agree and at the mention of medical care recounted horror stories of the town’s doctors.

Scorpio tried a different tact, mentioning that the conditions in which they lived led to the need for them to seek medical attention from the unskilled doctors that plagued New Babbage. While surprisingly the children in the group did not seem to have need for medical attention, Tepic admitted that the children who worked in the factories did.

That brought Scorpio back around to the need for a better education, but again the children turned it down. Lapis interjected, questioning the children’s hygiene. The kids were digging in, citing almost daily baths in the filthy canal water.

Scorpio had had it. There was no reasoning with these children. Exasperated, he ordered them to cease and desist all business activity, citing it as a public health hazard and for not having the proper permits. Lapis took a different approach, quoting from the Book of Structures as he gave the pole that supported the makeshift awning a shake to test its stability, then gave it a side wall of the shack a well calculated kick to make sure if fell apart. He tossed the ragged cloth that was the awning aside before it could catch fire or trap the urchins inside.

The kids went into an uproar, bailing out of the small shack. Tepic socketed a gherkin into his slingshot, drawing it back and taking aim at the Brothers. Scorpio drew his hammer from his belt and lightly tapped a board on the side of the shack, the rusted nails giving up far too quickly. That’s when he felt a gherkin strike him in the back of the head.

He spun around and narrowed his eyes on Tepic, who was already reloading. The others children picked up whatever they could find, various old fruits and such about, and started hurling them at the Brothers.

The Brothers attempted to shield themselves, and the crowd of urchins seemed to draw in on them. Scorpio noticed Lapis going for his sword and he knew the situation was getting out of hand. He raised his hammer over his shoulder and took a well calculated aim, throwing the hammer to the left of Tepic.

The hammer struck the ground and bounced wildly and safely away from the crowd, pleased to see that the effect he had been going for was immediate. The crowd of children fractured and backed away toward the canals. Scorpio ran after the hammer, the kids continuing to toss whatever they could get their hands on. Lapis kicked over the structure easily before running after them.

Scorpio picked up his hammer and sighted in the gangleader again. In his frustration, he gave the hammer another throw, aiming a little closer to the boy. Again, the kids scattered, but this time Tepic ran after the hammer, picking it up and heaving it into the canal.

The Brothers gave chase, catching up to them on the bridge of the first canal they came to.  Lapis caught Ruddy and turned him upside down, then held him out over the rail of the bridge by his ankles. The rest of the kids scattered, Scorpio finding himself unable to catch any one of them. “I’m not afraid of you,” sputtered Ruddy, his face turning purple from the blood rush. Lapis casually let go and heard the splash as the boy hit the water. Lapis waited until Ruddy bobbed to the surface, spitting out a stream of water and treading in the ick of the canal, before taking a step towards the nearest urchin. “Who’s next?” said Lapis, his hand resting meaningfully on the hilt of his sword.

The kids ran and Tepic was nowhere to be seen. Coming up the canal from the south was a makeshift raft that looked in danger of falling apart. It was Tepic, poling as fast as he could from the rear of the raft. He fished his friend out of the water and yelled to the others to leap for it, and soon they were all safely out of the reach of the adults. The Brothers looked on as the kids paddled away.

Scorpio gripped the wall of the canal and tossed the hammer up onto the cobbles above. Lapis reached down and took his hand, helping to pull him up from the water. Dripping wet, Scorpio picked up his hammer and placed it back into his belt. He took his cassock and folded it over his arm.

“Let’s go back and claim our tithe before someone else does. That was a damned good vintage.” Lapis said.

Scorpio nodded, “I could use a drink.”

“You know what, Scorp?” Lapis started a thought, but trailed off.

“What?” Brother Scorpio snapped, impatient at Lapis’ growing amusement.

“You’re going to be a terrible father, if that second application goes through.”

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  1. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 13, 2012

    Sister Loxely: Evening, Dom.
    Brother Lapis: Hello Lox
    Brother Lapis: We found where the kids were drinking, like you asked.
    Brother Scorpio nods, “And they are out of business. For now, at least.”
    Sister Loxely smiles, “Oh good. That solves a few issues at hand.”
    Sister Loxely looks at them both, “How did it go?”
    Brother Scorpio: It was a shame we had to be so heavy-handed, but they left us little choice in the matter.
    Sister Loxely’s smile vanishes
    Brother Lapis: It wasn’t heavyhanded.
    Brother Scorpio considers, “More heavy-handed than I prefer. At least in dealing with children.”
    Brother Lapis: We knocked it over, the kids went running. End of story.
    Sister Loxely: So the problem bar will not be a problem for quite some time. And the children ran away, so no collateral damage.
    Scorpio: I would like to believe that. But their little ringleader is
    quite resourceful. I feel we need to keep up the pressure.
     Sister Loxely: Pressure. And how do you propose that, Scorp?
    Scorpio folds his hands in his lap, “I feel if we watch the urchins who
    work as runners, perhaps follow them, at some point they will lead us
    to the next incarnation of the Vole.”
     Brother Scorpio: Especially the child “Ruddy”, if he returns to us.
     Sister Loxely rubs one of her temples, “In other words the problem is not solved. Simply delayed.”
     Brother Scorpio: I do not believe they will give up alcohol quite so easily.
     Brother Lapis: I could not believe the quality of the alcohol they had.
     Brother Scorpio: They did have some very good vintages.
    Loxely blinks in surprise, “I heard rumors that what they served could
    cause blindness. They must have gotten different stock since that
     Brother Lapis: Put it this way. Our cellars are well stocked for winter.
     Sister Loxely smiles, “That is good news indeed.”
    Scorpio: They had some lesser quality. It’s the filthy conditions they
    languish in that really concern me. They could start a plague.
    Loxely gives a quick nod, “That is why we were encouraged to act so
    quickly. The filth. We cannot have things like infestation and disease
    spreading to our messengers, then to the students.”
    Brother Scorpio: To the messengers, and then to the town as a whole. Each messenger is in contact with hundreds of people.
    Brother Lapis: It does reflect badly on the city government. Maybe we should but Bones on probation.
    Brother Scorpio: It reflects poorly on us as well. We were put in charge of the messengers.
    Loxely: Perhaps that would discourage the others. Or alternatively we
    may lose our entire group of messengers if they prefer drink to work.
    Brother Scorpio: Or at least, the messaging service.
    Brother Lapis: Have there been any complaints about them?
    Sister Loxely: Not recently that I have heard of. Though Rudyard was the one who seemed to closely handle the messengers.
    Brother Scorpio: We could institute a new policy, an honor system, that all of the messengers must abide by.
    Sister Loxely: Perhaps you should be put in charge of them for a time, Lapis. They seem to be terrified of you.
    Brother Scorpio smiles, “Sounds like a perfect job for you, Brother.”
    Sister Loxely: Honor system complete with demerits?
    Brother Lapis: You do realize they begged Father to let Brother Rudyard stay on when I came back from my expedition.
    Sister Loxely: Considering the recent infractions they should not be given a choice.
    Brother Lapis sighs
    Brother Lapis: I suppose that is what is needed to drive the lesson home.
    Sister Loxely: That is if you are up to the challenge, Dom.
    Brother Scorpio: You have my support. Children need a firm hand. These have gotten on far too long without one.
    Brother Lapis: I’m afraid your diplomacy gives them too much room to question the system. You should have been more direct.
    Brother Scorpio scowls, “I have not dealt with such high-spirited children before.”
    Brother Lapis: Action. Consequence.
    Sister Loxely: You already have your discipline philosophy down pat then, Dom. Hopefully it will do the job.
    Brother Scorpio nods and reflects.
    Brother Lapis realizes he’s been cornered.
    Sister Loxely smiles satisfactorily and stands, “I have some tasks to tend to before retiring. Good night, Brothers.”
    Brother Scorpio: Good night, Sister.
    Brother Lapis: Good night, Sister


    Brother Lapis: How does she do that?
    Brother Scorpio: Get you to do whatever she wants? She is good. I will give her that.
    Brother Lapis leans his head back on the couch and rubs his hands over his face
    Brother Lapis: She’s beyond good.
    Brother Scorpio: Must stem from working in a male-dominated field.


  2. Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin August 13, 2012

    Tepic woke up from his nap, dry, warm and comfortable. A thought had occured to him – he was sure those two churchies had promised to look after any urchin that needed help, and the summer migration was well on it’s way. He would have to spread the word, if anyone came across any newcomers that wern’t suited to life on the streets, they could be sent to the Church, and say that Scorpion an Lapdog had said they could come! Pleased with his new solution to the urchin influx, he settled down to continue his nap, thinking a final thought before he drifted away.

    “Guess it’s be bout twenty a day, given the weather…..”

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