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Under the Gaze of the Blessed Basil

Previously: A Messenger From Ravila

 

Rudyard found Lapis meditating in his room. For once there was no web of string surrounding him, with Rudyard supposed was a blessing. The walls, though, were covered with symbols drawn in chalk, and a blaze of candles were lit before the icon of Blessed Basil of the Steppes. Lapis was kneeling on the bare floor in the center of the room, his normally athletic body lean from the ascetic fasting that he insisted on keeping during the season.

“When were you going to tell me about this, Judas?” Rudyard shut the door hard behind him and held out the wallet, closed with the mark of the Inquisition imprinted in the heavy yellow wax seal.

Lapis climbed to his feet and took it, looking it over. “You’ve already read it.”

“How could I? It’s sealed.”

“That never stopped you before.”

“And?”

Lapis cracked through the seals, one at a time, unwrapping the ribbons.

Rudyard watched him read, patiently. When the look of dismay Rudyard was expecting appeared he offered, helpfully, “you are a fool.”

Lapis crumpled the letter in his hand and tossed it in the little stove. “They just want more records.”

“Is this what you’ve been up to? How could you bring this on us?”

Lapis sighed. “It was an accident.”

Rudyard’s face was nearly purple with suppressed rage. “An accident? You call an inquest an accident?

“I asked Nimbus for details of the dosing program in Ravila. My mistake was assuming it was standard procedure everywhere. I never realized the rest of you were not being dosed like I was. Next thing I know he is asking for the names of all of our graduates, and one thing keeps leading to another…”

“And that is why you wanted me to look for information about the school in the years after the fire? The missing records?”

Lapis was taken aback. “They are missing? All of them?”

“No. Just enough of them, Dominic. The ones that aren’t missing have been altered. Cleverly, I admit, but an Inquisitor will have no trouble at all spotting the discrepancies. You have brought the great bleeding Hammer down on our heads with your,” he sneered, “accident.”

“Relax Eli. As long as I appear to be cooperating, they won’t send anyone. And they won’t send any correspondence higher up the hierarchy here. I need you with me on this.”

Rudyard examined Lapis’ face for his tells. Lapis had a pattern, and that was to become increasingly unstable in the final weeks of the fast. The skin around his eye sockets already had that bruised look from lack of sleep, but his eyes were clear and steady. The nightmares would start soon. They always did. Ever since that night in Cairo.

Rudyard sighed and ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “Of course I’m with you, Dominic. I always am.”

Lapis took a new taper from a drawer and lit it off one of the ones that were burning before Basil’s image. “I took your advice and looked for the other students.”

“Oh?”

“No one seems to want to remember much about the years after Great Fire. Not in any detail anyways. I don’t suppose there is anything unusual about that. And I could not find anyone that returned to the school immediately following the fire, so maybe there is some truth about the school closing for a time. But no one will confirm that either.”

“Dead end, then.”

“Your information about the altered records makes me think it may not be. Here’s where it starts getting weird.” Lapis planted the newly lit candle amongst the others. “I went on, going through the rolls and casually looking up those that are still living here. As time goes on, the reputation of the school spreads, and more of them leave the city, as the graduates become more sought after by other nations, especially those that have come into recovery.”

Rudyard waited impatiently while Lapis paused to finish his devotion before the Blessed Basil.
“I can’t help but notice our former students have a particular look. Beyond what one would expect in a locality, that is. Maybe it is just a credit to good nutrition they receive during their childhood that makes them taller than the local norm.”

“Everyone knows that upper classes are better fed than the children of the working class, and therefore better formed. Look at the old families in Ravila.” Rudyard drew himself up to his full height and gave Lapis a disdainful look.

Lapis ignored the snub against his own breeding and continued speaking to his shrine. “How often do you see a grown man still in peachfuzz?”

Rudyard shrugged. “It is not uncommon. Some boys develop later than others.”

“I’m not talking about young journeymen. I’m talking about men, established in their professions.” Lapis turned towards Rudyard at last. “This past week, I saw at least a dozen.”

“Industrial toxins, perhaps?” Rudyard asked, continuing his role as devil’s advocate. “This city does not have the healthiest environment. It has to be doing something to the children.”

Lapis frowned. “You’re right. I need another perspective. Someone not of our own. Meanwhile, I think it would be in our best interests to keep this investigation as quiet as possible. As Grace follows wisdom, nothing will come of it.”

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