“The Archimedian State,” intoned old Father Moonwall. “This is what you are being trained for. ”
Elim and Anton, the novices, barely contained their pride at being allowed to observe Brother Lapis at work.
“Can he hear us?” asked Brother Anton Riddler, always the inquisitive one.
“…yes,” muttered Lapis distantly without looking up.
Father Moonwall humpfed. He approached Lapis and ran his gnarled hands over Lapis’ thick black hair as if he was a favored pet. “Brother Lapis is one of the more difficult minds I have handled. He guards his palace carefully and does not give his trust easily, not even to a Brother. What is the law of our Order?”
“We take care of our own,” said Elim quickly.
“Very good. And why is this called the Archimedean State?”
“For Archimedes of Syracuse. The legend says he was not aware of the soldiers while he was working on his problem, and was killed.”
“Correct.” Moonwall cleared his throat loudly. “With the assistance of a handler, you will be able to achieve states of speed and concentration that are singularly difficult to attain on your own. Your first task is to learn to take care of your Brother. Observe him. Learn his unconscious habits. Bring him food when he shows signs of fatigue. Get him up when he needs to relieve himself.”
Elim watched with excitement while Anton suppressed a giggle. Father Moonwall cleared his throat loudly again. “No, Brother Lapis is not one to soil himself, but I have known some that will if you do not watch them closely. Let us give him a moment to refocus himself.”
Here Moonwall waved a knuckle in front of Lapis’ face to bring his attention to a new sheet of paper and motioned for the novices to move out of his peripheral vision. They waited, then watched as Brother Lapis leaned closer to his work. His head began bobbing to the right as his ears turned crimson from the rush of blood, and his eyes seemed brighter.
“There,” whispered Moonwall softly. “Observe.”
Moonwall moved two stacks of books that were on the table to Lapis’ left, then placed a lit candle between them. Then he picked up Lapis’ idle arm, rolling back the sleeve up to the elbow, then placed Lapis’ arm so that the wrist and elbow were resting on the two stacks of books. Moonwall then stepped away and waited while Lapis stayed focused on his work, oblivious to what had just happened.
Elim gasped in elation. “It’s true then! He can’t feel it!”
Anton looked uncertainly at the red welt that was raising on Lapis’ exposed skin where it was exposed above the candle flame. “Father?”
Moonwall looked on impassively.
“Father?!” Anton Riddler shifted his weight uncertainly before making a decision. He took Lapis’ arm off the books while moving the candle away with his other hand, then called for Brother Elim to find a length of bandage to treat the burn.
Moonwall nodded with satisfaction as the two boys treated the burn on Lapis’ arm. “I trust I do not need to tell you never to discuss this with outsiders. Tell Sister Loxley that he is working and she will instruct you further.”
And with that, Father Moonwall strode out of the room, or as best as one could stride while bent over a cane.
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