Edward Delta stared at the assembled Stylites in the refectory. “Why are they even here if they aren’t eating anything?” he asked Edmund Erelim.
The Eremite glanced at the heavily cloaked Knights of the Tower for a second, then hurriedly turned away. “Do not look at them,” he hissed.
“What?” asked Edward. He continued to stare at the Stylites. “Will something bad happen?” He scratched his head. “I mean--their outfits are a bit creepy, but I don’t…”
“You know how you Sacristans view us Eremites as a bunch of out-there weirdoes, who take things a bit too seriously…?” whispered Edmund.
“We don’t think that!” declared Edward brightly. Edmund stared at him. The young Sacristan looked away nervously. “Okay, yes we do. Most of us, anyway.” He smiled at his friend. “But hey--look at us! Proof that we Holy Knights can just shelve our differences and…”
“Yes, yes, yes, I know,” muttered Edmund, nodding rapidly. “Thing is, we sorta view the Stylites that way. Only… more so.” He took a deep breath. “These guys are insane. They study things people really shouldn’t study, and it makes them… weird. In all sorts of ways. You really--really don’t want to attract their notice.”
Edward snorted. “That IS ridiculous.” He pointed at his friend. “You are being ridiculous.” He leaned forward. “Have I made it clear how ridiculous you are being?”
Edmund sighed. “I’m getting an idea, yes.”
“I’m going to demonstrate how silly what you just said is,” declared Edward, standing up. “I will go talk to the Stylites. Thus you will see that they are just like us, when you get down to it.” He turned and walked to the table where the hooded Knights of the Tower were sitting. “Hello there, gentlemen! I am Squire Edward Delta, of the Knightly Order of the Sacristy of Saint Julian. I wish to thank you for your service to our city, in its hour of need.”
The Stylites did not answer him. Indeed, they barely seemed to respond to his presence. Instead they merely remained huddling at their table, their faces hidden by the hoods of their cloaks--and to Edward’s surprise, heavy shrouds worn over them, so that only the eyes were visible. Edward stood there in awkward silence for awhile, then coughed. “Well,” he said, shifting awkwardly. “I hope that I have made my good wishes known…”
“What are you doing?” came a low, growling voice behind the Sacristan. Edward Delta whirled around. A tall Stylite in a rich robe stood there. Like his fellows, he was cloaked--however instead of a shroud, he wore a heavy metal mask, shaped into the image of a scowling face.
Edward gulped, then managed a bow. “Umm--pardon me, sir… I was just… introducing myself to your fellows…”
“They are not my fellows,” said the Stylite. “They are my Acolytes. I am their Master. Men call me ‘Sepulchre’.”
Edward blinked. This was… getting odd. “Ahh… yes. Squire Edward Delta. Of…”
“I know your Order’s name, Sacristan,” stated Sepulchre. “There is no need to speak it.”
“Right.” Edward nodded. He glanced at the Acolytes. “Umm… are… do these guys talk…?”
“The Rule of our order requires that Acolytes remain silent,” said Sepulchre. “It is a matter of discipline.”
Edward stared at the silent, almost motionless men. “Ah.” He bit his lip nervously. “Maybe… maybe you could introduce me to…”
“Acolytes of the Tower do not have names,” said Sepulchre. “Only those who have abandoned all things may serve the Tower. Only when they have become masters is a new title given to them.”
Edward tried to look Sepulchre in the eye, but found the mask too unnerving, and glanced away. “But… what do you call them?”
“Usually nothing,” said Sepulchre. “When we need an Acolyte to serve a task, an appropriate label is given, until it is no longer needed.” He suddenly pointed to one of the Acolytes. “You there! You are now called ‘Worm’! Worm--stand up, and bow to the Sacristan.” The Acolyte stood up, and bowed politely to Edward. “Now, Worm--sit.” He did so. “Very good. You have served your task. You are now free of adornment once again. Serve us faithfully and namelessly, Acolyte.” Sepulchre turned to Edward again. “Do you see?”
“Ummm…. I guess so,” mumbled Edward.
“Do you have anything else you wish to discuss with us?” asked Sepulchre. Edward shook his head, and began heading back to his table, with the occasional glance over his shoulder at the Stylites. They never moved, or showed the least response to him.
Edward sat back down in his chair. “Not a word,” he said to Edmund.
The Eremite merely smirked.