“Ahh,” said Nitre, painting the small figurine before him with gloved hands. “So that is how it stands.”
Sylvester looked around the tent in bafflement. “Umm… yes. The… Archon wishes you to relay any news you have for him through me.”
“You said that already,” noted the Stylite, placing the figure before him with a satisfied nod.
“Oh, yes.” Sylvester gulped and looked longingly towards the entryway of the tent. It was strange--outside of Nitre’s tent it was cold, but inside it was stultifyingly hot, a sort of strange wet heat that got inside you and made you miserable. “Yes, I suppose I did.” He looked at the figurine. “What… what is…?”
“A hobby of mine,” answered Nitre, placing the doll down. “To pass the time. The long, long, wearying hours that I face.” He propped the figure up so that Sylvester could get a good look at it. It was, he saw, a doll in the shape of a small boy, clad in simple blue clothing, the face nothing more than three dots and a line to denote eyes, nose and mouth. “I make them. I clothe them. I give them names.” Nitre began to affectionately stroke the doll’s head. “This one is Threnody.”
“I… see…” said Sylvester.
“Wave to the young Eremite, Threnody,” said the Stylite.
The doll raised its arm, and waved to Sylvester.
“Ahh.” Sylvester began to back away. “How… charming.” His hand felt what he prayed to Anael was the tent flap. “I must go now.”
“But Threnody wishes to speak to you!” stated Nitre. “He finds you as charming as you find him! Don’t you Threnody?”
The doll turned its head and nodded at Nitre.
Sylvester took a step backwards. “Yes, yes, but… I really must be going… now… The Archon…”
“Oh, do stay,” said the Stylite. “The Archon can wait. The siege can wait. The war can wait. But little Threnody--he wishes to talk to you.” The doll clambered awkwardly off the table. “Don’t you wish to hear what he has to say? Hmmm?” Now it was crawling towards Sylvester on the floor.
Sylvester leapt back, no longer caring if he was going out the door or not. As he left the tent, he saw the doll staring at him, its eyes strangely luminous. But then, then he suddenly blacked out.
When he came to, it was in the camp, as two armigers shook him conscious. The Stylite’s tent was nowhere to be seen, and if the two men could be believed, the siege towers were burning.