Barrant Burr chewed his barley stew, swallowed, and then got to work on the crust of bread, they’d given him as a bowl. Eliazar sighed as he watched him. “Tell me,” said the Erl quietly, “did you ever hear the Hierophant Lamiel’s theory of acquired traits?”
The Goblin took a swallow of bread, and looked Eliazr in the face. “Not that I recall. I did hear Lamiel Bramblebrush’s theory of paying his debts--which ran that he’d do it in his own sweet time--but I doubt they were the same person. Unless Bramblebrush had a history in the religious orders he never told me about. Which I doubt.”
Eliazar cracked a smile. “Not unless he was over five hundred years old,” he noted.
Barrant considered it. “That I also doubt.”
“He felt that the Nightfolk often acquired traits based on their circumstances, hence our… as he put it, ‘glorious and astonishing diversity of forms’,” said Eliazar. “Watching you eat put me in mind of it. Seeing as you’ve apparently acquired a cast-iron stomach.”
“Chuckle to yourself as much as you like, Erl,” said Barrant. “Judged in comparison to my recent meals, this is a veritable feast, and one I recommend you partake of.”
Eliazar tipped his own crust of bread to his mouth. “You know, my prior used to say that when that Milesian corruption started to supplant the proper name of Alvar, it was the sign of great and terrible things befalling the Children of Night.”
Barrant stared at Eliazar with frank cynicism. “You were a monk?”
“A member of the Order of the Barefoot Walkers in the Abbey of the Divine Mother Eternally Victorious,” said Eliazar. “Before King Sutekh dissolved the order, at least.”
“Which ones are you?” asked Barrant. “The ones who didn’t hand over the books, or the ones who protested his dissolving the ones who didn’t hand over the books?”
“The ones that protested his dissolving the ones who protested,” said Eliazar. “And hid books for the ones that didn’t hand over the books. And declared that his wars were unjust.”
“I knew the name sounded familiar,” said Barrant. “You’re a Hardheel.” He gave a delighted laugh and slapped his knee. “I’m pleased to meet someone as mad as myself.”
“Oh, I’m mad even by the standards of the Barefoot Walkers,” said Eliazar. “Instead of seeking to join another holy order, I took up arms against the King of Kings.” He shrugged. “With the results being… obvious.”
“Then I salute you as comrade,” declared Barrant. “After all--I’m here as well, aren’t I?”
The pair were sharing a laugh at that when the call rang out. “Oy! Goblin!” Barrant turned to see a rather young Erl wearing an immaculate uniform and a scowl on his face walking towards him. “Are you Barrant Burr, smith and armorer?”
“I have that dubious honor,” said Barrant.
The guard nodded. “You are to come up above and quarter in the smithy. In preparation of your new duties.”
Barrant scowled. “I suppose I’ll be making chains and the like?”
“Amongst other things, yes,” said the guard.
“And I have no option to refuse?” continued the Goblin.
“As you are the property of the mines, no,” answered the guard. He considered it a moment. “Or rather--you do, and then we would operate our option to cause you hideous suffering.”
Barrant glanced at Eliazar. “Even I would take this offer,” said the former monk quietly.
The Goblin turned back to the guard. “Tell me, does the smithy have a stoker?”