Nycetus yawned as Cheimarrhus entered his chambers, and put down the book he was reading. “So… did you get the smith to the smithy?”
The young Erl guard frowned. “He insisted I bring his stoker along,” he muttered. “It was quite… irritating.”
Nycetus turned to his underling, staring at him flatly. “But you did get them to the smithy, correct?”
Cheimarrhus turned around, his annoyance obvious. “Yes!” he snapped. “Your precious smith and his precious stoker are at their stations.”
“Good,” said Nycetus, returning to his book. “He is precious, you know. We’re lucky that a smith was being offered, especially one so skilled. If we’d gone any longer without one, I’d have had to hire a freeman. And that is pricey. And comes straight from the mine’s funds. So again--count your blessings.”
“It can’t be that pricey!” said Cheimarrhus, his tone sure, but his expression showing a nagging doubt emerging.
Nycetus flipped the page of his book. “Spoken like one who’s always lived off his parents’ purse,” he noted. He sighed. “Rest assured. It is.”
“But still--to give into these… scum on anything!” declared Cheirmarrhus passionately.
Nycetus folded the page of his book to keep his place, then set it down. “Giving into these scum, my dear lad, on certain small things is one thing that keeps this place running.” He smiled broadly. “The oppression of peoples is something of a science, Cheirmarrhus. Treat them too lightly, and, yes, they will take advantage of you. But press the heel too harshly, and you will make it so they will dare everything to dislodge that bothersome foot.”
“That’s when you press harder!” declared Cheirmarrhus. “Into the throat, if you have to!”
“How many throats?” asked Nycetus quietly.
Cheirmarrhus spoke without hesitation. “As many as is needed!”
Nycetus’ face remained calm. “And what if that sum is all?”
Cheirmarrhus actually did hesitate for that one. “Yes,” he said at last. “Yes… if that is the sum needed, then that is how many to kill.”
“And then who would mine, may I ask?” said Nycetus, his face expressionless.
“Well… they’re only slaves,” muttered Cheirmarrhus. “We’ll just buy more.”
Nycetus stared at him for a moment, then picked up his book. “You know, Cheirmarrhus, I have never been so happy that it is I and not you who is in charge here as I was just now.” He flipped the book open. “Not that you are wholly wrong, but you seem to fail to see that it is our job to attempt to avoid such drastic measures if possible.” His eyes returned to his book. “Which is why henceforth you are not to deal with the slaves without the assistance of Abgar. Understood?”
Cheirmarrhus scowled, bit his lip, and then gave a nod.
“Excellent,” said Nycetus. “Then leave my presence.”
Cheirmarrhus gave a rather stunted bow, and whirled around, leaving the room.
Nycetus went back to reading The Prince of Dead Leaves, and musing over the many ways of oppression.