It was raining when Nathan reached the Lamplighter Hall that evening. Old Reliable was behind the counter, as he always was. "A bit of courage to warm you this cool night?" he asked, polishing his bottle.
Nathan shook his head. "Not tonight," he said. "I've promised Monica to keep a clear head. And with the..."
The older man raised his hand. "You know why I don't go out anymore to the light the lamps?"
"Because of the... sacrifices you've made in the service," muttered Nathan.
"If you mean my wooden leg, yes, that's why I'm back here now," noted Old Reliable. He flexed a gnarled hand, then winced. "That and the cold that's gotten into my joints. But more the leg, really. I kept at it for awhile, after I lost it, but it proved too difficult in the long run. Do you know how I lost it?"
"Grunewald said it was a fight," noted Nathan, looking away.
The old man gave a curt nod. "That's the charitable way to put it. When I first joined, the Red Blinkers ran the docks. The White Scarves ran the taverns. It was a neat arrangement, until the White Scarves got hungry, and decided they wanted both. A bit of war started up. And I, fool that I was, tried to stop it. " He poured out a drink of aqua vitae into a glass before him. "What I did not understand was that the White Scarves had clever leaders. Men who gave money and time to... certain influential persons connected to the Ancients when they made their plans. And so I, thinking I was doing my duty, made certain enemies. And so, one evening, I was given a route through a rough bit of territory. And ambushed by the White Scarves." He sighed. "The barbers saved my life, but not my leg." He looked at the younger man pointedly.
Nathan look back in silence. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked.
"To make a point," said Old Reliable. "After this happened to me--well, I had an idea who had done this to me. And I considered... acting against them. But I did not. Because we Lamplighters--we serve the government of Talossa. Not any gods. Not any great ideals. Just the government of Talossa. And when I decided to play the hero--well, it may have made me feel all grand, but it was exceeding my duties. And I paid for it." He leaned forward. "Now... I will not speak of certain matters. After all, neither of us has any idea just what the other knows, and I think it should stay that way. I will simply advise you that if any difficulties in your instructions come in the days ahead to remember what your duties as a Lamplighter are. And to keep to them." He stamped his peg on the floor, the smacking noise almost making Nathan jump from his seat. "Oh, yes. You keep to them, lad."