“Better?” I asked as Sam and I left Forceps. He nodded, running his hands through his hair happily. “Wanna go get your sister and have lunch?” We walked down the hall and back out to the shop floor.
“Yes, sir.” He tucked his hands into his pockets as he smiled up at me.
“You know you can call me Lunam, right?” I waved to Conscribo and Praesepe.
Conscribo and Praesepe walked over. “Who’s the Accendium?” Conscribo asked.
“Conscribo, Praesepe, this is Sam. He’s one of the kids I pulled from Aurantiaco yesterday. He speaks Angelus. Conscribo, your wife came from the Purge,” I started in.
“We’ve got quite a few mouths already with the three little ones,” he answered me honestly.
“Nuts. Know anyone willing to foster who does speak Angelus?” I asked the two men.
They both frowned in thought. Praesepe shrugged. “I got nothing boss.”
“Argenti does homeschool the little ones. We don’t have room to bunk him, but she could teach him during the day?” Conscribo suggested.
“I can run with that. He has a little sister, Abby. Would two be okay?” I asked.
“Send their lunches with them, and I don’t see why not. I’ll have to talk to her about it tonight, though. Do they have any education background?” he asked.
I turned the question over to Sam. He shook his head, then shrugged. “Mom taught me some. I can spell my name, and I know the alphabet, but reading is a different matter. Dad taught me military planning, but I didn’t really get it.”
I conveyed that information to Conscribo who mimicked Sam’s shrug. “Argenti’ll figure out what to do. She’s good that way.”
“Get back with me tomorrow then?” I waved as Sam and I continued back to Scriba’s.
“What do you think?” I asked as we turned into the stairwell.
“About what, sir?”
“Homeschooling with Argenti?” I opened the door.
“I don’t know her. Will she try to make me wear a dress?” He waited for me to close the door before proceeding through the stacks.
“Argenti and Conscribo are good people. I’m sorry about Pinna and Luto. They didn’t understand, and that was my fault for letting you foster with someone who didn’t speak Angelus. I can talk to them further about it if you want?” I offered. He shook his head and followed me into Scriba’s living room area in the library. “If you have more problems, let me know, all right?” We came to a stop in front of Scriba, Abby, and Sanctus.
“Yes, sir,” he replied as Abby tackled him. “Hi, Abby,” he greeted her.
“You look different!” she chirped.
“Is it bad?” he asked, running his fingers through his hair nervously.
“No. You look like Sam. Like real Sam.” She tugged him over to the couch. He collapsed between Scriba and Sanctus, Abby sitting on his lap. Sanctus glanced between the two, a slight look of confusion crossing his face.
“Can I get a couple journals, notebooks, and pencils, Scriba? I’m gonna take the kids off your hand and head out for lunch,” I asked her. She slid off the couch and pulled together a pair of matched journals and a pair of smaller notebooks along with a handful of pencils for me. I followed her over to her checkout counter while Sanctus pointed to pictures and talked to Abby and Sam. “Doc sent you for journals. Sanctus told me that he’d need them. You know he can’t read, right?” she asked quietly, so as not to draw the children’s attention.
“No. He hadn’t told me that, but he learned Imperian the hard way.” I glanced to him.
“Apparently he never learned Angelus either,” she explained as she set the books in a bag for me. I handed her a handful of chips and picked up the bag. “I – I don’t mind,” she blushed. I raised an eyebrow at her stammer. “I don’t mind him coming down with the kids. He’s good with Abby, and it’s a way for him to learn?” she offered.
“He does seem to be doing good down here. I have Conscribo asking Argenti if she would homeschool the Accendium. If she takes them, maybe they can drop by on their off days?” I suggested.
“I think that would be great. I don’t…I don’t get a lot of people down here to visit very often,” she admitted.
“I’m sorry for ignoring you,” I apologized.
“No. Not you. It just gets lonely in general down here, but someone needs to be here for when the materials are needed.” She picked up a book from the shelf behind her, and a bottle of paste, and a label to apply to the spine.
“Join us for lunch?” I offered.
“I have projects I put off for the morning that need to get done today, but I appreciate the invite. Maria Mater said she’d come down this afternoon.” She bowed her head over her work to hide a small smile.
“If you’re sure?” I asked as I walked back over to the couch.
“Yeah, no, I’m fine.”
Sanctus motioned for the children to leave the couch as he stood up. Abby clung to the picture book in her arms and gave me her best pouting face. “You’re gonna have to leave it here, Abby. It belongs to the library,” I explained gently as I knelt down to her level.
“But it’s pretty,” she mumbled.
“Scriba said that she’d like for you all to come back and visit her. She liked having you here. Do you want to come back and play?” I asked. She thought for a minute, flicking a glance at Sam and Sanctus. She nodded mutely, holding the book tighter to her chest. “Well, when you come back to visit, you can read it with her again?” I persuaded the little girl.
“Abby, it’s not ours. We still need to find where we’re sleeping,” Sam tried.
“But, Sam!” she persisted.
“I’d like to hear the story again too, Abby, but we need Scriba to read it to us, remember?” Sanctus stepped in. She looked up at him, dejected, and reluctantly handed the book to Sam. She held her hands up to Sanctus. He blinked at her, confused by her action before picking her up, holding her close as she clung to his neck. Sam set the book on the couch. Scriba motioned that she’d handle the book.
“Thank you, Scriba,” I told her as we left out. Sanctus also thanked her timidly in Imperian. Abby and Sam glanced back and forth between the two of us. I explained the new words to them. They made a valid attempt at also using the phrase of gratitude. It would take time, but they would eventually learn the new pidgin.
“Did the people that raised you start teaching you a trade skill?” I asked Sam as we navigated the shop floor to Archimagirus’s area.
“We scrounged metal scrap. We’d bring it to fath- the guy, and he’d take it somewhere. He’d come back with food.” Overwhelmed, Sam couldn’t make a decision on what to grab for lunch. Abby and Sanctus clung to each other at the prospect of the massive crowd that was sitting around eating and talking. I pulled together a pack of sandwiches and fruit rather than wait for them to get over their shock. It was easy enough to lead the three out the door to sit next to the sunny side of Medicus’s clinic wall. An audible sigh of relief issued from my companions.
“Did you like finding metal scrap?” I handed everyone their food. All three wolfed their sandwiches down in less than four bites. I watched in worry that one of them would choke. At least they didn’t inhale the apples whole. Sam shrugged. Abby shook her head vigorously.
“Do you have an idea of a skill you’d want to learn? You’re around the age that Accendium starts apprenticing in Caeruleum, Sam,” I informed him.
“Anything I want? I can learn anything?” He watched me with suspicion and interest.
“You’d have to see if the craftsman’s got room for an apprentice, but most people around here would take the help.” I finished my sandwich.
“I want to work on guzzler engines.” His voice squeaked as he tried to hide his hope.
“Well, that’s Clavis and Tempestatis’s territory. You’ll have to talk to them about it.” I bit into my apple. It was particularly tart today. It was fresh then. It hadn’t had time to sweeten in storage.
“But,” Sam went to protest before muting himself. I raised an eyebrow and motioned for him to continue. “I don’t speak Imperian,” he muttered, frustrated tears threatening at the corners of his eyes.
“Hopefully with some lessons from Argenti and working with Clavis or Tempestatis you can pick it up. Maybe Sanctus, but you’d have to ask him.” I tossed the applecore out to the field off the back of the clinic.
“I’m not very good with Imperian sometimes,” Sanctus hedged quietly.
“What do you do Sanctus?” Abby asked.
He looked down at her soft curls as she crawled into his lap and rested her head on his chest. He leaned his chin down on top of her head and held her. He calmed under her touch. “Nothing right now. My mother was a part-time seamstress for a shop that catered to Electi. I have a brother and a sister. Aurelia was taught lacemaking with bobbins. She started when she was your age Abby. You’d like Aurelia. She’s really nice. She’d teach you,” he told her.
“What’s lace?” Abby asked. Sanctus explained the general concept of it, picking up a thin wire from the ground and drawing a simplified design in the dirt.
“That sounds really pretty!” the little girl proclaimed.
“It is. She had a good hand at it. Paul, my brother, learned how to make tools for the shop. He’d make needles, bodkins, scissors, awls, tapestry frames, all kinds of little bits. He was still learning before we ended up here. His apprenticeship was supposed to take longer. He didn’t get paid a lot for it, but if he found scrap metal and turned it into needles or what have you, he could score a coin here and there. Mom’s boyfriends always seemed to relieve Paul of his pocket money, though,” Sanctus sighed.
“They’re not very nice if they did that,” Abby stated.
“No. They weren’t very nice at all,” Sanctus agreed with her.
“Then, what do you do if your sister does that lace thing and your brother makes tools?” Sam asked, rocking back and forth with interest.
“I did embroidery for the women’s dresses, handbags, and fine decorations. Crewel, ribbon, purling. I had good eyesight and fine skill with stupidly tiny needles.” He smiled brightly at the memory. “I was the one that tended to score the most with my work in the family, but because my mom was still head of the house, she’d hand over my earnings to her boyfriends.” His face soured quickly.
“You enjoyed it, though, while you did it?” I was surprised at how much he was willing to talk with the Accendium.
“Immensely. We’d have the radio on or someone would read to the lot of us while we worked. It was a large shop. I could get into an elaborate piece and listen to the stories and not realize how much time would pass until the end of shift was called. I wish I could get my needles and threads back.” A sad smile pulled at the corner of his lips, producing a dimple I had caught once before.
“Vestitor might have some, if that’s of interest?” I mentioned.
“What good would that do here? No one here probably even wants fancy stuff like that. I’m a Providentia. That’s my value,” he muttered.
“You provide to those you want to. If it’s not something you want to give, then don’t. Bodily autonomy and ownership of self is a thing here in Caeruleum, Sanctus. If you want to do your sewing, do it. If you want people to pay you for buffing, then do that. If you want to buff for free, that’s your prerogative. Your body. Your mind. Your thing.”
He looked at me in stunned silence. He opened and closed his mouth until I suspected he had been possessed by a fish. He shut his eyes tight, burying his face into the crown of Abby’s hair. His shoulders shook as he tried to hide tears.
“Sanctus?” Sam gently laid a hand on his arm.
“Yeah?” he sniffled, looking up to meet Sam’s questioning eyes.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Sanctus thought for a minute as he fought another fresh wave of tears that turned his cheeks blotchy. He nodded hesitantly. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay. Thanks, Sam. And yeah, Lunam. I want to see what I can barter with Vestitor for some material. Do you think he’d be okay if I didn’t have chips?” he asked.
“He’s pretty chill. I’d say there’d be no harm in asking. I can help translate if you want, or would you like to do this on your own?” I asked.
“Would you come with me? I don’t know. I don’t think I’d forget. But, Vestitor doesn’t speak Angelus does he?” Sanctus asked. We stood up and headed back into the building.
“Somewhat. Do you want to go now or wait for a bit? We have a bunch of bags that I’d like to get set in my room before we go trudging around more.” I pointed out the notebooks and Sam and Abby’s new clothes. “I still don’t have anywhere to lodge you two,” I told Abby and Sam. “Well. Maybe. Just maybe an idea.” I motioned us up the stairwell. We banged up the flight, the metal pinging hollowly on the shop floor.
“Idea, sir?” Sam asked.
“Only if Sanctus is okay with it. If he says no, which is perfectly fine, we’ll find another idea,” I explained to Sam.
“What am I okay with?” Sanctus asked.
“I know I just put you in the guest room, and it’s the first time you’ve had your own space. Would you be okay with Sam and Abby using it and maybe moving yourself into my room for the time? I can set up a spare bed easily enough in there. Might be a shade tight, but it’ll do?” I offered.
We paused in front of Sanctus’s room. He rested his hand on the door and thought quietly. Sam fidgeted before Sanctus nodded once. “Yeah. Sleeping in the room alone was…really uncomfortable. It was too big for me. To open. It made me nervous,” he admitted as he opened into his room. It was pristine, his few clothes organized into tidy little folded piles in even, aesthetic rows by size and color. He made quick order of rebagging his things and helping Sam and Abby with their new treasures. Abby was ecstatic about her outfits, and Sam had to show her his. Sanctus and I stood back to watch the pair be children.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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