Refractory Nihilo, where I was trained, instills certain habits into those who make it to graduation. Or should I say, one would not graduate from the refractory without certain habits having become a part of him. One of those habits I hated breaking from was the cleansing ritual. Yet, here I was, ready for a good cleansing, but no ritual towels. I admit, had I been a little more engaged, I would have made it a point to bring my own. But considering the suddenness of the mission, and the social norm that everyone observed cleansing – or at least respected those who did – I opted to leave my towels behind.
There being little point in going through the ritual without properly ornamented towels, I just washed off the filth of the road, letting several days of travel and fruitless frustration fade with the hot water. He would forgive in this case, as I was doing the work I was called to. Besides, a Savant was frequently called upon to improvise and adjust.
I emerged feeling and smelling a bit better, and peered out the window at the dirt street, where Wells was less than happy.
“Our Bob is an odd one.”
“How do you mean?” I asked. In our business, odd was never good, especially when that particular descriptor came from Wellington.
“He’s…trained, I’m pretty sure. He has carriage. He’s observant. He walks with alacrity. He positions himself with at least one escape route. He’s terse.” Wells paused for a moment. “And he stinks.”
“Ah, ‘stinks’. You’re sure that’s not me?”
“No, decidedly not you, or your clothes, or your wretchedly predictable feet. I know those smells,” said Wells, punctuating his comments with eyes closed and a shake of his head. “No, our Bob stinks of burnt sugar and sulfur. And he’s no longer an unknown, so let’s go from calling him ‘Bob’ to what he’s been calling himself – Solevals.”
“Wells…that scent signature. You sure about that?”
“Sure I’m sure, genius. You think I make this stuff up?”
“Actually, I know you do. Do I need to remind you of last year’s…”
“Now, now, now, no need to get nasty,” Wellington interrupted me, pupils dilating and ears going back. “We cats had our little joke, it was quite funny, and my whiskers grew back.”
“Maybe if you were less funny, you wouldn’t have been whiskerless, “ I smirked. I loved reminding Wells of this event. He never got over having his whiskers clipped by the Exmendicant for clearing the refractory of Savants for his own amusement and that of his feline compatriots.
“Mmm-hmm. So then. Let’s review the general lunacy of your scent profile. Burnt sugar and sulphur. What, do you suppose, comes to my mind as you offer me that description?”
A sigh from Wells. “I know, I know. It sounds ridiculous, especially to me. But I smell what I smell.” He turned his orange tabby back to me and sat on the sill, looking down at the street.
“Right. Let’s just assume your smeller is working properly. You know what I’m thinking? That passage in the Book.”
“Yes, I wish I had gotten the hang of timeshift so I could have known you were going to say that before you did. But I don’t have the hang of it, so I’ll have to just mock you now.” Wells turned to look at me, and did his sing-song voice. “‘That passage in the Book.’ Bah! You know what I think of the Book.”
“I do. And you know what I think of the Book.”
“Obviously. You’re not a Savant for nothing.”
“And cats aren’t paired with Savants for their devotion to the faith. So c’mon then. You know where I’m headed with this.”
Wells stood up and began pacing, tail parallel with the floor and flicking back and forth. “Do you really expect me to believe in dragons? Really? Do I have to go down this ridiculous path with you?”
“It’s not ridiculous, and yes you do. We will keep all our options open, no matter how unlikely. If you have a problem with that, come up with a new scent profile. In my mind, there’s a possibility that Solevals is an agent of the Divestment.”
“Oh, so now we’ve upped the ante from finding Ossa to uncovering a nefarious plot by the mythical Divestment. My, don’t we just want to be the next Exmendicant? I bet you’ll be the one to clip my whiskers next.”
Disgusted with Wellington’s lack of faith and lack of respect for mine, I turned toward the door. “Time to meet Solevals. You coming?”