Mansemat sat watching as Nisrioch began to play a different tune. “Must say, Lord Cthonique, I’m enjoying myself far more than I thought I would,” noted Ull Regni.
Mansemat nodded. “I’m glad you are.”
“Makes me sorry about the entire--invasion matter,” said Ull quietly. He coughed. “Well, you know. Not my idea. The blasted Jarlthing. Told me it would be perfect. No way it would fail.” He shook his head. “It always can, can’t it?”
“I’m afraid so,” said Mansemat. The Dark Lord of the Ironfangs nodded grimly, and stared ahead silently.
Malina glanced up at her father. “Wow! I didn’t know Uncle Nissy could play so goodly!”
Mansemat smiled at his daughter. “He--doesn’t play as often as he used to, I’m afraid.” He looked over at the table the Ashuranas were sharing with the Chiarmontes.
“Why not?” asked Malina.
“Oh, he has his reasons,” said Mansemat, tousling her hair.
“Ooh, look! It’s Mommy Viv and Sis! And the crow lady” said Malina clapping her hands. “Yay!”
Viviane and Elaine du Lac walked to the center of the Hall, with Jean Crow in tow. Viviane nodded in time with the tune, and then began to sing. “I've found a sweet haven of peace at last.”
“With the Lady abiding above,” sang Elaine and Jean.
“Her dear arms around me are lovingly cast,” they all sang together, “and sweetly She tells me her love!”
“The tempest is o’er!” rang out Viviane.
“The danger, the tempest forever is o’er!” sang Elaine and Jean quickly beneath her.
“I’m safe evermore!” continued Viviane.
“I’m anchored in hope and have faith evermore!” chanted Elaine and Jean.
“What gladness, what rapture is mine!” sang all three together. “The danger is past!” declared Viviane.
“The water is peaceful, the danger is past!” sang Elaine and Jean.
Viviane looked at her husband. “I’m anchored at last!”
“The anchor is holding, I’m safe now at last!” continued Elaine and Jean. Viviane joined them in the chorus. “I’m anchored in Love Divine!”
Ull looked at Mansemat. “You really are lucky, you know that?”
Mansemat turned to look his fellow Dark Lord in the eye. “Oh, yes. Beyond a doubt.”
Ull smiled sadly. “Of course, you do. You’d be a fool if you didn’t--and one thing you’re not, Mansemat Cthonique, is a fool.” He sighed. “By the Darksome Lady. I’m starting to feel--old, Mansemat.”
Mansemat raised an eyebrow. “You’re only a few years older than I am, Ull.”
Ull nodded dully. “I know. I know. But--the things--I--that we all lived through…” He shook his head. “I’ve gone through so much, Mansemat. And--I don’t have anybody. To help me with it. Not really.”
Mansemat looked at his brother. “You’re not alone in that.”
“Lady’s Love, I feel like such a fool,” said Ull. “We’re old enemies, Mansemat. You know that.”
“I don’t view you as an enemy, Ull,” said Mansemat quietly. “I’d rather have you as a friend.”
“Maybe, maybe,” said Ull quietly. “One day. Perhaps.”
Malina looked at the Muspeilun. “Don’t be sad, Your Promininence. You’re NEAT!”
Ull looked at the young Dev and chuckled. “You--you really are a treasure, Miss Cthonique.” He looked back at the performance. “I’m not sad. Not really.”
“Then why are your eyes all--weepy?” asked Malina.
“Sometimes--we grown-ups do this--when we’re feeling happy,” said Ull Regni, Son of Thunor, Dark Lord of the Ironfangs, and Konig Muspeilheim. He glanced at Mansemat and coughed. “You know--it’s--this probably not the time to bring it up, but--what’s this I heard about--hedgehogs?”
Mansemat frowned. “Groundhogs. It was… groundhogs.”