Menadarb Brighthand woke suddenly from his sleep. He blinked several times. For some reason, his waking felt… off. He glanced around the room. It seemed fine, but still--something was just…jarring him. He looked to his side. Miss Rhea was still there, looking a bit disheveled, but still quite attractive in the light.
The light. That was it. There was something wrong with the light. Menadarb bit his lip and tried to figure out what. Then it hit him. It was… flickering. Sunlight didn’t do that. He should know. He awoke to sunlight streaming through his window every morning…
Morning. Yes, what time was it? Meadarb turned to look at the clock. The hands were pointing to four hours and twenty-five minutes. Nighttime. Or early morning, he supposed. So… how was it there was enough light coming through his window to wake him up? Even if it was a flickering, somewhat off kind of light…
Menadarb sat up suddenly, and rushed to the window. It was as he suspected. A good portion of Marsilion’s Folly was on fire. Menadarb stood there, watching it in disbelief.
“Darby?” yawned Rhea, sitting up. “What…?” She gasped, and then rushed to Menadarb’s side. “It… it’s burning!”
“Yes, it is,” said Menadarb dully. “Seems to be… located in Cheapside. For the most part.” Menadarb turned and headed to his closet. As usual, his outfit for the day hung on the door.
“Cheapside,” said Rhea, trying to jog her memory. “Isn’t that where your family has those matchstick factories?”
“Yes,” answered Mendarb, putting on his pants. “That’s where everybody has their matchstick factories.”
Rhea turned to look at Menadarb. “What… Why are you getting dressed?”
“Thought I’d go down to… the fire,” said Menadarb.
“And do what?” asked Rhea, crossing her arms.
Menadarb was silent for a moment, then shrugged. “Something,” he said in a quiet voice.
“That doesn’t sound particularly well-considered,” said Rhea. “Fire is hot. It burns people.” She coughed politely. “People like yourself.”
“Yes. I know, but…” Menadarb bit his lip nervously. “I just feel like I have to do something.”
Rhea nodded. “Right.” She began to slip into her gown. “I’m coming with you then.” Menadarb looked at her for a second, but the young hostess silenced him with a frown. “I know this city a lot better than you do, Darby. For example--how would you get to Cheapside from here?”
Menadarb tried to answer that, then realized he couldn’t. He had no idea how to. Cheapside was something of an abstraction to him--it existed, his father’s factories were there, and it was one of the less opulent areas of the Folly--not as bad as the Mumbltey Pegs, but a bit worse than Trolltown. He gave a quick nod of ascent and then headed to the door. And then he stopped.
“What’s wrong?” said Rhea, heading to join him at the door.
“Forgot my cap,” said Menadarb, picking up the headgear. Rhea gave him a reproachful look. “What?” asked Menadarb, eyes widening in credulity. “You can’t expect me to go capless! People might think I’m heading over to the Hats!” Rhea crossed his arms. “You think I’m joking but I’m not! Look at Kaylet Goodsoil. First, he stopped wearing his cap. The next thing you know, he was wearing a hat, denouncing liquor, and throwing rocks at Fellowship Halls!” Menadarb placed his cap over head. “A man has to show his loyalties, now more than ever.”
Rhea gave a deep sigh, and looked away. “What was that about?” asked Menadarb as he joined her side.
“Sometimes I wonder if this job pays enough,” she replied.
Menadarb fidgeted bashfully. “Would… an emerald necklace, perhaps… make up for it?” he asked.
To his surprise, Rhea winced, then walked out of the bedchamber with a motion for him to follow. Menadarb did so, while trying to figure out exactly what he’d done wrong.