Mansemat Cthonique was starting at the two men before him, and trying to make sense of the madness.
“Now then,” he said mildly, “Mr... Goldleaf. Mr. Holdfast. Explain this to me again. You wish me to chastise Mayor Latheawl, because…”
Brontin Goldleaf scowled. “Custom, Your Magnificence! He’s goin’ against the norms!”
Mansemat stared at the old Erl for a moment. Then he looked at the fires blazing in the distance. Nisrioch, Morgaine and Viviane stood there, moving in unison as they wove spells to put the fires out, as a volunteer brigade were doing what they could with buckets. After a while, Mansemat turned back to his interlocutors.
“Could you explain this to me again?” he asked politely. “I fear I am somewhat… lost.”
Tancred Holdfast shifted nervously. “Well, Dark Lord, this is how it stands,” he began. “See, here in the Folly, we have fire brigades. Civically minded collections of men dedicated to the safety of our city, who fight fires when they happen. Naturally, this is expensive work, an’ so we go ‘round collecting donations from the local businesses an’ the like that we protect.” He smiled at Mansemat. “All very reasonable, as I’m sure you’ll agree.”
Mansemat frowned slightly. “There’s a certain… logic to it.”
“Right. Well--each brigade has its own territory. Now, we, the Honorable Sons of Marduk, have responsibility for everything from Melians Street to Amber Street, while the Sworn Warriors of Choas--that‘s his lot--” Here Tancred gestured at Goldleaf--“Got everything from Amber to Fivegroat Row. And therein lies the problem.”
Mansemat stared at the pair. “Gentlemen--all of Cheapside is ablaze. From Melians to Fivegroat and beyond.”
Brontin and Tancred looked at each other. Naturally, like all citizens of the Folly, they loved and revered their Dark Lord, and assumed that he understood how things stood. And yet, His Magnificence was… frowning. As if he didn’t understand. And that was oddly frightening.
Brontin stepped forward first, and gestured angrily at Tancred. “It’s him and his bunch’s fault, Dark Lord! They kept trying to put out fires in our territory!”
“It started on Amber Street!” shouted Tancred. “That makes it our job! It’s right in the charter!”
“Bugger your charter!” declared Brontin, rolling up his sleeves.
Tancred raised his fists. “Bugger you!”
“Gentlemen,” said Mansemat softly. “There is… no need to go on in this vein. I think I… understand how it stands now.” He took a deep breath. “So, you were… disputing this matter, and Mayor Latheawl…”
Tancred shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe it, Your Magnificence! First, he comes with a bunch a Hand volunteers. Then he orders us--ORDERS US--to stop figh--disputin’, and put out the fire.” The old Erl snarled. “I tell you, Dark Lord, these Hands don’t understand how the Folly runs!”
Mansemat looked away. “They aren’t alone in that.” He started to walk away.
“So, you’ll take care of matters?” asked Brontin as he left.
“Consider it… under advisement,” muttered Mansemat going to join his family.
By the time he reached them, they’d already quelled much of the fire, and were working to get what remained under control. “Everything all right?” Mansemat asked.
Viviane nodded, drawing her hands back. “Help would always be appreciated though,” she said.
“Mmm.” Mansemat drew Murgleys, then glanced at Nisrioch. “Oh, Nissy. I’m thinking of giving Mayor Latheawl a medal of some sort. Can you think of any that would be appropriate?”
Nisrioch thought it over. “Well, it would depend on what you wanted to commend him on. Civic service, loyal duty…”
“I’m starting to think--survival in war,” drawled Mansemat, as he raised the Sword of Night and then brought it down with a swift chop.
“Mother Night’s Holy Lotus then,” said Nisrioch.