Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Circles and Old Stones--Part 7

Roland Miller regarded the men--and two women--meeting with him in this small room with rather worried eyes. The people of Ulverrun were, he knew, at heart reasonable, pragmatic and decent. Still, semi-clandestine meetings in darkened rooms had a way of making you nervous. “Now,” he began, “to start, let’s not get hasty. We…”

“Have a bunch of accursed Sacristans setting up shop on the outskirts of town!” snapped Industriousness-Pleases-The-Holy-Light Smith, slamming his hand down on the table with surprising force. “It’s a menace!”

“What am I to tell our children?” said his wife, Blessed-Be-Those-Who-Obey-The-Precepts. She sniffled slightly. “All their lives--we’ve sworn they’d be safe from the Synod, and now… now their hatchet men are setting up shop next door!”

Roland took a deep breath. There was a part of him that wanted to see the pair as slightly ridiculous, that if half of what he’d heard was true, the Sacristans were presently as much in the Synod’s bad book as the Smiths were. But there was another part that remembered what the Mikhelites had endured over the years, and that part knew that you never quite got over the fear of living with the knowledge that armed men could burst into your home, carry you off and do this with the approval of the law. He was trying to come up with a proper reply to this, when someone did it for him.

“I agree with Mayor Miller,” said Lleu Longarm. The Goblin spread his hands. “I have no more reason to trust the Sacristans than you do--but they’re here by the permission of the Dark Lords. We mustn’t forget that. I don’t think the Badb is going to let them run rampant through the Marsh.”

Roland nodded quietly, feeling fairly certain that having a Nightfolk point this out would calm things down. And then of course, fate decided to put a crimp into things.

“The Dark Lords cannot be watching them always,” said Njal Hammerhand. The Ogre regarded the room seriously. “Perhaps this is a trick. My father always said, never trust the Holy Knights, for they are devious in their holiness.”

“That is largely speculation on your part, Hammerhand,” noted Roland with a subtle wince. It occurred to him that in many ways, the Emporium members who’d joined the town council for the duration of its contract with Ulverrun were fitting in quite well--committees being committees on both sides of the Murkenmere. Indeed, he was starting to think they were fitting in a little TOO well.

“Something should be done!” declared Gahaltine Clark, following his lifelong habit of joining whatever appeared to be the majority in the most noncommittal way possible--a habit that had convinced a good portion of Ulverrun of the man’s sagacity.

“Here here!” said Dorcas Spindletree, a Goblin weaver who apparently had made her way up the Guild by a similar mechanism.

As Roland looked over the room again, it occurred to him that he was dealing with some very nervous people, people who were on the verge of doing something foolish, and that how he handled this situation would determine how his tenure as mayor was remembered in Ulverrun. “Gentlemen--and ladies,” he said, “I must admit your concerns have moved me. Leave everything to me. I will visit the Sacristans, and attempt to iron out a solution to our problem.”

The councilors regarded him warily. “When will you visit them?” asked Blessed-Be-Those-Who-Obey-The-Precepts. “We need to know that we’re safe!”

“Then I’ll visit them this very night,” said Roland firmly. “And I promise you--I will handle things.” As the council began to exchange wary nods with each other, Roland realized how easy it was to get oneself further in trouble while trying to get oneself OUT of it.

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