“Oh, no, I’m having a delightful time,” said Nitre.
The whirling white flame in the copper bowl seemed to coil like a snake at this comment, disapproval radiating from it. “I did not send you there to amuse yourself, Nitre,” came the soundless tones of Grandmaster Radiance.
“And I never said you did, master,” replied Nitre cheerfully. “Merely that there are no problems, and indeed, I am enjoying myself. The men give their lives unceasingly to the cause. As they should. I believe another… yes, another just did.”
The flame burned low for a moment, as the Grandmaster thought things over. Nitre was used to this, his long service having made him quite familiar with the most senior Stylite’s moods and whims. “I see,” said Radiance at last. “Good. Good. We are at war, Nitre.”
“Indeed, Grandmaster,” said Nitre. “The Great War.”
“Only because we make it so, Nitre,” said the Grandmaster. “We and not these petty princes of Light, and their vile foes in the service of the Enemy. They are but the distraction--we fight the true battle, the invisible battle that occurs in the world of spirit.”
Nitre nodded. “Of course, master. That is our glory.”
The flame rose up like a serpent and seemed to regard him for a moment. “Indeed. The others nothing. The Dark Lords. The Prince. All the Peers of the Free Cities. Nothing. They are our game pieces, Nitre. Our puppets.”
“I know, master,” said Nitre with a bow. “Rest assured, all goes according to plan. Especially as regards our puppets.”
The white flame slowly flickered and dimmed. “Very well, Nitre. I will say this for you--you are one of my most able servants. Now… I must confer… with others…” And then it was gone.
“Oh, yes, master,” said Nitre. “A very able servant. Especially as regards puppets.” He raised one glove hand, revealing a well-crafted marionette. “Isn’t that right, Humphrey?”
“Hut-hut-hut, it is!” replied the puppet in a high-pitched voice.
For the next few hours, the Stylite amused himself by having the puppet dance.