Meet The FiveMature

It was true that the Five Princes of Marsten were the ones ultimately in control. It was also true that Marsten, like any large city, was actually run on a day to day basis by a small army of bureaucrats and functionaries. The princes had their estates, the bureaucrats had the Civic Building. It was an impressive building, as such things went; a circular three story affair with a green roof that was enthusiastically scrubbed back to it's original copper every few years. Marble columns and elegantly carved statues circled the outside of the building. Broad stone steps led from the road up to carefully carved double doors, which were always open during the day. Inside were broad hallways paved with patterned tiles leading to various offices, meeting rooms, sitting areas, and - on the upper floors - spacious balconies. Every so often along these hallways was set a decorative alcove where a statue or column, having apparently come in from outside and become disoriented, had taken up residence. 

Alongside the taxmen and city planners were also offices for the various guilds that held sway in Marsten, local or foreign. The city being a major trade hub, many governments felt the need to have a representative in residence to insure their merchants were being treated fairly. The princes themselves had offices in the the Civic Building, though they only ever used them when there was a matter that required their collective attention. 

Today was one such day. The Captain had sent a personal summons to each of the Five, and as midday turned to evening they gathered at the Civic Building. The Captain had made a point of arriving first, and watched from a second story balcony as the rest showed up. She arrived not in a traditional carriage, but in a contraption that clanked and clattered and spewed steam and smoke into the air. It drew looks that ranged from awed to terrified as it passed by people on the street. When it drew to a stop in front of the Civic Building's grand steps a door swung open, and out stepped Her Ladyship. She was dressed more formally than he had anticipated, as if she were attending a state function and not just meeting the captain of the Watch. After she'd disembarked from the contraption is chugged it's way a little further down the street, where it sputtered to a stop and finally became silent. This didn't seem to bother Her Ladyship in the least, and he suspected she wanted to keep her latest toy in full view of the public for as long as she could manage. 

"What in the name of the gods is that?" He called down to her as she reached the top of the stairs. She looked up in surprise, but smiled and waved when she saw who it was.

"Isn't it wonderful?" She shouted. "It's absolutely brilliant! An independently motivated carriage!" She hurried for the door with another wave. As she disappeared from view The Captain cast another suspicious look at her new mode of transport. If such things were the way of the future, he wasn't sure he liked the way the future looked. 

Hammon was the next to arrive. He was also dressed splendidly, but that was nothing new. Hammon took his title as prince very, very seriously. Every opportunity to set foot in public was another opportunity to show everybody just how important he was, from the way he dressed to the opulence of his coach and the way he dressed his horses. The Captain could barely stand the man, and he knew the feeling was mutual. Mostly, he imagined, because he didn't have to answer to Hammon, and the idea that anybody other than another prince could ignore him invoked a righteous anger in the prince. While the Captain didn't like to let his personal feelings prejudice him when it came to Watch business, over the years he had come to use assignment to Hammon's guard as a punishment for members of the Watch. If Hammon knew, The Captain didn't care.

Third of the five to show was Prince Konrad. Konrad, The Captain mused, was almost the exact opposite of Her Ladyship. He kept to the Old Ways, worshiping the gods most people felt were gone and showing a healthy respect for magic. His estate boasted a temple to all the gods, though his family's patron deity was known to be Saliea, the goddess associated with light, healing, and the season of spring. Konrad was also known to have a mage on retainer as part of his personal staff. Rumor had it the mage was responsible for maintaining a large number of protective wards scattered around Konrad's estate, though most thought he was just for show. The Captain hadn't yet heard an official position on Her Ladyship's technology fair from Konrad, and wondered what the prince thought of it.

Vincent and Noron arrived within moments of each other, driven in by sturdy coaches bearing their family crests and colors. Vincent was what The Captain considered a balancing hand on the tiller of Marsten's government. Where Ladyship and Konrad were opposite sides of the spectrum regarding religion and technology, he was somewhere in the middle. Where Hammon liked to revel in his power, Vincent was more a 'man of the people'.  Which was not to say he forewent the privileges of his position, of course, but he was sympathetic to the city's more common classes and did what he could to make life a little easier.

And then there was Noron. He was more a merchant than a prince, The Captain reflected. Older than many of the other princes, he kept a very active hand in running the businesses that called his district home. Overall his was the richest in the city (much to the annoyance of Hammon), and it was well known that a great deal of Marsten's wealth was because of his policies. Aside from his focus on economics and business related matters, he spoke his mind on matters and voted however he felt like, without engaging in debate. It was rare that the others managed to change his mind once he'd made it up about something. 

Vincent and Noron greeted each other as they exited their carriages. They talked casually as they went inside, and The Captain judged it was time to head for the meeting room. The princes had their own meeting chamber, specially designed for them and reserved for their use. The room was on the third floor, and featured a large semicircular table where the princes would sit. Behind the table, set high on the wall, were numerous windows that allowed light to steam in during most hours of the day. When the sun began to set, as it would soon, there were numerous torch sconces to ensure the room was fully lit. 

A table was set before the princes, intended for The Captain. He stepped around it and stood facing them, hands clasped behind his back. He wasn't sure how the princes chose their seats at their crescent shaped table, and took a minute to note their positions. Starting on the left side of the table, from The Captain's perspective, was Prince Hammon and Her Ladyship. Vincent sat in the center, looking unassuming, followed by Noron and Konrad on the right side.

"Good evening, Princes," he began. "I apologize for requesting a meeting on such short notice, but the situation warrants it. Thank you for coming."

"Always a pleasure, Captain," Vincent replied with a nod of greeting. "I, for one, know that you take the protection of this city seriously. Whatever it is you've summoned us for, I'm sure it's important."

The Captain nodded, mentally translating Vincent's words into what he really meant: this had better be important, and you'd better have a good serious reason for it. A moment later Hammon voiced the exact same sentiment, though in terms far less subtle. 

"It had better be important," he grumbled. "I was supposed to be attending a dinner party."

'"Come now," Her Ladyship admonished him, "Let's let the Captain speak. The longer you piss and moan the longer you'll be here."

Noron stifled a chuckle at her words from the other side of the table, and for a moment Hammon was silent. Finally he waved a hand towards The Captain and said, "Fine, fine, carry on then."

"My lords," The Captain continued, "As some of you may have heard there has been a series of murders in our city. The first took place in Prince Noron's district, but they have since spread throughout Marsten. These are no ordinary murders. They have an occult aspect to them - arcane symbols are drawn in the victim's blood." 

He noted without any surprise that Prince Konrad had sat straighter in his chair. "What manner of symbols?" The prince asked.

"We have someone analyzing them now," The Captain assured him. "We keep Olian of the Mage's Guild on retainer for those rare cases that involve magic. While he hasn't yet deciphered them as a whole he has assured us that those symbols found at the crime scenes are inert. However," he drew a breath and got to the real reason they were here, "We've been able to piece together a number of different incidents we believe were caused by the same individual. These incidents confirm our worst fears, that the murderer is a mage from outside Marsten and, worse yet, he is able to summon and bind demons."

Konrad gasped audibly, one of the few in the room who realized the level of danger such a thing represented to the city. Her Ladyship was also looking concerned, fingers steepled before her. Noron leaned forward, eyebrows raised. "Well... this is good, yes? You know who the murder is?"

"After a fashion." The Captain explained, "We have a description of the suspect and we have a name: Noman."

"Then catch him already," Hammon said flippantly. "It is what your people do, isn't it?"

"If you know you're dealing with a Summoner," Konrad demanded before The Captain could respond, "Why haven't you involved the entire Mage's Guild?"

"I didn't feel it was necessary to involve them in Watch business," The Captain said, choosing to ignore Hammon for the moment. "Right now we have a mage working on the problem. If he makes it clear he needs further assistance we'll request it from the Mages Guild at that time."

"I urge you to reconsider, Captain," Konrad argued. "A Summoner is not something to be trifled with. Just one is enough to wreak untold havoc! We're lucky the city isn't burning around our ears as it is!"

"The Watch has dealt with magical threats to the city in the past," The Captain tried to sooth Kondrad, "And we didn't need to call on the Mage's Guild to do it. But rest assured, if this threat proves beyond our capabilities we will draw on ever resource available, including the guild."

"I think Prince Konrad may be overestimating the danger," Her Ladyship broke into the conversation. "No offence, Konrad, but the Old Gods are gone. Magic is on it's way out of the world. Surely the fact that we are not swimming in demons as the city burns around us is a sign that this rogue mage, this Summoner, is not powerful enough to cause such a disaster? I have full faith in the dear Captain and his Watch to resolve this situation."

"It's better to be cautious in the face of a threat, " Vincent advised, speaking before the bristling Konrad could get a word in. "And while I don't intend to alarm the entire city, it may be prudent to bring the Mages Guild into the investigation. If you need them they will be there and ready at hand. If you don't need them they do nothing and go home when this is over. I don't really see a downside. Do you?"

"Yes, very good." Hammon said imperiously. "Is it decided, then? We have a magical murderer on the loose, the Watch will catch him, and the Mage's Guild will assist. Hmm?"

"We should vote on the matter," Vincent began, but The Captain raised a hand. 

"There will be no need," he said. "I'll alert the Mages Guild in the morning that their involvement, if not their help, is needed."

The meeting wound down quickly after that, with Her Ladyship asking about the preparations for her technology fair. He gave her details about how the inventor's camp was being set up, and how the fair itself was going to be set up. It was mostly taking place in her own district, so the other princes had little to comment about it... except Noron, who seemed legitimately interested in the business opportunities such a fair would invite. He even went so far as to offer space in his own district if the size of the fair warranted extra room. And all the while The Captain kept noticing Her Ladyship's eyes, how they flashed such a brilliant green when the light hit them just right... She noticed him watching, and gave him an almost playful wink. He kept his own gaze firmly fixed on one of the other princes from then on. 

The End

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