There is a war in the city. In truth there are several. The group of islands of which it is part lie on the edge of empire. They are part of the Free Empire. To the west, further across the sea, are the dreaming cities of Altierra. The two empires rub against each other. Sometimes there is friction.

Then there is the city itself. At its highest levels it is ruled by the prince. He controls the life of the city from above, that mad man commanded to the edge of his world and there shall he remain, chafing against his fate. His fortunes raised him, but in turn he is obedient to another. The city simmers under his authority. That is another war. Give it time.

There is another war, a fantastic war, that goes on behind the streets. On one side are the monster slayers, the fire mages with their pyrotechnics and their guns. The black office stands between the citizens and the freaks. In a city which the whole world can flow through then who really are the freaks and the monsters?

In the end there is only one war, the struggle to survive today and see tomorrow. That’s the war that all citizens want to win, the one to get through.

~//~

Professor Canady came down the stairs for breakfast. “Good morning,” she said to her servant. She sat at the table that was prepared for her.

“Would you like anything?” the servant asked.

“Some toast, Florence,” said the professor. “I plan to be in my office this morning. Someone may wish to see me.”

“Indeed,” said Florence. “I shall tell the kitchen.” In a few minutes she returned with the toastrack.

“Thank you, Florence. Is there any coffee ready? Bring me some.”

As Florence left the room again there came the sound of the temple bells ringing in the morning hours. The professor could hear the chimes from the Old Stone Temple as the sun rose over Temple Hill whose shadow lay between the university and the harbour. Further away she could hear the bells of Divine Belinus and All Hosts. Whatever bells they were she gave them no mind as she dabbed marmalade on her toast. So long as burned incense to the imperial genius when it was required the temples did not bother her. It meant she could stay away from the sacrifices.

Then she heard the bell that she must obey. Among the others were the regular chimes from the university’s ornate clock tower.

“Florence, I shall be in my study,” she called. “I shall take my coffee there.” She crossed the hallway from the dining room to her study. She sat at her desk and picked up a paper. Next she picked up a red pencil and began to make corrections.

Someone stuck their head around the door. She could tell that it was not Florence. She looked up, it was one of the students, the grungy one who smelt like a bad Jaillese restaurant.

“Good morning, Professor Canady,” he said. “I have come across to tell you that there is no ink in the lecture theatre.”

“Good morning,” replied the professor. “Have you told Mrs Arbalista?”

“She isn’t in yet”

“And there is no one in the department yet?” she asked.

“Some of the professors are in,” said the student, “but I came to tell you instead.”

She knew what was unsaid. The other professors in the department were men so the student had come off the campus to her study in the professors’ houses. She got to her feet.

“Very well, I shall deal with it.”

“Oh,” said the student as he disappeared from the door, “I have filled the inkwells from the department’s supplies, but the department is out of ink now.”

Professor Canady sat down again. She made a note to give to the department’s secretary and returned to her marking.

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