For the dedicated administrator, there was always something to do.

Privately, Shiezma Vlande knew that an administrator was what she was, at heart. She delighted in making things happen, things that no one person could ever have accomplished alone. She took joy in efficiency. The politics of the Legeriat were mostly a distraction to her; at best they could show her where things needed to be done better, but more often they were in the way.

Still, if she wasn’t ideally suited to a Legeriator’s mantle, it was the post she held, and she wore it better than some of her colleagues did. And some aspects of it did appeal to her; enough to bring her to the Red Chamber even today, when no council was scheduled, to do some research and make plans. Truth be told, it was actually kind of restful, getting the chance to do this work without a whole muddle of politicians pestering her and getting in her way.

Which made it that much more of a surprise when the door creaked open and admitted another person. And all the more so when that person was not one of her oh-so-esteemed fellow Legeriators at all, but a short Orren man whose fine, dark robes made for sharp contrast against his pure-white fur and ice-blue eyes.

“Civilitat,” she greeted, barely glancing up from the records in front of her. “It’s strange to see you here today.” Then the Orren’s dishevelled, stooped, and generally frazzled appearance sank in, and she sat up straight, laying down her quill. “Seven staring gods, you look a wreck. Should I call a council?” The others wouldn’t be happy about being called in on their precious day off, but if there was need…

“No…” Rivvem Damarrie drew the word out rather a long time, as though he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to commit to it by ending it, as he sank into his usual, modest seat at the table’s foot. Then, “No,” he repeated more firmly, “all this is in my purview.” A webbed hand waved over the papers he’d brought with him. “Though I may put in a proposal, for your next session, that the fees associated with the higher degrees of feud be significantly raised. As it stands, some people seem to think a life is bought all too cheaply, and don’t pause to think that theirs could be much the same.”

Feuds? It didn’t take long for Shiezma to make the most obvious connection. “Oh, gods, is this still about that twelve-times-cursed nonsense with Hraff Scathie?”

“As you say.” The Orren gave a quick tap to the shaft of his enchanted quill – much like the Rassimel’s own, save that Rivvem’s was much more colourful – and started writing. “I’d hoped the man’s proven statement would be enough to lessen that particular headache. Ha. I keep forgetting how slow Cani can be to let go of a grudge.”

Shiezma grimaced, stacking up her papers and shifting them off to one side. “You look like you could stand to talk about it,” she confessed. “If it’s something the Legeriat should know anyway, tell me the story, and I’ll condense what the others should know into a report, as well as give a listening ear.” She rather liked the man, after all – not that she was in any way unique in that, he’d been voted in by majority for three terms running – and seeing him so wound up was unpleasant.

“Thank the gods, I think it’s all over but a bit of residual shouting. And some wrestling with my poor budget.” But by the way he sat up and took a breath, he was eager enough to accept her suggestion.

“By the time Tolmidior finally convinced Scathie to submit to a truth-telling, Kantele Danterron was convinced he’d killed her nephew,” Rivvem explained, quill tracing down a column on his page. “The Scathies and Danterrons were at each other’s throats. The very day of Scathie’s statement, it came to a scuffle on Apple Boulevard.”

“I heard about that,” Shiezma confirmed, wincing. “Didn’t Virend Danterron wind up with the healers over it?”

“That… ties into the strain on my budget, yes.” Rivvem tapped his quill again, stilling the ink-making enchantment, and laid it down with a sigh. “I’ve managed to keep it less well-known that in truth, he’d have been dead were it not for a bound spell he was carrying.”

The Rassimel’s wince this time was rather more pronounced.

“Just so.” The Orren’s muzzle quirked. “Just as the truth-telling should have cleared Hraff Scathie’s name, now the families had fresh blood to incite them. Virend was the worst of it, but the Scathies had fully five puppies who needed visits from a healer, and they were no happier for it.”

“And they turned to a blood feud? Seven staring gods, the two biggest Cani families in the city…”

But Rivvem shook his head. “Actually, I managed to talk them down from that, thank Reluu.”

At that Shiezma just blinked.

After a moment, she managed, “You talked down two families of feuding Cani? Rivvem Damarrie, even for you that’s remarkable. How on wood did you manage that?”

“It was certainly a near thing,” the Orren confessed, taking up his quill again and getting back to his notes. He took a breath to continue, then paused as the door opened. A Herethroy in Exchequer livery that clashed horribly with zir pale green carapace slipped in, wordlessly laid a sheaf of papers by Rivvem’s place, then scurried out at his murmur of thanks.

Once the door was shut again, Rivvem went on. “First, I reminded Narune Scathie that his family hasn’t permanently lost anyone to this mess. Yet. That was the easy part. Even with him willing to forgo a legal feud, though, Danterron was… less accommodating. I have only respect for your fellow Legeriators…”

“Oh, spare me,” Shiezma laughed. “You don’t need to be that diplomatic. I don’t have respect for all of them, much less only respect. Though the Cani aren’t so bad, I’ll grant.”

Rivvem permitted himself a smile. “Them, yes.” More soberly, he continued, “At any rate, I fear sometimes that bickering Cani will split this city apart. Perhaps it’s a peril of not having a Cani Duke for them all to rally behind.” He shook his head. “Kantele Danterron, unsurprisingly, still wanted justice for her nephew Gravion. And took Virend’s momentary death as proof of vile intent on the part of the Scathies. For the latter I had to pledge a substantial compensation for her pain and his, and full reimbursement of the Guild healer’s fees. And then I had to make a similar offer to Scathie, lest he feel slighted.” His quill scratched a line over the page with rather more force than was necessary. “Somehow I felt that the usual penalty of having the responsible parties lashed would not go over well with either family, even if those hadn’t included the injured.”

“Gods. Indeed not.” Shiezma made a few notes. If it was time to reexamine the fees for legal feuds, Healer’s Guild rates would probably be a good start. “What about Virend?”

“On that… this is not common knowledge, understand,” he warned, suddenly and atypically stern.

“I’ll keep my report very vague,” the Rassimel promised, and Rivvem somewhat reluctantly nodded.

“Though Hraff Scathie’s truth-speaking made plain that he had nothing to do with Gravion’s death, he did happen to say something that caught my attention,” the Orren went on. “With his name firmly cleared, he was… much more cooperative, to my surprise, when I pressed him for details. He may have chanced to see a vital clue. And on that clue, I told Kantele Danterron I’d set the Guard’s finest investigator. I’ve hopes of an answer within the week, though I didn’t tell her that; but with that progress, she was willing to settle for a nonviolent solution. Barely.”

“Thank Reluu for that,” Shiezma belatedly echoed. “Who’s on the case, if I may ask? Baron Varennis?” The man had been given his rank for his conspicuous work in the Guard.

Rivvem’s smile was grim. “Varennis is good, but he’s not the best. Not with this sort of investigation. No, I personally gave the details to Mherra.”

Shiezma didn’t keep up on the Guard’s day-to-day business, but she knew that name; her ears pinned back and her tail tried to knot itself. “And you call that a ‘nonviolent solution’?”

A laugh. “I know her reputation – indeed, it’s probably that which finally convinced Danterron – but she does know when to keep her claws in. And there’s nothing she enjoys more than a tricky hunt. No. I impressed upon her that whoever murdered Gravion Danterron, we need zir alive and as close to unharmed as possible. To stand trial, with all the formalities, so everyone can see that this was settled right.”

He had a point there. Shiezma confined her note to a brief mention of ‘Guardsman Mherra following new leads’ and laid down her quill. “Whatever it is you pay yourself, Rivvem, it isn’t enough.”

Rivvem sighed, stacking up his papers and pushing back his chair. “Thank the gods this term is almost over.”

“Oh?” Rising with him, Shiezma tilted her head. “Are you not going to be running again, then?”

“I… don’t know,” he managed. “I’ll have to see how this whole mess turns out in the end.”

“Don’t ruin yourself over it, hmm?” On an impulse, she touched his arm. “Let’s celebrate this averted crisis at Monterrien’s. I’m buying.”

The Orren’s pale eyes widened. “Monterrien’s? Gods, I haven’t eaten there since…” He trailed off, and shrugged. “That’s very kind of you, Shiezma. I’d be delighted.” He tugged at his robe. “Maybe in an hour, to neaten up?”

“I’ll bring my carriage to your residence,” she promised, and at the gates of the ducal manor, they parted ways.

Gods. That man was in charge of the city’s finances – he could pay himself a generous amount indeed and the city as a whole wouldn’t have noticed – but he lived on a workman’s budget. Well, if he wouldn’t treat himself once in a while for keeping the city from flying apart, it fell to her to do so.

It was all part of the job, really. That it would make a pleasant evening was just a bonus.