At four feet six inches, Missy was utterly miniscule compared to the two combatants, but she put herself in between them all the same. “What seems to be the problem, boys?”

The orc jabbed a finger at Muntz. “He needs to learn how to hold his tongue,” he said.

“Or what, thrall? Or what?” Muntz said. “I could burn you to ash right now with a snap of my fingers, and there’s nothing you could do about it!”

“Now, I don’t know about all that, since any old orc on the street could take that neck of yours and snap it,” the orc said. “Watch all your bluster dribble out your mouth in a death rattle.”

“Like I always say, violence is useless,” Missy said. “Mr. Muntz, I believe you put your mark on a piece of paper that forbid you from pyromancy and other magical mischief in our city limits.”

“Would it really be pyromancy if I burned a thrall to ashes? Would it really be mischief? Way I see it, I’m doing you a favor and ought to be celebrated as such. Time was, folks without the Art who couldn’t understand their place got themselves ensorcelled for their trouble.”

“It would be, yes,” Missy said. “We ain’t in the business of celebrating people here who break the law.”

She turned to the orc. “You, sir, oughtn’t let this fellow get under your skin. He’s all bluster, and if you take his bait, you’ve just made him stronger.”

“Well, seems to me that he’d stop being stronger after someone broke him over their knee,” the orc said.

“Don’t do that,” Missy said. “That ain’t the law either, and as I always say-”

“Violence is useless,” Muntz said, finishing her sentence in a smarmy tone of voice. “Let me ask you something then, little missy. If violence is useless, what have you got to keep me from burning you to a cinder? Time was, you’d be a thrall too, since halflings never have a lick of the Art in ’em.”

“The law,” Missy said. “That’s what I’ve got. Violence never solved anything, never taught a man a lesson. Violence is putting down a mad dog when all he really needs is some training.”

Muntz held up his hands, and a sphere of pure molten fury was suspended above each. “Say I decide to torch this place down, purify it of all its reprobates and miscegenates and thralls, taking it as a given that the fittest people with a spark of the Art can save themselves? Who’ll stop me?”

“The law,” Missy said. “And that’s an awful lot of five-dollar words for someone who supposedly can’t read.

Muntz looked about the Lucky Maggot, saw all the eyes on him, and smirked. He snuffed out the flames in his palms. “Wouldn’t be worth it anyway,” he said. “A spark of the Art would be a waste. When Dad calls up his troops again, when everything’s set right, we’ll be back to make this place right.”

“Good,” Missy said. “Let me know when that happens, so I can give the General a proper welcome.”

Muntz spat on the floor and sauntered out, singeing the doors as he smacked into them.

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