Next to her in the floater, Corydalis grimaced. On the one hand, gossip did not become a person in his position, and on the other, the details might be relevant to Smoke's work. "It's hard to decide where to begin. You know the stereotype of corruption, where lawmakers hire their friends and relatives to do work instead of hiring the person best suited to the job?" At her nod, he continued, "It is rarely so simple as that stereotype. Sometimes one befriends people because one admires how well they do their job. Or one's relation offers the best rate for a contract. Or some other objective measure shows them the most qualified."
He gestured with one hand to wave that aside. "But you get the idea. It is difficult to pick apart relationships or be assured of true objectivity.
"Windbreak Enchantments was first hired by the government .fifty-seven years ago. Their work was, at the time, considered good. When Courthall's were the only buildings in that part of the city to survive the Hallston Inferno forty years ago, Windbreak's reputation improved to impeccable. They started trying to convince us to switch to a new style of wards -- more costly upfront, but cheaper to maintain -- thirty-five years ago. Twenty-eight years ago, when my predecessor and the general opinion of the day concluded the new method well-established and sound, we made the switch. Around that time, the company accepted an apprentice, Rain. Rain's older brother is now Representative Kite. He was mayor of Hallston at the time. One of W.E.'s masters, Berry, married Ash, the brother of the Duchess of Deeplakes.
"Since then, Windbreak Enchantment's founder has retired. Four partners, including now-Master Rain and Master Berry, ran the firm for several years. Then Rain left under acrimonious circumstances, the details of which do not reflect well on either side. Rain founded her own enchantment firm, Pouring Magic. Representative Kite has tried, several times, by various means, to place the contract for Courthall with Pouring Magic. The Duchess of Deeplakes was adamant about maintaining the contract with W.E. The manuevering between the two has become the source of its own feud."
Corydalis took a deep breath. "Two years ago, the maintenance department started having communication issues with W. E. Our department claimed they weren't keeping agreed appointments, their department claimed the appointments didn't exist or were at another time. They said Courthall wasn't taking necessary steps, our side said we'd never been told to do so, etcetera. We changed the contacts on both sides, things settled for a couple of months, then got worse. Pouring Magic has been courting my people in maintenance, to convince them we should switch. The Duchess of Deeplakes found out and accused Pouring Magic of sabotage. Not of the wards, mind you -- at the time we didn't have any problems with the wards themselves." Corydalis spread his hands. "But of the ruining the professional relationship, by stealing or forging correspondence between us. Courthall security conducted an investigation and found no evidence of this. But by the time we did start having issues with the wards, the atmosphere was thoroughly poisoned. Windbreak Enchantments is convinced of bad faith on our part, and most of my subordinates are convinced of bad faith on theirs. I went to Crescent Bay to find you, Master Smoke, because the local situation is simply impossible. And I didn't ask you to report to maintenance because they are justifiably embittered by months of dealing with fleas, rats, ants, and enchanters who insist all three are directly or indirectly their fault. Moreover, I don't want to bring the weight of the duchess's disapproval down on them, and likely you, in addition to everything else. So. That is how I end up with you as my direct report." He smiled wryly. "Are you sorry you asked yet?"
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... yes. Let's talk about something else. What do you do for fun in Hallston?
Wait, is this duchess going to hate me anyway? For displacing her sister? Or was that one the brother-in-law? What about Pouring Magic, do I need to watch out for them?
What did *you* believe was going on -- was Pouring Magic or Windbreak Enchantments doing something unethical or illegal?
Did any of you think maybe you should've warned me about this before I took the job?