Our story so far: Tollon, apprentice to the Court Magician, is having a rough day. Getting tripped by the palace guard is just his most recent misfortune. Or at least it was, until he stepped into the magician’s workshop and was confronted by a demon.
A demon is drooling on me. This is not primarily an issue in aesthetics, or even hygiene. Demon drool does things to you. It gives you evil thoughts, evil desires, and a strong inclination to put them into practice.
Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. A little self-interest is quite helpful. Ripping off the Royal Treasury would be rewarding. Fathering a bastard on the queen would be fun. Seducing young Princess Alistia would be really enjoyable. Killing off the Duchess of Barsosar for the way she treats me . . .
Whack! I go flying. Floor, meet body. Body, meet floor. And bruises magically appear!
Well, not actually. Bruises are natural. The same thing may not be true of Sarton.
I look up and see Sarton standing where the demon was. My first thought is to kill him. Really. Not like I feel like doing only every other day. I deeply want to make him scream in agony as I kill him by inches.
And then I see Sarton properly. Imagine an old man with white hair and a beard, bushy eyebrows to match, spectacles perched on his nose, a puzzled expression perpetually on his face. He looks like someone’s grandfather. It’s impossible to really hate him when you see him.
I get up, shaking my head. Damn, that demon drool works fast. I ask him, “Was I supposed to know about becoming a human sacrifice?”
Sarton blinks, looks at me, blinks again. “What are you talking about?”
I point at myself. “Me.” Point at his feet. “Demon that was standing there. Demon with big teeth and disposition of a tax farmer.”
He shakes his head. “He was just trying to protect me. He wouldn’t have hurt you.” And he turns around and heads back into the depths of his shop.
There is no point in arguing with Sarton. He honestly didn’t intend me to be harmed, and probably didn’t even think of the demon drool. So I retrieve the bag I dropped and scurry after him. As I catch up, I tell him, “Peppermints in bag. Calf will be delivered later today.”
“Eh? What? Oh, good.” He takes the bag from me, crosses the Great Circle in the center of the room, sits down at his desk, and plucks out a peppermint to suck on. That he didn’t mention the dragon’s teeth is a good thing. They can’t be an immediate priority. I have time.
I follow him and go take a seat behind my desk, positioned in line with his. I offer him the gossip. “Her Most Gracious Highness is about to have another child.” I have to repeat myself to get his attention.
He looks off into space, and then sits forward, pulls a sheet of paper out, and sets to scribbling. “Who’s the father?”
“Rumor has it the Earl of Haulloran.”
That gets his attention without repetition. He sits back and spins in his chair so he’s facing me directly. “That certain?”
I shake my head. “Rumor. Reliable source. Doesn’t even matter if it’s true, if enough people believe it.”
Sarton sighs. “It wouldn’t be circulating, not unless she wanted it to.” He clasps his hands together and contemplates his damaged right thumb.
She is the Earl’s wife, the Lady of Haulloran, Gwella of Faix. Young, passionate, ambitious, with her husband wrapped around her finger, the Lady is one of the more powerful women at Court.
Oh, and she’s a witch.
(definitely to be continued . . .)