The story so far: Tollon, apprentice to Court Magician Sarton, has gone to the market to get some phoenix feathers for his master. While there, he is ensorcelled by a powerful magician acting through a girl. (You can catch up on all the previous chapters here.) Now read on . . .
I’m still under Lady Vorana’s spell, whatever “still” means when I have no sense of time. With nothing else to do, I try to figure out what else her appearance here tells me. Well, she hasn’t aged much, if at all. And since they must have divorced decades ago, she’s one of those age-defying witches. That’s consistent with her ability to mesmerize me through another person. Both require a lot of power. And Sarton hasn’t said anything about her, so presumably he doesn’t know she’s here. But the converse is definitely not true, else she’d not know who I am.
Abruptly, I am back to normal. I’m in a large tent, presumably still in the Great Market. The girl is standing beside Lady Vorana, who is dressed entirely in black.
I take some of that back. I’m not entirely normal. I can’t move any body part voluntarily. The woman comes over to me, strokes my chin with her finger. “So you’re Sarton’s apprentice. You’re a cute one. Maybe I’ll keep you.” She turns away, walks back to where she was standing, puts her arm around the girl. She looks at me with amusement. “Is Sarton into boys these days?”
I can talk. “No, Lady Vorana. At least not with me.” Always be careful with what you say around a witch.
“What a pity,” she says with evident humor. “Because someone wants Sarton dead, and wants you to do the deed. And it would be all the more piquant if you were his lover.”
The smile departs from Lady Vorana’s face. She turns to the girl. “Get us some wine.” To me, she says, “Take a seat. We have things to discuss once the wine is poured.”
I can move. So I take a seat at the table she’s indicated and wait. There is no point in irritating this woman. Just keep calm, keep quiet, and look for a way to satisfy her and put an end to this meeting.
The girl comes back with wine and glasses, sets them out for each, and pours. I’m paying attention to the girl now, more than before, and can sense the girl is under some sort of control. Presumably, she’s a slave of Vorana’s.
I hear an irritated cough from Lady Vorana. She’s looking at me with disapproval. “Mind your business, apprentice,” she says in a severe voice. “You know nothing about Mia.” She waits until Mia has finished pouring her wine, lifts her glass, and gestures that I should do the same.
I take a sip. It’s a very good wine. In fact, it tastes like a very fortified wine. I put it down after just one sip. I can’t believe it, but I’m already feeling drunk.
Lady Vorana is smiling at me. It’s a knowing smile. It means me little good. She says, “I see you enjoy the wine. It’s a very good wine, a . . . magical wine, you might say. So listen carefully, apprentice. I was offered a considerable sum of money to arrange Sarton’s death at your hands. The man said he came from the Earl of Haulloran. Not being of a trusting disposition, I tried to use a truth spell to verify that. The man died before he could say another word. When you see Sarton, you will tell him exactly what I just told you.”
Lady Vorana says, “What did Sarton tell you about me?”
Despite myself, I hear myself say, “You use people.”
Lady Vorana’s smile widens. “He’s right, you know. Take the wine you’ve just been drinking. One sip dulls the will, making you passive and suggestible. Two sips? You’ll have no thoughts of your own. You’ll feel only what I tell you to feel, think only what I tell you to think, do only what I tell you to do, without any question, without any doubt, without even the slightest qualm”
She’s going to enslave me. I need to get out of here, now. I start to rise up, oh, so slowly. And then I hear Vorana say, “Sit down, apprentice,” and I sit down.
I know I have to escape, now. And yet I can’t think of any way to do it that doesn’t involve standing up, and I’ve just been told to sit down. I’m trapped. Again.
Lady Vorana is enjoying this. “You look frightened, apprentice. There’s no need for that. I’m not going to hurt you. Well, not much. You’re cute. Do you like me?”
I know it’s the wrong thing to say, but “No.”
She looks a trifle less happy, but continues. “What about Mia? I rescued her, you know. She was an idiot child who was abandoned by her parents. She’s sweet. Do you think you could love her?”
I think of Paviara. “No.”
Lady Vorana sighs. “No matter. What you think is of no importance. It’s time for you to take another sip of wine.”
(To be continued . . .)