The story so far: Tollon is on the run from the Earl of Haulloran’s men. His slave Mia has stashed him in an attic refuge, which raises many more questions than it answers. Now read on . . .
I’m not usually one to worry about things I don’t understand or can’t do anything about. Sarton’s started criticizing me for this, but it’s a good way to go through life.
Still, right at this moment, I can’t help but worry. Why did the Earl of Haulloran send men to pick me up? I don’t think it was because of Paviara; Paviara’s friends already got their revenge on me. Who is the man Mia knows, and why is he willing to hide me? And how does Mia know him anyhow?
There are windows along the room’s northern exposure. I don’t recognize the neighborhood. The library is stocked with a fair mix of books, nothing unusual. The furnishings look better than the neighborhood, which could mean any number of things.
Still, I’m sure of one thing. And when the man comes up with some beer and salt pork, I thank him and then say, “You’re part of a secret society.”
He does not look ruffled by my statement. “We prefer to call it a private mutual aid association.” After a pause, he adds, “The other sounds so suspicious.”
We’re sitting at a small table. I give him a look over. Maybe he’s fifty, spectacles, balding, dark of skin, amber eyes. His clothes are work clothes, but not laboring clothes. My guess is that he’s a craftsman of some sort.
He notices what I am doing. With a grunt, he says, “And I’m checking you out, young sir, too. I presume your charming escort told you not to ask me any questions.”
I admit it. “Which, of course, means I want to ask a great many.”
“Naturally.” He’s not the smiling type. That was meant as an observation, not humor. “Our association lends help as required by its members. Because you are not a member, your companion is responsible for our costs in protecting you, up to paying my family compensation for my death and the forfeiture of my property for abetting a criminal, if that is what you are. I hope you feel a similar obligation to us, as the beneficiary of our protection, but that is ultimately between you and her.”
We finish the rest of the meal with little to say to each other, and then he departs after asking me what I will want for breakfast in the morning. I light a candle and sit down to read a book.
I get nowhere. I’m can’t help mulling over my situation. I’m being hidden by a secret society! Mia, who is a slave, is a member, which raises all sorts of question.
And thinking of Mia, I recall something I noticed back in the Great Market when Mia took on Haulloran’s men. Even most guards and soldiers, let alone servants, are really only casual fighters. But there are systems of fighting, schools that train people in styles of fighting for various purposes. I’ve seen people who were trained in various styles, enough to recognize them when I see them.
Mia is a trained fighter. To be exact, she is a trained assassin. There’s no mistaking the style. That’s how she was able to defeat four men who were all twice her size. At least two of them are almost certainly dead.
Sarton joked that I was afraid of Mia. It was a joke then. It is not now.
(To be continued . . .)