The story so far: Tollon has just proven to himself that the slave Mia is actually a fairy! And, oh, how much it has cost him! Now read on . . .
Dropping out of Mia’s happiness spell is depressing. And exhausting. I manage to stagger to the library, and drop into a chair.
The room is dark. And then there is light. I open my eyes and see Sarton come in with a lamp. He sits down and gives me a sad look. “You want to tell me about it?”
“Mia is definitely a fairy,” I announce.
“And how do you conclude that?” he asks.
“Her feet don’t actually touch the ground when she walks. Given a choice, she wants to eat only what we’d call ‘dainty things.’ And drinking enough bezrom to put most people under the table only makes her happy.”
“And she makes everyone around her happy, too,” Sarton adds.
“Tell me about it. I saw Paviara with the last possible guy in the world I ever thought she might date, and was pleased as punch she’d found someone to be with.” I shake my head and can’t stop a tear from sneaking out of my right eye. Paviara and Willins, of all guys!
Sarton sighs. “I suppose I should congratulate you on proving this to yourself, instead of just relying on my word. Though you could have asked me how I knew. And, to be fair, I should have explained. It’s just been a while since I’ve had an apprentice, Tollon. I sometimes forget to explain things.” Sarton sounds truly rueful. “Still, if wishing a romantic rival well is the worst thing that happened to you, it was a cheap lesson all around.”
No, it wasn’t. I don’t want to, but I have to say it. “Ah, well, I did pledge myself to pay 15,000 ducats.”
Sarton’s jaw drops open. As well it might. My net worth is probably on the order of 50 ducats. He finally says, “What? How is that?”
I explain. “We were walking by a jewelry store. Mia saw a ring and asked me to buy it for her. Naturally, the jeweler wanted cash, but Mia told him he could rely on my integrity. And I suppose he was affected by her as well, and agreed.” I have a thought and laugh. “In fact, he agreed so readily, I never actually gave him my name.” I’m feeling relieved. Tough luck, jeweler.
Sarton asks, “15,000 ducats for a ring? What does it look like? What’s it made of?”
I shrug. “Copper, old and tarnished, with some sort of dull reddish stone mounted on it. An opal, I think.”
Sarton sits back in his chair with a firm nod. “A fire opal. Of course.” He sees I’m puzzled, and adds, “Fairies are instinctively attracted to fire opals because they can work their magic more powerfully through them.” He thinks a moment, then slaps his thighs with his hands. “Do you remember the name of the jeweler?”
I think a moment. “Gaffell of Narnstor. Why, are you’re going to pay him?”
“Certainly not. I don’t have 15,000 ducats to spare,” Sarton replies. “I’ll go see the Court Chancellor and get permission for this jeweler to have a private show here in the palace in exchange for forgiving your debt. Most jewelers would sell their mother for such an opportunity. He’ll easily clear at least 50,000 ducats, if he’s any good.” Sarton nods, and adds, “The best part about this is that Mia is in your debt for giving her that ring, and that’s a debt fairies take seriously.” And then he looks off into the distance, thoughtfully. “On the other hand, it also means she’s that much closer to realizing what she is.”
(To be continued . . .)