“It can’t be done, Tollon,” Sarton tells me for the fifth time.
“I don’t want to hear it. We’re facing a civil war. Imprisoning Lady Gwella is the only way to keep it from happening.” How many times do I have to say this?
“Imprisoning Lady Gwella, let alone torturing her, is the surest way to start that civil war. We need to be more politically astute. And you shouldn’t allow your personal feelings to enter into it.”
My personal feelings. I’m supposed to be happy Lady Gwella used magic to psychologically torture Paviara into loving me again. My maybe-mistress may have had her independence of thought destroyed so Lady Gwella could try to pull the wool over my eyes.
“How much of this is really about Lady Gwella, Tollon? How much of it about yourself?” Sarton interrupts my thoughts.
I break out in a rage. “What the . . .”
Sarton cuts me off. “Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy your little girlfriend’s attentions.”
That takes the wind out of my sails. I sit down. Yeah, Paviara showed she was interested in me again. There was no spell on her. So I just thought what a lucky guy I am. It wasn’t until afterwards that I started asking questions, got incoherent answers, and found out what Lady Gwella had done. I have to admit she was sharp. She magically tortured Paviara into loving me again before she sent her to me, so there’d be no magic spell on her when I saw her. I think what she did has permanently damaged Paviara’s mind.
I look over to Sarton. “You’ve made your point,” I tell him. “So what is your plan?”
Sarton doesn’t look any the happier for my acquiescence. “Execute them both.” He sees I’m startled and goes on. “They’ve committed treason. Put in those terms, half of Haulloran’s supporters will desert him. And Lady Gwella will do no more mischief, once she’s dead.”
Great idea, but there’s a problem. “You going to tell the king we might never be able to lift the spell from the queen, once the witch who cast it is dead?”
“Aye,” replies Sarton. “I think that no longer matters to the king. He might even be happier if the queen stays mad. That way, her supporters can’t say she should take back the reins of power.”
Evana shows up in my rooms that evening, unasked. She is already to drag me into bed until she gets a whiff of Paviara’s perfume. I don’t even bother to try to excuse myself. I just tell her what happened and why.
I am beginning to realize how little I understand women. Evana’s first concern is for Paviara. She wants to know what can be done to help her. I tell her that nothing can be done. When she becomes insistent, I tell her she should go tell Paviara about us.
Evana slaps me in the face. When I start to complain, she slaps me again. And then she launches into me in a fury. “You do not do things like that to that poor girl. By your own account, that girl has gone through hell on your behalf. You will find a way to help her, or I’ll call on that god, Mrokitar, you talk about, and have her beat you until you haven’t an unbruised spot on your body.”
Being specifically beaten by Mrokitar is not among my fears. But what Mrokitar might do to me or to Evana if she listens to such a request is not something I want to contemplate. So I do a little thinking as I’m talking. “I hear you. I hear you. Look, Evana, I don’t know if I can fix what happened to Paviara. But I promise to investigate the matter. And if I can’t fix what Lady Gwella did to her, I’ll at least try to find some way to make Paviara happy. She deserves that much.” And saying that makes me feel better. Maybe there is something I can do.
That mollifies Evana, but not enough. She tells me I’ve ruined the evening, and departs.
My own good mood is spoiled. Worse, when I go to sleep, I have nightmares in which Lady Vorana is forcing me to beat Paviara, who has no idea what is happening, but keeps begging that Tollon come and help her. I wake up crying with the dawn.
About the only way things could get worse, I say to myself as I bathe and get dressed, would be if Evana actually summoned Mrokitar and asked her to beat me up. So when I open up the workshop, who’s sitting at my desk, waiting for me? Mrokitar.