Everything hurts. Even my eyelids. I suspect I have imaginary parts that hurt.
I open my eyes. Everything is blurry. There is someone in the room. I try to talk, but my throat is dry.
Whoever it is comes over, wets my lips with a cloth. A feminine voice says, “Water?” I nod. I drink the water offered from a cup.
My eyes begin to focus. The woman who gave me the water is hovering over me, a look of concern in her face.
Her face: it’s Mia’s. And the next thing I know, I’m screaming and trying to get away. I can’t move. It’s Mia! Got to get away from her. It’s Mia! I yell for Sarton, I yell for Paviara, I even yell for Lady Vorana, I’m so rattled. It’s Mia!
All of a sudden, I’m hit with a calming spell. Never experienced one before, but I’ve seen Sarton use one. The person immediately drops out of whatever panic they were in, and can’t get upset while the spell lasts.
Sure enough, Sarton is there, over me. He looks unhappy. “What is this, boy?”
I nod my head at Mia. “It’s Mia.” I don’t try to sound alarmed. I can’t.
Sarton looks back over his shoulder at her, and then faces back to me. “Why, so it is. You didn’t expect me to nurse you, did you?”
I try to say something, but I’m completely adrift. Doesn’t he understand?
But he does. Sarton speaks over his shoulder, “Mia, leave us for a moment.” He waits until she closes the door to the room and then turns back to me. He looks as if he’s amused and tired at once. “Your trip to see your lady friend did not work out well. You recall that?”
I nod. “Up to a point.”
“Good. I can dispense with the calming spell.” He snaps his fingers. I feel the calming spell go away. Sarton explains, “You were badly hurt. I’ll give you the details some other time. I used some spells to fix you up. And then I bought Mia from Vorana to serve as your nurse.”
I try to smack my head with my hand, find I can’t move it. “My arm?”
“Broken, healing. Both of them. And one leg.”
“Oh.” I get back to the point. “I can’t have Mia here. She was part of what Vorana did to me. You said it yourself, I’d have no control.” I can hear the panic in my voice.
Sarton sits back. He shakes his head slowly. “Then it’s time you learned to develop some. You’re going to be a magician, Tollon. If a little slip of a creature like Mia can scare you, you’ll never make it.” He leans forward, pats my head. “You’re barely able to move. If you can’t control yourself in this situation, you’ll never be able to do it in any situation.” He leans forward, and whispers, “Besides, she idolizes you. You should have no problems handling her.” He smiles, stands up, and says, “She knows how to read. Don’t be bashful about pursuing your studies while you recuperate.” And then he just leaves.
Mia comes in. She comes to my bedside. She tells me, “Sarton says I am to serve you. I know my feelings don’t matter, but I am pleased.” And she looks it. More than that. I’ve seen that look on other women’s faces. She’s in love with me. She goes on, “He suggests I begin by giving you a sponge bath over all of your body.”
I don’t really consider what that means at first. Partly it’s because I’m preoccupied by trying to suppress erotic memories of what I did with Mia under Lady Vorana’s “encouragement,” with only some success. Partly because I’m scared I’ll do something horrible, even though, rationally, I know I’m in no condition to do much of anything. Partly it’s because I’m appalled that Mia has to keep replacing the water from all the blood she is washing off of me. And then she moves to lift the gown I’m wearing, and I realize that she means to clean every part of my body. I say, “Ah, Mia, I’d really rather you left that for me to do.” Particularly in the state I’m in, thanks to those memories.
She looks at me curiously. She nods. She gets up. She goes over to a counter where she has laid out her equipment. She comes back, stands up by my head, and in one quick motion put some sort of muzzle on me. I try to yell, but can barely make a sound. I try to complain, to yell. I can’t. Mia ignores what sounds I make. And without another word, she sets to work.
Since I hit puberty, I’ve never had a woman fiddling around with my genitals except in sex. I want to die in embarrassment. And yet, to my surprise, Mia is quick, thorough, and neither makes any sexual comments nor engages in any sexual behavior.
When she’s finished, and dried me off, and covered me up again, she comes back to the head of the bed and pulls off the muzzle. “There,” she says. “You’re clean. What would you like me to do next, master?”
I glare at her. “Don’t you ever put a muzzle on me again!”
“My apologies, master,” Mia says. And then her voice turns severe. “You are injured and ill. You do not know what is good for you. I will not allow you to interfere in your own recovery. Muzzling you forced you to accept my services. Do not make it necessary for me to use more serious forms of restraint on you.”
And then her voice returns to its usual softness. “Once you have recovered, if you decide I acted inappropriately, you may have me killed.” She says this with a smile.
I am just stunned, and bewildered. I have no words to say to that.