Chapter XV – Ambivalence and Uncertainty

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It’s difficult for Tollon not to think of the small and delicate Mia as anything but a fairy, except when she forcefully disobeys him!

I don’t know how I would have got through the next five days without Mia. I don’t know how I did get through them with her. She was there, all the time, taking care of my every need (save one). She read to me, books on magic when I was feeling well, fiction when I was not. She was absolutely ruthless in restraining me or disobeying me if she thought I was being wrong-headed. And I had to endure tormenting visions of her much of the time, things we did under Lady Vorana’s control, visions of passion and visions of torture. I couldn’t tell you which were worse, under the circumstances.

But what really got to me was her attitude. She considered herself to be of no value. Her willingness to let me kill her, once I recovered, was just an extreme example.

So one day I have her get Sarton, and kick her out of the room while I speak to him. “Mia is driving me crazy,” I announce.

Sarton jumps to the wrong conclusion. “Still troubled by visions?”

I correct him. (It’s a rare event, that I can do it and that I dare do it.) “Yeah, but that’s not it. It’s her attitude. She acts like her feelings have no value. I feel like a heel asking her to do anything. But I still can’t do much myself, so I have to.”

Sarton glances about the room. We are in the old washroom, next to the storeroom, where he had a bed set up for me when I was brought in as a bloody mess. He finally returns to looking at me. “Vorana bought Mia as an infant. She’s been a slave all her life. Vorana trained her to think like a perfect slave. You having a problem with slavery, Tollon? You ever look at a slave with any concern before this?”

“No,” I admit with annoyance. And then I add, “But I will now.”

Sarton snorts in disbelief.

And then I think of something. “If she thinks like a perfect slave, how is it she can defy me? She’s even put a muzzle on me, twice.” And that after I specifically told her not to.

Sarton snorts again. “I bought her, Tollon. She’s my slave. And I told her that she should do whatever is necessary to restore your health, regardless of what you say.” He stands up. And leaves behind one last caution as he walks to the door. “Don’t mistake obedience for lack of will or judgment, Tollon. Vorana might have trained Mia to be a slave, but Vorana also hates stupid people. Mia is used to using her own judgment to carry out her orders.”

Exactly how much I find out after five days. Sarton pronounces me healed, except for residual damage to my left leg, which means I’ll have to use a walking stick for a few days. He orders me to go out and get some fresh air. And he orders Mia to escort me. “Having a slave accompany you raises your status in the eyes of others to something more befitting the apprentice to the Court Magician,” he tells me. “Besides, you’re still recovering. Who will take care of you if you faint?” And with a laugh, he leaves me in Mia’s custody. She, of course, has her orders from Sarton, and will not disobey them. I’m stuck with her, as if I need a nursemaid.

We get out of the palace, go into town, and stroll through the Great Market. I get a number of ill looks, some smirks, and a few people spitting in my direction, but nothing serious. We sit down at a food tent for a meal of mediocre beer and smoked fish. I’m finding Mia’s company a lot less objectionable than I thought I would. It’s kind of nice to have a servant (she’s Sarton’s slave, not mine!) at one’s beck and call. Even if she is so quiet and passive. Especially since it appears I have very few friends remaining.

Then the trouble begins. While we are finishing up, four men in the Earl of Haulloran’s livery show up. Their leader approaches me and says, “Come on, you. You’ve got an appointment with the Earl of Haulloran, and I would not want to be in your shoes.”

Mia is on my left, this servant on my right. I start to stand up, and she shoves me down as she stands up herself. In a firm voice, she says, “My master is convalescing. Tell your master to request a meeting when my master feels better.”

Haulloran’s servants laugh. The leader says, “Go away, girl, this does not concern you.” And then he reaches out to grab me by my collar.

In one swift motion, Mia snatches up my walking stick and smashes him in the face with it. And while he’s clutching at his face, she kicks him off balance and he goes flying to the ground.

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