Chapter XX – Council of War

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We end up in Sarton’s workroom, at his dining table. (Sarton sometimes doesn’t leave his workroom for days at a time.) Sarton sends Mia to get us some food. Which gives me the chance to tell him what I’ve learned. “Mia’s been trained as an assassin. I saw her attack Haulloran’s men. I recognize the style as Aantarvan School.”

Sarton gives me an amused glance. “You waited until Mia wasn’t present to tell me that, Tollon? Why, do you think she doesn’t know that herself?”

“Ah, but, but . . .”

“Vorana told me all about Mia when she sold her to me. And yes, it’s illegal to train a slave in any form of combat. That didn’t stop Vorana.” Sarton shakes his head. “Or Mia, for that matter. And to save you some trouble, yes, I know about the secret society Mia belongs to. It’s one of the better ones: fairly secure, ample resources, and extremely seditious in its politics.” Sarton laughs. “You’ve been hanging out with professional criminals, my boy, unlike the amateur scalawags you’ve played with in past.”

The most famous seditious political conspiracy: the Gunpowder Plot

Mia returns with a heavy load of food and drink. I notice she’s discarded the iron ring around her neck and switched out of the burlap to a decent frock. To my surprise, she sets the provisions out for three, and takes her seat at the table with us. Sarton waits until she’s settled, and says to her, “Mia, Tollon was surprised to find out you were trained as an assassin. Would you explain what that means for him?”

Mia gives me her loving look. “Master Tollon, a slave must protect her master. The more capable I am, the better I can do it. As you are my master, subject only to Master Sarton’s orders, I must protect you. I would not kill you, except at Master Sarton’s orders.” She turns to Sarton and adds, “I would regret that happening, although I know my feelings do not matter.”

“I have no intention of ordering you to do so,” Sarton says. “So let us regard that matter as disposed of. We got out of that business before Their Majesties about as well as we could. Because the matter has been officially cast into oblivion, Haulloran can never revive the charges. Clever how the king managed it so Haulloran couldn’t even object.”

“He actually seemed happy to shake my hand,” I point out.

“I noticed that, too,” says Sarton, stroking his beard. “What with Lady Gwella standing nearby behind an invisibility spell, glaring at you, whatever is going on, it must be complicated.

“So I have decided. You are in danger, Tollon. Why and how, we do not know, but Lady Gwella is involved. Magic is involved. So your education must be sped up. I can’t have you just reading about magic. I’m going to have to throw you into it, willy-nilly.” He turns to Mia. “And that brings me to an even more difficult decision. You’re going to have to learn with him, Mia. You understand?”

Mia nods. “Yes. You want me to be a fellow student, rival, or tutor, as my own talent dictates, in order to make Tollon learn faster.”

“Exactly,” Sarton replies. He looks over to me. “Don’t take this the wrong way, boy. You’re still my apprentice, and when you complete your articles, you will become a certified magician. But we are going to need every advantage to keep you safe and sound. So, another thing: you move in here. We’ll get your things this evening. Understand?”

My head’s spinning. I nod, anyhow. And then I have a thought. “Teaching magic to a slave is illegal.”

Sarton nods. “Just like training them to be assassins.”

I look over at Mia. She seems bothered not in the least.

END PART TWO

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