I think I’ve flunked using my body organs wisely. I’m sitting in the dark, on the edge of a bed, with a hangover. It’s not my bed. It is my hangover. I’d rather those two terms were swapped.
I should recall the name of the woman snoring on the other side of the bed. I don’t. I think I was already too drunk at that point to remember little details like that. I’m not even sure if I seduced her with my charm, or paid for her body with my money. I’m not sure which would be worse, right now.
I think I’m in a bedroom in one of the upper floors of a tavern called The Widow’s Respite. If I’m correct, then I probably paid for this encounter. All the women in The Widow’s Respite are widows who just need a shoulder to cry on and a little money to tide them over. Just ask them.
I’m here because of Mia. Three days of her company. I don’t dare touch her for fear of what I might do, what those visions tempt me to do. But she’s there, with me all the time. And it’s not like I can go see Paviara, not that she’ll want to see me if I tried. What’s a guy to do?
Sarton is going to kill me. If I get back to his workshop in the palace.
Sarton will blame me for . . . well, I don’t know. Lack of self-control. Bad judgment. Impulsiveness. Does it matter?
That’s the question that brings me up short. It does matter, because if I don’t figure out why I did this, I’ll do it again. And one of these times, I’ll fall into Lady Gwella’s hands. After what Lady Vorana did to me, and how it still affects me, I don’t want to think what my life will be like if Lady Gwella gets hold of me. Assuming I still have a life.
Lack of self-control, bad judgment, impulsiveness: yeah, I won the trifecta. And, note this well, Tollon, my boy, those are things about you, not Mia.
Okay, we’ll deal with anatomizing my failures later. Let’s figure out how to get back to the workshop without being caught.
I find my clothes. I get dressed. I think long and hard about my next move, and then decide I need all the help I can get. I go over to the other side of the bed, hold my hand over the woman’s mouth, and shake her to wake her up.
“Shhh!” I tell her when she jerks awake. “Don’t make so much noise. I need your help.” I remove my hand from her mouth.
She sits up. I can barely make her out in the dark. “What is it?” she whispers.
“I need an inconspicuous way out of this place,” I whisper back.
She raises her voice to normal levels. “Go find one yourself, you turd.”
Obviously, my performance earlier in the evening was not one of my better ones. So I whisper back, “I’m a political criminal, and if you don’t help me, I’ll tell the authorities you hid me here for a week.”
That, surprisingly, works. Making various displeased noises, my companion of the night scrounges around for her clothes, puts them on, takes me by the hand, and leads me out of the room. We go through a confusing assortment of corridors and stairs. Finally, she opens a door to the outside.
I step out. I’m in a small bare yard, at what looks like the back side of some structure, facing a dismal alley. There’s a promise of dawn in the air and the sky.
I turn to thank the woman. I notice she’s probably a bit older than I am, still young, but showing some wear. That’s all I have time to notice before she spits in my face and slams the door on me.
Heigh ho. She gave me what I asked for, an inconspicuous exit. Now all I have to do is figure out how to return to the palace without being discovered.
Unlike Mia, I do not belong to a secret society. So it’s time to try out the lessons in magic I’ve been learning.