Chapter XXV – Cleaning the Workshop

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Sarton should hire a cleaning woman. Oh, right: I am the cleaning woman, today at least. And I swear that there are places in Sarton’s workshop that haven’t been cleaned since Bad King Worgas died. The grime is caked on, and I’m talking about a three-layer cake.

Sarton did not want to hear my explanations as to why I went missing until late afternoon yesterday. He did not want to hear that there is a magician named Zella in Gehulia. He just told me that as punishment I should spend a day cleaning the workshop. And he forbade Mia to help in any way, shape, form, or fashion. In fact, he’s taken her into the city. The two of them are going to have a little holiday together while I clean. Not that this means I can slack off. Sarton made it clear he has ideas about how clean the place should be when he returns, and his expectations are not modest.

Have you ever noticed it is women we expect will be scrubbing floors, despite it being backbreaking labor? (Painting by Rudolph Kremlička (1886 – 1932))

Knowing even so that appearances are important, I’ve started with the entry hall and moved inward. I’ve now reached the ceremonial room, where Sarton conducts his major enchantments. And I’ve just found out that the cleanser I’m using doesn’t work very well against animal bloodstains. Which is a pity, because they are all over the floor. At the rate I’m going, I might get as much as a sixth of the floor cleaned by the time Sarton returns.

And then I have a brainstorm. There must be a spirit that will sweep, mop, or scrub a floor. Just because I haven’t run into one doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

So I go to the library and pull out some of the books we’ve been using that list the spirits and their capabilities. They’re organized by families, but there’s no order I can make out to the families, or the spirits within a family. It’s going to be a slog. Still has to be better than scrubbing the ceremonial room floor by myself.

I flip through pages. I have to stop and examine every single page, as the text is poorly organized. I run into fiery spirits, and consider arson. I run into amorous spirits, destructive spirits, intelligent spirits. I run into a second text that mentions Tavartet, and this one contains an invocation to torment him. I copy that one down. It may be easier to torment him and make him give up his demand for dragon’s teeth, than actually getting them for him.

I lose track of time, hunting through one book after another. And then I hear the door to the workshop open, followed by the voices of Sarton and Mia, and I know I’m sunk.

I rush out to greet them. Sarton is looking thunderbolts at me. He snarls, “Didn’t get very far, did you, boy? Sitting on your arse half the day?”

Yeah, but I’m going to try to explain. I’m already in the doghouse; how much worse could it get? “I figured that as a magician in training, I might be able to get a cleaning spirit to do the work for me.”

Sarton doesn’t look any happier. “Seem as though you failed at that, too, boy.”

Well, that didn’t work. “Yes, master. I suppose I should spend tomorrow cleaning, as well.”

“Exactly.” Sarton turns to Mia. “Hand me my bag, Mia.” She does. He takes it, reaches in, and pulls out a book, which he extends to me. “Take it.”

I do. “What should I do with this, master?”

“Why read it, Tollon. It’s a book that includes invocations for cleaning spirits. Once you understand it, you can put it back in the library, from which I removed it this morning.” Sarton laughs. “Sometimes even being smart won’t save you, Tollon, but I’d rather you tried to be smart, as you did today, instead of being stupid, as you were the day before. Let’s see which one you are tomorrow, when you try a major evocation for the first time.”

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