Chapter XXVII – An Unexpected Danger

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“You two seem to be getting along well,” Sarton observes. It’s a few days later. Sarton fetched me out of the library, where Mia and I have been going over some magic books, for a private conversation.

I nod. “Mia’s not good at memorizing anything, but she makes a lot of good observations about the way magic works.” I essay a joke. “I hope that doesn’t mean you’re going to fire me and take her on as your apprentice.”

Sarton doesn’t laugh. Instead, he looks worried. “No chance of that, Tollon. Mia isn’t human.”

That makes no sense. “Say what?”

The hair and skin color are wrong, but it’s easy for Tollon to imagine Mia as a fairy.

“Mia is not human.” Sarton utters each word slowly and distinctly. “I didn’t have you do a major evocation just to test you. I also wanted to test Mia, to see what happened to her in the presence of a summoned spirit. I had my suspicions about her, and what happened confirmed it. She’s fae. Probably a changeling.”

Sometimes fairies, who are a race of magical beings, swap one of their offspring for a human baby in the crib. Those fairies are called changelings. They don’t have a good reputation.

I say the only thing that can be said. “What do we do?”

“Are you making any progress getting her to stop thinking like a slave?”

I shake my head. “Not even denting it. Any attempt I make to get her to think for her own self-interest, she takes as something she should do to please me.”

“Try harder.” Sarton shakes his head. “I doubt she has any idea she’s a changeling, else she wouldn’t act the way she does. But she’s not stupid. If she tries any magic on her own, she’ll quickly figure it out. And how she’ll react to that is unpredictable. I’d rather she thinks of us as people trying to help her, not just exploiting her, when it comes to that.” Sarton emits a sad chuckle. “I wondered why Vorana was so willing to sell Mia to me. She’s probably congratulating herself for getting rid of a potential problem.”

Sarton is silent for a moment, staring off into space. And then he starts up a new line of conversation. “So you ran into Zilla.”

“Yes. She seems to be running Gehulia by magic and muscle.”

“She’s lived there all her life, Tollon. It’s home to her.”

“You’ve met her?” I ask.

“We’re not good friends, but, yes, I’ve met her,” Sarton replies. “She’s an example of a magician with too little imagination. She doesn’t want to make Gehulia better except in small ways. She’s never been tempted by the spirits, because she hasn’t enough ambition to fall for their traps.” Sarton lets out a sigh. “Sometimes I think I’m too much like her. I try to keep this kingdom running by keeping the court running, but it seems I don’t do all that much.” After another sigh, he goes on. “You, on the other hand, will probably be tempted to meddle when you shouldn’t. And the best we can hope from Mia is that she chooses to leave and return to her folk when she figures out what she is. Otherwise, I might just have to kill her . . . if I can.”

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