Sarton says Mia isn’t human, that she’s fae. So I spend the next few days while we’re together studying magic trying to figure out if he’s right.
The problem with the fairies is that, while they may look human, they ultimately are not, they don’t actually think in the same terms we do, and they are physical spirits who command as much magic as our better human magicians. Superficially, Mia conforms to one common truth about them: they are slight of figure. But that’s not enough to prove what she is.
So a few days later, I take her on a trip into the city. Instead of going directly, we swing down by the river, where I know a stretch of beach and beach grass we can walk along. And as we walk, I steal glances behind us.
There is only one set of footprints in the sand. There is only one set of footprints flattening the grass. Mia is not actually walking on the ground, even though she looks like she is. She’s in bare feet, as always, but her feet are not hard and rough on the bottom. She’s just barely levitating above the ground when she walks. My heart sinks.
But I have other tests, just to be sure. We go to the Great Market and decide to sit down for a meal. I let Mia pick the food she wants to eat. And then I go get our drinks. For me, it’s a cup of white wine. For Mia, I get her a full cup of bezrom. The bartender almost doesn’t want to sell a full cup to me, as bezrom is about 160 proof. I have to pay extra.
When I come back, I tell Mia I’ve bought us both cups of wine. And then we both take a sip.
Any human would recognize what she’s drinking as too potent for wine. Mia doesn’t. In fact, she lights up with a smile. Before the meal is half over, she has drunk the whole cup, and I have to dissuade her from getting another. She’s smiling and happy and laughs and chats, nothing like her usually passive personality. That’s consistent with her being a fairy. They don’t suffer any side effects from drinking alcohol. They just get merry. Supposedly their happiness is infectious, though that seems unlikely. How would they bespell someone when they don’t realize what they are doing?
We’re wrapping up dinner when two of my fellow servants show up. They are not my friends, they usually mean me no good, but I don’t care. The sit down beside us. The taller, Broffer, slaps me on the back and says, “Good old Tollon, always out with another girl.”
I turn and tell him, “She’s my slave.”
Broffer laughs, and says, “Is that what you call her in bed? We’ll have to tell Paviara.”
The other, who is sitting down beside Mia, is Palt. He grins at me and picks up the joshing. “Oh, right, maybe you don’t know, Paviara’s seeing Sergeant Willins of the Palace Guard.”
Mia turns to Palt, and in a mild voice tells him, “You’re trying to hurt Tollon. You don’t want to do that. Why don’t you and your friend just go away and forget all about us?”
To my surprise, the both of them get up and go away without another word. I look at Mia, shrug, and say, “I guess they’re good fellows after all.”
Mia smiles back. “Let’s finish up here and go shopping.”
Which we do. Money is no object to buy Mia whatever she wants. And then we go back toward the palace and take a stroll in the Palace Gardens. Who do we run into, but Paviara and Sergeant Willins?
I perform the introductions, and add, “Palt told me you two are going together. I hope you’re enjoying each other’s company.”
Paviara gives me a very curious look, bestows another on Willins, and looks ready to cry. Mia notices this, and steps up to Paviara, and caresses her face. She says to Paviara, “Tollon wants you to be happy.”
Paviara smiles at that, looks over to Willins beside her, and says, “Thank you. I think we’ll be going now. We have some affairs to tend to.” And the two of them walk off, staring into each other’s eyes.
I’m watching them go, happy that they’re happy, when Mia asks me, “You’re still in love with Paviara, aren’t you?”
I turn to her. “Yes, I guess so.”
“Will you kiss me?” she asks.
I don’t answer in words, no. I kiss her. It’s a good long kiss. We spend the rest of the afternoon walking about the Palace Garden, hand in hand, like two young lovers. I may still love Paviara, but Mia is here with me. I can love her.
Mia eventually gets tired. We head back to Sarton’s workshop. She’s so tired by then that I have to help her out of her clothes and into her bed. I tuck her in. She gives me one last kiss, rolls over, and is asleep instantly.
And I snap out of the spell she’s cast over me for half a day.