Time passes, as it does. Sarton teaches me more magic. He has me perform more serious evocations. He teaches me how to create magical objects by harnessing the power of a spirit to attach it to an object. He even starts teaching me how to acquire personal magical power by bleeding it off the spirits I summon.
The queen is growing big with child. Officially, the king is the father, although it’s actually the Earl of Haulloran’s bastard. One of the queen’s young ladies in waiting has retired from the court. Rumor has it she is pregnant, too, and about as far along as the queen. Rumor also has it that the child is the king’s. Doesn’t seem as if the royal marriage is going that well. Sarton has started to spend more time observing court politics. He tells me the nobles at court are starting to line up on one side or the other, king’s or queen’s.
My own love life sucks. Oh, I go out on the town every so often. I find a woman who’s willing. But I’m not falling in love with any of them. None of them seem that interesting.
Paviara avoids me. At least she’s no longer seriously involved with anyone in particular. She dumped Willins not long after Mia and I saw them together.
I miss Mia. Funny, we didn’t even know each other that long. Despite the intimacies we engaged in under Vorana’s compulsion, I don’t feel I really knew Mia well. How well can you know a fairy?
Funny thing about Mia. Remember how she told my two “friends,” Broffer and Palt, to forget about her and me? That’s what actually happened. The next time I saw them, they didn’t recognize me. I’m happy about that, at least. Those two were a pair of annoying pests.
And whatever she intended, Lady Gwella has made no move against me. Maybe she never was planning something, or maybe she changed her mind. Sarton tells me she’s intriguing with both political factions. That may be keeping her too busy to think about me.
One day, I’m sitting at my desk, planning a complicated evocation, when Sarton comes back from a royal audience. He sits down, sighs, and gives me an odd grin.
“Politics a bit thick today, master?” I ask.
He raises his eyebrows, then gives a weary laugh. “You could say that, Tollon. I just spent an hour with the king asking me to ruin the queen, and another hour with the queen asking me to ruin the king. I had to lie and tell them that casting a spell to determine the father of a child in the womb is a dangerous operation that could cause a miscarriage. Pfaw!”
I chuckle a little bit. I get the joke. There’s almost no risk to such a spell, and Sarton has already cast such spells to be sure of the identities of the fathers. “They could always apply to Lady Gwella.”
Sarton snorts. “I suspect both monarchs find Lady Gwella’s loyalties a bit too vague to trust her in such a sensitive matter.” Sarton gives a rueful smile, and then sits up and leans forward. “But enough of them. I’ve been watching you, Tollon. You’re doing a good job mastering magic. Wouldn’t you agree?”
I’m so pleased with the praise I don’t stop and think what’s behind it. “I guess so.” Which is the polite way of saying yes.
Sarton smiles at me. “Good. It’s time you went out from the palace and performed a significant magical work in the world, to show how well you’ve learned your lessons. I’ve been waiting for months for some dragon’s teeth. And you still owe them to Tavartet.”
“Not a problem,” I reply. “I’ve heard Jerrod just came back from killing one. He should be easy to find, and I can buy them off him.”
Sarton shakes his head. “No, that won’t do, Tollon. It’s time you proved yourself. Time for you to go out and kill a dragon yourself.”