Lose a servant, unmask a spy.
Chapter 12, Part 2
When Callowyn’s carriage had departed, Marta turned to Sela. “I need to go speak with Count Maton. It doesn’t concern you directly, but you’re welcome to come with me.”
“I’d like that, but I promised to meet Prince Dolan in the archives. He thinks he’s found another reference which might have a bearing on our search…I don’t know. He wasn’t very specific.”
“Which means he chose not to be so. Or perhaps he just wants to see you again.”
Sela scowled. “You’re teasing me.”
“I am? It wasn’t my intention.”
“I—oh, never mind. I’ll walk with you as far as Count Maton’s villa, if you don’t mind. His Highness better have a good reason, is all I can say.”
“A man who doesn’t realize he’s flirting and a woman who doesn’t realize she’s being flirted with,” Marta said. “I’m sure that will end well.”
“You’re doing it again,” Sela said.
Marta smiled. “This time I think you’re right. Let’s be off, then.”
Neither said anything for most of the walk toward the city’s center, though Sela kept glancing up and around as if she expected to find something, but that something never materialized.
“I still feel as if we’re being watched,” she said finally. “I’ve felt that way almost since we arrived here.”
“I think you might be right,” Marta said. “I would attribute it to some plot of Duke Okandis, but I’ve come to the conclusion that he has nothing to do with it.”
Sela frowned. “Based on what?”
“Based on the nature of the spy. We’ll know if I’m right soon enough. For now, this is where we part. Say hello to the prince for me.”
“If I can get a word in,” Sela said. “He does tend to talk when he’s on the trail.”
Sela continued toward the Royal Archives while Marta presented herself at the gate to Count Maton’s village. She was quickly ushered inside. She found the man in his library. Several books were open on the table beside the chair where he sat, but he wasn’t reading any of them. He appeared lost in thought, but he rose as soon as Marta entered.
“Welcome, Lady Marta.”
“Thank you. Pardon me if this seems to personal, but you appear to be troubled.”
“Not troubled…exactly. More confused. I feel—“
“As if something is missing?” Marta finished.
He looked at her intently. “Yes. That’s it exactly.”
She nodded. “I thought you might. What’s missing is the Debt. It created a connection between first you and my mother, then you and I, and you’ve lived with that connection for many years. That connection is no longer there, and what you feel its absence.”
“It’s…gone? I’m no longer—“ He stopped himself, but Marta just smiled.
“In my service? The answer is ‘no.’ The services you’ve rendered over the last several days were of great value to me, and they have discharged your obligation. Only the Debt knows its true extent, and when it is satisfied. When the connection is broken, I feel it just as you do. That is what I came to tell you today. I felt I owed you that much at least.”
“I hardly even know what to do now,” Count Maton said, slipping rather heavily back into his chair.
“Celebrate, would be a reasonable response,” Marta said. “It’s what I would do.”
Count Maton smiled then. “My years of indenture were long, but I feel fortunate. They were by no means unpleasant.”
“You were fortunate,” Marta said. “You were able to discharge your debt by continuing to be who you were before. Not everyone can say the same.”
“I am all too aware of that. Thank you.”
Marta inclined her head just slightly. “Goodbye, Count Maton. I will count you even more fortunate and me less so if we never meet again.”
He rose, and accepted her extended hand. “Goodbye, Lady Marta. Large though my obligation might have been, I can’t help but feel that it was as nothing compared to your own.”
“You have a kind heart, Excellency. Try not to let it get you into trouble again.” Continue reading