Tiago walked by my side as we ascended the stairs after dinner. Both of us had been underdressed, but I couldn’t berate him for acting his age, and my excuse had be pointed. And poisoned. Captain Dumas was close behind.
“What happened to ‘unbearably ordinary’?” I asked the boy in a low voice.
He snickered. “Mai-am told me to say that. Viscontessa Greco is the only one who can bring mai-am to a draw in any game they play and she said if you were clever, you would still convince her to house you.”
“That little game put my life on the line.”
“Did she threaten you with a poisoned knife?”
I looked down at him. “Does she do that often?”
“It’s her favorite tactic.”
“She was very convincing.”
Tiago’s tone grew serious, “I didn’t mean to suggest she wouldn’t have killed you, Don. She has killed before. I only mean that it hasn’t yet failed her. But House De Santis trusts in your abilities.”
“You are my living nightmare.”
“I promise I won’t lead you astray with any other noble houses. I knew Greco would like you. The other…” He made a face.
As we neared the room, I saw a servant with a basket of supplies at the far end of the corridor, busy with some unknown task. Tiago skipped ahead to the door and I leaned back to catch the Captain’s ear. “Go in with him, leave the door ajar. I need to speak with her.” I nodded ahead. I could tell Captain Dumas wasn’t thrilled, but she didn’t argue. This time. I knew the time would come.
I approached the servant and stopped a safe distance from her. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Nor I, you,” she agreed. Prevot looked different but I realized after a moment that she had dyed her hair and she had previously used facial paints to subtly change her features. She moved differently, too. “It seems we’re hounding the same game,” she said, turning into a small alcove and setting down her basket.
I joined her, but kept an eye on the hallway. “Were I a nervous man, I would think you were following me.”
“Why would I follow you?” she asked. “Do you carry such prestige that persons might seek to claim it by reflection?”
“Do I have anything to fear from you in this place?” I asked seriously.
She stared at me. “I could ask the same, Don.”
“You could,” I agreed. “Once again, I assure you that I intend no harm.”
“The wind whispers a thousand intentions across the bones of the dead.”
I blinked. “Did you just make that up?”
Her face cracked into a smirk. “I did. Were you impressed?”
“Very impressed. Seriously, who are you?”
“No one of consequence.”
“That is an unbelievable lie, and beneath you.”
“Maybe I am an unbelievable liar,” she shrugged.
“Are you in the employ of the Viscontessa Greco?”
“I am a servant in her household.”
“In what manner do you serve her?” I knew Prevot was playing with me, but I didn’t yet know the game.
She looked me up and down. “I expect in a manner similar to yours.” Our voices were already low, but she leaned forward to whisper, “I could be convinced into an alliance, but my terms would not be favorable to you this time. The next…” she leaned away and eyed me with a suggestion that left my mind blank.
When I didn’t answer, she said firmly, “I can wait a little longer, but you’d best make up your mind.”
“How will I convey my answer?” I asked as she stepped out of the alcove.
“I’ll look for you here.” She strode away quickly, basket in hand and I watched her go with far, far more confusion that I’d ever experienced in my life.
I went to the room and closed the door. Tiago was dressed for bed, reading on one of the chairs we’d been provided. He looked up curiously and Captain Dumas asked, “All is well?”
“I think so?”
The boy and the guard looked at each other and then back at me. “Would you like to elaborate, Don?” the Captain asked.
“I’m puzzling it out still,” I answered.
“I’ll post a guard outside through the night. Sleep well.” She bowed and left.
I changed my clothes and climbed into the bed. Tiago put aside the book and joined me, but he didn’t lay down.
“What is it?” I asked over my shoulder. He looked serious. “What’s wrong?”
The boy took a breath. “The servants work and we pay them for their services. We expect nothing from them outside of their proper duties.”
“Power can easily go to one’s head, but if you are in a position of authority, you should never harass those under your command, Pietro, especially servants outside of your household.”
I groaned loudly and rolled onto my stomach. On top of my confusion with Prevot, I certainly didn’t want to be lectured on not fornicating with servants by a prepubescent boy.
He patted me on the shoulder. “I can see you are frustrated. We can talk more in the morning.”
April 30, 2021