LET US LEAVE THE matter of Valka and my turbulent heart a moment. She has been brought upon the stage, but as I waited for her, so must you. I must
approach her now as I did then: cautiously, curious as the azhdarch circling the matador. Besides, I did not see her again for weeks, save in the impressions she made upon my young mind. Instead I attended Anaïs’s regatta, another fight at the coliseum, and two live operas put on by the
same Eudoran troupe who had performed at the Colosso’s halftime show. The rest of my time I spent accompanying the count’s children about their business and their lessons, and I was only allowed out of the castle on such voyages.
It was like the count knew I wanted to leave. I do not think he truly did, but I felt hemmed in, locked like Daedalus in the dungeons of Knossos.
And like Daedalus, I sulked in the darkness of my room, scratching new images in my journal. What had I been thinking? That the count would take an interest in my abilities and retain my services? That I charmed my way into his service by mere force of character? That indeed is the story they tell: that Marlowe the coliseum slave talked his way into the count’s service and into the arms of his daughter, that he was seduced by a witch of the
Demarchy and turned thence to darkness. I wish I could say it were so. I wish I could say I came to the count’s service by some cleverness on my part.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I was there because I had defeated myself. Hoisted by my own petard, to borrow the Classical English expression. I’d had a plan to escape, to buy a starship for a song and a lie. I’d alienated my only close friend to do it, and I didn’t even have a ship to show for it. I’d been so sure when I walked into
that gaol that I’d be able to walk out again. I’d forgotten who I was for a moment, forgotten the secret of my blood. I’d grown too comfortable in the coliseum, sure that Had of Teukros could do as he liked.
Still, it could have been worse. I could have been in the gaol.
I wanted to contact my friends in the Colosso. Pallino, Elara, Ghen, and Siran—even Switch, if he would hear me. Palace security would have monitored any calls I made as surely as they monitored my every hour lounging alone in my room. Any talk of our plans to buy a ship might look like an attempt to flee. I’d bought my comfort and fine meals with my privacy, traded my future for that present, if unwillingly. As on Delos, I was aware that I sat in a crystal cage.
Only this time I had no one to blame but myself.
I was not leaving Emesh. My stupidity, my cupidity had seen to that. Like Doctor Faustus, I had wanted knowledge—and like Doctor Faustus, that knowledge had cost me dearly, would cost more dearly still.