Topaz heard the phone ring while he was cleaning up after supper, but that was hardly unusual; he paid no real attention, went on about the familiar routine of washing and drying, putting away the ones that belonged down here and taking the others back upstairs to Zephyr, wiping down the table and counter. That done, he put the kettle on and took out the teapot and all the other stuff necessary for tea—at least his current sleek fur, a rather attractive colour that looked gold in some light and greenish in others, didn't tend to get into things.
By the time he returned to the study, tea neatly arranged on the tray, Lord Andreas was finished with his phone call, and simply sitting at his desk, gazing into space.
“My Lord?” Topaz ventured.
“Hm? Oh, good.” He cleared a corner of his desk for Topaz to set the tray down. “I assume the tea shouldn't be long?”
“No, my Lord, only a couple more minutes.” Topaz perched on the chair next to the desk, where visitors with questions were permitted to sit while Lord Andreas grilled them for the information he needed in order to find answers. He picked up one of the cookies Lord Andreas liked to have with tea and nibbled on it, though his appetite for dessert came second to wondering what was going on.
“Would it make you extremely unhappy if we were to be away from home for a few days?”
Topaz winced—the passport issue remained a thorny one, which had dropped to the bottom of Lord Andreas' list of things to do multiple times, and he felt bad every time he thought of his Lord spending another winter without going anywhere warm. This must be within Canada, though, given that, which was something entirely new and different.
“I think that would depend on where, my Lord,” Topaz said, cautiously, “but it's hard to imagine that you'd want to go anywhere that would be likely to be so bad.”
“A Donovan has managed to get himself charged with sedition, immorality, and a collection of related charges, generally built around treatment of sensitives from what I gather. That was the Donovan Matriarch of his home city. She just promised me that I can set my own price if I can clear his name.” He smiled. “Just between us, this case sounds fascinating enough that I suspect I'd want to do it even without that.”
“Mages have been charged with that before, my Lord. Like Lady Lera Alexeiev.” He remembered the trial very well, remembered the way she'd looked at her sensitive and her assertion that he was an equal... and the way she'd been treated in return. He remembered, too, Lord Andreas' reflections on censorship afterwards, which had continued long after they'd come home. “This one is different?”
“He's a trained and practising mental health counsellor, works with a couple of mundanes. He used that training to collect observations about mages and sensitives, put them together into a book, had it printed, and has been distributing it. Not only to mages, but to free sensitives.”
Topaz choked on the bite of cookie he'd just taken.
“Breathe, please.” Lord Andreas handed him a napkin, waited until he had his breath back.
“He's giving a book on mages to free sensitives, my Lord? How? They should all be too frightened, there should be no way to get it to them!”
“The Donovans there have, apparently, also set up both a shelter and a kind of soup kitchen, staffed largely by Donovan sensitives and mundane volunteers who are unaware of the other aspect, and are using them as education and distribution points. I don't know the details, I only asked for enough to be certain that this should be an extremely interesting case. And a landmark, at that.”
Topaz forced his shock away, made himself think this through as rationally as he could. “He's a trained observer, my Lord,” he said slowly. “This book should therefore be full of facts, not opinions. And to ban it because some people don't like those facts is outright censorship.”
“Provably so, in fact, by mage law.” Lord Andreas sounded pleased. “Since the laws are extremely clear regarding the freedom of any mage to collect and express information as long as it doesn't advocate violence. I'm going to need to see this book, and hear the rest of the details before I know for certain what I can do. We've been promised a place to live—with this counsellor's mother and aunt, apparently they have a rather large house. And all expenses paid, and as I said, I can name my price. Sounds like his family values him rather highly, hm?”
“Definitely, my Lord.”
“So will it make you utterly miserable, if we're living in someone else's house for a little while?”
Topaz wondered whether, if he said it would, Lord Andreas would actually decline the case. It was possible. But he liked seeing his mage excited about something, and this had clearly caught his interest. Even if he honestly thought he'd hate being away from home, he would have pretended otherwise. And, well, this was going to be immensely important to every sensitive, free or otherwise, maybe for a long time.
“No, my Lord. It might be interesting.” He poured tea into both cups, thoughtfully. “My Lord? Did the Matriarch say which hunter is laying the charges?”
Lord Andreas sighed. “Elena.”
Topaz nodded. “I thought it might be, my Lord. Shall I start packing after tea?”
“This is likely to take at least a few days, so... about a week's worth of clothes, and you can figure out the rest. I'll have to decide which books the Matriarch might not have that could be useful, although she offered me access to her library. It will be about four hours' drive, I'd like to leave first thing in the morning after breakfast, if we can be ready. Hm, head upstairs after we're done eating and tell Phyllida, I'm sure she'll want to come downstairs and discuss it but tell her what you know.”
“And Zephyr will need to know to make meals only for two, my Lord.”
“Hm? Oh, yes, tell Zephyr too, breakfast will be the last meal we'll need for a while.”
Topaz made a careful mental list of things to do, both the things Lord Andreas had mentioned, and other sensible sorts of things: checking the fridge for anything that would spoil in a week, watering those plants that needed water fairly frequently, making certain that all windows were closed in case it rained while they were away.
This should be an interesting trip for him as well as for Lord Andreas. The Donovans were the ones who wanted the anti-abuse laws passed; it would be good just to be able to spend more than a couple of hours with any sensitive save Zephyr, but on top of that, given everything he'd heard, he could hardly wait to see how the Donovans treated their own sensitives.
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