Homecoming (The Maid)
There was a knock on the outer door.
Zeruah crossed the suite's antechamber and opened the door. She stood in the threshold. "May I help you?" She said in a slow soft voice.
"My name is Gerta Balsa, I believe you wanted to see me." A short
middle aged working class woman was standing in the hall. She was well but plainly dressed. "About Torin Stellas"
"Zeruah, show her in," Mikala called from the sitting room.
Zeruah motioned for the woman to move into the sitting room. She closed
the door and watched the woman carefully, studying her body language.
Mikala was sitting in a large lounge chair by the window. She rose and offered the woman a seat. "Thank you for coming."
Gerta walked into the room without hesitation. Then she paused and looked at Mikala for confirmation.
Lower servant, Zeruah thought, probably with the same family all her life.
Gerta sat rigidly in her chair and waited to be spoken to.
Zeruah took another seat and watched, listening and observing, but not seeing any danger.
"I heard a very interesting story on my way here from the spaceport." Mikala began. "I'd like to hear the rest of it," Mikala says, moving back to her chair.
"What story would that be?" the woman asked.
"About Torin Stellas. There seems to be some disagreement if he is dead or alive." Mikala clarified.
"I believe Master Torin, Sir Torin he should be is alive." Gerta answered.
"And where would he be now if he is alive?"
"I don't know. But I've seen him several times since his parents were murdered." Gerta paused, then she hesitantly finished. "At least I think it was him."
"His parents were murdered?" Mikala asked casually.
"Yes, everyone knows that. Governor Arricar ordered it. He claimed Sir Logan was an important rebel. The Imperial's said they'd killed the whole family. Sir Logan, Lady Maia, Torin, Willa, Lyric, even little Tarna."
"But I saw Master Torin two years later." Gerta continued.
Mikala gave Zeruah a look.
"I think Sir Lon knows where he is." She added.
"What relation is Sir Lon to Torin?" Mikala asked.
"Sir Lon is Torin's uncle, his father's brother."
Mikala nodded and pulled a chain up from around her neck. She unhooked the chain and slipped the ring off it. She handed the ring to the woman. "Have you ever seen this before?"
Gerta looked at the ring. "It's a Stellas signet."
"Those must be pretty common around here."
"This one came form the either Sir Lon's or Sir Logan's household. May I have a piece of paper?"
Mikala nodded to Zeruah.
Zeruah stood up and retrieved a piece of paper and handed it to the woman.
The woman pushed the signet into the paper then studied the mark. "See the demi-quaver. That means its Master Torin's. I remember that he lost it just before the murders. How did you get it."
Mikala stared at her. Up to now, this was just a fool's errand, a whim. She sighed. "How I got it is my own business."
Zeruah watched Mikala. Here was a very important piece of the puzzle now.
Gerta gave Mikala a puzzled look.
"How long ago was it you said you saw Torin?" Mikala asked.
"It would have been about twenty-five, twenty-seven years ago. The first time, if it really was him. He's been back several times over the years." Gerta
"One day Sir Lon went into his study and found Master Torin sitting there. Him and the dark-haired girl." She continued. "I know because Sir Lon had me bring them tea."
"Did you hear any names?" Mikala asked, her voice sounding a bit strained.
"No, only Sir Lon spoke while I was in the room and only to me, but
Master Torin was playing his recorder, like he often did when was just
sitting. He and the girl both wore cloaks, with hoods."
Mikala nodded, turning away. "Has the woman been back with him?"
Mikala nodded again. Then it wasn't her mother. "And you've never heard her name?"
"No, I never heard her name. But I once heard Sir Lon call her M'lady.
And she acted like a high born lady." Fear crossed Gerta's face. "I think
Sir Lon was a little afraid of her."
Mikala raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Yes, at first. I don't think he is any more. And Master Torin wasn't
Mikala nodded. "How long ago was the last time you saw him?"
Gerta thought for a moment. "He was last here a year ago."
"Oh," Mikala said softly. She cleared her throat and held her hand out for the ring.
Gerta returned it.
"Thank you for your time," Mikala said, nodding for Zeruah to pay the
"But I could have missed him. He always surprises the security people."
Zeruah pulled out a substantial quantity of credits, pausing as the
woman continued to talk.
"The first time the house security people were upset. Whoever the man
and woman were they must have had all the codes. They walked right though
all the security systems."
Zeruah paid the woman who took her leave and departed.
Mikala took a slow deep breath. "So he's still alive."
Zeruah nodded. It appears so.
Mikala huffed. "I need to talk to this Sir Lon."
"I do not think it'll be that easy." Zeruah replied.
Mikala nodded, fingering the ring.
"Though the ring may assist us in that." Zeruah suggested.
Mikala looked down at the ring. "But how?"
"It may prove interesting to them to know that you have it." Zeruah
Mikala nodded thoughtfully. "I wonder just how trustworthy that maid
Zeruah considered what she'd seen. "She was honest with us, even if she
was not comfortable."
Mikala nodded. "I picked that up as well. I was just wondering if she
would mention to anyone that she saw the ring. She seemed convinced it was
"She may." Zeruah said. If she does, it may assist us. They would
come looking for it. Then we do not have to look for them."
"Let's give it a day or two," Mikala said, dropping in to the chair
Mikala closed her eyes. "He really does exist." She snorted. "If my
mother didn't lie about him being my father."
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