Chapter 14

Ursus approached Leo's bedside very nervously indeed. Her appearance had been changed as much as was cosmetically possible and she was now dressed in a similar, straight skirt and tunic that Jasmine wore. Faust had been right when he suggested that Jasmine accompany her to the infirmary, no one had looked twice at two women on their journey to, and entering, the building. This was probably due to the fact that Jasmine knew absolutely everyone! Men, women and children all seemed to know and like the young girl a great deal and at least a dozen had stopped to make friendly conversation with her on an array of subjects, thus taking any attention away from Ursus.

Leo spotted the two women and only recognised Jasmine at first. When he did actually recognise her companion he fell into a fit of coughs that threatened to totally invert his aching lungs altogether.

“I'm sorry.” He wheezed, wiping his mouth on a cloth. “Please excuse all that.”

“I didn't mean to give you such a shock.” Ursus apologised. “I had to come and see you.”

“I know.” Leo said. “Lady Toller may I speak ... personally?” Jasmine took the hint and went to bring more water. “I presume you're here regarding my release?”

“I am yes. You know already?” Ursus was quite surprised.

“Marx came about an hour ago to tell me, or rather to howl at me in a temper fit. That well built woman over there is Sillix's assistant, she almost levelled him with a poultice.” Leo smiled. “Lady Toller I hate to see such a fretful expression on such a beautiful face. I never thought, not for one instance, that any of this was done with your knowledge. You were a victim as much as I was and I'm desperately sorry for what you must have endured. I asked General Astrella to enquire into your well-being, nothing more.” Leo chewed on his lip for a while. “Lady Toller, if I'm being presumptuous here, please forgive me, but I can only think of one thing that would cause Marx to drop this. His accusations have been refuted, with indisputable back-up.” He watched as Lady Toller looked at the ground and her face coloured. “I thought so. I thank you with my life for enduring such an investigation. While I'm also grateful to General Astrella for bringing it about, I'm still not comfortable with it ever having been necessary.”

“General Astrella? Oh no, you have that wrong Leo. I requested that Sillix make that report, not General Astrella. I wanted my own name cleared and no one seemed interested in that. I took the responsibility myself, for myself, knowing that would also exonerate you too. It was the right thing to do and my conscience would have killed me if I'd just sat there like one of Spence's accessories. Thank you for considering my well-being, Leo, you're the only one who has.” Ursus tried to smile. “Is there anyone I can contact to let Kore know of your release? Obviously I can't go to the Pit.”

“You've done more than enough already.” Leo was completely astonished at the strength of Lady Toller's character. “No you certainly can't go to the Pit.” Leo pulled a face and made Ursus laugh. “I believe you had the pleasure of my sister's company on your birthday?”

“Pleasure being the correct word.”

“Huh?” Leo wasn't expecting that one. “Are we talking about the same Kore? She borrowed that dress from Jasmine.” He whispered as Jasmine returned with a pitcher of water. “It's true! She has no feminine clothes at all. Thank you Jasmine.” Leo accepted his drink. “I can imagine this issue having quite affected your family.” He said to Ursus.

“I have no family.” She shrugged. “The ones I did have left me years ago when they farmed me off to Spence and Spence was no replacement. I have my own privacy at the Villa and Spence knows I have the means to ensure it stays private, for now. He won't bother me. Again, you're the only one who's been concerned, as was your sister when she witnessed Spence's conduct at the banquet. Odd don't you think? The only two sympathetic people are two that owe my social class no sympathy at all.”

“True, but a social class is group label, not an individual one. It would be a very narrow minded person who would disregard the fact that a social stratum is still made up of individual people. Anyway it's not your social class is it? It's Governor Toller's. You were married into it, hence, you're exempt.” Leo grinned, then fell prone to another barrage of coughs. “Damn.”

“Excuse me!” Physician Sillux was on his way over rather quickly.

“Oh no. What now?” Leo spluttered and tried to sit up.

“I'll have to ask you to leave.” The physician addressed Jasmine, who obediently stood up. “This is an infirmary, miss, I don't think the people here are well enough to ... sacred stars!” He eventually recognised Ursus. “I think I have the wrong idea here, or at least I hope I do.” Sillix said in bewilderment. “Are you OK, Lady Toller?”

“I'm fine thank you. Jasmine is a friend of mine and she's here with me in that capacity only.”

“Of course. I beg your pardon, miss. May I ask in what capacity you, yourself are here? Pardon my directness but the need for my recent involvement ...”

“It's fine physician Sillix, your trust and professionalism has not been compromised. This is the first time I've met Leo and I did so out of sympathy for a sickness that was caused by a situation contrived around him.” Ursus answered confidently. “A sickness that needs rest in order to heal, I think.” She turned her attention to Leo. “I'm so very pleased I came today. Obviously I can't guarantee that we'll meet again but if we do, I trust it'll be under more pleasant circumstances and when you're in good health.”

“Thank you. You're visit has meant a lot to me, as does your friendship. Jasmine, thank you for accompanying Lady Toller.” Leo said politely and the two women left the infirmary.

“Why would Lady Toller befriend someone like Jasmine?” Sillix said, staring at the closing door.

“Because she likes her? Please, physician Sillix, I know you're above snobbery and stereotypes. Lady Toller is also a good friend of my sister's and you can't tell me that they're alike in any way.” Leo laughed.

“She is? That could explain her personal request rather than a referral.” Sillix mused.

“With all respect physician Sillix, you're reading between lines when there is no need at all. Who was responsible for your decision to move me from that dungeon? No one. Exactly. It was your decision because it was the right thing to do, as well as being legally correct. She did it for herself, primarily, and to rectify a serious wrongdoing that affected other people.” Leo preached.

“I suppose so.” Sillix conceded. “I've never noticed Lady Toller being responsible for decision making in the past, that's all.”

“You've probably never noticed Lady Toller at all. I very much doubt her reputation's ever been assaulted like this in the past. The largest of sponges reaches it's absorption limit eventually. If you'll excuse me, physician Sillix, I feel exhausted and I still haven't got word to my sister regarding all this.”

“Maybe if she was somewhere more approachable than the Pit, it would be far easier. I'm sure she'll find out. Sleep well Leo.” Sillix nodded and left Leo to rest.

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