Honey’s was a whiff of home to Kyrus. It was one of the eight communal kitchens, or Ceekits, in Viltaria. The only one set up like a Lainz hostel and the décor was an odd mix of Milar and Lainz, probably because the kitchen master was one of the few expatriate Lainz who had stayed in Milar after the last war.
It was also the one place in Milar that Kyrus wasn’t the only one wearing a face veil. It was odd that after the war all things Lainz were fashionable among some of the Milari and even though it was peculiar to see pale foreheads and brows over an intermediate scholar’s or warrior’s veil it was still more comfortable than bare faces. Brakayus, the Lainz who had been wounded on the mountain below the city, had also been treated by a Milar Fixer and because of it had kept both his hands. If he’d been seen by a Lainz physicus he would have lost both of them. After the war was over he’d stayed.
He’d married a Milar girl and in the First Sub Quarter had settled into the Ceekit as though he’d been born there. Since the Eighth Sub Quarter was not serving this night, the people it would normally feed were coming either to Seventh or First and the hall was crammed full of people who didn’t care to play at being Lainz so there were a lot of bare faces, even though Brak had rental face veils under the counter. No one ever wanted the single loaner because it was never washed enough.
Not that people at home actually ate with veils on, unless it was the special meal of Hard Rolls that could be neatly slipped under the cloth without leaving sauce behind on the fabric.
Kyrus leaned back against the padding, tucked into the stone niche that offered enough privacy for eating messier things, like the mutton stew on offer tonight. Tomorrow’s meal looked interesting -- they’d chalked up that it would be Moa from the new meat flocks.
It was amazing how easily the gigantic birds had adapted from the Lainz and Trovian deserts to mountains and were easy feeders as goats. In fact it was becoming an ongoing feud between the goat herders and moa herders because the moa couldn’t be taken into the same fields without going up the rocks after the goats themselves, preferring meat over grazing.
Over by the service counter where people would line up, a large Raven named Moa had his perch where he whistled and insulted people in a mix of Milari, Lainz, and the occasional word of Trovi.
The other regular animal staff were a couple of half-wild Milar cats each about twenty five or thirty pounds who Brakayus had persuaded to move in and kept the First considerably more clear of vermin than the terriers in the other kitchens.
It was a good attempt at a Lainz room, even though it was dug into the mountain, much the same way the School was, while long, communal tables filled the central space, but the rock would never be mistaken for Lainz itself. It was too dark, for one, even with lamps and Mander’s lights.
Those lights, glowing soft gold made him uncomfortable. He couldn’t get used to all the magic everywhere since at home everyone believed that the Light and the Dark had removed that talent from the Empire. But at this Ceekit it was minimized, the odd lights hidden behind translucent stone shades.
He took his veil off and tucked it into the appropriate pocket before addressing the mutton. It still took time for him to wrestle with the odd tined spoons the Milari used instead of just rolling the whole mess into a neat, handy roll of bread.
Werfas sat down with a clatter and a thunk as his bowl hit the table. Kyrus was used to this by now and didn’t flinch. The Milar boy was always giving people the impression he was clumsy. He took off his own veil and dug into the stew with gusto.
“Tonight we’re not plague sufferers.” He said with his mouth full, nodding around at the lack of gap around their booth.
Kyrus snorted. “It’s the lack of space to eat, not any growing tolerance of me.”
Werfas shrugged. “I ordered us both a beer rather than watch you drink buttered tea again.”
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“I know, but I promised my da I’d not drink by myself.” He said this so deadpan, so straightly, that for a long second Kyrus took him seriously.
“Wha… Idiot.” The laughter they shared was the half smothered, self-conscious laugh of young men everywhere, from the Freshet to the Barrens where even the Milari did not go.
Neither boy noticed that half a dozen young men at a near table were all too casually watching them, or pretending not to watch them.