Tuesday, February 8, 2011

433 - He Whose Beef is Always Perfectly Aged

“Ser Monnen.” He was looking at Kyriala as if he already had her undressed and in bed.  How dare he? I reached for my belt and brought my comb up, even as he did, the tail ends crossing a little too vigorously.  Don’t ‘fence’ with your comb, my etiquette master always said. Simply present. Your rank carries itself.  “Were you presented at my father’s court?”  He could have been, since he was a few years older than I.  A grown man.  Past third threshold.   He was smiling as though he’d prefer to bite me.  

He had the 'look' that 2nd Amitzas sometimes got, as if he'd love to force her to something.  A controller. An abuser. I disliked him on sight.
“No, Serin,” he said.  “My father was, but deemed it too… much, to expose me to.”
There was so much in that tiny pause.  “Of course.  I am pleased to meet you.”  Kyriala casually shifted as she combed, moving just fractionally closer to me. I turned back to find her looking between us, across the main pool where the bulk of the bathers, the Arkan ones, were  paddling in the shallows or on the steps.  The only people actually swimming in the deep water were foreigners.  “It seems that bathing will be somewhat the rage this season.  Serina Liren, your reputation for spectacular salons is assured.”
She smiled at me.  “This is hardly all my doing, Serin.”
“She has excellent servants,”  Monnen observed. Bastard.
“Of course,” I was about to continue when Monnen took my pause as an invitation to break in.
“Serina, shall I fetch you something to eat?  Or a glass of wine perhaps?”  Who was he to dance attendance on Kyriala?  Stop that. I told myself. He’s a friend of hers.  He’s a voter. He’s someone I do not know. This is an unreasoning hatred, except for the looks he bestows on her.
“Thank you, Ser Benthasas.”  She knows him well enough to make free with his first name?  Stop that. Don’t be an idiot.  “That would be lovely.”
He nodded and got up, with a slight hitch in his motion that hinted at a limp as he strolled over to the serving tables.  Injured, fighting for Arko.  More than you’ve done, boy.  I wrenched my eyes and my mind off him and who he was to her. My gaze fell on Serina Anala Puriren, the elder daughter, just coming out of the water.  She might be covered from neck to foot, from shoulder to wrist, but the water, pouring off her shift, laid every single inch of it tightly and almost transparently, against her body.
It was enough to enrapture my attention and the attention of very young man in the vicinity.  And many of the young Serinas as well.  She giggled and pulled the damp fabric away from her skin, accepting a towel from a servant, hiding everything from view under another, dry, layer of cotton. I totally forgot about Benthasas Monnen for an instant.
“Ah-hem!”  Kyriala tapped my arm with her comb and I jumped, startled.  She was giving me the ‘all boys are idiots’ look and I realized I had been staring.
“My apologies, Serina.”  I realized at that moment that the shift she wore was also soaking wet and under the edge of the towel she had wrapped around her, it outlined her leg just as fetchingly.  “This is surely going to be a shocking scandal.”
“Hardly.  Everyone is decently covered.” But she smiled at me.  Covered yes. Decently, no. And here came Monnen back with a glass and a plate full of dainties for Kyriala.  I felt like my head was being wiped back and forth between two completely opposite vistas.
“I should…”  Bilabas appeared  at my elbow, fortunately before I could say something truly foolish.
“Serin.  There are a number of guests arriving right now that need the exalted’s personal greeting.  Not the Imperator, yet but still influential.  Serina, your chaperone should be here in a moment to assist you, the Master of the House is asleep and so cannot receive.”
“Of course,” she said, getting up and turning to the woman who was all but running into the Bathhouse.
“Thank you, Bilabas.  Serina Liren, Ser Monnen… Serins, Serinas… I nodded around the circle of other young people… most of whom I had been introduced to already and had not spoken up while Ky and I and that other man, talked.  I rose, trying to be graceful.  “Please do excuse me.”
“Of course, Serin.” That was Monnen again.  “You may be excused.”  A flash of rage shook me though I didn’t show it.  He was not my superior to pat me on the head and send me off.  I smiled at him instead, and turned to follow Bilabas.
“Serin,” the butler said quietly.  “It looks as though this is the entire Kazien party.  It seems the exalted has shut things down."
“Truly?  I wonder why?  Did he realize it was making him look petty to hold a party the same night as Kallijas and me?”
“These ones don’t know, Serin.”
I took up my post at the bottom of the stairs and Atzana grinned as she curtsied and let me take the spot.  Kallijas came up just as she did so.  Nuninibas was already asleep sitting with his head cradled on his mama’s lap on the dais, a crème cake firmly clutched in his hand… Kyriala was still… ah… here she came.  Her women must have been right there to help her change out of the wet shift.  Even her hair roses were back in place and she looked serene as if she had not just been splashing about in the baths a tenth ago.
She took up Nuni’s place and the parade of the other half of the Fifty began.  So… everyone would be here tonight.
In a closed carriage between the Flying Horse Manor and the Diamond on the Earthsphere...
“My goodness, husband did you ever see such a sight?  My slippers are absolutely, absolutely ruined.”
“I shall buy you a replacement pair never fear, my wife… In fact I shall buy you several.”
“How on the earthsphere did they get into the house to begin with?”
“I have no idea, pet.  It was worth it to see Kazien clinging to his own chimney breast with his horses stretching their noses up to him.  They are very affectionate creatures.”
“Affectionate!  One brute absolutely ate the flowers off my head piece!”
“I’ll buy you another one my dear.  Interesting that there were four matched pairs.  I’ve seen his carriage drawn by only two.  Perhaps the others are new?”
“Did you see the one that absolutely destroyed the dining table?  It was jumping on it!  What WAS it doing, dear?”
“Ahem.  Nothing pet.  The stallion was merely—playing with it.”
“Oh.  Well the legs gave out entirely and the place settings were smashed or crushed.  He positively seized the centerpiece in his teeth!  Very wildly, I thought.”
“Here we are, my wife.  The Diamond.  It looks as though we haven’t missed anything.  I have heard rumours that the Imperator will actually deign to attend sometime tonight.”
“Ooooh and me with my slippers ruined!”
“Never fear, wife, perhaps the Sera or the Serina will be able to come to your rescue, even if they do not have slippers perfectly dyed to match your gown.”
“I hope so.”
“I wonder if Aan actually had the stones—“ “DEAR! Language!  The children!”  “—ahem, the fortitude, to hire someone to ruin Kazien’s party for him?”
“Surely not, husband.”
“He did once set the entire horse market loose upon the city.”
“Well… I suppose.”
“OH MY FIKKEN PROFESSIONAL GOD!  Who scorched my chocolate!  I need it right NOW!!!”
“There’s no time… the channeloni are done and stuffed…. Here, sift coloured sugar over them and send them out.”
“We have a situation!”  The bellow came from the Chef’s station.  “The whole Kazien party is about to arrive!”
“Oh, shen!”
“Fik the ‘oh shen’, go down into the cellar and bring up the next round of stove fuels.”
“Kafiras!  Send a skater down to the Gourmand and get the second round of barrels brought up!”
“Yes, Ienas.  They are already here.  Your oldest just brought them not a bead ago. We thought we might need them.”
“Good man!  Good men!”
“What do you mean the veal is dry?  I cooked it perfectly well!  It’s the best veal in the city, I know!”
“How do you know?”
“I bought it from you and that ‘s what you said!”  The sound of another bite being taken.  “I could be wrong about the veal being dry.”
“More fish coming through! Fresh fish coming through to prep!”
“Chef!  Please taste!”
“It’s not good enough… throw it out.”
“Yes, Chef!”
“Second dish pit crew reporting!”
“Quit reporting and get your asses in there… we’ve got at least another two hundred people coming!”
“Ground nut oil!  Ground nut oil you moron!”
“Hot… coming behind you… hot hot hot behind!”
“You bet your behind is hot, sweetheart!”
“And don’t you wish you were tupping it right now?”
“Better than… no no no no no!  Do NOT put the white sauce in with the black roe!  You’ll get gray sludge!  You plate it like so… in the spoons so that everyone can take and sip without having to dip into anything!”
“Fresh bake coming in!”
“I wish I were as fresh as it.”
“Yeah.  I could use a beer around now.”
“Take heart, sweetheart, you get through this and the chef buys a round for the kitchen.”
“Really?  Lovely.  Who’re you voting for?”
“Not telling!  But it’s either dumb, dumber or dumbest and then there’s this paladin guy and a kid who He Whose Beef is Always Perfectly Aged thinks can do it.  What do you think?”


  1. "Sho para"? You've been using "chaperone" for three hundred chapters, why the sudden change to the Arkan?

  2. “Did you see the one that absolutely destroyed the dining table? It was jumping on it! What WAS it doing, dear?”
    “Ahem. Nothing pet. The stallion was merely—playing with it.”


    Add in the scenes in the bath house with Minus getting jealous & all the delightful chaos in the kitchens; and as usual you have created another truly wonderful addition to the story.

    But how are your eyes doing??

  3. Sorry Toast... I'll just change it back... brain glitch.

    Thank you for the compliment. And my eyes, so far, are not getting much better. I've a visit to the specialist tomorrow. We'll see. [so to speak]