Tuesday, October 25, 2011

572 - Below Stairs Again

Erelas sank down on the bench at the stove end of the servant’s table in the night kitchen.  “Phew.  I’m done for today.  What’s on the hob, Kataina?”

The cook, prepping vegetables to go into ice-water for the next day, carefully drawing thin, wide, long curls off orange roots with her paring knife, looked up.  “Cold roast meats, leftover.  My famous leftover beef stew with Niah earth apples and orange root.  Eight-fruit salad.  Soups, chilled melon or hot pepper mutton.”

“Thank you, blessed maker of food!  Mutton, still?  There’s not many Yeolis left in the Marble Palace to cater to.”

“Enough people like it.  So, what’s the word, Erelas?  Has our young Sparkle asked her yet?  I’ve got a copper chain on this moon.”

“No.  No change.  And why are you interested in that pool?  The hot chains are on when Blusher will be bowing to Fighter Girl.” Erelas leaned back and nodded at the pot boy who offered the chilled soup and the cold, sliced beef.

“Well, I thought that since he was over at her hoity-toity art opening Sparkles might ask Rosie tonight.”  She finished the last root, clapped the lid on and handed it off to another apprentice to carry away.  She sat down herself in a way that would have scandalized half of Arko when she swapped her dirty gloves for a fresh pair right in front of him.  Kaf cups materialized on the table for both of the senior servants.

“Good lads, thank you.  Finish up your jobs and head to bed.  Night shift is already on, hurry on now,”  The kaf was heavily cut with cream this late at night.

“No.” Erelas swept up the last bit of soup with a heel of bread held neatly on the end of his fork.  “He’s looking for the perfect time.  This is her night and he wouldn’t jump all over it like that.  I’m betting that Blusher asks first, then we’ll be in the middle of Regent Imperator wedding preparation and he’ll wait some more.”

“They’re off to Yeola-e again.  Maybe he’d ask her there.”

“If it were perfect, maybe but they’re both such city folk.”  Kataina grinned at Erelas who smiled back.  She was from the city.  He was the country boy.  “Actually things may come together, at one of the parties coming up.”

“What, one of those scandalous swimming ones?  Or are we going to have a Mammoka in the Selestial Hall again?”

“It was only a little one.  A gift from Mil Torii Itzan.”

“That was little?  My silver-haired, multi-clutching Goddess.”  Kataina mock swooned and then went to fetch herself a pastry from the bin of discards.  “You want something sweet to finish that off with?”

“Any Anga-o fruit pastries?”

“You are completely shameless over those.  I’ll have to tell the pastry chefs that any ‘accidentally burned’ ones should come right over here.  Here you are.  One left.”

Erelas closed his eyes as he bit into the Srian pastry, drizzled with Niah chocolate and powdered sugar from Laka.  “Mmmmm.  Feed Sparky more of these.  They’ll get him going.”

“I think that Roamer Girl and Not Raikas will have something to do with Sparky's asking.  My guess is that Roamer will grab him by the collar and tell him he’s going to lose Rosie if he doesn’t do something soon.”

“You think so?  He’d lose her?”

“No.  Speaking as a girl, she looks at him like that and they’ll be a pair.  He just doesn’t realize it yet.”

“Feminine wiles.”

Kataina snorted.  “Young male denseness.  No wonder youngsters need adults to arrange things.”

“Hah.  Don’t say that too loudly.  Antras’s daughter is at marriage age.”  Erelas leapt to his feet and snatched at what appeared to be part of the wall.  “Ha!  Got you, you sneaker!”

Jia, plucked from the marble, hung disconsolately from Erelas’s gloved hand, tentacles trailing down toward the kitchen desk.  “For some reason this one has been stealing lists lately.  Recipes.  Bits of paper with parts of notes out of waste baskets. I’ve found them all in Sparky’s jewelry case.”

The domestic octopus cheeped forlornly.  “Oh, don’t be so harsh on the poor thing. He probably thought it was something good he was doing.”

Erelas harrumphed and dropped Jia onto the servant’s table with a slap. “Silly thing.”

“Let me get you a treat,” Kataina addressed Jia who went from a depressed whitish gray to a bright pink as he recognized the word ‘treat’.  “I have some cockles from the fishmonger that didn’t get used today.  By tomorrow they’ll be off, so someone should eat a few.”

“You’ll spoil him completely.” Erelas swallowed the last of his kaf and got to his feet“’night, Kataina.  Hope you win your bet.”

“Goddess night to you, Erelas.”


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