Continued from Visiting a Chapel.
Several maids shifted about and fidgeted as they sat on benches in one of the imperial yards.
“So…” One glanced aside, uncomfortable with the silence. “Why do you like Nikho so much, Hellene? He’s so…” She trailed off into silence.
“I don’t know.” The addressed blushing brunette groaned. “Maybe it’s the freckles?” She hid her face, and a few others giggled uneasily as they glanced around, their smiles more akin to pasted-on grimaces.
“That’s unnatural.” Another young woman piped up. “I’ve heard things about him-“
The first looked up, eyes wide. “No need to go on about rumors.” She forced a bigger grin. “He’s above anything like that, though, I’m sure.” She glanced briefly toward a door, then back at her friend.
“He’s above it.” She spoke forcefully, and the group became quiet again.
Finally, Nellh spoke up. “Did you see the princess’s new dress? I thought it was very elegant when I saw it.”
“Which one, the grey one or the white one?” A redhead tilted her head.
“She wore a white one today?” Nellh took a turn tilting her head. “Her grey, since I didn’t see the white.”
Hellene sighed. “It did look nice, but no nicer than Sahl’la’s new uniform.” She waved a hand and yawned. “I wish she would wear white again. It suits her so much better!”
“I think it makes her look like a sweet cookie.” Kahl’la grinned. As usual, she was dressed above her station. “I’d like to be dressed all in white someday.”
“And I’d like you girls to get back to work!” The deep voice of the kitchen-steward boomed. “If you have time to prattle, you have time to help my boys scrub pans!” The man narrowed his eyes. His thick, tall body, and his booming, gravelly voice were enough to send the girls scrambling, all save Kahl-la, who only looked up with minor annoyance.
“Really, Leginalle, that wasn’t needed.” She pouted. “We were just enjoying the last of our lunch break.”
“Lunch break my ass. Rules are you do something useful after you eat if you have spare time that isn’t labeled a break.”
“Lunch break is a break, and you’re not going to bully me.” She narrowed her eyes briefly at the brutish man, then slowly rose and crossed her arms as she looked up into his eyes.
The man scowled down at her. “Get back to work. You’re distracting the boys.”
“Really, that’s their problem.” She shrugged. “But you’re right, being here isn’t pleasant right now. I seem to have attracted a thug.” She turned on her heel and walked to the nearest door, and behind her back, the large man raised his middle finger at her.
“Leginalle, that is very inappropriate. You work with children. A better example would be a good idea.”
Leginalle paled. “Sorry, your priestship.” He turned and bowed his head. “They were distracting the boys.”
Nikho sighed. “The boys who are all leaning over each other to watch you, you mean? I think you’re being more distracting to them right now. Return to your station. I’m sure they won’t be back any time soon, and likely won’t visit your kitchen for some time after that embarrassing display.”
Leginalle bowed his head. “They were-“
Nikho turned to look at the man with eyes that shifted color freely, and the man shrunk away. “Return to your duties. I can see clearly that you have too much free time, yourself. I’ll have to urge the house-steward to assign your kitchen to the next feast.” The smaller man turned to walk away, his pace a quick clip.