tea ambush

Castle Anvard

You stand in the busy kitchen of Anvard. There is a large hearth with a blazing fire. Over the fire there is an iron pot hanging on the hearth hook.

There is one long table, stacked with bowls and platters and pitchers, used for preparation and serving. There is a large door into the Inner Ward to the north and a set of swinging, double doors leading to the Great Hall. To the east is the Servant’s Hall, and a door in the center of the south wall leads out to the Kitchen Yard.

A son of adam with a lined face is sitting at a small table before the fire, a pot of tea and a plate before him. The plate bears about half a piece of carrot cake, temporarily being given a reprieve.

Lanisen slips into the kitchens, keeping out of the way of the after-supper clean-up. He grabs an apple from a basket near the door and pockets it, pauses to let a maid carrying an empty dishtub in from the garden pass, and heads toward the back wall, where a bucket of meat scraps sits next to the garden door.

Sten picks up his fork again and lifts it towards one of the younger kitchen workers, who hasn’t quite mastered the steps of the chefs. “A fine job! The best cake I’ve had this evening!” The worker looks up, startled, then goes back to work, this time smiling.

Lanisen glances toward the voice, and to the baker. He grins faintly along with the worker, then gives the nobleman a second look. He pauses where he is, an odd expression on his face.

Sten takes a large bite. As he savors it, he sees the man looking at him. Noting that he isn’t wielding a ladle or armored in flour, the nobleman gestures at the empty spot across from himself, eyebrows lifting.

Lanisen takes a half step back and averts his eyes quickly. He moistens his lips, then swallows and approaches, stopping to bow when he is a few steps away.

Sten waves at the chair again. “Careful of bowing in here, friend,” he says, once carrot cake has been swallowed. “You’re like as not to get run into! Would you like a cup of tea? I’m sure young Ren would be delighted if you wanted to test the cake as well.”

Lanisen takes the seat, though he perches on the edge of it and rubs his elbow. “I don’t want to impose, my lord,” he says uncertainly.

Sten says, “Nonsense, there is an entire pot here that will grow cold without another drinker, and the table looks unbalanced with only one to sit at it.”

Lanisen gives him a careful look, then allows a small smile, ducking his head. “I guess so, my lord.”

Sten smiles, apparently oblivious to the caution. “Now, will you risk the cake? Surely you came to the kitchens for a bite of something, after all?” It appears he may have been waiting to ambush someone with an invitation; an extra mug already waits beside the tea pot, which Sten proceeds to fill. The scent of ginger and just a hint of lemon rises.

Lanisen starts to open his mouth to protest, then pulls his lips between his teeth. “If– Ren doesn’t mind,” he ventures, glancing toward the baker.

Sten immediately waves a hand towards the baker again. “Ren! Another slice for my friend–” he breaks off and looks towards his new companion. “Hm, perhaps I should know your name first.”

Lanisen says, “Um.” He gives Sten a quick apprehensive look, then ducks his head, wiping his palms on his knees. “Um, I’m Lanisen, my lord.”

Sten exclaims, “Ah, Lanisen, of course! To think that I can’t even recognize my own son’s squire.” He shakes his head as Ren delievers the new piece of carrot cake and subtly hovers nearby in that ‘hoping for praise but not TOO obviously’ sort of way. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Lanisen.”

Lanisen exhales a little breath of relief, though his eyes are still wary. “You too, sir,” he answers.

Sten sips his tea, eyes closing happily. “If not to impose on old men or steal cake, what brought you to the kitchens tonight?”

Lanisen says, “Um.” He gestures toward the bucket by the door. “The scraps, they go to the kennels for the dogs. I take ’em every night.”

Sten exclaims, “Then you must be the most popular man in the castle every evening.” Glancing towards the still-hovering Ren, he lowers his voice to a teasing stage-whisper and suggests, “Perhaps we should both take a bite, or I fear our friend here won’t finish chores until well past midnight!”

Lanisen says, “Oh– oh!” He glances at Ren in embarrassed consternation and bends his head over his slice of cake to take a bite.

Sten chuckles and joins Lanisen in the tasting, nodding towards Ren. The baker colors, but doesn’t duck away.

Lanisen makes an appreciative noise and looks up at Ren to nod several times enthusiastically with his mouth full.

Sten smiles as Ren visibly brightens, then scurries off to other tasks. “This is my favorite place in the evenings.” Settling further into his chair and lifting his mug, he takes a deep breath.

Lanisen ventures, “You come here a lot, then, sir?”

Sten nods. “You can tell quite a bit about a place by the kitchens. The sort of things they make, who comes in, what tea they have…” He looks at the pot. “I was very impressed by the variety of tea to be found here!”

Lanisen looks at his teacup, as if this last is not something he has considered before. “I see,” he says.

Sten leans back, holding his cup with both hands. “There’s also always a good fire to be found in the kitchens.”

Lanisen agrees, “That’s so.” He glances around. “Seems like it’s warm where there’s lots of people movin’, too.”

Sten says, “Perhaps that’s what warms their hearts, to give someone like me such a choice seat.” With a chuckle, he adds, “Or perhaps that was to keep me from tasting too many of the candied nuts and blocking their way.”

Lanisen bites his lip to stop a grin at this, but it doesn’t really work.

Sten sets down his cup to eat the rest of his cake, then stands with a groan. “Warm though it is, I must be off. Do try some of the chestnuts before you go; they’re very good.”

Lanisen stands quickly as Sten does, bowing again, but already looking around for the chestnuts.

Sten departs the kitchen, calling out a thank you to Brosie as he goes.


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