No, dawno nie postowalam na LJ, ale moze czas powrocic.
A na powrot nowa hostoria, ktora pisze w odcinkach na tublerku;)
Post-Lovecraftowski swiat, gdzie ludzie to nie lduzie, a ludize-ludzie zdziczeli;) Troche nieprzyjemnosci typu kanibalizm jest wspomnianych, ale ogolnie to bajka o tym jak chorowity panicz znajduje sobie pupila, rzucona na tlo swiata pelnego dziwnosci;)
Pisana po eng, ale ostatnio tylko to mi jakos sprawnie wychodzi>__>
There was something behind her back, not a presence exactly - rather a feeling of the lack of one.
“Young Lord,” Mam Kish, the chief cook of the Count and Countess Insminith, sighed, glancing over her shoulder and indeed, there he was. Pale middle child of her Lordship - more like a ghost of a boy than a boy himself. “Shouldn’t you be resting?”
He looked at her with wide colourless eyes and the woman felt a stab of pity over the left one. The primary pupil was a tiny spot of black in the middle of milky greyness and the secondary one was missing altogether. Although there was hope it will appear at some point – the primary one was absent at birth too, after all, - it was a wary sort of expectation.
He was a wisp of a child; at the age of eight not even tall enough to reach her waist, with thin limbs and drawn, serious face that bore an expression of constant exhaustion. He was born early, weak and sickly, and Mam Kish mourned the fact. Because there was his mother’s beauty written all over this small silhouette – from the smooth length of pearlescent hair to the graceful shape of his first hands. A potential for a handsome youth that one day may bear fruit. Provided, that the child lived long enough.
“I am cold,” the voice that was almost translucent in colour answered her, bony shoulders lifted in a tired shrug. A picture book the boy held under one of them almost slipped out of his weak secondary arms, but he’s managed to hold it.
Cold, huh? He often came to her kitchen for that reason, although neither the Lordship, nor his nurses were happy about it. Mam Kish didn’t mind, though, and never sent the child away; it looked like he can breathe easier in the room full of warm steam and that was enough for her. He never bothered anyone, anyway.
“And Avrileth is screaming again.”
Ah, of course. That was even more of a reason for the little one to seek sanctuary. The youngest Lordling had good lungs on him.
“Mhm.” She nodded in understanding and turned back to her books. “Don’t get underfoot, young Lord, I will not be held accountable if you end up in a pot.”
An anaemic giggle was her answer before the child disappeared in search of a safe corner.
If anyone asked, she didn’t see a thing.
Three hours later she was standing over a pot of boiling pig bones, teaching a young girl that should know better how to properly extract gelatine, when someone coughed pointedly behind her back.
She didn’t turn right away, even though she was aware of his presence from the moment it entered her kingdom. Mam Kish was not a woman that jumped for others. “Yes, Mes?” She barked. “I am busy, to the point!”
However, Milicentin Teys, the Steward to the Count Insminith, and his eternally patient smile were content to wait for her full attention. Sighing, the woman gave it to him,- it was easier this way, - and turned away from the pot.
“Young Lord is late to his classes,” the Steward said in a pleasant voice.
“And that’s a fault of mine?” She fired back. Ah, her arms were folding themselves again, damn them. This man raised her hackles like no other! “I'm not his teacher, Mes, neither a nurse of his. If they’ve lost him again and you consider changes in the staff, you'll not find candidates here. Especially you, lass! Put some strength into it, or you'll go back to scrubbing' floors!”
The girl put her considerable back into it and the Steward didn’t twitch. He kept standing there, immaculate and pressed, smiling like a daft child. Damn him.
“Charming as ever,” he mused, pleasant as a daisy. “How are the preparations for the feast coming along?”
“As well as expected.” Kish left the girl with a last warning glare and moved along to the table where two undercooks were chopping vegetables, knives flashing in their skilled hands like tricks of light. Under her attention their spines straightened. Good. “I have secured most of the ingredients, so far we’re only waiting for the fishmongers to get back to me, and a new delivery of…”
The Steward’s smile started showing teeth and his met turned soft and cloying, like sugar floss. “Lady Catalana insisted on one special dish,” he reminded politely.
“Oh, godsdamnit, yes! We have them in the pens!” Mam’s exasperation swept over the numerous staff like a hot breeze, here and gone before it started to sting. “Though, I am a busy woman and have no spare pinch o' time for this whole damned kerfuffle with some pissin’ wild haan and the mess it will make in my kitchen! It hasn’t even been a year since the last one! Do the Lordship even consider how much time an' work goes into preparing even one to be at all edible? I am a cook, not a butcher, for godssake!”
Mes Teys nonchalantly folded his arms across his chest, first and the second pair, taking care not to wrinkle the sleeves too much.
“‘Them’, Mam?” He asked when the litany ended.
She hissed at him and turned away to scold a scullery boy that got in her way as she stalked through the spacious room full of steam. Nearly eight feet tall, she easily cut a path through the throng of rushing bodies. Mes Teys followed at a distance, skilfully avoiding stepping on toes and snatching his clothes on the crowded tables or limbs flying which way armed with knives, forks and wet cloths.
“Lady Catalana insisted on one special dish.”
Mam Kish shook her head with a grimace. A young help-hand shrieked when a long arm reached over her head and a spoon was plucked out of her hand. “Settle down, lass! Enough with stirring that broth; it will go nowhere if you stop staring at it. Better peel two more onions and char them properly this time before throwing them in.” To the Steward she said: “The hunters brought back two, a gisl and a galing. What was I supposed to do? The gisl has to be kept from snapping, so I said to keep the runt, let it have something to do. So, yes, we have two of ‘em.”
That seemed to pacify the man. He nodded. “Very well. Only thing the Lady wanted to ensure is for it to be unspoiled, otherwise...
“Your Lady has no idea about cooking and she should keep her nose out of my kitchen!”
Her outburst echoed in a dead silence. All hands stilled, be it holding knifes or wrestling with copper pots. Staff felt the words spoken over their heads, but not being the target of the cast, they were unable to comprehend them fully. Maybe that was for the best.
Because the Steward for once wasn't smiling. His cast, however, was sharp; it stung the back of her brain like a slap. “I am sure you’re very stressed, Mam, and misspoke out of tiredness.”
She reiterated with her own, stronger, sharper - an impression of knives she’s worked her whole life with - but it never reached its target. Mes Teys narrowed his black eyes into slits and the thought slid off, harmless.
“Please contain yourself, Mam. I would hate to hear anymore words against our Lady. And I’m also sure that you wouldn’t want to regret speaking them.”
He was right, damn him. Kish drew herself tall and forced her fingers to relax, but the amount of will it took was sheer. How she hated when someone tried to butt into her territory - be it the Countess herself or this annoying man.
“Now.” Mes Teys uncrossed all his arms and spread them in an amiable gesture, speaking out loud: “Come, friend, stop making a fuss, it can’t come to you as a surprise that the Lordship had recognised your skill at the last Feast and wished to experience it again.”
Smooth like fresh cream, he was. Mam Kish huffed, the last dregs of her anger snuffed out, replaced by the low hey annoyance and high note exasperation.
“Curse my skill,” she snorted. “I wish I haven’t shown it and stuck to the old, boring liver pâtés and starlings in honey.”
“Ah, surely you would die of boredom with a menu this pedestrian.”
Well, yes, she probably would. But he didn't have to know that.
“Don’t you have a young lordling to find, Mes Teys?” She asked instead of answering. “Get out of my kitchen before I loose what patience I’ve left and give you a short guide to handling knives.”
“Pleasure, as always, Mam Kish.”
He cast a soft thought at the staff around, like a summer breeze, a calming influence that worked on everyone, but her. Then he bowed and left, leaving her feeling defeated and tired; but still a spark of satisfaction burned brightly between her two hearts.
“Mam?” Cizia, the youngest dishwasher - a tiny heap of limp limbs and big, sightless eyes, - cast from under her elbow. “But young Lord is…”
“Nowhere to be found,” Kish finished for her rather loudly. And then, for a good measure, added even louder, in both voice and thought. “And it will stay this way until I say otherwise, understood?” When the heads around her started nodding wildly, she pulled her sleeves up and sharply clapped her nine-fingered hands. “Back to work, you rabble, dinner won't prepare itself!” Her mindmet spread like a net around the kitchen, pulling the staff back under her rule, turning all separate parts into one well-oiled mechanism.
Days started early in the Insminith palace’s kitchens. Mam Kish usually woke before the sun and was stepping into her kingdom along the first rays of sunshine falling in through the high windows. The fires were rekindled, pots and pans inspected, jobs delegated and before the birds even had the chance to thrill their first morning songs, breakfast for the household was well underway.
From that point on, the work hasn’t stopped until the last dishes from supper were back in the kitchen, counted, diligently cleaned and put away in their place.
Only then Mam Kish retreated to the small room opposite the pantry where she kept the books, to fill in he lists and mark dairies with the amounts of produce spent that day. To sum up costs and plan tomorrow’s meals accordingly.
Only then the pale presence has returned to stand behind her back, patiently, like a ghost with nothing more important to do.
Mam Kish cast a question behind her, before she remembered herself and spoke out loud.
“Yes, Young Lord?”
“Can I see the haan?”
She turned away from her desk and fixed the child with a stare. To his credit, he didn’t fidget.
“How do you know about them?”
“There’s always a haan at the Feast. And you screamed at Mes Millicentin about them.” He blinked slowly and she felt a barely-there brush of curiosity. An attempt to read her? An entreaty? Too weak to say, sadly; without the ability to cast poor boy might was as good as mute. “And Cizia said we have two, when I asked her.”
Kish had half-a-mind to slap the girl, but then again, the little dishwasher – new, as she was - didn’t know the boy yet, neither his curiosity nor his stubbornness. Good thing she’s had enough brains that she didn’t outright take the child to the pens – something that the Lordling surely asked her to do.
Which, his next words confirmed.
“Everyone I asked to show me said to ask you, Mam. That only you can decide to take me.” Another long blink. “Can you show me the haan?”
But how did he know she was screaming at the Steward…? He hasn’t been there… right? Oh, godsdamnit, undeveloped as the child was, he could stand in plain sight and still be invisible.
“Your nursemaid won’t be happy when she hears about it.” Not to mention the Lordship. Kish could imagine Lady Catalana wrinkling her nose at the sole notion of her child stepping into the dirty pens. His trips to the kitchen were barely ignored as it was. “And shouldn’t you be back upstairs anyway? It’s late. Where is the nursemaid?”
That finally got her a reaction – not the one she wished for, thought.
“Nanam is angry at me.” He mumbled. Second hands fidgeted weakly against his chest when he hugged the book to it. “She told me to stay in my room for the day and sent me to bed early.”
Ah, that was a completely different matter. So that was the reason Millicentin was looking for him - the boy sneaked out of his room and found himself a hiding spot to read that book of his in, instead of staying where he was put. The nursemaid had to go crying to the Steward, who in turn decided to search on his own before the Lordship realised that their middle child wasn’t resting in a warm bed, but sitting in some dirty corner.
It’s almost as if the Steward didn’t yet know the child’s modus operandi! Young Shivan was happy only when left to his own devices.
“Come then,” Kish stood swiftly, lists and diaries forgotten, stretching one arm to pick the child up. He weighed less than a fat goose, she despaired; air and hair, her Lordling! She picked a cobweb from his pale hair and tssked at the dust covering his blue linen shirt; all she got for her trouble was another one of these anaemic giggles. Ah well. “It’s feeding time, anyway. On the way tell me what your Lord Brother did to make Mam Nanam angry.”
“They are awfully small,” were the first actual words out of the child’s mouth.
Before them was a gasp of delight when Mam Kish set him down on the stone floor and allowed him to step closer to the caged off pen… and had to grab him again, to keep the little Lord from slipping between the bars into the cage. He was thin enough to manage it, too. Obedient nod and then silence for a few minutes as the colourless eyes observed the two creatures huddling on a pile of straw in the far corner of the cage.
“They’re not really like the book says.”
Mam Kish stopped a snort from escaping her. Of course, his only contacts with haan so far were children’s books and fairy tales. He was expecting monsters with crooked teeth and curled claws, most probably. The reality was much less exciting, if no less troublesome.
“They’re not hairy all over,” the boy muttered with obvious disappointment. “Just on the top and the bottom. And they have no claws…”
“Oh, they do,” Kish corrected. “First thing you have to do as you catch them? Cut the claws off. Dirty and sharp, stupid beasts will hurt each other, you and themselves with these blasted things!”
The small face brightened at that. “They do? And sharp fangs?”
“Fangs!” She scoffed. Her each reaction was made larger than necessary just to see that spark of amusement in his eyes. “That’s what I need on top of everything, a fanged haan! No, they have no fangs, no more than any other animal, thanking gods.”
“Oh. Do they grow any bigger?” He was inquisitive, like his namesake, Shivan the Second of Insimnith – more’s the pity. “They have only two hands...”
“I’m no expert on haan, ‘long as they’re not in my pot, but I've never seen one much bigger than the big one here, with no more limbs than these have.”
All haan she’s ever seen were thin and hunched in on themselves, crawling close to the ground with their heads down. Some could be trained into standing upright, she’s seen it done a couple times, but even then they would still crouch down for the slightest reason. No, the giants that stole babies from the cribs were just a myth.
“Is the small one a baby?”
“Haan have babies?” The lordling’s eyes sparkled at her. “Like us?”
“Don’t know the mechanics behind it.” She blustered without wanting to. “But, yes, they have babies.” Somehow, she already knew the next question by heart. “No, Young Lord, you can’t touch ’em.”
His shoulders dropped, but not for long, there was many more questions crowding under those white locks of his.
“Are you going to feed them now?” He pointed to the bucket she set on the floor.
Usually it was the job of the youngest help-hands, Kish had too much to do to bother herself with feeding the stock. But she would sooner bite off all four of her thumbs than leave the Lady’s son with Matim and two wild animals in one room.
“What do they eat? Is that cream?”
“It’s milk with honey and butter, and bread. We have to fatten them up a bit before the feast.”
If a hope could be killed so thoroughly that no more than ash was left of it, she was seeing it done now. “No meat?”
“Haan are scavengers, eat everything they can get their hands on, including raw meat.” She lied smoothly and then added, poking him in the soft spot right under the second arm: “And they like little soft Lordlings the most!”
The boy giggled, trying to bat her away and Mam Kish counted it as another victory over the stiff-lipped Nanam.
Then caught herself, bewildered, because she’s never had anything against the nursemaid – until today, that is. If the old bag keeps making the child unhappy a rather vicious cast may catch her in the ear one day.
“Step back for a moment, Young Lord, you will see them clear when they come to eat.” She swished the contents of the bucket around for good measure and poured them through the bars into the empty trough.
Instantly, the haan shifted on the straw and peeked meekly towards the food; big one pulled the pup back when it wanted to advance. Kish huffed, satisfied, but in rather bemused way. They saw her so far only once a week ago, when she stepped out to judge the quality of the meat; she ordered to clean the beasts and that was it. But they were still afraid of her. Good, she thrived on being feared.
“Come now!” She moved back a step and addressed the haan in the tone she used on the useless scullery boys. “Eat before the bread dissolves and the milk gets cold!”
They didn’t understand a word, dumb animals that they were, but if the hunter’s dogs knew to listen to her when she spoke, these should know too. They were close enough in design, in the end, because the bigger one uncurled slowly and inched its way towards the through.
“Oh!” The Lordling gasped and the haan stopped mid-move, eyes rowing uneasily in the direction of his feet. The first palms flew up to smother any other sounds that might disturb the show… only to fail a heartbeat later. “It’s a bitch!”
“Gisl,” Kish corrected, not bothering to whisper. “Males are bayn.”
She could see his lips moving behind the flimsy barrier of thin fingers, trying out the words, memorising them.
Also, troche skali porownawczej dla freaksow zaludniajacych univers;) Od Lewej - Millicentin Teys, wzrostu okolo 1.75, dalej mam Kish, Shivan, Avril, Cataline i randomowa pokojowka. Wszyscy inni mieszcza sie pomiedzy nimi, a jak nie to dorzuce graf;)
- Historia o chlopcu i powtorze jego