Friday, August 21, 2009

FFF - "Highgate" Chapter 2

Finally. I finally got up the nerve to continue this. I know, I'm one big chicken. I have actually avoided the urge to edit this. I haven't even read it over again since writing it. It probably stinks. :) Anyway, here is Chapter 2. Enjoy. I hope.

Jonathun awoke to a dreadful pounding on his door. A glance at the window told him it was still dark outside.

"Go away," he called. "Come back at a decent hour."

"I was told to fetch you, sir."

"That's nice."

Jonathun rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. The knocking started anew. Jonathun pulled his pillow over his head, but the pounding didn't stop.

"I said go away."

"But, sir, Master Lyden requests your presence."

Master Lyden....

His five day penance. In his anguish over missing the Returning Jonathun had forgotten it completely.

Jonathun rolled out of bed. His pocket watch read 4:45 in the morning. An hour no sane person would choose to be up and about, that was certain. Still, if he was late for penance, he might just find his sentence extended and that would never do.

The knocking started again. "Sir? Sir?"

"All right, already. I'm up. Just give me a moment to throw my pants on."

4:45. Let the torture begin.

Jonathun opened the door to find an elderly man dressed in the servant's livery of the Magisterium, holding a latern. Jonathun had never seen the servant before, but that wasn't a surprise. While Masters Horvinnt and Lyden were often with the cadets, seeing to their instruction, outside of weekly services the cadets were rarely at the Sanctum itself.

"If you would follow me, sir."

The man lead Jonathun out the student barracks. The moon shone brightly into the dark of the early morning, illuminating the empty courtyard in a sharp silvery light. Jonathun tried to blink the sleep out of his eyes. He had taken several steps towards the Sanctum before he realized that his guide was not going that way. Instead, he was making his way to the main building. Jonathun had to run a few steps to catch up to him.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

"To the kitchens."

"Good, I'm starving."

The man grunted, but didn't reply.

It only took a few moments to get to the kitchens. They entered via the back way, past the chicken coops and through the academy's herb gardens. Jonathun had been this way many times in the past. Students were generally asked to stay out of the kitchens, but part of their curriculum included training in all aspects of a seeker's role. That included food preparation in the field. Because of this each cadet had a rotation in the kitchens. It was tedious work. Jonathun could understand the need to know how to cook over a camp fire, but he had a hard time reconciling that skill with daily food preparation for the more than two hundred people that populated the Academy. Master Jermiah, head cook, ran the kitchens like a true military camp. As far as Jonathun was concerned, service in the kitchens was akin to slavery. Give him a forced march any day.

As they entered the kitchens proper, Jonathun was surprised to see only two other people present. Davind leaned against one wall, arms crossed, a scowl on his face. The other person was dressed in the apprentice robes of one of the Magesterium. The figure turned toward him. It was a girl he didn't recognize. She couldn't have been more than - seventeen? That would make her a couple of years older than him. She was almost as tall as Jonathun, but in contrast to his somewhat muscular build she was very slight; her apprentice robes practically enveloped her. Her dark brown hair was drawn back in a ponytail, tight against the back of her head. The effect caused her face to look almost severe. Or was it the fact that she was frowning?

"You're late, cadet."

Her voice was deeper than he expected, coming from someone so thin.

"Yeah, well no one told me what time to be here." It came out sharper than he intended, but the stress of the situation coupled with the early hour left him bereft of patience.

"Breakfast preparation begins at 4:45 sharp. You will be here at the appropriate hour tomorrow or your punishment will be extended."

Jonathun felt his temper flare. "I said I'd be here. Who are you anyway? I thought Master Lyden was in charge of out penance."

The girl's eyes flashed in the lantern light. "My name is Belinda. I am the personal assistant to Master Lyden. He has put me in charge of your penance duties. You would do well not to anger me."

Jonathun bit back an angry reply. If this girl was in charge of his penance he would need to tread carefully. He took a calming breath.

"Sorry. I'm just tired and hungry. As soon as I've eaten I'll be better."
He looked around. "Speaking of, where's the food?"

Belinda looked exasperated. "Are you stupid or just oblivious? With the exception of the four of us and Master Lyden the entire academy is on its way to the Returning. Everyone. That includes Master Jermiah and the kitchen staff. If you want breakfast, you have to make it. The same goes for lunch and dinner, for the next five days."

Jonathun blinked. No kitchen staff? He hadn't thought of that.

"What about after that?"

The words came from Davind. Jonathun had forgotten the other cadet was present.

Belinda glanced at him. "Alamel here will take over kitchen duties after that."

"Wouldn't it be easier if he just did it all?" Davind said. "It's not like this is the kind of work we're any good at. Jonner is likely to burn the bread. It certainly wouldn't be the first time."

"Hey, that wasn't my fault...."

Belinda cut him off. "It doesn't matter whose fault it was. Truth be told, I'd rather neither of you touched anything I have to eat. Unfortunately, that isn't my call. Master Lyden said you're to handle kitchen duty, so you'll handle kitchen duty. Alamel will be here to make sure you don't burn the place down, but that's all he's going to do. He is under strict orders to do none of the actual work himself. When you're done with the cooking, Master Lyden and I will get our breakfast first, and then the two of you will be allowed to eat. When you're done cleaning up in here, we'll talk about your next task. You have two hours - Master Lyden breakfasts at 7:00. If you're late, you get an extra day's cooking duties."

Belinda left without another word.

Alamel stepped forward, a parchment in hand. He smoothed it out on the counter. "Two hours isn't much time, sirs. We had best begin. Cadet Davind, take that basket over there and fetch the eggs from the hen house. Cadet Jonathun, grab that sack of flour so we can start on the bread."

Jonathun's stomach rumbled. Great. Just great.

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