The heat of the kitchen was welcome, though Mokha was surprised by the looks of surprise on the kitchen staff’s faces when he walked in. Well, actually it was the head of the household staff, the kitchen boss and her main assistant. They were sitting at the table near the stoves, drinking a small jug of quince by the smell and the two scullery maids were asleep near the ovens. A lamp was on the table where the others sat watching him, the only other light was from the banked fires, still cooling from the days work.
Mistress Thelvenni’s expression changed from surprise to disapproval when she recognized him, “Oh, it’s you. His lordship is looking for you.”
“At this time?”
“Well, where might I find his lordship?”
“Ah, he must be working on his book then.”
She said nothing further, just stared pointedly. After a moment Mokha gave a slight bow, “Yes, mistress. I’ll be on my way then.”
“I should think so.” She turned away and resumed chatting with the cooks.
Mistress Thelvenni was close to fifty, her hair was silvery grey and as a younger woman she may have been attractive, however her attitude was poor. Not only did she tend to lord over the other servants in a generally demeaning way but she also was a bigot. Certainly she did not like Mokha, nor Tannicans in general and it did not seem to be about the present crisis nor the fact GreensBridge may soon be under siege by Tannican armies. During his first days of employment she had made it clear that she did not feel that he belonged in the household, regardless of the fact that his lordship had been happy to hire him on for the winter. He tended to avoid her as much as he was able.
Mokha went up to the servant quarters, entered his room, then with a snap of his fingers lit a candle and some incense. He dropped his cloak, boots, hats, scarves, gloves, and satchel, changed out of his day clothes then into a comfortable evening robe and slippers. He stood in the curling smoke of the burning incense for a couple of moments, watching the smoke swirl past the candle flame. He ran his fingers through his hair and headed to the library.
Mokha did not really consider Lord Drahban Greensly’s small collection of books and scrolls to be much of a library. He had looked it over shortly after starting his employment and been disappointed to find it consisted mostly of bad fiction, bad erotica and was lavishly furnished to the point of excess.
Most of the house was similarly outfitted as the library, expensively but not tastefully. Mokha generally liked the clashing decor and furnishings but under the influence of the Flow potion he was finding it a bit overwhelming as his mind was seeking harmonious patterns.
The library was well lit by numerous lamps, Lord Drahban sat at his desk, fancy quill swaying back and forth as he wrote. He finished whatever thought or paragraph he was working on then looked up. He frowned when he saw Mokha.
Oh? This is not good. Mokha thought to himself.
Lord Drahdan waved him in, “Enter.” He indicated a spot in front of the desk. Mokha stood where indicated and gave a bow. Then waited.
It was obvious his lordship was cross, but Mokha could see him choosing his words carefully. “I had great hopes for you, when you came seeking employment. I considered myself lucky to have found an Aggedrah, under the circumstances.” He waved his hand to the side, a vague gesture. “Now, for not the first time, you were unavailable when you were needed. I had important guests this past evening. Representatives from the House of Rashammon, they may have been impressed by your presence or your skills. Yet, alas, there was no Mokha to play or sing when he was called on to do such.”
Mokha had no need to hear more, he had completely forgotten about the fact he had needed to be here during the evening meal. He bowed deeply and held it, speaking distinctly, “I apologize, my lord. I can only say, in my defence, that there was some alchemical shenanigans and I had to speak with a member of the Arcanium about an important issue.”
“The Arcanium, you say.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Well. Be that as it may, I lodge you and pay generously for your musical skills. You need to make every effort to be available, especially when I am entertaining.”
“I will make every effort. Be assured I will consult more closely with Mistress Thelvenni.”
“Good. See that you do.”
Mokha still held his bow, after a moments silence he asked, “Does my lord require anything?”
A further pause before his lordship responded, “I had intended to take you with us during the Yuletide. The family is flying out to my brother’s estate on the Easter March. However, my wife seems less than impressed with your services and in light of your ongoing unreliability I’ve decided we shall not take you with us. Instead, you shall stay here. We’ll be leaving some of the household staff behind to see to the basics. I’m afraid you’ll have to make due here and miss the festivities.”
“Of course, my lord.”
“Very well, then. Go, with Thray’s blessing.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Mokha backed away a couple of steps as he came out of his bow then made a quick exit. Truthfully, that had gone very well, he would be relieved to not have his employers around for a couple of eight-days.
He cut through the main hall on his way back to his rooms, it was mostly dark, the tables and chairs were off to the sides, covered against the dust. He came out into the main upper hallway and headed towards the nearest servants passage to his chambers. As he passed the music room he heard a discordant note and could see some light within. Curiously he paused and stuck his head in the room, a couple of lamps had been lit and his lordship’s eldest, Durmia was sitting with a long necked lute practicing her cords, though she strummed very quietly.
The music room, much like the rest of the manor was geared more for the impression of wealth rather than the quality of the instruments. Though his lordship did own a number of nice lutes, one good violin and any number of functional hand drums, flutes and other simple instruments, much of what he had gathered was strictly for show. He had a beautiful harpsichord from Maldorn, sadly it was broken, though it looked great as the rooms centrepiece. There was an Elquin harp and a Tannican sitar as well, though beautiful in appearance, neither were actually instruments. Like much of Lord Drahban’s household, functionality was less important than appearances.
Durmia was not someone Mokha really wanted to run into at the moment, but before he could duck back into the hall, she glanced up and noticed him. “Mokha. You’re back.”
“Ah, yes, my lady. Practising at this time of night?”
She stood, “I am. It would please me if you could show me some of the cords again.”
Mokha suppressed a sigh, gave a slight bow, “Of course my lady.”
He went to her and was about to select another lute when she suggested he would better serve by showing her on the lute she had. She shifted on the chair to allow him to more easily reach the neck of the instrument. When he complied she leaned slightly against him and gave a content sigh. “Show me the minor cords.”
Mokha knew that she knew her cords well enough, she did not practice often and seemed to have no sense of rhythm, but she did know her cords, including the minor variations. He walked her through the basics again, helping her place her fingers properly for each one. She snuggled closer.
So here he was again, awkwardly engaged with one of his lordship’s daughters. Maybe if it had been his lordship’s wife, given the conversation he had just had with his employer, he might have complied to the desires being expressed. However, this situation was questionable at best, potentially dangerous and certainly not in line with his present mood. Gently he withdrew a pace and faked a yawn. She reached for him and he evaded with a slight bow and another half step backwards. “If my lady will forgive me, it is quite late. Perhaps if you would allow it, we can resume at another time.”
She pouted, looked longingly at him, “You are not like other bards we’ve had.”
“I should hope not. Once again, I apologize, my lady.” He bowed once more them moved towards the door.
He paused, turn back to face her, “Yes, my lady?”
“I’ll remember what you said.”
Gods only knew what she meant by that, “Yes, my lady. Goodnight.”
Mokha made his way back to his room and crawled into bed. He knew he should be exhausted, yet he was still high. He blew the candle out and attempted to meditate himself to sleep. Strange patterns whorled behind his eyelids, his thoughts drifted towards Setta. He floated in feelings of contentment for a long time. At some point he did fall asleep.