Chapter 19- Kitchen duty

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"What do you mean, you don't think he'll take up the trade deal?" Marcus asked Phyllis as they were having breakfast the next morning, for once, miraculously, without anyone to overhear the rise in his voice. Philip looked up from the scroll he tried to study while eating his porridge, but there were no Gauls in sight.

Even a simple breakfast like that tasted better at Mesmer than it did back at the Castrum, but Marcus had a hard time appreciating it today.

Phyllis's enthusiasm was weaker as well, the many cups of wine no doubt being responsible for her slight flinch. He'd spoken in her ear, but forgot to whisper and it obviously made her head pound. He let out an irritated sniff, daring her to scold him for it. She needed to get a grip on how tiny she was, even if she could hold her liquor at night, it beat her in the mornings, and that was just that.

"So you tell us not to involve your own Centuria to keep the greenhouses a Gaul project, but you are angry when Cornelis doesn't want to tie himself and his village to that very same Centuria," Philip assessed from over his porridge.

"It's not the same," Marcus objected.

"It's exactly the same." Phyllis said. Then she grinned at Philip. "Don't mind him, he just can't stand it when people don't like him."

She ruffled through Marcus's hair, causing both of them to glare at her. Marcus couldn't help it though. As she persisted, he ended up leaning into the touch.

"It was meant to permanently get them out of trouble. To pick up the metal works again. To not have to worry over bad harvests" he told her, and he heard the disappointment seep through in his voice.

"Would it get you in trouble if they didn't send their harvest to your contact?" Phyllis asked, and she fixed her eyes on him like she always did when she wanted to read the answer before he had opened his mouth.

"Of course not," he he replied.  He shifted back on the long bench, creating some distance between them."Not at all." When her stare remained intense, he added: "Petronius is my contact."

Phyllis grinned. They had met Petronius on their very first healing mission together, and while they had to permanently cripple the man to save his life, and the entire mission had been far too dangerous for her at barely fourteen years old, there was no denying they had been a great team from the start.

"Well aren't you both looking cosy, so early in the morning," Phelan greeted them as he sat down right in front of Phyllis. Cornelis took the seat in front of Marcus, which effectively erased the last part of his appetite. And Cornelis wasn't even looking at him, all his attention focused on Phyllis. They needed to figure out what exactly he wanted from her. Soon.

"Did Myra ever explain Beltane to you?" Phelan asked Phyllis, as he helped himself to a bowl of porridge. "Because we'll miss it prolonging our stay here."

"Of course," Phyllis grinned, and for a moment, Marcus had the impression their smiles were identically wide. Phelan's auburn tousled hair and open hazel eyes provided a fine sight and Phyllis seemed to agree with that. He could easily imagine them both deciding to jump the fires together, if only for just a night. Beltane was a fertility festival, not a night for lasting commitments. He had however, a hard time imagining his own sentiments about it. As relieved as he was to see Phyllis set her eyes on someone else, he'd have preferred it was someone closer to home.

Since he wasn't choking yet, he supposed Phyllis's mind-reading abilities had their limit and she had no clue of his match-making thoughts.

"But did she explain it well?" Phelan mused. "Masha never celebrated Beltane, your mother left our village even earlier."

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