Chapter Five: The Kitchens

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Lorelan fell.

It wasn't nice either. Everything whooshed past, but at the same time Lorelan had time to notice many different details: the dirty red mitten sitting on the edge of a shelf; the chipped plate tucked away in a corner; and the extremely solid looking ground.

Well, you've done it now, he thought to himself. It was strange how he still had time to think.

Below, a pair of hands shoved a large, squashy couch into Lorelan's direct line of sight. He suddenly came to his senses and twisted around so his side faced the floor, thinking desperately of flight, flight, flight --

Lorelan abruptly stopped in his descent, dropping with a small thud onto the couch. He uncurled (with difficulty), and turned to thank his rescuer.


The other boy grinned broadly. "Hello again. Been doing anything interesting lately?"

"Not much," Lorelan muttered. "What are you doing here?"

He snorted. "Whole kingdom knows you're the new Apprentice by now." Lorelan grimaced.

"And, I'm here to bring you to the kitchens. If you can still walk, that is." Kander eyed his grip on the sofa arm.

"I'm fine." Lorelan forced himself to unclamp his hand. "Thanks for the sofa. Seriously."

Kander laughed. "Couldn't have the Apprentice dying on his first day. Right then." He pushed the heavy doors open.

Lorelan paused outside, wondering if he should do something to lock up the Tower. More than that, he thought about Marn's note. The doors slid closed and there was the clicking sound again. Surprised, he tried to push them open, but they wouldn't budge.

"Let's go," Lorelan said, frowning.

Kander led the way past a fountain, through a stone arch, and into an open hallway that led inside. Following numerous hallways and turns, they eventually stopped at two swinging doors with a small square cut out on each. Through the opening, Lorelan could catch a barrage of delicious scents. His mouth watered.

"Watch your saliva, now," Kander said, cutting through his thoughts. He rubbed his own stomach. "Maybe we can rustle up some roast. I haven't eaten anything since the bread and cheese at noon."

"Cheese," Lorelan muttered.

"Cheese," Kander agreed.

They entered the kitchens. It was warm and had an orange glow about it, the light emanating from the coals in the ovens and under the grills. All around, chefs and servants scurried around preparing rich, fine dishes; roast venison, vegetable soups, potato and cheese bread appetizers -- all ladled and separated onto exactly twenty dishes. The cooks and servers all seemed to be sidestepping each other, swinging their trays above or below a coming dish, and twisting their way out through the swinging doors.

Lorelan turned to Kander. "Food." Hunger was reducing him to single syllables. Kander, bless him, understood. He navigated expertly through the bustle.

They came to a stop at one of the long tables, on which sat the largest hunk of cheese Lorelan had ever seen. It was almost the size of the unfortunate plucked chicken laid down beside it.

Lorelan watched a burly chef (who resembled Salvander) slip a huge knife from his apron. The knife blurred as the cheese was demolished into pieces. Kander tapped the chef.

"Rohan," he said loudly. "Could we get some food?"

The chef looked around, surprised. "Ah, Kander! And I s'pose this is him?"

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