The first scene of this year’s NaNo. The one I’m writing after my change on Day 3, I mean. Not horrible, but I’m sure I can edit it into something better. But editing is sacrilege for NaNoWriMo, so that’ll have to wait.
The charm lay heavy in Gavin’s pocket, a ball of heat that bounced against his upper thigh with every step he took. So far it seemed no one at the baron’s bethrothal party recognized him as the newly arrived charm-seller who set up shop in the Yaric marketplace each day. But then, he didn’t expect them to find him out; he did know a thing or two about setting a glamour, after all.
What did surprise him was that Aelis hadn’t caught him out. She had always been the superior illusionist, and he doubted anything had changed in the fifty years since they’d last spoken directly to one another.
“What are you doing, man?”
Gavin startled and backed away from the curtain, where he’d been peering at the curious group of people evidently deemed worthy enough to attend the baron’s bethrothal party. He turned to face the chief cook, whose name Gavin couldn’t be bothered to remember just now. So he smiled and prepared to talk his way out of trouble.
But before he could get out a single syllable, the chief cook, beefy hands placed on ample sides, lumbered into a beratement. “You’re the new serving boy, aren’t you?”
For a moment, Gavin could only stare at the rotund and sweating cook before he remembered that in his current guise, boy was an accurate term. He nodded at the cook after a considerable delay.
The cook threw his hands up in the air. “Just my luck, the new serving boy is an idiot.” He leaned close to Gavin and pointed back toward the kitchens. “You . . . go . . . to . . . kitchens. Understand?”
“He speaks! He comprehends!” The cook grabbed Gavin’s arm and pulled him away from the curtain blocking the dining hall from the serving staff. “Since you do understand me after all, quit mooning after whatever spotty-faced cow you found and get back to the kitchens. Have Gerard tell you what to do.”
Evidently Gavin hadn’t mastered masking blank looks in this guise, because the head cook spluttered and slapped at him, which might have been more effective if he weren’t nearly a full foot shorter than Gavin. “Gerard, boy! The head cupbearer. The man ostensibly responsible for directing you. Though he’s doing a piss-poor job of it.” The cook relinquished Gavin’s arm, evidently trusting him to follow behind. “By Elestra the Basket Weaver—may she be blessed forever—I’ve got more than enough to handle, what with the spit boy overcooking the roast, and the new baker’s girl sobbing into the cake batter. I haven’t got time to be watching over wayward serving boys as well when it’s Gerard’s job–
The cook laid hold of Gavin’s arm again and wheeled him about to face a dark-haired man with the legs of a stork and the face of a leprous pig. Pushing Gavin forward, the cook said, “Caught your new serving boy shirking his duties, staring at the worthies in the banquet hall. Probably mooning over some unattainable mayor’s daughter. Do something with him, will you? I have to go see whether that wretched girl’s tears are making the cake batter too salty. So help me, if she’s ruined that batter….” The cook bustled off.
Gerard, who did have some height on Gavin, but only a bit, looked him up and down. “I do not recognize you.”
And now Gavin remembered his story and spouted it off accordingly. “I’m new. Last-minute substitute. My cousin Adam, he come down with some wretched sickness—got blotchy marks all over his face and he’s been puking since dawn. His mother reckons it might be croup–”
Gerard lifted a forestalling hand. “Whatever his ailment, I don’t care to hear it.” He turned on his heel. “Follow.”
Gavin trailed after the lanky man to the kitchens, where the chief cook haranged a hapless-looking spit boy but left the sobbing baker’s girl to herself.
As he and Gerard passed the crying girl who stood over a vat of batter, Gavin did a double-take. Since when did baker’s girls wear silk underneath their aprons? He opened his mouth to say something—whether to her or to Gerard or the chief cook he didn’t know—but then she lifted her eyes from the batter and met his gaze. Light from the sconces on the walls caught the unshed tears in her eyes and made them shine. She shook her head in a clear plea for silence.
Gavin closed his mouth. The girl gave him a small smile. An unfortunately long nose kept her from being truly pretty, but Gavin rather thought that when her eyes weren’t puffy and her skin not blotchy from crying, she’d manage striking.
Gavin turned to face Gerard again just in time to avoid a collision. The other man had stopped at a table whose top was covered with decanters of wine. Gerard frowned. “I believe I see what Kaven meant about you mooning about. You’re to take this wine and serve it in the banquet hall to whoever asks for it. Think you can manage that without staring at girls, crying or otherwise?”
“Good.” Gerard pressed a bottle into Gavin’s hand. “No staring at the worthies. Baron Edmain would likely pay no mind, but we have a lot of visitors, and you never know if one of them might. Now get to it, boy.” Gerard shoved Gavin forward as if he meant to propel Gavin all the way back to the banquet hall.
Boy. Gavin mouthed the word. It’d be some time before he readjusted to not looking old anymore.
Well, as old. The last twenty years of Aelis’ curse were proving stubborn. Gavin just hoped that tonight’s bit of illusion wouldn’t set him back in his progress.
But he’d found the harpy. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to exact his revenge.
Even with that happy thought, he slowed a bit to see whether he could confirm his supposition about the silk-wearing baker’s girl, but her station by the cauldron of cake batter was empty. Pity. She had certainly been worth a second look.
Behind Gavin’s back, Gerard cleared his throat. Gavin increased his stride.
No matter about the girl; he had a charm to cast, justice to mete, and acting the part of serving boy would make his task all the easier.
This is for making me old, you harpy.
By the time he returned to the banquet hall, he suspected his grin was too broad for that of a mere serving boy, but he found he didn’t much care.