Where do you think he's disappeared to? Bell asked, halfway through a chunk of apple pie which, though strongly saturated with the taste of last night's burning herbs, still tasted remarkably appetising.
You know Lute, came the quick response from Harp. He was also digging into his dinner, though with a much more fervent and obvious hunger that he made no attempts to hide. He had piled up a plate that he had only cleaned a few moments before with everything that he could get a hold of. There were chicken legs, whole and half-mangled, numerous kinds of bread heaped with mounds of preserves, fish, pig and tiny little cakes that Taste had spent most of the last few days carefully coaxing into tiny round shapes. Harp's mouth was full, yet still he insisted on speaking. 'E's probably found somethin' much more fun to do and wandered off to do it. It'll be music, or a girl, or just sittin' in the gardens writin' stuff. E does it, doesn't e?
A little upset with herself purely for asking the question while Harp was eating, Bell decided to ignore the tiny bits of meat that were continually flying in her direction. I know he used to spend a lot of the time sitting out on the hills and playing with stuff until he had it all worked out. Maybe he's doing that.
Harp paused in his gorging in order to look Bell over suspiciously. It just me or do you ignore me whenever I talk about Lute n' girls? I know you're young but I'm pretty sure you're not innocent to is games and stuff.
It's not really any of my business what he does or who it's with, Bell threw back briskly. It wasn't something that she wanted to think about now, and it wasn't something that she had ever planned to think about at any point. Lute's habits were not her own and, as such, they were none of her business to think about, gossip about or even consider for any longer than absolutely necessary. Thankfully, and for a god's blessing, Harp chose that moment to settle into his food for the long haul.
Conversation had been sporadic at best for the last couple of hours, even in the short break that they had had to go and collect Lute. Taste was in her kitchen again, barking orders at anybody around who looked like they weren't doing something important enough. The food had all been shifted onto the great kitchen tables, under the light of the high up gap windows. While the sun was high, Wax was rushing around the room as quickly as he could, dragging the dregs of used up candle out of their holders and replacing them with fresh, tall and white ones in preparation for the day ahead. It still looked as though four opposing sides had engaged in a war through the hall, but it was slowly starting to resemble normality again.
The light of the sun came in too high to dispel the shadows of the castle in their entirety. Some of the darker corners were very hard to clean because of it, but the nobility never really bothered to come to these areas except for Truth, and he was quite easy to hide things from. He wasn't gullible at all, but he did make it quite obvious that he was overlooking things for their good rather than from any good will of his own.
Lute arrived in the hall, weaving his way through the long benches and badly-shaped wooden tables that it was the servant and soldier's jobs to eat from, looking at once perplexed and thoroughly enthused. He seemed to be filled with his usually bountiful energy, but he did not bother to clean anything as he grabbed a couple of handfuls of meat from the only table left with food on it and stuffed it down his throat. The food gone faster than he had even picked it up, his hands were empty when he came to sit down across from his two friends.
So, he began, which spelt trouble, what do you guys make of boats and the sea and water and stuff?
Me dad was a fisherman, Harp told him, still sending bits of meat across to random places on the table.
It doesn't show, lied Lute.
I can't say I've really had time to gather my thoughts together on boats and the sea and water and stuff, Lute, responded Bell. It's a bit of a broad topic to be completely honest with you. What's brought it up?
Well, Lute continued, which spelt danger, I think we might be spending some time on a boat soon. You know, a boat on the sea. The sea as in water. I was just invited up to see the Lady Sincerity, and she invited all of us to go with her on a voyage to meet some guy who wants to marry her. It's all part of being the musical entertainment I suppose, and we might even get some better rewards for it in the end. Since we are doing something for the Lord and his family, he might reward us in the long run.
Why exactly did you have to drag us into this with you? inquired Bell, eyes narrowed and typically female glare in full force.
I don't see you kicking and screaming about it, was Lute's defence. You're a servant in a manor household and she was impressed by the music we put together. We wouldn't have been given a choice one way or another, and she certainly made it very clear that I had no chance of backing out of it. She's one of the people who decide what happens with our lives whether we like it or not, so even kicking and screaming wouldn't have done us any good.
She didn't seem very impressed with our music last night, Bell added. She seemed completely unresponsive. Usually we get some sort of reaction from people, but she didn't even seem interested. We might not have even needed to be there for her. Why was she even there if she wasn't going to enjoy herself?
Bein' a good girl for daddy, wasn't she? Harp informed them both. It was fairly evident to Lute that this was the case, but Bell didn't find it so clear.
There could be any reasoning behind it, she said. We've been through a lot of different places and owners and they all have their own motives for everything. Some like the music and some don't. Besides, the party wasn't all about us. A lot of it was about Truth making his connections and spreading out his influences.
Like a whore spreads er thighs, Harp decidedly added to the mix. He didn't elaborate, choosing instead to lower his head over his plate and continue to shovel it's contents just past, and sometimes directly to, his chin.
Thank you for helping out, Harp, replied Lute before turning his head back towards Bell. The party was all about showing us off. Surely you know that. Part of earning favour with nobles and dukes and, hell, even the king should he manage it, is showing off how rich you are. With that comes the new toys, the food, the decorations, the alcohol and the burning herbs. It's absolutely vital that you embarrass everybody else who might actually have money.
We don't do that to each other though, do we? Bell asked.
We're not rich, said Lute, or well off, or comfortable, or in a decent situation. We play music. That's our lot in life. Whoever we're playing music for will undoubtedly want to show off how good we are so that everybody will know how expensive we were.
What the hell are we going to do on a boat though, Bell asked, jumping into the previous conversation again. We won't be allowed any leisure time for another eight months or so. We'll have the choice of either playing music or cleaning up after the rich ones again. We can do that here without the worry of the floor rocking back and forth underneath our feet.
Shame it can't just be rockin' back and forth, eh Lute? Harp slipped in again.
Well if the boat's already rocking then it saves me some time, doesn't it? responded Lute. Anyway, I'm going to get started on the food. Plates with Taste.
Harp made a guttural sound of agreement and, with that as his command, Lute left the two of them there without a goodbye and went off towards the kitchen, greeting the still at work Wax as he did so.
Are you about finished? requested Bell in her most practiced scathing voice.
Nah, I've got some fish left and plenty of that sliced ham stuff to get down me yet.
I meant with all your snide remarks, Bell told him, sounding positively furious. You're encouraging him in his wayward mannerisms.
Relax, e's not your boy to look after and he ain't my brother, said Harp. It's not our responsibility if e gets in trouble with people up top. We just play stuff, don't we? Sides, why do you care so much?
I just do.