There was nothing quite as pleasurable as being awoken by the careful hands and gentle words of a stunning young female. She was saying his name quietly; drawing him out of the world of sleep carefully, lovingly and with reverence. This was ideal for Lute. For somebody to revere him was easily one of his favourite things.
A moment later though, the mattress began to shake underneath him, and, his eyes opening instantly, he saw the grim smile of Harp at the end of his bed, hands underneath his feather mattress. Bell was beside Lute, smiling down at him. Evidently, she had been the one to say his name. This was a disappointment; Lute had been dreaming of Sincerity for most of the night.
He sat up with a groan, holding the woollen cover close to his chest in order to maintain the constant fight against the cold outside of his bed. The covers were hardly of the highest quality, and the movement that had awoken him had caused the usual itch to kick in. The wool was harsh, and Lute's night clothes had done little to keep them away from his skin. The itch would likely stay with him all day now.
Not best pleased, he looked over his two closest friends and then locked eyes with Harp. What was that for? he asked with a whine in his tone.
Harp's first response was to laugh at him, which came as no surprise. Even Bell giggled at him a little. It's cos you're a lazy bastard, Harp replied. There's plenty of other reasons, but that sounds best, eh? Sun's nearly up; we need to start work or Truth'll get pi--ed with us. E's got us down in the kitchens cleaning up all the crap with the rest of em down there. Taste was wondering where you were. Our own fault for leaving you in bed.
She's organising us some free food, since she can claim anything that's still fair fresh as food from last night, Bell added enthusiastically. She's offered an absolute ton of food for anybody who's helping because our lords and ladies will all be in bed until late hung over and still high. We can snatch everything that Taste put aside and share it.
Lute was suddenly reminded of how little the servants actually ate. The last meal had been the usual bread, ham and cheese of military fare, and that had been at noon when the sun was highest the day before. This was typical of any household. The servants would take a break as soon as they ran out of work and get as much food as possible down them before whomever was their acting owner for the day. Today, they were all in luck, since Taste, a servant herself, would be the one in charge. They would all take advantage of it.
Of course, Lute had been fed not long before the performance of the previous night. Truth was planning to show him off - it made sense that he would be well looked after. They had even told him to use the lord's steam rooms so that he both looked and smelt clean. This was a privilege so rare that Lute doubted anybody other than Truth, Sincerity and the Lord Avatar himself would have used such a place. He had kept this, in particular, quiet from the rest of the servants. He had no urge to make them feel inadequate or insecure, as this tended to make people feel that Lute was on the other side of the servant/nobility line.
With this in mind, he faked enthusiasm at the idea of fresh food and rolled out of his flat little bed.
Harp and Bell left him to it; rushing off back to the kitchens to hurry up the cleaning. Sharing a room, especially when it was one female and two males, made for some rather awkward times when it came to getting dressed or changed. A lot of servants had to share the privies and the servant steams, which meant that they weren't often available. It led to a lot of taking changing shifts, but even that was rather an eclectic method, since they were so often needed immediately. Even though, for Lute, most things were optional, he didn't like to make that too obvious.
He dressed calmly in front of Bell's little make-up mirror. The general manor rules banned mirrors for anybody other than the nobility, but nobody had been to the servants area from the Lord Avatar's armies and enforcers in years, as Lute had heard it. It had been a gift from their previous owner, who had taken quite a shine to Bell. Quite why the Lady Mystique had been so helpful and kind to Bell had been the source of many jokes from both Lute and Harp. Mystique had something of an odd reputation; to the point that Lute was very glad to have been taken away from her. The highest bidder was always Lute's best friend.
It was just as he was pushing his pin through the collar of his shirt that there came a knock on the door. Ignoring all sense of privacy and decency, the person on the other side pushed the door straight open and walked in with a well practiced smirk and a confident stride. It was a woman, Sincerity's personal attendant and page, by the name of Dress. She was one of the only other servants to wear a pin in the collar of her blouse, making her untouchable to the ignorant masses.
My lady has need to speak with you, stated Dress, before Lute could make mention of her invasion of his privacy. I'm not usually one to be sent down here to fetch people of your particular class, she continued, glaring a little, as though Lute should feel guilty for not sleeping in a cupboard beside Sincerity as Dress did. So I'd rather not spend any longer than necessary. I'm sure my lady will be in need of my services soon, so you had best hurry up and follow me.
What is it she wants to talk to me about? asked Lute quickly. The reminder of the previous night pushed itself into his mind. It wouldn't take the brightest person in the world to make the leap of judgement that lead back to Lute.
Almost as soon as he had finished speaking, he had regretted starting. Dress' eyes narrowed visibly. Are you suggesting that I should be questioning the inner workings of my lady's mind? she all but spat at him. My lady is waiting and I see no reason why I should allow you to stall. Follow me.
Her words left no room for argument, and the fact that she turned and began to walk away left no room for misunderstanding. Annoyingly aware that he didn't know the route to Sincerity's rooms, Lute fell in line behind Dress, following her fast pace directly out of the servant areas.
I'm surprised by her fortitude, he began as they came to the first set of stairs that led up towards the more well maintained and carefully constructed rooms for the nobility. He thought it best to begin with a compliment considering the fact that he was basically planning to try and drag all of the information that he could out of her. Most of the noble families are still in bed recovering from the festivities last night. From what I was told, Truth and Lord Avatar will be asleep for hours yet. Noon will be long passed before this manor is busy again. Sincerity must be strong willed in order to get up at this time.
My lady is intelligent enough not to go beyond her limits, came the deadpan serious response. While your typical lord of whatever estate and domain might indulge in the carefully presented entertainment and intoxicants, lady Sincerity is an owner here. It's part of her role to rise above the usual rabble and maintain her dignity and decorum, unlike the disgusting young men who hide behind the titles of their fathers and their holdings.
The first floor landing was completely barren and devoid of life entirely. Other than the occasional snore, loud enough to come through brick walls and thick oak doors, there was absolutely nothing to suggest that anybody was even there. As they came through the landing corridor, one servant, fast asleep and leant against their master's door, could be seen in the distance, potentially drunk themselves. Nobody had batted an eyelid. This is simply what the people wanted.
Well I still admire it, Lute attempted to continue. She must have a lot of pride in herself. All time considered, the sun's only just coming up. To be dressed and wide awake at this time she must have gone to bed very early.
Dress did not answer, nor did she look back. Instead, she simply lead Lute on up to the second floor of the manor, where the walls turned a deep red colour, and paintings of fields, rivers and seas were interspersed between windows that looked out over fields, rivers and seas.