A full complement of diners surrounded the Dechantagne table for the first time in a great while. Radley Staff sat at the head of the table, his wife on his right hand and his daughter on his left. Looking proudly from his spot directly opposite his uncle was Augie Dechantagne, a stack of books between his chair and his bottom. His mother sat on his right hand and his sister, in her high chair, on his left. Filling in the seats between Iolanthe and Terra were Mrs. Colbshallow and her son and daughter-in-law. On the other side of the table were Cissy and two guests—Honor Hertling and her little sister Hero.
“How wonderful to have us all together,” said Staff, waving for one of the servants to start filling the soup bowls.
“It will make for a lovely Oddyndessen,” said Honor Hertling.
“For a what?”
“It’s a Zaeri holy day,” said Yuah, her eyes never quite moving up from the table. “We don’t really celebrate it anymore in Brechalon.”
“Well, how lovely,” said Mrs. Colbshallow. “It’s always wonderful to learn new things.”
“Should we…” said Staff. “Would you… Is a prayer appropriate, considering?”
“We don’t usually do that,” said his wife, drumming her fingers on the table.
“Surely it can’t hurt… guests and all.”
“I could offer a simple prayer,” said Honor, and when Staff gave a nod that she should continue, she closed her eyes and intoned, “Great Lord, as you did with Odessah before his great journey, give us your blessings on this day. Amen.”
“In Kafira’s name, Amen,” said Loana Colbshallow, making the sign of the cross.
She was followed about three ticks later by both her husband and mother-in-law.
The lizzies quickly served onion soup. This was followed by a fruit and cress salad. As soon as the salad plates had been removed, the servants began placing the main course. Mrs. Colbshallow, though of course knowing nothing of Oddyndessen, had put together as fine a meal as she ever had. A large pork roast was the center point, though there was also poached fish. Pudding, peas, chips, and roasted mixed vegetables were placed on overflowing plates around the table.
“Wonderful as always mother,” said Saba Colbshallow.
“I think you’ve outdone yourself mother dear,” said his wife.
“Here, here,” agreed Staff. “Dearest?”
“The problem is Mrs. Colbshallow,” said Iolanthe. “Your meals are always so perfect.”
Everyone at the table sat staring, not sure if there was more to come, and not sure whether this was intended as an insult or a compliment.
“Thank you,” said Mrs. Colbshallow after a minute. She turned to Honor Hertling. “It’s a shame that your brother couldn’t attend.”
“Yes. He sends his regrets, but two ships came into port today, so he was needed at the docks. I hear that the lizzies have begun to move back in to Lizzietown, General Staff.”
“Yes, some of them have. It’s just Mr. Staff.”
“Some are moving back into town,” said Iolanthe. “But I have let it be known that these savage witch doctors will not be tolerated.”
She turned and stared at Yuah, but her sister-in-law never looked up from the table. Yuah just sat and absentmindedly moved the peas around her plate with her fork.