Yuah Korlann arrived in the servants dining hall just a moment after her father and Saba. Half a dozen kitchen workers under the supervision of the head cook, Mrs. Colbshallow scurried around preparing for the luncheon. Mrs. Colbshallow had been the head cook since Yuah was a little girl. She was a wonder in the kitchen. She was also Saba’s mother and she gave him a big squeeze as she passed by.
“There’s my handsome boy,” she said.
“Mother!” he whined back.
“Are you looking for something to eat, dear?” Mrs. Colbshallow asked Yuah.
“Yes, I’d better eat while I have the chance. You know how she is.”
“Don’t get cheeky,” said her father.
“I’ll get you a nice plate,” the head cook replied, waving over one of the kitchen staff. “You know I think you need to put on a bit of weight. You can’t catch a man if you’re all skin and bones.”
“Don’t worry about that,” said Yuah, sitting down across the table from Saba. “I’m not likely to run into a man around here, and if I did, no man is going to be interested in me.”
Saba’s adoring gaze, which Yuah chose to ignore, said as plainly as words that he thought he was interested, and he thought no other man worthy of the position. But it was her father who spoke.
“You’re far too young to worry about a man. Why, you’re barely twenty.”
“I’m twenty-three, Papa. Another two years and I’ll be an old maid.”
“Nonsense,” said Mrs. Colbshallow, setting down in front of Yuah a plate with a large sandwich atop a tremendous pile of golden chips. “You’re still young and you can find a man easily enough, if um… well, are you determined that he be of your faith?”
“Of course she is,” said Zeah.
“As long as he has all his parts, I don’t care if he worships apple trees and sacrifices chickens when the moon is full. It’s not as if I’ve been to shrine in years myself.”
Zeah and Yuah belonged to the minority Zaeri religion, a faith that had once been the dominant belief all across Sumir, while Mrs. Colbshallow and her son, and most of the other staff were Kafirites. Kafira Kristos who had lived and died two thousand years before, had been a Zaeri Imam, but her followers had broken away from the main faith upon her death and supposed resurrection. Now millions worshipped her as the Holy Savior and the daughter of God, and those ethnic Zur who remained true to their faith and the few converts to the Zaeri religion were the subjects in most places of animosity, prejudice, and discrimination. At least they were in most places outside the Dechantagne home. Miss Dechantagne would brook none of that.
“Excuse me,” said a voice from the doorway. Everyone in the room turned to see Master Terrence leaning nonchalantly against the doorframe. None of the staff were sure just how long he had been standing there. “Mrs. C, could I get one of those sandwiches? I’m really not in the mood to sit through one of Iolanthe’s luncheons.”
Mrs. Colbshallow had the plate in his hands almost before he finished speaking, and though he hadn’t asked for one, she pressed a chilly bottle of beer into his other hand.
“Thanks,” he said, turning and walking out of the servant’s hall. Nobody noticed Yuah giving him just the same sort of look that she had been receiving from young Saba just a few minutes before.