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   Chapter 9 Rabbit A Talent Mark Novel

Rabbit: A Talent Mark Novel By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 21523

Updated: 2018-03-13 12:11

Chapter 9

Work continued on the rooms with Rabbit progressing slowly through each of the empty spaces. Harmony inspected them every afternoon and seemed pleased with the progress. Although neither Mouse nor Rabbit saw much of him, Rabbit was sure Tessian did his own inspections. Ilsa continued to bring the luncheon at mid day and with it she brought gossip from the kitchen.

"And cook is in that much of a temper, " Ilsa said one afternoon. She shook her head sadly. "She's testing all sorts of new things, trying to ape the kitchens of Heldan proper, so the young lady and her father feel at home when they visit."

"But the food is great here, " Mouse said indicating the half-eaten lunch on her plate. Rabbit nodded in agreement.

"Of course it's good, " Ilsa said in a bit of a huff. "Our cook is the best in the Baronies. But they are from Heldan proper, " she explained. She dropped her voice to a whisper. "And I hear the father is Landed." She looked at both of their faces and clucked at their blank expressions. "One of the elite, " she clarified. Ilsa looked around as though expecting someone to listen in and then leaned forward. "Pason thinks there is something wrong with the girl. Or scandalous as her father is trying to marry her off to the Baronies." Rabbit nodded, understanding dawning and Ilsa looked satisfied that her message had been conveyed.

"That's why we are upgrading the rooms, " Rabbit thought. From this and other conversations with Ilsa and from descriptions in the book Harmony was slowly reading to them, Rabbit had gathered that the Baronies were viewed somewhat as a backwater. They were the hinterlands, useful for supplying goods and materials to Heldan but not quite viewed as civilization. From her impressions of Tessian she couldn't imagine being viewed as a backwater lord sat well with him.

"I wonder what the scandal is, " Mouse asked. Ilsa shrugged and sat up straighter.

"That's the question isn't it, " Ilsa said. Mouse nodded. This new source of gossip was proving quite entertaining in their rooms in the evening. Once Harmony released them to ready for bed, Mouse would retell Ilsa's gossip for group entertainment. Rabbit had to admit the shy and quiet girl had quite the gift of storytelling.

Unfortunately, Badger had started eyeing Mouse with the same sort of black looks she had previously only given Rabbit. The two finished their meal and helped Ilsa gather the plates. Once finished, they waited. As was usual, Ilsa pulled a broken bit of something from a pocket or the cart. This time, the item came from a second shelf on the cart, hidden by the cloth used to keep flies from the food.

Rabbit ran her hands over the ceramic surface. She guessed it was some sort of bakeware as Ilsa mentioned Jestan's name while passing it over. Several cracks had started in the bottom of the dish, as though it had been dropped on something slightly pointed. The cracks weren't that substantial but she had the feeling that the next time it was placed in the oven, the cracks would widen and the dish shatter. The dish was quickly repaired and Rabbit passed it back to Ilsa, who tucked it out of sight. She smiled.

"That will certainly make him happy, " she said. "Oh and I almost forgot. Esme asked me to give these to you for thanks with the hair clasp." Ilsa held out a small, stopered glass jar filled with an odd assortment of beads. The beads varied in size and color and appeared to be odd leftovers from past projects. As Esme was the chief seamstress for the keep, Rabbit figured that was exactly what they were. She smiled at Ilsa and nodded her thanks. She tucked the small jar into her pocket. Ilsa pushed her cart back out of the door, nodding to the page stationed outside as she went.

"It's a good thing their thank you gifts are small enough to hide, " Mouse commented. Rabbit nodded in agreement and used her fingers to mime the sharp teeth of a badger.

"Exactly, " Mouse agreed, recognizing the gesture. "She already doesn't like that we are working on a special project, even without knowing the extras. Seeing you with extra gifts would set Badger off completely." Rabbit nodded again and pointed to Mouse. She mimed talking with one hand and an attacking Badger with the other.

"I know, " Mouse nodded and frowned. "I saw her. She hates that we hear gossip she doesn't get to hear." Rabbit tapped the side of her head where Badger had pushed her into the doorframe and again pointed at Mouse.

"I'll look out for her, " Mouse promised. Rabbit nodded her approval and they both went back to work. She had completed the bedroom and now the ancient and formerly lopsided metal bed was standing tall with all of its former metalwork gleaming and ready to be outfitted with soft furnishings. Rabbit had been pleased to work on them as the original craftsmanship that had gone into them had been fine. Repairing substandard work was always trouble as she would either have to start from scratch or adjust her work to the level of craftsmanship in the existing piece. She had also been pleased to see that some of the decorations bore more of a resemblance to home. Some of the pattern work was consistent with the work of Ghada artisans.

"From Harmony's book and my old lessons, the plague must have taken down the population of the drumshada, allowing invasion. The original keep was abandoned and Tessian's ancestors took it over. They built up the keep over time as they needed more space." She thought.

Rabbit moved into the dressing area. She had repaired the ladder and was slowly working her way around the upper track so that it could move smoothly around the edges of the room and not snag on a rusted edge. As it did not take much concentration to smooth metal edges, Rabbit allowed her mind to wonder.

"Perhaps these rooms were damaged then, or they were looked at as unacceptable and abandoned." From what she had seen on her no doubt limited views of the keep, the older section was of a different style and construction than the rest. It was built for defense on the outside, with protected well rooms and other wartime precautions, but once past the defensive exterior, thought had gone into even the most plebian of details.

Rabbit spared a glance at the railing she was repairing. The railing was hidden behind a stone lip, with the ladder curling under. Both the end of the ladder and the ra

own internal fire to keep her warm. She rubbed her hand across Mouse's shoulders and back to help warm her and frowned when she realized how badly Mouse was shivering. Harmony returned with the other girls and Rabbit looked at Harmony with a worried expression. Harmony raised an eyebrow and Rabbit inclined her head towards Mouse.

"Tea will be sent up shortly, " Harmony said. "Girls please settle yourselves." The others found a seat and Rabbit stepped away from Mouse as Harmony walked over. The older woman touched a hand to Mouse's forehead as Mouse began sneezing several times in rapid succession, her brown curls bouncing like springs with every sneeze. Harmony frowned with concern.

A knock sounded at the door and Harmony called enter in its general direction. Ilsa wheeled in a cart heavily laden with not only the teapot and assorted cups and saucers but plates containing both savory and sweet snacks. When she stopped the cart, Rabbit stepped over and poured a cup of tea. She added a dollop of honey and a slice of lemon, knowing this was Mouse's preference and then walked the cup over to her. Mouse took the cup with a small nod.

"Thank you Rabbit, " Harmony said. "Will you please make sure the others are provided for." Rabbit nodded and turned towards the others. She poured a second cup of tea and handed it to Tor, who was nearest, as Ilsa set the small pitcher of cream and jar of honey on the table in the center of the room. Rabbit poured another cup of tea and handed it to Wren, while Tor poured cream into her cup. Robin's cup followed Wren's and then Rabbit poured a cup for Badger.

When pouring, she had merely handed the cups to whoever was closest, not thinking of who's hands were held out to receive them. As Rabbit passed Badger her cup she realized that was not how the de-facto leader had taken the gesture. Inwardly Rabbit sighed as she took in Badger's black looks.

Rabbit noticed Robin's wince and she shrugged slightly. If Badger was intent on taking this as a slight, there was really nothing she could do about it. Ilsa finished setting out the plates containing the extra goodies as Rabbit poured her own tea. Ilsa had noticed Badger's wrath and patted Rabbit's arm in sympathy before wheeling the now empty tea cart out of their rooms.

Rabbit saw an empty spot on the couch next to Tor. She walked over and sat down. As she reached for the small pitcher of cream, Badger snaked a hand forward and snatched it from the table. With a malicious smirk, she poured the remaining cream into her cup, raising the liquid to the very edge and threatening to slosh it over the edges. She placed the empty cream pitcher on the table with an audible click. Rabbit reached forward towards the honey pot. Badger grabbed it, sloshing her tea into the saucer as she did so.

"Badger, " Harmony said, a warning clear in her voice. "You are behaving childishly. Apologize to Rabbit." All of the girls looked surprised at the statement. Harmony may have often looked disapprovingly at Badger's actions, but never had a word of rebuke been given. Badger was after all the one who found metals and occasionally gemstones for Lord Tessian. Badger's mouth opened and closed in surprise. Harmony stared at Badger.

"We are waiting, " Harmony said sternly.

"I'm sorry, " Badger said. She was looking more towards Harmony than Rabbit when she said it and the words came out more as a question than a statement, but Harmony seemed satisfied.

"Good, now give Rabbit the honey." Harmony prompted. As if stung by the bees that produced it, Badger held out the honey in Rabbit's general direction. Rabbit took the jar and Badger retreated to her seat. Rabbit took a spoonful of honey and added it to her tea.

"Good." Harmony, believing the matter settled, turned her attention back towards Mouse. "I believe we need to get you into bed, " she told her. Harmony led Mouse back towards the bedchamber and quickly disappeared from view. No one said anything and an uneasy silence descended on the room. Behind them the fire crackled and when a log shifted with a thump and a shower of sparks Tor jumped. Rabbit cautiously sipped her hot tea. Badger did likewise but her eyes were glued to Rabbit's face and promised trouble to come.

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