The carriage pulled to a halt, and Lord Cegrol looked up from where he sat. The ride had lasted close to half a glass, Faru estimated, and in that whole time, the lord had not said a single word to her, nor had he looked up from his folded hands.
Now he graced Faru with a smile. It was a sad smile, but a smile nonetheless.
“What is your name, child?” his musical voice inquired.
He seemed to see her for the first time. His eyes took her in, and Faru felt the heat rush to her face.
“Well, Faru, welcome to our home away from home.” He paused as he looked out the window. “It is nothing like my Castle Fearann, but it is comfortable.”
They descended from the coach onto a cobblestone drive surrounded by blooming rhododendron plants. The whites and pinks softened the harshness of the reds. Beyond the bushes, Faru noticed the house that loomed up above her. The dark bricks were a stark contrast to the stone she was accustomed to.
Lord Cegrol led the way up wide, winding stairs to the front door. Torches on either side flickered against the brickwork, which seemed to trap the light instead of sending it out to welcome the master home. As Cegrol opened the door, he was greeted by a portly, elderly lady. “Lord Cegrol, welcome home. You must be exhausted. Let me get your cloak. You just go up to your den. I’ll have Trystan bring you your evening meal.”
“Thank you, Kadi,” Lord Cegrol replied. “I would appreciate that. First, though, we need to help Faru get settled.”
“Don’t you worry at all about that. I’ll take care of every thing.”
Lord Cegrol nodded and slowly plodded up another wide staircase. The motherly woman turned to Faru. “And you are?” “My name is Faru, ma’am,” the young slave girl replied, trying not to fidget with her long curly hair. “Lord Cegrol told me your name. What I want to know is, why are you here?”
Faru shivered, not just from the draft that flickered the candles in their sconces, but also from the internal cold.
“Ma’am, a glass ago, I was preparing my mistress’s evening meal as I have done since I was old enough to help my mother. The queen came and brought me to a parlor where King Cyning and Lord Cegrol and Lady Cwen sat. King Cyning walked off with Lady Cwen, and my mistress showed Lord Cegrol and me to the door where the carriage was waiting. Lord Cegrol brought me here. I do not have anything with me. I am at your disposal.”
“You are right about that,” the woman said. “I am Kadi, the housekeeper. Anything that happens in this house, I direct. That includes you.”
Kadi paused, sizing up the new servant before she continued. “What besides serving meals are you good at?”
This was territory that Faru understood.
“I clean rooms. I’ve done some cooking, but more so, just helping the cook prepare food. I’ve taken care of little ones so others can do their work, and I’ve been taught to weave.”
“I see,” Kadi stated, pursing her lips. “You won’t have much opportunity to take care of children in this household unless it is servants’ children.” She stood, looking Faru up and down before she continued. “I suppose for tonight, you can just get settled in. Tomorrow is early enough to start. Follow me.”