Pheonton’s market was similar to the markets she had gotten used to working over the past year. Row after row of vendor sitting by their wagon displaying their goods. The odd semi permanent structure for a cheese maker, butcher or the like. There were differences too of course. The chill air deadened the smells somewhat, and there was much less variety. The vegetables were stunted and Martha had to pick and prod at the produce to find anything Ladin would find acceptable. Once selected it took every last haggling trick she had learned over the past year to be able to cover the bare necessities with the silver coins she had left. So much for the hope of being able to pocket the extra and save up to buy a little off of her term of indenture. Martha sighed and started back toward the Silver Cog.
As she neared the Inn she saw Franklin ushering a burly man through the front door. Looked like there would be company after all. Martha picked up her pace and slipped into the kitchen through the servant’s entrance.
“Mother I wasn’t able to find -”
“Your mother isn’t here girl. Ladin sent your parents out on an errand. He’s expecting you to prepare dinner instead.”
The gruff Innkeeper’s wife cleared off a small corner of the kitchen table and indicated with her chin Martha could use it before returning to kneading dough on the larger part of it. Well that was just great, now Martha not only had to make dinner on her own but she somehow had to do it while keeping out of the way of the Mistress of the house. Martha laid out the eggplant, tomatoes, lady fingers, chopped mutton and goat cheese on the table and set the rice to boil. She was oiling up a skillet when the kitchen door creaked open and she heard Ladin’s voice.
“Ah … here she is already hard at work. A very good worker that girl, and don’t let the red hair fool you. She’s got enough fire in her to lend her some initiative but she’s manageable.”
Martha wiped her hands on her apron and looked up quizzically. Ladin, Franklin, and the stranger were standing just inside the kitchen. It was hard to figure the stranger’s age due to how weathered his face was. He’d clearly spent a lot of his life outside in the elements. There was, however, enough grey in his thick moustache to place him in at least her father’s generation. She didn’t like the way he was looking at her at all.
“So it’s not enough that my fool husband is allowing servants back here to cook private meals, now I’m being expected to put up with the presence of the snob who insulted my cooking by asking for such a deal in the first place? This room, at least, is my domain and I won’t have a trio of men standing around gawking in it. Get out now.”
“Now Mistress Boise don’t get all worked up, I hadn’t heard the girl return and just wanted to find out how much longer we should be expecting to wait before dinner was ready.”
“It’ll come faster without you delaying it, I can tell you that much for certain!”
Ladin chuckled and backed out with his hands up in mock surrender.
“Well, good as it smells I imagine we still have enough time to get Thom to pull out his reeds and play us a tune or two. What do you say Walt, shall we set aside business for now and work out the rest of the details after dinner.”
Walt grunted and gave a curt nod as he also left. Martha was almost too stunned by Ladin’s complement to her cooking to react but managed to pull the cuff of Franklin’s tunic and raise an eyebrow before he followed the other two back out. He gave her a sly smile.
“Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.”