Upon entering the mess hall, Falladae's senses were immediately overwhelmed with information.
Most of his companions were already here and were sitting in large groups, talking and laughing together in loud voices. The food was in it's usual place on a long table at the top of the hall and everyone sat at smaller tables beneath it. The smell of fresh-cooked bread hung in the air and Falladae's mouth watered.
Then something jumped on him from behind.
He whipped around to see a tall, rangy individual standing behind him, long black hair falling down to his shoulders and the light of mischief in his bright yellow eyes. His mouth cracked into a grin when he saw Falladae's expression. Falladae glared at him and cuffed him around the head, the boy laughed and clapped Falladae on the shoulder.
"Honestly Sylfael, will you ever stop doing that? What do you think you're doing creeping up on me like that? Nearly gave me a heart attack you wretch!" Falladae glared at Sylfael, who merely grinned playfully at him.
"But it's just so tempting," he replied innocently "You just stand there like a total lemon, it's irresistable not to jump on you."
Falladae tried to swat Sylfael, but the other boy ducked out of reach just in time. In the end, Falladae gave up and moved off to get his breakfast, Sylfael walking amicably beside him, still sniggering under his breath.
They found a table that wasn't already occupied and sat down, Falladae immediately laying into his porridge with gusto. It was warm and a lot less lumpy than usual, so he made the most of it while he could. Having devoured his food, he turned to Sylfael, who was now halfway through a piece of bread, and said:
"Bell boy got a walloping this morning. I always wonder what inspires him to keep doing these rounds, he nearly always gets hit with something. Who was it today?"
"Tarragon I think, I heard him snarling earlier. Or was that yesterday, maybe it was Kael this morning. I don't know, one of the two anyway." Sylfael replied matter of factly, as if he were discussing the weather.
Falladae nodded, "I suppose. Any news today? I hear there's a tourney on in two days, lots of nobles coming for that. That and the emissaries coming up later today. Don't suppose you've heard any more about that?"
Sylfael shook his dark-haired head, swallowing a mouthful of bread as he did so, "No more than you have. Apparently they're a Southern lot, Dhellvic I think. Not that they'll be interesting, Southerners are a load of milksops in my opinion. Probably complaining about the trade routes again knowing them."
Falladae rolled his eyes, typical Sylfael to think the Dhellvics to be useless. He'd grown up in the mountains after all, in the wilderness beyond the Border Ranges that separated Alornia from the rest of the world. His people were a tough, highly spirited and resilient lot and thought the Southerners, with their lush gardens and extravagent palaces to be pathetic sops. Even Sylfael, despite his youth, was starting to show the strong emnity that had built up between the two races.
"Come on," he said to Sylfael, "better get out to drill practice before the others run off without us. Don't want another lecture from Sarean about lateness do we?"
Syfael shuddered, "Definately not, that last earful nearly left me deaf for days. I swear that man amplifies his voice just to make listening to him more painful. Must remember to bring earplugs next time."
And so, still laughing, the two companions left the hall and made their way through the open doors and out of the boarding house courtyard towards the training grounds beyond, their feet leaving tracks in the early-morning frost.