The older woman is bustling about the small kitchen, a window to a world of light and colours framing her figure. She is elegant, in a matronly way, possessing the sort of dignity that only comes with age.
To call her merely wise would be laughable.
“Lady Nestre,” a soft voice calls, young Delphine entering the room.
“Delphine,” she acknowledges, though her gaze remains focused on the vegetables under her knife. It falls quickly, flashing bright in the sun, leaving behind a rhythmic chopping sound.
The younger woman stands behind her lady, laying a hand upon her shoulder. “Shall I start the fire?”
A momentary silence, the blade suspended above the ripe red capsicum.
The blade descends once more, the routine sustained.
Delphine smiles, enjoying the sparse words of Nestre. The older woman knows not to pry, especially after Delphine has dreamt. Dreams are delicate things, things that one cannot force themselves into. Nestre’s consideration was both a courtesy to Delphine and a mark of her dream’s worth.
The fire comes to brilliant life after a single try: Delphine had been starting it every morning since she was a girl, years ago. Now, a young woman, she struck the flint-stone with ease, producing that necessary spark.
Of course, many things came easily to Delphine, even as a child. Speech came to her at an early age, soon followed by an interest in reading. Writing came next, and she soon mastered that craft. Anything to do with words she quickly mastered, even taking a language into her elementary studies.
Now, with Nestre’s help as well as yours, she seeks to learn the language of dreams, to read the future in portents and presages.
As the fire reaches an adequate intensity, Delphine drops a deep pan upon it, the tongues of flame licking up the sides.
“Almost ready, lady Nestre.”
Nestre has finished chopping the capsicums and tomatoes, now stacked in a brilliant red heap upon the polished wood cutting board.
“Good,” she replies. “Now, let me watch the pan for you. Grab some eggs, will you?”
“Yes, lady Nestre,” Delphine says, nodding her head in a quick bow. Retreating from the kitchen, she descends into a subterranean pantry. The air about her is cold and stale, engulfing her as she dismounts the ladder. She places a few eggs in the basket she brought, and brings them back to the kitchen.
Sometimes, Delphine feels more like a servant girl than an acolyte. But then she remembers the way that Nestre treats her, doting over her constantly. It was as if the old woman was her mother. Grandmother, even.
They cook their breakfast together. Delphine cracks the eggs into a bowl, mixing them with the fresh vegetables. The sticky mass is then poured into the hot pan, releasing a sizzle of steam as the eggs turn yellow-white. Nestre folds the omelettes expertly, the golden-brown skin perfect and pristine.
Table talk consists of Nestre’s careful questions, spoken slowly with measured words.
“Did your dream upset you?”
Delphine swallows a bite of omelette, the capsicum crunching under her teeth. “A little,” she confesses. “I was more afraid than upset, really.”
The silence was almost audible: not even a soft sound whispered through the window.
“Afraid for what?”
“For my life, lady Nestre,” Delphine says, looking up into her lady’s eyes. She realises that, although she has answered the question truthfully, she has answered it wrong.
“Selfish,” Nestre mutters, turning her attention back to the breakfast. No more words are exchanged.
And she isn’t? Delphine thinks to herself, skewering a piece of tomato with her fork.
You want to tell her she’s right, that all people are selfish. But you choose not to: Delphine, though your chosen, is not yet ready. Ethereal dreams are her first challenge, corporeal signs will come later.
Outside, the birds carry on the conversation for them, exchanging flurries of calls and whistles. One alights on the window sill, peeking into the room. With a tilt of its small head it releases a shrill chirrup, them takes off again, wheeling over the hill and toward the city.