Kitchen Chat

Kitchen Chat

A Chapter by SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
"

Nora only wants to hide in her room after witnessing her mother die from poison, but the investigation and business must go on. Meanwhile, her brother and sister are acting very improperly...

"
    Today was nothing short of nightmarish. Truly nightmarish. Not Nora's idea of a nightmare when she was in her twenties, when her biggest worry was what she'd never know what to do with the rest of her life. That ended very abruptly when the Restructuring decided that for her. Or that time back in university when she'd heard a human boy comment that barren girls- unbeknownst to him, girls like Nora- were only good as w****s because nobody would want to marry them and at least they wouldn't have b*****d children. And in a way, this was far more painful than the accident that rendered her barren. Or even Xenia throwing the family aside like an old handkerchief. At least nobody had been murdered. Plus, the fight between Folco and their father after had been bad. Where had that brother of hers gone off to anyway? He'd very childishly stormed off to his friend and Nora couldn't remember seeing him since. He wasn't anywhere to be seen at the end of what amounted to a borderline riot in the main dining hall.

    Did that scene truly have to keep repeating itself in her head? It had been so sudden. Everything was going smoothly. There hadn't been any problems with getting the guests inside, nor their being seated. As for Nora, nothing had gone wrong with her hair, outfit or accessories. She'd even been having a good skin day. The lines around her eyes were less pronounced. She remembered being relieved about looking better than she usually did.  What a silly thing to think of, Nora realized. She would have preferred looking the worst she ever did in her life to her mother's death. The toast was perfectly executed. Her mother hadn't tripped over a single word. It had only been at the end of the toast, when she drank from her wine, that disaster struck. The ensuing commotion over the queen's collapse was a confused jumble. Whatever else had happened around her in those moments after the lethal poison was lost. Unless Jillian or Odo or Folco recalled anything?

    Well, there was the part she wished she could forget most of all. The part where one of her father's advisors, Jarmir, checked the Queen over, then uttered the words to the king and his progeny that would be burned into her memory forever. "The queen is dead." That happened.

    Pressing her face into one of her silk-cased pillows, Nora clutched her hair near both aching temples. She felt positively sick to her stomach. It was fortunate they'd never reached the part where they ate. Otherwise, whatever supper was served would be all over her pillow and linens. Had the rest of the family been targeted too, or just her mother? And if just her mother, why was that she and only she had been singled out? Or what if the glasses had gotten mixed up? Was the intended target her father? Or even one of her siblings- or her? And why?
   
            A knock sounded at the bedchamber door. Good. The two guards posted outside had actually listened. The last thing she wanted was to be seen in her current state. They’d argued when she wanted to close the door.  Finally they’d let up when she promised to leave the door unlocked. “Don't open my door. Give me two moments,” Nora called before sliding off her bed and walking to the looking-glass. She crinkled her nose in revulsion. Red eyes stood out against her pale face. The rouge she’d put on her cheeks had smeared and her hair had somehow become partially unpinned by her pillow. Part of her hair was plastered to her cheeks. Her face had new lines from where she'd pressed it into her pillow. There were several bumps and places where her hair had been pulled free of the clip that earlier held it gathered at the back of her head. Several hairpins were showing. Thank the gods I told them not to open the door! thought Nora.

            After removing the pins and clips from her hair, throwing on a scarf to hide the mess, splashing water on her face and removing the rouge, Nora shuffled to her door and opened it. A third guard had joined the two sent to watch the area by her quarters. “Yes? It better be important…” 

            “Your Highness, your father calls for you to come to the throne room,” the newcomer said.

            Nora sighed. She had an idea of what this was about. Looking down at her nightgown,she replied “right away, let me just change back out of my nightclothes.”

~*~*~

    When Nora was finally presentable, the guards escorted her to the throne room. Two flanked her. The third's footsteps were directly behind hers. Normally, the ones on bodyguard did not stay on top of their charges. They even kept their distance outside the palace unless the royal family was abroad. Her father probably had something to do with that. He'd be scared someone might make an attempt on their life next. Her younger brothers, one university age and the other too young for university, might object, but Nora was old enough and sensible to expect it and not be upset. Jill was a question mark. She was much more mature than she used to be, now that she was in her mid-twenties, but there were times a shadow of the lass' former adolescent self came to light.

    They halted at the doorway. "Your Majesty," called one of the guards, "Princess Nora has arrived."

    "Send her on in," said her father in reply. The guards opened the door the rest of the way for Nora to enter.

    The room itself looked the same. Same burgundy carpet with goldenrod and brown trim leading from the oaken double door to the wooden dais at the forefront of the room. Same elderwood throne with elaborate carvings of wheat, barley and oak. Same smattering of guards along the outside perimeter of the door. Same smaller throne at the right of her father's. Nora's blood ran cold. She did not know which was worse, seeing her mother's empty seat or the idea that it might one day soon be removed. Would she be able to withstand the disappearance of her mother's throne into storage? It had been painful enough five years ago when Xenia left for the smaller chair intended for her sister had been removed the very day it became clear she did not intend to return. However, Xenia was presumably alive in hiding somewhere. Her mother's death was much, much worse.

     Her father, however, was in a state Nora had never before seen him. His face was pale and his hair disheveled. Nora could not remember a day in her life where her father had permitted a hair to go out of place. Then again, she didn't exactly look her best herself. As she drew nearer, she noticed that the whites of his eyes had reddened. Several advisors stood on the platform right next to him. They were a motley mix, the elf Jarmir Esteel, the dwarf Flynn Thragglekin, the human Samuel Grant, but they all had the same body language that communicated their condolences and sympathy. There too was a family friend, Kirk Sorefellow. She hadn't seen that hobbit in many years, but he'd up today. And good thing, too. My father could use a friend.

     Nora hesitated at the bottom of the dais, unsure of whether her father meant for her to  come up. The  king, noticing his daughter's hesitation, beckoned her up. Nora ascended the steps and assumed her seat, which was somewhere between a very large chair and a very small throne, to her father's left. Another of the same chair as her own was on her own left. Two empty ones remained on their mother's side. Leaning heavily into the gold-tasseled red feather cushions covering her seat, Nora wondered whether she ought to say anything or just let her father speak. Silence seemed the best option with the group of advisors and family friends still consoling the king.

    After a lengthy-seeming pause of ten minutes, the sound of scraping door hinges cut though the eerily still air. Her father stirred in his seat. "Your Majesty, Princess Jillian and Prince Odo have arrived." The throne room doors opened to reveal her very red-faced sister Jillian and brother Odo. This was definitely not a time for the royal family to look their best. As the entrance hall guards held the door open, her two siblings approached at a very slow pace. At one point, Odo wavered as though he'd tripped over thin air and grabbed Jillian's right arm. Jillian grabbed hold of her brother to steady him. At another time, Nora might have teased Odo with a comment on his momentary lack of coordination, but this was not the proper time.

    The pair continued to the foot of the dais. Unlike Nora, they did not hesitate before coming up the steps.  At the third step, however, the top of Jillian's foot caught against the fourth step. Her arms flew out, but she managed to catch herself at the edge of a higher one.

    "Princess Jillian, are you all right?" asked Jarmir, wholly unnecessarily, for Jillian was laughing.

    "I'm fine, I'm fine, the steps just changed on me," giggled her younger sister. Nora raised her eyebrows. How could she be laughing at a time like this?  "They just moved all by themselves!"

    "Come up here and sit down, Princess Jillian," reproved her father. His voice shook, but otherwise the king sounded just as stern as he always did when upbraiding one of her siblings.Nora herself almost never got scolded. Why would she? She was past thirty, an age where if she were not in the royal family and didn't have certain things wrong with her, would likely already be married with children of her own. And not only was she past thirty, she knew how to act it. She wasn't one given to acting like an adolescent trapped in a twenty or thirty-something's body.

    "Okay, okay, sorry Father," said Jillian, cheeks reddening further. Odo helped her stand and they continued up the steps. As Odo walked in front of the king and Nora to take his seat, Nora was almost certain she could smell liquor on him. Jillian veered left and nearly sat in the first empty seat she saw, her mother's. Kirk caught her as she started to sit and mumbled in her ear. Eyes widening, Jillian proceeded to the proper chair, which would have been on their mother's right if the queen still lived.  "Where's Folco?" Jillian said as she sat down. "What's the, the little twit up to if he's not here?"

    An infuriated look crossed her father's face. Nora thought he was going to shout at Jillian for behaving improperly and possible scold her for speaking disrespectfully of their youngest sibling. Instead he said "Prince Folco won't be here." Nora blinked. What was going on? Their father must be very angry with him given how Folco had made an already bad scene worse in front of dozens of subjects, but for him to not be here...

    "What do you mean?" chimed in Odo, goggling at their father. Had both of her siblings taken leave of the proper sense of decorum? "Where is he, then?"

    "That," said the king, clenching his fists at the edge of his throne's arms so hard his knuckles blanched white, "remains to be seen." Nora gaped at him. She hadn't seen her father like this since before Xenia left. What was going on now? Folco couldn't have gone wandering off at a time like this, could he? Hadn't he gotten in enough trouble the other day when he'd been out so late with Lindo their father sent someone- Nora could no longer stomach thinking Kiran's name- to look for them? But even then, their father hadn't acted like this. No, it had to be because everything was awry because of their mother's murder. Not to mention the way Folco acted at the feast. That's why her father was acting so strangely. As for Folco, he'd probably gone somewhere with Lindo, not thinking he'd be needed here to discuss their mother's murder. He was  a complete fool if he'd left the grounds after someone had just killed one of their family. He was impulsive enough to wander off with his friend when upset about family problems. Lads in their teens were like that. Folco could have gone to Lindo's or perhaps the lake like where they'd been when that human found them, or maybe even somewhere else. It was damned inconsiderate for him to force their father into sending guards out looking for him after what just happened, but it made sense.

    "What'd he do, wander off with Lindo again?" asked Jillian. The king stiffened. Jill averted her gaze, shrinking from his glate. Nora noticed her sister's face looked rather red.

    "I do not wish to discuss him any further at present," the king said, voice frosty. Nora straightened up. That wasn't something he'd normally say.

    "Father?" she said tentatively.

    "Silence!" Nora shrank back into her seat. The king's cheeks were red spots against a white backdrop.  She snuck a glance over to Odo. His face was as red as Jillian's! What was more, his pupils were bigger than was normal for a room with this many lit candelabras and torches along the walls. That, and the suspicious odor from before... had Odo been drinking since the feast? And Jillian? That'd explain her tripping up the stairs too. She groaned inwardly. Were those two insane? She looked over to her father to see if he saw what she saw, but he'd planted his elbows in his lap, burying his face in his hands.

            Kirk moved between the throne and Jillian to Hrothgar's side and said bracingly, “Oh, Your Majesty, you ought not to blame yourself for the failings of your son. Queen Arabella and Your Majesty gave him everything.”

    The king lowered his hands. Nora could see where his palms had just been. "I never imagined this of him. But I suppose I did not see him enough to realize what he could be capable of... he did once complain a lot about never seeing me, though he stopped about the same time Xen- I mean, not long after the Restructuring."

            “You were merely creating the best future you possibly could for him and the others, sire,” said the elf  Jarmir, stepping between Nora and King Hrothgar, resting a bony hand on the arm of the throne. “And it worked, did it not? Look where you are now. Did you expect to be here six years ago?”

            Nora’s father did not seem comforted in the slightest. “Where I am is about to be in mourning for Queen Arabella,” he said quietly. "She's been in my life forty years and my wife for thirty-five of those. This... is going to be a change..."

            Jarmir  relinquished his hold on the throne arm and stepped forward onto the top step of the dais. He turned to face the royal family. “Majesty,” he said, “there will be time aplenty to be mourn. However, right now we need to contend with the fact that what happened to Queen Arabella was not accident or illness. It was premeditated murder. We must ensure those responsible for her death face justice. There can be no mercy for such a vile deed as regicide. And we must show the kingdom that.”

    Nora's father closed his eyes for a brief moment. When they reopened, he said "I never anticipated anything like this happening. I know it does in other places, but we're hobbits."

    "Yes," said Kirk, "but your wife's death was the result of a human's treachery- no offense intended to you, Lord Grant."

    "None taken," replied Samuel. "We already know that emissary is responsible for her death, and he is a human. That is solid, indisputable fact."

    "Forgive me," said Flynn, "but in case it is asked of us what the evidence against that Cancalian scum is, what am I to say?"

    "Well," said Jarmir, "that is obvious. He's been a guest in the royal household for over the week. He made many friends. He is a charismatic man, that paladin. And kitchen servants are easy to fool, as Kirk found out when he was in there in Prince Folco's stead."

    Nora looked curiously at Kirk. Why had he gone in Folco's place? Had her brother tricked him into it? He was still a kid, and kids could be like that to get their way. Maybe he'd told Kirk her father was hoping for him to do the family a favor on a busy day. Kirk, naturally, would not want to refuse a prince of Drémeadow. Yes, that seemed likely. It'd also explain why Kirk hadn't told them about the switch. He'd assumed they already knew. All the same, she ought to ask about the oddity.

    She held her right hand up slightly. When the advisors' heads turned her way, the king said, "yes, Princess Nora?"

    "May I interrupt a moment, before we discuss what Kirk found out in the kitchen?"

    The king shifted to lock eyes with her. "You already have, my daughter." Nora flinched. "But go on."

    "Kirk," said Nora, "may we inquire how you ended up in the kitchen?"

    Kirk moved from King Hrothgar's side to the edge of the dais and turned to face her. "I went in Prince Folco's stead," he replied. "We encountered each other in the corridor. I said hello. He apologized, saying he couldn't speak long because he and all Your Highnesses had too much to do. I asked whether there was anything I could do to help. Prince Folco then said 'Actually, yes, I'd appreciate it if you could oversee the kitchen during the preparation of the meals.' I asked if there was anything in particular I needed to watch for. He told me to watch out for intruders and ensure nobody tampered with the food. I told him I'd do it so he could attend to other matters."

    Naturally. Those "other matters", of course, would be socializing with his friends and ignoring his royal duties. "Is that all?" said Nora. "Was anyone else around to hear this?"

    "Yes, Your Highness," said Kirk. "That human." Nora did not need to ask which one. It was obvious from the revulsion in his tone. "But nobody else."

    Nora's shoulders sagged forward in disappointment. Then she caught herself. Shoulders belonged back, not forward. There were things she couldn't help, like limping when the old injury to the front of her hips, but her shoulders were certainly in her control. Bad posture was no good. It was a sign of weakness, a sign of letting her feelings get the better of her. "I see. That's all I wished to asked. Thank you, Father."

    "I have something to ask in regards to what Princess Nora brought up," said the king. Kirk looked at him, wringing his hands slightly. "Did you see anything suspicious in the kitchen? Especially around the wine?"

    "No, Your Majesty." Her father looked as disappointed as Nora felt. "But I did hear something." The king leaned forward in interest. Next to Nora, Odo hiccuped. She turned her head sideways to glare at her brother. She hated the sound of those. And why couldn't he cover his mouth? "One of the kitchen staff told me after what happened to Her Majesty that she'd been given something by the paladin to add to the drink."

    The king sat bolt upright. "What? Who was it?"

    "She is reluctant for me to name her, Your Majesty, she fears she will be considered as guilty as the paladin, or lose her job for being tricked into..."

    "That damn well might happen!" shouted Hrothgar. Nora jumped. Her father never lost control like this, but this was the third time in just one night. First the loud argument with Folco. That made sense, at least. Speaking of Folco, things were sounding far more suspicious in regards to him. Then there ordering his guard to round up everyone defending the paladin with whatever force necessary. She did not dare challenge her father in this ugly a mood, but Nora privately felt that had been a bit extreme. Besides, questioning his decisions wasn't her place.  "It will happen if she forces me to waste time better spent trying to catch that paladin to track her down!"

    "Poinsettia Newberry, Your Majesty," said Kirk. "Please, Sire, I think her guiltless of anything other than sheer foolishness."

    "Foolishness that left MY wife and YOUR queen DEAD!"

    Kirk shrank back but maintained his gaze. His voice softer, he said, "I suspect how badly your loss must be hurting you, Your Majesty. I lost the only family I'd ever known just over a decade ago. I've never had a love quite like you had in Queen Arabella, so I cannot imagine your torment."

    The king scrunched his face as though in physical pain. "Right," he said, sounding calmer. "I have no use for anyone in the kitchens who is foolish enough to let poison get into our food and drink. But if she is completely honest, no matter how bad it makes her look, I'll find other work for her here. Perhaps cleaning out the privies, I've heard rumor young Iris Triggins is a good baker. I might switch those two. Do NOT tell Miss Newberry what I'm considering, though."

    Odo hiccuped loudly once more. Nora twisted sideways and leaned over the arm of her seat toward him. "Will you silence those hiccups?" she hissed. "This is not a time to make yourself look like a buffoon! Or haven't you heard a word?"

    Odo draped himself over the chair and leaned back towards her. "Sorry, sis. Right, I have to listen to people talk and stuff."

    Nora frowned. It wasn't just his blase reply that bothered her. There was no mistaking the pungent smell that struck her nostrils. "Have you been drinking?"

    "Obviously I was drinking, we were at a feast, were we not?"

    "Odo Foxtrot, what sort of ignoramus do you think me? I wasn't born yesterday!" Odo put on his the best dumbfounded face, but it wasn't good enough. "You could not possibly have had more than a few sips of anything before what happened with Mother!"

    "All right, I might have had part of a bottle after... but I was upset, okay? We all were!"

    Nora raised an eyebrow. It was fortunate her father was too busy questioning Kirk. "Yes, but that doesn't mean we'd all go raiding the liquor pantry." She looked around her father to Jillian. Her sister was slumping sideways in her seat, face as red as her cushions. Thinking back over a decade to her university days, she remembered seeing people's faces like that at  the handful of gatherings she'd attended when several wines or ales deep. "And Jillian was with you!" she accused. "Father will be furious!"

    "Please don't tell Father," beseeched Odo in the same low voice Nora used.. "We just wanted the help sleeping."

    "I won't tell him. BUT." She slapped her hand against the side of her chair. "You'd better hope he doesn't notice or you'll be in almost much trouble as Fol-"

    "PRINCESS NORA!" Nora jumped, heat rising in her face, and turned to sheepishly face the king. "Did you have something you wanted to say to everyone here?"

    "No, Father," mumbled Nora, acutely embarrassed. "Forgive me, Your Majesty..."

    King Hrothgar turned away from her. "Now, before my eldest son and daughter decided a court session was an appropriate time to have a side conversation and interrupted us all, we were discussing the matter of Poinsettia Newberry. GUARDS!"

    Those watching the door entered, forming a straight line and standing at attention.

    "Go to the quarters of the kitchen servants and bring Poinsettia Newberry to me. Tell whoever you see in the west corridor first to come wait outside the throne room, they are needed more here than there. Now. Go."

    The guards bowed and exited the room.
 


© 2015 SpeedyHobbit Armstrong


Author's Note

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
Comment anything you notice here. I'm trying to shift through all of the Foxtrot siblings and the king here to show the various perspectives about what just happened and how each of them react to what happened to their mother. Does everything seem believable?

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It is interesting to see a major event from another viewpoint, I found this chapter a good read.

A third guard had joined the two se(n)t to watch the area by her quarters.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Gotcha. Will also have to use Odo... and there may be more of the king, once I figure out how to get.. read more
Hey. I really liked this and I'm really glad you're hitting the other character's viewpoints.
I have a couple of things to point out. I noticed that you refer to Hrothgar as 'the king' a lot in your dialog tags. To me, this infers that Nora either isn't very close to him or that she doesn't view him as her father. Does she think of him as the king or as her father? Something to consider if you hadn't.
I also want to express how this who side book would be awesome within Fallen Ones. I know I've played that horn before, but here, you have Kirk explaining to the king what you had Falco describe in flashback. That flashback was giving you issues before and this scene eliminates that issue all together.
I also like that we have Jarmir Esteel here. Provided this scene occurs long before The Tyrant and the Traitor, you'll have the opportunity to drop in some major foreshadowing and non-obvious hints to his intents.
I really like what you have going on here. I love Nora. I'm wondering if she feels inferior or that something is wrong with her because she's barren. You said, from her viewpoint, that if there was nothing wrong with her, she'd be married off by now. Does she feel like something is wrong with her or is she okay with it? I'd love to see you play with this emotion and how it shapes her as a person and the decisions she makes.
Notes here: https://diigo.com/073wgt
beautiful work!

Posted 5 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Good point, I'll have to switch it over to "her" father much more often, except at spots where he's .. read more
Ok, loved Nora's POV! That was well done, it added a great perspective!
I read through this in one straight go, and if there was anything that stood out critique wise, I didn't notice. It was really, really good and I'm pretty sure not much needs fixing! I do promise, though, that I'll chill out and take another look see for critique purposes, if need be! :)
Well done!

-Mila

Posted 5 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Thanks so much for dropping by and reading! Nora's an interesting one
It certainly seemed realistic to me. Nora's point of view was a great tool to show the effect on the rest of the family, since she certainly seems the most sensible. Well done as usual; I have no particular criticism.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Thanks so much! I'm glad it came through that way as Nora is meant to be level-headed and more thoug.. read more
Jennie Baron

5 Years Ago

That's one of the most fun things about fiction writing. I love it!
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

5 Years Ago

Me too! I always knew Kirk would be a thing but never Poinsettia

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Added on November 28, 2014
Last Updated on January 31, 2015
Tags: death, murder, poison, royals, Nora, Dremeadow


Author

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

Long Island, NY



About
My name is Cher Armstrong, also known as Speedy Hobbit. I'm a USATF athlete in racewalking for the Raleigh Walkers club team. I just graduated from Queens College in Queens borough in New York Ci.. more..

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