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05 September 2011 @ 06:38 pm
Seth/Eirika fluff  
As promised, here's the piece that would fill in the "wood" box for my "texture" table. I actually have four completed. Anyway, my apologies for any errors as this has not been read by anyone but myself.


The castle kitchens were not a place Eirika normally found herself in. In fact, the last time she'd been in the kitchen, she'd not been tall enough to see over the tops of the tables, her hand wrapped up tight in her maid's larger one. She had tried to stand on the tips of her toes to see the sweet-smelling confections the kitchen servants had been making, but she'd had to content herself with the tantalizing scents that wafted all around her as they'd passed – here the smell of something spicy, a cinnamon soup perhaps, there a whiff of almond and fresh strawberries.

Eirika tugged the shawl she wore over her head, making sure her hair was well covered.

The woman next to her, Mistress Sorna, one of the head cooks, peered at her. "Are you certain about this, my lady?"

"Yes," Eirika replied, squaring her shoulders. "I know how much work is involved in the preparations for the banquet. I'd like to disturb things as little as possible."

"That's very gracious of you, my lady. But are you sure you wouldn't like me to just make it myself? That's how most of the ladies here have done things."

Eirika shook her head. "No. I really do wish to do it myself – or at to try at least. I know I'll only be following your instructions."

The furrows in Sorna's brow smoothed and the lines around her mouth softened into a smile. "You really are fond of that general of yours, aren't you, my lady?"

Eirika could feel the blood running hot in her cheeks. "Yes. I am." The tradition of a bride offering a sweet confection to her future bridegroom went back further than anyone could well remember. Among the peasant folk, it was believed that sharing sweets the night before the wedding brought about a fruitful marriage. Most noble ladies simply had something made up in their name, but Eirika had insisted on participating in the process herself.

The kitchen was a buzzing hive of activity. The guests for tomorrow's wedding had long since arrived and every night the kitchen servants had been working to make the grand feasts for the lords and ladies come to Renais for the ceremony.

They walked past the fires where haunches of ham, pheasants, and hares crackled on spits or where cooks stood stirring cauldrons with long wooden spoons, or used tongs to turn slabs of beef and venison simmering in pans as black as ravens' feathers.

"Can't right remember the last time there was so much food to be seen in the castle."

"Not since before the w–"

She ducked her head and caught a glimpse of a pair of kitchen boys beneath a table, one gnawing on a heel of bread, the other licking at the sauce off a wooden spoon. They glanced up at her guiltily and appeared relieved when they realized she was not one of the head cooks.

Her eyes stung as they passed a table where one woman chopped onions with such speed that Eirika could not but fear for her fingers. Others made similar work of carrots, cabbage, or garlic, their blades moving with the easy grace of a sparring swordsman.

Sorna stopped at one of several long wooden tables. This one had been cleared for Sorna, and a few of the servants paused to dart a glance in her direction. Eirika had specifically asked Sorna not to tell the others that she would be there today.

At the next table, a pair of women worked at beating dough and shaping it into birds or braided circles.

"– and they won't even taste a thing when we serve it to them," one of them was saying as her hands made fine work of the dough. "Too busy thinking of the wedding night to worry about all this food we sweated over."

"Could you think about food when you had a man like that waiting in your bed? I'll warrant he'll show the princess a good time."

"Oh you'd just lift your skirts for any of those knights."

"Well wouldn't you? Especially General Seth."

And even though she'd spent the better part of a year among soldiers during the war and had heard far worse chatter that this, Eirika could feel herself flushing up to the tops of her ears. She was used to hearing talk about strangers, not about Seth. Her Seth.

"Less talking, more working," Sorna snapped at them. Her tone had the intended effect and they hurried about their work as if racing against the tumbling sands in an hourglass.

"Forgive me, my lady," Sorna said in a low tone. "I'll make sure they know what happens to workers with loose lips."

"It's all right. Truly, I understand," Eirika assured, though her face was still as bright a shade of red as the raspberry paste being prepared at the table across from her. "Let's please just go on."

Sorna nodded and reached out to the cluster of implements and ingredients that had been set up on the table for them in advance. Eirika concentrated on the feel of the smooth wood, cool beneath her palms, and tried to convince herself that she was not at all nervous. Already she could see that some of the other servants had noticed her, in spite of the veil and the plain clothes she had donned. She could see them whisper to one another, gesturing in her direction.

"First we need to grind these almonds," Sorna announced, her tone authoritative. "Like this." She placed a fistful of almonds in a grey ceramic mortar and began to crush them with the pestle. After a few moments she passed them to Eirika who did her best to imitate the movement, but found her progress halting. "Would you object if I helped you, my lady?"

Eirika smiled, even as she felt herself flush once again. "No, please do. As long as I do part of it, I think it'll be all right."

Sorna reached for a second pestle and had turned the rest of the almonds into pulp by the time Eirika had finished with her small batch. They went on to strain the ground material and add to it a jug of cow's milk that had been measured out and set on the table beforehand. Stirring the mixture was something Eirika could at least manage easily; she had blushed badly earlier on when she had spilled a spoonful of precious rose water, due entirely to the shaking of her hands. The haft of the wooden spoon was solid and reassuring, and Eirika contented herself with stirring slowly as Sorna added the two spoons of rose water and the sugar.

There were other ingredients for thickening the mixture and giving it the proper texture and Eirika was not entirely sure what they were, but she went on slowly moving the spoon through the pot, ignoring the whispers and stifled giggles from the servants around her.

Eirika followed Sorna with great care as they moved from the table to one of the fires to set the creamy white mixture to boil. "Stir," Sorna said and so Eirika stirred.

She watched with fascination as steam rose from the pot and the white soup grew thicker. Sorna kept a watchful eye so as not to scorch the mixture. The smell of burning wood and kitchen grease that had filled her nostrils when they had first moved to the fire was now replaced with the delicate scent of almonds.

As she continued to stir the mixture in its slow boil, she could feel the darting glances, sense the snickers. She clutched the wooden spoon in a white-knuckled grasp, determined to ignore them. It would be worth it tonight when she could offer the sweet pudding to Seth, knowing it was more than just the work of a servant, knowing that she had strained and worried over it.

She clasped the wooden spoon as she might her sword hilt in battle.

#



As Eirika's eyes travelled the long food-laden tables in the dining hall, she could only wonder that they did not collapse beneath their burden. Though she was used to feasts and banquets, there truly had been nothing like this since the days before the war.

Braided loaves of dill or rosemary bread rested next to steaming honey-glazed hams and slabs of venison cooked in wine and garlic. Trays of carrots, simmered in ale and butter, were heaped onto plates along with tarts stuffed with egg and cheese and sprinkled with slices of mushroom or chives. Meat pies of mixed veal, pork, and beef filled the air with the scents of savoury, cloves, and bay leaves as servers cut into their crusts.

Yet for all the splendour of the meal, Eirika found it difficult to swallow more than a few mouthfuls, so violently did the butterflies in her stomach flitter about.

Her heart fluttered rather more pleasantly when Seth leaned close to her and whispered, "Are you all right, Eirika?"

She offered him a smile and reached beneath the table to squeeze his arm. "Just nervous. About the presentation ceremony." He stiffened, and the slice of venison skewered on his fork was left to hover midway to his mouth. "Did you forget?" Seth had his own role to play in the proceedings and it would not do for that to slip his mind.

He set down his fork. "Forget? No." Reaching for his wine goblet, he brought it to his lips and swallowed a mouthful – and then another. "How could I? I had only managed to set it out of my mind long enough to enjoy my meal."

Eirika laughed and squeezed him arm again. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you were nervous too."

"If it were only us, but..." He swept his hand before him to indicate the guests who filled the dining hall, kings and princes, lords and ladies of every land in Magvel.

"They're mostly friends, Seth. You know Joshua and Innes and L'Arachel."

"I knew them as comrades, as a general. Not as your suitor or consort."

"You'll get used to it."

They both turned at the sound of a familiar – and rather loud – voice. "What are you two whispering about?"

Eirika, seated to Ephraim's left, swivelled to face her brother. "Nothing you need concern yourself with, brother dear," she said with a toss of her head.

Ephraim looked rather more amused than she would have liked. "I hope you're not planning to elope after all the trouble we've gone to." He leaned forward to be able to see Seth around Eirika. "Seth, you've sworn oaths. If you're preparing to carry off my sister I charge you on those oaths to inform me."

A slight smile touched Seth's features, though he was sitting ramrod straight in his seat. Ephraim's teasing was something else he was having to slowly accustom himself to. "We've no such plans, sire."

Ephraim gave a curt nod. "Good. I'm expecting a wedding tomorrow and I refuse to be disappointed. I'm also expecting nephews and nieces, but I insist that those arrive no earlier than nine months from now."

"Ephraim!" Eirika could feel the blood rising in her cheeks while Seth was making a serious study of the roasted peppers and carrots on his plate.

#



As much as Ephraim's teasing flustered her, it provided a helpful distraction, so that it was not until the servants began clearing the heaps of emptied and half-emptied dishes from the tables that Eirika thought on the ceremony again. Her heart began to race when she realized that it was nearly time.

The hall became hushed save for a buzz of murmuring as the final plates were cleared and Sorna appeared in the main doorway. Held in both hands was a crystal dish filled to the brim with the creamy almond pudding Eirika had so ineptly slaved over earlier that day. Eirika licked her lips and waited as Sorna took slow, measured steps through the hall and towards the king's table. Finally, she set the dish down on the table before Eirika, and then, with a curtsey, returned the way she'd come.

Eirika noted that the pudding had been sprinkled with nutmeg and a mint leaf garnish. She took a deep breath to steady herself; it would not do to spill anything this time. Seth nodded when she glanced his way. He pushed his chair out from the table and then angled it sideways so that he sat with his profile to the room. She could feel the eyes of the assembled guests on them as she stood and reached for the dish of pudding and a spoon.

When she turned to face Seth, she could not help but notice how his hands were balled into fists on his knees. But then her gaze caught his and she found herself staring into those brown eyes that held only love and understanding. Eirika smiled.

She moved closer to him, so close that her legs brushed against his knees, and then dipped the spoon into the white surface of the pudding. The scent of almonds wafted up to her nostrils and she drew it out with a wobbly glob of cream. Slowly, cautiously, she brought the spoon to Seth's lips while her mind chanted a frantic refrain of 'Please let it taste all right. Please let it be edible.'

His lips parted and she fed him the mouthful of pudding, her eyes rivetted on his features, anxious for his reaction. Eirika heaved a sigh of relief when he smiled even as he swallowed. She leaned down to press a kiss to his lips, lingering for a long moment. His mouth tasted of almonds and nutmeg.

When they broke apart, they found the chamber filled with the sound of applause. Eirika felt herself colour and kept her eyes on Seth's face rather than dare glance at any of the guests. She set down the dish as Seth reached into a pouch at his belt. It was his turn now.

He stood and, for a moment, fiddled with the drawstring on the pouch, his fingers uncharacteristically clumsy. When he finally managed to loose the string, he pulled out a wooden disc, hung on a leather thong.

"May I?" she said.

He handed it to her and she spent a moment inspecting it. A dark stain coated the wood, but beneath it, she could still see the wavering lines of the wood grain. It was not quite round, and not quite flat, her fingertips noticing bumps and dints as she traced its surface. Crudely carved antlers adorned one side, a common motif for wedding medallions. They said that Arenha, the goddess of childbirth, had met her consort while wandering the woods in the form of a doe. He had taken on the shape of an antlered buck, and even when he took human form he always sported a magnificent rack of antlers.

"I'm afraid woodworking is not one of my gifts," Seth said, and it was then, as she handed the medallion back to him, that she noticed the several half-healed cuts on his fingers.

"It's lovely, Seth," she said and then took his hands and pressed her lips to his injured fingers.

He reached out to let his fingertips trail down her cheek. When she bowed her head, he placed the medallion around her neck. She drew herself up, pulled her long hair free of the leather thong and then grinned up at him. Only then did she hear again the cheers and applause. She supposed she must look a little foolish, smiling like a throughly besotted girl, but she could not help herself as giddiness raced through her veins, more potent than spiced wine.

Seth leaned in to kiss her and again she could taste the lingering hint of almond and sugar on his lips. That kiss was sweeter to Eirika than all the buttered tarts and honeyed fruit that they served that night. All night, the only thing she could taste was almond.
 
 
 
saffiremoon21saffiremoon21 on September 5th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
I love almonds.

I also love this, because it's as sweet as that almond pudding!

I love how Eirika is a total beast on the battlefield but when it comes to cooking she's absolutely petrified!
wolfraven80: FE:TSS S/E Morningwolfraven80 on September 5th, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)
Well I don't imagine she's had to do much cooking somehow. lol