Chapter Thirty Nine

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Just before first light, Selene heard movement from down near the kitchen. She dressed quickly and moved down the creaky wooden stairs. The small dining hall was empty, but there was noise coming from the kitchen, she was sure of it. Cautiously, Selene pushed through the old creaky door that led into the kitchen. The room was larger than she had expected, with a vaulted ceiling and more cooking tops than she could count and deep black pots taller than she was were scattered throughout the room. She moved slowly between the hallways created by the large cooking tops. The noise was coming from the back of the room. She thought about saying something to alert whoever it was that she was there, but nothing came out when she tried.

It was then that a small, wiry figure of a boy that could have been no more than fifteen stepped out with a large crate full of what appeared to be potatoes, though she could not be sure. The boy stopped short when he noticed her, his eyes wide, his face curious.

They stared at each other for a long moment before he finally opened his mouth. “You are a…”

Selene could not help but roll her eyes. “A girl? Yes.”

He looked her over cautiously, as if she were a creature he was unfamiliar with. “We don’t get many girls in here, especially ones that look like you.” He diverted his eyes after spending a bit more time staring than he intended.

A red flush found its way to her face and she glanced away quickly. “I am Selene,” she said, brushing away her previous feeling of vulnerability. “You must be Eli.”

The boy stayed silent for a long moment before finally setting the crate down and moving a few feet closer to her. “They said that a girl came in, but I didn’t believe them.” He paused and looked around the large kitchen. “This is the kitchen. As you can see it was once much more than it is today. Now we just use the cooker over there.” He motioned to a large black wooden stove back by the entrance. “There are only about fifty men in the compound when they are all called in, give or take a few, so one stew feeds them all.”

“So you are the cook?” she said as she moved to take a closer look at the kitchen.

The boy stuttered as he followed her. “I… uhm, I am a Silent Brother.”

Selene turned and smiled at Eli. “I know. Did Orran tell you about my coming here to help in the kitchen?”

“Yes, but you are early. The sun hasn’t even peaked its head out.” He brushed the hair out of his face as he stood awkwardly in the middle of the kitchen, unsure of what to do next.

“I figured if you are here, I should be as well.” Selene was not quite sure what to think of Eli. He was an average height, skinny as a vine, and he had chestnut brown hair that hung over his eyes to the middle of his face, causing him to constantly pull it behind his ears.

Eli shrugged at that. “I am bringing in food from the stores. There is not much. Mostly we eat potatoes.”

“How are you preparing them?”

The question confused Eli. “Well, we mostly just drop them into stews and let it boil for a while before we eat it.”

“And what else do you put in these stews, besides potatoes of course?”

“Well,” he said as he paused to think. “Beans, carrots if we got them, and the same with greens. Vegetables are hard to come by these days. Sometimes we get enough meat to throw in, but mostly meat is also scarce in the city.”

Selene frowned at that. “So you have the men on a potato and water diet?”

“We get vegetables once a week, usually. Meat or fish occasionally, but these days we haven’t been so lucky.”

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