Morning was heralded by noisy roosters, hounds baying and the whickering of horses in the stables. Tirena realized her windows were open when she awoke to a cacophony not unlike what she would have heard in the village she was raised in, though upon opening her eyes she was reminded her entire life had changed. She frowned, certain that they had been closed when she went to sleep, and reached for the dressing robe laid at the foot of the bed. She realized then that someone had been in the room, for there were fresh flowers on the bedside table, and the fire had been kindled to warm the room.
Quickly wrapping the robe around herself she called out hesitantly. “Is someone here?”
A young girl, certainly not more than fourteen winters, peeked out from behind the bathing screen. “Doma, it’s just me. I wanted to prepare a bath for you before you woke. Forgive me if I should have waited.”
Tirena recognized the girl as one of those who hard prepared the bath for her the night before. “What is your name?” she asked.
The girl smiled and bobbed a graceless curtsey. “I’m Lera, doma Tirena. I am to be your maid.”
Lera giggled. “Yes, doma. I’m to see to your wishes, keep your wardrobe and bedchamber in order. You didn’t have a lady’s maid before your return?”
The clanlord’s daughter shook her head slowly. “No. I was just like the other children.”
Except she wasn’t. She’d never been really like the other children, and even as she said the words she knew them to be untrue.
“Well here you are not like the others. Here you are Dom Talven’s daughter, and Jes bless her spirit you are Doma Eirena’s daughter too.” Lera smiled, walking closer. “You look so much like her, you know.” The maid looked to the painting then.
“Did you know my mother?” asked Tirena.
She shook her head. “Oh, no. She was lost before I was born. The clan still speaks of her though. Especially now that you are returned to us.” The maid smiled warmly. “Will you have breakfast in your room, doma, or would you enjoy it in the garden? Or perhaps in the dining hall?”
Tirena started to reply, but then recalled something from the night before. “Rafel said he would escort me to breakfast.”
Lera smiled widely then and curtsied once more. “Of course. I will tell him to fetch you at the morning bells, then.” When Talven’s daughter looked confused the maid pointed to a timekeeper on the mantle. “It will chime twice more before he will come up.”
The older girl looked at the device and nodded, then turned to Lera once more. “Thank you.”
The maid let herself out of the room then, and Tirena moved behind the screen to wash up, sitting before the vanity to fix her hair in two loose braids on either side of her head. After hearing the timekeeper chime once she opened the wardrobe, finding a butter yellow dress hung on the inside of one door. Lera had apparently chosen clothing for her as well. Tirena dressed then, finding it fit her fairly well, though it was clear she was not exactly the same size as her mother had been. The timekeeper chimed a second time, and the clanlords daughter stepped into slippers that matched her dress just before she heard a knock at the door.
“Doma-sha, it’s me.”
Feeling her cheeks heat Tirena giggled. “I’m coming Rafel.” She looked around the room, wondering if she ought to wear a wrap, but then simply opened the door to find the handsome man waiting just outside.
“Ready to eat, doma-sha?” he asked, reaching to take her hand and linking arms with her. When she nodded, he started on his way through the corridors of the house. He did not lead her to the dining hall, however. Instead, he took her out into a lovely garden, where a table was already set for half a dozen people. “Your father will be down soon I imagine, as will Dureil, Alen, and his wife.”
Tirena smiled, slipping into a cushioned chair that he pulled out for her, then he took his own beside her. A young man stepped out of the house with a tray and set a tea service on the table, pouring cups for the two of them. A second young man came soon after with a second tray, bearing several sweet breads and honey and fruit jams.
“Did you sleep well?” Rafel asked as he prepared tea for himself.
She smiled, nodding in reply. “Oh yes. That bed is heavenly. I was a bit startled to find Lera in my room though when I awoke.”
Rafel smiled warmly to her, patting her hand. “I am sure there will be much for you to get used to doma-sha. I will help you as much as possible. In the village, you did not live as we do here.”
“No, that’s very true. I feel like I’m nobility here.” said Tirena.
“You are, my Tirena.” It was Talven, being escorted from the keep by Dureil and Alen, and another woman Tirena guessed to be Alen’s wife. They joined them at the table, Talven taking a seat beside his daughter and the others following suit. “I know it is a lot to adjust to. I have given you Lera to see to your needs within the household. Her mother was your mother’s maid.”
“She didn’t say anything about that.” mused Tirena thoughtfully.
“It’s likely she didn’t think to mention it.” Talven said. “I have also named Rafel as your protector. I can find another Marshal, but I cannot find another daughter.” It was clear that Rafel wasn’t aware of this decision yet, for his expression betrayed both his surprise and his delight. Talven looked around his daughter to the young man. “He will be glad to help you adjust to life within the stronghold, won’t you Rafel?”
He thought he detected a knowing look in the clanlord’s eyes, but Rafel said nothing about it. “Of course, Dom Talven. It is my honor to be your daughter’s escort.”
Talven clapped his hands together. “Then it is settled. Rafel will be at your side and will aid in your acclimation to living here. Dureil and Alen will help when they are needed.” He looked once again to Tirena. “You may travel anywhere within the walls, even without Rafel, but if you wish to travel beyond them I ask only that you do not do so alone.”
His daughter smiled then, nodding. “Of course father.”
“Good. Now, let us eat. I am starving!”