A lot had changed in the time Bree had been distant. The caravan members arrived at the promised time and soon spread out through the monastery, staking out rooms for their own.
Santon stayed with the mercenaries in the old chapter house and Bree soon discovered, to her horror, that the Shrine where she was staying with Trevvis shared at least one wall in common with Santon’s. In addition she found that sound carried quite far among the empty rooms of the monastery, Kallien could make noise (though it sounded more like husky breathing than anything) and apparently, Santon was more than capable of keeping multiple woman entertained at the same time. Bree wasn’t entirely sure how Utarchus could stand to stay with both Dullen and Yesper, and Santon, Brotis and Kallien, but he managed. Perhaps he was a heavy sleeper.
Almah and Garavel had chosen the library as their quarters. The mercenaries whispered that the two of them were probably quite close by now, but Bree doubted it. Almah seemed to view Garavel strictly as an employee, while Garavel seemed utterly incapable of strong emotions. If they did share anything intimate together it was likely companionable silence.
The Guards had warmed little to the rest of they party. They chose the deanery next to the library as their chambers and still stood guard outside of Almah’s room at all hours. Though they could, on occasion, be convinced to share in a conversation or two, they remained vigilant in their duties above all else.
Hadrah and Hadrod took up residence in the kitchen and had not only cleaned it to an impressive shine, but were also churning out regular meals. Though Bree was sure they had to get creative in their ingredients and stretch their supplies rather far, the food was delicious.
Dashki had grudgingly taken the old mess hall as his room, sleeping under one of the remaining parts of the ceiling. He had affixed the pugwampi king’s crown to the crisp pugwampi corpse dangling from his staff and seemed quite proud of the addition. Santon told her it was a gift from Nes, as an apology for doubting him. Bree found the sheer idea of that rather hard to believe. She thought it far more likely that the filthy tracker scared him, and he had offered it to him as a gift in the hopes of turning Dashki’s aggression elsewhere.
Nes and Fudin were sleeping in the dormitory next to the mess hall and across from the library. They had cleared all signs of the old residents out, replacing it instead with two large feather beds and an armoire of clothing. Despite their luxurious accommodations, Nes still had a further wagon of belongings that were unable to fit in the room.
Finally, Father Zastoran had chosen to spend his time in the laboratory. Bree had not yet gone down there to visit him, but she heard he had cleared out all traces of the molds and slimes and moved his extensive potion collection in with him.
In addition, someone had trimmed down half of the plants in the central courtyard while the chapel had been entirely cleaned and rededicated to the Dawnflower. Nes had even managed to salvage some of the religious articles they found scattered around and polish them up. The place still needed a lot of work, of course, masonry was falling down regularly and dust, filth and debris were still knee deep in some places, but it was a vast improvement. With a little time and care, this monastery would be serviceable again.
Bree stood now, with Santon, Nes and Fudin, before Almah in the library. She wore her typical regal clothing, though without the veils, as well as kohl around her eyes, though no perfume. Still, she had been burning incense, and smelt softly of sandalwood.
“You have met and exceeded my expectations,” she began by saying. “I am impressed.”
Santon smiled. “I’m sure there is much more I could do for you, my lady, that would impress.”
Bree rolled her eyes and Almah smiled. “So I have heard.”
Garavel stepped forward. He seemed almost agitated. “The Princess Roveshki called the four of you here on business.”
Santon nodded. “Of course, Garavel, my friend.”
“What would you have us do, Princess?” Nes asked with a bow of his head.
“Now that we have secured the monastery, I task the four of you with scouting out the town of Kelmarane and determining our best method of attack.”
Nes nodded, but Santon sighed dramatically. “That sounds quite dangerous, my lady.”
Almah smiled. “It does, doesn’t it? It is fortunate that this is the original task I hired you for, else I might have to renegotiate your wages.”
“It would, of course, take a days worth of scouting before we could return with any information,” Santon replied smoothly.
“Of course,” Almah agreed.
“And much planning is needed,” Santon continued. “As it is getting late I suggest everyone get some sleep, while Princess Roveshki and I go over her expectations of us.”
Nes paused. “I am rather tired,” he said.
Bree shook her head. Nes was either completely ignorant of Santon’s motives, or was pretending not to notice so as to maintain Almah’s honour. To Bree’s surprise, Almah nodded.
“I do have some concerns I would like to raise with you,” she said.
“I’m sure I can put them to rest.”
“The rest of you may go,” Almah said after a moment.
Bree nodded, while Nes and Fudin bowed.
“And you, Garavel.” Almah said.
Garavel froze. He led the others out of the room without a word.
“Bree,” Nes asked once the door had shut behind them. “Might I have a word?”
Curious, Bree nodded. “Of course.”
Nes stood as straight as he could, and adopted a rather official sounding tone. “Do you recall the torn and wrecked copy of The Birth of Light and Truth we found in the Chapel?”
“In the process of cleaning I collected all the pages, which were remarkably free of wear, and, upon completion, found that the entire tome was accounted for. It was missing not a single page.” He paused, drawing the book – now rebound in a light brown leather cover – from one of his long, flowing sleeves. “As you seemed quite distraught at the disgraceful state of the Chapel, but were unable to aid in its rebirth I thought you might like to keep it.”
Bree eyed the book, stunned. Nes was giving her a gift?
He held it out to her and placed it in her hands. “I already possess my own copy, of course and so had no need for a second, despite its historical significance.”
Bree smiled, taking the book from him. “Of course.”
“And I noticed you rather liked books…”
“My thanks, Nes.”
“Yes, well, I find your patron a little… rustic and thought you might enjoy a longer religious liturgy to peruse.”
Bree laughed. The holy text of Cayden Cailean consisted of a series of one sentence sayings mounted on plaques at the backs of bars. Though catchy, they were not the most literary of works.
Nes cleared his throat. “We are all glad to have you back.” He bowed to her deeply and then turned and left.
Bree smiled as she looked at the book in her hands. “Sweet barleybrew…”
Had she actually become friends with a noble? Her? Perhaps a good deal more had changed around here than she thought.