“It’s feast day,” said Elyon, the angel who threw out Alosrin’s toothbrush. Torralei didn’t know why, but she still held a grudge against him for doing that. The new toothbrush she got looked identical but she liked the old one better. Which was odd, because she’d never used it before.
“So we eat later?” she asked, standing in the middle of the empty dining room.
“No, I told you, it’s feast day,” said Elyon. He stood facing the back wall looking over the day’s assignments. “You’re on kitchen duty,” he told Torralei. “Oh, great, I get flowers. I mean, thank Avourel, who is all great, I get to do the flowers.” He glanced around. “Flowers are the best. They’re my favorite.”
Torralei went to the kitchen, where the other angels were busy cooking, chopping, and arranging food on giant platters under Ilyrana’s supervision.
Heifiel was on the floor in a corner, on her knees, scrubbing the giant porridge pot with a wire scouring pad. Her knuckles were scratched and her face was gray. She moved slowly and robotically. Torralei suspected that the woman had been scrubbing all night.
She looked around but didn’t see any breakfast porridge. Instead, the kitchen was full of food that she’d never seen before. Artichoke hearts. Feta cheese and gorgonzola. Garbanzo peas. Arugula and cress and endive lettuces. An angel was slicing up sticks of salami, and another was arranging cheeses on large wooden boards. There was a crate full of pineapples and mangoes that hadn’t been cleaned and cut up yet.
Ninlein was there, clearing away the surface of a large wooden table. It was covered with flour and mixing bowls and spoons. Ninlein put the bowls and utensils into a basket and turned around towards an oven, which was set in the bottom of a giant stone stove. The fire was in the middle, and cooking surfaces were on top. Ninlein opened the oven door.
Torralei’s mouth watered and she smelled roast meat. From where she was standing, she could just see inside. There was a row of small chickens. She seen chickens, but they were for eggs, not for eating. There was a second stove on the other side of the room. From the smell, there was probably bread baking there.
“They’ll be done in time,” Ninlein told Ilyrana, reaching towards the chickens with a long wooden spoon. She scooped up juices from the baking pans and poured them over the baking birds, then shut the oven door and glanced up at Torralei. “She’s late,” she said.
“There was a line for the bathroom,” said Torralei. “Where did all this food come from?”
Ilyrana frowned at her and Torralei flushed and stepped further away from the seraphim.
“The food comes from where it always comes from,” said Ninlein. “The great lord god Avourel, to whom all things are possible. And who knows all and sees all.”
“Glory be!” said the other angels.
“Glory be!” said Ilyrana, cast a warning glance at Torralei, then walked to the back of the kitchen, where she opened the pantry door and disappeared from view.
Torralei walked closer to Ninlein, glanced around, and whispered, “Right, right, I know, but, I mean, where did the food come from today?”
Ninlein looked at Torralei like she was an idiot. “The Powers brought it in through Avourel’s holy gate.”
“Why don’t we have this all the time?” asked Torralei. “Instead of porridge and bean soup?”
“Because it’s for feast day,” said Ninlein. “Now stop asking questions and help.” She looked around to see what still needed to be done then nodded towards the back corner. “Go help peel the potatoes before Ilyrana assigns you something worse.”
Torralei hurried away and joined the angel who was already peeling potatoes, Jannalor. He passed her a knife and she settled in on a stool next to him just before Ilyrana came back into the room with another basket of potatoes. She dropped the basket down next to Jannalor and Torralei, then looked around with satisfaction.
“The lord high god Avourel is going to be pleased,” she said, then glanced at Heifiel in the corner. “Scrub harder,” she told the woman. “Through work, your soul will be cleaned and purified for the glory of Avourel.”
““Glory and power, glory and power, glory and power,” the angels sang.
Elnaril, the seraphim, came in and asked for a status report.
“Chickens will be done in time,” said Ilyrana. “Bread is baking. Everything is on track, just like it was fifteen minutes ago.”
Elnaril did a circuit of the kitchen, peering into every pot, then finally nodded in satisfaction.
Torralei had just settled into a groove, peeling the potatoes and dropping them into a tub of water, trying to ignore the rumbling in her belly, when one of the Powers walked in, followed by two more angels carrying crates of food.
He was one of the Powers who had carried Heifiel to the gate the day before. A couple of angels had been talking quietly as they sliced vegetables, but stopped when he came in. They paused their slicing as well, then resumed almost immediately, keeping their eyes down. Torralei looked around. Everyone was keeping their eyes to the ground.
“Everything going well?” The Power asked.
“Yes,” said Ilyrana. “Blessed be the lord high god Avourel.”
Then the angels sang, “Glory and power, glory and power, glory and power.” Torralei joined in on the third “glory and power.”
The Power walked towards her.
“You’re not singing very loudly,” he said. “Maybe your heart isn’t in it?”
“No, no,” said Torralei, raising her eyes. “I just haven’t learned all the words yet.” She looked back down at the potatoes.
Ninlei paused in her singing to add, “She is very stupid, Omael. Also, she’s new.”
“I remember,” said the Power. “I was there when she was brought in.”
The kitchen door swung open and and another angel walked in. “The lord god Avourel,” he announced, holding the door open.
Everyone stopped what they were doing as Avourel entered the room.
“Everything is on schedule,” the Power said.
Avourel looked at the trays of food and took a deep breath, then nodded in satisfaction. “Thank you, Omael. But we’ll need more. We’re going to have twelve visitors today.”
“Twelve!” The Power grinned. “That’s fantastic?”
“I know, right?” said Avourel. “Word is getting out.” He smiled then suddenly twisted his mouth and glared at the angels. “That means we must be on our best behavior,” he said. “I want to see the most even slices of the crudités. The juiciest meat.” He glanced at Torralei. “The most tender potatoes. If there’s anything missing, speak up right away. I want everything to be perfect.”
“Glory and power, glory and power, glory and power,” the angels sang.
Avourel looked at Torralei and knitted his brows.
She sang louder and Avourel winced, then turned towards Heifiel in the corner. “Keep her out of sight,” he said. “I don’t want her ugliness to spoil the feast for everyone.” He then turned around and left the kitchen, followed by Omael and the angels who’d come with him and the god.
The angel next to Torralei sighed in relief and went back to his chopping.
Ninlein moved closer to Ilyrana. “Twelve visitors!” she said in a low voice. “We don’t have time to bake more bread.”
Ilyrana scanned the room. “We can make oatcakes,” she finally said and went back to the pantry.
“How come Omael and Avourel were surprised about how many visitors we’ll have?” Torralei asked Jannalor.
“Shh,” he said, and looked towards the pantry. “It’s not something you want to wonder about,” he added in a low voice. “It’s just the way things are.”
“But if Avourel knows everything…”
“I said, don’t worry about it,” said Jannalor. “You don’t want to end up like her.” He nodded towards Heifiel.
“And where are they visiting from?” said Torralei. “Where else is there?” She paused and looked at the new food. “Is it the same place where they have salami and mangoes? And why do we have to have porridge and bean soup every day?”
“Be quiet and stop asking questions,” said Jannalor. “You’re going to get me in trouble.”
Ilyrana came back with a sack of oats. “We’ve got cinnamon and honey, too,” she said. “Do we have enough butter?”
Before anyone could answer, Omael came back into the kitchen and everyone stopped what they were doing and looked down at the floor.
“Don’t stop on my account,” the Power said, then pointed at Torralei. “You there, with the potatoes.”
“Who, me?” Torralei looked up.
“Yes, you,” said Omael. “We need to work on your singing. Get up and come with me.”
Torralei looked around. Nobody met her eyes, but she could feel tension rising in the room. She put down her paring knife and stood up.
“Come on, don’t dawdle,” he said.
Torralei walked around the table then across the kitchen. Omael snapped his fingers at her then turned and motioned to the kitchen door. Torralei walked through, held the door open for the Power, then following him through the dining room, out the front entrance, and across the temple plaza. Angels were setting up long wooden tables, covering them with white tablecloths, and arranging fruit and flowers everywhere.
Omael didn’t pause and walked into the grove then led Torralei to a secluded clearing. He stood in the center of the grass and waited for Torralei to join him.
“Get on your knees,” he said.
She knelt down in the grass and noticed that there were small yellow flowers around her. She watched a bee land and a breeze blew across her face.
Omael snapped his fingers. “Up here,” he said. “You need singing lessons,” he said. “Repeat after me.” He took a deep breath and sang, “Glory be, glory be, glory be.”
“Glory be, glory be, glory be,” Torralei repeated.
“No, you’re all off,” said Omael. “It’s, not, ‘glory be, glory be, glory be.’ It’s, ‘glory be, glory be, glory be.’ Got it?”
It sound the same to Torralei, but she tried singing it again.
“We’ll need to do something about your throat,” he said. “You don’t want to be punished for not glorifying Avourel enough, do you?”
Torralei shook her head.
“I have a holy elixir that will soothe your vocal chords,” he said. “Do you want to be soothed for the glory and honor of the lord god Avourel?”
Omael raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, I want to be soothed for the glory and honor of Avourel,” Torralei said. “I mean, the lord god Avourel. I mean, the most holy…”
“Right, right,” Omael cut her off and reached for the front hem of his tunic. “Let’s get started then.” He pulled up his tunic and unbuckled his belt. “Remember, this is for the glory of Avourel.”