A young servant woman entered the room. Lightly clad, she carried a tray upon which sat a carafe, one brass drinking vessel, two of stoneware, and a small wooden mug. Behind her came a boy, not more than ten years old. She poured some wine from the carafe into the wooden mug and handed it to the child.
Broden watched closely, then looked at his father. “You have children testing your drinks now?”
Zarek scowled. “It’s one way to put the little ruffians to use.”
“Perhaps Brother Pestifere is right after all,” he said, leaning back. “You ask too many questions. Maybe . . .”
Broden’s jaw dropped. He held up a hand. “I just . . . was surprised, that’s all.”
“The succedunt have rightly reminded me that there is a service that may be performed by even the least amongst the masses,” Zarek said. “Can you think of anything else that these vagabond, orphaned children might do to be of assistance?” When no response came, he shook his head. “I thought not. In truth, I’ve grown weary of their begging at the palace gates.”
Recognizing that this was not a battle he would likely win, Broden conceded it without further argument.
Inhaling deeply, Zarek turned back to the priest.
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