“Let me help you,” Lytica said, holding up his hands for the the boy.
The woman lowered him into his arms. Both woman and child appeared tired and dirty. By their clothing; obviously of the tribes.
“We have just come from… ,” said the woman.
“Let us talk later,” said Lytica. “For now, come with me to the monastery. Once you are bathed and fed, you may tell your story to the Abbot.”
He gestured for one of the brothers training in the field to the west of the stairs. The monk ran to them, panting with a morning star in hand. Taking his place by the foot of the stairs, he allowed Lytica to take the woman and the boy. Lytica asked the woman to “go first” as he placed the boy on his shoulders. They began the slow climb, going at the weary woman’s pace. Lytica patiently waited through her every stop before proceeding further.
Monks in the courtyard came running through the open doors and helped the woman through. Now able to pick up the pace, Lytica jogged across the outer court and into the foyer. Tables were set for the midday meal, as the pleasant aroma of herbed cooking came from the kitchen.
Abbot Manfry emerged from his office, looking nonplussed as the monks already let their new guests away.
“I take it they are not refugees from justice?” he queried.
“I think not,” said Lytica. “Travellers, no less, but in a hurry. I will have her sit with us as we break bread, Abbot.”
Manfry bowed his head, leaving his monks to their duties.
Lytica stood in line and washed his hands from a huge bowl, then did what he could to help in the kitchen. He looked over a cauldron bubbling with thick liquid. Without taking in the mushrooms, herbs, and meat separating into strands, Lytica already knew Valmaas cooked one of his popular stews.
Valmaas cocked an eye and grinned. He brought a wooden spoon to Lytica’s lips.
“Is it not the best stew in existence,” Valmaas said in mock pomposity.
“We are not to brag, Brother.”
“It is not a sin to jest, Lytica. Would you help me with the rolls?”
Lidded baskets stood by the door. Lytica could make out the wisps of steam from the newly baked bread. He hefted in his arms and proceeded to hand out the rolls; one per every bowl and spoon. Valmaas and another monk hefted the cauldron from its stand, suspending it on a bar, resting on their shoulders.
A monk rang a bell in the corner of the dining hall, ushering in monks from everywhere around the abbey. The woman, drifted in from down the corridor, wearing a fresh homespun dress. Lytica doubted she brought it with her. His brothers had a stock of clothing visitors left behind. Her hair wet, seemed fanned back from her scalp, obviously brushed.
The boy’s dark locks too were flattened back against his scalp.
Both seemed a shade lighter than when Lytica met them at the stairs.