It was mouthwatering, if not as spicy as Smoke preferred. Most of the dishes were a little bland for their tastes. Hallston, the city where Courthall was located, didn't see as much trade as Smoke's native Crescent Bay. Maybe spices were scarcer here, or tastes simply different. Still, the food was well-prepared otherwise, and some dishes Smoke loved even without spice, like the thin-sliced steak grilled so briefly it was almost raw, hot and dripping with juices.
As they shared morsels from one another's plates, Smoke asked Licorice, "So is there a particular title with too many syllables that you covet? Or do you like your current work?"
Licorice washed down her latest mouthful with mulled cider and waggled brown fingers at Smoke. "It's all right. I like it when they trust me enough to give me tricky assignments. Like figuring out the problem with that hatch!" she said, with a touch of pride. "But it's not what I planned to be back when I was an apprentice."
"Mm? What field did you apprentice in?" Smoke asked.
"Enchanting," Licorice said, and then winced. "Not that I was any good at it! Please don't quiz me, master enchanter!" She cringed in mock fear.
Smoke grinned, though they were inwardly surprised. Licorice had asked what enchanter's sight was like earlier in the day, and that was something apprentices usually learned early. "Why did you leave?"
"Oh, um, turned out the master and I had an irreconcilable difference of opinion."
"On what?" Blackwood asked.
"On how much time it was acceptable to spend napping when one's master thought one was running errands." Licorice ducked her head sheepishly.
Smoke bit back a grin. "And how much napping did your master regard as acceptable?"
"None! Can you believe it?" Licorice sighed melodramatically. "So unreasonable." She licked dumpling sauce off her fingers.
"Is maintenance more, er, reasonable on this count?" Blackwood pricked his long ears. "I may have gone into the wrong field."
"I don't know." She frowned as if in thought. "I haven't really needed a nap during work shifts at Courthall. Maintenance must be less tiring than enchanting."
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