Instinctively, Hepalonia grabs hold of the tray and keeps it balanced, so intent on not dropping anything that she does not notice what becomes of her cousin. Everything piled on the tray appears to be dirty, so Heppa, confusion writ upon her face, takes them to the kitchen. She backs through the curtains and turns around to see the cook staring at her in dismay.
“You again!” Yggy shrieks.
“Hello, Yggy. How are you today?” Heppa responds politely.
“Infernal fiddler! I’d take bagpipes any day over this racket and all the stomping.” Indeed, the jars and pots on the shelves are rattling from all the jollity up front. Yggy waves at the sink. “But you know what to do with that stuff.”
“Some of these are licked clean,” Heppa tells him. “People out there must really like your cooking. What did you make tonight?” Yggy brightens with the praise. Heppa continues to make polite conversation as she finds a place on the floor for her travel bag and then sets to work on the dishes with the scrub brush and soap. “What’s new in the Parting Glass? Besides the fiddler.”
“Check this out!” One of the large circular trays is on the table in the center of the kitchen, but it is not yet full enough to take out to customers. Yggy is on the far side of that table, and the wide, diminutive man’s stubby arms are too short to reach all the way across it. Leaning over the tray would also risk dragging his bushy beard through the stew. Yggy grabs two more bread bowls, and then the tray spins so that the empty area is on his side and he can easily add them. “There’s a foot pedal at floor level on this side.”
“That’s very clever,” Heppa says of the rotating tray. “Where did that come from?”
“Serces built it. He’s a blacksmith in town. He’s also the one who did the show lights up front,” Yggy explains, referring to the set of mirrors on pull-cords that concentrate light at the stage. Yggy talks about how pleased he is by how this new innovation speeds up work for him behind the scenes. His cheerful demeanor fades then. “Oh wait a minute, you’re back. I hope that doesn’t mean Maebl will be, too.” With that glum pronouncement, too subtle for Hepalonia to unpack, Yggy turns back to his cooking.
By the time Heppa has cleaned the set of dishes she brought in, the tray on the rotating base is full of orders and Yggy tells her to take them out. “Do you know where they go? To just anybody?” Heppa asks. Yggy shrugs; that is not part of his job. Heppa picks the tray up, resolving to give its contents to whoever looks hungry or impatient for food. She has done this before on a less raucous, but still crowded, night, so she feels confident of the task. Heppa wades out into the fray. Some people look at her hopefully as she approaches, others give sharp shakes of the head. She finds homes for all the bread bowls, satisfied with her growing ability to read human body language.
After she starts picking up dirty dishes—she remembers the next step in the instructions Alric gave her months ago—Heledd intervenes, taking the tray from her. “Thanks for covering for me,” she says, in markedly higher spirits than usual.
“Do you still need help?” Heppa asks, concerned.
“No, I got what I needed,” Heledd answers with a smirk.
Remembering her manners, Heppa asks how Heledd is. “Good. I’m good,” the waitress replies with uncharacteristic sincerity. She heads towards the kitchen with her load.
Heppa follows Heledd since the kitchen is where she left her belongings. As she moves past the end of the bar and toward the curtains, though, Alric leans over and hooks his left forearm around her elbow to arrest her forward movement. “Whoa, things are not that crazy here,” he tells her.
“Alric!” Heppa greets him happily.
“I wasn’t expecting you,” he says, a little flustered. “It’s good to see you, but you certainly don’t have to work tonight,” he adds with a chuckle.
“It’s not the beginning of my shift?” Heppa teases.
“We can negotiate the terms of your debt later. By all means, have a seat and a drink.” Heppa readily agrees to that, all thoughts of recovering her belongings pushed from her mind. “Are you here by yourself?” Alric asks.
“No, Tric is…” She realizes she actually does not know. “Somewhere. I couldn’t see anything when the tray went into my hands. I thought you guys were really busy.” She cranes her neck, trying to spot her cousin. “It looks really busy.”
“It is.” Alric glances around and sees Tric. Pointing him out, he asks Heppa if she wants to join Tric or stay at the bar. Heppa chooses the latter, happy to stay within proximity of Alric. He, of course, has to get back to serving the customers along the counter. Before he leaves Heppa, though, he sets down a glass in front of her, then pulls down a bottle and pours her a drink. “This is perry. When things calm down, I can tell you a bit more about it,” he says with a smile. Then it is back to work for him while Heppa sips a new drink.