Orges and Leodes were ushered by their long-lost brother Birgenes through a series of courtyards and cloister-like walkways to a laver. The centre of the room was occupied by a three tiered fountain with water cascading down the three tiers into the basin at the bottom. A stack of fresh towels stood one end of a bench, there was a bowl of soap sitting in the middle and the wicker basket of used towels sat beside its other end. The top two towels in the basket were blood stained.
“Looks like Zarana and Kaeso had a rough lesson this morning,” commented Birgenes. “I know Tito knows what he’s doing with their training, but I still worry.” He proceeded to pick up a piece of soap to wash his hands and smiled at his two brothers who were still looking around them, “Come on you two, you don’t want to keep everyone waiting.”
The brothers reluctantly copied him and allowed themselves to be led out into the adjoining courtyard. There they found themselves confronted by a long table laden with food and lined with people. Birgenes led them straight to the tall, athletic woman their own age seated at the head of the table. Both brothers noted that she fitted the description their brother’s old friend, Forgenes, had given them of his owner.
“Dear,” Birgenes was addressing her in a tone that neither of his brothers had ever associated with slavery, “I’d like to present my older brother, Orges, and my younger brother, Leodes. Gentlemen, this is my wife, Saprista Birgenia.” While his brothers’ minds were still grappling with that, Birgenes went on, “The large, worn man in the middle of the table is Saprista’s brother, my brother-in-law, Tito Wesnivus. He instructs the household in weapon use.” Tito seemed to be smiling, but the scars made it difficult to be certain. “Then there are our children. Apina, you’ve already met. Zarana and Kaeso,” he indicated a teenaged boy and girl with their mother’s build, then his hand moved on to indicate the oldest looking boy on the far side of Tito, “our eldest son, Nones, and our eldest girls, Callista and Yiara. Then coming back this way,” his hand moved to point at the younger children sitting on the side of the table nearest them, “Publio, Eramilla, Serto, Gavia and Lustia. Now, you two come and sit with me up here and we can talk over lunch.”
Stunned by the overturning of the their ideas about their brother’s situation, and the profusion of individual combinations of mixed Benarian and Gelaharine features before them, Orges and Leodes sat quietly in their places beside their host at the true head of the table.