A Scholar's Purpose: A Story of Elska (ch. 3) by Acton Bell

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It was hunger, Lyrel told herself, that was causing the strange emotions she felt in the presence of this man, this L'ars-K'a'lil D'quin. She had not eaten since the earliest hours of the previous day. It was not to be wondered at then that she felt so breathless and unbalanced. But even as she posited the theory, she knew it was a lie.
Like the eyes that had been designed to see the visible and invisible spectrums and the ears that could distinguish sounds unintelligible to normal human ears, her body had been gengineered to withstand fatigue and hunger. Whatever was disturbing her equilibrium, it was not hunger.
She shot a sideways glance at her companion and met his gaze. She couldn't look away. She felt her cheeks warm. Where he had rested his hand on her arm burned. She resisted the urge to touch the spot. Lyrel had never had such an awareness of another person or her own physicality. It was frightening, but also exhilarating.
"Where it would please the Scholar to dine?"
The Byshen's voice was rich and deep. It was familiar, though she had not heard him speak before. She felt herself relaxing under its caress, even as she told herself she was being foolish. "Where it pleases Head of House L'ars to break fast, this one will be pleased to take refreshment."
Lyrel sensed a struggle within him as he looked away from her. There was a pause before L'ars said stiffly, "As it pleases the Scholar."
L'ars led her to an eatery not far from the Library. It was past the cycle for the mid-day meal, not yet the time for the late one; which meant L'ars-K'a'lil and she were its sole diners.
They sat in awkward silence once the server had taken the order L'ars-K'a'lil had dictated. It occurred to Lyrel that never before in all her forty-two years, not in the fifteen she had been in the crèche, not in the twenty-seven she had served among the Scholars, had she eaten a meal with social connotations with a being not of Elysium.
"May I ask what the Scholar thinks upon?" L'ars-K'a'lil asked with the deference due to one not of Byshen.
Lyrel lowered her eyes. "It is but a trifling thought."
She felt, rather than saw him bow his head in acquiescence. Silence descended once more upon them.
A chuckle brought her head up. The Byshen's lips were curved into a wry smile. It was quite attractive on him, she thought, then blinked at the unusual notion. She had never been one to notice appearance. "May one ask what amuses the Head of House?" she said, desperate to put this strange awareness of L'ars-K'a'lil away from herself.
His inflection changed from the Byshen standard used with off-worlders to a warmer tone. "It occurs to me Scholar, that if we do not speak of trifles, we shall not speak at all and a meal without conversation is a meal without seasoning."
Lyrel felt her lips curve at his use of the Avonian proverb. "One will hope," she said, "that the seasoning will not become so hot that the meal becomes cold." Avonian dinners were well known for becoming heated debates that raged for hours to the cost of the meal.
L'ars laughter was rich, generous, and contagious.

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