"I wonder if it will mark me," Tamar said, raising her eyes to mine. "You know. As a- blossom."
"Zhanna's not a 'blossom,' " I said. "If she was ever a slave, I haven't heard anyone talk about it."
Thinking it over, I thought that Saken and Erdene had never been slaves; I was quite sure Ruan had been, once, and Maydan. I wasn't sure about Jolay and Zhanna, and I couldn't have said why I was so certain of Ruan and Maydan. Ruan's cruelty, and her clear lack of a close friend, made me think that she hadn't been born here. Maydan, though, it was just a hunch. I shook my head; Lauria the escaped slave would not know this. "Follow your heart, Tamar. I don't think anyone honestly cares. Except for maybe Ruan, and who cares what the h.e.l.l she thinks?"
Tamar smiled at that and glanced at my cup. "Oh dear," she said in a slightly mocking tone. "You've spilled your k.u.miss, haven't you? I'd better go get you some more..."
"Don't you dare," I said.
She gulped hers down and shuddered. "Ah. Well. Having done my duty, I'd better sneak off to bed before someone refills my cup."
A shadow fell over us, and we looked up to see Janiya.
"Do you two know how to cook?" she asked. Without waiting for us to answer, she said, "It doesn't really matter. Saken will explain the basics to you. You two will cook dinner for the sisterhood tomorrow evening. You'll need to start at around noon, I expect, since you haven't done it before. Good night."
"This chest holds sacks of rice." We stood in the supply tent; Saken pointed to a big wooden chest with a hinged lid. "This chest holds sacks of lentils." She opened the lid briefly so that we could peer in and look. "Spices are in here." Another chest, this one smaller, and when she opened it, we saw smaller sacks of tightly woven linen. "Flour's in here." Another big wood box. "Game has been scarce, so probably no meat tonight. Here." She set a big iron pot at our feet. When I looked in, I could see lines etched inside from years of use. "Rice up to this line, then water to here. Bring it to a boil and cover it with the lid. It'll be done when all the water's absorbed. That doesn't take long, but it takes a long time to come to a boil, so leave plenty of time." She set out another pot. "This one's for the lentils: lentils to this line, water to here, two handfuls of spices, and start it cooking when you start the rice."
"This doesn't sound like it'll take all that long," I said. "Why did Janiya tell us to start at noon?"
"She'd also like you to make bread." Saken took a big pottery bowl, scooped in flour, and added a little water, stirring until she got a stiff dough. "It's going to take you awhile to make as much bread as we'll eat. Scoop out a ball, roll it, pat it flat and thin, and then cook it over a fla
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