"M-mistress," Jas said, "I do not understand."
"Nor will you,entirely," Qual replied brusquely, "until Senday. And even then some of the truth of the mystery will be hidden from you. But I have just shown you the beginning: the fire-table resonates with your wicked pleasures and your lustful thoughts, when I touch you. On Senday, it will be a knight with you upon the fire-table in the mastering chamber, as it is called, where I leave you to await your plucking."
"A knight?" Hala whispered.
"Will the knight…" Jas asked in alarm. "Will he… touch me? The way… the way that Sir Wake did?"
Qual decided to play, a little bit, at her own show of innocence. "What way was that, sweetling?" she asked.
"Oh… well, he… I mean, I would shame myself! And… tarnish m-my rose." Jas looked up at her with wide blue eyes. Thank the spirits for the modesty of such girls as these, Qual thought.
"When your knight comes to master you, as I just said, he will certainly make you shame yourself." Jas eyes went even wider, and she bit her lower lip. "Indeed, the pleasure of a knight comes from shaming you, and when he masters you it is truly your shame that he masters."
Qual looked at Hala. The dark-haired girl's mouth hung open with many questions, and Qual had the sudden urge to try to answer them. She had never felt the fire-table vibrate like that when spilling fire and without a knight present, and now she wondered whether it might be the safer course to try to explain things to Hala, in hope of tempering her wanton fire so that Lord Jetal did not feel so challenged by the poor girl when he went in to her.
But to invent a new way of preparing girls on the spot was beyond Qual's capabilities--which, she thought with pride, meant that it was beyond anyone in the realm's capabilities. And there was Jas to think about--the red-haired girl must be prepared in the traditional way: explanations would only confuse her, even if Hala might benefit from them.
So Qual went on, according to her well-worn plan, "Get up, now, girls. Help each other fasten your castle-belts, and then put your cloaks back on. We are going to go to watch a mastering."
* * *
Every one of the ten mastering chambers had slits cut in the door, so that the discipline and fucking inside could be observed, whether for training purposes or for supervision. They had all been occupied that morning, and there had been mastering going on in the girls' hall itself, over the divans, such as usually only occurred on high festivals.
Now, only one chamber was occupied, from the sound of it. Qual checked the chambering register that sat on its pedestal by the entry to the little corridor off which the mastering chambers opened. Sir Loke had borrowed Altin from Sir Gentan, it appeared. The noises coming from the third chamber seemed to indicate that he was punishing her severely for some reason, and indeed the register said, in Sir Loke's cramped handwriting, "Altin, fifty lashes for gossiping."