The Northernmost Temple of Droll
Veronica sat quietly at the palatial table with her delicate hands folded neatly into her lap. Her best friend, Alice, was sitting beside her, gaping at Sister Bernice as the portly woman greedily served herself more seasoned potatoes onto her already brimming platter. The woman’s hands look like viper strikes as she deftly collected her fare.
Sister Agatha raised her sparse eyebrows before remarking, “It has only been a few hours since you ate Sister. What have you done to work up such an appetite?” Her own platter was nearly vacant, as she barely ate anything. Her shrill voice echoed in the cavernous stone room.
“Well,” Sister Bernice spoke around a heavily buttered pastry, “someone forgot to collect the eggs in the coop, Sister. I had to go do it, else they get broken. You wouldn’t want to have our food storage to come up short, would you? Those birds are clever, and finding the eggs is hard work!” she added, as a moist mutton chop was whisked off the pewter platter faster than the savory juices could glint in the pink rays of evening light that filtered through the leaded windows.
Veronica smiled sweetly and cleared a stray brown hair from her freckled forehead trying to ignore the burning gaze issued from hooded eyes, as the cumbersome Nun slurped sweet wine from a chipped earthen mug. For as long as she could remember, she had lived in the Northernmost Temple of Droll. As an orphan left to the god of indifference, she was fortunate to have survived in the house run by Mother Cecilia, an ancient and touched woman who claimed to have direct contact with her patron deity.
Sister Bernice finally stopped adding to the massive, conglomeration of vittles and eased into a chair that protested under her bulk. The youngest Sister, Talia, stood from her seat at the huge table and eagerly began to serve herself. Next was Ben, the redheaded stable boy, who was greedy in his budding manhood, followed by Alice, who took meager portions so that Veronica could have something to eat.
“Alice! You must have more than that. Surely you must be hungry after having prepared this bounty,” Sister Bernice stated, giving Veronica another scolding look. “Eat more.”
“No thank you Sister, I am not that hungry.”
“Nonsense. You are growing so fast, soon you will be a woman. I have already sent out dispatches looking for suitors. The Temple can hardly sustain every freeloading soul. That is, unless you are willing to take up the calling?”
“I have am still considering my alternatives, Sister,” Alice responded meekly and bowed her blonde head. Veronica knew that Alice wanted to stay and protect her, something she was grateful for and saddened at the same time.
“You will eat your fill, or suffer the consequences young lady. The bastard child will get enough.”
“Hmmph, it will only take a morsel or two to fill that one,” Sister Talia chimed in, expecting a nod of approval from her obese counterpart.
Veronica continued to smile politely through the condescending speech given by Sister Bernice. It was useless to try and defend herself against the wrath of the ill-tempered Nun. There was no one, other than Alice to defend her, as the doctrine of Droll is to be indifferent. Neither judge, condemn or assist as fate may be, for Lord Droll will be there patiently waiting with you. Therefore, she reached over and squeezed her friend’s leg, telling her it was alright. Her friend reluctantly took more than her fair share.
The young girls had a lifetime of painful experiences that allowed them to navigate the moods of the Sisters. It was often lonely and sometimes frightening to suffer the mood swings of old, fat Sister Bernice. But it could be much scarier to be disciplined by the stalk-like, iron haired and overbearing Sister Agatha. And the youngest Nun, Sister Talia was just learning how to act indifferent, as difficult as that can be for a seventeen year old brat.
Veronica wished she knew about other gods. She would like to find one that would be able to console her and whom she could give thanks for having Alice in her life. Ben, as far as boys go, could be fun. Though he didn’t worship Droll, he was employed at the temple. His payment was given in food and shelter. The lanky youth seemed to enjoy his work, and was often heard talking to the livestock when he thought he was alone.
Absent from dinner were Mother Cecilia, no doubt communing with Droll over mulled wine. And the mysterious Maximillian, an elderly woodsman who brought in news and game on occasion, and always seemed to avoid being close to Veronica.
Veronica was finally able to serve herself the meager remains of the feast. Undoubtedly, she would be assigned the task of cleaning up the table and washing the dishes. There would be plenty to eat off of Sister Bernice’s platter. She maintained a pleasant smile, befitting the lowest place at the table, completely content with her lot in life. In her heart she began to cry, just a little.