They gathered at Hannah’s family table, on the chairs that had been Eb’s, Samuel’s, and Hannah’s. “Now we are three again,” said Hannah with a smile; “Florence, will you bless our food?”

This quiet subversion also delighted Florence. So far in her experience of the Old Order Kindred, only the Brothers were asked to pray or to bless. The Sisters served and nurtured, cooked and cleaned, with joy in their work; they knew their place and were grateful every day to live in an Order in which each troll had a place to be in. But Florence was an Eldress’ child; you can’t stop something once it has begun.

She smiled at Hannah and shot a glance at Eb, to see if he felt comfortable to have her say the blessing. He sat peacefully unconcerned, waiting for Flo to say the grace. He was used from his childhood to his mother blessing their meal and extending that honour to every guest.

“Blessings on the meal!” she said.

“Blessings on the Kindred!” Eb and Hannah gave the customary response.

“And thanks for the Light within me, that I had the foresight to eat a very small breakfast!” added Florence.

“Yeah and amen!” Eb laughed – “tuck in!”

Peace descended. Hannah’s cinnamon buns were worthy of attention and reverence, and that right heartily they received. After ten minutes of total concentration, as with a happy sigh Hannah licked the last traces of butter from her fingers and got up to make the tea as the kettle’s singing reached a crescendo, a feeling of absolute well-being manifested in the centre of Flo.

“I shall enjoy being part of this family,” Flo said; “I may get very fat.”

Hannah laughed. “Contentment is a great gift,” she said; “and worth insulating, I believe. Now: to business.”

She set before them steaming mugs of spiced tea, and brought a pencil and notebook to the table as she took her place again.