“A SELF-DEFROCKED HOLYMAN WANDERS A fantastic landscape, eking out a meager but honest living as a mercenary cook.”
The Cook For Any Price: Ten Commonwell Tales is now available as a free e-book from various online retailers, including its publishing platform, Smashwords; it’s a teaser for the much longer, on-the-horizon (B”H) The Cook For Any Price: Across the Rimless Sea e-book & paperback. (No e-reader? Download and install the free Adobe Digital Editions and/or Kindle for PC and/or Kindle for Mac utility, and have at. It’s also available at Smashwords as a PDF.)
As the ten titular tales have already appeared on this blog, the freebie is part shameless new-reader bait and part favor for an extraordinarily helpful friend who wanted to read them on a Kindle. That said, critiques and/or reviews are always welcome. And thank you very much for your continued patronage!
AND THEN THERE WAS THE time Prosatio Silban sold a meal for a song – literally.
The beefy cook had set up his galleywagon in the small, quiet, and mostly indifferent marketplace at the village of Taverner’s Luck, but had so far that day served only a sparse handful of customers. The weather matched his mood: cold, windy, with low-hung clouds portending rain.
A passing woman paused to study the cook’s painted menu board. Her short black hair, wide eyes, and long, multicolored tunic proclaimed her a minstrel from far-off Aydnzmir, City of Musical Harmony.
EAST OF THE UULIAN COMMONWELL lies the shaggy, semi-marshy expanse called by Commonwell-folk the Emerald Incessance. Few of those outsiders traverse it without purpose, or dread, or both; its green depths do not long hold even well-known paths, and what they do hold rarely emerges.
Prosatio Silban clucked reassuringly to his buopoth, Onward, as the quaint lumbering dray-beast trundled the cook’s galleywagon over spongy ground beneath an overtopping growth of slender wicket-reed. They were following a narrow trail which so far led nowhere.
The beefy cook jerked the reins twice, and Onward ceased his forward trudge with a rattling hoot. Prosatio Silban climbed down from the driver’s seat, slid through the tall greenery and tapped the buopoth’s flank. Something like a trunk lifted him atop what might have been a shoulder. The reeds were now only waist high, and he strained his eyes against the fading sunlight.
– Definition: adj. almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition.
– Used in a sentence: Though no Popeye, I am a virtual strongman when it comes to eating spinach.
– Why: Let’s retake the words that have become redefined in our modern now-a-go-go world; instead of using “virtual” to indicate a computer/online-based experience, how about instead saying “digital?” “Computer-based?” Or that ol’ ’90s standby, “cyber?”
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST EVENTUALLY be replaced, though not without some effort or expense – so Prosatio Silban discovered on a cloudy summer’s day in stony-hearted Tirinbar, whose inhabitants were the most reputedly avaricious in the Uulian Commonwell’s Three Cities and Thousand Villages.
To be precise: the beefy cook’s beloved, six-burner fatberry-oil cookstove with the dented chimney pipe suffered a rather fiery demise due to his having pushed the ancient equipment’s limits once too often. He was in his galleywagon preparing separate breakfasts for a handful of different customers (marbled eggs, poached eggs, eggs over easy, 180-heartbeat eggs, sausages, and root-hash, each accompanied by various types of oven-toasted bread), when all at once he was dumping frantic handsful of sand on leaping flames and trying to keep the adjacent bulkhead from igniting. The latter effort was largely successful, but the range itself (not to mention the food) was a complete loss.
… Each of us sits alone within the cell of our subjective awareness. Now and then we receive cryptic messages from the outside world. Only dimly comprehending what we are doing, we compose responses, which we slip under the door. In this way, we manage to survive, even though we never really know what the hell is happening.”
— John Horgan
IT IS SAID THAT WERE it not for the leather-lunged hawkers of epicurean Pormaris, the sun would not know when to awaken. But whether or not that’s as true as it sounds, the great island-city’s markets are indeed its economic heart.
Before they open, however, they must be supplied. Sturdy fisherfolk, each armed with breakfast-pail and lantern, constellate like fireflies along the docks and jetties at Pormaris’ southern edge. They climb aboard small craft, some mounted with triangular sails, others with only oars, and fan out across the vast iridescent Teardrop Lake in a web of light, alert for finny treasure.