Herd Instinct (A Prosatio Silban Tale)

(Story idea by the redoubtable Ann Clark; two-and-a-half printed pages. If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction.)

IF SOMEONE YOU LOVE BEGINS to act strangely, you could do one of two things: ignore the situation and try to carry on regardless, or engage as best you can.

That was the problem Prosatio Silban was puzzling over. His dray-beast, a shapeshifting buopoth named Onward, was usually enthusiastic about pulling the cook’s galleywagon. But this morning, his head hung between his forelegs; he didn’t at all meet the cook’s concerned gaze; and instead of his usual merry rattling hoot, his only vocalizations were soft sad sighs.

Don’t let the plot get in the way of the story.”
— Anon.

Prosatio Silban and the Ignoble Noble

(Almost seven printed pages, and something of a satirical polemic — a lampoon, if you will. If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction.)

THE THREE CITIES AND THOUSAND Villages of the Uulian Commonwell are home to a more disparate population than you are ever likely to meet. But sometimes, the more disparate are also the more desperate – and likewise, the more pitiable.

Prosatio Silban tugged his buopoth’s plaited yak-hair reins, halting his galleywagon in front of a village inn. Other than its being within the jurisdiction-lands of the city of Pormaris, he recognized neither village nor inn, but after a long pull from his previous location he was eager to taste someone else’s cooking – anyone else’s – for a day or so. He jumped down from the dusty driver’s bench and up the inn’s few steps to arrange provender for his hungry dray-beast and growling stomach. Before he reached the door, however, a tiny blue bird landed in front of him.

“You are a stranger here,” it said in a high piping voice. “We don’t like strangers in our village. Strangers are trouble. We don’t like trouble either.” With that, it flew away down the street.

The World’s Greatest Hiccough Cure

THIS METHOD OF QUIETING DIAPHRAGMATIC spasms was gifted to me by the remarkable Ann Autumn, one of my favorite teachers and a good person to have at your back. It is simply this:

1. Fill a glass with water.

2. Bend over it and put your mouth on its farther rim (i.e., the one opposite your body).

3. Close your nose and drink at least three swallows of the aforementioned water, with upside-down head, from the aforementioned rim. Repeat if necessary.

4. Enjoy the silence.

(And yes, I do prefer the archaic spelling. What of it?)

Holy Trap (A Prosatio Silban Tale)

(Five-and-a-half printed pages. If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction.)

THERE IS A SAYING ABOUT the religious life: that it’s only for the broken in spirit, heart, and/or mind.

That was one small reason why Prosatio Silban was a former Sacreant. In his brief stint as a servant of the Flickering Gods more than a quarter-century ago, he had seen much evidence for the old maxim. True, it did not describe everyone with a deep interest in divine matters, but it was accurate enough for many that it made him glad to have shifted careers and become a mercenary cook.

It is easier to comfort a hungry body than a hungry soul, he thought. And although one can do both, the former is also more profitable.

365 Names: The Nameless One

THE NAMELESS ONE was invented by me (unless I unrememberingly wheelered it from somewhere) to express, ironically, that the whole “365 Names of God” project (and similar efforts) is doomed to fail. As Lao-tze said more than a thousand years ago, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” By this I think he means that to name something is to limit it; and that-which-some-call-God cannot be limited. TWSCG is bigger than thought, bigger than speech, bigger than any experience. Does that mean we should stop thinking or speaking about It? Emphatically not! Because with every G?dward motion, we come a bit closer in our understanding — despite that we’ll never arrive. Here’s to the voyage. And the voyagers!

Prosatio Silban and the Uninvited Guest

(Three printed pages. If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction. Enjoy.)

THE RHYTHMIC RAPPING OF STEEL on wood filled Prosatio Silban’s cozy galleywagon with the sharp tang of garlic, and he marveled – not for the first time – at how easily the aroma sliced through a quarter-century of cooking smells.

Having stopped for the evening in the shadow of haunt-rumored Mount Tenebor, the Cook For Any Price had seen to his great dray-beast’s dinner and was now preparing his own to suit the clammy evening chill. The surrounding area, mostly bare basalt rock with a scattering of curious boulders, did not readily retain the day’s heat; and he paused in his chopping to close the galleywagon’s carved and windowed upper door-half. He latched it, turned, and regarded his portable haven with fond familiarity.