(Two printed pages; with posthumous thanks [and apologies] to Idries Shah. If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction. Enjoy.)
IT WASN’T UNTIL THE CHEESE course that Prosatio Silban realized that his clients weren’t silk merchants at all.
Enchanters, he thought. I should have tumbled to it earlier in the evening. There was something not quite mercantile about his clients’ whispered and mumbled conversations, their curious hand-gestures, their piercing eyes.
The setting, too, should have clued him in. For one thing, it was in what looked like a small shack located in a furtive alley off one of cosmopolitan Soharis’ myriad back-streets. Entering, though, one had the impression of a larger room than the outer walls bespoke, hung with lavish tapestries and gilt-framed paintings thick with figures and scenes both peculiar and bizarre.
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– Definition: adj. (of a person) excessively or ingratiatingly flattering; oily.
– Used in a sentence: The current president* (at this writing, anyway: 3/26/20) enjoys and prefers the company of unctuous sycophants.
– Why: It’s nice to have words to match your observations, isn’t it?
(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.
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Don’t let the plot get in the way of the story.”
(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.
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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?)
(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.
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