Prosatio Silban and the Maker’s Mark

AS THE OLD SAYING GOES, “No one here gets out alive” – or unmarred.

“Where did you get that scar?” asked the woman with the flirtatious smile, indicating Prosatio Silban’s right hand.

The cook-errant raised one eyebrow and a mouth-corner. “D’you mean the calluses on my thumb and forefinger?” he asked. “That’s from holding a chop-knife all and every day for more than a quarter-century.”

They were seated at the rear bar in Pelvhi’s Chopping-House, the famed and favored late-night haunt of epicurean Pormaris’ legion hospitality-workers. With a disdainful cough the woman, a pastry chef by trade, raised her voice above the serious but genial conversation-buzz.

“No, no!” she protested. “I meant this one.” Laying a finger on Prosatio Silban’s muscled right forearm, she traced an ugly white mark from his wrist to his inner elbow.

He reddened. “That calls for a story,” he said, regarding her over the rim of his raised glass. “Are you sure you want to hear it?”

“We have all night,” the woman replied with a wink.

“It begins, as most such do, when I was a callow youth, not at all learned in the ways of cookery – or of much else, in fact…”

“Well, then. It begins, as most such do, when I was a callow youth, not at all learned in the ways of cookery – or of much else, in fact.

“In short, I had balked at cleaning a fish prior to cooking it. I was in a hungry hurry, and figured that, first, who eats the entrails anyway; and second, it might be easier to clean once it was cooked. The menu-item in question was a long, slender grumblefish, native to the waters off many-harbored Soharis and known for its peculiar grunting call. Such fish are common enough, and make for good eating, but they also have a reputation for vicious tenacity.

“I kept several of these fish, iced, in a small barrel beneath my galleywagon’s preparation-counter. I reached in, seized one by its tail, and began lowering it head-first into a sizzling skillet. Without warning, the finny creature bucked and twisted. Searing oil splashed on my naked forearm, and I cried out in pain and surprise. I would have done better to let go, but something primal made me tighten my grip.

“The fish didn’t like that at all, and it wrapped itself around my wrist in a stranglehold. I cried out again and released my hold. My scaly adversary thrashed and dropped onto the floor, and before I could react, it slithered out the galleywagon door and down the steps. I grabbed a cleaver and gave chase.

“Heads turned in my direction as I raced along one of Soharis’ makeshift market-lanes, my quarry just ahead. I was almost within striking range when a burly marketplace-porter tackled me around the waist, bringing me to my knees.

“’What was that about!?’ I gasped as the fish slipped over the side of a dock and back into its watery home.

“’I could ask you the same thing!’ the porter retorted. ‘That poor fish … how could you?’ She stood up, grasped my uninjured wrist, and hefted. Her eyes widened when her glance fell on my burn. ‘That’s a nasty mark,’ she said, clucking a sympathetic tongue. ‘You’d better get that looked at’ … and thus endeth my fish tale.”

“So. Did you?” asked his companion.

“Did I what?” Prosatio Silban asked.

“Get it looked at, silly!”

“I did, in fact. It looked worse than it was, thank the All-Mother, but it’s been looked at many times over the years – including tonight. Minor or not, it’s still there, and there it remains. Even though it’s relatively pain-free now, it still stings and throbs somewhat when the weather’s very hot.”

“I see.” She pursed her lips. “If I kiss it, will it get better?”

“My good woman,” Prosatio Silban said with a mischievous grin, “you are welcome to try.”

(If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction. And if you want more of them, in two easy-to-read packages, here are the first and second e-books!)

2 comments for “Prosatio Silban and the Maker’s Mark

  1. Kathryn Hildebrandt
    2023.05.18 at 1234

    Survives ice, holds its breath, travels on land
    That’s some kind of Terminator fish

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