PROSATIO SILBAN STOOD UP, WIPED his hands on his kneebreeches and cursed mildly in the name of a minor god. If only this wheel hadn’t broken, he thought, I’d now be in many-harbored Soharis cooking fresh-caught fish for wealthy or needful marketgoers.
It wasn’t that he resented his galleywagon’s occasional problems — after all, any traveler sometimes had to bear with same — but recent events were enough to push the Cook For Any Price to his patience-limits. First had come the cancellation of his contract for the annual feast to Pyolo, Spirit of the Anticipatory Benevolence, with the burghers of bucolic Oakstraw when they discovered that he was a self-defrocked Sacreant. “It’s nothing personal,” they told him. “But we can’t hire for a holy festival someone disenchanted with the Flickering Gods, can we?”
Secondly, he was running dreadfully low on the fatberry cakes which were food for the dray-beast he called Onward, who had been patiently pulling his galleywagon ever since he left the Diamond Shrine in epicurean Pormaris some years ago. And now, and thirdly, this — a broken wheel, miles from blacksmith or wheelwright or anyone else who could help him.
Thus his less-than-warm mood and the mild curse. “O Hapoor of the Unexpected Inconvenience, take this wheel and I will make Your name great throughout the Three Cities and Thousand Villages of the Uulian Commonwell,” he whispered.
He was not expecting to be answered. So he started a bit when a deep voice replied, “Done.”
Looking up, Prosatio Silban saw what appeared to be a young Uulian of indeterminate race or gender, dressed all in green. “Who are you?” he asked.
“Thou knowest who We are,” said the green-clad figure. “And though thou may have forsaken Us, We have not forsaken thee. Thanks to thy long and selfless service of the empty bellies of the Commonwell — and that thou rememberest a Name that so many have forgotten — We have chosen to grant thee a small boon. Three, in fact, as per the ancient custom.”
“Just like that?” asked the skeptical cook.
“Just like that,” replied the other. “But pray do not squander them by asking for too little.”
“I am a man of modest needs,” Prosatio Silban said. He thought for a moment. “I wish to have a full chest of fatberry cakes for my hungry dray-beast.”
“That’s one,” said the godling, and gestured at the nearly empty box under the galleywagon’s driver’s seat. In a flash, it was filled to near-overflowing with fragrant maroon lumps.
“Thank you,” said the cook. He fed a fresh fatberry cake to Onward, scratched behind its ear, and told it what a good dray-beast it was. “What next?”
“That is for thee to decide,” said the godling. “But pray do not waste them on trivialities.”
“Something necessary, then. I wish this wheel were fixed,” said Prosatio Silban.
“That’s two,” said the godling, and gestured at the broken wheel. As the cook watched, the pieces knitted themselves back together until the wheel was made whole.
“Thank you,” the cook said. “I am very grateful for these miracles, however small. But I can’t think of another right now. May it be held in abeyance until I do?”
“Certainly,” replied the godling. “But pray do not misspend it on something inconsequential.”
“As you say, that’s for me to decide,” said Prosatio Silban. He stepped up to the driver’s seat and grasped the reins. “Thank you again.”
“Go thou in peace,” said godling. “Now, as for ‘making Our Name great throughout the Uulian Commonwell –‘”
“Shouldn’t you leave that up to me?” asked the cook. “Miracles are your domain, while mine is service.”
“Thou art correct,” replied the other. “However, We have some ideas that –”
“Your miracles are enough to give me my own ideas,” Prosatio Silban replied. “I will not disappoint you.”
“Of course, of course,” said the godling. “But let Us just say –”
“This is one reason why I left the Sacreanthood,” the cook said with a sigh. “You gods are too meddlesome, especially the minor ones. Really, I wish I had never met you.”
Prosatio Silban stood up, wiped his hands on his breeches and cursed mildly in the name of a minor god …
(If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction. Enjoy.)