AS THE TALL MAN TOTTERED toward Prosatio Silban’s galleywagon, which that afternoon was set up in the market at the sprawling village of Longshadow, the Cook For Any Price was about to stow his tables-and-chairs. After one look at the approaching figure, however, he thought better of it and fixed on his face his most professional smile.
“With what may I please you?” he asked.
“You may take me with you when you go,” came the quavering reply.
Prosatio Silban raised one eyebrow. “I beg your pardon?”
“You do not know me, do you?”
“Not yet, no.”
“Then allow me to right that sociable wrong. I am Pothus Amazar, also known as ‘The One-Dish Culinarian.’”
The baffled cook-errant shook his head. “My apologies, but I still don’t …”
“I thought by now everyone had heard of me, and not only in these environs. It is a refreshing change.”
The man sighed. Everything about him radiated shabby gentility: his tailored tunic and kneebreeches, his stooped posture, even his weary expression. “Then I am pleased to know you,” he continued. “I thought by now everyone had heard of me, and not only in these environs. It is a refreshing change.”
Pothus Amazar sighed again. “My tale begins some years ago, and, at present, is still being written by the All-Limiter’s stark hand,” he said. “In my youth, I had the poor fortune – which I then thought was a gift! – to excel at cookery. One dish in particular struck my customers’ fancy: a dish which had until then never been eaten, or even conceived before I brought it into this world through artfulness and diligence. I made it the bedrock of my repertoire, and was happy to recreate it by request at every opportunity.
“Time went by, and I became well-established in my own little world. But when I tried to innovate other ingredients, flavors, and textures, I was rebuffed by my fickle public – who only wanted to dine on my signature dish. Try though I might to demur, my efforts fell on deaf ears and dull palates. ‘Bring us that!’ was the only refrain I heard, and the only praise I received. Thus I ask – no, I beg! – that you let me escape with you. I have amassed much coin but no transportational resources. Perhaps somewhere else will be more accommodating to my inventiveness – or at least let me sink into sweet and long-sought anonymity.”
Prosatio Silban bit his lower lip. I can really feel for this man, he thought. How can I say no? He was about to extend a welcoming hand when a small crowd appeared, babbling a battery of protests: “Where are you going?” “Who will feed us?” “How could you?” “You can’t leave!” “Think of your customers!” “Don’t go! Don’t go!”
Their words became actions as they laid hold of the hapless chef and hauled him away down Longshadow’s main street, his eyes imploring his would-be rescuer. The last thing Prosatio Silban heard was a muffled “Help meee!” as Pothus Amazar was dragged round a corner and out of sight.
Poor fellow, a baffled and horrified Prosatio Silban thought, shaking his head. I suppose there really can be too much of a good reputation.