Posts Tagged ‘ Around the Rimless Sea: Prosatio Silban’s Mystic Fables for Religious Misfits ’

Prosatio Silban and the Starving Survivor

2011.09.12
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A BUOPOTH IS A STRANGE beast: some say it is half-composed of men’s dreams, others prefer not to speculate. But of the little that is known, one thing is certain: no matter what shape it takes, its eyes are the most soulful of any creature in all the Exilic Lands.

One of these eyes was fixed on Prosatio Silban as the cook approached with a bag of fatberry cakes. “Buopoths can run all day on a fatberry cake and a kind word” ran the proverb, and today had certainly proved it: a brisk sixteen-hour galleywagon pull along the Reaching Road through the light-forested countryside north of Soharis. Prosatio Silban dug into the bag and surveyed his environs. A fine evening, and a good place to camp. He patted the beast, told it what a good buopoth it was, and made plans for dinner. Read more »

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Prosatio Silban and the Visitor From The Sands

2011.08.31
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Prosatio Silban in his galleywagon / Illo (c) 2008 Alana Dill, http://youbecomeart.com

PROSATIO SILBAN WAS NOT KNOWN for nothing as “The Cook For Any Price.” He had long ago foresworn the Sacreanthood and serving people’s souls for serving their bellies and letting the souls look after themselves. Yet every now and again, he wondered if his gods were still playing tricks on him.

He was cleaning up his galleywagon late one night at the edge of one of Soharis’ more workaday fish markets, making ready to fold down the canopy-bulkhead, when the Siddis appeared.

Now, to understand this story, you must know that cosmopolitan Soharis, perched on the edge of the Rimless Sea and the Lands of Exile beyond the sunset, is the sort of place where one may expect to meet almost anyone at almost any time. But at that, it is rare to meet a Siddis — more properly the Siddis, since only has one ever been seen anywhere, and of that rose-red robe-wrapped one little is known save that they or he inhabited a city somewhere in the Great Eastern Desert and their or his presence portended unsettling things.

Prosatio Silban was intrigued. He was also tired from a reasonably profitable day selling fish skewers and goat pasties to Soharis’ shop-clerks and porters and was looking forward to putting his feet up. But he could not deny a hungry customer. “Good evening, sir.” Read more »

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Around The Rimless Sea: Folk

2011.08.30
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FOLLOWING ON THE INFORMATION REVEALED in “Who Is This Prosatio Silban, And What Does he Want?” here is a chart listing the Exilic Lands’ inhabitants. It’s meant as a quick reference rather than a last word.

Attentive readers will recognize some of what’s named herein but may or may not have light shed thereby, so: the Xao, Xoa and X are, like the Aydnzmri and Mazei, descended from the “Old Men” whose ancient war broke the Lands, but unlike their more refined counterparts reverted to barbarism. Read more »

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Who Is This Prosatio Silban, And What Does He Want?

2011.08.01
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Prosatio Silban in his galleywagon / Illo (c) 2008 Alana Dill, http://youbecomeart.com

IT ALL STARTED IN 2005, when I decided to write fantasy tales. Or maybe 1995, when I was bored with the between-task tedium of printer’s work. (Of course, it really started in 1977, because that was the year I discovered D&D.)

To our game group, a couple of dozen people in Northern California’s Diablo Valley playing hundreds of five-or-six-player sessions between 1978 and 1983, “Dungeons and Dragons” was not yet an accepted rite of geek passage, a million-dollar industry, or a major cultural influence. In those days it was barely known outside SFnal convention circles or college campii; I learned of it through a fan friend who was heavily involved with legendary game-guru David Hargrave‘s Arduin campaign — “campaign” being the term for an ongoing adventure milieu, a created world like (and often modeled on) Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Lewis’ Narnia, or Leiber’s Lankhmar.
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Prosatio Silban and the Best Dish In The World

2011.04.15
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IN THE EMERALD INCESSANCE, THAT great sprawling swamp east of epicurean Pormaris, Prosatio Silban was searching for his world’s tastiest meal.

The Emerald Incessance was hundreds of square miles of hummock, tussock and overtowering reeds, inhabited by societal castoffs and furtive oal-herders — not a likely group among whom to find something described with bliss as every man’s favorite dish all in one fried bundle.

“Like my mother’s potato-and-pea stew, only more so,” sighed one wizened indigine.

“The Soup Demons take you!” objected his friend. “Fresh roasted oal, it was, like I hadn’t tasted since my first hunt.”

“Ye’re both wrong,” chimed in a third. “It’s apple crumble. Hot.”

Prosatio Silban hoped to discern the recipe and perhaps add it to his own great store. So he had hitched up his galleywagon and driven into the green. He gave more-or-less free rein to his buopoth, Onward, due to the quaint and lumbering beast’s uncanny footing and impeccable nose, and thus came two days later to a tumbledown shack under a large cypress tree. An old woman in long tattered grey shift was stirring a pot set on a long brick hearth. Nearby was a rough wooden table lined by half-sawn log benches. The air was redolent of a seductive melange blending savory, sweet, and something he couldn’t name.

Prosatio Silban climbed down from his galleywagon, told Onward what a good buopoth it was, and approached.

“I know what you’ve come for,” she said before he could speak. She didn’t smile, but her eyes were kind as she pointed to one of the benches. “Please.”

The cook sat. The woman oiled an iron frying pan, placed in it a thin white disk of dough. After some time, she stuck a ladle in the pot she’d been stirring and poured its bubbling contents over the dough, which she closed with a quick flick of a spatula. She poured a clay mug of blue duliac, plated her creation, and placed both before Prosatio Silban. “You’ll want to eat this hot,” she said.

Prosatio Silban was fascinated. The World’s Greatest Dish seemed to be little more than a fried wrap filled with some sort of cheese concoction. But what was that indefinable smell? He lifted the wrap to his lips, took a bite, chewed.

It tasted of little more than its ingredients: flour, water, a bit of egg, soft cheese, and something he still could not identify — a texture which changed from creamy to crunchy as he chewed, its flavor still eluding his curious tongue. Malt? Fish sauce? Sourbean paste? Whatever it was, it was another chef’s secret. He sighed, and raised his eyes to the woman. She smiled a conspirator’s smile.

“All my other customers wanted their favorite dish,” she said. “Only you wanted to know what it was in it.”

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Prosatio Silban and the Escorter of the Dead

2010.11.24
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FROM HIS GALLEYWAGON AT THE edge of Pormaris’ busy South Market, Prosatio Silban could see the funeral pyres at their greedy task.

It wasn’t the best location, but the result of being last through the gate of the City of Gourmands that morning with all the good spots already taken. And it wasn’t so much the spectacle which bothered Prosatio Silban as the lack of custom; mourners were a notoriously unhungry lot. Here it was approaching dinner, and he had not sold so much as a bowl of beans. Such is life, he thought, opening the ‘wagon door to a light salt breeze. Life’s only constancies are death and hunger, and like most extremes they make a poor mix.

The beefy cook stepped down from the galleywagon and stood, stretching, between the two tables he’d deployed earlier. His eyes swept the pyres: a long row of smoke- or flame-crowned mounds at the water’s edge, surrounded here and there by bowed figures. The muted rhythms of Uulian death chants were just audible under the bustling of the market-throng, like a burnt undercurrent in an otherwise delectable pilaf.

One mound was unaccompanied save for someone tall in a black robe and golden sunhat. Prosatio Silban’s eyes narrowed. The pyre couldn’t have been burning that long. The cook had noted the solitary mourner when he set up his tables.

The figure knelt, then arose, shoulders drooped. When she turned, Prosatio Silban looked into one of the saddest faces he’d ever seen. Each line had been etched by a hundred sorrows; the otherwise clear blue eyes were red with weeping; her gaunt cheeks were daubed with tears. She sighed, wiped her face with a handkerchief and looked vaguely about. Seeing Prosatio Silban’s galleywagon, she started toward it with surprisingly brisk step.

“Yes, madam? Something to comfort soul, or body?”

Her voice was like wheezy reeds, but warm. “Thank you,” she said, seating herself. “A simple cress-and-cheese horn would satisfy both, please. And a glass of blue duliac.”

Prosatio Silban bowed and stepped up into his galleywagon. He retrieved from his cold box a bundle of greens and three slices of pale yellow cheese, then selected from a basket a thick blue-rice crescent. He sliced open the latter, tucked in the former, and drew a thin stream of sapphire liquid from a large cask into a fluted glass tumbler.

He arranged it all on a painted wooden tray and set the meal before his customer. “Thank you,” she said. “What do I owe you?”

“I am the Cook for Any Price,” Prosatio Silban replied. “But this has been a slow day, and I am tempted to charge accordingly.”

She looked up at him. Her smile was like the sun rising behind a thunderhead, so much so that Prosatio Silban took a half-step back.

“Well, then, I am at your mercy,” she said. “I am not a woman of that many means.”

“Fortunately, your tastes are inexpensive,” Prosatio Silban said, then dropped his voice a touch. “And I am sympathetic. You have been at the pyres all day.”

“Yes?”

“Was the passed-on someone close to you?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“I’m sorry?”

“I never know. That is why I am here.”

“I don’t understand …”

“It is a kindness I cannot repay.” Her voice was even, but her eyes remembered. “Do you have a family?”

“Not here.”

“Neither do they.”

She held Prosatio Silban’s eyes; realizing it, she looked away. “May I pay you for the meal?”

Prosatio Silban bowed. “You already have.”

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Kids! Choose-My-Adventure!

2010.11.17
By

THE AUTHOR, STUCK IN CREATIVE mud, is ringing the bell and asking your help with a new Prosatio Silban story (actually not so new, but currently under revision). To wit — which beginning is more intriguing:

“Of the numberless creatures in the Land of Exiles, none are so quaint as the lumbering buopoth – and though no two descriptions agree as to the shy animal’s exact appearance at any given time, Prosatio Silban felt he knew every pore and curve in his great beast’s backside. This knowledge was not his from prurience, however; he had stared at little else for the past three days.”

… OR …

“There is one road through the flat and sweltering Western Wides, as the Huuans call the vast plain between their river-girdling Commonwell and the song-shrouded coastal city of Aydnzmir, and its week-long passage promised to the occasional traveler little more than an exercise in creative tedium.”

???

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Prosatio Silban’s Table Tips: Place

2010.09.15
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SOMEONE ONCE ASKED PROSATIO SILBAN his thoughts on “presentation;” i.e., how a dish should look when it leaves his kitchen. The Cook For Any Price thought for a moment before replying.

“I suppose it depends on your notion of what the food’s for,” he said. “In ancient and epicurean Pormaris, more than elsewhere in the Commonwell, cooking is an art like music, painting or courtesanry. There, the current fashion is to pile the food as vertically as the ingredients and imagination will allow. I suppose it accents the dinner setting.

“My own customers range from wealthy banqueters to the bowl-of-beans poor, but they have one thing in common: they’re hungry. So I try never to let the food get in the way of itself. A pretty plate pleases the soul, and that’s important. But people don’t always know what to do with too much prettiness.”

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Eats: Leisurely Eggs

2010.08.29
By

IN ANOTHER LIFE, THIS DISH is what saved Prosatio Silban from being the main ingredient in someone else’s meal(1); in this life, it’s what ballasts me at table long enough to read the Sunday morning papers. Random Eggs assumes that the cook knows how to simultaneously brown a variety of different ingredients in a single pan; i.e., the denser the longer. (If you don’t know how, this is a good way to learn.)

Leisurely Eggs (Serves at least two, or one who won’t eat again until dinner)

First, arrange some nice background audio (Django Reinhart, say, or NPR’s “Weekend Edition”). Then add to a large medium-hot pan in the following order, and as art and experience dictates to balance facility with substance:

- Olive oil and/or butter (one keeps the other from smoking)
- Potato (diced)
- Onion (likewise)
- Sausage (sliced. I like chicken-apple and chicken-artichoke. Add this first to forego the olive oil/butter)
- Mushrooms (sliced or quartered)
- Capers
- Olives (kalamata or pimentoed, sliced or quartered. Stuffed with garlic is also good)
- Artichoke hearts
- Spinach
- Green onions (chopped)
- Garlic
- Black pepper
- Anything else as palate and physics suggests.

Meanwhile, scramble at least two eggs with a complementary cheese or cheeses (I prefer either sharp cheddar or the “Italian blend” of fontina, asiago, mozzarella and Parmesan).

When everything smells and looks right, pour in the egg/cheese scramble and lower the heat. Stir briskly for less than a minute (to coat; you don’t want a frittata, although those are also tasty); just before the eggs are cooked to your liking, turn all onto a plate and garnish with rye toast (or sourdough or whole-wheat or English muffins) and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee(2) — tea or milk won’t stand up to the flavors — and don’t forget the newspaper!

- = – = -
(1) From the yet-unpublished “Light Breakfast”:

The dish could be thrown together in any fashion, and indeed looked that way on the plate no matter how talented its maker, but was also a time-honored test of skill. A bad cook would toss everything into the pan and hope for the best (including a forgiving palate); a good cook could use as many ingredients as obtainable in such order as to bring out the purest and most complementary flavor of each. So well-known was this principle and so beloved its application that Uulians frequently cited it as suitorial standard (“She’s beautiful, son, but how Leisurely are her Eggs?”).

(20 Actually, seltzer will clear the palate and aerate the esophagus. I like to have both, with sometimes maybe a glass tomato juice to honor the practice of the grandparents who taught me the importance of a leisurely Sunday breakfast. (But I have no idea why they were into the tomato juice.)

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Prosatio Silban and the Mayor of Ixtachet

2010.08.10
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EVERYONE WANTS TO BE THE Mayor of Ixtachet, at least until they become so: this Prosatio Silban discovered on a chance visit to the edge of the Blue Void which forms one border of the Uulian Commonwell.

Ixtachet was one of the few villages in the Commonwell not blessed with verdant pasturage and running streams. Instead, its inhabitants lived in a series of cliffside huts, each with a breathtaking view of the Blue Void’s eternal twilight and a small landhold containing a handful of roosts for the precarious-clinging snoat, whose richly flavored eggs were the economic foundation of Ixtachet’s existence. The village consisted solely of the cliffside huts, one public well, and a great warehouse called the Mayor’s House, and was largely unvisited save by those lost or seeking snoat eggs.

As a wandering cook, Prosatio Silban was both – rather, he had been lost until he realized (as one long-schooled in Uulian delicacies) where he was, and the prosperous figure before him had introduced himself as the Mayor of Ixtachet. He certainly looked the part: well-made red and yellow silk robes set with small gems, and well-fed mouth set in a disapproving frown.

“Unless you are licensed by the Victualer’s Guild, I can sell you no snoat eggs,” said the Mayor of Ixtachet. “They have each one of them been marked or spoken for.”

Prosatio Silban displayed a confidant’s smile. “Surely you could spare a single egg – say, sufficient for a half-dozen custards to adorn the table of a discerning Heir Second, as a complement to clinking crystal and after-dinner laughter?”

“Alas, no,” replied the mayor. “I could no more spare an egg than I could spare an Ixtachetian.”

“Why so?” Prosatio Silban asked.

The Mayor of Ixtachet then related his particulars: that his village was the only spot along the Blue Void’s rim where the tentative snoats would roost, and then only under such conditions as could be guaranteed through constant supervision by the entire village. The eggs brought almost incalculable wealth, but so busy were the Ixtachetians with snoat maintenance that they could spare only one day a year to enjoy it: the day they buried the old Mayor of Ixtachet and elected the new. Everyone wanted to be Mayor of Ixtachet – it meant a rest from the ceaseless toil of snoat-watching – and the election generally picked that year’s most charismatic and beloved person; it was considered an act of both mercy and trust.

But the Mayor’s task it was to guard the village’s health as well as its wealth: the vast treasure would also have been his pleasure were not his the hands which repaired and rebuilt, his the tongue which dealt with (licensed) traders, his the eye which oversaw everything and his the shoulders which carried it all, day by day.

This lesson was only learned on the first day, and confirmed by slow experience, because those who learned it were too enfeebled and used up by their service to warn their successors on Election Day.

“All they see — all I saw — is the robes and the restfulness,” said the Mayor of Ixtachet. “Not the responsibility.”

And as Prosatio Silban bade the village an eggless farewell, he reflected: Everyone wants to be the Mayor of Ixtachet – and probably, always will.

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Prosatio Silban and the Disconsolate Wineherd

2010.06.25
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EVEN OVER THE CLANK OF his galleywagon, Prosatio Silban could hear the sobs.

The weeper, a well-to-do farmer by his dress, was standing beside a well-appointed and -laden wagon at the crossroads leading out of Vineol, a town renowned throughout the Uulian Commonwell for the delicacy and refinement of its wines. The day was hot for the region and season, and had been so for many days – hot, cloudless but with an occasional breeze at the right moment. Prosatio Silban wondered why the man was giving such unguarded vent, and reined his galleywagon to a halt.

“It’s too warm a day for such distress,” Prosatio Silban offered, dismounting.

The farmer produced a large handkerchief, blew noisily. “Not if the sun has blasted your crop, and with it your hopes for wintertime eating,” he said, and bowed. “Pars Killiup.”

“Prosatio Silban, The Cook for Any Price. May I be of service to you?”

Pars Killiup turned to his carriage. “Only if you can turn dross into gold, or rot into bounty. Look.” He drew back the wagon’s canvas cover, revealing several barrels, then pried the lid off of one. Inside was a tight-packed mass of what looked like black wrinkled berries, glinting here and there with rainbow sparks. A musky, tangy aroma rose from the barrel; unfamiliar, yet not unpleasant.

“Some of the finest winefruit this side of the Rimless Sea, or was before the heat ruined it,” he said. “I harvested the raisings anyway, just to give the lads something to do, and was taking it to the river. But the thought was more than I could bear, and so you found me.”

Prosatio Silban thought of the Uulian proverb, Disaster: Opportunity for the attentive. Aloud, he said, “Everything has its proper place. We will take these to market.”

“What? Why? So my neighbors can share my disgrace?”

“Not in Vineol. In Pastisi.”

“Pastisi? But Pastisi is nothing but brewers and bakers! They don’t even buy wine, let alone winefruit. Besides, it’s at least a dayride from here.”

“Nevertheless,” said Prosatio Silban. “You will sell these for more than they would bring if fresh.”

“Eh? Are you some sort of wizard?”

“No. Simply a cook who knows his customers.”

“Well, then. I have already lost my livelihood; I suppose you can’t make things worse.”

And so, following a journey divided by supper (grilled something and beets with a half-bottle of white duliac), a peaceful sleep, and breakfast (eggs with gravy, biscuits, sliced citrion and a bracing pot of yava), masters Silban and Killiup wedged themselves into the bustling marketplace of Pastisi.

“Now then.” Prosatio Silban opened the barrel they’d unloaded. “Within an hour, you’ll be the richest man in Vineol.”

“How so?”

Prosatio Silban was cut off by a gruff “What are these?” from a brawny chap in a brown baker’s tunic.

“‘These?’” Prosatio Silban replied, raising his voice a trifle. “’‘These’ have never before been seen on this side of the Rimless Sea. Taste one.”

The baker sniffed, raised an eyebrow. “Hm. Sweet.” He chewed, eyes closed, nodding. “Not cloying. Fruity. What are they?”

“That is the secret,” Prosatio Silban said. “My friend, Pars Killiup, has developed a method whereby the essence of a fruit may be concentrated within its skin by removing its waters.”

“Eh? Magik?” asked an old woman who had stopped to listen.

“No, madam,” Prosatio Silban replied. “Not magik, but a simple process sanctioned by the Flickering Gods—and, of course, Pars Killiup.”

The woman wrinkled her brow. “Looks like ruined winefruit to me,” she said.

Prosatio Silban closed his eyes as if in pain. “Ruined fruit is garbage. One does not sell garbage in the marketplace of Pastisi.”

“True,” said a boy leading a goat. “What are you selling?”

The old woman chewed, raised her eyebrows. “Something tasty, whatever else it be,” she said.

“How much d’you want for them?” asked the baker.

“What are you selling?” asked a man in the livery of a Pastisi noble.

“Something good for custard,” said the boy with the goat.

“Or bread,” said the baker.

“Or biscuits,” said the woman.

“How much for that barrel?” asked the liveried noble.

That evening, Prosatio Silban and PK dined on a truffled squab apiece atop a rich pilaf of rice, jo-beans and cashews – sweetened with the last handful of Pars Killiup’s accidental discovery. “This is delicious,” he said, raising his empty glass. “But how did you know?”

“Everything has its proper place,” Prosatio Silban replied, pouring the last of the duliac. “You just have to know where it is.”

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Introducing: Prosatio Silban

2010.02.24
By

THESE FABLES CONNECT A NEED to tell a particular story with a near-lifelong habit of worldbuilding. They are self-contained excerpts from a picaresque novel-in-progress titled Around the Rimless Sea: Mystic Fables for Religious Misfits, and though set as fantasies, the Prosatio Silban fables are intended for anyone seeking the Divine in a day job, so to speak. Because the “Land of Two Names” is a big world of spectacular landscapes and ancient ruins, teeming with vastly different and occasionally commingled cultures, religions, prophecies, species and cuisines, all created in my spare time since 1978 or so, those curious to explore it may benefit from the following helpful words. (Otherwise, please enjoy an appropriate anagram.)

= – = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = – =

Beyond the sunrise lies the Land of Exiles, where dreams come to die – or so say the coffeehouse wits of Soharis. But they are a professionally cynical lot, thus fervent in their presumptions.

Here, by the southern edge of the Rimless Sea, two abler-than-wise peoples anciently fought each other to land-cracking dust, leaving their now-primitive Xao descendants wandering the shattered plains and scorched forests with no greater legacy than a few artifacts, mutual blame, and the hope of future redemption.

This hope was handed across the generations through tales of Rimless Sea-borne saviors who would restore their Land of Exile to lush pristinery before conveniently withdrawing. Some Xao believed this, others pretended to, and those who did neither made plans of their own.

Thus, when the Children of Huua washed ashore in three great fleets filled with agricultural necessaries at the mouth of the Great Bloody River (as it was then known), the indigines greeted them with a mix of joy, surprise and consternation. The Huuans were fleeing their own self-made catastrophe and, according to the Flickering Gods and their High Sacreants, had finally reached the Land Beyond the Sunrise — and where to show themselves repentful and worthy of returning to their own homeland renewed.

Heedless of their role in the local mythology, the Huuans could comprehend neither the Xaos’ initial amazement nor eventual irritation as they proceeded to restore the land and build the Three Cities and Thousand Villages of the Huuan Commonwell. While the Xao grew more perplexed, the Commonwell ripened into that state of elegant decadence without which no civilzation can honestly be called interesting. Still, despite all that had happened or was expected in the Land of Two Names, some (Xao and Huuan alike) continued to believe in their ancestors’ prophecies; others pretended to; and those who did neither made plans of their own.

One did all three, often simultaneously and sometimes successfully. His name is Prosatio Silban – former Sacreant, mercenary cook, and subject of these fables.

Prosatio Silban in his galleywagon / Illo (c) 2008 Alana Dill, http://youbecomeart.com
Prosatio Silban in his galleywagon / Illo (c) 2008 Alana Dill, http://youbecomeart.com

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