Unfinished Business (Introduction to The Cook For Any Price Volume II: More Commonwell Tales)

(The first of so-far-more-than-twenty new stories for a planned sequel anthology, beginning thus …)

PROSATIO SILBAN LEANED FORWARD IN his folding chair, placed his elbows on the drop-down dining counter, put his head in his hands, closed his eyes, and sighed.

What a time it’s been, he thought.

A chill breeze prickled his flesh, but he made no effort to close the galleywagon’s half-open door. It’s nice to feel Pormaris’ gusty night-air again. I never thought I’d return here, to the epicurean city I love so much, after such an eventful and wide-reaching journey.

His happy meditations reeled back to the beginning of his adopted career, when he left the Sacreanthood with a disillusioned self-defrocking. Then a year spent in the holy city of M’zir, which gave him a needed distance from all things familiar. After that, an unexpected mentor for a purpose he hadn’t known he craved – a purpose which carried him through adventure after subsequent adventure over more than a quarter-century, establishing himself throughout the Three Cities and Thousand Villages of the Uulian Commonwell and environs as the hardworking and resourceful Cook For Any Price.

A man needs to feel useful, he thought. Without that small necessary, nothing else matters. And in this, the most interesting of all possible worlds, everything matters.

Smiling, Prosatio Silban stood up from the chair and stretched his arms overhead, fingers brushing the dangling tangle of cookware, herbs, and cured meats. He opened the pantry abutting the magiked glacier-ice coldbox, and a well-organized array of ingredients met his appraising eyes: tins of mumblefish and other tasty sea-creatures; boxes of various-shaped noodles; sacks of flours, jaraanga beans, and blue rice; dried fruits; bottled vinegars, oils and duliacs; containers of this, packages of that, bundles of something else. His smile tightened into a fierce grin.

A cook-errant could make much coin with such culinary building-blocks, he thought. The question is: What next?

(If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction to Volume One. And if you want the first 85 stories in one easy-to-read package, here’s the e-book.)

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