Playing at Nobility [over Choinxeia; 2 Hispis 4385]
They are Up To Something.
Calla prepared lunch today. That's wrong, to begin with. Arfaen is supposedly the chef for breakfast and lunch, and Calla for dinner. (I presume that Arfaen is busy taking care of Quendry somehow today, and they will get back to the planned schedule soon. (Well, not 'back' since they haven't managed to do it yet.)) It's not that wrong, since Calla is one of the better chefs anyways. It does mean that lunch came out more vegetarian than I expected, since Mellilot was Calla's main sous-chef and other assistant, and neither Herethroy is very good at cooking foods they can't eat. But everyone but Rheng should be perfectly happy with: ground groundnut soup; leek tarts with gorgonzola; carrots and pears poached in wine; garlic risotto topped with little truffle-flavored custards and peppercream sauce, and some quite reasonable grilled eel from a store in Vheshrame for those who eat eel; and cinnamon chess pie with spiky fans of molten sugar paired with cucumbers pickled with mustard-seed to cut the sweetness.
This is rather fancier food than we generally ate at Castle Wrong. Not that we ate badly back home. But there the problem was feeding some fifty or seventy-five people, mostly very hungry from (1) long days of physical labor; (2) long days of bliss with someone they weren't generally allowed to enjoy bliss with outside; (3) youth; (4) misery; or (5) something else. Oh, and they paid it -- which is to say, contributed something towards it, either money or effort usually. Most people who lived in Castle Wrong for any length of time didn't want to feel like total freeloaders. (A few didn't mind being total freeloaders. After a bit, the rest of us didn't want them to be, so we made them do something, too.) So the food tended to be more towards the cheap, tasty, comforting, and nutritious.
Also, in Castle Wrong, people showed up to eat at all sorts of random times. One of the cooks' main jobs was to be sure that there was always a cauldron of lentils and rice or some such ready for when a half-dozen starving wrongfolk showed up at no particular time, and half of them having just been kicked out of their family homes for loving the other half too visibly, as happened one memorable afternoon. Or, say, a lizard sorcerer who got disorganized about zir day's work and zir time-spells, and showed up an hour after breakfast, so ravenous that zie could eat a whole egg and a half-cup of porridge. Which happened several times a week at one point, until I learned to bring a few spare meals to my workshop.
Since everyone is on vacation -- since everyone is on my vacation -- we are trying for "tasty, luxurious, and nutritious". "Cheap" is not so much of a concern. There's a substantial box of amber in a back room of Strayway. If that starts to run low, I will make a mighty talisman to sell. Any Healer's Guild chapter or city guard is going to want a Heal Truly device with unlimited uses. (Not just Heal Once, which can only be applied to a patient once each day, but an honest-to-gods Heal Truly.) I'm quite good at that enchantment, as I have needed quick cash more than once before, and as a Guild healer with dues paid a century in advance, I can get away with making and selling it.
So, poaching in wine, and truffles, and cinnamon chess pie. And five-course luncheons, with everyone eating at the same time except for (a) the children if they don't want to sit still that long; (b) the cooks and waiters of the hour; (c) the Sleeth; (d) the pilot, and (e) anyone who doesn't want to. So far nobody is (e), but it's only the second day.
((d) means that I'll either miss one meal a day so that Windigar can attend, or, when we're in civilized territory, we can stop Strayway somewhere and both of us dine.)
This is a rather long voyage. Even with the antelopes and a good pilot, Strayway rarely will go faster than ten miles an hour, and that for only as Windigar or I are working. So we have to entertain ourselves and each other. Putting on three or four feasts a day should help with that. Many of us enjoy cooking, and nearly all of us enjoy eating, so it'll be a constant source of boredom-deflection. I hope.
Which is a long-winded explanation -- I would say that I have become long-winded in my less-than-utterly-youthful age, only, after I read some of my old journal, I am pretty sure I was hatched wordy -- for the suspicious behavior I observed this evening.
Tingula:"I don't generally like pears, but these are quite nice."
Hops:"Waiter! My wife wishes another poached pear! Be snappy about it, and none of the pears poached in meagre wine!" (They're not married in any real sense, of course, but we are casual about usage of such words in Castle Wrong, at least when the cisaffectionate are not about. Grinwipey and the children evidently don't count.)
The waiter of the evening is Inconnu. Nobody talks that way to Inconnu. I am surprised that any of us talks to any other of us that way -- in Vheshrame, we were somewhere between 'informal' and 'polite' generally, and insults were discouraged. I will admit that I occasionally wish I could order Inconnu around that way. I can't, though. He has been known to get sarcastic when someone else tells him what to do, or even at a hint that someone else might even have a better idea for what might be good for him to do than he does.
Inconnu:"Yes indeed, m'lordre. It will be as m'lordre commands. No cheap wine ... indeed, we shall use the most expensive vintage for you that we use for any of our esteemed and highly honored guests. Not even the terrible and fearsome nendrai shall have better-wined pears than you!"
Case in point: he doesn't even know how to pronounce "m'lord". Not that he'd be saying that to me in any case, but obviously he's never said it to anyone.
Inconnu:"Your wife, yes, your wife shall get the pears, absolutely!"
Hops:"See that you do, or I shall have you flogged with the keelhaul!"
Inconnu:"I shall see that I do, or I shall flog myself with the keelhaul for m'lordre's pleasure!"
I ... hope that's flirting. Or maybe I hope it's not flirting.
Umbers:"Can I help?"
Zascalle helpfully kicked Umbers in the leg. At least, I hope that's what that sort of muffled bump from under the table was.
Inconnu:"May I please be allowed to bring the proper comestables? If punishment is necessary, anyone or everyone shall perform it, as m'lordres find most suitable."
Vae thrummed her wings fretfully and flew around her bowl of pears and carrots a few times. She sits at a separate table. Some of the crew think that is because she is too dangerous to sit next to. (Ridiculous! She is too dangerous to be in the same skyboat as, altogether.) Actually it is because she eats as if she were a hefty and substantial nine-foot-tall lizard, even if she's currently a six-inch-long snake with six dragonfly wings, and that means she needs a very large place setting.
Me:[quietly] "Vae, if you'd like to talk, I don't mind excusing myself for a bit."
Vae:[putting up a spell that turns her words and mine into small porcelain bells painted with scenes of Sleeth kissing.]"The lesser foods, the dull bitter foods, I can eat those if it will bring peace with your friends."
Me:[with a tinkling of freshly-created bells] "I don't know what they're talking about. Everyone's eating the same food on this trip; all the omnivores at least."
Vae:[tinkle] "The worse wined-ones, though; those are the ones I could eat. Not the one who needs the best wine am I. The extra enjoyment already comes to me from the service; nothing more do I need." (She hates that extra enjoyment. I don't know what to do about it, other than have nonprime waiters for her in some for or another.)
Me:"I don't even know what they mean about that wine. I'm sure that all the pears and carrots were poached in the same leather cauldron at the same time, in the same wine. If they really did some with bad wine and some with good, I'm going to speak to Calla. The food's supposed to all be good.."
Vae:"And perhaps she made one batch with bad wine before she noticed it? And should she cast them out the window onto the lakes and mountains below us, uneaten? The backup dish they could be instead, for if anyone should be so very very hungry as to need it!"
Me:"I suppose that they could. Not that I can imagine anyone who's spending one day per day on this voyage being hungry. Calla's serving a lot of food. Anyhow, this is supposed to be as egalitarian a flight as possible. If anything, you get the best treatment; you and Lithia."
Vae:"The kindness that is, yes, but not the needful kindness."
Maybe bringing primes and monsters on the same flight wasn't such a good idea after all.
Hops:"Hey! What are all these bells with cissy stuff on them doing here all of a sudden? Waiter, if this is your idea of a good centerpiece, I'm going to have you knouted 'til your fur falls off."
Inconnu:"M'lordre, I do not know the provinance from whence they came, but we shall discover their provider and apply the most condign and recondite punishments."
Vae fled the room in a buzz of wings. I had to track her down -- she'd gone to her cabin -- and bring her a large tray of the rest of dinner. And assure her that, if anyone was going to punish her, it would be my job to, so she doesn't have to worry about killing one of my friends in response to him trying to punish her.
At least she's not crying this time. That would make her pears all bloody.