We — Phaniet, Este, Windigar, Kantele, and me — passed through the lumpy
streets of Eigrach to the sweet terraces of Via Tydirdi, where the garden of
fragrant lillies was a bit past its prime, but the poisonous but lovely
hazillit trees were in bloom all about the white-and-rainbow meringue that was
Bwipin’s longhouse. “Symbolic,” said Kantele, who does not trust anyone in
The Khtsoyis guards in their busby hats greeted us at the door. “G’day to
you-dono, visitors. You’d be the snushmangers from Ketheria, wouldn’t you?”
“We are the nobles, scholars, and guildsmen of Ketheria whom Bwipin has
invited to this place,” said Phaniet. “Our personal habits are far too
refined and sophisticated for discussion with such as you.”
“Haw! Told you they was the snushmangers comin’ up the walk,” said the one on
the left, and turned a dismal sick green color. Both Khtsoyis giggled. “Hey,
c’mon in, sit in the parlor. Bwipin’s still tryin’ t’cram his fat belly into
a waistcoat ‘n tights.”
We sat in the parlor briefly, and grumbled about being insulted by Khtsoyis.
“Snushmanger, are we?” But what do you expect, from Khtsoyis?
In due course, Bwipin showed up in the parlor, dressed in a loose caftan and a
topologically troublesome hat. “Oh, cursed sorry to be so slow, lordies, but
I’m not as nimble as I was a hundred pounds ago. Shall we proceed on our
We blinked at each other. “Snushquest?”
“Our expedition to find and devour the most expensive mushrooms in Eigrach!”
“Someone called us ’snushmangers’,” I explained. “We took it for some sort of
insulting term for our choice in lovers.”
“Not all of our choice!” noted Windigar.
Bwipin sputtered, “Good heavens, man, someone accused you of being
mushroom-eaters! Did they know you were going to Gutrumy House?”
“Well, actually, they did,” I had to admit.
“Well, if ’snushmanger’ is an insult nowadays, it is an insult I shall wear
proudly, blast it! I don’t get to Gutrumy House nearly often enough. Too
expensive, says the wife and spouses!”
“How much should we expect it to be?” asked the practical Kantele, who, along
with Zascalle, is quite worried about our finances.
“Ah, think nothing of it. On the city, ma’am! On the city!” proclaimed
Bwipin. “By way of a bit of extra apology for the troubles in this and that,
and the shipwrights being so slow and all. We’re blasted sorry for all that.
And I don’t mind being your native host there myself!”
“Oh!” said Este. “Shall we change here, or at the restaurant?”
“Change?” asked Bwipin. “You have brought a bit of a suitcase with
you, haven’t you?”
“With your permission, should you choose to provide it, we were going to all
turn into Cani, so as to best appreciate the subtleties of the poisonous
mushrooms,” Kantele said.
“That’s a blasted good idea! Here, I’ll grant you temporary auxiliary
membership in Coryn!” said Bwipin. We fiddled with magical talismans and
Cani garments. Bwipin fiddled with paper and clan tokens. And sniffed.
“Phaniet, should I leave Este out of it? You forgot that Strayway had
only strong rosemary soap, and went and used lavender!”
“Oh, no,” said Phaniet, tail between her legs. With my new Cani nose, I could
tell she smelled faintly of male Rassimel. Bwipin, of course, could tell more.
“Ahh, don’t fret about that. A distinguished foreigner such as yourself isn’t
expected to behave like an Eigrachter. Besides, he’s a Cani now, isn’t
he? Though he doesn’t blasted smell like it on you!”, boomed Bwipin. “Let’s go!”
Briefly: as fancy a restaurant as I’ve ever been in, and that means, quite
The decor: spiderwebs. Not cobwebs, mind you. The restaurant was bright with
sunlight through wicker, and not a single speck of dust sullied the white
wythes. But the decor was spiderwebs, artificial spiderwebs made of silk
threads, sparkling with powdered glass, spread across floors and ceilings and
tables. You could regard them as very sparse and spirally doilies, if you like.
Out of deference to Grinwipey, or my own life, I paid close attention to the
restaurant’s protections. They looked quite good. Area-effect Heal
Poison devices, usable thrice daily for itchy and fever poison (which are
annoying if not cured), twelve times daily for harm and howly (which can kill
you if not cured).
Plus the waiters — all Rassimel for better healing power — clearly knew
their magic. Kantele ordered the grilled ciovulse mushroom appetizer; she
was the first one to be served. It was beautiful: a spray of tiny pink and
purple mushrooms, sprinkled with a few drops of fish sauce and brandy, and
grilled over a fire of cedar and onionseed. We passed it around and everyone
sniffed at it, and then Kantele popped it into her mouth. “Delicious!” she
said, and swallowed, and enjoyed the flavor for a whole ten seconds. Then she
looked a bit worried, and gritted her teeth.
Then the waiter stepped behind her and cast Heal Howly Poison. A
respectable-strength cast for a non-Guild healer.
Kantele relaxed. “Great staring gods, that’s an odd sensation. I needed to
scream, over nothing in particular.”
I wagged my peculiarly fluffy tail. “Howly poison does that. You scream so
loud that you crack your ribs, or you do when it starts to hurt. I’ve been
poisoned that way a few times, and not with a helpful waiter to heal me afterwards.”
The waiter smiled. “We strive to please. Who is comfortable enough to have
the next appetizer?”
“How much cley do you have left?” asked Este, rather rudely.