[Sorry to be so long between Nexterie entries. I lost my job at the end of November, and I have been rather too stressed to deal with fiction. I'm not employed yet, but I'm a bit more relaxed, so I'm going to try getting back to posting. Probably irregularly for a while. Also, sythyry.com got hacked to bits, and isn't put back together yet, so if you're not reading it here you might need to read it here. (It is not helpful to put that notice here, is it?) -bard]
I attacked with flattery and seeming subservience. "Xshaothshash? After a complex negotiation, we desire a sit-down meal in the style of the Bun̮phíd͖a̦la̯̽, native as they are to Ixange. You are our protector in all things. Where may we dine without risk of the decaying pandanus leaves and pickled peccary trotters that most local chefs seem to insert frequently, almost spuriously, into their offerings?"
The vast fortress of a beast smiled benevolently. "It is good that you understand my protectorship! We shall have a lengthy and profitable relationship. In any case, the Bunfi café yonder, called 'Surimap's Sweet Sweet Heaven Paradise of Gustatory Prominence', is far and away your best choice. Please disregard the notices upon the door; they refer to an incident which need not concern you."
We thanked the dragon and approached Surimap's Sweet Sweet Heaven Paradise of Gustatory Prominence. Without Xshaothshash's warning, the signs might indeed have deterred us. Beware of carnivorous moths, which have been sighted here and taken bites of both customers and staff, said one. Diners subject to irrational distaste for pebbles and lumps of moss in their stew may wish to dine elsewhere, said another.
"You're here," said the waiter, a badger who smelled strongly of arrack and fermented lichen.
"We're here, we're hungry, and we wish to contemplate your menu and dine upon your finest," said Hditr briskly.
"I'll see if we've an operation," said the waiter. He ambled around the restaurant, at which twenty-two tables (I counted) stood open and three (I counted) were occupied by nervous patrons muttering darkly about Xshaothshash and wondering if I was somehow that monster's nephew. "Although we are generally verily full, with a whaling list as long as my arm, we're not busty today. You can shit there, by the door. I'll bring you menudos shortly." He toddled off, following a poor approximation of a straight line.
We sat as far towards the back as we could. Xshaothshash's left hindclaw and tail were visible out the restaurant's smeary window, but perhaps we were unobserved.
"Was that monster ordering you around too?" asked a toad at the next table.
"Yeah, yeah. Bopulent beast," said Hditr. "Why's it here? Legal or not, do you know?"
The toad grinned. Well, it's legal, all right. The Bridge Council hired it to guard against undesirables and bluggards coming from other worlds. Just yesterday it earned its pay — it chased off Fierce Novvert and his band of brigands, can you imagine! But it's a brigand in its own right. Takes bribes all over, it does. Last week Gleenkaporkup's Sweet Sweet Palace Cosmic of Traditional Bunfi Banquetry paid to have some signs put up in front of this place. You might have seen them. Does Surimap dare take them down? He does not! For fear a great scaly tail might sweep his Sweet Sweet Paradise away! But he gives Xshaothshash his coins. Xshaothshash won't let him take the signs down, being an honest bully what stays bought, but will direct custom to Surimap instead of Gleenkaporkup. Next week Gleenkaporkup will pay again, and who knows what he will do? So I am eating at Surimap's now, while it is still open. Next week it may be full of mud and moths."
"So it is a good restaurant, featuring neither pebbles nor moss?"
The toad nodded, which is a whole-body movement for such a neckless person. "The best by Norshub! When the waiter isn't miserable drunk at least."
The drunken waiter returned, bringing us small square plates containing boiled scarabs. He glared at us a moment. "You didn't order these."
I chirped, "We didn't."
"The guys at tribal eight did," complained the waiter.
"I suppose so," I said.
"Then how come you get them?"
"We don't. They go to table eight."
"... Right. That'll come out of my celery somehow, I'm shure of it," said the waiter, and took the scarabs to their proper place.
"Time to go!" said Hditr, and we headed for the back of the restaurant, away from any watching Xshaothshash.