Topol's Tovern [sic] has a discreet "Help Wanted" etched in five languages on the bottom of a big glass window in the front of the Tovern. Some of the Help are grilling large birds and small animals on twirly metal things over fires behind the glass, above the Help Wanted signs. I suppose they are glad to feel Wanted.
So I had a Tolk with Topol.
"I've got the magical Sigil of «Cuisine» on my wing!" I proclaimed. "I am, quite literally, a sorcerer in the kitchen!"
"I didn't know there was a Sigil of «Cuisine»," said Topol. Topol is a toad. And not just any ordinary toad. He is a toad in a toque.
"There is! I have it!" I warbled. "When do I start?"
"Slow down, lizard! I want to see how this «Cuisine» thing works," said Topol. "Billygraff, do you have those potatoes washed? Billygraff! Potatoes! Here! Now!"
Billygraff brought in a huge pot of potatoes. He is a badger greatly in need of grooming — though I guess they all are. "Here ya go, Top Topol Sir."
"Billygraff and Tllith, you shall have a race! Billygraph, you shall be riding the auto-mandoline. Tllith, you shall use mighty sorcery. Cut these potatoes into sticks for French fries!"
The potatoes were divided evenly. Billygraff looked nervous. "Is it safe, having sorcery in the kitchen? I thought people sometimes get cursed or warped from it."
"Just the sorcerers themselves, so you're safe," I assured him.
The race! The mightiest and greatest application of sorcery I have ever performed! Cast-cast-cast, magic shrieking around my clawtips and wriggling around my wing! The pile of potatoes, falling softly into fries before me!
And I won — I was first — by seven potatoes!
Topol nodded. "Well, that was magical. Billygraff wins, though."
"Wait, what? I was faster!"
"You were too much faster. Look here!" He picked up one of my potato strips. It was perfectly sliced.
"It's perfectly sliced!" I said.
"Right, but one end is all brown and rotty and disgusting," he said. "Billygraff cut the ends like that off his potatoes, or threw out the bad fries. You just went sorcerously slicey slicey."
I glared at the sliced strip, and then fried it! It sizzled and warbled. Topol tossed it away as if it were hot, but of course it wasn't. I said, "That fry is perfect! It is as good as possible given the ingredients!"
"I imagine it is one of the best fried rotten potatoes there is," said Topol. He picked it up and bit off the good end. "Mmm, perfect. 'course the other end is going to be perfectly terrible. How many fries can you cook at a time with that spell?"
"Three or four!" I said, optimistically.
"Want another race, Billygraff?"
Billygraff shook his head. "No, Topol, I do not want another race. This sorcery stuff is making my whiskers wosky."
Topol shook his head. "Billygraff, back to your station. I shall fry these chips myself!" I had «Cuisine» dispose of the rotten bits of potato, so we were ready to fry. We each took five servings of potato — his to the hot oil, mine to the hot magic.
He was a lot faster. I can do three or four fries instantly. As of now, though, I can't keep that pace up for long.
Topol munched one of his fries. "Not bad, not bad." He took one of mine. "Perfect. Way slow, mind you, you've still got half your pile to go."
"Then I'm fired?"
"You are not fired because I have not hired you. I certainly cannot use you as a line chef. You're too slow even with that magic. And you're too small to work in the kitchen in the ordinary way. The counters are over your head. Plus you'd be cooking with your mouths and feet, which is sort of disgusting," said Topol.
I grumbled and started to slink off.
"Hey, where're you going so fast?" said Topol. "I gotta idea."
My Job: I am sitting on a very clean towel on a counter in the big glass window, over the "Help Wanted" sign. (It makes me feel wanted.) In front of me is a bowl of spiced raw meat, and a stack of thin dough skins. I make dumplings! I make dumplings in the most showy way possible. Sometimes I use «Cuisine» to conjure them; sometimes I use my forepaws to wrap them. Some of them I freeze with one breath weapon. Some I send to be boiled. And a few I roast with fire breath — using «Cuisine» to make sure they're actually cooked right — and present to children of nineteen separate species as surprising treats.
Here's how it works.
A higgle of humans approaches. One adult female ("Mommy"); two adult males ("Daddy" and "Dada"), four children ("Yella", "Moro", "Titsy", and "Rerash", from youngest to oldest). The names are entirely made up.
Moro spies me first. "Daddy, Dada, what's that? What's that wee uncannie beastie in the window, Daddy?"
Daddy sounds quite tired. "I have no prawking idea, Moro."
Dada sounds tired and organizational. "Watch your language, Daddy."
This is always an excellent sort of time to breathe sparkly lights at the window. The window is a thick sheet of glass, so my sparks make a big oval splotch on the window that glitters and sparkles for a moment and then goes out.
Titsy tugs on her left braid. "Whatever it is, it is a creature capable of bio-energetic emissions. I speculate that it is liberally laced with strange isotopes of carbon, oxygen, and the other common components of all living organisms."
«Language» lets me talk through the window. "And furthermore, I make dumplings!" I proclaim. I spoon a bit of chopped air-shrimp with egg and scallion from one of the bowls in front of me (humans generally like that), drop it into a circle of thin dough, flick it a few times with my forepaws into an elegant cone sort of shape, spear it on a claw, and breathe fire on it for a moment. Most of the humans say "ooh!" at this point. (Badgers would say "Ach!", spidersen would stridulate, etc.)
My window has a small window in it. I open the small window and hold the toasted dumpling on a clawtip for Moro to try. He glances at his parents, who nod. (Not always! Some humans — members of the Megashti sect, for many — don't eat food prepared by nonhumans.) He eats it in three quick nibbly bites. "It's good!"
Yes, it is good. Topol's chefs are fairly skillful, and I have used «Cuisine» on my mise-en-place.
"I want one!" — "I'm hungry!" — "Waaaah!" — "My dears, the young ones could use a snack" — "We don't need to be back at the hotel for another hour or two" — "Everyone's feet are sore" — "They have noodle tea here too" — "I want to see the three-heads breathe on more dumplings!" — "The prices aren't bad" — and so on.
And soon enough they are seated at the window table (which holds seven), with only one small dragon of Yirien between them and the window to the street. (Or they're deeper inside the restaurant, and all I see of them is the children coming to peer at me cooking from inside.)
Rerash, old enough to be careful and young enough to be foolhardy, is allowed to hold a dumpling in (metal) chopsticks while I breath-roast it for him. He winks at a passing girl about his age, and pops it into his mouth. He grabs his glass of water, for a dumpling hot off the dragon is rather scalding. She blushes and turns away.
For Yella, I get out the wide wrappers, and produce a dumpling in the shape of a swan, stuffed with sweet chicken paste. This dumpling spends the next quarter-hour swimming around the table in Yella's hands. When Dada tries to get Yella to eat it, we learn where the nickname "Yella" came from. Finally Daddy gets the dumpling to swim into Yella's mouth.
Titsy is very scientific about the whole thing. She arranges her dumplings in a grid. She notes that a Bunsen burner would produce a flame just as intense and just as interesting as my breath. She says equations describing the operation of «Cuisine» on dumpling filling, which Eric might understand but I certainly don't. The (human) waiter attempts to look down her blouse until Daddy scares him off.
Moro is my perfect target age. He orders the dumpling sampler: one cooked each way. He asks questions — "Are you three people?" (no). — "Does it hurt when you breathe fire? Do you ever burn yourself?" (no, no). — "Is it chemical or magical fire?" (magical). — and so on.
I get a lot more attention than common-species cooks grilling large birds and small animals on twirly metal things behind the glass. Topol is cackling in a toadsome villain way, just like Vong ought to have done, and gloating that his restaurant is getting fifteen percent more business with me shilling in the window.
It pays pretty well for a cooking job, too, I think.