Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Silver Chair: Chapter 9

Food fit for a feast
    "But more than thirty champions...have at one time or another set out to look for the lost Prince, and none of them have ever come back..."

“Not bad for a day's hunting,” sighed the young giant Rufflemutton as he surveyed the day's haul. “I've seen better, but then I've seen worse.” He glanced over at the pile of deer, boar and fowl carcasses that lay not far from where they rested. They would return early today, as preparations for the feast began in earnest.

“No talkin' beasts this year,” sighed his companion Wafflepotter. “This early cold snap, 'as chased them down south it 'as,” he continued.

“Aye,” nodded Rufflemutton, “At least we will have man pies this year. It's never a proper feast without them.” His friend nodded.

“Unusual for her ladyship to send children, though,” put in Wafflepotter after a moment's thought.

“Better than no men, as we've had these last three years,” countered the first, “I was expecting a'nothing again. Unusual for them to arrive so late too.”

“Indeed,” said his friend, “And that creature with them. Never seen th' likes of 'im before.”

The first shook his head, “Mollywater tells me it's called a 'waggle' or some such. Says they're not known to be tasty, but she's found a recipe that will make him quite a pleasant treat. Said she'll save a mouthful for me, since first choice goes to the royals.” He lowered his voice as he said the last, so as not to be overheard by the royals in question.

“Aah, 'tis an advantage ye be friends with the cook then,” said Wafflepotter with a smile.

“I remembers a time when we'd have man pie every year. And a plenty to go around. The green lady seems to have lost her touch these last years.”

“Aye, that or the menfolk 'ave become more cautious,” added the second.

“Remember that great year, must be near on ten years ago, she sent so many men to our doorstep, we had man pie not only for the harvest festival, but well into the winter too. That was a good year.”

Wafflepotter nodded as he remembered.

“We'd 'ave plenty a' talkin' beasts too, back then,” he added, “And not just the usual game: badgers, bears, mice and squirrels. A couple o' fauns too. They was tasty. Apparently there was a centaur once. Would 'ave made a rare treat, but alas 'e got away.”

“Although...we had to fight for the pleasure back then,” remembered said Rufflemutton, “Those men came armed and dangerous. Me old man still has a scar on his calf from the wound one made as he tried t' bring him down. Succeeded in the end, he did, but that wound plagued him for a long time after.”

“More strange that this year, the lady did send us mere children, and a girl too. 'Twere not many women-folk among those who came in the past.”

“No not many. It's made it easier though. They seem to suspect nothing. That frog-creature, the waggle, is more dangerous I do think. Good thing we got him drunk last night, or he might've been on to us. Strange as he is, I think he could be dangerous.”

“Not once 'e's boiling in Mollywater's pot,” added Wafflepotter. And both giants began to gufaw. Some of the other hunters looked over to them for a while, then lost interest and resumed their own conversation.

“Ya know,” said Rufflemutton then. “I remember a time b'fore it was custom to eat man pies at the feast. Giants are forgetful, we are, but I could've sworn when I was younger man pies were as rare then as they're becoming now. We'd have them as a treat should any wonder onto our doorstep, but they werin't so big a part of the festival as they are now. I spoke once to me older brother about it, and he says 'twas the green lady who introduced them as part of the feast about the same time they suddenly became plentiful in the area.

I believe you're right, though I'd about forgotten. Why, we was almost still kids aback then. I've always wondered why she's so interested in us and so keen to send us men. I wonder what she 'as t' gain from it?”

“Does make one wonder, eh...”

At this moment, their speech was disturbed as boy giant, who had not been on the hunt, came crashing through the bushes nearby. He was panting from a hard run. He announced that while he was polishing his weapons in his room, he had glanced out his window and seen the children and frog-creature going for a stroll in broad daylight. It might just be an innocent stroll, but he was worried they might have figured out what was to become of them, and were making an escape.

Best to be safe, agreed the king on this news. Their rest was cut short as they rounded up the dogs and returned to the castle with haste.

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