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Deal 1021: Staged

The crowd has been well-behaved as dusk settles over the amphitheatre. The early warm up acts were fun for passing time until the main event, but may not be memorable. Except that one guy that… but I digress. Night arrives swiftly at this place, so it almost seems as if someone has simply thrown a switch and turned off the sky. Then, as our eyes adjust, we realize that he also turned on the stars.

Everyone quickly settles back into their seats as the amphitheatre plunges from navigable to one giant tripping hazard. We all quiet with anticipation.

The stage lights come up to reveal a contraption of some sort on an empty stage.

It fires bundles into the front three rows that turn out to be ponchos. Nervous laughter ensues, but the front three rows also don the ponchos.

The device spins around. As it turns, spotlights reflect off it and scan the crowd. It stops, with a pin spot reflected onto a single seat, near an aisle. The other spotlight operators turn their lights around and join in, The seat is empty. Which seems a little strange in an otherwise sold-out house. The lights go off for a moment, then on, as all the spot operators blink their shutters in unison. Now the seat is occupied.

The occupant is dressed a little more formally than the rest of the audience. After a moment, he stands, and the crowd begins to realize that this was his entrance. He makes his way to the stage.

From that beginning, the show got weird.

At one point, he was juggling kids borrowed from the audience.

He set up a series of gramophones, and attempted to identify which was producing live sound and not a recording with the help of a small dog.

He did a knife catching act with dull knives.

It was strange and wondrous. All the professional performers who saw him were green with envy at his management of the crowd’s attention.

He did things that every critic had panned with their typical poisoned pens. But it probably didn’t help that his final bit was designed to annoy critics. He even said so from the stage, pointing out that by and large most critics would have already filed their reviews of his show by that point, so it was perfectly safe to mock them.

When the house lights came up, the audience response was immense.

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Deal 1020: Trading or recruiting?

I’m pretty sure the crew who came through my inn were involved in a cult. They all had glazed eyes and vacant stares as they methodically unloaded their goods. Their leader seemed more interested in keeping them out of sight than in exactly what deals were made. I did pick up some fine casks of brandy before he took notice.

When he did take notice it was only to prevent further trading or interaction. He didn’t seem concerned enough to try to reverse the trades just made even if I did make out like a bandit. Not that I felt all that guilty. They were going to stay here as they usually did when they made an appearance at market, and if past visits were any example, I could expect some broken furniture, annoyed barmaids, and generally bad manners out of the bunch.

There must be something mighty powerful about their beliefs. They shrugged off discomfort and pleasure alike, approaching everything with the same blank featured stare. Staring as if they could see into the very heart of creation. And they had no interest in explanations. I tried on several occasions to get them talking. They just ignored the questions. It wasn’t as if they were sworn to silence, they would speak readily enough about most things, but were silent on the nature of their order.

Then their leader would be by, and with significant looks and glares would separate his charges from us. He never actually brought out his big stick, but its presence was always assumed.

They’ve moved on since, but their absence is welcome. We are back to our usual load of local drovers and farmers. Handling them is as easy as apple pie, as they say.

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Deal 1005: Stewed Birds and Open Fire

You always want to begin with a clean workspace and a stable source of heat. If burning wood, you will need a heavy cast iron pot to spread the heat from the fire to all sides, and hold it hot as the fire burns down. You won’t need to put the pot directly in the fire, balanced at one edge is often preferred because it can be turned occasionally, or moved closer and further as wood is added and consumed.

If potatoes are handy, tuck a few at the edge of the fire, in the ashes so they don’t burn. Turn occasionally and let them roast for a while before adding them to the pot near the end.

Butter and herbs will form the base. Other fats may be used, of course. Use what is at hand as long as it isn’t rancid. Rub the bird in salt and pepper too, and brown it in the hot fat before adding anything else. If the goal is a stew and time is not on your side, you can always break the bird down into pieces that will cook quicker and render more flavor into the broth.

Of course you can even spatchcock it if you’re feeling fancy. No one really enjoys picking around the backbone anyway.

Chop a few roots, rinse ashes off your potatoes and break them into chunks, and add to the pot along with more salt and pepper and some water. If some beer is at hand that won’t be missed immediately, add it in place of half the water or so. It will cook down and make a richer broth.

If you have time to simmer them until cooked, you can always drop chunks of biscuit dough into the top of the pot. Little fluffy bombs of bread will steam in the broth in no time at all.

To serve, all you need is enough large bowls and an appetite.

More of that beer you raided for the broth would probably go well too.