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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.

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Deal 1003: Race day

At the track, I always bet on the nose. It seems disrespectful to assume that anyone wants to do anything other than win. The race for second is substantially more unpredictable, and never mind at all about the race for third. Not that I won’t occasionally protect my investment with smaller bets. But I only care about the bet to win.

They ran well today, despite the troubles. Something odd was happening out of view of the paying customers. Something hateful and ugly. It had everyone on edge. But on edge is often a good thing, so I doubled my usual investment.

Then they found that vagrant. In two places. It is never a good thing to find parts of an intruder on both sides of the track. That implies that security was way off their game. Or perhaps someone spiked their coffee again. And if someone is spiking the coffee, regulars start to worry about what else might have been spiked, and if it was just slipping a Mickey to security, or if something more serious might be going on.

But that vagrant was found in two pieces. So something a lot sharper than just a little rat poison was involved there.

But the games must go on. I’ve got an investment here, and the house doesn’t like to return bets. Much safer to assume that the situation is under control, that the event was an anomaly, and that things can proceed as usual. A few well placed hints and incentives will keep the gentlemen in blue out of the way, and avoid too many delays.

If they are causing troubles, whisper in the Mayor’s ear, and let him get the guard dogs to back down for an hour or two. It won’t hurt the dead guy too much to wait.

Or perhaps open a window and offer odds on the cause of death?

Nah, that would be more disrespectful than always betting on show.

Finally, they calmed everyone down and readied the main event. My favorite is running in the middle, but with an unfamiliar jockey. And there’s that other shoe that has been waiting to drop. That was no vagrant torn in pieces. That was my investment!

It all went downhill from there.

And now the gentlemen in blue seem to think I might be interesting to talk to too.

I’m gonna need some strong storytelling to get clear of this one.

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Deal 1001: The other side

It is safe here. It is safe here. It is safe here.

I keep telling myself that. It is safe here.

I don’t like it here. It is safe here.

I don’t like it here. The tea isn’t good. No room. I need space. It is safe here.

But I am strong. I will try to stay and be safe.

I go outside. It is safe here. But I don’t like it. And then, the mirror. The mirror frightens me. I run back inside, frantic. It is safe here. I don’t like it here.

Food is plentiful. I am warm. I avoid the mirror. It is safe here.

But I must go. I don’t like it here.

I imagine I can be safe somewhere else. It is safe here.

I sneak away. I don’t look at the mirror. It is very quiet as I sneak away.

Too quiet. Nervous in the quiet. I rustle. Quiet. It was safe there.

I am stuck on the verge. It was safe there. I don’t like it there.

This is the edge. This is the choice. I am safe there but I don’t like it there.

So I can cross the edge. Cross it. Cross it now. Fast. Fast. Cross it fast. The possibilities are limitless.

I was safe there. But I was captive. I’m not safe here.

Why did I go?

I am free.

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Deal 991: Frog’s legs and tea

Let me introduce myself. I act as if I’m a prince among men, but I’ve always carried a secret shame. For I was once a prince among frogs.

Not in a wheel of karma and past lives sense. No, I literally was born a frog.

As a tad, I had little on my mind, other than survival. Life is brutal and short for most tadpoles. But I was one of the lucky few who survived to have legs. And I used those legs to escape that stagnant pond. For some time I moved from shelter to shelter, always aware of the risk of being eaten by some predator swooping down on me from above, or sneaking up on me from the shadows.

Then one day I was snatched from above, and my world changed.

I had a species change.

It might have been done with open eyes, it is difficult to be sure. I do know that I have difficulty recalling the time before I became a man. I’m not really even sure how old I was, but I must have lived several years as a tadpole and frog, as my transformation to human gave me the appearance of a young adult not a child.

That early time after the change is also just a blurry memory today. Aside from the fact that it was at least a score of years ago, it took some time for my mind to catch up with the change in my body. Surely, I was transformed from frog to man in one event. But that newly enlarged brain took some time to develop a full sense of self as a man.

Some of my earliest memories of that time include a helpful but shadowy figure, who I assume was involved in my change. From clues I have stumbled over since, I suspect she was a notorious crone of the hills, and that she passed away sometime after turning me loose upon the world to make my fortune. But she neglected to (or perhaps deliberately prevented) allow me many memories of my time with her. I don’t even know her name.

I fear I am merely a pawn in some game being played by the Fates, or among hedge witches.

While I think I have been wandering aimlessly, I may well be guided by unseen forces to put me in the path of a suitable princess. Although I may never know why this path was chosen.

So I find myself here today, at the festival before a castle.

And dare I notice that a princess is even now making her way toward me?

I think I ought to put on the tea.