Story for the day: The Butcher
Sheamas is major character in book 6, 7 and 9 of the series. I'm not going to post much about him but here is his first appearance.
Soup was the evening’s object. The Den Asaan had been plagued with the unfortunate business of having depleted the royal hunting grounds of its resources and he was saddened to hear it would not be restocked until the spring. He had hunted much in the past few weeks, as the warmer weather allowed for his favourite sport, but once he realized there were no elk or pheasant left for him to chase, he was forced to inform Alasdair of the shortage and sulk in the yard while enjoying the decidedly less intriguing training for the day. He yearned for the opportunity to exercise his hunting prowess and wield his large knife without having to travel beyond the warmth of the capital to do so. The Tuar forest and the woodlands of the south could supply all the amusement he desired but he was disinclined to venture to either due to his propensity to despise the cold and inability to travel when hungry. The soup given him for his meal was little more than flavored water in his estimation, and his starvation and disappointment were unbearable reminders of his misfortune.
The commander observed her mate’s brooding humour from her place in the gallery as he trudged about the yard. She surmised that there could only be one reason owing to his ill tempter on so warm a day and resolved to pity him rather than mock him, as she ought to have done. She remembered Martje usually kept some slices of cured meat in the pantry for cooking purposes. She chose a few slices of pork and brought them out to the yard for her mate to taste.
His reaction, however, was not quite what she had expected. He spied the thin slices with circumspection, claiming that such transparent slivers of meat could never be satisfying, but once he tried one of them, he grew quiet and contemplative. He enjoyed savouring the inundation of taste and silently marveled how the slice of meat melted in his mouth.
“Where did you find this?” Rautu demanded, snatching the remainder of the slices from his mate’s hand.
“Martje’s brother Shaemas is the butcher for the keep,” the commander said, laughing at her mate’s sudden fervor.
“Why does your Mhojhudenri not serve this at your meals?”
“Because this particular pork is usually meant for cooking, although I know you would eat any meat if it were mildly prepared regardless of how fatty it is.”
The Den Asaan would not acknowledge his mate’s aspersion and only continued devouring the delectable slices one by one.
“If you enjoy those, I’m certain Sheamas has even more enticing cuts beyond anything I could ever roast for you.”
“You are able to make this?” the giant warily said, his brows rising as he eyed his mate.
“I could try. It’s not all that difficult. It requires soaking brine and possibly some sugar, but it takes a few days to cure anything properly.”
The giant sighed and his shoulders wilted in despair to think he should have no meat that evening. He would be forced to resort to chocolate for his culinary pleasures and though that would not be the worst of recourses, his need for a roasted haunch would not be sated.
“If you wish, perhaps we could pay visit to Sheamas. It’s not nearly late enough in the evening for him to be closed. He’s not half so much as irritable as his sister and I’m certain he’ll allow you to taste whatever your discerning finger points to.”
No sooner had she mentioned it than the Den Asaan dragged her out of the yard and toward the capital. He was eager to see this hidden trove of meat. He had believed the butcher was a place where only slaughtering was done. He had not realized such exquisite delights could be born in such a shoppe but as the evidence had already been presented him, he was willing to believe anything at the moment as long as his needs were met. He followed his mate through the square, across the Diras River and past the marketplace toward the residential quarter. He observed the butcher shoppe and recalled seeing it on his many patrols about the capital but had never ventured inside. There had never been a reason to do so, as he had little trouble finding meat on his own, but he regarded the hanging cuts in the window, his mind was alive with mischief. He wondered what spectacles such a shoppe could hold and when he entered, all the enchantment a butcher could convey was revealed.
As the commander was greeted with cheerful halloos by Sheamas, the Den Asaan was rapt with the sight before him. Meats of every type hung in a wondrous procession around the shoppe: cloved haunches, dried and spiced sausage links, salted hams, syrup-brushed ribs, and large slabs of beef dangled before the giant’s wide eyes. In the cooling case of the counter lay chopped and sliced meats of varying sort, all marinated and spiced and ready to be eaten. He looked beyond the floor space and perceived the whole pigs and cows waiting to be cut and sliced. Rautu’s countenance glowed with a sanguine happiness for the majesty of the butcher and the commander felt that poor Sheamas was very much in peril of being forced to close his shoppe early once regarding the giant’s unabashed joy.
The commander simpered at her mate’s silence and immobility. He was quieted by his dreams of being surrounded in a plethora of meat had come true and he knew not what to do with himself. She shook her head and walked over to him in hopes of luring him to the counter but he would not move.
“Your hunters are not skilled enough to capture this many animals,” the giant supposed, noting the assortment of cuts about him.
“No,” the commander said laughingly. “I believe the title of Hunting Grounds Depleter belongs only to you, Iimon Ghaala. These poor creatures are bred on farms and fed the choicest of feed to assure their particular quality. The more expensive the feed, the purer the animal, the more refined the taste, the higher the price.”
The giant hummed in deliberation and mustered powers to walk toward the counter and greet the man who would be responsible for his evening’s enjoyment.
Sheamas Donnegal was everything his sister was not in person and appearance. His stature was excessively tall, his waist large and round from an abundance of good food, his build was thick, his arms rife with brawn, but his countenance was handsome, young and good-natured. His hands were immense enough to hold his enormous cleavers with unshakable resolve, his work apron and steel boots were always clean, and his features tidy. His brilliant blue eyes and becoming manners were the admiration of the many women who came into his shoppe, but all women of every consequence were disappointed to discover Sheamas was married to a tiny woman with a strident voice. She would call for him from the backroom when she required his opinion as to which farms would supply their meats, and when she ventured to release her loud voice from its small cage, everyone standing in shoppe heard. She took care of the business side of the butcher while Sheamas did the rest. He was a hearty and proficient man, pleasant and willing to help anyone who needed his services. He had supplied the keep with fresh meats since Allande’s time on the throne and when Alasdair reclaimed it, he requested that his sister Martje apply for chief of the kitchen.
It seemed to the Den Asaan that everyone in the Donnegal family was disposed to be rotund but he found that such a large belly was more fitting with Sheamas’ jovial character than it was with Martje’s aggravated temper.
“Aye, I knew you’d be comin’ sooner or later to eat me out of business, kin,” said Sheamas, waving his massive cleaver at her, and then at the Den Asaan. “I heard about that one from my sister.”
“I’m certain she’s told you a great many things on the subject of how he despises her cooking.”
Sheamas winked. “You know how she talks at table.”
“Well, you shall be pleased to know that he is enamored with some of the Tyfferim cured pork you were so kind as to leave at the castle.”
“I am a big man, kin,” Sheamas said, patting his round stomach. “But that’s only because I know good meat when I taste it. I wouldn’t give my customers somethin’ I wouldn’t eat myself. What will your man be havin’?”
“That is a precarious question,” the commander laughed. “I daresay he will take the whole shoppe with him back to the keep if he could.”
Sheamas regarded the Den Asaan’s wild enchantment with the parade of hanging meats. “Has your man never seen a butcher’s before?”
“He prefers killing his own dinner and the forcing me to prepare it for him.”
“He must make my sister mad,” he chuckled, slapping his knees. “Please tell me a good story, kin. I can’t wait to retell it during family meals.”
The commander proceeded to recollect every instance in which Martje had thrown a ladle or a knife in her mate’s direction and Sheamas listened, laughing at each story while feeding the quiet giant slivers of his choicest cuts.
A quarter of an hour had passed and the Den Asaan had tried every cured and marinated meat in the shoppe. Everything he tasted was unexecptionable. There was not a disagreeable flavour or an unpleasant after taste and he felt he could not possibly choose one when he must have them all.
Sheamas was well pleased with the giant’s silence. From the histories the commander retold, he suspected that the mauve-grey beast was subdued when pleased and he would have the pleasure of telling Martje how well he had done in comparison to her unappreciated efforts. “So,” he said to the giant after a time. “Tell me which ones you would like.”
“The amounts given to me were not enough for me to make an assessment,” Rautu growled, resuming his tapered glare.
Where Martje would have tossed a pot at Rautu’s head for his brash commentary, Sheamas only smiled. “This one is an eater,” he said to the commander.
“I thought eating was every man’s profession,” she snickered.
“Certainly a traditional profession in my family, kin. Everyone at the Donnegal table is first an eater if Martje and I are any indication of how we enjoy our food. We’re large people with large appetites. You and your man are welcome to visit for the holidays anytime. It’ll give my mother joy to see another man finish everythin’ on his plate.”
“He was not always so avaricious a specimen. We are spoilt in Frewyn. I only understood how much so once I visited the islands.”
“Was it that terrible?”
“He did come back with me,” she said with a fond glance toward the giant.
“Well, we can’t let him starve then.”
“I’m convinced that no one from Tyferrim can let anything that walks starve.”
Sheamas laughed and agreed that the Frewyn farmlands were not a place to be sparing with fare. He cut a few pounds of the meats the Den Asaan pointed to and wrapped them for easy conveyance but when the commander offered to pay, Sheamas refused any notion of compensation.
“You’re always welcome to have as much as you like, kin. I don’t take money from Tyferrim folk. My mother would punish me if I did.”
“I wouldn’t argue with a farmer’s wife,” the commander said, placing her money back into her pocket.
“Smart you are, kin. Aye, your Da’s farm always gave us the best pigs.”
“Of course it did. I fed them,” the commander scoffed.
“Ah, Jaicobh,” Sheamas sighed. “He was a good, good man the way my Ma always talks about him. He would have liked this one.” He eyed the Den Asaan and held out the packaged meats for the giant to take.
“My mother would have abominated him, and therefore he would have been all my father’s delight,” the commander agreed.
They spent a few more moment reminiscing of times in Tyferrim before the war while the Den Asaan took the liberty of eating the contents of the first package and before they said their goodbyes, the commander made assurances that they would be returning soon and Sheamas made promises of being well prepared for their coming.