Story for the Day: Flatbreads
When the party had returned to the keep from their exploits in the Galleisian annex, they congregated in the castle kitchen to enjoy a traditional Frewyn meal: salted potatoes brushed with rosemary and garlic oil, roasted pheasants stuffed with hardened maple bread, and dark chocolate infused almond biscuits for dessert. Martje had outdone herself but as they had been in Gallei, she knew the culinary horrors that had awaited them in such a place. She had prepared in advance for their return home and she was certain that after experiencing such a dearth of flavour over the mountains even the Den Asaan would favour her cooking. She was correct in assuming his usual aspersions toward her abilities would be quieted.
Rautu ate in silence and ignored Martje’s pert smile. He made fleeting glances in her direction when she was not looking and harrumphed to himself as he secreted another helping of potatoes onto his plate. He would tolerate her moderate skill at present and be certain to ask his mate to make him something more palatable later. His sense of taste had been so dulled by the wretchedness of the Galleisian fare that he was determined to enjoy anything at the moment, even something so insupportable as Martje’s attempts at roasted pheasant. He ate with a pained countenance, grimacing at the decidedly inferior taste, but all his pent remonstrations were abated when he was silenced by the biscuits. The smooth texture of the dark chocolate soothed him and occupied his tongue. Here was reprieve from their long journey in so tasteless a land and here the Den Asaan reclaimed his enjoyment of Frewyn’s fare. He hummed and sighed, and then made claims as to why no one else was permitted to see the almond biscuits besides himself.
The party was pleased with the spread Martje had laid out for them and they declared themselves too full to eat any of Rautu’s coveted treasure. They allowed the giant to keep his prize, as no one could contrive a way to take it from him successfully, and when they had done thanked Martje for her tremendous efforts. They dispersed into the castle to unpack their effects and in so doing, the commander remembered that she had a present for Kai Linaa. She rifled through her small pack and retrieved a box of Galleisian flatbreads, the only item in the Galleisian repertoire that was deemed edible to a discerning Frewyn tongue. They had kept her and her mate afloat amidst the bland stews and vinegar-brushed pies, and she decided that a few boxes of them were well worth keeping. She knew Kai Linaa was desirous of hearing news of their journey and the commander invited her back to the kitchen table to present her with her gift and share some tea.
Kai Linaa was overjoyed at the invitation and hastened to the kitchen to hear every morsel of news the commander would impart. She was told of the Galleisian stomp, of Dobhin’s excursion with the Galleisian women, of Rautu’s disenchantment for the annex’s weather and stiff character, and of knights and the Galleisian regulations of engagement. Kai Linaa was horrified to hear of both men and women being forced follow such strict conduct, and she was pleased that she spent her time between two nations with such happy autonomy. This was enough of a report as to make her appreciative of all in her surveyance. She sighed and she sipped her tea, in wait of the other reason the commander had called her to the table other than to share in her good company. She was given the box containing the mysterious and sole edible object in Gallei. When she opened the box, she treated the flatbreads with some surprise and claimed they were rather like the Sindhaara that were eaten on the islands. These flatbreads were tough and brittle whereas those from the islands were soft and crumbling. The Galleisian variety as well seemed hardly nutritious. The flatbreads were dusted with a strange powder, which had little scent and a unique flavour upon sampling it, and they had been baked with shredded cheese delicately garnishing the tops. She was intrigued by them more than anything else and therefore must try them even though she was not hungry. She had one, made many crumbs, said many things on the subject of them being oddly delightful, and was moved to have another. She had eaten four by the time the Den Asaan came into the kitchen in search of his mate to ask her for his second supper. She greeted him with enthused smiles and offered him one of the indescribable treats. Kai Linaa was warned against giving the giant anything mildly enjoyable, as he was certain to find ways of having her gift to himself. She believed that a few would be enough to sate the giant’s gastronomic curiosity but she would soon learn that her suppositions were horridly mistaken.
Rautu looked at the few flatbreads he was given with some suspicion and he then looked over at the box Kai Linaa had in her hand. “You have only given me two,” was his complaint when Kai Linaa should have obviously given him more.
Kai Linaa laughed and promised to give him more once those were finished.
“You will come to know why sharing food with him at all is a terrible mistake,” the commander warned her with a shake of her head.
Before the commander could finish her phrase, the Den Asaan’s lips were blanketed with crumbs and his empty hand was outstretched toward the elf.
“I suppose you like them?” Kai Linaa giggled into her hand.
“What you gave me was an inadequate amount for me to make an assessment,” Rautu grunted.
Kai Linaa accorded him one more but the giant looked at her contribution with a glare of misgiving.
“I am larger than you. I require more than this,” he demanded.
The commander smirked and sipped her tea. “Now he shall make every excuse for you to give him the entire package. If you should refuse, he will contrive a way in which to take them from you.”
Kai Linaa was aware the commander probably had another package of flatbreads in the commons and therefore conceded to her advice, giving the giant the entire box. She did, however, manage to slip one from the box and hide it behind her back in hopes of keeping it to herself but her motions were not quick enough to conceal what she had done from the Den Asaan’s perception. She smiled at him to screen her error but Rautu responded with an expectant look and a stabbing of his finger at the hand that was behind her back.
“I will not accept such tribute under deceitful terms,” the Den Asaan growled.
Kai Linaa sighed. Her shoulders wilted in defeat and she gave him the one flatbread she had wished to save for herself.
Rautu humphed as he took it and upon seeing Kai Linaa’s dejected expression, he broke the one flatbread in two, tendering her the smaller piece. “You my have half,” he said with complacent compassion.
Kai Linaa laughed and thanked him for his generous offer.
“You are fortunate I gave you any, elf,” Rautu fleered. “You attempted to hide one from me.”
“My mistake,” Kai Linaa said, rolling her eyes. “I’m fortunate you’re so forgiving, Den Asaan.”
Rautu insisted that she was so fortunate and took the seat next to his mate to divvy the contents of the box accordingly when Soledhan hopped into the kitchen from the main hall with Hathanta not far behind.
Soledhan ran to his mother and father with open arms but upon seeing the giant’s engagement stopped and assumed the position he knew he must take if he wished to have some of what Rautu was coveting. He stomped his foot, placed a vicious scowl on his face and stabbed his tiny finger in the giant’s direction. He maintained his stance until it yielded in him receiving one flatbread to try and once he bit into it, he thanked Rautu with his usual good cheer and called outside to his cat and the Den Asaan’s gull to share his prize. When they came to the kitchen window, he gave them each a piece and bid them to sit under the table with him while he made a plan to obtain another flatbread from his obdurate father.
Kai Linaa laughed at how easily Soledhan had persuaded the Den Asaan and did her utmost to study the method employed for her own uses.
“He has learned that Utaa does not share when asked,” the commander whispered to Kai Linaa. “It is most effective to treat my mate with the same determination he disperses toward everyone else. Fortunately, Hathanta has taught him the meaning of sharing.”
The commander nodded toward the child’s benevolent teacher and he inclined his head in return, pleased to see his student enjoying his evening with his Anonnaa sitting at the feet of his Ambesari.
“I daresay with such a charitable father, I am shocked that he shares so readily with his friends,” the commander said with a sly look to her mate beside her.
Rautu made her no answer and finished separating his flatbreads into two significant piles: the one he would be eating now and the other he would be eating after his evening kaatas. He was about to begin his venture when Alasdair suddenly walked in the kitchen.
He came in quest of tea, as he had many things to discuss with his queen about their visit to the annex, and was not surprised to see Rautu poring over two piles of something to eat. Alasdair owned himself peckish as one often does after eating too much and he decided that obtaining one of the Den Asaan’s flatbreads was his first object. He drew near to the table, said his hellos, and when he was about to ask Rautu for what he was desirous of eating, he recollected himself and realized that a more forceful approach was necessary. “I’m taking one,” Alasdair shouted as he lunged forth to snatch one.
Rautu instantly stood and slammed his hand down in front of his flatbread trove to impede the hand that came to destroy his piles. “No, you are not,” the giant roared. “You will challenge me for what is mine. I will give you one if you win.” He tapered his gaze at the king and stalked his snack, waiting for the king to choose his fate.
Alasdair exhaled in resignation. “Very well,” he said with a shrug and moved toward the door leading to the training yard. He waited for the Den Asaan to pass him and once the giant was out of his way, Alasdair used the opportunity to strike. He filched one of the flatbreads from one of the piles, causing both of them to topping over, and tore off through the main hall of the keep shouting for Carrigh to come and shield him Rautu’s impending retaliation.
The Den Asaan had sensed some betrayal and though he saw Alasdair move toward his treasure, he had not noticed it fast enough to stop him. He thundered after Alasdair, roaring many things on the matters of thievery and dishonesty, and he vowed to reprise in such a way as to show the king the meaning of honour.
Hathanta, Kai Linaa and the commander were astonished that Alasdair had succeeded and laughed heartily at the Den Asaan’s comeuppance for years of parsimony exacted against their king, but while they were occupied with howling at Alasdair pending punishment, Soledhan reached up from under the table and grabbed the remainder of the flatbreads. His large cat and Rautu’s gull aided him in his task, and the three sat beneath the table enjoying their spoils, planning their next hiding place for when the Den Asaan should return to find the entirety of his conquest demolished.