Story for the Day: Dimoni Shalla - Demon Spice
Lucentia's cuisine is considered in general to be excellent, if not a little strange at times. Ladrei loves eating out with Arkastino because he can persuade him to eat and drink anything. Rautu, though ever a friend to food, must examine something before putting it into his mouth, especially if Ladrei has recommended it. Sometimes his suspicions are justified.
Checking himself and brooking his ill sentiments, and forcing a smile which though beginning as feigned soon was become a true expression, Ladrei entreated the small party to follow him to the end of the alley. While the commander and Den Asaan thought to retrace their steps, believing Ladrei to have made a wrong turn in his pensive state, they soon perceived the sudden alteration in their surroundings. Here was a very different prospect than one they had hitherto seen in this quarter of the district: a large square building made from a smooth grey stone, the ground about them swept and clean, the windows lined with white wood and curtains well-kept and drawn back. This was no hovel rife with privation: the door that marked the entrance to the building was opened, the scene within animated and occupied; chairs and tables garnished with simple outfittings lined the centre of the large main room, various wines and flavoured drinks furnished the back wall, patrons were huddling around one another and cheering Lucentian felicitations under the vibrant glow of candlelight. Here was all the warmth and hardiest that such a quarter could cultivate.
“This is the place,” Ladrei said, motioning toward the open door.
Rautu inched cautiously toward the window and glared within with unmitigated misgiving. He peered, he scowled, he sniffed the air and made a sideways glance, as though waiting for an explanation before he should enter what could be a deliberate deception. There was too much apparent elation here, too much laughter, too many smiling faces for this to be a mere dining hall. Ladrei must be deceiving him into thinking that this was a renowned restaurant able to pander to his selective tastes. This must be another guildhall, a secret location for his guildmates to meet and hold high revel between missions. The place held no charm for him, and he was about to turn from it when a waitress holding a basket of something roasted and steaming appeared from the kitchen door. The sight of meat brushed with oils and spices and the mellifluous scent wafted toward the window revived his curiosity. “What is this place?” he demanded, his nose almost pressed to the glass, all his attention on the meat being placed on the table.
The bait taken, Ladrei had only to smirk to himself and wait until the giant could bear the delectable fragrance of spiced chicken and grilled lamb any longer. “The only place in the entire princedom that is permitted the cooking and selling of Dimoni Shalla,” he pronounced.
“Demon’s spice?” said the commander, “I thought that was what the Danes once used to conjure and capture their demons.”
“That is the legend, but none of the Danes have visited east enough for us to confirm it.”
“No, I should say not,” she simpered. “They prefer their damp marshes and their barren woods. There they can hide all their schemes and connivances from those who would be wise enough to stop them.”
“If it is used in magic rituals, why is it sold here?” Rautu asked, his glee diminishing.
“It’s a plant that has been grown and harvested in Lucentia since the Elves’ first arrival from the east. The legend tells of a Danes clan looking for a means to attack Livanon by trapping demons and stealing their magic. They wandered across the eastern divide and found the Shalla plant. The bright red and green colour of the leaves and seeds intrigued them.” He chuckled to himself, and presently amended with, “They decided to take it and use it without realizing that it was just a Lucentian spice used for marinating meats.”
The giant peered inside the eatery and inspected each of the tables: there were no demonic symbols, no raving magicians, and no demons to be perceived. His suspicions were again roused. “If it is harmless, why does it require sanction to be sold?”
Ladrei made an arch grin. “I didn’t say it was harmless. The Danes believe that by eating enough of it, they can pass into the demon world without the use of their complicated rituals.”
“That is absurd,” scoffed the Den Asaan. “Eating a spice cannot force the soul to leave the body-“ but the giant’s assertion was checked by the sudden a sudden ululation emanating from within the dining hall.
One of the patrons, bent over his two large plates of meat, began to shudder. Many noticed his tremulous fingers and the changing hue of his features and scrambled about him, hallooing for milk and hastening to find any slices of molasses bread still left on the various tables. During short interval of bustle and confusion, the shivering man surrendered to violent convulsions and fell forward onto the table. His companions pried him from his chair and held him down as they laid him on the ground. laying They were parting his pursed lips, they were prying apart his clenched teeth, they were placing a piece of bread in his mouth to keep his jaw from collapsing, and the moment that the man was still enough, his friends produced and white and chalk-like substance from their pockets, pulverized it between their fingers, and poured the crumbled the powder into his mouth. His trembling soon ceased, and though he seemed lucid and barely to know where he was, he found he was able to stand. A moment’s recollection was all his needed to recompose. His skin soon returned to its usual hue and he was at liberty to breathe again. His friends were duly thanked and general concern was expressed, but instead of accepting the suggestions of visiting the healer nearby, he reclaimed his seat and continued to eat remainder of his meal without regard for the frightening incident.
While the Den Asaan might have been amazed at the victim’s tolerance and determination, the commander could not share his sentiment. “I daresay this happens often if everyone is so little alarmed,” she said in an inquisitive tone, regarding the marked indifference of the patrons now that the incident had done.
“Eating Dimoni Shaala may not send you to the demon realm as much as it might send you to Mlys,” Ladrei laughed.
“By the Gods, how much of it did he eat?”
Ladrei shrugged. “Probably only a few bites.” He nodded toward the victim, who was currently devouring the rest of his meal with unabated abandon. “That’s Davano. He’s one of the lower members of my guild, and he comes here very often. He holds the current record for eating the most without passing out. His skin has turned blue a few times and he usually convulses for a while, but after a few minutes of agony, he’s usually well enough to continue.”
“I will challenge his record,” Rautu vehemently declared.
Ladrei gave him a fond smile. “I thought you might like to. I have to warn you, Den Asaan: your poison training, though effective, has not prepared you for this.”
The giant folded his arms and gave him an unimpressed look.
“Even with my training, I wasn’t prepared for the uncontrollable tremors, hallucinations, profuse perspiration, skin colour changes, and episodes of blindness.”
A sneer and a humph was all the thanks that Rautu would give for the warning. He was much oblige, but he was prepared for whatever horrors that such a harmless spice could produce. He reasoned that the anguish the Lucentians suffered was due to their lender frames and weak constitutions, but he would show them how everything ought to be done. He had borne torment in enough in his youth to make the injection of a spice a mere trifle in comparison to the abraded flesh, seared feet, broken limbs, torn muscles, venomous bites, poisonous stings, dislocations, and various toxins he had been made to endure. Though Ghodhina had forborne the same training, Rautu doubted as to whether any other Lucentian might have been able to boast of the same unwavering resilience. His stone-like flesh, his deep scars, his hardened soles recommended his astonishing claims to glory, and while these achievements were his credit, he could not allow a challenge so easily won to pass him by. He heard the faint sounds of his mate saying, “I have little idea as to why anyone should wish to subject themselves to such culinary torment,” when he marched over the threshold with a bold stride and waited at the entrance with a most triumphant aspect to be seated.