Story for the Day: The Power of Pig Pottage
I am certainly guilty of trying various products to achieve the best youthful looks that a pottage might promise. Lucentians are the masters of creating odd cosmetics that become all the rage, but in Frewyn, rather than slather ourselves in creams and concoctions, we would rather bake the ingredients in a pie, eat it, and claim that a viable beauty regime.
The game of Ailinenteau that Thomas and Shayne were playing had ended, and with Shayne the winner, Jaicobh and Sheamas were invited to play with them and take up the two elements notalready in use. They were sorry there were not more colours to be claimed and played with, but they would take turns, and the winner of the round would allow himself to be usurped for another player. Everyone else kindly declined to play, preferring Boghans or Fidchell to a game of sliding tiles, and Teague kindly refraining from both on account of his dreadful habit of never playing anything that had nothing to do with cards or dice unless at Vyrdin’s request. He would play Ardri with Vyrdin and Draeden, however, but later in the evening, and Dobhin was too well occupied with studying Alasdair’s new collection for games. He was reading nearly every ingredient and laughing at Alasdair about it, and Jutstina and Carrigh tried not to tease their sovereign very much, offering more conciliation and tolerance than anyone else was willing to offer.
“Well Brennan, they did it,” Dobhin exclaimed, examining one of the creams. “They broke you at last. Did they get you with their exquisite pig pottage, the one you can spread over your face?”
Alasdair was all astonishment. “You knew about it and you never told me?”
“I know about it, Brennan, as every lord who has a mother or a sister must know about Lucentian aging cures. They’re all the fashion in the royal parlour. Lords and ladies of the lower houses buy and trade northern beauty secrets as though they’re mercantile agreements, bartering all the serums and creams amongst themselves like two Bizarmin pack mules running the business. If you spent more than ten seconds in the royal parlour, you would have known about these things ages ago. Oh, Brennan,” he tutted, “you look upon me as though I have lied to you. I never in my life would have thought you should be interested in such a thing. There is no evidence that any of them really work. It is all a bit of trickery and psychology. You might have better results putting your hand in the lard vat and painting your face with what you can pull out.”
“They do work,” Alasdair insisted. “I saw evidence this morning.”
“You think you saw evidence, Brennan,” Dobhin proclaimed, “but in truth, the lighting in the shoppe was exemplary and your face was never that resplendent before. There was no wrinkle cure. You were only blinded by the glimmering sheen of the merchant’s eager eyes.”
“Have you been to one of those shoppes before?” Alasdair asked, in an offended tone.
“I’ve seen one, as anyone who is forced to go to Farriage as much as I have been must. They’re temples, places where vanity goes to worship itself and conscientious and critical assessment goes to die. Their counters and shelves are altars to the flattery nobody else will pay us, and altars of night creams and soaking serums boast of man’s desperate want to pluck and improve.” Here was a subdued smile. “They hold no charm for me.”
“Don’t you care that you’re beginning to wear your age?”
“No,” said Dobhin, with a careless air. “Like MacDaede, I’m rather proud of looking older—the younger, of course, Honoured Regent,” nodding toward Jaicobh.
“Aye,” Jaicobh humphed, “I’m proud of it too.”
“Sure,” Shayne grunted, “all would be if we looked how you do at half yer years. Yer move.”
Martje, curious about the mountain of parcels from town, came to the table, and after being shooed away from his collection by the Den Asaan, who was lurking about the larder, wondering whether he had best eat all the chocolates he garnered from the morning or place them in various caches about the keep, she took up one of the boxes and scrutinized it with a maternal flout.
“Pig collagen,” Martje read, contracting her brows, “—is that like the gelatin we get when we boil the trotters?”
“It must be,” said Sheamas, moving his playing piece. “There must a process of how they extract it and separate it.”
Martje went on. “Let’s see here,” scrunching her nose as she read. “Extract, extract, extract, leaf extract, compound, some powder o’ somethin’, wine extract—wine?”
“It does make people flush when taken in regular amounts,” was Boudicca’s remark. “Perhaps it has something to do with pores and circulation.”
Martje chuffed and continued. “Some leaf mash, aloe—whatever that is—and chocolate extract?”
Rautu, who was looming in the shadow of the larder, instantly turned to gowl incredulously and offer his silent disapprobation as he put another chocolate into his mouth.
“Perhaps there is origin of your preservatory powers, Iimon Ghaala,” said Boudicca, with smiling decision. “If only the rest of your kin knew such a beauty secret, they would be more inclined to incorporate your favourite food into their diet.”
There was a scandalous want of chocolate on the islands in general, though the balmy climes of the archipelago were ripe for plantations, and though this did not prevent the Den Asaan from visiting oftener, it was a viable excuse. He sat in his corner, assessing his next piece of chocolate while Martje was lamenting over the monstrous waste it was to mash food into a cream when, “You might as well just eat it to gain the skin you want—sure, could probably make a mask out o’ yogurt what would improve yer colourin’,” considering her own smooth complexion as the result of oats, apples, and more cake that she should otherwise admit with Bilar’s office in view.
Maggie entirely agreed with her. She was just come in from the servants’ hall, where tea with Aghatha, Ros, Blinne, Peigi, Fionnora, Ouryn, and Ennan was already in session, the scent of her mother’s apple pie drawing her out of her chair and bringing her to the kitchen, where she was sure of securing one to bring back to the rest of the party. She was encouraged instead to invite them all hither, that they might choose their own pies and cut their own slices as their tastes could warrant. She went to the larder, to find a small box of plain biscuits she had been saving, and started when she found the Den Asaan lurking near the shelf, obscured the delitescence from the closed door, eating a chocolate and searching for a secure hiding place for the rest.
“My ma will know if you put ‘em in the larder,” said she, with quiet mirth.
“She will not find them,” the giant contended.
“Unless yer gonna hide them in a loaf of bread, she’ll find ‘em, Den Asaan.”
“Shh,” Rautu hissed. “You will not watch where I hide them, and you will not tell her I am doing it.” He took one of the chocolates he was given extraordinary and gave it to here. “Here. You may have this one.”
“Are you tryin’ to bribe me, Den Asaan?”
“I am not bribing you,” he demanded, and then, with a reluctant look, “I am rewarding you.”
Compensation for uncommitted crimes was a something like reward, and here Maggie must be satisfied, quitting the larder having gained a treat for herself, though her biscuits were suspiciously run away with, and leaving the kitchen having obtained the promise of pie upon her return.
“Don’t let ‘em rile you, Majesty,” said Shayne, lifting his playing piece off the table and moving it to its proper slot. “You wanna wear those creams, you just go on ahead. No one should be cattleprod for wantin’ to beautify ‘emselves. Gods know some o’ us need it. We ain’t all born prizewinners. Sometimes, calf doesn’t come out right, and there’s nothin’ else can be done for it. ‘Member aul’ man McSheighlidh?”
“Aye,” said Jaicobh, “I remember. Had a brow line so deep, looked like he’d barreled head first into a ploughshare. You could cut onions aff it.”
“Aye, or Billigh Baun. Man had a forehead like the furrows since the day he was born. He was growin’ carrots in crevices by the time he was takin’ over the farm.”
“Aye, and Aul’ Jonnigh Mhallam. Had eye bags like a thieves’ purse.”
“Sure, got heavier the older he got. Like an egg droopin’ on a nail. Bags were so deep, they were layin’ into his jowls by the time he turned the soil.”
“Or aul’ Rabh. Poor man had jowls like a Marridon huntin’ hound.”
“Aye, they were round his knees come forty. Coulda tied his shoes with ‘em, Amhaile.”
“For some folk,” Jaicobh shrugged, “no matter what cures are out on the market, there just ain’t anythin’ can be done. How you are is how the Gods made you. I might look a hardy sixty-five, but I sure don’t feel it. I got the aches of an a hundred and seventy year old.”
There was a chorus of moans at this.
“My mind’s as sharp as the day I turned thirty, though,” Jaicobh admitted. “The memories are all there, and they’re all clear. Unlike Shayne’s.”
Jaicobh grinned at his friend, and Shayne winced into his hat.
“Aye,” Martje chimed, “don’t I know so.”
Shayne glared at Jaicobh, who was laughing into his tea, and Alasdair, having now sat through the derisive commentary on his account, was at liberty to speak to Boudicca in a quiet corner of the room.