(Translator`s Note: Pikeras Fokas - Puckered Fig and Foken Kanas - The Figgish Gourmand)
I finished watering the plants and patted the little potted Fig tree I’d set in front of my scrubbed clean wine shop. There were actually a full ten of the pots all along the front of my shop and of the newly opened expansion next door. We would be getting the new signs soon, with the proceeds from this party, in part. Dorn had decided that being an art dealer in the half ruined city was not a good idea and during that horrid eight-day when we were sacked twice -- not just once but twice!— found he actually had a gift for calming people down, for feeding them.
Me, I can drink with the best and the worst of them and my chef and tiny little kitchen were a dumb add-on to my heart, the wine shop. But now Raras, done his Master’s Work, had moved over as the Master Chef into the new kitchen in ‘The Figgish Gourmand’. Dorn and I were partners now and the wall between our two shops was opened up nicely in a clever archway. I can focus on the drinks and he can feed people. It looks good, even if we’d had to do it ourselves, since there weren’t a lot of builders available. They were all so busy re-building the city. After.
Thank the Gods the Yeoli commander had decided that we were a good place to settle and no one here... no one who was family...got killed.
Yeast Piss and Mikas’s Table, further along the block had both tried what the rest of us did but Finas was unlucky that someone dropped a torch into a barrel of alcohol and the whole shop burned. He was still trying to put it out when the roof caved in on him, rest he in Selestialis, him and his family.
Mikas’s Table... the chef had grabbed a cleaver and tried to fight the Lakan unit set up in his place and they pulled everyone out and trampled them with those big black horses of theirs. Almost everyone. The children had been hidden in a back cupboard that looked too small to hold anyone and so were safe. Tila and I had taken the lot of them tykes in.
Mikas had been a good man but too hot headed. His kids had chefs’ in their blood. They’d grow up as food professionals, we’d see to it, as long as we held on, ourselves.
“Morning, Ienas. I’ll get started setting up.”
“You do that, Kaj. Remember we need to have the whole patio set up for Kyalao’s party just after noon.”
“You got it.” He already had Sef and Jes cranking out the sunshades, while he hauled risers and tables. Tila and the children and Dorn’s wife Isha and her girls were all arranging flowers. Nothing fancy, like out of a hot-house perhaps but very fancy for so few moons after an army rolled in. They had garlands draped all around the patio. Who would have thought?
“Morning, Dorn.” Dorn had gained some weight since he learned a new trade. It looked good on him. “Need some help?”
“Oh, always, Ienas, there’s always hauling to do if you’re moving food.” He smiled as he said it and it was good to see.
I followed him into the restaurant and he and I hauled out the sacks of potatoes and the grains. He stopped to speak gently to Nena -- what we called her anyway. When things had settled... she’d survived what had been done to her by the troops, along with two of the boys the Enchians had caught and played with. Nena had latched onto Isha as ‘mama’. We’d seen that she healed up as best she could and reported her to the Marble Palace as an Aitzas survivor but so far no one had come to claim her. Likely all her people were dead and she was perfectly content for now to call Isha mama and Dorn daddy.
She still spoke Aitzas but equal to equal like a little child. And she loved running the hand mill for the specialty cakes Isha made. So she found refuge too, at least for now. Someday she’d perhaps come to herself again.
The Figgish Gourmand had all of Dorn’s saved artwork on the walls and his statues placed all down the length of what had been the gallery. There was a set of three small steps and a raised area of floor where the higher caste could sit and look down at the lower. Doors from both sections gave easy access to the kitchen and it was big enough that Dorn had joked he should put his waiters on faib skates. I told him he should keep that for the fancier restaurant he intended to open one day.
The skylights let the sun pour in and the plants hung thick enough to look luxurious against the white-washed walls. There was a space left for the day we could afford to have another mirror made... a Fig on a loaded table. It was nice, but not like my own Fig. Who would have thought? This one party was going to pay for a lot of things. Of course the chains would have been looted but they were certainly being spread around by the conquerors. And it was nice that they were buying, not just taking the way they could.
I remember the first day I dared hand Kyalao a bill. I’d nearly shat myself doing it but the new Imperator said I should expect to be paid not stolen from. She’d just smiled at me and handed me a whole swath of chain to pay for her whole unit. “Keep that good wine coming, Iyena. You’re doing all right,” she’d said.
The musicians were showing up, trying to cadge drinks even this early so I had to leave Dorn to deal with his very puff-headed Master chef, while I went and stopped Riji from opening the wine barrel for the players too early. We didn’t want the musicians drunk before the big moment. Certainly not the lesser ones.
Who would have thought it? Tough, tough tough Yeoli woman solas, eats iron for breakfast, shits nails for lunch... meets tall handsome tough tough tough Enchian man solas, possibly tough enough to nail those suckers into wood with his ass... at a wine shop in a city they’re sacking.
I was certain I’d heard the bellow of outrage from Tor Ench and Yeola-e both when they presented their fathers with the prospective son or daughter in-law. The ringing in my ears was, of course fictional, but for days I had to smile just imagining it. I was so glad my little ones were no where near marrying age.
And what they were spending on a mere wedding! My professional god!
The Yeoli woman wouldn’t even be wearing a proper dress. Just a wedding shirt, and trousers like a man. The Enchian was going to look more like a bride than she was with his double vest, the short one underneath and the long one to his boots!
I checked that the new boozes... and all the new wines... the ones from all these different nations were at their proper temperature. The cool spots in Dorn’s basement were perfect for the foreign wines. They tolerated heat less than most of the ones I knew best. Then back upstairs just in time to offer the head bard -- Meriken Meras is the best I can say his name, not too badly mangled I suppose – a glass of wine. A careful balance keeping the players happy and not too drunk at the same time. Him with his flaming red hair that is at least Aitzas length with the one wing of ringlets next his face dyed black and the other, on the other side, white.
“Iyena, you know we might have people from the Marble Palace here... for the wedding itself since the couple wanted it,” he said lazily. “But the whole lot are invited up to the Jade Reclining hall for the late night debauch into the evening. Did Kyalao and her Rusiorkaj invite the four of you?” Yeolis. Just because Dorn and I were partners they kept thinking of our two families as a married four. I smiled at him. Thank the Gods for moveable daises if we’re to have Marble Palace types show up. I hadn’t expected that, but then most of these foreigners never wanted the kind of fawning the old-money chain Aitzas demanded.
“She did, thank you for reminding me, ser.” That was right. We... we would be on a guest list at the Marble Palace. Da, yer heart would fail ye. Tila and I and Dorn and Isha... fessas. All guests at the wool-hair run Marble Palace tonight.
Just because Kyalao Shae-Rikarye and Rusiorkaj Nikoliani were holding their wedding here at my little Fig... and Dorn’s Figgish Gourmand. It would be a party that would take up the whole street I was sure. The sun was high enough for me to start wondering where the bride and groom were.
He waved a hand at me... “Not ser, just Meriken.”
Like I’m going to risk offending you, even if you’re doing what the new Son of the Sun always does, handing out names to be free on everyone’s tongue.
“Of course, ser Meriken.” All in all, now that people were healing up, and their semana-something had been proved the Gods choice, they weren’t doing too badly running the place. A lot better than before some might say, though I never would out loud.
There she was, just arriving. The Yeoli commander who took the place over when she could have burned it down, getting out of the express chair as if she’d been doing it all her life, next to the tall Enchian who could have spitted me and chose not to, him handing her out as if she were an Enchian lady and her letting him, though she was teasing him about it, you could see. Gods, you have a strange sense of humor.