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Ramen and Imperial Pride


Renny was led by the Cathaks down a level and past a number of small wooden shacks, toward the line at the Noodle stand. The other Imperials, with the dark-skinned stranger, are at the far end of the line.

Fulmis took the lead, and bowed. "Captain Brugmansia. I am Captain Fulmis of the Cathak Legions, as part of her Glory, the Empress' Lost Egg Project. This is my second, Lieutenant Nyana." Nyana bowed in turn. "And this is the Lost Egg we found, Captain Ranait." He indicated Renny with his head.

"Captain Fulmis," Brugmansia bowed. "It is an honor to meet you. I am a Captain in her Glory's Imperial Legions, on the same Project. This is my second, Peleps Morain." Morain bowed. "And this is the Lost Egg we have found, Araqiel." She indicated the dark-skinned man. "We were about to replenish ourselves here at Deckard's Noodle Shop." The line shifted ahead, people moving forward.

Araqiel's attention focused on Renny. They were the strangers here, the so-called 'Lost Eggs.' It meant they were bound by that mutual distinction. He stepped forward, his cloak rustling like raven wings -- his lean frame all shadows and bone. With a bow, he said, "Ranait hanimefendi. Selamünaleyküm. Your journey has treated you well, I pray?"

Renny bowed back with a smile, taking off her tricorn gracefully as she did so. Despite being called "captain", there was no recognizable military insignia on her long green greatcoat. Still, it was trimmed to project an air of authority, and while it had clearly seen hard use, it had been lovingly cared for. From her belt hung a sabre and flint-lock pistol; like the rest of her outfit, more functional than fashionable.

"As-salām 'alaykum, Mr. Araqiel," Renny replied. With a twinkle in her eye, she added, "My trip here has quite pleasant so far. How was yours?"

The Cathaks, Tepet and Peleps step off to the side, Morain and Nyana keeping a half eye on their charges while talking quietly among themselves. There is the occasional shifting upward of the line as every gets closer to the savory smell of the noodle stand.

His bone-dust eyes lightened as she replied in a familiar tongue. She'd impressed him.

"It has been both interesting and illuminating," Araqiel smiled, as best he could. It was as if he struggled to recall how. "Perhaps we can discuss our journeys over tea some day, Ranait-bey."

"That sounds lovely," Renny replied, hoping that on that day she had something more interesting that "Nearly got killed by a Fae" to discuss.

"Then so we shall," Araqiel said, dipping his head respectfully.

He glanced toward the others, but spoke to her. "They way they look at us, I feel like a prized peacock. But I've yet to determine if we are bound for the gardens... or the kitchens."

"As a Warden, you're much too valuable and potentially talented, Araqiel," Captain Fulmis said, "to be bound for a garden OR a kitchen.

"Then I am somewhat relieved," Araqiel chuckled. But only for a moment. The smile faded slightly, as he added. "Anasina bak, kizini al. 'Let the horse die from too much barley.' Remember, we are but a man and a woman before you."

Renny didn't know how to respond to that. We're Wardens, part of her wanted to say. We're more than that! But then, she hadn't really heard anything to suggest Wardens were superhuman, either. She thought of herself as exceptional, but exceptional human, not something else. And she didn't want to be used up and spit out, either. But Fulmis was an Imperial Warden. He didn't seem to be ill-treated. Though surely they wouldn't send out the used up Wardens to recruit more.

"As far as discussing things over tea," Fulmis said, "the Empress' procedure is for the Lost Eggs to be gathered at the Guest Palace on the Imperial Grounds. It is there that you will be met by representatives of the various Houses, and very likely Her Glory. Therefore, you will have time and opportunity to talk amongst yourselves and compare your experiences."

"Although," Brugmansia said, "that doesn't mean that the virtues of our various Houses cannot be presented before you reach the Empire."

Araqiel dipped his head. "I shall serve where I am most useful. And I look forward to the opportunity."

Hmmm, Renny thought. He wants them to remember he is but a man, but he seems eager to serve? "I look forward to meeting the others," she said.

The line continued to move closer to the shack, and now, as they were near the front, the group could see the set up. Twenty seats were arranged on a hollow square of a bar sort of set up. In the center there were several cooks, managing pots of liquid and a gigantic cooking stone. Long thick noodles were being cooked, ladled into bowls, and then topped with various things. A large board listed a variety of items, ranging from green onion to egg, to ostrich meat.

"We're up," Morain said with delight. "You're going to love this, Araqiel. You tell them what topping you want with your noodles, and they serve it right on top. Noodles in the Empire are usually much less of a soup item, and are served in a dry sauce, or in chili oil. So this is different, and a real delight."

Araqiel considered his options and settled on vegetables, tripe, and slivers of ostrich meat. He watched the process with rapt fascination. "This shall be ever better than dried horse jerky."

Renny gave Araqiel a startled look at that last comment, and Fulmis asked "Horse Jerky?"

"Don't let him fool you," Brugmansia said to Fulmis. "We had a quite delightful meal in his Gossamer World, and Horse Jerky played no part in it."

"The meal we shared was a rarity," Araqiel explained. "Most of my last years have been with the horse tribes. Very little goes to waste amongst them. At least the jerky tasted better than the mare's milk kumis."

"I am not certain I want to know what that is," Brugmansia said.

Renny took longer than she would have liked when it was her turn, but she hit upon a section of the menu with more familiar things. She asked for cod with small cubes of fatback bacon fried until they were golden brown. On a whim she threw mushrooms in too.

The soldiers, from both groups, wound up getting a variety of things for their own toppings. As they worked through the line, Araqiel and Renny's orders had wound up in their hands, steaming hot, and savory smelling. Renny was more than a little startled at the things they called mushrooms.

Morain indicated a space further down from the shack, a small park-like affair that the Imperials took over, sitting on the benches and rocks, leaving space for Renny and Araqiel to perch where they might. Renny found a nice spot with plenty of room and sat down there, gesturing to Araqiel that he would be welcome to sit nearby. She breathed in the steam coming off the broth, and smiled. Then, out of the corner of her eye she watched the soldiers with their meals, trying to figure out how to use her chopsticks.

Page last modified on October 13, 2015, at 02:18 AM