Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Sixteen: Fisher Folk and Naims (Cont’d)
Previously: Preparing to fill their grumbling stomachs, Zack and Gina had nearly forgotten their mission.
(See below for a Glossary of SurKellish words*)
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“Gina!” Zack whispered urgently, “We still gotta find the you-know-what!”
“What? Oh! Right!” Gina turned to the fisher folk and said, “There’s something we really have to—”
“Nay, cheldings,” Shelcor replied. “Eat first.”
The Screaming Spiffwit’s innkeeper greeted Maerith and Shelcor by name, and then welcomed the two “sea whelps,” Zack and Gina. He set down a platter piled with silvery raw shellfish. He also placed a big brick of mottled orange and yellow cheese before them, and a wooden bowl piled high with dried bread and burbeedup, a sweet-sour curd made from Kellish flax-berries (burbees). “The meeth’s fresh-brewed,” he said, placing four metal mugs on the table and pointing to a bowl on the seaside wall. He scrutinized Zack and Gina, then pointed to a smaller bowl and added, “An’ for the cheldings, that’n.”
Gina nibbled a hard shard of bread and tasted a fingerful of burbeedup, then asked, “Have you got any shrennel bread?”
“Nay, lass. An’ it costs a pithy bimmie when I can get it. It don’t usually survive the voyage from Frenga without turnin’ all sad an’ moldry-like. The sea, yer know—it’s sometimes wet!” He winked.
“Thanks ever so much for explaining,” Gina said with a soupcon of sarcasm.
Shelcor grabbed all four mugs and went to fill them, as Maerith encouraged Zack and Gina to eat. The fisherwoman picked up a stony half-shell from the platter, slid its contents onto a chunk of burbeedupped bread, and bit into the combo.
Imitating her, Zack picked up a half-shell and slipped the slimy meat onto a piece of bread. It was easy to see why the bread needed to be dry, for the shellfish instantly permeated it with its snotty juice. He nibbled a corner and gagged, “Ooooo, crugg! Raw!”
“Nay need for cooking,” said Maerith. “Fliffers is tender an’ sweet. They soak the bread with their goodness, and with a bit a’ burbee, fairly sing in your stomach!”
Shelcor sat down with four froth-filled mugs, then tossed three fliffers down his throat in quick succession. He lifted his mug toward the ceiling and proclaimed, “There’s naught but is of Uol!”
“There’s naught but is of Uol!” Maerith repeated with glowing eyes, and many others in the room joined in.
The fliffers tasted like phlegm, the burbeedup like pickled grapes, but the tangy mottled cheese was the best they’d ever eaten, and the meeth was nothing short of miraculous, sweet and frothy with a flavor akin to caramel apples and roasted nuts.
Maerith and Shelcor said little unless asked, yet Zack and Gina felt completely at ease with them. The two fisher folk inquired about their fall into the sea, but did not press for an answer when Gina quickly changed the subject…
They seemed to understand that people sometimes need to keep secrets.
Thoughts: Unless you “eat like the locals,” can you ever truly experience another culture?
*A brief Glossary of SurKellish words: spiffwit–a flightless seabird; chelding–child; shrennel bread–a staple in the Kingdom of Frenga; pithy–precious; bimmie–smallest coin in the Kingdom of Sur Kellan
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