Thistledown – Midsummer Bedlam 24 — The Other Seer

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Thank you for flying over to the faery land of Thistledown.  

Toadstools group Tim Price

Photo by Tim Price

I mentioned “mushrooms” to a couple of readers when I wrote the previous episode, Spores*.   Photographer, Tim Price kindly offered to let me use some beautiful images he captured of mushrooms.  You’ll see them throughout this chapter.  You can also see even more at his blog, T & L Photos*.

Writing Process

When writing serials, particularly stories that go on for months, I sometimes reach points where I need to tie up loose ends.  I also might need to leave answers for clues I’ve left along the way.  This is such an episode.  So the pace is not as fast, and it’s a little longer than the past few chapters.  I hope you’ll still enjoy the story.  Now to Thistledown.

Previously in Thistledown — Midsummer Bedlam

Bedlam Thunder’s seemingly endless descent into the black abyss stopped.  Her fall was broken when she landed on a bed of giant mushrooms.  She couldn’t help inhaling air polluted by a cloud of the mushroom spores.  Then she saw horrible creatures.

Thistledown

Midsummer Bedlam 24

The Other Seer

I floated in blackness.  I knew the vague feeling of having woken to a horrific image, but along with wakefullness it seemed far away. 

A nagging beat entered my mind.  I had heard it somewhere before.  Tap tap.  Pause.  Bum-dum dah-dah. Pause.  Tap tap.  Pause.  Bum-dum dah-dah.

Bongo drummer clem-onojeghuo-122041

Clem Onojeghuo, Unsplash

Softly spoken words came to me.  I had heard them before too.

“Bedlam.  Bedlam Thunder, can you hear me?”

I remembered the voice that spoke those words, now and before.

I tried to answer but the chimera roared, frightening me.  However, it’s roar became a voice.

“The potency of the mushrooms increased with their size,” the creature said.  “She must have inhaled a lot of hallucinogenic spores.”

“Is everyone alright?  Take deep breaths of the fresh air and stay away from the cave opening,” the first voice instructed.

The beat continued.  Gradually, I identified it as a drum.  No, several drums.  Soft murmurs surrounded me, a jumble of words and voices in my mind.  Fragments of sentences eluded my grasp.

Finally, a another string of words coalesced and I understood them.

“I don’t understand,” someone said.  “She has wings.  Why didn’t she just fly back to wherever?”

“She wouldn’t have been able to.  Not even with two good wings.  The abyss has subtle but powerful magic.  Dark magic,” the first voice replied.

My eyes fluttered open.  I drew back in fear when I saw the chimera leaning over me.  Then the features of the creature blurred and became a regular face.  I beheld a circle of relieved looking faces.  They were familiar, yet… wrong.  Beyond the faces I saw a gray-white sky.  A milky sun tried unsuccessfully to burn through the persistent clouds.

So, I’ve gone there again.  The colorless world, I thought.  I wonder if this world has ever seen bright sunlight or a blue sky.

“Didn’t I warn you not to breathe?” the now familiar voice demanded.

She leaned into my line of sight.  A bright pink streak in her straight brown hair stood out against the dullness of the day.  I remembered meeting her at Uncle’s bonfire party.  It was quite an entrance she made.  She seemed familiar to me then, and Field Yewwasp had mumbled as much too, though he never told me who he thought the woman was.  I sat up on my elbows.  Disoriented, I searched my mind for her name.

(You can revisit that chapter in Episode 10, Fire and Furry.)

Stunt_Pyrotechnics_Luc_Viatour

Fallow Blackmoon?” I asked.

She nodded and the other faces surrounding me smiled.  I noticed that they all held small drums.

“You have a knack for turning up in the most unexpected places,” the man who had leaned over me, at first seeming to be a chimera, commented.

“Catseye,” I addressed the man.  “But no.  You’re Royal Chimera.  The mushrooms!” I cried in sudden realization.  “You must have caused them to be so large.”

“Yes, but how did you know?” Royal wanted to know.

“Because,” I began with a shrug.  “That’s like the magic Catseye Glimmer has.  He can create something useful out of nearly nothing,” I tried to explain.  “Once I stumbled and he transformed a single cotton bowl into a huge pillow, quickly tossing it into place to keep me from further injuring my wing.  You look like him.”

(You can revisit that chapter in Episode 2, In the Kitchen.)

Mushrooms blue Tim Price

“There is hardly any magic in this world, Bedlam Thunder.  I’ve been working to bring out any traces of magic I find ― the things and people that have a seed of innate magic inside.  I sensed such an ability within Royal Chimera,” Fallow Blackmoon explained.  “That’s why I haven’t tried to get back to Thistledown.  Magic begets magic.  I am needed here.”

“With Fallow’s guidance, I’ve been able to do some simple things.  Making tiny mushrooms into huge ones is far more than I’ve ever done before,” Royal told me in a modest tone.

“He’s learned quickly,” Fallow added a word of praise.  “Especially considering this was not a spell to be taught, but something he has to find on his own, from within.”

“So, you used to live in Thistledown?  You aren’t originally from this place.  You have no double here?” I confirmed, turning back to Fallow Blackmoon.  “I feel as though I should know you,” I added lamely, not knowing how to finish the sentence.

Fallow nodded.  I hoped she would elaborate, but she did not.

“Neither of us have a double here.  Yet everyone else seems to.  Why are we unique?” I asked.

I wished I could take back my words.  Looking at the faces around me, I realized my tone had been harsh and demanding, though I had not intended to sound that way.  The circle of faces around me glared in response.

“I mean…” I tried to smooth my rudeness.

Fallow smiled and her friends seemed to relax.

“The cave,” Fallow began with a motion to the nearby opening.  “That cave amplifies magic.  So, we come here to practice.  Bedlam Thunder, these people represent all the magic I have found in this world.  We were holding a drum circle inside the cave when I sensed the presence of another seer.  Of course, that was you, in your descent.”

Märchendom Saalfelder Feengrotten

Der sogenannte Märchendom in den Saalfelder Feengrotten.

She gave me a moment to process what she said.  It was only a handful of people, yet they represented the magic of the entire world?

“I have concluded that this world does not have seers, like you and me,” Fallow told me.  “Yes, we are unique in that we don’t have a double in this world.  The furry faery, Field Yewwasp, is also unique, even though he is not a seer.  Some describe a legendary creature of this world that could be his ‘double’…” she added.  “Although it is far from being a true duplicate Field Yewwasp.”

“I’m Drummer Soulfire,” the woman on the other side of me introduced herself.  “I’m relieved that you are okay.  Dah-le!  That was quite a fall!”

“Fittingly enough, Drummer, leads the drum circle,” Fallow inserted.  “She has a true talent for it.  The properties of the cave, combined with the drumming helped us retrieve you from your descent.  Otherwise, you may have continued falling forever.”

Her words caused me to shudder.  The idea of an endless tumble had entered my mind while I fell.  It was a horrid thought.

Feeling more alert, I took a closer look at the faces around me.  It was a sadly small group if these were the only people with any trace of magic.  There were three more familiar, yet wrong, faces.  Two of them I had met.

Rotten Soulfire!” I exclaimed.  “You really are more like River Mindshadow than either of you would realize.”

“Of course my cousin, Rotten, is part of the drum circle,” Drummer commented and gave her drum a tap for emphasis. 

A sound like knives slicing through air caused me to look away from Rotten.  Remembering the sound of the sharp, jagged edges of the leaves that decorated his hat, I smiled to see Poison Ivy Razorleaf again.  With a wicked grin, he doffed his hat and bowed.

Fungus mushroom Tim Price

Photo by Tim Price

Though I knew a face like his, I had not met the final member of the drum circle.  He gave me a quizzical look, as though he had yet to get a read on me.  His shoulders twitched as if he tried to force the muscles to relax.  He gave his name, Stranglevine Starquencher.

“The copper battleaxe!” I said in abrupt realization.  “That’s why I hallucinated about the axe.  Carver Eastdoor has one.  Do you?”

Stranglevine Starquencher, Carver’s double, drew back.  His eyes narrowed suspiciously.  He stared at me for a long moment before speaking.

“The copper battleaxe is a closely held family secret,” Stranglevine began.  “Not even the drum circle knows about it.  How is it that you know?” he demanded.

Razorleaf looked at him with a raised eyebrow.  Then he snorted and smirked.

“I always suspected those rumors were real,” Razorleaf told him.  “Your double in that sugary world had an enormous copper battleaxe.  When he used it to break a magical doorway, it also shattered the great scrying stone here.  But it let me visit that world, and it got Bedlam back home.  At least until she landed here yet again.”

(See Episode-8 Shadows of Body and Mind.)

Stranglevine seemed minutely less distrustful after Razorleaf spoke.  Although, I didn’t think I had made a friend yet.  He seemed much different from Carver Eastdoor.  Yet Poison Ivy Razorleaf was vastly different from quiet, unobtrusive Ivy Twinkle too.  I reminded myself that there was no telling how drastically different the lives of the doubles had been, compared to anyone who grew up in Thistledown.  Who could guess what had shaped Stranglevine into a skeptic.  After a moment his shoulders relaxed.  He seemed to have settled something in his mind.  He cleared his throat.

“The family always said the copper ax was magical.  I’ve never seen anything unusual or special about it.  Except for how big it is.  And how old,” he finally told us.  “I don’t think it’s particularly valuable.  It’s just copper, not gold or rhodium.  But some people might think it’s worth something,” he added turning back to me.  “You don’t let word get out that you own something that might be valuable in this world.”

“Could you bring it here to the cave?” Fallow asked gently.  “I’d like to see how it reacts to the magic of this place.”

Abbey,_Edwin_Austin_Fairies

Fairies, Edwin Austin Abbey, 1852-1911

 The End

***

This Week’s Faery Namers

Click the links to reveal the identity of the namers.  Be sure to visit the “secret” bloggers who have faeries named in honor of them in this episode.

Field Yewwasp https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/about/

Fallow Blackmoon  https://harvestinghecate.wordpress.com/

Royal Chimera  http://photos.tandlphotos.com/blog

Stranglevine Starquencher  https://nofacilities.com/

Drummer Soulfire  https://suedreamwalker.wordpress.com/about/

River Mindshadow  http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/

Poison Ivy Razorleaf  https://hughsviewsandnews.com/

Our hapless faery, Bedlam, seems to have gotten a reprieve.  However, she is once again stuck in the colorless world.  It does not seem like a very benevolent place, despite the apparent kindness of the drum circle.  How will Bedlam get home?  Fly back to Thistledown again next time to learn more.  Until then…

Hugs on the wing!

 

 

Copyright © 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene 

All rights reserved. 

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise. 

 

Thistledown – Midsummer Bedlam 23 — Spores

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Welcome back to the faery land of Thistledown. 

Falling, falling until you finally feel the fathomless descent is normal — at least normal for you.  It’s dark.  A glimmer of light had make you think the dark would be banished.  Yet the blackness remains.  Darker than dark, you neither see nor hear another soul.  Alone.  The fall will surely kill you, but at least you know what kind of death awaits.  Landing… Landing lends new lethal longings and worries. 

The portal, the dark gaping maw, the black abyss — it’s back.  We resume the story from the point of view of Bedlam Thunder as she falls through the seemingly bottomless dark abyss. 

Previously in Thistledown — Midsummer Bedlam

The black gaping maw of the portal closed with a pop.  Field Yewwwasp rescued Rhymer Rainbow and then River Mindshadow.  However, Bedlam Thunder was still in that darker than dark place when the portal snapped shut.

Thistledown

Midsummer Bedlam 23

Spores

Glowing mushrooms dark tree_jay-ma-304046.jpg

Jay Ma, Unsplash

No sun.

No stars.

No sound.

I felt myself falling and falling.  And falling.  I couldn’t see anything, including the bottom of the abyss.

If there is a bottom, I thought in consternation. 

Neither could I hear anything.  Was sound as absent as light?  Or was it that there simply wasn’t anything else to make a noise.  Was I that forsaken?  A sob escaped my lips.

So, sound still exists.  Then I must be truly, completely alone.

Suddenly, it felt like the bottom fell out of my stomach.  The rate of my descent quickened.  The realization that I might actually splat onto the ground was even more alarming than the idea of falling endlessly.

In the black emptiness a nagging beat entered my mind.  Tap tap.  Pause.  Bum-dum dah-dah.  Tap tap.  Pause.  Bum-dum dah-dah.

Was it just inside my head?  Perhaps my heartbeat took on an erratic pattern as I fought to stave off panic.  I strained my ears, trying to determine whether there was in fact a noise, something with me in the light-less abyss.

Tap tap.  Pause.  Bum-dum dah-dah.  Bum-dum!  Bum-dum dah-dah!

Yes!  It was a beating drum.  Although I couldn’t tell from whence the drumming came.  The noise became a little louder.  Tap tap, like a knock at a door.  Then more insistently, Bum-dum!  Bum-dum dah-dah!

Bongo drummer clem-onojeghuo-122041

Clem Onojeghuo, Unsplash

Finally, I heard a whisper, a voice that seemed far away.  At first, I couldn’t make out the words.  The drumbeat came back with that odd pattern.  Then I could hear the words.

“Bedlam Thunder.  Bedlam!  Bedlam Thunder, can you hear me?”

The barely perceptible voice became louder as it spoke my name.  It began to sound familiar but I couldn’t place it.  It seemed like something I should remember from long ago.  Abruptly I realized I had also heard the voice fairly recently.

“We have something to break your fall,” she said.  “Try to land on your stomach.  I expect your wing is not fully healed, right?  Oh!  And it is very important that you do not breathe when you land!  It could be dangerous if you breathe before the dust settles.”

Those words were not comforting.

It felt as if something abruptly let go of me.  I fell faster than ever.  Frantically I tried to twist and turn so that my belly was facing downward.  I resisted the natural impulse to unfurl my wings.  I was falling so rapidly that it would surely reopen the tear in my gossamer wing.

After falling for so long, it seemed sudden when I landed.  With a soft thud the wind was knocked out of me.  My body automatically gasped, sucking oxygen back into my lungs, despite the warning not to breathe.

Bits of something floating in the air made a cloud around me.

I lifted my head to look at the soft but lumpy bed on which I landed.  Although, it wasn’t actually a bed.

“Mushrooms?  Giant mushrooms?” I murmured aloud in amazement.  “Spores…” I added looking at the cloud of floating bits that exploded from the mushrooms when I landed on them.

Mushrooms many jakob-creutz-427450

Jakob Creutz, Unsplash

A fit of coughing overtook me.  Every time I recovered myself and gulped air I inhaled spores with it.  Which made me cough again.

Finally, the cloud of mushroom bits settled and I could breathe normally.  I scanned my dark surroundings.

Any illumination at all seem bright after being in such darkness.  The presence of a dim light felt so bright that I squinted. 

“Is that daylight?”

I was so surprised to finally see it that I spoke aloud.  I couldn’t exactly call it sunlight, but it did seem to be light.  Perhaps it was a very cloudy, rainy day.  It seemed to be the entrance to a cave… or rather the exit.

Disoriented from the impossibly long fall, I staggered as I got up from the pile of giant mushrooms.  A smaller cloud of spores swirled around my feet.  I felt quite bewildered.  As I struggled forward toward the opening, I became woozy.

The sound of a roar, like a great lion, caused me to stumble to a stop.  A gout of flame flared, blinding me for a moment.  Then I saw it at the cave’s opening ― an enormous chimera.

The beast’s lion head roared again.  Golden eyes stared me in a way that I imagined meant it was hungry.  Scales rustled against the ground as its serpent tail swished.

The chimera moved forward toward the cave’s opening.  I stifled a scream.

Eye white close paul-morris-184484.jpg

Paul Morris, Unsplash

A copper battleaxe the size of a millstone slammed down, blocking the cave exit.  The chimera roared frustration, and tongues of flame licked around the edges of the enormous battleaxe.

The copper ax was engraved with designs and inscriptions.  They seemed to crawl on the surface as I looked at it.  An eye opened in the metal and leered at me.  Then the eye melted, running down the face of the ax like a molten jewel.  The chimera growled and the battleaxe gave a wicked laugh.  They both taunted me.

The End

***

This Week’s Faery Namers

Bedlam truly was alone in the dark… there were no Faery Namers for this episode.  Actually there were a few but the chapter didn’t name the namers.  Can you guess who they are?  There are clues for those who have been paying attention.  Feel free to leave your guess in a comment.

Now what will happen to our hapless faery?  Bedlam finally had a soft landing, but now she’s confronted by a mythic chimera and an evil battleaxe.  Fly back next week to see “what the faery is going on.  Until then…

Hugs on the wing!

 

 

Copyright © 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene 

All rights reserved. 

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise. 

 

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 17

Orpheus Smoky Mary float Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Locomotive. Happy we’re back on track & ready to dance (Click here)

Back on Track

Last time I hit a bump in the road (or rather the railroad tracks).  However, the Victorian locomotive is back on schedule and running at full steam.

John W. Howell gave us the very first set of “things” to guide the plot of this pantser serial.  Happily later he sent a second set of three, which I’ve held in reserve.

You’ve heard about John’s great book, My GRL, and the first chapter is available for preview at his blog. But what you might not know about is a really cool radio interview he did.

Except for two second sets of “things,” the serial’s cupboards were bare. There was nothing to drive the train… (A second set of three things was also sent by real estate professional and cooking blogger Suzanne DeBrango.  Those will inspire the plot and setting for Episode-18.)

Alastair Wong the elder was a very minor character in both Three Ingredients serials. The set of “P” words John provided drove this plot to a connection with a different character from Three Ingredients 2, a Ghost in the Kitchen.  Those of you who were around for that story will be pleased to see this connection.

When I started “decorating” it seemed to me that the Victorians had a particular liking for mushrooms. If you think you see a theme in this episode, you are not mistaken.

The steam engine has reached the station.  All aboard!

From last time…

Cornelis held out his harmonic tuner.  A faint current of green streamed from the tuner all the way down the hill to the washing machine.  The machine wobbled, gurgled, and creaked.  The wringer started to turn again, the magic pulling the tablecloth on through as we watched.

Alchemically inscribed phosphorescent lettering appeared on the tablecloth.  The Dutchman shined the light on the cloth as it finished rolling from the mangle. 

It was in large glowing green script.  I read the word aloud, 

“Daddy.”

17.  Pistachio, Penne Pasta, Porcini

Mushrooms Hat VictorianMy first thought wasn’t exactly a thought.  All cogitation was clogged in a bottleneck of befuddled ideas.  The first thought that got through the blockage was relief that Copper was up at the pavilion.  It would be awful if the supernaturally printed word, Daddy, got her hopes up for no good reason.

I wasn’t feeling too optimistic myself, and to be honest, I was losing my sense of trust. And that single, magically written word brought out all my suppressed concerns.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that I experienced occasional twinges of distrust for Ignatius Belle (who turned out to be Copper’s half-brother), it also bothered me that I had begun having doubts about Copper’s father, Calvin Hixon.

Granted, if Hixon was abducted, he probably had no chance to leave a warning or reason.  But what if he left of his own accord?  The notion was so awful — had he willingly left his daughter with no explanation, and worse left the child on her own?

Other than his unfortunate money situation, Calvin Hixon appeared to be utterly brilliant.  Could the circumstances be more complicated than an abduction?  Did Hixon stand to somehow see a financial gain from the situation?  Could he be involved in his own disappearance?  Oh surely not, I told myself.  I’m over-analyzing things.Alice Mushroom Victorian

Most often the simplest answers are the correct ones.  But was running away as simple as being abducted…?  Had Calvin Hixon suddenly run away from his adversaries, perhaps thinking he would lead them away from his daughter, thereby keeping her safe?  I’m still over-analyzing, I admonished myself.

“Felicity,” I heard my name and realized that Cornelis had called it more than once while I pondered the unpleasant thoughts about Calvin Hixon.

“Do step back,” the alchemist told me.  “Something unexpected might happen,” he said as he reached into that supernatural void through which he sometimes fetched things.

“Unexpected?” I said sardonically, knowing how often Cornelis’ tricks tended to go awry.

To my surprise he produced the long map we had been looking at on the terrace.  The area on which he had used the harmonic tuner still gave off a greenish glow.  However, the phosphorescent script “Daddy” on the table cloth had begun to dim.  Cornelis noticed that with a frown.  Hurriedly he placed the map atop the cloth.

He held up the harmonic tuner and gave it one sharp clear ring.  The tiny ping of a sound reverberated and grew.  I felt the vibration at the base of my spine.  I could feel the sound spreading outward all around us.  In the distance the big gong in front of the pavilion gave a mighty boom, the volume of which was magically transported into our midst.  I put my hands over my ears, involuntarily squeezing my eyes shut.

Cautiously, I opened one eye.  The map was copied onto the tablecloth.  At first the drawings of topography overlaid the word “Daddy,” but then the script blazed through the map.  The word shone with eye-searing chartreuse light, before stabilizing and diming to a flat pistachio green.

***

Kinkaku-ji Temple Sunset

Kinkaku-ji Temple Sunset

I don’t know if it was a meteorological effect or if it was residual magic from the previous night, but when I got up the next morning, the sky above Alastair Wong’s home blazed with yellow clouds at sunrise.  No wonder they called it the Golden Pavillion, I thought.

Cornelis said he wanted to get an early start, but judging by the activity of the household staff, I suspected they were always up at that hour.  As I admired the sunrise, the alchemist drove up in the little steam engine.

Mushroom swing Victorian girlsIt didn’t seem like there could be enough room, but Cornelis, Copper, Alastair, and I all managed to get on the road locomotive.  To my surprise, Victoria, who was so taken with Copper, insisted on coming along.  I wouldn’t have thought one more person, not even a tiny woman like Victoria, could fit on the locomotive… and she carried a large picnic basket too.  Yet somehow the tiny woman and the big basket managed to fit.  When I saw the hint of a green aura surrounding the alchemist I understood how the group of us managed to get onboard.  One of his tricks had made room for everyone.

We would part company with Alastair and Victoria when we reached the Pacific.  Wong would take the road locomotive back to his pavilion estate for safekeeping, while Copper, the alchemist, and I continued our journey.

I looked a question at the basket Victoria carried.  The night before, all the noise and vibrations from the harmonic tuners had given me a headache — and I still had it.  So I was probably frowning fiercely.  Victoria looked a bit uneasy.

“It will be past time for a meal before we reach the ocean.  Copper is a growing girl and must eat,” the tiny woman said with a sharp nod that would have settled any row.  I tried to reign in my smile, because I truly did take her seriously.Mushroom ad Victorian

“Besides,” she turned and spoke to Cornelis in a flirtatious tone that took me completely by surprise.  “You will love what I’ve done with the porcini mushrooms you mentioned earlier,” she added, and the Dutchman’s eyebrows shot up toward his hairline.

“Ah yes,” the Dutchman sighed.  “Porcini are God’s great gift to humanity, a mushroom delicate enough to flavor a sauce, yet vigorous enough to stand up to a grilled steak.”

Really…, I thought.  Should he encourage the tiny woman by flirting?  And Could Victoria actually be attracted to Cornelis?  The idea seemed not merely imaginative and impractical, but just plain impossible.  I scratched my earlobe as the idea took root.  Then I had the wicked thought that I’d like to see an argument between Victoria and Cornelis.  The Dutchman would surely get his comeuppance.

“What are you smirking about?” Cornelis asked quietly.

“Oh?  Did it seem so?  It was just a bit of indigestion,” I said with no attempt to hide my expression.

Victoria held tightly to Copper’s hand as the steam engine barreled toward the ocean.  The tiny woman’s eyes were huge with astonishment for the speed at which we traveled.  However, it was clear that she possessed a fierce determination.  She would not have gone back if the chance was offered.

***

Burrell Road Locomotive

The sun was directly overhead when Cornelis slowed the road locomotive.  We were on high ground overlooking a blue river.  Below I could see a collection of log cabins of some sort.

“Look, it’s a fort!” Copper exclaimed.

“Have we really journeyed so far so fast?” Alastair Wong said in a tone of amazement.

“What do you mean?” I queried.

“That is Fort Clatsop,” Alastair explained though I looked at him blankly.  “It was built by the explorers, Lewis and Clark and their expedition.  They spent a difficult winter there before getting back on their way.”

“And they were hungry, you may be sure,” Victoria interjected, causing Alastair to chuckle as she pulled out the large picnic basket.  “That is a fate we shall not share with the explorers,” she said to our oohs and aahs as she opened the basket.

The woman surely could not have a single drop of Italian blood in her veins, but she laid out a feast worthy of any great Italian chef.

Mushrooms Victorian ad 2“Dear Victoria!” Cornelis exclaimed and bowed.  “This is a feast worthy of the 15th-century legend, Maestro Martino de Rubeis!”

“Who?” I couldn’t help asking, even though I knew my question would meet with derision from the alchemist.

Cornelis put on a mournful face and shook his head, muttering about my lacking education.  So naturally I had to tweak his nose, so to speak.  “Oh, did you know him then?” I made my question a playful taunt.

The Dutchman narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips.  “The 15th-century, the fourteen hundreds I remind you — that was quite before my time, as you well know.  I wasn’t even born until the year 1572,” he said and continued without missing a beat.  “Maestro Martino was a culinary expert unequalled in his field at the time.  He was quite the celebrity.  He was the chef at the Roman palazzo of the papal chamberlain, the Patriarch of Aquileia.  The Maestro Martino was called the prince of cooks,” Cornelis lectured.

Then he wriggled his bushy blonde eyebrows.  “So of course I did not know the Maestro in the fourteen hundreds,” he said and paused briefly.  “I did, however, meet him during his cursed afterlife.”Vintage kitchen bouquet ad

Though I knew I should not encourage Cornelis, I took his bait yet again.  “Cursed? How so?” I asked.

“The poor soul pissed off the Pope.  Enough said.  Please pass the porcinis,” the alchemist said.

That naturally prompted animated questions from everyone.  Cornelis loved to have an audience and he told the tale of the cursed chef and his acquaintance with him most vividly while we enjoyed Victoria’s Italian feast.

 

Menu

Antipasti

Warm Mediterranean Olives with rosemary and lemon zest

Insalata de Compo: Mesclun salad with cherry tomatoes

Primi

Penne Alla Vodka:  Penne pasta with tomato, cream, and vodka sauce

Risotto Ai Porcini:  Risotto with pecorino cheese, porcini mushroom and fresh basil

Secondi

Salmone in Padella:  Pan-seared salmon filet

Menu credit:  Scottadito.com

 

Needless to say, we were all quite pleasantly stuffed.  Alastair lit a beautifully carved pipe.  I faintly heard Victoria humming what I suspected was a nursery song from her home, as Copper rested her head in Victoria’s lap.  I was feeling rather sleepy in the sunshine myself.  Cornelis looked infinitely far away in thought as he toyed with a last spoonful of penne pasta in his plate.

“What’s on your mind, Dutchman?” I intruded on his thoughts.

“The next leg of our journey,” he replied, still examining the pasta.  “I need to summon our transportation.”Mushroom faries Carrousel

He picked up a piece of penne and held it up to his eye, looking at Copper through the pasta cylinder.  Copper giggled.  I told the Dutchman that he was a bad influence.

“Copper, could I see your mystic monkeys bell?” he asked the girl.

“Why not use the harmonic tuner that is more familiar to you?” Alastair asked quietly in a voice edged with concern.

I was in agreement with Alastair Wong in his newfound concern about Cornelis and his tricks.

“You are right,” Cornelis told him.  “Ordinarily, in the working of magic it is best use implements to which one has become attuned.  However, in this case the harmonic tuner that Copper has always thought of as her mystic monkeys bell was a gift from Daddy.  And that is whom we hope to find.  So the more elements relating to him, the better.”

Copper reverently handed Cornelis the second harmonic tuner.  A detailed carving of the fabled three mystic apes — see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil surrounded the bell.  He looked down at the scraps of pasta in his plate and arranged three pieces of penne end-to-end.  Then the alchemist held the harmonic tuner over them and flicked the bell with his fingernail.  It gave off a sharp ping sound.

Chicks Mushroom VictorianThe pasta glowed greenly.  The aura intensified until I had to shield my eyes.  When the supernatural light abated, a jade flute lay where the penne had once been.

The alchemist picked up the flute and played a trilling series of notes.  Then he abruptly stood.  “Shall we?” he asked, and we gingerly made our way down the steep hill to the water’s edge.

Once there he piped the same notes again.  Cornelis looked at the water unconcernedly.  I looked at him impatiently.

“I don’t see anything.  What’s supposed to be happening?” I wanted to know, but the infuriating man ignored me.  “Should you do it again?” I asked motioning to the jade flute.

The Dutchman’s mouth twitched to one side in a dissatisfied way.  “Perhaps I should…” he speculated.

As Cornelis raised the flute to his lips the water started to bubble and gently swirl.  He lowered the flute without playing another note.  He wriggled his bushy eyebrows and grinned.

“You’re going to love this,” he told Alastair.Mushrooms Victorian christmas

Wong looked somewhat apprehensive.  After all, he certainly had reason to be concerned, after the wayward alchemy caused his washing machine to break down the storage building door, and do assorted other damage at his hot spring.  But he quickly caught the contagious gleam of excitement in the Dutchman’s eyes.

The movement of the water became intense.  Something was rising to the surface.  Involuntarily I took a step backward.  Victoria took Copper’s hand and pulled her several feet away from the shore.

For a moment I thought a whale was breaching.  Then I realized it was no living thing.  Wong beheld the sight with gaping mouth, but I had the impression that he at least thought he knew what was coming to the surface.  Expressions of worry and wonder were at war on his face.

When the entire large shape was in full view, I still didn’t know what it could be.  “Cornelis…” I began, but found I was at a loss for words.  “Wha—”

Cornelis Drebbel clasped his hands and a gleeful expression lit his face, as if he beheld something he had long missed.

“It’s my submarine!” he crowed.

Drebbel submarine

***

Don’t get off the steam engine yet — here’s the recipe for this episode.  It’s something for all the carnivores out there!  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Porcini-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Truffle Butter Sauce

Porcini-Crusted Beef

Photo and Recipe Credit:  Epicurious.com

***

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

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