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The Tale of the Tenderizer

-by Niami DenMother

Ogres and trolls might seem like they consumed more food than any other primary race in the lands, but everyone knew that, pound-for-pound, halflings consumed the most food in relation to their body mass. They also were reputed to have the most culinary appreciation for a variety of foods. Let the biguns eat anything that didn't eat them first. It took a halfling to truly appreciate the myriad of robust seasonings and styles of food preparation that could turn almost anything into a culinary masterpiece.

A young halfling lass by the name of Niami knew this fact well, and had eagerly awaited the day that she could bake something more than the unappetizing, but quite filling, edible goo.

That young halfling lass was now a most upset redheaded halfling however, and her ire was impressive to see. Whirling upon one of the elders who'd seen fit to teach the orphaned halfling, Niami stamped a large foot in vexation. "What do ye mean there be no baking supplies closer than th' Commonlands?

Mardra Meepup threw up her hands in a gesture of frustration. "Lass, it's the gods' will that we have no baking supplies merchant near our lovely town. Goodness knows we've tried often enough to get one to set up shop here, but something always seems to go wrong. Apparently, Bristlebane wants our cooks to have to travel in order to provide us with culinary delights."

"Pshaw an' piffle! I do nae believe that frae a moment!"

Arms akimbo, Mardra stared at the young lass. "You'd dare question the word of one of Bristlebane's chosen, a Priestess of Mischief?"

"Aye, lass, that I do. An' I'd question Bristlebane himself o'er such an issue as well! Imagine creating us wi' such prodigous appetites, an' then leaving us tae gnaw on roots an' half-cooked meats, unless we want tae have tae beg th' humans frae supplies!"

A snicker, quickly muffled, erupted from where some of the halfling acolytes were studying their spells. Thekela, however, looked ready to erupt, and Niami idly wondered if that was steam coming out of the woman's ears, or just a stray tendril of fog.

High Priest of Mischief, Leek Guinders, who'd been studying religious texts in a nearby alcove, made his presence known to the two before Thekela could let loose with any blistering commentary. "Then question him you shall, young one. For these past few months you've been trying us with one question too many."

With that, he gestured, and Niami was whisked ... elsewhere. However, just as her familiar Rivervale faded around her, she could hear Thekela speak up, voice waspish: "They deserve each other!"

*whoomph* One moment Niami felt like she was going to fall into endless blackness, the next she landed on a big, fluffy pillow ... on a giant table??!

A booming voice resonated from above her. "Well, what have we here?"

Hastily adjusting the handkerchief covering her unruly mop of curls, Niami got to her feet as her brown eyes widened. Sitting at the table she'd so summarily landed upon was the largest halfling she had ever seen in her young life ... larger by far than the ogre she'd once seen from a distance!

>For a moment, Niami's mind ran around inside her head, gibbering, as she realized she was standing in the presence of Bristlebane himself. Then she gathered her resolve and drew a deep breath as she remembered, not what her teachers had told her of the god, but what her parents had taught her before they died.

"Och, lad! I hae come tae tell ye a few things, an' take ye tae task!" She stalked down the length of the table towards him, her large feet flapping on the tabletop.

Hearty laughter followed her comment. "You? Want to take me to task? Bold little thing, aren't you?"

"Aye, laddybuck, an' yuir th' one who made me that way, aren't ye? Sae ye cannae take me tae task frae bein' as ye made me ... can ye?" She peered up at him quizzically, eyes aglint with a mix of mischief and ire.

Another laugh followed the first. "Well so I am! But it's not every day I get some halfling not even out of her tweens telling me to my face that she's going to takeme to task." He leaned back in his chair, folding his hands over his ample stomach as he eyed the small halfling standing on his table." You intrigue me young one. Now, tell me, what's on your mind and why did Leek send you to me?"

Heartened by the fact that she'd not yet been struck down for her temerity, she pointed dramatically at a bowl of bixie crunchies sitting in front of him. ""Because o' that! An' because I be too much o' a mischief maker."

"Too much of a mischief maker? One can never have too much mischief lass!" Bristlebane's brows lowered in an alarming frown.

"Aye, laddybuck, that be what I said! But methinks th' puir ol' fuddy-duddy was finally at his wit's end. He's jus' nae got th' mischief in him anymore, an' neither do those he's surrounded himself wi'. At least nae proper mischief." Niami nodded empatically to underscore her point. "They've forgotten how tae laugh properly, an' they jus' sit there an' preach. Th' Vale used tae be full o' laughter an' mischief afore me folks died, but after they passed, it seems th' mischief went right out o' folks."

"This current issue o' mine be jus' another case in point! Och! It be enow tae drive a lass tae distraction, an' all they can do is preach that it's yuir will." She tapped the fingers of one hand on her hip as she stared at him challengingly. "Are ye trying tae starve us, lad??"

"Starve you? What makes you think that I, lover of fine foods, is trying to starveyou?" Bristlebane peered at Niami quizzically. He already knew the topic she was going to rant about, but he wanted to see just how she'd handle the delivery. After all, if this one was going to become one of his chosen clerics, he needed to better test her mettle.

"Several things, tallstuff, sae listen up, an' I'll tell ye." She snagged the pillow that she'd originally landed upon, and dragged it across the table until it was in front of Bristlebane. Then she unceremoniously plopped herself down on the pillow and started ticking off points on her fingers.

"At first glance, we'd seem tae hae an idyllic life in th' Vale wi' plentiful food everywhere. But do ye know how boring plain fish, an' stray veggies can be? Och! It be enow tae drive a food-lover tae suicide, almos'!"

She flung her tiny hands up in exasperation. "An' then, there's th' meat! I beat an' beat an' beat on those wolves an' bears that try tae take a bite oot o' me, an' do ye think I can find a decent cut o' meat on their miserable carcasses? It needs tenderizing, or a guid soak in some sauces in order tae be made intae passable steaks, an' there's nary a sauce tae be sold in th' Vale or surrounding area, much less any proper seasonings, frostings, or e'en flour. An' no bread tae make proper sandwiches, either! I e'en cracked me staff on th' last bear, he was sae tough!"

All the months of frustration while she watched the cleric's guild grow more hidebound, all the shame and righteous anger from being scolded every time her mischevious streak went awry, and all her desire to bake the divine recipes she'd read about in her mother's cookbook exploded out of her as she jumped up and started waggling a finger under Bristlebane's nose.

"Ye listen tae me, laddybuck. I'll hae none o' it, ye hear me? Yuir supposed tae be th'god o' mischief, an' how on earth can I cause proper mischief in worship o' ye if I be half starved frae guid food, as well as frae proper appreciation o' me pranks? Ye need tae do summat aboot th' lack o' a proper baking merchant, an' aboot yuir clerics who hae lost their laughter, an' aboot th' lack o' simple bread at th' inn in Rivervale, an' last but not least, lad, ye have tae do summat about the fact that those bears hae such tough hides that I'm like tae break more than jus' me only weapon th' next time one o' them tries tae snack on me!"

For a long moment,silence reigned, other than the rasp of her breathing as she tried to get it more under control. Attempting to continue with the bravado that had gotten her so deep into this mess in the first place, Niami casually patted once again at the colorful kerchief holding her hair in place as she waited for Bristlebane to respond.

She watched with growing concern as Bristlebane's face started to turn a lovely shade of red. His shoulders started shaking, and he clenched large hands tightly on the table's edge. Oh dear, she'd gone and done it, he was definitely holding back ... a laugh?

Whooping shouts of laughter bounced off the walls, as Bristlebane finally gave in to the laughter that had been threatening to erupt throughout her tirade. She was just so darn cute when she was feisty!

"I have definitely done well, little one, if you're a sample of what I did when I created halflings. You please me ... and are a fitting Priestess of Mischief. Your first duty as one of my chosen ones is to tell that old stick-in-the-mud Leek to either loosen up, or to start looking for his replacement. Mind you, find a properly mischevious way of doing it, wee one, or I might change my mind."

A whole swarm of bixies could have flown aerial displays in her mouth, it was gaping open so wide. However, she had no time to recover, as he continued.

"As to the merchant, it seems a ... clerical error ... occurred. The last fellow we summoned to set up shop there was supposed to bring baking supplies with him. However, I understand he brought enchanter spells instead? No matter. It has been fixed now. When you return, you'll find him selling the proper wares."

"Now, as to the bears. You know full well that they come under the rule of Tunare, and I'm not about to mess with one of her creatures over something so trivial ... though it could be fun to try. So, I guess the only thing to do is to give you a better weapon."

He snapped his fingers, and an oversized meat tenderizer appeared in Niami's hands. Startled, she almost dropped it before she managed to hold it in a 2-handed grip. "Let this do your tenderizing for you, little one. And for times when that is not enough, may it strike with all the strength of the righteous wrath within you. Now, is that all?" He steepled his fingers in front of him, and peered at her from behind them.

Suddenly mindful that she was standing on Bristlebane's table, eyeball-to-eyeball with him, she answered, "Aye, tallstuff, an' thank ye. May yuir toe fur flourish."

As she felt the world around her dissolve, she realized he'd said nothing about the inn and it's bread. Best not to mention it now, however. After all, when dealing with the god whose other name is the God of Lies, getting 3 out of 4 concessions was a major undertaking.

And so, Niami got her meat tenderizer, Bim Buskin started selling baking supplies in Misty Thicket (clerical error or not, the gods had been insistent that he was selling such wares until a wee halfling took one of them to task), and Leek Guinders stepped down as leader of the Clerics of Mischief, in favor of his nephew Beek (after there was some unfortunate incident involving a concoction of jumjum stalks, bixie stingers and frosting mysteriously replacing a high feast for the Mayor.)

Created: 2007-07-10 01:46:24          
Last Modified By: Niami Denmother          
Last Modified on: 2007-07-10 01:46:24          

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