A measured response Episode 1
As a young cartographer, Benor Dorfinngil knew he would have to travel. On
the long road that had at length carried him from Toelar to Port Naain, he
had braved atrocious weather conditions, serious mining accidents,
anthropophagous beastmen, irate husbands and outraged fathers. All this he
had taken in his stride, asking for little in return.
It was when he arrived in Port Naain that he realised how bad things could
get. The beer rarely even aspired to be mediocre and was often undrinkable,
whilst the food in public dining places was rarely better than bland and
under-spiced, and at the worst, it was uneatable.
But as he got to know the city and made friends there, he finally realised
how one got a decent meal. Along with his friend and landlord, Tallis
Steelyard, he was attending the meeting of a gentlemen’s dining club.
Admittedly it was Tallis who had been invited as an after-dinner speaker;
Benor had merely ridden in on his friend’s coattails. But still he had dined
well. A thick vegetable soup rich with herbs and spices, piquant enough to
make the locals comment and to allow Benor to feel nostalgic. This was
followed by a slow cooked joint, so tender the meat fell off the bone.
Finally a selection of tarts, pasties and a well supplied cheeseboard. The
whole meal was accompanied by a selection of decent wines, poured with a
generous hand. All was well with the world and Benor was predisposed towards
goodwill and friendliness.
To be fair the other guests were welcoming. One, Grayer Thirsk, had stepped
down from a carriage at the door of the club as Benor and Tallis were
entering, and had greeted Tallis as a long lost brother. They briefly
ignored Benor, but he was too busy gazing with admiration at the attractive
and expensively dressed lady in the carriage. She winked at him and then
gave the coachman the order to move on. At this point Tallis remembered
himself enough to introduce Benor to Grayer and the three of them entered
the club as group.
So now the formal phase of the evening was drawing to a close. Tallis had
given his performance whilst the rest were engaged with the cheeseboard. His
collection of anecdotes, extemporised verses, (which Benor knew had been
produced with much toil the previous day) and banter with his fellow guests
had gone down well and now the group was giving its attention to the
important business of talking and drinking.
The guests drifted away from the debris littered table, leaving a few
devoted trenchermen to finish off the more interesting cheeses. The others
sat in deep comfortable chairs and talked in small groups. Benor was
wondering where to sit when Tallis approached him with Grayer Thirsk.
“Benor, I think you two need to talk, he claims he needs a cartographer.”
Benor gestured to a pair of armchairs near the wall that were currently
unoccupied. “Perhaps we could sit there?”
His companion agreed, took one of the chairs and Benor look the other. A
waiter appeared bearing a tray containing a number of empty glasses and a
selection of decanters filled with various spirits. His newfound
acquaintance took two glasses and poured a generous libation into them from
one of the decanters, apparently chosen at random.
“Master Dorfinngil, I believe you are not from around here?”
”Yes, I hail from Toelar and have arrived here by a long and somewhat
indirect route.” Benor had found the inhabitants of Port Naain to be
surprisingly parochial, seeming to assume that anybody born on the other
side of the mountains was a savage barely capable of conversing in grunts.
“Still, your friend Tallis assures me that you are a cartographer, and what
is more, you can be trusted to be discreet.”
“Pray call me Benor, everybody else does.” Benor was a little concerned
about the need for a circumspect cartographer. It was normally followed by
the revelation that the speaker had purchased, inherited or acquired by
dubious means, a treasure map of some sort and wished for aid in
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