Book 1, Chapter 10 (scene): Shriekers

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As they passed into the streets comprising the market itself, the air became saturated with the sounds of a thousand voices, and the smells of dozens perhaps hundreds of food vendors. Row after row of booths they passed, with cultural cuisine offered from lands near and far. Always within sight of a food vendor, halflings and dwarves poured their ales, meads, and stronger spirits for a thirsty crowd.

A grin began to tug at Lendil's mouth, when a rough voice bellowed at them.

"Ach! You there!" A rotund dwarf with a beard nearly larger than himself, called out from under a brightly colored awning. "Aye, you! Are you one of the performers? What do they call ye, 'The Amazing Stick-Boy?' Heh heh! You should take a lesson from yer friend, there, and eat something!" He laughed a hearty, booming laugh that forced a grin onto the slim thief's face.

Some truly wonderful smells were coming from under that awning. Before he knew it Lendil had walked to the counter to see what this particular dwarf's specialty was. The sheer apron-clad girth of this incredibly hairy mountain-dweller promised this stop would be worthwhile! Lendil's hand involuntarily went to his pouch, to reassure himself he could afford this.

"That's right, my malnourished friend! Come, let Vincente serve you up some good fattening vittles! And bring yer friend, as well! He well knows his way 'round a cookfire!"

He laughed thunderously as he turned to a flame-licked grill, snatching up short, fat sausages onto a platter with a pair of wooden tongs. Lendil turned to call Wally, and saw he had already sallied up to the very next booth over, where a pair of cheerful, matronly dwarven women were serving squat wooden tankards full of frothy ale, the soft downy fur on their cheeks seeming as natural and normal as pink cheeks on a babe.

"Ach! Where'd you go, lad?!"

Lendil turned back quizzically. The old dwarf's eyes opened in startled amazement, "I dinna think it was this bad, lad! Y'turned sideways there for a moment and I cunna see ye at all! Quick! Eat this!" He held out a short wooden stick, with a plump, juicy, still-sizzling sausage impaled on it.

Lendil gladly complied, smiling as his teeth broke through the tender skin and into the heavenly meat within. The spices, the salt, the herbs...perfect. A slow, heady rush of peppery warmth spread down his neck to his belly, where it bloomed quite pleasantly.

"Eh?" the dwarf encouraged, "What do ye think?"

"Mmmm..." was all Lendil could manage, as he dove in for another bite.

"We call them 'shriekers.'"

"Why do you call them that?" Lendil asked, biting down on the last piece of sausage, and pulling the stick out.

"Hah!" he roared, "because they burn twice! Just ye wait 'til morning, laddie!"

"Well then! I'll take another!"

"That's the spirit!"

"Add two more to that, Vincente!" Wally added, walking up with a half-full tankard.

"Now there's a wise man!" bellowed the sausage peddler, "for only a drink as hearty and strong as my good cousin Urgal's Singin' Fat Lady Ale can properly prepare the stomach for the grand delights of my sausages! Ha ha ha!"

"You two know each other?" Lendil quipped at Wally.

"Vincente's Voluptuous Vittles," Wally said grandly. "It's one of my first stops every spring! And besides, it says so right there on his sign!"

"Where's mine?" Lendil teased, with a glance at Wally's mug.

"Pay the good dwarf for his shriekers, and then you can walk your amazin' stick-boy legs over there'n get your own!" he shot back.

The dwarf roared as Lendil slid his coins across the counter. "Ye remember old Vincente now, laddie!" he called at the departing lad. "I'll have you castin' a shadow wi'in a week!"

Eyes widening in feigned shock, he turned to another marketgoer. "Ach, Great Skeld, lady! What is that yer feedin' him...vegetables? That's no way to keep a husband! Here, quick sir, get one of these down yer gullet..." the irrepressible dwarf's clever hooks and infectious laughter rose distinctly above the crowd long after he was out of sight.

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