Travelogue 2 — The First Dinner

Codex Inversus
3 min readMay 29, 2024

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Last night we went to a tavern near the Xenodochium to eat, just infernal cuisine to the disappointment of the Viscount, but it took us a lot of time to unpack (he brought three tightly packed traveling trunks).

Everything was still quite exotic for me: I had never had cocytian food before, nor much seafood in general.

There where no doubt about the menu, with giant krakens’ claws hanging from the wall as hunters’ trophies.

The specialty was a soup, a velvety bisque with chunks of mullet, bright red from paprika and peppers. That gave me my first taste of what the encounter of cultures means: while we asked for extra hellfire peppers, finding the dish delicate, we saw the orcs beside us brought to tears by the hotness. While they attempted to save face, some dwarves on the other side of the room didn’t care and were gulping down a pitcher of water after the other. A human lady rushed out of the tavern fanning herself, begging for some air. The owner, a skinny woman with collected hair and baggy eyes, apologized to the viscount while bringing the dried peppers he asked. “You can understand why we have to be sparing with the spices,” she said, looking with contempt at the orcs that finally conceded the challenge and poured down as much water as they could straight from the bottle.

Since Neberius went to Cocytus on his grand tour, he had a lot of opinions on the local delicacy, and the owner, quite impressed, brought out some leviathan caviar. It looked like a jar of pickled eggs, only these eggs were a little smaller, perfectly spherical and black, floating in reddish vinegar. We picked one up with a fork and ate them in one bite. Delicious.

Bazim, who was already emotional and excited because he was eating with us at the table, showered the Viscount with many thanks after tasting such a treat.

We exited the tavern at the same time as the two orc gentlemen, and they both muffled something, a snide remark probably: their honor must have been bruised seeing a girl like me and a small fly-men handle spice much better than them. Bazim and I froze when we saw the Viscount start talking to them, trying one or two different languages and gesturing. The orcs both put their hand on the hilts but only because they were startled as much as us by Lord Neberiu’s friendliness.

I was brought into the conversations and one of the two orcs knew some Mizanian as well so we managed to have a conversation. The viscount was asking if they knew the place where they serve Bizirik Moztu, the traditional orc cooking style, where fish is filleted alive in front of the client and eaten raw. The two men laughed from the depths of their bellies: apparently is something done only in a specific region of the south and only on big occasions like weddings, eclipse festivals, and naming ceremonies. They were nonetheless impressed by the Lord’s knowledge and congratulated him with a thunderous pack on the back. They were, like us, new to the town: they were bladesmiths here for business and they pointed at some excellent knife shops, since the Viscount’s interest in cooking.

Obviously, the lord asked for some good place to eat, but the orcs didn’t remember any on the spot, They said bookshops sell green sheets of paper, folded into four, that had a list of all, or at least a lot, of the establishment of the city.

At last, we parted ways. I was quite surprised at how taxing could be to understand and translate on the fly. Bazim after the first scare, managed the situation well, without much anxiety, or at least hiding it well. Well, besides a moment in the end: one orc enveloped Bazim’s right hand up to the wrist in an attempt to shake it, a farewell in the infernal way. I could see the poorly concealed terror in the fly-man face, imagining the sound of his broken bones if the big green man decided just to squeeze it just a little more.

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Codex Inversus

A world-building project. Art and stories from a fantasy world. All illustrations are mine: collages and rework of other art. https://linktr.ee/Codex_Inversus