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Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Dry at last. You can’t get her now, stupid rain! Han wins!!! She’s got a big old umbrella and, and, a thick, heavy blanket to snuggle up under. She’s wrapped up cozy and tight, s’real soft ‘n maybe she’ll just lie here forever and you’ll never ever get to rain on her again. Ha! Just you try to find a gap in her perfect, snuggly, heavy, gosh, really really heavy, enveloping, purring, arm...twisting...blanket?

Bwuh?

Ow ow ow ow ow ow owwwwww okay she’s awake! Always been awake! She didn’t tap out, pass out, or anything, she’s here and she’s fighting and King’s Crown Machi did you fill your pockets with boulders to keep from getting homesick you big ox?! Because despite her best wriggles, the most she accomplishes is eliciting pain from her shoulder and delight from her wrestling partner foe.

All the world is purring. Machi pushes her arm back inch by agonizing inch. She clamps her mouth shut and screws her eyes tight. She won’t give her the satisfaction. This doesn’t hurt. She can take your worst, mangetail. So go ahead. Tear her arm clean off. Play with her hair. Tell her whatever nonsense you want because it won’t make a lick of difference (augh no wait bad words). Machi doesn’t mean any of it anyway. It’s all a trick. A big joke on her favorite target. How many other girls has she put in a headlock and whispered sweet nothings to? Answer: So many.

But endurance alone doesn’t win wrestling matches. Not from this, uh, position. Nor can she tap out either. N’yari wrestling doesn’t work like that. The round continues not until one party surrenders, but until one party endures a penalty for surrendering. And the only way Machi will let up is, is...

A shadow of fear passed over her face.

The Sorrowful Kitten Prostration. The only technique that’s ever satisfied Machi. The only way she’ll accept her victory.

(A glimpse of the priestess, through the mountains of fur and muscle, through the hot breath and honeyed words. She’s all but leaping from her captor’s lap, straining uselessly against arms as big as her. Her eyes are wide. And they can’t stop looking back at her.)

“You i-idiot.” From beneath the warm cold dead dumb mountain, a spark of fire. “Who’d want to be a rock? Who’d want a rock?!”

Machi’s grip tightens. A starburst of pain. She grits her teeth, but she can’t do it. She won’t do it, do you hear her?! (Not in front of all these people. Don’t give them a reason.) If that’s what you’re into, fine! No kittens here! Nothing but dumb, jagged, ugly rock as far as the eye can see!

An arm bursts free of its prison. She punches the deck so hard it splinters and yields her some leverage. And still she pushes, and presses, her muscles bulging, straining.

And Machi, impossibly, rises an inch off the deck.

[Rolling to Figure Out a Person: 5 + 1 + 0 = an absolute 6. My XP is limitless. Asking bonus question for physical conflict: What awakens the beast inside of you?]
A Captain bore fear in place of their crew, fought foes their crew would never see, and stood firm at the first and the last, to spare the ruin of all. It mattered little whether victory was possible. A Captain would do their duty.

Dolce’s heart threatens to swallow him whole. One moment he would be here, the next, gone, compressed into a miniscule particle of fluff, carried to rest somewhere out of the way where he would likely remain for the rest of his days.

“Lord Hades designated Vasilia as Captain.” He opens his mouth to let the words fall out. “Vasilia designated me as her second. Vasilia has chosen to temporarily abdicate her duties. I.” The gates fall shut, and it takes all his will to pry them back open. Slowly. Painfully. “I am Captain of the Plousious.”

*************************************

“So. Anyone who’s going anywhere has to be a little unstable, or else they’d not be going anywhere to begin with.” Vasilia looks to her companion. Looks to her dim reflection in the viewscreen. Looks to her memory of every soul aboard she could call to mind.

Checks out.

“And that’s it, then? Anyone standing still has their eyes closed and ears blocked?” Her own ears perk up, as if to prove themselves still functional.
Han feels the clack-clack-clack of Machi’s claws, as if it were her bare shoulder and not a sword hilt. Something in her stomach twists in anticipation.

Of the fight! That’s about to happen, and a move, that’ll definitely happen, because Machi is a big dumb doofus who doesn’t ever change her playbook ever, so she needs to be ready for it. Every single time they fight, Machi always touches taunts her, to try and throw her off balance, and cheat, and win. Like the time that Machi ruined a perfectly good staredown by laughing and ruffling her hair. Or the other time she wasted an entire sneak attack to rub her shoulders. Or the time three months after that (and six months before the other one) when they’d locked swords and Machi’s free hand brushed the side of her arm and it lasted a little longer than it should’ve for what would’ve been a casual swipe in the heat of battles so she knows she did it on purpose. The jerk.

So! Yeah! Han’s stomach’s twisting a little! She has to get close, alright?! Her sword’s not got the best reach. So of course it’s gonna happen, like it always does, and that’s that. Machi’d be doing it right now if she could! Just...just look at her stupid eyes!

It’s a valid concern!

Shut up!!!

(She’s spent so much of herself today. The Essence flows alone ought to have knocked her out cold, were it not for her birthright. Still, wounds and bruises exact their tax on mind and motion. The poncho holds together with cheap wax and unwanted thread, and without love to bind it together it leaves her chilled and soaked to her bones. Machi will not let her stand. She will wrap her in a gentle furnace. Soft heat around iron muscle. Always wondered how she kept her coat so soft, living under a mountain. Machi whispers; an answer? A secret? A prayer? Too quiet for her heart to hear now...)

“Your raid-bride?” Uh. Han? “Excuse you, what makes you think you just get me?!” Han, you’re shouting very loudly, she can hear you just fine. “What, you think I’m gonna swoon all over you just ‘cause you ‘happen’ to walk by, and ‘happen’ to find me a present?” Han your face is very red, are you- “What kind of moon-eyed idiot do you think I am, huh?!”

The hat comes off. (And is placed gently on the priestess’ exposed head.) The dumb poncho, she hurls to the deck in a sodden lump. Her auburn hair streaks behind her, over her bare shoulders, over a curling dragon claw of black ink, and trailing off into wispy embers. Her arms are covered in muscle, in bruises, in still-healing wounds, and in promise of fight yet to come as her blade hangs steady.

“You want me, Machi? Then let’s see it. Convince me.”

...okay! Alright! She just said that! Great! No, really, great. This is fine. This can work. Because. Machi will need her entire warband to. Convince her. Which will, y’know, give the priestess and everybody a chance to escape. Or. Something.

Cool cool cool cool cool cool.

[I am legally obligated to roll to Entice Machi: 1 + 2 - 1 = 2]
Ah. Hrm. Only a day, then?

Not that he expected more than that! Goodness, no, he wouldn’t have dragged sweet Hestia into a conflict of kingship. (Though he would continue to leave her offerings to show there were no hard feelings, and lend a hand with her Vasilia-based efforts when asked.) He knew this moment was coming, ever since he decided the Captain’s chair was his achievable desire. Nothing in all his years of walking with Hestia or reading about her told him any different. The prophecies foretold an empty nursery, and now here it was, right on time.

He didn’t expect to feel so much like a freshly-shorn lamb, shivering in the absence of warmth he’d taken for granted.

It was good, then, that the next phase of his plan was already underway, and did not hinge on him being any less of a silly, lost sheep. The rituals and prayers were all completed yesterday, with the precious time he’d already bought for himself.

For you see, as the various chieftains were waking today, they would all of them find a bulky envelope addressed to them lying some respectable distance from their encampments. Dolce’s signature nestled unobtrusively in the corner, so as not to distract from the seal of Artemis occupying the center. While the names involved were different, as were some relevant minutia, the documents within read roughly as follows:

Pursuant to the official charter of the great ship Plousious, owned by Lord Hades...leased to the Starsong Privateers, for the purpose of conveying her majesty Redana Honorius Claudius and Lord Hades’ personal cargo to the planet known as Gaia, your challenge to your Captain’s leadership has been found to be inappropriately registered. Though Captain Vasilia has waived all rights by taking up arms with intent to enter your contest of her own will, her actions do not affect the standing of her duly appointed second, Dolce, who now bears the legal rights and responsibilities of Captain, under the above charter, since her voluntary departure.

Dolce has exercised his right of formal complaint regarding improperly classified action against his rightful station. Upon review, it has been found that your activities cannot be adequately categorized as any one, many, or all of the following:

  • Gladiatorial challenge of authority
  • Riotous mutiny
  • Kidnapping with intent for harm
  • Kidnapping with intent for ransom
  • Kidnapping with intent for humiliation
  • Kidnapping with intent for pleasure
  • Performance art
  • Decentralized protest movement

And so forth, for pages.

As such, any further action taken against Dolce will be taken as an Unlicensed Actor, without the aid of the Great Huntress, and at grave risk of her displeasure.

If you seek legal recourse, Dolce offers neutral ground to discuss the matter, in hopes that a resolution agreeable to all parties may be reached. (Catering to be provided for you and your associates, guaranteed free of malignant intent from your host as per standard hospitality protocols.)


***************************

Vasilia fell into an overstuffed chair, the tub resting on her lap like a favored kitten. Iskarot was many things, and a conversationalist wasn’t one of them. And it was precisely that which made him such an ideal conversational companion for washed-up Captains. No games, no riddles, shockingly straightforward by Order standards, once you knew how to listen. He was here, when he didn’t have to be, and talking, when she hadn’t the humor for it. Hermes bless his nightmarish heart.

“What is the ideal energy, to build a refrigerator? What is the steadfast and immobile life?” She mused, drumming her fingers idly on the tub’s lid.
The first warband only makes their presence known when it is already too late.

Three volleys of seven arc silently through the air, exploding on impact. Starbursts of feathers accompany a thunderous harmony of talons on deck, of spear on shield, of voices raised in ancient prayer. Hear us this day! See now our hour of triumph! We are victory made manifest!

The target turns to face his doom. A hatchling in either hand. A third nesting in his wool. Three more attempting to make a meal of his ankles. A dozen more scattered on the floor around him.

“...may I help you?”

First observation: The rituals do not have a provision for asking your opponent to please leave aside childcare duties and report to the field of battle. They approximate with an awkward shuffling away, while the least fortunate among the warband are pushed forward to help soothe the now-crying babes back to sleep.

It will, frankly, be the most approachable Dolce will make himself all morning. The twelve chieftains that remain soon learn their lessons, and opt to deal with the single, harmless sheep later. Breathing room: Established. Now to devise an approach for victory, and not just stalling out.

*********************************************

Vasilia found herself draped in a luxurious lavender bathrobe, holding enough coleslaw to make an ill-advised meal. It was, perhaps, not what she’d expected when Hestia had suggested she leave her chamber doors unlocked for visitors during waking hours.

Well. She’d be as lost with entertaining as she’d be lost with this, so suppose that was a wash.

“We have an agreement, the fridge and I.” She followed a coolant tube’s impressive arc across the room. “In exchange for room and board, it keeps food cold. I wasn’t aware I had to check my appliances for risk of assassination.”

The tub, she gave a tentative sniff. From a safe distance. “I wasn’t aware Archmagoses made their own coleslaw, either.”
Sometimes in life, you make a mistake, and you pay for it every day for the rest of your days.

Every village in the Highlands (and some in the lowlands) deal with the N’yari as a chronic presence, suffering raids and kidnappings according to the inscrutable whims of the cats. They are a fact of life, the same as rain or taxes. When Han was a few years younger, and truly coming into her strength, she believed some things in life were less certain than she’d been taught to believe. If she could just beat up the N’yari really really good, then they’d be too scared to bother her village anymore! It was the perfect plan.

Except that after she’d chased off the first bunch, a raiding party of even bigger catgirls took their place the next moon. And the next moon. And the next moon. And the moon after that, too. Until, one fateful night, Machi of the Ōei and her handpicked battle-sisters paid her village a visit.

Words were said. Some stuff happened. A terrible fate befell many a tree and rooftop. And. Well. Han’s plan succeeded. N’yari don’t come to her village anymore. Because Machi’s claimed that territory for herself. And she’s not going to let anyone else raid there until. Uh.

Until Han agrees to come with her. Willingly.

So. Yeah. While she was still living with her parents, Machi and her band would regularly appear at random intervals to propose...adopting? Fighting? Marrying? Kidnapping her? Frankly, she’s not sure if she can call it kidnapping, but there’s just not a better word for it? She really thought things would get better once she moved out, and if you’re curious how well that’s worked out for her, may she direct your attention to the giant catgirl holding up the one barge on this entire river that contains a Han.

(Striking, in the one moment she wouldn't have interrupted for the world.)

So how does one deal with persistent suitors(?) from the N’yari? Observe the tactics of the wizened hunter, whose patience has run out years ago:

Step one: Tap Jazumi on the shoulder.

Step two: Apply left hook to N’yari at maximum speed.

Step three: Savor the sight and sound of a catgirl soaring through the air, landing in the river, and failing to cope with her new aquatic lifestyle. (These few seconds are for Han. This is Han’s Special Time. It's what makes dealing with all this actually possible.)

“What’s the matter, Jazumi?” She squats on the balls of her feet, grinning impishly. ”I thought you wanted the river.” With a N’yari-free spot on the deck to call her own, Han flips the cloth bundle off her back. In a whirl of white fabric she stands tall for her, the patta gleaming on her right arm, crude blade pointed squarely at Machi. “Or is there a better reason you idiots came this far off your mountain?” she growls above the rain.

And out of the corner of her mouth, a whisper: “Stick close to me, bud. I’ll get you out of here.”

[Fight roll: 4 + 2 + 2 = 8. Going for opportunity for allies (free Lotus!) and seize a superior position (by launching Jazumi into the river) Jazumi (or possibly the other N'yari?) picks 1 from the list too.]
The playwright that brought them together ought to have kept writing. His eyes would widen in surprise. She would glow with pride, and yet, restrain herself. Offering, without demanding. He’d answer with place settings for two. She’d make a quiet joke of serving him, for a change. Old songs, set to older rhythms swell after a long silence. Aphrodite would stand guard at the kitchen door, and he will suffer no one to pass.

But the script ends here. They are alone, together, on the stage, with no one but each other for an audience. He suggests he should leave three times over, and asks her if she’s sure six times more. She can’t focus on him and her lesson at once. She can’t explain he’s not the reason her words come out too curt, too rough. They reach the table, with food enough for them both, and pasta is so much easier to enjoy than words have been, but neither can forget that speaking is as necessary as eating, if this is to survive.

But he waits, out of habit. She waits, out of need.

“Not bad.” Hestia eats, unhurried, and unwilling to encroach on Aphrodite’s domain. “Next time, do one thing a little differently, and see if you like it better.”

A topic. Any topic at all. Safety in a storm. “I didn’t know you were learning to cook.” He didn’t know she wanted to learn, either. Never held much interest in the kitchens, if he wasn’t in them. Had he missed something, all this time?

“‘Cook’ may be a strong word. Let’s start with ‘feeding myself’, and see where it goes.”

He sits for longer than he should, pulled between expectations. Praise her efforts, and risk seeming like empty flattery? Give her company in her amateur state, and risk bruising her pride? “You...have a good teacher,” he hedges.

“Mmm?” She blinks. ”Ah, yes, of course. Indeed, she’s quite good. Would that I had called on her sooner.”

Silence. Forks hunt down noodles too small to matter. Perhaps neither were the right answer. Perhaps he chose wrong when he blundered into the kitchens, and no more answers were right.

“She’s brought to my attention,” she continues. “Other, aspects of my life that I’ve left...deficient. Too deficient. In desperate need of personal attention.”

“Oh?”

She lingers on a meager bite, staring into the empty, oily plate before her. She hears the intent, hiding behind the question. A sneaking thoughtfulness, standing ready to catch any responsibility, and keep it from landing squarely on her shoulders. “Yes, and I suspect it will take a great deal of my attention.” Nothing to clue him in. She knows he will wait up tonight, wondering. She still says nothing. “More than I can usually spare. Between that, and, other, considerations: I have to ask:”

She sets down her fork. Her knife rests against it at the proper angle. She dabs at her mouth with a napkin, before folding it beside her plate, and now she can’t pick up any of them again. Nothing else to delay with. “Dolce, I am stepping down from Captainship for some time. Would you care to take it in my place?”

The news knocks the thoughts clean out of his head. She sees his mouth hang slack, before a mask of duty latches shut over his heart. “Of course, I would gladly take charge for you-”

“No. No, I’m sorry, I’m truly sorry, but that can’t be how it is. I’m not going to be Captain for some time, but that doesn’t mean you have to.” No one had to do anything. No one but her. “If you don’t want it, there are other qualified people on board. Give it a few days, and the Alced will have a Captain from their ranks, favored by the gods.” Unlike her. An Alced Captain on the rise, and she on yet another step down. A long, slow spiral of compromise and tragedy, ever-downwards, from her first breath to an awkward conversation in an empty kitchen on a doomed voyage. But now she could make mediocre pasta, and everything will be different.

She gathers up the dishes - as a proper domestic person should - and one by one sets to washing them in the sink. Needed one more job to hide behind, after all. “You’re my second, Dolce. My second,” she says, filling her vision with chores instead of wool. “It’s your right to take it up or refuse. Whatever seems best to you.”

“And you’re...okay with this?”

“I don’t have much choice in the matter. Not really.” Not anymore. “Zeus has taken issue with me, and if I were to press on like this, it would only end badly for everyone.” She turns, mustering up the remnants of a smile. “But. I think I’ll be alright.”

“Ehhhhh, ‘alright’ may be a strong word for it.” Hestia waves her hand uncertainly. “Let’s start with ‘resigned acceptance’ and see where we go from there.”

As it turns out, being the goddess of hearth and home did not render one exempt from the frustrated pouting of a deeply injured soul. But it did allow Hestia to deflect all consequence via an honest shrug.

He is not so lucky. Finally, questions with words to answer, and nothing less than the fate of the voyage hangs in the balance. The literal fate, of course, but probabilities of dying horribly in a space fire speak quieter than he might’ve feared. He had served under many Captains. Mission mattered, crew mattered, but who decided the tenor of a voyage more than they who stood at the helm? What manner of voyage would Captain Dolce run? What manner of voyage did he want to run? No one had ever asked him before. Least of all himself. “I, hrmm. That is. A lot to consider.” Already, one could hear the considerations tumbling around in his head. “But I will give it some thought.”

“You don’t need to give an answer right away. No one will know, until you’ve made your decision.” The dishes seen to, the meal done, the news given, she makes to leave. And there she pauses at the doorway. This is it. This is the time. The most honesty they’d exchanged since...well, since honesty had demanded they walk this road in the first place. Three little words. Words she’d told him a hundred thousand times over, and the pressure of not saying them threatened to burst out of her chest. Hadn’t she waited long enough? Hadn’t she suffered enough?

He’s still sitting there. Watching her. All the way from the other side of the kitchen.

“Be...” She bites her lip. And waits some more. “Be well, Dolce.”

He watches her go from his seat at the table. A hundred hundred paths trace their way through his heart. None reach an ending in time. “Be well,” his little voice vanishes into the dark after her. “Vasilia.”

He hopes it is not a wrong answer.
No? What? Hey! Who in all the hells said she could be sad?!

Whoever it was, Han’d have words with them in a minute. Right now, she was busy pressing herself up against the wood of the cabin wall, hardly daring to breathe lest she topple over the delicate little thing hunching over and across her. A whisper of silk brushed her bare shoulder, but all she knew was a touch so faint and light - the tufted flower of a long reed, reaching out in passing - and lingering, a ghost of sensation. A rainy-day garden had sent its regards. Now, it embraced her. Richness and sweetness and the promise of life, life abundant and thriving in defiance of clouds!

The priestess drew back. Her gifts, she left behind her. Her hand left the simple, wooden umbrella. Han watched it go, across her lap, to the deck, and no. No. No!

And her hand shot out to stop her.

(She’s warm, priestess. The girl is drenched from the rain, and by all rights should be ice cold now, but through the damp her hand is warm over yours. She moved faster than you could see, and yet, her grip isn’t rough. She holds you like...like...like a little brown fox, carrying a Very Important and Precious message in their little jaws. No matter what happens, they will carry their cargo to its destination, and when the time comes they will drop it at the recipient’s feet, and there won’t be a scratch on it. A grip tight enough to hold you, and gentle enough to let you go safely, should you choose.)

“...you’ve done more than everybody on this boat put together.” The words are curt. Forceful. Important. And definitely not forced out as soon as they enter her head. “And you shouldn’t get soaked and miserable because of me.” Her gaze falls away from the priestess, contemplating the rushing waters, the dry deck surrounding them, the sight of her crestfallen face that she couldn’t bear to look at even a moment longer, the sound of the rain. And thus was the product of her musings: “Traveling’s better with company.” Lots of people said that. All the time. Including her. So. Maybe you should say it too? And stay?

The priestess did stay. And stay. And stay some more, without ever actually sitting back down. Which was, in hindsight, a perfectly reasonable response to the sight of a long, red, angry gash on a girl’s arm that she had been successfully hiding beneath her poncho. But perhaps if she’d gotten over her shock a little bit quicker, Han might have had enough attention to spare to the hair on her neck, standing on end, or the sudden absence of the oxen’s tread...

[Han rolls a big ‘ol 6 on Entice. XP abounds!]
She takes you, priestess. With only one eye, she takes you. All your fumbling, mumbling, giggling, anxious uncertainty, suspicious tiger references, lies, unwise vulnerability, nothing escapes her notice. Not even when she quickly adjusts her bonked-askew hat (the most motion she’s made so far) does her eye leave you. Not once are you free from her gaze. She is watching. She is judging, little bud. And all you can do is squirm, imagining how poorly you’d fare under both those eyes.

And maybe you could spare yourself a little judgement if you could explain to her that giggle of yours. It’s not. You’re not supposed to. Impossible. Couldn’t, shouldn’t, nobody laughs like that, priestesses don’t laugh like that. It can’t be a real sound. It just can’t. And. That’s that. So there.

And, no, really? They let you out of the Temple? Before you turned into a terrible, miserable, useless, stuck-up, well, priestess? That can’t be right. She always thought that was part of the curriculum. Or, at least a prerequisite for letting you in the door in the first place? Wait, no, she didn’t escape did she?

...no, on second thought, not that. Definitely not that. She couldn’t escape her way out of an open field. All alone on a boat full of strangers, and what does she do? Plop her butt down next to the scariest, toughest thug around, pour out her heart, and ask for...oh no what is she asking her for? And what’s she asking her for?! This isn’t her job! Her job’s, uhhh, something else! That isn’t this!

Yeah, alright, she did ask. A brave ask, if you ask her. And a brave ask deserves a good answer. She’s got plenty of those.

Han snorted. A rough, gruff, ugly laugh. “Doing it wrong? Sprout, you’re not like any priestess I’ve ever seen. First one to ask for a review, that’s for sure.”

The highest, most obvious praise she could offer.

Nailed it.
“Aww, you have noticed me.” A memory of good humor sparkled in her eyes, then faded once more. “He. Usually took care of,” Preparing her meals? Fitting time to eat into her days? Keeping her alive? “Such things. I’ve let him do as he pleases now, a sort of, leave of absence.” Of her. From her. “It’s. Been quite some time, since I’ve had to think about...”

And that was quite enough pity for one day. Either she was going to sit here and starve, or do something about it. If only the latter could be as effortless as the former. But when she planted her feet, and dug her claws into the table for leverage, Hestia’s hand was waiting to help her up.

“Have you any pasta-related wisdom to spare too? The kitchens ought to be quiet now, and the Alced won’t be here for days. Even if they hurry it up they can’t take the bridge if there’s nobody there to take it from. It’s just the principle of the thing.”

*******

“So now I just...wait?”

“And stir, occasionally.”

“How occasionally?”

“Every few minutes. Doesn’t need to be precise. Just enough to keep the noodles from clumping together.”

“There’s no spice or, I don’t know, seasoning, I should be adding? Just wait?”

“Ten minutes if you like them firm. Twelve if you like them softer.”

"Usually, there's a sauce of some kind to go with it. Shouldn't we be starting that?"

"Once you've graduated from pasta."

“...this isn’t a test, is it? There’s not some secret step that I ought to deduce from what’s come before?”

“We’re not making a test. We’re making lunch.”

“Ah. Of course.”

“...”

“...”

“...it’s just, boiling pasta. There’s something about it that sounds, I don’t know, complicated? Involved? I always imagined it a bigger fuss than this.”

“Everything sounds bigger than it is, at first. But we all get there in our own time.”

“Like ten to twelve minutes?”

“Ten to twelve minutes, sometimes.”

**************************************************************

Once upon a time, there was a little chef who wasn’t happy just being a chef. So unhappy was he, that one night he broke every rule he’d ever learned, snuck aboard a spaceship, and left his rightful place far behind. This made the little chef happy, for a time. He saw many wonderful things, met many wonderful people, cooked them all sorts of delicious things, and even found a wife he could hold and treasure forever. But this, too, wasn’t enough. His friends could not journey with him. The sights of space revealed themselves to be full of danger and despair. And even his marriage threatened to crumble to dust. So the little chef asked the wise goddess Hera what he should do to fix his cursed heart.

And Hera, in her infinite wisdom, told him he hadn’t broken enough rules the first time.

The little chef held some small concern. He told Hera, “I don’t know, wise Hera. This wisdom may be too high for me to understand.” But could he, a mere chef, so easily discard the words of one so wise? Shouldn’t he ought to, at least, follow after her, and see the results for himself? This was a wisdom more his station. “If you think it wise, then I will try my best.”

And what would his first desire be?

“Mynx ought to eat. And she won’t, unless somebody prepares her food in a way that she will accept. It is not so different a desire than those I’ve had before, but I know I can do this much.”
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