Something Brewing – fast fiction ~genres/subjects by Muhlakai and ChibiMaster
“Damn it,” Mike roared. “That witch Anne did it again! She casted that damned spell at the last minute, and it made her win… AGAIN!”
Sam shrugged and continued tinkering on the modified oven he was creating for his new friend. He knew that his clockworks wouldn’t ever be able to compare with magic, but it would give Mike a better chance at least, and was completely fair for use in competitions. The problem with spell work was that unless the judges caught the spells being cast, they couldn’t prove that the entry had been tampered. Also, it was of most people’s opinions that people who could cast spells wouldn’t use their awesome magic powers to cheat; at least, not at cooking. As for the new clockwork ovens, if you could afford to have one, or have one made, then more power to you. Mike would be in trouble if they ever outlawed clockwork and steam powered cooking devices. Sam had just finished inventing a steam system with tubes and plugs to run a variety of cooking utensils that Mike had designed. Sam didn’t know how most of it worked, or why Mike wanted it. But Sam saw someone with great potential, and knew if he could stick near him, they could both go far. Sam stoked up the boiler and made sure there was enough water in the tank and watched as the kitchen bloomed into life. Mike smiled as his new kitchen hummed, bubbled, whirred, clicked, and made it’s new sounds. He leaned against the counter and watched as Sam wandered around, examining all the seals on the tubing and checking to make sure the valves were closed tightly when they weren’t being used.
“Sam,” Mike called tentatively. “We’ve not gone out in a while… Want to hunt some tonight, work up a sweat, find a few dainty birds and treat them to a delicious dinner and see what comes of it? I can set something to cooking now so we’ll have dinner ready in say… six hours or so.”
“Well,” Sam said, looking up from one of the hose valves. “Sure, I’ve been mighty lonely since Bella left again. And the last girl that stayed with me for a good while was Bella, and you helped me win her heart like this. Anyway, busting a few Unmentionables’ heads would be good exercise that neither of us has been getting enough of. I’ll go prepare the bait and gather the weapons.”
Sam left the room with a smile and Mike began working his kitchen magic. After about thirty minutes both men were ready and waiting in the large foyer of Mike’s house. Sam was holding a large blunderbuss in his hands and beside him was the ammo boxes and Mike’s pair of pistols, with a few cloth wrapped slabs of fresh meat. The linen was slowly turning crimson from the blood, and Mike looked down at it.
“Spared no expense, huh Sam,” he asked, smiling.
“Nope, I’m feeling lucky, and I want good endings on the rest of the evening.” Sam picked up his box of ammo, stuffed it in his pocket and then a bag of meat and threw it over his shoulder. When he was ready, he opened the front door and waited for Mike to gather his things and walk through. When Mike made it to the walk, he turned to look at Sam who was pressing a series of buttons, and watching the cogs turn.
“I think I’ve perfected the new security system finally Mike,” he said, smiling. “We shouldn’t have to replace any more doors. Plus, Mrs. Fenderson, you know her. She’s the widow next door said that she wanted one if it was out of prototype phase. Of course, her cook said that he would quite like your kitchen, and the maid asked when you’d start looking for a wife, nice and proper like.”
“You are such a gossip, i swear,” laughed Mike as they walked to the steam and horse powered coach that Sam had been working on.
Sam had notified the groomsman to prepare the coach and horses right after he left, knowing it would take the elderly chap as long as they could give him. When Mike arrived, the groomsman scrambled down from the seat so Mike could drive it. As Sam climbed up, he heard the man mutter something like “gentlemen never drove their own coaches in my day” as he walked back to the stables.
“Sam, do you think we’re ever going to make it,” Mike asked as he fired up the small boiler that helped push the coach some so the horses had to do less work. His eyes were focused on his kitchen rival who was wearing the finest and most fashionable gowns for ladies in the age and as they rumbled forward, she looked up. Their eyes locked, and both looked away, turning scarlet. Sam held back his laughter, and answered his friend as solemnly as possible.
“Mike, you’re the best cook I know, even with her magic, your food tastes better.”
“You’re being too kind. I’m surprised that the university hasn’t discovered you tinkering and snapped you into their development department.”
“Well,” Sam laughed. “I’m keeping as quiet as I can, the university is one thing, the military is another. I don’t want to develop war machines.”
Mike nodded and before they knew it they were out in the countryside. They found an older cemetery and noticed a few of the graves were fairly fresh. The men tossed their bait bags off in opposite directions and sat on the high bench on the coach and watched for their quarry. Before long, three of the undead menace called “unmentionables” shambled from the small copse of trees near the old graveyard. One who was in a fine silk dress, but missing her bottom jaw reached it first. Her bony hands tore at the fabric, and she managed to rip a small chunk off before the other two got there. The other two were larger and newer looking. One was corpulent, but his cheap suit didn’t survive the weather very well, the other was well built, and buried in simple work clothes. As Mike picked off his three leisurely with his paired pistols, Sam spotted two very large ones shambling quickly toward his bait. He watched them for a moment, but when it caught up with his brain that something was wrong, Mike turned to look.
“Spell casters,” they said in unison.
“I’ve never seen the other races, let alone spell casters come back from the Sickness,” Sam said, reaching into his coat pocket.
“Me either, we’ll have to report it to the council when we get home,” he said, watching them rush at the meat, shoving at each other the whole while. “Are you going to shoot them, or do you need me to?”
Sam looked at Mike, and saw his face drawn and upset. Mike began lifting a pistol when Sam’s fingers wrapped around what he was looking for.
“I’ve got it, don’t you worry,” said Sam while smiling. He threw the small cylinder and it landed near the meat, right between the unmentionables. Mike looked at Sam like he was crazy, but after a moment, there was a large explosion and when the dust cleared, the meat, unmentionables, and some of the ground was gone. Mike laughed as Sam fired the carriage back up.
“Let’s get back to town, tell the council, and scare us up some birds,” Sam said, hopping back into the carriage.
They roared though the city streets, meeting little to no resistance because they still bore the marks of a successful hunt. When they made it to the chambers there was arguing from both sides from the new information. Sam and Mike slipped out and went to the closest pub where they looked for a few pretty birds and tried to drown the horror of what they saw in the field earlier that day. Thankfully after a short turn of the clock they both had a bird on their arm, and they escorted the ladies to their clockwork carriage. The girls “ooh”ed and “Aww”ed from their place in the back seat, and Mike put his coat down over the bloody spot from where the bait bags had sat. The trip home was short, but bitter cold, and when they got there the ladies were shivering but still giggling. Sam made it through the clockwork lock in record time, and the special boiler for keeping the house toasty was doing it’s job perfectly. Sam expounded and extolled on the quality of the meal that Mike had prepared for them that evening. Mike on the other hand pointed out all the small conveniences that Sam had not only built, but invented or improved. The ladies were impressed, and the meal was excellent. After all of them had had far too much sherry with their dessert, the talking became heated and full of things not proper in polite society. The ladies said they didn’t want to have to go home in such cold weather, and neither Sam nor Mike blamed them, so Sam went up to get two rooms ready while Mike showed the ladies where all the amenities were in the house, and they all retired. That night wicked and evil dreams haunted all of them and when they woke and returned down to the breakfast room, the ladies demanded to depart before the meal. Sam summoned the normal coach and had the groomsman take them home while the gentlemen discussed the dreams that haunted them so vigorously the night before.
“I don’t know,” said Mike, staring at his hands and the steaming mug clutched between them. “Just like i was being hunted, by something.. bad.”
“Yeah, sounds like mine,” Sam sighed. “Not a good sign. We need to let them know it happened, you know, the. . .”
There was a loud banging, and shouting, and then the front door burst open. The maid from next door ran in, her face flushed.
“Unmentionables, in the city, apparently someone forgot to lock a gate, and some new kind of creatures, worse than norm. . .”
“Spell casters,” both men said again in unison. The maid stared at them, frightened, but holding her ground as best as she could. She shrugged while shaking her head. Mike grunted as he pushed away from the table and ran to the gun case. Sam ran to his work room and began rummaging, and the maid, at a loss for something to do tidied up the kitchen. A few moments later, the men ran back into the kitchen, each giving her a peck on the cheek with a barely laudable ‘thanks’ as they ran to the stables out back. Sam fired up the mini boiler and Mike warmed up and applied the tack to a few of the horses that were brave enough to pull the noisy cart. They got the horses attached and drove it into the streets, Sam steading his large rifle and watching the streets for anything unusual. They turned the corner, and standing in the middle of the road was Anne, still in her dressing gown and looking quite out of sorts.
“Out of the road,” shouted Mike.
“Stop the cart you bloody idiot,” she shouted back at him.
As the cart slowed to a stop and Sam stared at Mike bewildered, and the emotion was mirrored on Mike’s face.
“I hate you,” Mike muttered as Anne climbed into the back.
“Yeh? Well, you’re not pretty either.”
“He hates you because you CHEAT Anne,” Sam said while looking her straight in the eyes. She dropped her gaze and stared at the back of the opposite seat.
“Yeh, I do cheat. I ken cook, but well, ‘ere ya are and yer cookin’ is nice… but ‘ere I, I’m, worthless. All I’s got is magic… pointless spells…”
Mike handed Sam the reins and dropped into the back seat. Sam pulled the cart back into action as Mike looked at a fragile looking woman shivering in her dressing gown and barefooted. Mike pulled his jacket off, and almost lost his seat when Sam took another corner. Anne took the coat and slid it on belting it tightly over her thin shift.
“Thank ye,” she muttered.
“Yeah, well. . . You’re welcome, I guess,” Mike muttered.
The cart pitched again, and as Mike and Anne were getting themselves picked back up Anne was thrown into Mike’s lap from a sudden stop. The horses were pawing the ground nervously and when Mike stood up, he saw the Watch and quite a few of the other ‘Armed Gentlemen’ club members holding their guns and watching a bulging gate. Sam stood up on the seat and watched as a few men were running information back and forth. It took him a moment but Mike caught the eye of a runner, the boy ran up, panting.
“Sirs and lady,” he wheezed.
“What’s going on here,” Mike asked.
“Some new unmentionables invaded last night. Thought a door was open. Found the entry site and found the door knocked in. Door’s so damaged took ’em a while to find it. Knocked it clean off its hinges, and a block up!”
Sam stood and stared down at the panting boy. His face twisted for a moment, and when he spoke his voice was barely a whisper.
“Is that section left for dead?”
“No Sir, but the people have barricaded up their homes and are pickin’ the beasts off. They closed the gates when it was realized what happened, we’re just waitin’ for the worst at this point.”
Sam nodded and hopped off the high seat and ran to a building beside the gate. Mike, Anne, and the boy watched him with curiosity for a moment, and the boy shrugged.
“Anything else gov,” the kid asked, his breathing finally steadied.
“No,” Mike said, waving his hand dismissively. He watched the boy as he ran off and dissapeared into the growing crowd. Before long they saw Sam standing on the roof of the building and he was leaning so he could see into the other quadrant of the city. Mike shouted for him to be careful, but Sam couldn’t hear him apparently. Sam pulled something from his pockets, small glittery things, and threw them over the wall. Mike watched as the fell down behind the wall like shooting stars, and after a moment came a concussive popping sound, then the ground shook. Mike looked for Sam on the roof again, but he was nowhere to be seen. The pressure on the wooden door lightened, then the loud creaking noise that was from the weight stopped. The street was silent but for some murmuring from small groups. Sam appeared beside them, and smiled.
“I never left your sight,” Sam muttered. “I walked forward, tried to find a constable to talk to, and came back after I didn’t run into the one I though I saw from my previous high vantage point.”
Mike nodded quickly, and Anne was shortly behind him. They watched as the small door in the center of the large gate was pulled slightly open. When the door swung open, the crowd gasped, guns were raised again and there was a collective gasp.
“What’s coming through the door Sam,” Mike asked, looking at the scene before him.
“Looks like week old, charred and rotted slop from the butchers,” Sam said, then began laughing. “They worked better than I expected them to.”
Mike and Anne looked up at Sam, then back to the gate where some armed men began to cautiously enter the previously blockaded quadrant. There was a scream from a few that had entered, and then an exodus of bodies trying to escape from that tiny door. Directly behind the last man was a small unmentionable, but her hands were definitely weapons. Very occasionally lightning arched from them, striking down those unlucky enough to be in her way. As she moved forward, she would stop to bite those that had fallen before her. Her once delicate mouth was bloody, and she looked at all the men with guns trained on her. Anne was standing in the seat, watching when she gasped.
“Eliza! ‘Ere, shes been dead now for… a few ‘ears, she’s the reason I quit my studies,” Anne muttered. She climbed to the drivers seat so she could see better and stared long and hard at her once sister and rival.
“”Ey, YOU,” Anne yelled at the unmentionable who was looking around. “I’s got a bone to pick with ye!”
The Unmentionable raised her arms, but Anne was faster, letting earsplitting lightning crackle over the crowd, striking her target in the chest. The dead Eliza stood, and raised her arms again, and when the lightning snaked from her hands, Anne was ready. The bold sizzled, racing through the air, and Anne caught it, deflecting it harmlessly into the sky. Anne then lifted her arms and pulled them down in a sudden, but smooth motion, and fire snaked from the sky, enveloping the corpse. The unmentionable named Eliza shrieked and groaned, and the crowd backed far from her burning and flailing body. After her demise, a few more men crept through the open door and found at side of the quadrant empty. The survivors were glad to see humans walking the streets, and later that day, the watch had quite a few young people itching to join. Anne was approached by a council member and asked about not only her spell casting ability, but about also joining the Watch to train those who carried the spark. She mumbled at the old man, but eventually she was taken to see the constable and they ended up talking a good while. There were cries on the street, asking who used magic to kill most of the unmentionables hiding behind the wall, but no one owned up to it, and by the time it happened, Mike and Sam were once again long gone.
The next few days were quiet, the papers showed the heroine of the hour Anne, and a few other valiant fighters from other districts, and Anne stopped by to return Mike’s coat. They stood in the anteroom for a long time, silent, when Anne spoke.
“Listen,” she said, her horrible accent almost completely gone. “Please don’t tell anyone about what you saw. You caught me by surprise. I’ve spoken to the panel of the last competition. The found out that I was a spell caster, and when asked if I used magical enhancement, i told the truth. They’ve asked for a cook off between us in the head member of the panel’s home tomorrow. Bring nothing but your knives, and I’ll send a carriage around at 5.”
Mike stared at her as she walked out of his house, her head held high and full of dignity. Sam walked up and clapped his friend on the shoulder, making Mike jump.
“Things are working out i see,” Sam said.
“Yes, but i was only told to bring knives, none of my other equipment,” Mike said gloomily.
“You know nothing of the kitchen, you might be pleased and surprised at what you find.”
Mike shrugged and walked away, leaving Sam wondering what happened.
The next evening Mike had his knife roll under his arm, and his best suit on. Sam was dressed as he was always dressed, standing a few feet behind his nervously pacing friend. The bell rang at five on the dot, and Mike rushed to open the door. Standing there was a man groomed most elegantly and a carriage just down on the street. Mike stepped forward, and the man began to close the door when Sam caught it.
“Wait on me, let me lock up,” Sam said.
Once the door was locked, and they were safely seated, the coach took off again to the center of their district. Sam noticed that both Mike and Anne were looking anywhere but each other, and both wore pained expressions. He smiled a bit at this, but said nothing. After a winding drive, they pulled up into a large courtyard and the Butler helped them down from the carriage and a maid showed them into the house. The place was huge, and the kitchen they were led to was nice, but couldn’t touch Mike’s kitchen back home. He walked around and looked at what equipment they’d be working with, and landed next to Anne at the covered ingredient table. The judging panel came from the dining room and saw the three of them there. The master of the house walked up to the table and rested his hands on its edge.
“With our discovery of her… Talent. We have decided to try this again, just between the two of you. Your cooking is augmented by the clockwork items you use, and hers by her magic. Here, neither will be allowed. You have 3 hours, the run of the kitchen and spice cabinet, and anything else you can find to use. You can only use your own knives, and both of you will be carefully watched. Make us proud, and fill us up, we’ve been wating all day for this coming meal.” The old man and a few others came and lifted the cover from the table to reveal slabs of flesh, fish, vegetables, and various other things. Mike pulled out one of his knives and sliced off a few large hunks of meat and carried them back to one area. He came back with a large bowl and gathered more items off the table while Anne stood and stared at the ingredients like she didn’t know where to start. Just as Anne’s hand reached forward, Mike was beside her, leaning in and grabbing two large fish.
“Good luck,” he said to her, his voice gentle in her ear.
“You too,” she replied, her small hand wrapping around a large leg bone covered in meat.
The smells from the kitchen were amazing, and both worked hard. Mike finished before the time was up, and spend the last bit of time working on his presentation, where Anne struggled to get everything on a plate in time. A large serving crew came and carried all the dishes and placed them on separate serving bars in the dining room, and both contestants and Sam were invited to sit.
Each dish was presented, and each person at the table was expected to fill out a small form in the tablet set by each plate. The dishes were ranked on a scale with categories like presentation, portion, compatibility of ingredients, and various other traits. They discussed the merits of the dishes as they ate, filling out the form at the end, and almost always, Sam was the last to finish his questionnaire.
After the meal was done, Sam, Anne, and Mike were shown to the drawing room, and asked to wait. The three of them sat in silence as a heated discussion filtered to their ears. The words were mushed and hard to understand, but the tone behind them wasn’t, and Sam was glad he wasn’t in there for the discussion.
After what seemed like forever, the head judge, and master of the house came out and asked Mike and Anna to stand.
“We’ve read the score cards, debated, and come to the conclusion. Even without your gadgetry, the quality of your food still stands Mike. Anna, we were terribly disappointed in what we discovered of your natural cooking ability. Mike, you have been awarded the honor of being Top Chef in the quadrant, and the city competition is only a few weeks away. Get working on something new, we expect the best from you.”
Mike and Anna stood there, looking at the judges, then at each other.
“I know you’ll win,” Anna said smiling, quietly placing her tiny hand in his. “I can feel it.”