I would seem that I was not required for the trading mission this month, as full moon has been and gone with nothing more exciting than the distant howling of the Hunter’s hounds. No doubt the king has other concerns, what with having a new-born son and all. And as for the Hunter, that is excitement I am sure I can live without.
It does appear that their majesties are otherwise occupied, as Aoibheann has been co-opted into babysitting the princesses in their majesties’ absence. I found her in the courtyard as I was crossing over to the tavern, playing with the youngest one, Hadley. She seems to have a natural ability with the youngsters, but she seemed a little put out when I suggested she would make a wonderful mother some day. Perhaps things are not going so well with Damion. Of course, if what I overheard the queen saying the other week is true, and Damion IS the white stag, then that could put a crimp in the relationship.
Hadley seems to have mastered the art of walking and has mastered, somewhat, the art of Aoibheann’s name. Well, the first syllable anyway, if you accept “Eb” as being the first syllable, which it probably is for a child that age. Eb did try to get Hadley to say hello to myself and Mitternacht, who was also in the courtyard, but with little success. My suggestion that we bribe the child with milk and cookies frightened Aoibheann. Apparently she takes the threat of being thrown in the dungeons for doing such a thing seriously. I don’t know the king that well, but I don’t think he is quite that harsh. But then, here in this strange domain, anything is possible.
This apparently includes cookery lessons. Mitternacht was standing in the courtyard, apparently healthy. Of course, her definition of healthy apparently extends as far as having the requisite number of limbs, head and tail. Given that she gives the impression of being quite elderly, whatever counts as elderly for an orange pony, that’s possibly as healthy as she gets.
I asked if she wanted her usual, which I remembered as being stale bread in mulled beer or cider. Instead, she asked for fried pork chops with cherry brandy. I will admit to not being an expert on cooking, but that seemed an unlikely combination, quite apart from somewhat confused by the idea that a pony would even eat something like pork, or any meat, come to that. Aoibheann was about to head back the castle, which reduced the choice of available cooks to myself. I did offer that I would attempt to cook said meal, but it turns out that Mitternacht is quite capable of doing so herself. We agreed that she would cook the meal this time, and teach me how, so that I could do it again next time. Gwyn has been giving me some basic lessons, so I was sure this would not be too complicated a dish. I must also confess to some considerable curiosity as to how a pony would manipulate the cooking implements, hooves not being particularly well adapted to grasping and such like. To be honest, it was a question that had been in my mind ever since Mitternacht told me she was an equine mortician.
The answer, it turns out, is magic. We went into the kitchen and I fetched the various tools and ingredients – pork chops, flour, eggs etc for her, having already grabbed a bottle of cherry brandy on the way up. Then, with a little glow of magic, she started whisking the flour into the egg to make a batter. That’s a pretty good trick, handling a bowl & whisk etc with magic, just as adeptly as I would with my hands, perhaps more so. I have to say I was quite impressed. Having wondered how Mittenacht and her kind might be able to manipulate objects, lacking a grasping hand, I had not considered the possibility of magic. But then, for all that I have been associating with magic-using beings over the past two years, I never really consider it in relation to solving problems. I remarked as such to Mitternacht, and she did offer to try to teach me some magic. I did say it seemed a little redundant to learn to do something with magic that I can quite easily achieve with my hands; although the prospect of being able to do something that my hands would otherwise do, but at a distance does have a certain appeal. She suggested one of the basic spells that they teach to their young (foals?) – how to cast light. That could come in handy.
Oh, and the cherry brandy. I was deceived by Mitternacht’s description of the dish. The recipe turned out to be coating the chops in the batter and frying them. The nearest the cherry brandy got to the meal was being poured into a glass and drunk with it. I was unaccountably relieved to discover this.