In the final part of a regular series, Karen takes on Fantasy Life in a variety of 'lives' and documents her adventures.
Today is the day I complete my Life journey in Reveria. All of the Lives I have spent time as, all of the monster parts and mushrooms I have gathered, my fears of a secret organisation creating a new world order by hiding in plain sight, all culminate for me in the Life of a cook. As I had feared, the cooks’ recruitment poster promises that I can enslave the population of Reveria, up to and including the king, with my delicious cuisine. It also mentions something about 'condiments,' which I assume are the neo-medieval fantasy setting means of administering chemtrails. The guild master, as aware of what today is as I am, ties me into my cook’s apron just a bit too snugly and reverentially inverts and places the cast iron wok that completes the ensemble atop my head. Armed with my near complete selection of hand-crafted frying pans from my blacksmithing days, I steel my nerves and begin the walk to Castele’s Shopping District and Alfredo’s Bistro, the enticing aromas masking the nefarious activities within.
Life master and chief illuminatus Alfredo seems very dismissive of me when I arrive — they obviously don't allow just anyone into their secret society. Alfredo hands me a toy frying pan and mentions how the last recruit badly messed up his first dish and is now banned from the kitchen forever. Not only is Alfredo a genius criminal mastermind, he's also an artiste. Sizzle is Alfredo’s plushling sous chef who falters when trying to remember the test dish used to weed out new recruits, thereby honouring their code of silence until what I’m sure is a hand signal gets passed between himself and Alfredo, and the plushling suddenly tells me to make carrot soup. I reach for the weeks-old carroty corpse in my apron’s pocket when Sizzle says he’ll take me to get the freshest ingredients possible. I don’t know if ‘fresh ingredients’ means ‘a long walk on a short pier in cement low-top shoes,’ but as a career mute I’ve accepted that I’ll never get the hang of code phrases or neurolinguistic programming. As we make our way to South Castele to talk to Giles the farmer about some vegetables Sizzle asks me if I've gotten used to how he speaks, but I'm not sure if he meant his constant use of the third person when referring to himself or the fact that every syllable he utters seems to point to something larger and more sinister than mere first courses.
When Sizzle and I come calling there is something vaguely haunted about Giles’ eyes and I wonder if he's somehow run afoul of Alfredo, but Sizzle and I walk away with enough carrots for the soup nonetheless. Back at the bistro, Sizzle tells me to equip my frying pan and get cooking — I wonder if the frying pan I’ve been given is somehow primed to release mind control chemicals into the food, but Alfredo’s too smart to poison himself. After slicing, boiling, and frying as if my life depends on it as it well might, Alfredo praises my carrot soup's colour and aroma and asks for bread; which, if I understand Sizzle’s coded language correctly, means I'm finally in the secret society. Just as I'm about to mime wanting to learn the secret handshake a customer comes into the kitchen from the dining area and has a taste of the soup. Our hungry guest talks of serving my starter to the king with a follow-up main dish and asks to borrow the cooking counter. Sizzle is disturbed by the stranger's presence but Alfredo wants to see what the new guy will come up with, and our guest whips up some royal hamburger. After sampling the dish Alfredo once again asks for bread, and I confess that I feel a little jealous of our newest initiate, but I do have seniority of about half an hour on him and in the Castelean social order that's enough.
Our newest recruit bears the royal emblem on his apron and he introduces himself as Allan, the royal family's chef. Apparently the king is very interested in Alfredo’s bistro since it became all the rage with the nobility, Alfredo falling into a dead faint on hearing the news. Sizzle explains to me that Alfredo does this sometimes and I'm glad to know that it has more to do with his artist's temperament than incorrectly administered knockout drugs. Alfredo mentioned a specific type of omelette just before he passed out, and I realise that I now know that omelette’s recipe as if it’s information my mind suddenly unlocked. Allan wanted to learn some recipes from Alfredo before returning to the castle, but with Alfredo passed out cold that isn't likely. Sizzle obviously knows that I've been carrying the recipe for the omelette and volunteers me to show it to Allan. I don’t know how my being a sleeper agent omelette jockey helps Alfredo’s grand designs, but I trust that all will be revealed now that I’m a full-fledged member.
Outside the bistro, Sizzle lists out the ingredients for the omelette, as if I didn't already know them. We need eggs, cow's milk, and vine ripened tomatoes, so Sizzle and I go to have a word with the farm animals. Sizzle brags about his expertise in conversing with fowl as we make our way to see Eggbert, the celebrity egg-laying rooster of Castele. There was evidently a hitch with Eggbert’s operant conditioning because he summons a few friends to peck Sizzle’s tail off, but at least Eggbert was kind enough to lay an egg in the middle of the excitement. Once we regroup Sizzle says the problem with cows is that they don't pay much attention to what people or plushlings say, but as soon as we approach the cow she simply tells us to take some milk, so apparently the light-implanted hypnotic suggestion took effect.
The food merchant doesn't stock vine-ripened tomatoes because of logistics issues, but she mentioned that travellers from Port Puerto often carry them and that she saw a Port Puertan cook earlier with bulging pockets. Sizzle and I find the cook outside our bistro looking dejected because it was closed for lack of a cook with Alfredo indisposed and Sizzle and I off on our ingredients quest. We arrange to give the cook a meal in exchange for some of his vine-ripened tomatoes, with Sizzle running ahead to presumably check on any sensory deprivation test subjects before we reopen our doors. After I cook as if possessed, the Port Puertan lauds just about everything about my omelette and asks me to come to his kitchen sometime to make him a seafood dish before leaving. Allan says that the cook must have been Pedro of the famed kitchen Cocina Rica, and I suspect Pedro’s effusive seafood praise carries some sort of hidden message currently beyond my operating level. Finally coming to on the floor, Alfredo asks why he wasn't in his bed, but I suspect that Alfredo faked the whole fainting episode so he could see how his two new recruits would react without their supreme overlord’s guidance. Sizzle pretends to give Alfredo a recap of what happened while he was out cold, and Alfredo feigns looking ready to faint again at the mere mention of Pedro's name. I’m appointed a full fledgling cook and Alfredo’s new sous chef, Alfredo outlining his ambitions to make his bistro a five-star restaurant, which must be some sort of quality scale for the food’s hidden nerve agents.
Fully satisfied with my new place in the organisation, I start my culinary tour of Reveria from the kitchen station with Castele’s local delicacies, the port city’s fine work with seafoods which emphasises undetectable poisonings and stealth indigestion, and Al Maajik’s spice-laden desert delicacies which carry the rich flavour of political intrigue. When I arrive at Port Puerto’s famed Cocina Rica kitchen to buy some regional ingredients Pedro identifies me as Omelette Girl and although I feel some pride that my dish was that memorable, I suspect I’m not receiving proper credit as Reveria’s first espionage enabled fry cook. Once I reach mastery Alfredo takes us to The Crown and orders a tall barley juice for me, the most diabolical verbal cipher I’ve heard yet from the man. Within seconds the bartender presents me with the tallest of barely juices, surely a triumph of the most sophisticated psychosocial conditioning imaginable.
I’m afraid that my story has to end here. While I wouldn’t necessarily have to kill you if I were to relay any more information I’d at minimum have to sit you down, stare at you with my frozen half-smile and do the ‘look over there’ point for about half of an hour, and that’s an inconvenience neither of us wants.
Rank achieved: I haven’t been told the alternate hierarchy so for now it’s master
Useful for: I can’t say
Quality of Life: Fnord
Additional comments: No, I do not want to pass the time by playing solitai—