“I hope that’s me,” said Egeria.
“Of course it’s you.”
Saba returned a moment later. This time he pulled a small cart, which Yuah was pushing from the other side. Despite the wheels getting caught on the wooden planks of the dock a time or two, they managed to wheel it to the table side. The cart carried a large bowl with a tossed salad. While Saba walked back to the shore, Yuah dressed the salad and served it into white bowls with thin blue lines trimming the edges.
“Is this a subtle indication that impending events are approved of by your family?” asked Egeria.
“It’s not a subtle indication that you are young enough to be my daughter.”
Both Egeria and Yuah burst out laughing.
“Sorry,” said Yuah. “Pretend I’m not here.”
A moment later she was gone and they ate their salad.
“This is lovely,” said Egeria, looking at the sun setting across the bay. “I knew I could count on you.”
By the time that they had finished the salad course, darkness was beginning to overtake them. Saba returned and lit two candles in the center of the table. Egeria sniffed the air.
“They’re magic.” Zeah answered the unasked question. “They are supposed to keep the insects away.”
“Excellent,” she nodded.
Zeah raised his index finger, in a “watch this” gesture. Reaching into the pocket of his coat, he pulled out a small cylinder. He tapped the end on the table. Nothing happened. He turned it around and tapped the other end. Immediately, dozens of tiny lights shot out and began to dance around the table in the air.
“Ooh,” said Egeria.
“Yes,” said Zeah. “The romance of fireflies without the unpleasantness of their being insects.”
Saba collected the salad bowls and salad forks and Yuah served them their supper. Pleased with Mrs. Finkler’s cooking two nights previous, Zeah had engaged her again and given her liberty to cook the most spectacular thing that she could come up with. She had produced a pork shoulder roast with a crunchy crust, seasoned with salt and pepper, and served in a dark sauce, made from the roast stock, meat broth, dark beer, onions and carrots. This was accompanied by plump dumplings and red cabbage. Though different from anything he had eaten before, Zeah enjoyed the meal. This was notwithstanding the fact that he thought it might come up again at any moment.
“This is a lovely meal,” said Egeria.
“I can’t wait to see what you have planned for dessert.”
Dessert was indeed spectacular and again was something that Zeah had never seen before, let alone eaten. It was a custard that just about matched Egeria’s dress, made from black and red currants, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries cooked in juice with starch as a thickener. It was topped with clotted cream, flavored with vanilla. From that evening forward, the taste of the dessert was intricately linked in Zeah’s mind with the image of Egeria carefully spooning the confection into her perfect lips. He also remembered the monstrous splash created by some horrible submarine beast as it burst from the water in the middle of the bay and his fervent hope at the time that the potency of Zurfina’s spell preventing such beasts from coming near the dock remained in effect.
As Egeria approached the last bit of her dessert, Zeah picked up the small cylindar he had used to create the magical fireflys. He tapped the device twice on the table and said “bechnoth”. The dancing little lights that had been a fixture during the meal began to coalesce over the water. Within twenty seconds they had formed letters spelling out “marry me”, except they didn’t quite spell out “marry me”. The second m was a z, so the magical fireflies spelled out “marry ze”.
“Bugger and blast,” said Zeah.
“Marry Ze,” said Egeria. “Yes, I will.”