Chapter One: In which I ponder the theoretical limit of pies.
It was the largest pie I had ever seen. When I say that, you can rest assured that it means something, because I am Eaglethorpe Buxton, famed around the world as a heroic adventurer, a brilliant author and storyteller, and a connoisseur of pies. There are some who would insist that I am a connoisseur of pies first and foremost, but that is not true. While it is true that there are some who would slanderously, which is to say with much slander, espouse that Elwood Cyrene is a more heroic adventurer than me, there are none who could claim, even slanderously, that there is a better storyteller. On the other hand, I would freely admit that my cousin Celia is at least the connoisseur of pies that I am, though perhaps not the eater of pies that I am. In any case, it was a large pie.
“That must be the world’s largest pie,” said I.
“It is a large pie,” said the man standing opposite me, who was the local tavernkeeper. “I don’t know about the world, but it is the largest pie in Fencemar, for it is baked in the largest pie pan that could be found in the town.”
“Not surprising,” said I. “I would imagine that not a bigger pie pan could be found in Celestria herself.”
“Notwithstanding that,” said he. “If she could have come by a bigger pan, our piesmith was more than ready to make a bigger pie still. In fact, she expressed great disgust that this was the best we could do in cast iron production.”
“I should like to meet this piesmith,” said I. “First though, I would like to eat a slice of that pie.”
“Then have a seat,” said he. “It’s a sovereign for a slice, but that slice is a full meal for a grown man and his three grown sons.”
“Then there may well be enough for me,” said I, “and my daughter.”
“Come in here, Ethyl!” I called. “It’s pie for dinner!”
“Ethyl is a lovely name,” said the tavernkeeper, but he stopped and stared at the seven-year-old ball of spit and anger that stomped into the room.
“Her real name is Ethylthorpe,” said I.
“It’s Ethyl!” she hissed, “and I’m sick of pie!”
“Lovely child,” said the man, but he was being polite, or he was mistaken, or he had some kind of degenerative eye disease, because Ethylthorpe Buxton was not a lovely child. She wore a pair of baggy overalls and a stained shirt, and she was covered in dirt from head to toe. She had snot running from her right nostril and bloody scab on her forehead. Long gone was the lovely pink and yellow dress that I had ordered her dressed in that morning, and now, the only indication that she was a girl and not some kind of grotesque miniature half-ogre, was her long blond hair, and in it, only one of my carefully braided pigtails remained.
“You’ll sit there, and you’ll eat that pie,” said I, “and you’ll like it, or I’ll give you what for!”
She sat down at the table I had selected, crossed her arms, and stuck out her tongue at me. I unwrapped my heavy cloak and put it on the back of the chair.
The tavernkeeper went to the pie and cut out a slice, which he placed on a wooden platter only slightly smaller than a wagon wheel. Then he and two of the tavern girls wrestled it to my table, which it completely covered.
“Not to put too fine a point on it,” said he. “I did say it was a sovereign.”
“That you did,” said I, tossing him the required gold coin.
“You folk are from Aerithraine,” said he, showing the obverse of the coin, which is to say the front, upon which sat the image of a beautiful woman. “I recognized Queen Elleena.”
“She’s a beastly hag!” growled Ethyl. “And I don’t want a huffleberry pie!”
“You will show some respect!” I growled right back at her. “Respect for huffleberry pie, if not for the queen!”
“Hmph!” she hmphed.
“I come from Aerithraine originally,” I explained, “but I’ve been living in Lyrria some seven years now.”
“I’ll get you some forks,” said the tavernkeeper.
“Not to fear,” said I, whipping out my fork from my shirt pocket, which I call my fork pocket, for it is the pocket in which I carry my fork.
I glared at Ethyl, until she too produced her fork, waving it at me insolently. Like mine, it was made of fine silver and featured a stylized E on the handle.
I sat opposite my dirt-encrusted offspring and took a bite of the pie. It was very good. Despite huffleberries not being my favorite, something that I was not going to admit to my unclean progeny, it was sweet and tart, and the crust was first rate. I had expected huffleberry pie, because we were traveling in the far north of The Fallen Lands, just along the southern border of the great glacier known as The Skagarack, and in the far north of The Fallen Lands, just along the southern border of the great glacier known as The Skagarack, there were no fruits to be had except for huffleberries, which only grow where it is too cold for any other plant to grow that isn’t mostly made of pine needles and pine cones, which is to say pine trees.
“Eat your pie,” said I.
Ethyl grumbled but took a bite.
“You should be happy to get a pie,” said I. “You know there are some places in the world where a man would kill for a good pie.”
“You know there are some places in the world where a man would kill for a good pie,” she repeated mockingly, which is to say, full of mock.
“Oh, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child,” quoth I.
“Plagiarer!” she said, jumping to her feet, taking an accusing stance and pointing at me. “You did steal that line from William Shakespeare and his play Macbeth!”
“Nonsense,” said I. “I did take that line from Eaglethorpe Buxton and his play MacElizabeth, and I am allowed, as I am that self-same Eaglethorpe Buxton.”
“I’ve heard of you,” said a tavern girl, stopping at the table.
She was quite attractive, with short vanilla hair and cherry lips, and her generous breasts threatened to fall right out of the top of her blouse, the top three buttons of which were undone.
“And what have you heard, my dear?” I asked.
“I have heard that you are a teller of tales, quite free with your coin, and the greatest lover in all of Duaron.”
“You know me well,” said I.
“Can I bring you a beer?” she asked.
“You are not only lovely,” said I, “but you’re clearly very smart, which is to say, yes, beer.”
“How about her?” she asked, nodding toward Ethyl.
“Bring me a beer too,” said Ethyl.
“Oh, sit down already,” I ordered her, for she was still standing accusingly. “Unless you sit, no beer for you.”
“We have milk,” said the tavern girl.
“I’m lactose intolerant!” hissed Ethyl.
“What does that mean?”
“It means that milk is too good for her,” I said.