This story is a follow-up to Fresh Fish from my Fishy Prompt Call, as it has reached 10 comments (As of the last time I counted). It is set in the city of Scheffenon in the world of Things Unspoken; The story of Scheffenon begins with N is for Nereids ; the story of Eliška begins with R is for Ritual. (I really oughta do another alphabet call…)
“I’m sorry, I have nothing but what you see. I have the freshest river fish, the freshest pond fishes. These here, these are delicious with an herbed butter. These here, they come from a spring where nothing else lives, just these fish, and they taste like the gods themselves would like to eat them.”
“Which gods?” Eliška muttered. This was the fourth fishmonger she’d spoken to, and she was beginning to get more than a little vexed. She should be better than this. “Scheffenon has a few.”
The fishmonger paused in her spiel to look again at Eliška. “Indeed we do, indeed, and indeed they do.”
There were words she had been given that would tell someone she knew people in certain quarters, that she belonged. She didn’t want to have to use those – and, what’s more, she thought she might be read as more of a foreigner if she did.
“I’ve been told,” she said instead, “that you can find statues when you dive deeply enough into the North Sea. Statues, and fish like nobody else has ever seen.”
She had been not so much asking questions as seeding conversations, and she’d found a pearl-diver and wreck-scavenger who liked to talk, especially when she shared the strong potato-based alcohol that was the working class favorite in this area. Now she offered a piece of information to this fishmonger, to see what he would give back to her. See, I listen, and people talk to me. You can talk to me too.
It did not always work. Many things that often worked did not, here in Scheffenon.
The fishmonger was studying her again. She raised her eyebrows. “And if there are gods under the sea, would you deny them the fish they have attending them?”
“A statue is not – not necessarily, not always – a god.” Eliška didn’t so much counter the woman’s argument as point it out. “If you were taking fish home for your family – or for your spouse’s parents – which would you take? I have no spouse, nor parents, but I have a supervisor who wants to come to dinner.”
It wasn’t even a lie. Scheffenon was too weird, too out there. The Informers in the capital wanted to know – well, they hadn’t said, but Eliška had a feeling they wanted to know if she’d gone native.
The fishmonger turned to another table and pulled out a slab of meat, slightly pinkish and firm, with purple swirls. “There are statues under the sea,” she agreed slowly, “and there are gods under the sea. Scheffenon has any number of gods, ours and theirs and the others, and the North Sea has her own. But if you ask the right people – serve this with oregano, if you can get it, and tomatoes – ask Ulrichk, three booths down.” The fishmonger wrapped up the fish in paper and passed it to Eliška. “The point is always to ask the right people.”
“As I’m learning.” Eliška smiled at the woman and made sure she slipped in a generous tip. “And thanks for the advice. I’ll be sure to tell Ulrichk that you sent me.”
The Embassy staff would hopefully be willing to cook the fish as she asked, and Ulrichk would hopefully have more for her than just tomatoes.
Then again, it seemed there was more in the North Sea than just fish, than just statues, and it seemed Eliška was going to visit them.
She was going to need more than good fish and good tomatoes for this.
Want more? See here first!