Sunday, January 02, 2011


"Monsieur, a delight to see you again!" The restaurateur greeted the alchemist like an old friend, which he seemed to have become in the short length of their stay in the City of Lights. The Cossack Bistro had first been a convenient place to eat due to its location, but they had not wandered far abroad because the atmosphere was so welcoming.

When you are traveling with a Viennese lion, welcomes can be a challenge to locate.

"And Eduardo, mon cher! How is your appetite today?"

"Excellent, of course," the lion said, perching himself on a stool near the small table in the back. Experience demonstrated that the two were less likely to draw unwonted attention when they were seated there. The day the tall bearded alchemist and his familiar had taken advantage of the sunshine to sit on the sidewalk like most Parisians had been an inadvertently eventful one.

"I must say, Eduardo, that hat suits you right down to the ground."

Maggiormente laughed, but the lion raised himself proudly. "Thank you, monsieur. What have you in the way of cakes today?"

The restaurateur rubbed his hands together with enthusiasm. "Better today than cake—mince pie! An imported tradition, but one I am certain you will enjoy."

"There aren't any leeks in them, are there? I can't abide leeks."

"No leeks at all."

"I'll have three." Eduardo stretched his wings with pleasure, knocking a painting askew on the wall but otherwise harming nothing.

"And monsieur le alchimiste?"

Maggiormente pulled his beard in thought. "Potato and leek soup, I think."

"In a trice," the restaurateur said, bowing and spinning away to fetch the viands.

"Must you do that?" Eduardo said, his voice taking on a cold wind of annoyance.

"Do what?"

"Eat leeks. You know I hate leeks."

"I'm not making you eat them," Maggiormente said, absently drawing on the menu, sketching out a new plan for the procedure. Surely it was in the order and not the ingredients that I have erred.

"Yes, but your breath will smell like leeks and I will be miserable all day," Eduardo said, raising a paw for emphasis. "It's quite uncharitable of you."

"I think we should connect the siphon directly to the beaker here," he said, ignoring the lion's complaint. "Look, this is what's throwing the process off, don't you think?"

Eduardo looked at the sketch. "Hmmm, possibly. But if you add it there won't there be a greater chance of explosion?"

Maggiormente frowned. "What else can I be missing? Should we aspirate the coelestino more?"

"Where is my pie?" Eduardo looked in the direction of the kitchen as his stomach rumbled loudly.

"Can you never think of anything but your stomach?" The alchemist scowled. "Our boot at the Exposition becomes available in a matter of days. It would be helpful if we actually had something to show for it."

"I'm sure everything will come out fine…eventually." The lion rubbed his face with his paw to distract his thoughts from hunger. The couple at the table next to them paid hastily and left even more so. Eduardo watched them go.

"You don't care about this project!" Maggiormente said, crashing a fist down onto the table and rattling the cutlery. Other people in the café were beginning to eat faster.

"I think you just worry too much about insignificant details," Eduardo said, concealing a smile. He could smell the pies now. It would not be long.

"My reputation and a good deal of money are at stake. You do not want us to have to return to live with my mother, do you?"

Eduardo shuddered. "No. I shan't have my choice of hats then."

"Well, either you help me get this process to work or we will have to resort to you telling fortunes and juggling in the kiosk."

For a moment, Eduardo forgot his pies and stared at his alchemist between narrowed eyes. "You wouldn't."

"It is a very expensive undertaking to have a booth at the Exposition Universelle," Maggiormente said, staring back at the lion. Neither made a sound for some time.

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