Chuck gave us a simple challenge this week – pick one of the seven deadly sins, and go for it. So here are 1000 words on Kaa Birith’s hospitality at work. The Kaa is a senator of the Imperium, and plays a key role in the Viridian System series. I haven’t finally decided whether he’s evil or simply amoral. Time will tell.
All You Can Eat
Kaa Birith sat in a woven willow chair sipping G’Naussian champagne. The canapés had already disappeared.
Bazengi Alterran lazed on the matching lounger, his body flowing over the cushions and enveloping the corners of the seat. Birith inclined his head at his guest’s anecdotes, smiling when the Polkerran roared with laughter, or as a stubby finger smote the air to make some point.
Bazengi interrupted his own flow to answer a call on his qwatch. Birith rose to give him privacy, a rarity for an Imperium senator. The death of Donal Fander Rhinum had forced a two-day break, and local senators had offered carefully orchestrated hospitality to the outer-world representatives.
Birith nodded to his butler, who bowed and glided past to the conservatory, ready for the first course. Birith checked his own communications, noting a coded one from G’Rath, who had been lumbered with the Mendacian. It read simply: success.
“So, senator, how about some dinner?”
“Haf! Dinnair iss fery well appreshated.” He flowed off the lounger and waddled after Birith. His feet made slapping sounds as spare flesh punctuated each step. “I haf not eaten for more than tuh ours. Not since the session vass turminated.”
“So forbearing — such a trial for you.” Kaa Birith gestured to the double seat held by the butler, who helped the guest arrange himself, then drew the table closer to the chair. Birith took his own seat, then waited for his place setting to be moved in front of him.
“More champagne, senator?”
The Polkerran burped in response, which the butler interpreted as an affirmative.
“To our mutual goals.” Birith raised his glass in a toast, and Bazengi mirrored his move, adding the Polkerran version of ‘cheers’.
The butler brought a large silver dish laden with small fish, serving six onto Birith’s plate, and setting the dish in front of the Polkerran.
“Af! Vitebait. My faforite!”
Birith picked one of the tiny fish between first and third finger, and popped it into his mouth, masticating, swallowing, and licking his lips before patting them with his napkin, then sipping his wine. He watched his guest swallow three spoonfuls before he took the second fish. He paced his consumption of the fish perfectly as Bazengi finished the huge platter, burped, then farted.
“Excoos me, I ferget that some people not appreshate this custom of ours.”
“Think nothing of it, my dear senator. My home is your home.” Birith smiled a professional smile. The butler cleared the dishes and brought a stew of Magorrian oysters in pomodoro and castili sauce.
“Af! Oysters. My faforite!”
Birith watched as the butler ladled half a dozen oysters into his dish, with an extra dash of sauce, and set the tureen in front of the Polkerran. Birith collected each oyster with a spangnot, a Magorrian implement resembling a pair of pincers, and enjoyed their smoky flavour while closing his ears to the sound of the Polkerran’s slurping.
“Perhaps more wine, senator?” Birith reached for another bottle and topped up both of Bazengi’s glasses while adding a centimetre to his own, as the butler removed the empty dishes.
“You haf excellent cook here, yes?”
“I believe so.”
“Maybe I buy him from you?”
“Everything is negotiable.” Birith’s demeanour never changed. His chef had been with him for decades. So had his butler.
“Zo, you vant me to tek on Fander Rhinum’s cause? To accumulate the outer planets and submit one deposition?”
“Accumulate is not the right word in this case, but in essence I think you have the right idea.”
“I bring all together and then — poof!”
“Do you think that would satisfy your regent?”
“Needs more cash.” Bazengi could speak some words in perfect, unaccented Standard. Mainly when they involved money.
“Given the delicate situation, maybe cash would be forthcoming.”
“Fander Rhinum not strong enuff. Needs reel power – Polkerran power.”
“You appreciate the dilemma. How to bring in the outer planets without revealing Polkerr’s hand in this.”
“Ve can do gut. Rely on uss. And keep Mendacia qviet. Zey vill bring var!” He burped again.
“While we pause before our main course, perhaps you could set things in motion.” Birith gazed at the slob, ignoring the pomodoro-stained cloth on the table in front of him. Always reminded him of blood, and he had no need of that now. “Perhaps…?” he let his eyes linger on his guest’s qwatch.
“Haf!” Bazengi Alterran tapped his qwatch, and made three calls in quick succession. He sat back and grinned at Birith, a grin that looked more like a leer. “Zo… now ve haf to vate – but more cash would help.”
“We can discuss cash later.” Birith waved to the butler, who brought in a trolley with a roast pig turning slowly on a spit, keeping hot over a glowing bed. “Why not help yourself?”
Birith watched as the Polkerran tore strips off the side of pork and stuffed them into his mouth with both hands. His butler placed a dish of meat in front of him, and indicated some accompanying relishes. Birith ate his meal quietly with knife and fork, closing his ears to the snuffles, snorts and guzzling of the Polkerran at his side. He would check on Bazengi’s messages later, to make sure they were what he wanted, with not too many embellishments.
As the meat disappeared down the Polkerran’s gullet, he waved to his butler, who brought in a second pig, turning slowly in the light of its bed.
“Would you excuse me one moment,” Birith said, walking away as the Polkerran continued to gorge himself, by now oblivious to anything but the feast in front of him. “Get Ixo to help him if he slows down,” he murmured to his butler, who nodded, and fetched a small man, dressed in black, whom Birith kept at hand for some of the more unsavoury tasks his lifestyle necessitated.
Ixo also acted as undertaker, should the service be required, such as when a guest ate himself to death.
© J M Pett 2016