Saturday, July 16, 2016

How To Get the Best Cheap Meals in Thay

<On his way down the street in the dim early morning light, tucking and arranging his clothes and not paying much mind to the simple neighborhood where he lives, Liroq the sailor once again has had to leave his cozy home and wife without breaking his fast.  But this wasn't exactly unplanned.>

Ah, hello!  Decided to meet me here at the corner like I suggested yesterday, eh?  Good!  I am going to show you how to get the best cuisine Thay has to offer the poor working sap at just about any time of day, in any corner of the country.  It just takes a little time and persistence, so that's why we're getting started so early.

We'll pick up Nuaros on the way, probably - if he's managed to crawl his way out of bed and whichever bottle or woman he crawled into it with.  That poor man needs to be married.  I know most Thayans would never say such a thing except as a punishment, but that's just because the wrong gods smiled on their match.

My wife makes every day worthwhile!  Each time I don't get eaten by some monster out on the lake, I come home to all the stews and breads and sweets she's been making while she's been doing everything else.  Oh, don't think she doesn't have her own job.  She certainly does!  My Brekka's a fishwife for House Kul, but she has more breaks to check on things at home.  I hate having to leave her behind when they want us out for days or weeks at a time, but what are you going to do?

Do I what?  Trust her while I'm gone?  Why wouldn't I?  She knows the terms of our marriage contract.  A copy of it is hanging on the wall above our door.  We both blow it a  kiss every time we leave.  It's our little ritual.

Anyway, we're not doing this because my wife can't cook.  We're doing this because you never know where you're going to need to catch a hearty meal.  

Why don't we just eat at an inn or a restaurant?  Yes, there are plenty of them around, but let's be honest: Most inn food is as bland as an Aglarondan's face.  And common restaurants either charge too much or you can't trust what they say is on their plates, and their food is mostly lard either way.  Eating well all day can run five silvers or more, and those are silvers you could be using to buy other things or get in on a game.  

Ah, there you are, Nuaros!  Had a late night with a bottle, by the smell of it.  Just try to keep up.

So, my young friend, since you say you want to see everything Thay has to offer on less than a gold piece a day, here's my first piece of advice: Don't pay for food in the usual places if you can help it.  Inns and restaurants will drain you dry.  Any establishment backed by House Wenz is going to be far too rich for your blood, so avoid them, no matter how wonderful they smell or how pretty their waitresses are.  You might find a stall that has something good-smelling and cheap, but make sure it's also grilled to a crisp or deep fried, otherwise you'll probably spend the next day feeding the otyughs in the sewers.

Are you alright, Nuaros?  You look a little green around the gills.  Don't be feeding the otyughs until later; we have to get our new friend around first.

My next piece of advice is this: Look for places where food is but isn't sold.  You might not even think of it as food yet.  

For instance, if there are fighting pits of House Mishkov or Lectos around, go there and see if any defeated critters were left behind.  Not all of the gladiators claim their kills or care what happens to them.  House Gordesh has to put down their mounts sometimes, too.  The bodies do get tossed into a cold place so they might be sold in the markets whenever someone can get around to it, but you might get lucky.  Strike a deal for a pound of flesh from a hippogriff's leg and it'll cost you some coppers or a silver, or a half an hour mucking out a stable.

If you learn your herbs well enough, you can go to any place House Lloros runs and ask for damaged herbs they can't use that you can still eat.  That will cost you coppers or maybe a job running a message somewhere across the city.  Just make sure you know what you're asking for and that you're getting what you should.  They can be sneaky and the wrong herbs from Lloros can do some serious harm.

The plants that House Zalios grows are drugs, but not all parts of them are.  If you learn your drugs like your herbs, you can figure out what to ask for or which parts are safe.  They can be good greens, stems a lot of times, but perfect for chewing or stewing.  You can dry them out and grind them up yourself for a vial of homemade spice.  If you want a lesser high, I suppose you could ask for the bits that might have some intoxication left in them, but you'll pay more, depending on who sells them to you.

House Koraz's chop shops are probably your best bet.  They usually have a market stall or store where anyone can bring the bodies of creatures they kill.  They take exotic components from the carcasses, right?  And usually they break them down for whatever they think they can use or sell.  But there's always extra bits left over - bone, gristle, meat, clawed feet that can be very tasty when they're fried and tossed in spices.  Sometimes they take the leavings for sausages, but again, that takes time and labor.  If you show up asking to see the leavings and offering coin or trade right then, you could wander off with meat that only nobles usually get to taste.

Then you can take your food and find someone to cook it.  If you can bribe your way into the slave quarters for next to nothing, I'd go in there and ask around for who can cook the best.  All you have to do is offer them some morsels and they'll cook up your whole day's meals right there.  Travelers with House Darnak caravans might have nothing to do until they get their orders, so you can ask around with them, but they'll want more of the final take.  The fish stalls of House Kul and Vhol might be willing to slip your food in with theirs for some coin or a favor.  

Of course, if you know how to cook and you have the means, you should do it.  You'll want to get very skilled at sniffing out meat that's gone bad unless you have an iron stomach.  You'll also want to figure out fast ways to get everything cooked, unless you have a place you trust to leave a stew brewing.  But either way, once you're done, you will have some of the most savory delights you can get outside of a noble's table or favorite restaurant.  You can stop by the warehouses of House Metron and see if they have any safe brews made by the slaves they train.  Sniff them very well first, though.  They'll be cheap and could be very good and very different, but they could also be wretched.

Whatever you do, do not eat anything offered by House Tam.  You never know what those necromancers have done with the bodies first.  And they tend to be human bodies, so, you know - not very appealing, unless you're into that sort of thing.  And if you are, I don't want to know.

Well!  Now that you know your options, let's see what's left over from yesterday's catch at the chop shop...

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