Unexpected Inspiration History: Piquant, Muse of Culinary Arts


In the last post I began introducing Concordia's mythological figures with Mortise, the first and oldest of the Muses. Piquant is the youngest and, if prejudice had had its way, he never would have become one. This is all because Piquant is an imp, which meant he had to fight preconception and hatred to prove his innocence. This is ironic because imps are the epitome of innocence.

Imps are small humanoids who are incapable of deception or betrayal. They simply don't have the thought capacity to understand anything but truth and this is largely because their tiny heads are filled with thoughts of food. While imps have no magic of their own, they survive by feeding from magic. Magic is not always easy to come by, however. Most don't reach adulthood. If the inability to locate food doesn't kill them, the beings who possess magic do. Not outright, as the people who have magic on the imps' home world are pacifists, but being denied food is just as much a death sentence. To help obtain the glowing arcane energy imps consider food, they evolved a camouflage. This gave their bodies the appearance of whatever plant life houses their nests; some look like blueberry bushes, some have skin mimicking bark of an oak tree. Their natural camouflage keeps them from being discovered while still immature implings who don't yet have the strength to fly far from their nests. It also once allowed them to approach their food without notice. When the people of their world began building elaborate homes in large cities away from the forests and woods, it grew even more difficult to reach their food without getting caught. This was bad enough. Then all the people vanished, taking with them their personal magical glows and the glows in the arcane objects they created. Gradually the imp population began to diminish as some flew away to find food. These never returned to their nests. The ones who stayed started to die off as they reached adulthood and were unable to feed. The imps were panicked, afraid, not understanding where the people and their filling food-light had gone.

Then a new person, a kind they'd never seen before, came to each nest to make an offer. If the imps helped him, they would have food, all the food they could want. Most of the remaining imps followed, including almost all from a nest within a mushroom colony.

One imp ignored the newcomer and remained behind.

That imp wasn't drawn by the promise of food because he had already discovered a source of it that no other imp had found. Deep in one of the overgrown stone nests where the non-imp people had lived before they disappeared, this imp had found glows! This food wasn't as filling as the pulsating, living glow surrounding each of the non-imp people, but he had it all to himself with no other imp around to force him to share it. He lived off this supply for several seasons (imps having no concept of time longer than a day or shorter than a season) until a sudden voice rang out. He bolted out of the room with the voice echoing through the empty halls. Strangely, it never grew any closer and no person grabbed him. Curiosity winning over self-preservation, he crept back to find it coming from a strange box. Somehow one of the people had put his voice into it and whenever the imp touched the box, it would speak. It was always the same people-words repeated, words he didn't really understand, but as the days went by it became a comfort and a companion. The imp had never experienced loneliness because always there had been more imps-- too many imps even without much food-- and now it was too quiet. Only this voice, and the words he began speaking back to it, filled the empty stone nest.

Until one day there was a second voice. This one felt like the brightest, most blinding glow, the closest the imp had to a comparison of beauty, and it captivated him. He expected another box and instead was led to the doorway through which all of his siblings had crossed seasons before. Without a glance back, the imp followed the new voice. He fell as he crossed the threshold when his wings vanished, but his physical changes were unimportant. All that mattered was the voice. As he sought this out, he discovered that he was in a place with glowing people again. Not all of the people had this light, and the ones who had didn't look the same as the glowing people from his home. Still, he didn't want to risk being discovered in case they were the ones who had caught his kind before, so he fed from more objects like he'd eaten in the nests of stone.

As he began to adjust to this place, he realized that even though he was eating, everyone else around him was hungry. He tried to help by handing them the glowing objects, but always they chased him away. If he couldn't give them food, they would starve, and then they would not be around to make more of the glowing objects. With the doorway he'd entered now closed, he couldn't return to his old food. He would starve, too. If only he could get them to understand that he wanted to help!

It was while he was investigating what non-imp people ate that he stumbled on the voice. It belonged to one of the glowing people. He waited until the other glowing people left, then stepped forward. To his surprise, the owner of the voice began speaking to him as though he wasn't an imp. All the new glowing-people knew him for what he was, even with the different, larger body he'd gained when crossing through the doorway, and treated him the same way the old glowing people had in his home. To be talked to as though he was another person and not an imp left him bewildered. Bewildered yet also thoughtful. The time spent alone had given the imp more patience than his kind normally possessed, and a steady, reliable source of food had granted him the opportunity for deeper thought. He could observe and he could think, and what he realized was that this person couldn't see well. For the first time an imp told a lie by not telling the truth; he didn't reveal that he was an imp. The person called himself Daegal and when he explained what this meant, the imp had no name to give in response. Imps didn't have names because there was no guarantee one would live long enough to be worth remembering. It was Daegal who decided to call Piquant that name and it was Daegal who Piquant told of his wish to help.

Together they devised a plan, but it would need the help of a being in the grotto at the center of the city. Piquant was elated to discover that a grotto meant trees. He was less excited to learn that "city" meant "that huge stone nest over there filled with glowing people." Inside the city, Piquant was stopped what felt like every few steps. Always, however, Daegal's alluring voice convinced the people to let him through. When Piquant himself stopped, overwhelmed by the long-yearned for smell of earth and trees when they finally reached their destination, Daegal took his hand. After a moment of confusion-- he wasn't hungry and didn't feed from people anymore-- Piquant realized this was a gesture of reassurance. He squeezed back, then scampered up a tree. He'd missed the feeling of being off the ground and, feeling more like himself than he had in ages, he called out to the being Daegal promised was there.

The answer came along with a warning. The being would help channel Piquant's innate drive for food and his desire to share what he had into a way that would feed the people of this new place. It could make the peoples' food, plants similar to the ones that grew in Piquant's nest, grow faster and larger. It cautioned Piquant that the road to getting people to accept his help wouldn't be easy, especially because it wouldn't allow Daegal's influential magic to be used this time. That was okay. All that mattered to Piquant now was that Daegal and all the others would have enough food of their own.

It took time (enough that even Piquant's patience began to grow thin) and more hand squeezes from Daegal (who later told him that his claws were a dead giveaway of what he was-- and later still his teeth a definite giveaway), but Piquant was able to convince the people of his new home that he meant them no harm. No, he didn't feed from their personal glows. Yes, he was technically stealing from the things they made, but they supposed this was better than taking from them directly. No, the imps being sent against them-- so that was where his siblings went!-- didn't actually mean them harm, they just needed food, too. Yes, they'd probably abandon the one who had promised food if they were offered safer and more reliable food. No, he really didn't appreciate being called a pest, he had a name now. Helping the being from the grotto to channel his hunger into something productive was easy compared to this negotiation. After all, he had that wonderful voice cheering him on.

Eventually truth became history and history became myth. Instead of Piquant being remembered as the imp he was, legend portrays him as a mushroom-person who brought culinary magic to Concordia.

Stele | Chiaroscuro | Mortise | Pritchel | Whorl/Weft | Andante | Tessera | Scriven | Piquant

CONVERSATION

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