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Specialty of the House

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Menolly likes journeying with Robinton for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that he always knows which tiny roadside inn has the best food. (And the best wine, but that rather goes without saying.) So when Robinton leads them into a tiny, dimly-lit inn and beams at the proprietor, who smiles broadly back and brings them a plate of “specialty of the house, Harpers, please enjoy,” Menolly is quite excited.

“Ah, lovely,” Robinton says, and digs in. Menolly scoops up a large spoonful, takes a bite -

Makes a faint squeaking sound and wonders if the burning in her mouth means she’s about to breathe fire. “Sharding -” she gasps, barely a breath of air, and Robinton looks up and winces.

“Oh dear,” he says, and presses a glass of something into her hand. Menolly drinks hastily, expecting wine or water, but it’s some sort of sweetened milk, and it soothes her burning throat wonderfully. She drains the glass and thumps it down on the table, then turns to glare at Robinton, who looks rather sheepish.

“I am sorry,” Robinton says. “I did not think to warn you.”

“What was that?” Menolly demands, voice still a little hoarse. There are tears streaming down her cheeks, she realizes abruptly, and Beauty is chirping anxiously from her shoulder.

“Specialty of the house,” Robinton says. “Hot peppers.”

Menolly blinks. “It’s supposed to taste like fire?” she croaks. “Why?

“It’s an acquired taste,” Robinton says, and hands her another glass of the sweetened milk and a piece of hearty bread, pulling the bowl over to his side of the table. “Here, I’ll eat yours.”

“Next time,” Menolly sighs, “warn me.” She reaches up to rub Beauty’s head gently. “There now, girl, it’s fine. Now I know how you feel right before flaming Thread!” She gives Robinton a dark look. “And you aren’t kissing me until I’m sure your lips aren’t coated in pepper.”

Robinton looks down mournfully at his dinner. “No fiery kisses, burning with desire?” he asks lightly, half-singing the words to a melody Menolly knows by heart.

“No,” Menolly says firmly, trying not to laugh. “This isn’t one of my tunings, Robinton.”

Robinton sighs theatrically. “Alas, for the days of romance,” he says, and grins. “I shall drink a great deal of milk, my dear, I promise.”

“Hmph,” Menolly says, and applies herself to some very good bread and cheese, giving the hot-pepper dish a very unfriendly glare. “I suppose that will have to do.”