“I think you’re supposed to wait for the water to boil before adding those…,” Tafel said as she squatted over the pot in the campfire. The water was still, and the ladle was cold to touch.
“What do you mean?” Alice asked as she dumped a plate of carrots into the pot. “The water’s boiling.”
Tafel stared at the motionless water. She raised her head and inspected Alice’s face. The guild master was serious. “Uh. Do you know what boiling means?”
“When the water starts to bubble,” Alice said with a nod. She rotated the ladle’s handle, causing a bubble of air to surface from the depths of the pot. “See? Boiling.”
“I don’t think that’s right…,” Tafel said and scratched her head. “Like, at all.”
Alice snorted. “Who told me they wanted me to join because they liked my cooking? Are you going to question how I do things?” She whirled around and grabbed a few potatoes from Tafel’s bag before smashing them with the edge of her shield, whistling while doing so.
“Usually, bad cooks have a problem with burning food,” Tafel said and sighed. “Not undercooking them.”
“Your face is undercooked,” Alice muttered as she finished mashing her potatoes. She dumped them into the pot. “Quit messing with the fire!”
“Okay, okay,” Tafel said, raising her hands and backing away. The flames dancing on her fingers dispersed. It looked like she was going to eat fruit for dinner. Again. She sighed and sat down on a log while Alice ‘prepared’ some stalks of celery. Tafel shook her head and looked around. Their carriage was parked by the roadside, and a forest that reminded her of the wilderness was shrouded in darkness across from them. A rustling noise caught her attention.
A creature with the head of an eagle and body of a lion with two wings appeared at the edge of the forest. A fairy was sitting on top of its head, and Vur was carrying it on his shoulders. “I brought the meat.”
“Throw it in the pot,” Alice said without looking up. She continued to dice the celery with the sharp edge of her shield.
Vur stared at the tiny pot sitting on top of the fire. He raised his head and inspected the gryphon on his back. “…Just throw it in the pot?”
“Yes! What? You think it’s not boiling too?” Alice asked and snorted as she applied too much force and broke the plate underneath the celery stalks. She cursed and cleaned up the clay fragments.
Tafel kept her mouth shut as Vur approached the campfire and glanced at the fire again. He raised his head and blinked at Tafel. “She’s a bit grumpy and doesn’t like being told how to cook,” she said and shrugged. She rolled her eyes. “Even though she’s terrible at it.”
“Just throw it in the fire!” Alice yelled as she rummaged through Tafel’s bag, looking for more celery, her back still facing Vur.
“You sure?” Vur asked, raising an eyebrow. “I don’t think—”
“Am I the cook or are you!?” Alice shouted as she retrieved a tomato and frowned at it.
Vur shrugged and unceremoniously dumped the gryphon’s body on top of the pot. The fire hissed as it was extinguished, and the loud crack of metal breaking echoed through the night. Vur scratched his head. “I thought the pot would expand automatically or something.”
“Why did you think that?” Tafel asked.
“Well, her shield expanded during the fight, didn’t it?”
Tafel glanced at the crushed pot. “It looks nothing like her shield though.” She squinted. “Maybe if you look at it at just the right angle…”
“My hard work!” Alice screamed as she dropped the just-found celery in her hands. “Gah! A gryphon!? Where the hell did you find a gryphon!?”
Vur raised his head and squinted into the forest. He pointed at the dark outline of a mountain in the distance which was faintly illuminated by the moon. “Over there.”
Alice stared at Vur. “That mountain,” she said and pointed to where Vur was pointing. “Over there?”
“That’s over a week’s worth of traveling! How—no, why did you even go that far?”
“There was nothing good to eat here,” Vur said. He glanced at Stella, “Right?”
“Right,” Stella said and nodded as she plucked one of the gryphon’s feathers and stuck it into her hair.
“Not right!” Alice said as a vein bulged on her forehead. “Gryphons are an endangered species!”
Vur tilted his head. “Because they’re tasty?”
“Gah!” Alice threw her hands up into the air, splashing celery juice on Tafel. Alice clutched her head and lowered it while letting out a strange groaning sound. Just when Tafel was about to check if Vur had broken her, Alice raised her head and exhaled. “Did anyone see you catch it?”
“Just Stella,” Vur said.
“Good,” Alice said. “There’s laws against poaching, and if anyone found out and reported you, you’d be on a wanted list right about now. …Maybe I should report you.”
Tafel clapped her hands together once, drawing their attentions. “Well, it looks like there’s only one thing to do,” she said and swallowed her saliva. “Let’s eat the evidence.”
Vur smiled and ripped a leg off the gryphon, handing the dripping drumstick to Tafel. She tested a small piece of it before deciding not to cook it. Some magical beast meat provided more benefits when it was raw instead of cooked.
Alice stared at Vur, Tafel, and Stella as they stuffed their faces. She clutched her mouth and stomach as she turned her head away. “You’re not going to try some?” Vur asked. Stella tilted her head and flew towards Alice, holding onto a piece of meat.
“No,” Alice said. “I think—” Her eyes widened as Stella stuffed the flesh into her mouth. “Are you trying to kill me!?” She shouted, but the piece of gryphon remained in her mouth because Stella prevented it from leaving. “This is… Wait. It tastes like how I normally make things. It’s really not that bad.” Her stomach growled as warmth flowed through her body. She stared at the gryphon. It was already dead, right? It’d be a waste of an endangered species to just throw away the body…
Alice sighed as she sat next to Tafel. “I never thought there’d be a day when I’d eat a gryphon. Usually, I’m the one protecting them.” She tapped her forehead as a rune in the shape of a lion’s head appeared. “My great-grandfather was imprinted by a lion. Gryphons are almost like cousins to me.”
“Vur eats wyverns all the time,” Tafel said while Vur stuffed his face. “I’m sure you’ll get over it. And am I really the only one not imprinted here? Somehow, I feel cheated.”
“I can imprint you!” Stella said, raising her bloody hand into the air.
“Wait. Really?” Tafel asked.
Stella bobbed her head up and down. “I imprinted Vur, didn’t I?”
Vur, Tafel, and Alice stared at the smug fairy.