The Veritable Connoisseur
"Wryn! Look what I have!"
The spotted Kyrii rose from his soft, velvet reading chair and padded softly across the marble tiles to his maid, who was holding a clean white paper in her paw.
"What is it today, End?" he asked, unsurprised by the mail. Every day he got mail by the dozen, each one more or less inquiring about paid foods or messages commenting on his... prowess of the palate.
Wryn Silkfur was an honorary member of the Gourmet Club. He sampled and munched his way to the top through good contacts and constant buying. Each day he traveled to the Club to comment on the various new foods that seemed to be frequenting the counters of shopkeepers and feast on delectable delights that had yet to touch his tongue. And he knew very well: that list was growing shorter and shorter.
Enderi prodded the mail to his own paw and he carefully opened it. "You know how much I dislike fanatic-mail," he grumbled, but his maid responded with a wide grin. "Oh I know, but this is different!"
Wryn raised his eyebrow and began to read the message, which was written in a bold script and signed with a remotely familiar signature.
I suppose you already forgot about your older sister, right? Well, I know we have not chatted in a while, but I decided to reinforce our relationship, even though I am currently in Meridell on some important business with the local Marrow farmers.
Anyway, I know about your successes in the Gourmet field and I should say that I am very proud of you. I also know that you need only fifty more foods in order to get first place in the club, so I decided to send you something that could shorten your list down to forty-nine.
I was on my way to Meridell Castle to discuss some tax issues with King Skarl himself when I spotted this little blue orb on the side of the dirt road. I stopped my mount and soon learned that it has a rarity of 95, so it satisfies the regulations of the Gourmet Club. Enjoy, I hope you win soon!
I will send you another letter after I deal with that grumpy old king. Good luck!
Wryn stared at the letter for a second longer, surprised. Indeed, he hardly remembered Darei; she left on a trip years ago and never came back. He felt glad to know that she was safe, and pleased that she knew of his status. He felt even more pleased that she sent him such gift, and was quietly wondering where it was.
"What is it?" the Kyrii queried in his cultured voice.
"You forgot a piece." The Acara pointed with a silly grin to the floor, where another piece of paper was. Apparently it fell out from the rest of the package.
Sheepishly did Wryn pick up the paper, and proceeded to read it as well.
'PS: I had the food sent to the Club. They will serve it to you there.'
"What does it say, sir?" End asked.
"Nothing, just an important message from sister to brother," he replied tartly.
"Oh." The maid cocked her head and brushed an invisible speck from her neat white apron. "Well then, other than that you'd better get dressed, that Club of yours opens in ten minutes and you are expected to be there."
Wryn refused to let his maid have a sense of satisfaction at seeing his discomfort. Sure, he was skilled in eating food, but he was certainly the master of unpunctuality.
"Late again, Silkfur?" A large skunk Tonu smiled good-naturedly.
"Forgive me, Mr. Talque. I was busy with private matters." Wryn had put on his finest suit, donned white gloves, combed his silky fur and rushed out as swiftly as possible. Even so, he was late by ten minutes.
"Of course." The Tonu nodded and turned around to walk into Gourmet Club restaurant, where only the finest cuisine was served.
The prices here were tremendous, but Wryn didn't mind. Almost subconsciously, he felt his pocket and noticed the bulge within. Yes, he didn't mind at all. The huge building was darker than most, with folks eating and sampling new foods, and discussing the merits of different cuisines. Near the front was a tall waiting table where the maitre d' stood, waiting for new visitors.
The instant Mr. Talque and Wryn arrived, the Techo's eyes widened and his smile broadened. "Good morning, sirs. Table for two, yes?"
"But of course," laughed the Tonu and the duo followed the Techo to a splendid table in the center of all the gentle hubbub of nearby connoisseurs like themselves.
"Oh yes! Mr. Silkfur, yesterday we received a package to be served to you, would you like it as a first course?"
Talque's brows rose and he gave his friend a surprised glance. For a second, Wryn was uncertain on how to answer, but then gave the maitre d' a good-natured smile. "Why don't we save it for last? Best for the last as they always say, you know."
The Techo bobbed his head so much that it seemed that it was going to pop off. "Yes, yes. Would you two like to have today's lunch? A very nice, light course."
"Why not?" Talque smiled and both watched as the maitre d' disappeared towards the kitchens to announce the meal to the chefs.
Just as he was out of earshot, the Tonu turned around and smiled at Wryn. "A package? Care to enlighten me?"
Wryn explained his sister's gift to his friend. Mr. Talque was a wonderful friend. Like himself, he was also a Gourmet Club regular that helped him with all the hard-to-get foods. Recently, and by working together they both managed to acquire two chocoons, rare and splendid chocolate foods that were almost impossible to find, and quickly chuff them down without any hesitation. If he could trust one pet in the whole of Neopia, it would be the generous Mr. Talque.
Upon finishing the strange letter, the Tonu chuckled and leaned back upon his elegantly carved chair. "This is a strange world, where you find sisters you never knew you had."
"Indeed...!" Wryn was about to say more, but then a server arrived with the lunch: a delicious, lightly seasoned cauliflower soup with warm, toasted garlic bread.
Instantly he dug his spoon into the soup and smiled. Of course, this was a gourmet food and he sampled it three months ago, but it was still very tasty and he couldn't help but enjoy it a second time. Talque dipped his own spoon and soon, both bowls were devoid of any liquid, and the breadbasket that was brought earlier was depleted of bread.
"That was splendid!" Wryn announced and wiped his mouth elegantly with a napkin.
"Yes, but I felt mine had too little spice." Even with his disappointed words, Wryn knew that Talque was not unhappy with the meal.
Quickly the conversation slipped into more mundane topics until a polite cough came from Wryn's back and he twitched his ear. The maitre d', ever loyal to the twosome, was holding a rather large white box that held no decoration. Apparently the nearby clientele had noticed this and were eagerly looking at the box, wondering about what it contained. Even Talque was watching it.
"Thank you, my good sir," Wryn said, flicking his hand and watching as a silver neopoint fell upon the Techo's palm.
His face lit up and he bowed before walking away, albeit reluctantly, for he too wanted to see the contents of the package.
"Well, let us see what this parcel contains!" Mr. Talque said eagerly.
Wryn obliged with a smile, his curiosity tingling. Within the box, shining like a gem and nestled on a bed of Meridellian babaa wool, was an egg. A blue Draik egg!
A sigh of delight escaped the tongues of all those nearby. Mr. Talque whistled with appreciation. "Would you look at that? It's absolutely gorgeous. Such a pearly sheen."
Wryn just stared at the egg, suddenly troubled. "My friend," he whispered, "how can I eat this egg?"
"Well, you could ask the chefs to prepare it with some fleur de sel..."
"No, I mean, there is a Draik inside! How can I eat a Draik? My grandfather was a Draik." He stared at the egg again.
Mr. Talque narrowed his eyes in sympathy. "I understand... what are you going to do?"
For a few heartbeats Wryn felt torn. He truly wanted to get first place in the Gourmet Club... it was his dream ever since his uncle gave him a sampling of rare foods so many years ago. And now here he was, a lovely Draik egg before him, within fifty foods to the top.
"No, I shall not eat this egg!" Wryn declared. "It and the fellow within are under my protection now."
To his surprise and delight, Mr. Talque stood up and boomed, "A smart and noble decision, my friend."
The other connoisseurs of the club, hearing such a prominent member's boisterous support, quickly nodded in agreement, even though some might have downright sneered at Wryn's decision. Wryn smiled broadly, and shook his friend's hand in appreciation.
"All the best," Mr. Talque said. "But, I sense you are eager to depart. Before you do so, might I treat you to some fine saltwater chocolate toffees? Imported straight from Mystery Island."
Wryn sat down and beamed. "It would be my pleasure."
A few weeks later it was a bright and sunny day. As was his custom on such a lovely day as this, Mr. Talque was strolling through a boulevard of trees in a local park. The shade of the leaves kept his head cool, but even so he occasionally mopped his brow with a fine linen handkerchief.
After he reached the middle he found an empty bench and sat down. Petpetpets chirped noisily in the treetops and grasses, the big fluffy clouds yielded to the light of the sun, and the wind murmured in the trees. He inhaled the scent of freshly cut grass and sighed with pleasure.
Suddenly a figure materialized in the distance. Mr. Talque adjusted his spectacles before beaming. "Mr. Silkfur!" he called. "Wryn!"
The spotted Kyrii waved. He was holding something in his paw: a basket topped with a red and white blanket.
"Good morning, my friend." Wryn said when he finally reached the Tonu. "A fine day for a picnic, is it not?"
"Indeed! Have you come with that rascal of yours?"
"Desmond? Yes of course. Desmond! Get down here!"
A rush of blue streaked down from the skies to land elegantly on the cobbled road. Desmond was quite a spry young Draik, with a cheeky grin and mischievous violet eyes. "Hi, Talque!" he chirped.
"Good morning to you, you rascal." Mr. Talque rubbed the Draik's head, making him giggle.
"We were just off to picnic by the cherry trees," Desmond said cheerfully.
Wryn grinned. "Would you care to lunch with us? It is simple picnic fare, but it has been specially prepared by our chef so it will delight any tastebud."
"It would be an honour," said Mr. Talque.