Chapter 17:

Cabbage & Honey

Paladins of the Pickle Goddess

The Temple of Small Gods was not open late. It held quiet hours, for quiet gods, especially when half the residents were gone for the business at the Spire. I stared at the darkening sky as we took the cart back to Apis’s apartment, the cobbles rattling as the mare slowed. She was clearly losing energy this late in the day, her plodding steps uneven.

Even Duran was flagging. As we stepped up the stairs, I could see his eyes drooping and the sword knocking against his knees. There must have been something in the tea, I decided.

In front of the door was a woman, around my age, with her arms folded and her eyes narrowed.


She ignored me and Duran. She might have been pretty, in another life. In this one her dark hair was pulled so tightly back that it forced her forehead taught and her hands were calloused and dark with the echoes of soap. A laundress?

“Me.” Apis tried to edge around her towards the door.

“You said you would be out by the festival. I can still hear the buzzing!”

“The end of the festival,” he said. “Andrena’s blessings upon you. When the flight takes-”

“I wanted you out now.” The fist tightened. “This is a disgrace. Who’s this? You’re taking tenants now?”

“A friend. Here for dinner only. Her apprentice, as well.” Apis hesitated, then held up his hands like he was ready to bow down in front of a statue and pray. “I promise you, I understand your concerns. But the bees are really quite harmless. They even improve the garden.”

“They stung a dog so badly his face was swollen up for days!”

“The dog must have interfered somehow.”

“They stung a child, as well!”

“Children often meddle. It's related to experiential learning.”

“You cannot possibly blame it all on the people being stung.”

“If they only came to speak to the bees themselves-”

With a cry of rage, the laundress lowered her arms. “I don’t know what they do in that temple of yours, but out here, bees live outside. Get them out, or leave yourself!”

“Someone might hurt them!” Apis frowned. “Besides, I leave a window open. They essentially live-”

The laundress stormed off, hitting my shoulder with hers.

“Nice to meet you!” I called after her. She didn’t respond. “Lovely land-lady,” I said to Apis, turning back. “Is she always that pleasant?”

“Next time, I’ll ask about the bees before moving in,” he said. “It was my mistake. I thought she would like the free honey.”

I tried not to comment one way or the other as we walked up the last creaking stair and made our way inside. The fire was low, but a few puffs of air got it crackling. In the heat of the late day, the room was nearly unbearable until we opened all of the windows. Sedated by the smoke, the hive was only a buzzing presence in the side of the room.

“Right,” said Apis. “I can just- I suppose I have some food..” He hunched down and began to open the lids of baskets and pots, frowning.

“What do you usually eat?”

“…Bread,” he said. “Honey.”

“Right.” I pushed him aside. “Duran, you’re helping.”

“Bwuh?” Duran had already slid down onto a chair. At mention of his name, he woke up again, grabbing for the sword. When I gestured him over, he set it aside and pushed his sleeves up.

Together, we washed our hands off in a small jug of water before investigating Apis’s supplies. He actually had a relatively well-stocked pantry, most of it untouched. “The temple provided you with this?”

“Some of it.” Apis peered at us from a safe distance. He had retreated back next to the hive after the first time I’d shooed him away.

A treasure had just emerged from the pantry, hidden behind a jar of olives and several pots of honey in comb. “You didn’t use this? This is lovely!”

A fat, round cabbage, green and shining. The outer leaves didn’t look as fresh, but as I peeled them back, the center was still perfect. The little box he used to store his food was relatively cool and dark compared to the rest of the apartment. I pressed a hand to the cabbage, testing it for firmness. Still good.

“Someone traded it for mead. I didn’t know what to do with it.”


I held it up, rotating it in the light. This was the best luck I’d had all day.

“Duran! What would you do with this cabbage.”

He squinted up at it. “Pickle it?”

“Maybe,” I allowed. “Not very good, but acceptable.”

“Stew it?”

“Good. But we’re hungry now.”

“Cabbage rolls!” He frowned. “Although… I don’t know how to do that yet, actually.”

“Also delicious,” I said. “But too complicated. We’re missing ingredients for that.”

“Oh,” he said. “Yes. I remember now.”

He leaned back and scratched his head. “What did you want to do, then?”

“Salad!” I said it with such relish, I didn’t realize no one had responded until I looked around and saw the lack of response. “What?”

“That’s not really cooking, is it?”

I reached over and hit Duran gently on the head with the cabbage. “Of course it is!”

“But… we got the fire going! We aren’t going to heat up anything?”

“I’ll make oat-cakes,” I said. When in doubt, always oat-cakes. “You’re going to make cabbage salad. Don’t think I won’t test how evenly you chop the cabbage!”

I wouldn’t be testing it, not really. I’d learned to cook at inns and pubs, where everyone was too drunk for it to make a difference.

Duran brightened at that. I leaned over, grabbing for Apis’s nearest knife- it was too-small and half-coated with honey, but it would do- and a board for him to cut on. “Small pieces,” I said. “Nearly shredded.”

I could see him looking over towards the sword. “Absolutely not.”

When I was sure Duran wasn’t going to cut anyone with the sword, I could dedicate myself to the oatcakes. Even with Apis’s limited pantry- he had an incredibly random variety of ingredients, as though he never shopped for himself- I was able to make a decent oat-cake. Truly, the perfect food. As I let the batter rest, I put the pan in the fire, watching the oil on the surface bubble.

“How is it looking?”

I stared over at Duran’s work.

The cabbage was…. smaller. That was about all I could say for it. Some pieces were the size of my thumb, while some were the thickness of my hand. A few were as small as a piece of parchment.

“Why don’t you try and make them all bite-size?” I managed.

“Whose bite?”

I turned to Apis for help. He’d already gone back to the bees.

I sighed and looked back at Duran. I held my fingers apart about a knuckle’s length. “If they’re bigger than this, cut them down.”

His eyes grew wide.

“….Oh.” He looked back down at the cabbage. “Really?”

“Enjoy the journey. Don't be in a rush for your destination.”

The first two oat-cakes went in, hissing on the pan. They filled the entire room with a pleasant smell, part-spice and part-oat. I could feel my belly growling.

As they cooked, I pulled out a small bowl. “Mind if I use some of your honey?”

“Please do!” Apis turned so quickly he nearly fell over. “I have too much!”

I didn’t want to address the depth of that statement, so I turned back to the pantry and pulled out one of the jars of honey and pulled off the wax-coated fabric covering the top. After it was a decent-sized pool, I pulled out the jar of vinegar some thoughtful priestess had donated and added a reasonable dollop, whisking them together. “How goes the chopping?”

There was no response from Duran, only a focused silence. I went to go flip the oatcakes.

They were a little burned. I swore under my breath and lowered myself to try and adjust the fire. I wasn’t used to the way this fireplace worked. As I adjusted the airflow, it flamed up.

I staggered back. I wasn’t sure I had eyebrows anymore.

“Oh,” said Apis. “It does that. Sorry. It can only go big and bigger.”

“I could have used a warning.”

I brought my very-warm hands back and put it back on big. Burned oatcakes it was.

The first two came off. I put six more on, filling up the pan. I handed one test oatcake to Apis and split the other one in half. “What’s it missing?”

“Is this small enough?” Duran didn’t even try it.

I squinted at the cabbage. It looked like some creature had mauled it, but it was edible now. “It’s fine.” I reached in and removed the cabbage heart. After a moment of contemplation, I realized Apis had no basket for compost. I threw it out the window. “Good work.”

Duran’s face lit up. He beamed at me. “Really?”

I offered him the oatcake. He took it and ate it so fast he had to half-open his mouth to let the steam out. “Um- uh-” He swallowed heartily. “Not enough salt?”

I froze midway through my bite. He was right.

“Add coriander, oil, and rue to that,” I said, instead of admitting it. “Taste it to make sure it’s balanced. When you’re done, add the dressing.”

When we finally finished, it was a hungry crew that sat around the table. Well, some of us sat. The bees buzzed at one chair; I stood, and Duran sat on the floor. Apis sat next to his bees, and offered them a cup of sugar-water.

Still, the food did well enough to fix any gaps. I put some of the mis-matched cabbage on my spoon, chewed on an oat-cake, and let myself exhale.

Underneath the window, the burned uniform still lay waiting for me to inspect it. A mote of moonlight highlighted every line of fabric, every wrinkle.

In the morning, I would check. I would try to add up every clue and make it part of a larger puzzle.

Tonight, I had cabbage and oat-cakes.

I finished a bite of the cabbage. There was enough salt.

“Good work, Duran.”