An Aquilonian Thanksgiving

“By Mitra, this bird is as plump as a Zingaran concubine,” quoth Conan.

Conan slid his broadsword free of its shagreen wrapped hilt and skewered the turkey. He raised his sword one-handed, hoisting the bird from its silver platter without a tremor of strain displayed on the corded forearm projecting from the sleeve of his royal robe, despite the additional twenty pounds weighing down the three foot length of steel.

“Now, who shall carve this beast?” the king asked. “Certainly not thou, Valeria,” he said, addressing the she-pirate seated to his left. “Carving is man’s work.”

Valeria bristled. She rose, plucking a dirk from the top of her cuffed boot. “No man tells Valeria what work is fit for a woman, Conan. Be he king or no.”

Pallantides cleared his throat from Conan’s right. “That may well be, Lady Valeria. Yet perhaps a boot knife is not the ideal tool for the task. And perhaps not the most cleanly.”

“Do you question my hygiene, man?” asked Valeria.

“Thou’rt as clean as a Cimmerian autumn morn,” Conan interjected.

The she-pirate scowled, plainly turning the comment over in her mind to ascertain its meaning, whether compliment or insult.

“What we need,” Conan continued, “is carving music. Rinaldo, have you a suitable lay?”

“Yes,” asked Valeria, her expression shifting from a scowl to a raised eyebrow and quirked smile as she fixed her gaze upon Rinaldo, “have you a…fitting lay?”

The minstrel rose, immaculate in tight-fitting hose and plumed cap. He bowed to Conan and doffed his cap to Valeria. “Perhaps something saucy would befit such…an exquisite bird?”

Rinaldo produced a plectrum and began to strum upon his lute, drawing the full attention of Valeria.

Conan set the turkey back down upon its silver platter, enjoying the music and the company of a few close companions within the drafty expanse of his grand feasting hall. He considered for a moment, then sent the servants around to refill his guests goblets to the brimming point. He unsheathed the wicked length of his Zhaibar knife, its edge ground to a razor’s sharpness, and pressed its point against the body of the bird, watching the juices gather and drip.

“So, then, my king,” asked Pallantides, when Rinaldo had strummed his last chord, and all had drunk deeply to honor the music, “who shall carve? You?”

“It occurs to me,” quoth Conan, “that a man known for carving a Pict can certainly be said to have picked up carving.”

The clatter of silver goblets about the high seat of the king accompanied Conan’s roar of mirth.