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Rolfin's Orb
Book 9 - Sapphire
Chapter 3

          Dulcinea greeted them, sweeping them to a table in the corner. “I hope you are hungry. You will feast tonight.”

          Fiona glanced around the room. Small, but cozy, it enveloped them with a heavy aroma of cinnamon and spices. Candles on each table dripped onto decorative glass saucers, giving off the only light in the room. A handful of people, mostly Spanish, by the look of them, murmured secrets to each other. “How will we ever read the menu in here, or even see our food. It's so dark.”

          “Our eyes will adjust to it soon, Fiona.” Elspet picked up a menu and pulled it close to her face, struggling to read it.

          Dulcinea danced into the room, carrying a tray of piping hot food. She set it down on one of the other tables.

          Callum drooled. “It smells so good in here. Let's just ask her what she recommends. My dad does that when he goes to a French restaurant and can't read the menu.”

          “What have you decided on?” Dulcinea held a tray under her arm.

          “We want you to pick for us. What do you recommend?” Callum nudged Fiona with his elbow.

          “You want me to pick food? I will surprise you then.” Once again she disappeared into the kitchen.

          “Fiona, have you seen where the stone is? It's in one of those windmills, isn't it?” Elspet hoped her guess was correct.

          Fiona shut her eyes. “Yes, but there is great danger this time. Drayton will be here. We must be on guard.”

          “How do you know that?” Callum studied the faces of the people in the room.

          “I just know. It's one of those feelings. There's danger out there. Phelan is panicking. There are only four more jewels to collect and he's growing impatient. I'm afraid he'll order Drayton to do just about anything to achieve his goal.” Fiona scowled.

          “Maybe we should go to the windmills tonight after supper, since he won't expect us until daylight,” Elspet suggested.

          “It's too dangerous. Those windmills are probably hazardous enough in the day, never mind at night. We'll do as Dulcinea suggests and go to the festival. We'll be safe enough there. Our worries will begin at the windmill.” Fiona shook her head. “I hope this is all worth it. Who'd have believed we'd be doing this every day instead of going to school. Have you noticed our parents are allowing us to miss school for this?”

          “My mum isn't. She thinks I'm at school,” Elspet said. “Wait until she finds out I'm not.”

          Dulcinea's singing announced her arrival with the food. “I made extra special something for you all.” She set several platters on the table. “This one is mushroom and Manchego cheese timbale. I know you'll enjoy. There's LaMancha Pasta too.”

          “What's this stuff? It looks like chicken and apples and bananas and it smells like cinnamon,” Callum said.

          “You guess good. It's called Mancha Manteles. We use chicken or turkey, chiles, almonds, sesame seeds, onions, tomatoes, sausage, pineapple, apples and unripe banana? You want to try, Callum?”

          “Yes. It looks delicious.”

          “There's a story that goes with Mancha manteles. You want to hear?” Dulcinea waited for their nods and sat down next to Fiona. “Two little women staggered in from another room carrying a gigantic bowl of something which was jetting hot perfume. The senora hoped the man would enjoy mancha manteles, but that he knew that he would love it. The senora beamed and instructed him to eat heartily and remember that the translation of mancha manteles was tablecloth stainer. He was sweating hard as she overdid him the honor of preparing his plate, a very wide plate, perhaps a foot in diameter. The tablecloth stainer contains the following: one turkey, four chorizo sausages, sliced pineapples, sliced apples, sliced bananas, some pork; ancho, pasilla and serrano chiles; almonds, cinnamon, lard, and tomato puree. The man scooped away as though he had never eaten before in his life.”

          Fiona said, “That's interesting. It doesn't have much of a point, but it is interesting.”

          “What it means is that you are to eat it all and just like this man, you will enjoy every drop.” Dulcinea put another platter down. “These are Los Gazpachos, or galianos. They are dough soaked with gravy and shreds of rabbit and tomato, and pepper. Sometimes we use hare, pigeon, turtle dove, chicken, or whatever is available to us. Try some.” She stood. “I'll leave these with you too. Please taste some of everything. These are el moje manchego, which are potatoes with garlic, paprika, tomato, and poached egg. This is mantecados, which are fried biscuits dipped in honey and last I leave bizcocha manchega. You will like this. It is a cake soaked in milk, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon. Now, I leave you to eat like you've never eaten before in your life.” With that she laughed out loud and headed for the kitchen.

            “Wow! This is a lot of food. I am going to try everything, just like she suggested. I love hot, spicy food. My mum said our ancestors were gypsies.” Callum shoveled the food into his mouth.

          “Gypsies? What do gypsies have to do with spicy food?” Elspet took a bite of the Los Gazpachos.

          “I don't know. She just always says that.” He chuckled and continued eating.

          Half an hour later, Dulcinea appeared. “Well? What do you think? Good, si?”

          “Look at the platters. Do you see one grain of rice or one onion? We liked it a lot, just like you said.” Elspet wiped her mouth on her cloth napkin.

          “Good. I am happy. I say you go upstairs to bed now. Festival day is a big day here in Consuegra. Much to do and much to eat.” The plump woman picked up the empty platters and carried them to the kitchen.

          “I don't know if I will ever be able to eat another thing in my entire life. I am so full.” Elspet patted her tummy.

            “I wonder what she'll fix us for breakfast.”

          “Callum? How can you even think of food? I'll be lying awake all night with indigestion.” Fiona hid a hiccup.

          Dulcinea came back in the room. “Hurry off to your beds now. I have a lot of cleaning and cooking to do before I go to bed myself.” She patted their bottoms and herded them out the room.

          “To bed it is then,” Fiona said.

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