1861/12/05 Cooking Lessons
Scene Cooking Lessons
Characters Cooke Obedaiah Hena'e
Place Signal Ridge
Date Dec 5th, 1861

The campsite has changed in recent days. A low fire burns in the lee of a large boulder, raw wood gathered from downslope crackles merrily upon it, and more is stacked nearby. Nearby, several blankets have been arranged on wooden poles to make a half-open tent protecting a couple of bedrolls and crates. There is one horse here, Cooke's horse. Hobbled and tethered, it is systematically stripping the leaves from a small bush with every sign of enjoyment. Cooke himself is laid on his belly on the edge of the rock shelf, his rifle laid out next to him, a telescope to his eye, fixed on the far away town of Grimwood.

Obedaiah rides slowly into the campsite. Both he and his horse have a slow, leisurely way about them. The bearded man's been like that since he returned from his short trip 'out west', as he says it, to meet the crew that was supposed to meet him in Grimwood not too long ago. He climbs down out of the saddle, careful not to disturb a small bag secured on the saddle's pommel and tethers his four-legged friend. He asks, "Lookin' for anyone in particular?"

Cooke half turns at the sounds of the approaching horse, putting his free hand on his rifle. Then he grins and relaxes a little when he sees who it is. "I'm a trainspotter, didn't you know?" he says, gesturing to a line of smoke in the distance, the leading end of which is nearing the town. He glances down to a pocket watch on the rock beside him, "And she's right on time, too" the brigand sits up, brushing dust from his chest and putting down his telescope. "How've you been, then?" he asks, "Got got any interestin' travellin' tales?"

"Ah had to kill ten men on the way here," Obedaiah lies. They come easily enough, since he knows his trainspotting friend can tell the difference between his attempts at joking from his truths or his lies. "I've been well. Ah was better before ah wasted that time and cash, lookin' for a bunch of ghosts." Dirty hands work at the knot keeping his bag connected to his saddle. Beneath the dirt, the skin on his left hand's knuckles are scratched. The scuffs are far from impressive. "Ah get the feelin' ah'm about to have my spirits raised though. How many days you've been markin' time on that locomotive down there?"

"Ten, is it?" responds Cooke, grinning, "You do know that slaves and injuns don't count, right?" The man stands and wanders over to the fire, he adds some more wood. "A week or more, from both up here and down in town. Also I've got a buddy at the next town over who wires me timetables and cargoes and the like" Cooke squats by the fire and takes a brace of coneys from a nearby sack, he begins skinning them with a short knife. "It is an interestin' train indeed"

"They don't?" Obedaiah asks with mock surprise. "I thought two injuns counted as a half and a slave for half that," is his casual encounter. The knot comes loose as he twists and works his finger in the knot and the bag comes away. Victorious, he walks over towards Cooke and the campfire, stopping by the man to offer a large piece of bread in the bag before he moves to take his seat at the opposite side of the flame. The piece of bread isn't fresh but it's not moldy. Likely a recent acquisition.

Cooke nods his thanks for the bread, and places it by his side. He continues to skin and gut the rabbits, laying the skins and entrails neatly aside. "Only in the event of a tie" he replies, quirking a smile. "Been havin' a little fun my own self while you've been away. "An old friend came to town and we went on a shopping trip" he nods to the crates "We got some real bargains, too. Take a look. And pass me a couple of those long bayonets whilst yer there"

Hena'e is shielded from harsh winter by a thick, shaggy bison-skin, bent double and then draped over her shoulders and bound about her waist with the fur against her skin, easily trapping her body heat except that which steams from her nostrils as she crouches by a tree, checking one of her traps for food. Finding a wounded squirrel therein, she frees her axe from within her garment and swiftly brains the animal with it, ceasing its scurrying before she drags it out by the tail and adds it to her basket, and the axe atop it. When she stands, she catches a scent of fire on the shifting wind and adjusts her course to go see whether man or god has set the blaze, resting the basket on her hip as she walks.

Obedaiah takes out his own piece of bread and sets it onto the mostly empty bag he'd placed on the ground to his left. "Bayonets?" he asks the aether, this time speaking in genuine surprise. The word seems to have put a pep in his step because he's striding over towards the half-open tents even before the questioning rise of his voice has finished issuing from his throat. Crouching down, he pushes the bedrolls to see if there's anything lying near them before getting to the crates themselves. "Bon sang!" Strong words for the man since he usually never speaks in French, not even to swear. "Where'd you go and get all of this from? There's gonna be troopers ridin' all over the place.." Even so, he continues to dig his hands through the contents, almost forgetting to grab the long bayonets before replacing crates' lids. He returns to the campfire to give Cooke two of them, keeping a third for himself.

"Don't wanna hold these in the fire, do I?" replies Cooke, using the bayonets to skewer the prepared rabbits and suspend them over the fire. He smiles, "Told you, we went shopping. Grimwood is a mining town so they have all the lovely things a man on the frontier needs" he pauses, grins. "Had, anyways. We got 'em now. And our plans can wait until I introduce you to Mickey, he's taken up residence in town, took over the gunsmithy the cheeky devil"

Hena'e approaches the source of the scent with caution, but not an overabundance thereof. If it's a natural occurrance she'll have to tell her brother of the blaze— and if man-made, well, most of Spider's children she's met so far have been nothing but kind— perhaps Charles is here with his daughter. She approaches, but then slows, hearing voices, but not recognizing them. She edges to one side, taking a path up a series of jagged stones to minimize the sound of her movements and to get a good vantage point to look down into the opening.

"That's a good connection, that is. You should've told me you were plannin' on bein' mayor. I'd've set myself up in the Saloon." Obedaiah's horse lifts his head, looks around. Obedaiah himself settles down near his bread and bag. ".. What's the plan following the event?" he asks with eyes alternately focusing on the ground immediately in front of himself and the cooking rabbit flesh.

Cooke smiles, turning the rabbits. "Oh, even lookin' at the train is just a taste of something else. Setup work for something even grander. And after that well we'll just have to see.." The rabbits are cooking nicely now, the flesh crisping, the smell of roasting meat fills the camp.

Hena'e watches the men from her elevated position. What they're talking about, she has no idea. They seem peaceably enough at camp, though— Spider's children usually don't stray far from their settlements in such cold weather. It's a curiosity, that's for sure. At length, Hena'e decides to go and address them. Her basket hugged to her on one side, she begins to climb down from the rocks, halting before she intrudes upon their camping space in order to announce herself and not come upon them by surprise. "I hail you," she states, from afar. "Need you aid?" she adds, to show her goodwill toward the others.

Obedaiah's thoughtful nods at Cooke's response lapsed into stillness as his mind worked to try to understanding the possibilities of something grander. Then he seems to shrug mentally and begin the task of using his newfound bayonet to poke his piece of bread into neat halves. The native woman's voice causes him to whip his head in her direction. He glances briefly at Cooke but his gaze returns quickly to Hena'e. "Err.. Greetings to you, ma'am," he offers to her as he slowly rises. He has the sense to leave the bayonet - and the spitted bread - on the ground. "I can't speak for my friend here, but ah'm mostly fine myself. Ah do wish ah had some vegetables or somethin' to go with this meal we're about to partake of." He sends a slightly confused, mostly counterfeit smile her way.

Surprised anyway, Cooke's hand automatically reaches up over his shoulder. Cursing, he remembers he's left his Spencer on the rock shelf. His hand whips down to rest on the the iron at his hip instead. "You alone?" he asks gruffly, his eyes darting about for any others. "I don't like surprise guests at camp. I'm sure my friend here well remembers last time it happened"

Hena'e meets Obedaiah's eyes with her own rather sober gaze, and tips her chin down in greeeting once he acknowledges her. "You are far from your settlement," she explains her concern, then, eyes shifting to Cooke, "If you are well, I will leave you. I mean you no harm," she explains to the rather jumpier of Spider's children present. Obedaiah's observation about the vegetables gains an indulgent smile. "I wish the same. But winter is no season for green things," she advises him. "Better to hunt, as you have," she notes their bounty, "And be grateful your your skill."

"Ah sure do remember. And it reminds me that ah consider myself a man of the world.. of nature. And, as such, don't really consider that town down there-" Obedaiah gestures with his free hand towards Grimwood, "-my settlement. Ah'd rather be out here." His eyes move across the rocks as if gesturing towards 'out here' but linger longer on some spots more than others, searching. "We appreciate your offer for aid and we'd /both/ be /glad/ to share our fire and what little food we have if you'd care to join us."

Cooke relaxes a mite, with one hand still near the grip of his sidearm he reaches forward and turns the spitted rabbits again, his food being a matter of professional pride. "We can be friendly folk, sure" he says, smiling, "'Course it pays to be careful of them as ain't" He takes up some tin plates that have been warming near the fire and with a large and very sharp looking knife begins to carve and portion out the rabbit. Three portions.

Hena'e is somewhat baffled by the notion of one of Spider's children not wanting to live in his own settlement, but she accepts the fact with only a quick once-over of curiosity for Obedaiah. Cooke, then, is inviting her to stay and share with them, and she steps forward cautiously once, twice more, making ure not to spook him. "I have this quarry," she replies, "But it is neither prepared nor cooked. Share with me this day and I will give you my own catch to have tomorrow," she tells them, not about to simply take without giving something in return. She draws her bloodied squirrel from her basket. Not as big as a rabbit, but, then, perhaps as big as a third of a rabbit.

"No no.. You're our guest. My friend here is an excellent hunter - and I daresay ah'm not so bad myself - so we'll make do. Ah'm an outdoorsman like you and your people are and-" The short man stops suddenly. "Ah'm forgetting myself. My name's Obie and this is.." He briefly rakes his fingers through his beard, looking over at Cooke, allowing the man to introduce himself.

You say, "Squirrel, huh" says Cooke, peering at the offering. "Good enough in a stew where you can bulk it out a bit, hardly a meal in itself" He takes a hunk of the stale bread and crumbles it over the rabbit, follow by a very tiny pinch of salt from a small box for each. One tin plate by his feet, he offers the other two out. "I'm Cooke" he says, without a trace of irony."

Hena'e narrows her eyes slightly as the trade is denied in favor of making a gift. She lays the squirrel back down into the basket, where it rests atop a small assortment of other items, and once she's entered the warming glow of the fire her wind-chapped cheeks redden into a rosy glow, not ashamed, nor shy, just glad for the warmth. She sets down the basket and settles down onto the ground, sitting cross-legged and even unfastening her great bison cloak, letting it settle on the ground behind her and catch the heat from the fire in its shaggy fibers, all the better for putting it back on again. She leans forward to draw in a plate for herself, touching its edges curiously, that metal, and then looking to each of them as they introduce themselves. "Cook?" she asks Cooke, as that is a word she knows. "You are called for your skill?" she wonders. "I am called Goose — for the star under which I was born."

Obedaiah sits down in front of the fire and a plate with a portion of rabbit for him. He uses his bayonet to finish breaking his piece of bread into a half of the original half and offers it to Goose. His name's meaning 'Servant of the Lord' doesn't offer much for the tone of the conversation so he keeps to himself, his focus switching back from one person to the other. He pushes up the sleeve of his overly large sack coat and starts pulling at the rabbit meat on his plate.

Cooke pauses, a morsel of meat halfway to his lips, "Jed Cooke in full" he says, popping the food into his mouth. "Means nothing far as I know, "Guess I got tired of people asking if I could cook and decided to make sure I can" he smiles, "Also I like not heaving my guts into the bushes after every meal. Bad food can kill a man sure as lead poisoning"

"Jed Cooke," Goosie repeats the full name, understanding, at last, that the two words are different from one another. His smile elicits one in her, and she sets the plate on her lap, beginning to tear into the cooked rabbit with her fingers. She doesn't know exactly the syntax of heaving guts into bushes, but she thinks she understands the general concept, and it draws a laugh. "Yes. Cook your quarry well, or it's better not to have caught it," she retorts in a jestful, casual voice, before she slides some nice moist rabbit meat into her maw and licks her fingers clean, then just lifts up the whole cut and starts slurping meat from bone. Mid-chew, she lifts her chin, quite slicked with liquefied rabbit fat, and wonders, "What is it called, lead poisoning?"

Obedaiah eats his food slowly, nodding his agreement with not wanting to be poisoned with led. "Ah ought to see if ah can learn archery like her lot," he says offhandedly. He picks the meat from the bones in his attempt to get every last piece without gnawing on the bone itself. Before swallowing he bites off a hunk of bread and chews earnestly. His eyes narrow slightly in satisfaction as he watches the conversation.

Cooke puts his plate down between his feet then rummages in a pocket, he withdraws his hand holding a pistol bullet and taps the slug on the end. "Lead, Miss Goose" he says, "Very bad for the body" he puts the bullet away again and picks up his meal. "Might be worth it, Obedaiah" he agrees, nodding "Far as I see it it'll make a man quieter for hunting and.. Such"

Hena'e narrows her eyes at the little object which Jed Cooke holds in his hands. "It is poisonous," she supposes, from what he'd said before. "Why do you carry it?" is a reasonable second question, given the circs. Obedaiah's interest in learning the use of a bow has her leaning aside and reaching with a greasy hand into her basket, past the squirrel, and taking out a few arrowheads she's crafted, setting them onto the ground before her. "Arrowheads, I craft them very well."

Obedaiah leans over to get a good look at the arrowheads which requires him to put his hand on the ground to brace his weight. He could've used a closed fist to lessen any dirt mixing in with his food, as he still has a little bit left on the plate to eat, but he doesn't. "Hmm.. That's good work, as far as ah can tell. There's another thing right there. You don't need a miner and a craftsman to make ammunition." He sits back up, gets back to his food. He licks his fingers clean when he's finished the rabbit. "Ah suppose you have a bunch of family that could maybe teach me how to shoot with a bow?" he asks Goose.

"So's I can shoot people who ask damnfool questions" growls Cooke, and camp etiquette be damned. He gnaws on the last of his food, stripping it to the bone, then drops the tin plate beside him. Another delve into a pocket produces a slim cigar which he lights from a burning twig. The cook leans back and stretches his legs out, warming his toes by the fire.

Hena'e eyes Jed Cooke for a moment when he growls, but is distracted from further questioning him on the subject of lead by Obedaiah, who seems apt to learn to use a bow. "My brother is at camp in the plains south of here. He may be able to help. I can use a bow, myself, but not as well as he does." And she'll return to lapping the rabbit bones clean.

Obedaiah smirks at Cooke then nods appreciatively towards Goose. "Well, that was what ah was wonderin'." He reaches for his bag, slips the bayonet, plate and all into it. Then uses it to wipe his hands a little bit since his meal's finished. "Ah hate to be a bad host - and a bad camper besides - but ah do have some business in that settlement down there for a while," he's saying as he walks over towards his horse. "It is nice to know there aren't a mob of fellows around here that could pop of out of nowhere and shower us rock arrows though, isn't it, Cooke?"

Cooke grunts, "That's why we're bein' more than usually gracious" he takes a pull on his cigar, "'Sides, we'll be movin' on soon enough. Do me a favour though and look into the gunsmithy when you're in town. Get your iron serviced or pick up somethin' better, on my account. Mickey is a whoremongerin' Paddy, but he knows his guns for sure"

Hena'e breaks down the bones and leaves them arranged almost tidily on the tin. She laps at her fingers and clears her face with them, only to clean them again. Spider's children have heir plans and their interests, but none of it sounds particularly of note, so as likely as anything it's going in one ear and out the other. "I thank you for your generous," she tells them. Not quite right, but almost. She gathers two of the three arrowheads she'd laid out, leaving the third, and setting that one on top of the plate, as well, since they hadn't taken an interest in the squirrel. It's the least she can do; she doesn't wish to be in debt.

"Ah thought things would go differently and, all in all, ah'm glad they didn't. I'll head over there in short order. The way things are goin' around here, I need to be prepared for all types of hell breakin' loose," Obedaiah says with a grin. He finishes untethering his horse and saddles up. "You are quite welcome, Goose. I thank you for your company. It's nice to have a change every once in a while."

Cooke nods to Goose, "Welcome indeed, though if you come callin' again I'd be happier if you made a bit more noise. I don't like being crept up on, makes me twitchy, makes me go for the iron rather than flap my gums" he flicks the remnants of his cigar into the smouldering campfire and leans back.

Hena'e gathers up her bisonskin around her, binds it in place with several spans of hide strap, and, finding it warmed by the fire, she smiles at the sensation while rising and drawing up her basket to her hip. "I understand, Jed Cooke. Very sorry," she apologizes. "Good-bye," she tells them both, quite friendly, for all that she might have been cognizent of being troublesome to them.

"Goodbye," Obedaiah says to Goose with a nod. His horse shuffles and steps about, eager to be moving. "Ah'll be back in short order. Don't shoot me when ah come back." He chuckles to himself and is off, making his way down into the forest. Then probably the Saloon once he's in town.

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