Story Time Sunday #14

Happy Sunday! Here is the flash horror story, as promised, inspired by this painting I found under the oldest trestle bridge in Europe located in Lucerne, Switzerland. There are many panels, although some were lost in a fire, so I anticipate more ghostly stories to come. I can’t wait to hear your reactions to this brand new tale. Enjoy!

The Duke of Regensburg prided himself in his vast lands which latched on the teat of the Danube River growing strong from its care, while the alps, their father, remained visible overhead, even on cloudy days. Despite this abundance, the Duke gloated on nothing as much as his family’s famous chef. 

Of course, the chef had been in his family’s employ long before his death, but it was the retention of his services that remained a matter of mystery. The chef’s skills with spices and exotic cooking styles multiplied in his passing. His nightly offerings were other-worldly delights that eased the spirit and lifted melancholy, bright citrus notes that left his household in a state of ecstasy every evening.

Chef Death paraded his dishes in golden bowls and plates, wearing only the lightest linen kaftan, fashioned from the undergarments of the late Duchess. Her tragic death, the cause of his eternal servitude, for when he neglected to remove a bone from the evening’s pike it wedged firmly in her throat causing a quick end. 

Of course, the chef could no longer speak. His eyes were bigger than empty goblets, caverns of dark nothingness. The children followed after him, doting on his steps, using white rags to clean his feet, stained red by the riverside clay. And so it was for many years. 

The Duke’s waistline grew and so did his appetite, not just for new dishes but for new lands. He began to invite over his neighbor, a lesser lord, in the hopes of dazzling him with culinary masterpieces that would tempt him to part with all the properties closest to his own. But even after hours of idle chatter and mountains of delicious food, the Lord always firmly refused his generous offers to acquire the bordering lands.

The Duke decided to have him over one last time in a final effort to peacefully acquire the fields he desired, and for this special occasion, Chef Death prepared a scintillating venison stew. But, when it was simmering its last bubbles, he sprinkled in a few handfuls of exotic mushrooms foraged from deep in the forest. The chef added these champignons into the soup, knowing full-well his master’s aversion, but in hopes that their poisonous caps would quickly end this feud and with any luck, repay his debt completing his years of servitude to the Duke.

The Lord grew weary of these nightly sessions, but could not resist the sumptuous dishes of Chef Death. Suspicious of any hospitality, however, he made sure to always switch the dishes served to him while the Duke was distracted. It was a trick his father had taught him and always made for smoother digestion when visiting friends.

Emboldened by the evening’s mead, the Lord raised his glass to the Duke, “Cheers, neighbor. May Chef Death forevermore be more death-like than his cooking.”

The Duke tapped glasses with the Lord, but his temper was simmering as their dishes cooled. 

The Lord continued his teasing, “Oh my, looks like he’s muddled this soup as there are lots of dead bobbles floating about,” and with that he lifted up a spoonful of the stew to his nose, a mushroom cap floating in the tip. 

“Smells of decay. And, he’s been cooking it an eternity.” The Lord opened his mouth to swallow it down when the Duke’s anger boiled over, and he tipped the bowl of soup, spilling its contents down upon the Lord’s lap. Mushroom caps spilt out over both of them and onto the dining hall floor.

“Say, this is no way to treat a guest,” the Lord rose from the table, sticky stew staining his favorite cloak.

You’ve insulted my station, and my most-beloved chef, and now,” the Duke handed the Lord a spoon, “you will eat this sacred soup, every morsel, or I will strip you of both your lands and your titles.”

“I will do no such thing,” the Lord waved away the spoon but saw that the Duke was in all earnest and that he would now have to scoop the soup off the table, chair and even the floor to appease his anger. 

“The Duke slurped his soup as he watched with satisfaction the Lord groveling underfoot and swallowing cap after cap. Meanwhile, he set aside his own caps, never having much appetite for such things, and yet he wondered. They seemed to soak up so much of the broth, while so much of it lay wasted on the floor around him. 

He picked up the mushroom with his fingers, squeezing juices from its porous surface. One bite surely wouldn’t kill him?  

In the morning light, the children found their father and their neighbor dead, sprawled on the floor with spoons in their hands. The eldest son, only just learning to read and write, walked over the bodies of the men and hoisted himself into his father’s chair, calling out, “Chef Death, where’s my porridge?” 

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