Tuesday, April 5, 2016

City of Curses: Maralda and Tengu (Maralda's notes)

On Tengu Culture and Cuisine.
Written Maralda Inculti Tyranus, Dated Newrose 1784

The Raven-headed Folk have strange ways.  Or at least different ones.  It's tempting to cast them as the "Other."  But despite the Tengu's own xenophobia, their is a exotic mystique to them.

Tengu seem to have no trouble blending into our culture.  Piercing theirs has been difficult for those of us curious about them.  Until recently.  Some recent event affected their Prophet.  She dispersed them throughout Crux.  There are clans of Tengu found throughout Crux.  Even though many of them still live in the Aerie-Towns over Havershill.

My most recent exposure to Tengu culture wasn't what I expected, however.  A pastry shop.  Not run by Tengu.  As far as I know, Tengu don't understand how to bake.  No, I found a cluster of Tengu in a pastry shop in the Rose Quarter.

It had to be one of those sights you can't quite imagine being in.  The Tengu, being foreign, exotic folk who rarely descend from above.  Street legends tell about mysterious Tengu shinobi warriors.  Night assassins who know shadowy arts they kill to preserve.

These three tengu clustered around a case full of cakes.

Not just looking.  They engaged in a fast-paced discussion over the various Othebean cakes.  Not just a discussion, but an argument.  I don't know a word of Tengu.  But still, I had to ask.

"What are you arguing over?"  I peered over the shoulder of one Tengu in blue.  He had this whiff of something to him, but I couldn't quite place it.

The three of them looked up at me in surprise.  The Tengu in blue eyed me for a moment.  Then he cocked an eyebrow.

"The cakes."

"Trying to pick the right one?"

The other two tengu drew back.  Something talking to me?  Who knows.  The Tengu in blue didn't seem to mind it.

"Trying to decide which brew will pair best with which.  My apprentices seem unwilling to believe I can craft the right brew to match them.  You gaijin are too barbarous with your cakes."  He tilted his beak at me.  "'None of these can be fit for such a brew.'"

The other tengu didn't respond.

"Brew?"  I asked.  "Don't you have some sort of dessert wine?  I mean, I'm sure the baker here might have something to recommend."

"Bah."  The Tengu looked up at me.  "I don't believe in letting others to do things for me.  Besides, I cannot let my legend as a brewer fail if I can't think of something on my own."

Brewer.  Tengu had their own kind of wine and ale then?  This thought intrigued me.  I'd never heard of Tengu drinking.

"You're a brewer?"

"Ueda Zora Burning-Storm, Toji to the Lady of my Clan."  Ueda bowed to me.  "My lady has come to love the pastries of this place, this Quarter of Roses.  I want to see if there is anything for me to learn here."

"Ah."  I resisted the urge to start writing notes down about this.  I offered a hand.  "Maralda Inculti.  I'm... well, I'm a Bard.  I'd come here to get a quick snack, but... I'm as curious as a cat.  I'd love to learn more about Tengu, sir."

"Sir?"  Ueda tilted his head.  Then Ueda winced a bit.  "I suspect you don't mean to offend.  But you are mistaken, ma'am."


"Apologies if you don't wish to be corrected."  Ueda told me.  "But I am a woman, not a man."


My face blushed a bright red.

Tengu Cuisine.

Preferring rotting and aged meat, Tengu often add flayworm eggs to meat.  This is a key part of the preparation of Tengu meals.  Mature flayworms add a distinct flavor, while raw flayworm eggs can be toxic to mammals.  Tengu refer to this kind of meal as Zusatta Yiku.

Zusatta is one of the main dishes others think of when they think of Tengu food.  Zusatta Yiku isn't the only thing they eat, but it holds a dear place among the Tengu.  Tengu themselves are able to eat almost anything Humans or Ursyklon eat.  They find human disgust at Zusatta amusing.  Also, Tengu misunderstand what "cooking" means, in human cuisine.  Tengu don't mind cooked food, but their traditional foods deal more with aging and decay of food.  Flayworms are just one of a variety Tengu find the human use of grains particularly strange.

Although rice plays a part in Tengu food, they have nothing like cakes, breads or pies.  For some Tengu the desserts humans create are sensational surprises.  Some Tengu Ninja and Alchemists study human confections.  They are certain that they must be some sort of poisoning technique unknown to them.


Tengu Toji (Brewers) are a sacred position among the Tengu.  Rice wine serves a sacred purpose in Kazist Ceremonies.  The Toji of each Tengu clan have almost the same clout as priests of any of the five winds do.

Tengu esteem Toji like painters or musicians.  Their brews vary.  Tengu Toji do not fear to experiment with their brews too.  Alchemy being born of the Toji's arts, they also add some magic in.  Sometimes the Toji provide blessings, other times curses.