Travels through Farynshire: Ale and sausages

It’s called Mother Aloth, and I am going to generously call it a restaurant solely on the quality of its sausages.

The setting itself is quite modest: a room in one of the squat rock buildings in an alleyway just above the station. The windows are small and filled with thick, pearled glass. The many cream and melting candles cast flickering shadows on the rough grey walls. The small tables crowd together, each draped in a red and white checked cloth. We showed up without a booking and were seated by the cave-sized empty fireplace.

A red-faced young man who cheerfully introduced himself as Col handed us each a piece of card. On one side was a list of local beers and ales, and on the other was a list of local sausages.

“Were we supposed to bring our own veg?” I asked.

“I think you get thrown out if they see any plants,” said Felix. “On the plus side: not just pigs.”

“What do they have? Horse, chicken, deer?”

“You’re in luck: they do have sausages made from local venison.”

We decided to order beers first to help facilitate the more perplexing extensive sausage choice. To be honest, I wasn’t aware Farynshire has quite so many ales. Of course I had heard of Sylnmouth Sailor’s Froth, though I was surprised it was served in the mountains, the pubs in Rookpot usually have it on tap. The lager-like Canny Tongue is also popular amongst students. Dark Golden looked quite appealing: it is from a brewery in The Crundles, a hamlet just outside Rookpot. But I thought I should try something more exotic. The Jolly Jouster looked like a possibility; the Last Green less so – though Felix was tempted.

“You have to try a green one here at least.”

Green ales are a Farynshire speciality, and Felix was forever trying to get me to try one on our pub crawls around Rookpot. But not even at my most inebriated would I try something that looked and smelled like industrial-strength toilet cleaner. Most of them are produced in the many micro-breweries nearly every Farynshire town seems to have – usually a shed in someone’s back garden. Tropsog boasted that it had one brewery for every thirty people.

“Look,” Felix scrutinised the list of ales. “This one is called Skinny’s Own – it’s brewed right here! You have to try that one.”

I decided I might as well get it over and done with. But I was resolved not to finish it if I didn’t like it – I heard learned that lesson one fated night leading up to Christmas when one of our friends decided that brandy rum shots were the ideal way to keep warm. I had not liked the taste, but the idea had been appealing. According to other people, I was quite ill for quite a while. It’s probably best I have no recollection of the subsequent couple of days.

Once the ale had been chosen, we had to select the sausages – which was even more of a gamble, as I had not heard of any of them. Mother Aloth is not a friend to the vegetarian. Felix chose grilled blood sausages. I closed my eyes and stabbed at the menu with my fork: Selsig Hog it was, then.

The tables started to fill up as we waited for our ales. Most of the diners were locals who did not need a menu and just ordered their usual.

Skinny’s Own seemed to pulse with a dark emerald glow – though it may have been the candles backlighting it. I regarded the tankard suspiciously: I didn’t want to spend my few days in the mountain ill in bed.

“They wouldn’t serve it if it made people sick,” said Felix encouragingly.

It probably didn’t make the locals sick. Their stomachs had been hardened through a remorseless sausage and ale diet. But I had only been in Farynshire for just over a year, and had spent that time in cosmopolitan Rookpot. I regretted now not preparing more thoroughly for this trip by indulging in more local cuisine.

I sipped the ale, letting as little as possible pass my lips. It was surprisingly sweet, with a definite vegetable twang – parsnip, maybe, or a young carrot. My throat burned a little as it made its way down, but it wasn’t toxic, and I could see how it could be a pleasant winter warmer. I decided, on balance, that I quite liked it.

The sausages arrived. Two plates with seven bursting, sizzling snorkels on each, accompanied by a basketful of assorted local breads, and a brick of yellow butter. We were suddenly very hungry indeed, and were already wishing we had ordered two plates each or a medley of sausages.

The room was now full of chatter, drinking, and the rich smells of many varieties of sausage. And this was in summer. I could only imagine how overbooked this place must be in the cold winter months when the absolute best thing must be a plate piled high with sausages and a tankard of ale.

It was dusk when we emerged into the cooler, fresher mountain air. The Myttens were gilded in bright gold as the sun sank behind them, and the slopes of Skinny Peak were bathed in the draining light. A train pulled out of the station below, blowing its whistle in farewell, chugging back to Rookpot.

It wasn’t particularly late, but we were full of ale and sausages, and tired from travelling, so we both had an early night.

By Mabel Govitt (with special permission from Ammaceadda)

Travels through Farynshire: On a train

We took over an entire table in the carriage, and Felix flicked through Walking and Wine in the Bloon Peaks that he had bought in the Beech.

“We have to go to a vineyard,” he said. “And they grow citrus fruits in some places, so there are lemon and orange groves.”

“I’m surprised they get enough sun for that.”

Felix shrugged. “They must do: I don’t think any of it is grown in greenhouses. And I have to get some honey. They sell honey from the mountains in Rookpot, and I’d love to talk to the beekeepers about it. A lot of the cakes in Lacey’s have mountain honey in them.”

“Does it say anything about the best place to try and see wolvern?” I asked.

Felix looked up wolvern in the index at the back of the book. “I think we need to go further in to the mountains,” he said, after glancing at the relevant pages. “Or maybe ask in one of the local pubs if anyone has seen one. I doubt we’ll see any, though – it’s not like they’re just running through the forests.”

“We’d should still try.”

And thus the duel quests of our Tour were established. Felix’s mission was to explore the many and varied local culinary delights Farynshire had to offer, and mine was the county’s rich culture and history.

I hadn’t really thought about the Peoples themselves when planning this trip, but we were going to the mountains, the forests and the coast – we might see wolvern, foresteens and seafolk. Felix said he had never seen a seafolken – and he had grown up right by the sea.

The only individuals I had met who said they had seen any of the Peoples were guest speakers and presenters on my course. The Peoples are elusive to the point of becoming semi-mythical. Everyone knows that they are out there, or had been at some point, but few have ever seen a live one. There are academics at the university who have built their careers around studying one or more of the Peoples, and all of them had given talks on our Local History module. But, from what other Professors hinted at, these academics and their chosen areas of interest were not highly thought of in academia: they were seen as chasing myths and legends, rumours and fairytales. But I, as an outsider, find the Peoples fascinating, and was convinced we would see packs of wolvern, groves of foresteens, and … shoals (?) of seafolk.

The train bounced gently along through the lush green countryside. The sky was a clear blue dome, the thick grass rippled in waves in the soft breeze, the meadows were full of wild flowers vibrant with celebratory colour. We rushed passed a couple of fields filled with new red and violet poppies. Small woods dotted the fields, and clear slow moving streams sparkled in the distance. Occasionally we could see the distant blue wall of the  mountains when the train came to a bend. This was a direct train to Hen Ffydd so there was no stopping at the tiny villages we blared through – a good thing too, otherwise we might have been tempted to get out and wander around.

The plan was to spend a couple of days in the mountains, not going any further than the Bloon Peaks. We would stay in a B&B in Hen Fffydd, the last station on the line. The train would pull in during late afternoon.

By Mabel Govitt (with special permission from Ammaceadda)