What Happened to the Garlic?
Travelling by sea had not quite agreed with Carl. He had a pasty green complexion, but insisted that cruising over the sea was the most exhilarating occurrence of late. Van Helsing decided to spare the horses any sickness the friar would care to spew by beginning at a moderate pace.
“Don’t these beasts go any faster?” complained the friar.
Van Helsing admitted that they could, expressing his concern. Carl snorted, “Don’t be ridiculous!”
The friar kicked the sides of his mount, smugly glancing back at Van Helsing. Next moment, he tasted bile in his mouth. Hopelessly, Carl let go of the reigns and fell off. Crouching on all fours, he hurled up breakfast. Van Helsing shook his head in veiled amusement.
“I’ll cook you up something you can hold down,” promised the hunter.
Carl spat at his feet, agitated, “Your food makes me sick to the stomach just by glancing at it!”
“Are you suggesting I can’t cook?”
“What do you think, Van Helsing? For the moment, I will produce what we eat. My food at least will stay down.”
Carl hated being wrong. The next day or so saw him displaying the contents of his stomach – an array of desperately arranged meals. At the end of it, he refused to eat anything out of fear of splattering the horses.
Van Helsing threatened one evening, “I will force feed you if you continue to act this way.”
“I am not a child!”
“Funny, you’re acting like one, Carl.”
“If you can cook something decent,” the friar submitted, “then I will eat it of my own accord. If it comes up, I will never eat anything of yours again.”
“FINE! Now cook.”
Van Helsing dismounted and began to prepare, laying out the contents of their food rations, scratching his chin thoughtfully. He smiled. He very seriously doubted it was sea sickness that plagued Carl by now. The best thing right now was a flavour hit – and it wasn’t very hard to find it.
He began slicing the special ingredient.
Carl, coming back from the dug privy, breathed in deep. It was a therapeutic aroma, somehow nutty yet freshly green, that pervaded his senses.
“What a truly divine smell!” he exclaimed, stomach agreeing.
Van Helsing snorted. “It’s not even cooked yet.”
Carl asked anxiously, “What is it?”
“Mystery ingredient,” Van Helsing replied guardedly. “And Carl, I can cook.”
The friar spluttered, “Right now all I care about is not if you can cook, but if I can keep it down!”
An hour passed. Carl picked berries and showed them to his companion. Van Helsing, laughing raucously, explaining that the amount procured could send two dozen horses to their graves. Carl sniffed disdainfully. “I don’t see why I can’t participate in all aspects of this mission.”
“You’re the brains but you’re too theoretical,” Van Helsing pointed out patiently. “I have a feeling you know nothing practical about spending a night outside.”
Carl hefted up the gas propelled crossbow, making sure the light remaining in the twilight glinted off the perfected weapon. The friar said smugly, “Do you call this theoretical?”
Unfortunately, the crossbow chose to slip out of his fingers. Van Helsing raised his eyebrows, a sly remark poised on his lips. He shut his mouth, thinking better of it. He did need Carl’s knowledge on vampires. The friar was known to button up in offence, much to the frustration of anyone trying to get a decent answer out of him.
Not a very good thing to happen when confronted with supposedly infested Transylvania.
“It’s ready,” declared Van Helsing and spooned out the unappetising mush into a small bowl.
Carl gagged. But the threat of being force fed still hung above him so he took a tentative taste. Surprised by the scrumptious flavour, the friar eagerly finished it off. He then waited for it all to come back up again. And waited.
Carl sighed in relief, admitting grudgingly, “A miracle, Van Helsing. It stays down so far. What was that wonderful mysterious ingredient?”
Van Helsing looked reluctant. He coughed nervously. “Garlic.”
“Where in God’s name did you get it?” Carl queried, perplexed as he surveyed the rather bleak surroundings.
The hunter displayed a simple string where gloves of garlic had once been strung. Carl did not understand at first, but when he did, realisation sparked anger in his eyes.
“Damn…it,” the friar said slowly. “The most simple, most ingenious way to ward off vampires…and we ate it.”
Van Helsing was bemused by how calmly Carl was taking this. The serenity could not last, as suspected. Carl flew completely off the handle.
“YOU – YOU RECKLESS ARROGANT POPINJAY! To hell with this mission! No, let’s eat everything that’s actually THREATENING to a VAMPIRE! LET ME KNOW HOW THAT SILVER STAKE TASTED – after you’ve spent a few weeks wallowing in Hell, damned to eat garlic FOR ALL ETERNITY! DAMN YOU AND YOUR CULINARY SKILLS! DAMN DAMN DAMN!”
“Relax Carl, it was just garlic,” Van Helsing soothed.
“JUST GARLIC! IT IS MORE EFFECTIVE IN HAND RATHER THAN IN STOMACH!”
Van Helsing grinned lopsidedly, “Garlic may be deadlier to a vampire in your breath. Thank God I didn’t give your onions. You’d kill me first.”
Carl went a brilliant shade of magenta. He glared hard at his companion. “Your sordid jokes do not amuse me.”
He spun on his heel. Van Helsing cleared his throat. “You do owe me some thanks. At least you’re not letting the world know what I last fed you.”
As if to prove him wrong, Carl grabbed his stomach, trying to look pained. It didn’t work, with Van Helsing looking on in hilarity. The friar clenched his fists, deciding to make a grab for the upper hand. “Next time, I cook. I will show you how well I can manage a decent enough recipe.”
“I heard that Holy water makes a good soup…” teased Van Helsing, smirking.
Three…two…one…the hunter mentally counted.
Carl pursed his lips, frustration making him frown. “If that is an attempt to flare my temper again, it will not work. Be assured that we will need Holy water desperately more than garlic later.”
“Sure, Carl, whatever you say…”
As Van Helsing watched the Holy water sail into the well, he entertained the brief thought of how well it would have contributed to a delicious soup. He wrenched his mind back to the immediate concern – the rather deadly vampire leering at him. Carl watched the precious liquid plummet also, muttering, “Dammit.”
He was going to hear about this later – if he survived.