I stood unbalanced upon a threshold of opulence, fingering the scars on my face with dirty fingernails. The tattered hem of my coat flapped around my calves, the wind gnawing it like the teeth of excited dogs.
"Damn it man," snarled the occupant, "get inside before my hearth quails."
"Yes Lord, and again, my thanks. I shall think often of your hospitality on this most inhospitable of nights." Flattery is like fat. It eases the passage. Manners as lubrication.
I shut the door behind me while Brabach attended to his hearth. While he stoked the coals, I hobbled within and leaned my walking stick against the plainer of two chairs before his fire. I hung my coat upon it and removed from its pocket a small glass vial.
Brabach seated himself in a chair resembling a padded throne as I gazed about at the wealth splashed across every wall.
"I'm told that your wares are highly sought yet most... unorthodox."
"Indeed Lord. Were they sought by all, I would count myself a rich man, though not, of course, as rich as your honourable self." Plenty of grease to slide in the hook. "Alas, such provenance as mine, it is sampled by a rare few. The courage required you see...."
"Yes, yes. An attribute in which you will not find me wanting, Master Husk. Whereas I admit patience is not my strongest. Thus to business. What have you for me?"
"My Lord, I offer only the most profound Three Flavours of Feeling. These are only for the connoisseur, so exquisite, so... demanding, are they."
"The only three that matter, Lord. Pain. Fear. And Joy. Authentic memories all, the order up to you." A crooked smile cracked my ruined face.
"A fine selection. For an appetizer, Joy. A main course of Pain. Sweet fear for my dessert." Precisely as I'd predicted. Exactly as I'd hoped. "It gets late, Husk. I would have you begin."
"Yes, my Lord. Were you told of the mechanism with which I deliver my wares?"
"They told me that you weep like a child." Later, I would look back on his choice of words and savour them. "So start weeping man. I hunger."
And weep I did. Holding the vial up to my eyes, I fixed in my mind the first of my puissant memories. They streamed out of me with liquid ease, amber hued tears half-filling the vial, and their hue was naught to do with the firelight. I passed it to him. "Swallow in one, my Lord. This will take but a minute, for of all the feelings, Joy is ever short-lived." He eyed my offering with long practiced suspicion, then set the vial to his lips and drank...
The child twisted and darted across verdant meadows, squealing with excitement as the giant lumbered in his wake. Every clumsy attempt at a grasp met with air, eliciting more screams of delight. Across the meadow, shaded by a gnarly old oak, a woman stretched her legs across the grass and laid out a simple lunch. She laughed, watched her husband snatch up their beautiful treasure and turn him upside down. Blow raspberries on his little round belly.
Lord Brabach's smile fell f-rom his face like a still-born as the Joy faded. He licked dry lips and sat up straighter in his throne and said to me, "Whets the appetite yes, but merely a bland morsel.