Alair pulled his backpack up and secured it before he set off down the road. The master chef he’d been studying under had said the only thing he needed to do was hone his craft now. He’d learned all he could from the man. Now he needed to find a place to ply his trade.

He thought back on his youth and smiled at how far he’d come. His parents had been traders and he’d been going “topside” since he’d been old enough to follow directions and not get lost. When his father had decided he was old enough to learn a trade, his father gave him a choice. He could become a trader, a smith or a miner. Alair had surprised his father by presenting a third option.

He wanted to be a chef. Traveling topside had introduced him to the wide assortment of foods that could be prepared and eaten and he found he liked the variety. He wasn’t satisfied with the thick stew and crusty bread that most dwarves ate. He wanted to have roasts, fine pastries and delicate soups. The best way was to learn how to make them himself. His father had warned him that none in the underground would like that sort of food. If he became a chef, he would stay topside.

Alair was fine with that. He found a master chef and learned the art of fine cooking. Now he was a journeyman and ready to hone his craft. All he needed was a venue. He knew none of the inns or taverns in town were hiring, so his path led him to the main road.

It was about mid-day when he found the little country inn. It looked like a cozy sort of place. It was also obviously in the midst of extensive repairs. He opened the door and peered inside the common room, calling, “Hello?”

“We’re not open until nightfall, I’m afraid,” a reply came from a back room. Alair followed the voice to a sparkling kitchen. A young blond human sat on a stepladder, sanding delicate woodwork above the door. “Hello,” he said as he spotted Alair. “Bergren Shadowmoon.”

“Alair Brightblade,” the dwarf said. “Journeyman chef.”

“Oh,” Bergren said, clearly pleased. “I was just about to put a shingle out asking for workers – a chef included.” He climbed down from the ladder and smiled as he added, “We’ll need a barkeep, at least one server to start and someone to clean.”

“What about yourself?” Alair said. “What are you going to do?”

“Manage the books… and keep the peace,” Bergren replied. “If I can fill out my roster. So far I’ve been doing everything. Though I’m not a very good cook, I’m afraid. Kara could only make stew and crusty bread. I can’t seem to manage that.”

“You won’t get that from me either,” Alair snapped. “Point me to your store-room and I’m make you a dinner fit for a king’s court.”

“By all means,” Bergren said. He led the way down to the basement storage. Soon enough Alair was happily ensconced in the kitchen.