Short #3 — “Stone Soup”

This is an original rewrite of the old folklore tale, stone soup.

Heed the words below with care, as they contain the incredible recipe that is Stone Soup.

The traveller strolled into the village and his cloth pants billowed in the cold wind. His face was smeared with dirt from the road but he had a smile on his face that spoke of friendliness. He had been adventuring for many weeks now, and his backpack was considerably lightened.

Evening was fast approaching, and the traveller passed many homes and shop-fronts as he explored the village. The warm glow of fire and candle light flickered invitingly from within their windows as families began to settle down for their evening meal.

His walk took him by the blacksmith’s house. The blacksmith was at his bellows, his broad arms hammered upon a strip of steel the colour of red hot lava. Again and again he struck the steel with expert precision, and the traveller watched in fascination and delight, appreciative of the man’s masterful skill.

The blacksmith glanced up, noticing that someone was looking upon him. He took in the traveller’s road stained clothes and his drooping backpack and his eyes narrowed. “Yes?” he asked.

“Oh, don’t mind me” said the traveller, “I’m about to settle down for the evening meal and thought you might like to join me, that looks like hungry work.”

“I’ve no interest in that, be away with you, vagabond,” said the blacksmith, and he turned away dismissively and once again resumed his hammering.

The traveller shrugged, and continued on his way towards the clear stream that forked directly through the village. He collected some dry kindling from the trees and withdrew some simple cooking utensils from his bag. He filled the iron pot with water from the stream, and settled himself down on the river bank to start a fire. He sparked the kindling with ease, and nurtured the flame alive with gentle and well practiced blows.

A small boy and his father were watching nearby with much interest. This was a far-away village, and it was rare for travellers to come through this way. The traveller called them over with a friendly wave, “Please, come and join me, I am making a very special soup.”

They boy approached, and his father followed behind him.

“But traveller, what are you making?” asked the boy.

The traveller winked at him and pulled a bland grey stone from his pack. “Stone soup, of course!”, and he tipped the stone into the boiling water with a resounding plop.

The boy looked up at his father in confusion and excitement.

“You’ll see” said the traveller, “it will make the most delicious soup you have ever tasted.”

The boy’s father was skeptical, but the traveller disarmed them with his bright smile, “The soup is a little bland right now, but worry not, the stone will soon do its job. We just need a little garnish to improve the flavour.”

“We have some herbs in our garden” said the boy shyly, “if you think that will help the soup?”

“That would be perfect” cried the traveller and turned to the boys’ father, “what an intelligent and wonderful lad you have raised.”

The father smiled for the first time at this compliment, “We are happy to contribute a little something to your special soup, traveller.”

They returned with some fresh green herbs from their garden, which were divided and crushed with deft motions by the traveller and added to the soup.

The traveller’s fire and conversation with the boy and his father had garnered the interest of another villager who was walking by. He had the look of a farmer, and he meandered over and asked what it is they were making.

“It’s stone soup” the boy told the farmer before the traveller could respond, and he told him all about it.

“That’s right” said the traveller, and he smiled at the boy, “the soup is yet to reach its full potential, but my magic stone is already beginning to work.” He continued to look at the boy as he spoke, but his voice was loud and clear and carried to the farmer, “the stone can draw out the full flavour of any vegetables that we add.”

“I have some carrots and onions to contribute,” said the farmer, “they are fresh from the harvest. Will you allow me to join you for the meal?”

The traveller agreed, and the farmer soon returned with the carrots and onions, which were also added to the soup.

It wasn’t long before the woman from the village apothecary approached, having spied them from her home that was nearby the river bank. The boy and the farmer were quick to tell her of the soup. She said she had some seasoning to give, and the traveller nodded with sage wisdom as he advised the stone would work its magic well upon seasoning.

It wasn’t long before other villagers approached, eager to see what was happening upon their normally quiet riverbank; the hunter had recently killed a wild hog and would donate some of the meat, and the owner of the general store had a pumpkin he wanted to contribute. The woodworker realised they were lacking utensils, and fetched enough soup bowls and spoons for everyone.

Soon, almost the entire village was sitting around the traveller’s fire, and they laughed uproariously as he regaled them with amusing stories from his many adventures.

As the villagers relaxed on the river bank and the traveller’s fire crackled and sparked into the night sky, there was a happy humdrum of contented chatter. It had been a while since the villager’s had all gotten together to share a meal, and the soup bubbled in its iron pot giving off waves of delicious aromas.

With great aplomb, the traveller proclaimed the stones’ work was complete, and that the soup was finally done. He plucked the stone from the pot with his bended ladle and secreted it into his backpack with a wink to all. “It can only be used once a month” he declared, “but I’m so happy I was able to share it with your beautiful village today.” The villagers gave him a cheer, and the traveller began to ladle the soup out for all to share.

The traveller was interrupted by a gruff voice that reached out to them from the darkness…

“Wait” said the blacksmith and his tone carried a note of suspicion.

The broad figure of the blacksmith came from the shadows into the warm light of the fire, and then he paused and looked about him. Around him stood all of his fellows from the village, and he could see that they laughed and were content. Everyone looked to him with much curiosity, for he was a well respected and even admired figure. He was silent for a moment, and then he seemed to reach a decision and gave a slight nod to the traveller that was imperceptible to the others. The traveller gave him a beaming smile that crinkled the corners of his kind eyes.

“My wife baked some bread this morning” the blacksmith said to the crowd, “since this has become a meal for the whole village, I will bring it along to share”.

He glanced around him one last time, and then strode off and soon returned with multiple loaves of hearty rye bread. The villager’s clapped him on the back for his generosity.

They all agreed it was indeed a delicious soup, even the blacksmith.

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