…’The government has no interest in us, they say. It is not like the south, Shion, I suppose. There is little enough to govern out here. I know, there has never been much here, in Gon, or in the other Desolate Cantons. Not ever, they say. It’s always been an out-of-the-way part of the world. Yet, we are people of O, too, Shion, are we not?

Akzasosan nodded sombrely. ‘I have heard this, or much like it, for hundreds of karsts’ he said. ‘It is regrettable. In the absence of the ZirSolIram, the pure word of the law, the House of Alzu only accumulates more merit for maintaining a proper vigilance upon its lands. But who acts for the Shion here?’

‘Well, Lord – the Utmen of the villages deal with the small potatoes’ Anso­bar said, modestly ‘and during the spring or early summer, the Shion’s agent, his SoPagir, Mister Rigo, he deals with the big potatoes.’

‘I see. But what happens if you dig up a big potato in the winter, when Mister Rigo isn’t here?’ Akzasosan asked, with a pleasant smile.

‘Well, Shion, it depends what you mean’ the Utman said, thoughtfully. ‘It depends on the potato. Most big potatoes, well, they’re not that big, when you finally cross the field; and if they’re not that big, I tend to treat them like small potatoes, really, and take care of the matter myself.’

‘The Shion of Alzu is fortunate in his Utman’ Akzasosan said, without irony. ‘So much for the medium-sized potatoes. But what if you unearth a bigger potato?’

‘Phaw!’ the Utman sighed, expelling the breath loudly as he worked to explain his philosophy of potatoes. ‘Well: with the bigger ones, I take a good look at them, and I think, “Now, then: will this get bigger if I leave it for a while, or will it just stay the same size?” Most potatoes like that, in the end, they won’t get any bigger, so I tend to just pop them back in the ground, if you know what I mean, and let them lie there till the spring.’

‘A very sensible policy, Utman Ansobar. And if a potato is too big to wait until the spring?’

‘Well, that’s a sort of emergency potato, Shion. Those you have to deal with, one way or another, straightaway – cook ’em, as it were, on the spot.’

‘So Mister Rigo doesn’t cook all the big potatoes, then?’ Akzasosan asked, smiling.

‘Not all of them, no, Shion.’

Excerpt from Fire House, Volume 6 of Dustless

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