[Story] Story a Week 20

[[ My word this week was: bread! ]]

Leinath stopped to check the instructions again. Was this the second or third time he’d kneaded it? Would it matter? Bread was so much more complicated than cookies. With cookies, you just needed to measure everything and then mix it together. Sometimes you had to keep the dry ingredients separate from the wet at first, and then sometimes you had to mix in the nuts or chips later, but that was it. Nothing more complicated than that. A few of them you had to let the dough rest in the cooler for a while, but it didn’t need any more attention. Bread, on the other hand, was downright demanding.

It had been Orledin’s suggestion, he assured Leinath that he’d done enough baking to be able to handle it. And at the time, he’d agreed, but now he wasn’t so sure. He’d never baked anything before coming to the rangers, and he felt that he’d suddenly got in over his head. The first part had been easy enough, mixing the flour and salt and other things. But then there was the yeast. Orledin explained that these were tiny creatures that ate the flour and it made the dough rise. That was kind of gross when you really think about it, but he assumed they died when the dough baked. Still, he’d always think about eating the corpses of all those tiny animals from now on. You had to have just the right temperature and amount of water, or the bread wouldn’t rise properly. He’d already had to start over once because of that, thankfully Orledin wasn’t in the kitchen to see that. Leinath was sure he’d be irritated over wasting ingredients like that. Once it did rise, then you had to take the dough out and knead it. Then back into the oven to rise again. This was repeated once or twice, he couldn’t be sure, and then finally the bread was baked. If he got to that stage, Leinath figured, it would be difficult to mess up. He hadn’t had any burning incidents since that first week. And he had to admit he looked forward to being able to eat it after all this work. Corpses of little creatures or not, there was nothing like hot, freshly made bread.

Orledin came in to check how he was doing. He took over kneading, though it seemed that he did it in a different way, and much more efficiently. He seemed surprised that it wasn’t in the oven yet, but thankfully he didn’t look into the trash bin and see the failed first attempt. Orledin was an expert at bread though. Besides the normal kind, he could make all different shapes, like little round buns or fancy braided twists, or bread with brown flour or soft bread with nuts in it. He thought they could probably sell it in town — well, maybe once there were a few more living residents. Still, Leinath thought he wasn’t doing too badly for someone who was brand new at it. His old friends would hardly believe it, if they could see him now. A legitimate ranger, and one who was baking bread at that.

He opened the hot oven and slid the pan with the dough inside. Now it was just a matter of waiting.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Journal

I finally feel like I’m starting to get into the routine here. It probably helps that I already knew how to use a bow, so I got a lot less yelling from Sunashe. I hear the others complaining about him sometimes, and while I might not agree with his methods I agree with what he’s saying most of the time. Maybe I could help him give people tips, in a somewhat quieter way. He’s got a new baby and that has to take up a lot of time. It’s also good that nobody asks too many questions, because I don’t know what I would say if they did. I’d probably just tell the truth, but I’m pretty sure some of the guys here are the sort of people I used to rob if I saw them out on the roads, so I don’t know how they’d feel about that.

Like Faeris. He definitely has that rich-kid look about him, though he’s nice enough and he seems pretty good with a sword. Not a bow though, as Sunashe likes to remind everyone. It was never personal when I robbed anyone, I just told myself they deserved it because it made it easier. But I have to admit he’s an okay guy. I can’t tell if he was flirting with me or not. I’d brought out a new tray of cookies and he was out there – no Julan in sight. That was a little unusual, but I guess he was still on patrol. Faeris asked if I thought anyone here was interesting. I know he’s with Julan, so I thought that was an odd thing to ask, though I don’t know all the details there. Maybe they’re trying to invite me over, not sure I’m interested in getting in the middle of something like that. I don’t know if it’s really allowed at all. No one’s allowed in each others’ quarters, but obviously it must happen anyway. I can’t risk that though, I know how much better it is here than in jail. I don’t want to give the captain any excuse to send me there. I told Faeris I didn’t know what he meant, even though I did.

Then he asked what I thought about Orledin. I said he’s been teaching me how to bake and it’s been pretty good. There were also the flowers, and the cupcake. I’m not dumb, I think I know what he’s hinting at, but I’m not sure what I think about it. If he were alive? Sure, why not — as long as I didn’t get in trouble, that is. As he is now? I’m not sure. I guess I haven’t ruled it out completely but I also don’t want to give him any false hope. And it depends what he wants. I’m assuming there are some things he just can’t do and maybe he just wants a friend to talk to. I can certainly do that. I realized afterward that Orledin might have asked Faeris to find out because he was too embarrassed to ask himself. I could bring it up with him myself, but I don’t want things to be weird either, it might cause trouble, which is the last thing I want. I don’t want Orledin to have to move to another unit, either. I know he likes it here and everyone likes his baking.

Or I can just keep quiet and see what happens. I think that sounds like a better idea.

[Story] Story a Week 48

[[ Prompt: A story set in a strange small town. ]]

Leinath held his breath as he approached the town, the painted spires peeking into view over the hills. Even from this distance he could see that the paint was faded and chipped in places, that the formerly regal spires now looked crumbled and tired. It had been so long since he’d walked along these paths, and coming home felt strange and uncomfortable. It wasn’t his home any longer. Maybe some parts of it looked the same, but it wasn’t.

Nearly all of the buildings were in similar disrepair — cracks snaked up through the walls, scraggly vines clinging to the dirty surfaces. Leinath could remember them all. That one had been the bakery, the big clear glass window was long ago broken and gone. The display now held various bottles and jars, poisons, Leinath supposed. The hooded figure behind the counter was gaunt and skeletal, either one of the dead or an elf who might as well be. That was the library, where all of the city’s book collection had been held. A few lay trampled and forgotten on the floor, but where were the rest? Had someone stolen them? What use would the dead have for books? It hurt to see his town like this, broken down and stolen by the dead. Worse, they didn’t even care enough to fix the things that needed repair. Maybe they saw it as pointless, Leinath couldn’t be sure. There was the mayor’s hall, and the hawkstrider stable. None of the faces there were ones that he recognized. The old chapel still stood, and while it was dusty and had pieces of the stained glass missing, it looked at least as if it had been cared for. The grounds out front were free of weeds, and the door had been recently painted. Leinath couldn’t remember the Confessor’s name, but he could picture his face, and his long white hair. Was he here still, or was he one of the dead? Leinath couldn’t see how anyone could have escaped the onslaught of the scourge.

Not far away, he noticed a new building. He stood and blinked at it for a moment, trying to remember what had stood there before. Had it been the potter? No, now he remembered: the old man who made furniture. Someone must have torn the whole thing down to put up this new building. The idea bothered him, though the building looked clean and well-kept, there was even a fountain out in front, water bubbling through it. Why couldn’t they just fix up the old building? Now it was gone forever, and perhaps there was no one else who even remembered it had once been there.

Leinath walked to where the leatherworker’s shop had been. He could remember the shop well, its warm and comfortable smell, the harnesses and armor displayed on the wall. He remembered being fitted for his armor and choosing a pair of boots to go with them, how pleased he had been and how excited to wear them home. There was no one here now. The shop was dark, cobwebs and a thick layer of dust coated the work tables and counters now. It didn’t look as if anyone, alive or dead, had been in here for many years. He knew this would probably be the case, but he hoped that he might be wrong. He’d hoped to see a few  familiar faces, someone who might remember him and say hello. He wasn’t entirely sure if he was ready to give up on his home yet, but it seemed to have gone ahead without him.

Frowning, he walked up the road toward the dragonhawk handler. He at least knew there was one, he’d seen their bright feathers from the road. He would have to get his new armor in the city.

 

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Journal

I’ve been here at the ranger place for about a week now. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it’s not bad at all. Mostly I’ve just been practicing my bow, making sure I’m not rusty. The guy who does the training said I’m doing well, which is good. I hope I can make a good impression on everyone. The last thing I want is to have to go to jail. This is definitely better. There’s enough people that there’s usually someone to talk to, and the food is pretty good. One of the rangers is also a baker, or I guess he used to be. He’s actually dead. Well, undead. So are two of the others, three if you count the one outside, but he’s not really a ranger. That was a little bit of a shock. I knew undead had taken over the town, but to actually see it is another thing. It’s hard not to remember the town as it used to be. But the ones who are rangers aren’t so bad, I guess. Two of them I hardly ever see because they take the late night patrol and they don’t really talk to anyone. Salenicus has a bunk in the quarters where I sleep but he’s hardly ever there. I guess most people live in the cabins, there’s an older guy named Arancon who I talk to sometimes but he’s not really chatty either. I kind of wonder if he’s here for the same reason I am, but of course I can’t ask.

The other one is Orledin, he’s the one who does all the baking. Sometimes he comes out while I’m eating and talks. I don’t mind, like I said there aren’t really many people around to talk to, especially after dinner. Everyone else goes back to their cabins. He told me about how he used to be a baker, and about his family. Most of them are still alive, but they don’t want anything to do with him because he’s undead. I’m not sure how I would feel about it, but I think I’d still want to see my brother even if he was. It’s possible, he could have been killed. I think having him undead would be better than totally dead, because at least we could still talk. It just seems harsh to turn away like that and just pretend he’s dead. He did say he saw me outside practicing. It’s not really strange, because I’m out there a lot, but why was he looking anyway? I’m supposed to start on my patrol tomorrow, I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure yet who I will be working with. I know one of the women is pregnant so she’ll need to be replaced soon, but I guess I’ll find out in the morning. I just hope everything goes well and they like me. I’m so worried about breaking the rules or doing something I shouldn’t by accident. Or what if someone decides they don’t like me and they tell the Captain and he sends me back? He seems like a reasonable guy, but maybe he doesn’t want criminals on his patrols. Some people just judge you by the label before they even know you. I don’t think any of the others know either, though like I said I have a hunch about a couple of the others. Maybe it’s not the first time he’s hired someone like me.