[Prompt: Write a story about a very special cake ]
Petra awoke to the crowing of Peckels, her favorite rooster. Rolling on to her side, she looked towards the shutters to notice Peckels’ call was too early, yet again. She grabbed her feather pillow and covered her face, groaning with annoyance.
Once out of bed she lit the fire and hung a kettle over the open flame. If she was going to get up this early, she might as well treat herself to some tea. Pulling the sole chair of her hut towards the fire, she settled in to wait for the water to boil.
Basking in the warmth of the flames, she considered the ingredients she would need for the important task of the day. Petra had milled the necessary amount of flour the previous day, it was in a clay container in the pantry. The pantry also contained the sugar and salt, so she checked those off her mental checklist. She needed to get butter and hartshorn from the cellar, she would gather them after she finished milking Mertha. The rosewater sat on the counter in the kitchen, the infusion finished by now. The meager amount of cinnamon she had been saving was going to be emptied today, the thought turned her mouth into a frown. She went through the list in her mind once more, suspicious of which ingredient she was missing.
Eggs. Of course. The eggs she knew she needed to gather, but had been putting off all week. Her frown became a grimace as the kettle began to scream. She hoped it wasn’t an omen of things to come.
After eating cold potatoes and enjoying her tea, Petra sighed reluctantly and forced herself out of the warm chair. She changed into her leathers and wrapped her cowl around her neck then pulled up the hood. Peckels had been so thoughtful to rouse her early, she might as well get a head start on her chores.
It was still dark out, the sun yet to peek over the horizon, but there was enough light for her to work without a torch. The cool breeze caressed her cheeks, Petra adjusted her hood so that it didn’t intrude easily. Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a pair of sleek leather gloves and slipped them onto her hands. She set her eyes on the barn and headed towards it to gather the feed.
She fed the chickens first, thanking Peckels with some extra bits of corn thrown his direction. Using the empty feed basket, she gathered what few chicken eggs there were. Mertha was next, she mooed from her stall and stamped her cloven hooves, eager for food and a much needed milking. After tending to the cow, Petra grabbed the basket of eggs along with the bucket of milk and headed to the cellar.
Petra emerged from the cellar with the butter, hartshorn and milk, taking them into the hut and storing them in the larder. She looked over all of the ingredients, everything she needed was there except for the special eggs.
Winning first place at the annual harvest festival was all Petra could think about since losing to Gilda last year. Petra had made a beautiful cake, two golden layers with creamy topping, it had been fit for a king. But Gilda had made a cake with three layers, creamy topping and filling included. Petra’s cake had been demoted to ‘fit for a jester’ after seeing what Gilda had accomplished.
Determination urged Petra forward with her plan. This year she wasn’t going to rely on extravagant decorations or multiple layers. This year she was going to use an ingredient that was certain to make her cake first place material simply because of the extraordinary taste.
Petra approached her fireplace and pulled down her quiver and bow from the mantel. Strapping the quiver across her back, she slung the bow over her shoulder. The basket next to the hearth contained the arrows, she retrieved half of her supply and stowed them. Straightening up, a scan of her humble room ensured Petra that she hadn’t forgotten anything, so she headed back outside.
The sun had begun to crest the horizon, the light stretching to touch the treetops of the forest behind her farm. Petra approached the gate of the large paddock, squinting to make out the objects in the meadow. The local herd of deer were grazing with Hawkin, undisturbed by her intrusion as she opened the gate and took a few steps into the meadow. She stopped and pulled the gloves off her hands. Lifting her right hand to her face, she placed two fingers into her mouth and whistled.
Hawkin’s head whipped up to look at Petra. He whinnied gently and swished his tail then broke into a trot towards her. He slowed as he approached, coming to a stop as he nuzzled his soft nose against her hand. Petra grinned and pulled an apple slice from her pocket, offering it to Hawkin in the palm of her hand. The great bay gladly accepted, claiming the fruit with his big lips. As he chewed, Petra slid the bridle onto his head and then stepped to his side. With a small grunt, she jumped and slid one leg up and over his tall shoulders. Hawkin didn’t move, perfectly content with her familiar actions. Once astride her magnificent horse, she clicked her tongue and urged him forwards, out of the paddock.
Petra chose the forest path, Hawkin’s hooves loped beneath her. The wind caught her hood and forced it off her head, her hair streamed out behind her like a banner. She couldn’t help but smile as they galloped down the windy trail, in and out of the trees. Petra loved to fly with Hawkin.
As they neared the river Petra slowed Hawkin to a walk. Breaking from the trail, she guided him along the bank, his hooves sinking into the soft dirt, leaving evidence of their breach. The river wound through the forest, the passage allowing the sun to penetrate beyond the trees. The warm rays pelted her back as they came to the large bend in the river. Petra couldn’t see what was beyond, but she could hear it. Sliding off of Hawkin, she led him to a patch of grass along the tree line and motioned for him to stay put.
Petra returned to the water, following the bend. As she reached the crest she glanced over her shoulder to see Hawkin grazing happily where she had left him. Pulling her bow from her shoulder and nocking an arrow, she lowered herself to a crouch and continued forward towards the roaring sound.
The enormous waterfall churned the river where it struck. White, frothy water splashed from the center, a continuous mist rose from the surface. Petra froze as she watched the water before her.
A few minutes passed without incident, but Petra kept her bow at the ready. Taking a deep breath, she continued forward towards the cascade. It was tall, at least four times her height, and a large amount of water obscured the rocks beyond. As Petra approached from the side, she could see that the rocks were wet and dripping with condensation, but the rocks did not span all the way across, there was a large opening. A cave.
Crouching behind a boulder near the opening, Petra waited once again for any signs of movement. It was dark in the cave and she could only see a few feet within. She squinted and made her way to the recess, hoping her sight would improve if she entered the darkness near the front.
Petra’s heart rate escalated as her pupils dilated. Just within the shadow of the cavern a large, scale covered tail disappeared into the darkness. She took a breath and steadied her shaking hands. Frozen like a rabbit faced with an eagle, Petra listened for sign of her discovery. The water roared behind her, unconcerned with her eagerness to strain for details.
The tail remained stagnant as Petra leaned forward slightly, pressuring her ears to discern her safety or fault. A faint wheezing separated from the rumble of the falls. A grin split Petra’s face as she silently stood and took a hesitant step forward.
As she stepped over the sleeping beast’s tail, she scanned the floor of the cave for signs of a nest. Spotting it near the hulking head of the lizard, Petra abandoned her bow and arrow back to their respective travel positions. Unwrapping her cowl from her head and gripping it in her hands, she tip-toed lightly towards the dirt mount.
The white eggs seemed to glow in the darkness, beckoning Petra forward and promising cake victory. Petra felt giddy as she knelt down and spread out her cowl, creating a pouch for the precious ingredients to sit in. Carefully, she used both hands to lift the first egg out of the nest and onto the fabric. As she reached for the second egg, Petra felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up in realization that the wheezing had ceased.
Petra stopped moving, arms outstretched holding the second prized egg. She glanced sideways to meet the burning eyes of the mother dragon. Without time to plan, Petra lowered the egg and scooped up her cowl, cradling her haul against her chest as she sprung to her feet and darted out the mouth of the cavern.
Fire burst from the crevice, steam sputtering and sizzling from the waterfall behind Petra as she sprinted along the bank of the river. She hastily knotted the cowl around the eggs, closing a pocket around them so that they couldn’t fall out, and tied the other ends of the fabric into a loop that she threw over her shoulder. The eggs bumped against her back in the makeshift pack as her legs pumped as fast as possible.
The roar of the waterfall quieted as the stream was blocked by something large. Petra didn’t have to look behind her to know the dragon had emerged from it’s lair. She reached her hand up to her mouth and whistled as loud as she could.
Hawkin’s hoof beats announced his arrival, Petra threw out her hand in a signal commanding him to continue loping. As he rushed by her, she reached up and grabbed his mane, using the momentum to fling herself atop him. She hastily grabbed the reins and turned him back towards the trees, retreating as she heard the scream from the dragon.
The dragon egg cake was complete, and Petra knew she had the competition in the bag. As the secret ingredient was revealed to the judges, Petra grinned at the look of disbelief on Gilda’s face. But the defining moment for Petra happened when the judges took a bite of her cake, and declared her the first place winner. As Petra rode home on Hawkin, licking her fingers clean of cake and frosting remnants, she considered what lengths she would need to go to beat Gilda again next year.