Fog rolled off the Featherpass mountains like an overflowing cauldron, spilling into Magicka Bay. The sun glinted off the surface of the ocean.
It was a dreary day.
Kip sighed and turned away from the tower window. She was frustrated with the monotony of her days at the Magicka. She had arrived six months ago, and they had yet to begin her instruction in the magical arts. Indeed, she was treated more like a servant than a student: her days were filled with menial household tasks, from cleaning to cooking, from sun up to sun down. Occasionally, Rory would show up to take her away from her chores for an hour or two, but only to take her hunting or fishing, and he preferred to answer her questions with grunts or one-word answers. Still, she liked Rory, and she looked forward to these times with him; she always tried to do well at her chores so that he would return more frequently.
Perhaps she had imagined becoming a mage would be more glamorous. She knew it was dangerous, being one of the Magicka: ordinary folks either feared or worshiped those who could bend energy to suit their needs…but most people in the four worlds feared the things the Magicka could do.
She shivered at the memory of the men who had raised her, the elders of Olstrick who had branded and exiled her once they found out about her powers. The nightmares no longer came every night, but she still felt fear when she got too close to a fire, and sometimes she thought she saw some the men following her in a crowd.
She shook her head. Get back to work, Kip. It was the only thing for her to do if she wanted to stay here. And no matter how dreary her days were, she still wanted to stay. She hurried down the stairs to the kitchen.
Cook was already there, of course: he was there before the first cockcrow each morning. He stood in the middle of the kitchen, directing various servants as they busied themselves preparing the day’s meals. He caught sight of Kip as soon as she entered the room.
“Well, look who has finally decided to join us!”
Kip frowned. “I’m sorry I’m late, Cook. I–”
“No excuses. Just results!” Cook liked to say that. A lot. He took her by the hand and led her to a table by the oven. “Today, you will make bread. Remember what I told you?”
She nodded. She had been making bread now for a week. “Flour, yeast, honey, salt, milk,” Kip called out each ingredient as she pulled it from the shelf. There was already a bowl of water at her workstation. Satisfied that Kip knew what she was doing, Cook turned his attention to another part of the kitchen.
Kip carefully measured out the yeast and honey and mixed them into the warm water. She wondered what exactly went on in that bowl that caused it to bubble. She imagined tiny yeast bugs in the bowl gobbling up the honey and burping out bubbles. The visual was so absurd that a giggle escaped her lips.
As soon as she began to laugh, the bowl became frothy.
Almost too frothy.
Kip frowned. She must have lost track of time. She peeked up at Cook, to see if he noticed that she had been daydreaming, but he was engaged in deep conversation with another servant about the merits of duck meat.
She added the rest of the ingredients and mixed them up to make the dough. After it was kneaded enough, she rolled the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl to rise. She wondered, again what those little imaginary yeast bugs might be doing. Were they gobbling up the flour as well? Maybe they were making themselves so fat that the flour around them expanded? She looked closely at the dough, hoping to watch those little bugs in action.
Right before her eyes, the dough began to rise. Faster than she thought possible. It should have taken at least an hour to get to the size that it was now, but only seconds had passed. What was going on?
She glanced at Cook again, but he hadn’t moved.
For that matter, neither had anyone in the kitchen. Even the cauldrons over the fires had ceased to bubble.
It was as if time itself had stopped, except for Kip and the rising dough.
Her eyes widened, and she reached her hand out reflexively, as if to stop the dough from rising any further. As soon as her fingers touched the dough, everything and everyone in the kitchen began to move normally, as if nothing had happened.
Except her dough had fully risen, even though she had only begun making it a few minutes prior!
She frowned and looked at the ball of dough with skepticism. Was someone playing games with her? She looked around the room surreptitiously. Everyone had their heads down, concentrating on their own tasks.
Kip supposed that the only way to find out who was behind this trick was to finish making the bread. She punched down the dough and continued to knead it for a few minutes. She then divided the dough into smaller balls and laid them out on a board to be put in the oven.
Before placing the loaves in the oven, she scanned the room again to see if anyone was watching her, but still saw no one interested in what she was doing. With a wince — she still didn’t like to be too close to fires! — she pushed the loaves into the oven.
She watched intently as the dough reacted to the heat. Again the loaves began to grow, but this time at a regular pace. She thought again of the yeast bugs, picturing them burping more as it got hotter and hotter.
And then, once again, it happened: the loaves began to grow larger and larger, at lightning-quick pace, gaining a lovely golden sheen after only a few seconds. These loaves of bread were almost done, and less than a minute had passed.
The fire was still burning brightly in the oven, but as Kip looked up from her work, she saw that everything around her was moving much more slowly than normal. Time had not stopped, but it had slowed considerably. She grabbed the handle of the bread board to pull it out of the oven, but yelped and jumped back as she realized that she had forgotten to put on her gloves.
Her reaction kicked everything back to normal speed. None of the servants even looked up as they heard her cry out.
Cook, however, did take notice. “Kip?” he inquired in a strangled voice.
Kip didn’t turn around. She didn’t want to see the look of rage on Cook’s face. “Um, just a minute. I need to get these loaves out of the oven.” She grabbed a glove and busied herself with her task.
“Kip.” Cook’s voice was more commanding now.
She closed her eyes and sighed. “I’m sorry. I know the bread is messed up. I think someone is–”
“No, Kip,” insisted Cook. “Open your eyes and see what you’ve done.”
Squinting, she opened one eye, and then the other, and she saw on the table before her four perfect loaves of bread, each with a small series of grooves on the top that looked like it had been cut out with a knife as it had baked. The design was eerily familiar: it was the mark she knew was her own. It had not yet surfaced on her skin, for she was not yet a mage, but she had seen it in her dreams, and she knew there was no other design quite like it.
She slowly lifted her eyes to Cook. “Did I…do that?”
Cook folded his arms in front of his chest. “Looks like you just discovered your Way. I think it might be time for you to learn some self-control before you make too much of a mess out of my kitchen.” He pointed at two loaves that were still in the oven and beginning to burn.
“Oh no!” Mortified, Kip ran over to the oven and pulled the loaves out. As soon as the bread was safely out of the oven, Cook placed two arms on her shoulders and looked her square in the eyes, stopping her string of apologies.
“No excuses. Just results.” He smiled. “And I think I like these results.”
This week’s Indie Ink Writing Challenge came from Kelly Garriott Waite, who wrote:
The sun glinted off the surface of the ocean. It was a dreary day.