Posted in Stories

Short Story: Cheat for a Cheat

Most racing dragons came from species of the only slightly intelligent kind. Horned reds tended to be a little smarter than most.

Which, as Ashlynn opened the main gate and saw that at least one had figured out the newest lock and was happily sunning himself on the roof, was why she preferred the blue-tipped quetzal. 

At least her dragon had figured out that if he opened his gate that meant a scolding. Her brother’s red however, did this at least weekly.

“Burner’s out!” she shouted it over her shoulder, knowing that if nothing else she could poke him off the roof with a broom.

The first order of business would be figuring out how he’d opened his stall gate and then correcting it before she could secure him.

Ash closed the heavier main gate behind her. She’d have reach through the hole in the bottom to undo the latch and open it, but it kept the dragons from getting out. They couldn’t maneuver their claws that well.

Not that Burner hadn’t tried.

His stall looked like any other dragon stall—bricked walls with a few rocks in the corner for him to chew on. A wooden post for him to claw at, though after a week it had been reduced to mostly splinters. An open back which would allow him out to the dust yard where he could have sunned and bathed himself.

The problem was, the roof was metal and he liked the metal.

The latch, she saw, had been sheared in two. Ash would need to find the second half before she could worry too much about how to deal with the dragon on the roof.

She nudged the rocks aside and frowned as she noted how they crumbled. They didn’t look particularly well-chewed, and even if they had been, Burner would have probably eaten them. Not only did they help with digestion, but they made it easier for him to create a spark when he needed to breathe fire.

Yet these crumbled at the slightest touch, leaving her with some sort of powder on her hand.

“What are you doing?”

Her brother’s voice made her look up. “Your dragon got out,” she retorted. “Jet, something is up with the rocks.”

“Nothing’s wrong with his rocks. I just checked them this morning.”

“Look.” She grabbed one and gave it a squeeze, letting it powder. “I’ve never seen rocks do that before. Not even when he’s spit them out.”

“They’re fine,” he insisted and snatched up the broken part of the latch.

“No they aren’t,” she said. “This sort of powdering isn’t normal. It’s almost like…” she paused. “Like charcoal.”

Charcoal, which when given to a dragon, would make them lighter over a period. They wouldn’t have the weight of rocks to keep them down, and the build-up of gases in their flame cavity would make them more buoyant.

It resulted in a dragon that could go higher and fly faster.

“I’ll deal with it in a minute,” Jet said. “Go get a broom or something.”

“Have you been feeding him charcoal?”

Jet half-froze before he glowered at her. “Which of us is the senior rider?” he demanded.

“That’s not what I asked. Have you been feeding him charcoal?”

In response, he crowded her space, forcing her to back up. “Listen. There’s only one qualifying race left for the Scale Cup and I’m not about to let anything get in my way. Dragons are dangerous. You know this. I know this. It would be terribly upsetting if something happened to your little Daydreamer over there before that race.”

Her heart dropped. “You wouldn’t.”

“Depends. You still think I’m feeding my dragon charcoal?”

Inwardly, Ash could draw out how that would work. She could tell her parents who would immediately go poking. Jet would be disowned.

It would also stain the family name. Everyone would look at her races harder too. Her parents would be questioned for how they’d let it go so far.

Her little sister, just now old enough to start learning how to race, might be shunned from the things she needed to make it a career.

“No,” Ash answered.

“Then go get a broom.”

She scowled after him as she headed towards the tack shed. There would be a broom in there, and a bridle to help steer Burner back into his stall.

The tack shed had an old broom specifically for chasing Burn back in. Ash reached up for the bridle first, distentangling it from the hook Jet kept the saddle and gear on.

Her gaze lingered for a moment on the straps used to keep a saddle on a dragon.

There was one other side effect to giving a dragon charcoal.

The day of the qualifying race, it was easy to see Burner wasn’t feeling his best. Jet coaxed and pleaded with his dragon quietly, but Burner kept turning his head away.

“Problem?” Ash’s father asked as he finished tightening down the straps to keep her in the saddle.

“I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just race jitters,” Jet said. “You’ll be okay. There’s no way we can lose. You got a nice scrub last night and afterwards I’ll get you a whole pig for a treat.”

Burner let off a low growl and Ash looked at him. “Maybe you shouldn’t race him,” she said.

“It’s the last qualifier. We have to or you’ll be the only one racing in the Scale cup,” Jet said.

“If he’s not—

“He’s fine,” Jet cut her off and she narrowed her gaze at him. “Pop, mind helping me strap in?”

“That’s what I’m here for,” he said.

It only took a few moments and inwardly, Ash went over the planned race route in her head. She knew the curves on some of them might be a little harder on Daydreamer and reached forward to gently scratch at the feathers on his crest.

Three gongs sounded, signaling racers to their marks.

“You ready?” Her father asked and Daydreamer cooed, shaking his feathered tail and starting forward. She grinned.

“Good boy,” she said.

They were number six, owing to the fact they’d placed higher in the last two pre-qualifying races. Her brother of course, moved ahead to head one line. He leaned over. “Just race your best. At least one of us will be in the Scale Cup,” he promised.

“One indeed,” she muttered and inhaled before she leaned down. “Ready, Daydreamer?”

He responded by clacking his tongue against his teeth and shaking his tail again.

“On ready!”

Ash gripped the loops on the saddle, knowing that it would be connected to his bridle. He clicked his tongue again, telling her he was ready.

“Wings up!”

Daydreamer’s wings, feathered along the membranes lifted. For a moment she was closed in by the sight of sky blue and bright gold feathers. He would lose the gold soon, replacing them with red for signs of mating season.

A thought for later.

“Away!”

Daydreamer shot into the air, managing to twist and pull ahead of the fifth racer almost before they’d even gotten all the way off the ground. The powerful wingbeats shoved him even farther ahead, and she knew as they managed to get into line with the third racer that the first turn would be the true test.

Her gaze shifted to where Jet was competing to get to first place.

That first turn wasn’t the sharpest, but it was around a vertical plane. Racers only had two options. Get high enough to get over the seventy-foot wall, or turn right to go around it. With it being the first turn she knew it wouldn’t be easy to get enough height to get over it.

Jet, still competing for first, was forced to turn right.

As he did, his saddle slid sideways, rotating. Several people gasped and Burner, already uneasy, dove to prevent his rider from injuring himself.

Disqualification was immediate.

Daydreamer however, paid no mind to this, turning with the gentlest tug on his handles. Ash smiled to herself as he managed to pull ahead, taking the newly-opened second place.

There was nothing she could do to help her brother. Not with such an important race.

She only had to focus on staying in the top five competitors today.

Third place wasn’t a bad place to finish, not for a qualifier and once she’d finished untacking and oiling Daydreamer’s scales, she went to see how her brother was doing.

Furious, as it turned out. “What did you do to my saddle?” he demanded.

She shrugged.

“If you don’t feed a dragon the right kind of rocks, it loses weight. It gets thinner.”

“And?”

“And that means the straps from his previous fitting would have been too loose,” she said as she headed out.

“You cheated,” he said.

Ash looked over her shoulder at him, catching sight of another figure coming up towards Burner’s stall. “Actually, it’s not. Both his previous straps and the new ones were to regulation. I did nothing.”

“You disqualified me.”

“Actually, son. I think you did that all on your own. Thank you, Ash. I think your mom and sister are waiting to congratulate you and get Daydreamer back home for some special treats.”

Her father’s tone told her what would happen next and Jet’s face paled. “You told him.”

“All I did was ask him where your old straps were,” Ash replied and sauntered off. “Pop asked all the rest of the questions.”  

Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: A Sister’s Love

Crown was resting, though buried under half a dozen blankets. Blade sighed a little, happy she’d finally managed to get to sleep. For now at least, she was resting comfortably.

Getting enough rest would be at least half of a long battle. The diagnosis was grim.

Mana sickness.

Trapped in a well of magic for almost three hours, Crown had been hit with so much raw magic her body was rejecting it. For someone who didn’t have any magic of their own, that would have been fine. A temporary ailment, gone in a few weeks.

For someone with budding magic of their own, it was a chance to permanently cripple any magic they had.

A sniffle from his eldest daughter’s room made Blade pause and turn. He’d thought Snow would have been in bed and asleep hours ago. At least, she should have been.

He heard the shuddering breath as she tried to hide a hiccup. She was laying perfectly still, faced away from the door and curled tight into herself.

Blade inhaled slowly as he came to the bed. “I know you are not asleep, ehla meh,” he said as he settled on the edge.

This time Snow hiccupped. “I’m trying to,” she muttered.

“Mhmm, and not succeeding, are you?” His hand was gentle as it landed on her shoulder. “What bothers your dreams tonight? More ice snakes?”

She shook her head and curled tighter, pressing her face almost into her knees.

“I cannot fix what you don’t tell me about,” Blade said. “What is it?”

“Crown’s not going to have magic.”

It startled him the way she said it. “What?”

“Crown. She’s sick and it’s my fault and she’s not going to have magic because of it.”

Snow had been there. She’d tried to get her sister out of the well first. They weren’t supposed to have been playing in that area anyways, but neither could resist exploring just once.

No one had known about the well, just about the decaying ruins over it. Snow and Crown had been the ones to find the well when part of their game had dumped the younger sister into it.

“Sit up,” Blade said gently and Snow grumpily complied. “What is this about it being your fault?”

“It’s my fault. You told us not to be over there and she hates playing chase. I’m the one who chased her over there and I tried to get her out and I should have gotten help sooner. Now she’s sick and she’s not going to have magic and it’s my fault. I’m supposed to help look after her.”

Ehla meh,” Blade said gently. “This is in no way your fault. True, you were not supposed to be playing there in the first place, but I know the two of you and Crown has already admitted to being the one to suggest that as your game area. No one knew about the well of magic.”

“But—”

“Enough,” he cut her off. “You did what you could to help your sister. You recognized the well and you knew enough to know it could do some harm if she wasn’t retrieved quickly. We were lucky you weren’t hit with it as well.”

She sniffed and he reached over for one of the small cloths from her nightstand drawer. “Crown’s sick.”

“She will get better,” Blaze replied. “It will take time, but she will recover. Snow, there’s nothing crying will do to fix it and it isn’t your fault. No one knew there was a well of magic.”

“Then what will fix it?”

Her love for her sister made him smile as he smoothed her hair back behind one pointed ear.

“She’ll need lots of care,” Blaze said gently. “She’ll need rest and she’ll need to be kept warm. Lots of tea and for a while she won’t leave the house much. She’ll need someone to keep her company and tell her stories. Do you think you can do that?”

Snow nodded, eyes still bright with tears and Blaze smiled. “She likes animal stories best,” Snow murmured.

“That she does. I also happen to know she loves her sister a great deal and wouldn’t want you crying like this.”

“I just want her to feel better.”

“She will get there. Come here.”

Snow was almost too big for him to carry properly, but he managed to scoop her up anyways, letting her wrap around him while he carried her down the hall.

Crown was asleep, true, but Blaze settled Snow down next to her. “See?” he said gently as Snow automatically nestled in with her sister. “She’s sleeping now.”

Snow shook her head. “She’s not asleep,” she said.

“Oh?” Blaze couldn’t keep the amusement out of her voice.

“It just hurts too much to move,” Snow said and kissed Crown’s cheek. “I think she needs some water.”

“Is that so?”

Crown opened one eye, surprising Blaze. He could tell she tried to speak, but no words formed, only a gentle pursing of her lips.

“Let me get a glass for you then.” Blaze murmured. Perhaps he’d add something to help with the pain.

By the time he got a glass and a spoon of the pain reliever his wife kept on hand, Snow looked to have settled comfortably in with her sister. “You’ll have to sit up,” he said gently, and Crown squeezed her eyes shut for a moment.

And yet, Snow shifted and shimmied under her sister, using her own body to help lift Crown and her mountain of blankets upright. Crown smiled, leaning her head back on Snow’s shoulder while Blaze smiled.

“This first,” he said. “Open.”

Crown complied, and Blaze popped the spoon in, letting her take the potion first. He knew it tasted bitter, but Crown never reacted. Once she’d swallowed that, he helped her hold the glass to her lips, taking little sips until she’d had enough to satisfy her.

By then her eyes were drooping closed and Snow had taken to petting Crown’s hair gently as she finally fell asleep.

Blaze smiled and watched while Snow helped lower her sister again, tucking blankets and pillows back in around her. “You see?” he murmured. “You can do a lot to help her.”

“Can I stay with her tonight?” Snow asked. “In case she needs anything?”

He nodded. “As long as you get some sleep too,” he said and leaned forward to kiss her temple. She flinched back a little. “Are you alright?”

“My head hurts.”

He chuckled and pulled another blanket over, draping it over both his daughters. “That’s what happens when you miss out on dreams in favor of worrying yourself into tears. Sleep, ehla meh.”

She smiled a little and settled down, head tucked under a pillow the way she liked to sleep. Blaze slunk out again.

Strange how Snow had known what Crown wanted, even before she’d managed to ask. Then, he decided, Snow had been ecstatic when she’d learned she would have a little sister. Even more so when she’d learned it meant she would need to help look after and care for her sister. Growing up out here in the Frozen Wastes around ruins of what had once been the frost elf capital had sometimes been lonely for Snow.

It was no surprise she knew what her sister needed or wanted. She loved her sister.

 

Posted in Stories

Short Story: Under Her Own Power

Inhaling brought cool air to her lungs as she stood outside the parliament chamber. Exhaling dispelled some of the internal heat, but did nothing to calm her anger.

“Are you ready, Your Majesty?”

Sola lifted her face. She didn’t have a choice. Either she stood out here all day or she walked into the parliament knowing full well they would want their demands met. If it was merely a waiting game, she had no end of patience.

Her people did not.

“Open the doors. Please.” She added the please perhaps a little hastily, remembering what she’d been told just that morning. She was queen, and though she’d spent seven years locked away, manners were just as important to people as they were to spirits.

The gilt doors swung open and Sola strode forward, letting the lace cape hanging from her shoulders flutter in the wind created by her passage.

“Queen Sola Diem. Hail the Queen!”

“Hail the Queen.”

The hundred voices of the parliament annoyed her, more than having her presence announced in every bloody room she entered. Sola took another slow breath as she stepped up into the empty, central pedestal, looking at the gathered faces of parliament.

Silence for a moment, and then the head of Parliament cleared his throat and shuffled his papers.

“Your Majesty—”

“You will speak only when spoken to.”

Her voice cut him off. Shock and surprise coated the room and Sola drew in another breathe, taking the air deep.

Roses, she realized. She could smell roses. A hateful, sickly smell that told her there were greater forces at place than one queen and one kingdom.

Smartly, one of the smaller members of parliament raised his fan. “Yes, Councilor?” She didn’t bother looking at the nameplate in front of him, didn’t bother acknowledging him beyond that. These men had plenty of acknowledgement from the people. No need to give them more. They needed a reminder of what their job was.

“In regards to today’s meeting, we’ve asked Your Majesty why you’ve refused to reclaim some of the private lands currently left abandoned or otherwise unused.”

“No, you’ve not. You’ve demanded my presence to try and cow me into submission. My answer remains as it has been. No. Those lands do not belong to the Crown.”

Several annoyed grumbles and once more the Head of Parliament cleared his throat. “Those lands—”

“Have I spoken to you?” Sola turned her gaze on him directly and he sank back.

“Ah…permission to address you, My Queen?”

“If you must.” Her temper won over her patience.

“The lands did originally belong to the Crown. It’s merely a matter of reclaiming the titles, which you do have the power to do as you are Queen of the First Kingdom.”

“They belonged to the Crown until they were purchased by their current owners. As they have not been sold back to the Crown or deemed forfeit by any competent official—”

“Several officials have deemed them forfeit.”

“Excuse you.” Sola’s attention moved to the unexcused speaker. The stench of roses grew, permeating the chamber. “I was not finished speaking, do not interrupt me. No competent official has declared those lands forfeit. Several incompetent and heavily bribed officials have and I will be rescinding those declarations effective immediately.”

Outcries. Rage. Several parliament members stood up.

What little remaining control over her temper snapped, not unlike a thread.

Silence!

Roses erupted out of the wood of the podium. Several bloomed on the tables in front of the parliament. Petals exploded into the air and drifted to the floor, leaving a crimson carpet all around.

The effect was immediate. The gathered members of parliament froze, recoiling from the roses in horror and fear.  Sola inhaled again.

“Let me remind you of something. Your jobs are to serve the people of the First Kingdom. You have been given your positions because you were educated enough to qualify for them. That does not mean I cannot find a replacement for all of you. Continue to harm the people of the First Kingdom and I will do exactly that.”

“We are—”

“Did I give you permission to speak?” Already formed, the rose thorns grew bigger. Sola glowered down at the petty men still cowering back from the flowers. Anger trembled in every limb.

“You are all the same men who allowed a weakling king to lock his daughter away for seven years. You are all the same men who left a princess to the care of spirits. Unfortunately for all of you, princesses have a habit of becoming queens. I am that queen now and my time away has reminded me of who I serve. I owe no loyalty to any of you. Your attitudes towards both me and my subjects are only adding black marks to the pages of loyalty you owe me.

“The lands do not belong to the Crown and that is final. Remember that there are rules to dealing with a spirit and remind yourselves that you’ve allowed your Queen to be raised by those same rules.”

She turned, steps kicking rose petals up into the air again. One or two clung to her as she exited. The doors closed behind her and Sola had to inhale, closing her eyes. The weight of the traditional diadem pressed on her.

“Your Majesty?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.” Sola shook her head to chase the thoughts away and looked at one of the doormen. “Kindly ask the housekeepers to leave the roses be. I’ll take care of them once the parliament chambers have been cleared.”

“I can have the gardeners brought in, my lady.”

Sola smiled. “That’s very sweet of you, but it will have to be me. As I said. I’ve been raised by the same rules as a spirit.”

The doorman smiled and bowed. “If I may?”

“May what?”

“Thank you,” he said and smiled. “My father owns some of the lands they’ve been trying to get you to reclaim. He’s too old to farm it anymore so it’s supposed to be my sister’s dowry. Without it, we’d have lost an entire orchard. So thank you for standing up to them, but if it’s all the same to you, you’ve done a good favor to us and it’s a small price to get you some help cleaning up those roses.”

For the first time that morning Sola laughed. The sound surprised her and she brought a hand up. “My thanks,” she said. “But it’s not a concern about having help. Rather, those roses are from a fairy’s blessing.”

“Then if it’s all the same to you, may I request we leave them? Can’t be messing with fairy’s magic now and might serve as a good reminder to the parliament about not crossing spirits of any sort.”

Sola considered it and looked back at the doors. She couldn’t hear anything and smiled. Perhaps parliament needed a reminder of several things.

“You know, I think you’re right. Perhaps just have the gardeners do a little trimming to keep them healthy, if you don’t mind?”

“My pleasure.”

“My thanks.”

After all, there were rules to dealing with spirits and people alike.

_________

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Posted in Stories

Short Story: Blessings and Gifts

“There is a difference between fairy blessings and gifts, child. Both can be equally dangerous, but one binds the recipient in ways worse than death.”

Juniper paused in her sweeping to look up at the old woman. “Blessings are supposed to be given when a child is born, aren’t they?”

That earned her a chuckle “They are, but that’s not what makes them different from gifts. Blessings bind a person to a fate. A role in destiny.”

“That seems like some blessings would make people terrible.”

“People can always be terrible. A blessing of beauty does not give you a good heart, and a good heart does not protect against misfortune either.”

Juniper smiled a little. “I think I’ll be happy I don’t have any blessings then.”

Before her mentor could respond, someone knocked on the door and Juniper jumped a little. The old woman chuckled as she began shuffling towards it. “No blessings, but perhaps just enough bravery to see you through.”

If by bravery she meant the terrible voice in her head that screamed she was doing things wrong, Juniper didn’t want it. She returned to her sweeping as the door opened.

“Ah. Miss Cleary. Come in, come in. What do you have today?”

Juniper usually kept her head down, not wanting to draw attention to herself, but still glanced up at the girl who came in. She couldn’t have been much more than seventeen. Deep shadows underscored her velvet brown eyes and her raven-black hair had been tossed into a messy braid.

“Some carrots. Fennel and anise. A few mouse bones. A yard of spun wool.”

“A yard isn’t much.”

Juniper returned her attention to the floor, sweeping the dust towards the door where she could sweep it out. That would be a sign to anyone looking at they were open for business, for requests for this or that charm or fixed pot, pan or box.

A soft hum came from the girl. “No,” she said and suddenly there was a hand thrust in front of her. “You dropped this.”

The ribbon Juniper had strung in her hair earlier stood out against the sun-graced bronze. Gently, Juniper took it. An odd tingle went through her as her fingers brushed that palm and she pulled back a little sooner than was really polite. “Thank you,” she murmured.

The girl, who Juniper only ever heard as ‘Miss Cleary’ studied her for a moment before she nodded and turned. “I only have a yard for you this week.”

“I suppose I’ll make do. Any twigs?”

“A few.” Miss Cleary reached into her bag and withdrew several. “Apple and pecan.”

“Those will do nicely. It’s almost autumn you know. It’s a season of preparing.”

“For some,” Miss Cleary answered.

The usual rattle of coins as they were counted out filled the small room. Juniper had only just opened the door when Miss Cleary approached again.

“Sorry,” Juniper said. She stepped aside, expecting their visitor to pass by. Yet, the girl paused for a moment, tilting her head a little before she reached in her bag and pulled something out.

“Here. They’re fresh.”

Blackberries. They were all contained in a little glass jar which Juniper took reverentially. “I don’t—”

“They’re a gift,” Miss Cleary said and nodded only once before she stepped out. Juniper stood there, a little shocked before she turned and looked at her mentor, who only grinned.

“I don’t understand,” Juniper said.

“That’s Crystal Cleary. She’s the third generation seventh child of the Cleary family.”

“Seventh children are powerful,” Juniper said as she held the glass jar with its treats a little closer.”

“That they are. And Crystal herself got a fairy’s blessing. She always finds what she needs at hand.”

Juniper was silent a moment before she came around to put the jar on the sideboard nearest the hearth. Perhaps she’d make some tarts later, she decided.

“If she’s fairy-blessed, isn’t she bound to a fate?”

“Of course she is. That is between her and the fairy that blessed her however.”

“What about fairy gifts? Don’t they bind someone?”

“Not at all. A gift from a fairy is freely given, and that is what makes it dangerous. Wrong a fairy, and you may find yourself gifted with something nasty.”

Juniper smiled a little as she looked out the door. “Would it be alright if I made some tarts for her?”

“For Miss Cleary?”

“Yes. She gave me the blackberries, I can at least give her something to say thank you.”

The old woman studied her a moment before she nodded. “I suppose you can. Besides, I know you do love your blackberries.”

Juniper smiled. “It’s a very nice gift.”

_________

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Posted in Stories

Short Story: Gingerbread

“The end.”

“Momma,” her daughter said. “There’s not really a house made of candy in the woods, is there?” Concern made her eyes wide.

A laugh escaped. “It wouldn’t last very long if there was, now would it?”

“No.” Her son cut in matter-of-factly. “All the animals would come and eat it.”

“Indeed they would. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s only a story meant to pass a little bit of time between supper and bed. Which is where the both of you need to be.”

“Already?” Her son’s smile faded into a pout.

“Already,” she said and stood up. “Kisses and then into bed. I’ll tuck you both in shortly.”

They sighed but accepted a hug and a kiss. Already she could tell her son was sleepy, his steps shuffling over the floor. He might protest bedtime the most, but he rarely stayed awake more than a few minutes passed it.

She tucked him in first and wasn’t surprised when he was almost immediately asleep. “Good night my gingerbread boy,” she murmured and then crept over to his sister’s bed.

Her daughter lay awake, staring at the ceiling. “You’re sure there’s no house made of candy?” her daughter asked and she chuckled as she sat on the bed.

“I’m sure. Did the story scare you too much?”

“I’m not scared. Not much.”

She laughed and bent down, pressing a kiss to her daughter’s soft hair. “I promise. No houses made of candy and no greedy bakers looking to gobble up sweet children, either. Besides. You know I’m a baker. Do you think I could make a house out of candy?”

Her daughter smiled and relaxed a little. “Maybe,” she said and rolled over. “Your baking is always so tasty.”

“And that’s why it never lasts long around here. Good night my gingerbread girl.”

She slipped out, looking at them for a few minutes before she closed the door.

A sigh escaped as she moved to the kitchen. All too soon it would be time to get up and start the morning’s baking.

For now however, she moved to the ancient brick oven and looked in at the ball of dough she’d left rising.

“Perfect,” she said as she pulled it out. “You don’t need to be all that sweet, but just a little bit of cinnamon and some sugar.”

She worked with care, her hands folding and pulling the dough into the perfect shape. Skill and practice made it possible to form ears and a tail

Finished, she smiled as she opened her cabinet for one last tiny bottle. It was nearly empty, and to anyone else it looked like plain sugar. There would be just enough left to sprinkle over a single baked good.

Just enough for a cinnamon roll.

The last few sparkling grains tipped out onto the cinnamon roll before she eased the sheet into the ancient oven to bake.

Her boy had wanted a pet for so long and her daughter had loved seeing the butcher’s cat.

The problem was, she had to be careful what she allowed them to be exposed to. As her son had pointed out, some animals would happily gobble down candy and sweets. She knew more than a few people would.

A faint meow from the oven and she looked in seeing the cat as it began rising properly and turning golden brown. It would still be a while, but in the morning she would have a perfect cat for her sweet children.

“A cinnamon roll cat for a gingerbread boy and a gingerbread girl.”

___________

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