Story for the Day: Tarts
A moment from book 1.
Once the small tour of the apses, the battlements, and the inner gardens of the Haven had done, the party was conveyed to the boarding quarter just as evening was settling in. Ghelbhi was given a comfortable room directly opposing Rithea’s, and the commander and Den Asaan were given charge of adjoining guest chambers along the outer wall of the fortress. They were promised a meal together during which Rithea hoped to know Ghelbhi more, but as dinner was little more than warmed oat porridge, Rautu was determined to eat the remainder of the cured pork from their provisions and eat in the quiet of his room
He was now alone, caught in a blend of euphoric bliss for his meal and of agony for the question he was so desirous of posing. He knew that she must be aware of his intention due to the mistake he had made along the road and expected her to take every advantage she could to taunt him on the subject. Her powers at goading him were unquestionable, and Rautu must feel that asking what he ought to ask quickly could be the only course of action. Would her allow her to speak after the solicitation, she would instantly refuse his offer only to incite him, and provocation on his side must be avoided by every means.
During the private debate Rautu was holding with himself in his quarters, he heard the sound of familiar footfalls coming up the steps. The door to the adjoining room creaked open and then shut again. He moved to the wall and pressed his ear against it to be certain of whom it was. It was her: the signature stomping strides and quick rustling motions told him of her presence and here in their solitude and private corner of the citadel would be his occasion. He stood at the door connecting the two chambers and was prepared to open it when she had suddenly quitted the opposing room. She had come to change into her tunic and invite him to dessert, but no sooner had she come and called out the invitation than she was gone again down to the kitchen and his chance was lost. He sighed in frustration and slammed his fist into the wall behind him, cracking the stone beneath his might, and he did his utmost to calm his mind before leaving the room again. He removed his Sindhaara from his feet, spread his trappings along the ground and said the whole of his evening meditations before feeling tranquil enough to join the party. He had been twenty minutes alone when he finally felt his serenity assured. When he was ready, he inhaled, threw open the door and walked down the winding stairwell to the kitchen.
Dessert had been promised but there was none to be eaten. The almond paste that was to be shared by the party had been eaten by one of the fatter cooks after supper, and it was left to the commander to exercise her culinary prowess in the making of tarts to appease her companions. The facilities of the Haven provided her everything necessary for the task: every utensil and ingredient she required she was given her, and in the twenty minutes the giant had been absent, the dough had been formed into cups, the cups had been filled with bittersweet chocolate, and the tray containing their treats had just been placed into the oven when the giant came to the doorway of the kitchen.
When he arrived, the giant observed from his place in the shadows that Ghelbhi and Rithea were just leaving. It seemed they had passed a most agreeable dinner, during which Ghelbhi had told Rithea of her time as a vantaala on the islands. Rautu suspected that Rithea, being prying as she was, was eager to know more about her student and agreed to hear more about the Haanta Vantaala on a walk through the garden. He saw them going to the opposing door, leaving the commander to look after the baking tarts, and once they had gone, Rautu was prepared to enter. He would take his dessert in the form of an affirmative reply to enjoy the sweets of their budding attachment, but admiring her from his place in the kitchen doorway even though her back was turned to him was reward enough. He knew the word tart from his time during the war and was made to understand its numerous meanings early in the campaign. He could hardly call the commander one of the same, but if he could pass the evening by having a taste of both, all his aching desires would be sated.
“You need not be afraid of entering, Rau,” the commander announced without turning toward him. “It is only a kitchen.”
The giant had not even passed the threshold and already the incitements began. He was determined to guard his resolved and came toward her when the scent of something extraordinary assailed him: a butter crust, a recognizable and mellifluous filling, and a sugar encrusted top gave him the reprieve from his roused sensibilities. He skulked around the kitchen to scrutinize the cleanliness and aptitude of the facilities, and though he had been in the kitchens on the islands, they were nothing resembling the room in which he now stood. He had been used to stone ovens and fire pits for cooking and here were all manner of objects he had never before seen: pronged utensils, iron stoves, odd pots and pans. He became suspicious as to how anything was made with such strange implements, but all his notion of circumspection were forgotten when he discovered the origin of the scent.
“You may inspect the contents of the oven,” the commander said with a smug grin. “I know how you enjoy inspection.”
The giant gave her a quick glance and then opened the door to the oven. His features were met with a burst of warmth and the overwhelming scent of chocolate. His violet eyes widened in joyful excitement to see the steaming, chocolate centers of the tarts. He did notice, however, that they were not all the same. Some were smaller than others, some inexpertly shaped, and he began to worry that his beloved treats had been touched by the hands of two disagreeable mages.
The commander watched his eyes pass over trey and guess the reason for his sudden fretfulness. “Not to worry,” she laughed. “I’ve marked the ones I have made so that you won’t have to eat anything fashioned by magically inclined hands.”
Rautu examined the whole of the trey and saw that many of them were marked with thumb indentations along the top of the crust. These were the ones formed with precision, and Rautu could not be more content that there was yet another quality within his woman to laud.
“If you keep the door open, they shall never finish baking.”
“How much longer must I wait, woman?” the giant groaned as he shut the door.
“At least an hour.”
The giant pouted and gave the commander a wounded look.
“You should be pleased there is any dessert at all. I was nearly inclined to share the baking chocolate with my dinner mates since you were so determined not to join us.”
The giant humphed and came to stand by the commander’s side while she sat on a stool in front of the counter. He could not help but notice that she seemed out of humour with herself: her shoulders were wilted, her gaze was distant and even her smirk was not as mirthful as it usually was. He said nothing to draw attention to it and hoped it was a passing disposition.
“Where did you learn how to make these?” he quietly asked.
The commander fleered to herself. “My mother was a horrid cook. She was also a horrid miser –both inherited qualities from my noble grandparents, I’m certain- and refused to hire someone to keep the house since she could not and would not do it herself. I had to do my best as cook and farmer while she was alive, and once she became ill, I was cook, farmer and keeper of the farmhouse while my father worked for days without rest. When there were a few copper left over from his dealings with traders, I would buy some chocolate from the shoppe in town. I’m a decent baker, better baker than cook I daresay.” Her gaze grew forlorn as she continued. “My father was always the one to be cheerful even in our later situation. I was always wanting to be doing something more for him than I already was. I felt my efforts were so worthless in comparison to the work he put into building our farm. He liked very much when I baked, though we scarcely could afford . . .” She stopped here. The sting of her father death was yet recent, and she was forced to close her eyes to recollect herself in silence.
This had been the dampener of her spirits and the Den Asaan felt there was little he could do to soothe her. He had come to her with another purpose and now he must give way to his desires to act as a restorative to her understanding. He sidled her and pressed his arm against hers. “It is honourable that you wish to show respect toward your Ambesari,” he tenderly said.
She looked up at him, her eye glittering with fresh tears.
Rautu was struck by the sight of his companion upset. He had never seen her so painfully reminiscent or so dejected. The subject of her father’s murder was one she never discussed, not with him nor with anyone, and though he was never one to ask of personal concerns, he sensed that there was no resolution for her on this point. He felt for her and wished he could do more, but there was nothing he could say beyond claiming that this was one of the downfalls of Mivaari being attached to their Ambesari. He was silent, but where his ideals were unspoken, he his actions were expressed. He brushed her long, knotted hair aside and grazed the skin of her nape with the back of his hand. He raised his hand to place it affectionately atop her head when he noticed her rough hands were dusted with flour. He drew her attention to it, but in her wiping it off had gotten it on the side of her face. He molded his hand around her chin and raised her features to examine the extent of the damage. He abraded his thumb along her cheek to remove remainder of the white residue but in its place came a vibrant blush. The longer he held her in his regard the more it spread across her face to the tips of her ears, and he felt the change in temperateness of her soft flesh. He thought to remove his hand but was compelled to keep it cupped around her chin. He enjoyed it being there, keeping her countenance high and her face in full view.
He leaned down to gain a closer look at his work but was stopped by the very sight of her: her glittering eyes, her flushed complexion, her parted lips recommended expectancy, and though he felt it imprudent to take the advantage where it was given, he could no longer resist. He grazed his thumb across her lower lip and inclined his head to kiss that which he had wanted to devour since their journey to the Haven. He pulled her from her seat, gripped her hair by the root to hold her in place and consumed her. His mouth delighted in the taste of her lips, his hands reveled in the sensations her sinuous skin afforded him, his tongue pursued hers, and he overwhelmed her with famished osculations.
The commander leaned back against the counter and pulled the giant down to her by his molded locks. She encouraged him to roam her body, placing his hands on her hips, and his motions soon became pleasantly aggressive. She taunted him, pressing her knee between his legs, and she soon found herself lifted onto the counter, both of her heavy breasts being crushed by his hands. She moaned and leaned back, inviting him to place his mouth on her chest but he suddenly stopped and looked as though he were examining something.
A smattering of chocolate was spread across the commander’s chest. It must have happened while she was filling the tarts and had not realized it until now. She was certain the Den Asaan would enjoy cleaning it for her. She had only to undo the tie at the top of her tunic and wait for him to act.
The tie was pulled, the top of her heavy breasts exposed, and Rautu had done. He forced his features into the valley of her deep chest and sucked her flesh clean. The taste of his soothing indulgence blended with the warm fragrance of her skin was an arrangement too overpowering to endure. He growled in her ear, expressing his increasing appetite, and when he felt her hands wander into his warkilt, he grew impatient. He pushed her onto her back and pulled her toward him by her thick thighs. His eyes stared hungrily down at her ample figure, tracing the lines of her wide hips. He trapped her against the counter, holding her in place with his lower body, and canted his head to gauge the space between her legs when the sound of someone approaching suddenly broke his concentration.
Rithea and Ghelbhi had returned from the garden. They had been discussing what was expected of the magi at the examination the following day when they thought they should return to give the commander a repose from watching the tarts, but upon entering the kitchen and seeing the display of the Den Asaan’s insistent affections, they had frozen in place and could only watch the giant begin the pleasurable venture. They were astonished but happily so, for both had been keen to see how far their attachment had grown. They received their answer and were about to hurry away to leave the couple to themselves when Rautu took notice of them and the moment was ruined.
The Den Asaan placed the commander onto her feet and backed away. He glared at the two mages in furious rage, bitter and disappointed that their presence had destroyed his attempts. Unrequited in his implied request and unfilled in his endeavors, the giant left the kitchen and began walking up the steps to his quarters. He gave one longing backward glance to the object of his desire, waited a few moments to hear the commander bid the two mages a good evening, and prepared to disclose his secretive wish in a manner that would secure her assenting reply.