Story for the Day: Aranabrenin: King's Cake Pt 1
Alasdair has a secret love of all bakes goods. He, however, as a great horror of gaining weight. Martje is forever making unwholesome things, and Alasdair is forever in a torment when he is invited to try them. A story from book 3.
Walking through the main hall and passing the Grand Hall, however, brought a different hue to the morning. Here he was stopped by flurries of maids and yeomen, all of them fluttering and bowing and curtsying, begging the king’s kind pardon but they absolutely must wish His Majesty infinite happy returns of the day, granting him the traditional Old Frewyn wishes of “May the most you desire be the least you receive” in their soft and varying lilts. This was the style of birthday he should wish to have: friendly, open, humble, and joyous, not with complacent airs and exclusive celebrations. Alasdair thanked them from his warmed heart, hoped he would see them in the afternoon at the square and around the capital, and inclined his head to each one of them, returning the kind solicitation. They gave no hints of there being anything in the courtyard, no chary looks or hems of conscious concealment, and Alasdair felt assured that there must be nothing waiting to vex him beyond what the commander’s missive had implied.
His notion on the subject altered, however, whereupon passing the mess hall and entrance to the yeoman’s quarter he caught the hint of a familiar mellifluous fragrance. It was a scent he had not enjoyed in some time; he had been used to delight in the dulcet aroma once every year when his grandfather was alive, but in the years between King Dorrin’s end and his beginning, he could not recall there being any such scent in the keep. It wafted and rose above him, compelling him to lift his nose to reap its full bouquet. It cannot be, he conjectured, but it was the appropriate day- it must be- but whether he aspired to his notion being correct, his feet answered his curious mind and took him across the hall to the kitchen where he received his confirmation with wide eyes and an oppressed heart: there sitting on the kitchen table cooling by the sill was the most horrific and extraordinary item in all of Frewyn. The prospect of its soft surface forcibly struck him. What was it doing there and why was it permitted to look so delectable and sumptuous? were questions that reiterated in Alasdair’s mind as he unconsciously walked toward it. It is… but his mind left the thought there, too beleaguered by such an unexceptionable regale for further contemplation to be allowable. Its glistening top dusted with powdered sugar offended his reservations, its succulent currants made his lips purse in envious contempt, the imprint of the Brennin livery pressed into its surface attacked his sensibilities; its butter-laden crevices, its perfect loaf-like shape, its toast almond centre: horrid confounded cake! He would look away but he suddenly found himself at the edge of the table. He had walked there by some means of mechanical motion. He must touch it, he must taste it, but how could his delicate stomach and slender waste bear such indulgences?
Martje suddenly arrived from the pantry to rouse him from his terrors. She came with her round cheeks in a glow of exultation on his account, professing her compliments for the day and making her bows with a basin of melted butter and a basting brush in her hands. She turned toward the large cake, and humming began to sweep the butter along the outline of the Brennin heraldry.
Alasdair gawped at every golden drop trickling down and tincturing the cake’s white dusted surface. He felt almost equal to asking Martje her meaning in making such an lavish article when Martje suddenly turned aside, placed the basin down, and exchanged it for a cup of white cherry wine. He scrutinized her every movement as she poured the clear liquid in diagonals along the cake’s exterior. His mouth watered, he craned his neck forward, and the fragrance of the cake now in its completed state forced him to say in a slow and meaningful voice, “Is that…Aranabrenin?”
“Aye,” said Martje proudly. “It’s tradition for the Majesty’s birthday to bake it. Sure, it’s king’s cake after all. It’s even named after you, Majesty.”
Alasdair could not be prevailed upon to remember that his ancient family name had meant “king” in the old language; his eyes were welling, his lips were parting, and his mind was compelling him to ask for a small slice. Such a gorgeous and delicious cake was all his private delectation, and while his hand raised, his fingers nearly grazing the cake, he reproached himself for daring to beg for a sliver. Here was the most rich, the most decadent, the most iniquitous extravagance in all of Frewyn, and though his mind and eyes could happily eat the entire loaf, his conscience and waistline must not allow it. It must go to the orphans, with their pleading eyes and overpowering guilt: here would be cake enough to satisfy them until next year, but they should be at the gaieties in the square for the day and a cake that relied on freshness must be eaten by evening. Or perhaps it could be brought out to the courtyard where everyone might have some under the pleasant auspices of the summer garden. They might spare him the embarrassment of divulging his secret love for everything that was dreadful for him and keep his waist as trim as ever. “Martje, would you have this brought to the courtyard when it’s finished?” he said hastily, turning to leave.
“Sure, that’s where it’s goin’, Majesty,” she replied. “The tent and decorations are already up and all. I just gotta bring this out and make sure Josaiph brings the honey wine from the cellar.”
Alasdair groaned into his hand and rubbed his brow. It was as he feared: someone had made a celebration for him. The note had been a ruse after all, and now that Martje knew of his coming, he could no longer aspire to secrecy. He made a pained sigh and trundled toward the courtyard where he might find someone to harangue for this not altogether unpleasant deception.
Enjoy the story? Enjoy the first book in the series: