Pastry and Promises
Rain thundered outside, the sound of crashes and bangs hitting the roof. The room was damp, unlively, and quite frankly miserable. An elf, slumped in bed, grumbled incoherently at the rain’s disturbance. It had woken him up. Slowly, he pulled himself out of bed, dressing himself in a linen long-sleeve shirt, shoulder pads, dishevelled pants, and a checkered scarf. The elf made his way towards the counter in the mainroom.
“Great.” He grumbled, picking up a satchel and a metal badge with the name Shibka on it. He clipped the badge to his shirt. He looked up at a picture hanging on the wall. It contained two elves, male and female, and a young elf that looked much like Shibka. A family picture. Shibka spent a few moments staring at it with sorrow, then furrowed his brow. Who cared? They weren’t around. Dead, he presumed. He headed towards the front door, and gave the room a last glance before walking out into the easing rain.
Shibka walked quickly, avoiding the bustle of the village. The voices of women, children, and people bidding on exotic foods grew louder as he passed through the market. Shibka was so focused on the ground ahead of him, that he bumped into a child.
“Oops.” he muttered under his breath, then quickly stepped back. He opened his mouth to apologise, but before the words could come out, she began to cry. The other elves around him quickly turned their heads to stare. Not exactly an expert with kids, Shibka did what any confused adult would do, and crouched down awkwardly.
“Are you okay?” The little girl backed away, still sobbing, and didn’t respond. Uncomfortably, he stood back up,
“I guess not.” His ears drooped when a petite female elf ran over, wrapping her arms around the child and whispering comfort. The crowd slowly dispersed, but a few elves remained, watching Shibka with disapproval.
“It’s okay, honey. I’m sure the nice man didn’t mean to walk into you.” The woman stood up, holding her child’s hand. She tilted her head and frowned at Shibka and then ushered her child away. Shibka could still feel glares boring into his back, and quickly continued on his path.
He passed rows of houses, stores, and buildings, until he finally reached one building which brang a frown to his face. Arnaith Bakery. Despite considering himself a competent inventor, Shibka had yet to create an invention that would give him the push he needed to being a rich and accomplished inventor, and to finally get the praise he worked so hard for. But for now, working in a bakery was the only opportunity he had to earn money. Walking into the bakery, he spotted the familiar face of Nym Arnaith, daughter of the co-owners, and heir to the family business. Shibka envied her. She had everything she could ever need, a family, business, respect. The Arnaith family, although not filthy rich, were known among the region of Agrye for their baked goods. Almost immediately after Shibka entered the bakery, Nym perked up from the counter and approached him.
“You’re.. late to work again.”
“I slept in. The rain woke me up.”
“Right.” Nym replied sardonically, “This isn’t the first time you’ve come in late, Shibka. If you want to keep this job, you’ll have to be a bit more committed.” In response, Shibka forced a quick laugh, then decided that was good enough of a retort. He walked past her, straight to the front counter, and leaned on the glass, his head resting in his hand. Nym looked dissatisfied, and walked off to the kitchen.
Almost on cue, her parents Audrey and Elladan Arnaith left the kitchen. They spoke quietly, smiled at each other, and then parted. Mrs. Arnaith exited the bakery with a basket in hand, most likely buying a few supplies. Mr. Arnaith on the other hand, noticed Shibka slouched and bored at the counter. He walked over with his chest puffed out, and cleared his throat. Shibka quickly blinked and looked up,
“Yes Mr. Arnaith, what is it?” Mr. Arnaith was a big man, to say the least. He was slightly on the fatter side, as Shibka liked to say, and had a rather impressive moustache and almost always wore a fancy blouse. Nym and Mrs. Arnaith tended to the kitchen and were the head bakers. Mr. Arnaith would handle business matters, including money and auditing, and was Shibka’s boss. Shibka didn’t really like him, but he was more bearable than the ladies. Mr. Arnaith said in a hearty manner,
“Nothing much, my boy. Just checking in. Nym tells me you’ve been late to work on multiple mornings.” Shibka scratched his neck, feeling nervous but too tired to really care at the moment.
“I can stay a bit later than usual, I guess.” Mr. Arnaith seemed satisfied with this compromise, and nodded.
“Very well, Mr. Oran. For every time you show up late, you have to stay back and work until closing time. Sound fair?” He patted Shibka on the shoulder and didn’t give him time to respond,
“I may not represent the food of this establishment, but I can delegate my workers just fine.”
Shibka felt his eyebrows grow closer and closer to his eyes. He lowered his head and rubbed his temples.
“Fine.” Removing his hands from his face, he saw Mr. Arnaith walk off and make his way to the staff room.
Shibka served customers, many of which Shibka didn’t even bother to remember the faces of. It had been around 3 hours since the talk with his boss, and all he had done was take people’s orders, call out when food was done, and man the front counter. He placed all the money in the lockbox, and handed out change when needed. His day so far had gone pretty average, the same old everyday that Shibka was used to. One day he’d reach his peak. His latest invention, a historical success, the creation of something new that would amaze everyone who doubted him. Shibka was more than just a grumpy male elf, but he had dreams. He just didn’t know what to do with them. Suddenly, a customer walked through the door who looked really peculiar and out of place. It wasn’t an elf, or a dwarf, or even a northern nymph that had travelled all the way to Agrye. It was.. demonic. It had horns, a long tail, and dark-red skin. It wore a silky black tunic, and baggy orange pants. Shibka couldn’t take his eyes off it, he almost thought he was hallucinating, until the unusual customer strolled over, grinning from ear to ear.
“Hello there, darl! I’ll have your best pastry.” Shibka raised a finger to object, but was cut off by the customer’s loud and exuberant voice as he chucked a some pence on the counter. Shibka looked around helplessly at the other customers, hoping literally anyone else would notice the tall, red scary-looking creature that most certainly was not a race that Shibka knew anything about. But alas, nobody seemed to be paying attention to him or his strange customer. It was as if he was talking to himself. An abrupt voice brang his mind back to the order.
“Oh and while you’re at it, I’ll be waiting outside, so you might as well come and bring it to me. I’ll be around back!” The customer headed towards the door, humming a familiar tune. Shibka couldn’t quite place it, but the tune sounded familiar. There was no time to focus on that though, the customer wanted pastry, so he grabbed some from their stock and hurried outside, rightfully confused.
He headed around the back of the bakery, where there was nobody to be seen. Shibka felt his back tingle, like somebody was watching him. He called out cautiously,
“Hello? Sir? Um, your pastry is here.” There was no response. Growing in frustration, Shibka looked around and glared,
“If this is your idea of a joke, it’s not very funny! I’ve got a hint you’re just looking for some easy sard. Well sir, you aren’t gonna get it. That stupid grin didn’t fool me!” He called out to air around him, then chucked the once-perfect pastry onto the ground, he was too heated by this idiot looking to ruin his perfectly normal day. He turned around to leave, but immediately smashed into somebody’s chest and got a large jolt of ‘oh my god someone was here the whole time’. Stumbling back and rubbing his head, Shibka looked up at the taller figure and saw it was the very same customer from before. The customer simply smiled and brushed the dust off of his shirt,
“Don’t worry about the pastry, I’ve got something much better to show you.” Shibka shook his head without realising, then stopped to give this person a confused look before responding as bitterly as possible,
“I already told you, no sard here. Get lost.”
The customer simply chuckled and crossed his arms,
“I’m not looking for some dirty deeds if that’s what you’re implying! No, no, I have a proposal for you. The proposal of a lifetime.” His smile grew, “How about it, darl?” Shibka glared,
“Don’t call me darl.”
“Okay, okay! I get it, toxic masculinity. I won’t call you anything other than your name, Shibka Oran.” He finished with his signature smile, the same one he had when he first walked into the bakery. Shibka took a few steps back. This strange customer had just intruded on his perfectly normal life and been rather creepy to say the least, smiling, calling him names, and offering ‘the proposal of a lifetime’. Sketchy. Sketchy as hell. But Shibka wanted to know one more thing before he gave this guy any ounce of consideration.
“How do you know my name?” The customer shook his head with amusement,
“I guess I’ll introduce myself, seeing as we haven’t properly met. The name’s Ezri, and I have a proposal for you.”
Ezri extended his hand, but Shibka hesitated.
“You’re avoiding my question.”
“Why bother asking questions when you can see for yourself? Come, I’ll explain everything. I even know what happened to your parents.” Shibka froze. His parents? What would he want with two lying, heartless saps? All those years he raised himself, and finally getting his first job. Getting into a pretty well-known bakery as a cashier wasn’t too bad for his age, as he was hired two years ago, and although hard to work with, did his job well. His mind went back to his parents. Where were they?
He followed Ezri into the forest,
awaiting his stellar offer.