The Brave Baker Blake
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a giant Dragon whose scales were thicker and stronger than the iron armor knights wore, whose claws and teeth were sharper than the swords and axes made by the best blacksmiths, and whose belly was emptier than the King's head. The only thing that could fill his massive potbelly?
Blackberry. Blueberry. Cherry. Apple. Peach. Pear. Rhubarb. Chocolate. Custard. Meat. Any pie this Dragon could get was his favorite, and he got many, many pies. He would fly from village to village and demand the baker bake him a pie as fast as he can. As soon as the baker deliver the pie to the beast, the Dragon would practically inhale it, and immediately demand another and another and another until the baker could no longer keep up, ran out of ingredients, or fainted. Either way, the Dragon would decide the town was no longer of use to him and, after a deep breath in, would spit fire and destruction over the buildings, livestock, and people. Finally, he would leave the smoldering remains behind and search for another village to pillage.
Rumors spread of this high-flying pie-maniac. None of the townspeople took the stories as fact. Blacksmiths, apothecaries, and maids all waved it off as the town gossip having a laugh. Except the bakers. No, they didn't laugh. They shivered in their floury boots at the mere mention of the pie-eating Dragon.
One day as the Dragon was circling above its next target, the local baker caught a glimpse of the great beast. In the time it took the panicked baker to realize what he had seen, the Dragon had flown a little lower and blew a thin stream of fire at a passing seagull. The charred remains fell to the earth and exploded into a plume of ash as they hit the ground. Before it could notice him, the baker scurried back to his shop. His apprentice, Blake, was kneading some sourdough at the work bench. Blake began to say something, but the baker held up his hand and went to his quarters behind the front of the shop. In a matter of moments, he ran back through with two stuffed suitcases.
"What's going on, boss?" Blake shouted as his master sped by.
"Good luck!" the baker yelled back at Blake. Blake put the dough down in a mound of flour and wiped his hands on his apron. He went outside and looked down the road, but all he saw was the trail of dust his master left.
"Everyone needs a holiday," he shrugged. "I guess I should feel proud he left me in charge of the bakery." A wide smile stretched across Blake's face. The master baker had never really given him any praise. Sometimes he would let out a little grunt of satisfaction with Blake's cakes or loaves, but the master would never actually say, "Good job, Blake." or "Nicely done, boy." or "l love you like the son I never had. Now, let's head to the stream and catch a few fish for dinner." like Blake dreamed he would, but this was a step in the right direction.
Before he could return to his lump of a loaf, a woman scurried by Blake, flailing her arms in the air, shouting, "It's real! Run fer yer lives!" Blake looked around the village square and found that everybody was running for dear life. Mothers and Fathers held their babies closely to their chests. The pig farmer clutched his prized hog. The town drunkard lugged a keg of ale until he stumbled and fell on it, smashing it to bits. He got on his knees and lapped up its fizzy contents with his hands. Blake spun around and ran into the bakery. He slammed the door shut and tried his best to tune out the sounds of chaos erupting outside. Then, suddenly, the town grew silent. For a fleeting moment the world was silent. Through the rotting wood of the door, Blake heard a rhythmic swooshing from high above. It got louder and louder until the door blew open with one last swoosh. Blake tumbled, hitting his head on the floor. The bakery faded to black as the ground rumbled.
When he woke, Blake was no longer in the bakery. He was looking up at the cloudy sky. A dirty-faced little boy stood over him. “You dead?” the boy asked.
“No. I don’t think so, anyways,” Blake replied, trying to sit up.
The little boy turned around and ran away, shouting, “He’s up, and he don’t think he’s dead!” Blake sat up and rubbed his pounding head. He saw the dirty-faced little boy and his entire town standing before him, stone-faced and staring. At first, Blake thought they were staring at him. We waved his hand to say “Hullo” but received no response. They weren't looking at him, they were looking past him. Blake’s face twisted in confusion. He dusted himself off and stood.
“What?” he shouted. “What are you looking at?”
“That,” the dirty-faced little boy responded and pointed behind the confused and slightly agitated baker. Blake turned around, saw it, and stepped back. Not because he was scared, not at first, but to see all of it. It was so enormous, so hulking, so plain old big, that the baker’s apprentice had to step back to take it all in. The Dragon. He sat on a few broken buildings like a perched gargoyle with his giant wings folded neatly behind his back. The monster’s scales were like shiny black shingles covering his body. His teeth were as large and as sharp as knights’ lances. Once he had taken the sight in, Blake was scared.
“Are you indeed this hamlet’s baker?” the Dragon growled in a voice that sounded like mountains moving.
“Yes,” Blake spat out after a moment of hesitation. “Well, technically, I am. You see, I’m actually an apprentice. My master just went on holiday right before you got here, but I’m in my last year, so I…”
The Dragon crouched down, “Do you know who I am?”
Blake looked back at the townsfolk who were still staring up at the beast, frozen in fear. He turned to the Dragon, “Ummm… a dragon?”
“Not 'a dragon', boy,” it replied, lowering its massive head to look Blake in the eyes. “I’m THE Dragon.” THE Dragon sat up, stretched its wings (knocking down the butcher's front wall), and bared its teeth. “And I want pie.”
“Oh,” Blake smiled. “I can make pie. What kind of pies do you like?”
“All of them,” the Dragon leaned down to look Blake in the eyes.
“Okay… Well, I mean, I can make you some, but we have a pretty busy week ahead. Since my master is out of town, you might have to wait a…”
“Silence!” the Dragon roared. His hot breath knocked Blake on his tush. The Dragon's black belly glowed. “Make me pies, or I’ll burn this dump to the ground!”
“Fine. I’ll clear off my schedule and get on it right away.”
“See that you do,” the Dragon growled and stood up on all fours. "I'll take them up there. Do rush." He turned around and flew to a hill overlooking the town a hundred feet away. Then, he curled up like a giant cat and began snoring.
Blake shook his head as he turned around and looked back at the village people. They were definitely looking at him this time. "Well, this is a pretty..."
"GET TO WORK!" screamed a mother nursing a chubby baby girl.
"But I could use some..." Blake began again.
A toothless old man wobbled up to Blake, "Get bakin' them pies, boy, or you'll have a lot more than that little Dragon to worry about." He held his liver-spotted, shaking hand up to Blake's face. "See?"
Blake looked to the people surrounding him. He began to protest but decided instead to lower his head and sigh, "Ok. I'll get started." The townspeople dispersed. Some returned to their homes while others gathered around and gawked at the smashed houses. Blake shook his head and wondered if he should just bake himself into a pie and be done with it.
But he didn't, which is good for us. What a boring story that would be. Instead, Blake rolled up his sleeves, rolled out some dough, and, after several hours of frantic baking, rolled a small cart stacked eight pies high up the the hill to the Dragon. The monster looked over the cart and smiled.
"A good start, boy," the Dragon said as he sat up. He began flipping the pies into the air like coins and catching them in his mouth. The Dragon smiled once he had finished the stack. He rubbed his fat, black belly but quickly stopped and frowned once he realized blake was still there. The Dragon bent down to the young baker and cocked his head, "What are you still doing here, boy? Don't you have pies to bake?"
Blake almost didn't hear the question. He was thinking about how easily the Dragon devour him in half a bite. "Yes, of course," Blake stammered. "I was just making sure you liked them." With that, he grabbed his cart and scurried down the hill to the bakery.
And so it went for nearly three days. Blake didn't sleep. Blake didn't eat. Blake didn't even sit down. Blake made pies. He made pie after pie after pie. None of the townsfolk asked if he needed help. No one offered to push his cart or make some dough or jelly the fruit. They were too afraid of the Dragon, ashamed of their fear, and in awe of Blake's bravery. When Blake passed them as he rushed from the bakery to the hill and back again, they couldn't look him in the eye.They just hung their heads.
As the sun set on the third day, Blake shambled back to the bakery, dragging his cart. He opened the door and walked right past the brown-robed figure standing beside the oven. Blake poured a little flour on the table and began working the dough he made that morning.
"Ahem," the figure coughed, giving Blake such a start that he tossed his dough on the ceiling.
"Who are you?" he stammered.
The figure removed her hood and revealed a beautiful face with piercing green eyes and framed by shiny black hair. "I am Allandria. I am an Alchemist from the lands far south," she extended hand.
Blake shook it and said, "I'm sorry, my lady, but I'm afraid I'm not taking any orders. You see, my master is on vacation, I think, and also, there's this giant Dragon demanding I make him endless pies. Or else, he’ll burn down my village with all of us in it."
"Oh, I am quite aware of your situation. Except for that bit about your boss, and, honestly, I wouldn't count on him returning. So congrats on your promotion, I guess.”
“Thanks,” Blake sighed. He looked up to the dough still clinging to the ceiling. He was ever so tired didn't want to start all over again. He wondered if he gotten a broom he could…
“You see,” Allandria said, trying to nab Blake’s attention away from the ceiling dough. “I have been following that over-grown iguana for weeks now, and I plan on killing him tomorrow."
Blake's head snapped back to the stranger. ”How?"
Allandria’s glossy red lips spread into a smile, "Science!"
For the next serval minutes Blake tried his best to keep up and pretended to comprehend the alchemy behind the fine, white powder Allandria kept in a leather satchel around her neck. He nodded and said "Hmmm" thoughtfully as though he understood, but, all the science, he didn't understand, and Allandria, ever clever and ever polite, picked up on this and said plainly, "If we mix this with your flour and then make a pie with the dough, once the concoction mixes with the Dragon's spit, it will become an incredibly sticky paste. The Dragon won't be able to open his mouth."
Blake finally understood and shouted, "And he won't be able to incinerate our town!"
"Precisely," the beautiful genius replied. “but there is a catch."
Blake's heart and shoulders sank.
"It's not a big one," she said, putting her hand on his shoulder, which cheered Blake up a little. "To work properly, to lock the Dragons jaws securely, you'll need to make an enormous pie. Like, huge. Big enough for the two of the hog farmers' pigs to cuddle in."
"That's a big pie," Blake said, running the calculations and measurements in his brain. "But I should have enough ingredients to make it work!" He looked around the tiny bakery. "I'll need help, though."
Allandria laughed a little, "I'm not much of a baker."
Blake put out his hand, "And I'm not much of an Alchemist." Allandria grabbed it and gave it a solid shake.
Together, Blake and Allandria made the dough and, as it rose, gathered any fruit they could find for the filling. They worked and laughed, and for the first time in what felt like an eternity, the clouds of doom hanging over Blake’s head started to clear, and little rays of hope shone through.
Once the pie was finished, they hoisted the mammoth thing onto the cart. Allandria pushed while Blake pulled. The pair made the long walk to the Dragon’s hill for what Blake hoped would be the last time. The Dragon sat up and studied the two as they approached. He smiled and said, “What’s this? Has the little baker boy gotten himself a girlfriend?”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Blake said. Then, rather quietly, rather bashfully, he added, “I couldn't be that lucky.” Allandria pretended not to hear and fought a smile. “She is my, um, assistant. Yes. My new assistant,” Blake explained. “She assists me. To make more pies.”
Allandria leaned towards him and whispered, “Smooth.”
“Thanks,” he whispered earnestly. Then, he motioned to the massive pie behind him. “And we have your pie.”
The Dragon looked at them and then to the pie and back to the pair. He knew something was up but found it hard to concentrate with the giant pie just sitting there waiting to be gobbled. The Dragon’s forked tongue slid across its teeth. “It makes no difference,” he hissed, “if the pie is large or small. I will devour it. Along with you, if you make me wait again.”
Blake bowed to hide his smirk, “My apologies. It won’t happen ever again.”
“Be sure it doesn’t,” the Dragon sneered, and it got down on all fours to smell the pie. Blake’s heart stopped and didn’t beat again until he felt Allandria’s hand grab his. Then, it was nearly thumping out of his chest. The Dragon sat up and grabbed the pie. He threw the pie into his mouth and snapped it shut. The Dragon chewed the pie once, twice, but then struggled to open his mouth a third time. He tried to pry his jaws apart with his claws, but the adhesive was too strong. Too sticky. Too perfect. The Dragon looked to Allandria and Blake who were slowly backing away.
“We better run,” Blake whispered.
Allandria smiled and said, “Wait.” Her green eyes were locked on the Dragon.
The Dragon stomped closer to the pair. He mumbled something neither could understand, and his black belly began to faintly glow.
“Run!” Blake shouted.
“No,” Allandria cooly replied. She grabbed his arm. “Watch.”
The Dragon took in a deep breath through his nose. His belly turned orange. He clenched his claws into tight fists and closed his eyes. The orange light spread up his neck. The paste expanded like a giant balloon. It stretched and stretched, but it was the Dragon that finally popped. The heat wave blew Blake and Allandria back, and the fireball could be seen two villages over.
It rained Dragon bits for nearly 10 minutes. Once the scaly rain stopped, the villagers carefully approached the hill only to find Blake and Allandria, who stood in a circle of burnt grass, their clothes and eyebrows singed, laughing and holding each other close.