Gifts is a little brainchild that was born from elements from some of my favourite books. The main setting of the story was inspired by my all-time favourite book The Name of the Wind. The kind baker was inspired by The Hunger Games. The idea of a glowing dagger that radiated evil thoughts was inspired by I Am Number 4. The main storyline, however, was completely my own. Just a short piece.
Winter had come early to the small village of Varcosa. The tall oaks that surrounded the houses along the west were desperately clinging onto the last traces of green and gold, the wind grew teeth and bit at the numb faces of the farmers on the south and in the town centre the traders were packing up their wares and preparing to make the long journey north. The innkeeper was almost out of mead, the butcher almost out of meat, the blacksmith almost out of good strong iron. Almost no travellers came through in the winter as the roads were filled with snow and sago in the wind would sting the face red raw. The sweeper was the only one out, shaking his salt over the snow to clear a path through the centre of town, and a special little path to the baker’s in the east.
Only the baker was doing well in the unforgiving climate, having collected almost twice as much barley as usual during the warmer months and was now making a lavish trade. His home glowed gold from the ovens and the smell of baking bread was enough to make the peasants beg. The baker was a kind man however, and any less-than-perfect loaves were placed in a small wicker basket at the front of the store selling for whatever a man might have in his pockets at the time. In this way the baker had managed to collect a vast variety of common and unusual items. He always had salt as the sweeper would throw in a handful for a burnt nut loaf. He had collected over 50 different liqueurs in delicate glass bottles. His shelves were lined with preserved meats and sweetmeats. Herbs and spices from foreign countries carried by traders and merchants. Potions and poisons from the alchemist, though he never used them.
As it was colder than usual the baker closed up early for the night. The dying coals in the ovens lit his face red as he picked up the wicker basket at the front of the store and sifted through its contents. An old bottle half full of cheap mead. A silver ring. A small crystal bottle full of a clear liquid that smelled strongly of tar. Impressive, but no more than his usual findings. He sighed and made to leave before noticing a gleam of light from the bottom of the basket. Frowning, he peered into the basket.
The light was coming from a small iron dagger with a polished blackwood handle. At first the baker thought it was simply reflecting the dying fire from the ovens, but as he picked it up he realised the blade was actually glowing with a dull red light. The handle was uncomfortable as first but as he watched it melted to his hand shape, then solidified. He had a sudden urge to run out into the street, to find one of the annoying peasants in the street, and stab them with the dagger, tear out their throat so they couldn’t eat his bread…
Sheer willpower and a sudden overwhelming disgust at his own thoughts caused him to drop the dagger. The thoughts fled his mind as soon as the dagger hit the ground. Wrapping it carefully in a tea towel he carried it over to a metal chest in the corner of the room. Inside the chest was a child’s doll, a golden mask with an angry mouth and a thin red stick with strange symbols etched into the sides. He threw in the dagger and bolted the lid, vowing never to use it. Sometimes gifts were dangerous.