The Biscuiteers were no ordinary bakers. Only thirteen lucky bakers survived the rigorous standards, set forth by the notoriously difficult Annual Royal Biscuit Baking Tournament. Even those who won the previous year were thrust back into the match the next Autumn. Anyone who failed the Tournament was banished, never to be seen again. Therefore, to be a Biscuiteer continuously was not only a lifetime's achievement but a coveted honor. This process made certain that only the finest men and women baked the Queen's Specials, making them the finest delicacy in the entire kingdom and sought over by people from around the world.
As soon as she could toddle, Dana shadowed her brother Benjamin as he raced about the kitchen baking the Queen's Specials, each biscuit as big as her two-year-old head. She ate five of them in one sitting on her fifth birthday. On the day she turned eight, Benjamin presented her with her very first spatula - crafted from only the finest ceramic, baked for a month in the hottest of dragon furnances. For a whole month she wouldn't let it out of her sight, even putting it under her pillow as she slept dreaming of the day when she would bestow the world's best biscuits to Queen Jira herself.
The day she turned twelve, she felt entitled to something more than just a gift.
"I'm going to enter the Tourney this year," she announced after setting down her biscuit fork and knife criss-crossed over her plate as the ladies of the court did.
Benjamin choked on his biscuit. A quick fist to his chest loosened the morsel and he was able to swallow it a second time, although he slid away his plate and dropped his silverware, clearly no longer hungry.
He snuffed. "You most certainly will not," he said in his motherly tone.
"I am legally of age now," she said, "You can't stop me, Benny."
"For starters, don't call me Benny, if you want to be so adult. Secondly," he added, "I forbid you to enter as your guardian."
"If Mother hadn't have left--"
"Don't you start that with me," he said, glaring, but keeping his voice even. "You are not entering and that's final."
"But that's not fair."
"Biscuiteers don't whine."
She shook. "Y-You promised me last year I could!" She yelled as tears trickled down her face, banging her fist on the table, "Every year you tell me when I'm older or when I'm better-- but I'm twelve this year! Twelve! And I bake biscuits better than everyone five grades older than me and you know it!"
He took a deep breath and took a moment before releasing it.
"Because I taught you," he said at last. After a moment he added, "Perhaps I shouldn't have."
She curled her fingers into fists, until her nails dug into her palms. "I swore that I was going to become the Youngest Biscuiteer in the Entire History of Tiberon," she said, trying to sound like him, but failing to control the emotion boiling out of her, "Even younger than you were when you joined. And you can't stop me."
"I can," he said, "and I will. You're grounded the week of the Tourney."
Her mouth hung open for a few moments. She blinked and wondered if she hadn't just imagined he had said that. She had always gone every year, it was the most exciting time of the year. Everyone would be there. "What?" Her voice seemed so quiet now.
"You heard me," he said, "You're grounded. Until you learn to behave like an adult, I will treat you like a child."
Flames blazed in her chest as she swept her arm across the table, knocking all the dishes on their small kitchen table to the floor. Venom poured out her mouth, "You're just scared because you know I'll beat you and you'll have to leave the country."
As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted them in the sudden aftermath, her body shaking violently. She had never been so angry before. It felt like something had possessed her and thrown the words out of her mouth. She held a hand to stifle them even though they were already too late to take back.
He seemed to be staring at the dishes on the floor, his eyes wide as saucers.
"Mother's plates," he said absently.
"I'm so sorry," her mouse voice returned.
"Dana..." he turned his eyes toward her and she had never seen him look so frightened, or was he disgusted? Still his voice carried that even keel, though she heard it waver slightly. "Go to your room. You're grounded until the end of the Festival."
She sobbed the whole way there, wailing by the time she reached her door, throwing herself against it.
~ * ~
The Tourney finally arrived and news had spread like lightning. The famous Benjamin Spade's little sister had joined the Tourney. Benjamin was the last person to hear of it.
He pleaded for what seemed like hours with the Rosterwoman, begging her to remove his sister's name. In the end he even attempted to bribe her before she called for the Queen's Knights and he retreated to a private corner. There was nothing he could do. She was in the tournament now. He wept uncontrollably, leaning against the wall.
When the familiar bells pealed he felt the same sensation he had the first time he had entered the Tourney so long ago. Back then he had done it out of selfish desires. He had been so lucky then. And now?
He knew what must be done.
The first half went as expected, the usual rhyming and jeering from all the contestants, which had always seemed to playful to the audience's ears, but Benjamin saw the reality. He also saw his sister, several tables down, sweating under the pressure of the baker's biting remarks. He could not waste any time watching her and quickly set to work. The others seemed puzzled by his lack of enthusiasm for the games but went on without him.
Near the end of the second half he saw that she was floundering, smoke pouring out of her oven, splatters of food everywhere, upturned spice jars and her apron smudged with so many layers it looked more like a yellow apron with white splotches. He glanced at the clock.
He'd have one chance.
As the one-minute warning bell sounded, he threw the mixture he had prepared.
A white blast erupted in the center of the mini-kitchens, the cloud rushing outwards, obscuring the view of the bakers from the spectators. Benjamin wasted no time snatching his covered tray and racing headlong into it, having memorized the entire layout of the kitchens in the ten long years he had competed in the tournament. He made his way back to his station just as the mess cleared.
The final bell rung, barely heard over the crowd as the clock hands met at noon as all of the bakers gathered in a line straight as an army's regiment, each holding aloft a single silver tray, covered with a diamond encrusted lid.
Everyone bowed as Queen Jira entered, seating herself at the far end of the banquet table set before the line of Biscuiteers. She held her biscuit fork daintily in the air as the crowd fell silent. "Let the tasting begin!"
The cheers deafened Benjamin's ears as they stepped forward, setting down their trays and pulling back the lids, standing at attention. One by one, the servants came down the line, forking a tender morsel from the center of the biscuit, carrying it aloft alongside a numbered card. 27 entrants this year.
Benjamin watched the fork retrieve a sample of the burnt, crusted biscuit from his platter, the servant shooting him a look of surprised disgust. He still had time to call this off. He could plead to Queen Jira. But no, he had seen that done before. His mother... Tears filled his eyes. He refused to wipe them now.
Within minutes it was all over, the biscuits tasted as the Queen made her marks along a delicate scroll with a peacock pen. When she had finished the cheering began once again as the crowds dispersed to the Market Stage where the winners would be announced. Whatever happens now, Benjamin thought, my part in it is done.
He had no regrets about his decision. He hoped someday Dana would understand.
~ * ~
The fanfare was even grander than Dana had imagined as her name was read from the list. She couldn't believe her luck. Her biscuits had burned and yet when she had lifted the lid, they had been perfect, perfect as... her brother's. He was not present in the line. How could she not have noticed? Was she so caught up in her own revelry? She ran from the stage, forgetting her manners and position, heading after the line of losing contestants, who had headed almost unnoticed down a long corridor.
"Benny!" she called. Surely he wouldn't really leave the country. Surely the Queen would pardon her greatest, most famous Biscuiteer!
The thought had never crossed her mind that Benny could ever lose anything. It was only then that she realized what he had done. Those biscuits had not been hers. They were his.
She could hear many loud voices at the room in the end of the hallway behind two heavy doors. It took all of her might to open them and immediately she stepped back, a stench assaulting her nose, feeling like a yellow cloud of urine. She held a hand over her nose and mouth, but it did no good to muffle her screams at what she saw.
Benjamin was the last to fall, the rope clenching tight, snapping his neck. His head lolled, eyes bulging, the sight which would haunt her for the rest of her life. She fell to her knees, and threw up nothing but biscuits and more biscuits.
Dana never ate another biscuit.
Author's Note: This story is both inspired by and dedicated to the best siblings in the entire world: Jason and Marcie. I asked for a prompt and they gave me a brother and sister in a deadly biscuit contest. If you like it, thank them. :)
Thanks for reading!
If you loved it, hated it, or somewhere in-between please let me know. I'm always open for improvement. If you like this one, why not read some of my other #FridayFlash entries?
I write new flash fiction every Friday. On Tuesdays I update one of my #TuesdaySerials: Last One Standing Tall and Eleven & Counting.