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December 6, 2019

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Sister Peace hummed to herself as she stirred the batter in the big bowl, trying to keep the volume down - it was the middle of the night, after all.

Normally she didn’t bake in the middle of the night - well, normally she didn’t bake at all - but what with Jain and Pindar arriving at Castle Waiting and Chess coming home, it was the only time the cavernous kitchen was empty. And Peace didn’t want any observers for this.

“It’s a secret recipe, after all,” she muttered as she added more dried fruit to the mixture. “Can’t set up any competition.”

True, it wasn’t as though the Solicitines depended wholly on their profit from selling baked goods, but there was no point in inviting trouble. At least, not that particular kind of trouble.

“Whatcha doin’, Sister??”

Other kinds of trouble, though… Peace swung around with a frown. “Keep your voice down! It’s the middle of the night.”

The small demon now squatting on the back of a kitchen chair leered at her. “Sneaking around, are ya? Doing something naughty? Maybe even immmmoralllll?

Peace rolled her eyes. “Of course not. It’s a surprise, that’s all.”

Leeds huffed and sprang onto the table, hopping to the bowl to sniff at it. Peace batted him away with a dishtowel. “Get away from that.”

Leeds was undeterred by the snap of cloth. “Smells like porridge. What’s the occasion?”

“Saint Nicholas’ Day.” Peace gave the mixture another stir; it was stiffening up, which was a good sign. Honestly, the feast day didn’t matter so much; it was just that she’d realized in all the years she’d lived at the castle, she’d never once made the delicacy for which the Solicitines were famous. “Off the table, Leeds. Go see if the oven is hot enough.”

The demon smirked and bounced over to the big stone structure. “Not too shabby,” he said from inside, his voice echoing a little. “Gonna need more wood if you want to roast any sinners.”

Peace made a face and started scraping the batter into a long pan. “You know we forgive sinners around here.”

“Bor-ring.” Leeds emerged, unsinged. “Why’s oatmeal a secret?”

“Come back when it’s done and I’ll show you.” Peace made sure the batter was evenly distributed. The end product was never pretty, but it was the taste that mattered. “Go gird the Earth a few times or something.”

Leeds’ eyes went wide and hopeful. “You’ll give me a taste, right?”

“I promise.” Peace tipped him a wink, and the demon whooped and disappeared with a pop.

Peace winced a little, but no one came to see what the noise was about. She slid the pan into the oven and sat down with a cup of tea to let it bake.

Things had been a little tense lately in the castle. Jain had been worried about the books the poltersprites had damaged, and Doctor Fell - well, he was odd at the best of times but lately he’d been downright worrying. And Chess was still sulking about his hoof.

A good serving of Nog Log would, Peace thought, solve all of those problems. At least temporarily.

The cask of oatnog was waiting on the table, and Peace decided that she could have just a little bit, to keep her warm until the sweet bread was done.

Got to make sure it didn’t go bad on the way. Only sensible.

When Leeds came back, Peace was feeling quite warm enough, and she beamed at him. “Just in time, the log just cool enough.”

“Ooh, cake?” Leeds sniffed the air, then quivered. “Wait, what’s that?

Anticipating, Peace pushed forward the bowl she’d already filled with oatnog. Leeds rushed over to crouch beside it, and Peace looked hastily away - watching a demon drink was never a pleasant experience. To distract herself from the noises she got up to pour oatnog into the bread pan.

When she looked back the bowl was clean, and Leeds was wobbling slightly. “That’s got a hell of a kick,” he said. “I like it.”

“Best oatnog in all the kingdoms,” Peace said. “Want some Nog Log too?”

“Oh, you betcha!” Leeds eyed the pan covetously, and Peace smirked.

In the morning, Dinah found Peace asleep in the kitchen with her head on the table, and a bread pan almost full of something delicious and very, very alcoholic. It was good enough to get Dinah over her annoyance at all the dirty dishes.

Peace never would explain the extra bowl, though.