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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2256625
entry for 8/21 world weavers championship prompt 5: ceremonial food - approx. 925 words
Raen walked through the square, she had a delivery for the Sisters of Charity. Last night had been traumatic for her. It wasn’t the first time she saw a dead body, but it was the worst time. Her life felt a little emptier knowing Fred was gone. Raen had reported the bodies to the authorities. They responded with as much enthusiasm as they ever did for the street people. No one cared for the destitute of the city. The economy was so warped and twisted that packs of children begged on the streets for sustenance beneath the callous attitudes of the upper classes.

It wasn’t true that no one cared for the poor. Raen walked up to the front door of the Sister’s of Charity. Their order had chapters throughout the enormous city, all dedicated to feeding and clothing the lowest of the low. Raen had partaken of their charity for a substantial portion of her life. She had the wisdom to be grateful. That was what this delivery was for. As Fred’s legal heir, she had laid claim to all of his worldly possessions. They were crammed into two large duffle bags hoisted on Raen’s shoulders. Raen lowered one to ring the bell.

After a few moments, an acolyte came to the door, “How may our order be of service?”

“A friend of mine died and these are his clothes. I know you distribute them to the poor. He would want them to go to someone who needed them,” Raen stated. The smell of freshly baking nut bread tickled her nose and made her stomach growl.

The acolyte chuckled, “It sounds as though we could minister to your stomach in return.”

“I couldn’t. I just haven’t gotten around to eating yet today,” Raen stated lowering the second sack.

“Don’t be silly, this nutrient loaf isn’t just for the poor. We are baking extra for the city celebration of The Founding.”

“Still, I couldn’t.” Raen’s stomach growled again.

“Tomorrow is founding day. You can begin celebrating early.” The acolyte grabbed both duffles and managed to shepherd Raen into the building in just a few graceful moves. “Come to the kitchen. If you really feel bad about eating, you can help bake a batch.”

Raen didn’t know why she was allowing herself to be led deeper into the sisters’ compound, but she continued to follow the acolyte. Soon they reached the source of the incredibly appetizing smells. Raen had eaten nutrient loaf almost every day she had been alive. It made up the majority of her calories before the age of 12. For her, the nut bread was just everyday food. She watched the care and reverence the sisters put into producing the humble food.

“Every day our order produces thousands of loaves for the poor. We bake hundreds of thousands of loaves for the celebration of Founder’s Day. Our ancestors discovered the ingredients for the loaves growing plentifully in the area around the landing field. They survived on nutrient loaf for much of the first winter. We still use the original recipe. We grind the nuts, grains, and herbs ourselves. There are chapters of our order that farm the ingredients on the edge of the city and provide them to all the baking chapters.”

One of the older women noticed Raen standing there and she rose from her place at the table. “You can come kneed the bread, it enhances the protein content.” She beckoned Raen over.

Raen followed instructions numbly. Soon she was seated at the table kneading bread. This was one of the first times she had ever attempted anything resembling cooking. The forceful repetitive motion settled her thoughts. Angrily she hit the dough. Why did Fred have to die? What was that creature in the alleyway? Who was it offering the reward for information? Raen noticed tears pouring down her face and blotted them with her sleeve. All the sisters had paused in their work and stared openly at her. Raen blushed. “I must have gotten some flour in my eyes.”

The older sister who had given up her seat to Raen laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, “Come with me, young woman.”
Raen nodded and tried to brush the dough and flour from her hands. The woman smiled and led her to the sink. Gently the woman washed Raen’s arms and hands as though she were a child. “You have suffered a serious loss. You must give yourself time to grieve.”

Raen blinked at her, “I have to find the creature that did this to him. It is about more than the reward for information. It is about finding out why.”

“You may never know the why of it. This world is full of mysteries. You must focus on solving the ones you can.”

“Like finding out who cares enough about the street people to offer a reward for the creature stalking them? It wasn’t your order was it?” Raen turned to face the woman.

“Our order is a charity. We cannot afford to offer rewards for anything though we do deeply care about the people and what is happening to them.”

“I didn’t think so. I should be going,” Raen pulled away.

“Wait, you helped with the baking, here is your reward,” The woman handed her three tightly wrapped nutrient loaves. “To celebrate The Founding.”

“To celebrate The Founding,” Raen accepted the bread and followed the woman back out of the compound. It was time to contact the person behind the reward. She had information for them, and questions.
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