“That’s it,” Derakt said, storming into his house, “we’re killing the king!” He almost slammed the door into TooToo, who was following with quick, short steps, holding a second-place trophy.
Derakt kicked off his shoes and sent them flying to the corner of the living room. TooToo did the same and left the trophy on the center table while Derakt marched through the wooden floor into the white tiles of the spacious kitchen. He took off the apron and threw it over his shoulder, loud breaths through flared nostrils. The apron landed over TooToo’s head.
“But master,” the goblin said, folding the apron into a neat square, “killing the king?”
Derakt approached the island in the center of the kitchen and slammed the marble surface. “Yes! How dare he? My bat pie with crabapple icing was obviously the best at that stupid contest! But everyone knows why he won’t give me the prize.”
The white of his sleek kitchen filled his eyes, the birthplace of so many delicious creations, as clean and shiny as the interior of a spaceship. There was no dust in the vacuum of space, and neither did in Derakt’s kitchen.
This was his home, where he spent most of his time, the rest of the house was just an unfamiliar hotel. In the corner, a trophy case had been built into the wall to inspire him, holding the rewards of his culinary achievements. The prizes included the golden medal for the Cupcake Marathon, the first-place trophy for the Cake Olympiads, newspaper clippings, a magazine cover with the headline “For the love of baking!” — his catchphrase and the name of his bakery chain — and pictures of him with movie stars from Fairywood.
But in the center of the top shelf, an empty spot waited for a special trophy: the first place in the Royal Pie Championship of Babbilot. He had plenty of second and third-place trophies in a box in his closet, but they didn’t belong here. This trophy case was for wins only.
This was why his grandmother’s diary rested on the bottom shelf, the drawing of a pie slice etched on the torn leather cover. Winning any baking tournament in this kingdom had only been possible because of his grandmother’s efforts and teachings.
He approached the glass and talked to the book.
“Oh, Nanna. That racist bastard will never give me the prize, will he?”
“Racist, master?” TooToo asked. “The king?”
“Yes, TooToo,” Derakt said, turning to the goblin. “You’re too innocent and pure,” he caressed the goblin’s bald head, “and your big bulging eyes can’t see the sour truth. He won’t give me the prize because I’m a dark elf and an immigrant. But I worked very hard to build the largest bakery chain in all of Babbilot — for Chaos, in the entire world! — and I won’t stop until I win the Royal Pie Championship.” He was looking into TooToo’s dark eyes, holding the goblin’s green head between his hands. “We kill King Nemes and the next in line is that stupid kid of his. That fattie loves our pastries, doesn’t he? So if he judges the RPC next year, I will be the winner. I’m certain!”
“But, master,” the goblin said in a low voice, “don’t you do it for the love of baking?”
“Love of baking my ass, TooToo!” The goblin hid behind the folded apron. “I want that trophy! I will do whatever it takes!”
The goblin scrambled through the kitchen and hid behind the island. Derakt covered his mouth.
“Oh, I’m sorry, TooToo,” he said. “Don’t be scared, darling, I’m not angry at you.”
The goblin peeked from behind the island, only his shiny eyes and the top of his head visible. “So, master?”
“Can I have a cookie?” the goblin asked with puppy eyes.
Derakt covered his face in disappointment. “Did we win the RPC?”
“No,” TooToo said with a sad voice.
“Then you can’t have a cookie,” Derakt said with folded arms.
The big eyes on the green head starred at Derakt from behind the island. Who could resist those big black olives and the bald head with the cute little warts? Derakt sighed.
“Fine,” he said, “if you help me find a way to kill the king you can have a cookie.”
The little goblin instantly brightened up and jumped from behind the kitchen island. “Poison,” he exclaimed with a grin.
“I like your energy, TooToo,” Derakt smiled, “but we can’t poison the king. We could send him a ‘gift’, of course, I actually like that idea. But the royal food taster would denounce our plan.”
“Let’s hire an assassin!”
“We’re talking about the king of Babbilot, TooToo. You know how many guards stand around him the entire day?”
“Two?” the goblin said.
“Oh,” TooToo lowered his head.
While Derakt ran his finger through his silver chin beard TooToo scratched his head looking up at the ceiling. “But, master,” he said, “isn’t it wrong to kill?”
That was a tough one. “Generally, yes. But you see, King Nemes is a bad person.”
“But,” the goblin was still scratching his head and his contorted face made visible the incredible effort he was making to think, “we think the king is bad. Maybe some people think he is good. What if someone thinks I’m bad? Are they allowed to kill me?”
Derakt smiled and approached his little helper, carefully picking at the pointy ears. “Oh, TooToo. No one thinks you’re bad, darling.”
“Yes, I know master,” the goblin shook his head, his green face looking as if he was constipated. “But… What if the king thinks you’re bad? Who’s to say who is right? Is there universal good and bad? If someone thinks another person is bad, is it right for them to kill that person?”
Derakt frowned. “TooToo, your philosophical ponderations are very cute, but I don’t have time for this.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, master,” TooToo said, hiding his face behind slender fingers. “I’m such a dummy.”
Derakt held TooToo’s chin and lifted his face. “Yes you are,” he said, “but you’re also a cutie.” The goblin blushed. “Now help me come up with a plan,” Derakt finished.
Both of them paced around the kitchen island for a long time. TooToo came up with many useless plans but asked for cookies only twice. When they got tired, Derakt prepared a blueberry smoothie so they could regain their energy. After TooToo cleaned everything up, they started pacing around the island again.
“Ugh, it’s useless,” Derakt said. “There are so many layers of security, it’s impossible! There must be a way to magically kill that bastard.”
TooToo had his forehead pressed against the trophy case. “Master,” he said with complete lack of hope, after so many failed attempts, “why don’t you ask your grandmother’s diary? You always talk to it, and you say she was a great woman. Maybe she knows a way.”
Derakt turned his head and stared at his green helper, then at the diary on the trophy case, the pie slice etched on the old leather. He was connecting dots faster than he could keep up with.
“A way to magically kill him,” Derakt quoted himself. “For the love of baking, TooToo. You’re a genius!”
“Yes!” Derakt rushed to the trophy case and opened it. He picked up the diary and froze in place. “TooToo, can you keep a secret?”
“Of course, master!”
“Okay.” He walked to the kitchen island and opened the diary. “My grandmother was a witch!”
“Yes, and a powerful one. But no one in Babbilot can know this, TooToo!”
The goblin shook his head.
“My mother, and nanna, and I,” Derakt proceeded, leafing through the diary, “we ran away from the old country when I was a child because my grandmother had made a terrible mistake. We had to start from scratch, and for quite some time her baking skills were the only thing that gave us a place to live and something to eat. She taught me everything I know. But the reason why we left, that’s the key. Do you know what was her mistake in the old country, TooToo?”
The goblin shook his head again, biting at his fingernails.
“She killed the king!”
“The king, master!” TooToo covered his mouth.
“And do you know how she did it?” Derakt asked.
The goblin shook his head once more.
“With a cursed pie!” Derakt grinned at TooToo, who had his hand on his forehead. “A cursed pie! Chaos have mercy! It’s the perfect plan! It’s all coming to me now. I don’t even need to look in the diary.” He closed the book. “It’s just a pie! I remember it, she would make it all the time for me when I was a child. It was delicious!”
“You ate the cursed pie, master?” TooToo asked, struggling to climb up a stool.
“This is the best part,” Derakt said, helping TooToo onto the stool. “It will only kill the king! So it won’t affect the royal taster and nobody will suspect.”
“But do you know the recipe, master?” TooToo asked, opening the diary, his eyes burning with interest.
“Well, not exactly. I don’t remember all of it. But I do remember the most important part: my grandmother always told me the secret was a fruit that has a crown. That was what stuck in my memory because that was why it killed the king. The fruit with a crown. So, a fruit with a crown, a pomegranate, right?”
“I guess so,” TooToo said absentmindedly, leafing through the diary.
“Yes! Nanna, you will save me yet again!”
Derakt pranced through the kitchen and started preparing the pie. His luxurious kitchen had everything he needed right there. He was so excited he didn’t even ask for TooToo’s help, so the little goblin kept reading the diary, enthralled by the newfound literature.
He was one of the few goblins in Babbilot who knew how to read, Derakt had taught him so he could read the shopping lists and go grocery shopping. TooToo enjoyed reading, and he was so focused on the diary he didn’t even remember to ask for cookies.
After some time, Derakt was taking the pomegranate pie out of the oven. He could barely hold his excitement.
“TooToo, you really are a genius,” Derakt said, taking off the mittens.
“Thank you, master,” TooToo answered, laying on his back on top of the kitchen island, reading the diary, his legs dangling on the side.
“Well, the appearance isn’t quite how I remember it but I was very young so my memory must be failing me.”
He cut himself a slice of the pie and rubbed his hands together, a grin plastered on his face. He took one bite and his smile dissolved.
“This isn’t right,” he said.
“What isn’t, master?” TooToo asked.
“This is not the killer pie.” He pushed the pie away. “No, I remember the taste, this is not it. Chaos!”
“Well,” TooToo said, turning to his side, “maybe a different crown fruit? Maybe a pineapple.”
Derakt glanced at TooToo. When had that goblin become so smart? He didn’t answer and checked his kitchen for pineapples. Of course he had them. In no time he was baking another pie. During the whole time, TooToo was reading, changing positions on top of the kitchen island.
“What’s so interesting in that diary?” Derakt asked.
“Your grandmother was very adventurous,” TooToo said, “and very talented in the kitchen.”
“Well, she taught me.”
“Yes, but she also went through so many things. This diary has excitement, romance, suspense. I can’t wait to see how it ends.”
Derakt furrowed his brows. It had never occurred to him to read his grandmother’s diary before today. He felt like those were her secrets, but now she was gone there was no reason for that. He could only imagine all the things she went through before she left the old country with his mother and him so they could start a new life in Babbilot. She had been a strong woman and a witch in a difficult world, and he admired her very much.
“She gave me the diary when we came to Babbilot,” he said. “That’s when it ends.”
The oven beeped and Derakt put on the mittens. He wanted to ask TooToo to share some of Nanna’s stories, but he was starting to feel ashamed for never having read it. So he focused on the pie. It smelled delicious and had the right appearance. He cut himself a slice and prayed to Chaos that this one would be right.
He tasted it.
“Chaos and death,” he cursed. “What is the right fruit?”
TooToo was reading the diary and didn’t even listen to Derakt. When Derakt was ready to chastise him, the goblin jumped to his feet on top of the island.
“Master,” he said, “I’ve found the answer! The missing ingredient!”
Derakt’s anger melted into curiosity. “You do? What is it?”
“Master, the missing ingredient is…”
Derakt was staring at the goblin with big eyes while TooToo held a big smile, hugging the diary.
“Spit it out!” Derakt asked.
“Love,” the goblin said. “The secret ingredient is love!”
Derakt’s excitement leaked out of him onto the sleek tiles of the kitchen, making quite a mess. One TooToo would have to clean up very soon.
“TooToo,” Derakt said, rubbing his temples, “you are very cute but this is not the time, darling. I’m going through something here.”
“No, master,” the goblin said, jumping up and down, “it’s right here. Your grandmother was in love with the king! She was a very powerful witch, and she made him a pie with so much love it became cursed. Here: ‘Today we left Selemnia. My powers have become my curse. The pie I made for my beloved Derakt was so full of love it became infused with my powers. This curse, my powers, they are too strong. It was too much for his poor heart and it exploded. We had to leave before the royal guards found me. My life has become sour. How am I to find strength for a new start? The only thing that gives me hope is little Derakt, my grandson. He was named after our great king, after my love. I will teach him all I know, and he will be the greatest the world has seen. I shall never use magic again. You have been a great friend, old diary, but my past shall be forever concealed in you. Goodbye, old friend.’”
Derakt’s mouth was agape.
“See, master,” TooToo said, “it wasn’t the pie, it was love!”
Derakt was staring blankly at him while the goblin hugged the diary. TooToo jumped up and down, elated on top of the marble island.
“Well,” Derakt said, “that’s a bummer.”
“Oh, this adventure was wonderful,” TooToo twirled on the island. “Such fun. I loved it!”
Derakt bit into the pineapple pie, trying to fill his disappointment with delicious food.
“So, master,” TooToo said, “if you do it with love, for the love of baking, it might just work! Maybe it won’t kill the king, but it will be so delicious it will explode King Nemes’ heart. Figuratively.”
Derakt pushed down his disappointment for a second. His little apprentice and helper had come a long way, sometimes he seemed wiser than Derakt himself. At that moment the dark elf decided he had to let his disappointment go, and he allowed himself to feast on how proud he was of his goblin apprentice. He offered TooToo a candid smile and caressed the green bald head.
“Master?” the goblin said.
“May I have a cookie now?”
Derakt looked at the goblin. Who could resist that big green head covered in warts and those dark puppy eyes?
“Yes, TooToo. You can have a cookie.”