Short Story: The Cake

Takes place in the Defenders of the Wall verse.

 

~The Cake~

A three-tier cake sat on a table in the middle of the wasteland.

Theo rubbed his eyes.

Nothing changed. It wasn’t his imagination.

“What’s that?” Thomas asked the question on their minds.

“Bait,” Vice Captain said.

“For who?”

Vice Captain raised an eyebrow at Thomas. “We’re outside the wall. What else can this bait be for?”

Theo cast his gaze around the monotonous landscape, its almost completely flat surface broken only by one mound of dirt that could almost be called a hill, if he was feeling generous. The cake had been left behind by another squad a week ago, but despite the monster tracks left in the dirt, there wasn’t a single bite in the creamy icing.

Undeterred, Vice Captain directed them to drag the cake up the hill and fan its sickly sweetness into the air. Having long learnt the lesson that no matter how strange, it was easier to indulge their vice captain’s whims than to argue with him, they obeyed.

Despite their best efforts, half a day passed and not a single monster took the bait. Which was strange, because they could see the monsters in the distance, yet instead of charging at them like they normally would, the monsters stayed away.

Vice Captain smiled in satisfaction.

“Next step, get rid of the cream on the cake,” Vice Captain said as he pulled out two disposable bags and a box of gloves.

“What?”

Their confusion didn’t slow them down. They carried the cake back to flat ground for better access and got to work.

That was when they discovered that the cake was a lie.

Underneath all the cream was a box shaped like a cake. And inside the box, was…

Theo lurched back, an arm pressed over his face as he fought the urge to retch.

Raw meat sat in old blood, the heavy smell of decay coated his nose and slithered down the back of his throat, now that the cream no longer blocked it from their senses.

In the distance, the monsters stirred.

“Let’s go,” Vice Captain said.

Between the monsters and the smell, they were more than ready to go. Captain only lingered long enough to close the box before they sprinted away.

It was only after they returned safely behind the city wall that they finally learnt what their mission was. For the field test of the prototype for a monster deterrent, they were the second of three squads tasked with heading out to the wasteland to check on its performance. The squad before them left the cream-covered bait in place, they collected the cream, and a third squad would go a week later to collect what was left.

“You should thank me. I got you the best option,” Vice Captain said.

They immediately looked at their captain.

“The missions were decided with a lucky draw,” Captain said.

As one, their brows furrowed in suspicion. Vice Captain and lucky were two words that didn’t belong in the same sentence unless it also had the word ‘not’.

“… And who drew for us?”

“I did,” Captain said.

Wide smiles replaced their frowns.

“Thank you, Captain!”

Vice Captain grumbled. This too, was nothing unusual, and they ignored him with practised ease. The only concession was made by Eileen, who reached over to give him a comforting pat on the shoulder.

And so the mission ended, but it took much longer before Theo could eat cake without remembering the rancid smell from that day.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Alternate title: The Cake (Is A Lie)

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