Just a little something I threw together because I was thinking about how rarely we get portal fantasies and other real-world adjacent fantasy stories with adult protagonists. Hope you like it!
It wasn’t the lemon curd that was the problem. Lydia was like 98% sure of that
At first she’d thought it was too sweet, then that it was too tart, but when it came right down to it, it probably wasn’t the lemon curd at all. Even so, after several attempts at this Swiss roll-esque experiment, it still wasn’t quite where she wanted it to be. She leaned back against the counter, eyeing the latest iteration as if she thought it might give up its secrets if she just looked at it intently enough.
“Maybe it’s the sponge!” she said finally, clapping her hands together. Yeah, that might be it. She’d only tried it with plain sponge so far, but maybe chocolate would be the ticket, or vanilla. A quick internet search would no doubt tell her what other exciting twists you could put on a Swiss roll sponge, but first she had to find a good home for her latest attempt. Maybe that nice elderly couple on the top floor would appreciate it or, if they weren’t home, the students that lived opposite them. Untying her cornflower apron, she threw it over a chair and shifted the Swiss roll onto a small plate she knew she wouldn’t miss if she didn’t get it back. Forgoing the shoes, she slipped out the door in her socks. The stairwell was empty as usual – with only eight households there was never a lot of traffic – and smelled faintly of the cleaning agent that was used every few weeks on the stone stairs. Ascending, she took the steps two at the time, humming to herself. The elderly couple weren’t home, or at least weren’t answering the door, but the students were mid-cram and excited at the unexpected snack delivery. Three minutes and the slightest bit of small talk later, she was skipping back down the stairs.
As she reached her floor, she stopped suddenly on the last step. Her front door was open a crack. She hadn’t locked it – it felt pointless for such a short outing when the front entrance downstairs was locked anyway – but she had closed it. Looking around, there was no sign of anyone in the stairwell and everything was still quiet. Her brow knitted, she nudged the door open and looked inside. Just her normal, empty apartment.
“Hello?” she called, but no answer. “Must’ve been a draft…” she mumbled as she stepped back inside, closing the door behind her. Just as she was about to take a deep breath and put her worries aside, her foot brushed against something hard and edgy on the floor. Looking down, she spotted a small wooden box with an intricate geometric shape carved into the lid. She picked it up, and though she already knew what was inside, she opened it. The ring sat in the middle of a fluffy pillow, large and chunky and golden. The emblem of Kel’tarah, the hawk over the sword, was etched into the metal and inlaid with some kind of black stone. It was beautiful, or it would be if it didn’t mean the Temple of Eltrag had already fallen and the scholars had sent forth a messenger to call her home in order to fulfill her part in the prophecy of the All-seer. She’d known it was coming from the shooting stars in her dreams and the tarnished coins she kept finding at her feet, but she’d hoped she was wrong. Lydia sighed and closed the box, setting it aside on the kitchen counter.
No, the lemon curd really wasn’t the problem.