Today was the day. Today, Penelope would at last find the mysterious baker in the woods.

Resolute in her goal, Penelope buckled her belt and sheathed a small herb knife in its holster. A gift from Sister Rosin for her last birthday. Now she was ten, she was old enough to gather herbs from the forest on her own, so long as she promised to be very careful with the blade.

Tugging on her sturdiest pair of boots, Penelope shouldered a small woven basket and set off on the trail leading north through the Faewood.

On the sweet, spring air, mingled with the scent of mossy grass and new flowers, was the taunting fragrance of berry and pear crumble.

Packed within her basket were snacks for the journey, and the last slice of Sister Heely’s own treacleberry tart.

While Sister Heely’s pies, baked with the wild fruits which grew in their sprawling cottage garden, were delicious, something about the scent wafting from the depths of the Faewood beckoned to Penelope.

The late morning sunlight dappled the narrow, earthen path as Penelope ventured north-west. The trail was laden with wildflowers and the curling fronds of featherferns. Bumblebees and hummingbirds flitted amongst the blooms, sending up glimmering puffs of gold pollen from the dancing daisies. 

From time to time, the honeyed fragrance of flowers so overwhelmed the scent of pies that Penelope had to stop and climb a nearby tree. Lifting her head above the canopy, Penelope would once again catch the scent of sweet cakes and baking sugar crust. With her sense of direction—and appetite—renewed, Penelope would scurry down the rough-barked boughs and set off on her quest once more.

Occasionally, Penelope would spot a glitterfern flower, or a fleeced fickleweed, sprouting from the trail. These she would gather neatly with her herb knife, just the way Sister Heely had taught her, placing them in her basket. Before long, Penelope’s basket was brimming with plants for salves and perfumes.

As she ventured closer to the mysterious bakery however, Penelope began to notice the path curve away from her intended destination. No matter which way she turned, the trail underfoot always seemed to veer off course. Abandoning the trail entirely served her no better; the underbrush would soon grow so thick and tangled that even her trusty knife couldn’t see her through.

With a huff, Penelope sat cross-legged on a nearby log and crunched her way through several oat cakes, saving the treacleberry tart for last. Licking syrup from her fingers, Penelope accidentally dropped the crust to the forest floor.

“Oh!” Penelope exclaimed, retrieving it from the soil, groaning when she saw it was all covered in earth. “Oh well, one for me, one for you.” The young princess sighed as she tossed the crust into a nearby thicket for the birds to eat.

To her surprise, the tangled knot of shrubbery unfurled, dropping the pie crust once more to the ground, revealing the way to a new path. Intrigued, Penelope picked up the crust and set off down the secret track. 

As she encountered new thickets and veering paths, Penelope crumbled some of the pie crust between her fingers, sprinkling it like fairy dust over the belligerent shrub or forest trail, repeating a new refrain. “One for you, one for me, lead me through to baking treats!”

The wild earthen path yielded to a trail of teal quartz, easing Penelope’s passage through the woods. The scent of baking pies grew ever stronger, and Penelope ploughed ahead, certain she was near her mark.

Around a snaking bend, the path was blocked by a broad hedge of purple flowers. “One for you, one for me!” she shouted, sprinkling the last of her crumbs to the crystal trail.

The way opened a final time… onto a trail blocked by a large boulder. Penelope heard faint laughter ringing through the forest, joining the rustle of leaves as though the trees themselves were giggling. 

Growling in frustration, Penelope tried every which way to climb the rock, or else skirt around its edges. Yet her fingers slipped over the smooth surface of the stubborn, immovable stone, and the trees grew too thick to continue her way.

“Fine then, keep your pies!” Penelope yelled, to more rustling mirth. Her mouth watered with the scents of syrup and roasting pecans wafting from just over the boulder.

Yet, out of crumbs to offer and unable to otherwise convince the path to open once more, Penelope trudged her way home, grumpy and defeated.

The sky was growing dark and glowing moonflies were rising as Penelope crossed the threshold of her cottage garden. Kicking off her muddy boots on the back porch, Penelope wrenched open the door and stomped into the kitchen, stopping dead at the sight of a large, steaming pie sitting on the weathered table.

The scent was a mouth-watering mix of cinnamon and pear, with hints of walnut and brown sugar. It smelled just like the baking treats that had led her on a fruitless quest through the woods all day.

Sister Heely was pouring tea into their favourite mugs and Sister Rosin was retrieving a triangular serving knife from a narrow drawer.

“Just in time, little ducky!” Sister Rosin called, merrily plunging the knife into the depths of the pie.

“What—? How—?” Penelope sputtered. Penelope set down her basket of herbs while Sister Rosin heaped three sugar-crusted pieces of pie onto small plates.

“We thought you might enjoy a treat after traipsing around the woods all day.”

“Oh yes, these will do beautifully for my bath oils. Wonderful work, Penelope.” Sister Heely smiled as she peeked into the basket.

Suddenly feeling that the day had not in fact been a total waste of effort, Penelope took a seat at the table, gleefully swinging her legs under her chair.

The pie was every bit as scrumptious as its fragrance promised, and Penelope ate her way through two and a half helpings (Sister Rosin had spooned the rest of her own pie onto Penelope’s plate while Sister Heely wasn’t looking).

With a face smeared with sugar syrup, the Sister’s sent a satisfied and grinning princess down the hall to wash.

“Just exactly where did you get this pie, Rosin?” Heely asked. “It’s delicious!”

“Found it,” Rosin replied, smacking her lips and patting her round belly. “On the doorstep when I came home from market.”

“What?” Heely hissed. “And you just let Penelope eat it? What if it had been poisoned, or… or—”

“Love, what do you take me for?” Rosin pouted, planting a sticky kiss on Heely’s cheek. “I took a big bite from the middle first.”

“Shockingly, dear, that does not make me feel better,” Heely replied, groaning into her hands. Rosin laughed and tugged her wife’s hands away, pulling her to her feet.

“Come on, let’s put on a tune, eh?” Setting a worn crystal plate into the gramophone, the two women spun and dipped around the hearthfire. Upstairs, clean and dressed for bed, Penelope shuffled across the floorboards of her bedroom in a giddy waltz with an imagined prince.

Climbing into bed, exhausted and content, Penelope fell asleep to the sounds of music and laughter, her dreams filled with flowers and sweet pies.

More teatime tales, art, & magical printables!

Enjoying the tale? Get immediate access to exclusive teatime tales, early access to new tales & chapters, bonus world lore, printable art, oracle & spell cards, and more when you become a Patron!

Visit Patreon