“I’m not sure I see the problem.”
I sighed, wishing that I hadn’t heard the question posed to me through a full mouth. Without turning around, I knew what filled that mouth, what gave the words their slightly sticky quality.
“The problem,” I sighed, hating that I had to explain this yet again, “is that it defies the laws of conservation of matter and energy. They shouldn’t be appearing, and the material can’t just come from nowhere.”
“They’re not bad though. Good flavor. Maybe could be heated up a little, and they’d really hit the spot.”
I turned away from the open book in front of me, glaring back over my shoulder at my assistant. He froze, a mouse caught in the act of eating the forbidden cheese. Except in this case, his hands were instead sticky with the remains of a large cinnamon roll, icing painted around the edges of his mouth.
“How they taste,” I hissed, “is not the point. The point is that they’re here in the first place, where they are not supposed to be.”
My assistant swallowed the large bite of cinnamon roll that had been slowly dissolving in and around his mouth. “And they just appear from anything, yeah? It’s not like you’re casting food-summoning spells?”
I reached up to remove my half-moon glasses, pressed two fingers against the bridge of my nose to contain the headache I already felt brewing. “No,” I said carefully. “I did not cast any food-summoning spells.”
“Ah, but what if you did in the past?” asked the young man next, his face wrinkling into something that he might believe to be cleverness. “Maybe you thought that it was a one-off, you needed a cinnamon roll, and you popped it – but it turned out to be a continuing thing! See, once I saw this ad to get a cheese shipped right to you, but it turned out to be this whole cheese-of-the-month deal-”
“I never summoned any cinnamon rolls!” I shouted out before I managed to get a lid on my temper. “Sorry, ignore the outburst. But that’s not what’s happening.”
“It could be an enemy, I suppose,” my assistant next considered, his face a bit doubtful. “Someone like old Hagrid the Black, maybe, trying to get back at you. Or Nestefarious. Remember how you showed him up at that dueling tourney? Maybe he’s trying to get some revenge.”
“With cinnamon rolls?” I asked sarcastically. “What’s he trying to do, kill me through high cholesterol?”
“Could slow down your wand flicks if you’ve got a whole bunch of excess fat?”
I took a deep breath. My assistant tended to let his mind wander down… strange pathways, to say the least. Trying to follow his train of thought was like trying to hold a serious philosophical debate with a particularly dim mayfly.
“What I need to figure out, first,” I said slowly, clearly, “is where they’re coming from. That can help me decide what to do next.”
“Oh, okay. Cast something.”
I lifted my fingers and snapped them, igniting a candle on my cluttered desk. Immediately, with a soft pop, another cinnamon roll appeared, landing on top of some parchments I’d been transcribing and covering them in sticky icing.
My assistant moved forward, shoving a pudgy finger into the middle of the roll. “Cold, yeah,” he said.
He looked at me with irritating smugness, as if this conclusion should be obvious to anyone. “Well, they’re not coming from an oven or microwave or anything.”
“Why would they?”
“Well, I thought of socks, you know?” he tried to explain. “You put a full bunch of socks in a dryer, and you always lose a couple. Not in the dryer, not in the hamper. Vanished, see?”
I tried to follow his twisted logic. “So you thought,” I asked slowly, “that maybe these cinnamon rolls were vanishing out of someone’s dryer?”
“Nah, not a dryer! The oven!” He looked proud of this utterly idiotic idea.
I just didn’t have any words. “Thank you, Johnathan, that will be all,” I said, waving my hand at him to dismiss him. I had a couple other ideas to try, including using a recall spell on one of the rolls, and then perhaps an astral scrying to trace the history of them.
He started towards the exit, but paused. “Say, though, before I go…” he began, his eyes straying towards the roll still slowly oozing onto my desk.
“Yes, I’m going to use it for my next spells!” I snapped, my head throbbing.
I didn’t know why I’d ever agreed to take on an assistant. The young man had been supposed to just help out around the tower, clean up some of the reagent cupboards, but he’d turned into an utter pain in my bony behind. If he wasn’t my second nephew…
“After, if there’s anything left, I’ll give it to you – after you eat the rest of your dinner,” I finally gave in.
Jonathan grinned as he clattered down the stairs, sounding, as always, like someone had dropped a dozen spellbooks. I sighed again, wiped off my glasses, and tried to return my attention back to the matter of these bothersome baked goods.