As we finish putting the final touches on my family collaborative short story collection Baking With Swords, my father, Paul D. Swardstrom, finally read the stories involved. Afterwards, he took to writing up his own rationale for the title (which has nothing to do with baking or swords – honest!). Following is his own very short story that explains the title with veiled references to me and my three siblings. My other brother, Matthew, is referenced, but isn’t included in this collection. Perhaps we can con him into a future sequel (Baking With More Swords?), but either way, you may see a guest blog post from him in the future since I lent this space to Paul and Betsy recently.
My writing does have a lot to do with my family as my parents both got me interested in reading and my father’s taste in books certainly rubbed off on me. My mom (Eileene) has helped proof and edit some of my books and is a huge inspiration. This little collection really means a lot to me — the words of the stories are just a small part of that to me.
Without further ado…Baking With Swords by Paul D. Swardsrom
Forward: As my children would tell you, I love making puns and generating short backgrounds for a pun. When I read the preface to Baking with Swords I could not help but think up a reason why one would bake something with swords. Thus this story. The names used in this story are “changed to protect me from my wife” (just joking??). Of course they are somewhat based on people related to me.
The battle is won and the war is over. Prince Pedeus has met the evil Warlord/King of the invading army during the battle and killed him. With the death of the Warlord, the invading army disintegrated, and many of them were killed as they attempted to flee. Prince Pedeus and most of his staff, support, and protection left with him soon after the battle for the capital. He left his trusted tactical advisor Wilhelm in charge of the rest of the army to clean up the battle area and release the army.
Several days were spent burning the bodies of the dead enemy soldiers, burying the dead not being returned to their home for burial, and cleaning up the battle site. This has been completed; wagons that had brought food and other supplies to the battle are returning home carrying bodies and/or weapons and other useful equipment and materials from the battle site. It is finally complete and Wilhelm meets with his three cousins so that they may begin their journey back to the capital city.
Wilhelm is a tactical genius partially because he teaches general history and tactical history at the collage in the capital city.
Pawel is a master with stringed devices, both archery and musical instruments. He teaches archery because his country needs good bowmen, but his passion is as a minstrel. He was attached to the prince’s entourage as part of Wilhelm’s protection detail, but also as a minstrel for the prince.
Lizzy is an herbiest knowing herbs for healing as well as for cooking. She is very serious about helping the wounded, but her passion is cooking.
Hew sometimes thinks his name is a pun because he often hews wood, metal, and, when necessary, hews people. His favorite weapon is a large axe, but he is also very proficient with a hammer. He is a Master Carpenter and does some blacksmithing on the side. He is normally assigned to the large weapons group as an engineer/technician to support the catapults, ballistas, and other siege weapons.
The four cousins make one last pass over the battlefield finding a few broken swords and other metal that had not been picked up previously. They had two wagons: Lizzy’s herb wagon which had additional supplies for the trip, and Hew’s equipment wagon which now included several broken swords and other discarded equipment.
They traveled some distance and when it was getting late they arrived at a village that had been deserted as the enemy army approached. They did some scrounging and found only a couple of eggs and a vegetable garden. Lizzy was about to prepare a meal when she discovered that in the rush to pack everything up, she only had a small pot that she used to heat water to make tea. The men looked again and did not find anything else to cook with.
Then Hew got a bright idea when he was looking in the blacksmith shop. He asked Pawel and Wilhem to help him and then got the fire started and the forge hot. He then took some of the metal that they had scrounged from the battlefield and made some cooking utensils. He used a couple of plain hilts as handles on a couple of the larger items.
Lizzy was quite happy to see them and cooked a good meal. At the end she brought out a chocolate zucchini cake that she had made in of the larger utensils which included a hilt from a sword and whose base could plainly see was formally several pieces from swords.
And that is where the term “Baking with Swords” comes from.
Afterwards: Eileene and I are proud of my four children and their accomplishments. I also need to acknowledge some other authors for some of the ideas in this short story. Mercedes Lackey in Exile’s Honor provided this inspiration to require the army to clean up the battlefield. Most of the “battle” related stories seem to just leave everything there, in fact Lord of the Rings has a least one section where fields of bones is discussed. Patricia C. Wrede wrote a short story about a skillet as a magic weapon. The main characters in this short story are the main characters from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The chocolate zucchini cake that was mentioned is one of our family’s favorite recipes and I plan to provide two recipes for this cake. One of them is a barbarian shield version and the other one being a normal recipe that you would see in a cook boot.