The Yeast of Your Worries

by Frederick Obermeyer


Raphael Woveran walked inside the bakery to buy a loaf of murderbread. He stood in line and smoldered as he thought about his rival, Emil Kazendosh. The bastard had ruined his career as a court player and embarrassed him in front of the whole royal court. About an hour before Woveran’s performance, Kazendosh had poured a laxative in his coffee. And by the time Woveran began playing his lute, his bowels started acting up. He tried to hold it in and finish playing, but he lost the battle and soiled his breeches. The king and queen looked aghast.

"I refuse to hire a musician who cannot control his bowels in my court," the king had said. "Be gone, Shitty Breeches."

White with embarrassment, Woveran fled the castle. In a back alley, he cleaned himself up and wept. His dream of being a successful musician like his father had been destroyed in a few seconds.

But he knew that it couldn’t have been a bad vapor that caused his sudden bowel trouble. He had been fine earlier. He remembered the coffee he had drunk earlier. Could it have been poisoned? No.

Three thousand years earlier, the god Karadin had altered the universe so that only bread could permanently kill any human, though nobody knew His 
reasons. Otherwise wounds would regenerate, limbs would grow back, poisons would be nullified.

But what if the coffee had been tampered with?

After a few hours of searching, Woveran discovered the cause of his bowel trouble. An apothecary had sold Emil Kazendosh a small vial of laxative to cure his alleged constipation. Kazendosh had told the man that he hadn’t been able to shit in almost a week, and the apothecary had assured him that a little of his concoction would cure it right up. A lot of it would cause the kind of disaster that befell Woveran.

Livid with rage, he left the apothecary.

I’m going to kill that bastard, Woveran thought.

Sure enough he soon learned that Emil Kazendosh had been installed as the court musician. The bastard had stolen his career right out from under him and made him the laughing stock of the kingdom.

Woveran went to the inn where Kazendosh had slept the previous night and sneaked into his room. He checked the bed for hair, found one and put it into a leather pouch. Since he had almost no money on him, he had to sell off the prized lute that his father had given him as a gift when he was fifteen. But he didn’t care. When he took care of that bastard, he’d buy it back somehow.

He had been so wrapped up in his painful memories that he almost forgot where he was. He looked around and remembered that he was in the bakery.

"Next," someone said.

Woveran blinked and stepped forward. The air was rich with the smell of fried lard, baking bread and coffee. Part of him wanted to buy some fried bread and coffee, but he pushed aside his hunger. All he cared about was revenge.

When he reached the head of the line, the fat baker said, "Yes?"

"I’d like to purchase a loaf of murderbread please," Woveran said.

The baker scratched his flour-covered apron. "Who’s the victim?"

The law required that the buyer state his victims’ name. Nobody could buy or make murderbread to be used against the king or any member of the court with 
royal blood, under penalty of repeated skin striping, being dipped in boiling pitch and then finally death by murderbread. Besides, it was also expensive. Peasants and most commoners couldn’t afford it.

"Emil Kazendosh," Woveran said.

"Do you have a piece of him?" the baker said.

"Of course."

Woveran took the hair from the leather pouch and gave it to the baker. He placed it on a royal magic lightstone. It didn’t turn from yellow to red, indicating it was not of royal blood.

"It will be a little while," the baker said.

"Fine."

Woveran watched as the baker grabbed a slab of dough off the nearby shelf, shaped and kneaded it, then placed the piece of hair into the dough and sprinkled some magic life flour onto it. Woveran could hardly contain his 
excitement as the baker finished kneading the bread, then put it on a wooden sheet and stuck it into the stone oven. The bread rose and its rich, warm smell filled the air.

When the murderbread finally emerged from the oven, it was snarling and ready to kill. The baker struggled to hold it.

"Seven shillings," he said.

Woveran dropped the money onto the counter and took the murderbread. It snarled and thrashed in his arms. But it would only harm the person whom it had a sample of.

Woveran walked down the street to the inn where Kazendosh was staying and waited in the nearby alley for him to arrive. When he did, Woveran released the murderbread. He smiled as it flew in the inn’s door. Less than a minute later, he heard some screams and he rubbed his hands together. That was it. The bastard was dead.

He waited a few more minutes and then walked into the inn to see what had happened. To his horror, he saw that it wasn’t Kazendosh who was dead. Instead it was a young prostitute. Her throat had been torn out and her body had been slashed several times. As soon as it finished killing its target, the murderbread disintegrated back into bloody, pasty flour that lay in a pile next to the victim.

Woveran felt nauseous. He had killed the wrong person.

"Who was that?" Woveran said.

"Sweet Sally was one of our whores," the innkeeper said. "Damn shame. Somebody must have really had it in for her."

Woveran looked at her black hair. It was the same color as Kazendosh and almost as long and curly. Back in Woveran’s room, he hadn’t looked too carefully. He was so wrapped up in his desire for revenge that he hadn’t 
even thought about anyone else being in the room.

He staggered out of the inn and looked across the street. Kazendosh was standing across from the place, glaring at him.

Woveran would have liked to pluck a real hair from him, and try again. But Kazendosh retreated to the castle.

Woveran would wait and strike again later.

# # #

The next day Woveran saw that Kazendosh had shaved all the hair off his head. Woveran trembled with rage. But Woveran had another idea. He knew Kazendosh’s weakness was women.

So three days later he found a pretty young whore named Lynn Shalkona and offered her a deal.

"Here’s twenty shillings," Woveran said. "Go seduce Kazendosh and get me some hair from anywhere on his body or a piece of his skin. I don’t care from where, just make sure he doesn’t find out. Bring it back and I’ll give 
you another twenty."

Shalkona smiled and took the shillings from him. The next day she met him behind the inn.

"Did you get it?" Woveran said.

"Where’s my twenty?"

Woveran dropped it into her palm. She handed him a few pubic hairs. Woveran frowned and looked at it with disgust.

"How did you get this?"

"Don’t ask."

"Are you sure it’s his?"

"I’m certain. Now I have to go."

Shalkona fled.

Woveran frowned and headed back to the bakery. The fat baker looked surprised to see him.

"What’ll it be this time?" he said.

"Another loaf of murderbread," Woveran said.

"Who’s the target now?"

"Emil Kazendosh."

"Didn’t you get him the last time?"

"No. He…let’s just say there was a conflict of interest, and leave it at that."

"His piece?"

Woveran held out one of the pubic hairs. The baker gave him a look. Woveran gave him back a look that said, "Don’t ask."

The baker took it, waved it under the light and then made a second murderbread. Woveran paid for it and frowned. He was down to his last seven shillings, but he didn’t care. This time he would get the bastard once and 
for all.

The baker took the murderbread out of the oven.

Woveran started to reach for it when it leaped across the counter and went for his throat. He screamed and crashed back into several customers. The murderbread snarled and bit at his jugular. Woveran raised his hand to push it off, but it sank its teeth into the flesh. He screamed as it ripped out a piece of his hand and clawed at his flesh. Its hot, yeasty breath blew in his face.

He tore the murderbread off him, staggered up and ran out of the bakery. He rounded the corner, but he got only a few feet before the murderbread jumped on his back. He crashed into a stall selling smoked meat on skewers. A fire crackled a few feet near him.

Woveran grabbed the murderbread off his back and received another scratch for his trouble. He threw it into the fire and it screeched. Its crust turned black and it stumbled out, still burning. Gasping, Woveran grabbed 
one of the meat skewers and stabbed it several times. It screeched and shuddered and tried to pull itself free. Woveran threw the skewer down and stomped on the murderbread until it was nothing more than crumbs.

Then he collapsed and sighed.

Shalkona set me up, Woveran thought. I don’t know how, but I know she did.

Woveran got his wounded hand looked at. Unlike regular wounds, murderbread wounds couldn’t automatically regenerate. So a local surgeon rubbed alcohol on his wounded hand and bandaged it.

Woveran left the surgeon and waited for Shalkona.

It took him most of the morning to find her. When he did, she was with a man outside the village stable. He kicked the man’s head, grabbed her and slammed her against the wall.

"Woveran, I didn’t—"

"What happened? Why did the murderbread attack me?"

"I’m sorry. Kazendosh found out and paid me forty shillings to get one of your hairs."

"But how?"

"I waited till you were asleep, took it and then gave it to you."

"You bitch!" He raised his hand to hit her, but he stopped. He didn’t like to hit women, especially since his father often beat his mother.

"I’m sorry. I needed the money."

"So you just decided to play both sides. Is that it?"

"Please. I didn’t…"

Woveran shoved her away.

"Give me back my money," he said.

"I can’t."

"Why not?"

"I spent it already."

"Sure you did."

"Look, I’m sorry about this. Why don’t you just go someplace else and forget about him?"

"Because Kazendosh humiliated me, and he ruined my life! No matter where I go, word will spread and I’ll always be known as ‘Shitty breeches.’ No royal court will take me on as a musician after what happened." Woveran sighed. "I have to get him back for what he did to me."

Shalkona frowned and looked at the ground.

"What if I helped you?"

"Why?"

"Because I feel bad."

"I don’t trust you."

"Then fine. Be a fool. Get yourself killed."

Woveran sighed. "All right. What do you suggest we do?"

"I’ll go back, sleep with him and get a hair."

"Yeah, and pull the same trick."

"No, I’ll get one of his hairs. I’ll tell him you’re dead."

"He won’t believe you. The people saw me kill it."

"By the time he finds out the truth, you’ll have the hair and you can buy another loaf of murderbread."

"No, I can’t."

"Why not?"

"Because I’m broke."

Shalkona frowned. "Fine, take this." She held out seven shillings.

"I thought you said you spent all your money."

"No, I said I spent all of ‘your money.’ I still have the forty that Kazendosh gave me, and that’s part of it."

Woveran smiled and said, "All right."

"Look, I’m really sorry."

"It’s all right." Woveran patted her shoulder with his good hand.

"I have to go now. I’ll be back in a little while."

"I will."

Woveran waited till she was gone, then he groaned. There was no way in the world he was going to trust her after what she pulled. He figured that Shalkona would go back, tell Kazendosh he failed and they would try again 
with whatever hairs they had.

He had to see what she and Kazendosh were going to do next.

Soon after she was gone, he followed her, careful to remain far enough behind so she wouldn’t see him.

# # #

Shalkona met Kazendosh behind the inn, where no one else was around. Woveran crept behind a wagon full of hay and watched them.

"You didn’t kill him," she said.

"What?" Kazendosh’s face grew tight with anger.

"He destroyed the murderbread."

"How?"

"I don’t know. He must have gotten lucky."

"Where is he now?"

"At the stable." Shalkona brushed a hair out of her face. "He came looking for me, and he was angry."

"I’m sure he was." Kazendosh scratched his mustache with his thumb.

"What should we do about him?"

"That bastard killed Sweet Sally, and I’m going to get him for it."

"Let the guards handle him."

"The guards won’t lock him up for murdering a whore," Kazendosh said, and gestured to her. "You of all people should know that nobody cares about a whore’s life in this village. Except maybe you and me."

"But I don’t have any of his hairs left."

Kazendosh smiled. "Wait here. I’ll be back in a little while."

"Where are you going?" Shalkona said.

"To get something."

Kazendosh went back to the castle. Shalkona paced and Woveran waited anxiously, wondering what he was getting. A little while later, he returned and handed her something.

"Give this to him," Kazendosh said.

"What is it?" Shalkona said.

"A small bit of the king’s hair I found in one of the privies."

Shalkona looked disgusted. "But that’s illegal."

Kazendosh smiled. "I know it is. But just think. He brings it into the bakery. The baker shines it under the royal lightstone. It turns red, and the guards arrest him as an assassin. And he’s out of our lives forever."

"Do you think he’ll believe it?"

"Why shouldn’t he? He’s a fool anyway."

Woveran clenched his fists but remained quiet.

"Go, take it to him now," Kazendosh said.

"All right," Shalkona said.

She put the hair in a leather pouch and left. Woveran waited until she was gone. Kazendosh turned and headed back towards the castle. Woveran followed 
him until he found an alley, then he grabbed a piece of wood. He ran up behind Kazendosh and struck him on the head.

"Hello there," Woveran said.

He grabbed Kazendosh’s legs and dragged him into the alley.

"Wait, Raphael, don’t hurt me. It was all a joke."

"A joke. Of course it was."

He smashed Kazendosh in the chest with the wood block and he cried out in pain. Then Woveran tossed it aside, jerked down his breeches and yanked some 
of his pubic hairs out of his scrotum.

"No, wait," Kazendosh said. "We can work this out. I’ll give you fifty shillings. Just don’t kill me."

Woveran kicked him in the head and knocked him out. Then he searched his pockets. He had over thirty shillings on him. Woveran pocketed them, then 
ran out of the alley and down the street. He pocketed the money and the hairs.

He slid along a parallel street and watched Shalkona. As he came along, he saw a guard. At that moment an idea came to him.

Woveran threw Kazendosh’s pubic hairs away, then walked up to the guard and said, "Excuse me, sir."

The guard turned to him and said, "What do you want?"

"I hate to bother you, but I think that woman wants to kill the king."

"What are you talking about?"

"I was going back to the castle to look for more work when I saw her snooping around the castle with another man and they were trading hairs," Woveran said. "I overheard her mention that she was going to take the king’s hair to an illegal baker and make some murderbread to kill him. You may want to check and make sure it isn’t his hair."

"Is this a joke?" the guard said.

"No, I swear it’s the truth."

The guard blinked. "Hey, aren’t you ‘Shitty breeches’?"

Woveran blushed. "Well, yes, I am. I was going to be court musician, but I believe Kazendosh really wanted to place himself as the court musician so he could get close to the king, then kill him."

"I don’t believe it."

"Indulge me. If you don’t find the hairs on her, then you can take what little money I have and throw me in the pits for wasting your time." He showed the shillings he had taken from Kazendosh.

"I can take it anyway."

"Of course, you can. But then you wouldn’t have the pleasure of knowing I was wrong."

The guard laughed and said in a mocking tone, "All right then, ‘Shitty Breeches.’ Let’s go capture this so-called royal assassin."

Woveran followed the guard. They intercepted Shalkona on the street. She saw him with the guard and frowned.

"That’s her!" Woveran said, and pointed at her. "She took the king’s hair."

Shalkona’s eyes widen with panic.

"Wait, I didn’t—"

"Come here right now, woman," the guard said.

Instead Shalkona turned and started to run. But the guard caught her a few feet away and held her.

"Let go of me!" she said.

He frisked her and found the hairs on them.

"It’s the king’s hair," Woveran said. "I swear it."

"He’s crazy," Shalkona said.

Another guard approached and held Shalkona.

"Let’s see them." The first guard took out a royal lightstone and held the hair on it. It turned red. "He’s right."

"No, he’s lying! It’s not mine." Shalkona tried to pull away, but the second guard struck her in the head with a cudgel and knocked her out.

"You said there were two," the first guard said.

"Yes, the other one was named Kazendosh," Woveran said. "He gave it to her. I believe he was just installed at the royal court. You can find him in a nearby alley. I’ll show you."

The first guard called for more reinforcements and tied up Shalkona with some rope. As soon as the extra guards arrived, Woveran led them back to the alley, where Kazendosh still lay unconscious. They picked him up and 
searched him. They found another one of the king’s hairs in one of his 
pockets.

"I knocked him out when he found out," Woveran said.

The guards grabbed him and jerked him up.

"Would you swear before the king about what you saw?" the first guard said.

"Of course," Woveran said.

"All right. Then let’s go."

# # #

Woveran followed the guards to the castle. Almost as soon as they were there, Shalkona and Kazendosh turned on each other, each claiming the other stole the king’s hairs. In the end, he found them both guilty of conspiring to assassinate him, and he gave them a sentence of torture followed by death.

As they were led out in chains, Woveran turned and smiled to them.

"You bastard, you killed Sweet Sally!" Kazendosh said.

Woveran bit his lip and said nothing. Deep down, he felt guilty. He had killed an innocent woman, and he would have to live with it for the rest of his life. But if it hadn’t been for Kazendosh, none of this would have happened.

"I’m going to get you, Woveran! I swear it!"

They dragged Kazendosh and Shalkona kicking and screaming out of the royal court. After they were gone, the king smiled and said, "Thank you for your good grace and foresight. My only regret is that he embarrassed you in front of everybody."

"Think nothing of it, your majesty. It was an honor to protect you from such scum as Kazendosh. I only wish I could have seen through his subterfuge
sooner."

"Well, this sordid business is done now." The king smiled. "And with Kazendosh gone, the position of court musician is currently vacant. If you wish, you may have it."

"I would like that very much. Except I don’t have my lute right now."

"Then we must get it back for you."

"Thank you, your majesty."

Woveran bowed. The king walked over, wrapped an arm around his back and turned him to the royal court. Everyone stood and cheered.

<end>