The Breadmaster's Challenge: Part Three
Aventia seethed as she watched Diana strut confidently over to the cameras, a fake smile plastered to her smug face.
"Don't let her get to you," came a squeaky voice from beside her. She turned to see a cheery Mallow Grundo smiling up at her.
"I'm Marshall," he introduced himself. "I'd offer to shake your hand, but... that would be pretty hard, since I don't have any," he joked, grinning at her.
Aventia wasn't sure whether to laugh at this comment or not – would it be rude to laugh at someone with no hands? So she settled for a good-natured smile instead.
"I'm Aventia," she replied, warmly.
"You haven't met everyone yet, have you?" he asked, gesturing to the rest of the contestants. "Well let me introduce you: this is Arnold," he said, pointing out a greying, bespectacled Elderlyboy Ixi, who shook her hand cordially with a polite, "How do you do?"
"The Desert Hissi's name is Achmet, but he doesn't seem particularly sociable to me." Marshal dropped his voice to whisper.
"Jussst becaussse I'm not sssociable, doesssn't mean I don't have excsssellent hearing," Achmet hissed, turning his head to glower at them.
Marshall blanched even more than one would think his ivory tone would allow, and looked away as he mumbled an apology.
Moving swiftly on, Marshall then introduced her to Lilith, who greeted her with a glum expression and Mithras, who clapped two of her hands on Aventia's shoulder in camaraderie and thanked her for her attempt to retrieve an apology from Diana, who she referred to as the 'ice queen'.
"And last but not least, we have Kriever," Marshall finished up the introductions by gesturing over to a Shadow Skeith with an enormous belly, who was looking at Marshall hungrily. Marshall jumped imperceptibly when he noticed this and edged away slightly, hiding himself behind Aventia's wings.
"Hi Kriever! So, how did you get into baking?" she asked, trying to distract him from thinking of the little Mallow Grundo as a snack.
"I like food," he answered in a slow drawl, whilst licking his lips at the thought of it.
"Well, we can see that!" scoffed Diana, who had just strolled back from the cameras looking mighty pleased with herself.
"And that's without the extra ten pounds the camera adds!" she added, condescendingly.
"What?" the Skeith asked, stupidly, looking down at his bulging stomach. "I thought black was slimming!"
Diana rolled her eyes. "How did you even make it through to the competition anyway? You needed to enter something that you baked; I can't imagine there's ever anything left for long after you make it!"
Aventia cleared her throat loudly and gave Diana a look that said 'knock it off'. To her amazement, she left the poor Skeith alone. Clearly insulting a chubby Skeith who was, well, let's face it, a bit dim wasn't as much fun as insulting a Faerie Cybunny who'd give as good as she got.
"Oh, I forgot to say... Finley told me to tell you, Aventia that you're up next for the interview. Good luck. I mean, not that you have much hope, going after me. Finley said that I was a natural; got everything he needed in one take. Not everyone's got what it takes, of course, to be a star. Some are destined for mediocrity," she finished, looking at Aventia pointedly.
"And some are destined for a good slap," she said under her breath, turning away from her, before her prediction had time to come true.
"Yeah, you're a natural alright," Aventia muttered to herself, as she walked away from the belligerent Kyrii. "A natural pain in the – "
"Aventia! Good, we can get started. You're the last to be filmed, so once we're finished here the competition can begin."
The Cybunny smiled, trying to appear confident, but the truth was that she was so nervous that her legs felt like jelly.
"Okay then, so the viewers want to know who you are, where you're from, why you entered the competition and just a few general things about you – they want to feel as if they know you. And there's no need to be nervous," he added, observantly.
"Just be yourself and you'll be fine," he said, emulating her mother. "Now, Derek will count you in," he continued briskly, signalling over to the expressionless Bruce. "And when the red light comes on here," he pointed to a dot on the left hand side of the camera, "Just start talking. If you make a mistake we can stop rolling and start up again when you're ready, okay?"
Aventia barely had time to nod in agreement before the Bruce started his countdown: "Three, Two, One, Action!"
The little red light on the camera appeared, and Finley Murfield nodded at Aventia to start.
"Hi, my name's Aventia and I'm from Neopia Central. I've been baking practically all my life, and it's always been my dream to open my own Bakery. My mum entered me into the competition without my knowledge because she thought I was good enough to make it... and probably to get me out of her kitchen for once. I'm just so grateful to her for applying for me because without her..."
Aventia could hear Diana's mocking voice in the background. Losing her focus, she trailed off, trying to hear what she was saying – and whether it was about her.
"Cut!" the Jetsam's voice cut through her thoughts. "Quiet on set!" he called out, having realised what had distracted the Cybunny from her rhetoric.
"Okay, Aventia. Let's go again. Don't let anything distract you this time, and for Fyora's sake, try not to look so nervous!"
The sound of Diana's malevolent cackle made her more determined to do well, so she set aside her nerves and tried again. It only took two more takes to get it right, before Finley told her that he had what he needed.
"Okay, folks, that's a wrap for now! The competition will start in fifteen minutes. Take a break and get yourselves ready for the long day ahead. Then, choose a station to stand behind and we'll resume filming as soon as the judges are here."
Aventia couldn't help but wonder who the judges were going to be. Surely, one of them had to be the breadmaster himself. He'd run the Bakery for so long that they couldn't leave him out of a decision this big, but as to who the others would be, she had no idea.
Aventia had just chosen a counter to stand behind when she was again accosted by Diana's disdainful voice, although this time it was sweet little Marshall that she seemed to be badgering.
"Just because you worked for the Grundo chef, doesn't mean you'll be any good at baking!" Aventia overheard, as she approached.
"All that stuff from the Space Station's disgusting – what are you going to do, add space food to your scones?"
"I left Gargarox's kitchen because I preferred baking," he answered, calmly. "Though that doesn't mean I might not add a few space ingredients to my mixture."
Diana made a face, clearly showing her revulsion.
"Well, you'll be the first to go then. Unless Dr. Sloth's one of the judges and if that's the case it's a fix. I don't see how you can bake anyway, without any hands!" she said hotly.
At this point Aventia had to intervene. It was one thing to insult her, but Marshall had been nothing but kind to everyone and she couldn't stand idly by after hearing what Diana had said to him, even if she had secretly wondered the same thing about how he managed to bake with no hands.
"Okay, Diana. That's enough!" she told her angrily.
"It's alright, Aventia. I'm not offended," he replied, mildly. Then, turning to Diana, he said, "To answer your question, I just use my mind."
Diana looked as though she was about to say something deprecating again, so Aventia cut in before she could.
"What do you mean, Marshall?" she asked, confused.
"I can show you if you like," he squeaked in response.
He narrowed his eyes in concentration and two seconds later, a whisk had flown out of a nearby cabinet and was now floating in the air by Marshall, spinning in circles.
Diana looked horrified at the sight, but Aventia was awestruck.
"How did you do that?" she asked in amazement.
"Oh, it's just a little trick I picked up on my home planet; the art of telekinesis. Moving objects with your mind. Quite tricky to master, but it comes in very handy for us Mallow Grundos!"
Aventia expected Diana to complain about how unfair it was that Marshall had this unnatural ability that he'd use in the competition, as she had about Mithras' extra arms, but when she looked over at her she'd gone.
Marshall's ability had spooked her and she'd fled to her workstation at the front of the room.
Aventia couldn't help but burst into a fit of giggles at Diana's reaction and she turned to Marshall grinning. "That was brilliant!" she exclaimed, after her giggling had died down. "I would high-five you right now, if I could! I've been trying to get rid of her all day!"
"I didn't mean to scare her..." he mumbled, frowning. "Maybe I should go over and apologise," he added, considerately.
"Are you kidding? If you ask me she deserved a good scare! Don't worry, Marshall, she'll be fine. Now let's get back to our stations. I can see the cameramen coming back! And, oh my goodness... is that Kerry Gooseberry?!"
The cameramen had come in with three newcomers. The first was celebrity baker Kerry Gooseberry, also known as the Queen of Puddings. A Gooseberry Chia who'd written numerous books including: 109 Cupcake Recipes, Faerie Berry Recipes and Muffin Baking Book. It was very difficult to be a Gooseberry Chia in the baking industry, but Kerry had withstood all the difficulties and now was one of Neopia's finest bakers.
Next, came a silver Scorchio with a stern face, whom Aventia vaguely recognised as professional baker, Saul Shenkuu. Hailing from the other side of Neopia, the Cybunny didn't know much about him. She knew that he was a master at bread-making and was famed for his scones, but didn't know much else.
A round of applause went up for the last entrance; a blue Kacheek with a twirly moustache, wearing a chef's hat. The reason they were all there; the Breadmaster himself.
"All right, everyone, simmer down!" called Saul's gruff voice, clearly envious of the Breadmaster's applause.
"Now let me explain the competition." He nodded to the cameras who started recording.
"There will be three challenges today; the first will be a signature challenge, where you get to be as creative as you like and put your own spin on an old favourite. The second challenge will be the showstopper challenge where you'll need to go all out and create something truly spectacular and the final challenge, is the Breadmaster's challenge. The Breadmaster himself will be naming a specific item that he makes everyday, and all of you will have to create it... and might I add that you will be given the ingredients to use, but not the recipe. This challenge will put all of your knowledge and baking experience to the test. After each challenge, one person will be eliminated from the competition. The five that are left will go on to compete in the semi finale, where two of you will be eliminated. The final three will then go head to head in a bake-off extravaganza. More details about that will come later.
Right now though, we'll start with the first challenge. It will be completely up to you what you decide to bake, but remember, it has to be something well known, with a completely new twist. The cupboards beneath you and the fridges behind you, contain any ingredients you may need. You have two and a half hours to complete this challenge. So, if there are no questions..." He paused and looked around the room to make sure that everyone understood before he continued.
"All right... on your marks, get set... bake!"
To be continued...