Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Chapter 6 - Thinning the Ranks

The first of the morning birds started their song, the sky still shadowed black as dawn slowly approached. The warmth of summer’s air lingered in soft breeze through the crack of the open window, the bright leaves upon the trees rustling under the weight of the singers’ wings. Willow awoke in the warm embrace of heavy solid toned arms. It took a moment for the reality to set in. The memories of the prior night swarmed back to her mind, unconsciously bringing a blush to her cheeks. She had never shared something so intimate with another soul. She had never bared herself so openly, her faith and devotion so completely on display. Even knowing Pellius shared her beliefs; through every step of their lustful and carnal joining, she had expected him to turn form her in revulsion. She had never known the feeling of real trust, she had kept her faith so hidden over the years, so sheltered from all watchful eyes. Yet, here she lay, in the arms of a man who knew her darkest and most well-kept secret, and who not only accepted it, but revelled in it.
Stepping out of the bed, she stretched her arms high and arched her back. She winced as the flesh pulled tight along the welts from the crop on her sides. She couldn't help but grin as she traced her fingers down their ridges. Walking gingerly, she tottered towards the bathroom on fragile legs. She grinned as she heard Pellius’ gratified laugh from the bed as she gave him a crude finger gesture before closing the door.
Under the cover of darkness, they met up with Mathias and broke into the secret tunnel within the Lord’s Dalliance. Their plan was to await the evening, to poison the stew and take out as many guards as possible, using the distraction to free Teelee and Garvana. They had a few hours to wait, so Willow retired a bottle of red from the cellar and they sat by torchlight, passing the time with a few rounds of cards.

They emerged silently from the tunnel after the sun had set, sneaking through the vault and into the forge. Willow had disguised herself as a plump female servant with unremarkable features and an aged forgettable face. Pellius and Mathias had disguised themselves as guards, planning to loiter in the walkway pretending to eagerly await the stew much like the rest of the guardsmen. It was Willow’s job to lace the cauldron with the concentrated wolfsbane. She took a large tray from the store room and hefted it through the hallway. Shuffling her footsteps, appearing busy and in a hurry, she barged the door open with her backside and navigated her way into the kitchens. As she entered, she saw the hefty size older woman known as Mumma Giuseppe. She was leaning over and stirring a large steaming cauldron, as the smell of spices and venison wafted throughout the room. To the left were a dozen kitchenhands, and an intimidating woman brandishing a rolling pin. Willow had to think of a way to get Mumma Giuseppe’s attention off the stew only for a moment. As she attempted to knock a servant over by bumping him firmly in the shoulder, perfect and terrible timing had him bent forward to adjust his laces. The movement sent Willow off balance as she tumbled over his back. The tray she was holding went clattering to the floor, and in a chorus of shouts of surprise, the kitchen staff all ran over to help. The fierce looking woman came barking towards Willow as she picked up the tray and quickly wiped it over at the sink.
“What’s wrong with yer girly!” she barked, clonking Willow over the head with the rolling pin, “Useless! Can't git decent help these days!”
Mumma Giuseppe turned away from her cauldron to calm the cook down.
“Come now, Larza,” she soothed, “They’re only children. And it’s only a tray.”
Willow took the opportunity to slip in behind her silently, emptying the vial into the broth. She watched the poison simmer on the top of the meaty stew, before being sucked under and absorbed into the chunks of venison. She quickly piled her tray with a few bowls of simple foods, sliced vegetables and meat, and a tankard of ale. A horn signalling the beginning of dinner sounded throughout the keep as Willow left the kitchen. She shuffled down the corridor making eye contact with Pellius, smiling with a nod to him as she continued on her way. With casual ease, the two men fell in behind her and followed her up the stairs and into the keep.
As Pellius and Mathias stopped to talk to the two guards standing on duty outside the cells, one of them stopped Willow as he put his hand out in her way.
“Are you busy at the moment mam?” he asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Willow said politely, “What is it you were after my dear?”
“Would you have time to bring me up some of that stew after?”
She smiled compassionately, “Oh of course I will, I hear it's extra delicious tonight.”
“We’ll take over,” Mathias said, “We already got our share early.”
“Really?” the guard asked, “Oh, that’d be great. You two sure you’re alright to hold the post?”
Pellius laughed, “Yeah, go on.”
As the pair hurriedly made their way down the stairs, Willow smirked as she quickly put down the food tray and set about picking the lock on the door. She had it open in seconds and wasted no time, prowling in quickly and deftly unlocked the cell doors. As she threw the outfits at both women, the other prisoners started shouting out for the guards. She pulled out her bow and drew an arrow trained on Mot’s forehead, as Mathias did the same to Barnibus. With no where to run or hide, it was swift and quick that they fell, silencing their cries for help.
Willow quickly went to check the women over, both of whom looked drained and exhausted. As Willow approached Teelee, who hadn't said a word since being freed, a frantic signal horn sounded an alarm. She placed a firm hand on Teelee’s shoulder.
“No time for sorrows,” she said softly, “Take this and get to the tunnel. You remember where it is?”
Teelee took the invisibility potion and nodded. She drank it down in a gulp and she was gone. Willow turned to see Garvana pacing the floor, she spoke an enchanted incantation and disappeared, sounding footsteps travelling up to the next floor. Willow shook her head and transformed herself into a guard before following Pellius and Mathias towards the exit. They passed dozens of guards falling into rank as they ran through the courtyard, when they reached the forge, Willow cursed under her breath to see it filled with guards donning armour and fitting weapons. She pushed passed Pellius and strode up to the pile of longswords, grabbing a few, passing them out to each guard. She saw Mathias smirk and take up position handing out halberds, while Pellius tended the shields. Suddenly, a shrilling high pitched squeal sounded from the top of the keep. The guards they were outfitting seemed to quicken their steps, all converging on the main tower. Willow would have bet anything that Garvana was the cause of the alarm.
Once the last of the guards had his gear and the forge was clear, the three of them hurried down into the vault. With no sign of Teelee or Garvana, they waited quietly, listening out for any incoming infantry.
Willow stretched out her sore muscles while they waited, ignoring the smug grin on Pellius’ face as she massaged her tender thighs. She was arching her back when a wave of sickening cold hit her, sapping her energy and forcing every muscle in her body to clench and cramp. She cried out as the surge zapped through her, hearing Pellius and Mathias gasp and groan in unison. Pellius was the first to charge up the ladder to see what was going on, Mathias and Willow following closely on his heels.
“I KNEW IT!” squealed the magister from the top of the stairs, “I’VE GOT YOU! I KNEW IT! IN HERE! GUARDS IN HERE!”
Willow followed his eyes and saw Garvana reaching for a longsword as the Magister pulled out a wand engraved in runic flames.
“FINALLY!” the magister called excitedly.
He smiled with glee as he launched a pellet of flame down the stairs towards the group. Watching the bead crane down, Willow leaped into the air, flipping as the fire impacted and exploded in rippling waves of fury across the stone floor. She landed in a crouch as the flames furrowed outwards. The others weren't so lucky, blackened scorch marks charred Pellius and Garvana, while Mathias’s clothes were still burning as he dropped and rolled in a desperate attempt to douse the embers. As Willow raced up the stairs and dove in behind the magister, Garvana ran to the hearth and pulled free a book from her pack, holding it over the fiery forge.
“Surrender,” she rasped viciously, “Or I will burn this book to ashes!”
The magister seemed to falter in his steps. But, it was already too late for him. Willow felt Pellius before she heard him. A wave of searing profane energy exploded from him, like rapturous tendrils of unholy wrath, wrapping their clutches of darkness around him. As she turned her head to face him, the wave hit her like an unending torrent of might, forcing her breath out of her chest as her heart pounded in her ears.
IN ASMODEUS’ NAME!” he roared, his voice coloured by the fury of hell.
He charged up the stairs with eyes of pure fire. The magister didn't know where to look between his book and the ferocious man charging towards him. In a panic, he went to jump off the stairs and misstepped, falling free with a cry as he fell on his face. Pellius dove down after him, and as he lifted his great axe high into the air, it was the frightening wrath of the Lord of the Nine that encompassed his swing. In a shower of crimson that cascaded across the stonework, the life of the magister was at an end.
From the top of the stairs Willow could see a contingent of guards led by Iron Sam charging their way. She flipped down the stairs and quickly scavenged the magister’s belongings, taking his wand and the few curiosities that lined his pockets. A strained wheeze had her looking up, as she watched the blood slowly draining from Pellius’ face. He was swaying on his feet, his eyes unfocused and his breathing staggered. She carefully yet quickly guided Pellius down the ladder and into the tunnel, where she saw Teelee standing in wait. She helped him slide down the wall to the floor before closing the secret door and standing in silence, listening intently for pursuers.
As she stood in silence for a time, she tried to ignore heavy smell of death that lingered around the innkeepers’ body. She had forgotten they had simply stored the body within the dark passage, thinking it safer than remaining unseen in an attempt to bury it. Willow couldn't allow herself to think on it, it still did not sit well within her, but it had to be done. There was no way around it. It was as she was listening to the muffled sound of the guards in the vault, that she heard a ghostly whisper in her left ear.
“Why?” the whisper asked.
Willow closed her eyes and clenched her teeth. She would not let her mind do this to her. She focussed on the other sounds; the guards in the vault, Pellius’ panting breath, Garvana’s quiet healing words.
“Why?” the whisper asked again, “Murderer.”
Willow took a deep breath and hissed it out. She heard Garvana murmur an incantation as light flooded the tunnel. She watched the shadows recede along the walls and saw a pair of shadowed hands retreat into the darkness. As the sounds of the guards retreating back into the forge, Willow turned on her heel.
“Let’s go,” she snapped.
As they walked away from the corpse, she swore she saw it move its head to face her, cold dead eyes staring through her soul. Only once it was out of sight she grabbed Pellius by the arm and looked into his eyes. She didn't care if he saw how frightened she was, she didn't care if he saw weakness, she needed his help.
“What do you know of spirits and hauntings?” she asked quietly, “Why do they stay in this world and how do you appease them?”
With a curious eye he replied, “The sole target of the haunting must to be the one to appease the spirit. If the body remains, it must be buried formally, to allow the spirit to move on to Pharasma’s realm.”
With a sigh and nod, she knew what she had to do. She asked for his help to carry Bellum’s body out of the tunnel. As they trudged down the passage, the corpse over Pellius’ shoulder, Willow and the others following closely behind. The others did not see what her own eyes saw. Images of Bellum, staring at her with accusatory eyes she passed them.
Willow slipped in front when they reached the cellars secret door. As she open it, she inhaled sharply as the racks of wine began to shake and rattle. Willow stepped lightly towards the stairs, narrowly dodging a bottle that came flying towards her head. She grabbed a bottle from the racks and sured her courage. As she strode up the stairs, only sheer force of will stopped her from screaming aloud in fright as the lightening and thunder cracked and the foul wind flung the window shutters open. She swung the front door wide and marched towards the forest. It was the dead of night no other sound could be heard above the roaring fury of the sudden storm. The trees and shrubs whipped and tore at her face and arms, each branch seemingly reaching for her, clutching at her limbs and clothing. The rain pelted down, seeping dread and guilt through her skin and deep into her soul.
When they were far enough from town, they laid Bellum’s corpse down and Pellius handed Willow the shovel. She began to dig into the solid ground, the shattering feeling throbbing her hands with each plunge. The larger the hole became, the more water filled the grave, and she found herself standing knee deep in mud as she continued to dig. Her hair clung to her face and the rain poured an endless flood in her eyes, making it near impossible to see. It took her almost three hours to complete, but finally when the grave was large enough, she climbed out the side and walked solemnly towards Bellum.
She struggled to pick his corpse up and teetered towards the water filled grave, lowering him into it as gently as she could. She could hear Garvana and Pellius saying their own prayers, though she could not hear the words. She watched the corpse float for a minute, lingering atop the body of rain, before it slowly sank to the bottom of the grave. Hundreds of images of Bellum had formed a tight circle around scene, and they watched, as Willow turned her sight to the sky. Only then did she speak, and only at a whisper.
“We wage a war against a nation, in the name of what we believe, of what I believe. A war to change the nation, to change the world. His world… You my friend, are but the first of many innocents to fall. Sacrifices for the greater good. I do not take these sacrifices lightly. I… do not take yours lightly.”
Willow grabbed the bottle of wine and uncorked it, holding it up high.
“To Bellum,” she exclaimed into the stormy sky, “The first stone in our pathway to Infernal Glory! Go now, to the side of whatever god you may find peace with!”
She drank down the wine and passed the bottle to Pellius, each of them taking a sip and speaking his name. As the bottle returned to Willow she took a final swig, staring into the eyes of one of Bellum's images. She placed the rest of the bottle into the grave. The sky seemed to sigh as she stepped back from the grave, with sore and tender arms she began to fill it in. The clouds cleared and the rain ceased. The stars glittered in the distance, the wind only gently caressing her while she shovelled away. Each image of Bellum slowly faded, one after another. They looked at peace, no resentment nor hatred. As Willow tapped down the last of the dirt and stood back, she sighed. She knew she would not forget Bellum Barhold anytime soon.

Still soaking and muddy they wandered back into town and returned back to the Brassbell. Willow looked the group over and strongly considered simply bidding them goodnight and retreating to her chamber alone. She sighed, and offered to share their room. She and Pellius disguised their mess and walked through to the suite while the others snuck in through the back window to their bedchamber.
Willow combed through the worst of the knots in her hair while Garvana told her story of torture and interrogations. By the sounds of story, she was quite good at giving her captors misleading gibberish. While Garvana spoke, Willow couldn't help but notice the change in Teelee. She was quiet and withdrawn, staring into thin air as her eyes barely blinked.
“And what of you Teelee?” Willow asked softly, “What happened to you?”
Quietly, she told her story; playing innocent, misleading the interrogators and a single broken finger. As she spoke Willow could feel the anger building, each word becoming more forceful than the last. She knew not if the words she spoke were the full story, or if she had suffered such indignation that she would not speak of it. Willow put a comforting hand on Teelee’s shoulder.
“It is over now,” she said gently.
Teelee nodded sharply, turning away from the group.
Willow frowned, but did not want to push things any further.
“So where did you get to after we risked ourselves to come and rescue you?” Willow asked Garvana curtly, “I certainly hope it was worth the risk.”
Garvana forced a smile, speaking through clenched teeth, “I went for my belongings, since you did not think to find them before.”
“Oh!” Willow scoffed, “My, how grateful you are!”
It didn't take long for tensions to strain. Willow was still saturated and muddy, she had twigs stuck in her filthy mane of hair, and all she wanted was to be alone so she could work through the moral dilemmas of tonight by connecting with her Infernal Lord. After a few snapping comments back and forth between Willow and Garvana, Pellius stood up and stepped in.
“Enough!” he snapped, pulling a scrolled parchment from his pack, “You two! Read this!”
“Pellius…” Willow began.
Read, this!” he demanded viciously.
The fiery command within his tone, soothed the rebellious flare within her. Her brow arched as she revelled in the strange wish to follow his words and obey his orders. She took the parchment from his hands and skimmed her sight down the page. He had written a reminder of their loyalties, and why it was they were together along the mission. Furthering the Infernal Father, his goals and his glory. Willow read the lines he quoted, drafted by their master, Cardinal Adrastus Thorn. As her eyes drank in the words, it was a small smile that graced her lips.
“I'm sorry,” Garvana said sincerely. “It has been a rough few days.”
“I do apologise too,” Willow sighed, “My behaviour is unacceptable. Look, let me bathe and get clean. I despise being filthy, it is so hard to be polite while you're covered in mud and shrubbery.”
Willow gave a small bow to the group, and turned to locked herself in the bathroom. She bathed and washed away the layers mud and filth. As she soaked in the tub, she dressed her hair, finding comfort in the soothing ritual of combing and the familar smell of the cassia oils. When she was clean, she knelt in front of the window and prayed in silence. Although she could almost beg for guidance today, she never did. Asmodeus was not a god to give comforting words and coddled encouragement. She knew his will, she knew what he wished of her. She was stronger than let on, she was stronger than even she knew. She smiled through the comforting heat of her Infernal Prince; she knew always she was on the right path when He was here with her.

Once she was clean and dressed in her nightwear, she returned to the living area where the group was still conversing. Willow pulled out the house fine crystal tumblers, pouring five double nips of the whiskey. She handed each of them a glass and took up a perch on the arm of the embroidered couch Pellius was seated in. As they spoke, she felt his hands pull her closer to him, so her back leaned against the side of his chest.
“So what did you actually find up in the keep?” Willow asked Garvana, “And what in hell’s name was that shrilling alarm?”
The group sat sipping their drinks, listening to Garvana retelling her adventure. Willow laughed as she told about her quick dashing escape from the ice golem and the infinite struggle to open a simple lockbox. Willow perused the magister's book titled The heart of all flame, a book dedicated to all things fire, mostly written in magical rattlings she couldn't understand. Though her interest piqued as she looked up from the book when Garvana spoke of the chest with an alarm in the commanders meeting room. The treasury of Balentyne, Willow guessed. Upon their return to the tower, she was planned on detouring to that. When Garvana told the group of the portrait of the woman she had burned – the room went silent.
“It must have been his wife,” Willow said quietly, “A harsh thing to do, but a most effective way to mess with his head.”
Lastly, Garvana handed Willow a book she found in the commanders personal chambers. Flicking through the pages, she realised it was his personal family bible. Sermons and Mitran chants; words of apparent wisdom. Willow read through as she wandered over to retrieve the bottle of whiskey for a second round. As she poured four more drinks, she came across the Havelyn family tree, a list of names she partially recognised.
“Sir Richard Thomasson Havelyn,” she read, “Son of Commander Thomas Havelyn. He is known as a Holy Knight of Mitra. One of the apparent great heroes of the current age.”
It was the name to the left of the commander that had Willow’s eyebrow arch high. A name that had been scratched out furiously, barely recognisable.
“Samuel Havelyn,” Willow said quietly, more to herself than the others, “Cardinal of Mitra, Brother to Commander Thomas Havelyn.”
Willow vaguely remembered having heard of Samuel before, but only as a curse spoken under the breath of fearful townsfolk. She didn't know who he was nor what he did, for his crimes were well before her time. Yet, she could not shake the feeling that she truly needed to find out.

As she woke with with the dawning of the sun, Willow rose quietly from the bed, carefully stepping over the sleeping bodies sprawled across the floor. She dressed quickly and ordered breakfast to be served in the sitting area, ignoring the odd looks the servants gave when she ordered enough food for five people.
Over breakfast they discussed the possible plans of attack and priority targets. Willow’s work in the mayors office had her sometimes working run sheets for the local military and militias. She had enough experience to make a rough judgement on how well the bugbear army would fair if they were to attack with the present state of the watchtower. They needed to wipe more of them out, they needed to further thin the ranks. Much to her distaste, they came up with a plan to fake a ransom of Bellum Barhold, in order to lure his brother away from the keep. After much deliberation, they agreed on an anonymous ransom note, delivered by a local courier.
Their plan was simple, Pellius would disguise himself as Bellum, Mathias would play the ransomer, and the rest of them would hide in wait. Willow would hide closest to the keep, back into where the enemy lines would be, set up with poison should she get a clear shot with her bow. Once all in was in play, she watched silently as Captain Samuel Barhold and six of his men approached the change over sight, far from the keep. Sam exchanged a few tempered words with the old man before throwing in the ransomed amount of gold. As soon as the gold had been collected, Garvana let lose a fireball from the west, and as it impacted, the soldiers that had trained their crossbows on Mathias let loose their bolts. Willow smirked as she watched him deftly dodge out of their path, only taking a single clip to the shoulder. She prowled from the top of the trees, laying in wait for one of them to come close enough that she could silently take them down. She watched the soldiers rush forward to the man they thought was Bellum and cover him with their shields, guiding him back into their line. Pellius waited until he was well behind them to strike.
Now!” Sam roared, as four archers sprang up from the shrubs, poised and ready.
One of the first guardsmen stepped forward around the tree to get a better shot at the old man, stepping right underneath Willow. She silently dropped in behind him, slicing her dagger across his throat. Willow heard Pellius groan, whipping her head around to see him spit out a mouthful of blood as an arrow pierced through his shoulder. Willow ripped out a vial of healing from her belt, weaving through the fray as she ran straight for him. She threw him the potion, pushing him behind the cover of a nearby tree and quickly assessed the worst of the wounds. She grabbed a firm hold on the arrow sticking out of his shoulder, holding the gap open as she pulled with all her might. The arrow came out cleanly, iron tip still attached as the armour gap closed, and she saw the magic working as it knit his flesh back together.
Suddenly, the ground shook as a large booming rip sounded. Every head snapped towards the south where the Mathias’ body lay limp and lifeless. Willow had not even seen him fall. As a veil ripped the seams of the material plane open, she couldn't stop a moaning screech from escaping her lips. Her body soared and scalded, her blood raced so fast and hot it felt like it would explode out of her skin. Her knees buckled and she had to clamp her thighs together and lock her legs to keep from falling. Hell was on the other end of that portal. Willow knew that with every fibre in her body. Her limbs throbbed, her breathing becoming tortuous as she was barely able to contain the moans and whimpers that were trying to force their way out. She had never experienced anything so raw and intense.
Willow watched the portal open, and a fifteen foot devil step out. Scarlet scales layered across its skin, oversize eldritch bone wings protruded from its back, tall twisted horns shattered out from its head. He paid no attention to the cries and shouts of the humans that surrounded him, shrugging off the torrent of arrows as if they were nothing. Willow had to close her eyes tightly to gain her composure. Breathing deeply, she embraced the burning pain, pulling it deeper inside her, to a place she had never known she possesed. Her eyes flew open as she felt the devil’s gaze on her. They made eye contact for a mere moment, before he snapped his sight and head away, almost in deference. Curiously, almost forgetting the raging battle around her, she watched the devil lift Mathias’ limp body as he dragged him back through the tear.
As the portal began to close, Willow’s chest eased. It began to fade, when suddenly, a large creature dove through. In desperation, a half-orc dressed in rags, landed with a thud and clawed his was from the veil. Stark and alert, he scrounged around for anything he could use as a weapon, grabbing a thick branch from the ground and brandishing it towards them.
As she turned back to Sam and his men, Willow knew her smile was bigger than it should have been. It was not that the battle nor the death of these men made her happy, it was that her blood was singing and her body was soaring. Her connection to her Infernal Lord was more powerful than it had ever been, she felt his power surging through her veins. She charged at the archers, dancing across the field, almost as if she was floating. She laughed with glee as she hacked one through the throat and another through the torso in seconds. She landed with a pirouette as her enemies fell, missing limbs and entrails flowing to the ground.
“ASMODEUS, GUIDE ME!” Garvana yelled, as she let loose a wave of horrifying wrath.
Willow saw the captain fading, struggling to block Pellius and the orc’s onslaught of attacks. With her mind still racing and her heart pounding in her chest, she sprinted towards the captain. She leaped through the air and hacked blade through the side of his stomach in a fatal shower of crimson gore. She landed in a crouch and swiftly stalked up to him, thrusting his head back, baring his throat. In one swift curve, she took his life with her blade.

The questions quickly turned to the large half orc, adorned with Asmodean tattoos, who had some how just escaped from hell. He introduced himself as Bor, yet said little else. When Willow asked of his origins, she received only a two worded answer.
“The wall,” he said, a furious intensity to his words.
“Well Bor,” she said courteously, “I am Willow. You will have to forgive me if I am a tad suspicious, for one to escape the realms of hell, it is… unheard of...”
“Don’t know what else I can tell you,” he shrugged, “I don’t remember anything, except being there and seeing an opportunity to escape.”
Willow looked to Pellius, whose brow was furrowed low.
“What do we do?” she asked him.
Pellius sighed, rubbing his forehead with his hand.
“You cannot have escaped unnoticed,” he responded firmly, “The Lord of the Nine has allowed you to escape. But, why?”
The bestial man shook his head, “I do not know.”
“I do not believe in fate,” Willow said quietly, “I believe that we make our own, the gifts we receive and the consequences we face are of our own making. If the Infernal Father has seen fit to put you in our path, then I will not question his will. Perhaps you are to aid us in this perilous undertaking.”
“Let us return to camp and we shall speak of it further,” Pellius concluded.
As they turned from the carnage of the battle, Garvana said a final prayer to Mathias.
“I wish you well,” she said solemnly, “Though I will not mourn your passing, for you are now beginning your afterlife of servitude to the great and undying Lord of Hell.”

They had decided to make a base outside of the city, Pellius led and found an alcove along the edge of the lake, about a mile from town. While they set up tents and built fires, Willow filled in Bor with the details of their current mission and status of the fair country of Talingarde. For now, she left out the details of their master. Bor seemed as if he would be a most helpful ally, but it was not her place to judge who was worthy in the cardinal's eyes. When she asked if he would join them, he laughed.
“And where else would I go?”
Willow smirked in response, “Where indeed.”
The smell of batter had Willow’s head whip around, to the sight of Pellius leaning over the fire, flipping golden brown looking pancakes. Willow excused herself from Bor and sauntered towards him. She looked down at him as she approached, hands on her hips as she cleared her throat. He looked up at her with raised eyebrows.
“And what is it I have to do to get pancakes?” she asked him suggestively.
He piled two onto a dish, dropped one eyebrow into a smug expectant look as he held them out to her. She laughed, giving him a wicked grin as she snatched the plate from his hands.

“You don't need to bribe me with pancakes to get that,” she said cheekily, “But it certainly helps...”

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