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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 4

Prompt: apples

“Give me a boost, will you?”

Blackwall turned away from where he had been scanning the area for any leftover bandits to find Ravena standing underneath an apple tree. She had her hands on her hips and was eyeing the branches in the same way Blackwall was used to seeing her eye an opponent to figure out the most advantageous angle of attack. “Pardon?”

She pointed to the apples higher up in the tree. “Sera got to talking about how hungry she was, which got the Iron Bull complaining about how hungry he was. There’s a bunch of apples that look just about ready to pick up there. I’m hoping that it’ll be enough to silence both of them before all their talk of food makes my stomach start to grumble.”

He had to laugh. “So the power of suggestion is enough to bring the mighty Inquisitor to her knees?”

“You’ve never seen me when I’m hungry. I get cranky. It isn’t pretty.” She pushed against the trunk of the tree, hoping to shake some of the fruit down. “I can’t reach the lowest branch on my own, and while you’re a smidge taller than me, I really don’t see you climbing trees in full armor.”

“It would make for quite the sight,” he agreed.

“And seeing as both Bull and Sera are scouting ahead, that leaves me to do the foraging.” She looked at him expectantly. “So will you give me a leg-up?”

Still grinning, he bent his knee and laced his fingers together to give Ravena a proper foothold. “Have you done this before, my lady?”

“I’ll have you know that I used to be a champion at climbing trees when I was a girl. There was a large orchard in the bannorn my father oversees. My brothers and I used to cut through it on our way back home, and since I was the lightest, they would often send me up to get apples or pears or cherries, depending on the season. The only trees that I refused to climb were the orange trees the farmer had been experimenting with. They were transplants from Antiva with these wickedly sharp spines on each branch, but gave the sweetest oranges I’ve ever tasted. If I remember correctly, the farmer tried for several seasons to hybridize them with a gentler variety from Orlais to breed out the spines, but nothing worked. He finally gave up and kept the Antivan oranges like they were.”

Blackwall hoisted her up, watching as she grabbed onto the branch and hauled herself up. “So if you didn’t get the oranges, who did?”

“My second oldest brother. He’d come down full of scratches and leaves in his hair, but he always said it was worth it.” She carefully walked along the thickest branch until she could pull herself up another foot or so. “I’m going to drop the ones I can reach and I can’t see you, so be careful.”

He looked up at her from between the branches. From where she had gotten to, all he could see of her were the bottoms of her boots. “You be careful as well. It wouldn’t do if you fell and broke your neck.”

“No, that would not do. Bull wouldn’t let me hear the end of it if we forced him to patch me back together.”

Apples began to fall to Blackwall’s left. “And Sera would curse a blue streak the entire time.”

“She does have a way with words. I don’t think I’ve ever heard arse and shite used quite as creatively before.” The gentle thud of apples hitting the ground began to cease. “Well, that should hold us over until we reach a camp.”

Blackwall watched as Ravena made her way back down. “I think that should more than hold us. Did you lose count while you were picking?”

Ravena’s laugh floated down to him. “I don’t know just how hungry Bull was, but have you seen how much Sera can put away? Honestly, I don’t know where she keeps it.” She eased herself down to a sitting position on the lowest branch and looked down.

“Problems?”

“Maybe. I don’t know if I can make this last jump without risking a turned ankle.” She looked down again and estimated that she had at least a six-foot drop. While she had made higher jumps easily in the past, the uneven terrain underneath the tree had her biting her lip in indecision.

Blackwall helped her out by holding out his arms. “Here, I’ll catch you.”

She arched her eyebrow. “Are you certain?”

“Wouldn’t have offered otherwise. Come on, jump.”

“All right, here goes.” Without further preamble, she hopped down from her ledge. Blackwall easily caught her underneath her arms, breath coming out in a huff when she collided with his chest.

“See, nothing to it,” he murmured, still holding onto her.

Ravena slowly slid down his body until her feet touched the ground, her hands still anchored on his shoulders. “Nothing at all.” He was so close that she finally decided that his eyes were definitely more grey than blue, like the sea on a cold winter’s day. She could feel her heart begin to hammer in her chest as he tilted his head down, his intent clear. His hands flexed on her waist and she bit her lip, noticing how his eyes had zeroed onto her mouth, his pupils expanding until that lovely grey-blue had narrowed down to a thin ring of color. Happily tilting her chin up, her eyelids slid closed in anticipation and then he…

“Oi! Ain’t we all cozy-like!” Sera’s shout seemed to dissolve whatever moment they had built. Both of them quickly stepped away from the other as if burned.

“We can give you five more minutes, if you want,” Bull quipped. He eyed Ravena, who had decided that picking up fallen apples was suddenly an important task.

“What you two can give me,” Ravena said, tossing an apple in Bull’s direction, which he caught. “Is a hand picking these up. I hope the both of you appreciate the fact that I climbed up and got them just for you.”

Sera swallowed a huge bite of apple and wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve. “And I hope you appreciate the honey I just wrangled,” she shot back, bouncing on one leg to make the sack she had hooked to her belt sway. “Saw a big old hive and thought about you and all those fancy teas you like so much. Well, thought about bees actually, because we can always use more bees, but you were in there too.”

The Iron Bull shook his head. “I’ve never seen anything like it. She just crept up to the hive, coaxed bees into some jars, and then reached in to grab a couple of handfuls of honeycomb.” He paused in his gathering. “How do you do it anyway?”

“Nope, trade secret. If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

Ravena started placing fruit into her knapsack, the banter from her two companions quickly fading to background noise. She looked up when Blackwall offered her an apple. She took it from him, her fingers deliberately brushing against his in the process. She felt a distinct thrill when he winked at her before turning to help Sera out.

“Somebody’s got it bad for someone,” Bull teased, his voice low enough for only her to hear. Ravena jumped, not realizing that he had managed to sneak up behind her.

“I do not,” she hissed under her breath, hating how quickly she felt her face heat up.

Bull laughed. “I was talking about him,” he countered, his smirk widening. “But yeah, you do too. Didn’t even need to use my Ben-Hassrath training to figure that one out either.” He dropped a handful of apples into her bag before walking off.

Ravena watched the three of them start to walk towards the direction of the closest Inquisition campsite. “I do not get crushes,” she muttered, slipping her arms through her bag’s straps.

Just then, Blackwall happened to look over his shoulder. Once he caught her eye, he gave her one of his lazy half-smiles that never failed to make butterflies flutter about in her stomach. She couldn’t help but smile back in return.

Okay,
she thought, picking up her pace to catch up with the rest of her group. So maybe I do get crushes.

Not that she’d ever admit that to Bull, or to anyone else.

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