Chapter 13

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The next few days pass in a blur of exhaustion and routine. I get up in the morning, run my laps, eat breakfast with the other recruits, then train until dinner. Maddox continues to try to knock me down during laps, throwing elbows in the barracks and stomping on my toes. Fairly harmless but unbelievably aggravating. I want nothing more to punch that smug smile off his face but I know that the council must be keeping an eye on me, waiting for any excuse to kick me out of the recruits and send me home. Calm breathing and biting my tongue become unwelcome friends.

What I find harder to endure is the fact that nearly a week has passed and I still haven't heard a single thing from Willow. Sebastian hasn't seen her once over the week, though the council assures him that she is doing fine. They tell him that she is keeping busy with history and magic lessons with Mortimer and etiquette lessons from Lady Bedivere. I still wish he could see her with his own eyes, just so I can know she's okay. 

At this point, I'm convinced that she truly has no idea I'm here. That the shameless council told her that I'd left, because as the days pass, I just can't believe she truly doesn't care enough to see me. 

By the end of the fifth day, I'm so infuriated by the council and the fact that I can't see Willow, that I'm planning on storming the castle. But after dinner, as I go to head back to the barracks, the captain waves me over to his table.

"Go ahead without me," I mutter to Gareth, who gives me a curious look but nods.

Sebastian doesn't bother greeting me, jumping straight in. "I finally managed to get a message to Willow."

My jaw drops. I don't want to admit it but finally hearing that makes me realize that I'd started to lose hope. "I thought you'd been forbidden from speaking to her."

"I am. One of her personal guards, Kassia, owed me a favor and after I threw in a little bribe, she was more than happy to deliver a message."

I don't know if I'm more surprised that one of Willow's personal guards is the woman Sebastian mentioned days ago, or that he had resorted to bribery. "And..."

"And you must have taught Willow a thing or two because she came bursting in during the council meeting today with a fearsome scowl that rivals even yours." He pauses, drawing out the suspense. "To say she wasn't happy would be an understatement. Imagine her surprise at finding out you're still here since apparently the council never bothered to tell her you didn't go home. She threatened to leave and that was after she threatened to bring the ceiling crashing down on their heads." He chuckles. "A meeting has been set up tomorrow morning between you two."

Tomorrow morning I'll be finally sitting down with Willow and figuring out what we are going to do. I hope that her angry reaction means that she decided she wants me here.

I take Sebastian's hand in my own, giving it a squeeze. "I can't tell you how much I owe you. I would never have made it here without your help."

"Somehow I don't believe that. If you were determined to stay, you would have found a way- with or without me."

I want to protest but inside I know he's right; I would never have left Willow here alone.

___________

The morning comes quickly and before I know it, I'm finishing up my laps and being whisked away to the castle by Sebastian. Hale watches us go with narrowed eyes. Sebastian must sense my nervousness because he keeps quiet, leading me through the castle. I'm too distracted to pay much attention to where we are going until we entered a familiar mirror lined hallway. 

Willow is the lone person in the room when we enter, seated at the head of the wooden table.

There's just a second before she turns, where something about her seems off. Something about the way she's sitting, the hunch of her shoulders, it looks like a weight has settled itself on her shoulders. A dark and unsettling weight.

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