Return to Hellebore Chapter Fifteen


Author: Chris Cook
Rating: NC-17
Copyright: Based on characters from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon and his talented minionators, and Diablo II by Blizzard Entertainment. All original material is copyright 2003 Chris Cook.

Willow stirred, stretched slightly, and snuggled contentedly into the warmth of Tara wrapped around her from behind.

"Morning, love," Tara murmured in her ear, making her shiver gently.

"Morning, love," Willow repeated. "How long've you been awake?" Tara chuckled quietly to herself.

"Long enough to watch my beautiful magical lover sleep," she admitted. Willow sighed contentedly and wriggled slowly, rubbing her leg against Tara's.

"Your lover," she said, "I like that..."

"You said it last night," Tara reminded her.

"I know," Willow said, "but now, all calm and everything, it's different... we're lovers... gods that is beautiful." She ran her fingers over the back of Tara's hand, which had once again crept over her breast during the night. "There's no stopping you, is there?" she asked lightly.

"Amazon warriors are unstoppable," Tara answered seriously, "so don't even try."

"The thought never crossed my mind," Willow grinned. She turned over in Tara's embrace, facing her. "Tara?" she asked.


"What we did last night... you were right," she confessed, "I felt so much a part of you. Like there was nothing separating us, nothing I had to, you know, keep from you... it was beautiful."

"I know," Tara said, "I felt the same. I still do."

"Me too," Willow replied quickly, "a-and... I know we said we'd take things slow, well, it was mainly me saying that, 'cause I wanted to be... I don't know, really, I guess I wanted to feel the way I do now. And I do. So, what I mean is... if you want... I'm ready, Tara. I-I want to be your lover, completely."

"Oh goddess Willow so do I," Tara whispered. Willow felt a rush of emotion, love, relief - she wondered why she had even been nervous, now - anticipation and desire all mingled together. Before she realised it Tara's lips were on hers, and she threw herself into the kiss whole-heartedly. For long moments she and Tara were locked together, exploring each others mouths, Tara occasionally biting gently on Willow's lip, Willow sucking on her tongue whenever she managed to capture it.

"Willow," Tara breathed, breaking away for a moment, "we should... not just yet..."

"Oh I'm sorry!" Willow blurted out, "I- you don't have to, just because I'm... I'll wait, it's better if we both-" she was silenced by Tara's fingers over her lips.

"I just mean," Tara explained, "we've got a big day, and we have to get up soon. I don't want us to have to hurry, not our first time."

"Oh," breathed Willow, smiling sheepishly as she relaxed, "oh, right... you're right, of course. So..." she left the word hanging.

"Tonight," Tara whispered, grinning devilishly at her.

"Tonight," Willow repeated, slightly dazed by the surge of lust that Tara's sexy eyes sent through her.

"The caravan sets off tomorrow," Tara went on, "we can rest in the wagon. Tonight, we won't have to rush. All night... you'll have me all to yourself... and I can take my time with you."

"Oh yes," Willow promised, "oh gods, how am I going to get through today?" she added with a groan.

"We'll manage," Tara said, "the trials will probably take up most of the day anyway."

"Yeah," Willow said, "yeah, probably..."

"Are you going to be okay?" Tara asked gently.

"I guess so," Willow admitted, "just... I'll probably have to speak at Hydris's trial. I... don't like the idea of being in the room with him. It makes me feel... I don't know, it makes me go back to how I was after I saw the demon. Scared and alone." Willow was surprised - but not really, she had to admit - at how easy it was to talk about it. She felt as if the worst her imagination could conjure up would always be inadequate to shake her faith in the presence of Tara by her side.

"It's okay to be scared," Tara said, "but you're not alone."

"I know," Willow murmured, "I know... a-and I'll never really be that scared, either. I think, with you, I can't be. You make everything in my life feel better, even the really difficult things."

"I love you Willow," Tara said, "that's all I want, ever."

"I love you so much," Willow whispered, stroking Tara's cheek with loving tenderness. "You know I'll be with you too, right? A-at the other trial?"

"I know," Tara said, "thank you..." She leant in and kissed Willow, first on the cheek, the on the lips, resuming the heated tussle between their tongues that had been earlier interrupted. Willow arched her back, pressing herself against Tara even as she felt Tara's hands on her back, holding her tight. Her legs tangles with Tara's, and she moaned into Tara's mouth as she felt the warmth of Tara's sex, and Tara's thigh pressing up between her own legs.

"Oh gods Tara," she groaned, muffled against Tara's lips.

"Feel how hot I am for you baby?" Tara whispered seductively.

"Oh yes," Willow moaned, "I feel you..." She was surprised when Tara separated their legs from each other, moving her body away even while her lips kept up their intense merging with Willow's. Her hands left Willow's back and disappeared downwards.

"Now feel me, baby," Tara breathed, after a moment of wriggling under the blankets. Willow tentatively moved back to her, buoyed by passion as Tara resumed her kiss, opening Willow's lips and firmly claiming her mouth. When Willow edged her thigh up between Tara's legs again, the heat and wetness she felt against her skin was more than she had ever dreamed of.

"Tara," she moaned, unable to think of words for how she felt. Tara rolled her hips slowly, rubbing her naked sex along the length of Willow's thigh, making a lusty purring noise in the back of her throat as she spread her juices over her lover's skin.

"Just for now, baby," Tara said, "just... so you know... I'm all yours..." She held Willow low on her back, near her waist, and pressed her sex into Willow's hip, sliding herself slowly all the way down her thigh, before finally allowing a little space between them. Willow gasped, overwhelmed by the thought and the reality of Tara's sex kissing her skin, and held her breath the whole time Tara was moving against her until it was over. Finally she let out a long sigh and stared into Tara's eyes.

"Let's not get carried away," Tara murmured, "think of it as a promise, for tonight." Willow didn't know whether to laugh or sob.

"Are you trying to drive me insane?" she asked, hugging Tara to herself, though she kept her legs from wrapping around Tara's again.

"Yes," Tara said shamelessly. Now Willow laughed.

"Just remember," Willow warned with a brilliant smile, "the more you tease me, the more merciless I'll be when I finally get you all to myself."

"Mmm, promise?" Tara said, grinning back.

"Oh I promise," Willow assured her. Tara kissed her then slid out of bed, pulling on a long robe so that Willow only got a tantalising glimpse of the honey-gold curls between her legs. Tara leaned back down to Willow, whispering in her ear while Willow's eyes were occupied with the beautiful cleavage on display mere inches from her face.

"In that case," Tara said, her voice low and sultry, "make sure you spend plenty of time today thinking how wet I'm going to be tonight when you slide your fingers into me." Her tongue darted out to lick Willow's ear, then she stood up, tightened her robe around her, and crossed to the bedroom door.

"Bathing," she said, with a far-too-innocent smile, "I'll be back in a few minutes."

'Ooh I'm going to torture you silly for that,' Willow promised silently, watching the door close. She curled up her legs so she could slide down her underwear, then rolled over onto the part of the bed where Tara had been, inhaling the scent of her hair from the pillow and wallowing in the lingering heat left by her body. For a moment her hand snuck underneath herself and her index finger parted the folds of her sex, but then she forced herself to be still.

"Patience, you insatiable little bit o' me," she told herself, giggling all the while. "No wild frantic self-love just yet. That'd be just what she expects, so instead we tease her right back." She rolled back over, trembling gleefully as she contemplated the game she and Tara were playing. "And the best part," she said to herself, "is that it's impossible to lose!" A plan formed in her mind, and she quickly tossed off the blankets and stood, glancing at herself in the mirror. She posed provocatively, biting the tip of her finger and winking at her reflection, then slipped her other hand between her legs and, very slowly, ran her fingertip up the length of her sex, just once.

"We'll see who drives who insane first!" she proclaimed, before stalking across to Tara's clothes trunk and rummaging around until she found her short black robe, neatly folded from its trip through the castle laundry the day before. She pulled it on, did up the sash tightly around her waist so that the material below it flared around her hips, took one last glance in the mirror to make sure she wasn't showing too much, then followed Tara.

A few of the other Amazons were in the common room, having an early breakfast. Willow noticed Tryptin glance at her then look away with a smile and a half-concealed roll of his eyes, but otherwise kept her gaze fixed forward. She quietly opened the door to the bath room and slipped through, holding the latch so that it didn't make much noise as she closed it again. Inside, across the floor from a fire with several buckets of water warming over it, were two large tubs, one of them empty, the other full of hot, soapy water and Tara.

"Well now," Willow said, making Tara spin around, "need a hand?"

"Goddess, Willow," Tara laughed, "y-you startled me!" She had just finished washing her face, and her skin was flushed pink and glowing. She ran an appreciative eye over Willow. "Did I tell you before how sexy you look in that?" she added.

"Thanks," Willow grinned, stepping gingerly into the water in front of Tara, "but it wouldn't do to get it all wet, would it?" She pulled the sash loose and caught the robe as it slipped off her shoulders, tossing it to one side before putting her hands on her hips and staring down at Tara. Tara's wide eyes travelled slowly down her body, taking in her breasts, her fingers splayed against her hips, the little patch of red hair between her legs, right down to her submerged feet, then all the way back up again until she met Willow's twinkling stare.

Willow slowly knelt in front of Tara, taking the opportunity to get a good look at her naked body, not least her generous breasts, before she reached out and took the washcloth from Tara's unresisting hand. She gently ran the cloth over Tara's shoulders, watching rivulets of water run down across her breasts and through her cleavage. She took each of Tara's arms and dragged the cloth along their length to her hands, running it back underneath so as not to miss any spots. Leaning closer she wet Tara's back, before soaking her hips and thighs down to the water. Then she dropped the cloth in the water, and leaned back just enough to look Tara in the eye. Tara had simply stared at her the whole time, as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing.

"Tara?" Willow asked.

"Goddess," Tara breathed, her expression suddenly anxious and shy, "I don't deserve... you're perfect..." Willow shook her head gently, and placed a tiny kiss on Tara's lips.

"If I'm good enough for you," she whispered, "then I must be." Tara's eyes focused on her and her lips parted slightly as she digested Willow's words. Then she reached out, her hands cupping Willow's cheeks as tenderly as a mother with a newborn child, and kissed her. It wasn't one of the heated kisses of before, full of desire and barely-contained need, nor was it chaste, for though Tara did nothing more than open her lips slightly and move them against Willow's, the kiss carried in it a current of sexuality that surpassed even the last few days' wildest moments. Willow couldn't describe it as anything less than perfect - all the world fell away, and there was nothing else besides Tara.

After a time - she couldn't describe how long - she felt her legs unfold beneath her, gently break the surface of the water and find the bottom of the tub again. She came slowly back to awareness standing with Tara, their bodies not pressed but simply held together, hands lightly on each other's hips. Tara opened her eyes again, which threatened to consume Willow. Together they sank back into the water.

"Let me?" Willow asked needlessly, her fingers grappling with the soap for a moment. Tara nodded and leaned back slightly, giving Willow room to slowly, luxuriously cover her body. Willow made sure she missed nothing, but the waves of erotic heat coursing through her at the simple act of touching Tara's body, anywhere, were such that she was genuinely afraid of fainting when she finally ran her soapy hands up Tara's stomach and cupped her breasts from beneath. She moved slowly, her thumbs almost touching each other, palms beneath Tara's breasts, fingers splayed to the sides, creeping upwards until she held their weight, and somehow managed to wrap her mind around the sensations, the softness, the smoothness. Tara relaxed herself, kneeling with her hands on her heels behind her, letting her head fall back and giving voice to a tiny, high moan as Willow's thumbs ventured inwards from her cleavage to find her nipples.

Willow massaged Tara's breasts for a moment, then reluctantly let her hands continue upwards, her palms leaving a parting caress over Tara's nipples. She had to fight the urge to stay, to touch Tara like this all day, but she knew they didn't have time right now. The heartbeat of desire building within her was balanced by a new calm she hadn't ever experienced before, as if something inside her had finally understood that a moment like this, even if it would end in nothing more than intimate touching and whispered words, was its own experience, and its own reward.

Soaping Tara's inner thighs, she hesitated. She knew it was foolish, considering everything she and Tara had already shared, but for all that she had held Tara in her arms during her climax, felt the heat and wetness against her leg, felt Tara's sex completely naked that very morning... she had never touched her there. She knew she would, there was no question of it, but she had to pause for just a moment, to let the knowledge sink in before she proceeded. As if reading her mind, Tara moved her knees outwards, parting her thighs in an unmistakeable invitation. Willow slowly, gently moved her fingers higher, until they reached their destination, and she felt the unique softness, the silky tenderness, that she had never known anywhere but her own body, her own centre.

'Oh my gods,' Willow thought, 'oh my gods, I'm touching her, I'm touching her sex, don't panic, don't move too fast, we're just bathing here, oh gods oh gods oh gods...'

"Mmmmmm," Tara sighed, moving ever so gently, parting her legs as far as the sides of the tub would allow, relaxing just enough to let a fraction of her weight rest on Willow's hand. Willow wouldn't have been able to tear her eyes away had the Power That Is manifested herself right there in the bath room with them. Before her, Tara was the embodiment of pleasure, her whole body and posture and demeanour perfectly aligned to show complete bliss, in the moment when she was utterly vulnerable, absolutely exposed to Willow. Willow had never seen anything that so called to her soul to be as perfect as was humanly possible, to deserve this.

Slowly, with a touch of regret but a stronger glow of satisfaction, Willow drew her hand away from Tara, down into the water. She cupped a handful and brought it up, her fingers again tracing Tara's most intimate place as she washed the soap away. Tara hummed a low note to herself and leant back, angling her hips just a little further towards Willow. Willow's hand lingered for a long moment after the water had drained away, motionless but in delightful contact with Tara. She teased her imagination with how close she was, how little would be required to sink her index finger, resting between Tara's lips, into the velvety depths of her sex.

"Wait," Tara breathed, just as Willow had begun to move her hand away. Willow froze in place as Tara brought her own hand to her arm, trailing down to her wrist.

"I just," Tara breathed, eyes closed, still to all appearances in some other realm of joyfulness, "I just want... to touch your hand... now... there..." Her hand slid onto the back of Willow's, covering it, holding it still against herself. "I-if I were a poet," Tara whispered, "I could tell you how this feels..." After a long, silent moment she let her hand relax just a fraction, and Willow gently moved her fingers to Tara's thigh, stroking her skin before scooping up another handful of water and continuing to wash her.

Willow retrieved the washcloth and ran water over Tara's shoulders, rinsing the soap from her body with loving care. As she reached her waist Tara straightened up on her knees, giving her better access, finally opening her eyes to smile down at Willow as she gently kneaded her bottom and then her thighs. When she was done Tara wordlessly took the cloth from her hand and held it in the water to soak it.

"Close y-your eyes?" she asked in a tiny voice. Willow did so, rewarded a moment later by the sensation of Tara running the wet cloth over her skin. First her shoulders, front and back, then down her arms, then her back, down to her waist, up her sides, down again to her stomach. Willow's lips fell open when the cloth brushed over her breasts, but it was just for a moment, before it ran down her back again, over her bottom with a playful little squeeze, and along her legs. Willow waited for a moment as Tara wet the cloth again, then she felt it soft against her face, as Tara dabbed the corner of it over her brow, her cheeks and her chin. Willow smiled widely at the warmth surrounding her, and her tongue darted out to lick a drop of water from her lips. She felt Tara's fingers, slippery with soap, carefully navigate her face, then the cloth again, washing it away.

Tara started soaping her body, following the same paths Willow had a moment ago. Having felt her touch there before, Willow thought she would be ready when Tara's hands cupped her breasts, but a gasp escaped her as Tara's fingers closed firmly on her, confident and assertive. She leaned back as Tara had, giving herself over to Tara. She felt a thumb and finger close on each of her nipples and lightly pinch them, which forced her mouth wide open as she heaved air into her lungs. Then Tara's hands were moving back down over her stomach onto her legs, squeezing her bottom again in passing, before circling around her knees and moving back up the inside of her thighs.

Willow understood Tara's earlier rapture as she slowly opened her legs for her. She felt completely open, completely helpless, and at the same time perfectly safe and calm. She kept going until her knees nudged up against the sides of the tub, and she could go no further. She felt as though she had somehow exceeded the bounds of reality, as if the world as she knew it, with all its imperfections and compromises, was not capable of containing the pure bliss she felt in the simple act of giving her most private place to her lover, her Tara. She imagined she could feel the warmth of Tara's skin as she neared, and then for the first time in her life she felt the touch of a hand not her own on her sex.

She felt a hundred thoughts all at once. She wanted to be set in stone, immovable, locked in this moment for all time; she wanted to somehow live her entire life without having to let go of the feeling of Tara's hand on her sex, her palm cupping her mound; she wanted to feel Tara's fingers move, slowly and gently, through her folds; she wanted to grab hold of Tara's wrist and drive herself down onto her fingers, to keep Tara inside her forever and ever. Whether by consensus opinion or because of the overriding calm joy she felt, she remained still. Tara's hand stayed with her as she tilted her hips forward and let her head fall back, each breath released from her body accompanied by a soft cry of pleasure.

All too soon she felt Tara's fingers trail away, and then the heat of water against her sex as, for a moment, Tara was touching her again. Then her thighs were being washed clean of soap, and her hips, her bottom, her stomach, breasts and shoulders, and her back. Finally she felt Tara's finger on her chin, inviting her to look up, to open her eyes again. Staring into her eyes, Tara held her hands around Willow's waist and gently straightened her up, until they were kneeling face to face in the cooling water.

"No words," Willow whispered. Tara nodded, and kissed her slowly and deeply, her tongue reaching into Willow's mouth, but moving lazily, taking its time exploring. Willow ran her hands up and down Tara's back, marvelling at the perfection of every inch of her, until finally Tara released her lips and rested her forehead on Willow's.

"Y-you want to borrow a towel?" she asked with a sweet smile. Willow smiled, then laughed, and hugged Tara as they stood up together, and didn't let her go until they were both by the fireplace, next to the bench where a selection of thick, fluffy towels were waiting in the warm. They took one each and dried each other, Willow finding it a little easier to keep her mind on the task at hand with several folded layers of towel between her hands and Tara's body as she rubbed her vigorously all over. She smiled as Tara wrapped her towel around her back and pulled her close.

"We're going to be late," she said ruefully.

"We'll get dressed in a hurry," Willow replied.

"Tonight," Tara whispered. Willow nodded.

Willow sat in the Baron's court, Tara's hand warm in hers, as they waited for the prisoner to be brought in. She was glad that neither of them would be required to give evidence - she because she had been several miles away when Tara had been attacked, Tara because there were plenty of noblemen of good standing who were witness to it, and the Baron had conveyed through his advisor Franzef that Tara needn't take the stand unless she wished to. On hearing Franzef's assertion that there was no way the case would fail, Tara had decided to merely observe, asking only to be allowed to speak with the Baron before final judgement was passed.

The room was panelled with wood, and dominated by the Baron's throne, where he would sit and pass judgement after the evidence had been presented and the witnesses had spoken. Behind the empty throne a wooden statue of an eagle reared up, its wings carved into the panels behind it, spanning the width of the room. To one side of the Baron's throne, separated from the rest of the room by sturdy steel bars, a plain wooden chair where the accused would sit. Opposite this were places for the master of the court and the accused's defender. Franzef was already sitting there, having taken the role on account of Josef having no-one to call upon. Willow and Tara sat with a handful of witnesses on benches along the back of the chamber.

"There's an Amazon custom," Tara said quietly, as a pair of guards entered the court and stood ready by the empty cell, "where if a warrior is threatened, she always confronts the source of her fear. They say when we're in danger, when someone puts us in danger, is puts fear into us, and we have to look them in the eye to get rid of the fear. Otherwise, even if its source is destroyed, the fear remains." Willow offered an encouraging smile, and squeezed Tara's hand gently. She was pleased to see Tara looking confident, if slightly tense. A few more witnesses and spectators finished seating themselves.

"All rise," called Franzef, as a door in one of the side walls opened and the Baron emerged. He nodded acknowledgement to the room in general and proceeded to his throne, while the witnesses resumed their seats. Franzef remained standing until his opposite number, a white-haired old man in expensive robes, followed the Baron into the room and took his place beside him. The Baron reached out onto the podium in front of him and placed his hand on top of a steel ball resting there. Willow had wondered about that, but its purpose became clear when he lifted it and brought it sharply down on the metal base beneath it, causing a ringing crack.

"Judgement will commence," he said, nodding to the master of the court. The man stood and walked a few paces to the middle of the chamber.

"Bring in the accused," he ordered the guards. One of them pulled a rope a short distance from the cell, which rang a bell on the other side of the wall. A door inside the cell opened and two guards manhandled Josef through, seating him without much gentleness and remaining behind him, short swords drawn. Willow frowned at Josef, studying him - she realised she had wanted him to be some creature of darkness, warped and inhuman, gleeful in his villainy, but he was just a man. He certainly hadn't benefited from his stay in the castle's cells, sporting several days' worth of stubble and dark circles beneath his eyes, but his expression as he stared at the floor before him was simply resignation.

"Baron," the master of the court began, "this man stands accused of attempted murder, his target being both an ally of the realm, and a guest under this roof, enjoying the status and protection thereof." He retrieved a scroll from his bag and presented it to Franzef, who glanced at it and handed it back.

"What say you?" the Baron asked him.

"The accused pleads guilty, and begs the mercy of the court," Franzef said. The Baron turned to the cell and fixed Josef with a formidable glare.

"Is this true?" he asked formally. Josef didn't meet his eye, but nodded humbly.

"Yes y'r honour," he mumbled.

"Very well," the Baron went on, turning back to Franzef and the master of the court, "the defender will state the case for mercy. The witnesses are excused, if they wish to leave." Willow looked at Tara, who gave her a tight-lipped smile and stayed put. Willow shifted a little closer to her on the bench. She noticed some of the other witnesses leaning back and looking more relaxed, but no-one left the chamber.

"Only that the accused was instructed in his crime by Hydris, at that time mage to the Baron's court," Franzef noted dryly, "a man of much higher rank than the accused, and therefore possessed of a corresponding influence."

"Noted," the Baron replied without feeling. "The case against?" The master of the court stood again.

"The accused is a known outlaw, having committed both theft and brigandage. He accepted Hydris's money readily, and had full knowledge of his actions. If your lordship pleases, documents can be produced telling of his criminal activities in Piotrsberg and Theresenberg. There is a warrant on his head issued by the constables."

"So noted," the Baron said. He glanced once more at Josef in his cell, then looked out over the faces before him. "The accused is guilty by his own admission. The penalty for his crime, as laid down by the law of this realm, is death by hanging. It is my wish, though, that the Amazon nation, whose representative was the target of this cowardly attack, be allowed to take whatever measures it deems necessary to satisfy its own codes of justice."

Tara gaze Willow's hand a quick squeeze, took a deep breath, and stood up. The Baron beckoned her forwards, and Willow watched her intently as she approached his throne.

"M-my lord," she said, raising her voice so everyone could hear, "what punishment would be awarded, if mercy were granted?"

"Having heard this evidence," the Baron said grimly, "this man will never be pardoned. If mercy were called for," he stressed the 'if', "he would be taken to the copper mines near Salzlake. The tunnels are completely mapped, and the guards at the mine among our best. He would be put to work there for the rest of his natural life." Tara nodded, then turned and took a couple of paces towards Josef's cell. He stopped himself from looking up at her as she stood in front of him, close to the bars. Willow held her breath, trusting Tara but anxious for her none the less.

"Look at me," she heard Tara say in a quiet, steady voice. Josef glanced up at her, flinched as he met her stare, and then frowned in confusion at her, as if he had been expecting to be struck dead by her gaze. She leaned a little closer and said something Willow didn't catch, then stepped back and turned towards the Baron again.

"I-I ask for the court's mercy," she said clearly. The Baron looked surprised, and Willow heard astonished muttering from the benches around her.

"This man tried to kill you," the Baron said slowly, as if working his way through a difficult idea.

"Yes," Tara said, "and when he did, I-I was more afraid than I had ever been." She took a moment, then met the Baron's stare with ease. "But I'm not afraid of him now," she said simply.

The pragmatic side of Willow was a little upset - truthfully, the notion that people might be afraid of trying to hurt Tara was one she didn't have much of a problem with - but at the same time she was oddly proud. Tara was smiling faintly as she turned back, without giving Josef another look. Her smile faltered as she looked past Willow, but then she gathered herself and returned to her side. Willow glanced back as Tara was sitting down, and frowned to see von Karlin seated in the back row of benches, scowling at nothing in particular. She took Tara's hand again.

"Judgement is made," the Baron said loudly, "the accused is sentenced to hard labour in the Salzlake mines, the duration being life, with no possibility of release." He brought the steel sphere down once more, striking a spark from the base beneath it. The court stood as he rose from his throne and left the chamber. Willow was glad to see von Karlin leaving without a word.

"You okay?" she asked Tara.

"I'm okay," Tara replied, seeming a little surprised. "I-I'd already decided to ask for mercy... there's very little serious crime on the islands, and we don't like to put people to death. I-I just thought I'd feel more uneasy about it... I feel kind of good," she finished with a shrug and a grin.

"Not afraid any more?" Willow asked with a smile.

"No," Tara said, "I know the Baron will keep his word... that man won't be able to try to hurt me ever again. I'm not afraid."

"Good," Willow said.

Continue to Hellebore Chapter Seventeen

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