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Who's In the Kitchen with Andrella?

Hey Folks! Did you ever wonder what your favorite characters do in their off hours? Did you ever want to know more about them, like what are their favorite foods? Well then you are in luck. This month's blog entry is a short vignette which answers those very questions.

Continuity-wise, this story takes place after the last book in the Heroes of Ravenford series, so if you have not finished the Baron's Heart, be prepared for spoilers. Also, note that the short is an exclusive to this blog - you won't find it published anywhere else. So without further ado, here's Who's in the Kitchen with Andrella? See you next month for an update on the anthology currently in the works, Tales from Thac.

It was well past midnight as the Lady Andrella crept through the darkened halls of Vermoorden Keep. A strange feeling had woken her—a premonition that something was terribly wrong. She had already checked on her parents, but both were fast asleep. Nothing had appeared amiss in the courtyard below and the town beyond seemed quiet as well. Yet with everything that had happened these last few months—her father’s death, the occupation of Ravenford, the fight with the Assassins’ Guild—she was loath to ignore her feelings of disquiet.

Thus, the young lady followed her gut down to the first floor of the keep and all the way back to the kitchen. When she got there, the door lay open, bright light filtering out into the hall. A loud metallic crash reached her ears as she crept those last few feet. It was followed by the soft sound of cursing. “Dragon dung!”

Someone was definitely in the kitchen, but who would be up at this late hour? Andrella held her breath as she peered around the edge of the open door.

At first, she saw no one. The walls were lined with dark grey stone counters and rich oak-colored cabinets. A long island stood in the center of the room, topped with the same grey stone as the counters. A lone book lay open upon the island with some utensils and a few empty jars lying next to it. Inset into the wall behind was a large hearth. A good-sized cauldron hung in it with a roaring fire burning below. Obviously, someone had been preparing a meal, but where did they go?

Andrella nearly jumped out of her skin as a head popped up from behind the counter. A handsome face topped with tousled brown hair stared back at her. Andrella breathed a sigh of relief—it was Lloyd. The young warrior held a pot in one hand and a large stirring spoon in the other like they were weapons for the battlefield.

Andrella stifled a giggle as she stepped out from behind the door. She planted her hands on her hips. “Lloyd Stealle! What in Thac are you doing in the kitchen at this late hour? You nearly scared the life out of me!”

“Andrella? Sorry.” A sheepish grin crossed the young man’s face, the hand with the spoon going to the back of his neck. “I—I just got hungry is all.”

A knowing smile spread across Andrella’s lips. The tall, broad-shouldered young man was always hungry. She gave up any pretense of anger and strode into the kitchen to join him.

“So, what are you trying to make?” she asked as she peered at the bubbling cauldron behind him.

“Cake?” Lloyd’s face reddened somewhat as he pointed to the book on the counter, his tone tentative at best.

Andrella frowned as she took a closer look at the open page. “Lloyd, this recipe is for pancakes.”

The young man shrugged. “Aren’t pancakes cakes? I mean, it has the word cake right in it, doesn’t it?”

Andrella sighed again. She loved this amazing young man, but he could be so dense at times. Yet before she could respond, a familiar voice interrupted them.

“Simple, naive Lloyd. By that logic, a hot dog would be made of dogs.” The diminutive form of Seth stood in the open doorway, his mouth twisted sideways in a typical smirk.

Andrella giggled in spite of herself. Seth could be blunt at times, but he was seldom wrong.

Lloyd’s face had gone pale. “Seth, eww. Why would anyone eat a dog?”

“There are cultures on the mainland I’ve read about that do just that,” another jovial voice sounded from the hallway. Elladan abruptly popped into view. Though perhaps only five feet tall, the dangerously good-looking bard towered over the halfling in front of him.

Andrella suddenly felt queasy in the stomach. “I think I have to agree with Lloyd on that. Eww.”

Seth and Elladan sauntered into the kitchen, the latter striding up to the simmer cauldron. “You know, you really should have more of open mind. It’s not nice to judge other cultures.”

“Yeah,” Seth agreed while vaulting onto a kitchen stool. “Look at goblins—they’ll eat just about anything.”

“So will orcs, bugbears, trolls, ogres, giants, and demons—not to mention dragons,” intoned yet another familiar voice.

Andrella gazed out into the hallway and saw Glolindir standing there, the tall blonde elf ticking off species on his fingers as he spoke. The copper-haired Aksel stood next to him, his head barely reaching to the elf’s waist. “I do believe we know a few dragons that are very selective as to what they eat.”

“Point taken,” Glo quickly amended.

Seth waved the duo forward, the side of his mouth lifting upward. “Might as well come in and grab a seat. Lloyd’s making breakfast.”

“Lloyd’s cooking?” Aksel’s brow furrowed as they joined them in the kitchen.

“Not just cooking,” Elladan burst out. “I think he’s planning on feeding an army!”

Andrella spun around to see Elladan standing over the cauldron, his eyes wide. She took a few steps forward and peered over his shoulder. The large cauldron was nearly filled to the brim with thick, yellow bubbling liquid.

Incredulous, she shifted her gaze back to the young man. Lloyd’s face had turned a bright shade of red. “I was just following the recipe…”

Elladan laughed as he grabbed the long spoon out of Lloyd’s hand and stirred the contents of the cauldron gingerly. “Well there’s enough here to feed an entire platoon.”

“Sounds good to me!”

The surprise had worn thin for Andrella as this time Donatello stood in the doorway. She did raise an eyebrow, however, when she saw who was with him. The slim elf had arrived at the kitchen with the tall Valkyrie-like warrior woman, Karathralla.

“Donnie and Kara,” Andrella practically purred. “Funny that the two of you should show up together.”

“Ahem,” the slight elf cleared his throat as they both entered the room. “Actually, neither of us could sleep.”

Though Donnie wore an innocent expression, she noted the small smile on Kara’s lips and the slight blush to her cheeks. Andrella had seen that look before and it spoke volumes to her.

“Sure, we believe you,” she humored the sandy-haired elf as the pair seated themselves at the counter next to the others.

“And we all believe in the Festivus bunny as well,” Seth added dryly.

“Did someone say bunny? Is Anya here?” A pair of voices uttered the words simultaneously from the doorway.

A laugh formed on Andrella’s lips as this time Kalyn and Martan appeared in the hall. It died quickly though when she saw both archers holding their bows with nocked arrows.

“Anya? Where?” Elladan spun from the cauldron, the long stirring spoon held in front of him as if it were a weapon. The comical sight of the large utensil dripping with thick yellow liquid swiftly eased the tension in the air.

“It’s alright, Elladan,” Aksel said, the gnome quite obviously having a hard time keeping a straight face. “Martan and Kalyn are just overreacting is all.”

Elladan’s posture visibly relaxed. He wiped the back of a hand across his brow. “Phew, don’t scare me like that.”

“Sorry,” Kalyn drawled as the duo lowered their weapons and entered the room. She nudged Martan in the arm rather hard. “Told ya I heard somethin’ goin’ on down here.”

Martan rubbed his arm where she had just elbowed him. “I never said I doubted you.”

Kalyn’s hands went to her hips. “Well you didn’t say you didn’t.”

Andrella’s mouth split into a wide grin. These two were obviously interested in each other. The duo had experienced a few bumps in the road, but Andrella was certain they’d eventually get together.

“Don’t know what you’re so scared of, Elladan. After all, you do seem to be Anya’s favorite toy—bunny or otherwise.” Donnie jabbed at the handsome bard.

Elladan responded with his patented half-smile. “Next time we’ll let her turn you in to a rabbit and see how much you like it.”

“Just who is this Anya?” Kara interjected, saying the name with obvious distaste.

Andrella couldn’t resist stirring the pot a bit herself. “Oh, she’s only this gorgeous princess who from what I hear had both of them eating out of her hands.”

“Quite literally in Elladan’s case,” Glo added. “That is if you count carrots.”

Elladan shrugged as he spooned the contents of the cauldron onto a warm pan beside the hearth. The liquid quickly coalesced into a golden-brown circle. “Thanks, Glo. Don’t blame me if something nasty ends up in your pancakes.”

Seth’s snort drew everyone’s attention. “Yeah, leave the sarcasm to me. You’re not good at it anyway.”

“Ahem,” Aksel cleared his throat before anyone else could speak. “So, what is everyone’s favorite foods?”

Andrella smiled at the little gnome. Ever the peace maker, Aksel was a natural born leader. If he ever decided to settle down from adventuring, she wanted him to head the clergy in her town.

“Pancakes!” Lloyd was the first to shout out. “Or chocolate cake—or just cake in general.”

“I like noodles,” Glo stated in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Fish, clams, or any kind of seafood,” Donnie spoke up. “Though bread is a close second.”

“Angel food cake,” Kara said with firm conviction.

“Roast dire wolf!” Kalyn chimed in eagerly.

Andrella paused, her eyes narrowing. “Isn’t that just wild dog?”

“Eww,” most of them chimed in chorus.

“It used to be deer for me,” Martan went next, “until the elves of Kai-Arborous locked me up for poaching.”

Donnie put a hand on Martan’s shoulder. “Can’t say I blame you—though not all elves are bad.” He flashed a sparkling smile at the dour archer, but Martan’s attempt to smile back fell flat.

“Anything spicy,” Seth said, folding his arms as if daring anyone to disagree.

“Strawberries with cream,” Andrella followed Seth, the very words making her suddenly quite hungry.

“Venison broiled to perfection and served with herbs in a rich cream sauce,” Elladan declared with a dramatic lilt. “Anyway, breakfast is ready.”

The bard had already made over two dozen pancakes from the contents of the cauldron and was still pouring. Everyone else helped gather plates, utensils, glasses, and juice as Andrella did the honors of passing out the cakes. Lloyd had grabbed some extra chairs from the dining hall, and they now all sat around the counter in a semi-circle. Aksel said a quick prayer before they started digging in to the early breakfast.

Abruptly, something dawned on Andrella. “Aksel, you never told us what your favorite food is.”

Forkful of pancakes in hand, the little gnome paused before his next bite. He swept his eyes around the counter, a wistful expression on his face. “My favorite food is anything I can eat with my friends.”

Everyone at the counter stopped what they were doing. Andrella could feel the moisture in her eyes as she exchanged a meaningful glance with Lloyd. She had gained so much these last few months, and she owed it all to this little group.

Everyone else around the kitchen seemed equally grateful. Even the normally sardonic Seth had grown quiet, though it didn’t last. “Thanks, Aksel. I knew my pancakes were missing something—mush.”

A round of laughter broke out around the kitchen as everyone dug into eat. Andrella felt very warm and cozy inside, the anxiety that had spurred her to come down to the kitchen now all but gone. She didn’t know exactly what the future held in store for them, but she did know one thing—they would face it together.

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