"Oh, so you're back again," Marissa said without looking up from rolling out her pie crust.
"Seems that way," answered the man lounging in the doorway to the castle's kitchen. Underneath all the mud, his clothes might once have been a uniform of some sort. "His Nibs got tired of camp food and rocks under his pillow and finally signed a treaty."
The crust, now perfectly thin and even, went into the pan, to be pricked and filled with savory meat paste. "Did he get anything in the bargain, besides all the dirt his army could wear home?"
"A few scrubby hillsides and a pile of rocks the locals like to call a mountain."
"He's off his game if that's all." Pie safely in the oven, Marissa finally turned to her visitor, who had filched one of the pasties still cooling on the table beside her. "And I'd wait to eat that if you don't want the inside of your mouth entirely burnt off."
"Well," her visitor said, and stuffed half the pastie into his mouth in one go. A momentary flinch was the only sign Marissa might have been right. "At least two copper mines and one seam of gold--in those scrubby hillsides and under the pile of rocks." A second, wooden-faced bite, and the pastie was gone. "I know, because I was the one that scouted it." He licked his fingers, eyeing the remaining pasties wolfishly.
"That sounds more like him." Marissa folded her arms across her chest and cocked an eyebrow at her visitor. "Should I expect everyone else to be as hungry as you?"
"Probably, but they won't be here for another week. I got to ride ahead because I found the copper and gold."
"Go sluice off, then." Marissa placed a protective hand on the table, blocking access to its contents. "There'll still be food left when you get back, and the scullion spends more than enough time scrubbing the floor anyways."
"As you command." With an ironic bow, her visitor sauntered back out of the kitchen--already devouring a second pastie he'd managed to lift despite Marissa's guard.
"Wretch," she muttered to his back, but began assembling the ingredients for another pie.