A/N: I love all my reviewers! And, faithful readers, please hang with me while I get through this chapter. The war with Scanra looms ahead, a dark cloud marring the future of our heroine. By the way, Jump and the sparrows are around, I just have not mentioned them specifically. Tobe is still in New Hope. Enjoy the fluff!

Neal and Yuki left for their honeymoon in the south of Tortall on the Great Inland Sea. Things seemed extra quiet around the castle after Neal was gone. Raoul and Buri's wedding was scheduled for the next week. All of the third company was invited, but there would be less nobility attending, compared to Kel and Yuki's ceremony.

Lalasa delivered a beautiful, navy dress to Kel's rooms. It was low cut in the front, trimmed with black lace. Intricate straps crisscrossed the bodice to lace up the front. The dress would match the blue of the Own uniform. Kel gently hung it in her wardrobe as she heard a knock at the door.

Kel opened the door to see Dom, his hair wet from showering and his eyes eager. "Have you eaten yet?" he asked as she let him inside.


"Good. Do you want to go for a ride?" he continued, speaking quickly.

"Sure. Meet you down in the stable in ten minutes?"

"Okay. See you there."

Kel changed into fawn colored breeches and soft deerskin boots. She hurried down to the stable and got her grooming supplies. Though a day-old layer of snow blanketed the ground, it was busy that day. Kel brushed and saddled Hoshi just in time to meet Dom in the aisle.

"Where are we going?" she asked, noticing the glint in Dom's eye.

"Have you ever ice skated?" De handed her a pair of skates and mounted his mare, Mira.

"Not since I was young, on our fief."

"The boys told me that there is a frozen lake a few miles west."

"Let's go." Kel mounted Hoshi and fell into place behind Dom, letting him lead the way.

The lake was huge. Many of the Own were there, bundled in layers with their cheeks flushed from the cold. Kel and Dom tethered their horses and laced up their skates. Stepping carefully across the frozen ground, Kel descended to a place where it was easy to get onto the ice.

Of course, as soon as she moved onto the frozen lake, her feet went out from under her and she fell on her butt. Dom, who was close behind her, easily skated around her and turned, chuckling.

Kel looked up at him, her face etched in a scowl. "Are you laughing at me, sergeant?" she demanded.

"Why, yes, I was." He offered her his hand. She took it and pulled her up.

"In that case…" Kel's gloved hand shot out from behind her back and pushed a heap of snow into his face. Sputtering, Dom wiped the cold, frozen stuff out of his eyes and heard laughing behind him. "Look who it is," Kel exclaimed. "Lerant, Quasim, Wolset, how nice to see you. How are you on this fine day?"

"Better than Dommy boy," Lerant replied between laughing spasms.

"Did you offend, Mother?" Wolset asked, using his nickname for Kel.

"He laughed at me," Kel explained in a nonchalant voice. "He had to pay."

"Tsk, tsk. Laughed at the Lady Knight? You deserved what you got," Quasim scolded, ducking a blow Dom aimed at his head. "So, Dom let you in on our secret, ehh?" He gestured around him. "We convinced Milord to let us come here instead of freezing in the training yards. He is around here somewhere."

"Here I am," a voice boomed from behind Kel. She turned to look at her former training master. He and his fiancée, Buri, stood arm in arm, surveying Dom critically. "A bit of a cheap shot, Kel, but it probably did him some good."

Dom gave him a withering glare. "The whole world is against me. You will all pay."

"Okay," Kel replied, "But now I am going to skate. Isn't that why you brought me here?" She skated off in the other direction, everyone following. She spent the next hour chatting with Raoul, Buri, and members of the third company.

"Do you know what we need?" Raoul asked mischievously. Those around him gave him question looks. "I do. Boys!" he hollered in his battlefield voice. "Here, now." He waited until the forty or so men had clustered about him in the center of the lake. "I decided we should do a little training after all in the, uh… the tactical aspect of war. Change back into your boots. We're going to have a snowball fight. You too, Buri and Kel."

"We wouldn't miss this!" they chorused.

Everyone hurried back to the bank and slipped into boots. They met in a small clearing next to the lake. Raoul was waiting.

"Right then. You get hit five times and you are out. Go back to the lake. And if you get caught cheating, I'll think of something very unpleasant for you to do. We'll divide into two teams. I command one. Sergeant Domitan, you command the other. We'll start by picking three. I will take Buri, Kel, and Quasim."

"Fine, steal all the good ones." Dom smiled at Kel and her heart flip flopped in her chest. "Quasim, Lerant, Samuel," he called out. The two went on until all the men were divided.

"Right," Raoul concluded. "Sergeant, name your second."

"Corporal Wolset," Dom proclaimed solemnly, "Do you agree to be my second?"

"I do."

"Keladry of Mindelan," Raoul said in turn, "Do you agree to be my second."

"I do, sir," Kel replied, taken off guard. She thought he would choose Buri.

"If anything should happed to the commander, seconds take charge, got it?"

"Yes, sir!" The men replied in unison.

"Good. Dom, take your men to that side and set up your fort." Raoul pointed and Dom beckoned his crew. "My lot, head over there and start packing snow."

Raoul commanded them to build snow walls around three tall trees, shaped in a triangle. They configured it so that each tree was in the middle of one of the three walls. Raoul posted lookouts amid the needled branches of the pines. The rest of the makeshift squad sculpted and stockpiled snow balls in the center of the fort.

Kel was sent to command a spy mission with five of their men. They cautiously crept around the border of the trees to the other side of the clearing. Dom had chosen to build a trench between two boulders. It had walls on both sides, but the top was unguarded. Kel signaled the men to return to the fort. Before they turned, though, Kel noticed three men sneak out of the trench and head toward their side. Changing her mind, Kel told her men to tail them, forming snowballs as they went. Already familiar with the landscape, they quietly surrounded them. At Kel's sign, the three men in the front let their snowballs fly. One was out before he had the chance to run. Another tried to fight, but only hit one man once before he was hit five times. The last tried to retreat, but was stopped by Kel and her remaining two men.

Silently smiling their congratulations, in case there were more of Dom's people around, Kel and her men headed back to the fort. "Coming back, we took out three of their men, sir," she reported to Raoul. "Damien was hit once. This is what Dom's fort looks like." She took a stick and proceeded to draw a map. "If we attack from the two trees overhanging it," Kel explained, "we could do some serious damage. We just need a distraction so we can get our men up there."

"Good work, Kel." Raoul appeared lost in thought for a moment. "Saddlebags, boys! Empty them and pack them with snow balls. Quasim, take seven men around behind their trench with the saddlebags. Some others will be up front with me. We'll distract them long enough to get you fellows up those trees. When they won't notice, pelt them with snow. Let's go."

Kel ended up with Raoul, showing him the best way to approach the trench. She positioned the men behind two boulders not far from Dom's fort. "We'll pretend to be a sloppy scouting party who just stumbled upon their fort. Kel, get around the fort and signal Quasim to move. Can you handle the trees?" Raoul asked, remembering her discomfort of heights.

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Move people!" The men loosely banded together and began to talk. Kel waited for Dom's people to notice them before slinking around the trees to Quasim.

"Let's go," she whispered when she reached him. He handed her a couple of snow filled saddle bags. Raoul's men were caught in a snow ball fire, retreating to the boulders pretending to be surprised. Kel led Quasim around the chaos. Quietly and efficiently, the men and Kel climbed the trees. Dom was shouting orders right and left; his men were launching snow at his command. They were too absorbed to notice those hidden in the pine needles behind them.

Kel signaled the tree squad to fire. They only had a few second of surprise, so she decided to make the best of it. The men launched enough snow balls in those few seconds to disable six men and hit everyone in the fort at least once. When Dom realized their position, he dispatched his men to hunt Kel and her people down. This is where the tricky part came in. Kel and the men dropped down from the tree and sprinted toward their own fort. She was hit once and one of her men was disabled, but all in all they fared well. Vaulting over the fort's wall, they waited for an attack. Raoul had lost three people and he was hit twice. Nevertheless, their team fared far better than Dom's.

A shout came from one of the lookouts in the tree. Some of Dom's men were approaching from the west. It looked like Wolset was in charge.

"It's a distraction," Kel muttered as Raoul commanded the men to fire at will. She climbed up one trees and scanned the area. There, in the trees to the north, she caught a hint of color. All of the sudden, men charged out of the trees. Kel shouted an alarm to Raoul, but it was too late. They crashed through the wall, breaking it down. Raoul was pelted by all of them at once.

"I'm out," he called, not wanting to give away Kel's position but making the fact known. Kel surveyed the scene quickly. It looked like Dom had pulled all his men out to attack. Their fort would be unguarded.

"Buri, Quasim!" she called, dropping down from her perch. "Get the men together. Retreat to Dom's fort, quick!" Kel saw Dom's head shoot up from among the attackers. He met her eyes as she smiled. "Then we crush them."

The men turned and fled from their shelter, grabbing filled saddle bags in case Dom had not stockpiled snow balls. They broke off into three groups, taking different directions to the fort. Buri's group made it there first, followed shortly by Kel and her men. Quasim's men were chased down and hit, so only two of them made it back.

They had managed to lure Dom's people back and began to fire. Snow balls rained across the field. Kel signaled for a charge so they could finish off the remaining few at close combat. Kel sent a man to count heads, just to make sure they had got everyone. He came back reporting that Dom and Lerant were still missing.

"Okay," Kel said, "I want you all to partner up and search in different directions. Scream if you see one of them so the others can help you out. If you hear a scream, go to it carefully. These two are tricky."

They set out, Kel partnering with a man named Davin. It was not too long before they heard a holler coming from the other end of the clearing. Kel saw her men rush toward the origin of the scream and decided that she and Davin were not needed. A messenger ran to them a few minutes later pronouncing that Lerant was disabled.

"That means we only have Dom left," Kel muttered. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a dark haired man drop from a tree. He hit the unprepared messenger, who proclaimed he was out, and turned on Davin. Davin could only take two hits, which he promptly received, and walked off muttering.

"So, it is just you and me, Lady Knight," Dom said mock menacingly, closing the gap between them. He held a snow ball in each hand with more in reach. "Don't scream and don't even try to open that pretty little saddlebag." Dom was right in front of her now. Suddenly, he dropped the snow in his hands and bent his head to kiss her. Kel was surprised, thinking he would disable her. Still, she returned his kiss with as equal passion as he dealt out, savoring the warmth of his mouth against her. One arm went around his neck. The other carefully unslung the full saddlebag from her shoulder and moved it around his back. Kel kept kissing him, hard, so he would not know what was happening. In one deft motion, she brought the bag up and emptied it on his head.

"Oh, you're in trouble now!" Dom exclaimed, shaking the snow out of his face.

"You are disabled. We won!"

"So?" he asked devilishly. He picked up some snow and started rolling it. Kel ran off, giggling. Dom chased after her for a while. Then he hid behind a tree and waited for her to double back, as he knew she would.

By this time, Buri had decided to get the disabled people to help look for Dom, not finding him anywhere. She and Raoul were walking together when they heard a small scream of surprise, followed by quiet giggling. They walked up to the base of a tree to find Kel and Dom kissing.

"So it did work!" Raoul exclaimed. Buri just smiled slightly. This did not come as a shock to her, being in close confidence with Alanna. Kel and Dom pulled apart, flustered and shocked at being caught.

Kel smiled weakly at Raoul. "We won, sir."

Raoul just laughed heartily. "Come along young uns. I am getting rather cold." He winked at Kel and Dom. "How about a cup of cider, my treat?" They nodded and walked back to the horses.

A/N: All right, I have a plot in mind for the next chapter, so I will try to update soon. A few reviews might motivate me though! So please (gets down on knees and holds up hands pleadingly), I beg you to review. Thanks!