The first time you saw him, you'd collapsed, exhausted, onto your mother after a three day journey from the ruins of your village. The Tortallan army had arrived only after the Scanran bandits had ridden into the marketplace, tearing your older sister's skirts from her body and the blindfold of childish illusion from your eyes in the same moment. Your sister had kicked and scratched and bit and only just managed to escape, grabbing you by the wrist and half-carrying, half-dragging you from the small town you'd never left in your life. You fled to the neighbouring hamlet, where you found your mother and younger brother. Weeping, your mother had told you of your father's death and you cursed the Scanrans, though you knew only too well that no one would hear, that no one would care even if they did. You knew that.
Then the army came, finally, and told you that you were to proceed straight away to the new refugee sanctuary, Haven. You were relieved and immediately set out.
So, then, the first time you saw the young man, exhausted and dirty from your travels, he was standing on the wall of Haven, keeping look-out. He was tall, though not as tall as some others, and he had dark hair and bright, laughing blue eyes. After all you'd been through, the smile curving his lips seemed twice as beautiful and you fell in love.
The strength of the emotion shocked you. You'd never been overly interested in boys – why him? Of all people, a man of the King's Own (celibate? Not quite, but forbidden to marry) and a noble. Domitan of Masbolle, they told you when you asked, and smiled in a way that made you flush horribly, right up to your hairline and down past your neck.
But Domitan of Masbolle wasn't just a lovely smile and a coat of arms which he had discarded in favour of the King's Own insignia, you quickly discovered. He worked as hard as any of the refugees in building Haven, sawing and nailing and cleaning as well as his soldierly duties. You even saw him sewing once, a beautiful banner embroidered with the Mindelan crest – when you asked, they told you it was for the new commander. You didn't see how anyone would be better in charge than the Third Company, but you accepted it.
When the commander arrived, young and fresh-faced and disturbingly inexperienced at everything, you were prepared to like him. Domitan of Masbolle obviously did, everything in his face when he mentioned "our glorious leader" showed teasing affection, rather than true mockery, and he would smile just a little brighter when the subject came up in conversation. No one in Haven, apart from the soldiers, knew that it would be anyone apart from some noble with a device that had blue on it. You were up on the wall, watching for him.
When the lady knight rode up, with an entourage of animals and one or two humans, you thought that there had been some sort of mistake. But then she spoke to you all at dinner and your worst fears were confirmed. This "glorious leader" was a mere girl, barely older than yourself and you felt your heart sink. When Scanra attacked – which they would, they always did – she would be leading them. Slumping down in your seat, not listening to the lady knight's speech any more, you went off into visions of a horrible future, like the sacking of your village, only a thousand times worse. After all, what could she do?
It wasn't until after dinner, back in your own room, that you remembered the softness in Domitan of Masbolle's voice, the warmth with which he always talked about her and you could almost feel your heart break into a million pieces.
You thumped your head against your bedroom door and let yourself slide to the floor and cry. You knew, with a terrible, agonising certainty, that you could never compete with a lady knight – with the lady knight. What was a mere village-girl to that?
You heard voices outside of your window and peeked your head over the sill to find out who it was. Domitan of Masbolle's laughter rose up to you and you leant out, eager to see his smile. What you saw sickened you.
The person who had made him laugh was Keladry of Mindelan.
The person who he was flirting with was Keladry of Mindelan.
The person who he was gazing at with such complete love was Keladry of Mindelan.
You turned away from the window and threw yourself onto your bed. Burying your face in your pillow, you closed what were now tearless eyes and hated, hated, hated Keladry of Mindelan.