Disclaimer: I own not the characters, nor the places named in this fic. All I own is the plot. (so please don't sue me)

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December 10
Camp of New Hope
In the 21st year of the reign of
Jonathon IV and Thayet, his queen
460 H.E.(Human Era)

Lady Knight, Keladry Of Mindelan awoke quietly in her room at the newly established refuge village of New Hope . It was once again before dawn and her boy Tobe was sleeping soundly in the cot on the opposite side of her quarters. Trying her best not to wake him, she reached for her tunic and breeches, putting them on as quietly as she could not to disturb the flock of sparrows and dog, Jump, that rested on the floor. Silently, she tip-toed out her room towards the unoccupied field between the infirmary and mess hall.

Since her days as a page, Kel, as she was known to her friends, would start each day before the sun rose as to practice with her weapons in peace. Her weapon of choice being a five foot long wooden staff with eighteen inches of sharpened metal at the end. It was a Yamani weapon known as glaive. Slowly, she began the practice dance. Her muscles aching from the day before. A band of raiders had thought her camp an easy target. The last thing they had expected was a Village full of commoners who had all mastered hand to hand combat along with a variety of skills with other weapons. After all, five hundred out of the near 1,500 current residents were taken across the northern border of Scanra against their will and had lived to tell the tale.

As she began to quicken her pace with the glaive, a small crowd gathered around. Mostly early risers and those who had been on guard duty during the night. The winter sun showered them with early morning rays and sweat began to accumulate on Keladry's delicate face. Her hazel eyes dark with concentration. Soon she would have to stop and face the day. Complaints would be filed, questions would be asked, and she would have to find a way to keep her head on straight as everyone around her needed her.

After finishing her exercises, Kel returned to her room to find Tobe had gotten her a bath full of hot water and was now cleaning her sword anxiously on the floor.

"Milady! Where had you gone? Why didn't you Wake me? I was going to go look for you but I thought you'd might come back and get angry with me for not being here!" said the small boy in one long breath. He had been a servant in an inn she had once stayed in. After seeing his master beat him for no good reason she bought the boy and he had traveled with her ever since. Being both her servant and dear friend. He had more then proven his use to Kel during his time with her. Now, she wondered how she ever got by without him.

"Tobe, calm down. I did what I always do. I went to where I always go. The only difference about this morning was that you didn't wake up while I was getting dressed. I thought that you needed your rest," she said softly, trying to calm down her companion. He was still afraid that he would wake up one day to find that she had abandoned him. Or worse, that it had all been a vivid dream.

"I don't need more rest milady. Please wake me tomorrow if I don't wake on my own. I got scared when you weren't here. I thought maybe something had happened. What good am I to you if I'm asleep?" he asked wide eyed. He was a good servant to Kel, a little to enthusiastic sometimes, but more then a necessity in her life now.

"Alright, alright. If you're asleep tomorrow by the time I'm ready to go out and practice, then I promise I'll wake you and tell you where I'm going. But you do not have to get up and follow me. And if you leave while I'm gone, leave a note on the door telling me where you are. Fair?" she provided an answer to all his complaints.

"Fair," he responded grudgingly. He always wanted to be where she was.

"Good. Now, did you wash yet?" her voice was kind but firm.

"Not yet milady. I was waiting for you to get back," he said looking down at his unwashed feet.

"Well then I suggest you do so before you eat. Neal has a bath in his room ready for you."

"Very well," he said as he walked out of the room and went towards the rooms of Sir Nealan of Queenscove , the resident healer of New Hope, to bathe.

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Walking into the mess hall, clean and aching, Kel sat down at the officers' table with a bowl of porridge and began to eat. She was one of the first to arrive, as always, and ate quietly as more people slowly trickled into the cramped space. Every so often looking up to see if any of her friends had arrived. She hadn't had a decent conversation with Neal since they got back from prince Roald's Wedding to Princess Shinkokami. While they were there, Neal had found out that his betrothed, Kel's childhood friend Yuki, would have to go back to the Yamani Islands and wouldn't be able to marry him. He had been heartbroken.

Just as Kel finished her porridge, both Neal and Merric, the camps patrol captain, toddled in, seemingly sleep-walking. The two of them never had become accustomed to early mornings.

"'Morning you two! I trust you slept well," she chirped, strangely chipper. Watching Neal wipe the sleep from his emerald green eyes made her giddy.

"And what, pray tell, makes you so happy this morning? Been getting it on with Brutus the butcher again?" Merric snapped grumpily. His very red hair was mussed and she didn't think that he had bathed yet.

"Well isn't someone rather grumpy this morning? And besides we all know that Brutus would never take a second glance at me. He far more prefers your presence," she turned to Neal, "And what of you Sir Nealan? Your loincloth in a twist as well?" her eyes searched his face for any sign of happiness. No matter how many times she tried, she hadn't seen him smile since Yuki left.

"No, just tired," his voice was monotone, trying to hide his utter distain for everything cheery.

"Oh, well, okay then..." letting her sentence trail off, Kel stood and walked out of the hall out into the field in which she would plow today. He was supposed to be her best friend, why wouldn't he just open up to her?

---

Finally in his room at the end of the day, Neal found himself unable to settle himself. His day had been long, like all his days at this Mithros-forsaken hell hole, and no matter what he did to try to calm himself, he couldn't get his mind to shut off. Questions were running through his mind at a rapid pace. All questions concerning a certain Yamani girl he had once called his 'love'. Giving in to his restlessness, he got up, put on his breeches, and went to see the girl he hadn't spoken to since breakfast.

---

Kel had just settled down to rest when she heard a frantic knocking on her door. Tobe, who had fallen asleep as soon as he'd hit the cot, jumped up in a frenzy.

"What? Huh? What's happening?" he yelled sleepily, slurring his words together as he stumbled towards the door. Opened, it revealed a very red, very impatient Neal. He stormed into the room, shoving Tobe out and closing the door behind him.

"Why did Yuki leave?" he demanded of Kel. He knew that they talked before she left. She never told him why she was leaving. All she said was that she had to go. No reason. No explanation. She hadn't even responded to the numerous letters he'd sent since.

"I..I don't know. Neal, what are you doing, it's late?" her mouse brown hair was everywhere and her eyes were half closed adjusting to the light from his lantern. She was barely clothed under her blankets and would prefer to stay underneath them.

"You do know! You were the last one she talked to before she left. You were her best friend Kel, please just tell me!" his voice was growing hysterical as tears welled up in his bright green eyes.

"She just had to Neal, she had no choice...if she did-"

"Was there someone else? Please Kel, Tell me.." he pleaded cutting her off. He had fallen to his knees in exasperation.

"She-She had an arranged betrothal. She tried her best to break it, but her family wouldn't let it happen. I'm so sorry Neal, she just didn't want to hurt you more then necessary," It was her best soothing voice. All she could manage to do was catch him as he collapsed onto her bad crying like an infant. He hadn't cried about her leaving yet. It seemed her Yamani training had rubbed off on him.

His whole body was on her bed, his head on her lap as he cried himself to sleep when Tobe finally dared to poke his head through the door . "Is he okay?" the young boy asked , gesturing towards the crying lump of a man.

"He'll be okay Tobe. But I suspect he'll be up a few more times before the night is through. I'm sure he won't mind if you slept in his room tonight" Kel replied softly, stroking Neal's head, trying to soothe him into sleep.

"It's that crying thing again isn't it?" inquired Tobe.

"Yes. Now go to sleep. It's getting late."

"Yes Milady," and with that he left his master to comfort her dear friend.

And that is what she did. She waited until she was sure he was sleeping before she dared to move and get comfortable. She thought about moving over to Tobe's cot when she realized that Neal's strong arm was wrapped around her torso and moving would disturb him. So she just snuggled in beside him. And there they slept the whole night through.

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A/N. Okay. First Tamora Fic. Be nice and review Please