Title: Others Forgiving When You Yourself Cannot
Summary: Sir Wyldon of Cavall is sent to bring Lady Knight Keladry of Mindelan back to Tortall, but when he arrives, he finds something he never thought he would find.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I used Tammy's characters, and Chuck's martial arts knowledge. I own only the plot. Do I really even own that?
Edited By: none other than the marvelous Nutz Nina!!
Dedication: to the soldiers who are plagued with grief brought upon by the tragedies of war.
Wyldon sat in a comfortable chair in the King's private office, opposite of the man himself.
"Are you sure you can't send someone else, sir?" Wyldon asked, a frown creasing his face.
Jonathan looked at the commander. "I considered sending young Owen of Jesslaw…"
"No, he's home with Margarry and Jolie." Wyldon said, a note of pride in his voice when he mentioned his daughter and granddaughter. "What about Queenscove, or Hollyrose, or one of their group?"
"Queenscove is on his honeymoon, Hollyrose is still recovering, and the rest have other orders and obligations," Jon said shaking his head.
"What about a letter?" Wyldon asked in a last ditch effort.
"Letters get lost in the post, men normally don't." Jonathan replied shaking his head. "I'm relying on you to do this Wyldon."
Wyldon sighed in defeat. "Yes your majesty."
Lord Wyldon of Cavall was now on a ship en route to the Yamani Isles. They were to arrive within the next few days. He had to wonder, had she changed? She had left so abruptly, and only made contact with her friends through infrequent letters and the occasional package. She had been away for nearly a year now, leaving him to wonder why exactly she had left. She hadn't really told anyone, she had left quietly, saying her goodbyes in private to her friends, leaving notes for those she thought necessary, leaving everyone confused in her wake. Even he was startled by her sudden departure.
He pondered this as he stood on the bow of the boat, gazing out at the unchanging grey ocean waters as they rose and fell in gentle swells. The smell of salty brine filled the air, mixing with the smell of damp canvas sails filled his nose as the cool air enveloped him. There was barely any sound this early in the morning, only the sound of the waves lapping gently against the ship and the sails flapping in the wind. While his body was in the middle of the Emerald Ocean, his mind wandered far and wide.
The young woman in the training courts was performing an intricate kata, an elegant mix of martial arts and a glaive pattern dance. She practiced in a secluded area of the courts, which were empty due to the heavy drizzle of rain. Her light brown shoulder length hair was pulled back in a horsetail, tied with a black silk ribbon. She wore black knee-length breeches and a black traditional sleeveless wrap around gi top. She was barefoot, with a woven hemp anklet fastened around her ankle, a single shell dangling from it. Her hazel eyes were determined as she continued her kata, it growing more and more complicated as she moved. She was called Katsumi here, meaning 'victorious beauty', for her looks and for her profession. She was a warrior. She was a knight. She was none other than Sir Keladry of Mindelan.
She completed her kata and took a quick swig of water before moving on to practice against the huge wooden pole she had adopted as her own. It was at least ten feet in height, and so large around she couldn't wrap her arms around it. Knowing she had adopted it, people carved messages into it for her. One of her teachers, a patient man named Hotaka, had carved 'Focus on your one purpose', while her eldest and wisest teacher and friend, Hisao, had etched a modified version of 'He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.' A tough old man had carved 'You can prevent your opponent from defeating you thru defense, but you cannot defeat him without taking offense.'
Most of the messages were carved in a man's hand, but a few were from women. But the one that was most special to her was only three words. 'Come home soon'. It was from Neal, who had gone thru George Cooper's contacts to find one in the Isles who might carve it for him. She had known it was him, because he had the man who carved it etch in tiny daffodil under the etching. It reminded her daily that she still had friends back home that where willing to welcome her home, if she herself couldn't.
With an internal sigh she lay her glaive out of the way before beginning to throw punches and kicks against the pole, perfecting her technique.
She continued, unaware that anyone was watching. Wyldon stood looking out the windows of the rooms he was given, the ones that overlooked the practice courts. He watched as Keladry practiced with such determination and skill. It surprised him, even though he knew it shouldn't have. He had always known she was good, but never that good. He had seen her eyes travel over the pole before she had restarted her practice. He couldn't place all the emotions that were in her eyes, but he knew the ones that had overpowered all the rest. Pain. Sadness. Anger. After a while he moved away from the window deep in thought.
Wyldon chose not to find Keladry that day. He didn't know what held him back, but it did. But, he remained curious as to what she had seen on the pole.
Later that night he went down to the practice courts, intent on practicing a bit. After did a few sword exercises he wandered over to the pole. He read the inscriptions in the fading light, his brown eyes softening as he read.
"People find way to support her without speaking, seeing as she doesn't speak all that much." He was startled when he heard the soft voice behind him. He turned to find an old, weathered man standing behind him. He wore worn traditional clothing, his gray hair pulled back, his dark almond shaped eyes showing emotion that was unusual to a Yamani.
"Well, all the years I've known her; she hasn't spoken much at all. I didn't know she knew how to string more than 20 words together till she was knighted," Wyldon said shifting his stance to that of one more comfortable.
"I knew her when she was a child, she was always quite, but she'd grown quieter since her return," the man replied. "I'm her friend and teacher Hisao, she's one of my most talented pupils and treasured friends."
"Wyldon of Cavall," he returned, extending his hand, which Hisao shook. "Once her training master, then her commander."
"Ah, so you're the Lord Wyldon she speaks of," Hisao said with a nod. "She says you are a reputable warrior."
Wyldon shrugged in response.
Hisao fetched a sword from a rack, "Well, let's see then."
The two men had a friendly spar, ending in a friendly handshake before they parted. Both left, respecting the other man immensely.
Three hours after dawn, Wyldon entered the practice courts just as Keladry was finishing up her morning practice. As she bent over to grab the water skin from the ground she heard him gruffly say, "You've gotten better Mindelan."
Started, but only barely, she spun on her heel and took up her fighting position, crouched low against the ground. But seeing her old training master and commander's face, she stood and bowed respectfully.
"Sorry sir, you startled me," she said quietly, picking up the water skin.
"Hard feat to do, seeing as nothing ever seemed to startle you," Wyldon said with a rare smile. "It's been a while since we've met Keladry."
"Yessir," she replied wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. "Eleven months and sixteen days."
"I knew you wouldn't count," Wyldon said jokingly. He smiled warmly. "Any chance that you all have horses here?" he asked dryly.
Kel was silent for a moment, in awe that Wyldon, the Lord Wyldon of Cavall, had joked? He raised his eyebrows, waiting for a response. "Oh, um, follow me," she said, picking up her glaive and leading the way to the stables. The emperor, upon her return, had insisted she keep Hoshi and Peachblossom in the imperial stables.
Wyldon said nothing as they walked along, but watched Kel as she led the way with ease, at home with her surroundings. Finally they arrived at the stables, walking past hundreds of fine, beautiful horses. Most of them were either black, grey or white, he guessed that was mostly what they bred here in the isles. When they reached Hoshi and Peachblossom's stall, he very nearly laughed, they stuck out drastically. Peachblossom being huge in comparison to the dainty Yamani horses, and not to mention extremely menacing looking. And Hoshi, with her gleaming chestnut coat, was clearly a Tortallan horse, despite her Yaman name.
Kel quickly fetched their tack, handing Hoshi's saddle and bridle to Wyldon, who looked slightly relieved. "For a moment I thought I was going to have to ride the big beast," he said, brushing down Hoshi.
"I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy sir," Kel said with a smile that vanished moments later.
"Am I the worst enemy?" Wyldon asked his brown eyes sparkling.
"I…no sir…" Kel fought to get the words out in a manner that wasn't offending, but she calmed down after seeing the laughter in his hazel eyes.
"She's a beautiful horse, I never got around to asking where you got her," Wyldon said stroking the gentle mare after he finished tacking her up.
"Milord Raoul gave her to me, he had the Rider's horsemistress find her for me," Kel said, swinging herself up into Peachblossom's saddle. She led the way to a trail broad enough for two horses to walk abreast.
A while later Wyldon cleared his throat meaningly. "You know I'm here on King Jonathan's orders to bring you home." It wasn't a question.
"The ship leaves port tomorrow afternoon," Wyldon commented.
"I'm not going."
"We're expected…what did you say?" Wyldon looked at her, frowning.
"I'm not going."
"Why? Pray tell," he said, his frown deepening further. He had expected a bit of resistance, but not a flat out refusal. It wasn't like he asked her to swim to Tortall for Mithros' sake.
There was silence and he wheeled his horse around to block Peachblossom, who looked as though he wanted to bite the man, but thought better of it once he saw the steely look in his brown eyes.
Kel was avoiding his eyes, looking at the forest around her, her saddle, her boot. "Keladry?" he said softly. "Why won't you come home?"
Kel glanced up her hazel eyes pained. "I can't," she whispered. She looked back down in shame.
Wyldon understood at once. He knew why she had left so abruptly after the war had finished, leaving her friends, family and comrades wondering and worried. He knew why she was so quiet and withdrawn, scaring the people who cared for her. He knew why she was hurting, a hurt that he knew quite well. He knew exactly what she was feeling.
"Mindelan, you can't let it eat you up inside. I may not be the most intelligent man, but I know you can't keep the emotions bottled up inside you. I've seen the way you attack your practice excercises, that pole of yours. You can't keep that inside of you. You need to talk to someone," Wyldon said, lifting her chin so she met his eyes. "Otherwise it will eat you alive."
They rode back to the imperial palace in silence, each withdrawn into their own thoughts.
Before they departed, Wyldon gave Keladry her orders. "I'm leaving tomorrow, I want to get back to my family. I expect you to follow on the next ship leaving for Tortall. It was good to see you Mindelan." He clapped her on the shoulder, and walked away, thoughts tumbling through his mind.
The next morning Kel went to the practice courts, her glaive in hand. She frowned when she saw shavings upon the ground beside her pole. Gazing up at it, she saw something that lightened her heard immensely. Lord Wyldon had carved it, realizing almost immediately the reason for her flight to the Isles. She was blaming herself for what happened at Haven. She had carried on to the end of the war, but as soon as it was finished, she had fled, unable to deal with all the pain she was in. She had believed her friends had hated and despised her for not saving Haven, for not saving all the innocent people. But now she saw it was foolish. They had forgiven her, even when she could not. It was ironic, the very man who had given her the position as commander was the one to pull her from her grief. He who was the man she never believed she could truly forgive, had, in a way, saved her from herself.
With a soft smile, a smile her face had not seen for over a year, she traced the words again. The words that were a silent and powerful forgiveness that opened the passageway to forgiving herself.
'Your friends, family and comrades will always forgive you, and will help you through your grief and pain even when you yourself can not do it alone.'