Authors Note: Hey all, this is the requested sequel to "Others Forgiving When You Yourself Cannot". I was truly surprised that it was so well received. I had really written it after I had read an article on post traumatic stress syndrome. I played on Kel's guilt for Haven, and her personality. Again, I was pleasantly surprised it was so well received. It was really inspired by a line in Darryl Worley's song "I Just Came Back From A War", especially the verse:
Chances are I never will be the same
I really don't know any more
I just came back from a war
But enough of that. Thanks to everyone who so kindly reviewed, who asked for a sequel, and to some of those whose reviews made me giggle. Hope you'll do that again!!
Disclaimer: I own nothing except for the plot. Tamora Pierce owns the characters, as you should well know by now!
Dedication: to all those soldiers who have suffered the tragedies of war
Quote of the Chapter: "My angel – his name is Freedom – choose him to be your king, He shall cut pathways east and west, and fend you with his wing." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Lady Knight Sir Keladry of Mindelan stood on the docks, her bags and trunk beside her on the wooden boards. She held the reins to two horses, one a beautiful, sweet tempered chestnut mare with feathery white socks and a white star on her face, the other a foul tempered strawberry roan war horse who shook his large scarred head impatiently.
Keladry gazed upon the Yamani city, the place that had been her sanctuary for nearly a year after the Scanran war. To anyone who knew her, her appearance hadn't changed. She was tall, broad shouldered and muscled. Her sun streaked brown hair brushed her shoulder blades and was constrained by a leather strap. She was dressed for comfort in a light cream colored wide sleeved shirt which flapped slightly in the harbor breeze and sturdy and comfortable brown breeches. Her boots were serviceable and worn, testimony to the years spent in northern Tortall. Her hands were scarred, but her nose was delicate and unbroken. Her sword was strapped to her side, a fine Yamani steel blade plainly sheathed, next to her Raven Armory dagger. The only thing that had changed where her eyes. Once full of life and determination, eyes that smiled, now they were dark and haunted, filled with shadows that was common to warriors who had survived bloody wars.
There was a tap on her shoulder, and she nearly jumped. She turned to face a lanky young sailor with sun bleached blonde hair and lively brown eyes. "'scuze me yer ladyship, but Cap'in Greldik says we're 'bout ready to shove off and is askin' if ya've changed yer mind 'bout comin' long." he said in a sailors patchy Common. She had noticed since they knew so many languages, from sailing to port to port all over the known world, they tended to mesh all the languages they knew into one, resulting in a variety of swear words and adjectives strung onto the end of their sentences.
Kel looked at him. 'Yes I've changed my mind! I don't want to go!' she said silently, but her traitorous mouth replied, "Oh, no, I haven't changed my mind." She slung her pack onto her shoulder and gently tugged on Hoshi and Peachblossom's reins as the sea-faring youth hefted her trunk onto his shoulder with an ease belied his size.
She followed him to the ship, coaxing her beloved mounts to walk aboard without fuss. They diligently followed, though the whites of their eyes showed. She led them to where they were to be kept below decks, in an area partitioned off. Making sure they were calmed down and comfortable, each bribed with a few sugar cubes, she went above decks to the cabin she had been given.
It was small and cramped, with a rough bed securely fastened the floor of the ship, a tiny writing desk and a chair. Her trunk had been jammed against the end of the bed, with her packs placed on her bed. She sat on the slightly lumpy bed, and placed her head in her hands with a sigh and a heavy heart.
She was still unsure as to how she would be greeted by her friends. Their letters where friendly enough, but what would happen when they actually saw her standing there in front of them? Before she could ponder their reactions, there was a hard rap on her door. She stood and opened the door to reveal the youth who had helped get her things aboard.
"Sorry ta bother ya, yer ladyship, but the cap'in be wantin' a word with ya. He sent me ta find ya and bring ya to 'im 'cause he wants ta be seein' ya." the youth said quickly without stopping. "Name's Finn if yer wantin' ta know."
"Thank you Finn," Kel said politely. "Lead the way."
Finn chattered about a variety of things, from the weather to the size of Peachblossom. She tactfully suggested that he keep a distance from her large roan charger. Finally, they found Captain Greldik at the helm, overseeing the sailor's preparations to maneuver the large ship out of the crowded harbor. Some were stowing cargo down below; others were loosening the ropes that secured the boat to the docks. Having delivered Kel to the captain, Finn promptly scampered up the ropes to where the sails were secured.
Greldik turned to look at Kel. He was tall and broad shouldered, muscled from years of ship life. He had a scruffy tangled red beard that made up for his lack of hair on his head. He had hard blue eyes, and leathery sun tanned skin and smelled slightly of ale.
He stuck his hand out to shake Kel's, his hand large and calloused. "I'm Andrzej Greldik, captain of The Intrepid. Now we don't take many passengers, as you'll notice, seein' as we mainly carry cargo. But you, you're a special case. I was asked by both the Emperor and Lord Wyldon to take you back to Tortall. Can't rightly refuse either of 'em. So here you are. You'll eat meals with either me or the crew, your preference. Now Lord Wyldon said you might want some place to do yer practicin', and your cabin is too tight to do that, so you can practice up here on deck. It won't take too long to get ya where you wanna go, maybe a week. Any questions?"
Kel didn't have any questions, but felt it necessary to say something at least. "This is a very nice boat you have, Captain." she said, glancing uneasily at Finn, who was settled at the top of the mast. Gods help him if he fell.
Greldik looked down at her, yes, he could look down on her. "Now they said you were smart lass. This is a ship, not a boat. A boat you cross a river with. A ship you cross an ocean with." His blue eyes snapped with an impish light. "We'll teach you something yet, lass." He turned to walk away but stopped. He pulled a folded bit of parchment out of his pocket and handed it to her. "Forgot to give you this."
Parchment in hand, Kel returned to her cramped cabin. Settling on the bed, she cracked the wax seal.
Andrzej isn't the politest man, but he's one of the best captains on the seas. He should be polite, unless you call The Intrepid a boat. I suggest you refrain from calling it that. I will meet you at Port Caynn, and I do not plan on telling anyone, except for the King, when you will be arriving. It is for you to decide when you want to greet your family and friends. They will be excited to see you again, so I do not suggest waiting too long. See you in Port Caynn upon your arrival home,
Wyldon of Cavall
Kel spent the next few days on the ship (she was careful not to call it a boat again) alternating between practicing and reading. She took her meals with the crew on most days, but once in a while, she was called into Greldik's captain's cabin to share a meal. He entertained her with stories of all the places he had traveled to, from Tortall to the Yamani Isles to Carthak and the Copper Isles.
She got on with the crew well, and they too told her many stories of their adventures. The dawn shift usually watched her as she practiced in the mornings with mixed opinions. Some of the older more experienced conservative sailors looked upon her with disapproval as she did her pattern dances, katas and various sword exercises while the younger sailors watched in awe. Especially young Finn, who was regularly punished for leaving his work undone for too long. He tended to watch in amazement as she went through the complex motions. He strongly reminded her of Tobe and his young friends who she had trained to fight while she was at Haven and New Hope.
Finally, at the urging of his friends, he shyly asked her if she could show him some of the Shang moves she knew. She almost giggled, as Finn was usually so loud and outgoing, seeing him shy and embarrassed seemed almost like a joke.
Once she began teaching Finn, his friends began to drift towards the practices, watching intently. Soon they joined in, just as enthusiastic as Finn himself. The teaching and the practices made the time go quicker, and gave her something besides home to think about. It eased her troubles, but even as it did, it didn't slid beside the perceptive Finn.
Late one evening as she leaned against the rail at the bow, looking at the stars, Finn joined her. She glanced at him and then shifted her gaze back to the sky, waiting for him to speak.
"If ya don't mind me askin', Lady Kel, why'd ya leave home? Ev'ry one knows it was you that helped win the war, getting rid of thet evil Gallan mage an' his killin' machines. Ya didn't stay even ta get the reward monies or nothin'. You jest up an' left wi'out warnin' ta nobody. How come?" he asked, all in one breath. He paused before adding hastily, "Ya don't hafta tell me, if yer not wantin' too. I know it ain't any of my business."
"That's alright Finn," she said quietly. She took a deep breath. "I felt guilty for all the lives I couldn't save."
"But, Lady! Ya saved so many more!" Finn exclaimed. "If ya don't mind me sayin'."
"I know, but I still felt guilty. I left my fort unprotected because I got too comfortable. When you lose the people you're in charge of, who you swore you'd protect as best you could, it makes you feel like you aren't worth anything, because you couldn't do it." Kel said, watching as the waves pushed gently at the boat, the water reflecting the glow of the full moon. She had no idea why it was so easy to talk to the young sailor, who was nearly a complete stranger. She hadn't even admitted it to Wyldon, let alone her best friend or her family.
"But that weren't yer fault Lady. Who coulda knowed that people'd attack whiles you were off reportin' to yer own commander?" Finn replied heatedly. Why wouldn't she get it? "I don't understand."
"It's not that…I…" Kel tried to sort her thoughts. "I feel that if I had stayed, with the extra squad and horses that it would've ended up differently. See, I knew every single one of those refugees by name. I knew their families, their hopes for the future. I just felt guilty because I wasn't there to help protect them."
Finn muttered a soft 'oh', and stood in silence beside her. "Maybe it was fate that decided it all for ya, Lady. Providence, like." Without another word Finn disappeared below decks, leaving Kel to wonder how she just had one of the best philosophy talks with a sailor no older than sixteen.
The days approaching their arrival at Port Caynn where stressful for Kel. She spent most of her time pacing the decks or doing pattern dances so complex they allowed her to think of nothing else. Her time sped past in a blur of deadly blades and wooden planks till they finally arrived at port.
Port Caynn was bustling, full of life and color, packed with shoppers, merchants and travelers. Finn carried her trunk as she led the horses down the plank to the docks. They were skittish and excited, eager to touch the ground again, not planks that rocked and bobbed with every push of the ocean. Her saddle bag was slung over her shoulder, her sword belted to her side and her dagger in it's sheathe. To all appearances she was calm as she led the her charges through the crowds, following Finn.
He finally stopped at a small inn on the outskirts of the city. She picketed the horses on the area of soft grass meant for that purpose. Stowing her trunk in a back room with the permission of the owners, Finn said his goodbyes and gave Kel an impulsive hug before hurrying off to the ship.
Kel settled down to wait for Lord Wyldon with a glass of cool lemonade. She sat on the steps of the nearly empty inn, her arms resting on her legs, the glass in her hands. She stared into the glass, as though expecting it to show her some answer as to what was to come.
There was a yell and suddenly Kel was bowled over by a lanky force. Arms gripped her tight till she pried the person off of her. Still sitting on the ground, she looked up to see Tobe. Reaching out a hand, he pulled her up. He was taller now, and wore his blonde hair like Neal once did, and his blue eyes were alive with mischief.
"You're back!" He cried, launching himself at her again. This time she hugged him tight. "I missed you so much!"
The innkeeper hustled to see what was going on. She saw Kel being embraced and the broken glass, but smiled. It wasn't only her friends who had missed seeing the Protector of the Small.
Kel looked over at the innkeeper and the broken glass. "I'll pay for that," she said, reaching for her belt purse.
"No need," a voice said. Kel saw Numair Salmalìn appear from the crowd, and she briefly wondered how she had missed his seven foot figure. He crouched down and raised a glowing hand. The pieces of glass came back together to reform the glass. He handed the glass to the woman with a smile. "Good as new."
"Show off," a woman muttered. Daine appeared beside her husband, rolling her grey-blue eyes. She gave Kel a warm hug. "Good to see you."
"You too," Kel said absently. "No offense intended, but how did you know I was arriving? Lord Wyldon swore he wasn't telling anyone."
"I didn't." Wyldon's gruff voice sounded behind her. He clasped her forearm with a smile. "Let's get your horses and trunk Mindelan, and I'll brief you on the way."
"The way were?" Kel asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Mithros, you've gotten stubborn. You're to report to Pirate's Swoop." Wyldon's brown eyes sparkled and he bit back a smile.
Kel was momentarily startled at Wyldon's action, then resigned herself to asking, "Why?"
"Because the King says so," Wyldon replied. "Who am I to question him?"
"Lord Wyldon, that's who." Tobe muttered as he stroked Peachblossom's nose tenderly.
"Be polite," Kel ordered vaguely. She missed Tobe's 'yes mother'.
"Well, let's get there before sundown," Wyldon said, pulling himself onto his horse's back.
They set off, Daine flying ahead, Numair riding Hoshi, and Kel and Tobe riding double on Peachblossom. Till they arrived at the Swoop, Tobe switched between reprimanding her for leaving and telling her about his lessons with Daine.
A feeling of dread still loomed over her as they neared the Swoop. Even if Tobe, Numair and Daine accepted her, would the rest? Would Raoul, Neal, Alanna, Yuki, Roald and Shinko? Her parents? Her brothers? Would the Own?
She awoke from her reverie when Tobe slid from the saddle and tugged gently on her hand. "We're here lady," he said, nodding at the huge stone structure.
Biting her lip, she dismounted and led Peachblossom inside. Quickly grooming him and making sure he was comfortable, she slowly made her way into the Lioness' home. It was a wonder, with all the noise the three horses made, that no one came out to greet them. She wasn't disappointed, only nervous.
Tobe led her by the hand into the room that she had been given. Her trunk was already placed at the end of the bed, but that wasn't what had surprised her. The room was open and airy, door to a small balcony opened, the linen curtains shifting in the ocean breeze. The walls were an off white, almost cream color, with a tapestry depicting a sunset on the ocean. Beside the tapestry was a four poster bed with the lightest Carthaki cotton drapes surrounding it in light blue. Near the door was a weaponry shelf where someone – she assumed it was Alanna – put fresh cleaning cloths and polish. Beside the balcony doors was a good sized desk with an inkwell, quills, paper and an oil lamp. Quickly unpacking her trunk and placing her clothes in the small bureau beside the weaponry shelf, she waited for someone to come along. Swiftly she changed into a clean linen shirt and a clean pair of breeches and she brushed her hair and washed her face in the privy.
Scanning the bookshelf, she found something that almost made her cry. Upon a shelf full of small nick knacks where two of the waving Yamani cats that she had entrusted to Neal before she left. Beside it was a vase of daffodils perched on a worn book of philosophy, vibrant and beautiful. Tears welled in her eyes, and she wiped them away frustrated.
Walking out to the balcony, she leaned against the rail, gazing at the sun painted waters of the sea. The crashing of the waves against the rocks was soothing and methodic, calming her slightly.
She tensed when she heard a knock on the door. "Come in," she said, trying to keep the nervousness out of her voice. She failed miserably.
"We hope the room is to your liking," a kind voice said. Alanna and George came to stand on her left. Alanna hugged her around the shoulders, a feat for someone so small.
"It is, thanks," Kel replied quietly. She risked a glance at the famed couple. Both looked at her with understanding, no pity in their eyes. Sympathy yes, pity no. They must've realized that pity would've only made her angry.
"We know what you're feeling. And we also know you're going to get through it Kel," Alanna said. George nodded silently.
They stood in silence for a moment before George said, "Well, others are wantin' to be seein' ya, so we'll leave ya to see 'em. Hopefully we'll see you at supper, if ya're feelin' up to it." George clasped her shoulder and he and Alanna left.
Visitors came and went, coming alone or in pairs. Some talked for a while, others said little. Raoul said nothing, only captured her in a bear-like embrace, his coal colored eyes threatening to over flow.
Buri later said he had been half mad with worry, waiting for 'his girl' to come back home.
Yuki and Shinko came together, surprising her by not hiding their relief and joy that she had at last returned. She updated them on the going-ons in the Isles, and they in turn told her of what went on in Tortall in the last year. She actually smiled a genuine smile when Shinko told her that she was 'in the family way'. So that was why Roald was beaming and glowing, Kel thought.
Finally, the person she was dreading most came. Neal. He knocked on her door politely, but burst in before she was able to open her mouth.
He swept her up in a death grip, and spun her around till squeaked. "Neal, put me down, else I'm going to be sick!" she said loudly. He set her back on the ground, but did not let her go. He crushed her against him, clutching her as though he would lose her again. Kel would later realize this moment as the first step towards healing.
When he did let go, she realized he was crying. "Gods Kel, I missed you so much. I didn't know what to do without you here. Oh Gods Kel, I'm so sorry." Tears streamed from his deep emerald eyes as he looked into her haunted hazel ones. They said what neither had the words to say. The words they didn't have to say.
Well. That wasn't what I envisioned it to be. It is not as good as I had hoped, but I posted it anyway. Kel seemed a bit out of character, and ugh, it would take too long to tell ya'll what I think is wrong. So tell me what you think. Reviews would be greatly appreciated.
When I was finishing this up, I was on the last paragraph, and my iTunes switched songs to Sheryl Crow's "Always On Your Side", and I thought it was totally perfect for Kel and Neal's relationship. (You know, I've always envisioned Neal as a musician. Don't know why) If you haven't heard the song, you should definitely listen to it. It is so great. I love it. I've played it over 50 times since I got it at my dat's (and yes, I call my dad Dat) and that was only about 2 weeks ago. So, listen to it.
Please tell me what you think, I am open to criticism! And, just to let everyone know, my school is getting out in late June, so I may have more time to write, but I'm not certain. See, I'm moving, and my dog had 9 puppies (yeah, nine) and I've got so much going on. But I will definitely try to write more. But also I will be working on my personal novels, and I've been working on a series of short stories that I've felt compelled to write. So who knows? But good reviews always speed up my writing process, just to let ya'll know.
Meghan & Co.