Prologue – Reflections

As you can probably guess... I don't own Lady Kel, Tobe or any other of the character's from Tamora Pierce's novels. I only own my characters which so far are...well you'll find out... :-D

Please review – this is my first Fanfic and I would love to know what people think. Have the next couple of chapters if people think it's worth running with...

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Lady Knight Keladry of Mindelan paused only briefly on the home-stretch towards the town borne from the refugee camp she had once guarded. Even in that second of a hesitation she still managed to survey everything around her and to wonder at its development. Seeing New Hope again, she felt as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders. In the year that had passed since she had made her last visit, she had often wondered how everything was going up here on the Scanran Border.

Upon being reassigned from the post of town leader as the war had finally ended, Kel had been sad but had known it was for the best. Still within her mind there had sat a seed of doubt that history would repeat itself and the moment she turned her back on her camp-turned-town it would become a pile of ashes. Memories of that horrifying day still haunted her dreams; the faces of her dead refugees sending her with a shove back into consciousness. On waking the dull grey tones of dawn always reminded Kel that it was in the past and she had paid her dues to those who fell.

It pleased her now to see that her New Hope had spread plant-like in its growth across the wide, flat plain that Master Numair the mage had raised for them. Where there had been thin and tentative shoots coming from the seed of settlement, there were now thick substantial roots and stems creating a firm foundation for the trade post. And from where she sat at that moment, Kel saw that New Hope was flowering, and flourishing.

She shivered but firmly examined the landscape before her as proof that the refugees' deaths had not been in vain all those years ago. Though the fields were empty of both crops and workers, they had also been moved further from the fortified heart of the town than they once were as buildings had spread outside of the walls.

The Shadow Man and his machines had been defeated almost five years ago; what seemed almost a blink of an eye to the second Lady Knight of the Tortallan realm. In that time she had seen many things, both good and evil that she had never thought to have witnessed before and Kel hoped that they had, on reflection, helped her to become a better knight.

Now at twenty-three years old she was no longer green in her experience. In fact she had only just managed to get out of having a squire this year despite being badgered by the tutors of the pages. Her reasoning had come from the tall, tanned boy that could be found riding by her side even now.

Tobe had changed too in the last year more so than Kel had done in the five years overall. As a fourteen year old he was tall; taller than most boys of his age but not as tall as her (not yet least ways.) His head was bent down low from experience of riding with a knight as a surrogate mother and he urged the horse on with quiet words. Where boyish features had reigned in the past with a naive beauty, there was now the face of a man-child. He wasn't completely finished growing yet and that could be seen in the roundness of his cheeks, the smoothness of his chin and the sprinkle of spots on his forehead. Yet his voice had become a rich, warming resonating sound that had appeared with complete surprise last mid-winter. Tobe still reminded Kel everyday of the nine-year old child she had restored to health all those years ago but now he was healthier, stronger, bigger and getting more so by the day.

She had reasoned with the palace's teachers that she would take a squire next year when Tobe had decided what he wanted to do. At the moment he was torn between joining the King's Own and attending the Royal University in the capital. Kel was happy whatever he chose to do; he had become like a son to her at an age when she had barely left childhood herself. Despite this she would support him in any decision and had made sure that he had the best care and education she could possibly supply him with as the years had passed.

He had travelled with her when he could, was allowed and when out of classes but between periods he had remained in the small lodgings Kel had been given in the Palace. When he had at last started to trust that she wasn't going to leave him, and he had been officially adopted, he had let her go on Knight's business, though they missed each other terribly.

Kel slowed her mount as they began to enter the first rows of houses and Tobe drew in by her flank. People in the streets stopped what they were doing to look who had arrived. Those who knew her from her past visit and their combined history shouted out greetings whilst newcomers were told the story of Lady Kel by old residents. At the heart of the town the old wall rose before her like an old familiar friend, the stones having been repaired in places but still looking like it had when she had last seen it and as it stood in her memory from her time here. One of the large oak doors stood open for the residents and visitors who were milling around so Kel drew her horse off to the side a way just for a moment.

Tobe turned in his saddle to look up at her curiously. He reminded Kel of all her old classmates back at school; in him she often beheld the same awkward ways and manners her friends had had when navigating the No Man's Land between the stages of maturity. His hair was now a burnt blonde and fell thickly down his head to curl on his collar. Kel had kept on at him for days at the end of their last assignment to have it cut before coming north and even then she had had to stand over him whilst it was done. If Tobe had his way it would be left to grow and though longer hair looked fine on him, the last time he had tried it Kel had been the one who had bore the brunt of the curses when she wrestled the wind-swept knots out of it each night.

"Are we going in then, Kelhen?" Tobe asked her lightly watching the play of emotions across Kel's face, using the nickname he had made when she had become a fussing mother hen after his adoption. She still had nightmares every now and then about Haven Tobe knew – when she was at home he stayed in her room on a spare cot.

Kel scowled at the nickname then smiled anyway. The boyish grin that had lit Tobe's face had cast shadows of a disappearing childlike innocence across developing features in a way that made it impossible not to smile back even with the light teasing. It made her happy to see him this way, filled with confidence and contentment.

"I suppose we had better go and see how they are faring." Kel sighed deeply and Tobe's smile grew bigger.

"Then lead the way Lady Knight," Tobe replied and with a cluck to their mounts, the pair passed through the gates of Inner New Hope.