AN: This fic, which explores the fate of Irnai and the other New Hope kids as they start to take their place in the world, starts roughly three years after the events of Lady Knight (I really don't know how the missing year works so I'm ignoring it.) The ages of the kids- from my best research in Lady Knight- are as follows: Tobe is 13 (a year or so left in his indenture), Irnai is 10, Loey and Gydo are 15, Meech is 8.

This is my first attempt at a longer fic, so reviews (positive, negative, nitpicky) are especially appreciated.

By the by, I am not, never have been or ever will be remotely as amazing as Tamora Pierce. Therefore, I own absolutely nothing.

February 463 H.E.

A rosy hint of dawn, beautiful but raw and harsh as everything else in northern winter, winked in the corner of the eastern sky. The sun's first rays glimmered through towering pines and glanced off errant drifts surrounding the neat wooden buildings of the refugee camp, breaking up the ghost light that made up the pre-dawn hours. A lone deer picked delicately through snow between the stables and the soldiers barracks, but otherwise not a soul seemed to disrupt the quiet solitude of the day's genesis.

And Tobeis Boon meant to keep it that way. With a nearly silent groan Tobe rolled over on his pallet and brought himself to his feet, careful not to make any noise. Though the sun had not yet risen enough to cast more than a sliver of light, let alone any warmth, Tobe knew it was still bright enough to wake Lady Kel. And that just wouldn't do. He crept across the room and with slow practiced movements and used a pole to close the curtains near Kel's bed, preventing the sun's growing light from reaching her eyes. He knew that it would only buy him an hour or so, and that she would scold him when she awoke, but she hadn't been sleeping well of late. She was restless, he knew, due to her frustration at being snowed in up here at New Hope all winter. But he would not have her out practicing at this hour. It was just too god forsaken cold. She'd see it too if she had any sense.

Creeping back to his pallet, he tapped the small glass globe he had tucked under the corner of his pillow. At his touch, the green lights inside it stopped flashing and the globe went dark and cold. Tobe smiled to himself, comforted in knowing that he had at least one ally in his quest to ensure that Lady Kel got more sleep than she would by her own choice. Now if only Sir Neal were here to help him lecture the lady about not getting frostbiteā€¦ Tobe sighed, burrowed under his blankets and closed his eyes for what he hoped would be some decent length of time.

Suddenly, a scream ripped through the crisp morning air like a knife. Tobe sat straight up on his pallet in time to see Lady Kel ripping open her curtains. As she peered bleary eyed across the snowy square, another scream ending more like a sob, punctured the air again. Without a word Kel climbed out of bed and started pulling on her boots and snowshoes.

Tobe was on his feet immediately. "Lady, please, sleep. Its prolly nothing- some cracknob wakin' from a dream. You don' need to go."

"I'm up Tobe. There's no help for it now. I might as well check it's nothing serious."

Resigned, he held out her coat, hat, mitts, and scarf. He was about to protest and demand she put on proper breeches instead of just the long silk hose she wore to bed, but she was already half out the door. Sighing, Tobe hastened to put on his winter things and went after her, following her tracks through the fresh snow.

He found her in one of the longhouses where the refugees had slept when New Hope was first built, though most had long since moved out, commissioning their own, more private dwellings from the carpenters. Now these were mainly gathering spaces and housing for workshops and fledgling businesses. However, some, including New Hope's headwoman Fanche, her husband Saefas, and the town's poor and orphaned, still called these buildings home.

Kel and Fanche were leaning over one of the cots where a young girl was sobbing uncontrollably. Only a stupid nightmare after all, he thought bitterly. Curse the silly chit for waking his lady for no reasonā€¦ But then he realized who the young girl was. Irnai, the seer child. He quickly reconsidered his previous judgment. A seer screaming in her sleep was perhaps a serious matter after all.

"Irnai, what's wrong? Don't be afraid, it was only a dream," Kel said in her soothing, motherly voice- the one so different from, but sometimes as effective as, her soaring command voice.

But Irnai shook her head and sobbed harder. Fanche and Kel exchanged glances filled with concern and maybe a little fear. Kel straightened and looked appraisingly around the room, taking in the many heads that rose from blankets of bundles until her gaze fell on the man, obviously part of the dawn watch, who hovered at the door, waiting to see what the disturbance was before he reported back to the watch leader. "You, help me carry this girl to headquarters. Tobe, go stoke the fire- I want it comfortable. Then go wake Anise, tell her she's needed. Everybody else, back to sleep."

They all rushed to do what they were told. Tobe in particular jogged through the snow, reaching headquarters before the lady in order to fan last night's coals to life in the stove at headquarters. As they carried Irnai, still sobbing hysterically, into the room he crammed on snowshoes and rushed to find the village herbwife.

Tobeis Boon had never been one for superstitions, but he felt a sense of foreboding as he waited for Anise to collect her things and dress. He hoped Irnai would be alright. They weren't what he'd call best of friends- she was younger, odd and didn't fit in well- but he knew her well enough to know that she didn't often show emotions, hated to create a scene Mostly she kept to herself. Last time he could remember her upset was when she'd dreamed that Jules would fall from a tree, which he'd done a day later, breaking his neck. So Tobe knew that anything that would put Irnai in this state had to be bad. Just how bad, he didn't know.

Silently he sent up prayers to Mithros, the Goddess, a few minor northern gods and even the horse lords Lord Raoul's wife had told him about- he didn't care who listened if they might help. Please gods, please, let us be able to handle whatever it is.