One Camp to Another

K. Ryan.


Two knights on their way from one camp to another, in the baking sun.

Glints of copper and orange flecked a sky bleached the sort of tight, tired blue that seemed to vibrate in the heat, shimmering around wing-shadows and feather tips that were almost eagle. On the ground, cicadas managed to distort growling, peak-shifting cries into something lost, and far away. But the griffins still passed over them, and there could be no lies about it.

"Nasty little beggar, wasn't he?"

"Lioness?"

Alanna snorted. "The griffin. The misbegotten get, perhaps, of those shadows back there."

Kel almost smiled. "No, my lady. His family is a good bit farther west. Daine told me they don't really move beyond their territories, even when hunting. Besides," a pause, time to look across and down at her companion, helmless and exasperated on a horse whose pedigree, perhaps, went beyond Mindelan and into the Book of Gold. Peachblossom snorted, but did not kick out as Kel edged him closer to woman and mount. "My sword is named after him, and is hardly misbegotten."

"Sometimes I'm still not sure when you're joking," Alanna mused. Reaching out, ignoring Peachblossom's half-snap of protest and the smallest of gasps from Keladry, Alanna took one of her hands, running her thumb over the pitted skin between Kel's thumb and forefinger, then down in a curious swipe to her wrist.

"Lioness?"

"Don't worry." Alanna's voice felt gruff in her own mouth, catching in her throat. "And tell your beast—and I know you can—that I shall return your hand. It's just..."

"Lioness?"

"It's that these scars, on your hands…it was a strange love you had for the beast, is all." Alanna coughed; narrowed violet eyes. "And it's Alanna, Kel, by all the—"

Another yowl-shriek, twisted by distance and ground, heat and insects.

"Give me my name, Lady Knight."

Kel shifted, Peachblossom snorting beneath her, as Alanna's thumb pressed into the pulse at her wrist, strangely sweet. Warm, trodden grass filled the air around them, thick and heavy and prone to make her face flush and her eyes water. She has my hand... the thought was both insane and inane at the same time, and yet Kel felt the skin around her eyes tightening into a smile. She felt the minute twitch of her lips, the small shift of skin over her nose—the bubble of happiness in her heart and throat.

"You can't lie near a griffin," Daine had told her. So, there was truth to this giddiness. More to think about. You can lie by a…oh, honestly!

"You're smiling," Alanna said, nonplussed. "And you haven't got a lance in your hand and I'm not some old man with his rear in the dust."

"It's been known to happen," Kel said quietly. "Smiling, I mean. You know me." Another pause. Strange words, from the same place as that bubble, that giddiness, turned heady in the grass and sky and the heat. "You've watched me."

"You," said Alanna of Pirate's Swoop and Olau, knight of the realm, King's Champion, "Are the most splendid thing I have ever seen."


Note: Written for the first round of Goldenlake's SMACKDOWN: A fanfiction fight for Kel's non-canonical hand. Competitor: Alanna of Pirate's Swoop and Olau. Characters are in no way mine. The competition is the brainchild of Goldenlake message boards. They, likewise, neither own nor profit from these characters and/or their geographies.