A/N Sorry it has taken me so long to update! I have been ridiculously busy lately, and I apologise! Thank you so so so much for all of the AMAZING reviews- I have really tried hard to incorporate your feedback into my story, hence another reason why it has taken me so long to update. Please remember that this is my very first FF!

Enjoy & please review!!!

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When you're dreaming with a broken heart, the waking up is the hardest part. You roll out of bed and down on your knees, and for a moment you can hardly breathe

- John Mayer "Dreaming with a Broken Heart"

Despite her late bedtime of the night before, Kel was up at dawn. Her bones ached and her heart felt like a fist squeezed it, pumping the blood at painful intervals, but a small part of her admitted that it felt better than the coldness of the stone which had encased her the previous day. After splashing cold water on her face, cleaning her teeth and tying back her hair, Kel pulled on some tan breeches and a light cotton shirt, and tucked Dom's letter into her shirt pocket. It was the very last piece of him that she had, and she wanted to keep it near her heart.

Kel grabbed her glaive and stumbled downstairs. The rain from yesterday had decided to set in, cooling down the earth and bringing with it a beautiful white mist which floated in the air. Kel inhaled deeply, and finding a drier spot behind headquarters, she began the familiar lunges and twists of her pattern dances. After working up a considerable sweat, she finished her dance with a stomp and turned to see a bleary eyed Neal leaning against the wall of headquarters.

"Your stomping woke me and my pregnant wife, dearest Protector of the Small," he commented dryly, following her round to the front of the building, where Kel ducked inside to stow her glaive.

"I doubt that Neal," Kel replied, and ducked inside headquarters to stow her glaive. "Yuki sleeps through anything lately, and you don't look like you've slept at all," Kel noted when she reappeared. They turned and headed towards the mess, and on the way were joined by Merric, Faleron and Seaver, who all looked as tired, sore and depressed as Kel felt.

In the mess they were greeted with nods by the rest of the knights and a large pile of correspondence- yesterday was usually the day that they received their weekly correspondence from the other forts. After getting her breakfast- porridge with raisins and honey, bread, ham, cheese and juice- Kel settled onto a bench with a sigh and began to read the reports. The usual breakfast banter was gone, replaced with quiet requests for different condiments to be passed, and quiet comments on the reports each knight read. No-one mentioned anything of the day before, except about who would be riding on the patrols later that morning.

Most of the reports gave the same message. The Scanrans were mounting another attack, this time aimed at Fort Mastiff. Lord Raoul wrote that he had set up traps in the forest area around the fort, so if, for some wild reason, they were to come and visit before Thursday when they were expecting the attack, could they please stick to the road? Raoul also wrote that he would need the other knights back when the summer fighting began again. Kel thought that the traps were a rather clever, underhanded idea of Raoul's. As she had learned during her time in the north with the Own, Scanrans loved setting up traps- she hadn't forgotten Sergeant Osbern's tears and gruff warnings at the funerals of Gildes of Veldine- and the traps would not be expected from the Tortallans, who preferred to fight honourably.

Lord Wyldon's report included a reminder that Kel, Neal and Merric were due to report in person at Giantkiller tomorrow week, their first such in person report since last autumn. Though Kel was now twenty-one and much more experienced in the ways of command, Wyldon still requested monthly visits, to make sure that Kel and Merric had everything under control, and it was because Neal hadn't started drugging the water. Wyldon and Neal still had a very interesting relationship, though Neal was not as hard on Wyldon as he had been when they were younger. Rather, there was a grudging respect between the two battle-weary knights. Kel looked forward to the trip, mainly because she believed that a change of scenery would do her good.

Kel finished reading the last report from Vanget, whose report read much the same as Daine, Wyldon and Raoul, and closed it with a sigh. He reminded them to be extremely vigilant on their patrols, as the general forces would be spread quite thinly over the rest of the border as Vanget had sent five companies to help defend Mastiff. While she had been reading, a courier had also arrived with a letter from Vanget reminding them of their extra patrol duties.

Kel drank the rest of her juice, put her cup down, then sat back and surveyed her companions. Neal was still reading the reports, as was Merric. Seaver, Esmond and Faleron had gone to get more breakfast- they had already wolfed down two servings each. Owen, Iden and Warric sat, each avoiding the others gaze, and each of them looking extremely depressed. Kel saw Tobe coming through the doors of the mess hall towards her and smiled. She knew how to get their minds off things, at least for a little while.

"Boys," Kel said softly, startling them from their unpleasant reveries. They each straightened a little in their chairs and looked at Kel.

"I have a very dangerous and important mission for you three, should you choose to accept it." The three young men's faces showed equal looks of despair, horror and resignation. "As you know, King Jonathan has given approval for New Hope to be established as a fortress town, creating the need for more resources within our hallowed walls." I sound like Neal, Kel thought to herself wryly. "Since we are still awaiting the arrival of more priests from the Mithra cloisters to educate the children, the task falls on you three for the time being."

Iden started to protest, but Kel shook her head and continued. "Owen, you shall be in charge of instructing the children in literacy. Iden, you shall be in charge of mathematics, and Warric, as you have the Gift, you will be teaching all the students about different kinds of magics, beginning with instructions in herb-lore - there is a lot used of it here in the north. Tobe, could you please see to it that these three are properly acquainted with Mistress Rosa?" Her young servant grinned and led the three bewildered knights away, chattering about their future students and how underhanded it was of Lady Kel to pick two of the greenest knights for what was sure to be a difficult job.

Kel watched them go with a smile on her face. She knew very well that the young of New Hope would keep her youngest knights hopping about after them. She gave herself a pat on the back for an idea well conceived, then stood up, stretched, and looked about for Neal. It was time to ride out on their patrols.

*****

The forest that the knights rode through was peaceful. The distant chatter of the sparrows scouting around their party was comfortable, as was the pitter-pattering of raindrops through the treetops. Peachblossom, perhaps sensing the state that Neal was in, kept sidling closer and closer towards his favourite target, and kept getting pulled up by Kel just before he struck. After a while, Peachblossom tired of the game and looked around for other targets. Kel kept an eye on him, but was too immersed in her own thoughts to really pay Peachblossom the attention he should have been getting when up to his tricks.

A mile out from Riversedge, their riding party split up. Hevlor's squad, accompanied by Merric, Faleron and Seaver, were to loop around the high side of the mines; Kel, Neal, and Esmond with Adner's squad were going to scout the bottom of the mines, with all its rabbit warren entries and exits. "A good place to hide a company or two," Esmond had commented upon seeing the maps. They would regroup three miles down the southern road from the mines, and would then ride their normal patrols back to New Hope in a ten-yard spaced formation, to optimise any chances of finding survivors.

"Remember, we use New Hope horn signals to communicate around here," Merric reminded everyone. "I don't want us getting caught out like the guards at Riversedge were." Everyone made the Sign against Evil at the mention of the Riversedge bandits. Kel nodded at the other patrol group, and put her helmet on. Unlike the other knights and soldiers who wore full armour, she had decided to stick with wearing chainmail, with the exception of her helmet. The last time she had worn her armour out in the rain, she had had to scour it every day for a week.

"Sapa, can you and your friends go with Merric?" she asked Nari's partner. "Nari and the rest of the flock will stay with us." Kel, Neal and Esmond gave each other a final visual check, to make sure everything was in place, and then shut their visors. Kel and Adner were riding as forward scouts for this particular patrol, and they set off quietly into the depths of the forest, Kel on the left flank and Adner on the right.

Kel quickly became lost in the sounds of the forest, and absorbed the green calmness of her surrounds into her. Much of the forest she rode through now had not been ridden through for a while. Every so often she would see Adner on his bay mare through the brush- they kept their hand-signalling with each other to a bare minimum. Neither of them wanted to be caught out by an enemy archer.

Adner and Kel cleared the trees and entered the mines, regrouping with the rest of their patrol. The sparrows were flying about, diving through the myriad of entries and exits on the upper levels of the quarry. Kel surveyed the ground before her. Although the sparrows hadn't found anything, Kel felt uneasy. Something didn't feel quite right.

It was Esmond who found the tracks of what appeared to be a raiding party as they rode out of the mines.

"They look fresh – probably only hours old," he told the others. Tavita, one of the corporals in Adner's squad, dismounted and inspected the tracks more thoroughly. He was one of the best trackers Kel had ever met.

"One company of Scanran soldiers. See here?" he pointed at a hoof mark in the dirt. "The Scanrans shod their horses in a different type of metal. The rest of the company left at dawn, but it appears that these tracks belong to the squads whose duty it was to clean up here and join them at Mastiff. They would have left not even a half hour ago- they'll still be in the area."

"Gods curse it," Esmond swore, flipping his visor down again and wheeling his warhorse towards the road. Tavita scrambled into the saddle, and the patrol group galloped down the road to be met with the peeping alarm of the sparrows. The enemy had stayed even closer than they'd thought.

Rounding the corner, Neal found Merric's patrol group already engaged with the enemy five hundred metres down the road, moving towards a murky part of the forest. There were two squads of them, with a nasty looking wizard standing at the back of their party. Though Seaver was trying to blow the horn to warn Kel's group, no sound was coming out – the wizard was stopping it, and also appeared to be laying a freezing spell on the Tortallans.

"Neal!" Kel shouted. "Tallavo!" It was the Yamani word for wizard, and their word which meant she needed his help to take the wizard out. Neal pumped his fist in a 'yes'- she wouldn't have seen it if he nodded - and seconds later she saw his emerald fire streaming out of the tip of his lance. At this distance, he needed something to channel his magic through so it wouldn't lose its power. Kel grabbed her bow and a griffin-fletched arrow from the quiver off her back and loosed, quickly following it with a second arrow. She saw with great satisfaction that her arrows lodged in the wizards throat, and he dropped from the saddle with a surprised look on his face.

Now that the major threat to the New Hope squads seemed to be gone, Esmond led their squad in a full gallop towards the enemy, hitting them from the flank with a crushing force. Kel was immediately engaged by a shaggy bear of a man, who parried madly at her saddle, trying to cut her saddle straps loose. Peachblossom reared and wheeled, bucking at the man and kicking him clean from the saddle. Kel wheeled him round again and finished him off with a glaive cut to the throat. Shoving her glaive into its holster on her saddle, she drew Griffin instead. The skirmish had moved into the dank forest Kel had seen from the mines, and she didn't have enough room to use her glaive effectively.

There were only a few Scanrans left now. Kel, about to turn and join Seaver and Esmond to close up their ranks, became acutely aware of a grunting presence behind her. She bought her shield up just in time to deflect the blow of the double edged broadsword the other man was wielding, and parried his blow with a cut to his stomach, and followed through with another blow to the man's shoulder. Breaking away, he wheeled his pony over to Kel's blind side. Kel turned, and saw what looked like a squad of more soldiers approaching on foot through the shrubbery of the bushes.

Yelling a warning to Seaver and Merric, she turned just in time to deflect and parry another of his blows, this time with a cut to his un-armoured thigh. Swearing, he taunted Kel, desperate to gain some edge over her. She brought Griffin up in a crescent-moon sweep, and cut into his other shoulder. Gasping, he fell from the saddle, and Kel turned to see a sight that made her ears roar and her world stop.

---- Flashback ----

One of the sledge guards, a tall, broad-shouldered young man, dismounted from his horse. Bright blue eyes blazed and a broad grin flashed in a face splattered with mud.

----End Flashback----

Kel was dumb to everything around her. She was having battle dreams, she was sure of it. There was no way the owner of such unforgettable eyes and his squad could be standing in front of her, covered in mud and looking like something from the Chaos Realms, but nonetheless alive. Kel couldn't move, couldn't say a word. Her whole body was paralysed with shock.

Dom seemed to be concerned, and Kel watched as he and the other men around her opened their mouths to tell her something. Dumbly, Kel wondered if it was to tell her they were alive, to shake her from this paralysed state. She leaned forward, trying to hear what was said, when a white-hot pain shot through her left shoulder, quickly replaced with a hot, liquid-like feeling, as if she was leaking from her shoulder. It stung.

Another blow, even deeper this time and even more painful. Kel screamed and dropped from the saddle, never taking her eyes from those beautiful blue eyes in front of her. She was gone before she even hit the ground.

***

A/N Okay, so yes, Dom isn't really dead. And that was a hopefully kind of evil cliff hanger! Not to worry, it's the last bit of drama I have planned for our lovers!

This is a Kel/ Dom ROMANCE + HUMOUR fic, and there is nothing romantic (or even remotely legal) about necrophilia. Maybe in another FF, I might do a grief story, but not this one. Sorry!

I didn't even plan for any of what I have written to have even happened, I just went on an instinct. What do you all want to see in the next few chapters? I don't really know where to go from here....

Please review- let me know what you are thinking, what you liked / didn't like etc! I really appreciate everything!

Peace and Love, Lady Louboutin