Chapter One

The Lady and her Men

"What is that?"

"What?" Startled, Mark looked up from his writings.

"That book you keep writing in every night," Lyn gestured with her free hand, the other busy stirring a small pot of stew for their evening meal. "What is it?"

"It's a journal I keep. I use it to keep track of the various political situations of each kingdom, the predominant troop type, strategies and such..," he gestured as he spoke. "It's important to keep records if I'm ever employed by a kingdom."

Lyn shrugged at this last statement, clearly uninterested in the thought of serving under any of the lords of the Lycian League or any other country. Sprinkling a small amount of salt over the small pot she declared it done, ladling out portions into two deep bowls.

Thinking her curiosity sated, he accepted his portion and returned to his writing while sipping from the bowl of savoury broth. So immersed was he that failed to notice her movement until a slim hand moved over the parchment. Uncomfortable her could feel her breath as she mouthed his most recent writings.

"I never knew that there no men in the Pegasus Knights."

"It makes sense when you think about it," he took one last sip from his lukewarm broth before continuing. "Pegasi aren't as strong as Wyvern, but faster and more agile. They can't afford to be weighed down by a man in full armour. But..."

"A small woman in light armour will be a little conseqence." Lyn finished. She shifted more to her side of the fire, much to Mark's relief, her expression thoughtful. "We should be in Bulgar by mid-day tomorrow if we start early."

Taking the hint Mark closed his book, replacing it in his pack, before lying back. It was his turn to sleep first, and he fell into a comfortable dreamless slumber in a few minutes. Across from him, quietly contemplating her situation, Lyn sat cross-legged only too aware how there situation would be read by the more traditional Sacae when they got to Bulgar.

Something was off, he realised. It took him a few minutes to figure it out.

Lyn.

Gone was the friendly, energetic woman he'd been walking the plains with. This new Lyn was almost...demure, he realised was the word he was looking for. She kept her eyes downcast, maintaining a few steps behind him. As he realised this he also noticed the rest of the people in the town. The older women were boisterous and loud. The younger women were acting as Lyn was, avoiding any contact with members of the opposite sex. Speaking of the opposite sex, the looks he was getting from the young Sacaen men was at best envious and at worse, downright frightening.

"Possibly a Sacaen custom," he realised to himself, filing it away in his mind to question Lyn about it later. Their need for supplies outwieghed his curiousity, at least for the moment. Bread, dried meat and new weapons. They'd also need mounts. Getting to Bern would take a month on foot. Moving around the small trade town they could find no horses for sale. Finally frustrated Mark stopped at one of the many hawkers.

"Pardon sir, but we're looking for a pair of horses."

"Names Farn, boy. And there're none around," the hawker, a sinewy old man, grunted out. "The Kutolah are supposed to be bringing a herd up, should be here in a few days...mebbe a week."

"A week," Lyn burst out. "That's too long."

Farn narrowed his eyes, glancing at Lyn, taking in the markings of her dress. "Lorca, ain't you."

Lyn shrank back under his scrutiny. Mark glanced between the two of them. Clearly there was something he was missing...

"Heard tell that their chieftain was sharing his tent with some foreign woman. And that she was trying to stir up the women." Farn turned and spat. "No wonder they were such easy meat for Taliver."

Lyn's face whitened, and she grasped at her sword. Realising her intent, Mark stepped before her, covering her sword hand with his.

"A time and a place, Lyn," he murmured into her ear. "And now is neither."

Feeling her relax, he gently guided her away from the old man and back towards the centre of Bulgar. Ignoring the loud whispering and giggling from the locals he maintained a hold on her arm until he found, what appeared to be, suitable lodgings.

The inn, was surprisingly clean considering the dusty appearance of most of it's clientelle. Most of whom ignored the two newcomers in lieu of their drinks. Spotting the unoccupied bartender, Mark moved up gesturing for his attention.

"One room please," he said to the young man behind the bar. "Two beds."

"Two beds, sir?"

"Yes," he snapped, glancing back at Lyn who's face was regaining it's colour. "Two beds."

Ignoring the looks he garnered from his outburst he added, "And please have food and hot water sent up. It's been a long day."

Taking the proferred keys the two of them moved up the stairs as the sound of clanking armour announced the arrival of two foreign knights.

"Dammit Sain, what have I told you about your little problem?"

"it's a curse Kent, my friend," the knight in green protested. "How can I not notice the beauty that surrounds us since we entered this untamed land?"

Removing his helmet, Kent shook out his sweat soaked red hair, taking in the stares he and Sain were receiving. Staring back, most of the locals refused to meet his eyes, returning their attentions back to whatever they were drinking or eating. Satisfied moved over the bar.

"I'm looking for information," he stated.

Almost as if amused by the situation the bartender took in their armour and crests in a glance. "And what would a pair of Lycian knights be needing from barbarians?"

Kent grimaced. He'd expected this. Just not this soon.

"I'm looking for the Lorca tribe. Do you know where we could find a guide to their lands?"

"The Lorca? You're a bit late there friend," the bartender replied. "The Lorca were wiped out by the Taliver maybe a half month ago."

"Wiped...surely there must have been some survivors?" Sain moved up,Kent's face paling.

"There was some talk that the Kutolah's took in some renegade plainsfolk," the bartender said, doubt clouding his features."Those could be some survivors."

"It's a start," Sain stated, placing a gauntleted hand onto Kent's shoulder, as Kent relaxed. "Where do we find them?"

"They're driving a herd here as we speak. Riding the plains to find them would be pointless." The innkeeper stated pointedly, "They don't like being disturbed when they're working."

"Well if that's the case..."

"NO." Kent turned to his partner with gritted teeth."The Marquess trusted us to bring them back as quickly as possible. You know about his condition..."

"And how quickly will we bring them back if we get lost in the plains," Sain stated, glancing uncomfortably at how Kent was holding the pendant the marquess had entrusted to him. "Have you forgotten how long it took us to find Bulgar? The Caelin maps weren't very accurate."

Kent grimaced at that memory.

"Fine we'll stay," he grumbled. Seeing Sain's face light up, he felt compelled to knock him down a few pegs. "But you better not cause any trouble. Or I swear before the goddess, I'll leave you for the lynching party this time."

Sain sagged, muttering about the unfairness of life, as Kent turned back to arrange their rooms.

"He was right you know..."

Mark looked up from his platter of food. Behind an improvised screen he could hear the trickle of water as Lyn sponged away the dirt and sweat.

"My mother was trying to change the tribe. And since she was the chief's wife...," Lyn left the statement unfinished.

Swallowing a mouthful of horse meat and bread, Mark decided to head off her self pity. "Whether or not she was trying to change anything, that old fool had no right saying what he did about the massacre."

"Lyn, among the warriors in your village where did you stand?"

"Me?" There was a slight rustle of clothing, as she moved out from behind the screen. "My father only started training me maybe a year ago after my mother convinced him it would be best for me to be able to defend myself."

"So with only maybe basic training, you were able to defend yourself against Batta and his men." He handed the young woman a fresh plate of horse steak, bread, cheese and vegetables. "I'm sure your people gave better than they got."

Seeing her cheeks tinge pink at the compliment, Mark grinned as he moved behind the screen to take his turn with the water. Looking over the horse meat without relish Lyn, felt a strange need to get back at her friend. Why? She wasn't entirely sure.

Next Morning

"I'm going to check the local Armoury." Lyn said, slipping on her cloak. "Remember to keep that hidden," Mark replied, nodding at the blade. "I'll see if there's any new information on the herd...or maybe we'll get lucky and there're some horses for sale."

Stepping out into the street, Mark felt the need for one more caution, and touched her arm. "Remember, don't let them get to you."

Nodding, Lyn moved off. It was actually a lot easier moving around on her own. At the armoury she dickered and managed to get a good deal on a pair of iron swords. Pleased with her acquisition, she realised she now had some spare time. Feeling the need for the open plains she angled towards the town exit.

"Please wait O beautious one."

Startled, Lyn looked up at a brown haired knight clad in green armour. His face was handsome, except for the developing bruises on either cheek.

"Could you favour me with your name," he continued. "Or better yet, your company."

Ah, so that was where the bruises came from.

"And where do you hail from, sir knight, to speak so freely to strangers."

"I hail from Lycia," he pounded his fist to chestplate in salute. "Caelin, home to men of passion and fire."

At this Lyn gave an unladylike snort, "More like the home of callow youths with loose tongues."

If anything that just seemed to encourage the green knight even further. Leaning forward he replied "Ah, but you're lovely even when you're cruel.

It seemed only right. Cocking back a small fist, Lyn fired off a punch, that drew applause even form the more traditional members of their audience as the knight tumbled from his horse. Tossing her hair back she stated, "I honestly have nothing more to say."

Lyn felt as if a load had been lifted from her shoulders as she walked off. It had felt good to finally just let loose and hit something. A smile flickered on her face, which was quickly replaced with a frown as she she found the exit blocked by another knight, this one in red armour, arguing with a red faced merchant.

"Excuse me, could you move your horse. It's in the way."

"O...Of course," the red knight stammered out. goading his mount to the side.

"Thank you," Lyn said, moving past. As she started to move she heard a "Hey Wait."

Turning she groaned as she recognised the green armoured knight as he stopped near what appeared to be his companion.

Feeling cruel, she turned to the red knight, stating, "You sir, at least seem decent enough."

Swinging on her heel she started walking off, only to have her arm grabbed. Swinging around, eyes wide, she found the red knight staring at her with an odd intensity.

"Pardon my forwardness...but I feel like we've met before..."

"Hey Kent, no fair, I saw her first." The green knight cried.

Angry now, Lyn yanked her arm from his grasp. "Seems like there are no decent men among Lycia's knights."

Stalking off she heard the red knight, Kent, whirl on his companion, "SAIN, you lout."

The rest was lost to her as she reached the edge of town and sucked in a lungful of the hot air. She coughed as her lungs were assaulted by air, free of smoke from the armouries and market fires and free from the stale sweat smell of dozens of people. Then she wrinkled her nose. Turning she found herself in the process of being surrounded by several unfriendly looking men holding what looked to be well-used axes.

A grin on his face at his latest purchase, Mark bit into a bright orange fruit. Eyes rolling back into his head as the juice rolled down the side of his face, he bit back a moan of pure bliss. Oranges weren't local to Sacae, and as such expensive. But, as far as he was concerned, they were worth it. He couldn't wait to...

"Out of the way! Out of the way!"

He came back to himself in time to avoid being run over by a large crowd. streaming towards the centre of town.

Grabbing hold of a youngster caught up in the mess, he pulled him free.

"What's going on," he shouted to be heard over the yelling.

"Trouble at the gate, sir." The youngster replied. "Bandits. They're attacking two knights and a woman."

A woman...oh goddess

Tossing the youngster an orange, he sprinted towards the gates, loosening his cloak for access to his daggers.

"Better make sure. Wouldn't want to damage a fine piece of ass like this by mistake, would we lads."

Lyn kept her face neutral as the massive leader of the group surrouding her strutted foward. The axe tossed casually over his shoulder, the blade easily the size his barrel chest.

"Is your name Lyndis lass?"

Shock fluttered across her face. Only two people ever called her by that name. Shaking her head in an effort to keep focused she shot back, "And if I am?"

"Such a waste, such an awful waster." The bandit shook his head in mock sympathy. "The things a man does to make a gold. Oh well, time to die darlin'."

Hearing the pounding feet of one of the bandits charging behind her, Lyn ducked. As expected, the bandit swung his blade in a fierce horizontal sweep, aiming to behead her. The force behind the swing gave it the power to punch through armour, but if it didn't connect it left the user off balance and vulnerable. Like now.

Pirouetting, Lyn drove her sword into the bandits belly. As he screamed in agony she ripped the blade up to his chest before kicking him off the blade. Whipping her sword to remove the blood, she reassumed the ready position her father, a blade lord, taught her.

Anger flickered across the leaders face, "I was going to kill you quickly. But for that I think I'll just disarm you and let the boys have a little fun with you first."

Lyn kept her eyes and ears peeled as the bandits smirked, circling her, ready to charge in and overwhelm her...

At leats they were till the thunderous sound a horse charge surprised them, and two more of them were cut down, one with his head removed, the other impaled on a lance. Kent and Sain moved their horses to either side of Lyn, shielding her from the encroaching bandits.

"Attacking a lone girl." Sain cried. "Cowards, the lot of you!"

"This is my fight," Lyn shouted, the lone girl comment biting at her pride.

"Apologies milday, but it is a knight's duty to protect the we..innocent," Kent corrected himself. "Even if it's not our country."

"Damn knights, always interfering in other people's business," the bandit leader seemed less sure, but a hell of a lot angrier. "You dare confront Zugu of the Ganelon bandits."

"If they don't.."

Zugu staggered as he felt a sudden blow to his back.

"I certainly do."

Looking up Zugu, saw a slender form in a brown cape, moving past him. Surprised he tried to lift his axe, only to realise it was no longer in his hand. Looking around he saw it on the ground...

How'd it get there...

Reaching for it he tumbled over as the world suddenly went dark.

With their leader dead the remainder of the bandits were disorganised and easy. When the town militia came pouring out of the town, many opted for flight, realising that surrender would just mean a swift trip to the gallows. Wiping his daggers clean with an oil soaked rag, Mark decided he had calmed down enough to talk to Lyn. Moving over to where she was sitting atop a boulder, his tirade caught in his throat as he realised how sad her expression was.

The last time she'd looked like that was when she'd told him of the attack that claimed her parents and most of her tribe. Sighing, he sat down back to back with her. He felt her stiffen then relax.

"So.."

"So?"

"You going to tell me what happened. I'm guessing this wasn't random."

He felt Lyn's head against his neck as she tilted it upwards, "They knew my name...my real name."

"Your real name?"

The sound of a throat clearing got both of their attentions. Turning together they found themselves almost cheek to cheek. Quickly getting up, a red faced Mark confronted the two knights.

"I believe some introductions are in order," he said, eyes narrowing as he took their sigils in. "I am Mark, tactician. And you gentlemen are...?"

"I am Kent," the one in red stated. Nodding to his partner," and my companion is Sain. We are knights from Caelin canton, on a mission from Marquess Hausen."

"Well met, knights of Caelin." Mark was familiar with the ritual of greeting. "I thank for coming to the aid of my friend. She's a bit strong-minded, but an excellent comapinion."

"Actually, we believe our business involves your compainion." Kent moved forward, pulling a locket from inside his armour. Jumping down, he bowed to Lyn. "If I may?"

Lyn nodded, feeling a trifle overwhelmed by all that was going on. Kent opened the locket, eyes flicking back and forth between Lyn and the picture within. His throat tighted and his face reddened.

"It's her."

Moving up Sain glanced down,"Truly the likeness is astounding."

Lyn felt her face turning hot from the scrutiny, and glared over at Mark, who's expression seemed almost amused at her discomfort.

"Help me," she mouthed.

Feeling sorry for her, he moved over shielding her from the two knights. As he did he made a mental note at the look of irritation on Kent's face. "I think you'd better explain what it is you're looking for."

"Fifteen years ago Lord Hausen's daughter ran away and eloped with a Sacaen chieftain. The Marquess was so enraged he refused to acknowledge her as his daughter any longer." Kent started.

"Then, about a month ago, he received a letter telling him that she'd had a daughter, named after her grandmother," Sain chimed in. "The knowledge that he had a granddaughter, brought about a change in our lord that we'd never seen."

"He ordered a dozen of his knights to find his daughter, and tell her that all was forgiven and of his desire to meet the granddaughter he never knew he had." Kent finished.

Mark knew where this was going."And you're saying that Lyn is that granddaughter.

"The marquess's daughter's name was Madelyn. The chieftain she married was called Hassar."Kent stated.

Lyn gasped, her eyes widening."Those, those were my parents..."

"Were?" Kent/Sain exclaimed.

Putting a hand on Lyn's trembling shoulder Mark stated,"maybe we'd better head back into town. It's getting late, and this might take awhile."

It was approaching midnight by the time both sides finished their stories. Lyn now held the pendant of her mother, Mark looking over her shoulder, biting into a fresh orange.

"The resemblance is remarkable," he noted. "The hair's a different colour and the face's a little softer..."

"Softer!" Lyn glared up at him.

"Uh...I mean..." Mark tried to think of something that wouldn't dig himself deeper into a hole. Thankfully, Kent saved him.

"So, what do you intend to do milady?" he asked. "You're grandfather is unwell. And is quite desperate to see you."

"I... I don't know." Lyn wavered. "Mother never spoke of her father, and now you tell me he's alive and wants to see me?"

"Then there's also the fact, that I believe our two friends aren't telling us something," Mark stated, looking at the two young men intently.

"What are you implying," Kent bristled.

"Three reasons," Mark held up a finger." Lord Hausen sent half a dozen knights to find his lost family. Common sense would dictate, one, maybe two at most would be able to move around unnoticed. Sending more indicates he's expecting trouble and that this family would require protection.

"Secondly," he held up another finger. "Lyndis's village was destroyed a little over a week ago. Not long after your lord got word of her existence."

"Finally," he held up a third finger. "Lyn said that Zugu called her Lyndis. A name that she said was only known to her father and mother...and by extension...her grandfather."

"So what I want to know is," he snapped, his eyes angry. "What haven't you told us? Who is trying to kill Lyn."

Sain's face paled as Lyn's face mirrored Mark's anger. Kent however looked thoughtful as he regarded Mark with fresh eyes.

"I'm impressed," he remarked softly. "I guess you weren't jesting when you called yourself a tactician."

"His name is Lundgren." Kent started. "He's the Lord's brother. With Lyn's mother out of the picture he stood to inherit the throne of Caelin. However, should the Lord have reconciled with his daughter..."

"He stood to be passed over by Madelyn and her husband," Mark finished, eyes thoughtful. Staring at the ceiling he took a final juice filled bite of his orange, before tossing it out the window. "Lyn, now that you know, what do you want to do, it's your decision?"

"I...I want to go to Caelin," she said. "I want to meet my grandfather. And I need to see my granduncle. If he truly is responsible, he must suffer Sacaen justice."

Mark grinned. He knew she'd say that. "Well gents, I guess we'll be travelling companions on the morrow." He said turning to Kent and Sain.

Sain whooped, while Kent dropped to his knee before Lyn. Taking her hand he declared. "As long as I draw breathe, your will is my command."

Lyn's face turned bright red with embaressment as Sain shouted," well said Kent. Sain is also at your beck and call milady."

"Looks like you two expected to do some hard riding," Mark noted, as he mounted a spirited thoroughbred. "Why else would you ride with spares."

"None of us knew where we'd find you," Sain remarked. "Better to be on the safe side."

"So where to?" Lyn asked

"There's an oasis, about a day's ride south from here." Kent said. "That's where we agreed to meet back up before we split up again."

"South," Lyn murmured, astride a spotted mount. "There's a shrine to the south where the sacred blade is held. Would it be possible to visit it, after we've regrouped?"

"It's up to you Lyn," Mark said moving alongside her. "They've sworn fealty to you, so they do as you command."

"Really," Lyn glanced around shrewdly eyes settling on Sain, who blanched at her look. Lyn however, merely tossed her hair settling comfortably in the saddle talking animatedly to her companion. Sain breathed a sigh of relief. Failing to notice to look of brief jealousy on Kent's face as he urged his mount into a canter to keep up with his new liege lady.

Author's Notes

No I'm not bashing on Kent. He's my favourite knight, however I'm writing him as he was portrayed, in my opinion ingame. Devotion is not a far step from obsession. As for Sain I think I kept him fairly in character. And the tactician, well I haven't decided what I'll make him. Maybe a unique class, that's not a god, I don't like godlike OCs so I'll never write one.

As for updates. This will be slow.