Fanfiction story continuing Tamora Pierce's books Protector of the Small: Lady Knight
I do not, in any way, shape, or form, own the original plot line. This story is an imitation, created out of admiration.
It is also in first person, a trend that will continue in the sequel.
I apologize, however, for those who have complaints from the lack of quotations earlier. I hadn't realized that FanFic had changed my format at some point in the past few years.
I could hardly believe my good luck. Lord Wyldon had sent me out to help establish the new refugee camp to be overseen by Keladry of Mindelan. A whole season had passed since last I saw her, but since then she has gained her shield and the grudging respect of many. I had never doubted her ability. Perhaps I had been afraid that the stress would have broken her will, but after watching her take command of my men last summer, all doubt quickly vanished.
When I told my men, I was surprised by their enthusiasm and anticipation, though in reality I ought to have expected no less. She left an unforgettable impression on every person she met. I wanted to laugh when Wolset suggested making her a Commander's Flag. He probably wanted to make a point of the fact she had seen his leadership skills long before I had, but it was also what she deserved.
The sound of horns made everyone in the "miserable mudpit" turn and look up at the gate. Returning horns in the distance signaled 'friends'. Captain Elbridge stalked out of headquarters and barked.
"The new commander is arriving. Get back to work numbskulls. At least look like we've done a good deed giving you another chance to redeem yourselves."
This last comment was directed at a group of convicts laboring to complete a frame which would support a new wall to a refugee barrack. I frowned at Elbridge. The men had chosen to work here - their only option other than a dangerous job in the mines where one wouldn't likely last a couple seasons. With a sigh I turned back to the group of men wrestling with a sledge as the company of newcomers thundered down the road and entered the camp.
I spotted Keladry as she and the captain toured the grounds via the wall. I doubt she could recognize me from far off and splattered with mud as I was, but it gave me the advantage to see how the past had treated her. From this distance, I could only tell that something was on her mind and that time had not been entirely easy. From what I've heard, the Ordeal changes a person's heart and soul. It's left its mark on every knight I've known and makes me glad that I chose to be a sergeant. Keladry seemed well enough though. My mind was pulled to the side as the sledge approached the gate.
Well, well, they let my cousin tag along. I should have expected that. I signaled the rest of my men from their posts nearby before riding through the gate.
"Mithros save us, they'll allow just any freak of nature up here, won't they?"
They all turned and I had the immense satisfaction of seeing surprise on three very familiar faces. Dismounting from my horse, I continued.
"Meathead! They sent you out with no keeper?"
My cousin's eyes sparked in irritation at my blatant use of his nickname in front of his friends but he sucked it in and came forwards to hug me. As soon as he had finished, he shoved me away to arm's length.
"Insubordinate! That's SIR Meathead, to you. What have you been doing? Chasing mudhoppers?"
I realized how much I had missed my younger relative. "It's skin treatment. I've gotten so chapped here in the north."
After our traditional greeting, I turned for a closer look at the page, now knight, whom I had befriended a little over a year ago. Keladry had changed, but subtly. Her face was the same; not particularly beautiful, but quite lovely in a strong sense. In the past eight years no one has been able to touch her face, and for some odd reason I was glad. The same stubborn determination burned behind contradictory dreamy eyes that in any other woman's face would have rendered a man unable to speak. But they suited Keladry. I bowed and grinned.
"Lady knight, you did it. We knew you would."
Her thanks shone in those eyes as she extended her hand. Her grip was just as firm now as it had been in the past. I gave it a squeeze before letting go. My men quickly swarmed in, sharing greetings of their own. When they calmed down, Keladry turned back to me.
"What are you doing here anyway?"
I wasn't joking about the weather being cold here. It was a wonder I hadn't started peeling. But it wouldn't do for the men to hear my complaints and start thinking me a sissy. All I could do was clean up and bear it.
We met back in the mess hall. It was pleasant torture, arguing with Neal over military statistics. I swear the man would argue with a brick wall. Goes to show how he and Keladry get along so well. Both stubborn as rocks when they want to be. They brought fresh news from the palace and the borders. I knew the time would come when Lord Wyldon would need my company back at Giantkiller or Steadfast, but by the sounds of it, that time would come sooner than expected. The whole evening, our Lady Knight was rather quiet. I assumed it was over her self-appointed task to address the men later on. All I could do was try to ease her mind by demonstrating how easy-going the soldiers were once you won their respect - something she knew all about.
She did address the men, and she did so in the best way possible. She was honest to the core, no frippery or false promising, even joking at her own expense. One of the convicts from our past summer adventure recognized her right away. I couldn't help smiling as he boasted about what she had done then. After that reference, she continued on. In one moment as she looked out over the men, her gaze paused on me. Something in that instant made me blink before she moved on. That's when I knew she would win these people over - no matter what the opposition to being commanded by a woman may be.
When she returned, I gave her a short bow from the waist at the table.
Always one to back up her words, Keladry put herself on every duty roster she created. Once I found out, I shook my head ruefully. There was one area I knew personally she needed to avoid. Breaking off early from drilling my men, I trotted over to the workshop.
"Is the master carpenter here?"
"Sir, yes sir."
A white haired, thick armed man walked stiffly over from plaining a board. He bobbled a bow to me.
"What may I do for you, Sergeant Domitan?"
"Just a friendly word of warning. Lady Keladry is determined to help in every place possible. I thought you might like to know that she is the worst carpenter on this side of Corus."
The man raised a silver eyebrow before a smile cracked his features. "I understand sir. Thank you sir."
Three days later patrolling the wall, I wandered over to the workshop. Keladry's voice drifted out from the open workplace, sounding rather irritated.
"But why don't you want an extra hand? You're other volunteers aren't turned down."
"Sergeant Domitan says..."
Keladry paused before leaving the carpentry and looked up to see me. I couldn't help grinning again and waved cheekily at her. She promptly responded with the well-known sign of 'drop dead' and stalked away. I chuckled as I returned to patrol.
The time had come. I would be returning with my squad to Fort Steadfast and Lord Raoul. That meant that the fighting had reached a new level of intensity. The work here is tedious, but I've enjoyed it. I've also enjoyed watching Keladry win over the refugees and soldiers alike. I can't help the feeling of pride that wells up in my chest when I hear people talking about what the Lady Knight as done most recently.
Horns blow. Perhaps my return will be put off. The inevitable attack of the Scanrans has finally come. Shouting at the plowmen I had been assigned to guard, I ordered my men to create a perimeter. As the civilians herded the oxen back into the fort, we covered their retreat. The horns blew again, closer. When the gates closed, I rushed up to the walkway. She was standing, looking out over the western wall, calm and collected.
"Lady knight, orders?" I asked.
She wore now what I assume Neal meant as the "Lump" mask. No emotions escaped her. I was glad of it, yet at the same time perplexed at its completeness, wondering if at the same time she was hiding something deeper from her heart. Immediately I scoffed at myself for such thoughts.
"Keep your horses ready in case you need to make a sally from the gate, Sergeant Domitan. Up here, dispose of your men as you see fit. You know where they'll do most good." She turned to the watch sergeant, Connac, and continued her orders.
I didn't bother yelling at my men. They read my hand signals and spread themselves along the walkway among the civilian archers. Staying near Keladry, I waited. As she steadied her charges, I smiled, recognizing her tone of voice. No screaming or yelling would be more effective than a single, calm pitch.
Arrows were loosed. Men below fell, and a streak of black and silver fire burned the enemy mages to ash. When it had finished its task, Keladry turned.
"Signal Merric to move north and be ready for our attack. Sergeant Oluf's squad and Sergeant Domitan's, mount up. Prepare to ride out on my signal. Archers on the north wall pick your shots and loose at will!"
I brought my fingers to my mouth and whistled. Keladry winced next to me, but I ignored it. Before dashing down the steps I clapped her on the shoulder and leaned in.
"You sound just like Lord Raoul."
Her grin followed me.
"She did what?" I stared at the soldier in disbelief. He nodded.
"Took out both those killing machines by herself. Cool as ice she was. Shot both of them in the head with a crossbow, then ran in close as me to you to pull the bolts out." The man shuttered, standing up from investigating the heap of metal and bone buried under a pile of logs. "The black mage Numair helped with this one, but she still had to get in close. I could never have done it."
That's no joke. I thought to myself. Blood still crusted the knives on the things feet. Selfishly I was glad not to have been around when they climbed over the walls. I've seen enough of them in action already. Shaking my head, I continued over to headquarters.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. That evening at the small council held with the Mage Numair laid everything out for those who might have the slightest bit of doubt that we were at war. I knew spirits somehow powered the killing creatures, but to hear that they used children twisted my stomach. The fact that despite the best efforts of Numair, Wildmage Daine, and the entire spy network of Corus could find nothing substantial about the people behind this monstrous abuse infuriated me even further. Yet nothing seemed to surprise Keladry. She did look disappointed when I mentioned my approaching departure and said she'd see us off in the morning.
By the time I had finished checking the gear my squad would carry, it was past midnight. Standing outside the stables and stretching leisurely, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. A familiar figure was leaving the clerks' tent, rubbing a hand across their eyes. It was easy to catch up.
"Lady knight, might I have a word?"
When she turned, I could almost see the scowl on her face that quickly melted into tired humor.
"If it's quick Dom. I'm about done in."
Falling into slow step with her, I said. "Of course you would be. Taking out two killing machines on your own, fighting off Scanrans and Stormwings, dealing with refugees and clerks - it must wear even the best down."
Keladry barked a laugh. I glanced at her. Yes indeed she was tired if her emotions were playing that clearly to the surface. I could see dissatisfaction and bitterness in her eyes fixed on the ground. When I stopped, she half-turned and looked up at me in surprise.
"I know you need more men here. Mithros knows I hate to leave you here like this, but I also know that you'll manage fine. You may not think this is where you're best suited to be, but I know there is no one better for this place. They need you, Kel, and I know you know that."
She smiled halfheartedly. "Dom, I'm sorry to see you leave. They need you at Steadfast and I need you here not just for a sergeant, but as my support, but orders are orders. Thanks for the thought though."
I gripped her shoulder. "As soon as they can spare me, I'll come back."
Her reply was practical, but still slightly bitter. "I don't think that time will come very soon. They need every fighter on the line."
The unspoken hurt in that statement struck me in the chest and the absurd urge to hug her nearly took hold. Watching her face, I gave in to it.
She stiffened in surprise, but returned the embrace and just as quickly stepped away from it, glancing around in embarrassment. I smiled encouragingly at her.
"Your time will come. Just don't leave me behind."
She returned my smile before continuing on to her room.