By Modern Lady Knight
Most of the men had tiredly, and gratefully dragged themselves into the barracks that night. Their captain watched, his keen blue eyes observing long enough to ensure all of his men vacated the stables before passing out. He leaned against a pillar near the door, allowing the summer's night air to wash across his face in a welcome breeze. The last man nodded in respect to the captain before passing him and heading off to bed. With the men away, the stables filled with nothing but the sounds of the horses, the captain allowed his mind to wander. His eyes gazed, unseeing toward the stars through the doors of the stable. No, his mind saw instead a pair of green-hazel eyes, framed by now shoulder length brown hair.
"Off dreamin', Captain?" The questions that broke through his mental haze was softly taunting. He turned those blue eyes toward Sergeant Wolset, who must have approached while he was distracted.
"Don't call me that." He grumbled, standing up straight and working some kinks from his muscles.
"Thinking about the lady knight, Dom?" Wolset asked in a much kinder tone than he would normally use. The captain turned his eyes back to the sky. He resisted the urge to sigh even as he answered.
"She still hasn't answered, not once." Dom confided to his friend.
"I know." Wolset crossed his arms, coming to stand beside the other man.
"How do you know?" Dom canted his head slightly, curiosity in his eyes.
"’cause, if she had written ye'd not be out here star gazin’." The answer was so simple that Dom wanted to laugh. Unfortunately, he could not bring himself to do so.
Dom knew where she was, he knew that she'd not answered any of her friends. Neal had written to him, worried as a mother hen and ranting that he hadn't heard from her directly in months. Tobe, riding with a group of the Queen’s Riders, had mentioned she didn't return his letters either. Dom had smiled at the young man, Kel's son in all but name, and assured him that she must just be busy. Perhaps she had taken some time and gone to see her family in Mindelan and not even received the letters yet. After all, if she wasn't at New Hope those messages may well be sitting on her desk, or even in a messenger’s pack making their second journey. He made no such excuses to Neal, the green-eyed man knew her almost as well as Dom did. Almost. . .
Neal did not, and Dom surely hoped never would, know the taste of her lips. He had not seen Kel in the same ways Dom had. That was why Neal, her best friend, had turned to Dom in his concern. Neal had stated that if there was anyone who could reach her, anyone closer to her than her best friend, it was her former love. Dom carried that letter from Neal with him ever since, unsure how to respond. He could say not to worry, but truth be told he was concerned as well. He could admit to Neal that in the two years since their relationship had failed, he had not had a real conversation with her. He could. . .
"Why don't ye go see our lady?" Wolset broke again into the other man's thoughts. Dom turned his head a bit sharply and raised an eyebrow at the older man. "Ye know as well as I, ye want nothin' more than to ride off and make sure she's well."
"I hardly think she'd want to see me." Dom responded, as he forced his eyes back to the stars. He had hoped that Wolset would let it go at that, and his hopes were dashed in a moment's time.
"We both know she's never turned ye away."
"I have a job to do." Dom said, then shook his head and held a hand up to forestall the next argument he knew would come to his ears. His tone was resigned when he spoke again. "And leave my lord's been after me to take for months."
"Then ye'll go?" Wolset questioned.
"I will think about it." Dom conceded and Wolset seemed mollified for the time being. The sergeant wished the other man a good night and walked off to the barracks for the second time that night. Dom took a deep breath, thinking over the options.
Keladry of Mindelan, Protector of the Small, had never let her friends down when they were in need. She had never asked for anything in return either, contenting herself with the fact that all was well. No, the brave lady knight had done nothing but give and care for most of her lifetime. Now, when it was clear something must be wrong, she was avoiding her friends. She was not letting anyone in, to the point that Dom would wager she hadn't even written to her family in some time. He closed his eyes, and just allowed the thoughts to tumble around his mind for a time.
Kel was strong, she would get through this. However, if she would get through, why withdraw as she had done? Why isolate herself? Why not return the letters he was almost certain she had been receiving? He knew she was at New Hope, Lord Raoul had confirmed that for him days ago. . . Yet the only things she replied to were reports and formal letters, nothing personal in nature.
Why? What happened, Kel? What's wrong? He thought to himself, feeling a bit of pain at the thought that she did not even answer his awkward letters. Something has to be done. He thought as he finally made his way toward the barracks.
Lord Raoul looked up from his papers as someone knocked on the door of his chambers. He exchanged a curious look with Buri, who had been cleaning a dagger until they heard the sound. With a smile for his wife he called out for the person to enter. A winded private belonging to Third Company stumbled through the door and presented Raoul with a handwritten message. He looked the message over, even as he heard the sound of horse hooves in the courtyards below, a single rider moving quickly away if he had to judge. Raoul's eyebrows jumped as he put the words on the paper and the sound together in his mind, setting the paper down carefully. He rested his elbows on his desk and eyed the young soldier standing before him.
"This is a request for emergency leave from Captain Domitan." Raoul provided, for Buri's benefit. The young soldier did not nod, merely stood attentively before the desk. Buri, sitting across from Raoul, leaned forward and took the letter to read it herself. "Am I correct in assuming that the Captain has already left?"
"It's possible sir." The young man replied in a nervous voice, not yet used to Third Company. "He was carrying a set of saddle bags when he told me to bring the message to you, sir."
"Then I won’t bother to have you take a message back, dismissed." Raoul waited until the man had left, then looked to his wife. She was shaking her head as she put the letter back on his desk. "What do you think?"
"Five gold nobles says he'll be halfway to New Hope before word gets out that he's left."
"A fool's bet." Raoul grinned at her and turned back to his work. "I hope he can shake her out of this, if not I may have to go see her myself."
"Aren't you getting a bit old to be challenging other knights to a joust?" Buri teased as she resumed cleaning the dagger she held. Raoul gave her a wounded look but didn't argue.