Well, time for another random update! I know I haven't worked on this story forever ( I think only one or two stories predate it) but I've had ideas for it for some time. Just had trouble getting them down. Anyway, enjoy!

Danielle breathed hard, sweat dripping down her body in turrets. She narrowed her eyes, looking at her target, Nathan, busy laughing at her expense. "You'll have ta do better than that lass, if ye want to become a knight." That hit Danielle's nerve. "I WILL become a knight." She yelled stubbornly. She crouched down, and took a leap at her attacker,blonde hair flying out of the ponytail she wore. Clang, clang- their swords flew like clock work, never ending and tireless. Nathan was more experienced, but Danielle was faster, younger, more agile. Finally she saw an opening in his defense, and she struck. Her sword and his met, sending his weapon clattering across the barn floor, hers up to meet his throat. "This fight is mine." She managed to gasp, and then she sank to her knees, panting.

Nathan smiled and patted her on the back. "Ye did well. I'll have te work on my own strategies there too." Danielle smiled. Compliments from Nathan were few and far between. She knew she had done well today. "I'll go muck out the stalls if you want." She offered. Nathan smiled "Thank ye lassie. That'd be very kind." With that he went up to his study, limping slightly. Danielle stood up with a sigh and went to go take care of the horses.

A soft neighing was heard as she entered the stable area. Each horse lifted its head and stared at the young girl coming in. Danielle smiled. All four were still there. No thieves had come over night. Humming softly to herself, she went to get the pitchfork. She let each horse out into the pasture and went about cleaning their stalls. Mucking out stalls was hard work, but Danielle was used to it, and almost enjoyed it. That was one of the reasons that Nathan never hired a stable boy; he had Danielle. In exchange for helping with the horses, Danielle got food, clothing (though it was all Nathan's old things that she had to hem in order to fit into) and training sessions with Nathan. That was the part she liked the most. Nathan had once been a knight for the old king. That was before the king had died, leaving his arrogant and pompous son in charge. Nathan had then left the castle services and left for his hometown. At this part of the story, Nathan always made something new up each time, but it always ended with him finding Danielle, alone, and deciding to raise her.

A soft whinny brought Danielle back to reality and over to the barn door to let the horses in. All four trotted in patiently, and went to their stalls, waiting for the extra ration of oats they knew Danielle always gave them. She ladled the treats out, and took out a brush to comb each of them individually. First was Twilight, the docile greedy mare with white freckles across her nose. She was the leader of the four horses, and was always first in line for grooming. Danielle smiled as Twilight flicked her tail, aiming for the girl's head. She slid off the mare's back and jumped onto the next horse's; the white, feisty colt named Blizzard. He was the most recent addition. Nathan had found him grazing near the barn one morning, a deep gash in his flank, still oozing blood. Rather than let the young horse die, the kindly old man had taken him in, cleansed his wound, and helped it heal. Now Blizzard could run as fast as he liked, and he did so like to run. Even now he pawed the ground anxiously, awaiting his next run in the pasture.

Danielle gave him one last stroke down the back, then proceeded unto the next horse. The chestnut mare stamped her hooves impatiently as Danielle came over. The redhead smiled. Basilia was always so impatient and ferocious, but she was quite gentle inside. Danielle remembered when she had been leading Basilia over a creek and had slipped. Basilia neighed frantically and rushed in after Danielle. The poor horse found herself sitting next to the girl as well; cold water rushing past them as Danielle laughed and laughed. Remembering this incident now, Danielle smiled and gave Basilia a kiss on the nose as she proceeded to her favorite horse, Tinder.

The horse continued to munch his oats peacefully as the girl walked over. Tinder was nothing special to look at; just a splotted gray and brown stallion. His temper proved his namesake however. The first time Danielle had met him, Tinder had bit her arm so hard that she still had a large scar there. Luckily they had become friends after that incident, and Tinder proved to be a powerful ally, especially when it came to snakes. Tinder hated snakes over everything else in the world. Danielle smiled at the memories of him crushing snakes in her name. Brushing him extra carefully, she gave him a hug around the neck and put the brush away.

A small crash was heard from the loft and lots of cursing as well. Danielle bit back a giggle. Nathan must have dropped something again. She knew better than to go help him. Better the "Why didn't you help me?" speech that the "I can do it myself dammnit!" one. Twisting her hair back into a braid, the maiden decided to take a short stroll outside and wait until Nathan was better.

The warm spring air was a welcome change to the stuffy barn. Danielle stretched her arms out as far as they would go, feeling the wind's gentle tickle against her skin. Suddenly, on a whim, she began sprinting away from the barn, across the endless field of grasses and weeds. She ran, her heart giddy, until she was out of breath. Panting, she lay down among the plants, the sweet smell of early flowers winding peacefully around her brain.

After a little while, another smell greeted her. The smell of burning wood. Danielle stood up with a start, and gazed in the direction of Nathan's home. She could just make out bright red ribbons of flame, licking at the timbers greedily, and the screams of frightened animals. Danielle's heart jumped to her throat and began pounding as she raced back home. Soon she could make out a band of warriors on horses holding burning torches. She stooped low as she came near them, not even daring to breathe. She had nothing to fight with, not even a dagger. All she could do was watch. The leader of the band turned her way, and Danielle's stomach lurched horribly. It was Prince Darvin, the ruler of the land. He smiled sickly and shouted an order to his soldiers. They let out a cruel laugh and spurred their horses away.

Once they were gone, Danielle burst out from the grasses and raced to the barn. The horse's screams of terror were drowning out everything, even the roar of the flames. Danielle lurched open the barn doors, not even noticing the searing pain from the metal touching her hand. Taking a deep breath, Danielle plunged ahead, aware of the blistering heat, but concentrating on saving her precious beasts. They were white-eyed with terror, and Danielle's presence seemed not to help at all. The girl kicked at the doors, but ironically they were not burned yet and held fast. The horses' sharp hooves lashed out, preventing Danielle from reaching the clasp. It seemed so hopeless.

Suddenly a loud crash made Danielle start. She was sure that it was a beam crashing, but as she turned, she saw Tinder had broken through his stall and was heading for the door. The other horses followed suite, and soon Danielle was alone in the blaze. Well, not alone. Nathan's yells of pain and frustration were heard suddenly. Danielle groaned and whirled around looking for the staircase that led to the loft. She ran to it, and had just enough time to sprint up it before it was eaten by the fire. Her eyes watered as she struggled to find Nathan. There he was, cowering in a corner. She gripped him by his collar and hoisted him up and over to the window. Then she whistled shrilly, hoping that one of the horses would come. Precious seconds passed, and Danielle was weakening. Suddenly, Twilight came trotting over, prancing nervously, but standing underneath the window. Danielle smiled and pushed Nathan out the window. He looked down.

"You have got to be mad."

Danielle gave a wry chuckle, which turned into a cough. "Try to land gracefully." Then she gave him a final shove out of the collapsing barn. Not even checking to see if he had made it the girl lifted herself to the window ledge and took a flying leap. The ground seemed to come at her much too fast, and then, a rush of gray and brown and a painful thud. The impact caused Danielle's sight to wobbled, but she saw that there were three of her on three Tinders. Nathan rode up next to her on Twilight and together they sped away towards the other horses. Nathan said something, but Danielle couldn't hear him until they had all stopped moving.

"I could have done it myself dammnit!"

Danielle giggled, then laughed whole-heartedly. The laugh then turned into a sob as they all watched their home burn to the ground.