A/N: Sooooo... I edited it, and decided it needs to be in chapters. very short chapters. I'll be putting them up over the next few days. Nothing is vastly different.

Warnings: Is slash, love it or leave it. Is mine, leave it or leave it.


The snow was falling harder as they pressed onwards down the quickly disappearing path. The ladies had fallen blessedly silent, ceasing their complaints about the snow and the cold. It was getting later, and the rain from earlier had turned into the snow that was now melting on their already soaking clothes. Although none of them were as soaking wet as Nalin was. Nalin had fallen in the river after his horse had slipped crossing the ford. Ayers had immediately rushed off downriver to rescue him, and the ladies had followed. Nalin had, with the help of his magic, been able to pull himself out near the bridge on the lower road. Ayers had been very relieved to see the sorcerer alive and well, although the detour had put them half a day's travel too far south, and on the wrong road to boot.

If that didn't make things bad enough, Nalin was unable to cast any useful spells while he was soaked to the skin and freezing. None of their gear was dry, and since they used magic instead of tents, there was no way to get him out of the rain. Ayers knew there was a small town just a few more miles down the road, and he wanted to get there and to the warm inn as fast as possible, but they were all cold, sore, wet and worried.

Ayers shook his water-blackened hair out of his eyes, glancing over at Nalin, who was staying on his own horse, although his eyes were narrowed in concentration of that very act. "Are you alright?" he asked his fellow mercenary. "If you're not going to make it to Elltown, we can-"

But Nalin cut him off with a sharp shake of his head. "N-no, I… f-fine" he panted, "m-magic's…back…warm toes. We d-don't-"

"Look a castle!" Lady Eilina urged her horse forward a bit, peering down a side path through the falling snow.

Ayers cursed inwardly. "There's an inn in Elltown, it's barely an hour down the road, we'll be fine until we get there."

But Dame Sovara, a formidable woman and Eilina's governess, frowned. "Why should we push on towards a small town to stay at another crumby inn when there is a castle right in front of us where we would no doubt be welcomed as is befitting our stations?"

Ayers opened his mouth to argue, but Dame Sovara cut him off. "It's your partner that is in such a horrible condition, but if you want to continue trying to kill him and press onwards to some ramshackle run-down inn, go right ahead. Just consider it the severance of our agreement, and don't expect to receive any of your pay."

Nalin groaned and swayed on his horse. No matter what he had said about 'warm toes' he obviously wasn't doing very well. Ayers nudged his horse closer and leaned in so he could look the sorcerer in the eyes. "Nalin?" he said.

"I-i-it m-might b-be b-best," he replied, attempting to smile through the chattering of his teeth.

"Fine, let's go." Ayers moved his horse to head down the road to the castle. Nalin managed to keep his horse alongside, and they pulled a bit ahead of the two ladies that they had been hired to guard to the nearby duchy of Danover. "I don't like this. He told us not to come back."

Nalin shook his head slightly. "He t-told you to leave, but never n-not to c-come back. Besides," Nalin said, slumping a bit more in the saddle. His shivering was lessening and his teeth had nearly stopped chattering; a bad sign. "This is p-probably for the b-best, I think my toes are more numb than warm."

Ayers looked at his friend out of the corner of his eye and shook his head. He wasn't surprised that Nalin had been lying about his toes, but it really wasn't the time to fight about it. The wind rose as they neared the castle, following the walls around from the north and freezing the wet hair on Ayers's forehead. The knight dismounted when they reached the gates, and yanked a bell-pull.

A window opened above their heads, "Who's there? And what the hell do you want?"

"Four wind-blown and snow-covered travelers, are you going to let us in?"

"I've got orders not to let anyone in after dark, we don't want to give shelter to bandits."

"We're not bandits!" Ayers cursed under his breath, he didn't want to stand out here arguing with a gate guard like this. "Go get your superior officer, he'll know we're not bandits."

The guard at the window was about to shout something back, but then he was shoved out of the way from behind, and a new face appeared. "Ayers? Good god I thought I heard your voice!"

"Pok! Loose the gamble for tonight's watch, did you?" Ayers was relieved to see a familiar face.

"Aye, always did have the worst of luck on stormy nights!" he called back. Pok moved away from the window and there was a clatter from inside the room, and then the gates slowly opened, groaning against the wind and the snow. Once it was wide enough for the horses, the four travelers entered, relieved to finally be out of the wind.