The calm before the storm. How she hated these moments.
The Duke's army had been amassing outside the castle for days now. He was almost ready to launch his assault. They expected it would come in the morning, at dawn.
Only a few hours left now.
She walked up and down the ramparts, glaring into the murk just beyond. It didn't matter how many men the Duke had now; she would repel him, and he would be weakened when the other Knights returned with the rest of the King's army. This was the Duke's last chance; he had to take the castle before then, or all was lost to him.
She smiled grimly. All was lost to him already; he just didn't know it.
She nodded to the guards waiting on the ramparts as she passed them. They kept silent; some men liked to talk before a battle; those weren't the men she had chosen to keep watch this night. She had no desire to speak to them. There was nothing left to speak about – all that was left now was action.
She frowned when she saw Marten ahead. He was speaking to one of the soldiers, but he looked up at her; he always seemed to know when she was nearby.
"What are you doing up here?" she asked him as he approached her.
He held up a thermos, and said, "Just giving the soldiers a hot drink. To keep spirits up."
She shook her head. "You shouldn't be up here; you're not a soldier."
Marten nodded. "I know that," he said. They spoke quietly, so as not to disturb the others. "But I wanted to check on you."
She looked around at the men and then pulled Marten behind one of the outposts. When she was sure they were out of sight she grabbed his collar and kissed him. "You don't need to check on me; I am more than capable of taking care of myself," she assured him breathlessly.
"I know that too," Marten said. "But I'm allowed to worry, aren't I?"
She shook her head. "Never mind. Just get back inside; I want to know that you're safe."
Marten nodded and headed back down, and she returned to her patrol.
Nothing left to do but wait.