Isyn placed her hands on the wall, the wind whipping a few errant strands of jet black hair out of her braid. She turned to stare out at the horizon, looking at the cascade of unnatural red light slowly marching its way down the mountain and across the valley. Keeping one hand on the wall, Isyn put one hand on the sword buckled at her waist. As if that would do her any good against the magicians making that unnatural light, or the soldiers who they would be under their wards. Her bow might have been a better weapon - certainly she was more skilled at archery than swordsmanship, but after using all her arrows on their flight here, it was useless.

"They will be here sometime just after dawn." a male voice interrupted his thoughts, and Isyn turned towards the speaker, her friend Theres.

"I know." Isyn turned back to face the horizon as she spoke. Anyone else might have been offended at the short reply, but there was little need for words when she was with Theres. She had known Theres for years - they had joined Lord Dariph's army three years ago and had been companions for years as mercenaries for a couple of years before that. Unlike the rest of the almost two hundred people in the crumbling fortress, Theres understood that her reply was short only because she had nothing more to say.

"By all reports, Lord Betai's army is fifteen thousand strong." Isyn nodded and stole a sidelong glance at her companion. She knew Theres wouldn't try to placate her with promises or false reassurances. She, for her part, would do the same. No reassurance about the minimal protection the crumbling fortress would offer, no mention of the battle preparations that surely wouldn't be enough, and no hopeful predictions of the assistance that would never come. Instead, they waited in silence, watching the mass of magical red lights - and the army for which they shone - continue to get closer.


In reply he placed his right hand on her shoulder and she turned to face him. The fading light of the sunset deepened the brown of his hair, but she could still see every detail of his face, from the scar that ran across his cheek to the concern in his brown eyes. He took her face in his hands - she could feel his pulse as he gently placed his fingertips on her face, and, as he brought her closer, feel his breath as well. She placed her arms around his broad shoulders, and as he wrapped his arms around her she was completely enfolded in his masculine scent. She reached her face up towards his, and their lips met. She closed her eyes and when she felt his lips search hers out with an even greater intensity, she met them with an equal hunger. All the pent up longing she swore she would never act on she poured into that kiss. She only broke away when she couldn't breathe. As she did, she opened her eyes to meet his.

"Why didn't you tell me before?"

"I just ... didn't think that you ..." She didn't let him finish. And as she leaned forward to kiss him for the second time, she allowed herself the impossible wish that the dawn would never come.