He emerged from the undergrowth and Lylyth leapt on him, tumbling him to the ground with her hands clenched around his throat. "My lady," he attempted to say through her unrelenting grip. Mathieu's eldest son Corentin coughed against the pressure, his eyes watering slightly.

Lylyth stood, turning to help the boy to his feet. "What do you think you're doing, Corentin? I could have killed you!"

Corentin's eyes filled with shame. "I know m'lady...I joined the scouting party to look for you because I knew...I wanted to help you where my father could not be helped. I did not want you to meet his same ends," Corentin replied bitterly. "I am a terrible scout; I know...You could hear me from a mile away, couldn't you?"

Lylyth resisted the temptation to nod, saying simply, "You are getting better though, and soon enough, maybe you will be our best tracker."

Corentin laughed harshly, "Yeah, right. If you say so, m'lady. We had best be getting back to the castle now, I think." He nodded to himself confidently, gesturing for Lylyth to follow him.

"I left my mount in a small hollow nearby and yours is with him. I wasn't supposed to go out tonight, but I did anyway. I had this feeling, and I guess it was kind of right because...Well, here you are." The young boy grinned proudly back at her, his smile only widening once she actually began to follow him.

The pair reached the hollow without incident, mounting up briskly and riding with great haste toward the castle. "I have much to tell the king," Lylyth told the boy. "We must make good speed to the castle."

Corentin nodded, spurring his horse forward into a fast gallop. Lylyth tangled her fingers in Brevalaer, not realizing how much she had missed him until now. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she spoke to the skittish stallion, "I am glad you went home without me, boy, but let's not repeat that experience, eh?"

Brevalaer pawed the ground with his right foreleg, as if in complete agreement. Lylyth laughed, letting the reins loose for the young charger to follow Corentin's gelding. Brevalaer leapt forward, clearing intent on catching the other horse, and Lylyth didn't pull him back until they reached the drawbridge of the castle.

A deep sigh of relief escaped Lylyth as she rode into the courtyard at a well paced trot, sitting the gait as easily as if she had been born on her horse. Corentin and Lylyth stopped their horses in front of the castle stables, Lylyth dismounting gracefully and patting her companion's neck in praise. "I have to be heading home now, m'lady," Corentin said, turning his horse back toward the gate.

Lylyth smiled thankfully, replying graciously, "Thank you, my good sir. And may they make a fine soldier out of you yet." Her mind disagreed, hoping that the dear boy never had to see a single battle.

Lylyth's comment clearly had the intended effect; the boy's face lit with pride as he nodded to her and rode out the gate.

"Good boy," she murmured to Brevalaer comfortingly, his ears flickering toward the sound of her voice. Lylyth handed the reins to a nearby groom, thanking him before rushing into the castle, smiling to herself, clearly remembering her escape from the castle, as she used the entry doors to enter it.

Lylyth hurried through the house in search of her father, knowing that he would be engaged with his generals. The room where the war council met was one of Lylyth's favorite and she reached the closed doors of it in record time. She took a deep breath, wrapping her fingers around one door handle and swung it wide, striding into the chamber with confidence.

"King Macliau, sir," she formally acknowledged, bowing low at the waist. "I have a report of utmost importance that I am quite sure all of you would like to hear." Lylyth made a sweeping gesture at the council to emphasize her point. "As you may or may not have heard, I was captured by the Saxons during a battle earlier this week."

A few of the men nodded, but most looked at the young woman standing before them with disbelief and awe. Whispers broke out among those who had not already heard, but the king quieted them quickly recognition sparking in his eyes. "The numbers of the Saxons are great, numbering more than twenty score and there are three weapons to a man. I am sure more are being forged every day, from the look of one of the tents I saw. They are nigh an unbeatable force and our numbers in terms of soldiers are lower than their own."

Nods were unanimous as Lylyth spoke, giving her the confidence she needed to continue without shaking. "The only thing left for us to do, in my eyes, is to train every able bodied man from twenty up. I will volunteer my time to help train them."

All eyes turned to the king, seeking his opinion. King Macliau nodded more slowly. "We must organize the draft quickly," he agreed. "If we do not want our walls overrun with Saxons, we need to fight them on our own terms."

The king finished the meeting quickly and dismissed the council, ushering them all out the door before turning to look at his daughter. "I have missed you most terribly, daughter. I was worried you had been killed!" Macliau kissed his daughter's forehead gently. "If you never leave again, it would be too soon."

"Father...You know that I will not let the final battle begin without me, do you not? It is my obligation to the men that I will train," Lylyth said hesitantly. "They will need someone to lead them and I intend to be that someone."

Macliau nodded slowly, "Aye...I reckoned it the moment your mother told me where you had gone, which, you will be glad to know, she did not do until you were probably already leading the charge." The older man's eyes twinkled mischievously, admiration barely definable in them as he looked upon his only daughter.

Lylyth's frame shook with fatigue and she smiled at her father. "I would absolutely love to stay up and talk with you, father, but I am slightly exhausted."

The king nodded sharply, sweeping an arm around her waist to support her. "Indeed. Bed is probably the best bet at this point. You are going to need to be well rested if you intend to begin training the new recruits in the morning."

Lylyth's eyes met his and she nodded slowly. "Do you truly think the draft will be acted upon so quickly?"

"It will have to be if we intend to meet them, as I said earlier, on our terms." Macliau continued to hold her up, virtually carrying her to the door of her room. "Goodnight, my dear. Sleep well, for the sun will rise too early."

Lylyth smiled at his advice, a yawn escaping from her mouth. She proceeded into her room and removed her dirty clothes, putting on a fresh, clean nightgown before sinking into her warm bed happily. At the edge of her consciousness, Lylyth noticed that Durandal was propped against the wall next to her closet before falling asleep nearly instantaneously.