High King of Britain
After washing and exchanging her bloody war gear for clean leather, Mair ducked under the tent flap and went in search of wine, her mind calm, her thoughts peaceful. The battle had been won. It was time to celebrate.
Somewhere nearby, there would be a campfire with like-minded warriors sitting around it, with wineskins and cups. A place would be made for her.
“Lady Mair.” The call came from her left.
Mair halted to look. The man who came toward her was black of hair, with a sharp jaw. He looked familiar. Mair took in his wide shoulders, and the strong wrists. He had washed and changed just as she had, so there were no house markings on his clothes or cloak to tell her who he was.
She glanced at his face once more as he stopped before her. He had thick dark brows over very blue eyes…and then she knew why he seemed familiar to him. “Arawn Uther,” she said. “You have joined Arthur’s army now?”
“My brother sent me, as he could not be spared himself,” Arawn Uther said. “Alun remains in Lesser Britain to hold the eastern borders with Hoel.” He reached inside his over tunic, underneath the cloak. “I have a letter for you, from Alun.”
The mention of a letter should have filled her with delight. Instead, Mair felt a twisting and tightening in her belly. “He did not send it by messenger?”
“Not this letter,” Arawn Uther held the sealed roll toward her.
The very slight emphasis made her hesitate as she reached for the roll. “Why this letter? You know what is in it, don’t you?”
Arawn Uther didn’t shift his stance. His expression did not change. Yet Mair could feel the wave of sadness that swept him. His blue eyes glittered. “My mother…Ilsa…” His throat worked.
Mair sighed. “Oh, Arawn… I’m so sorry.”
He nodded. Then he cleared his throat. “As you can imagine, my mother’s passing changes things.”
He did not finish the thought, but he did not need to. Mair could finish it all by herself. It changes things between you and Alun.
Alun had been pressing for a solid arrangement between them for years, via messengers and couriers, and letters like this one. Now, with his mother’s passing, he would reasonably expect to secure the next generation.
Mair looked at the roll hanging forgotten in Arawn’s hand. She didn’t want to read it. Once she read Alun’s entreaty that she join him in Brocéliande, she would be forced to make a decision.
Mair gripped Arawn’s arm. “It is not the time to tax our minds with such matters,” she said firmly. “We have clawed victory from this day. I was about to find some wine and I insist you come and drink it with me.”
She shook her head. “No. You fought today as I did. You now get to enjoy the warrior’s rights. Drink and…perhaps we can find you a willing, warm woman, to take that care from your eyes.”
Arawn rolled his eyes. “Really, Lady Mair–”
“Mair,” she said firmly.
“Rawn,” he replied, just as firmly. He narrowed his eyes and stuffed the letter back inside his tunic. “Where is this wine you speak of?”
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