“Something on your mind?”
Ygraine immediately tensed and shifted her weight the instant she heard a voice, startled to be not alone as she thought, but then relaxed when she recognized who it was.
“Uthyr.” His name was couched in a sigh of relief. “I did not realize you were awake at this hour.”
Beneath the russet tunic, his shoulders rolled in a shrug, arms folded across his chest as he watched her. “Pacing tends to wake me.”
“Pacing? Why were you–ah.” Color rose in her cheeks with the realization he was talking about her. “I am sorry; I thought I was being quiet.”
He leaned his weight against a stone wall. “You were. I just… am a light sleeper.”
There was something evasive in his answer that Ygraine couldn’t quite pinpoint, but she knew it was there.
The cool of his gaze didn’t waver from her face. “What troubles you enough to set you pacing?”
The corners of Ygraine’s mouth twitch almost into a smile. “Is this Uthyr ap Cunedag, concerned for my well-being?”
An amused snort answered her. “This is Uthyr ap Cunedag trying to secure a good night’s rest for once.”
The amusement fell from her mien, sent her fingers lost and worrying amid the folds of her skirts. “Sleep hasn’t been one to cooperate of late, has it?”
She watched his face soften, watched a line of worry crease across his brow.
“I do not think the same reason troubles us,” he said quietly. “It is a difficult thing to be so far away from your home, with only a dozen familiar faces around you.” She had not heard him so soft-spoken since she’d arrived in this country, and so she said nothing and let him continue as he would. “But we are not so different here–our languages may differ, and some of our customs seem strange to you, but we are a people of the land, just as you and your folk are. And,” he continued, “there are some customs we share.”
Something small did a little flip in the bottom of her heart, but she ignored it for now. “Oh?”
Now a smile crept onto his face. “We are here for Calan Mai–Beltaine, in your land–are we not?”
Her mouth mirrored his smile. “I have yet to see just how similar they are in custom,” she told him, though the jest was clear enough in her tone.
“Perhaps you will discover something new you can take back to your lands from here,” he suggested. “Something we do better.”
It felt good, to be joking with him, even in the small, dark hours of the night, even in the roundabout way he had of doing so. It lightened the weight on her heart and even did some good in lifting the uneasy fog unpleasant dreams had settled over her mind. The fingers worrying the fabric of her skirts stilled.
“Perhaps,” she said, entirely unconvinced that she would. “I shall be the judge of that. Or, perhaps I will introduce you to a tradition done better.”
As if noting the ease in her now, Uthyr dipped his head and shoulders in a shallow bow.
“Perhaps,” he echoed. “But, now that I’ve seen your pacing concluded, I shall return to my bed. Morning comes early.”
She nodded, already feeling the lifting distraction from her dreams his conversation had brought slipping. “Good night, then.”
As she watched him leave, the images of smoke and spears and red earth loomed in her mind again. She knew she dreamt of battle, a battle with a blood-red serpent in it–the one that she’d seen before ever leaving her mother’s castle–but did not know where or when it would take place, or who would be caught up in it, only that it would be important. Part of Ygraine wished to tell someone, but she did not know what good it would do if she could not tell them more.