Sep. 24th, 2008

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Enter the Bright One. 

you have to know... Lleu was for oh-so-long the darling of my heart.  It was at least seven years from his first appearance in my brain that I started to temper his all round Wonderfulness with less endearing qualities like 1) fear of the dark,  2) asthma, and especially 3) being a pain in the neck.

Even so I was momentarily astonished by his beauty. It struck at me as it had when I first saw him, when he was an infant. I think it is the single characteristic in him that I have always envied, will always envy. He is graceful and slightly built, like an acrobat or a cat, with black hair and brilliant dark eyes; but the eyes were closed now, the fair skin dry and fiercely hot to touch, and he did not know me.
  He did not even know his mother.  She tried to comfort him while I felt his forehead, gauging his fever; but 
when my hands moved to his throat, testing the swollen glands there, he fought me, wildly trying to tear my hands away. "You want to strangle me," he managed to whisper, coughing and struggling...



Medraut's all clever and makes him some cough syrup.
 
"Don't send me to sleep," he begged desperately, quiet and fervent. "I want to breathe, not to sleep."
     "This will ease your cough, little one," I answered. "It won't make you sleep."
     "Who are you?" Lleu asked abruptly. "Stay here." He choked again, and clung to me.
     "I'll call for someone to watch him," Ginevra said.
     "I'll stay. I don't mind."
     So she left us. I eased Lleu back down onto the pillows, and sat on the floor next to the cot to wait for morning.


... most of the night I sat and watched, until the gray dawn light came stealing from behind the cloth-covered windows, and I could hear that others in the household were rising. Then I could not bear to stay awake any longer and fell asleep just as I sat: on the floor next the bed, leaning on the mattress with my face buried in one arm and the other flung across Lleu's waist so that I should know if he stirred.

Enter Goewin!  She comes in to wake him up and put him to bed.

   

Not long afterward someone woke me and helped me to rise, and I found myself being led through the corridors in the direction of my own chamber. I felt dazed and stupid; it was a long time since I had let myself grow so exhausted.




The girl who accompanied me explained that my room had been set in order for me while I had been with Lleu, and that I must feel free to come and go as I pleased within the villa. She was dark-haired, tall and long-limbed, with a somewhat hard face whose severity was tempered by humor. She seemed familiar, and at my door I asked her name. She stared at me, then laughed. I knew her then, and smiled with her, too tired to laugh. She looks more like Artos than either Lleu or I. "Princess Goewin. You must think me very foolish."
    "No, no," she said. "You're half-asleep, and I have changed since I was eight. I recognized your pale hair." She opened the door to show me in and said conversationally, "You saved Lleu's life, didn't you?  I insisted they open your window, so it's my fault if it's too cold in here. I remember you almost always had the window open, and it needed airing badly." There were wooden shutters instead of glass in my window, and I used to keep them open for light, not minding the cold. It touched me that Goewin had remembered.

--------------------------------------
So Medraut moves in and spends the winter taking care of Lleu, who kind of drives him nuts trying to find out what he's been doing for the past six years.  He's killed seven men; he's studied at Plato's Academy in Athens (honest to God, it's mentioned in The Lion Hunter); he's been an ambassador in Africa; he's had at least three--ahem, shall we say, girlfriends, only one of which Lleu ever manages to confirm.  Medraut, who's still limping and has had his left hand permanently crippled after events of  the previous summer, doesn't  really want to talk about himself, but Lleu persists.
----------------------------------------------
He said abruptly, "Your name means 'marksman.'"
     "Yes. The Deft One, the Skilled One."
     Lleu suddenly grinned a little, wicked and delightful. "Are you?"
     Driven by mingled pride and self-contempt, I said, "I'll show you." I went into the little dressing room next door where I found a spool of thread and a light, sharp probe made of bone; then I returned to sit on the floor next to Lleu's cot. With the thread and a slender twig of kindling from the brazier I strung a makeshift bow scarcely longer than my forearm. The probe served for an arrow. I used to do this to exercise my hand when I lay bored and aching in the long hot days of the previous summer, before I was able to walk. It had been a diversion from illness and fear: so, too, for Lleu.



     "Go on," Lleu said, waiting.
     "Watch closely," I said. "There's hardly any strength in a bow this small; the probe will probably bounce off the cloth when it strikes." Lleu's gaze flickered dubiously from the stiff and scarred fingers of my left hand to the target he had chosen: but what is my hand weighed against my name, my nature?



I drew back the almost invisible bowstring, and shot; the sharp little sliver of bone struck straight through the minute black knot of embroidery, and pinned the cloth fast to the door.
     "Oh, well done!" Lleu cried. He sat up straight, white and thrilled, and the startled and offended cat stalked away from him. Lleu stared hard at the door, then shivered and turned to stare at me. "I have to trust you utterly, don't I?"
     What made him say that, what made him aware of that? I shrugged as if I neither minded nor understood what he meant; but I was making light of what was true.


director's notes: I nearly went insane balancing that damned toothpick in his tiny little Playmobil hand.

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