These woods were unknown to her, but they bore no more menace than the places of her childhood. She stood on a small boulder embedded in the soft earth of the streambank, bare toes curling against the bracing cold, and looked up when a smattering of sparrows took fright and shook the snow off the branches of a squat pine.
Guinevere's hands at her sides twisted in the thick fabric of the Roman woman's cloak; she shivered at the light winter cold nipping at her skin, which felt raw and thin from the bath her quiet benefactor had insisted upon. She held her arms away from her body to let the air sting through the thinner gown.
The birds were not the only things her presence disturbed; she didn't turn at the light snap of twigs somewhere in the brushwood behind her, but she had no doubt he was aware that his stealth had failed him. After a time, his footfalls where those of a man no longer attempting to hide.
She crouched low and curled a hand in her lap, then held out the other to let the freezing water of the creek bubble between her fingers, numbing them.
"Why do you follow me?"
Tristan inhaled calmly somewhere behind her, the sound a forfeit to his already betrayed presence. "It's what I do."
They were the first words she'd heard him speak, and they were hoarse and low and sharp-edged with the traces of a foreign tongue. They held no defence of his action this night nor did they seek pardon. She felt certain he always spoke this way, stripping things bare of platitudes.
"It's what you do as well," he added when she didn't expect him to. She thought she could detect a hint of accusation in his statement, but it bore no heat.
She touched the tips of her fingers together and felt nothing.
Guinevere rose and turned to squint at him through the near-dark of the bleak afternoon. "I'm sorry, I don't-"
"It's not wise to put yourself between them," he continued, his words a littler sharper but no louder than an even mumble. "It's not a position you should seek."
The warning unsettled her but she smirked, albeit shakily, at his grave tone, curling her hands once more in the Roman cloak to pull it more tightly around her. "And you know this?"
His fingers crunched a handful of dry leaves and she looked down at his hands, startled, for the space of a held breath, then back up at his face when he didn't reply.
"I do." It wasn't quite a smile, no more than a slight pull of his mouth that didn't reach his eyes, their grey uncomfortably blunt between narrowed lashes. "It's what we do."