They lay back in the grass after dinner, looking up at the stars.
"That's Mars," she told him, rolling onto her elbow to be able to point up at it better.
"The angry star, Siriol called it," Mitt agreed, lazily following the direction of her finger. "Not much use for anything--it changes where it is all the time."
"That's because it's not a star," Maewen replied, earnest and freckly. "It's another world, like ours, except no one's on it."
Mitt turned to face her. "You've got t'be flaming kidding me." His voice rose at the end of the statement, incredulous.
She blushed, furious, and proceeded to tell him exactly how she wasn't.
Moril tuned the little cwidder, focused in on the humming that came from its strings. Maewen couldn't tell the difference in noise between the partial-notes as he carefully adjusted the metal pegs a millimeter this way and that.
"How was your ride?" he asked her, not looking up from his work.
She started, slightly. It was easy to forget that Moril was the most observant of the three of them. "It was fine. Do you think you'll be performing in the next town?"
His face went vague, and he glanced up at her, then over at the brightly painted cart. It was the Moril version of a shrug, Maewen thought.
"Oh, stop fussing about," Mitt growled at him. "You're worse than a flaming fishwife, you are. Just get your stuff together, we've got t'move."
"I am moving. I'm not going to let you rough up the instruments just because you and Navis want to get an early start."
Mitt threw his hands in the air as Moril continued to fastidiously adjust the padding, slowing as he went just (it seemed) to make Mitt angrier.
That was the problem, Moril thought, with Southerners. They always thought about deadlines, not about doing things right.
That was the problem, Mitt thought, with Northerners. They flaming well didn't care about anyone's projects but their own.
Mitt ran his hand over the golden statue as he had several times before, and set it back in his satchel. Navis had told him to give it over to a historian, and he had agreed with a muffled vagueness. Sometime. Sometime that wasn't today.
He wasted a lot of time trying to ignore the always-there thought that maybe the statue would take him away from the battlefield to whenever-time Maewen had gone.
Moril closed his eyes, listening to the song in his head, and carefully strummed it out on the smaller cwidder. It was a reworking of a tribute to Enblith the Fair from two hundred years before.
The queen he was playing it for would never hear it, would never be queen in truth, and would have never in any time been his.
He was a bard. That was nearly tradition.
"Moril." Mitt's voice was tired as he pushed aside the tent flap.
"Amil," the bard acknowledged, not looking up from the large cwidder.
"Mitt," the king corrected, quietly, and knelt beside him.
"Mitt," Moril agreed. He glanced across to the taller man--still a boy, actually, though he'd been king for nearly two years. Moril gently lowered the cwidder.
"Hobin--" Mitt broke off, frustrated, and glanced away from Moril's knowing gaze. Mitt would go awkward whenever he got on topics like this, ones where he might give away more than he meant.
"I know," the other boy said, and picked up the cwidder. He bent his head over it and carefully fingered out the well-known commands of peace and sleep.
"Thanks," Mitt replied, with a quick smile (a shadow tonight of the cocky one that knew it had a joke on the whole world), and a hastily covered yawn. He stretched out on the extra sleeping mat in the tent there for him, and fell into the closest he ever got to a peaceful sleep.
When Moril's fingers fell to silence after some time, he looked over at the sleeping figure. Before he left the tent, he pulled one of his too-short blankets over the friend who was his king.
It was, Mitt knew, a disservice to the women he considered marrying when he compared them continuously to Maewen. So he'd decided he'd forget her--not forget her, never forget her--he'd decided he'd store her in a box in the back of his head, to be aired out every few years but mostly kept safely locked away.
It didn't work.
But in the middle of the court games, with allies switching back and forth like they weren't worth the price of bait, he thought who would Maewen want me to marry? He thought of his lawyer-friend, Biffa-- smart and nice and gentle and without any political weight.
Moril never said her name. The few times Mitt had tried to broach the subject he'd defensively gone vague and started strumming on his cwidder.
But every girl he compared to Maewen, and found wanting. The women of the court were carefully tailored beauties, most of them, but he did not want to sing of polished stone. He wanted to find someone rough and real--someone he could make real art of.
Yet only rarely did someone catch his eye, a fancy of song that would last a week or a short season, nothing more.
And continuously he played music to the awkward freckle-faced girl he'd known, once, when he was young.
Mitt lifted his face to the wind, leaning on the defenses next Moril, resting easily on his elbows.
"War, again," he said, finally, a bitter taste in his mouth.
"War, always," Moril countered, with an angry undercurrent. "War, always and ever, with you."
"This is the first war in twenty years," Mitt barked, surprised, glancing over to him. "What're you talking about?"
Moril lifted his chin, and gave Mitt a hard look.
"Oh, right," Mitt sighed. "Right. That."
Every time he woke up next to her he had to rise to his elbow and watch her, ridiculously startled by the fact that he wasn't dreaming. That was stupidly cheesy, but he'd dreamed it so many times over the years that he could barely believe it.
Maewen snorted awake, hair in her face, and glared at him as he started laughing. "I'd like to see what you're like when you wake up," she told him, throwing a pillow in his face as she rolled out of bed.
"Dignified," he responded, cheerfully, not deigning to get up from his comfortable position yet. "Dignified and fully formed and ready t'face the flaming day."
"Early bird," she accused him, and went to make herself some coffee.
It was, he felt, worth it.
Maewen knelt in the grass beside the little tombstone in the cemetary adjunct to the royal one. It was well cared for, compared to most of them, but plain and worn by the elements. If she tried, she could see Moril carved in the stone, though it looked more like Nonil from the grooving and wear.
It was strange, here, looking at the dates in the stone. It wasn't anything like his portrait in the museum--there she could see the Moril she knew, though irrevocably changed. Here, by the marker of a man who died in his late sixties, she could not sense Moril at all.
She wasn't sure what she was looking for when she'd asked Mitt where he'd been buried, but she knew that here, at least, she hadn't found it.
Mitt sat on the steps, eating his sandwich cheerfully as kids dressed in exacting uniforms tromped up and down the steps past him, before they tapered off as classes started.
Teachers and groundskeepers would eye him for a moment as they passed, and then shrug it off. He had the specific kind of disreputable air that said more here to fix something than here to cause trouble.
He tried to eat his sandwich and drink his orange fizzy drink as slowly as possible, in his leather jacket (that had character, as he insisted to Maewen cheerfully) and sturdy blue jeans.
There, on the steps of the school that Moril built, he closed his eyes against the sun and let himself remember.