Disclaimer: I do not own King Arthur
Galahad couldn't sleep. It was unusual for him to find no rest at the end of a night of celebration, but then such an event had never happened before. It was inconceivable- Arthur, their trusted leader, their brave comrade, leading them out again. By rights, their service to Rome was done and neither duty nor obligation held them to this path. They were bound only by the selfish ice-cruel grip of a wicked man's fingers on seven parchment scrolls.
The young knight twisted on his pallet, turning on his side in a desperate attempt to find a sleep-inducing position. It was not fair, he argued to himself. They had lost so many knights, so many friends fallen to the swords of their enemies. No, not their enemies. The enemies of Rome. They had fallen to the mighty hammer-stroke of the Roman Empire, which carelessly crushed those who opposed and defended. The great warhammer of Rome, tainted with the blood of honest men and murderers alike.
His mind whirling with dark thoughts, Galahad rose and hurriedly dressed, striding from the room with anger dancing about him, driven from his bed by the foul stench of treachery. His mind deep in his melancholy reflections, he was surprised to find his feet leading him to the apparently deserted stables. Feeling the need for the non-judgemental regard of his favourite beast, he crossed the mud floor to the stall where the stallion stood tethered. Seeming to share his master's restlessness, the muscular grey was shifting uneasily in his straw and making muffled noises deep in his throat.
Galahad placed a gentle hand on the grey's quarters and stroked along the large body to the fine head. Reassured by his touch, the horse thrust its proud nose into his tunic and snuffled. Galahad spoke gently to the affectionate stallion, murmuring words of soft comfort, feeling the warmth that came from the unconditional love of a creature who could easily kill him without a thought.
"Easy, my strong Cadarn," he crooned. The horse's name was fitting- it came from a British tongue and it meant 'the mighty'. More a title than a name, he liked it nonetheless. So engrossed was he in his unashamed basking, the young knight did not notice the cat-quiet approach of another knight.
"You do not rest?"
Surprised, Galahad whirled to face the source of the voice, his hand automatically reaching for the absent dagger at his belt. Half-hidden by shadows, Tristan regarded him from the empty stall next to Cadarn. Recognising the mysterious presence, Galahad relaxed and shook his head in reply, turning back to soothe his startled horse. Flighty as all stallions are, the grey was snorting and tossing his head, prancing again on his long legs. The young man pressed his forehead to the horse's brow and spoke softly to him. After a moment, Cadarn relaxed and pushed his head into Galahad's hand. He grinned and scratched the space between the big horse's eyes, turning back to Tristan.
It was hard to make out the expression on the other knight's face, cloaked as he was in the flickering shadows. Still, Galahad mused, it was hard to tell anything from the stoic man- a creature of untamed wildness, of bloodlust and darkness, of secrets and sorcery. Feeling the weight of the silence, he asked, "Why are you not resting?"
He winced at his tone, but Tristan appeared not to notice, shrugging in answer to the question. "The stars do not sleep," came the strange reply.
Galahad's brow furrowed and he opened his mouth to question further, but Tristan was turning to leave. Suddenly wanting the company of the feral warrior in the oddly changeable stillness of the night when the stars couldn't sleep, the young knight patted Cadarn's shoulder and ducked out of the stall to follow Tristan into the courtyard.
The wild knight made his way to the centre of the courtyard and raised his head, turning his face to the sky. Wrapped in the white-gold clasp of the moon's light, he became almost ethereal, insubstantial. Galahad's breath caught in his throat- Tristan had never seemed so…himself, here in the moon's embrace. Wild knight, savage knight, enigmatic knight of shadows and stars. The man he had never understood; the man who clashed so with his own ideals. Here, when the laws of civilisation had fled in terror of the necromantic night, Tristan stood as he truly was. Distant. Untameable. Incorporeal.
Shivering in the icy chill that descended on him in the wake of his thoughts, Galahad instinctively moved closer to the intangible presence, feeling more than ever the unease of the world.
Tristan's voice broke the silence. "Troubled times approach."
"How do you know?" Galahad asked, his voice sound thin and young next to the Nature-wise tones of the older knight.
Turning away from his study of the stars, Tristan fixed his eyes on Galahad's. Their gazes locked. After a few moments, the younger looked away, unable to bear the intensity of the other knight's stare. Tristan grinned and then shrugged in answer to his question. "How does a hawk know a storm approaches?"
As if she had heard him, Galahad heard the high shrieking call of Tristan's hawk and looked up to see her circling above them, barely lit by the light of the torches standing about the courtyard. Without lifting his gaze to her, Tristan raised his arm and she swooped down to alight on it, ruffling her feathers. He stroked her gently, tenderness shining in his eyes. The younger knight watched, unwilling to disturb the tableau as two wild creatures greeted one another.
Tristan glanced up at him and his grin widened. He gestured for Galahad to come closer, shifting his stance to become more open. "She is called Iseult."
Nervously, Galahad stepped closer, his hand stretching forwards to brush against silk-fine plumage. "I didn't know you had named her."
"Some things," Tristan interrupted. "Can become clear only with time."
"What…what do you mean?" Galahad asked, dropping his hand to rest at his side.
The intense gaze was fixed on him again. "Trust that one day those things will become clear. And if you cannot, trust only one thing. The edge of your sword."
"What of the others?" Galahad challenged. "What of trust in our comrades?"
Tristan shrugged again. "I trust my sword. It has never failed me. You should sleep. Restless stars should not keep you from your bed."
Galahad nodded and turned to leave. As he strode back to quarters, he looked back at the enigmatic savage who trusted only the edge of his scimitar. He would never understand Tristan, he would never become clear what drove the mysterious knight of shadow and stars.
On the night that the stars do not sleep, all wild things are restless.