The forests of Britain are wreathed in mist no matter the weather, dark and deep and dream-like. Tristan feels most at home in their depths, where he moves with the silence of a Woad born. Few see him, and there are few he does not see.
Tristan knows of Guinevere, wild daughter of Merlin. She is young, he has heard, but as fierce and canny as her father. She is fast becoming legend among the proud and warlike Woads. Tristan as never seen her, though he knows she is often near. He sees her tracks and hears her call, but he is always a heartbeat too slow, three steps behind. When he arrives, she is gone. A worthy opponent, but he does not think she has seen him, either.
Guinevere is a challenge, one Tristan is glad to take up. They dance the warrior's dance through the cool depths of the forest, never meeting, feint and thrust and parry without ever crossing swords. He spends more and more time in the woods, for soon he can think of nothing but winning this strange, deadly competition.
When Guinevere emerges from her Christian prison, rescued by Arthur's honor, she is as cold and beautiful as the ice over the barren mountain lakes. A worthy opponent, yes, but she does not recognise Tristan, and he finds himself distracted by fall of her hair and the curve of her thigh.
Guinevere is wild and canny, a daughter of kings. But when he sees Arthur and Guinevere together, Tristan stumbles painfully upon the stark, cold knowledge that, like a callow recruit, he has won the battle but lost the war. This woman is flesh and blood, not the fey wisp he hunted through the mist wreathed trees. Tristan had always known the forest was a dreamscape, foreign and unnatural, but now he realises that the woman he chased was also no more than a dream.
Tristan has never loved a woman, and he never will. He loves only war and the promise of death. What was precious under the dim light that filtered through the trees is revealed as painted brass by the sun. Let Arthur and Lancelot fight like dogs over a bitch in heat. Tristan will not be prey to the weaknesses of mortal men.
Nonetheless, defeat burns his throat like bile, and he turns away.