Codi awoke before dawn the next morning. Her first thought was that she felt like herself for the first time since waking up in that cursed cell. Her head was clear and blissfully empty of anyone but herself. There was no sense of that hovering oblivion waiting to consume her. For once, she had gotten a full night's sleep, Codi thought, arching her back stretching luxuriously. No wonder she felt--
Codi froze mid-stretch and snatched her hand back as if burned. Either Shasa had lost all of his fur or there was someone in her bed. Since the chances of Shasa going bald in a single night were depressingly slim, it seemed that someone was, in fact, in her bed. Suddenly everything from the night before came rushing back. What should she do? Should she move and risk waking him or--
Maybe if she just pretended to be asleep...?
"Codi, I know you're awake."
Reluctantly, Codi rolled over and faced him, pulling the blanket up to her chin. She was, unsurprisingly, quite naked. Tristan chuckled and propped himself up on one elbow, looking inquisitively down at her.
"You pick a fine time to suddenly go all modest around me," he remarked.
"Um." For lack of anything better to do—or say—Codi let her eyes wander down Tristan's bare torso, noting the snake-like pattern winding down from his shoulder to his elbow. It looked like it might continue onto his back. Why didn't I see that before? she wondered, then blushed.
"Codi." Tristan tipped her chin up with a finger. "Hey. This is me, remember?"
"I-I know that," Codi stammered. "I just—I kind of forgot and then I woke up and—um—I—well...I'm naked."
Tristan laughed. "Aye, I imagine you would be."
Codi blushed beet red and pulled the blanket closer, inching away. Seeing this, Tristan reached under the blankets and pulled her into his arms, making her squeak with surprise. Gently, he tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear and kissed her.
"I'm sorry, vrya—I didn't mean to embarrass you."
"I know," Codi muttered. "It's just—last night seemed like a dream."
"A good dream?" Tristan asked, head cocked.
"Yes," Codi said shyly.
"Good," Tristan said simply, and felt her suddenly relax.
He took the opportunity to pull her closer so that her head fit comfortably under his chin. Idly he traced the tattoo on her back and was rewarded with a small sigh of contentment.
"That feels nice," Codi murmured. Hesitantly, she asked, "Tristan? I didn't—I didn't change while I was sleeping, did I?"
"No, I think I would have noticed if you had," Tristan assured her. "It's a relief to know you can control it, now."
Codi blinked in surprise and then grinned. "I can still do it? On purpose?"
Tristan smiled down at her. "Only one way to find out."
Forgetting her earlier shyness, Codi jumped out of bed and paused, wondering what to do. Wolf, she thought firmly, closing her eyes. She called up in her mind images and scents and sounds from her wolf-dreams. When she opened them again, she found herself considerably closer to the ground. Shasa bounded over eagerly to greet her, tail whipping back and forth as he playfully snapped at her flank. With a yip of joy, Codi fell on him with a mock growl and the two wolves rolled about the room, snarling merrily.
Tristan cleared his throat meaningfully. "I'm feeling somewhat left out, you know."
Codi bounced onto the bed, Changed, and pounced on Tristan in rapid succession. Tristan caught her easily and laughed at the exultant grin on her face. He had a feeling this was going to make life a lot more interesting. Codi paused suddenly, staring solemnly into his eyes. Tentatively, she touched his face.
"It's because of you," she said. "You let me remember who I am—you saved me. You've saved me so many times, Tristan..." Codi grinned crookedly. "One day I'll save your life and we'll be square."
"Is that prophecy?" he asked, only half-jokingly.
"No," Codi said with a smile. "It's just bound to happen, sooner or later."
"Well, let's hope it's later rather than sooner," Tristan said firmly. Suddenly his grip on her tightened and he gave her a rakish grin. "In the meantime, you look very much like a damsel in distress."
Codi smiled back, a glint of mischief in her eye. "Why—I believe I am feeling rather distressed. Are you going to rescue me, good Sir Knight?"
Tristan's grin grew wider. "Something like that, yes."
Tristan let himself out of Codi's room some time later, closing the door on Codi soaking in the tub. He couldn't help but smile as he made his way back to his rooms for a bath of his own—and clean clothes. Tristan grimaced. He was surprised Codi had even let him near her (much less bed her), smelling like he did. Why was it that whenever Codi was sick, he ended up smelling like a dead fish? Ah, well, that's what he got for taking care of someone around the clock. Next time, he told himself firmly, he could let someone else take a turn.
Tristan caught Brenna's arm and steadied her.
"Watch where you're going you—oh, it's you." Brenna looked up at him uncertainly. "You seem to be in a good mood."
"Codi's awake and well, if you want to say hello," he informed her.
"You're sure she won't turn into a wolf and eat me?" Brenna asked lightly, though he thought she looked slightly concerned.
"Quite sure," Tristan assured her, and watched her scamper off.
After his bath, Tristan headed down to the main hall. Bors, Dagonet, Lancelot, and Arthur were sitting together, eating breakfast. Tristan sat down next to Bors and accepted the porridge and milk pushed his way. He practically inhaled the food and gulped down the milk in seconds. Spooning more porridge into his bowl with bits of dried fruit and cream, he continued at a somewhat more decorous pace.
"Where are Gawain and Galahad?" he asked between bites.
"One of the stable lads forgot to close the gates and several horses got out," Arthur explained. "They're helping to collect them."
"Ah." Tristan nodded and continued eating.
"Have you contacted Morgaine?" Arthur asked him.
Tristan froze, spoon halfway to his mouth, then hastily finished the rest of his porridge. "No—she's fine now. But if she comes down later, don't let her eat any porridge or milk or anything heavy."
Before they could ask any awkward questions, Tristan stood up and beat a hasty retreat while the knights stared after him in consternation. They all looked at each other in confusion, shrugged, and returned to their breakfast. If Tristan said she was fine, she was fine.
Codi smiled at Brenna when she let herself in without bothering to knock. She was in the process of washing her hair and it felt wonderful. Everything was wonderful. Brenna regarded her with narrowed eyes and then smiled shrewdly.
"I just passed Tristan in the hallway," she remarked. "He seemed to be in a very good mood. Very smiley."
Codi blushed. "That so?"
"That is so," Brenna said. "In fact, he was coming from your room. Smiling. And disheveled."
"Tristan's always disheveled," Codi snorted.
"The drawstring on his trousers was undone," Brenna informed her.
Codi turned pink and mumbled something unintelligible.
"I knew it!" Brenna crowed. "And after all that tripe about not being able to--"
"Shut up!" Codi hissed, but she was still grinning. "Someone could hear. And what were you looking at his trousers for, anyway?"
"Oh, I wasn't," Brenna told her cheerfully. "I just wanted to know if I was right about you two--"
"Well, I think it's grand," Brenna declared. She sat down on the bed and leaned forward conspiratorially. "So—how was it? Was it gentle or passionate or--"
"Brenna!" Codi gasped, scandalized.
"I'm not going to give you a blow by blow account of—of—or any sort of account!"
"Why not?" Brenna demanded.
"It's private," Codi snapped. "And besides—there's a saying where I come from: don't kiss and tell."
"That's a stupid saying," Brenna muttered. "Will you tell me if you liked it, at least?"
Codi smiled and became very engaged in scrubbing her hair. "Yes."
"Is that 'yes, I'll tell you' or 'yes, I liked it'?"
"Both," Codi said.
"Will you do it again?"
"I--" Codi frowned. "I don't know. If—if he wants to, I suppose. I mean, it might not have meant anything to him..."
"That's a possibility," Brenna agreed. "I wouldn't worry, though."
"Brenna," Codi said suddenly. "Where have you been sleeping?"
"In the servants' quarters," Brenna said casually, then grinned. "Most of the time."
Codi looked at her suspiciously. "And the rest of the time?"
"Well, well," Codi said, eyebrows raised. "Just Beltane, was it?"
"It still doesn't mean anything," Brenna shrugged. "We suit each other, that's all. Get out of the tub, lazybones, your fellow knights have been sick with worry."
"I doubt it was worry," Codi retorted, but accepted the towel Brenna handed her. "Ale, maybe, or mead, but not worry."
"Tsk," Brenna scolded. "You undervalue yourself. I assure you, all they ale they drank was solely on your account."
"Well, I do feel loved," Codi murmured. All the knights—Gawain and Galahad in particular—regularly consumed impressive amounts of alcohol.
"They really were quite worried, though," Brenna told her earnestly. "You looked—well, you were quite a sight when we found you."
"I imagine I was," Codi agreed with a sigh. "Well enough, I'll get dressed and go see them; no doubt they'll want to see for themselves that I'm—well, me again."
"No doubt," Brenna agreed. She looked at Codi curiously and asked, "Can—can you still do it? Change into a wolf, I mean."
Codi grinned. "Aye."
"Are you a witch?"
Codi opened her mouth to say "no, of course not" then shut her mouth. Tristan had been right: she had traveled through time, could change into a wolf (and converse with one), and had dreams that were... highly informative. Did that make her a witch? A sorceress? Codi had no doubt that her mother was one, but her mother could do a great many things that she couldn't. So what did that make her? Codi sighed.
"I'll let you know when I figure that out," she told Brenna, and finished dressing.
Still braiding her hair, Codi followed Brenna down to the hall. They passed several servants, all of whom hurried by without making eye contact. Codi saw one cross herself surreptitiously out of the corner of her eye and another servant made some sort of sign as well—the pagan equivalent, most likely. People whispered behind their hands and stared at her as she passed. At first Codi was puzzled, but then thought of the racket she had probably made while in wolf form. No wonder they were skittish.
They met Arthur and Lancelot outside the Hall. Both were extremely happy to see her alive and well (and human). Arthur gripped her shoulder briefly and smiled down at her without saying anything. Lancelot, of course, was much more exuberant in his greeting. With many a 'pearl of my heart' and 'essence of delight' and 'fairest of knights' and other such endearments, he dragged her off to find the others, who had gone to the stables to clean their tack in preparation for the ride home.
They were all there, perched on bales of hay or various boxes, scrubbing industriously at tack or weapons. Tristan looked up when she entered and gave her a swift smile and a wink. He nudged Gawain, who was next to him, and went back to cleaning his saber. Gawain jumped up with a cry of delight and before Codi could protest, gave her a bone-cracking hug. Although she couldn't see (her face was squashed against Gawain's chest) she knew that the new pressure coming from behind her was Gawain.
"Are you alright?" Gawain asked, finally letting go of her.
"A little tired," Codi admitted. "But nothing fresh air and exercise won't cure."
"Gods, Codi, we were so--"
"Enough of that," Tristan interrupted. "She's fine now, that's what matters."
"The question is," Arthur put in, "is she well enough to stay in the saddle?"
"Aye," Codi said immediately.
"Tomorrow," Tristan added firmly.
Arthur sighed. "Tomorrow, then, no later. We've already outstayed our welcome."
"Who would have guessed that little Codi would become the most feared of Arthur's knights?" Galahad laughed. "What was that name that we heard them calling her?"
"Lycisca," Arthur supplied with a rueful smile.
Codi laughed. "Fitting."
"What does it mean?" Lancelot asked curiously.
"Wolf girl." To everyone's surprise, it was Dagonet who answered. He returned their startled looks with raised eyebrows. "Am I right?"
"Aye," Codi said. "I didn't know you had any Latin."
"I've picked up a few things over the years," Dagonet shrugged.
"You should hear the servants talking," Galahad laughed, slapping his knee. "Half the Romans think she's Satan's mistress and the other half his daughter. The Britons think she's the Horned God's child."
Arthur frowned. "Isn't he one of their most important gods?"
"Aye," Brenna said suddenly. No one had noticed her come in. "The Hunter, we call him. The Britons don't fear her. They think he's sent her to set Britain to rights."
"Really," Arthur murmured, frowning at her.
Codi didn't like the way her commander was looking at her. Resisting the urge to back up, she looked up at him.
"What?" she asked bluntly. "Surely you don't believe I'm Satan's mistress."
"No," Arthur replied. "But I am concerned about what the Britons will think of a savior who fights for Romans."
"I don't fight for Rome," Codi said sharply. "I fight for you. There's a difference."
"Maybe so, but I doubt the Britons will see it that way," Arthur told her.
"You leave that to me," Brenna said firmly. "Codi won't have any trouble from our end."
"Codi won't have trouble from either end," Bors declared. "These Romans are scared shitless. And if any of 'em try anything fishy, she can tear an arm off."
"Speaking of which," Codi remarked. "I'm hungry enough to do just that. Lancelot dragged me out here before I could eat."
"Sorry," Lancelot said, abashed.
"Daft cow," Tristan admonished her. "Why didn't you say something sooner?"
"I didn't notice," Codi shrugged.
"Horsefeathers. I know for a fact that your stomach in particular is impossible to ignore. You're simply stubborn and hardheaded--"
"Tristan, I'm not dying. I'm just a little hungry, that's all--"
"It's your fist day out of bed and your running around with no food in your belly? What's wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with me? What's wrong with you? I'm not made of glass, you know."
"You're hands are shaking."
"No, they're not."
"Don't argue. You're going to get in bed and eat some soup."
"I'm sick of soup!"
"--thick as pigshit--"
"You're so stupid--"
"--going to get yourself killed one day--"
"Oh, come off it!"
They were still arguing in this manner as Tristan towed Codi away. The knights all looked at each other sheepishly. They had all forgotten that their lady knight had been at death's door less than a week before. She probably should never have gotten out of bed.
Galahad scratched his head, gazing after the pair thoughtfully. "You know what would be funny?"
"What?" Gawain asked.
"If Tristan and Codi had babies."
"Can you imagine? Codi's personality with Tristan's looks. Now there's your child of Satan."
I'm sooooooo sorry for the long wait, but I had a huge, huge writer's block. I'm not sure when the next chapter will be out, just so you all know. so savor it, duckies, and be prepared for a long wait. I really should have waited until the whole thing was finished to start posting because I tend to get bored with stories and leave them for ages and ages and ages. But anyway.