Dislaimer: nothing you recognise belongs to me.
A/N : This a kinda, sorta, sequel to "Llynya's Song", but you don't need to have read that to understand this (I hope!) , Llynya's just a supporting character. This is a Tristan/OC fic and will get a little bit AU as it goes along, so I hope the purists among you forgive me! Set just before the film. As ever comments and criticism are very much appreciated, and if Lucy is too MarySue then flames will be considered well deserved.
Lucy wasn't sure what was worse: the fact that her dress was muddy and swiftly soaking up water, the knowledge that she had been stupid enough to trip over a pig, or the way the aforementioned animal was looking at her with an expression that, had it been human, would have been described as smugly satisfied. Struggling up from the quagmire that served as a courtyard in front of her little house and shoving her hair from her eyes, she remembered too late that her palms were muddy and hissed in irritation as her blonde hair suddenly acquired several unflattering brunette streaks.
"Grrr…." unable to come up with anything more eloquent to indicate her annoyance, she watched as the pig trotted off to it's companions, no doubt to tell them about the stupid human who had almost fallen on top of it. "Bloody animal," Lucy muttered under her breath as she squeezed the water from the skirt of her heavy woollen dress. "You're lucky I don't make a bacon sandwich of you."
"Having fun?" the voice that startled her out of her dark thoughts was amused but kind, and Lucy looked up to find Llynya leaning against the fence that bordered the pig pen. Her eyes sparkling with mirth, she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket, and held it out to the younger girl. "I think they sit there deliberately," she said, narrowing her eyes with mock fierceness at the supremely indifferent pigs. "Probably revenge for the hog-roast at harvest."
Lucy laughed and took the proffered hanky from her friend. "Probably," she agreed, wiping the worst of the mud from her face and hands. "Still if Gawain fancies some target practice…"
"I'll let him know," Llynya replied dryly. "The way he is at the moment, I'm not sure that you'd want him anywhere near you though."
"Giving you a hard time is he?" Lucy quirked an eyebrow at her friend. "I know the knights can get a bit restless when things are quiet."
"When this one is born," Llynya looked down fondly at the swollen curve of her belly, "I imagine that he'll calm down a little. As it is, he's trying to build a crib. Banging and hacking at bits of wood at all hours - I never thought I'd be wishing for a Saxon invasion."
Lucy laughed and shook her head in exaggerated sympathy. Llynya had come to the settlement at Hadrians wall almost six months ago and they had become firm friends very quickly. Gawain was a good man, and more than one girl had cried herself to sleep when he returned to the wall with Llynya, but it was impossible to dislike the pretty dark haired girl. There were stories that she had fought a terrifying beast and held her own against the Woads, but Llynya always laughed them off, saying that her best method of self defence was falling over and persuading one of the knights to save her, and she had obviously forbidden the knights to speak of it. Now, five months pregnant and if not married then very much settled, she helped Vanora run the tavern at the fort. It was nice to have another woman around, Lucy had found - especially one that didn't sell their body for a few coins or look at her with the hard appraising look of someone weighing up the competition. She shouldn't judge, and most of the time she doesn't - her life has been precarious at best, and had it not been for her brother then she would likely had become one of the whores that served the soldiers: hiding the pain behind flirtation and pretend bravado.
Lucy's mother had died giving birth to a stillborn child that would have been her sister, and her father had been a Roman soldier. Brave, yes, but utterly tied to his commanders. He had broken rank and returned to his wife when she had birthed his third child, only to find himself burying her when he should have been cradling their new born babe and arguing good naturedly over what to call it.
He had been flogged publicly and sent to a post on the south coast - Lucy and her brother taken in by a high ranking official with good manners and a fondness for children that was far from innocent. They lasted two days before her brother managed to find a way for them to escape, and at eight years old she found herself under the protection of her elder brother Danny - a solemn twelve year old with a passion for horses and a talent for survival. He looked after her as well as he could, and while he was not particularly demonstrative, she understood that he could not afford to be- not if he wanted to keep them safe. She played along, and didn't embarrass him with tentative words of thanks or affection. He had started as an apprentice to the local blacksmith and had taken over most of the business when arthritis had all but crippled it's owner, and ten years on they had a decent living, and her wary brother was now a stocky man with a child and a wife whom Lucy adored almost as much as he did.
Lucy, for her part, had become a fixture at the tavern, first as a kitchen skivvy and later as one of the serving girls. Vanora who ran the place had become as much a surrogate mother as employer, and while the flame-haired woman made sure she and the other girls worked hard, she looked after them - once memorably knocking out a soldier with a skillet when he had attempted to force himself upon her youngest recruit. It was demanding work, but she had come to love the hustle and bustle, the different people with their different stories.
"Shouldn't you be off by now?" Llynya quirked an eyebrow at Lucy and nodded towards the tavern. "I don't blame you for tarrying, not since Bors has been drinking since noon apparently and picking fights with pretty much everyone at the fort, but Van's not in the best of tempers; it might be best not to give her anything to complain about."
Lucy sighed heavily. "Wonderful. Thanks for the tip." With a wave and a smile to her friend, she hurried back to the little house she shared with her brother and his family to clean up as best she could.
Llynya had been right about both Vanora and Bors' moods. The big knight was well on the way to passing out cold, but as was his habit he was still managing to make enough noise to wake the dead. Making sure that any Roman soldiers were seated at the other end of the tavern, Lucy surreptitiously watered down his ale as much as she dared and did her best to placate Vanora. She often laughed at the couple - both were stubborn , both were devoted to each other and their ever expanding brood of children, but when they fought even Bors's fellow knights who were legendary fighters, took care to keep out their way.
"He's sleeping in the stable tonight," Vanora hissed to Lucy as they busily rinsed and re-filled the ale pitchers. "That's if I don't kill him first." The red-haired woman's eyes flashed as she scrubbed the rough pottery with fierceness that the poor tankard surely did not deserve. Taking it from her, the younger girl rolled her eyes and bit back a smile.
"You said that the last time and the time before that, and the time before that. He'll sober up and apologise and then you can both get back to filling the country with your children."
Vanora laughed reluctantly and flicked Lucy on the shoulder with the cloth she had used to dry her hands. "Less of the cheek from you, missy. I've already got eleven children, twelve if you count Bors; the only way he's going to get any more out of me is if he starts behaving himself."
"Hmm.." Eyeing the stocky man who was currently being carried half-conscious out of the tavern by his friend and fellow knight Dagonet, Lucy was inclined to think that her employer was more likely to be kept awake by her lover's snoring than any amorous attentions. Dagonet gave a wink as he hefted the still protesting Bors out of the tavern, and Lucy grinned at him. The Samartian knights had utterly terrified her when she was younger, and even now that she had got to know them somewhat, she did not doubt the tales of their savagery on the battlefield. Of them all, Dagonet was her favourite. He had found her crying her eyes out by his quarters when she was younger, terrified that she was dying, and terrified of asking the huge solemn knight who was known as a healer for help. Her brother knew little more than nothing of women's problems and Vanora had not realised her ignorance of such things, so when she awakened one morning with her skirt stained with blood, she had panicked and fled to the one person she had thought could help her.
The memory of the huge knight with big roughened hands that had gentled her as though he was afraid he might hurt her by merely touching her, made a humiliating experience strangely sweet. He didn't laugh at her, he didn't tell her she was stupid, although when she understood what was happening she wouldn't have blamed him for doing so. She had left him with a sense of relief, a handful of rags and a strange feeling of comfort. He had obviously talked to Vanora after their encounter, for the tavern owner took her aside the next day and explained many things, which given that the red-head already had four children, was rich in detail and in truth rather more than the embarrassed girl wanted to know. When Dagonet comes into the tavern Lucy always smiles and sometimes hugs him when he is drunk and teases her. She does not fool herself that he is a father substitute, but she knows that he looks upon her fondly and would help her should she ever have need to ask.
The knights are all different and all a source of fascination. She has often neglected other patrons when they have returned to the wall, a little shy of them but endlessly curious. There are so many stories about them in the fort where she abides: stories of bravery and slaughter, stories of bloodshed that she finds hard to reconcile with the men she knows.
Arthur is a legend - almost a God, although she knows that he would not thank her or anyone else for thinking of him in such a way. He rarely laughs, but he is always kind - polite to the men and women that others of his station treat with disgust, and quick to speak out against injustice. When he smiles, and it is a rare occurrence, even the most jaded tavern whores blush.
Galahad is bright eyes and nervous energy, and Lucy silently agrees with his brothers when they call him a puppy. He doesn't have the resigned indifference that they do; he still has hopes and dreams, and from what gossip she has overheard , a desire for tenderness that is unusual. Lucy does not blame him for that, and he had been the first man that she had thought about in the darkness when she should have been sleeping, although she would rather offer herself to the Saxons than ever tell him.
Bors is well, Bors - loud, crude and with a heart as big as the ocean that the soldiers speak of sometimes. Gawain is laughter, golden hair and dangerous when provoked, although unlike some of the others he rarely starts fights: something that cannot be said of Lancelot, who typically ends most of his evenings at the wall fighting, gambling or seducing women with his dark eyes, long lashes and words sweet as honey. Lucy laughs and brushes off his attempts at flirtation with tart words and a forgiving smile; he is handsome and he is charming, and she knows that he is searching for something that she cannot give him.
And then there is Tristan. The knight with golden eyes and few words. He does not often come to the tavern, he never goes to the market, and more than once Lucy has wondered if he truly is the ghost that some soldiers believe him to be. Graceful, angular, and so silent that she always finds herself tripping over her words when she tries to make small talk. He sits and watches the other patrons on the rare occasion he joins his brothers to drink at the tavern, but of them all Lucy knows him least of all. She avoids him as best she can: he makes her nervous, and she is not altogether certain why.
Waving to Dagonet, and trying not to smirk as Vanora hurried to the two men and gave the larger of the knights the key to her home, Lucy turned her attention back to the tankards she had been filling. The knights were restless as were the soldiers, and she would need her wits about her. With luck everyone would get so drunk that they would merely pass out before any fighting would break out, but she made sure that the cudgel propped beneath the bar was in place before she started cleaning the rough wooden tables - it never hurt to be too careful.
As she slid out the back door and carefully hooked an empty bucked onto the chain that lowered into the well outside, she took a moment to relax. Stretching and yawning, she cricked her neck and watched a falcon or kestral circling so high up in the sky that it was little more than a faint dot against the clouds. Lucky bird to be so free, she thought idly, lucky bird to do whatever it pleases. Hefting the bucket over the lip of the well, she walked back to the tavern, the water sloshing against her legs, her muscles trembling with the weight, and utterly unaware that it was not only the bird that watched her.