written for fiefgoldenlake dot proboards dot com's Decathlon contest!

"You're a very lonely man," she says to him, eyes warm in the glow of the fire. "I don't know how it hasn't been seen before."

Wyldon wraps his hands around the glass of spiced cider, grateful for its emanating heat. "Some notice," he says, grinning crookedly. "I'm taking a squire, once I get back from Cavall."

Cythera's eyebrows raise. "And who gave you that notion, if I may ask?"

"Keladry of Mindelan, oddly enough."

"Oh, yes. Raoul's squire. Gary was going to take her, if things didn't work out."

"Kind of him," Wyldon comments. He doesn't mention how miserable the girl would have been, but he suspects Cythera knows it in spite of that. "How is your husband?"

"I'm sure he isn't happy about having to take on the pages," she says, matching his smile with a wicked glint in her eyes. "But otherwise he's fine. Complains about the king and works far too much, you know how it is."

"I suppose."

"You're a lot like him," Cythera notes. "Too dedicated."

"There is no such thing, my lady."

"I'm not talking about laying down your life or even what you did in the royal nursery years back- and that wasn't out of loyalty to the Crown, that was for those screaming children-"

"I am loyal-"

"I am a mother myself, Lord Wyldon, I understand how those things work. If it had been the toddlers of Palace maids, you still would have gone in sword bared."

He concludes the point.

She stares into the fire. "You're too loyal and too lonely by far, Cavall. You knock on my door in the dead of winter without a servant or squire, your poor horse half-frozen and yourself almost entirely so and you hurt more than words can say."

"I am in no pain," he says, "and you are not all-knowing, my lady."

"I would never presume that," Cythera responds, "nor do I know you well at all. But it gives me pause that you resigned, for I have heard many things from many men about you, all the way up to the king, and I know that your resignation did not come because you resented the post."

"You are right," Wyldon concedes, after some silence has passed. "It wouldn't take a mind-reader to know that."

"So." She gets up and pours him another glass, this time of wine. "Why did you resign?"