So, in my plan he last three chapters were all one chapter. Unfortunately, this part of the story just doesn't want to write itself. The upshot of this is poor structure and bad planning. Also, even though it's incredibly late in the game to do so, watch this space for a potential new plot thread on the grounds that this was only ever a first draft so I haven't thought through all angles. Apologies, etc.
"They'll cope, you know," Dylan said. Madog blinked, jolted out of his reverie, and looked at his Deputy. Dylan's hair, as ever, was in a crazed mass about his head, but currently it shielded his eyes from the sun that was pouring in through the expansive windows in the reception room, blinding the rest of them. Madog raised one hand to protect his own eyes and met Dylan's. For once, they were still, settled entirely on Madog.
"Come again?" Madog asked. Dylan smirked slightly.
"You know what I'm talking about, you square," he said unabashedly. "Wrexham's not about to fall down without us. There are other Wings there, you're not that important."
"Of course I am," Madog informed him. "Ceri's leading them. Wrexham will be rubble by the time we return. I'm just deciding which city to join instead."
"Llangefni," Dylan said, nodding. "They'd have you. You'd fit right in."
"So would you," Madog countered. "As a mascot."
Despite the talk, he was worried. If it had just been over-jealous Saxon activity Madog wouldn't have minded leaving Wrexham, but the business with Lord Iestyn's possible political conspiracies had him worrying in the kind of way that was stopping him from sleeping.
"So's your mam," Dylan said languidly, stretching his legs out in front of him. "Anyway; relax. Seriously. We're on holiday."
There was just no point in throttling Dylan, Madog decided. He'd never learn.
"It's a shame you think that even when we're battling," he said instead. Dylan snorted.
"So's your face, boy," he retorted. "City hasn't changed much."
"No," Madog agreed. He liked Dylan's rapid-fire conversation turns. "Lord Gwilym's only just come into power, though. I doubt he's had time to do much more yet than look about himself a bit bemused."
"I'd have gotten rid of the statues," Dylan sniffed. "I think they were sculpted by someone blind."
"Whereas I'd have made some excellently liberating new social policies to help the people," Madog said dryly. "But, you know, that's why I'm in charge and all that."
Dylan's response, although doubtlessly riveting, was lost in the sudden fanfare that blared seemingly out of the walls around them, punctuating the opening of the double doors with much aplomb and flair. The Wing snapped hurriedly to their feet as Lord Gwilym entered sedately, a smile fixed on his face and a green travel cloak held in one arm, which he prompty off-loaded into a corner the second the door was closed. Madog bowed to hide his smile.
"Riders," Lord Gwilym said. "Welcome to Aberystwyth. I hope your journey here was easy?"
"Very, thank you, Sovereign," Madog returned. "I am Leader Madog; this is my Deputy, Dylan."
"A pleasure to meet you," Lord Gwilym smiled. He sat in the ornate chair at the head of the table, and the Wing took their cue and followed suit. "On to business, then?"
It was a strange experience, speaking with Gwilym. Most Sovereigns were fairly easy to handle; they valued formal procedure, and simply remembering to bow in the right places so as not to appear threatening was enough. Lady Marged was a famous exception, but she was easy enough in her own way, since all she required were a few jokes and a card trick she hadn't seen before. Gwilym, though, was nothing like Madog had been expecting.
For one thing, he didn't have the air of superiority usual in Sovereigns that made them look slightly resentfully at Riders for secretly being a higher social class. Nor did Marged, but she was crazy, and therefore didn't count. Gwilym genuinely seemed to see other people on equal terms. Madog wondered what Dylan was making of him. Dylan was a surprisingly good judge of character.
The drawback was that Lord Gwilym was very much an unknown quantity, and Madog found it tricky therefore to deal with him. He kept wanting to be Gwilym's friend.
The meeting otherwise went as standard, and soon trundled smoothly to a close. Lord Gwilym stood and the Wing stood in response, a smooth, single motion. The doors opened to the brash sounds of the fanfare as an odd-looking aide positively minced into the room to Lord Gwilym's side, casting the hint of a disapproving look at the rumpled heap of green brocade beside the door before adopting a carefully cultivated air of neutrality. He whispered something in Lord Gwilym's ear, who glanced briefly at the doorway before turning back to the Wing.
"Anyway, Watkins here will show you to your rooms now," Gwilym said merrily. "Although, Leader, there is someone here who would like a moment of your time if you can spare it?"
Out of the corner of Madog's eye he could see Dylan's head turn sharply, interest suddenly spiked. Madog smiled. "Of course."
The aide cleared his throat and the rest of the Wing filed out, Dylan throwing him an aggrieved look as he went. Madog smirked. Considering the incredibly short attention span Dylan seemed to have he was insatiably curious about things; not being included in this prospective mystery conversation would bother him incessantly until Madog reported every tiny detail later.
"And this person is?" he asked Gwilym as the door closed behind Dylan's reproachful expression. Lord Gwilym looked strangely thoughtful.
"Actually I barely know her," he said. "But she says she's met you before. A Rider from Tregwylan."
Tregwylan? Madog paused. He wasn't really familiar with anyone in Tregwylan. There was the tutor near the border the other day, but what a tutor would be doing wandering around Aberystwyth was anyone's guess.
He didn't have long to wait, though. He'd barely finished the thought when suddenly the door burst open and Aerona was bouncing in, beads flying in her general aura of enthusiasm and, bizzarely, towing a slightly smug-looking Dylan by the wrist behind her.
"Madog!" she said merrily, throwing out a Salute with her free hand which Madog bemusedly returned. "Good to see you again!" and then she'd thrust Dylan at a chair and plonked herself down into one.
"And you," Madog said mildly, hoping his voice didn't sound quite as clueless as he felt. "Although it is unexpected. What on earth are you doing here?"
"Oh, well, that's a less fun story," Aerona sighed. "But first, is there any chance of tea?"
Aerona, Madog decided, was a woman after his own heart.