Friday, 27 May 2011

Doctor Who Series Six - How I hope The Lingering Plot Threads Resolve Themselves

I jokingly said I'd like to see this. Iceduck demanded its creation. So, in true LJ style (sorry, Blogger):

Title: How I Hope These Plot Threads Will Resolve Themselves
Author: Quoth the Raven
Pairings/Characters: The Doctor (Eleventh), Amy/Rory, Maybe!Baby
Word Count: 291
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Crack, PWP, character death, upsetting Maybe!Baby

There is a big, swirling vortex in the TARDIS, all blue and lightning-zappy and that. This has happened because of Plot. AMY and THE DOCTOR are both safely tethered to a back wall, but RORY is being sucked towards it, horizonal in the air, clinging to a hand rail. His tether was not attached, because of Plot.

I'm... slipping...

Rory! No!

Hold on, Rory! The vortex will safely close in about ten seconds!

Why... in ten...?

Oh, because of Plot, I don't know!

Hold on, Rory!

Rory, hold on!

Keep holding on!

Don't let go!

Keep holding on, Rory!

Rory, keep not letting go!

Can't... bye, lolz...


He lets go and falls into the vortex, wearing the facial expression of a mildly stunned puppy. The vortex closes, and the DOCTOR and AMY fall back to the floor.

Noooo!!! He's dead! He can't be dead!!

He's dead! This is terrible!

No! He can't be dead too!

He can't die yet! His responsibilities!

But Doctor, you're going to die too! We seen it! When you're 200 years older!

What? But you're pregnant or maybe not! All I do in my spare time is scan you and I can't tell still!

You can't both die!

You can't do pregnancy alone or not!

They cry and hug.

I don't want to die!

I don't want to be pregnant maybe!

Let's never keep stuff from each other again!


They cry. Cut to credits, then continue to next episode where they go on a jolly trip to a living panda planet rather than dealing with their problems.


Cymru - Chapter 57maybe


"So if you had to sleep with a woman, any woman, who would it be?"

"I want you dead," Madog declared evenly. The peach brandy was definitely not strong enough right now. Dylan swung on the bar stool irreverently, like a bored six-year-old.

"Well, yes," he said, rolling his eyes. "What a pointlessly obvious statement, boy. But, if you had to, right -"

"Dylan!" Madog said, exasperated. "Under what possible conditions would I have to sleep with a woman?"

"Yeah, because I have all the answers, Madog," Dylan said sarcastically, scanning the throng of still-far-too-overexcited patrons around them before switching his attention to the ceiling. "I don't know, petal, maybe if some Foreign Man turns up with Lord Iestyn and is all, 'Hey, losers, I need your best warrior to sleep with my wife or else I'll burn you all to death with my magic spell,' right, and we're like, 'Well, step up, Madog.' And you have to take one for the team."

"Then I'd be sleeping with his wife," Madog sighed wearily. "In this fantastically improbable and pointlessly bizarre scenario, and no choice is required. Go away, Dylan."

"Aaah, error," Dylan nodded. "Okay, if he's all 'Hey, losers, I demand Madog sleeps with any woman of his choice.' Ha! Then who?"

"I'd go for Llio," Emyr said morosely to Madog's right. His chin was resting on his arms on the bar top, the latest in a long line of drinks cradled slightly unsteadily in one hand. Madog exchanged a glance with Dylan. "She can draw, did you know?"

"Yes, that would be useful in bed," Dylan quipped, and dodged Madog's swipe.

"Emyr," Madog said, carefully removing the drink from his hand. Dylan promptly stole it and downed it. "Somehow, I'm sensing you're upset about Llio."

"And her eyes are amazing," Emyr said in agonised reminiscence. "And her laugh. And she fights like a demon..."

"Ah, but does she look like one?" Dylan grinned smugly, and yelped as he wasn't quite fast enough to move this time.

"Emyr," Madog tried again. "Why are you here and not with her?"

"Because," Emyr sighed gloomily, waving a hand. "Because, I like her more than she likes me. And now, everything that's happened with Awen, and Owain, and her promotion, and she's all busy now..."

"How do you know you like her more than -?"

"I just know," Emyr said, the image of huddled dejection. "And she's so pretty."

"Dude," Dylan said impatiently. "Man up and talk to her. The important point is: would it be Llio, Madog?"

"No," Madog said pointedly. "It would not. Go away, Dylan."


"Obviously not!" Madog said, frustratedly. "Why are you this annoying?"

"Beautiful, though, isn't she?" Dylan smirked, and Madog took a moment beneath the irritation to marvel at just how soppy Dylan could be. "Fine, fine: Adara?"


"Beneath the bird and the insults she's perfectly lovely, you know," Dylan grinned. Madog gave him a narrow look.

"You sounded just like Aerona then," he accused, and scored as Dylan blinked, hastily repeating the sentence in his head. "And no, because Caeron likes her. Our inter-Wing dynamic is becoming increasingly complicated."

"Yeah, he needs to man up, too," Dylan said, throwing the oblivious Emyr a pointed look. "Okay, Lady Marged?"

Emyr gave a strangled laugh as Madog's forehead hit the bartop.

"Right," Madog said. "Why are you here, Dylan? Why are you bothering me? It's Aerona's job to be bothered by you now. Go away."

"Can't," Dylan grinned. "She's spending some quality time with her Wingleader, and suggested I do the same, so here I am and you're actually happy about it but not saying because that's how our relationship works."

"You'll find it's not," Madog retorted. "I really do just hate you."

"I love you guys," Emyr said, apparently on the verge of tears.

"Where were we?" Dylan said brightly. "Ah! Menna."

"Definitely no one from our Wing, ever," Madog said firmly. "I want to be able to look my own Riders in the eye afterwards."

"After this definitely happens!" Dylan crowed triumphantly. "Excellent! You're finally taking this seriously, Madog! Okay - Lady Ienifer?"

"No," Madog said, and managed to stop the shudder.

"Councillor Gwenllian?"

"Would get me drunk first," Madog said, and paused. "And therefore has the highest chance," he acknowledged.

"I'll just put her down as a 'maybe'," Dylan said alarmingly. "Awen?"

"You aren't keeping a list?" Madog asked, mildly horrified. "You're not -?"

"Mental only, young man," Dylan grinned, knocking back another drink. "Fear not! Awen?"


"Oh, come on!" Dylan exclaimed. "Why not? She'd be perfect! Best Rider in the world canon, she's beautiful, she's clever and, and, best bit, you can both angst at each other about leading and that! Wins!"

"Dylan, you're a moron," Madog sighed. "No. We're just friends."

Were they, though? Still? It was going to be trickier now; they'd somehow ended up being friends before off the back of being equals, something neither of them were used to. Now they weren't anymore, since she was Councillor Awen. It was the mathematics of titles.

"Your words say 'moron'," Dylan intoned. "But your heart says 'my favourite'. Hey, okay: Lady Gwenda?"

"Gods no," Madog said disgustedly. "She's vile."

"She has such nice hair," Emyr sighed, and both Madog and Dylan turned to stare at him in horrified fascination.

There was a pause.

"Really?" Madog said after a moment. "You think so?"

"It's so soft," Emyr said miserably, his fingers tracing a pattern on the bar top with apparently subconscious tenderness. Dylan choked on his drink. "It feels like -"

"Llio," Madog broke in firmly, the penny dropping. "You're talking about Llio, and that's okay."

"I won't sleep for a week," Dylan muttered darkly. "It's not okay."

"I keep thinking about her," Emyr sighed, and Madog rolled his eyes and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Seriously, Emyr," he said. "Talk to the girl. Tell her how you feel."

"What's the point?" Emyr said gloomily. "She's not that bothered. I am. Then she'd only feel guilty."

"That is a Wing that does not handle its guilt issues well," Dylan nodded sagaciously, and somewhat unfairly, Madog felt. "Except you don't know she's not that bothered, you massive retard."

"Dylan," Madog said reproachfully. "Don't insult your lovelorn comrade, you degenerate."

"Alright," Dylan sniffed. "Well anyway, Tanwen? She's tall and muscled and so if you ignore that her breasts are bigger than her head she's exactly your -"

"Dylan," Madog interrupted flatly. "I am not playing this game. You are a social reject who shouldn't even be my problem anymore given that you now have a girlfriend. Go away before I order you into a dungeon."

"Oh, but who would you cry to then?" Dylan said cheerfully, spreading his arms wide. "You need and love me, boy! Ha ha!"

"I loathe and despise you!" Madog exclaimed frustratedly. "Shut up! Why must you grate on every nerve I have? Why?"

"Because it's a talent I practise, chicken," Dylan chirped. "Hey look! It's Awen!"

Madog turned quickly on the stool. Low Councillor Awen was moving swiftly through the bar, pulling Llio behind her and attracting the badly-concealed attention of everyone in the room in an expanding radius. Madog grinned. She had, of course, gone for a uniform that looked uncannily like an Alpha Wingleader one, just in green and more ornamental, which looked excellent in his opinion. And, brilliantly, she'd managed to keep the embroidered collar instead of switching to a torque, although as she neared them he realised that wasn't quite true; a thin band of gold ran around her neck on the seam between collar and jerkin, unobtrusively declaring her status to all.

And she'd lost the Casnewydd liveries, of course, Madog noted. Well, it wasn't unexpected. What was unexpected, though, was the way she marched up to the drunken and miserable Emyr instead of him, pulled him upright and off his stool in one quick movement and a startled yelp, and thrust an extremely awkward-looking Llio into his arms.

"Talk," Awen commanded exasperatedly, the words "or I'm going to kill you both, gods dammit!" floating clearly in the air. Madog burst out laughing, and she turned to him. "Has he been this bad too?"

"I can officially tell you that he loves her hair, her drawing, her eyes, her laugh, her fighting style and her general appearance," Madog said, signalling the barman to just bring the bottle. Emyr and Llio retreated to a corner, looking embarrassed. "And that he just knows he likes her more than she likes him. Peach brandy, Councillor?"

"Call me that again and you'll lose an eye, Madog," Awen said squarely, and threw all of Madog's worries away in one glorious statement. "Yes, though. As much as they have. I demand to end tonight on the far side of sobriety."

"Ha!" Dylan grinned. "You see? You're a natural Councillor, my friend. So, we're playing a game -"

"Aerona's made her mark, I see," Awen remarked, and Madog didn't bother to suppress his snigger as Dylan blinked and mentally checked himself again for the second time that night. "Speaking of whom, where is she?"

"With Geraint," Madog told her darkly as the bottle arrived. "Hence we've got to deal with that delight."

"Commiserations," Awen said dryly, and snorted at Dylan's noise of outrage.

"Oh, hey, thanks," Dylan said, disgustedly. "I can't believe I was hoping they'd let you live, you loser. At least my accent isn't -"


"Sorry, Awen," Dylan said obediently, sing-song. "Your accent is in no way disgusting, in spite of what we're all hearing. Anyway, the game is, we're trying to find a woman Madog would actually sleep with, because he's gay."

"I'm so sorry," Madog said wearily. "I've tried to stop him so many times. He's just out of control."

"Hmm." Awen looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully, swirling her drink in her left hand. "It's going to have to be a fairly masculine woman, I'd have thought. What do you like in men?"

"Why are you humouring him?" Madog asked, alarmed. Dylan grinned.

"Phoenicians," he said silkily. "Size matters to Madog."

"Well, that may be problematic," Awen declared. "Tanwen? She's pretty big. Although so is her chest, so..."

"I genuinely can't believe you," Madog said, shaking his head.

"I thought maybe Tanwen," Dylan said happily. "He didn't answer when I asked. Where do peaches come from?"

"Northern Phoenicia," Awen said, her eyes on her drink, and Madog suddenly became aware of the crowd's fascinated attention at the same time as Dylan, if the way his gaze whipped onto them was anything to go by. The background chatter of milling people had almost entirely dropped away, only a low murmur left, and everyone seemed to be blankly staring at each other in a way that suggested they were actually paying detailed attention to what they could see out of the corner of their eye. Awen really had developed a cult following, it seemed. It was unsurprising, but Madog sympathised massively. He'd have been hiding in his quarters by now. "And the Far East, I think. So? Tanwen?"

"Is probably the best we'll be able to think of," Madog sighed, finishing his drink and picking up the bottle. "Drink up and come on."

"Excellent!" Dylan said brightly. "Are we going to find her now that you've decided?"

"You'll have to be prepared to arm-wrestle her, you know," Awen grinned. "And possibly you'll be sparring first. Tanwen likes to test her men."

"I will hit you both if I must," Madog told them, and pointed at Dylan. "Particularly you, you wastral. We're going somewhere where half the room isn't staring at Awen."

He raised his voice rather pointedly for the last bit, causing everyone to hastily snap back to conversations about the weather and Awen to almost choke on her drink with laughter. Dylan jumped happily up and signalled for two more bottles.

"You're a diplomatic incident, Madog," he cackled. "Never change. But I think we should get someone else to meet Foreign Man now. You'd totally spit in his face."

"Madog," Awen chided, accepting a bottle from the barman and standing. "You mustn't spit in Foreign Man's face."

"I hate you both," Madog sighed.


The early night sky was beautiful outside, a blue-black above them that blended to a dusky orange on the horizon where the sun had already set and marked a new day. The cooling air was still around them, unusual given their altitude, and it carried the hints of woodsmoke and dew and hay from the landing bay behind them. Somewhere they could hear a hornpipe being played in a tavern, the music drifting up to them and mingling with the rustling of the merod in their stalls. Bats flew past.

And they sat on the edge of a runway, dangling their legs several hundred feet above the mountain top below, and got drunk. It was quite the most irresponsible thing Madog had done in a while.

" now he's stopping King Dara from tearing down the cell door and just beating Flyn to death himself," Awen was saying idly. "Which he tells me is basically just standard family bonding for them."

"So you're properly with him now?" Madog asked, watching the stars sail into focus. "Like, properly genuinely?"

"Properly genuinely," Awen laughed. It was a far freer sound than Madog had ever heard her make before. "Yeah. Did this today..."

She held up a braid, and Madog squinted in the dim light. Sitting clear above the beads he already knew was a new one, a softly glimmering silver with a darker sigil of some kind engraved into the surface. He smiled.

"What does it say?" he asked, fascinated. On his other side Dylan sat up and leaned over for a better look.

"It's Ogham," Awen said. "Because he's half Erinnish, so it was appropriate. That's Muin. It means 'wile' or 'ruse'."

"Yeah, and 'love'," Dylan snorted, dropping back down. Madog raised an eyebrow, and then reminded himself to stop being surprised. "Nicely avoided there, petal."

"And it means 'love'," Awen sighed, agreeing. "It just makes no sense, though. Do you know, he told me today that he loves me and my Wing is part of that. Eight extra people! Who does that?"

"People who are in love, traditionally," Dylan said irreverently, linking his fingers behind his head. "Keep up, would you?"

"Your Wing is part of that?" Madog repeated, fascinated, ignoring Dylan. "Seriously? He said that?"

"He seriously said that!" Awen agreed, apparently amazed still. "I mean, that's not normal, is it? That's a whole extra level of understanding that no one should have, surely? Especially after I hid his family's murder from him. On him."

"Wingleaders," Dylan muttered disgustedly. They both ignored him.

"He's a pretty lad, too," Madog said thoughtfully. The alcohol had made his fingers comfortably numb. "You've done freakishly well there. You must have made a really strong impression."

"Yeah, well," Awen grinned. "I'm not the one who entranced a Phoenician sailor into semi-permanently moving into my bed."

"I did not entrance him," Madog said curtly. "I assure you, I whinged at him and then made him do all the work. I have no clue why he keeps hanging around."

"Because you're an Alpha Wingleader, you lucky bastard," Awen sighed morosely, and Madog looked at her. "And he has a Rider fetish. It's a match made by the gods."

"You miss it already?" he asked quietly. Awen's smile was wryly self-mocking.

"Even more than I thought I would," she said, staring down at the staggering view of Cymru below them, rolling away into the dusk. "And I knew I would. Do you remember...?"

She paused for a moment, and Madog suspected he remembered.

"Remember Saxonia?" Awen said quietly. Madog thought of the woods, of holding her in his arms while they talked, and nodded. "Remember what I said?"

It's a privilege. And I'd never, ever trade it. But... it's a hard life.

"I remember," Madog said softly, ignoring Dylan's suddenly razor-sharp curiosity lurking by his elbow.

"It's harder giving it up than it ever was to live it," Awen said neutrally. "It doesn't feel like a promotion. It feels like a punishment."

She sighed as Madog put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her against his side, wrapping her arms around his ribs.

"I think it partly is, too," she added gloomily. "Which doesn't help."

"It's really not," Madog said gently. Above them the moon had just sidled into view, lighting them in silver almost as brightly as the sun. The new bead in Awen's hair shone. "I was there while they were debating it, you know. They were ecstatic when you were purified. Gwenllian already wanted you promoted anyway; once they knew you were going to survive the vote was unanimous. Even Eifion agreed."

"Well, if Eifion agreed it was definitely a punishment," Awen said dryly. "That man is psychotic. I'm allowed to say that now, it's a privilege of rank."

"She's side-stepping, she's side-stepping, quick, don't let her," Dylan chimed in. "Aaahh! Secret Intelligencer powers, that is."

"You know I'm your boss, now?" Awen said sweetly.

"Baps," Dylan muttered. "Life hates me."

"No, Dylan," Madog said patiently. "People hate you, remember? Awen: I'm serious. It's not a punishment. They want you as a Councillor because they desperately want your brainpower in the job. They need you now. They need your perspective."

"And you have skills," Dylan added. "Skills to pay the bills. What's this about Saxonia?"

"You will never know," Madog said flatly. Awen laughed. "Wingleader stuff. Go away, Dylan."

"I can't," Dylan said, the eye-roll somehow audible in his voice. "I told you, loser, I have to spend time with you today, Aerona says so."

"Which, of course, is nothing to do with your insecurities about Madog finding out about your long-standing secret double life," Awen murmured. "Secret Intelligencer powers, that is."

"Deceitful troll," Dylan told her, as Madog sighed. "You are made of fail and I hate you."

"Dylan," Madog began wearily, but he got no further.

"Well?" Dylan said fretfully. "I don't know! You're all 'Oh, Dylan, I don't care that you've been this whole other person for thirty five years, even though we're a command team on the border and trust is paramount and I'm a loser' except I know it bothers you massively when people don't tell you things, you massive control freak, and -"

"Dylan," Madog tried again.

"And you asked and I lied," Dylan went on, gesturing wildly with his hands. "Lied! To you! And I didn't want - but, you know, I did, and you were right, you can't really trust me now except you need to but you can't, and anyway, you were all upset because you thought you should know stuff in Tregwylan -"

Madog reached out and caught Dylan's hand as Awen carefully disengaged herself from his arm, giving them space while leaving one hand on Madog's back in silent support. Dylan's fingers clenched tightly around Madog's, the stress evident.

"Stop it," Madog murmured, quietly.

"You're not okay with it," Dylan moaned. "I know you aren't, Madog, of course you aren't you square no one would be. You just want me to feel better."

"No I don't," Madog snorted. "I like you miserable. I just want you to understand. I'm not angry with you. No, you're right, I'm not okay with it. But with it, Dylan. Not you."

"It's the same thing," Dylan said, starting to sit up, and Madog hastily planted his free hand in the centre of Dylan's chest and pushed him back down, holding him there.

"It is not," Madog said sternly. It was a shame he was drunk, really; he probably wasn't conveying himself at all well right now. "I told you before, you retard; you're worrying about me thinking you're some other person now that I never knew. But you're not. You've never hidden this from me. You've always told me about your mysteriously obtained information, I've never questioned it. All I know now is the mechanism."

"Madog," Dylan said, in his favourite you're-much-stupider-than-me-and-I'm-explaining-something-obvious voice. "I've been lying to you for thrity-five years, boy. About something integral. I'm not the same -"

"You aren't Owain, Dylan," Awen said quietly.

There was a pause, and it all clicked into place. Mentally, Madog kicked himself. That was the thing about Owain, wasn't it? They'd all been so caught up in it, in the effect it was having on Awen, none of them had stopped to think about how the various Deputy Wingleaders of the country would be affected. If he turned, could I turn? Will anyone think I'm the same? Will my Wingleader doubt me?

"I know," Dylan said with characteristic abrasion, but Madog stopped him.

"No," he said shortly. "Shut up, Dylan, she's right. Finding out about you guys wasn't a betrayal. I've never, not even for the briefest of moments, looked at you and wondered if you're actually working for Saxons like Owain, and I never will. Ever."

Dylan was silent, his heart beating swiftly beneath Madog's palm, and Madog sighed.

"I know who you are," he said more softly. "Stop torturing yourself. And to my knowledge, you haven't killed a kid and pretended to be a bear."

"Three times," Dylan said automatically, and then threw an arm over his eyes. "Urgh. Soz. Reflex."

"That ruined a touching moment, you know," Awen remarked as Madog rolled his eyes. "You have no sense of timing."

"You need a better accent."

"You need three days of hard labour," Awen sniffed. "Which, if I so chose, I could now sentence you to. And it would be in Casnewydd and surrounded by no other accent, because I enjoy a slightly ironic edge to punishments."

"Hey!" Dylan squawked indignantly. "That's going mad with power! Tell her, Madog!"

"It's going sensible with authority," Madog retorted. "And I shall beg her to act upon it if she doesn't."

"I'll pencil it in," Awen said contentedly, and they watched the stars for a moment, a gentle breeze whispering past them. The moon rose from a cloud bank, etching Cymru beneath their feet. On the horizon the distant lights of Bangor glimmered, a smear of warmth in the dark.

"What'll happen to Owain, now?" Madog asked the comfortable silence. Dylan's heartbeat beneath his palm had slowed slightly, but he didn't move his hand. "Will he be put on trial?"

"No." Awen took another swig from the bottle. "Rhydian wanted it, actually, but Gwenllian said it was an internal Rider matter. And as such, it sets a better example if he's just... dealt with."

"I heard six months," Dylan said carefully, in the voice Madog knew meant he was trying not to upset anyone and wasn't sure if he was going to or not. Awen snorted.

"You heard correctly," she confirmed. Madog blinked.

"Right," he said. "Well, what you've done there is, you've forgotten to say one of your sentences out loud, both of you. Six months?"

"The goal is to keep him alive for that long," Awen said neutrally. "Eifion intends to use him as a demonstrative aid in future classes. And, you know, he takes good care of his equipment, so it may well be that six months becomes a conservative figure."

A lifetime of careful conditioning to be terrified of Eifion made that the most horrific punishment Madog could imagine. Mentally, he scrabbled to remember how much he hated Owain.

"And your take on this is?" he prompted gently. Awen looked up at the sky.

"Nothing," she sighed. "Yet. I think... it's going to get hard, living here and knowing he's - alive. In the same building. I don't know how I'm going to take that as it goes on. Sometimes I'm fine with it, see."

She kicked her feet idly back and forth, and Madog put his free arm around her shoulders again. Awen leaned in.

"And other times," she said gloomily, "if I'm not careful, I... get him mixed up in my head. My Owain and the real Owain. In the last few days there have been a surprising number of times when I've found myself turning to speak to him, or thinking of a joke to tell him later or whatever. Like nothing happened."

"You miss him?" Madog asked quietly. "Or - well..."

"Who I thought he was," Awen said wryly. "Yes. I do. Like mad. Which isn't too much of a problem, because I know who he really was. But, you know. Sometimes I get them mixed up in my head, and then just for a moment... the man I hate more than anyone else in the world is torturing my brother."

"Ouch," Madog muttered, empathetically. She shrugged.

"We'll see," she said calmly. "I'll just make sure I'm out in the field a lot if it's a problem. And it does depend on Eifion's self-control, anyway - even with druidic help there are only so many times you can have the skin peeled off your limbs before gangrene or blood poisoning strike. And he does like teaching skinning."

"Our boy will not have an undislocated joint by the end," Dylan grinned, and rolled his eyes at the look Madog gave him. "Sorry, Awen -"

"Much though I loathe you and your sentiments," Adara's voice chimed in mildly from behind them, "you're technically allowed that one, actually, since you were directly affected by him being a prick."

"Wins!" Dylan crowed merrily, throwing his arms up in triumph as Awen turned, smiling. "Although not on the loathing. Is she allowed to loathe me? Madog, tell her she can't loathe me."

"Why not?" Madog asked sternly. "I agree with her."

"Hey," Awen said amiably, as Dylan gasped in outraged horror. Adara sniffed, and stepped into the moonlight of the runway, shaking her head as she walked towards them.

"Hey yourself, you crazy person," she said, her mild voice swirled with disapproval. "And just what do you think you're doing, hmm? Note my hard stare."

"Always," Awen said sardonically. "Sorry. When I found Emyr he was obviously with Madog, and unfortunately Dylan -"


"- and then I wanted a drink -"

"Yes I get that!" Adara said, waving an exasperated hand. "And Madog is a stalwart fellow of many fine qualities, although commiserations on Dylan -"


"No, let her talk," Madog murmured to Awen's snigger.

" - but, Leader, but, why are you sitting drunk on the end of a runway?"

"Whoa!" Abruptly Dylan surged upwards against Madog's hand, and he let him shove himself into a sitting position, one hand pointing accusatively at Adara. "Whoa there, pickle! Did you just call her 'Leader'?"

"Oh," Madog said. "You know, I really thought that was going to be in defence of us sitting drunk on a runway."

"Same," Awen said suspiciously. They were ignored.

"Yes, I did," Adara said serenely. "She is my Wingleader, you wastrel."

"And you're her Deputy now!" Dylan said, apparently outraged again. "You don't get to call her 'Leader' now! She's Awen to you forever more!"

"That's not in the rules," Awen said, puzzled.

"What does that matter?" Dylan asked irritably, and then managed to dismiss both Awen and Madog with a single infuriating wave of his hand before focusing fully on Adara. "You, petal, are now her Deputy. Haven't you been briefed on what that means?"

"Well," Adara said thoughtfully. "When Gwenllian swore us in she told us to think of Owain, and do the opposite, but not entirely, bechod, let's go to the pub. I felt it was inefficient preparation, I must admit."

"Urgh." Dylan smacked his own forehead disgustedly. "There are too many Wingleaders in the Council. Right. Listen. You aren't her subordinate anymore, right?"

"Yes she -" Madog began blankly, and Dylan actually punched him in the arm.

"Shut up, you tool," he told him. Madog stared at his arm, astonished. "Only, and I mean only, in a command sense, Adara. Got it? She can give you orders, but that's it. We're talking socially now."

"My life is about to become yours, isn't it?" Awen said morosely, and Madog sighed, and held up his bottle.

"Here's to it," he agreed gloomily. They clinked and drank.

"The point is," Dylan went on, ignoring them, "it's now your job - your duty - to tell her when she's being a loser. You see? If she starts - I don't know - overworking, or brooding alone too much, or punching herself in the face three times a day, whatever - it's up to you to drag her home. You know when you're worried about her?"

"Frequently," Adara said pointedly. Awen winced.

"You can say it now!" Dylan said brightly. "And you have to. Tell her she's being retarded, it's your job. Socially she's your equal now. You can't go calling her Leader and being respectful."

"I don't think being respectful is mutually exclusive to this scenario, you know," Adara said consideringly. Dylan snorted.

"Oh, what are you, the manners police?" he said witheringly. "Fine. Don't call her 'Leader'. You're one too, now, in any case."

"Oh, gods, don't remind me," Adara muttered disgustedly. "Yes, I know. Alright. What do I do if she is overworking, though? She does top secret things. I don't know if she has to do them or not."

"Then you tell me, and I'll find out!" Dylan said, apparently filled with immense cheer at the prospect. Awen gave him a sidelong glance that Madog couldn't decipher, and he found himself wondering with no small amount of fascination which of them would win that battle. "And it'll all work out, one big happy ending. You're also her new confidante! Congrats. You're allowed to make her tell you when something is bothering her. Even if you can't know details. It's brilliant."

"Yes," Adara said thoughtfully. "I see its merits. What if I don't want to tell you because of you being a massive saddo, though? Then what?"

"Then you will have failed in your new job," Dylan said sternly. "Fail, Adara! Fail! You must tell your Aunty Dylan everything."

"I must not," Adara said dismissively.

"You must!"

"Must not."


"I think you'll find I mustn't."

"Madog, tell her!"

"What would I know?" Madog asked glumly. "I don't know anything. Although I'd ask Rhydian for confirmation about anything Dylan says."


"Then I believe I shall," Adara sniffed. "Right now, and then this farcical claim shall be dismissed."

"He's busy tonight," Awen murmured. Dylan looked up, brightly.

"Ooh, really?" he asked, in the tone of a serial gossip. "Doing what? I want to know what he's doing!"

"You know better than that," Awen told him evenly. "Do not use powers of investigation on boss, Dylan. That's rule one."

"Do you like it?" Madog asked abruptly. The stars twinkled above him and he watched them, his vision beginning to wheel gently as the peach brandy worked its magic. "Being... you guys? Do you like it?"

There was a pause as they all adjusted to openly talking about such an off-limits topic, and then Dylan lay back down again, his head by Madog's knee.

"Yeah," he said seriously. "I really do. It's awesome. It's fun and exciting and cool and gives excellent job satisfaction."

Madog nodded. There was another pause.

"Awen?" he pushed gently. Adara came and sat behind them, one hand resting on Awen's hip.

"Gwilym asked me this," she said after a moment, and then sighed, her voice dropping to a mutter. "This is weird."

"Agreed," Dylan said languidly.

"What did you tell him?" Adara asked quietly, and Madog watched as she threaded the fingers of both hands into Awen's hair, combing it carefully. Awen's eyes slid closed.

"That I did," she said tonelessly. "I loved it, actually. Never-ending stress and report writing aside. You know how you never feel as alive as you do when you're in battle?"

"Ooh, yes," Adara said happily. "There's nothing like being ankle deep in intestines to make your weekend."

"Try breaking into a Sovereign's bedroom," Awen said, a smile pulling at the corner of her mouth. "When you know that if you get caught, there is no possible excuse you can give. Try being relegated to a table at dinner at the opposite end of the dining hall to keep you from hearing a conspiracy, only to read it straight off their lips anyway. Try following someone through a City without them knowing. Try infiltrating somewhere in disguise, and then, then try getting away if they catch you without them ever guessing who you are. It's a unique experience, you know. Running away."

"Yeah," Dylan said in happy reminiscence.

"I'm going to miss being ankle deep in intestines," Adara reflected sadly.

Madog stared at them all.

"That's insane," he said finally. "I'm - I'm so jealous. I well want to do all that. How did Dylan end up getting chosen?"

"You already know the answer to that," Awen smirked, her good humour back as though it had never gone. "I imagine his first word was 'why?'"

"His second was 'really?'," Adara nodded sagely, and Madog laughed, ignoring Dylan's pointed look. "Closely followed by 'loser', but because he had an early run-in with a mirror."

"It was not!" Dylan protested hotly. "It was because I -"

"Met me?" Madog said, with mock-weariness, and won a third point that night as Dylan paused. "Get a new line, Dylan. Seriously. You're a disgrace."

"You're right," Dylan said wonderingly. "I blame it on my recent journey into Saxonia. It's stifled my biting wit."

"Half right," Madog said, and Awen burst out laughing, which really gave him his fourth point. Dylan folded his arms.

"Well," he said, with exaggerated offense. "I was going to suggest, Madog, that if you're so jealous, maybe I could start including you on some of my fun missions, but clearly you don't deserve -"

"Include him more on your fun missions, Dylan," Awen ordered indulgently, and Madog won the night.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Cymru - Chapter I've lost count. 56?

I could of course check, but I shan't. Screw it. My style is immature at best, anyway. And, anyway - I've found an extra almost-fully written chapter hidden in a long-lost file, so I'll tweak it and see if I can make it fit. Otherwise, this may be the End.


The staring people were already bothering her. It was something new, was the problem; Awen was trained to mentally and physically withstand several types of torture, but she had no frame of reference for this one. Not that public recognition was unusual for her as such. Being an Alpha Wingleader usually gave at least a minor celebrity status, especially on the border, but it was the uniform people recognised her by. These people knew her face. The freaks.

She ignored them all for now, in the least imperial way she could manage. It seemed best, although it was perhaps an approach that was going to need revising later. Fortunately, there were far fewer crowds by the time she reached Rhydian’s office, possibly because his still-smouldering wrath had chased them away. With some trepidation, Awen ignored a clerk trying to eyeball her without turning his head and knocked at the door.

There was a pause before the ‘Come in’, and Awen swore under her breath. If there was ever a day, she reflected, when she didn’t want to have to dodge a pike or something before getting to enter Rhydian’s office properly, it was certainly today. Well; there had been others, come to think of it, but, you know. Today really wasn’t good. She opened the door, stepped inside and ducked.

No weaponry sailed above her head. The door bounced cheerfully off the wall, uninhibited by a lurking body in its passage, and her left side was conspicuous in its safety from attacking limbs. Awen blinked, and straightened. It was a good thing, obviously, since she really hadn’t been in the mood, but… well. If she was ducking anyway, it just seemed like a waste now. She closed the door, and paused.

Rhydian was sitting at his desk, one foot resting up on an open drawer as he stared out of the window, his expression distant. A bottle of whiskey dangled from one hand, although he didn’t have any hallmarks of being drunk, yet, or at least, none that Awen could see. The desk was covered in paperwork, several files in particular lying carelessly on top of loose sheets, for which she very carefully ignored the hyperactive ‘read it!’ instinct that immediately kicked in. He didn’t look at her, or acknowledge her in any way.

“Councillor?” she asked uncertainly after a moment. Rhydian didn’t move.

“Sit,” he told her. Awen sat. The chair was comfortable anyway, and her shoulders were aching.

They waited in silence for a few moments more, and then Rhydian sighed wearily, and looked down at the bottle in his hand.

“You,” he said conversationally, “have caused a lot of problems.”

“I know,” Awen said quietly. “I’m sorry.”

His smile was lightning-fast, there and gone again, and deeply sardonic.

“So am I,” he said. “We really let you down, didn’t we?”

“No,” Awen said blankly, and wondered what the hell was going on. Rhydian seemed… depressed. She was relatively certain this had never happened before.

“Yes we did,” he said dismissively, and leaned down to the drawer his foot was resting on, from which he pulled two tankards. He balanced them over the papers and carefully poured in the whiskey. “From birth, I think. Here. Drink.”

“Thank you,” Awen said mildly. “Shut me up if this is out of line, Councillor, but… are you okay?”

“Shut up.”


“Ha.” Rhydian rubbed an eye with the heel of his hand. “No, I can’t say that to you anymore. See the file in front of you?”

“Yes.” Cautiously, Awen picked it up. It was, as ever, plain and unmarked, apart from the ‘Classified’ stamp. “Do you want me to read it?”

“Yes,” he said, leaning back and closing his eyes. And that seemed to be it. Awen looked at him for a few seconds, and then opened the file.

Five minutes later, she closed it, put it back on the desk and downed the whiskey in three gulps.

“Anyway,” Rhydian said neutrally, refilling her glass for her. “Welcome to your new job.”

“I’m your boss?” Awen said hollowly. She leaned her face into her hands, her elbows on the desk.

“Tacitly,” Rhydian said, a tinge of humour back in his voice, “yes. Not officially. In public you’ll be following orders as you always have.”

“This is insane,” Awen told the desk. Rhydian snorted.

“It’s apparently insane we haven’t done it before,” he countered dryly. “Relax, though. You’re the department head, that’s all. You can pick your own team. You don’t even need to do any of the actual work yourself if you don’t want to. Just collate everyone else’s findings.”

There was a pause, Awen’s mind still spinning. Rhydian snorted again.

“Although I doubt that’ll happen,” he said. “You’re quite hands-on.”

“You want me to investigate you?” Awen said, looking up at him disbelievingly. He flashed her a grin, pouring himself another whiskey.

“Yes,” he said calmly. “Thoroughly. And everyone else, but thank you for questioning the idea of me being a target specifically.”

She stared at him for a moment more, and then downed the second whiskey. Rhydian poured her another patiently.

“Look,” he said, after a moment’s shocked silence. “It’s very simple. About four hours ago you sacrificed life and limb to demonstrate your status as your country’s moral compass. You also highlighted the need for such a compass. We’ve all become stuck.”

He knocked back his own drink, and stared back out of the window again.

“We’re lost,” he said quietly. “And, importantly, we didn’t realise it. Which means in order for you to set us straight again, no one can be above you.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Awen said, her mind now racing, “but this means I’m above me.”

“No,” Rhydian said distantly, waving a hand. “I’m on top of that. Don’t think about it.”

Ah. Fair enough. And good. Awen relaxed slightly, and happily trusted whatever system he’d put in place. Which left her with… well. It wasn’t too hard, actually, as long as she thought of it as being an Alpha Wingleader but with a far bigger City and a much bigger Wing.

“Okay,” she said quietly, and drew in a deep breath to steady herself. The kaleidoscopic shards of surreal reality that her life had become whirled together into a new pattern in her head, and surprisingly, made a new kind of sense. “Alright,” she said, slightly louder, and looked up at Rhydian. “Well, then; are you okay?”

He laughed at that, and drank straight from the bottle.

“Functional,” he said. “But no, I suppose I’m not. I watched you save us from ourselves today. In front of the world. And I was so angry with you I was willing to let Eifion execute you in his own time and his own special way.”

“Well, I expected that,” Awen said, watching him. This, this was the most surreal experience of the past week. She’d never tried to read Rhydian before in her life. It almost felt like trying to give a god a smack upside the head. “And I sort of agreed.”

“Then you’d have been wrong as well,” he said bluntly. “It turned out, we were about to make a mistake that would end everything we’ve built since the Wars. All that progress, gone.” He tipped the bottle to her, ironically. “And none of us had noticed.”

“I know all that,” Awen said calmly, watching his body language, listening to the words. “What else is wrong, though?”

“This is going to take some getting used to,” Rhydian muttered, and leaned back, closing his eyes. “It’s… complicated. Gods.”

He rubbed at his eye again, a strangely vulnerable gesture that Awen had never recognised before.

“Once upon a time,” he said conversationally, “I was in love with Lady Marged. Did you know that?”

Marged had never taken an official consort, in spite of having three children. The out-dated Caerleuad liveries adorned Rhydian’s shoulders still, and Awen thought about his easy-going rapport with her, and the nickname ‘Lady’ that he still used, and chose her answer carefully.

“Once?” she asked.

The silence was thick, broken by the caw of a raven outside the window. Rhydian watched the bottle in his hands, his eyes dark.

“She and Lord Gwilym came to see me today,” he said quietly after a moment. “About you, in fact. They wanted to know if he still got to keep you. Although he wanted it known that wasn’t his choice of words.”

Awen snorted, but said nothing. Rhydian sighed.

"He doesn't, by the way," he told her casually. "You're keeping him, understand? He's a Sovereign who knows about Intelligencers. Should he ever decide to make nefarious use of that information the security protocol is you making it personal."


"And I mean you make it personal. Understand?"

"Duly noted," Awen nodded. "As is your attempt to wander off topic."

Rhydian sighed again. He even looked vaguely glum.

“I think,” he said, after a moment, “Marged's about to embark upon a spirited campaign to have a similar arrangement. To you and Lord Gwilym. Which was very difficult to give up the first time. And she’s an extremely persuasive woman when she wants to be.”

“I see.” Awen gazed at the ceiling thoughtfully. “Well, in theory there’s no problem. It doesn’t have to be you who tells her to back off, for one thing. I could do it.”

“That would certainly be appreciated,” Rhydian said, swigging at the whiskey again, and Awen nodded.

“I won’t, though,” she said. “Go and sleep with her.”

He paused for a moment, and then very carefully and deliberately set the whiskey bottle down on the desk, turned to face her and leaned forward on his elbows, his fingers linked beneath his chin.

“Are you still crazy?” he asked seriously.

“Your worry can’t be a lack of interest,” Awen returned easily, holding his gaze. “Nor one of reputation, for you or for her, because you don’t trouble yourself about hiding your friendship with her. You never call her ‘Sovereign’, you invite her into your Wing quarters, you escort her to dinner, and you’re still wearing the livery that swears you to her. And, if need be, if you want to avoid it being public knowledge, you could make any involvement with her become top secret with sublime ease, given the resources you both have access to.”

Rhydian stared at her, fascinated. She sat back, watching him still.

“So there are only a few reasonable concerns left,” she continued. “All of which involve only you, as far as I can tell. Tell me if I get any wrong, but – the lack of safety net? She’s still a Sovereign, whatever else she may be. It’s a security issue.”

There was a pause again, and then Rhydian glanced away, out of the window.

“There’s that,” he said neutrally. “You must know we only really allow it with you because the situation is monitored.”

“Of course I do,” Awen said. “And you must remember that you’ve just given me the power to do the same to you.”

“Oh, stop it.” He stood abruptly and moved to the window, his arms folded and eyes dark. “We broke apart for a reason, Awen. Sovereigns and Riders don’t work. Do you know what we do to them after a while?”

“Apparently in your case nothing that bad,” Awen side-stepped. “Since she’s the one chasing you.”

“We wear them down,” Rhydian said, as though he hadn’t heard her. “They do stressful jobs. And then they come home and face even more stress because before they can even have a decent conversation with us, they have to spend half an hour explaining our basic emotional responses to us like we’re children. So then we spend all our time stressing that we’re not good enough, and then they have to talk us out of that hole. He’ll leave you eventually, you know,” he added, glancing at her. “It’ll hurt.”

“I know,” Awen said seriously. “And I’ve told him I won’t beg him to stay or anything when he does. He’s free to do so when he wants.”

“But what kind of relationship is that, though?” Rhydian said wearily, his eyes back on the landscape below. “Where one partner has to take all the strain of both?”

“I never said relationship,” Awen said mildly. “Just sleep with her.”

“Right,” Rhydian said, wiping a hand across his face. “I’d want more, though. Except I wouldn’t.”

He turned and glared at her.

“Do you see what you’ve done now?” he said pointedly, and Awen grinned. “Look at me. I’m in the grip of emotional angst. I’ve successfully avoided this for years. Gwenllian would laugh at me if she could see me now.”

“Gwenllian laughs at you anyway,” Awen said dismissively, waving a hand. “Councillor? I’m entirely new to this Sovereign/Rider relationship thing, so I can’t really even try to give you any answers, but… how well could she read you?”

“Ha. Too well.” Rhydian looked down, shaking his head, his smile dry. “Far too well,” he said after a moment. “That was part of the problem. I could never hide anything from her.”

“You tried to?”

“Frequently.” He rolled his eyes. “I rather felt she deserved a break from both of our issues.”

“So you spent your time together fighting her rather than letting her in,” Awen said thoughtfully, and didn’t look at his expression. “You know, hypothetically… one might posit that if you were to get back with her, you just… let go. Trust her, rather than trying to be in control all the time. Let her take care of you, and you can focus on taking care of her.”

She shrugged, and stood.

“But whatever,” she said. “I’m only telling you to sleep with her. Is that everything for now, Councillor?”

“Consider yourself extremely lucky that my easy-going nature has not inclined me towards having you whipped,” Rhydian said pointedly. “Get out and bother someone else. You’re almost as bad as Marged.”

“First time I’ve been accused of that,” Awen grinned, and downed the last of her whiskey. “But I am the monster you created, I remind you. Blame no one but yourself.”

“What have I unleashed?” he asked the ceiling, shaking his head as she stood and stretched, wincing. “I shall put Eifion on stand-by. For me rather than you.”

“I know you think that’s funny,” Awen said darkly, rubbing a shoulder, “but you’ve never been on the receiving end of him, you know. It’s less humorous for the rest of us.”

“Very true,” Rhydian said dryly, and then paused, thoughtfully. “Actually – no. No I haven’t. Nor have most Councillors.”

The dread spiked in her heart suddenly, making her battle-senses rush to the fore and her head whip around to him.

“Don’t even think about it,” Awen said, sharper than she’d intended. Rhydian watched her, himself on alert from her tone. “Seriously. Don’t.”

“We’re out of touch,” Rhydian said neutrally, his eyes not leaving her. He folded his arms and leaned back against the windowsill. “As you pointed out yourself. We come from a different world from today’s Riders, almost. Certainly a different training system. Possibly we don’t think quite the same.”

“Eifion can’t help you with that,” Awen said bluntly. “You know what pain is.”

“Not the way you do,” Rhydian said with taboo honesty, but Awen took a step forward.

“Do you love your Wing?” she asked harshly. He raised an eyebrow.

“Of course I –“

“Then you never invite Eifion in,” Awen said starkly. The tension was making her shoulders throb anew, her fingers restless with adrenaline. “Ever. When he wants to hurt you, it’s not just you he hurts.”

“Hmm.” Rhydian regarded her for a moment, and then sighed wearily. “No,” he said quietly. “That’s certainly true. Tell me something – have you ever resented it?”

She looked away, willing herself to calm down and give her shoulders a break, and thought.

“Being tortured by him?”

“Yes.” Rhydian sat back down in the chair and took another swig of the whiskey. “Being tortured by him. Being put through that, adult and child. Have you ever resented the fact that it was happening to you?”

In terms of her world feeling as though it was suddenly listing wildly to the side again, the floor was practically vertical. It was as though the gods had dropped down to tell her they were suffering from existential doubt. Rhydian… was having doubts. About the Union’s training system. What the hell was going on?

“No,” she said after a few moments. “For the man himself, ‘hate’ is too mild a word to adequately explain my feelings on the subject. But for his role in my life… no. It was necessary. I always understood that. And nothing can be just good all the time.”

He glanced at her, a small, amused smile playing about his lips.

“Is that your official view on being a Rider?” Rhydian asked. “Good all the time apart from Eifion?”

“Yes,” Awen said simply. He nodded, and looked away.

“Good,” he said quietly. “Get out, would you?”

“Sleep with Marged.”

“No. Nor can you order me to, or it’s rape.”

“Well, it’s a standing sanction, Councillor,” Awen said, striding to the door. “Remember: I’m your fault.”

“I already regret it!” he shouted after her, but she grinned without answering and ignored the small gaggle of Riders who stared at her as she closed the door. He probably wouldn’t obey, that was the trouble, but right now if only there was a chance he’d agree Awen would have been perfectly willing to just bundle Rhydian into a bedroom with Gwilym and then come back in a few hours, because Rhydian desperately needed a perfectly-weighted pep-talk that would stop him hating himself so much and make the world seem nice again. Apparently, Marged could do it. If only Rhydian would do as he was told. Which was unlikely.


Awen turned to the group of Riders, and returned their joint awed Salute absent-mindedly.

“Afternoon,” she said mildly. “Do any of you have a pen and paper, by any chance?”

“Councillor,” one of them said eagerly, digging in his belt pouch, and it took Awen a second to realise he meant her. “Here, and – is a pencil okay? I’m out of ink –“

“Pencil is fine,” Awen grinned. “Just ‘Rider’ is fine for now, by the way. I imagine I’ll be comfortable with ‘Councillor’ next year some time.”

“We’ll tell everyone,” he swore, slightly disturbingly over-earnest as Awen took the proffered writing tools. “If you want? Then fewer people will try, anyway.”

“That’d be great, cheers.” She flattened the paper to the wall and wrote the sentence ‘You are not permitted to contradict her instructions in any way, nor make her leave’ in shorthand, and then passed the pencil back. The Rider beamed. “Thank you. Have a good day.”

Finding Lady Marged was actually fairly simple in the end, too. Just about every Sovereign in the country had convened in the various common rooms, which Awen reasoned poor Maelon had probably been herded to by now, and so it was a simple task to find him and therefore Marged. She was sitting happily in an armchair by the fire opposite him, knitting busily while the soon-to-be-delinquent Lady Delyth sat at her feet and held the wool. Iestyn, Erys and Girly Lord Ieuan were there too, and idly Awen wondered just what was the situation between Erys and Iestyn. She’d have to find out now. Her job had really grown.

“And then it turned black and fell off!” Marged said cheerfully and alarmingly as Awen entered, to the assorted laughs and gasps of horror from her audience. Well, Maelon seemed to be laughing; that was something, anyway. “Such fun! Although a bit worrying for the poor – Councillor! Congratulations! And you look ravishing!”

“Well, thank you very much, Sovereign,” Awen said mildly, bowing as they all turned to look at her with interest. “Whisper it, but you’ve always been my favourite.”

“Really?” Erys laughed, looking approvingly over the new uniform. “I shall have to increase the gifts of knitwear I make to visiting Riders. Although I’m sure Iestyn is particularly gutted. He told me privately that he’s been practising an especially charming smile specifically to endear more Riders to him.”

“It’s true,” Iestyn nodded with affected wisdom. “Really, I just want to be liked.”

“Politics is possibly not the career for you, then,” Awen said dryly, which earned her a chuckle. She glanced at Maelon, and nodded. “And welcome to the Union, Sovereign. I’m sorry it took so long to get you here.”

“What’s a few years?” he grinned sardonically. “Delyth – this is Councillor Awen. She’s the one who caught Father.”

Delyth looked up from her spot at Marged’s feet, her eyes wide.

“Can we stop running now he’s gone?” she asked hopefully, and Awen found herself automatically crouching easily to talk to the girl.

“Yes, you can,” she smiled. “And you get to live in Casnewydd, which is much better than people would have you believe. If you find a bakery near the Corn Exchange with a crooked sign outside, go in and try their honey bread. It’s of divine origin, I swear.”

“I like honey bread.”

“You’ll love theirs.” She looked up at Maelon, which seemed a more sensible position to be viewing a Sovereign of Casnewydd from, whether she was actually sworn to him or not. “I should add in the interests of fairness, though, that it was Lord Gwilym who actually got Flyn convicted.”

“I told you!” Marged exclaimed gleefully. “Riders, too modest one and all. No, dear; you really must take credit for this one. He couldn’t have brought about the conviction without you!”

Oh. She was ‘dear’ to Marged now. That was actually quite lovely.

“So you won’t be my Alpha Wingleader now?” Maelon asked. “I was quite disappointed to hear it.”

“You were not,” Awen snorted. “I told you your face was unhelpful and had to sit five chairs away in a bid to not hit you.”

“Well, most people do,” Maelon grinned. “Although usually in case I hit them.”

“Happily not a problem for my replacement,” Awen told him, and stood. “Whose name is Ioan, and I genuinely could not be happier leaving the post to anyone else. You’ll like him. Anyway; Lady Marged. Could I have a few minutes of your time?”

“Ooh, of course! Here.” Marged thrust her knitting into Delyth’s bemused hands and stood. “Keep that for me, would you, dear? Back soon.”

They retired to the first secure room Awen could find, which proved to be a clerks’ office with a single hastily-evicted occupant. She locked the door behind his awed back, and turned to Marged, who was predictably examining a potted plant in the corner.

“I always love these,” Marged said happily. “They do upset druids though, poor dears. Anyway! How can I help the hero of the hour?”

“You can’t,” Awen said, handing her the note. Marged took it quizzically. “But I think you can help Councillor Rhydian, can’t you?”

It was nice, getting to see the Real Marged in that moment. She looked up at Awen, her gaze assessing in the way she so carefully hid normally, and pocketed the note without so much as looking at it any further.

“Yes,” she said matter-of-factly. “I can. I’m right, then? He’s that bad at the moment.”

“It’s been a tough day for everyone,” Awen said carefully. “But personally I’ve benefitted from having an objective non-Rider viewpoint recently, and I think he would too.”

Marged’s smile was sad for a moment, and she nodded.

“I agree,” she said. “I can definitely help, Councillor –“

“Feel free to choose any other name you like for me, by the way,” Awen said with a wince. It really wasn’t a title she was taking well. Marged laughed, the sound as jolly as ever.

“Good!” she said gaily. “Ooh, can I call you Awen? That would be lovely!”

“Go ahead,” Awen smiled wryly.

“Good.” And Marged stepped forward and actually hugged her. It was so unexpected Awen found herself unable to respond for a moment, and then discovered that she couldn’t physically anyway without starting a fight because Marged had her in an extremely tight embrace against her ample bosom.

“Huh,” she said, more or less to herself. It was a comfortable hug. “I see what he meant now by ‘persuasive’. And, come to think of it, ‘extremely hard to give up’.”

Marged laughed, the vibrations of the sound easily transmitted through the outlying areas of her body, and squeezed once before letting go.

“Oh, you!” she said merrily. “Honestly, dear, you look like you needed it. You’re a lot like Rhydian, you know. You both hide yourselves in the same way, and once you know the trick it’s not too hard to spot.”

“Really?” Awen said mildly. “I’ll have to let him know. Expect a new set of mannerisms within the week.”

“I’ll warn Gwilym,” Marged giggled. “Although he understood you fast enough, didn’t he? The advantage of an enquiring mind.”

She looked fond for a moment.

“I always thought it was a shame that he wouldn’t be Sovereign, actually,” she said with wistful reminiscence. “When they were kids. I think Sorcha agreed, too. It was clear enough to see that he’d be the best of the three of them – Bethan, bless her, had such a temper! And Iago just… wasn’t suited to it. Too many fanciful notions. Reinvented himself as something new every week. And then there was Gwilym. Quiet little Gwilym, who wanted to know everything, and meet everyone. No surprise when he went travelling!”

“He still would be if he could,” Awen said, and sighed. “I think it upsets him. He gets this look in his eye sometimes, when he’s talking about where he’s been or to someone from another country, or even when he’s just looking out of a window. He wasn’t ready to come back to Cymru when he did. I think if he was given the chance he’d be in Gaul by tomorrow and moving steadily east.”

“I think,” Marged said gently, her head tipped to one side, “that if he was given the chance the only travelling he’d ever do for the rest of his life would be to just stay by your side, bach. The luckiest people are the ones who have something in their lives that they’d give everything else up for in an instant, if they had to. For Gwilym, that’s not travelling anymore.”

She wasn't emotionally capable of handling that, and certainly not in the sole presense of Lady Marged; so Awen carefully avoided it by doing the conversational equivalent of sticking her fingers in her ears and running away.

"Obviously feel free to not answer, Sovereign," she said neutrally. "But when you were with Councillor Rhydian, am I right in assuming it wasn't you who ended it all?"

"That's right." Marged regarded her for a moment. "Do you suggest I remind him of that?"

"I bow entirely to your expertise in this area," Awen said smoothly. "I would like you to go and help him, if you can. How you do so is for you to decide."

"I see," Marged smiled softly. "Right-o. And I give him that note first, I presume?"

"If you would."

"You and your notes," Marged winked at her, and wandered past her to the door as Awen winced. "Excellent! A challenge. And do make sure you spend some time with Gwilym some time today, won't you, dear."

"Yes, Sovereign," Awen said mildly, and sighed as she left. If only she could, that was the reality. She couldn't even see her Wing yet. The world's longest To Do List stretched out in front of her, grinning at her, and mocking her lack of drinking time. It was, Awen reflected, just another typical day at the office, really, but now with a bloody torque.

Bloody torque.


The sun had set by the time she managed to wearily stagger back to her quarters, a numb, faintly buzzing area all that remained of where her brain used to be and a nagging ache through both shoulders and biceps. Apparently, her withered emotional centres, already neglected and under-fed, had decided to close down for the day. Possibly it was just as well, Awen reflected as she reached the door and opened it as quietly as she could. Any actual emotional response was likely right now to make her burst into tears and cry, or maybe, for variety, panic and flee the country. Before panicking at the world outside and fleeing back in, of course-

"My turn!" Adara's voice said brightly, and Awen blinked and took in the scene before her.

The room contained the full Wing, plus Gwilym. And they seemed to be playing a barbarically simple game that involved punching Caradog to - to see if he’d twitch? Evidence suggested, however, that he may have decided that a fun edge could be added to the game if he suddenly and violently lashed out with a punch of his own at random points; firstly, as Adara's well-formed punch connected with Caradog's stomach she leapt nimbly back, and secondly, Llŷr was looking vaguely glazed in a chair to the side, Gwilym sitting next to him and peering at him concernedly.

Awen stared, unnoticed. Caradog laughed heartily.

“No such luck!” he boomed merrily. “Although I wouldn’t have retaliated. You’re Deputy now.”

“You massive untruthful,” Adara said, rolling her eyes. “You decked Owain all the time. And look at Llŷr! He’s Deputy now too, and you’ve vegetabled him.”

“M’not vegetabled,” Llŷr muttered, but he didn’t open his eyes or move from the chair Gwilym had apparently carefully steered him to. Caradog laughed again.

“You’re right!” he said cheerfully. “I could’ve sworn that was the rule. Sure you don’t want a go, Sovereign?”

“Do you know,” Gwilym said thoughtfully, “I’m positive. I would break a wrist even trying. I think you should meet my uncle afterwards, though.”

“He definitely shouldn’t,” Awen said automatically. She'd have said more, too, the responses still on autopilot from a day's worth of Meetings; but the second she spoke all heads whipped toward her, and everyone was on their feet and beaming, and in the wave of acceptance Awen finally felt herself starting to relax.

“Awen!” Llio squealed happily, and the group hug engulfed her. Even Llŷr managed to stagger over to join in. Awen smiled.

“You’re a collective embarrassment,” she told them all fondly, and almost felt the happy internal sighs around her. “And why is Llŷr concussed? Caradog?”


“Ah, you can tell?” Adara said uneasily. “Well, you see, we played this game –“

“And Caradog concussed Llŷr?”


“Yeah, pretty much,” Adara nodded. “We tried to stop him, but he was too strong for us.”

“I didn’t,” Gwilym told her. “I already know he’s too strong for me, see.”

Their eyes met in the press of bodies and faces somehow, and Awen felt her heart melt at his affectionate expression.

“Good,” she said. “He has no respect for authority and wouldn’t have held back. Although seriously, Caradog, what is it with you and Deputies? You see one, you have to attack.”

“Ah, that’s the rule,” Caradog nodded. Adara smartly disengaged herself from the huddle and stepped out of arm’s reach. “I knew there was something. Are you okay now?”

“Exhausted,” Awen sighed, and the huddle reluctantly broke apart. “I do believe I might try to sleep for the next three days. I thank every god I know and a few I don’t for my foresight in writing up my report before the trial.”

“In Egypt their gods are people with animal heads,” Gwilym volunteered chirpily as they all retreated back to the sofas. Awen dropped full-length onto one, one arm thrown across her eyes, and didn’t even twitch as other Riders lifted parts of her to sit under her and lay her across their laps instead. Gwilym sat on the floor with Cei, near her head. “And they worship cats.”

“Really?” Awen asked mildly, grinning. “That’s probably fairly sensible, actually. I’ve met cats.”

“I’ve met Marged’s cat,” Gwilym told her. “I don’t think it needs worshipping as much as sealing away in a mountain by a hero with a magic sword.”

“I was sealed away in a mountain with a magic sword, once,” Adara declared with characteristic bemusing sagacity. “In a dream, like.”

“Is Egypt the beach?” Awen asked sleepily. Gods she was comfortable - someone's fingers were stroking gently through her hair, and her head was resting in Caradog's arms...

“Partly,” Gwilym said, his smile audible. “It has trees too, though. Quite a lot around their river. Nubia is mostly beach. They call it a desert.”

“I shall put it on my list of places I never wish to go,” Awen murmured, and then sighed and dropped her arm. It was no good. She looked at him. “We need to talk.”

“Oh,” Gwilym said morosely. “Well, I knew that sentence was coming eventually. Don’t tell me, it’s not me it’s you –“

“I do wish you’d shut up sometimes,” Awen told him companionably. “I might make good on that threat to punch you in the face, even.”

“Noted.” He crossed his legs like a good boy, his fingers loosely holding his ankles, and looked at her attentively, suddenly serious. “Are you about to try and talk me out of us again?”

“No,” Awen said carefully, studying his face. “I’m going to talk it all through with you, though.”

“Just so you know,” Adara told her, leaning forward from her armchair, “I vetted him earlier. He passed.”

“Oh, that’s what you were doing,” Gwilym nodded wonderingly as Awen threw her an amused glance. “Although why on earth was my favourite colour relevant, then?”

“Because only a deranged lunatic would like blue,” Adara told him matter-of-factly. “According to Awen, anyway, who has her own slice of crazy. But you said green! And it’s what she now wears. How neat.”

“Adara,” Awen sighed wearily. “Stop harassing the nice Sovereign.”

“But it’s fun!” she said brightly.

“It’s interrupting my important and much-needed conversation.”


“Right.” Awen sat up, and somehow managed to slide into a space between Caradog and Llŷr. “Sovereign, ignore the rabble and listen.”

“But they’re not –“

“If I was ordered to kill you tomorrow, I would.”

It was a hell of a statement to drop into a room, and probably quite the most complicating opening gambit of a relationship talk in history to date. Eluned sighed sadly and sat back, and suddenly everyone else was looking intensely glum, apparently gloomily awaiting Gwilym's inevitable reaction in which he threw things about before storming from the room. And yet -

He smiled.

"I know," he said, the psychopath. "I've already been over this with Rhydian once today, you know. That would be true whether we were together or not, it's not your fault, if it happens I'll be more fortunate than most because at least my killer would feel bad about it afterwards, and I promise I shall try not to incur the Council's wrath that badly that they give you that order in the first place. Okay?"

There was a pause. Everyone stared at him.

"Okay," Awen repeated after a moment. There was a vicious logic in that. How had he done that? Gods, she hoped he wasn't secretly an evil genius.

"Good," Gwilym grinned. "Next?"

"Um." Goodness. Where had her composure gone? She'd let her guard down, look. She hadn't done that in years. "I'm, even now an unstable killer? I'm not convinced you fully understand how much danger you're in just by being around me. And - sorry, guys - being around them."

"This is your fault, Caradog," Adara said morosely. "It's because you vegetabled Llŷr."

"'M not vegetabled..."

"Alright." Gwilym looked at her, thoughtfully. "I basically think of you all as a wolf pack. Friendly, sociable and compassionate but furry and unpredictable killing machines, too. You're untameable because you're wild animals, so it's an ever-present danger. It's just... a matter of learning the right behaviours and body language, I think. So that I never appear as a threat."

Pretty good analogy, actually. Awen shifted uneasily.

"You can't guarentee it will never happen, though," she began, and was cut off by Gwilym's extremely final shake of the head.

"I understand the risks, Awen," he said firmly. "That's all you need to know. It's my choice to take those risks anyway."

"Ooh, he's good," Adara said approvingly, as Awen's head spun. "You really are cut out for politics you know, even if you do hate it."

"My life is a twisted mess," he told her. "I also hate goat's cheese, but it does fabulous things for my hair."

"Children?" Awen asked, her mind racing. "No, wait - we've done that one, you said you'd adopt..."

"And I meant it!" Gwilym said brightly. "I'm going to adopt a Viking one, it can teach me Norse."

"I could teach you Norse," Awen said absently. "Um... I'm an emotional cripple? Really, that's going to get old fast."

"An endearing quirk, and totally worth it," Gwilym said. "Here's one for you - my family is mental."

"I walked in on you playing a punching game with mine," Awen said dismissively. "And anyway, yours hold no terrors for me. Okay, here's a big one for you - I don't own myself. I can't give you... me. That's useless in a relationship."

"Not true," Gwilym stated, his pale eyes suddenly intense. "Listen. You're an unstable killer who would have no qualms about torturing children if you had to; but, I get your innocence. You give me the most important part of yourself, Awen. I get your inner child. The woman behind the training. I get to have the bit that's just you."

Cei actually sighed, soppy at the romance. Llio sniffed. Awen breathed out, slowly.

"I don't - " she paused, trying to order her thoughts. Gwilym smiled softly, and caught one set of beads. "If that's the bit that matters," Awen tried again, "I don't know how to give it."

"You don't need to," Gwilym grinned. "I know how to get it from you. Next?"

"That's sinister," Awen accused him mildly, and he laughed. "Okay. I repeat my disclaimer that when you eventually tire of me I won't beg you to stay in a fantastically awkward show of tears and bitter regrets."

"What, that's it?" He raised an eyebrow, apparently surprised. "That's all? No more arguments against this?"

"I maintain it goes against my better judgement," Awen said, and closed her fingers over his hand where it held her beads. "But. I desperately don't want to make you unhappy, which I'll do if all I'm ever saying to you is 'Hey, so, divorce? 'Cos I'm really rubbish.' So..."

She shrugged. Cei seemed to be rapturously hugging himself and holding his breath.

"If this is going to work I need to focus on you," Awen said quietly, watching Gwilym. "Someone reminded me of it today. If I'm just worrying about me, then there's no point to even starting this, because a relationship where one of you is the only focus of both of you is completely useless. So I'm trusting you, Sovereign, to tell me when I do something wrong, understand? Because otherwise... I'm ignoring me. I'll be paying attention to you."

"I love you," Gwilym said softly, and he kissed the back of her hand. His free hand, she noted with automatic interest, had gone to his pocket, and was pulling something out -

Cei leapt to his feet, the movement making everyone's attention whip around to him, and Awen had one hand on Gwilym's shoulder before she'd had chance to think, tensing up -

"Oh my gods!" Cei all but yelled, gleefully, totally oblivious to his effect in his excitement. "Are those - have you got beads? Did you get beads?"

"Yes," Gwilym said calmly, the happiness in his voice audible, and something small and hard was pressed into Awen's palm. She looked down, astonished. "It took some thinking about, you know, since Rider/Sovereign symbolism has never existed before. But I think they work."

It was, indeed, a bead; but not of glass or wood, the materials she'd expect of Rider hair beads. He'd had it crafted out of silver, bright and gleaming, the surface delicately scored with the swirling pattern of a simple battle tattoo, and engraved deeper over the top was the angular shape of an Ogham rune -

"Muin?" Awen breathed. Gwilym grinned.

"Muin," he agreed. "A Cymric-Erinnish letter. Symbolising, as I'm sure you're aware, a cunning or wily ruse, and... love. Gets you coming and going."

"Dear gods that's perfect," Adara said softly above her shoulder, and Awen was vaguely aware that the whole Wing were in a ring around them and craning to see, Cei and Llio nearly vibrating with suppressed joy. She blinked her vision clear, and looked up at Gwilym's elated smile.

"Thank you," she said quietly. "I... what about you?"

"I decided Aerona was right," he told her, and placed a second bead onto her open palm beside the first. "A bead is symbolic of you being a Rider, so I should have one too. And I wanted us to have the same thing in that sense. It's just slightly different..."

It was silver again, although the swirling, delicate pattern over its surface was subtly altered from a battle tattoo to something very similar to the offical liveries of Aberystwyth. But the engraving wasn't an Ogham rune this time; instead, three delicate lines spread out away from each other, crowned and surrounded by circles and forming -

"The druidic symbol for 'awen'," Gwilym said contentedly. "The 'inspiration of truth'. And often used to symbolise poetic inspiration by bards as well, I believe. You're very well named, you know."

She looked down, smiling, forcing herself not to cry, and waited until the knot in her throat untightened.

"Well done," she managed eventually, and made herself meet his eye. He was openly gazing at her lovingly, his smile tender, and his fingers found hers.

"Cheers!" he said cheerfully, and Awen laughed. "They seemed appropriate. Now: I haven't got a clue how to put them on -"

"The box!" Adara almost yelled, and suddenly the entire Wing leapt to their feet, Meurig actually hurdling a sofa to fetch the box containing the Combs of Seven Hours of Boredom and pots of beeswax, and almost throwing it to Eluned, the Hair Expert. "Quick! Rearrange the furniture, we need a table here!"

"Goodness, they're efficient, aren't they?" Gwilym marvelled idly as the activity whirlwinded around him. "Are they afraid I'll change my mind?"

"Quite possibly," Awen said thoughtfully. "Or that I will. Or Adara's just trying to settle into the new role and so is practising here. I don't get you still, you know. That may prove to be a problem."

"Yes you do," Gwilym said contentedly. "Because you understand how people work, and there's only one thing you need for me to make sense."

"Which is?" Awen asked, comfortably wry. He stroked her jaw.

"Given what you are," he smiled, "you will probably never understand why I love you. But you don't need to. You just need to accept the fact that I do. That's all. Everything makes sense from there."

He was, of course, right. As usual. Awen snorted, and went about adorning his hair with the bead that carried her name.