Riordan hummed a tuneless melody to himself as he lifted the stick holding the dayís catch from the fire. He nudged it deftly onto the plate, then looked around for his fellow travelers. Across the clearing, leaning against a large tree, were Alastor and Lachlan, speaking quietly. The glint off of Lachlanís armor caught Riordanís eye in the falling gloom. He glanced to his left, searching for Alastorís brother, Islwyn. The two brothers were exploring the lands of their House, charting territory that had never been mapped. Or that was the official story, at least. The old Lord Rilian did want the lands mapped, but had not wanted his remaining sons to venture into potentially hostile areas. Alastor, however, had jumped at the chance to get away from the castle. Riordan volunteered as well, anxious to be out and traveling again.
A wandering minstrel was not meant to stay three years in one House, he thought to himself for the hundredth time. He should be out traveling, knowing all the lands, all the people. Not confined to an old Lord and his retinue. Riordan sighed, and sliced a piece off of the fish with his belt knife.
Alastor snapped off a twig and twirled it idly. He regarded his companion for a long moment. Lachlan kept glancing about, one hand resting warily on the hilt of his sword.
"The forest is strangely quiet," Alastor said suddenly.
Lachlan turned to him and smiled. "Perhaps all the little creatures were frightened off by your snoring," he replied.
"I do not snore," the other man said defensively.
"Of course you do," the knight responded. "You keep me up all night."
"You keep me up all night," Alastor said, stepping closer to the other and poking him gently in the chest. Lachlan, of course, felt nothing through the heavy armor he (nearly) always wore. He smiled suggestively. "Not that I mind, of course." Alastor reached out to pull the other man to him, Lachlan hardly resisting. The sounds of horses approaching through the trees broke them apart, and both men laid hands on their swords. Riordan started up from the fire, belt knife again in hand.
"Who goes there?" Alastor called, peering through the darkness. "State your allegiance." Although the forests belonged to House Pegasus, there were always potentially dangerous tribes passing through the region.
Itís me, brother," Islwyn shouted. He rode up to the edge of the clearing and dismounted hastily. "I bring a surprise visitor." He awkwardly tried to adjust his cloak, aware that his older brother frowned on his disheveled appearance.
"Who?" Alastor demanded.
"My lord," the new arrival said. He, too, dismounted and dropped to one knee in front of Alastor.
"Tristan, what . . ." Lachlan stared down at the young servant, not understanding.
"Why do you bow to me?" Alastor asked. "I want you to stand up, and tell me what youíre doing here." He frowned down at him.
Tristan scrambled to his feet. "My lord . . . your father is dead. I came to bring you both home." He brushed at his clothing hastily. "I have been riding for five days trying to find you."
The new lord looked at Lachlan. His lover gazed back at him, his expression unreadable. Alastor turned back to Tristan and his brother. "Well, I suppose we must ride for home then." He thought to himself, hello lordship, good bye Lachlan . . . and couldnít bear the idea.
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