Late autumn, 496 CE
Uthyr bent and pointed, so that Bedwyr might look along the length of his arm to sight the figure. “That bright star there is his eye. Those three, his head. Then up his back and curling ’round, his tail.”
“I see it!”
Uthyr smiled at his son’s excitement. On a night like this one, long ago, his own father had shown him the great dragon in the sky, and he too had felt the power of it. “That’s the sign of our house.”
Bedwyr looked up at him, dark eyes wide. “It’s why folk call you Pen y Ddraig? The dragon in the sky is you?”
“It’s all of us.”
Something expanded in Uthyr’s chest. He made his expression stern, willed his voice to remain steady. “You, especially. One day, when I can no longer lift my sword, you’ll take it up. Then you will be Pen y Ddraig.”
“As you did for Grandfather?”
If the gods were good, the transition would be nothing like the one from Emrys to himself. “Just so.”
Bedwyr turned to gaze up at the stars again. “What else?”
Uthyr enjoyed these moments with his boy. A father couldn’t begin the teaching too early, and Bedwyr was curious in his quiet way.
“Have you shown him the Bear?”
They both turned at the low rasp of the Myrddin’s voice. Old Mabyn stood a few paces away, her long robes drawn close around her against the late-season chill.
“There’s a bear in the sky?” Bedwyr asked him.
“Aye, just there. Next to the Ddraig’s tail.”
“Are they shieldmates, like you and Huw?”
Uthyr chuckled. “Because they stand side by side? Perhaps.”
“Is Huw the Bear?”
“No,” Old Mabyn echoed, and it reverberated through Uthyr’s bones.
The identity of the Bear had been a mystery among his people for a long time. Once in a while, someone tried to claim the sign, but none had ever lived up to its place next to the Dragon. And so Mabyn’s denial might have been only confirmation of that.
But on this night it felt different.
He pulled Bedwyr to his chest, assuring himself of the warmth of his small, sturdy body. “Run along and get ready for sleep. Tomorrow will be a big day.”
He rose and watched the lad scamper off toward their new house. Light from the hearth glowed around the edges of the door, then swept over the hillside as Bedwyr opened it to go inside. He slammed it behind him, and Uthyr grunted ruefully. Anwen would try to train that out of him.
“How is the night, Mistress Mabyn?”
“Dark and chill, as any night.”
But it wasn’t just any night. “Then how does tomorrow look?”
“Strange. Not a day for a wedding.”
He turned to her in surprise. “What do you mean?”
She shook her head, and her silver plaits slithered over her shoulders like serpents. “Something is coming.”
And not that it mattered. Nothing short of an ice storm would keep him from marrying Anwen on the morrow, and in the event of such a thing, they would simply move the ritual from the meadow into the hall. It would be a squeeze, what with the presence of so many guests, but he would have no delays. The sooner he was bound to Anwen, the sooner he would have her in his bed, her body tight and grasping around his prick, begging for his seed. He had agreed to wait until they were bound, but he wasn’t going to wait longer than necessary. The thought of her moonlight hair spread across the furs of his bed, her mysterious eyes drinking him in, her lips parted as she urged him deeper—
“Keep your wits about you,” Mabyn said, her voice like the scratch of a thorn.
He shrugged away from it. “My wits are fine.”
“You should wait.”
“I marry tomorrow. Is everything ready?”
She was silent for a few breaths. “All is in place.”
“Good. I’m off to sleep. If you’d care to bless my marriage bed, it wouldn’t go amiss.”
Old Mabyn squinted at the sky. “Your bed will bear fruit.”
He heaved a sigh at her grudging tone. “Thank you. Goodnight, Mistress.”
“Goodnight, Lord Uthyr. May the Ddraig visit your dreams.”
They would be graced by visions of his betrothed, more likely, but he nodded to the Myrddin and turned for his house, leaving the old woman and her vague words to the night.