A Dishonorable Knight
Author:Morrison, Michelle

Epilogue

An eagle screamed high above the mountains that sheltered Eyri Keep. The last of the snow covering the shallow valley in which the keep sat had melted and pale green grass shoots and crocus buds were peeking out to inspect the soft spring day. Inside the keep, a woman screamed in pain.

"I hate you Gareth ap Morgan," Elena shouted, twisting the bed linens as another strong contraction swept over her.

"That's what you said when little Meg was born, darling."

Elena panted shallowly. "I mean it this time."

"Of course you do my love."

Enid entered the bedroom with a stack of clean linens. "Really, Elena," she teased, "you're scaring poor Bryant. He can hear you all the way downstairs. He's beginning to feel guilty about what I'll be going through soon." Enid smoothed her wool gown over her swelling abdomen and smiled.

"Well he should feel guilty," Elena said, gritting her teeth and trying to breathe through the pain. "And you would too, you oaf," she said, addressing her grinning husband, "if you had any feelings whatsoever."

Gareth leaned down and kissed her sweaty brow. "I have more feelings than you know."

The door opened again and a three-year-old boy stuck his head in. "Momma," Cynan's son said, "Papa Bryant just threw up."

Enid rolled her eyes and after ordering her son out of the room, said to Gareth. "You can either stay here and take your wife's abuse, or you can go down there and help my husband get some fresh air."

"What a choice!" Gareth said.

"Make sure," Elena said in between breaths. "Make sure Meg is alright, too."

"As you wish, sweet."

Gareth kissed his wife's forehead again stared at her damp face with worry he refused to voice. Leaving the sunlit room, he went in search of his queasy friend. He found Bryant just outside the front door, sitting outside on an overturned barrel, his head in his hands.

"Don't tell me the man who marched into battle without flinching has been brought to his knees by a woman's labor pains."

Bryant lifted a pale face. "Don't you tell me her pains don't affect you!"

Gareth's grin faded. "Of course they do." Sitting on the stone steps into the keep, Gareth sighed. "I guess I forgot how much pain she went through having Meg. Once the baby is born and all is well, the bad parts just seem to fade."

The two men were silent for several seconds before Bryant spoke. "Gareth, do you think it's alright that I married Enid?"

"What?" Gareth asked. "Of course it's alright. Why would you think otherwise?"

"I sometimes feel guilty about it. As if I had loved Enid even when Cynan was alive and that I just took advantage of his death and her helplessness."

Gareth laughed and then quickly smothered it at his friend's worried expression. "I'm sorry, Bryant, but the thought of Enid helpless is amusing."

"You know what I mean," Bryant said with exasperation.

"I know. But what I also know is that you never thought of Enid as anything more than a friend until last year. And I also know that Cynan would have chosen you above all others to be a father to his son."

"Do you really think so?"

"Yes."

As if embarrassed by the intimacy of their conversation, the two men fell silent for several minutes. Finally, Bryant said, "Thank you."

"You are welcome."

A loud crash behind them was followed by a small child's loud wail. Both men quickly stood and entered the hall. "It's mine," Gareth said when he saw his daughter sitting on the floor in a puddle of honey. The metal pitcher that had held the sticky stuff was overturned at her feet. "Oh Meggy," her father said. Crossing to her, he picked her up under the arms and held her away from him as blobs of honey dripped off of her. "Cleaning you up aught to take all day."

Cynan's young son ran into the main hall to see what all the racket was. Pointing to the sticky mess, he said to his stepfather, "Meg made a mess!"

"Yes she did," Bryant agreed, his mood visibly lightening.

***

That evening, Gareth knocked lightly on the door to his bedchamber and then entered. A bank of candles gave the room a soft golden glow and bathed his wife in their radiance. As he entered, he decided that is was her radiance that lit the room instead. She was propped up on several pillows, her glorious hair spilling over one shoulder as she held their new baby against the other. "Hello my love," he said.

She looked up and smiled. "Come meet your son."

He carefully eased himself onto the bed beside her and curled his arm around her. Pressing a kiss to her sweet-smelling hair, he looked at the tiny sleeping face that was pressed against her breast. "He is beautiful."

"I rather think so," she agreed, smiling at the man who had given her the richest gifts in her life, starting with his love.

Turning his attention back to her, he traced her satiny cheek with his forefinger, relishing its softness. Losing himself in the cinnamon-warmth of her eyes, he said, "Do you still hate me?"

"I never did."

"Do you still love me?"

"I never stopped."