They fell asleep tangled together sometime before the cold light of dawn, wrapped in little more than the loose fabric of her discarded dress and one another’s arms. Nyannah came awake to the brilliant sun poking like fingers into her eyes, and as she stretched her legs, her bare foot sliding along his calf, she felt delighted and surprised to find him still beside her.
Some part of her, the part still very much afraid he’d break her heart, expected to wake alone there on the riverbank on Mayday, the scent of smoke still clinging to her skin, the sweat of love making her feel delightfully dirty and her lover nowhere to be found.
But he had not gone.
He perched over her, head propped on his elbow and eyes scanning her face. The mussed curls of his hair were like a nest of angry snakes, and she brought her hand up to smooth them, fingers drifting thoughtfully down his cheek to linger as he came in to kiss her.
“I’ve been watching you sleep for hours,” he declared. “In fact, I composed no less than three sonnets about the way the dwindling light of Belleteyn’s fire danced across the gold strands of your hair. Shall I recite them to you?”
“Dandelion,” she whispered across his lips.
“Nyan,” he answered, drawing back to look at her again. “There is something I wish to give you, something I’ve trusted very few people with, and so I hope you know that by giving it to you, it means I’m trusting a very important part of myself to you.”
“What is it, Dandelion?”
“When we are alone, just you and me, when we lay together face to face as the sun comes up, running fingers through each other’s hair and making promises, or when we make love and you find my name rising to your lips in the heat of the moment, I want it to be my name you whisper, not the moniker the world knows me by.”
She squinted at him, tilting her head in curiosity. It wasn’t an impossible thing to learn a bard’s true name; there were records and annals that could be researched if one really must know where he came from. But few bards ever offered it. For one as famous as Dandelion to offer his name was an act of trust unlike any other.
“Nyan,” he paused for dramatic effect, “when I’m in your arms please call me Julian.”
“Julian,” he nodded.
It occurred to her then that he’d already given her that part of himself, before she ever met him there by the light of Belleteyn fires, when he signed the poem he wrote for her. He’d already been prepared to trust her, and she’d doubted him. She felt the fool, but being a fool was part of falling in love, wasn’t it?
“You already know my name, Julian,” she grinned as she said his name. “I’ve nothing else to give you.”
“You’ve given me your heart, even knowing an old man like me should not be trusted with such sacred things.”
“And yet I trust you with it, nonetheless.”
He leaned inward to taste her lips, edging her shoulders back into the grass before coming in above her and making her breathe his name in eager, delighted whimpers that echoed through the morning.
His light in the darkness.
She’d never made love like that in her life. Her body was sore, muscles she never even knew about aching so delightfully she wanted to stretch them like an elegant dancer and then exercise them with him again and again.
Once more spent, he drew back to look at her, grinning as she patted his cheek. The sadness in his eyes was still there, hidden and tangled into that boyish flash of joy. She hadn’t dared to hope a single night together would alleviate the kind of pain he carried inside him, but it did seem less. She wasn’t sure if the morning’s light simply hid it from view, or if some part of him actually felt happy in her arms.
Did she have that power? The power to alleviate a man’s fears and make him feel safe, to light the dark places of his world?
She wanted to give him that comfort.
The possibility made all the heavy parts of her feel lighter, all the dwindling worries she’d still clung to despite swearing to give them up and trust in what he had to offer stripped away.
“You know some part of me,” she began, worried she might upset or offend him by continuing, but then she realized if they were going to change the world together, they would have to start by being honest with each other. He’d given her his name, she would give him her fears to do with as he would. “Some part of me was afraid you would not be here when I woke.”
“What kind of lover would that have made me?” he asked, mocking offense with a daring grin.
“Not a better one,” she said. “Not one I should trust my heart with.”
“And yet, I stayed.” The smugness drawing at the corner of his mouth both surprised and delighted her. “Your heart is safe, just as I promised. Though a better lover might have at least made effort to venture out into the chaos of Mayday morning to find his lady love some breakfast while she slept,” he noted, then leaned back, lowering his bare shoulder to show her a small basket of fruit and cakes propped in the grass behind him, the crushed crown of buttercups she’d worn the night before dangling from the edge of the basket. “Oh ho, what have we here?”
“You did this?”
“I did,” he intoned, rather haughtily and more than just a little pleased with himself.
“A better man, indeed,” she laughed. “And lucky thing. I am starving. I feel as if I haven’t eaten in days.”
“Then let us remedy that minor curse, replenish our energies and show the world how to make love in the light of day.”
They sat on their discarded clothes, naked as their name day, two inspired lovers in the grass on the banks of the River Pontar on the first day of May. They fed each other bites of cake, sang to one another and sighed each other’s names as the sun climbed higher into the sky, and though it seemed they cared for little more than the satisfying of their own carnal desires, the display of their affection went so much deeper than that.
They made love to feel alive, to drive back the darkness and make the world a brighter place, but more than that, they made love for the sake of inspiration, which to a poet was quite possibly the most important thing—perhaps the only thing—worth pursuing in the world.