Cynric had previously gone to the stars as payment for curing his beloved from TB. He's come back home at the wrong time.
At the White Hart.Dr. Bridget Heartney blearily scanned the menu at the White Hart. She said to her best friend Madge, “It's been twenty days quarantine. I did my twenty-three days in-country and when I came back, another twenty-three. Damn idiots.”
Madge, a new-age believer, nervously fingered the quartz crystal she wore from a silver chain around her neck and said, “Can't blame them. There's not much hope if you have that virus.”
“That's not true. Not if you aren't half starved before you catch it.”
“Still, they're scared. Afraid they might catch it from you.”
“That's truly daft. I mean it. You have to have body fluid contact. Not like that's going to happen here in Wroughton. Bloody stockbrockers.”
“You never know. Your aura says something's afoot. A big change in your life.”
Bridget ignored her friends superstitious worries and said, “Damn, I missed this bitter in Liberia. Even if it is just Courage.”
“You shouldn't drink that much, Bridge. Not good for you and,” she paused, “Your aura is showing red.”
“Stop it. What aura?” Bridget rather uncertainly, because two pints on an empty stomach is one too many for her, stood. She walked, almost stumbled, to the bar and placed her order. “Another pint of bitter, and a.”
“What, Dr. Bridget?”
She looked up at the barman. He seemed half her age, and she'd given him his school physical when she was newly qualified. “What's good?”
“It's all rubbish.”
“Then the bangers. Bangers, beans and chips. Tha's what lipitor is for, and I missed them.”
The man smiled at her. In exactly the way he'd smile at his mother. “Ta love. You're over at table four, with that crazy woman.”
“Madge isn't crazy. A bit odd, but not crazy.”
“If you say so. On the tab?”
“Why not? Thanks.” Then she walked back to the table with her friend. Miraculously, or perhaps from years of practice, she didn't spill her pint.
Bridget was halfway through her pint, and listening with barely concealed credulity to Madge telling her about the corn dolly's she'd left in Wayland's smithy and the Long barrow at Avebury when it happened.
“Come on Madge, you don't really believe that tripe, do you?”
“Tripe? I'll have you know this is the old religion, the way of the druids. It's you new believers that cause trouble. There were lights last night; didn't you see them? It is the coming of the new age for the old gods.”
“New believers? I don't believe in much of anything. We're just meat. When we die that's it.”
Madge looked at her friend and said in sorrow, “No, Bridge, there's more than that. You know it.”
“Maybe. Can't tell. Where's that damned banger and beans? Missed that in-country, more than you can possibly know.”
She was about to stand up and demand her food when the man came in. Tall, brown-haired, dressed in coarse linen and followed by a bobby, he looked completely lost.
“Is there something to eat? And some ale, mead?”
Bridget looked up, “Sound's Swedish or Danish. Most of them know English.” She stood up and walked to him. “Ale?”He nodded, “Ale and food.”
Bridget nodded to the barman, “Get him a pint, and double that order of bangers. Where's mine, or do you have to kill the pigs first?”
“It's coming Dr. Heartney.”
“Good.” She turned to the bobby who was shadowing the man. “He's just a lost foreigner. Swedish or something like that. I'll look after him.” She looked at the man, “Probably an extra from some remake of Robin Hood, or a similar piece of dreck.”
“Yes, lot's of Swedes in the MSF. Got on well with most of them.”
“Did they carry swords?”“No, didn't need them. Good enough with their fists when it came to it. I'll keep him out of trouble.” Then she turned to the man and said, “This way.”
He seemed to understand and replied, “Fair maid, thank you for your kindness.”
“Whatever. Don't forget your pint.”The man picked up the pint and drained it. “Another.”
“Thirsty much? Get him another, but I'll carry it. And hurry up with that food.”“Yes, Dr. Bridget.”
Bridget thought, “I should never have encouraged them to use my first name,” but she took the pint and led the man to her table.
“This is my good friend Madge. What's your name?”
The man almost understood, so she tried again, slowly. “What, is, your, name?”“I'm called Cynric son of Cedric.”
“Cynric Cedricson. I'm Bridget Heartney, well Dr. Heartney, but you can call me.”“Bridget? Is it really you?” He grabbed her arm. Bridget could not help noticing the strength of his grip and the muscles in his arms.