Sir Gwaine raised his weary eyes to gaze blearily at the woods in front of him. The light was beginning to fade as evening approached, but the trees ahead seemed to be less dense, and he wondered if there might be a town or village up ahead. He hoped so. After a couple weeks of solitary questing, he could certainly go for a few tankards of mead, a hot meal that wasn’t a result of foraging in the forest, and a warm, comfortable bed.
The young knight snorted. A comfortable bed. What good was a comfortable bed when your slumber was broken by nightmares? Ever since Morgana’s latest attack on Camelot, during which he’d been captured and tortured for information–which, of course, he hadn’t given–Sir Gwaine had been tormented by hideous nightmares that jarred him awake in the wee hours of the morning, leaving him unable to go back to sleep. Gaius had given him sleeping draughts, but they had had no effect. Oh, of course, they had allowed him to fall asleep almost immediately after taking them, but the nightmares continued every night, leaving him so exhausted he could barely function the next day. Part of the reason he had gone on this quest was to get away from the castle and from Camelot to see if a change of scene would help his situation.
But it had not. Now he was on his way back to Camelot, his quest incomplete, and his sleep still tormented. He had no desire to face the taunts of his companions, no matter how good-natured, about his inability to complete even a simple quest. As his horse made its way out of the woods, he spied what he had hoped to see, a small town just up ahead. He let out a relieved breath, and even his horse perked up as though he knew that rest lay ahead. Sir Gwaine patted the animal’s broad neck and said wearily, “I see it too, Gringolet. We will rest well tonight.” At least you will, he thought darkly.
As he rode slowly into the town, many of the residents eyed him suspiciously, wondering if he came in peace and if he were alone. He nodded amicably, trying to reassure them, but most cowered into doorways or gathered their children close, hoping he would continue on his way. Suddenly a chubby little girl with straggling braids and a dirt-streaked face broke free from her mother’s grasp and ran to Sir Gwaine’s side. She tugged on his boot and then held something up to him and said sweetly, “You thleepy, you need teddy.”
Sir Gwaine smiled and took the thing the little girl offered. He looked at it curiously; it was the strangest thing he had ever seen. It resembled a bear, was made of burlap, and was soft like a pillow. He turned his eyes to the little girl and smiled before saying softly, “Yes, I am quite sleepy.” He held up the teddy and asked, “What is this?”
Just then, the girl’s mother rushed forward to snatch away the teddy and gather her child to her. She apologized to Sir Gwaine and chastised her daughter, “Now, Lydia, a knight of Camelot doesn’t need a teddy to help him sleep. Come away and don’t bother him.” She pulled her protesting daughter away from Sir Gwaine, afraid of offending him.