Jenny: Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things

"The Guttersnipe," Gwenhywfar answered, drawing her legs beneath her to rise, "will be fine. She has too much to live for to be too badly beaten. Watch her now; I am going to Master Lucius."

Picking up her skirts she went back up through the cowslip turf, entering by the south garden and the poppy-beds. She came upon Master Lucius just as she knew she would: wrapped in his scarlet mantle, hunched like a bird against the wind over his books. His books! She smiled at them fondly. They were like family to him, a haven that he retreated to where he could hammer at problems all his own apart from the turmoil of life. Master Lucius and his books.

He looked up as she entered. "Ah," he murmured. His figures rolled up on themselves as he released them. "You are quick in coming."

"The Guttersnipe is quick in healing," she replied, and stationed herself in the other tessellated chair across the table from him. For a moment they looked at each other in silence. Then she said, "Well!" and Master Lucius nodded.

"Well indeed. I have been pondering it over since earlier this morning. Did the Guttersnipe tell you she met Calidus last night, here, on her way to fetch the new slave-girl?"

Gwenhywfar shook her head. "She told me nothing of the sort. She asked after my playing, nothing more. Nothing out of the ordinary. What did she tell you?"

"She told me that she and Calidus go back to their childhood days. It is my understanding that Calidus so incensed the Guttersnipe that the two had a falling out. That was the last, I understand, that the two saw each other until last night. The Guttersnipe told me that they went at each other at once, by they parted again. What of this morning? Domitia made it sound rather grave."

Gwenhywfar flung up her head, eyes wide. "Surely! They were moments from killing each other. Rather, he was moments from killing her; the Guttersnipe was trying to defend herself. She fought none too badly, but he was beside himself with rage."

"Truly?" Master Lucius frowned and looked away out the window, a little darkness between his brows as he thought. "That was not the atmosphere of last night's visitation. Concerning what was he so outraged?"

"A death." Gwenhywfar spread one hand. "He accused the Guttersnipe of murder."

Master Lucius gave a wry laugh. "I can at once see and not see her as a killer. Who did she kill?"

That was the trouble. Faint and faded at the edges she saw the body on the cobbles again, blood trickling in the grooves of the stones. A body with no head, no face. She could place no name to him nor recognize the courtyard. But instead she asked, "What would make a man like Calidus outraged?"

The other flinched visibly.

"I am sorry. What would make someone like Calidus outraged?"

"I see your point," Master Lucius conceded. He put his head down between his hands and kept it there for a while.

Gwenhywfar moved forward on the chair. "She would not tell me - the Guttersnipe would not," she went on, gesturing with an open hand. "She made it out to be some private matter between herself and Calidus."

Muffled through his hands, Master Lucius said, "It is in my mind that it would be a thing too delicate for her to mention, so she would make it out to be a matter of pride. There is great show of dignity where there is none at all."

Pawns, she thought suddenly. "Pawns. Pawns..."

"I beg your pardon?"

She looked round. "I was thinking to myself that the Guttersnipe is little more than a pawn on our field - what if Calidus were too? Who is the - person - that died... And what does this mean for Calidus? What does this mean for us?"

"It is another snarl in the works. Are you sure of it?"

Grave-faced, Gwenhywfar nodded. "I may mock, but at the end of the day I am just a woman, Lucius. I have no connections, no freedoms to speak of. Why would he hide things from my hearing?"

Master Lucius gave that harsh bark of laughter again. "Because when you sing your songs your eyes light up like a love-sick girl, perhaps. No, I can't think of a reason why..."

"Do you doubt me?" Gwenhywfar challenged.

He raised one hand. "Of course I don't doubt you. I have rare opportunity to test my wit so don't blame me if it stabs you. You open yourself up to that one."

She turned from his frail red image. "You are vexing. We were talking of Calidus and his - I have yet to think of a term. The one died - I know for a fact that Ambrosius and not the Guttersnipe killed him. The Guttersnipe and Calidus fell out and almost killed each other. There is something dark moving, Lucius, and I cannot see it clearly."

He pulled his face out of his hands and looked at her intently. "Can't you?" he asked in a suddenly gentle tone. "Can't you, Gwenhywfar Farsight? I hope to God you see before it is too late."

"I do too, Lucius." It was her turn to clasp her hands over her eyes. A sudden sickness was brewing in her chest. "Oh, I do too."

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