Jenny: Premonition

Gaius dropped his spade in the dirt and looked up the moment Jason did, head craned round for the west. "Did you hear that?" asked Jason, and the other nodded: out of a clear soft blue sky had come a thunder, a thunder that minded them almost of hooves. And yet as one would know a thing in a dream, they knew it was not horses - not exactly. There was no one out there, neither storm nor war-band. There was just that thunder that they could feel - it was more feeling than a sound - and it left an ill feeling in Jason's stomach.

He shivered again.


Ambrosius had been right: beyond the river-valley among the northern hills they had found a hardened band of natives holed up like Spartans to halt their passage. "Smoke them out," the Fox had said, eyes wickedly alight. Artos had nodded, and as his uncle secured the river-valley he and the Fox, with Caleb besides - Kay and Bedwyr had stayed in the valley - had gone up into the ragged, inhospitable hills to rout out the little war-band. There could only be a hundred of them, probably less, but the rocky terrain and thickly-growing scrub made hard going for the horses, and the enemy missiles came flying in fast and thick.

Artos wheeled in the saddle, pointing back down the line. "Light your birds!" he shouted, and a moment later dim flickers of light sprang up from the points of a hundred arrows. "Loose!"

The arrows hissed back into the wood above them, catching loose pine-boughs on fire. With a crackling boom a whole thicket went up. Smoke them out, the Fox had said. An enemy volley replied, and for a few moments they fought ground giving and taking arrows. But Nutmeg was moving up the slope, little by little, and the rest were coming with him. The Fox's cubs were diving in and out of the scrub, using their weapons and fists and even their teeth to gain ground against the half-hidden war-band.

It was when he stood up in the stirrups to get a look ahead that it happened. The man must have been a phenomenal shot - he had only a splinter of time to see the arrow coming, a moment to jerk his leg. Looking back, he knew it would have cost him everything if he had been any slower: out of the thick of the pine-tops came an arrow; it cut down across his double pommel and ripped out a goodly chunk of his left thigh. He felt the strength go out of his leg, felt Meg foundering for his strong hand at the rein. With a savage cry for Gaius he went down, Meg nearly on top of him - crying for Gaius, who was not there, whom he knew was not there.

Gaius, I need you now...


Another coughing fit had come upon him, very violent and sudden, and by the time it stopped Master Lucius was so dizzy and dim-headed that he felt the need to sit down, until he recalled that he was already seated, and he feared slipping off onto the floor. Guttersnipe, where are you? He clutched his head in his hands for a moment, bending over to get the blood flowing again. His extremities tingled with lack of air.

Breathing easily again, Master Lucius surfaced; his vision swam a moment, then he found himself looking back at his notes, his writing starkly black shifting around to form actual words, words he could vaguely remember writing himself. There was a buzzing in his ears for a few moments, and then he realized with a muted sense of surprise that someone was talking to him, and glancing round he found it was Domitia, the pale slave-girl, leaning in the doorway telling him something with an urgent note about the Guttersnipe.

"I am sorry, Domitia." He clenched his temples with thumb and forefinger. "Would you repeat yourself, please?"

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