Jenny: A Bird of Paradise

The Guttersnipe started in surprise. "He did what?" she asked, then turned around to the shadows, mind a whirl. Unconsciously she set her hands on her hips and looked at her feet, the way her Lord Ambrosius and Artos did when they were thinking long and hard. She could hear Domitia's sandals scuffle softly on the flags behind her.

Vortigern. Crafty old fox, hateful old fox. In her mind's eye she saw Gwenhywfar like a bird of paradise, flaming bright and beautiful before him, cunning in her coyness, brittle-sharp and swift of wit. Just like her father, and yet so different in so many ways. Here was a chance for him to put her in her place without lifting his own hand, a way of securing a mighty war-band by right of marriage, a way of inciting one man to gambling his life further than he might otherwise. For Gwenhywfar, she considered, a man might do anything. And the man with the girl's eyes in his head, she was certain, would do anything.

And on the other side was the flaming red bird of paradise, who for all the coy glances and soft songs was as much as warrior as the best of them. The great fair man would be getting a tough match in Gwenhywfar, and the Guttersnipe suspected a dire end for him should he succeed. For that would mean all else had failed, and that Gwenhywfar, like herself, would go down fighting. No, Gwenhywfar had nothing to worry about from him. She rubbed the back of her neck and rocked on her heels thoughtfully. The Attacotti was as good as a dead man either way, but invigorated with the promise of a bird of paradise, she feared others would die first.

"Gwenhywfar will be fine," the Guttersnipe said, turning back around to Domitia. "She can handle herself. We have bigger and closer problems at the moment." She sighed heavily. "You had better try to get at least a little sleep. We won't stop tomorrow."

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