Jenny: Birth

Gwenhywfar had only to touch her once and the Guttersnipe was broad awake, staring up through the mellow light of the lamp at the other's face framed in a golden lustre. It felt cold-early and oppressively dark behind the curtains and shutters. As she sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bed, already belted and booted, she knew instinctively that it was well over an hour before the dawn, that the big and brilliant rooster of the yard would not have even thought to stir out of his nest yet.

"It's time to go," Gwenhywfar said. "I've been to Lucius and Wulf has seen to him. You need but to fetch Domitia and meet in the yard." She straightened from seeing to the strap on the pack. "Are you ready?"

Feeling suddenly cold afraid in her stomach, the Guttersnipe nodded. "Of course," she said, and her voice sounded oddly flat and distant. "No one suspects anything. And we're good riders."

Gwenhywfar gave a soft and hollow laugh. As they met at the door she turned to a chair and took something from it, thrusting it out so that the amber bracelets on her wrists jangled abruptly. "This is for you," she said. "Open it the morning of the day you are to reach home. Take care of yourself, little Guttersnipe."

It was then that the Guttersnipe saw Gwenhywfar was wrapped up in her mantle of fox-fur over her sleeping gown, that her mane of hair was still undone, that she was staying. "No," she choked out. "No, you can't. You mustn't." She shoved at the package and took a stand. "You've got to come, Gwenhywfar. I can't do this on my own."

Gwenhywfar's eyes flamed in her head like her hunting cat. "Yes, you can. You've got to. Do it, Guttersnipe. Take them home before you all run out of time."

The cold fear had turned to sickness in her belly. "Gwenhywfar, please, you're all that I - "

"Do it!" Gwenhywfar said in a voice both husky and thunderous. Thrusting the package back into her hands, she evoked the name of the Merlin. "Artos would tell you to. Now go!"

Somehow the Guttersnipe found herself out in the corridor with her shoulder throbbing and her stomach clenching and unclenching. Her nails were biting into her palms with disbelieving fury. The door behind her had shut - had locked, which made her even angrier - and she was all alone in the lightless hallway. The sound of her breathing was like that of some big creature of the dark places, drumming soft and low in the emptiness around her.

In a moment she reached up and touched her shoulder, and found her fingers come away faintly sticky. Gwenhywfar had pierced her by accident with her own fingernails in her desperation to throw her out. And, somehow, against all reason, that steadied her. She touched her tongue to her dry lips and turned on her heel, hobnails clattering on the flags, and set off for Domitia's room. As she went she flung her pack over her shoulder to hide the scratch, and tucked the package under one arm without thinking about it.

Arriving at Domitia's door, she gave it a sharp few raps.

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