Jenny: Blue Eyes

Twilight was encroaching on the valley. The tops of the hills were pricked out in fine gold against a pink sky; the air was soft and dun-coloured, hung with the heavy spice of apples. A dog's bark, high up from the pastures, pulsed across the distance. Children in the native language were laughing and playing at ball in a courtyard somewhere.

It was Jason's favourite time of the day, at his favourite time of year. Time lingered for a moment between one thing and another, in no real place at all, holding its breath as though for wonder. The air was almost tangible to the skin, heavily rosy and spiced as it was. The laughter of the children, distant now as he moved up the hillside away from the villa, was like jewels tumbling out of a hand, and was so beautiful that it hurt way down deep where he could get to soothe the ache.

"She'll come home, Jason..."

He paused a moment near the crest of the saddle to look out toward the Beacon-road, the whole valley sprawling at his feet in a sleepy daze. It was beautiful, so small and remote from the world, so bright and familiar. He thought of her, far away in some strange place, among people who spoke strange things, who had different pasts and different futures, and that deep place ached still more.

Fripp came a welcome bark and broke away from his side. He swung round to see Lord Ambrosius above him, seated in the crotch of a wild apple, looking, as he did, over the valley. He went up after Fripp and stood nearby, wordlessly, while Lord Ambrosius stroked the dog and the two of them looked over the valley. Presently Jason glanced over and saw with a little shock that the hair about the temples had flamed into silver, which he had always remembered as black, that the grey eyes had paled into blue so that looking into them, it gave him an almost uncanny feeling. It comes from looking beyond the next hill, he told himself.

Lord Ambrosius stirred. "How is he?"

Jason snapped back to the present. "He is in less pain now. The leg is still not serviceable, but he is healing quickly."

The other nodded, as though he had known. And then in a little while he asked, still more quietly, "How are you?"

For a moment Jason did not know how to answer, and he knew he did not really know the answer himself. How was he doing, wrestling with Artos' bum leg and the knowledge that the Guttersnipe - his Guttersnipe - was far away in someone else's control? He gave a little groan. "I'm...managing. Work helps. And it will be time for the harvest soon."

"Perhaps," Lord Ambrosius said, and Jason looked round sharply to know what he meant by that. But the other man had that coldly distant look in his eyes, the steely blue eyes, and a darkness in the cleft between his brows. He saw something, and he did not know what he saw; and Jason, tucking his arms around himself, shivered.

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