Jenny: Damson and the Aegean Sea

There was a bird high up in the elms over the river. Spread-eagled on a huge jut of rock, the Guttersnipe lay with one ear cocked for other noises as she replenished their water-skin. Up the bank ranged the herd, kept in constant check by Cu, who had proved a valuable and providential addition to their band. In a patch of sunlight, on another rock that came up like some waking animal's head from the lush green turf, sat Master Lucius, huddled in a mantle of scarlet, an apostolic epistle spread on his knees, a piece of cheese in one hand.

Below her the water churned and tumbled over the rocks, purling round the neck of the skin. In the tiny waves she could occasionally see her face, first sharply angled, then rounded, then broken and wavering with the water's movement. With a cardinal's brilliance her tunic reflected back at her.

She was doing it, she thought. Only once had she felt threatened by a wave of panic, and that she had swallowed down and shoved into the back of her mind by reciting the lessons she had memorized as a girl. Then there had been the one mare who got a stone in her frog, which she had caught just in time before it did lasting damage; and between Domitia's fits and Master Lucius's chronic bouts of coughing, she had been too busy to panic. Wulf, who said little, was an unchanging face; and home - for hope springs eternal - burned bright in her dreams at night.

She relaxed a moment and let the water run over her arm. The road was long, their pace grueling. When he was not riding or reading, Master Lucius was sleeping. She caught expressions of weariness at the corners of Domitia's eyes. She wondered what she must look like, broken up as she was in the reflection of the water. She felt as though she carried them all and the weight of the north on her shoulders, like Odysseus straining at the oar-lock for home, for his own hearth-fire, for his own people, for those who spoke with the same damson-softness as he did, who knew the same songs, ploughed the same fields, looked across the same dark Aegean Sea as the same sun came shouldering up out of the folds of water to greet him at his own doorstep...

Shaking off her thoughts, the Guttersnipe pulled back up and tied off the water-skin. She set it in a limp seal-like lump on the rock beside her and reached for the leather throng that she tied up her hair with. With her reflection red and amber in the water, she leaned forward to tidy herself.

1 comment:

greece_traveller said...

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