Jenny: Firefly-Sparks

By Deva and the horse-country, where the hills tumble in on themselves and the air is crisp and clean. Aloud, the Guttersnipe said, "Home, Domitia. Lord Alan - he was lord to us in the old days - gave my Lord Ambrosius a valley for his horse-breeding, knowing that while it's the rank-and-file that hold the line, what is Mars without a little of Jupiter's lightning? So we breed good horses, and we trade some of them, and that it our business."

She tapped at the colt and brought it up alongside Domitia's mare. "It's quiet in our valley. No one comes up our road now, unless they be the Fox, who is nobody much himself. There used to be a garrison nearby, but that's fallen to tinder; the old Beacon still stands at the head of the valley, but we don't use it. Artos tells stories of how they first came to the valley and found it overgrown and choked with weeds, so that it was a long time before it was made serviceable again. But," she smiled slantwise and twisted one shoulder, "I think the valley is kinder for it, and loving, that my Lord Ambrosius took it out of the tangle it was coming to. But that was all before my time. Now it is home, and we're going back to it."

And presently, as the valley widened and the hills through which they were riding became heaving waves of turf under the trees, she called the halt. Cu began at once to run about with Wulf and pen in the herd. Master Lucius climbed down and saw gamely to his mare before slipping to a rock and pulling out his books. The wood was beginning to be drenched in mothy shadow. Finished with the horses, Wulf struck up a fire and the Guttersnipe, with Domita, began to make the supper.

"Domitia," the Guttersnipe said slowly. She rocked back on her heels at the fire, arms draped across her knees. "Domitia, when we come won't be your home - I realize that. But I don't want you to feel left out when we get there. I know everyone, and you don't know anyone. I'm going to be so busy catching up and being home and everyone will want to hear what happened. If they have heard, they must be frantic with worry, if Champion hasn't told them of me. Which he won't have. It kills that bird to utter one syllable of clear Latin. Only know that you won't be forgotten."

"I will always need you," Master Lucius mused over his book. Looking round at him, the Guttersnipe was not sure he addressed the volume or the slave-girl. He looked up. "After all, I'm losing the Guttersnipe. Thank goodness Domitia is here..." And back he slipped into Euripides.

The Guttersnipe gave a husky laugh through her nose. She rocked on her heels a little and worked with the supper, watching the smoke and firefly-sparks go up among the peeking stars between the branches overhead. And then it struck her full in the chest that the hawthorns were familiar, that the particular yellow of the sky she knew, and the drubbing of her heart was suddenly sickeningly loud in her ears.

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