Jenny: Pawns

Gwenhywfar vaguely heard her father mention her name to Cunorix, and found herself looking back into those eyes with cool distaste. He, likewise, summed her up, and seemed to like what he saw, which was almost flattering. They went up into the hall, then, Gwenhywfar trailing in the wake of the two great ones, ears alert for their talk. Already the meal was set in a frenzy, and the home-warriors as well as the newcomers were taking their seats. The hall seemed to shake with their noise. She thought it must give Lucius a headache.

She seated herself in her usual place, on the ottoman from over Ocean, worn but still dark red and soft, and she drew her harp into her lap. Cunorix, seated as he was by Vortigern, watched her. Vortigern's talk centred around the journey across the sea and the weather overland, and the Attacotti answered him absentmindedly. Gwenhywfar continued to stroke the strings of her harp gently, ears strained, waiting for the moment when her father's talk would turn into something more substantial. But still he darted about the subject like a fly, and she knew that, for whatever reason she had, he did it for a purpose. Cunorix's face grew increasingly more agitated and cut of from what her father was saying, and finally the foxy man stopped, looked round at her, and said, "Ah! So that's what has your eye," which made Cunorix break out of his thoughts.

She resisted a frown and continued playing. There was still time enough for Vortigern to wreck the whole thing.

"She is very comely, is she not?" asked Vortigern. Cunorix gave a snort and smiled so that with his fangs showing, his dark-rimmed eyes looked more wolfish than before. "But she is a thorn in my side," Vortigern went on with a shake of his head. "She can sing like a goddess and she sings me mad. She taunts me in my own hall - my own flesh and blood!"

"Does she?" Gwenhywfar caught Cunorix's eye and saw he was more impressed with her than ever, which began to irk her greatly. Her fingers began a harsher tune.

Vortigern went on. "She is fanciful. She likes the old heroes and finds great interest into the doings of Ambrosius and his whelp. She gives me no mercy."

And suddenly Gwenhywfar saw that all along the big man had been played by the hands of her foxy little father, that his idle talk had purpose like that of a honed spear in an expert hand. For, without turning his head, Cunorix said, "Truly? What is this world coming to, that children do not respect their parents... Promise her to me, Vortigern, if I make good my end of this deal, and I will see to it that her fancies are turned elsewhere."

She never heard her father wheedle his way into giving her up. Her vision blurred over Cunorix's face and she saw a young man leaning on a stone wall, his face throw back to the northern sky, dark locks moved softly by the wind around cool blue-grey eyes. She felt the panic rise in her breast again for him, leaning as he was as though the wall gave him strength, ignorant of the compounded fury that was rising against him.

Will I ever see him? she asked in despair.

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