Jenny: The Valley

The colt skittering upward on the rough shingle, the sides of the hill soaring up on either hand, and the Beacon towering over all. The sunlight washed in gold and amber and dark emerald waves down the woods. A few more moments and she would be able to see the valley.

Even as she reached the crest and paused, breathless, the whole familiar valley spread drenched in damson-shadow at her feet, Domitia sidled up to her, hoof-falls muffled in the grass that over-grew the road. "Guttersnipe," she heard the other ask, "will you allow me to be your bard? Please, allow me to herald your return."

She could not pull her eyes away from the sight. Peeking out of the wood that was just beginning to be burnished with autumn was the cloister, stocky and stalwart. The road ran down and by it, across the river, and up again to the villa on the far side, like a topaz set in aged filigree copper. The village ranged all over, and the wide spaces of open pasture covered the hillsides above. The wind came to meet her full in the face, heavy with the gathering dew, heavy with the spice of apples, of horses, of hearth-fires. And suddenly she could not have replied to Domitia even if she had wanted to. It all caught her by the throat and she could not speak, knowing in the back of her mind that it was best that way, best that she not speak lest she break the spell of the moment.

Somehow she took her eyes off it for just a moment long enough to straighten the hem of her skirt, and she was riding down the road at last, coming out of the barrow at last, with the silver-winged bird overhead.

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