Jenny: Watch Tower

The half-familiar countryside turned into her home-runs as the day progressed. She could see the hill beyond which Lucretia had come from, she could see the familiar rivers and sheep- and horse-pastures; she recognized the road she was on. The wind in her hair was fresh and smelled more and more of apples. She had caught it just that morning, the faintest hint of spice, and her heart had leapt inside her chest. Home! She was nearly there. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she was coming out of the long dark barrow into the sunlight again.

And then, like the soft voice of the slave by a triumphant general, something in the back of her mind knew it was not to last long, that almost at once she would have to turn from the wind-full grass and open light to plunge back down into the dark once more - and God alone knew if she would come out of it this time.

High up in the sky as the blue turned to yellow, she caught a glimpse of a bird of prey on the wing.

They were quiet through that ride. It was fitting, somehow, that their arrival should be as silent as their departure some weeks ago. Master Lucius held his book, but he never opened it. His eyes seemed full wide in his head as he looked about, like a boy; Domitia seemed reserved but no less eager. For herself, while her heart still thumped loudly in her chest, somewhere deep inside there was a calm.

But the calm nearly failed her when they came out of the thicker wood and began to ascend a gravel road which might have once been paved, and through the thinning branches, high above them, nestled in a mantle of neglected green, rose the Beacon, shining pink and gold as the level rays of the late sun touched it, washing away its tinder-age so that it seemed to her a think of always, a thing that, no matter how many times she left, no matter how many times she turned and plunged into the dark and out again, it would be here, waiting for her, standing old and golden over her valley. There was a flicker of silver as the far-away bird soared around its crest, and the colt was clambering up the incline, and she had to watch the road.

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