Jenny: Acquital

Aithne acquitted herself no less gracefully than she had last night. If she was nervous performing before a larger audience, she did not let it show, and Caleb commended her for that. But under the blanket of her playing he rose, skirted the table - nodding to the soft grunt of hailing from old Hunno as he passed - and slipped in between Druce and the Guttersnipe. With his left hand neighbour occupied with the dirty big dog, he moved on toward the girl, who looked round curiously at his gesture, quizzical.

"Guttersnipe," he whispered, watching Aithne, "what do you know about her? Is she trustworthy?"

A sort of fire sparked in her eyes, and her face grew drawn with a sort of indignation. "Trustworthy?" she whispered back. Jason turned to glance their way. "She's as sour as a sloe-berry before the frost, but she's honest. Why?"

Aithne continued playing prettily, unaware that they were talking about her. All eyes were on her, curious, some veiled with criticism - for Caleb was the only one who played the Harp-song in the Hall, and they were loyal folk - but all were fixed unwaveringly. Only Ambrosius, he thought, must be aware of his conversation with the Guttersnipe, though the man never moved his head.

"Because she is foreign, from Cunorix's land, and she came with you as the word of attack came."

The Guttersnipe was quiet for a moment, her eyes seeming to swallow him up in their largeness as she took in his words. Then she said, very softly and slowly, "But that cannot be, for Wulf bought her from the Wear-side village in the shadow of a Roman villa, and Wulf is not one of them, nor Master Lucius. It is uncanny chance, no more."

So he had to be content with that. The Guttersnipe, for all her faults, knew people as a horse or a dog will know, instinctively, in some wild, deep part of her soul where even she could not see. So he was content, settling on the bench to listen better. He would not tell the boy; best to let him have his fun while he was broken and could do nothing else. Turning his eyes in his head, he caught Ambrosius' gaze for just a moment, and nodded; the man nodded back, and that was all.

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