Jenny: Blackberry Ransom

The mizzle was falling softly into their faces as the Guttersnipe went through the gate in the wall after Jason. Gaius, dirtier than usual, had put the boys to good work: a serviceable trough had been scored on the pasture side of the wall, and the village-ward face was halfway completed.

To think, she pondered, that every night the army would pitch a camp and dig trenches the whole way around. Our ancestors must have been like god-men! Which was, she knew, an exaggeration, but she could think of no better way to rationalize it.

"It's getting blowy-wet," Jason called across to Gaius.

The young man stood up and shoved a grimy arm across his forehead, which made his face dirtier; the Guttersnipe thought it made him look handsomer. "A little rain never hurt anyone," he replied, and swung back to work.

Amid the broken clatter of shod hooves they continued on, passing under the shadow of the Long Barn, which looked hideous and unnatural with its roof torn off, beams exposed to the darkening sky. But it was raining, if softly, and that meant wet turf, which meant less for a fire to catch. The tightness in her middle eased just a little.

Jason swung his horse around and raised himself up in the stirrups, calling up to Caleb, "Hallo! Have you seen Druce about?"

Caleb waved in the direction of the cloister.

"Druce?" the Guttersnipe inquired.

Jason chucked up his horse and she surged after him. "He can go on long patrol next, I think. Gaius and Caleb are still busy."

She nodded. It was sensible, as was Druce. He was to Jason as night was to the day, as dark and quiet as Jason was fair and boisterous. But he had always been a pleasant companion for their childhood romps, and she remembered particularly his part as the wild woodsman in holding her captive while Jason and Lucius had to rescue her. He had made a most gallant villain in his makeshift mask with his stick of apple that was his sword. He had threatened dramatically to throw her in the river if Jason and Lucius did not pay the ransom of blackberries, and she had kicked him in the shins.

Jason was saying, "I'll join Gaius at the trench. Best see to the armour."

"Yes, Jason," she said, and left him to ride up the hill toward the villa.


Jenny said...

I snorted at that; I daresay Druce would make a good villain, at least play-acting.

What would the long patrol entail?


Jenny said...

The long patrol is just an extended watch beyond the immediate hills that surround the valley.


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