Jenny: Horseshoe Place

The Guttersnipe took in the bustle of the hall abstractly at first. She was aware of Domitia, brushed and rosy from a scrub, flickering up and down the room as though unable to resist looking for something to do. The unmarried girls were still busy coming and going from the kitchen. The great furry bodies of the dogs sprawled along the central hearth, and the blaze felt like a living warmth on her skin after the remoteness of Artos' quiet chamber.

Things became a little more solid to her as the others joined them, Ambrosius leading them, the grime of work washed off, leaving their rough faces and arms a clean nut-brown. She felt a little glow inside herself, which was better than washing, as the room echoed back their voices, deep and familiar. She had no real idea of what they said, standing as they were in a knot about the head of the table. She was aware of Master Lucius joining them, and being swept into their company - which made her happy - and of Jason turning to see Artos swinging toward them, and how he stood with his hands on his hips, a smile taking his face - and that also made her happy.

After taking them in from a distance, she drifted their way, moving up between Artos' odd, twisted figure and Jason, fitting snugly into their circle. Catching sight of her, Ambrosius said, "There you are. I thought my shadow seemed a little thin today. What have you been busying yourself with?"

She unexpectedly blushed, happy, and Artos saved her the trouble of answering by saying, "She has been seeing to the armour all afternoon. She has greased them through and through so that if one were to grab you in it, you would shoot out of his hands like a fish."

Ambrosius laughed that warm, distant laugh of his, and he took in Jason. "You took the first long patrol this morning. Please report."

And Jason did so, right then and there, suddenly a little straighter than before. "We took the runs up toward Snowdon to get a look from the uplands. All was quiet in the Red Glen and the Three Peaks. The Guttersnipe and I went no farther than half a morning's ride, round by the Judas Tree and up the river to the Rock. We came back by the wood between the northerly two of the Three Peaks and saw no more than a few rabbits and some deer.

"The storm had been gathering since the midmorning, which obscured the view to the east. The glens beyond the Three Peaks were clear until midday, and nothing showed from them. By the time we came back north of the apple orchard and the pasture, the mizzle had set in, and we could not see for a mile and a half."

Ambrosius and Artos were both quiet, thinking; then the former nodded. "Thank you, Jason," he said. Then, gesturing, "I believe it is time to sit down."

So they turned about, breaking up to find their seats. Jason took her hand and helped her in, and she sat swinging her legs a little over the floor, looking round at all their faces as they jostled into their seats and waited for Ambrosius, happy in her horseshoe place.

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