Jenny: Long Patrol

Jason and the Guttersnipe rode westward for a quarter of an hour before swinging round to the north. The day, so far beautiful, was promising rain later with a gathering of clouds on the horizon. Watching it as they went along, the Guttersnipe thought it fitting.

"Do you think Kay and Bedwyr will get back in time?" she asked. "Or if the Fox's letter will get through in time?"

Jason was silent for a moment. Some rabbits, startled by the horses' footsteps, flew up under them and darted away down an overgrown run. One paused as it leapt the bank, sitting back on its heels to regard them out of large and strangely furious eyes before ducking in behind its fellow and vanishing. Finally he said, "Of Kay and Bedwyr, I have some hope. They know how to drive a herd fast. The Fox - I don't know much about the Fox, but I don't hold out much hope."

She agreed with him on that. She knew the Fox, from a distance, but it was enough to know that he was a wild and undefinable creature; he could be halfway to Constantine's City for all they knew, if he liked. How would they find him in the dark length and breadth of Britain?

He glanced her way. "Are you scared?"

"Yes," she said flatly. Yes, I'm terrified. I want to be sick and if I say another word, I will be.

He said nothing himself, but looking back presently when she could find her countenance again, she saw his face drawn and white as she remembered it being when she had fought Calidus that first time years ago, and she knew he was scared too. And somehow it was easier to bear knowing she was not alone.

In silence they continued on up the hillside as the trees dropped away and the turf was long and folded over like green tabby silk from the wind, and the wind was in their hair and ears and the manes of their horses, and continuous booming all around them so that they felt caught in a surf of sound. They paused a moment, turned their horses about to the edge, and sat looking down, down, down at the faded tumble of hills below.

"It's like this," Jason said in the wind; "standing on the brink of something. They say that - they say that the Eternal City is really going out. Not just getting small, but going out. And one by one we're going out all over the place."

Don't, Jason, she begged him silently. The landscape was starting to blur.

"They say the Tartars are pushing west, forcing the Germanic peoples out of their homes, forcing their way here into Britain. It's a great ripple-effect. The whole world is moving, Guttersnipe. It's written that God determines the bounds of every nation, but it's as though he decided the whole face of the world has come to a time of change. And we can't stop it. Why do we try?"

Because it's right, she thought. Because even when it's as hopeless as this, we're fighting for the greater thing: our freedom, our homes, our families, our light. We're keeping the lights burning, lighting lights as we go. Because it's the right thing to do, and we'll die doing it.

And she knew that as she was despairing thinking it, he was thinking it too, which made it easier to bear. It was why they could all pick up swords and crouch down by a flagging mare, or tie up a gash in a leg. They could stand in the gap against the wind to keep the candle from going out, and they could trim the wick to keep the light flaring high.

He reached across and touched the back of her hand, which was damp where she had pulled it across her eyes, and they turned their horses about and continued on.


Jenny said...

Are they headed in Aithne's direction? I mean, I assume they are, roughly, but do you plan on intercepting her?


Jenny said...

They are beyond Domitia now. I thought Domitia might wander back and see all the goings-on about the place.


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