Jenny: Behind the Storm-Grey Eyes

Startled, the Guttersnipe could not think of what to say for a moment. Then she swung down out of the tree and landed just as the boy came running up, bewildered.

"Where is she going?" they both demanded of each other fretfully. The Guttersnipe frowned. "That's no way to treat Virgil!"

Clearly divided, the boy asked her, "Do you want me to run after her, or should I stay here with you?"

"Oh, you can go." She forced a smile for him. "I have Frip, and Jason will be up soon. But please, make sure she doesn't do anything foolish." She touched his shoulder and squeezed it, as Artos used to do for her, and gave him a curt nod. He nodded back and bounded off, Cu trotting in his wake.

It was strange how big and quiet they left the orchard. She stood a moment listening to the silence: even the wind had died away. The heat left a shimmer over the tops of the hills. Frip came up, making a little noise in the grass, and propped his head comfortably against her hip, tongue lolling out. She patted his head absentmindedly, but she could not be as comfortable as he. Domitia's words had left her fretful and confused. Give up? Whoever said anything about giving up? "We never give up," she told the dog. She could not imagine doing anything other than what Ambrosius told her: who would dream about not doing what a man who could see beyond the next hill said to do? Surely they might all die - it was more than likely, unless the Lord of glory turned the pending events a sudden and unexpected way. Surely they might all die, but that did not let them off trying. They would fight, and go down fighting, and that would be something.

"Why can't Domitia see that?" she asked Frip. And, feeling suddenly ill, she sat down and pulled her knees up to her chest, hugging them tightly.

Presently there came a distant jingle in the grass, and she put up her head, listening. The valley was so quiet that the jingle came for a while before she saw Jason coming up through the grass to her, ducking in under the branches. "Why, sweetheart!" he murmured, catching sight of her face. "What is the matter?"

She wrinkled up her nose. "It is cramps."

Coming to her side, he sank down in the grass. Frip put his head in his lap. "I am sorry. It is a wretched time to be getting them."

"It is always a wretched time to be getting them," she retorted, attempting levity. But she was failing, and he was seeing that she was failing, so she added, "Haven't you somewhere important to be, something important to be doing?"

He smiled. "But I am somewhere important doing something important. I am here, keeping you from being dark and moody."

It did not make her feel any less ill, or mend the problem of Domitia, whose wick was guttering most fitfully in the airless atmosphere, but it made her feel warm inside to hear him. "I missed you this morning. I got up, and you were already gone."

"I was missing you. It is a long, quiet ride without you chittering away at my elbow."

"You are mocking me."

"I am mocking you." And he folded his arms across his knees, drawing in a deep breath of contentment. "But I am loving you, too. And I think you are minding neither much."

There was the pale stormy sparkle of the moonstone in his eyes as he smiled back at her, so she could presently begin with less heat than she had felt before, "Domitia thinks that it is stupid to be picking apples, when we are so surely bound to die."

The smile vanished from Jason's face. Catching the tenseness of his hands, Frip pulled up his head, whining softly.

"Ambrosius said for us to pick apples today," she went on aimlessly. "And Ambrosius is not stupid." And she began to lose a hold on her coolness.

He took a firm hold of her hand and shook it. "Don't you be working yourself up. Some people face death differently than others."

"But she was not seeing the point," the Guttersnipe protested. "And she was not seeing that sometimes you're not given to see the point. You do it, because he said to, knowing that he knows what he is doing." Her knuckles became white in his hand.

He sighed hard through his nose. "You know that," he told her, "and I know that. We don't have any other life than the shadow of the Hawk's wings. Guttersnipe, I am always having to come behind you and put your thoughts together for you."

She gave a broken laugh and covered her face with her hands. "Can I not box her to get sense into her? No, of course not. She would likely box me back."

Jason got back to his feet and pulled the handkerchief off her hair, ruffling her mane. "Get back to your apple-picking," he told her. "And don't worry: if we all die, you won't have to worry about it. And if we don't, Domitia will see Ambrosius' point."

"I love the way you think," she told him, and let him kiss her forehead before he swung off through the grasses, jingling softly, fading into the woolly silence.

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