Jenny: Counter Fire

They were mostly foot soldiers, which gave the small band of horsemen some advantage. The lines had wavered for a moment as the Oversea warriors had seen them all fling their horses unwaveringly through the fire: it was not a trick taught beyond the Pale. But then the line had flung itself back at the horsemen and the fronts had crashed and ground together. From the height of his mare, Artos slashed and pounded his way forward, leaving a mangled, uneven pedigree on the flattened turf behind him.

A face showed up out of the confusion. He sometimes caught the faces, just for an instant before he blanked them out, looking up at him with all kinds of expressions: fear, anger, sometimes even a blossom of awe as they realize who was upon them. But this one was different. This one - his sword hung in the balance, poised, stationary. The man stood splayed in the grass, an old and haggard face uplifted to his, and on it was no blossom of awe, perhaps a mingled fear and anger, but chiefly a look that was horribly like seeing his own reflection looking back at him - looking across bearded and hoarfrosted years.

"Strange how the world turns," his uncle had said once.

The recognition unfolded on the other's face; and with it, fear - profound fear that closed itself in a shell of anger for protection. And Artos felt an anger of his own, but it was of a different sort. It was a free and glorious as the crown of yellow gorse caught in a golden sunset, as sharp and as fierce. He raised himself up in the saddle, cut against the raging backdrop of the fires and the dark, and swung forward, digging with his signet ring into the man's face, laying it open to the bone for him to be remembered by.

The man reeled into the dark, out of his vision, and he kicked Nutmeg round, leaving the man where he belonged: in the dark, in the recesses of his mind. But he had little time to think about the meeting. Out of the smoky dark above him came what he took to be a shaft of light at first, then a body of white, and then a Bird was hurtling by on the wing, so close its pinions brushed his sweaty cheek. The air was pierced by its wild hunting call. And then, rising with a mizzle-scented wind, came the drum of hooves and the rolling hoarse thunder of voices. From the direction of the old Beacon a storm seemed to pour, and then up out of the moony dark into the red light burst the first wave of riders, their leader a fantastic young man with the fire in his hair and the hunt in his eye, white teeth flashing as he laughed. The Fox. The Fox! Champion had done his work.

The red-headed young man tore up through the burnt turf and passed him, laughing, tossing a salute across the distance. And with the relief of fresh troops, mounted on the hardy Arfon horses, Artos tossed the laugh and the salute back and plunged in, rejoining the fight.

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