Jenny: The Hawk from the Hand

Looking up from heating a piece of iron, nose full of the smell of it, Jason cast a glance across the room to where his girl was methodically going through her basket of sewing articles. He gave a short snort and turned back to Domitia. "Once you have thrown the hawk out of your hand, or slipped the collar from the wolf, there is no bringing it back until it comes back. And she will come back." His face closed with darkness and foreboding. "We are all where she is, anyway..."


Artos locked the balls of his feet in the stirrups, feeling Nutmeg well up with tension beneath him. The fire licked up toward the stars and ate at the turf with the hunger of an evil thing. Thank God there was no wind! Now beyond the fires he could see the movements of warriors, flickering in and out, figures of the flames. The fires spread from end to end of the pasture, a wall of bright leaping death cutting them off from the west. But in him there was a bright, high laughter, the laughter of one ready to toss away his life as though it were nothing, tossing it away for the sake of everything, and looking at his uncle's face, he saw the laughter there too.

They rose as one, the little band of horsemen, cresting the half-stone, half-turf wall, raw as it was and crumbling with uncertain newness; the horses flew like swallows across the ditch and the wall and into the pasture, eyes throwing back the light of the fire, swords throwing back the light of the fire. Hoof-thunder filled the air. The figures of fire and darkness ahead of them flickering into view faster and faster as they ascended the pasture.

Big Cyrus led the way. On the edge of his vision Artos saw the stallion gather, saw his uncle fling up an arm over his face. The fires parted a moment, like a curtain rippling in a breeze, and the black horse went through. Then he was upon the fires and Nutmeg was gathering herself, sweating, reeking with the stuff Jason had rubbed into her hide to keep her from burning. The heat swept into his face, the smoke roared up his nostrils, hammering into the hollow spaces of his head. For a moment he could see nothing but the flames reaching for him, swarming around his head and his mare's body - then he was through, coming down into the cool dark beyond and running, running as the others came through after him like angels of death ripping clear out of another world.

His sword came down, spilling a shining streak of blood into the light of the fire. A body dropped, another was mowed down under Meg's hooves. He looked up and saw a wave of Oversea warriors coming for them down the hillside in the light and shadow.

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