Jenny: Marching Orders

"Faugh!" The Guttersnipe dropped on her knees beside the twitching girl, confused, angrily helpless as the chaos rose to a howling pitch outside. She balled up her fists, wishing a box in the ear would bring the other round. She was aware of Master Lucius hovering above her, half out of his chair with concern. The boy, too, had flown to her side so that Domitia's face, creased as it was in pain, was dark with shadow.

She raised her voice, echoing in the atrium. "Portia! Portia, I am needing you at once!"

Domitia was blinking round when Portia ran into the hall, drawn by the Guttersnipe's tone and the barking of the dogs. "Take Domitia into the kitchen and give her whatever she needs," the leopard-skinned girl ordered, rising. "Boy, stay with her until she is well enough to come out again. Master Lucius - " Her face changed at once to a softer complexion as she turned about on one heel.

"No need," he replied, already gathering up his papers. "I know my marching orders: keep out of everyone's way. I am rather good at it." He cast her a self-deprecating smile.

She found herself frightened for him to the core of her being, weak and small and bird-like as he was, his life like a blossom of the dog-rose, so easily plucked off and swept away by a gust of wind... So that she found herself retorting, "Don't be stupid, Lucius." Then, softer, "Good hunting to you."

He nodded. Touching the boy's shoulder to wish him the same, she pulled her wild gown up about her knees and ran for the vestibule and the last pool of light in the courtyard, scarlet boots dulled to bloody crimson as she ran.

If only it had rained!

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