Jenny: Seeing to the Last Things

Torn between following the Guttersnipe's commands and delivering a message which smelled of importance, the boy hovered on the edge of flight, uncertain. Finally he whirled without a word and ran through the kitchen and garden and down the turf slope to the paddock at the base of the hill. At least he could be sure he would not be getting a whipping for this.

He found the great ones gathered with the horses, all except Lord Artos. The dogs were still making a racket, but to him, the torchlight that was beginning to come out of the lowering shadows, ringstreaking the red cloaks of those gathered, seemed all very beautiful, like pillars of fire.

He darted around big black Cyrus and dug in his heels as he came alongside the Guttersnipe, a fierce and fantastic figure in the midst of the red cloaks. She turned on him and raised her voice to a sharp, worried pitch, but he said, "Hear me out, before you smack me!"

No one else seemed to pay attention, listening to Lord Ambrosius' tones under the barking of the dogs, but the torchlight welled up to a living amber in the Guttersnipe's eyes as she looked back at him. "Go on."

He took a deep breath, fumbled for a moment in his memory, then painstakingly gave her word for word what Aithne had said. There was no change in the amber, but something large and dark which brooded behind it seemed to cup that amber, to shift and harden, and it was that which made her always a little frightening to him, though he had not thought about it until this moment.

"And that was all."

She turned away, the amber flickering out as her face went into shadow; the torchlight fell on her hair and made a reddish nimbus around it. She seemed to be very far away to him just then, quiet, and lonesome, as though she were looking beyond the next hill, and seeing beyond it the mouth of a long dark barrow. He curled his toes in the dust and pursed his lips. He wanted to ask her, as he could not dare to ask Lord Ambrosius, what she saw - if she saw - but there was no breaking that look, not until the sleeper broke to waking again. And presently she did break it, coming back to him with the darkness turned to a brooding softness in her eyes, though the amber still flamed with intensity when she looked into the light. "So Domitia has found her courage in that place where we all must find our courage. Go back to her and stay with her, and thank her for me. And if we never have speech again in this world - as though it matters - thank her for the songs she sang to me, and tell her to put the yellow hawkbit on my grave."


Lilly said...

Nooo! they must live! Especially, Guttersnipe!

Jenny said...

Don't worry. They will.


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