Jenny: The Villa

The Guttersnipe waited for Jason to fetch his kit, then she fell in step with him as they ascended the slope for the house. The western sky had been quenched to darkness, and there was only the bat's blur of smoke and the flooding of torchlight. The stars seemed very remote. She did not think to look for them.

"How are you feeling?" she asked.

Jason hefted the metal case's strap further up on his shoulder. "Oddly confident," he said presently, "and a bit...empty."

She knew what he meant, though she felt none of it herself. There was that eager craftman's look in his eye, as though he were almost happy to be putting his trade - one of his trades - to work. And not a bad work, that: fixing people, mending living things that breathed beneath one's hand. She wished she had that to look forward to, but all she had was the weight of the knife in her boot and the task Artos had taught her, the task of killing. She could look a man in the face as his chest bloomed with bloom - could she look a man in the face as she struggled to keep the blood in him? Glancing aside at Jason's steady face, she found herself thinking back to those sleepless nights when her Lord Ambrosius lay hanging in the balance between living and dying, how she could not look the thing in the eye and feel anything but terror in her belly.

Jason suddenly returned her look, the thrush-nest crest of his hair shining in the torchlight, and he took her hand comfortingly, smilingly, as though he knew. And he probably did.

They parted in the vestibule. They found the atrium torn apart and put back together, ready for the surgeon's work. "Finely done," Jason was raising his voice above the bustle as the Guttersnipe went to join Domitia, "but get me some braziers and fire them hot. And someone fetch me some clean iron!"

"Someone board off the door in from the solarium! Have you got a knife?" the Guttersnipe asked Domitia.

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