Jenny: Bastard's Birthright

Suddenly the strap on his case needed tightening. Jason frowned, concentrating on it, thinking that he ought to have the strap replaced soon: the leather was growing brindled, dark with age and cracked pale where the surface layers were pulling away. It was now, in the lull, when the emotions swelled and threatened to betray him.

Still working at the knot, he said in a musing, husky tone, "You saw it happen, eh? A fellow sees a lot in a battle - some of it he would rather not remember." He left off the knot, giving it a little jerk to slide behind his back. "But you can't. You'll see them again, their faces, hear their cries. They come back in your dreams - drowning dreams, when you're trying to wake up to keep from drowning in their blood." He shrugged. "There's not much a surgeon can do for things like that... The boy died. He was dead before they brought him in to me."


The Guttersnipe sat bent over, running a finger through the dark steel water, water swirled with brighter silver like Ambrosius' Syrian blade. It was quite cold, and she was not sure she wanted to get in with the wind as chill as it was. She remembered how, as children, she and the boys had stood on the rock and flung each other in. The rock had seemed so much larger in those days. Then they had climbed out and sat in the sun, drying, eating blackberries and trying not to shiver, making fun of those who did. She remembered the day Artos, at their prodding, had gone over the little fall. It, too, had seemed larger in those days. Strange how the world got smaller the older one got.

"I never had a father," she told Domitia after the long awkward quiet. She dipped a toe in and made iron swirls. "Artos neither. And Ambrosius' father died when he was really little." She lifted a shoulder. "The Companions' families died in a Scotti-raid way back before I was born..." The quiet fell between them again, long, cold, filled only with the calling of the redshanks and the fall of water. Then, in a slightly harsher tone, she broke it again. "I'm probably like Artos. Maybe that's why he found me. Maybe that's why Ambrosius got us. Because he's the only father some of us have ever known. Some people are natural fathers, whether they have families or not. And I suppose the fatherless are made to find their way to - "

She stopped, realizing she was rambling senselessly. "I'm sorry for your loss."

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