Jenny: Die And Go Down Deep Into the Earth...

Jason slipped the fold of sheet over the sleeping figure; Ambrosius saw his fingers linger in the tumble of her hair, and he thought about the nights when, as a child, she had come pattering lightfoot into his chamber, the moonlight striking off her child tears. Some bad dream, some wrong of the day, had kept her awake, and she had crept to him to sleep in his arms while he kept the bad things at bay. It was moments like those, divided between Artos and the Guttersnipe, that kept him from succumbing to the mindless pitch of war. For Jason it would be easier, whose craft was working with living things. He wondered at times that such a clairvoyant, sensitive child as the Guttersnipe did not totally recoil from hands, hands which had known death-craft since an early age. But horse and child alike, they did not seem to mind.

He was thinking closely of death-craft when he had followed Jason to Artos' room and stood by the still sleeping young man, watching the face. But for the throb of the vein and the slow, shallow heave of the chest, there was no sign that Artos was with them. He was aware of Artos' presence, buffered by an impenetrable wall of heat which was the fever.

Master Lucius, who had left off his reading when they had entered, said, "He has not moved since the Guttersnipe left."

But Ambrosius shook his head. "Let him sleep. Nature knows, sleep is best for a battered body. He will come back to us when he is ready."

He waited for Jason to check Artos over again, then they retired to the atrium together. He was aware that it was time for the morning meal, but he did not feel hungry. He felt hollow, but no trace of hunger or a desire to eat. His attention was caught, however, by a form stretched out houndwise by the new girl's cot. It was an obvious gesture of protection, which intrigued him. Gesturing from Jason to the fellow, he asked, "Who is that? Is that one of Vortimer's men?"

Jason said, "No, sir. He came in with the rest of the motley pack, and seemed to attach himself to Domitia. Since they all come from the same area, it was my suspicion that they knew each other. Someone made a pincushion out of him," he added, smiling wryly. "I let it lie, since Domitia seemed to vouch for him."

"They seem to be doing likewise." Jason gave a small bark of laughter. "Keep an eye on him," he added. "Tell me when he rouses, and teach him how to treat the women if he happens not to know."

Jason sidestepped Lucretia, who came out bearing a bowl of mush. "I think there is little fear of that, sir, but I will keep an eye on him, just the same. Where are you headed?"

"Just down to the river," Ambrosius tossed back.

The autumnal dawn seemed bright and oddly life-giving to him. Strange how autumn always seemed like the renewal of things. The cool wind blew up around him, promising rain later in the day, but edged with soft sunlight. The river flung back the light with all the fierce glory of a dragon's mail.

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