Jenny: The Fatal Ides

The Guttersnipe pressed her hands to her lips in an attempt to still their shaking. She hated herself for the muted blur of her vision, for the way she shook uncontrollably. But what else could she do, staring at Artos as he lay senseless with the mark of the heel of Ambrosius' palm on his temple?

The Hawk pressed his thumb into his wrist, making a soft cracking noise. "Guttersnipe," he said softly, "there is no one near the door?"

Somehow she moved and looked into the hall. There was no one. Everyone seemed to be at their work, obediently staying away. "There is no one, sir." And, sensing he wanted it so, she shut the door as she stepped back in.

At once Ambrosius changed. He sank down in the chair by Artos' cot and dragged his hands through his hair, letting out a low, shuddering breath, his gaze fixed with a sort of entranced horror on the face of his nephew. The trembling in her hands increased. And his own hand, as he stretched it out presently to brush back the blood-crusted hair from that pale brow, shook as well. "Cub," he murmured. "Cub, what is doing this to you?"

Bloodied up to his elbows and soiled down his front, Jason said, "He has a fever. He has pushed himself too far."

Yet there was something else in Ambrosius' face. He must surely feel the fever-heat under his hand, but she had never seen such a look of boring intensity on his face, as though he were trying to see beyond the next hill, and the next, and the next, with all the fog of their Island between. The air was thick as summer thunder, and she realized she was tasting an evil taste in the back of her mouth.

Ambrosius turned to her and cupped her hands in his own. "Stay with him," he admonished her. "He will need you now, more than ever." And before she could compose herself at the look of his tired and haggard face, he rose and left.

The moment the door shut, Jason flung a glance over his shoulder at it and left the leg to look at the dent in Artos' head. He swore softly under his breath. She flung herself down by the Merlin's head and gazed up into Jason's face. "What is it?" she demanded, voice unsteady. "What is wrong with him?"

Jason shook his head. "The fever - hallucinations - I don't know. But Ambrosius is shaken, and that can't bode well for any of us."

Artos lay quietly between them, still unconscious. Over him, as they rose to work, lay a sense of dread and the breath of a tomb. Whenever she glanced at his face afterward, as they worked, the Guttersnipe thought that just a moment before there was a sort of darkness over his features, which vanished as soon as she looked. The evil taste continued in her mouth.

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