Jenny: Kin-Slayer

They were beating the heather. Squeals and snorts and the rolling rush of hooves filled the hollow fox-run. Shadows flickered down through the dense cover. Shouts, in Latin and in native dialects, were thrown back and forth among the riders. He hated this, the confinement, the burning scent of the hunt in the back of his throat, the nearly audible pounding his heart. It brought back memories. He remembered a voice, swift and low, half-laughing, saying, "Hush, my Wolves! They will be gone in a moment. Give them the slip, lads!" And he hated that voice, he hated the cover of the heather, he hated the memories. He hated the throbbing pain which had stiffened the side of his face into a gory mask.

"It's ten miles to the nearest girl," someone called up from further down the slope.

"Aiyah! aiyah!" A figure loomed overhead: a horse's head, jerking and champing at the bit. "You would think of that. Ten miles, lads! Easy running. Yah!"

The horse wheeled on its hind-legs, and the ground began to shake with the galloping. A horse flung itself over his patch of heather so close that leaves fluttered down into his eyes. He let out a curse, muffled by the noise of the riders' passing, and shook them out of his face. The thunder echoed long down the run, and he did not dare stir until the only sounds were his breathing and that of his companion, and the high, quiet yelling of a hawk on the wing.

He rolled over and pulled his legs underneath him, crouched on all fours. His companion, dressed in the old style of blue tattoos, had done the same, and the two crouched together under the screen of heather, panting, their heads close together. "Gah," the other said, spitting out the saliva he did not have breath to swallow back. Two hunted things, they sat and got their breath back before thinking further.

Ten miles to the nearest girl. He touched the gash in his face. There was no hope for it. He would have to let it heal on its own. If it did heal, if he could keep it from abcessing, what a lovely gnarled scar he would have. Eying his companion's blunt fingers, he did not want to ask the other to stitch him up. To hell with it all! With it all! The whole thing sat immobile, cold, heavy, and sickening in his belly. He clenched his hands, dragging up two handfuls of dirt as he did so. Ten miles to the nearest girl, and all of the Fox's bloody men in between like hunt-happy dogs on the trail. He could not guarantee they would not both be ripped apart before questions were asked. He almost preferred that.

"Well?" his companion panted in gutteral Latin. "What next?"

He stilled his breathing to think. He could wait. He could lie low close at hand and finish it in the dark. But he could not be sure the Hawk, so like his father, would be ignorant of his presence. He gasped back a string of saliva and swallowed down the bloody burning in his throat. And anyway, Vortigern needed to know.


"We push on," he said, and rose.

1 comment:

Lilly said...

Is Artorius, the man Artos wounded?

Post a Comment