Jenny: A Soldier

White clouds of air fumed in front of Gaius' face. He was moving fast enough that it blew past him. He ran, bounding, dogging the figure ahead of him. They were across the shallow river and running headlong through the uneven tussocks of sodden soil. The man swerved - Gaius swerved - heading for the almost sheer wall of mountain ahead. With each swing of the other's arms, Gaius could see the knife flickering ominously in the grey Valentian light. On Gaius bounded, clearing the wreckage of someone's last kill: a tumbled carcass of roebuck.

They met at the foot of the hill. Gaius lunged, grabbing at the other's tunic. The man whirled. Gaius narrowly missed being slit in the gut. He leapt away; the man sprang up the hillside, running on all fours. Gaius was after him, yelling he did not know what, forcing himself on. With the incline so severe, he needed both hands to work, grabbing at heather and tearing his palms on gorse, sending pheasants rocketing into the sky around them. Conies sprang upward and ran away as the two ploughed upward, one after the other, the desperation of killing driving them on.

The man stumbled and went down, bouncing back down several feet, crashing into Gaius. The Companion got the man round the neck and together, under the other's momentum, hurtled back down the hillside, clawing down slabs of slate, bruising ribs on the tough tussocks of grass. The knife whirled in the air. Having no time to draw a weapon, Gaius used his fist. They crashed to a halt on a pocket of earth, and over and over Gaius beat the man until he was senseless and the knife limp in the hand. One more time - crack! the neck went out and the head rolled to one side, listless. Gaius yanked the knife out of the hand and shoved it in his belt, panting, gasping painfully for air. The cold air dragging into his lungs burned like fire.

"Aaugh..." He kissed his bruised knuckles, flexing the tingling joins. Then he left the body in the hollow on the hillside and slid back down, landing with a thump in the heather, got up, and ran on.

"Gaius was a soldier - he still is. He is one of Artos' Companions," the Guttersnipe explained. "He was our first surgeon; he taught Jason all he knows. After he took up his posting here, we would keep each other company, both of us feeling rather keenly the being left behind when the others made the spring flighting."

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