Jenny: Black Lightning

"Would you have done it? Would you have come back to us after six years, something man-grown, and tried to pick up the knife which Rufrius dropped had you never known about his death?"

It was Artos who spoke now, leaning forward a little in his chair to let the light play on his face. He wore a little smile, a smile one could almost call cruel if one did not know him better. He was fiercely handsome, dangerous and rather potent. Master Lucius could easily see what Gwenhywfar saw in him.

"Our little girl beat you last you were here, Calidus. How is it that it came into your mind that would could beat us?"

"I know you." Calidus threw Ambrosius' words at the Lord of Arfon. "Did I not grow up here? Was I not born and raised in this valley, in these hills? Britain sets her clocks by you: when it is time for the kings to go out to war, you go; when autumn closes the ways, it closes the ways up on your heels as you draw back into your valley. I knew that you would be secure in your little villa, all shut off from the world. I knew that I could be a sort of man within the gates, knowing you and your ways - for there are many in Britain who want you as dead as I do. And did I not almost succeed?" He flung up his head, looking round at them all with a fierce little smile on his narrow face. He looked back into steely faces and immutable countenances, but underneath that Master Lucius knew they all felt the closeness of the thing. If it had not been for the Fox, whipping back the tide at the last moment, they would not all be here having this uncomfortable conversation.

But Ambrosius said, "There is a reason that you failed, a reason so fixed that your almost success might as well be a routing defeat."

"And that is?"

"In a little while you might have opportunity to ask."

Revenge. It was rather simple, really, Master Lucius considered, remembering that his pen was dripping on his vellum. While he had to focus on his papers, he could not deny himself a boyish shiver of delight which, even as he chided himself for it, he could not suppress. How he had longed to see someone unnerve Calidus and put him in his place! To have his boyhood hero do so was almost too much to ask for. Revenge.

Ambrosius was speaking again when Master Lucius could look up from his work. "I am disinclined to extend mercy a second time to you, Calidus - "

"I am disinclined to take it."

"Sir," said Kay.

The Hawk's eyebrows lifted. " - but I will do so, because you were misinformed of the manner of Rufrius' death, which made you come back. I will give you a mark by which to remember me, and to remember the defeat you suffered here, so that you will never return - and I will drive you out again."

Rage mixed with fear skirted Calidus' features. Fear, Master Lucius thought, not of being driven back into the harsh, unforgiving world - Calidus could stand that; but fear of having Ambrosius drive him out, to brand him as the enemy of the Hawk and of the Merlin and to be driven out by the hand he so desperately hated. That Calidus feared. It would be a thing which would haunt him like his shadow, laugh at him in his dreams. Ambrosius was removing from him the last claim to a man's dignity and honour he possessed: the freedom of his own name. Artos suddenly started, coming half to a stand in his own chair. The Guttersnipe stepped backward, her hands flying outward as if to ward off something, and faster that Master Lucius could see, Calidus had whirled aside and snatched the knife clean out of Kay's hands. He sprang at Ambrosius.

But the Hawk with the Second Sight must have seen this too, for he was waiting. He was on his feet, shoulders back, a stockwhip uncurling from his fist. It hissed and he let it fly, Jupiter's black lightning cracking the fabric of the tumultuous atmosphere. Calidus gave an angry yelp of pain as the whip closed with the fangs of an adder about his wrist, biting deep and yanking the knife free. Ambrosius released Calidus and let fly again. The whip sang through the air. A spurt of blood from Calidus' ear jerked the young man aside. Kra-kow! The whip barked again and again.

The whip snapped back into Ambrosius' fist. Calidus knelt on the blood-spattered floor, flanks heaving. "Did you truly want to fight me?" asked Ambrosius softly.

The young man spat out blood and turned smouldering eyes on the Hawk. The hate was there, but the fear had gone. They both knew how it would end, and they seemed, in a quieted, sombre sort of way, to welcome it. Calidus reached for the knife. The whip caught him round the neck and yanked the spine until it cracked. With a sharp grunt, Calidus dropped to the floor and lay perfectly still, lifeless.

The vellum was ruined now.

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