Jenny: Guided By A Hand I Cannot Hold

Artos dreaded the close of the evening. On the surface was a film of ordinary gaiety, like any other evening; but underneath where no one dared to look was fear, a fear of the unknown, a fear that the mother of their infancy, their childhood nurse, had tucked them into bed and given them the Judas kiss after their long happy play in the sun. He dreaded having to go back inside his room, away from the others, having to watch the dark gathering on his window pane, alone in the quiet, to feel the dull throb of pain in his leg and the nausea in his belly; he dreaded having to go behind the veil of happy company into the long dark. His uncle could feel it, but he could always push those things away to the back of his mind, and keep them there until morning shed its clearer light. He could take one step at a time into dark, trusting to the hand even he could not always feel to support him.

But for Artos, it was a fight. Everything was a fight. "Nah, but let me help you!" he remembered his uncle saying years ago as he struggled to tie his own bootlaces. "You are wanting help - so let me help you!" He could sit quietly, patiently, shoving thoughts back. He was between them, his uncle and the Guttersnipe, where one was perfectly peaceful and the other a raging torrent. He could hold back the torrent, but he could feel it under his hand. They could look into his eyes and see the quiet, but deep inside he was clenching his fists.

One step at a time into the long dark. He got up from the table. The candlelight was mellow on his vision; Gaius' hand was under his arm. One step, not knowing if the next step would slip off the edge into the hellish dark below. One step at a time, trusting the next step would not fail. He walked along the corridor. The Guttersnipe flickered ahead with a candle held high. One step at a time. God knew what the future held. Deep inside he clenched his fists...and slowly uncurled them again.


He turned at the doorway to his bedroom, looking back down the hall. In the wolf-hackled shadows he could see a cat crouching, all but engulfed by the darkness mingling with its black coat. The little bead of white fur at its chest seemed to shine bewitchingly. "Mraww... Shishah graaw!" it spat at him.


He blinked and glanced into Gaius' face, recognizing the look of concern. But he risked a glance back. The cat was gone.

I am going mad, he thought quietly. But then he added, I am going mad. I am losing my mind. Well, the mind of Christ does not perish. I'll take that instead. He let Gaius lead him into his room.

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