Jenny: The Lords of Eryri and Arfon

Master Lucius' pen stilled a moment. The moment lingered, hanging in the balance, the looks between the Lords of Eryri and Arfon and the young man tangible as the heat of the fire beside him. The hate was throat-catching. Young Epona's nostrils flared and the shadows flickered across her brow as her eyes widened a fraction. The hand on the sword-pommel slowly curled in on itself. Only Ambrosius did not change in his appearance. Master Lucius thought perhaps the stormy grey of his eyes grew faintly white, like the sea, but he could not be sure.

The moment broke. Behind Calidus stepped the beautiful warrior with the black wings about his eyes, and after him a handful of other men, all of them warriors but stripped of their weapons, holding in their fists only their sullen pride and hate, which touched Ambrosius and left as much impression as a man's blow leaves upon the rocky cliffs of the shore.

Remembering himself, he picked up his pen again and began to write once more. Fittingly, it was Calidus whom Kay, teeth showing a little with mutual distake, led up before Ambrosius. Master Lucius caught the questioning glance he cast his lord, but Ambrosius, in some way Master Lucius could not see, called Kay off from dropping Calidus to his knees. Kay took a step back, but kept within the younger man's view - kept his knife within the younger man's view - as a quiet and constant reminder.

The scene fixed itself again, like a tapestry, on Master Lucius' vision. The pen slowed. He had heard it all from the Guttersnipe, how six years ago she had bloodied the boy's nose and Artos, in a quiet, seething rage, had sent the boy off cold and alone into the unforgiving world. Why was it, he wondered, that such as Calidus survived? Six years ago. Six full, long, defining years. Calidus survived, dead inside and carrying with him the empty corpse of Rufrius; the Guttersnipe had survived, alive with her own life and the lives of her people and the pulse of her bare feet running on the green turf of her Eryri runs. It was a scene to him at once hideous and beautiful.

Lord Ambrosius said, "You have a thing to say, Calidus, to us after all this time?"

The young man shook his head. His fists clenched, and he took a moment to find his words through the tightness of his chest. He was probably feeling a bit ill, judging from the paleness of his face. "You hold me on trial here - "

"Sir," said Kay.

" - as if I had done any different from yourself, sir." Master Lucius wondered that he did not vomit in his hate. His words tasted of the bile. "You kill in battle, and no one lifts a hand to stop you. I do the same, and you find fit to put me on trial as though I were a criminal. But you are the criminal, and I will not call you sir. You are a cold-blooded murderer, and do not think you will convince me otherwise."

Kay's fingers flexed, but the tall Companion kept his peace with remarkable grace. Master Lucius, along with the rest, looked to Ambrosius. Once more the Lord of Eryri had not moved, and the eyes were as grey as before. "Is it required of me," he asked, "to explain to you what I do and do not do, as though you could understand, and as though light came from your eyes and not darkness?"

"You are a murderer!" said Calidus sharply, his hand flying up to push the word through the air at Ambrosius. "Don't think the gods do not see."

Ambrosius spread his own hand outward above the floor, as though to brush a thing aside. "But I will tell you - not because you deserve to know, and not because it has any bearing on your offense tonight, but because I am honest, and I am no murderer." Calidus quivered a moment, as though he would object, but silence won him out and the two regarded each other a moment before the lord went on. "I know you, Calidus. I knew Rufrius. I could smell you as a sickness among my people and so I drove you out. Your eyes are dark in your head and you cannot see, nor can you understand the words in your ears, but this is why I drove you out: because you are wholly wicked and stink of the stench of wickedness. Do not underestimate me, Calidus. I See and Know more than you think I do, and I am not unright in this. It was not I who killed Rufrius. He killed himself."

Master Lucius caught the glances the Companions gave Ambrosius, though not one of them made a move. He frowned, looking to the Guttersnipe; she did not take her paling eyes off Calidus' face.

"I went to drive him out the day you left, but he would not be moved. In the end his rage took him, and out of simple self-defence I dropped him on his own stone flags when he made to put a knife between my ribs."

"Would that he had," said Calidus venemously.

Ambrosius gave a mirthless smile, which Master Lucius found chilling.

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