Jenny: Politics

The face was ghastly. Gwenhywfar sat with demurely inclined head, cold along the groove of her spine, idly plucking at her harpstrings in an attempt to divert her mind from the sight of the man's face. She had got a first horrific sight of it, unable to look away: the left eye was nearly closed, the skin a dark purple, from his temple to his lip ran a gaping, uneven wound which had barely begun to heal. Added to that, the old face, bristling with grey, was caught in a snarling sort of death-mask, and the man's whole aura eminating from where he stood before Vortigern was one of raging black void.

Vortigern was grim. "What of Cunorix?"

Artorius shook his head. His hideous features doubled in revulsion when he moved his face to speak. "They caught him, sir. I can only imagine he must be dead by now."

"And Calidus?"

"Likewise, most probably, sir."

Vortigern folded his chin into his hand, brooding angrily. Gwenhywfar kept her face turned away, glad that Artorius' face was excuse enough not to look their way. "I am failing to see," her father said presently, slowly, "how even the Hawk could have seen this coming. We took especial care of that."

The old man's hands clenched, and when he spoke, he spoke with the tone of one sharing a bitterness, and thrusting a bitterness in another's face. "So? It was your son who betrayed you, Vortigern."

Vortigern brought his hand down on the arm of his chair. "What surprise in that? None of my children possess any paternal respect. Vortimer has chosen his own way, and he will have to suffer the consequences. If he wants a fight, a fight he will have. There are altogether too many Romans on my island - too many! And my own daughter," he added, thrusting an accusing finger Gwenhywfar's way, "is particularly fond of wearing red, as if I were not well aware that red is still the Colour of Ambrosius, after the old way. I am tired of Rome, and Rome is tired. I will contrive to kick her down and see what her loyal little pups have to say then without her fine old walls around them."

Petty little king of a petty little kingdom, thought Gwenhywfar.

"What of their weaknesses?" Vorgitern asked presently. "Were you able to discern any?"

The death-mask grinned derisively. "You are asking a man that who has made that the goal of his life... No. So long as it moves on earth or in heaven, the Hawk and the Merlin see it."

"Then let Hell think of something!" snapped Vortigern. He added thoughtfully, after a pause, "Speaking of which, I am bound for the south country soon. Hengist and I have things to talk about, things to arrange between ourselves - which, hopefully, will mop up some of this mess. I am not looking forward to being so close to Ambrosius, but it cannot be helped. And anyway, Hengist and Horsa will be there. Ambrosius has yet to pitch a full successful battle against them."

"Give him time," snorted Artorius bitterly. "He will find a way."

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