Jenny: Small Things


"Put a post there - there, a little to your right." Jason pointed and called across the flat grassless space at the foot of the villa's hill between the slope and the Long Barn. Cathair obediently raised the stake over his head and plunged it into the ground, then took a step back to begin hammering it in. At his own corner of the yard, Jason put in a stake and pounded likewise - tang! tang! tang! the notes of his hammer rang out in the valley as he smote the metal pole. There was a strong wind in the trees, rushing along the slopes of the hills in the wild dark overhead. In the valley where his stood he felt a gentle but cold and persistent wind on his skin. The cluster of lanterns which they were hanging from the poles spun crazily, casting bat-flickering shadows round their feet. High up in the hills, far to the north, a stag belled angrily; and he could imagine, though he could not hear, the silent uprush of the wolves on the hunt, the leader of the pack flying full-stretched through the flurrying dark for the white flash of the buck's throat, and the rest of them racing wild round as the big creature came down in one last desperate grunting scream.

He drove the last stake home and stood back. The dirt was a pool of tawny light - his eyes were dazzled by the lanterns - and beyond crouched the mysterious panther-dark, a sort of dark that seemed to know what was coming, to know better than he did, and seemed to wait with a quiet, satisfied sort of expectancy, which steadied the knotted feeling in his middle.

He stooped to shove a rock up against the base of the metal pole. A door banged up the hill. He wondered how long it would be before they had all withdrawn into the paws of the dark outside the pool of light and stood watching Ambrosius and the fine Attacotti warrior facing off. Not like the playing wolfish scrapping which the Companions indulged in from time to time: this would be to the death. With a little mirthless jolt of laughter he left the pole and crossed to the nearest tree and fetched up his instrument case, running his hands over the familiar clean length of it. Strange how, he thought, here on the edge of the world where the lines of law so often become blurred, a single man with no thought nor dream to tyranny can become Law himself, fighting for the head of the pack through other wolves and making himself and his into Something among the free people of Britain. What did they have with Rome? Jason sank down to the ground with his back to the tree. Rome would not help them. Rome had her own struggles.

Not that Britain did not have her struggles. Here on the edge of the world, what lived in the roaring dark beyond was seeping in at the cracks faster than they could bail. Out of the west came folk like Cunorix, from the east the stallion-banner of Hengist and his brother Horsa. The proud catskin folk of the north were shifting uneasily, remembering in their dreams how rank on rank of scarlet soldiers came and burnt their heather year after year after year... And if there was a people who could hold a grudge, Jason thought, it was the Briton people. Them, and the Jews, of course - excepting men like Caleb.

He blinked away the painful spangling of light on his vision. He had been staring up into the lantern. Moonshine! It boiled down to Ambrosius and Cunorix, and however history added up, it always boiled down in the end to a handful of men and the small mundane things that they did which made the world turn. It was as simple as that.

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