Jenny: Foreshadows of the Past

Jason and Minna had momentarily fallen silent. Artos, carefully curling back another sheaf of wood, dropped it and looked up with a cool smile. "I was aware that it was fabrication, never fear."

There was a brief lull between them as he and Cathair regarded each other: Artos with no maliciousness on his part, Cathair with an air of boisterous and almost reckless frivolity. But before the Irish bull could continue, his woman Domita entered suddenly. She mocked Cathair much the same way the Guttersnipe could mock, and he thought her very bold to mock Kay a little, too. Kay, not caring much what Domitia said, gave a sharp little "Eh!" of surprise, and looked sidelong and suspicious at Cathair. As much as he liked stories, and stories of things that never happened, he became suddenly cool and dark when he discovered he had been deliberately lied to. Artos glanced over at Bedwyr: the young man had quickly moved out of his muted white pain and watched Cathair with a defensive countenance. If either of them was to take up the fight, it would be Bedwyr, not Kay. But Artos knew them better than Cathair: neither one of them would make a move: it was not worth the effort.

"It is good to hear," he said gently - to Domitia, not to Cathair - "that your people are understanding of these things. Not much word filters to us from beyond the limes."

And it would have ended there. Jason was coming back, and the conversation would have turned. But there was a little figure of periwinkle blue in the atrium doorway, a flash of restless silver, and they all looked up to see the Guttersnipe standing and watching them, a darkness and brooding between her brows that made Kay look tame. Her lips were pressed together, a look that made her seem almost petulant but for the uneasy, glassy smoulder of her eyes.

"You forgot the idealist and his fate," she said, to no one in particular. Though she was looking at Cathair, she seemed to see beyond him, through him. "It is all well and good - all very well and very good - to be a man of virtue, of respect, to know the good things and to do them. But no world stops for such a man, no sea curls back so his feet will not get wet. The idealist does what he can, but the state still falls. They always fall. Everything must come to an end and fall. They wash their hands and wash their hands, but the head still lies on the beach. They burn the letters, they scrub out the names, but the voices still haunt the council chambers. The ghosts are left, but the end of the idealist is always the same. The ghosts are cold comfort. Varus!" she cried, shuddering, eyes suddenly wide in her head. "They didn't have a chance."

The air was crackling with the eeriness of her face and voice, so much so that for a moment Artos did not feel the creeping chill of her words. Champion, who sat on her arm all the while, only turned his head a little and added nothing. The whole scene seemed frozen like a mosaic. He could feel his heart slow and drubbing in his chest.

Jason broke the quiet softly, saying, "Guttersnipe, it is time to come back now."

Artos looked down at a sudden prick of pain and saw a little spot of red on his finger where he had slipped with his knife.

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