Jenny: In the Snow

"Despite all, it's as though a shadow has lifted from this place."

Jason dropped the withered branch he had been fingering and glanced up at the red-shrouded girl in the branch beside him. She was swathed in red cloth and white fur, her narrow freckled face peeking out pale at the pale world, a shout of colour against the grey. He tucked his arms in close across his chest and leaned against the trunk of the apple tree. The wind was blowing across the hillside and it was very cold.

"I'm not one to believe in auspices," he said, watching his breath curl and waft away, "but I know what you mean. It's done now, whatever the consequences: it's done." He smiled at her. "It's nice to have that chapter behind us before we start a new one."

The Guttersnipe bunched her cloak tightly shut in her mittened hands. "I am glad that it is snowing. It keeps the world outside."

He bent down and picked up his twig again, leaving a grey gash in the fresh snow at his feet. There was a little red bud on it, which would never turn into a leaf. He ran his numb fingers over it thoughtfully.

"It seemed like it happened ages ago," she said sleepily.

"Well, it did."

"No, I mean last night."


The wind howled, lifting the branches up on end and whirling them from side to side. The Guttersnipe closed in on herself and Jason flung the twig away for good, turning his head from the blast. On the wind, from below them, came the muffled ring of hooves on stone, and when the wind died a little they looked down to see Ambrosius on his black horse riding out alone - even without Champion - for the Beacon road. The solitary figure, ebony and scarlet against the ivory snow, moved down into the cloister wood out of sight and out of hearing. The Guttersnipe slid down off the branch.

"I wonder where he's off to," Jason wondered aloud, stopping to unhitch the girl's cloak from a knot before she tore a hole in it.

"To save the world, I suppose," said the Guttersnipe. "He didn't tell me." Then she hesitated, biting her bottom lip and pursing her brows in concern. "I don't like that he went out alone."

Jason did not like it either, but he took her hand for he was more than ready for a warm breakfast, and pulling her gently, assuring her, "I am sure he knows what he is doing, and he probably isn't going far."

"Are you sure?" she asked plaintively.

"No, but I'm hungry, and I can't put a leash on Ambrosius anymore than you can. Come on, pigeon, I'm hungry."

She came, but he thought she came a little grudingly and with worried backwards glances at the Beacon road as they went into the vestibule. He helped her out of her winter things and gave them back to her to put away, then went with cruelly cold hands to look in on Artos before breakfast has been laid out. But he did not leave the atrium in time to miss the Guttersnipe asking Domitia, in a sharp but still plaintive voice, "Do you know where Ambrosius is gone, and when he will be back?"

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