Jenny: Shivering, Like a Horse That Smells Fire

The Guttersnipe remained very stiff and flushed under Domitia's hand. Only some moments after the girl retracted her hands did the Guttersnipe finally relax. Domitia was right, she owned that: but everything still left a bad taste in her mouth. She kept back under the blankets and stared out unblinkingly on Domitia. If she strained a little the fabric of the room buckled and gave way to a washed-out, moonshot image, the taste of panic, a dark, restless figure laid out on the couch. She shuddered and came back to herself.

"Thank you," she said in blunt Iceni. She reached up and shoved the back of her hand across her forehead. "I am just thinking of things. Don't mind me."


It had come back and sat for the past half hour on his desk, watching him coolly, its unblinking eyes staring through him. After a while he had grown used to its presence and he had turned his back on it, propped on one elbow, reading. His leg hurt worse than usual this morning; it was very cold. He could get nowhere in his reading with a myriad of crowding thoughts clamouring for his attention, so he was glad when he heard footsteps at the door and swung round to find Jason approaching, looking cold.

"Good morning," the young man said cheerfully. Artos glanced over at the cat. Jason seemed to take no notice of it. "How is the leg?"

Artos shook his head. "It feels hot, and it hurts a little. Do I have a fever?"

Having squatted down by the couch, Jason leaned over to press his palm against Artos' temples. He seemed to linger for a long time, lip twisted in his teeth, staring at nothing. The cat's ominous black bulk, too, seemed to deliberate in parodic mimicry. The look on its face, though largely obscured by the fur, seemed oddly familiar.

"No, no fever. It's just a bad day."

Jason cheerily went to work on the leg, and Artos lay rigid under the ritual inspection, watching the cat as it watched him. With Jason's assessment a fear, which until now he had pushed to the back of his mind, sprang to the foreground, huge and horrible. He wanted, desperately, to ask Jason to go fetch his uncle at once, but the words stuck against the pride in his throat - and the fear, too. With great effort he managed to swallow and ask, "Jason - "

The young surgeon looked up, startled by the tone of Artos' voice. "Yes?" he pressed.

But the cat had vanished in the time it took for Artos to blink, and there was nothing to say. He had nothing to tell, nothing to show, and he could only shake his head and turn away. "Nothing, Jason. Keep going."

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