Lys: Banshee

Aithne awoke with a start. Somewhere in her prayers she had apparently drifted off. "I'm sorry, Christos. I did not mean to sleep..."

The chapel seemed darker than before. She rose and peeked out the door, confirming her suspicions that it was mid-afternoon. The sky was already darkening- winter days were always shorter, and a wind blew up, making her shiver. She was grateful, though. Wind would dry the ground a bit and make it easier to build.

So she pulled her cloak tighter around her head and smiled, leaving the building to make her way to her room and her comb.

"I am not vain, but I will not go back to the villa looking like a banshee."

Jenny: Marigold

A log snapped in the fire, sending out a gusty spray of sparks and a rich scent of burnt wood. The Guttersnipe, who had been staring all this while into the heart of it, having finished her breakfast, came out of her reverie with a little jolt. She could not remember what she had been thinking about, or why she had lapsed into quiet while Artos and Jason talked to each other beside her. The Bird was perched on the back of her chair; his feathers stroked the nape of her neck in a very real and annoying way. She reached up hastily to brush the feeling away.

She took a look round the atrium. It was only the three of them seated at the table with Champion, and old Minna rocking on a low three-legged stool in the coldest corner of the room, humming to herself, sweet native words murmuring out through her crooked teeth. She had a wooden hoop in her hands, and she was weaved brightly coloured cloth in patterns in the middle of it. There was a very deep, vibrant green amongst the other colours, and it made her think of Master Lucius.

The Guttersnipe turned back to the two men at the table. "Has Master Lucius eaten?" she asked, ignorant of cutting in on their talk.

Artos stopped midsentence and frowned. "His man Wulf came through, but I didn't see him with any food."

"I'd better take him something."

She got up, and Jason, with an indescribable little gesture, offering no excuse, rose and came with her. Behind them, she heard Artos throw another log on the fire. The corridors were very cold to her shoulders; she wrapped her mantle close as she walked through the dimly pale-lit hallways. Master Lucius' door was, as always, wide open, and she could see him through the doorway bundled up on his couch, heavily feathered in papers. He seemed to be in deep and worried concentration. The Guttersnipe hesitated at the door.

In a moment Master Lucius looked up, faintly startled. When he noticed the food in her hands, he smiled. "I seem to need a lot of looking after, don't I?"

"A little and a little," purred the Guttersnipe. She crossed the room and set the food down by his elbow.

Master Lucius hardly gave the food a glance. He swept a handful of papers up into one fist. "Guttersnipe, there seems to be a discrepancy..." His gaze was suddenly coy. "I had always assumed that Lord Ambrosius had always been a member of the Council, but now I realize he was not. What precipitated his advancement, and what allowed him to enter the Council before he was a member?"

She was taken faintly aback by his questions. She had never asked Ambrosius herself - she had never known it. The Council, a shapeless, formless idea of shadowy figures on the very edge of her world, did not concern her. She thought it should, now it posed a threat to them, but when her mind turned to it, it was almost entirely obscured in an upward rush of hot fury. She touched her tongue to her dry lips. "I really don't know. I never asked, and he never told." She looked to Jason, but he, too, had nothing to add. "Why, is there something very missing?"

"Oh, well, I can get on," said Master Lucius, recoiling instantly behind his battery of papers. "I'll just put it down on my growing list of things to ask him when I see him again."

The two of them dropped into silence. The Greek was busy looking over his work, and the Guttersnipe retreated within herself in the hopes that her fears would not come pressing up close again like some jungle panther, purring an eerie low death-tune in her ear. She took a deep breath and willfully crushed down what was almost an involuntary shudder.

Breaking the quiet, Jason asked, "Your book of herbs, sir - do you mind if I borrow it?"

Master Lucius looked up, blinking owlishly. "No, I don't mind in the least. Watch the middle leaves - they fall out."

A shock of yellow papers slid in exemplary fashion onto the floor at the Guttersnipe's feet. A charcoal sketch of marsh marigold, one of Britain's fiercest little plants, looked up at her. She swallowed, composed herself, and reached down to pick it up.

Lys: A Miracle Granted

Aithne had spent the day in the chapel, praying, thinking, even sleeping a little. It was cold, yes, but not terribly so. Aithne thought there might be some semblance of a hypocaust, or else the many candles were giving off more heat than usual. Or perhaps it was simply that focusing her mind on God made the cold seem less intimidating.

Cathair had brought her food once or twice, and when he did she felt for a moment like a homeless waif, hiding lest she be discovered and tossed out. But sitting and eating with him quickly took that feeling away. Aithne could not remember the last time the two of them had had a quiet meal together. It felt homey and comfortable, even on a cold bench in a sparsely-furnished church. In truth, they'd not spent all that much time together at all of late. They saw each other at mealtimes and in the evenings in the atrium, but even then one or the other would have some task that kept them from spending the amount of time they would've liked.

And so she cherished the meals. Right now, she knew, he was working on their house, ignoring the intermittent snow showers. She wanted to help him, but with the remnants of yesterday's chill still hanging about her, he would have none of it.

"Father-God, show us some way to have this house built quickly. I don't mean to complain, but my room is very cold, and, well, Cathair is very warm. I am wanting a warm fire and my husband, Lord. I'm trying to be patient, but it is getting colder..." She trailed off into silent, wordless prayer after that, begging God for a miracle.


Cathair was working on the house. He had begun, and he would finish. And he would finish as soon as possible. But an idea had come to him- one that he thought would make the house better, but would also mean almost double the work. "How am I ever going to finish this?"

He looked at what he had built so far, and was pleased to see it was coming along more quickly than he expected, even if it was slower than he'd hoped. Then he thought of the purse of coins sitting with his belongings. Coins he did not much need.

Setting his work aside, he made his way back to the barn, fetched the pouch, and walked towards the village. It wasn't long before he found a few of the boys, playing games along the roadside. He did not recognize the game, but there was a ball involved. Is there a boy's game that does not involve a ball or sticks? He hailed them as he came closer. Some of them were nearly old enough to be doing a man's share of work, but not quite. The kind of boys who wish they were. "Is it a good game you play?" A few of the boys nodded. Some gawked, the others tried not to gawk. Cathair knew they all knew who he was- the lone barbarian who was granted grace by Lord Ambrosius, even though his arrow killed one who was most likely a playfellow. Their parents had forgiven him. He hoped they had, as well.

"I came to offer a job to those who would take it." he said. "I cannot pay you in much that is immediately useful- no extra knives, for example. But I do have good gold coins to give, if you wish them."

One of the younger boys giggled, and Cathair wondered if he'd mispronounced something. He pulled a coin from the pouch and held it up. "One each for anyone who wants to help me build a house- such a house as this valley has not seen- and three for the one who does the most work. Good, solid work, mind. No rushing through to win the prize."

The boys considered his offer. They weren't the type to go chasing after shiny things, it seemed. At length, though, four of them agreed, though Cathair was sure the light in their eyes was that of competition- not a wish for the prize so much as the right to it. And perhaps a bit of adventure tossed in. After all, they were to build something that hadn't been seen here before, and that was something not lightly refused.

So Cathair returned to the building with four boys of about thirteen years of age in tow, and thought it a small price to pay for the help and companionship. For in truth, he found himself enjoying their company. It had been many years since he'd seen the world through young eyes- it was refreshing to listen to their tales of the adventures they would one day have, and the adventures they had already had in this very valley. And somewhere along the line, Aithne's words came back to him, "Right now it is a dream, a beautiful dream which, when we awake will turn out to be reality." and he saw himself many years from now, working side-by-side with his own sons. Someday it would be so, and because of these boys now, that someday would come sooner. He smiled and went back to listening to the stories of the valley as they worked.

Jenny: Broom In the Mist

It had been in the midst of May when the chilly weather finally broke up and began to look like spring with warm winds and days of sunshine. Venta had welcomed Ambrosius with a great golden burst of a day, like a primrose opening up and tossing its head. He remembered the anxiety he had felt way down in the pit of his stomach where the primrose saffron could not touch, and the day of the Council had been more accurate to his feelings: a blurred silver morning, quiet with a little cool air and, at odd moments, a sudden howl of wind off the grey South Downs and the river running at the foot of the township looking very bleak under a flat steely sky. There had been light everywhere chasing the shadows, very white light that gave the boy no comfort; the only spot of colour there had been in that bleak raw morning had been a tangle of broom among the heavily-misted hedges growing down near the Callevaward road. He remembered the broom vividly, for it had seemed to call out across the distance to him, a warning of the wild to the wild - but he had had to turn in behind Lord Alan and take his silent and respectful place among the Council Members.

He had been very anxious. Lord Alan had impressed upon him both the unprecedented nature of an in-term war-lord entering the Council, but also how unheard of it was for a boy to attend. "Be respectful," he had said, about the Council in general, and, about Vitalinus, "but not too respectful." He had smiled wanly at the time, and he smiled wanly now, ducking as Cyrus passed under a low-hanging branch and jostled loose snow down his back. In retrospect, he wondered if a bit more respect might have changed anything. Somewhere in the conversation with Vitalinus in the Council quadrangle, with that great white sky shining overhead, he had ceased to be respectful as a boy to an elder, and the firm, bleak war-lord had come out. Would it have done any good to coax Vitalinus instead of prod?

Ambrosius should his head absentmindedly. It would not have done any good. Vitalinus had never liked anything to do with Rome, and the boy who had stood across from him that raw morning had been very Roman.

"Rome has taught us government. Rome has taught us law. Her armies were unconquerable at the height of her glory-days. We have all the teaching we need to help Britain stand alone, sir. We don't need Saxon mercenaries."

Vitalinus had shot him down like a partridge ousted from the hayfield. His biting words against Rome, steering dangerously close to Ambrosius' own pedigree, stung to this day. He recalled taking a physical step back as the man had darkened in a rage, and he had known it was no use: Britain would have her Saxon mercenaries. He could not quite remember how he had ended the conversation. He might have saluted (in a twist of spite) in the ancient fashion of the Roman military, and stalked off to find Lord Alan; he might have stood in sullen quiet until Vitalinus broke off and went away. But whichever it was, he recalled most clearly the blur of inside darkness of the Council chamber and, in an eerie, pale-lit sort of way, Vitalinus' narrow, red-furred face looking across at him in hate.

What had he said to Alan? "What makes the Overking hate Rome so?" "God knows! Oh, only God knows. Vitalinus is not overcaring of the things he loves, either. He is a man born to hate, that one. A great man, a man with fire in his veins, but a hating one through and through."

Ambrosius had remembered that, he had remembered all throughout Vitalinus' ruling days, watched the hatred and suspicion grow, watched the power grow, until defeat and disgrace had finally caught up with him, and has a young man he had watched Vitalinus go, with the mantle of power suddenly fallen to him from the older man's shoulders, Britain in his grasp. There had been one last parting look between them, exchanged at a distance and only in the space it takes to blink: yet for days afterward Ambrosius had slept with his knife in his fist and had taken care that there was no poison in his food.

A hating one through and through.

Vitalinus had become even more desperate than Ambrosius had presumed, or age, that must sure of defeats, was catching him up too. Either he was gambling in a way too cunning for even the Hawk to see, or he was being foolish: a pact with the growing Saxon tribes of the Cantii territory would only turn the tables on him and make him even more humiliated than ever. They had grown too strong for the leash he had put on them. And he could not even trust his skin to them to be held for ransom, for no one of power in Britain would want to save him from a Saxon's blade.

Or was that a truth? Ambrosius looked up the surrounding snow-covered hillsides. Cyrus' breath and his own fogged in the air. Apart from the crunch of snow underfoot, the only other sound was the squeak of leather; not even a stream rattled noisily in a bed nearby. No, of course that was not a truth. He knew, despite all else, that without blinking an eye he would save Vitalinus' neck from a breaking. The only thing that kept it bitter in his mouth was the knowledge that Vitalinus would not reach out a hand to stir up gratitude in his heart: that man's fire was stone-cold dead.

At length the Beacon, looking very bare in its nest of empty trees, came into sight among the hills, and Ambrosius, without really thinking about it, struck up a soft whistling through his teeth as he rode along: it was Domitia's tune.

Lys: Sehnsucht

"Well I remember their mercy. It was only last night I watched my brothers in arms be executed. Their mercy towards me is not quickly forgotten, I assure you."

The sound of quick hoofbeats came up behind them just then, and Cathair turned to see, of all things, Aithne flying past on her pony. "What in the name of-?" Cathair turned back to the men. "Excuse me. It seems I have a hunt on my hands." With that short parting he turned and jogged down to the stable and his own pony. It was not long after that he was on his way back up the hill on Aithne's trail.


Aithne had seen Cathair speaking to the brothers, but it was something on the sidelines of her mind, held only for the time it took to observe. Also on the edge of her mind was the Guttersnipe's comment about the woods being dangerous, but she did not care. And if she did meet Gauls, she spoke the Gael, did not look like a Roman, and knew the names of their superiors. They may let her pass.

She thought she heard faint hoofbeats behind her. Was it Cathair, or someone else? Up ahead she saw the crest of the hill. She spurred Solas on, not willing to be stopped or dissuaded by the other rider.

She gained the crest and reined the pony in. From here she could see far- to the valley beyond their own, then the forest, and more land... She sat and looked, seeing and not seeing.


Cathair caught up with her at the crest, where she sat staring out at the world. He had no idea what she might be thinking, or why she'd come here, so he simply sat astride his pony, as silent as she, as the minutes went by...

"I want to go home, Cathair." The tone of her voice twisted his heart. "I thought the valley was my new home- I thought I could be happy here. I thought I was content with Eire having passed me by. But I'm not. I miss it. I thought maybe, if I could come up here, that I might be able to see it, at least. That I might have at least a glimpse... something to assure me it's there, even if I can't go to it." She turned her head to look at him, and there were tears in her eyes. "I knew I couldn't, but I hoped..."

Dismounting his horse, he pulled Aithne down and into his arms. "I know... I know..." he murmured. "It is hard. But we are here for a reason, Aithne. Like the story you liked so much- about the queen who saved her people..."

"Esther." she sniffed.

"Yes, Esther. We might not know it all, but we have to trust that the One God knows the way."

He could feel her smile, just a little, and she tightened her arms for a moment. "You sound like a bard, Cathair."

"Well, I've lived around them long enough. I think I have the right to." He held her awhile longer before asking, "Ready to go back yet?"

She shook her head no. "Not yet, please?"

He chuckled. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm about ready to freeze in this wind. There are warmer places to hole up, if that's what you're after."

Pulling back, she wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "Oh, I'm sorry. Let's go, then." Cathair thought she looked somewhat hollow as she mounted Solas, but said nothing. The two made their way back down the hill, going slowly this time. He would have to talk to her before they returned to the villa, but for now they rode in silence.

Jenny: Changing Lead

"Well, I can see that." Kay pause and squinted against the sharp, watered winter sun, craning his neck back to look at the tops of the surrounding hills. "It's not like we'll throw you off a rock or anything... Ease and friendliness toward foreigners, I fear, comes slow to us these days," he went on, bringing his gaze back to Cathair. "Everyone Out There who wants to get In Here probably wants to kill us and roast our own chickens over our own fires, so we tend to be a little rough around the edges when it comes to strangers and strange ways. As for Artos, he's a hard man to know, and he doesn't make it easy to be known. I know he understands your people, and his reply was deliberate." Kay shrugged. "He has undoubtedly put it from his mind now."

Bedwyr, who thought more slowly than Kay did, and said less, took a deep breath, hesitated, then finally added, "You're not in Erin, Cathair. You're in Britain, Britain which is scrabbling for all it is worth not to get pulled under in the vacuum Rome's desertion has made. If Artos - and Lord Ambrosius - ever seem harsh or...or rude to you, take into account the weight on their shoulders, and in their severity remember their mercy. You are running with us now. You are going to have to teach your horse to change its lead." He made a small smile.

Lys: Offense

Who or what Terence was, Cathair did not know, but he gathered that he was forgiven. He cracked a wry smile. "You certainly do well at the drama, yourself, walking out as though plotting someone's demise..." It came together in his mind as he said it. They had not taken offense for themselves, but for their lord. "Don't mind Aithne. She had no idea she was being offensive until Lord Artos ignored her. I am not sure if she yet knows it fully." He paused a moment before continuing.

"Aithne is accustomed to having her questions answered fully and thoroughly. If Lord Artos had been one of our clansman, it would have been he who was rude. To deny someone understanding of a matter, especially a bard, is equivalent to spitting in the person's face, or worse. So to her mind, it is Lord Artos who has made the offense." He sighed. "She is trying hard, even if it may not seem like it." We both are. "It is a different way of living. God willing, she will get the hang of it soon." He gave another wry smile.


Aithne sat in the solarium only a few moments longer. The tension did not dissipate, and she felt the need for a different outlet. She strode purposefully from the room, to the garden, and from there to the stable-yard. She could not ride Concordia without first gaining permission, but Cathair had managed to retrieve his pony, and had found another for her amongst the riderless. She found Solas easily, and began preparing for a ride, all the while speaking to the horse in her own Gael. It felt good on her tongue, and between that and the horse's presence, she found the tension easing.

Jenny: The Comic In White

Kay lifted his hand and squinted against the few slow flurries that were still hanging in the air. Bedwyr, arms tucked close under his cloak, stood by mutely, gazing up the pasture with him. Everything looked refreshingly lively under a coat of snow. The grass had straggled up in places, just enough to make the pasture look unbearably grim and dead in winter's closing grip. He dropped his hand and put both on his hips, smiling crookedly. "Everything looks better in white," he observed.

Bedwyr shivered in silence a moment longer before replying, "It reminds me of a tomb, in a hopeful sort of way."

A wind blew a black speckling of dried apple leaves across the empty white landscape. It was very true, he reflected. They had killed the poor field, and under a slab of snow it would wait until spring to come to life again. Why could death not always be so serene and beautiful?

"Uh oh," his brother murmured, and he swung round to see the Erinman come striding up in their footsteps, bent unavoidably for them. "Here comes trouble. I'm still working on my right hook."

Kay snorted and shoved his cold hands down inside his belt. "I doubt he'll cause trouble," he said, feeling optimistic. "And if he does, we can ride him back down the hill as a sled. I'm sure he won't mind." Bedwyr quirked his first sincere smile. He kicked a bit of snow as Kay bent down to scoop up a handful, crunching in its bare palms. It was cold and powdery. "Snow in November," he grunted, squeezing hard, "and it's rotten powdery. Look at that." He flung it at Bedwyr, who jerked aside as it puffed over his shoulder. "That's not even a proper snowball."

"I can't even make a snowball." Bedwyr stooped and tried crushing snow in one fist. Failing, he reached into Kay's face to rub it in. Kay protested that he had two hands to freeze when Bedwyr only had one. They broke off and shook the snow from their cloaks and faces as a knife-edged wind blew between them and Cathair...and then Cathair had walked up to them and they stood a little warily, but interestedly, to hear what he had to say.

Kay, putting aside Domitia's rudeness, cut a smile across his face when Cathair finished and clapped the fellow on the shoulder. "You should go into the theatre!" he said. "You've got the drama down well. I suggest Terence."

Bedwyr said, "You didn't like Terence..."

Lys: Difficulties

Aithne's insides churned. She hated being completely ignored in her search for knowledge, but the fact that the Guttersnipe was smiling made it all but impossible to interrupt- she didn't dare put that smile in jeopardy.

The tension proved too great. She would learn her answer. It might take awhile, but it had been nagging in the back of her mind long enough that she could not leave it be anymore. Meanwhile, she took the only route she could to ensure the Guttersnipe's happiness.

She stood, and with a quiet, "Please excuse me," she left the atrium. Behind her she could hear the footsteps of Cathair and Cu following. Once away, she turned back to him. "Oh Cathair, we needn't both leave. They will think us rude. Please, I'm fine, I just need some time to myself."

But he held up a hand. "I know that. I am on a different mission." He gave her a small smile and kissed her forehead. "Do not take it too hard. Remember that we come from a world where it is all but law to answer questions- especially the questions of a bard. They have no such law. For them, as you have told me before, if there is a law it is to keep to one's self. You are a bard, Aithne- at heart if nothing else. You'll find your answers eventually."
He pressed her hand and set off in search of she knew not what. She watched him awhile, then turned aside and made her way through the now-dead garden, into the solarium. It would be warm there, and she did not think she would be bothered by anyone other than Master Lucius, whom she would not mind, if he didn't.

Cathair's words did comfort her. There were other ways to learn her answers, after all. Perhaps Gaius, who was a priest, would be able to help her understand. Or Master Lucius, who was a foreigner from the other side of the sea, and therefore would have an objective view of both sides. A mild oath passed her lips and she kicked a cushion someone had left on the floor, then plopped down on it. Yes, she was being petty. But being denied knowledge... they may as well deny her food.


Cathair cast about a bit before following the path most likely to lead him the right way. And he was right. The brothers were in the upper pasture- a good ways from the villa, for such a short time. He approached slowly and obviously, to give them time to notice his presence rather than just jogging up and invading their space. It would be hard for him to say what needed saying- even though he meant it with all his heart, it was hard for someone such as he to be humble...

He hailed them when they noticed him, and a little later he arrived. "I want to apologize for my words and actions. I should not have treated you so- it was not that long ago that we were enemies. You are companions to Lord Artos and Lord Ambrosius, and I am a foreigner among you. If you would allow me, I would like to make restitution for my actions in whatever way seems best to you."

Jenny: The Little Wooden Horse

Artos gestured to the little horse. "What do you think of it?" he asked in Iceni.

The Guttersnipe, flushing, held it cupped in her hands. "It is adorable. I wish I could carve." Her forefinger touched the dished profile. "You have made an arab - like Pharaoh!"

"You never miss a trick, do you?" He leaned over and rubbed a finger along the hindquarters. "I can lift the tail a little, if that would suit you more..."

"No, no! It's perfect just how it is." She drew it closer, cradling it like a bird. He wondered, what did she see in such a simple shape of wood that drew out the colour in her cheeks and flashed the light from eye to eye? What made that impulsive face of hers twitch into a smile, sparked by a lifeless image? She held it close like a living thing, and he was sure that in some deep part of her, she thought it was a living thing. Was it himself, he wondered, or a life unique in itself? He looked up over her head and saw Jason on the far side of her watching as well, his face, which was never much closed, suddenly opened wide in tenderness. The young man reached out and turned the horse in the Guttersnipe's hands: as though it were a drop of delight in a cup already full, a tiny laugh spilled out of the girl into Jason's palm. He pushed her hair back and kissed her ear, and she tossed back her mane, biting back a string of laughter.

She laughed, and weak yellow beam of sunlight wrung itself through a high window into the atrium.

Lys: Seek And Ye Shall Find

"Not at all, sir." She found herself continuing. "I do not equate it with the divine, necessarily. But was, before now, my understanding that those who did not believe the scriptual passages refering to such things had never experienced anything out of the ordinary themselves. You, on the other hand, have experinced such things as many only dream of. That is what I do not understand. I do not mean to be rude, but I am ignorant as to why such a man as yourself would have such trouble believing something that is plainly put forth in God's Word?"

She sighed. "Forgive me if I offend. But I do not understand, and when I encounter something I do not understand, I seek out the answer, to the best of my ability."

The brothers had left, and she did not like the general air about the place at the moment, but she had set her hand to the plow, and she would finish the field.

Jenny: The Man in the Land of Summer

There was a moment's startled silence. Everyone, including Cathair, was staring at Domitia. Artos carefully moved the little wooden horse out from the range of his elbow before turning to the girl. He had passed only a few words with her in the entirety of her stay at his villa. Looking back at the foreign girl now, he could think of only two women in the world that he particularly cared a denarius for, one of whom was only a smudge of moonshine on his memory, the other was his sister. And he found himself caring so very little, that he almost let it go unanswered. But in the silence Kay scraped his chair back, picking up his drink and saying, very clearly and quietly, "I am not hungry. Excuse me." He nodded to Artos and strode off. After another moment's pause, Bedwyr made a philosophical gesture and he, too, went out.

After that he had to address Domitia. He cocked his forearm on the back of his chair and twisted himself round to face her, wincing a little as his leg protested. "You are dangerously close to equating what we do with the divine, which is even worse than equating what we do with the demonic. We want neither. When you have come to understand your philosophical anthropology as well as your theology, you will not need to ask me this.

"Guttersnipe," he added, carefully turning back around and picking up the wooden horse. "I made this for you."

Lys: A Scrap In Her Teeth

Aithne looked up when she heard the Guttersnipe's footsteps coming their way, and her eyes caught Lord Artos's expression. Why she should not be just as submissive to him as to Cathair, she did not know, but she couldn't let it pass. She should, she knew she should, but she couldn't. There were times when a problem arose and she simply could not let it go until she understood and solved it. And for good or bad, this was one of those times.

"Why do you not believe me, Lord Artos? You who are among those who hear the White Creatures and see the past and future? Is it so impossible in your mind that God should speak to one of his children- something we are told in the Holy Scriptures can, has, and will happen- when you know these wonders to exist?"

Jenny: Masks

Both of them found an excuse to step into the solitary low cellar. Jason, hesitating, gauged the Guttersnipe's demeanour. She had not felt herself since she had watched Ambrosius ride away alone. He had made an attempt to cheer her, but knew that his own insincerity would be felt by her sensitive disposition. The nagging knowing that Ambrosius was riding alone through a cloaked and muffled, alien landscape would not leave him. So he stood in the mellow brown light of the cellar and watched the Guttersnipe in silence for a few moments, then prompted,

"Are you going to be all right?"

She looked round, her loose brown hair obscuring one eye and making her look more mare-ish, petulant, and mournful than ever. She could not hold his gaze for long; in a moment she was looking at his feet and swallowing convulsively. "I feel kind of sick," she admitted.

His stomach clenched and growled. "Was it really bad?"

She shook her head slowly. "Champion had got over telling me he couldn't go with Ambrosius this time, and I thought, I would try to see, just a little. I wanted to know," she said pleadingly. "But all I saw was a temple all lit up on the slopes of a hill, and a head on a white beach, and - and Master Lucius very old sitting in a farmhouse writing in shorthand." Jason spluttered uncontrollably, and the Guttersnipe, too, let out a small, helpless bark of laughter. She shoved the back of her forearm across her eyes. "But what worried me most was that I could remember some of those things from my reading. Only, I knew I was seeing the real thing. And I wondered..." She stared at his feet again, her face clenching and twisting with an effort to sort out her thoughts. Something in Jason physically strained in the hopes of helping her. Her eyes, set in a countenance as strained as he felt, flew to his. "Are we witches, Jason?"

The question caught him off guard, but before he could answer the cellar doorway was obscured by a great bulk, and they both looked up into the shadow of Wulf's face.

"My master is wanting to know if Lord Ambrosius is a member of your Council," he said without preamble.

The Guttersnipe sent a flicker of a frown across her face. "Yes. Yes, he is."

"Hmm," said Wulfie, and he vanished. The sound of his tread echoed back to them through the narrow doorway.

Jason did not know what to say to the Guttersnipe as the silence lengthened. It seemed the spell had been broken, and she stood with her shoulders a little listless. "I don't know, sweet heart," he said at last. "Are you going to be all right?"

She nodded mutely, attempting a smile.

He held out his hand. "Let's finish getting breakfast set, then."


Artos turned the little figurine over in his hands. It was rough, but with a satisfactory artistic roughness which pleased him. With a final touch he slipped the point of his knife in between its eyes and curled out a last shaving, giving it the distinctive dished appearance of the arab breed. He held it up to the light to look at it.

Domitia, who had been going on for some time now, finally broke through to him and he focused his sight beyond the upheld horse figure, brows furrowed. To what she referred, he did not know, save that she claimed some divine vision on his uncle's behalf. Crosses in the sky! he twisted his mouth in wry distaste. He said nothing, but was relieved when Jason and the Guttersnipe emerged from the kitchen with Minna and Portia. His leg had begun to hurt less, and felt still better when the girl slid onto the bench next to him and gave him her little childish smile. The eerie young woman who had stood by and doomed the idealist had slipped back under Champion's feathers, and she was only the Guttersnipe again, with her thong of black horse and signet ring having come loose from her gown and hanging down her front to flash in the fitful yellow firelight.

Lys: The Word Of The Lord

It took Cathair awhile to gather his thoughts. "You have seen?" he asked her. "When? How? How do you know it was God?"

Her face went serious, almost stern, and Cathair was reminded of her father. "When the One God speaks, Cathair deCainneach, you sit up and listen. And when He tells you to speak, you open your mouth and you speak. And when you hear His voice, there is no doubt of who is speaking- not even the slightest, smallest possibility. That is how I know, Cathair. The One God told me to tell Lord Ambrosius that death would not come to him until he is old. And I did. And now it is for me to remember and believe what I have heard."


Aithne held his gaze a little longer before he turned away. It was then that she realized the room had gone quiet again and that she had been staring down the man that was to be her husband, and not some student or little child. She dropped her own gaze, thinking on how to apologize, and whether or not an apology was necessary.