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.

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