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.

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