But now I feel like I actually have snippet fodder for you, so you can get a peek at what I've been up to.
(Also, this weather is such a toddler. It was blazing hot, and then the first day of spring came up and Greenville was like, "What! I didn't get a chance to be bitterly cold yet! Waaaah!" And of course I've packed away my winter clothes...)
The work was beautifully precise. Filigree kept an eye on each man as they fell into the rhythm of the thing, singling out the cows one by one, wrapping their legs and hurling them onto their chins in the sleet, the upward haul and downward slam of Touchlight’s hammer—the confused cry, the fountain of blood, the mingled grim and cheerful voices of the men amidst the constant wolfish voice of the wind in the storm. It was oddly pleasant to her, and of a sudden she felt a new feeling lick up small and warm within her, a feeling more than the simple drive to make shift of a bad job and do the right thing—it was more like loyalty. It was more like love.
They shared one quick glance around before nodding to him and breaking apart to their tasks; but Drakeshelm, he noticed, stood with one boot pressed against the lip of the well-wall, her shoulders hunched, her arms tucked across her chest, and she was looking, not into the well, but sidelong at the river-bird lying in the snow. She was momentarily unaware of his gaze, so for a minute he saw her face unguarded, severe in profile, and thinner at the chin than he remembered it being, as though care had worn it gaunt. A noble, harsh, unyielding face, of the stock which made something great of Plenilune when it had once been wild and unruled.
She turned her head to looked up at him, and smiled then, with the smile of a vixen peering out at him from under a safe run, as though she knew.
No one looked her way, but Alwin felt every mind shift to the consul. He made to say something—he was not sure what—but the lazy voice of the golden demon herself cut across the gloom to them.
“I think I am hearing Krichirin of the Higu laugh like the star of the morning if he knew how weak were the hearts of Honour men.”
The candlelight betrayed an angry flush on Ferring’s brow. The captain of the Reserve jerked up his head and growled, “Wherefore art thou of such cheerful aspect, when we do not mince how dire are our straits?”
He trusted her no more than she trusted him, but he went, in the end, slowly, easing through the doorway and swinging the door shut behind him. Filigree stared down at the place where he had stood, where the prints of his boots had left wet marks on the stone—dark, welling marks that shone obsidian-red in the light—while the sound of him faded down the hallway. It was not until the building was quiet that she stirred, reaching up to brush something like a feather from her throat, and she went out the door into the night, following the dim pockmarks of footprints through the snow.
The look which broke across his face was one for which there are no words in any language. The link which had momentarily bound us shattered, and I was once more looking across an arctic gulf, an alien to an alien. Staring at him in horror, his own eyes cold with the sudden distaste and distrust of one who bore me no kinship, it was like feeling the sharp blade of the executioner resting on the groove of my tongue. But, for a moment, I had got a mouthful of belonging, and my belly was hungry for more. I swallowed, and said tentatively,
At first he made no move, eyes fixed on my face. In the windy quiet, I heard the clinking of the good-luck tags, the whisper of the chaff, the living, angry hum of the Good Dog who had risen at my side. I became inexplicably aware of the sky overtop us, clouds moving counter to me so that I suddenly felt as though I were being dragged away from the fairy.
Ambrette, I realized. He smells of ambrette. That is why I think of home.
The wind which was in the clouds came down to us at that moment and the Lord Duke’s wings furled forward like a multicoloured cape, their long, ragged, tendril-ends purling across the threshing floor toward me. The movement seemed to unlock something in him, and that accustomed languid nature came over his momentarily frozen frame. “Adamantine,” he said—with more grace than I spoke his language. Then, with a tiny flicker of laughter, “Tatter-catskins.”
I smiled and bent my head, returned to my place as exile and slave. But I thought perhaps the gulf was not so wide as before.