Eleven – 06

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

“Okay,” Kailey said slowly, once again looking between us.  Her gaze was wary, now, her movements slow and careful, the way you move when you’re trying not to startle or scare something that spooks easily.  “So are you guys going to actually lay this out for me or is this one of those things I’ll find out on accident later?”

Bile crept up into my throat and I swallowed hard, closing my eyes again.  It probably wasn’t fair to leave her in the dark, not about this.  I wasn’t sure how much it was going to be a shift in her world, but I knew how much it might change mine—

—and how much it was going to change Tory’s, if I’d read everything right.

Phelan stood and started to pace.  Kailey blinked, then sat down next to me, her brows knitting.

“I—Uncle Phelan, I’m sorry.  I don’t—you don’t have to tell me.  It’s okay.”

“No,” he said.  “No, it’s not okay.  What do you know about the old legends?  Which of the old stories have you read?”

“Like—like all of the books?  I don’t know.  There’s a lot.  I like reading.”

One corner of Phelan’s mouth twitched into a smile.  “A good habit, I think.”

“That’s what Mom always says.”  Her brow furrowed.  “Are you okay?”

“No,” he admitted.  “And I won’t be.  But that’s all right.  We’ll figure it out.”

“Our world’s about to change, isn’t it?” I said quietly.  “Turned on its ear?”

Phelan stared at me for a few seconds.

Then he just nodded.

It was only confirming what I already knew, anyway.

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Eleven – 05

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

Kailey stopped pacing, stopped dead in her tracks, and stared at him hard.  “Time out,” she said.  “What?”

I glared at her, my heart in my throat, then looked back at Phelan.  “How do you know?  Did someone—did someone tell you?”

“I’m kicking myself for not realizing it,” Phelan said, shaking his head.  He squeezed his eyes shut, pressed the heels of his hands against them, as if he was trying to hold something in, something painful and strong.  “But I only saw him for a moment.  He felt familiar but I didn’t—déithe agus arrachtaigh, how did I not know it then?”

“There was a lot going on,” I said quietly.  “And you’ve had a bit of a crazy day already, right?”

That, at least, won a snort from him.  He shook his head, letting his hands fall away.  “You sound so much like both of them sometimes that it hurts, Lin.  Truly.  Way to look for a silver lining.”

“Why would your sister have sent them looking for us?  I don’t understand, Uncle Phelan.  I thought—I thought she’d given up on you and on us.  That’s why she never came back after—” Kailey grimaced.  “After.”

“Stories,” Phelan said, shaking his head as he glanced toward her.  “She told them stories and those stories were never forgotten.  I didn’t stay long enough to hear all of it.  It just hurt too much.  But they’re come looking for the king born again.  Some prophecies never die.”

“The king born again,” I echoed, my stomach dropping.  “You—you sound like you know what that means.”

“So do you,” Phelan said, smiling sadly.  “So do all of us.  This quest they’re on, it’s no fool’s errand.  I just wish I knew why it was so damn important right this second, you know?  But I don’t.  I know something’s changed.  I just don’t know what.”

I stared at him for a few seconds, feeling hollow.  I wondered if my parents had ever felt the same, when they’d been sitting where I was.

I wondered if they ever felt like railing against the threads of fate even as they wanted to embrace them with open hearts.

“So what does that mean?” Kailey asked softly, drawing closer to the two of us.  “You guys seem like we’re talking in riddles.”

“It’s because we are,” Phelan said, staring at me.  “It’s because we are.”

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No update today – my work schedule has been very, very strange lately, hence the scattershot updates the past couple of weeks.  Trying to get that under control.

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No Friday update this week.

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Eleven – 04

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

I stared at the closed door for a few seconds, then my gaze flicked toward Phelan, who stared at it silently for a moment longer than I did, then took a slow, deep breath.  He shook his head as he exhaled.

“After all these years, it shouldn’t surprise me that she knew I was coming,” he murmured, mostly to himself.  I canted my head to one side, watching him as he turned from the door and headed for a chair, sinking down into it as if he was feeling every single one of the many, many years he’d walked this world.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, my voice soft.  Kailey looked at me like I was maybe a little crazy—laughable, because she already knew exactly how crazy I might be.

Phelan didn’t answer right away.  For a few seconds, he stared at the floor, as if he was still trying to absorb or process something—what, I couldn’t be sure, at least not yet.

He would tell us, though.  I had every confidence of that.

Kailey stole another glance at me as Phelan held his peace, her brow furrowing.  She looked like she was on the verge of saying something, maybe asking something, when Phelan cleared his throat.

“They’re here because of my sister.”

“Wait, what?”  Kailey took two steps toward him, then stopped, staring.  “The one who wanted to kill my mom?  The one no one talks about except for to say that?”

Phelan swallowed hard.  “There are reasons.”

“You mean other than the fact that she wanted to kill my mom?”

“Yes.”

Kailey opened her mouth but I broke in before she could say anything more.  “Uncle Phelan, she didn’t send them, did she?”

“No,” he said.  “But she’s why they’re here regardless.  If not for her, they wouldn’t have any idea that we were out here.”  He frowned a moment, then amended, “Maybe they would have known we were out here, but I doubt they would have come.”

“I don’t understand,” Kailey said.

Phelan took another deep breath.  “That’s all right.  It’s complicated.  But the—the one who fell off his horse?  He’s my nephew.  He’s my nephew, he could be dying, and he’s no older than either one of you.  And her stories set them on this quest, never realizing what they were getting into.

“Never knowing the whole truth.”

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No update this Labor Day Monday.

Stay tuned next time when we find out why Phelan is so perturbed.

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Eleven – 03

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

“Us,” Kailey echoed, her tone incredulous.  “Why the hell would they be looking for us?”

“Not ‘us’ as in you and me,” I said, stomach twisting as if my guts knew something the rest of me didn’t, “‘us’ as in everyone here in the Valley.  They were looking for the Valley.  Not something or someone specific—us as a group.”

Hecate was watching me; I could feel the weight of her stare and it was starting to be a little uncomfortable.  I tried to hide the discomfort, instead focusing on Kailey, who stood a few feet away, staring at me, slack-jawed and almost—almost—horrified.

“Why?” she asked, shaking her head.  “I don’t understand why they’d be looking for us.”

“All things are revealed in time,” Hecate said, her voice quiet.  I recognized her tone—it was the one she used when she was trying to prevent some kind of explosive outburst from her daughter.

At that, Kailey turned her glare on her mother, though only for a moment, before her gaze returned to me.  “You seem so damn sure of it, Lin.”

“Well, I’m not,” I admitted.  “I’m just listening to my gut and what feels right.  That’s what my gut’s saying, but we’ll find out soon enough—like Aunt Hecate said, in time.”

“Sooner rather than later, I suspect,” Hecate said, standing.  I blinked, watching her as she headed for the door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“We’ll see,” she said as she opened the door, revealing a slightly startled—and definitely perturbed—looking Phelan.  She canted her head to one side, studying him for a moment.  “You want me to take over in there?”

“Yes,” he said through clenched teeth.  “Yes, I think that would be best.”

She nodded.  “Will you stay with them?”

He nodded once, glancing at me and then at Kailey.  “Yeah.  Yeah, I’ll stay.  Go on.  Matt needs you more than he needs me.”

She chuckled at that, slipping out the door.  “He only thinks he does.”

The door clicked closed behind her.

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Eleven – 02

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

“How long do you think they’ll be?” I asked after a few minutes of silence, my eyes still closed.  I wasn’t exactly sure that keeping my eyes closed helped with the headache, but at this point I was taking everything I could get.  I knew without looking that my aunt knew full well that I wasn’t in the best of shape right now, but she was remaining quiet about it.

A tiny piece of me wondered why as the rest of me decided it was best not to be overly concerned.

“Mm,” Hecate hummed, taking her time before answering.  I appreciated that even as I sensed Kailey’s impatience growing.  I wasn’t entirely sure what had gotten into her, but she was more touchy than usual this afternoon.  “It depends on what they have to say and how many questions we have for them.”

“Shouldn’t you be in there?” Kailey asked.  She was on her feet, pacing like a wild animal in a pit.  I couldn’t quite figure out why she was so upset, unless she was somehow scared.  I couldn’t figure out why she would be, though.

Hecate hummed again and shook her head.  “No, I’m where I need to be for now.”

The for now sounded vaguely ominous and my stomach flipped over onto itself.

Sighing, I closed my eyes again.  “They’ll come for us when they’re ready,” I murmured.  “And talk to us when it’s time.”

“Of course Dad’ll tell us when he’s ready,” Kailey snapped.

“I wasn’t talking about Uncle Matt.”

She went silent and I could feel a chill radiating from her.  I refused to give in to the urge to shiver.

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

I cracked an eye open and watched her for a few seconds.  “The riders.  They came looking for something.  I think it might be us.”

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Eleven – 01

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

“What the hell were you thinking?”

Closing my eyes and trying to ignore the continued thumping in my skull, for a few seconds I contemplated pretending that I hadn’t heard her question.  For the moment, I was just silently grateful that I hadn’t been sent straight back to bed when my uncle had made it back to the gates behind Phelan, who’d breezed back through carrying one of the riders unconscious in his arms.

Aunt Jac had been there in seconds flat, and she and Uncle Jay had headed off to see to the stranger and whatever was wrong with him.  Most of the rest of the little council had headed off to speak with the rest of the riders.

“Calm down, Kailey,” Hecate said softly.  “I’m sure Lin had good reasons for what he did.”

Yeah, mostly that I figured if I didn’t do something, something bad was going to happen—like someone getting hurt or worse when it wasn’t necessary.  I took a deep breath, leaning back against the log behind me.  My aunt sat nearby, roasting marshmallows as if nothing was wrong.  I knew without looking that she wore a distant expression, a familiar faraway expression she got when she was especially contemplative—like now.

“Mom—”

“Kailey.”  Hecate’s voice was firm but not unkind.  “Settle down.  They don’t mean any harm.”

“But they could,” she protested quietly.  “They could be dangerous.”

“Everything’s dangerous,” I murmured.  “But they—these people are here for a reason.”

“But you don’t know what it is,” Kailey said.  “Did you hear?  Did you see the look on Uncle Phelan’s face?  I haven’t seen him pale like that except for when he thought that Tory got stabbed.”

Or when I got clawed today.  I swallowed the words even as I opened my eyes, glancing at my aunt.  Hecate gazed back at me with a measured look, probing, but gently.

“There’s always a reason,” Hecate said softly, gently.  “Your father and the rest will figure out what it is one way or another.  I don’t think Lin’s instincts have steered us wrong in this regard.  Clearly, they did need some kind of help, if only for the injured man.”

“We have no idea who these people are,” Kailey whispered.  “How do we know we can trust them?”

“We don’t,” Hecate said.  “Not until we sort it out for ourselves.  But we can’t do that until we talk to them, can we?”

“No,” Kailey said grudgingly.  “I guess not.”

I closed my eyes again.  Was this what it had been like for Mom and Dad back then?  I doubted it.  They’d trusted on instinct more than once.  I didn’t think it had ever led them astray.

If it had, they’d never written it down.

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Ten – 05

[This post is from Matt’s point of view.]

Matt didn’t look back at the sound of boots hitting the ground as most of the riders dismounted.  Carolyn fell in alongside him as he walked while Phelan lingered behind, studying the riders with an expression that Matt knew all too well.  There was something both appraising and curious about that look Phelan could wear, something that was oddly reassuring at the same time.  He’d seen it many times over the years and even now, it made him smile—an expression he kept carefully hidden from the riders behind him.

Until he could get their full measure, they still represented an unknown that could be dangerous.

And yet, I’ve invited them inside the walls.

Sometimes—only sometimes—he still listened to his gut.

Ahead of him, he could see Hecate and the kids standing in the gate’s gap, watching them.  He could sense her concern even at this distance.  His daughter and nephew, though—they were a mystery beyond reading the expression on their faces.  Kailey was concerned—he could tell that at this distance—but Lin seemed oddly stoic and eager all at once.

Not sure what he sensed or saw, but whatever it is, at least he thinks it must be important.

Behind him, Phelan was asking a question.

“So what set you traveling in the first place?”

“More of a quest or a geas, really,” the lead rider said.  “We rode out looking for something—and for someone.  A few someones.”

“Have you found any of them yet?”  Phelan pressed.

“I don’t know,” the lead rider answered.  “It’s been a long ride already.  We came from the east, from the mountains.”

“That’s a long ride,” Phelan said.

“It is,” the lead rider agreed.  “But that’s what we had to do.  Said if we looked hard enough, we’d find what we needed to find.”

There was the sound of rustling gear, then a loud thump.  Matt spun, heart starting to hammer.  One of the riders—a woman—cursed.

“Bryant you can tell them everything you damn well want to about finding the Taliesins,” the woman said, swinging down from her mount and quickly crossing around it and the one next to hers to crouch next to the crumpled figure who’d fallen from his saddle.  “But David needs a healer now and it can’t wait another second.”

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