“What?” Terézia stared at Wat for a second.
He simply shrugged and nodded to Kess. “We did. Put the mirror away and get out here.” With that, he turned and stepped out of the room. Terézia glanced at Kess, who simply shrugged.
“Come on.” She ducked out as well, following in Wat’s wake.
Terézia cursed softly under her breath and hurried to follow, wrapping the mirror quickly and leaving it where it lay. The scene that greeted her beyond the door wasn’t quite what she might have expected.
A girl sat calmly on one of the benches next to the lodge’s double-doors, quietly removing her boots like they all did when they came inside, so they could spare themselves the agony of scrubbing the wooden planks every day. Her hair was long, curly, the color of roasted chestnuts and appeared remarkably clean except for a few leaves and twigs caught among the curls. She was dressed in skinny jeans, hiking boots, and a windbreaker. The backpack in Gray’s hand must have belonged to her—it was a large pack, a backpacker’s pack, complete with bedroll and tent strapped to it top and bottom. The girl seemed too clean, though, to have been out backpacking in the mountains all this time since the breaking of the world.
Terézia’s gaze flicked to Gray. He inclined his head slightly.
All right, Terézia thought. I’ll wait.
The girl finished with her boots and stood up, starting to unzip her windbreaker. Her gaze lifted and her eyes met Terézia’s.
Terézia took an involuntary step back, blinking rapidly.
Those eyes. How can her eyes be so damned old? She looks like she’s not much older than Elton’s kids. A teenager.
The girl smiled, ducking her head slightly. “Hello,” she said softly, her voice like bells—hand bells, church bells, all the tones and currents were there in one soft word. Terézia’s heart began to beat a little faster.
There was power in the girl. Terézia glanced at Gray again, caught his grim smile. He could feel it, too, probably more strongly than she did. Her gaze slid back toward the newcomer.
The girl was looking at them all again, mostly at Kess, Terézia, and Wat, since the others were still out and about, still doing this and that in the area—firewood, water, scouting, hunting. They’d all be back before the sun went down, but that was still hours away.
Terézia’s heart missed a beat. If this girl meant to hurt them, it’d be a long while before the others realized it.
The thought shocked her, sent shivers through her.
I’m getting too damned paranoid, she thought, barely stopping herself from shaking her head.
“I was glad to find you,” the girl continued. “Though it took a little looking. Still, I never would have found you here if I hadn’t sensed the scrying. There was some…backlash, wasn’t there? Did they harm you? I could sense it, then the thread snapped. Probably a wise idea, if a will-worker has that kind of ability at this distance.”
Her accent was strange, Terézia noted, though her English was flawless. She swallowed a little. She sensed me scrying. I’m not even sure I could sense me scrying. Should she even be able to do that if she wasn’t my target in the first place? She’d been simply seeking, though, casting a wide net. It was entirely possible that was how the woman had caught wind of it.
Another shiver worked its way down Terézia’s spine. I’m not sure I like this.
Kess glanced at Terézia and made a sour face. Her expression smoothed out as she stepped toward the girl and offered her hand. “I’m Kestrel. Call me Kess, everyone does. What’s your name?”
A faint smile tugged at the corner of the girl’s mouth. “A mouthful of vowels, I’m afraid. Aoife O’Credne—Eva works just as well. It can be difficult to get the true name right.” She took Kess’s hand and shook it. “Well met, Kess. It’s my honor and pleasure.” Eva inclined her head toward Gray and Wat. “Your gentlemen friends have been fairly closed-mouthed about this whole affair, which struck me as a bit odd, but I suppose I shouldn’t judge. Paranoid?”
Gray showed the slightest bit of discomfort, shifting his weight from one foot to the other and shooting a quick, warning look toward Terézia. He was nervous, too.
Glad I’m not the only one.
Wat just smiled his usual charming smile and shrugged, stepping forward and taking his hands out of his pockets. “I can get a little nervous and tongue-tied when I see a pretty girl. Call me Wat.”
Eva smirked as he took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “That’s short for something, I assume?”
He nodded, still smiling. “Yes, and perhaps before the night is out you’ll be blessed to know what it’s short for.”
“More like cursed,” Terézia muttered, sighing and shaking her head. She didn’t offer her hand, but she gave Eva a nod. “Teca Ramsay. I was the one doing the scrying you sensed.”
Eva nodded slightly. “I thought so. It had a woman’s touch, though don’t ask me how I can tell. There’s a certain kind of finesse a woman’s working seems to have versus a man’s.” Her smile came brief, fleeting, but genuine and without an ounce of teasing or condescension. “Scrying seems to be a more feminine talent sometimes, anyhow. I can count on one hand how many men I’ve known that have even the slightest talent for it.”
Terézia looked past the girl to Gray, who shrugged almost imperceptibly, a brief flicker of confusion showing in his eyes. Eva glanced up over her shoulder at him, then looked back to Terézia and smiled again, briefly this time.
“You don’t trust me.”
Terézia shook her head. “No,” she admitted.
Eva shrugged. “That’s all right. I suppose you don’t have to, just listen and take what I say to heart at least enough to think about it. It’s been a long road that’s taken us all to this point. I’d hate to see everything come apart now simply because I come off as a little weird.”
Kess frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Eva smiled a self-deprecating smile and gestured to the fire. “Let’s sit down and have a cuppa and I’ll explain to you as I can the road that’s brought me here. All I ask is that you at least pretend to believe me before you throw me out or tie me up because you think I’m crazy.
“Because by the time I’m done, you probably will.”
Autumn – Chapter 2 – 02
“What?” Terézia stared at Wat for a second.