Autumn – Chapter 6 – 04

            Phelan wasn’t at the forge.   He and Thom were near the cook fire instead; Thom painfully hunched over his knees with a wet rag against the back of his neck, Phelan flat on his back with a similar cloth across his eyes and forehead.   Jacqueline and Matt stood nearby, both looking worried and more than a little nervous.  
            Screw me sideways.   “What happened to them?”
            “Thom was daydreaming again,” Jacqueline said quietly.   Matt gave her an exasperated look.  
            “He started to have a vision about the same time Phelan’s eyes rolled back in his skull and he started screaming with no sound coming out.   Is something about to attack us?”
            “Maybe,” I said, glancing toward Rory and J.T. “Better rally the troops just in case.   Grab Kellin to help.   Is Paul in camp?”
            “He’s out with the flocks.   Stasia’s with him.” Matt swallowed nervously.   “Shadows or grays?”
            “I don’t know,” I said, feeling as sick to my stomach as he suddenly looked.   “We might not have much time, Matty.   Hop to.”
            Matt glanced at Thom and Phelan before starting to move away.   Thom lifted his head.  
            “Matt,” he croaked, “Mine’s in the wardrobe next to where we sleep.”
            The muscles in Matt’s jaw bunched and he nodded, then jogged away.  
            Thom looked at me wearily.   “What’s going on?”
            “Something Phelan warned us might happen.   Sounds like there’s a war starting down there and whoever wins will be coming after us.”
            Rory looked at me strangely.   “How do you figure?”
            “What Leah said, that’s how.”  I studied Phelan for a moment before I looked at Jacqueline.  “Is he okay?”
            She nodded, looking grim.  “Yeah.  He’s awake under there, but he told me that talking hurt.  Something about echoes.”
            “There’s a joke in there somewhere,” Rory muttered, then yelped in pain.  J.T. smiled a grim, satisfied smile and kept tending to Rory’s gash.
            “Well, he’s going to have to talk because I don’t know how else we’re going to figure this out.”  I nudged Phelan with my toe.  “Did you hear that?”
            One of his hands lifted and he gestured vaguely, then gave me a thumbs-up—a signal I hoped meant that he’d heard me.
            I crossed my arms and stared down at Phelan’s prone form even as Thom levered himself to his feet and limped to my side.
            “What did Leah say?”
            I looked at him sidelong.  “That the shadow from her dreams and the pale lady were fighting over her in her head and that their voices were too loud for her to function.”
            Thom’s eyes widened.
            Phelan sat bolt upright.  “She said what?  Ooh…”  He started to topple over, gripping his head between both hands.  Jacqueline moved faster than I’d ever seen her move before and caught him before he hit.  She eased him back down, tongue clicking maternally.
            “Stay down, you dumb bastard,” she muttered, dropping the cloth back over his face again.
            Phelan huffed a sigh, still holding his head but obediently staying down.  I was less surprised by his reaction than I was by hers.
            I’d never heard her use the word bastard before.
            Thom’s hand was on my arm, near the mark, which had faded to a dull ache again rather than burning with cold.  Maybe it was a good sign.
            Or an indicator of the calm before the storm.  I can hope that I’m wrong.
            Phelan cleared his throat.  “Now what were you saying?”  He was practically whispering.  I was willing to let him do it if it helped ease whatever migraine he’d spontaneously developed this afternoon.
            “Leah’s hearing voices,” Rory piped up helpfully.  I glared at him and he shut up before J.T. could slip with a needle this time.
            “Voices,” Phelan echoed, then winced.   “From—from a shadow and a pale lady, you said?”
            “That’s right,” I said, catching movement out of the corner of my eye.  Carolyn had turned away and was staring toward the ravine, her posture loose but ready to move if she needed to.  I exhaled quietly.
            Well, with her on the watch, at least we’ll know if something’s coming a little faster than if she wasn’t on alert.
            “You were right to send Matt to get people together for defenses,” Phelan said, voice almost distant, as if he were watching everything from very far away.  “Hopefully they’ll exhaust each other in whatever toe-to-toe cage match is going on down there right now.”
            “So you think they’re having a knock-down, drag-out down there?”
            “That’d explain why she told us to run,” J.T. said quietly.  “Why the greys ignored us even though they probably knew we were there.
            “My head’s ringing like a bell.  Something’s going on down there.”  Phelan’s fingers wrapped around Jacqueline’s arm, tightening for a moment before he started to very slowly sit up again.  She put a steadying arm around him but maintained her disapproving frown as Phelan moved the cloth and glanced at Thom.  “Might even be why you suddenly started seeing things again as violently as you did.”
            “So what does it mean?”  Rory asked.  “What do we do about it?”
            Phelan swallowed hard, wavering a little and looking pale as death.  “We wait,” he said quietly.  “And hope that they don’t decide to give up the fight and join forces after all.”
            “You said that’s not Vammatar’s style,” Thom said quietly.
            “No, it’s not,” Phelan agreed.  “But I’ve been wrong before.  I’m just hoping I’m not wrong now.”

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3 Responses to Autumn – Chapter 6 – 04

  1. Antonious says:

    OH S#!T! Nothing like waiting to see if two vicious groups of predators are going to slug it out to the end, leaving one weakened group, or if they are going to join forces changing your status from main course to hors d’oeuvres’.

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