“They stopped,” Carolyn said suddenly, taking half a step toward the very edge of the ward-lines.
My heart dropped to somewhere in the vicinity of my feet and I swallowed hard. “Who won?”
“I’m not sure anyone did,” Carolyn said. “They’re arguing again. Words instead of flinging their allies at each other.” She looked at us, grimacing. “So much for hoping they’d waste themselves fighting each other.”
Phelan shook his head. “I didn’t think we’d be that lucky. Vammatar’s smarter than that. Apparently, so is her opponent.”
“Do we even know who—or what—he is?” Matt asked, looking down at Phelan and I. “Or is he just some overgrown camazotzi?”
“I’m not sure,” Phelan said, “though I do have some theories, none of them very good for us. The only upside is that if I’m right, Vammatar wouldn’t work with any of them in about a million and a half years.”
A million and a half. Apparently that’s an important half. I bit down on my tongue as I got to my feet. “Matt, go send someone to relieve Drew. We’re going to need him.”
My brother grunted, looking at me sidelong. “Anything else you need me to do?”
“Yeah, get everyone else to the fire so we can get organized before these things come boiling up out of the ravine at us.”
“I can do that,” he said. He reached over and squeezed my shoulder before he turned and jogged away, shotgun still in hand. I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, then looked at Phelan.
“Theories, now. Before we go back and pow-wow with the others.”
Phelan stared at me for a moment, then glanced at Carolyn, as if she’d help him fend me off. She crossed her arms and just stared back, clearly sharing my thoughts on the matter.
Finally, he just sighed and looked back at me, holding up three fingers. “Three possibilities crossed my mind, but there’s one that’s most likely, though I shudder to think of how he got his claws into the camazotzi.”
“You’re not really explaining, Phelan,” I said, crossing my arms.
“Be patient,” he snapped. “I’m having a hard time getting my thoughts in order. Just bear with me a second.” He sucked in a breath and exhaled it in a rush. “Enyalius, Gurzil, and Cariocecus. I can’t be sure it’s any of them, but I’d lay the strongest odds on Cariocecus. He’s a warmaker and needs as much power as he can garner.” Phelan’s brows knit. “Of course, so does Enyalius, if only to step out of his father’s shadow for once. Could be either one of them, really. The more I think about it, I don’t think it could be Gurzil at all. We’re too far out of his comfort zone and he’s the type that needs a horde of priests to make him feel powerful enough to take on much of anyone.” He rubbed at his temple and shuddered slightly. “Did it just get very, very still out here?”
It had. I frowned and reached down, pulling him to his feet.
“I think our time’s up,” I said, feeling my pulse begin to quicken. “Better get back to the others. You can tell us the rest about the two it might be on the way.”
He swallowed but nodded, then squeezed my arm gently. “The wards will keep them out at least for a time. Don’t panic, Marin. You’re made of stronger stuff than that.”
If I am, it’s news to me. I just nodded, looking past him to Carolyn. “What do they see?”
“Nothing,” she said quietly. “But they’re coming back to the lines. They think something’s about to go sideways.” She looked at me. “So do I.”
“Yeah, me too.” I tugged Phelan toward the tents, toward the fire and the others.
Phelan kept talking as we walked, his voice low. “Cariocecus is probably the most likely, because he could have been exposed to the camazotzi thanks to the conquistadores and their adventures in Camazotz’s territory, or at least caught whiffs of their existence. He’s the type that likes to possess people rather than inhabit his own skin—or so the legends I’ve heard say. Enyalius is a bit trickier. He’s more powerful and a little more clever. The good news is, neither of them have a grudge against me.”
“And the bad news?” Carolyn prompted.
“They’re stubborn, like a hound worrying a bone, and powerful.” He grimaced. “And Vammatar is equally stubborn, but more vindictive, and she had a grudge. If they don’t take each other out, we’re going to have to fight them on both fronts.”
I don’t like the sound of that. “Can we win?”
“I hope so.” Phelan frowned, then changed directions, heading perpendicular to our previous course.
I spun, reaching for him. “Where are you going?”
“To get some holly,” he said, strides lengthening as he apparently forced any feeling of discomfort from his mind. “We’ll need it for the blessings.”
“The blessings?” I asked, feeling abruptly bewildered.
“Aye, on the weapons. Some of you have steel, right?”
“Well, yeah.” Not all of it is combat steel, though. “Why?”
He grinned over his shoulder at me and Carolyn, who was a step behind me. “Believe me, it’ll work better than bullets. Tell Jac to get a bucket of water and one of the mortar and pestles. She and I can work while you two plan. I’ll meet you back by the fire, go!”
I stared at him for a second as he broke into a jog, heading toward the line of holly bushes that we’d planted in the weeks before.
“What the hell is he talking about?” Carolyn asked me.
“I have no idea. Come on. We’re just going to have to trust him.”
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