Autumn – Chapter 6 – 09

            “We’d better get everyone over here for a few minutes, then,” Thom said, then limped toward Matt, who was still working with Tala a few feet away.
            Phelan nodded as he splashed a few drops of water into the mortar and pestle, followed by a few holly leaves and berries.  His gaze lifted to Jacqueline, who watched him with a sort of shocked fascination, as if she couldn’t believe what he’d just said.
            “Kneel down, aingel, and give me a hand here.”
            “What are we doing?”  Jacqueline asked as she dropped to her knees in front of him.
            Phelan nodded to the holly he was grinding.  “D’you remember what it felt like when you healed Kellin?”
            Jacqueline looked vaguely uncomfortable but nodded.  “Mostly.  But holly isn’t a person and I’m not desperate.”
            He chuckled softly.  “Same principle.  Pay attention, now, and try to follow what I’m doing, hm?”
            Seems like he’s found himself an apprentice.  I turned away and joined Thom, Matt, and Tala.  The cluster was growing.  Jack had appeared from somewhere, looking more than a little nervous about the prospect of another fight with something supernatural.  He stared at me for a moment and swallowed hard.
            I shot him a reassuring smile and then looked at Matt, who crouched at the center of the circle with a sharp twig, a vague sketch of the settlement in front of him in the dirt.  He marked out Thom’s proposed three lines of defense quickly as Kellin, J.T., and some of the others crowded behind Tala, Thom, Carolyn, and I.
            “Two lines and a central fallback point here by the fire,” Matt said, glancing up over his shoulder at Thom.  “Right?”
            Thom nodded.  “Right.  Sounds like they’ll be coming up from the ravines and not across open ground, which means we can arrange ourselves in a wedge instead of actual rings.”
            “Will we be able to react in time if you’re wrong about that?”  Jack asked.  “If they come at us from the wall sides?”
            “We’ll just have to hope that the walls slow them down enough that we’ve got time for that,” Carolyn said quietly.  “They’re good, strong walls.  It’ll take some effort to get over or through.”  There were still spots where the walls weren’t as high as we wanted, and there was a ten-foot opening where we planned for a gate someday.
            “Should we post someone in the gap?”  Rory asked, crossing his arms and frowning down at Matt’s dirt-sketch.  “Just in case?”
            Kellin glanced at me.  “Davon, do you think?”
            “We need someone sensitive in that gap,” I said.  “Davon hasn’t shown any sign of being able to see anything.”
            “It comes and goes,” Jacqueline piped up from what she was doing.  Phelan made a displeased sound and her attention snapped back to their work.
            Kellin shrugged a little. “Guess it’ll be me, then.  I’ll do it.”
            Part of me was relieved she’d volunteered for that duty.  While her depression had eased, I was still a little concerned about the prospect of her being in the thick of a fight.
            “Are you sure, Kel?”  Carolyn asked.
            Kellin considered the question for a moment before she nodded.  “Yeah.  I’m sure.  It’s probably the best place for me.  I can see them coming and sound the alarm if I’ve got to.”
            “Well, that means we just need people to watch the pathways coming up from behind that,” Thom gestured to the ruin of Robinson Hall, “and then the rest of the ring to the south.”
            A sound echoed off the ruins, off the trees, a cry mixed with a howl. 
            Everyone went silent.  The hairs on the back of my neck and on my arms stood up on end and a shiver shot down my spine.
            “They’re coming,” Carolyn whispered, eyes focused somewhere far away.  “It’s the Greys.  They’re coming.”
            My hand covered the mark on my arm.  There are more of them than there are camazotzi, but how many?  How can we stand against them?
            “We don’t have enough people,” I murmured.
            Thom touched my shoulder.  “But we’ve got those wards.  Those have to do us some good, right?”
            “With any luck, they’ll do more than a little good.”  Phelan twisted around and looked up at us.  “At least with the initial wave.  Or waves.”  He got to his feet.  “But we don’t have much time.  Let me see those swords.  All of them, unsheathed, quick now.”
            He got some strange looks, but after a moment the sound of blades scraping out of sheathes filled the air.  Jacqueline pressed a staff into my hand and smiled bravely before she turned away and scooped up a small bowl filled with a mixture of water and pulped holly.  Her eyes slid closed as she took up position alongside Phelan, her lips moving in silent prayer over the tiny bowl.
            My heart skipped a beat.
            Phelan began to sing as he dipped his fingers into the mixture, a liquid tumble of Gaelic sounds, rising and falling like the wind before a storm.  I swore that tattoo on the back of his neck began to glow as he swiped two fingers along the flat Matt’s blade first.  My throat thickened.  Power rose within the circle like high tide.
            Matt’s eyes widened and his breath caught. He stared at Phelan, his hands shaking a little around the weapon’s hilt.
            Phelan smiled and moved on to the next blade, and the next, and the next.
            Another cry echoed through the ravines as he finished with the blades and moved on to my staff, his, Jacqueline’s and Rory’s.  He gave me a tight smile.
            “Everything will be okay,” I whispered, putting a hand gently on his arm.
            “I hope you’re right,” he whispered.  “The gremlins coming means that she won.”

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