“I wondered how long it would take you to get the upper hand,” Phelan said. “What did you have to promise him? What was left of your soul?”
She tsked. “So high and mighty, Wandering One. You’re no saint. You act like you’ve got a soul left to barter with yourself.” Her feet touched the ground and she prowled toward him like some kind of great cat. “Did you want a parley, kutevat saari, or are you just trying to vex me further?” Her eyes flashed as she looked beyond him, eyes lighting on me before her gaze slid to Matt and then on to J.T. “You came to parley,” she purred, lips twisting into a cruel smile, “and I know why.”
My stomach did a full somersault inside my belly. I don’t like the sound of this. Not at all, not one iota. I squeezed my staff, the wood oddly warm under my cold fingers.
A muscle in Phelan’s jaw twitched. “This is between you and I, Vammatar, and no one else. Send your army back to where it came from and my friends will stand down.”
J.T. tensed up beside me. I held a hand out toward him. Settle, Jay. Settle. Let him play this the way he needs to play this. For now, anyway.
She was watching us, not Phelan. “It seems they may have other plans. Of course, mine might, too.” Vammatar flashed a predator’s smile. “I don’t think I can make that deal, especially for a dirty little trickster like you. Do they know how many people have died for you, for your precious little causes?”
“Yes,” I said, unable to stay silent as she mocked him. The words welled up from somewhere I couldn’t identify, mine but not. I took a slow step forward. My heart started to pound. “And we don’t give a damn because we’re not them and we’re not going to die today. From my lips to the gods’ ears and I know they’re out there listening and waiting to see how this all plays out.”
Phelan shot me a look of pure terror as I stopped just shy of the ward line. I met his gaze with a calm, measured look that I hoped told him I knew what I was doing—even though I didn’t.
Where are the words coming from? How do I know what to say?
Vammatar stared at me, smirking a little, knowing smirk. “I can smell your fear, Seer. Lying does you no good.”
There’s that Seer term again. I hate that everyone seems to know that about me from just looking. I swallowed, lifting my chin to meet her gaze head-on. “Posturing doesn’t do you any good, either, outsider. Phelan offered you a choice. Take it or leave it, but know that there are consequences to either choice.”
The corner of her mouth twitched as she looked back toward Phelan. “She has fire, that one. You and yours don’t deserve that kind of spawn, O’Credne.”
Her arm moved, almost faster than I could blink. Something darkly bright sprang from her fingers, turning end over end, spinning too fast to really perceive.
Phelan dodged in front of me, then fell, a knife protruding from his eye—a knife meant for me. I cried out and moved, only to be swarmed by the Greys.
“Knife!” I yelled, hitting the dirt.
Phelan twisted toward the sound of my voice and cried out as the knife that Vammatar threw bit into the flesh of his shoulder. As he dropped to one knee, I lifted my heard to meet Vammatar’s gaze.
She looked shocked, almost shaken.
It was almost as if she was wondering how I’d known.
I wasn’t supposed to know what she was doing before she did it. That wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t in how she foresaw this going.
I grinned at her and shouted, “Fire at will, fire at will!”
The sound of gunfire echoed across the field, through the ravines.
The Greys stood frozen for a brief moment as they watched birdshot chew through Vammatar’s fine cloak and the leather armor beneath.
I scrambled across the line and grabbed Phelan by the arm. He tried to throw me back.
“No!” he shouted over the gunfire. “It’s my fight!”
“We made it ours!” I yelled back, latching on again. “Either take her out or fall back across the line!”
Something flashed through his eyes before he set his jaw and darted back to the safety of the ward-lines with me.
“Remind me when this is over to make you a gods-be-damned spear,” he muttered. He reached up and yanked Vammatar’s knife out of his shoulder. He winced heartily and I cursed, reaching for the wound.
“What the hell did you do that for?”
“Let it bleed,” he growled as he sniffed at the blade, then cast it aside. “It’s not poisoned. I’ll live.” He took me by the hand and pulled me to my feet as he straightened up again.
The Greys were starting to move. I began to turn away, but he held me firm, facing him.
“Look at me, Marin.”
“Phelan, we don’t have time for this,” I snapped. His fingers dug into my arm.
His eyes snared mine. “What you did was stupid and dangerous and pretty fucking heroic and I’m impressed but don’t let me ever see you pulling shit like that again. Unless we take her down now, she’s going to be gunning for you for the rest of your life.”
“Then I guess we know what we have to do.”
His eyes hardened, but for a brief moment I thought they misted over slightly—but only for a moment.
“Yeah,” he said, almost hoarsely. “We do.”
He spun away, howling a battle cry that sent shivers through me from its strange familiarity, and ran straight at Vammatar.