J.T., Thom, and I took the graveyard watch that night. Thom and I were supposed to watch the world outside the tent while Jay kept the death-watch on Phelan.
There’d been little change since they pulled him out of the river, just his breathing getting slightly stronger. He lay shivering under blankets next to the fire, face pale as death itself and his eyes still sunken into shadowed hollows. Jacqueline and J.T. had tended and bound his wounds, but the work had taken them hours—mostly in the cleaning, Jacqueline had confided at dinner. In addition to the old but healing rent in his side and the wound in his shoulder from the knife Vammatar threw, there was a shallow gash across his belly where she’d tried to get the better of him along with a dozen other shallow scrapes and cuts. There were twin wounds on his hand, deeper than the rest; one was a slash across his palm and second across the inside of his fingers. The wound went down to the bone, looking like he’d grabbed a blade bare-handed and held it as tightly as he could. Maybe he had. We couldn’t know, and wouldn’t until he woke up and could tell us.
The clouds had cleared, leaving us with a frigid, starlit night. My breath steamed in the night air as I stood at the edge of the big tent, watching for signs of movement in the darkness.
There’d been nothing so far. The moon was high and cold in the sky; it was after midnight. It was almost disconcertingly quiet.
I turned at the sound of footsteps. J.T. looked like a ghost in the starlight, his eyes tiny, glittering dots ringed by deep shadows. He shivered slightly as he came to stand alongside me, zipping his leather jacket all the way up to his chin.
“How are you out here in just that sweatshirt?” he muttered. “It’s fucking freezing.”
“I haven’t been camped out next to the fire for as long as you have,” I said. “It doesn’t feel as cold to me.”
J.T. shivered again, staring out into the night.
“I thought you were staying with Phelan,” I said after a few moments of silence.
“Thom’s sitting with him. I needed some air and to stretch my legs. Been sitting for hours.”
I reached up and ruffled his still-damp hair. “At least you got to clean up a little.” He’d done it twice; once after making it back to camp and then again after he and Jacqueline had finished with Phelan—J.T. had been full of blood from their work on the gash across Phelan’s abdomen, from their attempts to make sure it wasn’t any deeper than they thought.
“Didn’t get a vote. Jac wasn’t going to let me help if I wasn’t clean.” He gave me a brief smile. “I didn’t blame her. River still stinks to high heaven. Felt like my skin wanted to crawl right off my bones.”
I shuddered at the thought. That he and Matt had both jumped into the Grand after Phelan spoke volumes about Phelan’s importance to us all.
I forced a smile. “And Tala wasn’t going to feed you until you got cleaned up.”
J.T. managed to smile back, tapping a fingertip against the side of his nose. “You got it.” His eyes drifted to the sky and he stretched, going quiet again. I smothered a yawn and shoved my hands into the pocket of my hoodie.
“You two don’t actually have to stay up,” J.T. said, watching me. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the company, but I can keep an eye on everything and unconscious lovely over there.”
We both couldn’t sleep if we tried, Jay.” I rubbed at my eyes. “Even if we’re both tired. I managed to doze a little before the watch—that sucked, by the way, because I kept getting little mini replays of today every time I closed my eyes—but he was just laying there staring at the ceiling.”
J.T. grunted. “Must be worried like the rest of us.”
I shrugged. “Probably.”
A mist was starting to roll in, the sudden dampness making my toes curl inside my shoes. J.T. shivered again, eyes half-glazed in the moonlight.
“They’re here,” he whispered.
“Who?” I asked, heart sinking as the hair on the back of my neck started to rise. Shit. Shit and goddamn, what now? I started to turn away, to head back into the tent and start raising alarm.
J.T.’s hand snapped out to stop me.
“No,” he said hoarsely. “Wait. Just—just wait. It’s okay.”
“The ghosts,” he whispered. “I haven’t seen them since that day the camazotzi attacked. Not like this. She said we were on our own.”
She was right.
I went rigid, suddenly out of breath, as if someone had punched me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. The voice.
It was the voice I’d heard on that September afternoon five years ago, the voice I’d heard again the day the world ended. I sucked in a ragged breath, feeling like someone was sitting on my chest. J.T.’s fingers tightened painfully on my arm.
Eyes glowed somewhere in the mist directly ahead of us, amber-bright in the darkness. A crow cawed, the sound so loud in the strange silence it made me jump.
The voice became a purr.
Seer and Spiritweaver, Spiritweaver and Seer. Those who can see me and hear my voice without trying bar my passage. Fitting. The other Seer is beyond, too, isn’t he? Guarding our wandering son against the things that come in the night.
My heart thundered against my ribs, mouth dry as the dust of a Michigan August. “Who are you?” I whispered, almost too terrified to speak.
A tall, willowy woman stepped clear of the mists, the gray of her robes making her look almost like a ghost herself. A narrow band of worked silver held thick, curling silver-white hair back from her face, her amber eyes burning like the streetlights had, once upon a time. My breath caught in my throat and I took an involuntary step back from her. She laughed silently, though her shoulders shook with the motions.
You already know.
I swallowed bile and pressed against J.T., who stood firm.
“You won’t take him tonight,” he said, his words half a growl, half a command.
No, she agreed. Not this night. His death was written for a day where the sun is high and the hawks call to each other above.
“Then why come?” I found myself asking.
To bear warning to my kith and kin who can see beyond the pale—to the three of you.
A hand touched my shoulder. I looked back to see Thom standing behind me, his breathing shallow and eyes wide in a face devoid of all color.
Someday, you will pay a price, she promised. It is not this day, nor is it the next, but there is a price that will be paid. A smile touched her wine-red lips. You are stronger than any I have encountered before. That is a victory for you, however small. You have bent, but you have not broken.
That will not always be the case, mo milseáin. I promise.
The crow called again. She turned away and walked into the mist.
Good luck. You shall need it.
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