Winter – Chapter 17 – 04

            Phelan smiled a bleak, weary smile as he came into the glow of the fire’s warmth and light.  “Someone got it into his head far too long ago for me to remember properly to spin a tale about me.  I count myself lucky in some ways that I didn’t land in very many eddas and sagas—at least not by name.  But Wanderer…that one stuck.”  His eyes focused on some faraway point that I couldn’t see.  “Often the solitary one / finds grace for himself / the mercy of the gods, / Although he, sorry-hearted, / must for a long time / row alone / along the waterways, the ice-cold sea, / tread the paths of exile.”  His eyes fluttered closed and he sighed.
            Thom squeezed my knee and cleared his throat.  “You always made it sound like your exile was self-imposed.”
            “It was, to a degree,” Phelan said quietly.  “My uncle might have exiled me had he the chance, but he was dead before he could take any action.  The hunting accident that wasn’t.”  He knuckled his eyes and sighed.  “His son and I buried him.  Teague and I.  My lord buried deep, and I left.  I wandered alone, often too late to save anything important to me.
            “The woman in J.T.’s dream,” I said.
            Phelan winced.  “Aye.”
            I winced with him.  Another thing he views as a failure.  I shouldn’t have said anything.
            Daniel cocked his head to one side, studying Phelan.  “She spoke so well of you.  I think she cared a lot.”
            “She did, though it was never love,” he said.  “I sometimes wish it was.  Perhaps things would be different if it had been.”
            My hands tightened around my mug.  He’d talked about love before, though not often.  He envied his cousin, his best friend—that much was clear.  I leaned against Thom and let him slide his arm around my shoulders.  Poor Phelan.
            “If you could have gone back, why didn’t you?”  Thom asked.  “Why stay out in the world and be alone?”
            “Someone had to,” Phelan said simply, shrugging slightly.  “How could we abandon our isle, the people we knew, that had been our allies?  That was part of why my uncle and I went rounds.  I didn’t see how we could just walk away and leave them to their own devices.”  His eyes roamed, falling on the kettle.  He heaved himself upright and got himself a mug.  “I was the logical choice to wander.  Teague had to do…what he had to do…and we were always protective of our sisters.”
            Something about the words struck me and I saw a flash of the girl and the man from my dream, leaving my head ringing like a bell in its wake.
            “That’s it,” I said.  “That’s who it was.”  I looked at Phelan.  “Dragon.  Have you ever heard of someone called Dragon?”
            He froze in the middle of reaching for the teapot.  “What?”
            “Dragon,” I repeated.  Now everyone was looking at me strangely.  I didn’t care.  That’s who I saw.  Dragon is his name, even if I don’t know who she was—but I’m willing to bet if it wasn’t Phelan’s sister, then it was Teague’s.  One of them.  That must be it.  I was going on gut instinct and intuition, but often those were all I had when it came to these visions.  “Do you know someone called Dragon?”
            “Not in two hundred generations and more,” Phelan said, nerves betrayed by the slight tremor in his hand as he wrapped it around the teapot’s handle.  “Why?”
            I looked at Thom.  He frowned.
            “The dream from this morning?”
            I nodded.  “I realized why the man was familiar.  I saw him in another vision.  You and I were talking about someone named Dragon in that one, but I’ve seen him in others.  He’ll come here, and we’ll welcome him, ask him to share our fire.  He’s an ally—or will be, someday.”  Someday, though I can’t tell how far in the future that’ll be.  My hand drifted unconsciously toward my belly.  It would be sometime after we conceived our first child—but when would that be?
            Thom gave me a strange look even as he squeezed me tighter against his side.
            “Dragon,” Phelan said, then shook his head slowly.  “I don’t know,” he said softly, then shuddered.
            I bit my lip.  Why is he lying about it?  What does he know about this Dragon person?  “I think he was with one of you.”
            Phelan just stared at me and I blew out a breath.
            “If it wasn’t your sister or your cousin…”
            He swallowed hard.  “I can’t be sure which it would be,” he said after a few long moments of silence.  “I suppose we’ll be finding out, won’t we?”
            “Then you have heard of someone by that name,” Thom said, his tone faintly accusing.
            Phelan winced again.  “Just in the way that Teague talked about someone by that name joining us someday.  Nothing solid.  He…I…”  He blew out a frustrated breath and shook his head.  “He didn’t anyone everything.  Not Kira.  Not his sister or Aoife.  Not even me.  Always with secrets.
            “I just have to keep hoping that those secrets aren’t going to get us killed someday.  Whatever he knew, whatever he saw…I just have to hope that whatever you two can see will give us enough warning to act in the years to come.”
            That sent shivers up and down my spine.  I felt Thom swallow.
            That’s not comforting.  Not at all.
            “Yeah,” I said.  “I guess we’ll just have to hope.”

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