“Can you hear it?” Greg asked after a few moments of silence.
Thom glanced at him, brows knitting, about to ask what the hell the former professor was talking about, when he heard it. A faint, rhythmic, shuddering rumble in the distance. Footsteps. “Is that–?”
“Yeah, I think it’s what’s coming.”
“What’s coming?” Rory asked as he joined them. Matt, Drew, and Phillipa were with him. Thom smothered a frown at the sight of the slender woman, especially with the sword—Tala’s—on her hip.
Matt must know something I don’t.
“Something big and ugly,” Greg said, turning his gaze northward again.
“Fucking fantastic,” Rory said, only mildly sarcastic. “Good thing Phelan and Jay are finishing up those wards.”
Thom startled. Phelan and Jay? What about Marin and Kel? That’s supposed to be their specialty. It’s what they were doing today. That’s why I let her get out of sword practice.
Unless… His stomach dropped to his knees. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” Drew growled, turning north. “So all we know is something big and ugly is coming? Nothing else?”
“And green,” Greg said, squinting against the sun’s glare.
“Green?” Rory’s brows went up. “What is it, the Incredible Hulk?”
“No,” Greg said. “No, I don’t think so.”
Thom scrambled down from his vantage point, suppressing a sudden shudder. The malevolence of whatever was coming hit him like a linebacker, making his chest ache and his stomach churn. “Damn,” he breathed, squinting into the distance. He rested his hand on his blade, feeling a terrifying desire to draw it here and now, just so he’d be ready.
Ready for what?
He swallowed hard. Shit, I don’t even know.
A voice began to echo out of the distance, deep, guttural, but strangely lilting, as if the creature was singing as it came toward them.
“Get of Princes, get of gods,
Smelling like desperate fear,
Bloodlines strong and bloodlines mixed,
Won’t save the Wanderer’s get from being nixed.”
Bile shot up into the back of Thom’s throat so hard and fast he doubled over for a moment, cleared his throat, and spat it out onto the thin crust of half-melted snow. Greg grasped his shoulder.
“Hellfire and monsters,” Thom rasped, hands on his knees. He looked up at Greg. “Get back in there and get Phelan out here now, wards or no wards. Tell him to bring his goddamned stick, too.”
The staff Phelan had been working on for months was almost complete—there were times Thom couldn’t believe it wasn’t done yet—and Marin had mentioned more than once that she could feel the power coming off of it. Against whatever was wandering toward them at a leisurely pace, Thom had a feeling they were going to need the power Phelan had locked up into the two meter length of wood.
Hopefully it’ll be enough.
Greg squeezed his shoulder again before he let go and jogged back toward the walls, picking up speed as he went. Thom spat a second time in an effort to rid his mouth of residual sourness before he straightened.
“Is there more than one?” Matt asked from beside him.
“God,” Thom muttered, “I hope not.”
In the distance, the ugly thing coming toward them began to laugh.