Phelan led Carolyn and J.T. out through the open gateway and across the mess of mud and broken asphalt, half-melting snow and ice crunching beneath their boots. Greg caught up with them a few feet out of the gate, blinking as he saw them coming.
“How did you know?”
“I felt it,” Phelan growled. “I’m guessing you did, too?”
Greg nodded, changing direction and falling into step with the trio. “Started to a while ago. Got worse and worse. We can hear it now.”
“Hear it?” Phelan swallowed hard. It’s got to be close, then. “Could you see it?”
“Just barely,” Greg said. “Big, green ugly. It’s still pretty far out, but it’s coming. Faster than I thought it could move, actually.”
Damn. Big, green, and ugly could be any number of things, but I’m afraid I know what it could be. “What did it say?”
“Something about princes, bloodlines, and the Wanderer.”
Phelan winced. “In rhyme?”
J.T. frowned. “Do you know what it is, Phelan?”
“I’m afraid I do,” Phelan said, shaking his head. His fingers tightened around his staff. Bloody hell. We need to get back inside the walls and hope that those wards hold. He broke into a jog. “Get back into camp,” he barked to J.T. and Carolyn. “Get Paul with some firearms up in the watchtower. Something heavy. Slugs if we’ve got them.”
“What the hell are we dealing with, Phelan?” J.T. called after him.
“Firbolg!” Phelan called back, picking up the pace. If it was close enough to hear, close enough to feel as strongly as he was beginning to, they didn’t have much time—certainly not enough to properly prepare.
Hopefully it’s only one. When have we been that lucky, though?
“Never bloody ever,” he muttered under his breath. He raised his voice, calling to Thom and the small band with him. “Fear fiach! Pippa, Rory! Deartháir! Fall back to the wall.”
Matt’s gaze snapped toward him and he blinked, yelling back, “What is it?”
“Just fall back!” Phelan yelled, pace slowing as he grew nearer. “I think I know what it is.” He glanced off to the north and shivered. He could see a tall blob on the horizon, nothing more, not at this range, not moving the fast as he was. He could feel it, though.
But how many are there that I can’t sense? He swallowed again as he joined the small knot of people near the pile of broken concrete where Thom had perched.
“We need to get back inside the walls,” he said. “We get back inside, we’ve maybe got a chance to take it down.”
“What the hell is a firbolg?” Thom asked, brow furrowing.
“Something big and mean and fucking old,” Phelan snapped, struggling to rein in his temper. Settle down. They don’t know. They’ve never run into one before. How could they know? “Kind of like a troll and a giant and a man all at the same time. Our people fought them once upon a time and just barely won. Took almost every damned dirty trick any of us knew, too.” His knuckles had gone white against the staff. “Come on. Cover. Now.”
A guttural sing-song echoed from the distance.
“Oh Wandering One, I hear your cry,
Just settle down and wait to die!”
“Déithe agus arrachtaigh,” Phelan cursed, then yanked on Thom’s arm, not caring if he hurt his friend. “Let’s go you fools, before it’s on top of us.”
“What the hell can it do?” Matt asked as they started to move.
A chunk of concrete the size of Phelan’s head landed not three feet from Phillipa’s leg. She gave a little cry as she sprang clear, already starting to move faster.
Phelan stared at it pointedly for the barest moment. “Does that answer your question?”
“Yeah,” Matt said, starting to hustle back toward the walls. “Yeah, it does. Let’s go.”
“Bloody hell,” Thom cursed. “What else can it do?”
“Pray you don’t find out.”
Rory snorted humorlessly as he started to run. “Believe me, Phelan. He’s already praying.”
Phelan shook his head as even Thom began to run. He cast one last look over his shoulder toward the source of the rock. It was laughing.
Well, he thought grimly. Let it laugh. It won’t be able to do it much longer. I guarantee it.