Phelan’s fingers flexed around the wood in his hands as he drove the butt of his staff into the chill-hardened earth in front of him at the heart of the gap in the walls. They’d make their stand here and he could only hope that they’d be able to make the damned firbolg think better of bothering them again.
Another moment when I don’t have time to explain exactly what we’re going up against. They must think I do this shit on purpose. I don’t, but I wouldn’t blame them for thinking that I do.
“How do we kill it?” Thom asked in a low voice, standing near his elbow. Phelan barely smothered a wince.
“Are you hiding any gasoline anywhere?” Phelan asked. “We had to use Greek Fire the last time I went toe to toe with one and there was a big question about whether or not that would work.”
Thom winced. “What’s left is out in all the damn cars out there,” he muttered. “And I’m not sure how much there was in the first place.”
“That’s what I thought,” Phelan said.
“You don’t need the gasoline,” Rory said as he came up on the other side of Phelan. “You’ve got me. Just tell me what I need to do.”
Phelan winced. “Too dangerous.”
Rory’s voice was quiet as he stared off in the direction of their oncoming hostile visitor. “All of this is too dangerous. What matters is that most of us survive this and that thing goes away and never comes back.”
“How far out is it?” Jacqueline asked from behind them. Phelan spun, blinking.
“I thought you were with—”
“She told me that you’d need me out here more than she’d need me in there.” She was dressed in her jeans and light jacket, her satchel of herbs slung across her body and resting against one hip.
Thom glanced between the two, a frown growing. Phelan held up a hand.
“Ask after this is over,” he said, eyes narrowing as he peered at Jacqueline. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“Because I’m going to tell prophet among us that I’m not going to listen to what she’s telling me I need to do. That’s real smart. Because not listening to her has worked out so well in the past.” Jacqueline planted one hand on her hip and jerked her chin toward the gap beyond Phelan. “What’s out there that we’re waiting for to show up here?”
“Something big and ugly,” Greg said as he took a shotgun from Paul, who was starting to hand them out.
“Very big, very ugly, and very mean,” Phelan growled. “Get up in the watchtower and don’t come down until Thom or I tell you to.” Don’t want her here period, but I’m not getting a vote. “I mean it, Jac. J.T. can handle us.”
“Not if something happens to him.” Jacqueline turned and headed for the watchtower, scrambling up its ladder and heading toward the rail. She squinted and then a heartfelt oath crossed her lips.
“You weren’t kidding. It’s ugly. And big.”
Phelan winced and turned away. He leaned against his staff and swallowed hard, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment as he struggled to find the very core of his being, the place where his magic dwelt.
Settle down, he warned himself silently. Panic won’t do you any good. He heard a soft crackling sound next to him—Rory, gathering his own power. Phelan took a deep breath, nose itching at the scent of brimstone and burning leaves.
“I’m coming for you, Wandering One!” the deep, guttural voice called, all pretense at rhyme and song gone. “I’m coming for you and yours! Justice will be mine!”
“That’s what he thinks,” Phelan growled, feeling his limbs begin to tingle. The power of the nearby lines, the nearby nexus began to answer his call, welling up through the staff driven into the ground. He swallowed bile that suddenly crept up in his throat. It was more power than he’d suspected.
No wonder there’s so many of them here. No wonder everyone wants this place.
He took a deep breath and then eased forward, every hair standing on end, aware of the leaf-green light that coiled around his forearms and wreathed his hands.
“I’m ready for you!” he roared at the firbolg. “Come on and get me!”
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