“Thordin, please don’t do this,” a tiny, weak voice said from some bushes that were just barely in our line of sight. I couldn’t help but look in that direction, even as the tall, Nordic-appearing blonde before us held the bow taut, ready to fire if we so much as twitched. All I could see behind those bushes was the very edge of a woman’s boot before my gaze snapped back to the man she’d called Thordin.
I had to swallow before I could speak. Steady Marin, steady. “Magic,” I said, my voice remarkably even. There wasn’t much more explanation I could offer.
Thom’s hand tightened around mine, his bodily coiled tight as if he was ready to spring, to strike—or to knock me out of the way of an oncoming arrow.
Hoping it won’t come to that.
“Magic,” Thordin said, heavy-browed gaze as skeptical as I’d ever seen on anyone.
“Thordin,” the thin voice pleaded, “she’s telling the truth. Put my bow down and let them help us.”
His arm relaxed, but only a fraction. Skepticism mixed with curiosity in his voice. “How would they work that kind of magic?”
“Phelan is here.” Her tone seemed to indicate that he knew this already and she was simply reminding him.
“It’s been a long time,” she said. “It’s been a long time for both of you.” Her voice was fading. “Now let them help us. They’re friends. I can feel it.”
The bowman relaxed slowly, still giving us a wary look. Jacqueline pushed past me immediately and headed for the voice. I followed her, casting a quick look to Thom, who was already heading for the bowman, J.T. on his heels.
The woman tucked into the bushes was dark-haired and pale, with blue eyes set in dark, shadowed hollows in her elfin, delicate face. Her leg was splinted, bound tightly, and she hunched the way Thom did back when his ribs were really bothering him. She met Jacqueline’s gaze, then mine. She took a small, short breath when she met my gaze, then swallowed, fingers flexing.
“You know me,” I said softly.
She nodded. “I think so.”
I wanted to know how, but I didn’t ask as I knelt next to her. “I think I saw you in a dream.”
She swallowed hard, looking past me as Jacqueline started giving her a quick once-over. “Where’s Cameron?” she asked, then squeaked in pain as Jacqueline started to manipulate her leg, her face going white as the patches of snow that lingered on the ground. “Déithe agus arrachtaigh,” she gasped, her fingers suddenly clutching mine in a vise-grip. “Don’t touch it, please, for the love of everything you believe in, don’t touch it.”
Jacqueline blinked at her, looking pale and stricken herself. “I barely touched it.”
Tears were running down the stranger’s face, a girl who I knew had to be connected to Phelan—probably blood-kin, if I was anyone to make the guess. Her fingers grew even tighter as she saw the recognition dawn in my eyes.
“You’re Teague’s sister,” I whispered.
She nodded, then swallowed hard, sniffling and wiping her eyes with the edge of her sleeve. “Find Cameron,” she said to me, almost begging. “Please, find him. I saw him…but I don’t know where he fell. Please, find him.”
“Who are you—”
Jacqueline cut me off even a she rummaged around in her kit, possibly for pain medication. “Is he the one with the sword?”
The girl nodded. “You saw him?”
“Yeah, but I lost sight of him after the troll-thing threw him.” Jacqueline pulled out a bottle of pills. “Here. I want you to take these. You’re not allergic to anything like that, are you?”
“No. I might sleep for days, though.” The girl took the pills with a slightly shaky hand, the other still wrapped firmly around mine.
“You look like you could use it,” Jacqueline said, pressing a hand against the girl’s forehead. The girl hissed and Jacqueline swore softly under her breath. “Bloody—you’re burning up.”
“I know,” the girl said faintly before she swallowed the pills. “Don’t tell them how bad it’s gotten,” she said, looking at the two of us. “Please?”
I exchanged a look with Jacqueline, trying to sort out who she was talking about until it struck me. She doesn’t want Thordin and whoever Cameron is to know how bad it is. I looked at Jacqueline. “We can try, but that doesn’t usually work so well.”
The girl offered me a watery smile and swallowed the pills that Jacqueline had given her. “I know.” She leaned into the cradle of my arms and relaxed in fractions, gaze focusing on something well beyond Jacqueline. “The other two, they’ll find him. The one who sees the dead and the other prophet.”
I shivered slightly. Jacqueline and I exchanged a long look. She shook her head slightly.
“I’m sure they will,” she said. “Now just hold still and hang on. I think I might have something I can give you for the pain. Don’t mind a little prick.” She paused in pawing through her kit. “Are you allergic to antibiotics, too?”
“No,” the girl murmured. “That’s just Teague and Phelan. I’ll be okay.”
“Okay, good.” Jacqueline looked at me again, expression bleak. I shook my head a little.
Just do what you can, Jac. If she wants to live—and I think she does—she will. All she needs is a little bit of help from you.
Jacqueline must have read it in my eyes or something, because she nodded slightly and got to work, right out there in the field near the burning hulk of what used to be a monster.
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