Winter – Chapter 27 – 03

            “Bloody hell,” J.T. swore softly and shoved himself to his feet.  He crossed the narrow space between he and Jacqueline and shook her shoulder roughly.  “Jac.  Jac!  Wake up.”
            The blonde healer startled awake after a bare moment, blinking sleepily up at the larger man.  “What’s wr—”
            “They’re blowing the whistles at the watchtower.  I need you to stay awake and keep watch over her so we can figure out exactly what’s wrong,” he said, snagging Phelan by the sleeve.  “C’mon, Phelan.  I need you with me.” 
            “I’m half burned out already,” Phelan warned as he stood up.  “Don’t expect miracles.”
            “We never do, but you always seem to deliver them anyway.”  J.T. shook his head, feeling a pang of regret as he watched Phelan lean in to smooth his cousin’s hair one more time and kiss her lightly on the forehead one more time.
            Then the once-druid straightened.  “All right,” Phelan said. “Let’s get on with this.”
            “Do you need your staff?”  J.T. asked as they ducked out into the makeshift corridor.
            “If I need my staff, we’re already in more shit than I’d be able to handle tonight,” Phelan said grimly.  “But I could use something sharp if we’ve got spares.”
            “I think we’ll be able to find something,” J.T. said with a slight nod.  Probably someone’s spare, or one of Matt’s prototypes. Christ on crutches, I hope they’re as solid as he’s saying they are. The last thing we need is someone’s sword shattering the minute it hits bone.
            Phelan clapped him on the shoulder and together they began to jog toward the outside world.

•                   

            “—and we packed up and hit the road again.”  Cameron said, gaze flicking toward the kettle hung over the fire.  “How long until the coffee’s ready?”
            “I can start it right now,” Marin said, starting to get up.  She froze in mid-motion at the sound of a whistle from the lookout’s post.
            “Shit,” Greg said, gazing through the darkness in that direction, though he couldn’t see anything from where they were sitting.  “Can’t we catch a goddamned break?”
            “Apparently not,” Thom said, getting up.  “Greg, we’re going to need the armory again.”
            “Such as it is,” Greg said as he rose.  “I’ll grab you guys your gear.  Two minutes.”
            Cameron’s expression tightened.  “Does this happen a lot?”
            “Seems to come in waves,” Marin said as she broke into a jog, headed back toward the sprawl of sheds.  “Probably have one more attack before we get to breathe again.  I’ll bring your sword, Thom.”
            He nodded and glanced at Cameron.  “Come on, we’ll see what’s going on.”
            They were halfway to the watchtower when Phelan and J.T. caught up with them.  Cameron looked directly at J.T.
            “Why aren’t you with Neve?”  There was a hint of fearful demand in his voice.
            “Relax, I left Jac with her,” J.T. said, shifting his shoulders slightly to resettle the claymore slung across his back.  “Something tells me that you guys are going to need me more on the front line than she’s going to.”
            Cameron gave him a suspicious look.  Phelan clapped the former pilot on the shoulder.
            “Trust him,” Phelan said.  “We want him with us right about now if this isn’t some kind of false alarm.”
            “You know that it’s not,” Thom growled.
            “I hope that it is,” Phelan corrected, “but I do suspect that it’s not.”
            Thom shook his head.  “Rory!  What’re you seeing?”
            “Red eyes in the darkness!”  Rory called back.  “Paul wants to know if you want him to fire a warning shot at a pair of them.”
            Cameron grimaced.   “Nothing good has red eyes.”
            “Typically not,” Phelan agreed.
            “Greg and Matt are waking some of the others,” Marin said as she jogged up, her staff in one hand and carrying Thom’s sword in its scabbard in the other.  She handed it to him, brows knitting as he belted it on.  “What do we have?”
            “Something with red eyes,” Thom reported.
            “That already doesn’t like us,” J.T. added.  Thom looked at him askance in the night’s dim and J.T. shook his head.  “Constance told me.”
            “I thought they couldn’t help us anymore,” Marin said.  “I seem to recall you saying that.”
            “Apparently, that wasn’t entirely true, now was it?”  J.T. grimaced and shook his head.  “She kind of insinuated that whatever’s out there has a particular measure of malevolence to it.”
            “Toward us, or in general?”  Thom asked as he moved forward, toward the gap in the walls for a better look at whatever was lurking beyond.
            J.T. frowned.  “Toward us, definitely.”
            Cameron eased up next to Thom, squinting into the darkness.  Phelan came up on the other side.
            Dirae,” he spat.  “Wards must be keeping them back.”
            Thom looked askance at Phelan even as Cameron cursed.  Dirae?”
            “I’d hoped that we lost them,” Cameron muttered.  “I should have known better.”
            Phelan glanced at Cameron.  “I would ask why they were chasing you, but it would be a stupid question.”
            “What the hell are they?”  Thom asked.
            “Dangerous,” Phelan said, his tone not quite light enough to be construed as flippant.  “Probably the last thing we needed tonight short of Cariocecus showing up and causing trouble.”
            An arrow split the air between them, vibrating the night as it flew true.  Beyond the walls, something gave a vaguely feminine scream.  Thordin emerged into the dim light cast by the moon, his expression grim.
            “If they can’t cross the wards, we cut them down before they can,” he said.  “Put the fear of the gods into them and maybe they’ll go away.”
            “Do you really think that’s going to happen?”  Phelan asked dryly, eying his old friend.
            Thordin shrugged and smiled grimly.  “Short of whoever’s holding their leash calling them off?  No.  But we can sure as hell try.”

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