Well. I guess there’s not any doubt anymore. My lips thinned and I tossed the pregnancy test into one of the non-biodegradable trash bins, exhaling a quiet sigh. I’d have to tell Thom that it was confirmed, that it was for sure.
Pregnant. I’m really pregnant. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bang my head against a wall or cheer for joy.
I sucked in a deep breath, exhaled it slowly, then scooped up the water buckets. Tala would need more water for cooking, for breakfast, for everything. I’d bring her a pair of buckets now and one of the guys would haul more later. Besides, the solitary walk out to the well and back would give me a little time to think.
The sun was still coming up as I walked up the slick path toward the well. We need to put gravel or something down here before one of us falls and kills ourselves. I’d reached the high stone rim around the well and had tied one of the buckets to the dipping rope by the time I spotted Phelan coming around the ruins of one of the dorms.
“What were you doing out there by yourself?” I asked him as he drew within earshot. I caught sight of the troubled look on his face as he glanced toward me and wined slightly.
“I was going to meditate,” he said as he changed course to join me by the well.
“Going to?” I dropped one of the buckets into the well and jiggled the rope so the bucket would tilt and begin to fill. “Why do I think that you didn’t actually get to do it?”
“Because you’re very astute, Marin,” Phelan said as he leaned against the rim of the well. “I was rudely interrupted.”
My fingers tightened around the rope and I struggled not to grit my teeth as I met his green-eyed gaze. “What interrupted you, Phelan?” What’s about to go sideways now? Gods, we can never seem to get more than five minutes’ peace at a time, can we?
“Who,” he corrected, gaze momentarily distant but troubled. “Cariocecus came to speak with me.”
I dropped the rope and straightened abruptly. “He showed his face anywhere near here an you didn’t raise the alarm?”
“He was well outside the ward lines,” Phelan said quietly. “He only wanted to have words with me, not visit some sort of violence on me. Besides, if he’d really wanted to hurt me this morning, he would have made sure that I never saw him coming.”
I frowned. “That’s why none of us are supposed to cross the ward lines alone.”
“I know,” Phelan said, then smiled wryly. “Mea culpa, leánnan, mea culpa.”
I just stared at him for a moment, then sighed. “There’s too many people out there trying to kill you, Phelan.”
He nodded and looked away. “I know. But we can’t just live scared of the day that the next monster or demigod is going to come after me, now can we?”
“I guess not.” I started hauling the first bucket of water up, wincing slightly as the muscles in my back twinged uncomfortably. Even after months of this, the soreness still occasionally showed up to remind me that I hadn’t been doing this all my life. “So what did he want to talk about? More threats? Promise for a rematch?”
“No,” Phelan said, taking the second bucket from me and knotting the rope around its handle. “He wants a treaty. Peace. A truce.”
I just stared at him.
What the hell kind of game is that bastard playing? “Peace?” I blurted. “That bastard has the nerve to come hat in hand asking for peace after what he did? He almost killed Kellin. He almost killed Thom and I. What the hell kind of peace is he offering?”
“I don’t know,” Phelan said. “That’s something we all need to discuss. I have to tell him tomorrow whether you’ll speak with him or not tomorrow morning.” He met my gaze and shook his head slightly. “Don’t write it off just yet, Marin. We could play this to our advantage.”
“We can’t trust him, Phelan,” I said.
“Probably not,” he agreed. “But perhaps we should all hear what he has to say.”
“How did he even get you to carry this message?”
Phelan’s lips curved into a wry smile. “He promised that whether you all wanted to parley with him or not, he’d tell me everything. So, either way…we win.”
Some victory. I stared down into the darkness of the well. Knowing whatever it was Cariocecus knew could be an advantage.
Then again, that would mean we’d have to trust he’d tell us the truth. I wasn’t sure that was going to happen.
I glanced at Phelan and shook my head. “I don’t know that it’s a good idea.”
“It may not be,” he agreed. “But it’s a decision that all of you need to make—not me.”
I glanced back toward our little village and nodded. “Yeah,” I said quietly. “All of us.”
“We have a day to decide.”
“Hopefully, it’ll be enough.” We hauled the second bucket up. I let him carry it as we headed back to camp side-by-side, silent as the sun rose slowly in the east.