Five – 01

J.T. met them at the bridge, pale-faced and breathing hard, Matt at his back looking like he was faring much better than the claymore-wielding medic.  “We were just coming to get you,” J.T. said between breaths.  He still hadn’t quite recovered from the infected wound across his shoulders, though he was much stronger than he’d been before.  “Did you hear the howls?”

Thom nodded.  “Cariocecus is figuring out which direction they’re coming at us from.”

Matt just looked at his brother-in-law.  “I’d say east, wouldn’t you?”

“Northeast or southeast?”  Thom smiled wryly.  “Or are they somehow swimming the river and scaling the ravine to get to us?”

“I wouldn’t put it past them,” Phelan muttered.

Matt shot him a dirty look as Marin started herding them back toward the safety of the warding lines and the settlement’s walls.  “Come on, keep moving.  Let’s get beyond the ward lines.”

“Will they hold these things off?”  J.T. asked, looking at Phelan.  “The wards?  Are they going to stop these skinwalker things?”

“They’re pretty strong wards,” Phelan said.

Thom winced as he noticed that Phelan hadn’t exactly answered the question.  We need to get everyone in one place and defend the crap out of it.  As much as he hated to rely on Cariocecus to tell him which direction the enemy was coming from, he was momentarily and silently grateful that the warrior was at least temporarily on their side and would hopefully be bringing them useful intelligence in short order.

At least, I have to hope that I’m not about to somehow get double-crossed by the bastard.  Still…  The memory of what they’d been told shot a shiver down Thom’s spine.  How had Cariocecus known about the baby?  And then there was the business with Seamus and all the rest.

Something stinks about the whole situation, Thom thought sourly before he managed to wrestle his thoughts to the task at hand.  “We’ll know where to array our forces once we know what direction they’re coming from.  How smart are these bastards, Phelan?”

“Smart as a man, but they’re in hunting mode so they’re a little more animalistic,” Phelan said, brows knitting as they moved quickly back toward the tents.  In front of them, someone was blowing a whistle and someone else was ringing the giant bell they’d rescued from a boat that wrecked along the riverbank down in the ravines.  Both were signals to gather by the main cookfire and wait.

Hopefully, someone’s got the presence of mind to snag some weaponry before  heading for the fire.  He glanced toward J.T. and Matt, neither of whom were armed, and they’d heard the howling.  Hopefully.  “How many to a pack?”

“I couldn’t begin to tell you,” he said.  “I wish I could.  It depends on the alpha.”

“Sounds like they function like wolves.”  Matt frowned.  “That could get ugly.”

“I’ve got news for you—it’s going to get ugly.”  Phelan sucked in a breath and exhaled it slowly.  “The women who sent those skinwalkers—the women who control them—they want my blood.  They want vengeance on me for what I did to Vammatar.”

Marin squeezed his shoulder.  “You did what you had to do, Phelan—to save all of us.”

He shook his head and started moving faster.  “And that’s made all of you targets right along with me.”

Not this again.  “We were targets the minute the world ended,” Thom said, picking up his pace to keep up.  “Whether we liked it, believed it, or not.”

“Well, now you’re even bigger targets,” Phelan snapped, “and that’s on me.”



A very happy birthday to my mom and to my longtime friend and fellow writer Erik!

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