Forty-nine – 03

[This post is from Matt’s point of view.]

Phelan let go of his shoulder, wrapping both hands around the haft of the carved staff he’d brought with him up onto the wall. The Taliesin’s hands began to glow the faint green of summer leaves and the darker green of evergreen trees and Matt felt his breath catch.

Powers that are, smile on us today.

The earth responded to Matt’s gentle urging, a rumble starting to grow. On the field below, the ranks marching on the walls slowed slightly, peppered by arrows and assaulted by lightning, looking around warily as if they could feel the ground shaking beneath their feet.

It wasn’t—not yet—but there was more to come.

Phelan hummed something softly under his breath, the tune a familiar one, something that tugged at Matt’s core and made his throat tighten. It was a song of a home he’d never known, a home that Cíar had known all too well. It made his heart beat a little faster.

We can do this. We have to do this.

A woman’s voice shrieked beyond the ranks of soldiers and Phelan went rigid, a curse tearing loose from his throat as his magic abruptly flared, then faded. Matt jerked toward him.

“Phelan—”

“It’s her,” the Taliesin grated. “Thesan. She’s—” he broke off, breathing a curse through clenched teeth.

Shit.

“I see her,” Leinth called, her voice calm and ice cold. “Sif?”

“Fifth rank, just left of center. I do have a shot.”

Matt could almost hear the chilly smile in Leinth’s voice. “Take your shot when I say go. Matt, whatever you’re going to do, start it then.”

His mouth suddenly dry, Matt nodded, swallowing hard. You can do this. Phelan can’t help, not yet, not until Thesan’s not a problem anymore.

He glanced at his friend, whose knuckles were white against the wood of his staff, his complexion more washed out than it had been a few moments before.

He may not be able to help at all.

It’s on me, then.

“Now.”

A single arrow shot from Sif’s bow into a world that was abruptly cloaked in nearly impenetrable shadow and at least twenty degrees colder than it had been a moment before. The rain that had been falling turned abruptly to ice, shards pelting down like tiny razors from the sky. Earth geysered upward, engulfing the first few ranks of men, who had not quite reached the column of lightning that represented Hecate and whoever she was facing down on that field. A single fork of lightning struck from that column in the direction Sif’s arrow had disappeared in. Another shriek sounded, abruptly cut off.

For a moment, everything was silent and still, evening the lightning ceasing for the barest fraction of time.

Then all hell broke loose.

With a shout, Phelan wrenched free of Thesan’s grip—whether through his own wherewithal or thanks to the efforts of their friends, Matt didn’t know or care—and light flared green around his hands and his eyes. Vines and brambles erupted from the already-broken ground, tangling around the advancing army. Matt refocused his efforts, sending shards of rock shooting upwards from the ground and into the ranks, smaller but no less deadly than the mud that had been shooting skyward a moment before. The shadows grew darker until it was as black as pitch on the field, the chaos beyond the walls illuminated only by the flashes of lightning which gave it all a strobe light effect. The defenders on the wall—archers, Huntsmen, former students, all of them—could only see bits and fragments of what was going on beyond the barrier that Thordin held in place.

Only seeing fragments was more than enough to be seared into their collective memories as the stuff of nightmares for months and years to come.

Forgive me, Matt begged, not knowing where the plea was directed. Perhaps it didn’t matter.

The blast of a horn sounded once, twice, then a third time. As lightning flared and stroked, they could begin to see the ranks retreating, moving quickly, dragging their dead and dying along with them as they went.

It was hard to breathe and his head spun slowly, spots that weren’t from the after-images of the lightning dancing before his eyes.

He felt the caress of a thought, heard Hecate’s voice softly in his head.

“He’ll be born into a world with one less monster in it. This I swear to you.”

Lightning flared one last time, turning even the shadows Leinth had called into daylight.

Everything went perfectly, achingly still.

Phelan released his magic and Matt let go of his, wavering. The field was empty except for a few scattered bodies—and Hecate standing at the center of the field, still holding onto the man in a dark cloak, the one that had come to negotiate with her.

She dropped him and his body fell into a heap at her feet. Hecate wavered there, staring at her handiwork for the span of a few heartbeats, then one of her crescent-shaped blades slipped from her fingers, glinting silver and red as it dropped to the ground.

Then she slumped, collapsing into a heap where she’d stood, half on her side, her face tilted toward the roiling sky.

No. Gods, no.

This time, no one stopped Matt from going over the wall.

He landed in a crouch and sprinted toward her, his heart in his throat. It wasn’t until he saw the slow, weak rise and fall of her breathing that he finally was able to breathe himself. He dropped to a knee in the mud and brushed her sodden hair back from her face. She was bleeding from some minor cuts and a wound that looked like more than just a scratch in her side.

He glanced momentarily to the blade on the ground next to her and wondered if the blood on it was hers. A glance toward the corpse she’d dropped told him that even if some of it was, far more belonged to the dead man, whose throat had been slashed nearly to the spine. Matt’s jaw tightened.

One less monster.

He could hear the gates being opened behind him, could hear the others, could hear Seamus still giving orders. He didn’t listen to any of them as he gathered Hecate into his arms, cradling her like something precious—because she was.

Then, with her head against his shoulder and her hair brushing against his cheek, he carried her through the gate. Someone moved to protest, to stop him. He didn’t notice who it was, but he saw Phelan hold out a hand to stop them, heard his friend’s words.

“Leave them be. She saved us today as much as him or me or Leinth or any of us did.”

Matt held his lover—his wife—a little tighter as he carried her toward the fire. J.T. would come soon. Once her wounds were tended to, he’d take her to his bed and he’d see to his sister.

He owed them both that much.

Then he heard his nephew’s first newborn cries and he smiled.

Somehow, it would be all right, despite Leviathan and Olympium and Thesan and the end of the world and everything else they’d already faced and would have to face again, no matter what tomorrow held, everything would be all right.

Somehow.

 

End of Book Five.

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3 Responses to Forty-nine – 03

  1. Torfinn I. says:

    Wow! Just … thank you.

  2. shadocat says:

    That was wonderful.

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