Thirty-six – 06

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

Thunder growled, near enough to send a shiver through Phelan’s bones. He squinted at the clouds. The light was starting to fade but at the same time the sun shining against those clouds made them seem even darker, more ominous—the black of night, twisting back on itself, gilded by faint flickers of lightning buried deep in the roiling mass. Years ago, the sight may have become the beginnings of a song, but those days were gone now, probably never to return. That past was a yesterday that would not be revisited again.

Or so he thought, in any case.

“Riders,” Seamus said quietly. “Looks like the group coming back from the greenhouses.”

Phelan followed his cousin’s gaze. There they were, sure enough, Paul and Stasia and some of the others, along with a few members of the Wild Hunt. He exhaled quietly, feeling a weight lift from his shoulders, one he hadn’t felt until it was gone. “Déithe agus arrachtaigh. One less thing to worry about,” he murmured, scrubbing a hand over his face.

Seamus nodded slowly in agreement, watching them. “They’re riding easy. Nothing coming from that direction, I’d guess, at least not yet.”

“Small favors,” Phelan said, his gaze drifting back to the clouds. Seamus sighed quietly.

“Go back, Phelan,” he said. “Go back to the fire and wait. They may need you.”

“For what, Seamus?” Phelan shook his head. “There’s nothing I can do there that I can’t do here. It’s just waiting, that’s all. That’s all it is. The calm before whatever comes.”

“Nothing could come.”

“It’s not,” Phelan murmured, his lips barely moving. “This isn’t nothing.”

He almost asked if Seamus remembered when they came, when the Southrons had finally invaded their isle centuries ago. A storm had been the harbinger of their coming that day, too. But Seamus wouldn’t have remembered that. He was gone by then, long gone, sent south into loveless marriage, into a political match that was supposed to keep them safe.

Safe. Is there a such thing?

“Go,” Seamus urged him gently. “I know that look too well, cousin. This isn’t the place you need to be, not right now. Later, but not now.”

Briefly, Phelan wondered what Seamus thought the look meant, wondered what expression he was wearing that brought the words to his cousin’s lips. But it wasn’t worth arguing, either. Seamus wouldn’t let it drop, Phelan knew that well enough. He closed his eyes and nodded. “You’ll sound the alarm if anything looks strange?”

“I think you know better than to ask that question,” Seamus said, leaning against the ledge at the top of the wall. Phelan smiled crookedly.

“I suppose I do. I’ll be back.”

“You always are.” Seamus’s lips twisted into a wry smile, matching his cousin’s.

Phelan clapped him on the shoulder and climbed down. Someone would need to open the gate for the riders anyway, and it might as well be him.

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