Thirty-nine – 01

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

My heart slammed into my throat and my fingers curled around Thom’s against my face. I could almost feel the blood draining from my face as I stared back at him, watched as he wavered on his feet, breathing hard, as pale as I knew I suddenly was. Words came as a croak. “A curse.”

He nodded almost convulsively, one hand turning to grasp mine and squeeze. “She swore on your souls that she would have her vengeance on Brighíd no matter how long it took.”

“Get Phelan,” Matt ordered. I didn’t see who he told—it didn’t matter.

“No,” I said, the word quiet but firm. “Don’t.”

“Mar,” Thom breathed.

I wrapped my arms around him and he made a weak sound of pain, leaning against me. All of his weight settled against me and I was suddenly holding him up, his nose buried in my hair above my ear.

“I couldn’t just lie there,” he whispered. He was warm, too warm. The fever was back, was worse. I swallowed hard, trying to force my heart back down into my chest, trying to ward off the growing tightness in my throat. “Not when I—”

“Shh.” I looked at him, seeing bleakness and pain in his eyes, set in dark hollows. I’d known that he’d been dreaming, that the dreams of a long-ago yesterday hadn’t stopped in the weeks since Anhur and Menhit’s attack on our walls, since Cyhyraeth’s attack on me. “Stop,” I whispered, the words for him and only him. “Thom, it’s okay. It’s okay. But I need you to calm down.”

The words were a lie, though only partially I did need him to calm down, but there was more.

I need you well. I need you whole. Whatever the camazotzi did—I need that to heal. I need you by my side and I need to stop being so damn afraid I’m going to lose you.

I needed to tell him the truth, needed to tell him what I’d started to see again, started to suspect, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now wasn’t the time.

“Bring him over here, Marin,” Hecate said softly from behind me. “I’ll stay with him. If it’s her—”

“It’s not.” My voice shook. The denial in and of itself was a lie. I couldn’t know for certain that she wasn’t here, that she wasn’t coming. In my heart of hearts, I knew she’d been the one directing the camazotzi after Anhur and Menhit had quit the field that day. Either they had used her army as a diversion or she’d somehow allied with them in the hopes of assaulting me.

What was I going to do if she hit me again the way she had before? Dread coiled in my belly, forced bile up into my throat. It was a struggle to keep the fear from my face as I pressed a kiss to Thom’s lips and then helped him over to Hecate.

“Get some blankets,” I said to J.T., my voice quiet. Thom slowly eased down into a sitting position with help from Matt and I, settling next to Hecate, who still held Lin cradled in her arms. My gaze flicked toward her. “You’ll stay with him? With both of them?”

“Of course,” she said, pain flickering in her eyes. “I’m in no state to fight right now, not on the wall or on the field.”

What she left unsaid was something I heard loud and clear, though.

If we left her here to protect Thom and Lin, she would find a way to keep them safe, no matter what the cost.

Matt glanced to me. I swallowed hard and crouched to hug her tightly.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

“Protecting our family is something you never have to thank me for, Marin,” she whispered back, one arm around my shoulders in a return hug. “Go. Go. It’ll be all right.”

My eyes stung. “How do you know?”

“Because that bitch was never a match for you then,” Hecate said as I drew away. Her gaze was steady, her voice quiet. “There’s no way she’ll be a match for you now, not with everyone you have by your side and everything you know now. Faith and courage, sister. The day will be yours.”

Maybe today. But what about all the ones that come after? My lips thinned and I straightened.

From the direction of the wall came a call, then another. Matt grasped my shoulder.

“I think we’re out of time,” he said quietly.

“Aye,” I said, squeezing my eyes shut for a moment. “I think you’re right.”

Steeling myself, I turned and headed for the wall.

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