Forty-three – 07

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

The rattle of bowls jarred me from my thoughts—or perhaps it had been a doze. Tala was getting bowls to serve the stew. Either it had been closer to ready than I realized, or I really had slept for a time. I took a slow, deep breath and shifted slightly, careful not to disturb Thom and Lin.

“It smells good, Tala,” I said quietly, wrapping my arm around Thom.

“Hopefully it’ll taste as good,” she said with a faint smile, starting to ladle it out into bowls.

“I’m sure it will,” Phelan mumbled, blinking slowly. “It’ll be hot and bracing and fortifying and—and—” he stopped, grasping for words and staring at the fire. I sighed.

“You should be in bed,” I said.

“Soon,” he answered. “After we eat. It’s—it’s been a long day.”

“It certainly has,” Tala agreed. “But we made it.”

“This time,” Hecate said, her voice faint. Her fingers bunched in the fabric of Matt’s shirt as she, too, stared into the flames of the cookfire. “We made it this time. But there will be more. We’d be fools to believe otherwise.”

“We’re not fools,” I murmured, looking at her, brow creasing. “Are you…?”

She didn’t look at me. “All right? Time will tell.” I saw Matt’s arm tighten around her slightly and she shifted, pressing closer. “It always does.” For a few seconds, she was silent, then she finally looked at me. “You want to know what happened.”

“You don’t have to—”

“Perhaps not now,” she said, gazing at me steadily. “But later, eventually, I will. It wouldn’t be fair not to. But not right now. Not tonight. They won’t come back tonight. They won’t try again tonight. All of you made sure of that—and I helped.”

“You did,” Matt murmured, burying his nose in her hair. “More than you know. Far more than you know.”

A soft snort escaped her, but she smiled. “All I was doing was protecting my family—as families, real families, do.” Hecate looked up at my brother, then at me, a tremulous smile curving her lips. “And that’s what you are. My family.”

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