[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]
Phelan’s brows knit and he looked between the two women as he slowly sat back down, gaze lingering on Hecate for a few long seconds. The shadows beneath her eyes concerned him, as did the way she seemed to almost curl in on herself. It was as if she was somehow trying to make herself smaller.
It was worrisome, to say the least.
He opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off without looking at him.
“I would have your word of honor, Taliesin,” she whispered. “Your oath.”
He blinked. “What?”
Then she looked at him, her eyes gleaming from the shadows around them. “Your oath, Phelan,” she said. “I would have you swear to do something for me.”
“On what it is?” There was the barest hint of a smile curving her lips, something almost sad about that smile. Phelan slowly reached for her arm.
“Yes,” he said quietly, already knowing he’d give it to her, no matter what it might be. This was a woman utterly changed—or perhaps simply unbound—from who she’d been in so many of the centuries that had gone before.
Hecate only nodded. There was no rancor in her tone, no censure in her eyes as she looked at him. “I need you to promise to protect him if anything ever happens to me.”
Phelan’s hand settled on her arm even as his eyes widened. Hecate watched him, her expression unchanging, her eyes searching his. It was hard to breathe; he felt light-headed.
What the hell is going on? What does she know that I don’t?
“You don’t even have to ask,” he managed in a choked voice. “<gods and monsters>, Hecate, you never need to exact a promise like that from me because I’ve already made it. What’s going on? Why this? Why now?”
She shook her head slightly. “That’s not important.”
“The hell it’s not,” he protested hoarsely.
“It isn’t,” she said, reaching to cover his hand with hers, gently gathering up his fingers to lift them from her arm. She squeezed them gently. “It’s just insurance, Phelan. That’s all. And—” she stopped, swallowing hard before she started again. “And it would give me a great deal of peace of mind to know that you’d be oathbound to it.”
His brow furrowed, but he nodded. “All right,” he said. “All right. You—you have it. You have my oath. Should anything happen to you, on my honor, I’ll protect him with my own life.”
Her shoulders sagged in relief. “Thank you,” she said.
Then she hugged him, tightly, pressing her face against his shoulder.
As he wrapped his arms around her, Phelan could have sworn he felt her tears starting to soak into his shirt—though perhaps it was just his imagination.
It was, after all, shaping up to be a very strange morning, all things considered.