[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]
Hecate considered the question silently for a few seconds, staring past Matt toward the fire. From my angle, I could just barely see her eyes, watched them as she watched the flickering flames. It was almost as if I could see her peering back through space and time, rifling through memories she’d rather forget. Instantly, I regretted asking, but at the same time, I knew she wouldn’t be mad at me for it.
“Leinth wasn’t one that was much-loved,” she finally said, her voice quiet, tinged with regret. “I’m sure you can see why. She never pretended to be anything other than what she was, and that’s half of what we always did—put on a mask, put on a show, be more wonderful or terrible than our reputations suggested. She never did that, not that I was ever able to perceive. Her sister hated her for it and she certainly wasn’t favored by their father, either.” Hecate leaned back against Matt, her brows knitting slightly. “Winter and death have many rivals, though, rivals that come in strange ways. It could be Albina herself, but I think she’d recognize her if that was the case.” She paused, then murmured, “I wonder.”
As her voice trailed away I swallowed hard. I hadn’t really expected her to have any answers. My gaze slid toward Phelan, who now stood with furrowed brow, staring at the ground. Tala was watching him, too, a faint frown on her face.
“I know that look,” she said quietly. “Start thinking out loud, Phelan. Maybe you’ll trip over something.”
“Just—” he stopped, frowned, started again. “Death always has rivals.” He looked at Hecate, frowning. “Persephone’s out there.”
“She is, but they were never enemies,” Hecate said in a soft voice, meeting his gaze. “Where are you going with this?”
“She’s out there, Pluton is dead on your blade, Aietes has probably vowed some kind of vengeance, and odds are that Olympium is in some sort of disarray—likely with some significant infighting. We’ve made it abundantly clear that if Menhit and Anhur come at us again, there will be no quarter nor mercy. What if—” he stopped again, turning away, starting to pace.
My heart rose into my throat. “This is one of those times your what-ifs is starting to terrify me, Phelan,” I said, watching. I wrapped my arm around Lin, still asleep against my chest. I hoped he’d stay that way a little longer. I wasn’t sure I had the mental wherewithal to deal with a crying infant just then.
He turned back, expression caught somewhere between curious, thoughtful, and afraid. “What if it’s Orcus?” he said, looking at Hecate with an arched brow. “Do you know who I’m talking about?”
“I do,” she said slowly. “No one’s heard from or of him since—a long time.”
“Like Yam,” Phelan said.
“Yes,” she whispered. “Like Yam.”