Twelve – 04

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

Matt lifted his hand in greeting as the rider grew closer, stepping clear of the gates, out into the field beyond—not far, only a few steps, but far enough. Phelan stayed behind in the shadows of the gates, watching. If Hecate came any closer, Matt didn’t see it.

The rider lifted his hand in return, mount slowing from a gallop to a canter, then a jog, and finally a walk as it crossed the last hundred yards coming up to the killing fields. He reined up and dismounted a few dozen yards shy of Matt, leading his horse toward the open gate.

“Hail and well met, brother,” Daegan greeted. His accent had faded over the centuries—but all of theirs had. “I confess I didn’t expect you to be here to greet me.”

Matt smiled weakly. “We caught the whistles at breakfast. Thought maybe I should come see what’s what.”

Daegan nodded, looking past him to Gideon, already on his way from the watchtower to the gates. Hecate was trailing behind the huntsman, her lips pressed into a thin line. Matt’s stomach twisted.

Does she sense something I don’t?

He couldn’t be sure without asking.

“Sir,” Daegan greeted Gideon with a fist pounded against his breast and a brief nod, one that Gideon returned. The rider wasted no time in reporting. “There is a mass of dirae massing to the northeast of here. I didn’t stop to count them, but they were numerous enough that I turned and came back immediately.”

“Just dirae?” Hecate asked, her face pale as she stopped just behind Gideon, peering around his shoulder to watch Daegan. “You didn’t see anyone leading them?”

Daegan hesitated.

“Out with it,” Gideon said, his voice commanding, though not unkind. “Even if it’s speculation. Tell us what you saw.”

“Big,” Daegan said. “He was big, in a dark cloak. I didn’t get a good look and I wasn’t close.” He glanced at Matt, at Hecate, then past her toward Phelan, who’d taken a few steps out of the shadow of the gates. “He had a smaller figure with him, too, in gray. A woman, I think.” He shook his head. “But I’m not sure. I can’t be sure.”

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