[This post is from Hecate’s point of view.]
There must have been something to the look on her face when they arrived back, because Marin’s smile—she had been talking to Tala and Thom about something animatedly, and apparently had been enjoying it—immediately faded and she stood up, steadying Thom as she did.
“What is it?” she asked, her voice quiet. “What’s happened?”
“It is Orcus,” Matt said. “And he’s given us three days.”
“Until some kind of inevitable showdown?” Thom asked, irony heavy in his voice. He leaned back against the log behind him, Lin nestled against his chest, sleeping. “Got to admire his flare for the dramatic.”
“It’s more than that,” Hecate said. “He told Matt and Thordin that he wanted me. I have three days to turn myself into him and then presumably, he leaves you all alone—at least, I suspect that’s what he’d want you to think. With Seamus and Leinth here, though, I think we all know that’s off the table.” She glanced around. Both Seamus and Leinth were gone—she’d probably taken him back to bed sometime while Hecate had been gone. As far as Hecate was concerned, that was good. Bed was where Seamus needed to be, resting and recovering. She hoped they wouldn’t need him for the coming fight.
Something in the pit of her stomach told her that they would.
“So what do we do?” Tala asked softly. She was already making more coffee. The woman was a saint, no matter what she believed. “Batten down the hatches again?”
“We might not have to,” Carolyn said, moving to help Tala. “He made a mistake.”
“A mistake?” Marin’s brow furrowed. “What are you talking about?”
“He told your brother and I roughly where he is,” Thordin said. “Ten miles northwest.”
“Along the lakeshore,” Marin said, frowning. “And we have three days?”
Matt nodded. “He didn’t give a more precise time or location.”
“But he might not have needed to,” Hecate said quickly. “We might be able to leverage this into an advantage, hit him before he hits us.”
Marin watched them all for a few seconds. “There’s something else that you’re not saying.”
“He has Persephone,” Matt said. “He said he’d give her to us if we gave her Hecate. We—I—said no.”
Hecate took his hand and squeezed, hard, even as her heart contracted painfully. “We said no. I love her as my sister, but I can’t do that. Not again. Not ever again. We find a way and it’s not me going with him. We find a way.” She stared at Marin. “This is my home, my family. He’d turn me against you in any way he could and I am not going to risk that happening. Not now and not ever.”