[This post is from Seamus’s point of view.]
“Worse,” Marin echoed, her brow furrowing. “Okay. Are either of you going to elaborate on that?”
Seamus grimaced, swallowing against a dry throat. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, trying to put order to the chaos of his thoughts. Just breathe. Think. Focus. Damnation, just focus. It was easier said than done. There was something coiling at the back of his mind, just beyond his reach in the maelstrom. The words came slowly, dredged up from somewhere deep where he’d kept them locked away for a very long time, never expecting to dredge them back up to the surface.
“Orcus has nothing to lose at this point,” he said. “Everything to gain. He’ll take whatever steps he feels are necessary in order to make sure that he wins this time. If that includes driving a hard bargain with Aietes, then he’ll do it. I don’t know that he realizes what he’s playing with when he’s getting into making bargains with Aietes, but that’s neither here nor there at this point. We have to assume that’s the bargain he’s made, and that makes both of them quite a bit more dangerous, now doesn’t it?”
Hecate nodded slowly. “Much more so,” she said softly. “That bastard will stop at nothing to get me back under his control. He knows how to manipulate me, too, if it comes to that.”
“All the more reason to make sure that we don’t lose,” Leinth said, crossing her arms. Her gaze took in all three of them, a storm breaking in the blue-gray of them. “Though I doubt that Matthew’s going to be very happy about what we might have to do to win.” Her gaze slid toward Hecate, who took a deep breath and swallowed hard.
“No,” she admitted softly. “No, I doubt he will. He’s already said there are some measures that aren’t necessary but I don’t agree. If it means everyone is safe, there are some risks that are worth taking.”
“Risks like what?” Marin looked at her and Seamus could tell from her tone that she already suspected the answer.
Hecate shot her a tight smile. “Seizing control of things like the lampades and the dirae and maybe even the camazotzi if he’s managed to call them. Cariocecus might be able to pull off that last one, but I doubt he’d want to try at this point, considering power to command them has been wrested away a few times now and he is certainly not at his best these days.”
“Are you?” Seamus asked softly before he could stop himself. He regretted the words as soon as they left his lips. Hecate just looked at him and smiled faintly.
“Far better,” she said, her voice equally quiet. “In some ways, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, Matt’s worry notwithstanding.” She sighed, glancing sidelong at Marin. “I have something to fight for that I believe in more than I’ve ever believed in anything. That matters—that matters so much.”
Marin slid an arm around her shoulders and squeezed her tightly. Seamus exhaled a shaky breath as he watched them.
“Right,” he said softly. “So I take it that we’ll be marching to war within the next day or so, then?”
“Without a doubt,” Hecate said, then smiled. “And we’ll win.”