Twenty – 03

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

Matt stared at the two of them like each had just grown an additional head.  “What just happened?”

“A logic train,” Thom said, then smiled weakly.  “One that Anselm was trying to make sure you were on before we went further—unless I’m mistaken.”

“You are not,” Anselm said, then stood, fetching a kettle of water and settling it over his small cookfire.  “Cíar was once one of us, Matthew, but you are far less experienced than he was when he came to us.  You may have his soul and many of his memories, but you do not necessarily have his experience—just the memory of it bound into the fabric of his soul.  That’s different than actually living those experiences in this life.”

A chill crept down Thom’s spine.  Doesn’t help when it still feels like you’ve lived it, sometimes.  He grimaced, rolling one shoulder carefully, trying to stretch it without pulling too much on still-tender, still-healing wounds.  “It doesn’t,” Thom agreed.  “But he does have a host of different experiences which have left him stronger for it.”

Anselm inclined his head slightly, clearly loathe to argue the point—regardless of whether or not he agreed.  He settled back down into his seat again, watching Matt and Thom with a thoughtful gaze.  “There is a great deal of truth in that statement,” he said.  “Now.  Suppose that when I send men to scout out where Orcus is encamped and what forces he has martialed that we learn that his army is far larger and more powerful than we fear.  Will we still go forward with a strike?”

“That depends very heavily on what the Hunt finds out,” Matt said, scrubbing a hand over his face. “I’m worried that’s what you might find, but if it is, at least we’ll know how we’ll have to rig our defenses.”

“Or if we need to evacuate.”

Now Matt really did look at Thom like he’d grown a second head.  Thom glanced away, quiet for a few seconds before he looked back at his brother-in-law.

“We would be fools to imagine that’s not a possibility,” Thom said after a few seconds of silence.  “We both know it.  We’ve held out against a lot, sure, but we didn’t have much of a choice.  If Orcus has a force that’s too much to withstand, we might have to run, and quickly.  If we head south, we might be safe for a time.  Maybe we’ll even be able to come back afterwards.”

“I think you’ve finally lost your marbles,” Matt said.  Concern was etched in every line and curve of his face, worry heavy in his voice.

Thom just smiled.  “Sometimes you have to make the hard call to live another day.”

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