[This post is from Neve’s point of view.]
It was three days before they made it home, carrying with them the wounded—many of the Hunt were, but those from the ridge were little worse for wear. They didn’t talk about what had happened, though—not on the field. None of them did, not in any sort of real or specific way.
Their family came last—Marin with Phelan and Thom, Matt and Hecate, Cameron and Leinth, Thordin and Sif. They seemed exhausted, worse for wear, but alive and relatively intact. They came on foot, leading their horses, as if needing to stretch their legs after the ride. Perhaps they did.
Neve and Seamus met them at the gates. If any of them were surprised, it didn’t show. Leinth moved right for Seamus even as Cameron went to Neve. She wrapped her arms around him and pressed a kiss to his ear.
“I was worried,” Neve murmured.
“I know,” Cameron said, kissing her temple as he leaned back slightly. “But here we are, back safe and sound.”
“Most of us, anyway,” Marin said, leading her horse through the gates. “The battlefield is hallowed ground, now. Their dead and ours rest together.”
“Warded?” Seamus asked, leaning against Leinth, who’d tucked herself under his arm.
Marin nodded. “Warded with the beginnings of a forest growing over it. Give it ten years and no one will be able to tell what happened there unless they start digging.”
Behind her, Thom shivered. “Hopefully, no one ever does.”
“What did their blood buy us?” Seamus asked softly. “What was their sacrifice for?”
“Peace,” Marin said.
“But for how long?”
She smiled wryly. “They said twenty years. I figure it actually holds for fifteen before they completely break the bargain. They’ll start testing us in ten or thirteen years. Either way, it buys us time.”
“They,” Neve echoed. “I thought it was just Orcus.”
Phelan shook his head. His voice came raspy. “No. Leviathan was there, too.”
“And there were watchers,” Hecate added. “Word will spread that we’re not to be trifled with. There will be some that will test us, but not nearly as many. Not like what you’ve already faced.”
“Like what we’ve already faced,” Matt corrected gently.
She smiled up at him.
Marin took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. “We’ve won at least a childhood for our children,” she said. “And if that’s all the time we have, I’ll count us lucky. It buys us time to figure all of this out. One way or another—we have time.”
Time was all they’d ever really needed, all they really wanted. Now, a year in, perhaps they would actually be able to settle down and sort it all out.
Now they had time.
End of Book Seven