One – 03

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

“Lin.”

Sound swam up through the darkness, my head ringing with each heartbeat. I twitched feebly, feeling nothing but bone-deep ache and a burning where the camazotzi had gotten pieces of me. Regardless of anything else, that meant I was in for an unpleasant few days.

“Lin.” The voice was more urgent the second time it said my name, but still muffled.

I might have groaned. Moving hurt. The voice mumbled a curse.

Déithe agus arrachtaigh, Thomas Merlin,” the voice growled. “Open your eyes, dammit, or I’ll haul you back by your ankles.”

My uncle Phelan has always had a way with words.

I cracked one eye open, then the other. He was crouched above me, green eyes wide and worried, every plane and angle of his face etched with concern. “Okay,” I croaked. “Okay, okay.”

“Oh no,” he said, his voice dripping with a mix of disbelief and concern. “Not okay. What the hell happened?”

“Is it still out there?”

“No, it’s obliterated. What happened?” By now, he was helping me sit up slowly. The world pirouetted once, then a second time before it stopped its slow twirl around me. I groaned and would have buried my face in my hands if I hadn’t been sure it would make me dizzier.

“I was taking a walk,” I told him. “Down in the ravines. It happened too fast. One second everything was normal and then there weren’t any birds anymore and it started to get dark and I—” I stopped, squinting at him. Was it my imagination, or was he paler than normal? “Uncle?”

“We’ll talk about it later,” he said, starting to pull my arm across his shoulders. “Come on, on your feet. You aunts are going to have some kind of conniption. Probably after Jac has a good look at you.”

“I’ll be fine,” I muttered as he hauled me to my feet. The world spun again; only one revolution this time, for which I was silently grateful. “I was the last time. A couple days of fever and a nasty scar.”

“You’d love to think that,” Phelan muttered, shaking his head. “Unfortunately, these things tend to get worse with repeated exposure, not better. It’s a little game the world plays with people who have blood like ours.” He wrapped his arm around my waist and together we started to limp back toward the village proper. “You’re going to do as she tells you, Lin, whether you like it or not.”

I frowned. My head pounded and the wounds burned. For a second, I wondered how long I’d been out. “Did you see it?”

“I felt it before I saw it,” Phelan said quietly. “You were lucky I was out here.”

“What were you doing out here?”

He smiled briefly. “Taking a walk. And you’re lucky I was, too. That thing would have come through after you.”

“It couldn’t have made it,” I said.

He shook his head. “They have before, Lin. They have before.” He lapsed into silence for a few steps, then added, “For a prize like you, they would do anything, risk anything, especially now that they know where you are.”

“Why now?” I asked. “They haven’t come ‘round since I was a baby. Why now?”

“I’m not sure,” he said quietly. “And there’s a part of me that’s afraid to find out.”

“Do you think it has something to do with Mom and Dad?”

Phelan closed his eyes, a trace of pain crossing through his expression, though he smiled. “It always does, Lin. Somehow, it always does.”

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