[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]
“What is it?”
Matt was watching his face and Phelan had long known his friend to be far more perceptive than he ever truly let on. There was a thread of concern in the smith’s voice as he asked the question, a look in his eye that spoke volumes about what he suspected and what he feared.
“A camazotzi attacked Lin,” Phelan said, staring at the embers in the firebox, unable to meet Matt’s gaze. He already knew what would be written on his friend’s face and it was an expression he feared he would see far more of in the coming weeks and months than he’d seen in years.
“A camazotzi,” Gilad echoed. “Those haven’t been spotted this far north in years.”
“We thought we saw one a few weeks ago,” Matt said slowly, his voice low. “But we couldn’t confirm what it was.” He stared at nothing for a few seconds, then took a slow, deep breath, exhaling before he asked, “How did it happen?”
“I only saw the tail end of what happened,” Phelan admitted. “From what he said before I passed him off to Jac, he was taking a walk in the ravine and saw something. He didn’t say what.” He didn’t have to say what, because I suspect I know what he saw. I’m just afraid to confirm it. “I saw him come charging across the bridge with the thing in pursuit. Looked like he’d taken a chunk or five out of it, but it also got its claws into him.”
“That’s why he’s with Jac right now,” Matt said. “Did it reach the wards?”
“I blasted it before it could, but it was about to.” Phelan’s lips thinned. “I don’t know if it would have punched through or not at this point. It was certainly determined.”
“And the wards aren’t exactly what they used to be.” Matt’s lips thinned and he started to pace. “None of this is good news.”
“Of course it’s not,” Phelan said, sitting down on one of the old benches against the forge’s stone walls. They were as old as the new world, built that first year—the handiwork of Lin’s father, Matt’s brother-in-law.
He missed Thom and Marin Ambrose more than he could ever properly express. If he were honest with himself, he knew they all did, each of them for different reasons.
He leaned against the cool stone, watching Matt. He likely missed them most of all, if only because with them gone, de facto leadership had fallen to him.
“The peace is breaking,” he said. “The agreement unravels.”
“We knew it would,” Phelan said softly. “Your sister said it would.”
“I know,” Matt whispered. “But she also always hoped she was wrong.”
“I know,” Matt said, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment. “I know.”