[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]
J.T.’s brows knit as he stared at Phelan, leaning a little more heavily on the cane in his hand. Despite the moratorium on violence, the years hadn’t always gone smoothly for him. It was something that Phelan could empathize with on many levels. “What else is there?”
Phelan exhaled, shifting his weight slightly to ease the pain starting in one leg, suddenly starting to feel the weight of centuries for the first time in a long while. “I killed a camazotzi today just at the edge of the wards,” he said quietly, carefully, then rushed on before anyone could protest or interject. “It was chasing Lin up the slope and he was already bleeding, which means either that camazotzi had gotten a piece of him or it was another one that’s either dead in the ravine or still out there somewhere looking for its partner.”
A few seconds of stunned silence met his words. Hecate drew closer to Matt, her arms wrapping around his waist, her face going moon-pale. She as much as any of them had reason to fear the old monsters and their power.
That sort of thing happened when you used to be one of those monsters mothers used to scare their children into behaving.
Carolyn found her voice first. “We haven’t seen those in—what, five years? Not since Thom and Marin—”
Phelan nodded slowly. “I know. And we were lucky, then, and so was he. I don’t know how lucky he or we will be this time, especially not with the news the Hunt’s brought us.”
“The peace breaks,” Thordin said slowly, softly. His gaze shifted over toward Matt. “What do you want to do?”
“We have to make ready,” Matt said quietly. “That’s all we can do.”
“We’ll have to make sure the kids stay inside the wards,” Carolyn said. “Inside the wards, preferably inside the walls, too. I mean, I hate to think about losing their help out in the fields and the orchards but I don’t think we have a choice, do we? It’s too big a risk if things are out there.”
“We were kids when this started,” Jacqueline said softly. “We managed to come through it okay.”
“Because we mostly stayed safely inside the wards and the walls,” Carolyn said, her jaw tightening slightly. “We stuck together and that helped us make it through safely. I—the kids—”
“They’ve lived a different kind of life,” Hecate said, then shook her head. She scrubbed a hand over her face. “They’ve lived a different kind of from any of us.” She looked at her husband, then to Thordin and Sif, to J.T. and Carolyn, to Jacqueline and Phelan, and then to Neve. “Has there been any word from Cameron?”
Hugging herself slightly, Neve shook her head. “No. But he’s only two months into his ride. I don’t expect anything for at least another month, probably longer. I can’t sense anything’s wrong, though—if I did, I’d tell all of you.”
Phelan’s gaze drifted toward Matt. His friend was staring out into the trees of the ravine, expression faraway and thoughtful.
“I wish they were still here,” Matt said, the words barely audible.
No one had to ask who he meant. They all already knew.