[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]
Matt’s brows went up. “For Cariocecus, you mean? I’m open to suggestions.”
“He does have a soft spot for the kids,” Phelan said, opening the shutters over one of cut-out windows, letting some more light and air into the space. There was a cross-breeze this morning that would make it more comfortable, at least for a little while, in the close heat of the old forge.
“Are you volunteering yours?”
Phelan winced again and knew that Matt saw the expression even though his back was still turned to both he and Thordin. “That’s not fair.”
“No, it wasn’t.” One corner of Matt’s mouth lifted into a wry smile. “We both know that none of us play fair anymore—at least not all the time. Family does shit like that.”
Snorting softly, Phelan looked around for something to keep his hands busy, finding a whetstone and some newly forged prep knives that needed honing and sharpening. “Point taken. I wasn’t volunteering Kay or Finn.”
“Good. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if either or both of them volunteered.” Matt shook his head, taking up a pair of tongs and thrusting the piece of metal on the anvil back into the forge itself. “I don’t know, Phelan. Where would we even start looking for Cariocecus?” He glanced toward Thordin. “Do you have any bright ideas?”
“It’s been how long since we’ve seen him?” Thordin frowned. “Six months?”
“Closer to a year,” Phelan said. “He was here for the autumnal equinox and the harvest. I know I haven’t seen him since, but someone else might’ve. You know him. He keeps his own council and keeps to himself these days. I think he’s starting to feel all the years.”
“Are you?” Thordin studied him for a few seconds. “Are you starting to feel the weight of the centuries?”
“I started to feel the weight of the centuries at least two hundred years ago,” Phelan said. It was only a half-joking lie. “Though it definitely hits harder every time I see Drew’s brother and his pack. Brings back memories of Kit O’Shea all those years ago.” Closest I ever got to someone in all those years before Jac happened—before all of them happened. I should’ve stayed in touch with her more. Of course, she was long gone, now—probably.
Déithe agus arrachtaigh—I don’t even know what became of her, if she was gone before the end of it all or if she survived it. I’ll likely never know.
It was another one of those marks upon his soul that he’d never quite wash clean.
Thordin grimaced slightly. “Sorry, brother.”
Phelan waved a hand, pouring a little clean water from a pocket near the quench over the whetstone. “It’s all right. I know what you were getting at. We’ve all handled everything a little different, all of us from the Otherworlds that are somehow still here. Me, Hecate, Neve, Sif—all of us.”
“Truer words are rarely spoken,” Matt murmured, turning whatever he was working on in the embers. “For some of you, I think it’s making up for lost time.”
“Well, you might not be wrong in that,” Phelan said, adjusting the bench so he could straddle it, starting to run the edge of the knife’s blade on an angle along the length of the whetstone. “I know I am, for better or worse. The things I have here are things I never dreamed I’d have again.”
“Sounds right.” Matt pulled the heated metal out of the forge, laying it on the anvil and taking up his hammer again. “I think Hecate’s pregnant again and trying to figure out how to tell me. Of course all of this would happen now—again.” He shook his head. “She’ll tell me not to worry.”
“More like she’ll tell you when to worry,” Phelan said softly, watching his friend as he started to hammer at the piece of iron. “And she’ll tell you when the time’s right. You’ve got enough on your mind right now, Matt. She won’t want to add another if she doesn’t have to.”
“Has Jacqueline said anything to you about it?”
He shook his head. “No. No, not yet, but she doesn’t always tell me about this sort of thing. There are a lot of things they keep from us, y’know. The ladies? They keep their own counsel. Probably wiser than we are in some ways.”
“In a lot of ways,” Thordin said with a smirk. “But we’ll not get into your deficiencies, Wanderer. Or mine, or his.”
Phelan snorted again. “Best not.”
“Best not indeed,” Matt said, his tone only slightly grim. “We haven’t made a decision about Cariocecus.”
“I’ll go,” Phelan said. “I might as well, right? I’m one of the ones with the best odds of finding him.”
“Don’t go alone,” Thordin said.
“I won’t,” Phelan assured him, lifting the knife to the light streaming in through the window, checking his work. “I’m not that big of a fool—not anymore.”
I don’t have a death wish anymore.