Nineteen – 01

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

“Lin?”

Consciousness flooded back in a rush.  My eyes felt gritty as I opened them, crusted over in the way they did when I was sick or had been crying in my sleep—sometimes when it was both.  I was willing to bet the previous night had probably been both.  I twitched beneath my blankets then groaned as my whole body started to remind me how much I hurt.  “Morning Tory.  It’s still morning, right?”

“Yeah,” he said quietly, easing inside.  The door clicked shut behind him, his footsteps quiet as he crossed the wood floor toward my bed.  The smell of breakfast hit my nose and though my stomach decided to somersault, it still growled just the same.  It might feel like someone had poured molten metal into the marrow of my bones, but apparently, somehow, I was still hungry despite nausea.

Again, I wondered how the hell my parents had managed to live through injury-induced suffering like this.

I finally managed to open my eyes, peering at him in the dim light.  It didn’t hurt as much, but there was still a distant thumping in my skull that I hoped would ebb sooner rather than later.  He seemed almost contrite as he brought a plate of food over to my bedside table, gently nudging my father’s journal and my empty mug aside so he could set it down.  “How morning?”  I asked, reaching gingerly to clear some of the gunk out of my eyes.  The motion made the pain in my shoulder worse but didn’t seem to have any additional ill effects—a small mercy, I decided.

“Sun came up about two hours ago,” he said.  “Breakfast is starting to wind down.  Figured I’d bring you a plate since Tala said she hadn’t seen you and apologize for yesterday.”

“You didn’t know,” I said, slowly sitting up.  The room spun for a second and I felt a little light-headed, but it went away after I settled against the headboard.  “And I wasn’t in much of a mood or mind to tell you.”

“I still shouldn’t have pressed.”  He took a fork and spoon out of his pocket and set it next to the plate on my bedside table, then collected my mug and headed to the stove.  “I just—it’s not like you to not say something.”

“It was a long day,” I said, carefully picking up the plate, watching as he started to make a fresh pot of tea.  “In more ways than one.”

“What happened to you?”

“Something attacked me,” I said slowly, evenly as I carefully sectioned a griddle cake with my fork.  “Something that we haven’t seen in a long time.”

“Is that where the scorch mark came from?”

“From Uncle Phelan killing it, yeah.”

“What did it do to you?”

“Long term?  Don’t know.  Yesterday it dug its claws into me something fierce.”  It had only been hours since the attack but it felt like forever.  “From what I’m gathering, Dad used to have the same kind of reaction to this kind of thing that I’m having now.”  Except sometimes with him it was worse.  I hope I don’t end up tripping over into that category.  “Then other shit happened.”

“Our visitors.”

“Your mom tell you?”

“Only a little bit.”  He turned and leaned against the counter, starting at me.  “Stuff about bloodlines and our visitors searching for something—someone.  Us.”

I closed my eyes and exhaled.

“I don’t want to press, Lin.  I really don’t.”

“It’s okay.  They’re looking for us, I think, and Uncle Phelan, but not just us or him.  There’s more I just don’t know how much more.”  I swallowed hard and exhaled, tilting my head back and staring at the ceiling for a few seconds.  “I haven’t gotten to talk to them, not really.”

“Well, maybe after you eat, if you’re feeling up to it, we can go do that.”

“I don’t know if I’m going to be.”

He smiled wryly as he took my hissing kettle off the stove.  “Guess we’ll have to see how much this tea fortifies you, then, huh?”

“Guess so.”  I glanced at him.  “You got something from Aunt Jac for me, didn’t you?”

“Not Aunt Jac,” he said as he started to brew the tea.  “Uncle Jay.”

I snorted.  “Something tells me that you really want me to be up to this conversation.”

“Well, you are my partner in crime.”

“I guess there’s that.”  I smiled again and he smiled back, a lopsided grin he’d inherited from his father.  “I’ll see if I can muster the strength.”

“You will,” he said, bringing me the mug.  “You’re just as eager to talk to them as I am, I think.”

“You wouldn’t be wrong,” I admitted as he handed me the tea.  “It’s just a question of physical ability.”

“It’s that bad?”

“Everything hurts.”  I took a careful sip of the fragrant blend.  It was hot and I could taste something not quite sweet and not quite bitter—something that was both at the same time even as it was also both familiar and not.  “Aunt Jac’s worried, Uncle Phelan’s worried—and probably a hell of a lot more people than them, if I were to guess.  I figure I’ll eventually be okay, but—well.  We’ll see, right?”

“What was it?”

“A camazotzi.”

“We haven’t—”

“I know.”  I smiled weakly.  “Stuff’s changing, Tory.  Was going to without our visitors showing up.”

“I guess so.”  He sank down into the chair that his sister had left abandoned.  “Still and all, Lin—why now?”

“I’m not sure,” I admitted.  “But I have theories.”

“I’d love to hear them.”

I smiled crookedly.  “You sure on that?”

“I was,” he squinted at me.  “That smile makes me question.”

“Maybe after we talk to our visitors.”

He nodded slowly, leaning back in his chair.  “Mum said one of them is my cousin.”

“Guess we’ll have to meet him, then.”

“Yeah.  I guess so.”

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