Twenty-eight – 01

Thordin’s gaze strayed toward the windows as lightning lit the world outside a pair of heartbeats before thunder boomed.  A gust of wind lashed rain against the far side of the cottage Matt and Hecate shared with their younger children.

“It’s growing,” he whispered, eyes growing unfocused for a moment as he cast his senses into the storm, fingers bunching in the fabric of his pants for a few seconds.

Sif still hadn’t joined them.  Either her conversion with Neve was taking longer than anticipated, or she’d stayed with the other woman a bit longer to wait for a break in the storm.

A break didn’t seem forthcoming anytime soon, as far as Matt could tell, but that wasn’t exactly his wheelhouse, either.  He leaned forward to rest his elbows against his knees, cradling the mug of tea Hecate handed him between his palms.  “What does it mean?”

“Not sure yet.”  Thordin’s brow furrowed for a few seconds as he squinted, his gaze still focused on something beyond their sight.  “Do you want me to…?”

Matt glanced at Hecate, who winced, catching the inside of her lower lip between her teeth.  The worry in her eyes, he knew, mirrored what was in his own.  He exhaled slowly.  “At what cost?”

“Shouldn’t be one,” Thordin murmured.  “Maybe an extra hour of sleep tonight or tomorrow morning.  Not unless I have to do anything more than just look.”  He blinked once, then again, and suddenly he was fully there, turning a wry smile toward his worried friends.  “Won’t know if it’s more than that unless I take the look.”

“Do you think it’s worth it?”  Hecate asked as she slowly sat down beside Matt.  “The risk that you’ll have to act?”

“Weighed against how quickly this is growing?  I’m starting to think so.”  The wry smile faded, his expression going slack for a few seconds.  “It could be completely natural—it could be nothing to worry about.”

“Or it could be something subtle?” Hecate asked quietly.  “A nudge, a tug, someone feeding it and guiding it with a light hand?”

The wry smile returned and Thordin nodded slowly.  “It’s nice to know someone listens when I ramble on about it.”

“It’s been a long time since something like that happened,” Matt said, looking away from Thordin and toward the window.  He gathered breath to continue, only for Thordin to say what he was already thinking.

“But with recent events, we can’t rule it out.  Especially with the report from the Hunt, what happened to our guests, and the attack on Lin.  We don’t even know who’s controlling them these days.”

“We don’t,” Matt agreed.  “It’s been a long time since it mattered.”

“But it matters now,” Hecate said, setting her mug on the low table that perched in front of the couch where she and Matt had settled.  For a few seconds, she stared at the inlay of the wood, the delicate carving.  It had been an anniversary gift from Thom so many years ago.  “If the peace is truly broken, then someone is coming.  Perhaps all of them will be coming—and more.  The old threats.  New.  Who knows what anyone’s learned about us and this place in eighteen years—and other places like this.”  Her gaze flicked toward Matt for a second, then to Thordin.  “It’s your choice, Thordin.  Do what you think is best.”

Matt nodded, reaching to the side to capture her fingers in his, squeezing gently.  “She’s right.  And we’re with you on it.  Whatever you decide.”

Thordin nodded, standing slowly.  He set his mug on the table before he crossed toward the window, gaze already growing unfocused again.  “If you see frost on my fingers—”

“We’ll pull you back,” Matt said.  “No one wants you lost out there, Thordin.”

The ghost of a smile curved his lips and he nodded before he turned back to the window.  He leaned against the sill, peering out through the glass at the raging storm.  Then his eyes grew unfocused again as his friends watched, his senses thrown out and up into the storm.

Hecate’s fingers tightened around Matt’s.  He squeezed back, perhaps harder than he intended to, gentling as he realized his knuckles had gone white.

“Are you afraid?” she asked in a bare whisper.

“Yes,” Matt whispered back.

“Me too.”

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