Twenty-eight – 02

That fear felt different this time somehow—a surprise.  Matt had thought after so much time, after so many threats faced and handled, that he’d learned every kind of fear that he could feel.  Yet somehow, this felt different.  There had been other times when the stakes felt much higher than they did now, but this felt like that and more.

But why?

Hecate’s shoulder leaned into his as his fingers flexed around hers again.  He exhaled slowly, gaze fixed on Thordin—on his friend’s face, then his hands.  If there was frost, he’d reached too far, was reaching too far, and there would be a threat of losing him to the storm.

It had come close to happening before and was an experience none of them were keen to repeat.

“What if he doesn’t come back?” Matt whispered, giving voice to the words that had suddenly bubbled up from that dark well of fear.

“He will,” Hecate said, and the certainty in her voice was enough to silence that fear, at least this time.  “If there’s one thing that holds true about him, he’ll let you pull him back.  He learned that lesson and has remembered it well.”

Matt didn’t ask.  He thought he knew what she was talking about, but he didn’t want to hear the confirmation.  He knew the old story—knew the truth of the old story.  If that was what she was referencing, it made sense.  Given everything he knew about his friend, it made sense.

And if it wasn’t that, if it was about a battle on the ice in his lifetime, well—then it made even more sense.

There was no sign of frost on Thordin’s fingertips, though, even as the air around him seemed to crackle gently.  Matt held his breath.  The static electricity was nothing new, but it suggested exactly how powerful the storm might be, if it was gathering around Thordin even standing there, leaned against the windowsill.

Next to him, Hecate swallowed.

“Big,” she whispered.  “Very big.”

“And powerful,” Matt whispered back, gaze fixed on Thordin’s hands.

“This may be more than we bargained for.”  Her fingers flexed.  “Maybe we shouldn’t have—”

Matt shook his head, silent, still watching.

No frost.

The air crackled.  Thunder boomed nearby, setting their cups rattling.  Rain lashed at the windows, driven by a wind that was beginning to pick up.

If it was a normal storm, it was going to be one of the worst they’d faced all summer.

A glimmer caught his eye.  Rime started to gather along Thordin’s fingernails.  Matt was out of his seat in a second, crossing the room, his own magic a simmer beneath his skin—already reaching.  “Thordin—”

His friend gasped, reeling backward, stumbling back into Matt’s startled arms.  For a few seconds, Thordin’s eyes rolled wildly, blindly, as if seeking both himself and who was with him, his hands scrabbling for purchase on Matt’s arms.

“I—I was deep and high,” Thordin gasped.  “I could feel something.  It’s not—something’s feeding it.  Someone.  Something.  I couldn’t tell what.  It’s too far.  This storm is huge and it’s growing.  It hasn’t stopped growing and something is feeding it.”

Hecate was at their side, then, helping Thordin straighten and steady even as the taller man leaned on Matt.  “But you couldn’t tell what or who?”

“No,” he breathed, reaching to scrub at his eyes.  “No, it was too far away.  It could be—it could be anyone.  Known or unknown.”

“Or anything,” Matt murmured.

Thordin met his gaze and nodded slowly.  “Aye.  Anything.”

The three looked at each other for a few seconds before Hecate shook her head.  “Come on.  Sit down.  You said it was far.”

Thordin nodded again, fumbling into the chair they led him to.  “Yeah.  Miles and miles.  West, I think, and south.  Definitely south.”

Hecate took a breath, looking at Matt, then Thordin, then back to Matt again.  “It might not be directed at us.”

“It might not be,” Matt said.  “But we can’t pretend that it’s not, can we?”

“No,” Thordin said.  “We can’t and we shouldn’t.  But whoever it is—they’re strong and they’re trying to keep what they can do hidden.  What they’re doing is subtle.  They might not know how much they can do.”

“Or they know exactly how much they can do,” Hecate said, sinking slowly back into her seat.  “And they’re being careful.”

Thordin nodded.  “I couldn’t tell.  Not without—not without risking too much.”

“It’s all right,” Matt murmured.  “If they’re far, we still have time.”

“But how much?”  Thordin asked.  “Assuming that this is something targeted and aimed here.”

“I don’t know,” Matt said.  “None of us can, yet.  Sounds like we’re going to have to be careful with this, though.”

“And batten down the hatches,” Hecate said, her gaze on the window and the wind-lashed rain.  “This is barely the beginning, isn’t it?  Tip of the iceberg.”

Swallowing hard, Thordin reached for his abandoned mug.  “Yeah.  The worst is still coming.  Still out over the lake.”

“Then we have time,” Hecate said.

“Time,” Matt echoed.  He headed for where his old raincoat, patched in places, showing its age, hung by the front door.  “Going to go check in on the Hunt and tell them to button up.  And the sentries.  You two stay here—I’ll be back.”


He paused at her voice, turning even as he shrugged into the coat.  “I’ll be careful.”

“Very careful,” Hecate said, her gaze direct.  “Be very, very careful.”

The words balanced on the very tip of his tongue, but he didn’t ask the question.  He just nodded.  “I will.”

He pulled up his hood and stepped out into the storm.

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