Twenty-eight – 03

Thordin’s shoulders slumped as the door clicked shut behind Matt, lingering on it for a few seconds as he flexed the fingers of one hand, then the other.  It was as if he was trying to will warmth back into them after being so high, so deep in the storm.  Hecate watched him for a few seconds, trying to tamp down the rising fear that bubbled up from somewhere deep and dark inside of her—the old fears, the ones that were enough to drive her to the edge of madness and beyond.

It had before and it had taken centuries to win free of it.  It was not an experience she was keen to repeat—now or ever.

“Are you all right?” she asked after a moment of watching him.  She stood and gently disengaged his fingers—still frigid—from his now-cold mug of tea.  He blinked, as if startled, watching her as she crossed the room to empty the mug and pour him a fresh, hot cup.

“I don’t know,” he said after a moment.  “I still feel like my heart’s beating too fast.  Sif’s not going to be happy.”

“Because you threw yourself to the edge and she wasn’t here?”  The heat bled into her fingers as she came back to him, settling the mug back into his hands.

Thordin shivered, fingers curling stiffly.  “A whole lot of that, if I’m honest.”

“I can’t blame her,” Hecate said.  “It’s not like she doesn’t worry for good reason.  Matt was here, though.  That should take some of the edge off.”  She sank down onto the edge of the coffee table in front of him, tilting her head slightly to get a better look at his face.  “You’re a little pale.”

“I’m having a hard time getting warm again,” he said before he took a slow sip of the tea, both hands wrapped around the mug.  “Probably because—probably a lot of reasons.”

Hecate just nodded.  “Drink that,” she said softly.  “It should help.”

His eyes fluttered shut for a few seconds as he nodded.  “Right.  You’re right.”

“Sometimes.  Usually.”  She managed a grin even as her heart sank.  Yes, it had been a long time since he’d thrown himself into a storm like this, especially one as huge as the one he described.  But this reaction seemed a little more than what she’d expected—and more than what it seemed like he expected, too.  “Thordin.”

He started to shake his head, fingers tightening around the mug.  He lifted it to take another sip, rasping quietly, “Don’t ask me, Hecate.”

“I have to,” she whispered.  “This is more than just the storm.  What is it?  Who is it?”

“I don’t know,” he said.  “I can’t be sure that it wasn’t my imagination.”

Cold shot through her.  The wind rattled the windows in the casements, startling her, and she cursed, standing and walking over to peer out beyond the glass.  “That what wasn’t your imagination?”

“The feelings.  I thought I felt something from whatever’s feeding this storm.  But I’m not sure if it was real or my imagination.  It’s just been so damn long, Hecate.”  He turned slowly in the chair, watching her as she stared out at the lashing rain, driven nearly sideways on the wind.  Thunder boomed, near again, rattling walls and sending a deep vibration through the ground.  “It felt distant and muddled and it might not have been real.  I might be wrong.”

She wrapped her arms around herself.  “Do you really think that you are?”

Silence stretched for a few moments before the answer came quietly, subdued.  “No.  I don’t.”

Hecate drew a deep breath and exhaled, nodding slowly.  “Gut check on who?”

“If I say it, it could make it real.”  He covered his eyes with one hand, the other tightening slightly around his mug.  “I very badly want to be wrong about this, Hecate.  I want to believe that we were never bothered not because the treaty but because something else dealt with them so we didn’t have to.  Someone else.”

“Olympium, then,” she said quietly, her stomach folding in on itself for a few seconds.

“It feels like it could be but I don’t know,” he said, peeking through his fingers to watch her.  Whatever he read in her face was reassuring enough that he continued.  “The sense of it was southron—I know that.  It could be any number of others, though, or anyone they’ve dealt with, allied with.  That might have learned from them—associated with them.”  Another slow, unsteady breath.  “I suppose it depends on who might be holding Thesan’s leash now, too.”

“Her?”  Hecate looked at him squarely, a chill trickling down her spine.  “Really.”

“I think so,” Thordin whispered.  “Maybe.  Did she…?”

“It’s possible,” she admitted.  “I don’t know.  But if she was still out there, do you really think that she’d have stopped hunting her uncles or her father?”

“No,” Thordin admitted.  “Maybe not.”

“Sounds as if it’s the same old lines, though,” Hecate said quietly, drifting back toward him.  Her exhale came as a sigh, her heart aching.  “It always feels that way, doesn’t it?”

“Old grudges,” Thordin murmured.  “Visited and revisited down the generations, on and on.”  He fell silent for a few seconds, then asked, “Do you think they’ll stop it?  The cycle?”

“Who?” she asked, though she already knew the answer.

Thordin just smiled at her and she glanced away, back toward the window and the storm beyond.

“I don’t know,” she whispered.  “I really don’t know.”

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