“You called her Seer, too,” Rory said in a low voice, suddenly looking at Phelan like he was some kind of insect—or an enemy he was willing and able to dissect.
Phelan blinked at him. “That’s what she is. You know that.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “But why are you—oh. Oh. The one that spoke to you, the thing leading those camazotzi that attacked you with the gremlins. It called her that, too, didn’t it?”
I made a soft noise to the affirmative. “It was going to kill us,” I said softly, cradling my bowl between both hands. “Thom and I both.”
Phelan’s brows shot up. “Thomas is a Seer? You’re sure?”
J.T. tossed me a vaguely murderous look and I sighed, shaking my head. “That was certainly my impression, and clearly it was one that the thing shared.” I shrugged and sighed again. “As much as these guys would like to think I am, I’m not an expert.”
Phelan made a curious noise and rocked back slightly, looking at each of us in turn. They were brief, but measuring looks, a few seconds of looking apiece before he cleared his throat. “Well,” he said slowly, “I guess that’ll make a couple of us pretending. I may know a great deal about all of this sort of supernatural and magical mess, but I don’t claim to be an expert at all. Given what’s happened, I don’t even know how much good I’ll be in the long run—it seems behaviors are already shifting in ways I wouldn’t ordinarily expect.”
“You mean the grays,” Rory said.
“Exactly.” Phelan’s expression turned grim. “This is uncharted territory for all of us. We can barely know what to expect. All we can do is operate on what we know, what we think we know, and what we learn going forward to keep all of us alive.”
J.T. snorted humorlessly. “Which is exactly what we’ve been doing.”
Phelan shrugged. “All the more reason for me to stand by my previous statement—you look like you’ve been doing just fine to me.”
I rubbed my temple. Looking at it in that way, I guess it does make sense. “Just don’t let Thom hear you say that,” I mumbled.
“He’s not going to like me much, is he?”
J.T. and I exchanged a look. He shook his head slightly and I smiled wryly. “No,” I said. “No, probably not.”
Tala fed a thin stick of wood into the fire, straightening up and studying Phelan with unguarded curiousity. “Who are you, anyway? I mean, I know, Phelan Conrad, but how did you get here? How did you find us?” She glanced at me, then back to Phelan again. “And how do you seem to know so much? Seems like you know who Thom is. Are you related to him or something?”
“Yes and no,” Phelan said quietly, one shoulder hitching upwards in a shrug. “Do you know Kira?”
Tala nodded slightly. Most of them had met her at least once or twice. “Yeah, she hit the movies with us once. His cousin, right?”
Phelan nodded. “Her husband is my cousin. Like I told them,” he gestured vaguely to me and the rest, “they sent me to find you here. I knew where to look because they told me where to come. As for how I got here? I walked.” He smiled humorlessly. “It was a long walk.”
“From Chicago?” I said. “Yeah, that’s a pretty long walk.” No wonder he looked so bedraggled by the time he got here.
“Indeed.” He took a long swallow from his mug. “I’m just sorry I wasn’t here sooner.”
Damn. He really does feel bad. I shook my head a little. “Sorry we came down so hard on you,” I said softly.
He waved a dismissive hand and pushed himself up to his feet. “Too late to change that now. Just have to make up for lost time. Where’s Thomas?”
J.T. blinked. “Why?”
Phelan shook his head. “They asked me to make sure he was all right. To talk to him about…” His voice trailed away and he cleared his throat. The rest of us exchanged a long look. We all knew exactly what he was supposed to talk to Thom about.
Oh, that won’t end well. I frowned and shook my head. “That’s not a good idea, Phelan.” I shoveled two more bites of my stew into my mouth, chewed and swallowed, then got up. “Come on. Walk with me and I’ll explain.” I glanced at J.T. “Can you keep him busy or something?”
“He’s busy with the construction,” J.T. said slowly. “But I’ll see what I can do.”
I nodded. “Good.” One less thing to worry about. I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders, looking at Phelan. “All right. C’mon with me.” I glanced at the sky.
The weather would hold for long enough to show him some things, I thought.
Without looking back to see if he was following me, I started walking toward the ravine.