A shiver ran through Phelan. “How’s that?”
“Because he could see it even when Drew and I couldn’t. Before we could—Drew never saw it, I could hear it and feel it, see it after it got close.” I stepped onto the shadowed path, then kept walking even as the chill of the dim became the chill of the grave and threatened to turn my limbs to lead. Something whispered in the back of my head that we shouldn’t be there. Go back, a soft voice whispered. Go back.
Phelan hurried after me, a curse on his lips and his power rising, turning him into almost a walking ward. I knew we would both be protected without even looking as he caught up with me, half a step behind my shoulder.
“What are you, anyway?” I asked as I led him toward the steep incline that was our destination. “You and Teague.”
“Mortal,” Phelan said, apparently trying to be flippant when he said it. He was sticking close to me, though, and I heard and sensed the strain in him all at once. “Now, anyway.”
I glanced back over my shoulder at him. “And before?”
A flicker of pain passed through his eyes. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he said quietly.
I took him by the hand and drew him onward. We were getting close, now, passing one of the old benches down along this walking trail, the only sanctioned one this close to the edge of the ravine. “Try me, Phelan.”
We reached our destination before he screwed up the courage to answer me. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the edge of the steep pathway that led down into a wide, grassy marsh at the bottom of the ravine, one of the few places close to the heart of campus where the floor of the ravine was more than a few feet across. Phelan took a deep breath, uncomfortable. My own skin was crawling, and I could sense a faint feeling of wrongness below. Perhaps the grays—gremlins?—had made their home down there, near where they’d jumped me weeks before. That was enough to send shivers down my spine, enough to make the spot on my arm where I’d been hit ache dully.
“Princes of the Áes Dána,” Phelan said after we’d stood there for a few long moments in total silence. We looked at each other sidelong, and I was shocked to see real fear in his eyes. His jaw was set but trembling. “You asked,” he said softly. “And I’ve answered. Usually, this is the part where you tell me I’m crazy and walk away.”
I touched his arm. “I asked, remember?” My fingers tightened slightly, then I let go. “Besides, if I didn’t run when J.T. recognized you from a dream that probably took place two or three thousand years ago, what makes you think I’d run now?”
He smiled briefly, looking down at his feet. “Point.”
“Was it really you?” I asked softly. “Not just a reflection of you, but really, really you?”
“Huh?” He seemed startled. “You mean in his dream?”
I just nodded.
He winced again. “Yes,” he said quietly. “It was really me, not just a reflection of me. It was a very, very long time ago, but time in the Otherworlds passes differently than it does here, in a lot of ways.” His Adam’s apple bobbed twice as he swallowed hard. “We’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a long time. Teague has, anyway. I can’t seem to stay away from this world even when I want to.”
He wasn’t making much sense, of course, but that—as I came to learn later, and many times over—was Phelan. It was who he was and the way he was. Mysterious without trying, confusing when he meant to be clear. It was instinct and habit and something he had almost no control over. It was probably what got him into and out of trouble so easily time and again.
“You’ve been keeping track of us for a long time, haven’t you?”
Phelan nodded. “Yes,” he said softly. “Yes, I have. I’ve tried to keep an eye on their souls, on her bloodlines—his bloodlines.” He swallowed hard. “It’s been difficult, and strange. There were generations where there would be no trace, and other times it was clear as day.” His gaze slid sideways again. “Am I making any sense?”
I smiled faintly. “A little. Anyone else back there would think you’re crazy, though.”
He managed to grin. “They’d be right.” He took my hand and pointed down toward the marsh. “That, down there? That’s what you wanted to show me?”
“Very well, then. Let’s have a closer look, shall we?”