Day 21 – Chapter 12 – Marin – 22

            “I thought you were afraid to do that,” Kellin croaked from behind me.  I whipped around to stare at her.  She was gaunt, leaning against the shelves and staring down at me with sunken eyes.  She had a blanket pulled around her shoulders, dressed in old jeans and her sandals.  She nodded toward the spread.  “What were you looking for guidance on?”
            I shook my head a little, shifting so I could sit cross-legged on the mattress.  “Just Thom,” I said quietly, gathering up the cards and tucking them back into their box.  She drifted to join me, seating herself next to me and shivering a little.
            “Are you two all right?  Jay said we’ve been asleep for a few days.”  Her voice sounded terrible, but I suppose mine would, too, if I’d suffered what she’d suffered.
            “We’re okay, I think,” I said softly.  “He’s having a chat with someone right now.  Someone new.”
            Kellin raised a brow.  “Someone new?”
            “Yeah.  Someone Kira sent.  You remember her, right?”
            “Thom’s cousin?”  Kellin nodded stiffly, as if her neck still bothered her.  “I remember her.  She seemed nice.  Open-minded.”  She was quiet for a moment before she looked at me, hard.  “What happened to her, anyway?  Do we know?”
            “She’s still alive,” I said softly.  “That’s what he said.”
            “No.   Phelan, the one she—or her husband, or something—sent.  Phelan Conrad.  He’s…old.  But he doesn’t look old.”  I exhaled, rubbing my temple.  “Not just an old soul.  Something different.”
            “Huh,” Kellin said quietly.  “That would explain it.”
            “Explain what?”
            “When I woke up, I could feel that something had shifted.  In our favor, it felt like, but I wasn’t sure.”  She was quiet for a moment before she asked, “Did you set new wards?”
            A shiver worked its way down my spine and I nodded slightly.  “Yes,” I said quietly.  “Yes, I did.  They’re oddly strong, and I’m not sure what I did to them that made them that way.”  I smiled weakly.  “Wardings are more your forte.”
            “They are,” she agreed, rubbing her eyes. “But I’m glad to know that you can somehow manage without me if you have to.”
            I touched her knee.  “Nothing like that is every going to happen again, Kel.”
            She smiled wryly.  “Have you seen that?”
            “No,” I admitted.  “But we’re not about to let them get that close again.”
            “How are we going to prevent that?” she asked softly.  “Did we ever figure out who was undermining the wards?”
            “No,” I said again, then sighed.  “But we were talking about that, Rory and J.T. and Carolyn and I, while we were out working on the wards.  That’s why they’re stronger; it took all of us to make them like that.”  It was mostly a lie, but she didn’t need to know that, especially when I wasn’t sure what I’d done.  “We don’t know who could have done it, Kel.  For all we know, the person that did left after the fight.”
            “Do you really believe that?” she asked in a whisper.
            I winced and looked away.  “No,” I whispered back.  “I wish I did.”
            “We have a job to do, then,” she said simply, softly, and shook her head slightly.  “We have to figure out who did it, make sure they can’t do it again.”
            “Yeah,” I said softly, staring off at nothing.  My stomach twisted back on itself.  A little part of me didn’t want to know, was worried about who might have betrayed us—and why.  “Look, uhm.  Can we not talk about this right now?”
            Kellin seemed startled, blinking at me.  “Are you okay?”
            I nodded a little.  “Yeah, there’s just a lot of other stuff on my mind right now.  You should meet Phelan.  He can probably help us with our problem.  The undermined wards, I mean.”  I wrapped my arms around my knees.
            “Do you really think he can?”
            I looked at her sidelong and managed to smile.  “He’s older than dirt and knows more about all of this kind of stuff than the rest of us combined.
            “Of course I think he can help.”


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