Eight – 01

[This post is from Thom’s point of view.]

Thom rose early the next morning, despite or perhaps because he and Marin had spent most of the balance of the previous day in bed. He crawled from the covers carefully, trying not to disturb her. Their son had woken only a few hours before, inconsolable, screaming and crying for no reason either of them could discern. Thom had tried for the first two hours, then Marin had taken over, finally crawling back into bed and his arms after whatever nightmarish thing had afflicted their infant had faded and their son fell back into what seemed like normal sleep. Thom turned up the lamp slightly as he limped around, finding clean clothes and peering at his sleeping baby. Lin lay swaddled there, one arm free of the blanket shroud, breathing deeply and evenly, apparently fast asleep. Whatever had disturbed him hours earlier was gone now.

The helpless feeling still lingered, though, and he hated it. He reached down to gently brush his fingertips along his son’s head, ruffling the soft, downy baby hair there. He’d seen his son enough in visions to know what Lin would look like someday, a spirited boy growing into a gangly teenager slowly becoming a young man of more wisdom than his father had ever had or ever would. There was a little part of him that regretted already knowing, but in other ways, it was a relief.

Thom glanced back at Marin, curled on her side, a lock of hair that had escaped her braid hanging across her face. The sight brought a faint smile to his face.

How the hell could I have ever thought I’d really be able to quit her?

He’d been such a fool a year ago—a year and more.

It still haunted him, even though she’d told him more than once that he shouldn’t let it bother him, that it was in the past. In some ways, that dark storm had made them stronger together. Maybe it was the same for some of the others, for people like his cousin and Teague and Neve and Cameron—even Sif and Thordin and Leinth and Seamus—who had lived through their own storms, though different from what he and Marin had gone through.

“A year,” he murmured softly, hoping he wouldn’t wake her even as he stared at her, wringing a clean tee shirt between his hands. “And what a year it’s been.”

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Seven – 07

[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]

Thom released her, leaning back against the mattress. He rested his hand against her spine and she could feel the weight of his gaze even as he settled in against their pillows. Marin glanced back and smiled faintly at him, running her hand down his arm for a second before she finished taking off her shoes.

“Have I ever told you how much I miss you?” he murmured, eyes half-lidding as he watched her tug off her sweatshirt.

“Miss me?” She smiled, stretching out alongside him in their bed, on her side so she could see his face. He smiled, reaching over to brush some of her hair out of her face. “I’m right here. You don’t have to miss me.”

“In some ways, when you’re not right with me, I do,” he said, fingertips brushing along her cheek and jaw. “When I thought—” he broke off, closing his eyes. Marin edged closer to him, reaching for his face with both hands.

“Thom,” she whispered.

He exhaled a shaky sigh. “I never, ever stopped loving you,” he whispered back. “And I never will. You know that, right?”

“Of course I know that.” She cradled his face between her palms. He was warm, but not enough to worry her too much. “I always have. That’s what made it all so hard, you know?”

“I’m so sorry,” he said, inching closer. “I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Marin leaned in, pressing a kiss to his forehead, then another to his lips. “It’s okay, Thom. Now what’s going on? What’s bothering you? I know something must be.”

He exhaled a shaky breath. “I just—I don’t know. It’s nothing that I can put my finger on. It’s just a feeling.”

“What kind of feeling?”

“Just—just the kind of feeling that makes me want to hold onto you and not let go,” he said, kissing her gently, their noses nearly touching when he drew back. “It’s probably nothing.”

“It’s usually not,” she said, stroking his face.

“I know,” he whispered, then closed his eyes.

Then he wrapped his arm around her and held her tightly, burying his face in her hair again.

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Seven – 06

[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]

Thom reached out a hand to her and Marin exhaled, standing up and coming to sit with him on the bed. He wrapped both arms around her and held her for a few seconds. She felt her heart calm, her breathing evening out a little. She reached up with one hand to wipe her eyes even as the fingers of the other tangled in his sleeve.

“Are you okay?” he whispered, burying his nose in her hair.

Marin nodded, almost convulsively. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay. It’s just—wow. It’s jarring, that’s all. I mean, they probably don’t even know yet.” Even as she said it, now that she actually thought about it—actual thought as the shock was starting to wear off—she realized it was absurd to think that Hecate didn’t have any kind of inkling. She was a midwife, had been trained for it since birth, regardless of what had happened to her after Olympium had come and stolen her away from her home and murdered her family.

Thom drew back, studying her, brow furrowing as if he’d sensed her thoughts. Perhaps she’d stiffened slightly or shifted her posture in another way. Either way, he was shooting her a familiarly quizzical look. “Something tells me that you just reconsidered that.”

“I did,” she said softly, squeezing his arm gently. “Hecate would know. She would know if she was pregnant. She knows what to look for.”

“There’s been a lot going on,” Thom murmured, leaning toward her again. “It’s possible she hasn’t thought about it.”

“Maybe,” Marin agreed, then sighed, straightening slightly. “Let me take my shoes off.”

“Going to stay a little while?” Thom asked.

She nodded, running her hand gently up and down his arm. “Yeah. I don’t think anyone really needs me right now—except for you and Lin, and he’s asleep.”

She felt him smile against her neck. “I always need you.”

“Right back at you,” she said softly, then kissed his temple before she leaned down to start taking off her shoes.

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Seven – 05

[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]

A cradle.

Marin sat down heavily in the rocking chair in the corner, bile rising in her throat. She tried to swallow it back down, to ignore the sourness that slicked the back of her tongue and burned in her throat. Thom watched her as he worked one boot off, then the other, wincing only slightly as he straightened back up again.

“The look on your face makes me think you’re worried,” he said softly. “Are you?”

“A little,” she said weakly, then swallowed hard, blinking. She took one breath, then another, her stomach slowly starting to settle as she did. “You really don’t remember drawing it?”

He shook his head. “No. I was talking to Matt and was just doodling without really thinking. When I looked down was when I realized what I’d drawn. It was mindless except maybe it wasn’t.”

“Maybe,” she whispered, scrubbing a hand over her eyes as she started to tug off her sweatshirt. “Holy shit, Thom. Do you—”

“You think maybe it means the same thing I do.”

Marin nodded slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, I think I probably do. Holy shit.”

They probably don’t even know. Of course, we could be wrong. They might not be. It might be coincidence. It could be nothing.

Or it could be a really, really big something.

It sent her heart soaring, at least for a few seconds. They deserved to be happy, though she suspected that Hecate might worry herself sick over it, at least at first. She knew that the worry would be there, more intense than the usual pregnancy concerns, worse than the normal first time mom worries—worries that Marin had to admit she had herself with Lin, but had tried her best to bury.

After all, everything was different now—this was uncharted territory. No one before them—before she and Tala and Neve—had given birth after the end of the world, at least not anywhere near them. They were all figuring things out as they went along.

Matt and Hecate…

She felt tears gathering in her eyes even as she smiled.

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Public service announcement

The update for Wednesday, December 12, 2018, will post sometime later in the day on Wednesday.

Thank you for your understanding!

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Seven – 04

[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]

It was Thom that broke the silence again, after another dozen steps, as they drew closer to their own door and the promise of dry clothes, warm blankets, and their bed. “Do you ever see them with children in your visions?”

Marin blinked, glancing sidelong at him, brow furrowing. “What?”

“Hecate and Matt,” he murmured. “Do you ever see them with children?”

Her stomach twisted and she frowned a little deeper, half wondering what had brought the question on. “I never really thought about it,” she said softly.

“Do you ever see us with more than one?”

“Thom, what are you—”

“I don’t know,” he said, voice breaking as he said it. “I don’t know what I’m getting at. I just—I just keep thinking, that’s all. I keep thinking about a lot of things and then there are things that I’m not thinking about that just appear. The thought just pops and I don’t know what to do about it. And then—and then—there are things that I don’t think about that are just suddenly there.”

“Thom,” her voice came quietly, soothingly, her stomach in knots, bile creeping higher in her throat. “Talk to me.”

He shook his head as he opened their door, limping inside. She followed, shutting the door behind them as Thom turned up the lamp on their bedside table.

“You’re not making any sense,” Marin said softly, carrying Lin to his cradle. She shifted his blankets and laid him down gently, then spread his blanket over him again. Thom sat down on the edge of their bed, reaching down to start taking off his shoes.

“I know,” he murmured. “I know and I’m sorry. I just—I drew something today while I was talking to Matt and I don’t remember thinking about drawing it and I don’t remember actually drawing it and I don’t know what it means.”

Marin’s stomach dropped. “What was it?”

“A cradle,” Thom said, looking up at her. “I drew a cradle.”

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Seven – 03

[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]

Thom held her tightly. She could hear the steady thumb of his heart as she rested her head against his chest, her lips drawn tight into a thin line. The cotton of his shirt was soft against her cheek and their son was quiet in her arms, his tiny thumb tucked into his mouth.

He’s still here and we’re still together. That’s all that matters anymore.

“Are you all right?” Thom finally whispered. His arm didn’t loosen, though his nose stayed buried in her hair. They leaned against each other, holding each other up. A breeze teased her hair and Thom shivered slightly. Marin held him a little tighter.

“Do you want to go inside?” she asked, not answering his question.

There was a slight hesitation before he said, “Maybe.”

She squeezed him again, then her arms slowly loosened as his did. She straightened, steadying him as he got his second crutch back underneath himself. “You were up at the forge,” she said softly, watching him as he steadied himself and got ready to move.

Thom nodded. “All morning. I was up there with Matt. We were both getting some work done.”

Marin nodded silently, starting to walk toward their room, moving slowly enough for Thom to keep pace with her. She glanced down toward Lin and found he was quietly asleep, which had been her aim in walking him in the first place. Thom followed her gaze and smiled faintly.

“We’re lucky,” Thom murmured.

She glanced up at him, smiling faintly. “Yeah. Yeah, we are. Things could have been a lot different.”

“I am so sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry for everything I put you through. I was terrified by what I’d seen.”

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “I forgave you a long time ago for that.”

He nodded slowly, then sighed. “Now if I could forgive myself, that would be the real trick, wouldn’t it?”

She paused, standing on tip-toe to kiss him gently. “Someday you will.”

“Someday,” he echoed.

They kept walking.

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Seven – 02

[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]

                “Mar?”

                She turned toward the sound of her husband’s voice, blinking back tears she hadn’t realized had pricked her eyes rimming her lashes.  Thom paused, his brows knitting, as if he’d noticed them sparkling there in the dim light before she was able to hide them.

                “What’s the matter?” he asked in a whisper, limping toward her, leaning heavily on his crutches.  “You’re crying.”

                “I’m all right,” she said, shaking her head quickly and reaching up to scrub the tears from her eyes with the heel of one hand, the other cradling Lin against her chest.  Thom reached to help her, his thumb brushing along her cheek.

                “Are you sure?  What is it?”

                “I was just thinking,” she whispered, stepping a little closer.  Thom leaned into her, wrapping one arm around her waist, trapping his crutch beneath one arm.  Marin rested her forehead against his shoulder, sighing softly.  If the pressure there hurt, he didn’t say anything, instead pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

                “About what?” he asked softly.  “Talk to me, sweetheart.  Whatever you were thinking about was enough to bring tears to your eyes and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me worried.”

                A sigh escaped her lips and she wrapped her free arm around him, turning her head slightly so her forehead rested against his neck.  She could smell the forge on him and he was warm despite the dampness in the air—not entirely from fever, but likely from time spent close to her brother’s kiln, probably in conversation with him.  “Tomorrow,” she said simply.  The words that were to follow vanished, crumbling in the wake of emotions she felt but couldn’t name.

                “Tomorrow,” he echoed.  “What, you’ll—wait.”  He fell silent and she knew he was thinking, trying to puzzle out what she’d meant.  “Tomorrow,” he said again, his voice quieter now.  She caught a thread of pain in his voice, pain that went far beyond the physical.  “Oh.”

                His arm tightened.  Marin closed her eyes as Thom buried his nose in her hair.

                “I love you,” he whispered.  “I always did.”

                “I know.  I know.”

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Seven – 01

[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]

The rain ebbed, though the sky remained gray, the clouds heavy. There was a faint chill in the air, the promise of autumn and winter nearer than the calendar implied—or would imply, if they were more diligent about keeping it.

A few watched the days on the calendar as they passed. A few marked them, because—as they had once quietly whispered to each other—they would want to know the days their children were born, the days that they married. There were other reasons to mark the days, too, though those reasons were the ones that no one wanted to talk about, ones they hoped they wouldn’t need for a long time.

No one wanted to think about marking the dates when people died.

It was as if the weather knew something that they’d half forgotten, whether by chance or by design.

Tomorrow was the day.

It would have been a year since the end of everything they’d ever known. One year to the day.

As Marin paced along the edge of the tents, humming softly to Lin, it struck her that none of them could have ever predicted what had happened to them, her visions of the future notwithstanding. Even she hadn’t known what it all meant when she’d had the first vision of the end years ago, hadn’t understood what would come after. She knew Thom hadn’t. Even Phelan—and likely Teague, too—hadn’t quite known what would be, only that something would be.

A whole year. It was about to be a whole year since that day of chaos and fire and death and fear and grief and wanting and hoping. As she gazed down at her son, finally starting to quiet after a fit of fussing, she hoped against hope that he’d never face a trial like that, like what they’d faced.

She hoped his world, in the end, would be brighter than what they’d known.

But then, that was the reason they’d been fighting so hard, and would continue to fight.

It wasn’t for themselves. It was for him and the other children—Tala’s, Neve and Cameron’s, and all the children yet to be.

It was for them.

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Six – 08

[This post is from Thordin’s point of view.]

After a few moments of silence, he said, “It’s a natural storm.”

Sif exhaled, her eyes sliding shut.  “Good,” she breathed out.  “Bloody good.”

“You were more worried than you let on.”

“Maybe just a little,” she said, twisting to curl against him.  “I think the last thing you want to be doing right now is wrestling with someone for control of a storm.”

“You’re right on that,” he murmured, pressing his lips to her temple.  Sif sighed.

“I love you,” she whispered, reaching up to tangle her fingers in his short hair.  “I love you so much it hurts.”

“I know,” Thordin said, closing his eyes again.  “Christus, I know.”

She huffed a soft laugh.  “Why do you do that?”

“Why do I do what?”

“Use that term.  His followers killed you.”

Thordin sighed, wrapping his arms around her shoulders again.  “I don’t know,” he said softly.  “I guess it’s always something I’ve done since I came back, since I was old enough to know what the word meant.  You have to understand, Sif, for more than a decade, I had no idea what I was, who I’d been.  I picked up things when I was growing up as someone else’s son, as who I’d been reborn as.  I picked up things from the people who took me in after they were killed.  Some habits stuck.  That…that was one of them, I guess.”

“It has power when you say it,” she whispered.  “Like when Phelan and Seamus and Neve say that phrase in their tongue.”

A shiver worked its way down his spine and he buried his nose against her hair.  “Some things are hard to shake even when you know the truth.”

“Do you think you could use it?”

He startled.  “What do you mean?”

“Do you think you could use it?  Against things like Leviathan?  The word has power when you use it—when Jacqueline uses it, too, I can feel it.  Do you think you could?  If you had to?”

He realized he didn’t have an answer.  Perhaps he didn’t want one.  His lips thinned.

“I don’t know,” he whispered into her hair.  “I just don’t know.”

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