Twenty-six – 06

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

Alone.  The word echoed in her ears, ricocheted through her thoughts like a buckshot deflecting off one of the old grain silos south of the village.  Would they all go, everyone near her age, maybe even younger?  Would they really leave with these strangers on their seemingly insane quest for something she wasn’t even sure existed?

Lin believes them—but I’m not sure that I should use him as my stick to measure any of this, either.  Sometimes I’m not sure how much of what he believes I should believe.

But so what if she stayed and she was the only one her age that did?  It wouldn’t be the first time she’d self-selected herself out of something.  I’ve only regretted doing that once or twice, anyway.

She frowned at the door that Peril had disappeared through, jaw tightening.

Rushing off into unknown danger.  Sure.  That’s the best idea any of us have ever had, right?  Let’s absolutely do that.  Great idea.  She made a disgusted sound, pushing  herself to her feet and starting to pace.  Rain drummed on the roof above her and thunder growled somewhere nearby.  Another summer storm that was nothing to sneeze at and here she was, safe inside, as she so often had been her whole life.

And so what if this is the rest of my life?

Her hands balled into fists, her tea abruptly forgotten.  It would serve them right.

It would serve them all right if they assumed and were wrong about me.  It would serve them right if I decided to stay.

Hell.  Do they really even need me, or do they think they do?  She’d been Lin’s shadow all of her life, the one that was always there to try to keep him and Tory and all the rest out of trouble—that had been her whole life, always left to be the responsible one, always looking before they all leapt.

And that’s what I’m doing right now, isn’t it?  And I’m afraid of not knowing what’s beyond my sight, what my imagination is painting into the gap.

Thunder boomed close, startling her, sending a shiver through the roof and the walls.  Kailey swallowed hard.  Was it really fear?

Of course it is.  But that doesn’t make it wrong.

That doesn’t make it wrong at all.

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Happy 11th anniversary

It’s been 11 years since the first post!

We’ll be back from hiatus soon with some explanations.

Thank you for your support and patience.

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Twenty-six – 05

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

She boggled at him for a few seconds, her eyes widening.  “You can’t possibly—”

“Of course I can,” Peril said, abruptly straightening, is eyes all but blazing as he stared at her.  His voice rose in both tenor and cadence, words tumbling over each other.  “We have been stuck here our whole lives, Kay.  None of us  have ever been further away than New Hope.  Now there’s a chance that we get to go somewhere and do something important and you’re ready to tell these people to sit and spin?  You’re batshit.  If I was you, I’d already be gone.”

“That’s because you wouldn’t stop to think,” she snapped, her wide-eyed stare sharpening into something that was more like a glare.  “Peril, there’s a lot more to all of this than just a damn field trip!”

“Yeah,” he drawled.  “Yeah, I get that.  All of us get that, Kay.  You’re just flipping out because you’re terrified to even contemplate what leaving home might actually mean.”

“I am not.”

“The hell you’re not.”  Peril shook his head, gulping down his tea.  Still soaking wet, he got up, heading for the doors.  “I’m going to go find Lin.”

“In this storm?  To do what?”

“What else?  Strategize.  Figure out exactly what the next steps are.  You must’ve realized by now that most of us are going to leave with them, Kay.  Even if you decide not to come along, you’re still going to be stuck alone.”

He yanked the door open and was gone, out into the rain and wind, before she could stop him.

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Twenty-six – 04

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

“Gods and monster, I hate you sometimes,” Kailey muttered, glaring in a decidedly different direction from where Peril sat beside her.

“But only sometimes,” he said.  His hand dropped onto her knee and for a few seconds, she stared at it like it was some kind of slug that had suddenly taken up residence on her jeans.  This time, when he pressed, his voice was gentler.  “Look, Kay.  I get it.  Shit’s happening fast. It’s completely normal to be totally out of sorts because of all of it.  It’s cool.  We’ll get through it.”

“You have no idea what’s going on,” she muttered, glaring at his hand, now, instead of staring off in an opposite direction.  “How could you possibly know what I’m going through right now?”

“There’re are a lot of lies I can spin about that,” Peril said, taking a sip of his tea.  “But that would be wasting a hell of a lot more of our time than I really feel like wasting.  I eavesdropped when our visitors were talking to Uncle Matt and the council, then I spied on the council a few hours ago while you were probably brooding or yelling at Lin for something that may or may not be his fault.  I know why they’re here and I can infer a lot more from that.”

“Really,” she said dryly.  “Can you?”

He shrugged.  “I think so.  Especially based on Tory’s behavior today, too.”

“Tory,” she echoed.  “What does Tory—”

“Don’t like to me, Kay.  Remember, I heard a lot of what they talked about.  I know what they’re looking for and if you ask me, no one fits that bill like Tory does.”

Kailey snarled, pushing to her feet and starting to pace.  “Is it so awful that I don’t want to do what they’re asking us?  That maybe I don’t want to go?”

“Yeah,” Peril said, leaning back.  “Yeah, it really is.  That’s nuts, Kay.  Really, really nuts.”

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Twenty-six – 03

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

Peril exhaled a long-suffering sigh, one that suggested the weight of every single one of his teenaged years.  Kailey continued to stare parallel to where he was sitting, trying not to pay any attention to him, though the sound was already enough to start to unravel her resolve.

I should have just gone home.  I should’ve gone home and locked the door.  No one would have come to bother me, especially not with the storm.  I swear, what was I thinking?

But that was the question, wasn’t it?  She was thinking too much, too many things.

Everything was just too much.

What the actual hell did I do to deserve any of this, really?  Why me?

Peril sat down beside her and she jumped, then glared at him.  He just offered her a cheeky grin.

“What the actual hell, Peril?”

He shrugged.  “You were in your own world.  I asked you three times if you were okay and you didn’t answer.”

“I was ignoring you.”

“That was not your ‘I’m ignoring you’ look, Kay.  You were on another planet.”

Her nose wrinkled as her fingers tightened around her mug.  “I don’t want to talk.”

“Yeah, I heard you say that.”  He shook his head.  “I just really don’t care that you don’t want to, because I can tell you need to, so why don’t you just spill and get it off your chest and then you can go back to being your bright and sunshiny self?”

“I am not bright and sunshiny.”

“Compared to some of our friends, trust me, you are.  But right now, you’ve got a level of attitude toxic enough to take down a buck, so I wish you’d just chill.”

“I’d rather hit you.”

“You’d have to catch me first.”

“Is that a challenge?”

Peril just grinned and it took every fiber of her being not to punch him in the face right then and there.

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Twenty-six – 02

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

“Is that why you’re here?”

The question shouldn’t have startled her, but it did anyway.  Kailey took a deep breath, fingers flexing around the ceramic of her mug even as Peril set about pouring himself some tea, eschewing the generous dollop of tea she’d spooned into her own cup.  He glanced toward her as the silence stretched, then reached up to flick sodden hair from his eyes.


“Does it matter?”

He shrugged.  “I mean, if you’re here to be alone, sorry not sorry.  I’m not leaving.”

She turned away, exhaling a sigh that wasn’t quite annoyed.  “We established that.”

“Then you did come here to be alone.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“No, I’m inferring that from your tone and the fact that you’re walking away from me.  It’s stupid, though.  If you wanted to be alone, you shouldn’t have come here.”

She almost lied, but the words died on her tongue.  She blew out another breath.  “How the hell do you manage to do that, Peril?”

“Do what?”

“Find the truth and annoy me in the same damn breath.”

The teenager snorted and shook his head.  “I guess it’s a gift, Kay.  Why the hell are you so surprised by it?”  He leaned against the counter, watching her as she moved to one of the tables, sat down.  She didn’t look at him, but she could feel the weight of his gaze, could see him in her peripheral vision.  “Whatever you’re freaking out over it’s probably not worth this amount of angst.”

“How do you know?”

“Again, I guess it’s a gift.  Are you going to talk?”

“No,” she said simply.  “No, I’m not.”

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Twenty-six – 01

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

Kailey’s hands tightened around the mug in her hands as the door behind her opened, carrying with it the sound of soaking rain and moaning wind—the latter sound far more suited to a different season than the end of summer.  Of course, the chill to that wind was also unseasonable and she found it worrying her without a conscious reason why.

She didn’t look back to see who’d entered the dining hall.  Part of her didn’t want to talk to anyone right now—she wouldn’t have even come indoors if not for the impending storm.  At the same time, she hadn’t wanted to cloister herself away in her cottage, either, nor had she wanted to go to her parents.

And so here she was, clutching a mug of tea between her palms from the pot she’d made, again somehow knowing that the arrival of someone else—anyone else—was all but inevitable either in spite of or because of the weather coming in.

At least I saw it coming.  Would’ve been nice if Astrid warned me, but who knows where she hared off to today.

A shiver crept down her spine, one she couldn’t quite suppress.  I wish something didn’t tell me that it was connected to our visitors and all of—all of the mess that seems like it’s coming.

“You get caught in the rain, too?”

She shook her head in response to the question and for a second, she wished her friend would just go away.  The rising storm outside made that an utter impossibility, though.  “No.  I saw it coming and got inside before it started.  What were you out doing?”

Maybe talking to Peril would help.

It wasn’t his real name, but it was all they’d called him since she and Lin were barely ten and he was seven.  She couldn’t even remember why anymore.  It somehow seemed fitting for the son of Phelan O’Credne and Jacqueline Bell to be named something like that, though—somehow more fitting than the far more formal Bréanainn Cáel O’Credne, which was his given name.

He shrugged as he crossed the room, dripping water from his clothes with every step.  She watched him over his shoulder and suppressed the urge to shake her head.  Wherever he’d been and whatever he was doing, he was soaked to the skin on his way here, that much was clear.  “Does it matter?  Is the tea fresh?”

“Yeah,” she said softly, stepping away from the counter so he could get himself some.  He didn’t seem to notice how wet he was and for a second, she envied his ability to ignore his physical circumstances.  If her clothes had been that wet, the first thing she’d have wanted was to be dry.

“You’re looking at me funny,” he said.

“You’re soaking wet.”

“Yeah.”  He shrugged again as he got down a mug and poured.  “And if I went back out into the rain to find something dry to wear, I’d just end up wetter on the way and then get wet again on the way back.”

“You wouldn’t have to come back.”

“Mmm, yeah I would,” he said, turning toward her.  “I don’t feel like chilling out in my room right now.  Seems like a better idea to not be alone.”

“Any particular reason?” she asked, ignoring the fresh chill that ran down her spine.

His blue-eyed gaze seemed to see straight down into her soul.  “Do I need one?”

“No,” she said softly.  “I guess not.”

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Twenty-five – 05

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

Matt cast a puzzled glance at the both of them as Hecate headed to get him the promised blanket.  “Is she on her way?”

Hecate looked at Thordin, who grimaced and shrugged.  “We could probably start without her,” he admitted.  “Like I said, I’m not sure what she was having a word with Neve about and that means I’m really not sure how long their chat’s going to take.”

“Bold of you to assume it’s just some kind of casual chat,” Hecate chided.

Thordin snorted softly.  “Both of you to assume that’s what I think it is.”

Matt watched them both for a second and huffed a sigh.  “Right, then.  What’s going on?”

Hecate motioned to Thordin to start as she pulled a blanket from a storage chest.  Thordin took a deep breath and stretched with a slight wince, as if some old hurt had picked that moment to bother him—or perhaps it was something else.

“Can you feel it, too?” Thordin asked Matt.  “That there’s something in the air?”

Matt stripped off his sodden shirt as Hecate brought him the blanket.  For a second, her gaze lingered on bare skin before she turned to pour him a mug of tea.  Sometimes, she still saw echoes of Cíar when she looked at him, and the conversation he’d interrupted brought those old memories swimming up to the surface.  Their physiques were much the same, her long-lost love and her husband’s, two men who shared the same soul that had been bound to hers through the centuries.  Matt was mercifully less physically battered, though, something for which she was silently grateful.

I hope he never gains the scars that Cíar had.  I hope that things never get so bad here.

A faint shiver wracked her.  If all of their suppositions were right, they very well could.

Gods and monsters, I’ve never wished so much to be wrong in my life.

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Twenty-five – 04

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

Thordin winced.  “I still—”

She shook her head slightly.  “We can’t change the past, my friend.  It took me a long time to figure that out—among other things.  I live with the memories much easier now.”

“Still,” Thordin murmured.  “I wish we’d all known.”

“There wasn’t anything you could have done back then,” she said, slowly sipping her tea.  “I was already half drowned and their claws were in too deep.  I don’t even know if Cíar could have saved me.”  He would have tried if we’d had the opportunity—but that never came, not while he was still alive.  She closed her eyes for a moment and sighed.  “It’s going to sound odd, but it’s better this way—the way it ended up turning out.”

“You really think so?”

She nodded.  “Very much.  I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, even knowing what I know, even suspecting what’s to come.  Everything’s turned out much better than I ever would have dared to dream.”

“Then I suppose maybe it has been for the best.”  The door creaked open as Thordin answered her, Matt stepping into view, half-soaked by the rain that had begun to drum on the roof.  Hecate arched a brow mildly.

“I see you didn’t get things closed up fast enough.”

He gave her a sheepish smile.  “No such luck.  Tea’s hot?”

She nodded.  “Come sit over here.  I’ll get you a blanket.”

Matt nodded, leaning in to steal a kiss even as he was careful not to drip water all over her.  “Thanks.  Then we can get down to business?”

“Once Sif gets here, yes.”

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Twenty-five – 03

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

They lapsed into silence.  Hecate stared silently into her mug, half losing herself in thought.  Somehow, somewhere deep down, she’d known as well as Marin or Thom ever had that this day would come, no matter how much she would have wanted to deny it.

There are cycles to this world.  Her fingers momentarily tightened around the mug.  Darkness comes.  Light chases it away.  Things get better.

But before they get better, they get worse.

She stifled the urge to exhale a sigh.  She could feel the weight of Thordin’s gaze settling on her again, knew that there was a question rising to his lips.

You likely even know the question.

“Do you think it echoes that far back?  To—to the old, old days?”  Thordin’s quiet question wasn’t exactly the one that she’d expected, though it was close.  His memories of that time were vague and fragmented, more like those of Matt and the others who could remember past lives.  Thordin’s own return was far closer to the reincarnation of those souls than it was any sort of survival, even if his memories—and power—was stronger.

“I think so,” she said after a momentary silence.  “They feared it, this turn.  I can remember that.  It’s part of why they wanted to ensure that the Hunt couldn’t be used by any of the sides—they felt like the use of Cíar would have soured that pot.  I’m not certain how much of that I believed, you know?  I just—I tried—” her eyes stung.  It was so long ago.  Why did it still hurt so much?

“I’m sorry,” Thordin said.  “I didn’t—”

“It’s all right,” she said, even as her stomach knotted.  “It just—it just hit me all of a sudden, that’s all.”

“It’s been a long time.”

He didn’t mean that it had been a long time since the events she was recalling.  She knew what he meant, though, and nodded slowly.  “It has.  It doesn’t happen very often anymore—mercifully.  I don’t know what Matt and I would do if it did.”

“Manage,” Thordin suggested with a wry smile.  “As always.”

That made her laugh.  “Aye.  We would.  One way or another.”

He nodded.  “So Olympium feared it, then.  Feared the Once and Future King—and feared his eventual return.”

Hecate shot him a wry smile.  “Wouldn’t you, if you were them?  The whisper of it had them quaking in their sandals.  I wish I’d had more time and wits to enjoy it.”

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