Seventeen – 07

[This post is from David O’Credne Miller’s point of view.]

All of the moisture in his mouth dried up and he stared at her for a few seconds.  His heart lodged in his throat, refusing to beat, choking him.  He was dimly aware of Issy squeezing his hand so hard that it hurt.

There is so much more to this than I’ve ever realized.  They know so much more than I thought they would.  Is that why I needed to get here?  Is that why what I’m looking for is here?  Or do they know because what I’m looking for is here—and are they in danger because of that?

“I don’t know what they were,” Bryant said quietly.  “Just that they were dark and ugly with claws and glowing eyes.”

“And wings,” Travis added in a low voice.  “Don’t forget the wings.”

“How could I?” Bryant shook his head.  “That’s how they got to us so damn fast.  It was getting close to sunset and we were getting ready to make camp.  They came out of the treetops and into the clearing.  Spooked the horses so bad they bolted.  Most of us came out with some gashes but David took the worst of it.”

“David took the worst of it because they focused on him more than any of the rest of us,” Issy said.  “They didn’t much appreciate the buckshot, though.”

“They didn’t,” Bryant agreed.  “Seemed like that did a decent amount of damage.  Didn’t risk camping there after that—patched ourselves as best we could and rounded up the horses.  Rode for a day and a half straight until I was sure that they weren’t tracking us.”  He shook his head again, scrubbing a hand over his face.  “Do you know what they were, then?”

“I have my suspicions,” the healer answered.  “Though I’m not entirely certain.  If they are what I think they are, then something’s happened to break a long-standing peace—and I don’t think that has anything to do with you.”

“What if it does?” David asked, his voice almost inaudible.  A cold ball of fear settled in his guts.  “What if it does have something to do with us?”

“We take care of our own,” the healer said softly.  “And given that you’re Aoife’s son—that makes you family.  One of our own.”  She offered them a tight smile.  “I’ll check on all of you in a bit.”

She was out the door before any of them could stop her.

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Seventeen – 06

[This post is from David O’Credne Miller’s point of view.]

                “It’s not the first time I’ve heard something like that,” the healer said, smiling wryly.  “And I imagine that you’ve got as good a reason to say it as anyone I’ve ever heard express that sentiment.”

                “You could say that,” David said slowly, glancing toward Issy, then Bryant.  He swallowed hard, trying to collect his thoughts, wondering who, exactly, the healer might have been talking about with that statement.

                For all you know, it could be anyone.  It could even be your uncle.

                That was still hard to swallow.  His uncle, here.

                Still here, he corrected himself.  The Wanderer wanders no more, I guess.

                Still, it seemed a little odd.

                “As to the question of what hit him,” Bryant said, “it wasn’t just outriders.”

                “Is that what you told Matt it was?” the healer smiled faintly.  “I’d wondered.  None of them told me—not that I’ve given them all that much chance since yesterday.  I’ve been a little busy.”

                Bryant nodded slowly.  “It definitely was linked to a larger force, but what hit us wasn’t human.”

                The healer didn’t flinch—she didn’t even look surprised.  David swallowed bile that suddenly rose in his throat.  If there had been even a shred of doubt in his mind that they were in the right place, it would have been erased then and there.  The healer’s gaze flicked toward him again, her expression softening slightly.

                “I knew what I was looking at when I looked at your wounds,” she said softly.  “I know what the looks of them and your fever mean.  I’ve seen it before, I just have to wonder what kind of creature it was, if not a fury or a camazotzi.  Figure out that piece and we start to sort through whose forces you ran into—and then we can figure out the ramifications of the same.”

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Seventeen – 05

[This post is from David O’Credne Miller’s point of view.]

The light was brighter when he opened his eyes and he mumbled a curse, shifting in the bed and immediately squeezing his eyes shut again.  “Damn.  Why’d you turn the lamp up?”

Then he heard Issy’s voice and realized that his eyes might have been closed a lot longer than then moment he’d intended.  “He’s awake again.”

“Turn down the lamp,” he said, his voice rusty all over again.  “It hurts.”

“Unsurprisingly,” the voice of the healer he’d met that morning said.  “You know, none of you said what actually hit you.”

“I don’t know if you’d believe us if we told you,” Lilah said, a thread of bitterness in her voice.  “No one ever really does.”

“You’ll find we’re a bit different from the usual isolated settlement here,” the healer said, a certain primness to her tone that David found oddly reassuring.

“Don’t antagonize her,” he said, shifting in the bed.  Everything still hurt, but the edges seemed like they’d come off.  Then Issy was there, her arm sliding beneath his shoulders to help him shift his position in the bed.  “This is the place we’ve been looking for.”  His hand shook a little as he rubbed his eyes, blinking through tears that came from the light.  He looked across the room to the healer, who sat at a small table with Bryant not terribly far away.

“Is it?”  Lilah glanced at him with a quirked brow.  “How can you be sure this time?”

“I just know,” he said, wincing as he watched her share a look with Travis—full of the skepticism and hope he’d come to expect from his friends.

I never should have dragged any of them into this.  This was my quest, not theirs.  They didn’t have to come.  I shouldn’t have let them.

                I should have come alone.

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Hey folks!

Having actual midterms and a corporate visit at work this week means I’m going to take the week off.

See you next week for exactly how long David’s slept and why the Knights Errant are in the Valley.

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Seventeen – 04

[This post is from David O’Credne Miller’s point of view.]

“You were out,” Bryant said, glancing to the side, as if checking something, before his gaze met David’s again.  “We spent quite a bit of time speaking with him and the other folks in charge here.”

Folks in charge?  For a few seconds, he squeezed his eyes shut.  There was a faint pounding behind his eyes, but that could have come from any number of causes.  From the stories, that’s not like him.  He advises, doesn’t lead.

Maybe something changed.

His hand shook as he reached up to rub his temple.  “Phelan,” he said quietly.  “You mean Phelan O’Credne.”

“The same,” she said softly.  “Though he doesn’t use that name often.  It’s usually Phelan Conrad.”

David’s lips thinned and he opened his eyes, studying her for a few seconds.  Her honey-blonde hair was braided back from her face, the lamplight painting golden highlights into the strands.  He couldn’t quite tell how old she might be in the light of the lamp and he frowned slightly, his eyes watering slightly despite the dim—or perhaps because of it.  “I don’t understand.”

“It’s all right,” she said.  “He has his reasons for it.  You can ask him yourself later, when you’re up to talking.”

“I’m talking now,” David said, sagging a little more against the pillows.

“You are,” she agreed.

“It’s early,” Bryant said.  “The others are still asleep.”

“Early,” David echoed.  “How long have we been here?”

“Just since yesterday afternoon.”

Then it hasn’t been so long.  Okay.  He closed his eyes for a second.

At least, he thought it was for a second.

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Seventeen – 03

[This post is from David O’Credne Miller’s point of view.]

David jerked upright and every bone and muscle in his body screamed in protest.  His throat was dry, but he knew that he’d must have said something upon waking because Bryant and a strange woman were staring at him—that much he could see through watering eyes.

Bryant managed to catch him as he started to fall backward again toward his pillows.  The room was unfamiliar, but he was in a bed, and that, at least seemed a welcome relief.  An actual bed had been a luxury that he’d missed over the past few months.

It has been months, right?

Disorientation and time loss was, in fact, a vicious beast.

“Easy,” Bryant said.  “Easy, easy.  It’s okay.  You’re safe here.”

“Are we?”  It felt safe, anyway, but he was never sure anymore.  Despite knowing in his gut that they were supposed to be here, that they were supposed to find something here, that didn’t always mean safety.  They’d learned that the hard way once or twice since leaving home.

“You are,” the woman assured him.  He squinted at her as Bryant settled him against the pillows again, brow furrowing.  She seemed familiar somehow, like someone he should remember.

Is she someone I know, or someone I come to know?  Have I seen her before?

“Your uncle is looking forward to actually meeting you,” she continued softly.

“My uncle?” he echoed softly, thoughts scattering for a moment.  Then it hit him.

Phelan.  This is where Phelan lives.

It had taken his entire life, but he’d finally found a Taleisin—and hopefully that Taleisin would be able to help him untangle the web of visions and tales and legends that were all bound up together inside his head.

At least, he hoped so.

But that’s not why—

Is it?

No.  No, there’s more here than just that.

I just know it.

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No Friday update this week.  May or may not have an extra update next week to make up for it (we’ll see.  It’s inventory season at work).

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Seventeen – 02

[This post is from David O’Credne Miller’s point of view.]

You have to find them before it’s too late.

But too late for what?  Too late how?

And how the hell will I know what it is or how or when it’s too late?

No one had been able to tell him, to teach him how to handle what he saw and felt, the gut feelings and the glimpses of otherwhens.  His father had tried, but Gray Miller only had so much expertise in that realm.  Aunt Teca hadn’t been able to offer much additional insight, either, though she’d tried—they’d all tried.  Every adult in his life had tried.

Except his mother, vanished when he was barely old enough to remember having a mother at all.

He’d only asked his father about her disappearance once, when he was ten years old, and then never again.  Even at ten, he saw the pain that it caused his father and at the same time knew that he didn’t dare tell his son the whole truth of it.

That, he’d decided, was fine.  If his father wanted to protect him from something—or protect himself, as the case might have been—that was perfectly all right with him.  His father, after all, had never done anything to hurt him, had only ever tried to help.  Most hard truths were ones that his father told him.

If whatever circumstances had precipitated his mother’s departure were harder than those truths, there must have been a damned good reason for it.

A fresh chill shot through him, the sensation nearer now.  The tumbling images were starting to ebb like the tides drawing back from the water’s edge.  In part it was a relief, but also a frustration.

Whatever had been just beyond his grasp was still out there, still beyond his reaching fingers.

Maybe it’s not time yet.

That realization didn’t make much of a dent in the pressing feeling that time was running out, though.

The chill he’d felt started to become more localized, closer and closer.  He didn’t shiver, though he wanted to.  Oddly, it felt good, as if cooling the summer heat.

It was summer, wasn’t it?

It would be great not to feel so far gone half the time.  It must be summer.  Right?  Right.  It has to be.

It was a hand—the chill was someone’s hand against his face.

In a rush, the images washed away and pain filled the gap where they’d been.

Consciousness flooded in with it.

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Seventeen – 01

[This post is from David O’Credne Miller’s point of view.]

There were voices at the very edge of his consciousness, but they were muffled, far away, lost in the midst of a thousand images that flickered behind his eyelids, though his mind’s eye.  It was the same jarring kaleidoscope that he’d been dealing with since he was a boy—if he were honest, since he was young enough to barely remember the shape of his mother’s face.

That was something he didn’t talk about, though.  It was a secret that was his and his alone—how long these images had been coming.  It didn’t make sense to worry anyone more than they already did.

Only sometimes did he think that perhaps knowing how long he’d been wrestling with them, how used he’d become to it, might be reassuring to the people who loved him.

Only sometimes.

Another step on the journey.  Another road.  A signpost.  This is it—X marks the spot.

He shivered despite himself, tried to curl up.  His body didn’t listen, responding instead with the same bone-deep ache he’d been feeling since they’d run afoul of raiders on the road.  How long ago had it been?

It could be months, for all I know.

But could it?  Months?

If he had been awake, he would have frowned.  Clawing his way back to consciousness was too great an effort, though, especially when the deluge was still crashing over him, threatening to sweep him away with the wash of images that swirled around him.

No, not yet.  Not until he could make sense—

—make sense of what, exactly?

He couldn’t remember, but it was something important—something beyond finding the place called the Valley, the place he’d seen in whispers of dreams and flickered images, the place he’d seen in a thousand visions of the past and the future and the now over the course of his admittedly short life.  But there was something there, something like the voices he could just barely hear, muffled and indistinct, just beyond his ability to hear.  There was something that hovered just beyond his reach, beyond his knowing.

He needed to know.  He needed to find out.

Time, he feared, was running out.

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Sixteen – 09

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

“What happened to them?”

He knew that he shouldn’t have asked the question.  It simply slipped out before he could think too much about it, and as soon as the words left his lips, he regretted them.

Pain flickered through her expression and she shook her head.  “That’s too long a story for this early in the morning.  They’re…well.  I haven’t seen them in a long time and I don’t expect to soon.”

“But you still—”

“I know.  It’s silly.”  She shook her head, not making eye contact with him.  “But it’s just one of those things.”

Whatever words that were coming shriveled on his tongue.  He knew that feeling all too well.  There were a lot of things in his life that had been ‘just one of those things’ and it was nothing that he could begrudge her.

It wasn’t something he could begrudge anyone, nor did he want to.

“You should wake your friends,” she said softly.  “Get something to eat.”

“Probably,” he agreed, glancing at his slumbering companions again.  “But if I go, who’ll look after David while we’re gone?”

One corner of her mouth curved into a smile.  “I take it you don’t trust me?”

“Not that far,” he admitted.  “Not yet.”

“Paranoid,” she said, though there was a hint of humor to her voice, as if she found it amusing.

Bryant just shrugged.  She wasn’t wrong—not by a long shot.

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