Twenty-two – 05

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

“You are not making any sense and let me tell you, that is pretty annoying.”

His nose wrinkled and for a second he glared at Astrid.  “I’m doing the best I can.”

“Are you?  Are you really?”  She leaned a little closer.  “Because I seem to recall you being much more articulate and much more straightforward than this.  You’re hedging.  Why.”

“Because I’m terrified of what it means if I’m the one they’re looking for.  Not just for me, but for all of you.”

“You said they think you might be somebody.  Who do they think this somebody is?”

The question only made sense in context and Tory blew out a breath through his teeth, shaking his head slowly.  “King Arthur reborn.”

“King Arthur reborn,” Astrid echoed, her tone holding a significantly heavy note of disbelief.  “Like from all of those Round Table stories that you and Lin were always reading?”

“Something like that, except this is apparently the real thing.”  Tory rubbed at his temple.  “And the worst of it is, I actually believe that it might be a real thing.  I’m just not convinced that I’m the one they’re looking for.”

“If not you, then who?”

The question was jarring.  “What?”

“Seriously.  Look at your pedigree, Tory.  If it’s not you, then who the hell is it?”

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Twenty-two – 04

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

“Oh, that doesn’t sound ominous at all.”  Astrid circled him slowly, arms still crossed and her brow furrowed as she stared at him.  “Because, you know, it’s not like we both don’t know what the absolute largest question is.”

“Enlighten me, because I’m clueless.”

Astrid deadpanned, though the look in her eyes was the one she’d inherited from her mother.  “What bothered you so much about all of this that you’re out here instead of back in the village doing all the stuff you usually do on a day like today?”

“On a day like today, I’d usually be out fishing by now.”

“Not when Lin’s gotten himself into recent trouble,” Astrid said, stopping square in front of him.  “In that scenario, you’re with him.  You’re always with him unless Kay’s waved you off.  So what the hell gives, Tory?  What’s going on?”

He sucked in a breath and tried to avoid her gaze, focusing instead on the river.  It was hard, given that she stood nearly as tall as he did and she’d done a good job of planting herself directly in front of him—as if she’d known what he’d try.

“You can’t even look at me,” she said softly.  “It must be bad.”

“Yes and no,” he murmured.

“Then why won’t you look at me?”

He blew out a quiet, annoyed breath and squeezed his eyes shut for a few seconds.  “Because this is damned hard.”

“If it was easy, you wouldn’t be out here, Tory.”

That was the rub, wasn’t it?  He massaged his forehead between his brows.  “The strangers came looking for something—someone.”

“They usually do, based on the stories.  It was Uncle Phelan, wasn’t it?”

“I wish,” he muttered.  “They were looking for me.  Or, more precisely, someone they think I might be.”

“…what?”

“Yeah,” he sighed.  “I know.”

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No update today—several days after I expected them to be replaced, I finally have new windows in my apartment! However, this means that I have been several days in disarray due to moved furniture, etc. but should be back to normal on Wednesday.

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Twenty-two – 03

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

“There are about to be about six hours of nasty storms rolling in and you’re out here?”

If it had been anyone else, he probably would have heard them coming.  As it was, Astrid Sifsdottir could sneak up on any of them easily and with impunity.  He wasn’t sure if it had more to do with who her parents were or how well they’d trained her to do what she did.  Few people he’d ever met—save the members of the Wild Hunt—were better scouts and hunters than Astrid.

Tory glanced back over his shoulder at her and shrugged.  “You’re out here.  Guess you’re as crazy as I am.”

“Ha!”  She came around the trunk of a tree and joined him on the riverbank, crossing her arms.  “Only because I came looking for you.”

“Really.”

“Yes, really.”  She regarded him with a piercing, arctic gaze that he was given to understand had come directly from Sif, though he’d never seen it himself.  “You and Anne are off who the hell knows where when strangers show up in town minutes after Lin gets jumped by something in the ravines and then all of a sudden you can’t be found anywhere again?  Seriously, I wanted your read on the whole thing, Lin’s back up at the village and so’s Anne.  So where could you be?  Here.  Where you always come when you want to think.  So what do you know?”

“Too much and not enough,” he said with a wry smile.  “How long do we have before those storms hit?”

“At least an hour.  Is that going to be enough time?”

“Don’t know,” Tory said.  “Depends on what you ask.”

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Twenty-two – 02

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

            His steps carried him down along what his parents and aunts and uncles had told him was once a paved roadway to the edge of the river’s floodplain.  Huge circles of broken concrete and half-rotted rebar stood out of the swampy ground, the memory of a bridge that had once spanned this area before it was moved—and before the world ended and brought the bridge that had once replaced it crashing down.  The remnants of that bridge stood a few dozen yards to his left, broken slabs having fallen into the swamp and the river sometime between the time the world ended and the time he started to have clear memories of this place.

            He and his father went fishing here when Cameron was around, when he wasn’t off riding his circles.

            I always asked him if I could come with him.  He always said no.  Now I’m being given the chance to ride out and explore the wider world and I’m too—what?  Too chickenshit to take the chance?  Is that it?

            Tory paused, staring at the river beyond the flood plain, his heart feeling too large and too heavy all at once, lodging somewhere behind his collarbone.

            Am I just afraid to leave, or is it something else?

            Gods and monsters, am I actually afraid of having an adventure?

            He knuckled his eyes.  Maybe that was it.  Maybe that was why he was so bothered.

            Maybe I don’t actually want to leave—I’ve only ever thought that I did.  It was hard to fathom.  What child didn’t want to see what was beyond the boundaries of their world?

            Me, I guess.  For all of my begging Dad, I’m balking now.

            He drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, starting the careful trek across the soggy floodplain.  The air was growing thick and humid, clouds building in the west, but it was early yet.  The storms wouldn’t come until later—at least he suspected that the rain wouldn’t come until later.

            Astrid would know for sure.  Gods and monsters, is she supposed to come, too?  Are they all supposed to?

            Are all of us born to some kind of prophetic fate that we don’t know about?

            There’s just too much.  Too much I don’t know.  Too much none of them every told us.

            But then, perhaps they didn’t know, either.

            Uncle Phelan knew—probably.

            But what would it have meant if he hadn’t?  What if the Taliesin didn’t know about all of it?

            What then?  What would that mean?

            Tory didn’t know, and as he drew up to the river’s edge, he wasn’t sure he wanted to.

            Some questions are better left unasked and unanswered.

            He shook his head, staring out over the river, watching the play of light across the ripples.  Above him, tree branches rustled in the summer wind and birds called to each other among the leaves.  He took another deep breath, his heart calming.  Beneath the river, the lines of power thrummed, soothing, gentle.

            Maybe I’m just afraid to leave the nest, to range too far from the protections that I’ve grown accustomed to.  Hell.  Maybe it’s not just fear for myself.  It’s the others, too.  He glanced back over his shoulder toward the village, out of sight up the hill, on the gentle plateau that perched above the river.

Maybe it’s the others, too.

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Twenty-two – 01

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

A shiver crept through him as he stepped out of the cottage, pulling the door closed behind him.  Tory could smell rain on the wind and as she shoved his hands into his pockets and started away, toward the village’s walls, hoping that with a little air and a little space he’d be able to process everything he’d just learned.

There was part of him that wondered how much of this his mother had known, or at least suspected—and for how long.

That was almost enough to send a fresh shiver down his back.

“Prophecies,” he muttered to himself, then shook his head.  “Because we don’t already have enough to deal with around here, right?”

Because I don’t have enough that I’m trying to sort out for myself.

No one stopped him as he headed through the gates and down across old, broken concrete and grass, wandering a pathway his feet knew without his thinking about it.  He’d forgotten his fishing gear, but that didn’t matter.  He wasn’t going fishing today.

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No Friday update this week – work piled on and I had to pack (then get a Lyft to a train to Chicago!) for my cousin’s wedding.

Should be back to normal on Monday.

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Twenty-one – 05

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

“Is it making you vulnerable to gods only know what, too?”  David’s gaze shifted back to Lin, his brow furrowing slightly.  “It just feels like shit hits me so much harder than it does the rest of them.”

“That’s because it kind of does,” Lin said, glancing from him to Tory and then to Phelan.  “It’s a side effect of the Otherworld blood—of the Aes Dana blood in you.  Some things just hit us harder and worse.”

David squinted at him for a few seconds, then nodded slowly.  “Is that what’s going on with you, too?”

“Bingo,” Lin said with a wry smile.  “I got ambushed in the ravines out there.  Not sure if you’ve gotten to see them yet.”

David shook his head slowly.  “I don’t really remember anything after we crossed the river.”  He looked at Bryant and Isabelle.  “We’re not that far beyond it, right?”

“No,” Isabelle said quietly.  “No, we’re not.  I wasn’t sure if you were quite awake even when we crossed the river.”

“I was, barely.”  David scrubbed a hand across his eyes.  “Was trying to hang on until we got here.”

“Well, at least you managed to stay in the saddle most of the way,” Bryant said, drifting back toward the door.  “I’m going to go take a walk.”

“Might try up toward the forge,” Phelan said, glancing at him.  “Especially if you wanted to talk to Matt.”

Bryant smiled faintly and inclined his head before he slipped out the door.  It clicked softly shut behind him.  David seemed to slump slightly at his friend’s departure, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling.

“I’ve dragged all of them out here chasing something I wasn’t sure we’d find.”

“Well, sounds like we found it,” Isabelle said, squeezing his hand even as her gaze strayed toward Tory.  “Though I don’t blame any of you for thinking this is crazy.  Most of us did at first, but we weren’t going to let him go alone.”

“Thanks for that.”  A trace of sarcasm threaded through David’s voice.  Phelan couldn’t help but smile.

“The important things sound pretty crazy pretty often,” Phelan said.  “You get used to it.”

“Do you?” his nephew asked.

Phelan just nodded.  “Aye.  You do.”

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No update today, but have a picture of the ravines that in part give the Valley its name.

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Twenty-one – 04

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

“It’s not an easy path,” David said, fidgeting again.  “I’ve been able to figure out that much.  But in the end, it’s worth it.”

“What is?”  Tory said, twisting back toward him.  “Which part?”  He scrubbed both hands over his face and raked his fingers back through his hair.  “This feels like some kind of curse—something that happened because of my parents and their parents and all of that.”

“Well, you’re not wrong about it being in part because of them,” Phelan said.  “But it’s not a curse, Tory.  It’s no more a curse than, say, being the Taliesin or the Taliesin’s heir.”

Lin winced slightly, staring off into space for a few seconds.  “I don’t think of it like that, Uncle Phelan.”

“I know you don’t,” Phelan said.  Though that certainly confirms that he’s figured it out, hasn’t he?  “But some people would.”  He glanced at his nephew, then at Tory.  “You walk whatever path you choose, Tory,” he said quietly, gently.  “But you know as well as I do that sometimes life has a way of bringing you back to things that you thought you’d escaped from—thought you didn’t want.”

“I—Uncle Phelan—”

“It’s all right,” Phelan said, then smiled, looking at David again.  “Gray remembered the stories, huh?”

He nodded slowly.  “Dad and Aunt Teca did, yeah.  They were…well.  They were fairy tales and bedtime stories until they weren’t anymore.”  He closed his eyes and sighed.  “I catch glimpses of what was and what might be.”

“Lin has a similar gift,” Phelan murmured.  “His parents were both Seers.  Seems you’ve a touch of that, too.”  The question is, how much of a touch does he have—and is there more to him than just that, I wonder?

One way or another, he’d likely soon find out.

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