Twelve – 02

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

The sound of their footsteps fell in behind her, the soft and oddly familiar echo of boots against the ground.  It was almost comforting as long as she didn’t look back to see who was following her as she led them out of the main building and toward one of the cottages the Valley’s residents reserved for travelers—usually people from New Hope to the south or caravan traders passing through.  A few times, she’d seen their uncle Drew’s brother and his pack come through, but they hadn’t come since she was twelve or thirteen—she couldn’t quite remember anymore when, exactly, it had been.  Usually, though, the cottages stayed empty and quiet, clean and ready to accept travelers that only so rarely came.

Lin was only half a step behind her, but she didn’t dare look at him, either, her stomach roiling and twisting back on itself.  How had he known?  Why hadn’t he told her?

If she thought hard enough about it, she could come up with good answers to both questions, but she neither wanted to think too hard about it or have necessarily good answers—sometimes, she’d just rather be mad as her cousin, as close to her as a brother.  This was one of those moments, for better or worse.

They were halfway to the cottage when someone cleared their throat behind her.  She still didn’t look back, keeping her eyes trained straight ahead on their destination, but that didn’t stop the rider from speaking.

“I’m sorry about all of this.”  It sounded like the lead rider’s voice.  “From the look on your face, this is a bit of a shock.”

“Most strangers are a bit of a shock,” she said, trying to keep her voice level.  “Your claim is just one of the more unusual ones, in my opinion.”

“Maybe,” he agreed quietly.  “Still.  I apologize for any kind of trauma we’ve brought along with us.”

Kailey frowned at the ground for a second, her jaw tightening.  Trauma.  He’s apologizing for trauma they may or may not have caused.  As if Lin almost getting ripped apart by some monster earlier today didn’t already cause trauma.  As if seeing my parents worried as hell didn’t already cause trauma.  As if knowing that at any moment, something could decide to just show up and ruin the peace that all of our parents fought so long and hard for.

She shook her head, finally glancing back over her shoulder as they drew close to the cottage’s door.  “You didn’t cause any trauma,” she said as her hand fell to the door’s knob.  She twisted it, pushed the door open.  “Nothing that we haven’t already felt before, anyway.  Go on in.  This is where you’ll be staying for the duration of your time here—however long or short that may be.”

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Monday updates just don’t seem like they’re going to happen for the next few weeks?

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Twelve – 01

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

The once and future king.

The words slammed into her with the force of a charging stallion, like one of the warhorses that the Wild Hunt still kept and tended.  The prophesied once and future king.  King Arthur.  A myth—a legend.

Her mouth ran dry, her heart thudded painfully against her ribs.  She lived among myth and legend, albeit far removed from their original contexts.  Why was it so hard to believe that—

“Here?” she blurted before she could stop herself.  “You think he’s here?”

All eyes turned toward her—all eyes except her father’s, which remained steady on the lead rider, who looked up at her with surprise.

“Well, yes,” he said softly.  “At least, that’s where all of the hints and clues we’ve found have led us.”

“Kailey,” Matt said, his voice quiet but firm.  “Will you and Lin please escort our guests to the cottage set aside?  I believe Jacqueline and Jameson are there with their injured companion already.”  He finally turned to look toward them, his gaze landing on Phelan.  “Phelan, if you could stay, please.”

“Of course,” the once-and-current Taliesin murmured.  He carefully stepped around Kailey, who still stood frozen in front of the doorway, and slipped into the room.  He gestured slightly to the riders, then to Kailey.  “If you’ll follow her, she’ll show you a place where you can get cleaned up and get some rest that’s not on a forest floor or a roadside.”

“That would be most welcome,” the lead rider said, heaving himself to his feet.  There were deep circles under his eyes, as if decent sleep had been a rare thing of late.  “I think we could all use that.”

“We’ll have some food brought shortly,” Hecate said with a warm smile.

Kailey tried to suppress a shiver.

They’re looking for the once and future king and they think that they ‘ll find clues to who he is here?  Where to find him?  I don’t—

She cast a glance at Lin as the riders gathered themselves and their gear.  There was a sadness in his eyes that made her breath catch.

She cleared her throat and glanced at the riders.  “If you’ll follow me, please.”

She started walking, then, not looking back, trusting that they’d follow—trusting, at least for now.  She looked at Lin again.  He was still staring at her, worried, sad.

Was that what they were keeping from me?

She’d find out soon enough.

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Eleven – 07

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

Kailey threw up her hands, glaring at both of us in equal measure.  “There you go again!  Riddles!  Why the hell is it always riddles when I need you to tell me something straight?  I don’t get it.”  Her expression contorted, growing hard, and she stood up.  Three long strides took her to the door.

Phelan startled.  “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to go get answers.”  She jerked the door open and if Phelan hadn’t sprung into action to grab her, she’d have been out the door before I, at least, could have reacted.  I was already reeling, especially since I understood what the implications of all of this might be.

She isn’t ready to handle it.  I’m not even ready to handle it and I already know—or at least suspect.

“Kailey,” Phelan said, his tone measured, “please sit back down.  Let me explain.”

“Because you were doing such a good job of it already, Uncle Phelan.”  She jerked her arm from his grasp.  “No.  I want to see and hear this for myself.”

She was out the door before he could stop her.  Grimacing, I shoved myself to my feet even as Phelan cursed under his breath.

“This isn’t going to end well,” I said.

“No,” Phelan said grimly, “it’s not.  Come on.”

He didn’t wait for me to catch up, though that happened soon enough once we were in the hall.  Kailey was too far ahead of us already, though, and neither of us were able to get a hand on her before she was at the door to the room where her father was meeting with the riders.

She yanked that door open in time for all three of us to hear the lead rider’s voice speaking.

“…so we’re on a quest to find the prophesied once and future king.  We had reason to believe he might be here—or that you would know where to find him.”

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No update today.

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Eleven – 06

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

“Okay,” Kailey said slowly, once again looking between us.  Her gaze was wary, now, her movements slow and careful, the way you move when you’re trying not to startle or scare something that spooks easily.  “So are you guys going to actually lay this out for me or is this one of those things I’ll find out on accident later?”

Bile crept up into my throat and I swallowed hard, closing my eyes again.  It probably wasn’t fair to leave her in the dark, not about this.  I wasn’t sure how much it was going to be a shift in her world, but I knew how much it might change mine—

—and how much it was going to change Tory’s, if I’d read everything right.

Phelan stood and started to pace.  Kailey blinked, then sat down next to me, her brows knitting.

“I—Uncle Phelan, I’m sorry.  I don’t—you don’t have to tell me.  It’s okay.”

“No,” he said.  “No, it’s not okay.  What do you know about the old legends?  Which of the old stories have you read?”

“Like—like all of the books?  I don’t know.  There’s a lot.  I like reading.”

One corner of Phelan’s mouth twitched into a smile.  “A good habit, I think.”

“That’s what Mom always says.”  Her brow furrowed.  “Are you okay?”

“No,” he admitted.  “And I won’t be.  But that’s all right.  We’ll figure it out.”

“Our world’s about to change, isn’t it?” I said quietly.  “Turned on its ear?”

Phelan stared at me for a few seconds.

Then he just nodded.

It was only confirming what I already knew, anyway.

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Eleven – 05

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

Kailey stopped pacing, stopped dead in her tracks, and stared at him hard.  “Time out,” she said.  “What?”

I glared at her, my heart in my throat, then looked back at Phelan.  “How do you know?  Did someone—did someone tell you?”

“I’m kicking myself for not realizing it,” Phelan said, shaking his head.  He squeezed his eyes shut, pressed the heels of his hands against them, as if he was trying to hold something in, something painful and strong.  “But I only saw him for a moment.  He felt familiar but I didn’t—déithe agus arrachtaigh, how did I not know it then?”

“There was a lot going on,” I said quietly.  “And you’ve had a bit of a crazy day already, right?”

That, at least, won a snort from him.  He shook his head, letting his hands fall away.  “You sound so much like both of them sometimes that it hurts, Lin.  Truly.  Way to look for a silver lining.”

“Why would your sister have sent them looking for us?  I don’t understand, Uncle Phelan.  I thought—I thought she’d given up on you and on us.  That’s why she never came back after—” Kailey grimaced.  “After.”

“Stories,” Phelan said, shaking his head as he glanced toward her.  “She told them stories and those stories were never forgotten.  I didn’t stay long enough to hear all of it.  It just hurt too much.  But they’re come looking for the king born again.  Some prophecies never die.”

“The king born again,” I echoed, my stomach dropping.  “You—you sound like you know what that means.”

“So do you,” Phelan said, smiling sadly.  “So do all of us.  This quest they’re on, it’s no fool’s errand.  I just wish I knew why it was so damn important right this second, you know?  But I don’t.  I know something’s changed.  I just don’t know what.”

I stared at him for a few seconds, feeling hollow.  I wondered if my parents had ever felt the same, when they’d been sitting where I was.

I wondered if they ever felt like railing against the threads of fate even as they wanted to embrace them with open hearts.

“So what does that mean?” Kailey asked softly, drawing closer to the two of us.  “You guys seem like we’re talking in riddles.”

“It’s because we are,” Phelan said, staring at me.  “It’s because we are.”

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No update today – my work schedule has been very, very strange lately, hence the scattershot updates the past couple of weeks.  Trying to get that under control.

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No Friday update this week.

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Eleven – 04

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

I stared at the closed door for a few seconds, then my gaze flicked toward Phelan, who stared at it silently for a moment longer than I did, then took a slow, deep breath.  He shook his head as he exhaled.

“After all these years, it shouldn’t surprise me that she knew I was coming,” he murmured, mostly to himself.  I canted my head to one side, watching him as he turned from the door and headed for a chair, sinking down into it as if he was feeling every single one of the many, many years he’d walked this world.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, my voice soft.  Kailey looked at me like I was maybe a little crazy—laughable, because she already knew exactly how crazy I might be.

Phelan didn’t answer right away.  For a few seconds, he stared at the floor, as if he was still trying to absorb or process something—what, I couldn’t be sure, at least not yet.

He would tell us, though.  I had every confidence of that.

Kailey stole another glance at me as Phelan held his peace, her brow furrowing.  She looked like she was on the verge of saying something, maybe asking something, when Phelan cleared his throat.

“They’re here because of my sister.”

“Wait, what?”  Kailey took two steps toward him, then stopped, staring.  “The one who wanted to kill my mom?  The one no one talks about except for to say that?”

Phelan swallowed hard.  “There are reasons.”

“You mean other than the fact that she wanted to kill my mom?”


Kailey opened her mouth but I broke in before she could say anything more.  “Uncle Phelan, she didn’t send them, did she?”

“No,” he said.  “But she’s why they’re here regardless.  If not for her, they wouldn’t have any idea that we were out here.”  He frowned a moment, then amended, “Maybe they would have known we were out here, but I doubt they would have come.”

“I don’t understand,” Kailey said.

Phelan took another deep breath.  “That’s all right.  It’s complicated.  But the—the one who fell off his horse?  He’s my nephew.  He’s my nephew, he could be dying, and he’s no older than either one of you.  And her stories set them on this quest, never realizing what they were getting into.

“Never knowing the whole truth.”

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