Penned 4 years ago. It will take about 4:33 to read.
It was 74°F in San Diego, CA with broken clouds. Either Way by Chris Stapleton was playing.
It's that time again, another rough draft excerpt from my novel Hinterlands. If you have any comments or thoughts, you can find me on twitter, or you can comment on this post from twitter using the hashtag #sswiHinterlands2.
“Áine, we need to talk.” Séamus began as he worked to match pace with me, the injury from his fight with the Master making it harder for him to move.
“Can it wait until we reach the outpost?” We had only been on the move for a handful of minutes and my body was still ringing from the heat of battle, not to mention that odd moment with the boy still replaying in my mind.
“I wish I could love, but I am afraid we do not have the luxury of time anymore. We will share this with your packmates once we reach the outpost and the boy is stabilized.” He paused, considering his next words.
“But this affects you more than anyone else, and I want time with just us to discuss it.”
The seriousness in his voice took me aback. It was rare to see Séamus stern, let alone this sober, this serious.
“Okay móraí, what it is?” I hadn’t called him that since I was very young, I’m not sure why I chose to again at this moment, it just felt right.
A smile played across his lips. “You are the only joy I have had for many years, you know that don’t you? Raising you, seeing you excel and grow into who you are, has been the greatest privilege of my life.”
I had never heard him talk like this, it was making me incredibly uncomfortable.
“I am not the most sentimental person, you know that, but today's events have forced me to think about the past, and more importantly, the future. Your future.”
“I don't have a future grandfather, you know that,” I said, not attempting to keep the bitterness from my voice.
“Oh but you do love, now more than ever. You will have the future you deserve.”
After a moment he continued. “Today I learned something Áine. Something wonderful, terrible and impossible. I learned of someone impossible.”
“You mean the boy we rescued?” I said. An unidentified sense of dread working its way into my bones.
“Aye. His name is Sean. Sean Tierney Felan to be precise. You have felt something, a connection to the boy.” He said it as a statement of fact.
“… Yes. I don’t understand what it is or why it’s there, but I was drawn to the clearing when he was being attacked. I thought I was tracking you since it felt like our family bond.”
“Yes, I imagine it did feel very much like our bond. Why do you think that is?” He asked. This was Séamus' preferred way of teaching. Prodding you along as you work out the answers yourself.
It was irritating. But I had learned long ago that fighting it was a waste of time.
“I have been thinking about that. The only thing I can come up with is that he is a distant cousin to our family. He’s obviously not a were, but could be descended from one of your cousins or my fathers. Those who didn’t go through the change.”
He shook his head in approval. “Aye, that is solid reasoning. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Even if having a link between were’s and non were’s were possible, which it is not, family or no, I was the only child in my family, as was your father.”
“No, the answer lies in who you are Áine. Think.”
That didn’t make any sense. I was Áine. Hunter, tracker, granddaughter, outcast. I hid no secret, no destiny. There was just me and the unfairness of my birth.
My breath caught in my throat as what Séamus was hinting at came into focus. It was absurd. Unbelievable. Idiotic. Unacceptable.
“You can’t be serious Séamus.”
“Calm down child. Use that magnificent mind you have been blessed with. Think it through. Why is he not dead? You saw the bite marks. Why is he not dead?”
“I don’t know, maybe he carries a genetic mutation that allows him to combat the poison in the bites?” I said, already grasping at straws.
“No amount of mutations or genetics can combat magic Áine, you know that.”
“It doesn’t mean that he is…” I began, but Séamus cut me off.
“You know the answer. The only way he could have survived the attack is if he was a were, or descended from someone who was supposed to be a were.”
“His family has carried the Mark of Aibreann since the day the High King gave his blood oath. Passed down parent to child through the centuries until today, where it manifested itself as resistance to their poison.”
“There is no other explanation.” He paused for a moment, letting me absorb the information.
“Also, I know it is him, love. I recognize the King in his face. There is a nobility there, a grace. It is him.”
“The Fates have conspired to bring us all together in this moment. ”
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