The vision was simple. A skyline—glowing and packed with monument of steel and glass.
New York City.
And then a feeling—not words, but an emotion.
“Something will happen in New York.”
“We should leave—now,” Buncombe said, pacing. “If something’s happening we need to be there.”
“It could be anything,” Justin argued.
They had been talking—all together in council—for almost an hour. The vision had been related and lines had been drawn. Buncombe, Rigel, and Francisco for going, Justin, Daldion, and Zerihun for caution. Iridess and Amber kept out of the argument.
Buncombe threw an arm wide. “It could be an anything we need to see, watch, or stop.”
“Is not the purpose of this Pack to defend this land?” Rigel looked angry. Daldion’s harsh words had caused a division. “It is our duty—no matter our feeling of caution.”
“To defend from what?” Zerihun’s voice was cold. Justin found it surprising to be arguing on the same side as the Teacher. But then again, there were things bigger than an petty disagreement. The black wolf continued from his pedestal. “From the other Pack—and the only reason for that is the fact that our world is no longer under our protection. It is our duty to combat them—not random events.”
“It is them,” Buncombe insisted. “Why else would the Prophet have seen it?”
Justin noticed he did not used Daldion’s name. “It may be them,” Justin replied, trying to keep his voice from the sarcasm he excelled at. Buncombe deserved it more than any of his fellow Pack members, but now was not the time. “But there is no way to know.”
Rigel looked condescendingly at the human who dared to take the role of Ruler. “There is every chance it is.” He nodded at Daldion.
The gray wolf closed his eyes and bowed his head. “It is true. Visions are affected by the viewpoint of the viewer. If I was to think of the other Pack, my vision would likely concern them.”
“And were you thinking of them?” Buncombe pressed, grinning a little.
There was silence for a moment.
Buncombe slapped his thigh and the sound—provided by each individual mind to their imaginary ears—carried like a gunshot. “Then we have no reason to wait. Let us crack on. Tally ho and what not.”
Justin glanced at Daldion. He had had an idea but hadn’t spoken to Daldion about it. In hindsight, he should have done it before the meeting.
Justin stepped forward, forgetting he was on a cracked pedestal, and almost fell. He recovered, the sharp bolts of Buncombe’s silent laughter piercing his pride. But he gritted his teeth and held his words back for a moment. Then he spoke. “I—I was thinking of this before the meeting. There’s theory—in time travel—called a paradox. An infinite circle that can’t be completed or begun, in theory. If I go back and kill my grandfather, what will happen my existence.”
Iridess spoke for the first time. “We were alive when the thoughts first began to emerge. We are aware of the idea. What is your point?”
Prophecy. Time travel. Thin Places. And he thought life had been complex at high school. Justin cleared his throat. “My point is this—if Daldion sees something concerning the other Pack and sees us there—doesn’t that make the vision?”
Daldion’s lowered head dipped lower but Justin pressed on. “What if going to New York makes the event? As we don’t know the nature of the event itself, it seems to be too much of a risk. A self-fulfilling prophecy. We aren’t reacting to the future. We’re creating it.”
There was a breadth of silent. But then Buncombe took his hat off, as if in respect. “Ruler, if something looks like tea, smells like tea, and tastes like tea, what is it?”
Justin looked for a hole in the statement but couldn’t find evidence of a trick. “Tea?”
“No, it’s really smashing poison. Or bad coffee.”
Justin shook his head. “How does that have anything to do with—.”
“It doesn’t.” Buncombe was done with the conversation. He looked to the council. “We have always followed Daldion’s visions. Have they led us wrong? Has it ever been disastrous?”
There was a chorus of quiet negative affirmations from the council. All but from Justin and Daldion.
Buncombe shrugged. “Then our only option is to go to New York. And there, as I’m sure all of you besides our newest…member…know, is Connor Halling. Perhaps this is our chance to end him. Perhaps even alone. Without him they will be helpless. Most of their capital, their power base, will be gone. Our hiding will be done.”
Francisco voiced his agreement. “I agree. We should go.”
Zerihun blinked slowly. “I do not agree. It is too much of a risk.”
Justin shook his head. “We can’t go. Not until we know more. At the least we need to scout.”
“No time,” Buncombe said. “The Prophet’s vision didn’t give us a window. We need to be there as soon as possible.”
“I concur,” Rigel said.
Iridess nodded her shaggy head. “I am with the Watcher.”
Amber’s gaze was on the ground in the center of the group. “I am with my companion.”
All eyes turned to Daldion. But the wolf was gone, vanishing back into the darkness of his mind. His voice floated out the darkness. “It does not matter what I think. The matter had been decided.”
Justin stood uncomfortably. The others began to leave one by one—until only Buncombe was left. As the older man turned Justin called to him. The Watcher turned back, looking at his Ruler over one shoulder.
“What if don’t want to go? I am the Ruler after all. What would you do?”
There was no hesitation in the man’s voice. “I would go. You are not my Ruler. Not yet.”
Then he was gone.