Untitled (6.3) (2016)

forests-why-matter_63516847

(World Wildlife Federation)

He told the others, “The anomaly’s about a twelve hour hike, but they’ll get us there in a couple hours. Then they’ll be dismissed.”

Tobias decided, after a couple minutes, that the ride was surprisingly smooth. They had a gentle, even soporific, rocking motion. And they seemed to need no direction.

After an hour, Gavin drew beside him. A glance ahead showed Samson far beyond them, with Oifa and Ariel. Shannon was in the middle distance.

Barely audible, Marker said, “He had at least three others watching at the border. I think a couple are flanking us.”

“Understandable,” Tobias nodded. Honestly, he’d be surprised if they weren’t paranoid about non-aligned visitors.

He tried to settle back and enjoy the ride as best he could. The others appeared to be getting along well with the situation, at least for the time being.

When Tobias found himself finally adapting to the beast and felling fully comfortable, they drew to a halt. The Coven camp was within sight, through the thin flora.

The group dismounted faster than mounting. Minutes later, most of the shade steeds faded from sight, leaving only Samson’s. Without a word, the Coven mage turned and left the Tower people to enter the camp.

As Ariel had said, it was tiny; only two small tents and a campfire. They had a laundry line strung up near the fire and a small bucket of water. The others were wandering the site, among the trees. He didn’t see anyone outside their company.

“I think they run daily perimeter walks,” Ariel said. “The tens and food are over there. You known how to contact me if you need anything.”

Tobias nodded, “We’ll be fine, we’ll catch up with the Coven when they get back.”

Even for the inexperienced, setting up their part of the camp only took a few minutes. the longest phase was dividing up the supplies. Tobias carried his share into his tent. He ducked, almost crawling, to get inside the blue and grey nylon shelter. Inside, he rose to full height and stretched his back. All his personal effects were quickly stashed in the tent’s front room along with the group supplies. The smaller back room held nothing but a cot, which looked serviceable though not as comfortable as his bed.

Tobias shrugged to himself. It could be worse.

He went back outside, the tent was just a place to sleep and research as needed. The area around the camp was quiet, deciduous forest dense enough to filter the light but not to make the area dark. There were shrubs and bracken, but not within the bounds of the camp. He noticed some marks on trees and the ground in a circle around the camp. The whole encompassed an area a few dozen feet across. the marks weren’t familiar, but he assumed they were standard wards against mundanes, scrying . . . probably insects.

Soft footfalls on the grasses told him Oifa was done inside. She stopped just to his left, quietly looking the same direction.

“The anomaly’s supposed to be nearby,” he mused, “but I’m not seeing anything unusual. You?”

Oifa stared for a few moments and shook her head.

“There is something, but nothing I can see clearly past the wards,” she said. “But the woods don’t feel right. The animals, even with the wards, just aren’t . . . something’s just off.”

“Maybe they’ve moved and the trees are blocking the affected area,” Shannon opined, joining them.

“Shouldn’t something be visible, or something?” Gavin asked.

“Maybe, depends on what the anomaly is,” Oifa said.

“While we’re waiting,” Tobias suggested, “Let’s get a feel for the area. Gavin, could you check the perimeter? Oifa, Shannon, give us a baseline for the immediate area? Something to compare this anomaly to when we get to see it. I’ll look around the current set up, see if we need anything else.”

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