Untitled (7.4) (2016)

Which was fine. After all, combined they had at least twenty years of experience with the magic, at near master levels. Not counting Gavin, of course. He was both the youngest and a non-magic specialist, despite his apparent high magic schooling.

Somewhere.

It occurred to Tobias that the younger man still hadn’t said where he was trained. He’d only said what he had trained in.

That little mystery still nagged at his mind, apparently.

What he’d studied . . .

Oh, very nice. If that could work, it would kill two proverbial birds with one stone.

The camp returned to visual focus as Tobias quickly sought Oifa.

He spotted her in animated conversation with the two Coven witches a few yards away. In his peripheral vision, Tobias absently noted the others putting together some food for lunch.

Conscious of the young witches, he called, “Master Salovich, could I float an idea by you when you get the chance?”

Tobias mulled over his thought, probing for weaknesses and fleshing it out, as he waited. After a few minutes, when Oifa joined him, he thought he’d looked at every angle. But, he was no theorist and wasn’t well versed in each component.

“What can I help you with, Tobias?”

“Fairaday.”

“What about it?”

“We plan on cryptomancy and lithomancy, so neither can be the buffer.”

“Correct. I fear my alchemy’s no good in this case either, from what Shannon’s explained of the plan.”

Tobias nodded, his brow furrowing, “That’s what I’d thought as well. Perhaps with are-design and lab . . . but never mind.”

“Sorcery, then.”

“I’d thought of that. Considered it. But, we do have another option. A potentially very elegant and efficient option,” Tobias paused to collect his thoughts. “Could blood magic be used to both enhance the power and serve as a buffer?”

Oifa stared into the fire for a time as the business of lunch carried on around the pair. The clatter of plates and scents of a cold meal barely registered on Tobias’s subconscious. He leaned ever so slightly toward his colleague, anticipating a flaw he’d failed to spot.

“In theory,” Oifa finally breathed, “I believe it could be done. But, it would take some careful spellwork and, obviously, a blood mage. Using that magic for more than raw power is always somewhat risky, it isn’t really taught much, I think.”

Tobias sighed, “I’ll leave you to discuss the details with Gavin, then. I plan on weaving in these three sigils,” he sketched a few symbols from two tongues on a scrap of paper, “Check with Shannon regarding the gems. If we can, I’d like to get five placed before nightfall.”

At Oifa’s nod, his own excitement grew. They would be doing something, an original thing in fact. And it should get them out of the woods and back home. After a couple days gathering data, of course.

As soon as the meal was over and cleaned, Tobias was bent over the table in his tent. He very carefully and cautiously painted sigils on Shannon’s prototype. His brush’s hairs barely reached into the double digits, his hands steady from over a decade of training. One of his old teachers had made students write sigils in the most trying circumstances they could imagine, to replicate field conditions. They’d all cursed the old bastard then, Tobias recalled, but thanked him today.

Shannon sat at the other end, adhering her gems and drawing out the appropriate magic, or whatever she did for that art. So far as he knew, Gavin was outside practicing what Oifa’d taught him. Oifa and the witches were out procuring small animals for Gavin. He had said something about needing sources, not wanting to link himself to the devices by using his own blood. Sensible, actually, if aggravating in the time lost.

Fortunately, execution of the plan proved both simple and elegant, relatively speaking.

A few minutes before sunset, Tobias and Shannon placed and activated the fifth containment spike. After a couple moments to ensure it was active and seemed to be working, they started toward the camp with Alyce accompanying them under sorcerously conjured lights.

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