Untitled (8.1) (2016)

8

After a brief, pre-dawn, breakfast, Tobias divided the team and set out in three groups to check their devices. Since they knew the area best, Alyce and Cierra were told what to look for and sent toward the farthest point. Shannon and Oifa went clockwise while Tobias and Gavin took widdershins from the base, to divide the primary designers. Each team had a small, clear crystal they could use to contact the others a couple times before the spells on them wore out.

If everything worked, reaching the first marker should have taken about ten minutes.

Tobias was, naturally, surprised then when Gavin suddenly pulled him to a stop after about seven or eight minutes.

“Look, the trees,” the younger man said, nodding ahead.

“Damn.”

The spring buds were only a couple feet away, and they were still several yards from where the spike had been planted. Still, Tobias decided, they should try to find the item. It could have something useful to tell them. Maybe the growth hadn’t been circular but come through a gap. They could have placed the devices too far apart.

He motioned forward, keeping one eye on the spring trees.

It took another ten minutes of searching, both by eye and spell, before Tobias admitted that the containment failed. They had not misplaced, forgotten, or otherwise lost the spike. It had been absorbed by the anomaly.

Well, success on the first try would have been amazing. the odds were not in its favor. But, it was too bad they couldn’t recover the device to see what failed. That meant they were still going into round two effectively blind.

Tobias shrugged to himself and took out the comm crystal while Gavin stared into the woods.

“Oifa, Alyce. Station three is gone. No sign, presumed absorbed,” he said, “Any results?”

“Station four’s gone too,” said Oifa’s voice, a little distorted by the crystal. “Instructions?”

“We’ll proceed to two, see if we can confirm. Go ahead to five, though I doubt we’ll have much luck.”

“Understood. Is it us or does the area look bigger than it should?”

Tobias glanced at Gavin, who nodded after a moment’s thought.

“Gavin confirms. Any thoughts?”

“Not yet, maybe a theory. I’ll see after five.”

“Sounds good,” Tobias said, returning the crystal to a pocket. He hadn’t expected any contact from Alyce and Cierra. they shouldn’t have reached the first station yet, but now at least they’d know not to expect much.

The excitement and urgency of seeing if the containment had worked were gone. So, the pair took a more sedate pace toward their second device point.

Tobias allowed himself to enjoy the warmth of the rising sun, slightly tempering the chill morning air. Like the others, he wore an outer layer against the pre-dawn cold, and, later, autumn’s winds. And he carried most of his cryptomancy equipment, in case he needed to adjust anything. That clearly was not needed, a concern for later. For the time being, Tobias lost himself in the brisk day and breeze in the trees.

His companion was certainly less relaxed. Gavin’s tense posture and shifting eyes were obvious even to Tobias, and the conscious attempts, reminders, to relax. The latter, he noticed, manifested in rolled shoulders and the occasional deep breath.

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