Untitled (8.4) (2016)

Tobias  nodded, and did his own assessment of the team.  Shannon had her sword, gems, and sorcery.  He, himself, had his magic, a knife, and the borrowed boltcaster.  Gavin was very obviously well armed, and had his shoto in his hands.  Oifa . . . had a tiny clip knife and her magic.

He looked to Gavin for tactics.

“Tobias, cover me, I’ll take point,” the younger man said.  “Shannon, protect Oifa.  Oifa, do what you can magically, but try to contact someone . . .”

“Ariel,” Tobias said.

“Ariel, if possible,” Gavin agreed.  “Start now and keep trying.  If it were me, I’d try to block communication, but maybe we’ll get lucky.  If not, I’ll give them a distraction.”

Everyone had some training for these situations, the world was a dangerous place with faction conflicts.  But, that was years ago.  Tobias knew he, at least, hadn’t used those skills since a year or so out of school.  He doubted Oifa or Shannon had either.

Still, he drew his wand-sized staff and did his best to hold it along the boltcaster stock.  His magic was more comfortable, but the ‘caster could be more useful.

A glance toward Oifa was returned with a sharp shake of her head.

No luck getting through then.

The signs were pointing more certainly toward hostiles.

Tobias tried to push those thoughts from his mind as he followed Gavin.  He was almost successful, when they reached the camp.

The youngest sorcerer stepped straight over the line of their wards, Tobias a few feet behind him.  The other pair stopped right on the line.

Looking around, Tobias saw nothing amiss, except Cierra standing alone near the campfire.  She had her sword in hand and he felt Gavin tense for a moment before relaxing himself.

Gavin spoke first, “Where’s Alyce, Cierra?”

“In the woods,” the witch shrugged, turning it into a roll of her shoulders to loosen them.

“Where are your friends?  A witch couldn’t have altered sigil and sorcerous wards alone.”

Tobias tried to visually scan the camp while his colleague stalled, or whatever he was doing.  He spotted nothing, until more than a dozen men and women emerged in the camp.  Some came out of the tents, others seems to step out of empty air.  All were armed and bore staves.  Tobias quickly guessed that about half held close in weapons and the rest crossbows, cheaper and more common than boltcasters.  All the arms appeared magical to different degrees, though the ambient auras of so many sorcerers in a small space made details difficult to tell.

Whatever they carried, the result was the same.

They badly outnumbered his team.

Their clothes varied so much, he couldn’t even guess what faction they belonged to.  If they even belonged.  They could be the Free, he thought.

As he rapidly assessed, Tobias missed Gavin saying something.  He only heard Cierra say, “It’s not personal, I’ve been working for months.  The elders, in their infinite wisdom,” she sneered, “decided I’m not suited for high magic.  The Circle disagrees.”

Damn.

The Circle.

No one knew anything useful about them, secretive bastards.  Tobias would have guessed the Order, trying to attack the Coven.  But the Circle . . . their motives were impossible to know.


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