Luke surveyed his troops, such as they were, and hoped fervently that Aelfgar wasn’t going to get them all killed.
“This is what you bring me?” Aelfgar complained. “Three girls?”
Acacia smiled sharply at him. “He brings you the best.”
“Trust Regine to raise a school full of ink-stained clerks where the best she can give me is three teenaged girls,” the Viking grumbled. “You three should be home making babies, not fighting dragons.”
“Been there, done that,” the Thorne’s leader smirked. “You want trackers? Or should we leave you to sniff this thing out on your own?”
“Oh wait,” Massima purred, “you couldn’t. Deal with it, old man. We’re what you’ve got, and we’re what you’ve got because we’re the best.”
“Mouthy little bitches, aren’t they?” Aeflgar muttered.
“You’d almost think they were your daughters,” Doug interjected, “except they seem to like men.” Not for the first time, Luke wondered how intimately his son knew that of his Students, but now wasn’t the time nor the place to get into it.
“That’s enough,” he bellowed. “We can wave our cocks around later. Acacia, Doug, the fracas has been dealt with?”
“Caitrin’s pissed,” the girl grinned. “Man, if I’d known the kid was that wild…”
“Shop later. Fight now,” he snapped. “Allyse, Finnegan?”
“Unconscious on my bed. If everything goes to shit, he’ll know what to do when he wakes up.”
“Good. You girls know the drill. Track and find, then fall back.”
“Yessir.” They didn’t look happy about it, any more than his Students would, but they would probably obey.
Aelfgar shook his head. “Hell of a way to run an army.”
“It’s not an army, it’s a school.” If the old man had just stayed away, they wouldn’t be in this mess. He wouldn’t have a student burned into charcoal in the infirmary, nor a dozen others passed out from soul-draining. He wouldn’t be gathering teenage girls into a hunting expedition for a monster. He wouldn’t have to deal with the old bastard. “The longer we sit around arguing, the more students that asshole is feeding off of. Let’s get out there, find it, and bring it down.”
They nodded, all business again.
The girl nodded and closed her eyes. Her crew caught her, one on each arm, as she went limp.
“The hell…?” Aelfgar muttered.
“She’s a seer.” Massima was clearly used to having this conversation.
“A Cassandra? Never woulda guessed it. They’re not normally that…”
“Sir? Please shut up.” Acacia had to be stressed out; she was being polite. “I don’t want to waste her trance.”
The big man snapped his jaw shut, just as Allyse stiffened and twitched. She crooned out a sentence of gibberish that could have been Old Tongue – and just as likely was Baby Talk – and stood naturally, her eyes open but clouded over, and began walking.
“You should have let her bring Finnegan,” Massima complained, but there was no heat behind it. She and Acacia flanked the girl, moving cautiously out into the halls.
They went slowly, following Allyse’s blind lead. At the first intersection, they stopped, and Luke and Acacia Worked a wall, blocking their retreat but also blocking their enemy – assuming, of course, that he couldn’t Work the stone-and-plastic wall as easily as they could.
Allyse’s trance didn’t allow for things like covering retreats, and Sima was either unable or unwilling to hold her back, so they ended up strung like beads along the hall, hurrying to catch up with the girl before the next intersection and then doing it all again. At least she was set on “slow” today; Luke had observed hunts where she ran through the woods, oblivious to - and mostly untouched by, lucky her – the terrain, while whipping branches attacked her minders.
The halls were nearly empty. They had been sending students to their rooms all day – not all of them had listened, or he wouldn’t have ended up with a brawl in the hallways, and what the hell had they been thinking? When they did encounter a student – first petite, quiet Wren, looking for her boyfriend, and then Callista, apparently on an errand she wouldn’t be able to finish right now anyway – Doug did a short Working on them, making sure they were really who they appeared to be, and sent them to their rooms, hoping it would be safe enough.
Slowly, Allyse moved forward, swaying as she walked now, like a dowsing rod. Students were still being attacked out there, but this was all they had. Slowly, their circle narrowed, and they drew in closer on the monster.
Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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