EPISODE 40: THE QUAKE

Alinore Valmont. Marday, Aries 19th, 2348 AA. 2:35 PM. Westridge (Athenaeum – Central Quad).

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Lin was surprised to be alive.

Immediately after Averael apologized, she felt an etheric pressure so intense that it stole her breath. Quite literally. She grew lightheaded. Everything started moving in quarter time, but her lungs now beat at a different, longer rhythm. And while she felt Averael’s projectile collide with some force akin to her wyrd, it never actually reached her body.

But it’s not my body. She could feel everything through a haze of pins and needles, including strange alien appendages growing out from between her shoulder blades, but she couldn’t control anything. Her limbs were longer, and—

And I am being possessed. Fuck.

Evitria continued to take stock of the new form she had drawn out of Alinore. Her body was comprised of near-seamless, molten glass plates, held together by sinuous magical smoke. Her legs ended in blazing black razors, and her wings—the odd appendages she had felt earlier—resembled those of a gigantic, swallowtail butterfly.

Thanks, I hate it.

“Tasteless, ungrateful child. I just saved your life.”

You just hijacked my body to physically incarnate on this plane. I’ll take death over being your puppet.

“Oh. My dear! We are on the same page. Entirely. Like two peas in a pod, in fact. Unfortunately, we are at cross purposes and you don’t get a vote.”

When Lin’s eyes, or rather, Evitria’s eyes, adjusted to the blinding light, Pensey was gone. Averael’s ‘mask,’ the avatar-body he had revealed in the dorm, stood in her place. Eight wings, alternating pairs of black and white, were stretched wide behind his robed figure. The shadows in the ‘H’ shaped slit on Averael’s alabaster mask seemed to seethe, as if they barely restrained the forces within.


But the overwhelming presence of his power, the breath-stealing, blinding intensity Lin had experienced in the dorm, was muted by her new shell. Evitria was easily as powerful as he was. No. Probably stronger. And Lin sensed a dark urge within her. The sort of selfishness born from resentment rather than desire. An eagerness to make the world bleed.

Evitria stretched luxuriantly, still exploring her newly physical body. Lin’s body, embedded in the towering djinn’s avatar, moved with her.

“You have such a lovely body, Alinore. Brimming with youth. A pity your wyrd is flawed, but with the potion in your blood, your powers are still stunning. A truly staggering talent at such a young age. You would have grown into an incomparable beauty, and a fearsome mage.”

The phrasing was not lost on Lin. Possession could place tremendous strain on the host. Especially if the foreign entity is powerful. You’re going to burn me up fighting Averael. I have to stop this! But she didn’t know how. Evitria didn’t only have control of her body and wyrd; she was inside Lin’s mind as well. Reading her thoughts. She could see everything coming. Lin thrashed wildly, muscle, wyrd, and mind. Evitria simply tightened her grip, stifling Lin to the point that she felt like she was choking.

“Fuck,” Averael said.

He beat two of his eight wings, gliding backwards, and then circled toward Evitria from the left. Evitria mirrored him, fluttering her crystal wings almost playfully, and the two of them squared off. Evitria addressed Lin internally:

“Tell me: is your little friend a fighter too? Can she compete with you?”

The question may as well have been rhetorical. As soon as Evitria prompted her, Lin thought of the answer. Pensey isn’t weak, but she’s not a fighter. She’s a scholar. A peacemaker. A natural born friend.

“Well. That is delightful. It seems we shall have the upper hand in this exchange.”

Mortals were not mere doorways for egregores to pass into reality; they acted as filters. The more powerful the host, the easier it would be for their passenger to translate their strength to reality. If the host was a trained fighter, the egregore would have access to those talents on top of whatever powers they brought with them. Admittedly, Lin and Pensey’s strengths were near negligible compared to the entities that had hijacked them, but if Averael and Evitria were evenly matched… Every inch of power counts.

Averael attacked. A quick volley of lance-like bolts of white light. Evitria trilled, and Lin felt herself crack apart as her body was broken apart into hundreds—no, thousands—of fluttering, burning butterflies. The blazing flight snapped back together swiftly, reconstituting Evitria and Lin on the other side of the angel. She retreated into the air and cocked back her razor like legs, preparing to stab Averael in the spine at center mass. He managed to beat his wings behind him just as she lunged, parrying the blow and knocking Evitria back.

He used the momentum to spin himself around and Lin saw his body flash translucent for a hair of a second. Pensey was suspended inside his ethereal flesh, wearing a horrified expression.

Then Averael started shooting in earnest. Blast after blast of white light tore up the quad, as Evitria narrowly dodged the volley with blinding speed. If Lin had more control over her body, she would have felt sick.

When Averael had exhausted himself, Evitria returned fire with a blazing disc of turquoise flame. Averael beat all eight of his wings simultaneously. Their power was sufficient to disrupt the spell, and also bought him some breathing room to regroup.

Lin addressed Evitria: Why do you want Pensey? If I’m such a wonderful host, take me instead!

“Oh no, sweetling. No, no, no. No more hosts for me. Your darling friend holds a treasure far more valuable than anything you could offer me. She is a vessel, you see. Something that no mortal has any right to possess.”

What the hell are you talking about?

“She harbors a Logos within her. One of the fundamental spells used to write creation. I cannot tell if it was bequeathed to her, or if she inherited from birth—ultimately, it’s irrelevant. I will beat my misguided paramour into submission, and pry the sacred word from her soul.”

Pensey doesn’t have anything like that! Lin argued. She had never even heard of Logos before.

“She certainly isn’t aware of it. She can’t even comprehend its presence in her body. But rest assured, she is a vessel. Tell me: what excuse did Averael feed you to loiter around your friend’s head? Ah. ‘The causality is cloudy,’ or some such. Has it ever occurred to you that he might have in an interest in the girl’s power himself?”

Lin wanted to say she trusted Averael. But she didn’t. She never had. Part of her liked him, but she knew that trusting him was a foolish risk. If he had anybody other than Pensey—even Athren—she would have approached Forsythe a long time ago. Evitria’s words sank into those insecurities like barbed fangs. The djinn trilled again and continued:

“If I had to guess, he and I share the same goal. I’m just willing to be more expedient with my extraction. He can be terribly sentimental about humans, you see. Gets attached very easily. Then again, he was willing to destroy you before I intervened.”

Averael charged forward, as a massive blade of blinding white and gold light manifested in his hands. Evitria narrowly dodged him, and jabbed a glass rapier into his flank, narrowly missing Pensey’s body, contained within.

“Face reason, my love,” Evitria purred. “You are outclassed.”

— Edryr Forsythe. 2:28 PM. Westridge (Athenaeum – Stadium) —

“Honored masters,” Forsythe began. “I implore you to assist in the evacuation and leave immediately. In approximately two minutes, egregores will spill forth from the court. Regrettably, it is too late to seal the breach, and we must prepare for an incursion. Unless you are accustomed to… extremely rigorous combat, I believe it would be best for you to seal the arena and protect the masses.”

Most of the teachers heeded his advice immediately, and beat a hasty retreat from the court. In fact, only three masters remained. A lithe woman of roughly fifty, with short, shock-white hair; A roguish-looking, goateed man of similar age; and a young, blonde, bearded, bespectacled archivist with a gigantic build. Seven five and three hundred fifty pounds of muscle if I’m any judge. Is he half-fae? Ogre-born perhaps? The woman spoke first:

“I know everyone in the CIC is a bonified bad-asses, but judging from the energy coming off that rift, I think you three will need all the help you can get.” She extended her hand to Forsythe. “Master Fera Fitzgerald. Former Detective Three of the SFKF. M&M.”

Forsythe shook her hand and nodded.

“Master Jaythe Elroy, at your service,” the rake said with a sweeping showman’s bow. “Former Division Chief of the AKF, also Monstrum and Malefaction.”

“Master Thonis Stroud, Archivist Two.” The giant blonde said. “Restricted Archives.”

Forsythe raised an eyebrow. Archivist Two? I don’t care how restricted they are, Stroud. You’re a babe in the bloody woods. He bowed his head and smiled one of those painfully earnest ‘I want to be a hero’ smiles. No time to dissuade him.

“Your assistance is appreciated,” Forsythe said. “But please be aware that I cannot guarantee your safety.”

“I understand, sir.” Thonis said. “It would be a privilege to assist the CIC.”

The young man extracted two identical daggers from sheaths in the small of his back. They were actually closer to short swords; nearly eighteen-inches long with wickedly shaped hollows, spikes, and other serrations, but they appeared comically small in his ham-hock fists. I would assume you’d prefer a hammer. Too each his own I suppose.

Sidleigh Harlowe, a severe looking woman in her forties with a hawkish nose, opened her grimoire and started casting physical enhancement contracts on all those present. Forsythe’s other subordinate, Naxel Morris removed the glamour concealing his enormous, black iron great axe, which he kept on his person at all times.

“Shall I fetch us some toys, Fera?” Elroy asked, stretching.

“If you’d be so kind, Jaythe. I’ll take my usual.”

Elroy began to cast a contract, not terribly difficult, but too complex and long to be used in combat. Spatial magic of some sort. A spell to remotely summon a tagged object. Red runes appeared in a circular array on the court, and then light and shadow seemed to congeal into two objects: an absurdly large broad sword—seemingly too heavy to wield without the assistance of sorcery—and a kusurigama; a curious weapon consisting of a length of heavy chain with a spike-studded weight at one end, and the pommel of a short blade at the other.

Fitzgerald grabbed the chained weapon with sorcery and spun it deftly, as if to reacclimate herself to its weight. As the weight whipped through the air, electrical arcs coursed through the links of the chain. Enchanted with electricity and binding magic. Fascinating.

Elroy picked up the massive blade with one arm, spinning it in an effortless flourish without using his wyrd. Forsythe squinted at the massive weapon. Ah. I see. White iron. Impossibly light, highly reactive to sorcery, and easily as hard as titanium if the craftsman was worth half a damn at all.

Fine weapons each. Perhaps they will be able to pull their weight after all.

Seconds later, prism-like lines snaked through the air above center court, as if the empty space were a fracturing.

“Prepare yourselves,” Forsythe said, unsheathing Phobos.

The six amagia formed a double-chevron, with the CIC in the front rank, and the Arroyo masters standing behind them.

There was an earsplitting crack in space itself, followed by two colossal skeletal hands which pried the fissure apart. My, my! An odokuro. Rarely see those outside Japan. Even rarer off a battlefield. A skull whose eye sockets were alight with blue and yellow flames followed the arms, and unleashed a rasping howl. It choked the stadium with the stench of rancid blood and rotting meat. The massive skeleton pulled the rest of it’s enormous frame through the breach with speed that seemed impossible for its size, tearing the crack wider as it stepped through. A tide of malicious egregores spilled forth in its wake.

Forsythe could sense half a dozen ponophages—which would need to be incarnated in flesh before they could be defeated, which was tricky to do without a host to act as a door, accompanied by too many lesser animistic aethyrie to count; wolves, raptors, and other urban predators born from the nightmares of animals. More serious were the masked humanoids armed with slashing weapons, resembling urban legends and horror film villains. These legions were led by two rakshasas; beautifully ornate, gold-clad demons of Hindu origin.

How disappointing. I was hoping for a workout.

“Morris; take the rakshasas. Harlowe, bind the ponophages. Masters, clear the rest of the chaff. I will handle the skeleton!”

Forsythe flickered through the rank-and-file aethyrie, using sorcery to enhance his already superhuman agility. He nearly managed to cut a swathe to the odokuro, but the gigantic skeleton swiped its arm across the court, crushing several of its allies, and smashing Forsythe into the stands. He managed to buffer the impact, but had to concede that his back ached terribly from the impact.

Any asfalis human—indeed, most amagia—would have had their spines shattered, even with the added protection of Harlowe’s barriers. Forsythe grinned and chided himself. Pride goeth before a fall, Edryr. Take this seriously.

As Forsythe dusted himself off, he took stock of the battlefield. Morris had engaged the first rakshasa with his enormous crescent axe. The demon caught its blade with his bare hands, inky black flesh ending in golden claws. While it was struggling to hold the axe back, Morris barked a sutra, and a blinding column of white fire sprang from the court, striking its bulk.

The odokuro spotted Harlowe with its blazing eyes, which flickered. Forsythe burned a metaphysical anima with a desperate counter-spell, and the odokuro burst into flame rather than Harlowe. Why are you standing still, woman?

Then he understood. Harlowe finished three simultaneous contracts. The spells pinned three of the ponophages into three of the lupine aethyrie. The animistic egregores began to twitch and howl, as their ectoplasmic bodies were racked by the agonizing presence of the pain-eaters. Brilliant work, my lady. Six birds with three spells.

Fitzgerald capitalized on the opportunity Harlowe created, whipping her weighted chain into the head of the nearest possessed wolf. The blow simultaneously killed the aethyrie and the ponophage bound inside it. Not to be outdone, Elroy charged at the other possessed wolf and thrust his ridiculous sword—clearly intended for slashing and crushing—through the entire length of the possessed creature, splitting it in half from skull to tail.

The odokuro, recovered from Forsythe’s counter-spell, moved to snatch Elroy off the court before he could recover from his sword thrust. But Forsythe managed to close the distance between the stands and the court with a graceful, diving leap, and intercepted the thing’s grasping claws.

Phobos’ vorpal blade removed three of the giant’s boney digits with a single whistling stroke. The odokuro showed no pain, but it did recoil with surprise. Forsythe held Phobos’ sheath in his offhand, and amassed a sorcerous, hammer-like cluster of energy at the end of its shaft as he cocked the weapon over his shoulder. Before the skeleton could appreciate the threat—they weren’t terribly bright—Forsythe tomahawked his makeshift hammer at its skull. The blow struck the thing just beneath its nose hole, shattering its maxilla and knocking free its two front teeth.

The bony colossus threw its head back, with a howl, and retched a thick, bruise-colored fog from its seemingly empty ribcage. The necrotic scent had a numbing effect on the amagias’ wyrds. As Forsythe quickly shielded himself from the smoke with kinetic sorcery, he caught a glimpse of Morris searching the haze. The second rakshasa emerged over his right shoulder, raking his back with its claws. Again, if it weren’t for Harlowe’s enchantments, his spine and vitals would have been torn to bloody ribbons.

Before Forsythe could intervene, Stroud came to Morris’ aid with a roar. He pummeled the rakshasa in the back with his daggers. To Forsythe’s delight, Stroud’s blades were actually able to puncture the thing’s muscular flesh, which he knew to be hard as marble. Now I understand why he focuses all that strength into those needles. When the rakshasa threw Stroud off, Morris was ready. He took its head off with one clear arching stroke of his axe.

Forsythe sensed something watching him. He had always been perceptive, but ever since he ate the Heart, his ability to sense danger bordered on precognition. Whatever was watching him was something stronger than the rest. It’s power even dwarfed the odokuro’s, which was still reeling from his hammer blow. It had only recently emerged from the veil, which meant it had likely been watching, and waiting for the right opportunity to strike.

An intelligent foe? Don’t tease me with a good time.

He acted unawares just a second longer, and narrowly managed to parry the entity’s claws. It had no face, save for a lipless mouth with yellowed teeth and a crown of obsidian, gazelle-like horns emerging from its forehead. Its body was studded with craggy plates of stone, covered by sinuous muscular flesh beneath. It stood slightly taller than the archivist, Stroud.

“I…won’t…lose…” The thing said in a voice like cracking bones. “I…cannot…lose…”

It’s an incarnation, like the ponophages. But this one is born of pride, jealousy or some such. Likely born from the resentment of those who lost their duels. And since the defeated were driven adolescents—vessels of angst and painful yearning—it had a great deal of energy fueling it indeed. Goddamned, wretched teenagers.

The incarnate flung its arms to the side, and bladed obsidian bones erupted from its forearms and knuckles. Yes, yes. Enough theatrics!

Forsythe shot forward with a flurry of devastating slashes. The thing parried each cut in sequence and answered with a thrust that nearly impaled him. Forsythe only managed to dodge it at the expense of taking a kick to the chest, strong enough to wind him. Yet, he found himself smiling as he gasped. Yes. Yes, I’ve been waiting for this.

Forsythe flipped his sword grip, taking one of the lateral handles so he held Phobos like a tonfa rather than a sword. At the same time, he called Phobos’ sheath back to his free hand with a long-practiced cantrip.

The prideful incarnation swept both its arms across its body, jettisoning the obsidian blades that had grown out of its flesh. He managed to deflect them with both blade and sheath, but one of the blades fragmented, showering his eye with sharpened glass. The shards seemed to have a malignant will behind them, clawing and wheeling improbably across his brow. Forsythe retorted with a simple but devastating contract: a column of concussive sound, fit to liquify guts and crack stone. 

The spell smashed into the incarnation from on high. Forsythe knew he scored a solid hit from the etheric ripples, yet the thing endured the entire contract. It flexed its arms and grew another collection of obsidian blades from the spaces between its armor plates. The thing pointedly hesitated for a moment, cracking its neck from side to side.

I know what’s coming.

It leapt forward before finishing its taunt entirely. Again, if Forsythe were any less than what he was, the thing would have eviscerated him with its lengths of obsidian. But Forsythe was faster than any human who thought up this egregore. He smashed it in the jaw with his sheath. It took the blow gracefully, cartwheeling to the side, but spat a glob of yellow blood onto the ground.

“…Cheat.” It rasped.

Forsythe scoffed.

“Yes, they all say that.”

He flashed ahead again, slicing at the egregore with a dazzling array of cuts, easily double the speed of his earlier assault. As soon as he got the creature on its backfoot, he used sorcery to yank its body forward, and drove Phobos’ sheath—sharpened by sorcery—through its neck. He followed through, used the shaft as a lever to knock the thing down, and pinned it to the floor. He drew back Phobos, which gleamed and sang the faint whistling song of its vorpal enchantment, and prepared to decapitate the creature.

Another disappointment after all.

But then the odokuro, forgotten amidst the fumes of its own putrid breath, managed to kick Forsythe with its full might. Odokuro’s weren’t terribly dangerous—apart from its bad breath and ability to ignite things with cursed fire, they only had the raw strength of their gigantic limbs. Harlowe’s barrier contract gave out with the initial impact. Forsythe flew into the stands, but this time his back struck the uneven concrete stairs rather than the seats. He coughed. A little blood came out of his mouth.

That rather hurt.

He coughed again, incensed to acknowledge that he would be paste without the damned Heart. Even Morris, sturdy bastard that he was, would have been killed by that blow. Forsythe did not like to be reminded of his advantages. Even though his abilities were honestly earned through great hardship, he liked to win based on his intrinsic human merits.

But who am I kidding? I’m a monster. Might as well make the most of it.

For a half second, he considered removing his ribbon. Then he realized that allies were present. One rakshasa was dead. The phonophages and aethyrie seemed to be greatly reduced in number. Playing a trump card when you have no need for it is degrading. I refuse to be shamed by some aspirants’ sour grapes.

“Change of plans!” Forsythe shouted. “Masters, finish the skeleton! Harlowe and Morris, kill that damn rakshasa, and mop up the others! Do not engage the incarnate!”

The incarnation, for its part, managed to pry the shaft of Phobos’ sheath from its neck. Yellow, pus-colored ectoplasm oozed from the wound briefly before the flesh closed. I know its neck is vulnerable. Best to avoid the muscular plates, even though I’ve cut through worse.

Forsythe cast a visual acuity contract, a barrier, and a reflex enhancer in sequence, drinking in the euphoric onrush of ether and shuddering with ecstatic outflow of structured magic. He focused his newly enhanced, incredibly quick eyes on the demon’s black blades. They were not only notched where Phobos had struck them, but tiny cracks had snaked through the crystals.

Quick to grow. Perilously sharp. But fragile. Interesting.

Out of the corner of his eye, Forsythe spied Fitzgerald and Elroy charging the odokuro. Elroy cleft the thing’s left ankle as it stepped forward, causing it to topple toward the stands. It reached out its arm, attempting to crush Forsythe as it fell, but with the reflex enhancer, Forsythe was able to almost casually leap aside. He jumped from seatback to seatback, returning to the court with three graceful strides.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald chucked her weight into the odokuro’s ribs, and used the chain as a makeshift grappling hook to scale its back. All the while, she channeled her wyrd into the electrifying enchantment on her chain to cook the ectoplasmic marrow inside the thing’s bones.

Well! They seem to have that under control. Now, where is that damn incarnate? While moving, he had lost sight of it, but he spotted the berserk egregore again before he could finish his thought. It was charging hard at Harlowe; easily the least martial fighter in the group. He had less than a second to intervene.

Forsythe threw Phobos with sorcery, and the blade once again caught the incarnation in the neck. Harlowe followed up with a sorcerous gust of wind, creating space between herself and the incarnation. Forsythe closed the distance and unleashed a barrage of kicks and punches at the incarnate, finding the soft seams of flesh between its armor plates. He wasn’t doing real damage so much as disorienting and goading the thing into a foolish strike. You have blades for arms yet I’m beating you stupid with my fists and feet. Come now, egregore. I am only human.

Sure enough, it cocked its right arm back for a haymaker swing. As it took a step forward, Forsythe used sorcery to pluck Phobos back out of its neck, returning the blade to his hand.

Time to finish this. He embraced the Heart, abandoned himself to it. In a rabid frenzy, he targeted the lateral edges of the obsidian blades emerging from its arms, shearing them off the creature. Next, he grabbed one of the creature’s gazelle-like horns and cracked it off its skull-plate. As it bowed down sharply and opened its mouth in shock, Forsythe drove Phobos through its pate and out its nape. He twisted the blade one way, then the other, as if he were undoing a combination lock, then ripped it downward through the side of its neck. Foul ectoplasm smelling of rot erupted from the wound, staining the sundered court. The creature fell limp, its body rapidly decaying into currents of ether.

Forsythe took a breath and reassessed the field. He turned just in time to be spattered with purple ectoplasmic blood and brain matter. Elroy had brought the full might of his enormous blade against the odokuro’s temple, at the precise location where the sphenoid, parietal and temporal bones fused together, popping its head like an over-ripe melon. The fiendish, yellow-blue fires in its eyes extinguished immediately.

Forsythe felt the rush of displaced wind approaching his head. On instinct, he whipped around, guarding with his wyrd and slashing Phobos in retort. The blade sank home, cleaving the projectile in twain. He was surprised to find that it was the head of a third rakshasa, and more surprised to find Thonis Stroud standing still, breathing hard, with Harlowe and Morris looking on with stunned expressions. Forsythe gave them a strange look.

“He tore its fuckin’ head off!” Morris roared with laughter.

“Indeed?” Forsythe asked Stroud, impressed.

Stroud looked positively mortified, spattered with ectoplasm resembling liquified gold leaf. Forsythe turned to Harlowe, who nodded in confirmation. Forsythe furrowed his lip. Hmm. What would be appropriate. He settled on an approving nod, and what he hoped came across as a winning smile.

Elroy cut in:

“Something may’ve slipped through. Sensed something demonic, but never saw it.”

Forsythe sighed.

“How powerful was it? Can the keepers and masters outside handle it?”

“Not strong. Not sure I didn’t imagine it.”

“Let the officers do their jobs then,” Forsythe said, disgusted and tired.

Harlowe was already reinforcing the breach, which had started to mend itself after the incarnation passed through it. Forsythe took a seat on one of the still extant bones of the odokuro and began cleaning Phobos.

“Hey asshole!”

Forsythe closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He recognized the girl from her emanations. It’s the half-fae girl from the semi-finals. The one I stitched. The one with the filthy mouth. His heart sank. What the devil are you doing in here, and why do I have a bad feeling about it?

“I found your fucking angel!” She shouted, immediately before she was restrained by two irate AKF officers.

Ah. Seems the stitch came undone, then.

Forsythe peered at the girl and was surprised that she didn’t seem remotely phased by the catastrophic damage to the stadium. Or the giant, rotting egregoric skeleton. Then he remembered her file. Akrasiac. Very accustomed to strolling through surreal hellscapes.

“Let her go,” Forsythe called and slid Phobos back into its sheath.

He strode forward and looked the girl in her right eye. The other was almost entirely swollen shut. He could feel the pain coming off her through her wyrd. Every part of her body hurt. She was breathless. Her wyrd was completely spent. But her expression was fierce. How the devil did you manage to break our perimeter in this pitiful state? No matter.

“Where?” Forsythe demanded.

“The underground quad,” she said. “Center of campus. And you’d better hurry. There’s also a djinn possessing another student.”

“Sir, what the hell is she talking about?” One of the Keepers who had chased Cyphira asked.

“Matters well above your paygrade, officer. Return to your post, and try to ensure we have no more gatecrashers, hmm?”

The Keepers, chastened, nodded and strode out of the room. The girl turned to say something doubtlessly clever and snide, but Forsythe snapped his fingers and a curtain of sedative energy struck her. She was out in under a second, and Forsythe had to catch her on her way down.

“That’s my mentee!” Master Fitzgerald called, jogging over. “What the hell is she doing here?”

“An excellent question, but one that will have to wait.”

Forsythe took stock of his compatriots. The Athenaeum’s masters had acquitted themselves well. Better than expected, in fact. Especially Elroy and Fitzgerald. I can trust Agents Harlowe and Morris to oversee things here with the other masters. While Stroud is a young monster, this may yet be a bit much for him.

“Harlowe. Morris. Master Stroud. Please perform a sweep of the stadium for stranglers, and cordon off the breach until it can be properly mended with a ritual. Master Fitzgerald. Master Elroy. Would you be so good as to accompany me on an errand?”

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