Sylvia sat on her brother’s lap. In the chill of the morning, Flavus embraced her to keep her warm. They hid from the wind under a green hill overgrown with raspberry bushes. There, they were waiting for Kangassk to come. Finally, he did. He came at a run and stopped before them, panting.
“How did it go?” Flavus asked, worried.
“I think I did it,” was the answer. “There’s a lot of motion on the perimeter. Let’s just hope they will do what I asked them to and won’t go for us instead.”
“What? You told them?”
“Just one of them. I tried to lie to the other commanders but nothing worked, then I tried to tell the truth. Didn’t have much of a choice there. But the old Hunter seemed to believe me…” Kangassk stopped to take a look back at Iven again. “Yes! It worked! They’re taking people back to their homes!”
Flavus let Sylvia go and joined Kangassk at his watching post. For a while, they were observing the commotion around the grey camp.
“You did it, Kan!” said Flavus; he was in awe. “You walked on very thin ice there but you did it!” He turned to his friend. “You know, you have a certain talent… the way you use trust to steal people’s hearts…”
Kangassk looked at Sylvia standing alone by the bush that was taller than she, shivering but still smiling at him. He took off his grey cloak and wrapped the girl in it to protect her from the cold. They had a long wait in front of them.
Charged with anxious anticipation, the time dragged on. With all the crimson having burned out, the sky looked pale and grey now. Finally, a star of hope shone through the greyness of despair: Vestren kept his word and cast a huge Liht above the commander’s tent to signal that everything was ready.
“It’s our move now,” said Kangassk. “Flavus, Sylvia, you are my best friends in all the world. I just want to say: I love you both…”
“No farewells, Kan,” Flavus interrupted him. “We will survive this day and live a hundred years after it.”
“I hope so,” Kangassk nodded. “Okay, here we go…”
Kangassk could cast Drain wordlessly now. Sylvia didn't even know what hit her, just like it had been with Kangassk himself two days ago. He saw the child fall to her knees, her palms pressed against her chest, her breath fast, gasping… and realized that he felt nothing. By the time Kan had finished casting the spell, his adrenaline must’ve been as high as a warrior’s in the middle of a battle. He knew the feeling. He also knew he would pay for those seconds of power and clarity with a river of tears and a week of nightmares later. But now, he was glad for being cut off of his emotions.
With Drain cast and the link established, it was Flavus’s time to act but first, he felt ambassa, the purest ambassa fill his empty chalice again. It was overwhelming, it threw him off focus, it nearly consumed his mind… Once again, the world around him shone with colours, screamed with sounds, and breathed with feelings no mere mortal could feel. For a brief moment, Flavus became an ambasiath again. It took him an enormous effort not to drown in the feeling and stay focused. He had to fight his own nature and the fight wasn’t easy. But in the end, he won.
A spectacular, full-scale magical shield opened above the tiny battle unit. There was no need for saving energy, so Flavus put everything he knew into the spell; his shield shone like a giant diamond, every facet of which was a protective element. Still, even that generous display of power wasn’t enough to use up all the magic Sylvia was losing; just like it had been with Kangassk, most of the energy was dissolving into the ether, unused, unclaimed, unrecognized even.
The vitryanik must have realized that its very existence was in danger; it did what demons of its kind rarely do: raised the winds in the daytime… only to realize that it was trapped, that all the living magic vessels it could possess or feed upon were hiding behind powerful shields. For a while, the winds raged and howled, furious, but then the vitryanik saw its enemy, saw the mage responsible for the attack on the cosy sea that was the demon’s home. The winds died the very instant the vitryanik decided to take its last chance and dived back into the broken magical chalice to find the breach and face the aggressor.
Wise people know that even a rat is dangerous when cornered. Cornered demons are much, much worse…