“Elise offered to send me home today,” Audrey hugged her spell-book.

“The evil sorceress?” Nadine made sure she heard Audrey right.

“Yeah,” Audrey laughed sadly, “according to her Andromalus is the bad one. She said she just wanted to help me, didn’t want anything in return… But I couldn’t, I couldn’t accept her offer. My friends in Fantasia still need me, I couldn’t turn my back on them.”

Horera was snuggling Audrey in a similar position to how she was curled up with the horse-sized white wolf in her portal. Nadine would have been inclined to call it a wolf daemon, but it seemed pretty obvious the magic wolf wasn’t evil—so Nadine had no term for her.

“I’m sorry,” Nadine crouched down by Audrey and Horera, “that must have been a hard choice for you. But I think you made it right.”

“What if I could have been home tonight?” Audrey looked at the London portal with tears in her eyes. She didn’t need to say any more, the implications were clear.

Nadine could understand Audrey’s frustration more than she could ever admit aloud. Nadine tried so hard to be strong, as Flint Foster’s daughter she was supposed to be. And there was Horera, who seemed to be able to suck the sadness right out of people like a sponge—and walk away as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever.

Nadine had seen Horera in distress back when the ‘Bad Man’ was after her but, over all, Horera had a natural strength that even Nadine couldn’t understand. No one else needed to know that half the time when Nadine seemed confident she was actually wracked with self-doubt on the inside. But Horera seemed too simple to be able to hide the way she was feeling, which led Nadine to believe Horera was actually as strong as she seemed.

Audrey had probably never had to be strong the way Nadine and Horera had. London sounded like a wonderful, peaceful utopia. Even when Audrey tried to explain the downsides and problems with the city, there was a longing in her voice that made it pretty clear Audrey would trade her current problems for those in a heartbeat. But she didn’t. Audrey was given a chance to go home and she chose to stand by her friends instead.

“Come on,” Nadine stood up. Taking a step back she activated a pressure plate, sealing off the portals and surrounding the three of them with virtual daemons.

“What?” Audrey looked around at all the daemons despairingly.

“Browf?” Horera cocked her head curiously, apparently already aware the daemons weren’t real.

“Training,” Nadine held out her hand to help Audrey up. “We’ll hone our skills as a team. We don’t need to work with the portals if you don’t want to—but I really need to do something. I can’t just sit still.”

After a long sigh, Audrey nodded, “Okay.”

Nadine turned her back to the others as she felt a flush of guilt. She hadn’t meant to pull the “I might be dead” card, but obviously Audrey heard that twinge in Nadine’s voice. Nadine really had to do something, if she didn’t…

Against the firey dawn, Audrey stood and opened her spell book. Horera produced guisarme-san, and Nadine nocked her bow. In a few seconds the program would start.

“We’ll just keep it light, only 100 daemons for now. I’ll handle pin-point damage and key targets, Audrey is crowd-control, and Horera keep them away from us—especially Audrey—so we can concentrate.”

“And Guisarme-san?” Horera held up her weapon.

“Guisarme-san’s on defense too,” Nadine smiled.

Horera nodded, “Guisarme-san guard Audrey.”

Nadine was surprised to see Horera let go of Guisarme-san and have her weapon remain standing next to Audrey. When the battle actually began, the blade seemed to wield itself against the daemons—and about as well as when Horera was holding it. Other than the extra team member, things went as Nadine expected. Her grasp on everyone’s strengths and weaknesses was solid, and the trust was there too. In no time they were fighting as an effective unit—just like Nadine, JC and Phillipa.








One Response

  1. Elsie says:

    those daemons are creepy!

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