They retreated past the concrete curb that was the token marker of the end of the magic practice field and the landscaping around the first of the dorm buildings. They spread out in a line and sat cross-legged, to watch.
Isakson pointed out four of them, Unko, Osti, Agny, and Eggo. Turned and summoned Dog.
Yikes! He’s going for a full Compass!
Isakson took north, Ra’d South, Ebsa west, and an apprehensive Dog walked to the east position. The four students slotted in between them, and they reached to join hands. Power circled, grew. Controlled, and then used as the poor hill got smacked with various spells. All through beautifully controlled holes in the right shield.
“Damn. I’ve never seen anything like that! I didn’t know that was possible.” Ice blinked and shook his head. “Wow.”
Rael nodded. “That’s about the strongest power circle I’ve seen. And it was just a bit of practice, with a Compass that’s not used to each other.”
The last of the power huffed upward in a ring of heated air, and Isakson released the merge.
The students, and Dog, staggered over to grab boost and collapse.
Isakson grinned and crooked a finger at the rest of them. Eyed Kev and shook his head. Pointed at Ice. Who swallowed and walked out to take east, with Fun and Sunny on either side. Milo and Arno flanked Ebsa.
The power spun up, leaping and roaring, power flashes . . . Rael threw up a shield between the compass and the guys watching, saw the sparkle of a shield in front of the girls.
Isakson, I hope you know what you’re doing!
The first attack through the shield gouged a hole and sent dirt and flaming grass arching through the air.
Three quick shots . . . Is Isakson trying to reduce power by using it as fast as he can?
The slope heaved, settled. Then more flying dirt.
Agny inched closer. “Is the power supposed to still be building up?”
Rael gulped. “I . . . don’t think . . . so?”
Then a huge blast, straight up.
Rael hardened her shields, stretched them higher, shot a glance at the girls. Ryol was standing, hands out, throwing a shield high.
The blast slammed her backwards, and shield hit the Dorm behind her.
Even over the startled screams, Rael heard the snap of breaking glass, the high pitched tinkle as some shattered and fell. Mostly trapped between the building and the shield as it collapsed.
Rael shoved an angled shield above the girls and the glass hit and slid back against the building foundations. She held it in her mind as she bolted out to the boys . . . who were climbing to their feet, grinning through reddened faces.
Isakson was laughing. “A full Warrior Compass! Trainees, in you fives’ case.” He glanced at the other boys. “Eleven. And I’m think the young ladies are going to count as well.”
Rael heaved a breath of relief. Arno’s fine!
She opened her mental shields a bit, looking up at the dorm. The top two floors have lost most of their glass, I’m only feeling a couple of people, startled, some pain . . . pain down here . . .
Ryol was curled on her side, hands around her head, breathing in gasps.
Rael reversed to grab boost. “Drink. You need it badly.”
“I can’t, I can’t . . .” her privacy shield was crumbling pain leaking out.
And everything getting in!
Rael wrapped a mental shield around the girl. “Drink!” She looked over her shoulder. “Guys! Put out the fires! Then get up there and find out if anyone is injured!”
Ryol went limp.
No, no, no! Rael put her arms around her and reached for the antechamber of her office. Hit the floor there with a jolt.
“Mom?” Ryol blinked.
“I’ll get you to the Comet Fall hospital, they’ll know what to do.” Rael pulled the girl’s arm around her neck and helped her up. Walked her through the office.
And through the house to the garage. “We not very far from the corridor to Gate City from here. Just hang on . . .” Strapped her into her seat. Forced her to take a swallow of boost. She drove out of the neighborhood and on the first throughway, popped the sort-of-concealed panel on the dash. Presidential level authority . . . and suddenly all the lights were in her favor, the car swerved into the emergency access lane at the corridor and she grabbed the controls to get through the corridor’
“Look at that! Is that strange thing a tree” Ryol squinted and pointed. “It’s really weird. Like it growing all through the inbetween.”
Rael merged onto the highway to the SGA, and let the system control the car—and let it get everyone else out of her way. She contacted the SGA gate guards, and they waved her through. A quick trip through the warehouse district.
“Look at all those gold things. Like decorating a Christmas tree, like in the old vids.” Ryol blinked. “Except it’s more like a bush, isn’t it?”
“I don’t see anything, Honey.” Rael swiped a hand across her eyes to clear her vision. Steered straight at the gate to Embassy.
Ryol screamed and cringed down in her seat. “Don’t hit it, don’t hit . . . it?”
Rael whipped out of the Embassy courtyard, turn right, and right again. And into a parking spot.
The Goddess of Health hustled out the front door of the hospital. “Good heavens, child what did you just do?” Her hands cupped Ryol’s face. “That’s a nasty bit of power scorch. Talk to me.”
“I could absorb it all.” Ryol squinted. “I was trying to shield the building, I grabbed a bunch of the blast energy to strengthen it against itself, and there was too much energy, I sort of pushed it way, around me and into the ground, but I already . . . hurt.”
“Yes.” A huff of exasperation. “Taking after your Aunt Q. That’s not the right way to learn to channel power. Come in here. I’ll you up and let you lie in the dark for a couple of hours and see how you’re doing.”
Rael staggered . . . in a hospital room.
The lights dimmed. “Let’s see. Drink this first . . .”
Rael stepped up and steadied Ryol as she sat down. Drank something bright green. Relaxed a little.
“Are you crying?” Ryol squinted up at her.
Rael swiped a hand across her cheek. “Yes.” It came out a lot more wobbly than she’d intended. “I’m . . . not a very good mother, but I love you.”
Ryol leaned on her. “You’re a great mother. Pretty good aunt, too.” She swapped glasses with Dr. Heath. Took a sip of something milky and chocolaty.
Loud running footsteps out in the hall, stopping, and tentative tap at the door before it eased open.
Arno and Milo.
“What are you two doing here? How did you get here?”
“I drove. Hey Sis, you dead yet?” Arno’s anxious expression eased as he eyed Ryol. Winced as Milo slapped his head.
Milo slipped up to Ryol’s other side. “Hey. Are you all right?”
“No. But Dr. Health doesn’t seem too alarmed.” Ryol shifted and leaned on him.
“Indeed. Dr. Heath is no longer alarmed.” The Goddess took the empty glass. “You should recover entirely. But you are going to stay here through the weekend, and you will not be doing any magic for several weeks.”
The door opened and closed again. Q nudged her way closer. “Oh. I remember how that feels. What do you see, Ryol?”
“If I look at the inbetween, all I see is this tree. I feel like I’m stuck up on a branch like some stupid cat.”
Q grinned. “Excellent. That’s the Multiverse. Rest and recuperate. You’ve just hit a threshold the wrong way, so heal first, then more training.”
“She’s going to be fine. Now you lot shoo! She needs to sleep. Rael? Come by Sunday, she should be ready to go home by then.”
Rael allowed herself to be herded out with everyone else. And stopped dead. Her cute little red sports car, very poorly parked, had been joined by a wicked low slung red job . . . that she recognized from the description . . . “I am going to kill Ra’d.”
Arno shook his head. “It was my idea. I suborned him.”
She eyed him.
“I had to get close enough to do a gate nearby. And it’s not like I could buy a car, or even rent one, with a learners permit.”
“Bubble that car right now before anyone from Whirlpool One sees it. And get in my car.” Rael kept her voice steady. I will go fetal with my blanky later.
Q was looking amused. “Need a quick ride?”
Rael opened her mouth to politely decline . . . “Ah . . . yes I’d better get back and see what the rest of the damage is.”
Paer trotted out of the hospital, case in hand. “Ebsa called. Some nasty glass injuries. Give me a lift?”
Rael swallowed. “Certainly.”
She started the car and they were suddenly in the embassy courtyard. She drove through the gate, a second twist and suddenly she was in her own driveway. Q stepped away from the car and waved. Disappeared.