Leonti standing up, lowering his rifle. "Wow, Khar. I always thought fireballs were a waste of energy."
The tattooed man looked around with a grin. "It depends on how close together your targets are and how much energy you put into it. My wife Marta was worried about her mother, when we saw this attack shaping up. I had to come, to keep her home."
Kamilla raised her head above the cars. "That runaway servant girl? You tell her to get her ass back here!"
Lord Klim grunted and shoved himself to his feet. "Thank you, Lord Khar. Your fireballs were very timely. Please assure Lady Marta that her mother is well, and that she, and you, are welcome to visit anytime."
"Klim!" Kamilla's head disappeared back behind the barricade. Unfortunately her voice carried . . . "Olga! Do something! That husband of your is giving away our servants!"
"No, Dear. He's acknowledging that the old ways have died."
"And further more, he's talking to that horrible Khar . . ."
Forty-nine grabbed lights and hustled off to check for injuries of his people and . . . what the hell to do with the injured attackers?
And what about the people who escaped?
Their injuries were light, and no fatalities, as they'd all been shooting from behind trees, and the shield charms had slowed the bullets that got through. Makariy coped, and Forty-nine dispensed the healing wine . . . but only to his people. The attackers? They were on their own, to live or die.
Dear God, some of them are so young!
He gave in and dosed the two teenagers.
Apparently a gun and magic battle, and multiple death flashes of Mentalists was sufficient to catch the attention of the most powerful. They'd barely gotten started trying to save the lives of the men and boys who'd tried to kill them, before Berezin, Vasiliev, Dryagin, and Aleksandrov showed up in force.
The Camp fell silent at the show of force.
If the top seven want to rule . . . no one can stop them.
Hell, just these four . . . only the other three have the manpower to even try!
But Lord Max Afanasiy Berezin walked forward alone. "I see that you don't need any help. What happened?"
Klim handed Leonti his elephant gun and walked out to meet him. "Ignatove, Naoumov, and Krupin decided we looked tasty."
Olga climbed down from the car barrier. "Krupin and Naoumov Camps were very light on women and servants. Ignatov . . . ought to have been fine."
Berezin nodded. "We knew there would be trouble. We are not nice people. But I didn't think it would come to out-and-out raids so quickly. So . . . What can we do to help?"
Klim looked around at the injured attackers, the dead. "We're going to have to decide what to do with prisoners . . . and find a place off my camp to bury outlaws."
Berezin looked beyond Klim.
Klim glanced over his shoulder. "Lord Khar came to our assistance."
Khar inclined his head. "And by your leave, I'll go reassure my wife."
"Yes, and thank you, again."
Berezin looked thoughtful. "Perhaps I was premature in rejecting him."
Klim snorted. "It hasn't seemed to hurt him at all. He's been a good neighbor. Unlike these. Dear God! Naoumov sent Children!"
Berezin followed him over to their prisoners, as Alexandrov, Dryagin and Vasilove joined them, with a few Mentalists and Cyborgs attending each.
Forty-nine eyed them, then reported. "Of the estimated forty-five attackers, sixteen are dead. Ten stunned, or injured. The rest fled. No doubt their own camps are dealing with any wounds."
One Young Mentalist struggled to a sitting position, with his arms bound behind his back. "Lord Klim attacked us! They fired on our hunting trip."
Aleksandrov looked around at the carnage and snorted. "And having attacked you innocent hunters, as well as two other camps, he then dragged all the corpses and injured here and set up this scene? Please child, if you can not lie credibly, just shut up."
Then they sent people to the other camps.
Lord Renatt Ioann Naoumov was found dead, in a shallow grave, several days old.
"He lost his power, he was a useless drag. Worse, he'd breed powerless children! We did it for the Family." Mitya Naoumov raised his head and tried to look down his nose at Berezin. "Lord Innokenny figured out your plot. You summoned everyone to your organizational meeting, then dosed them with a poison that destroyed their mentalist abilities."
He had a shocky look about him, and wasn't moving his right arm much.
Klim snorted. "So he told me a few days ago. Claiming that it couldn't be a disease because there's no evidence that it is contagious. Most likely, if it is a poison, we were dosed on Neu Frankfort and it slowly effected those of us who got a large enough dose."
The young man glared. "I feel your shield. You're one of them."
Klim shook his head. Sighed, as he pulled the charm necklace off, and handed it to Thirteen. "And what do you feel now, little boy?"
The boy blinked, then sneered. 'What's that? Some Granny charm? I thought we'd killed all the witches."
One of Berezin's Mentalist sons, standing beside his father, choked faintly. "You have no power."
Another one frowned past him. "So . . . who was throwing fireballs?"
"Lord Khar Morozov. He lives a few miles uphill, he's turning out to be quite clever . . . even before he showed up to save our asses."
Lord Klim eyed Berezin. Who shrugged. "And I too. So I rather doubt I dosed myself." He eyed the necklace as Klim looped it back over his head.
Lord Klim snorted. "I'll never make jokes about Granny Magic again . . . and perhaps we should . . . experiment."
Even Forty-nine flinched. Experiment? Experimentation is forbidden . . . By powers who probably have no idea that anything happened to us, and most likely wouldn't care if they did.
So . . . maybe I should study these charms and try to duplicate them. And the magic wine. And I think I'd better lose the rest of the "Plague" balls.
His eyes drifted to the prisoners.
No. That would be so non-random that it would have to be someone here. They'd kill us all, just on the suspicion.
Berezin's Cyborgs kept coming and going, reporting.
Lord Innokenty was not among the dead. His wife said he'd thrown everything into their only running car and left.
Lord Marlen Krupin had been seen briefly in his camp after the explosion . . . being dragged through the camp by his panicked horse and off into the dark forest.
"A horse?" Aleksandrov boggled.
Someone else nodded. "Remember how he used to brag about how much prize money he won with . . . God, what was the name?"
Another Mentalist laughed. "Falling Don. He thought the name was so funny, he bought the horse. Turned out to be faster than hell. For Heaven sakes, that was ten years ago. He brought an old gelding with him? Not that we knew how valuable a few pregnant mares would be, before it was too late to send back for some."
"Yeah, he said he couldn't leave his old friend behind. I can't believe he would raid . . ." He looked around and shook his head. "I'm Nestor Berezin." He nodded at the other mentalist. "My brother Anton."
"Klim, and my wife Olga." He shrugged. "As you already know."
Olga looked around and shivered. "What I want to know is where are we going to bury them?"
Nestor looked around. "How about up by the meadow where the gate was?"
Klim looked over at Forty-nine.
He nodded. "And us with one shovel."
The Berezin brothers grinned. "We'll help."
Forty-nine helped prepare the bodies . . . which involved taking their shoes and anything else that looked the least bit useful. They didn't even bother wrapping the bodies.
In the meadow, the Berezin men demonstrated a less dangerous us of slash and levitation and made fast work of digging a mass grave.
Forty-nine watched carefully, and demonstrated no power what-so-ever.
One of the Cyborgs took him aside. "We heard you still had charge."
"One of the boys has a small solar charger. We figured out how to use it to recharge the capacitor." Forty-nine grinned. "Which is why I always took night watch. I could sleep all day and recharge. Took five days, mind you, but it paid off."
"Huh. We'll have to see if we can find anything like that."
It was dawn before he laid the first body down. The bright sun had everyone looking away. In the inky black depths of the hole, no one saw him drop the small, well-wrapped net bag, and lay the first body on it. He reached for the next body, and the next, as they filled in the grave behind him.
No one gave a speech, no one even listed the names of the True Men, the servants, or the Cyborg.
The last Berezin truck dropped them at the end of the driveway, and they trudged up to a late breakfast and rotated the watch while they tried to catch up on their sleep.
Berezin held the prisoners until they were healed, then they were sent off, under threat of death if they returned to any of the camps.