Erik went down to his knees as the wave of Outsider power flashed out from the cultists. It was like the battle in Hope Park. He could feel his psychic abilities being locked away from him as pain radiated from those parts of his brain. Sam grunted in pain as she came under similar assault. Erik was about to tell her to stay back, but he saw the determined look in her eyes. The nice thing about working with someone you’d known for over half your life was that you learned when not to waste your breath on an order they would just ignore. Sam considered herself not just Veronica’s teammate, but her friend as well. Sam couldn’t sit back and do nothing when her friend was in trouble. Erik motioned his team cautiously forward.

The Americans had rushed into the fight. They’d been unprepared for the pure psychic power of the black-eyes gestalt. Several of the American agents were on the grassy ground, curled up in a fetal position, holding their heads, and murmuring to themselves. Most of the agents were up and trying to take the black-eyes down without killing them. Erik shook his head in annoyance. Handcuffing a black-eye still kept them in the gestalt. As long as they were in the gestalt, they contributed their power to the cultists.

“Ignore the black-eyes as best as you can,” Erik ordered his team, “Kill any that get in your way.” As if to punctuate his point, Erik put a pair of bursts into two black-eyes that had focused on him. An American agent who’d been busy wrestling another to the ground to flex-cuff the struggling woman gave Erik a slack-jawed stare.

“Did you want me to cut us a path?” Kurt asked, motioning with his light machine gun.

“Save your ammo,” Erik answered. He pointed across the field to where the Servitors were busily digging a summoning symbol into the ground. An unconscious Veronica laid next to a tall Servitor that was busily directing the other robed Servitors in their digging. Erik pegged him as leader. He seemed much too calm considering that his people were under assault by American law enforcement. On a hunch, Erik took aim with his ACE and fired a single round. The 7.62mm x 39 bullet disintegrated as it struck an invisible shield.

“Anne, I need your group to take down that shield,” Erik called. He waited for a moment as his team waded through the mass of black-eyes. “Anne?”


“Anne?” Erik asked again over the radio, his voice tinged with concern. Anne didn’t notice. She was too busy trying to remain conscious with the pain flooding her mind. This was so much worse than the last time. Her entire body felt like it was being crushed under the psychic lashing from the gestalt. The worst part was she knew that she was only getting a slight wash of the gestalt’s power. If whoever was directing that energy realized that there was an elf and a pair of sorceresses against them, Anne was pretty sure that they’d use all of the gestalt’s power to destroy her mind.

Anne felt a hand on her shoulder and the pain eased enough for her to think. She looked over and saw Arem. His normal smile was replaced by a rictus one. He was stretching to place his other hand on Agent Privas. The federal sorceress was curled up and screaming in pain. Forcing her legs to move, Anne scooted closer to Arem. The elf nodded and moved closer to Agent Privas. Her screaming quieted the instant the elf managed to touch her cheek. Anne felt her own pain drop even further.

Good, now maybe we can figure out how to actually do something, Arem’s disembodied voice rang through Anne’s head. I’m pulling enough wild magic through the two of you to give us a little bubble of respite from the black-eyes. Anne felt all of the magic she could handle flow through her to Arem.

“Erik needs us to take down that shield,” Anne said. “Can you bring some orcs through to take out the black-eyes?” Agent Privas looked horrified at the idea, but didn’t say anything.

“Anne, dearest, it’s taking all of my attention to keep up the binding protecting us,” Arem said. The elf turned to Privas. “Perhaps your people could actually kill the black-eyes instead of coddling them?”

“We couldn’t! Those are just misguided people under the influence of the core group,” Agent Privas said. “Maybe I can take over the binding from you so that you can focus on taking down the shield or something else.” Anne felt a pang of sympathy for Agent Privas’s position. Arem just sneered and waved his hand. The binding flashed and Anne’s mouth dropped at the intricate weaves of the streams of wild magic. Even Veronica’s most delicate spell work never matched the spell’s intricate bindings. Privas also looked dumbstruck.

“We need more power and we need someone who can do a binding to unravel that shield,” Arem said, looking directly at Anne. Something in the elf’s eyes terrified Anne.

“I don’t have any more power to give!” Agent Privas said, “You’re pulling all that I can handle to fuel your binding.” Then, the federal agent realized to whom Arem was talking. She looked over at Anne with a shocked expression. “You can pull more?” Privas sounded incredulous. Anne understood. Arem was pulling more magic through her than Anne thought possible. Her head ached, but it wasn’t from the black-eyes. She was hitting her block.

“You can take the block away, can’t you?” Anne asked. The elf nodded grimly.

“It was put there to protect you,” Arem answered. “I can turn it off, but it may break you.”

“We need to save Veronica,” Anne said, “We need to stop them.” Arem nodded.

“Brace yourselves,” Arem said, “I’m going to have to redirect some of the power for a moment. Hold tight.” Pain flashed through Anne as Arem weakened the shielding. Cold tendrils slipped into her mind and slithered to that dark place where her block lay. Under the tendrils’ touch, Anne’s block unraveled.

Her mind was flooded with a tidal wave of images and sounds from fragmented memories. Part of her just wanted to fold up under the barrage. It was just too much at once. Then she felt it pulsing in her mind. The magic. The torrent of streams of pure wild magic coursed through her. Anne reached out and the streams bended to her will. Anne looked out at where the black-eyes fought with the feds. Anne could see the wrong streams of energy flowing out from the now visible sphere. Anne saw where the Outsider energies danced within the streams of wild magic. Almost instinctively, Anne understood what needed to be done. The binding required the binding of all the streams of wild magic around her. Anne’s fingers danced as she directed the intricate weaves. With a scream, she released the binding.

The forest rocked with sound as the binding slammed into the Outsider energy and forced it back. Anne slumped to the ground exhausted as the shield fell and the black-eyes collapsed to the ground. She tried hard to keep the images of Arem and an elven woman murdering her infant sister from her mind just before she passed out.