Brian Talltrees rested against an inner wall of the courtyard to Farn's temple. He was close enough to where Ed had been put to sleep to do something in case of trouble but far enough away that he wasn't a mother hen.

Eighth had wandered away. Brian didn't know where he had gone, but felt he was still close enough to do something in case of trouble. It had been a long night for the city. Grabbing some sleep while you could seemed sensible to him.

Andrea and Constance talked to the Abbess in charge of the temple in the center of the courtyard. The older woman nodded and walked away. Andrea positioned the cleric and then pulled a piece of chalk from a bag to draw a circle around her.

Other clerics arrived, the Abbess among them. Andrea positioned them where she wanted them. She drew circles around them, writing in letters as she went.

Brian walked over to see what was going on.

Andrea wrote in words in line after line around the circle formed by linking the individual circles of the clerics. When she reached the center, she drew a circle around herself and marked down another equation. She got to her feet and stretched. She smiled.

What's this?,” asked Brian. He gestured at the drawing.

It's a magic circle so stay back,” said Andrea. She pulled out a flask and drained it. She put the flask down inside her circle. She pulled out another one and uncapped it. “I don't use them much, but I still know how.”

Where did you get the mana?,” asked Brian.

I took it from the dead magicians,” said Andrea. She drained the second flask. “The ten of them didn't need it as much as I am about to.”

She set down the second one, and pulled a third from her belt. She drained that one too.

Fire rolled through her veins, erupting from her eyes. Her hair lifted with the sound of crackling around her. She smiled.

Tell Ed that I love him, Brian,” said Andrea. She lifted her hands to the sky. “This has been the best part of my life.”

She said words that Brian didn't understand. The circle caught fire, each letter burning as the spell activated. The clerics raised their hands, preparing to call on their god at the same time.

Hello,” said Andrea. Brian heard her voice echoing beyond the walls. She smiled at the confirmation that the spell was working. “My name is Andrea Kind, magician of the Golden Circle. I want you to know that any demons within the sound of my voice are going to be destroyed. I want you to know things will be fine, because we're here now. Clerics, get ready. Say the words.”

The clerics began saying the prayer of banishment. Each one used the god word at the end of their proclamation. Light flowed into the air, filling the courtyard. Brian looked up. He thought he saw streaks of light appearing in the sky beyond the wall.

Andrea fell to one knee. Her dark hair had caught fire. She put one hand down to keep from falling over.

Do it again,” she said. “We need to kill as many of them as we can.”

The clerics said the prayer again. A couple of the younger ones exploded in columns of flame as they released Mogin Farn's power on the world. Brian grimaced, but knew better than to step inside a magic circle.

Things worse than death could happen to anyone trying to cross a line of magic vibrating in the air.

The glow of the words faded away. The clerics stopped with the prayer when they couldn't hear the grant in the air.

Brian rushed forward. He didn't have to worry about smudging the words now. He grabbed Andrea to keep her from falling over. Her body felt like paper to his touch.

What have you done?,” he asked in a soft voice.

Don't forget, Brian,” said Andrea. Her voice was raspy from channeling the power of the circle to reach across the city. “Don't forget to tell Ed.”

I won't,” Brian promised. “You shouldn't have done this. You should have done something else.”

Don't be a pain now, little brother,” said Andrea. She smiled as she raised her hand. Then the light went out of her eyes. The hand dropped.

Andrea Kind came apart in her friend's arms, peeling away bit by bit like the petals of a dead flower. Even her bones separated and dropped to the ground and broke into smaller pieces on impact.

What are we going to do now?,” asked Brian. He felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up. Constance Shellbert stood at his side. Her face had some scorch marks from the prayers.

Andrea was very brave, Brian,” said Constance. “We will remember her for this.”

That doesn't do me a lot of good,” said Brian. “It doesn't do anything.”

I know,” said Constance. “We're getting together a party to go out and see how many of the demons are left. I want you to stay here and help protect the temple.”

Are you going out?,” asked Brian.

Yes,” said Constance. “I have the most seniority here other than the Abbess. I have to be the one to go out.”

I don't think that's a good idea,” said Brian. “You have been using your grant most of the night. It's a miracle that you haven't blown up like your fellow clerics. You should stay here to protect the temple while I lead the search party.”

Neither of you are going anywhere,” said the Abbess. She stood to one side. “Both of you are going to rest. I will be leading the search party. You will be in charge of the novices left behind.”

You don't have the authority to order me anywhere,” said Brian. Anger pierced his grief for a moment at the stern woman in front of him.

The Abbess said a prayer. Brian fell to the ground, snoring slightly.

This is my temple,” said the Abbess. “I have all the authority I need.”

He won't be happy when he wakes up,” said Constance.

I will leave it up to you to sooth the ruffled feathers,” said the Abbess. “I was done with that when I took over here.”

She knelt. She raised her hand and said a prayer over the remains of Andrea. Her hand glowed. She nodded when she was done.

I'm sorry that's all we can do for her, and them,” said the Abbess as she stood. “The body was too far gone for anything else.”

I understand,” said Constance. “The temple will be here when you return.”

I hope so,” said the Abbess. “Have some of the novices carry your friends inside and put on beds for the rest of the night. By the time they wake up, this will be over one way, or the other.”

Yes, ma'am,” said Constance. She considered Brian for a moment. “I am not really good at smoothing ruffled feathers. I am much better at other duties.”

Look at this as your chance to practice a skill you will need one day,” said the Abbess. She walked away, calling out orders.

Constance shook her head. She doubted she would be able to smooth some of this away. Brian and Edward had lost two of their best friends. It would be like losing your siblings. Dealing with grief was not her strong suit.

That was why she preferred looking for lost bits of knowledge instead of dealing with the hurt and dying like some of her fellow clerics did when other temples didn't have the manpower to cover things.

She waved at two of the novices left from the Abbess's call to action. She looked the courtyard over. Their dead had already been carried off the field. The courtyard was covered with burned brick and chalk. She could worry about cleaning that up in the morning.

If she was going to clean it up at all.

She decided that she wasn't going to do anything about the courtyard. She would leave that to the Abbess to get organized when she came back. Instead she was going to watch the street after she had Brian and Sir Edward bedded down.

She still had to protect the temple to the best of her ability until it became someone else's responsibility. The best way to do that was keep an eye out for anything that might approach the wooden gates while the clerics were searching the neighborhood for survivors.

Take him to the guest rooms,” said Constance. “Then come back and take his friend down.”

She pointed at Sir Edward sleeping against the wall.

Yes, ma'am,” said the novices. “We'll take care of it.”

Thank you,” said Constance. “I'll be on the gate walk if you need anything.”

The novices got a stretcher and placed Brian on it. They carried him into the temple. They returned and carried Sir Edward into the temple.

Constance turned and walked to the front wall. She climbed the steps to the top of the wall. A few clerics stood there on guard. She realized that she was the only cleric not carrying a weapon.

She would worry about that if the temple came under attack again.

That was incredible, Constance,” said one of the clerics, Jason Redburn. “There were spouts of banishment waves across the city.”

That was what we hoped would happen when Andrea put the magic circle together,” said Constance. “Hopefully, we killed a majority of the demons.”

Your friends?,” asked Redburn.

Sir Edward was wounded, and Brian didn't like what the Abbess had to say,” said Constance. “They will be all right in the morning.”

No, they won't,” said Redburn. “They will be wounded like us.”

Constance knew what he meant. They had lost Theresa Grim and William Fern in the magic circle. There was an unknown number of their clerics away from the temple that might be dead, murdered by demons or gave everything in the fighting. Mental holes would be in all the clerics who knew the dead and the missing.

It would be the same for everybody in the city after things had been settled.

All of this destruction at the whim of one man. She shook her head. She hoped he paid for what he had done even if she personally didn't see it. It would satisfy her sense of justice if all this led to the magician's death like it had his minions.

Such an evil should be removed from the world.

Things will get better,” said Constance. “It will take a lot of time, but things will get better.”

Until then, we live with it?,” said Redburn.

Yes, and we work to make things better,” said Constance. “That's why we joined the faith in the first place.”

I joined for the easy living,” said Redburn.


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