"So how do we take down a null field?" Succus glanced around her party, only to see a lot of shrugs. "If nobody knows, how are we supposed to do this?"
"Asking the right questions."
She scowled at me. "But I don't know enough to know what the right questions are!" She stomped her foot.
"But how do I--"
Libitia shushed her. "Learn by asking questions. Use gained knowledge to ask better questions. Repeat as necessary."
He looked at us, and took charge. "So what do we know about null fields?"
"No magic," Succus answered wearily.
"No magic? Or no access to magic?"
"What's the difference?"
I shook my head. "Just illusion. Innate only. Internal casting. Nothing real, just deception, and not on this scale."
"But you're intelligent."
"What do you think?"
I paced around them a few times, doing just that. Succus slumped against a tree.
I cleared my throat. "What is magic?"
"Fuel for spells," Succus yawned.
"No," Libita whispered." It's life, energy. Not everybody can tap into it, but it's in everybody. Callidus can probably only tap into his own well of it, but not the world's well. Alcohol doesn't increase my well, it increases my access to other wells."
I nodded. "How do you take that away?"
Libitia connected the dots and gasped. "If I were doing it-- No way. Hold on." He sat down and started drawing in the air.
"Hey, no casting," Succus whined.
Laetatio covered her mouth. "He's not casting, he's running numbers. So much magic is knowing the math behind what you're doing. Secondus, what's his magic bonus with alcohol?"
"Plus ten per deciliter."
Libita snatched the number out of the air and tossed it into a hole in his calculations. A few minutes later, he slumped back, breathing heavily. "Holy shit."
Succus started, as if she'd fallen asleep.
"Okay, if I wanted to set up a null zone, I'd use a circle. Seal off the inside from the outside, and then drain the inside. But it would fall at sunrise unless it were either a greater circle or constantly powered. For either of them, I'd be too drunk to be conscious."
I smiled, remembering a little of my learnings. "If you were alone."
He slack-jawed stared at me. "You-- that's-- just-- Right. Basic magic theory: three each, five points around the circle, plus the caster. They could even be middling talents, unless the circle is really big."
Succus tallied the numbers on her fingers. "How are the five of us going to take on-- sixteen mages?"
Libitia smiled. "Not sixteen. Four."
"But you just said--"
"Stop the caster, stop the spell. That alone would allow it to degrade at dawn, but it won't collapse. Take out one of the points; if it's not being powered symmetrically, it should tear itself apart. But if we take out one of the points without dropping the caster first, the resulting damage could be directed at us, to merely fatal consequences, if we're lucky."
"That's a lot of shoulds, and we don't even know where they are."
He looked at her sadly, disappointed.
Laetatio hoisted her to her feet. "It's magic theory, dear. Holds over to practice better than science does, and the location is obvious."
"We're inside a circle."