We opted to head deeper into the forest rather than backtrack.
"So, uh, do we have a plan?" Succus asked as we walked.
"Find them. End them," Umbo growled coldly.
"I guessed that much. But should we decide on some more details?"
"Assess on sight," I whispered.
"If you don't know what to do, stay out of the way, sis."
She scowled in silence.
I snatched back Succus's shoulder moments before she stepped out into a small clearing. Ahead of us, I could see a small triangle of casters, crouched on the ground.
"Wha--" she cut off quickly as her brother's hand clamped down over her mouth.
I released my grip before Umbo could glare at me. Instead he asked, "How many?"
"So are we going to take them?" Succus glanced between us.
"No. Caster first."
"Fine. Then where do we go?"
Libitia rolled his eyes. "We go around. We found the edge, just the wrong part. He glanced between me and Umbo. "Split up or stick together?"
"If you wait to engage until I get there, you can split up. And I'll go with whatever group is without Callidus. --You'll ref in my stead, I trust?"
I nod, and step to one side of the path, opposite him. Umbo joins Secondus, dragging his sister along.
The satyrs mutter to each other. "Callidus? It's your call."
"I can police myself."
"And move faster in darkness without us?"
I shrug. It mostly went without saying, so I didn't.
"Then it's settled. Which way do you want?"
I pointed in the direction that appeared darker, the trees and undergrowth denser, and the path narrower.
"I guess we'll see you around then."
Succus snorted but stifled it quickly. I turned my back on them and headed out.
When I was far enough out, I pulled back my hood and tucked it under the back of my cloak, out of the way, before bending sharply at the waist and picking up my pace. I could move faster if I didn't have to worry about the hood catching on stray branches or obscuring my peripheral vision, and my profile more closely resembled the size of the sort of animal that had worn out this path.
I'd skirted around two more trios before I was grateful for opting for this direction; it would have been a shame if the faster-moving of our two halves found the caster less than halfway around.
At the third cleaning, I paused, taking a few moments to catch my breath before peering in. This clearing was larger than the others, and my suspicions were confirmed with the glare of a bright light pooling around a figure kneeling over what could have been a book or scroll.
I took a few steps back, deeper into the shadows, and settled down to wait.
Succus broached the circle of brush and stumbled to a halt noisily.
The caster, a young woman, raised her eyes from the scroll and stared daggers, her voice still carrying the spell's repetitive casting, but the change in tone was enough to stir the trio feeding power into the circle into action. The pinnacle shrugged off their partners' hands, "Go deal with it; I'll compensate."
Succus was yanked backward into the darkness abruptly and shielded by her brother as the pair advanced. They drew a pair of bronze short shorts, stepping in time with each other.
Umbo settled into a deep stance and pulled the broadsword from his back. "Come and get me."
They hesitated a moment at the size of the sword he held with apparent ease, sharing a look of dismay, but at his challenge, they charged.
At the sound of swords clashing, Laetatio and Libitia stepped out from the forest, a quarter turn around the circle between Umbo and myself, hand-in-hand. Before they could advance too far, however, a pair of dryads stepped out of the shadows not far from me and lithely leapt into their way.
I stretched as I rose, but before I could join in the fray, Secondus entered the clearing and shouted, "Hold."
Everybody stopped while he approached the other party's storyteller--currently holding the flashlight/witchlight for the caster--traded grips and conferred for a minute. I saw the flash of character sheets pass between them, making sure that everybody was doing no more than what they were supposed to be capable of, and in the process had a small dispute about the validity of what was probably my own abilities. Finally, the other storyteller nodded, and Secondus retreated again.
When he had returned to a suitable vantage point, he shouted again. "Resume!"
The fights began once more, and I stepped into the light.
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