Adela watched Lestibournes leave her table and she exhaled slowly. He was nothing like Therius, whose quiet arrogance put her at ease. This Astreli was too astute, and the way he spoke to her, with casual familiarity like they were close acquaintances, made her uncomfortable. She stiffened as he turned back, but he wasn’t coming back to her table. Instead, Lestibournes turned towards the ale casks. Adela noticed his eyes flick upwards and saw his lips move silently. She following his gaze to where a sleek martin clung to the rafters.
Adela began chewing on a strand of knotted hair. She hadn’t seen the creature when she had entered the pavilion and she hadn’t seen it climb up to its perch. She assumed it was unnatural, clearly it was connected to Lestibournes in some way. That didn’t bother her, but the fact that she hadn’t noticed its arrival made her heartbeat rise. She spat out her hair and quickly began eating her stew, glancing behind her at the cool comfort of the darkness outside the pavilion.
Lestibournes walked with several pitchers towards a table where the Blackshod, Grath, and seven of his cohorts sat. Adela paused, curious. Had the Astreli befriended the brutish blackshod? Grath and his buddies were some of the most volatile soldiers at Summerhill Outpost. Adela watched Grath. He stood up, his body language tense, his face stiff with animosity. No, Lestibournes hadn’t won over the soldier, but he was foolishly trying. Grath and Lestibournes exchanged some words that Adela couldn’t hear across the pavilion. Grath cocked back his arm and swung wildly at Lestibournes. The Astreli clearly saw it coming, casually stepping back to avoid the punch.
“Get outta here, scarecrow,” Grath shouted, “we’re not looking for new friends.”
Lestibournes shrugged and turned to leave. Grath pushed Lestibournes from behind, causing the Astreli to stumble. Lestibournes turned back slowly. He snapped open a book and said something incomprehensible. There was a noise like a hollow crack and oily smoke billowed from Lestibournes’ outstretched hands. Adela saw a flash of fear in his expression, briefly replacing his confident smirk. She realized that something had gone wrong with his magic.
Grath recoiled from the smoke, then pulled a knife and lunged at Lestibournes. In an instant, Grath’s companions were there as well, surrounding the Astreli. Lestibournes continued chanting in a quick, staccato language. Oily smoke began to seep from the air around him, coalescing into of several duplicates of the Astreli. The soldiers mobbed Lestibournes, the duplicates sowing confusion amongst them. When the duplicates were struck, they dissolved, smoke billowing from them. A soldier grabbed Lestibournes from behind, who continued his chant. Grath stabbed low but his blade turned aside at the last moment, a burst of smoke rushing away from Lestibournes. One of Grath’s companions grabbed a halberd from an on-duty blackshod and began harassing Lestibournes from atop a table. Smoke grew into more duplicates, and as Lestibournes’ chant rose to a shout, a blast of flame erupted from him. Grath and the soldiers in front of Lestibournes were engulfed. Adela saw their overcoats incinerate and they staggered away, giving Lestibournes a moment of space.
The soldier holding Lestibournes shoved him to the ground and the soldiers piled around, crowding in, kicking and stabbing. Adela couldn’t see Lestibournes but she heard his muffled chanting. The soldiers surrounded a tangle of smoky shapes. Another blast of flame hurled Grath into a table. His face was charred. He didn’t move. The other soldiers continued to batter Lestibournes and Adela couldn’t hear the chant anymore.
Bells were ringing. Blackshods on duty were being called to arms.
“Rogue magician in the pavilion! Get Sergeant Macwin!”
Adela tasted blood and started. She realized she was standing on her table and had chewed into her cuticle during the fight. Sergeant Macwin rushed into the pavilion and called off the soldiers beating Lestibournes’ body. Adela briefly met eyes with Sergeant Falkenrath as he entered, only a moment behind Macwin. Falkenrath quickly began talking to the soldiers and once his attention was diverted, Adela slipped off her table and into the darkness.
Kingsward Therius was expecting Lestibournes. Adela bit her lip. She knew she wasn’t obligated to do so, but realized she was already planning to make her way back to Therius’ camp to inform him. Why did she care? She didn’t usually like people and she found that she liked Therius. It made her anxious. She didn’t even really like Sergeant Falkenrath, and he was one of the only respectable men at the outpost. Had Therius done something to her mind to make her serve him? She didn’t remember anything strange during their meetings. She didn’t even know if he was capable of such a thing.
After only a few minutes, Adela had packed her scouting rucksack and was climbing to the roof of her barracks. Because of her report of the draken shipwreck earlier that day, the gates of the outpost were closed and barred. They wouldn’t open until the next day. Adela quickly hauled herself over the wall, quietly dropping down on the outside. She breathed the night air and let the tension ease from her neck and shoulders. The moon shone from behind Mount Tregeron, silhouetting the mountain’s peaks, making navigation simple. Adela tighten her sack over her shoulder and jogged into the darkness.
As Adela made her way into the darkness, a weasel-shaped shadow flickered along the wall where Adela had crossed, then slowly oozed back inside the outpost.