“The air is thick with magic.”
Josie had been singing, skipping down the dusty road. Suddenly, she stopped, turned three sixty, and then turned around again until she was looking at Aerich.
Aerich harrumphed. The woman insisted on assuming kinship with him.
She rolled her eyes at him. “Do the Aseteshin Rote, widdershins.”
“Counterclockwise.” He corrected her reflexively. “Wait, how do you know of the Aseteshin Rote? And why would I do it widdershins?”
“Because the moons hang in the wrong side of the sky, here.” Her placid, cheerful smile ignored the fact that she’d only answered half his question. “Do it. You’ll see.”
Aerich grumbled, because the woman had a way of doing that to him that irritated him more than anything in the world, except possibly Alexa.
And then, because she was actually an expert in her field, albeit a crazy one and one who couldn’t keep her head out of the clouds with an anvil tied to her feet, Aerich did the Aseteshin Rote. Counterclockwise.
This particular rote was, he’d thought, known only to his family. Aseteshin was a family word, at least, penned in family chronicles; he had only ever seen the rote drawn in those same tomes.
“A moment, if you would, Cole.” He’d finally unbent to first names, because the rest of the team was merciless when he didn’t.
“This is your sort of world. Do your oogy-boogy stuff.” Cole leaned against a walking stick – where he’d gotten that, Aerich didn’t want to know – and waited.
The dust of the road would do. Aerich squatted down and drew out a circle in the dirt, and then, from memory, sketched in the symbols of the Rote.
“The air,” he allowed after a moment, “is thick with magic. Thicker than any place I have ever read of. It’s not as if it is coming from a single source; it’s as if it’s another element in the atmosphere.”
“They’re breathing magic?” Peter looked less than impressed. “They’re certainly breathing something.” His infernal gadgets beeped along under his cloak.
Aerich didn’t deign to answer. Instead, he looked at Josie. He did not like to admit weakness, but it was only fair to acknowledge when she acted reasonably. “You were right.” He braced for a mindless piece of fluff.
“Thank you.” She pointed at one of the symbols of the Rote. “If you reverse that, I think you can determine the source.”
“If you are so wise in rotes-“
“Why do I do things my way? You said it yourself. Some people are born to the arcane methods of thaumaturgy, and some are merely dabblers in the art.”
“That is not what I-“
“She’s got you word for word, Aerich.” Cole sounded far too amused. “Besides, she covers areas you don’t, and you get the things she can’t. Specialization.”
“Specialization.” Aerich swept the rote away carefully. “As Ms. Carlyle indicated, there is a high concentration of magic in the atmosphere. It may affect our instruments, Dr. Hill. It may affect your weapons, Sergeant Hampton, Lady Hart. It will almost certainly affect our minds.”
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