Hungry Like The Wolf, Part Twelve: Licking Wounds

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“I can’t believe you people,” Fenris grumbled, kicking back in his chair. “You can’t even handle three glorified police officers? It’s goddamn embarrassing.”

“In our defense, my lord, they were hardly average,” Melchior said, leaning his arms on the table. Next to him, Kitsune and Proteus were downcast. “Their leader, Piper, proved to have greater command over her artifact than our observations had lead us to believe, and it is an exceptionally powerful piece of magic. That masked woman is impressively proficient as well, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that Invictus possesses a truly staggering potency.”

Fenris gritted his teeth. “Still…”

“My lord, if he could stand against you, what chance could one of us have?” Melchior spread his arms helplessly. “And he was not even their leader. Whoever assembled this team, he did so extremely well.”

Fenris glared at his lieutenant for a moment, and then turned his attention to Kitsune. “And why the hell weren’t the statues pulled out of the truck before we started whaling on the Magisters, the way we planned? I wanted to know what they could do, sure, but not at the cost of the whole damned mission!”

Kitsune looked past Fenris to Melchior. “I was told that the illusion stone would leave a perfect replica of me sitting on the bench. I was told that nothing could pierce it.” She raised an eyebrow slightly. “But somehow, he didn’t even notice.”

“Invictus again, my lord,” Melchior said humbly. “I had no idea his resistance was so total. It beggars the imagination, frankly. I don’t know where he gets the power.”

“Whatever. I don’t even want to think about him anymore,” Fenris said, picking at his teeth with a long, claw-like fingernail. “I have a more important question.” He sat forwards abruptly, looking around at his team. “Someone on their team recognized me.”

“Yes, my lord, that would be Nimble. He seems to have a knack for sensing magical phenomena. I believe…” Melchior started, only to fall silent as Fenris raised his hand.

“No, not the thin guy. Someone else.” Fenris frowned at the memory. “He was talking to my punching bag over the radio, and he named me.”

Melchior blinked, momentarily at a loss for words. “I see,” he finally said.

Proteus looked between the two. “Uh, could someone fill me in? My lord?”

“Well, obviously I haven’t always gone by Fenris, man. That’s just obvious,” Fenris said, sitting back. “Fenris is something the little folk started calling me, and I liked it, so I kept it. Originally… originally I was the Winterwolf.”

“So someone knows that. What’s the big deal?” Proteus asked.

“Identifying me based on Nimble’s description of my powers, that’s the big deal. My name is not common knowledge.” Fenris shook his head slowly. “Shouldn’t be more than four or five people left alive with it, unless one of the others starting teaching students.”

“A minor godling, or perhaps one of Professor Midnight’s apprentices,” Melchior agreed. “I will investigate.”

“You do that, Mel.” Fenris looked at his three lieutenants. “Alright, tell the men. For the time being, we lay off the Magisters, focus on our European ops. Once Mel has a bit more intel, we’ll decide what to do next.”

“Are they really worth going after, my lord?” Kitsune asked quietly.

“Oh, hell yes. They showed us up, Kit. We can’t have them thinking they’re better than us.” Fenris flexed his fingers. “Next time, we’re going to have to put on a better show.” He stood, waving a hand vaguely. “Go do whatever you guys do, okay? I’m gonna work out or something. Got some anger to work off, and I’d rather not kill any of you.”

The three waited patiently as Fenris stormed off, and then Melchior reached into the folds of his robe and pulled out a pad of paper. “Kitsune, if you wouldn’t mind giving me a full accounting of your battle with the plant-woman, Blossom.”

Kitsune sat back, tapping her fingers against the table. “I’ll write it up for you. I have to go check on the injuries our men got from holding off the police.”

“No one dead, I hope?” Proteus asked.

“No, they’re fine. Did their jobs well.” Kitsune paused, then continued. “Melchior?”

“Mm?” Melchior looked up from his pad.

“Are we getting in over our heads here?”

“Almost certainly,” Melchior said bluntly. “These Magisters are not the S.E.A. They were poorly organized and unprepared for us, and they still managed to hold us off.” He looked past the others, to the door Fenris had left through. “But you are both aware that Lord Fenris isn’t likely to let this go.”

“Why would he?” Proteus said with a faint smile. “We’ve always won before.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” Melchior answered, and Proteus’s smile faded. “Right now, he’s thinking clearly. We need to ensure that it stays that way. I don’t want anyone mentioning this little setback again until I have a plan of attack. Proteus, I want you to look into the Morocco stash we were researching. Planning that should buy us a month or so.”

“You’re not my boss, Melchior,” Proteus grumbled.

“Consider it a suggestion, then.”

“Fine.” Proteus sat back. “No ‘suggestions’ for Kitsune?”

Melchior raised an eyebrow, looking over to her. “Would you take one?”

Kitsune shrugged. “I’m as interested as you are in keeping the boss safe.”

“Mm,” Melchior said noncommittally. “Find us some more muscle. Within the next few months, I believe I can persuade Lord Jormungandr to bestow a new blessing, and a fifth member could only help our cause. And keep dealing with the recruits.” He stood, and grabbed his staff. “I have research to do.”

“Whatever you say,” Kitsune said. Melchior glanced sharply over his shoulder at her, finding only a bland expression. After a moment, he turned and strode out without further comment.

“God, he drives me nuts.” Proteus pushed himself away from the table. “Interested in grabbing a bite to eat?”

“No, thank you. I need to go and deal with the men.” Kitsune nodded with a smile. “Maybe another time.”

“Sure. Another time.” Proteus nodded, and raised a hand in a wave as he turned to go. Kitsune barely noticed, lost in her own thoughts.

Much as she hated to admit it, Melchior was right. They were going to have to divert Fenris’s attention if they wanted to handle the Magisters next time. It might take some time. But it was doable.

Humming softly, she stood and left the empty room.

Next Story: I Put A Spell On You

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