Routine Engagement

<Shield disrupted.  Multiple incursions. >  The mental warning from the shield itself came with a set of co-ordinates and a number of incursions.

Jason swore.

He started to call up a messenger spell, stopped, and dug out his cellphone.  Someone had jury-rigged a magical internet system, and so far the strain was holding up fairly well; Twitter had come in handy more than once, and some of the assistants had hooked an IRC server into it, leaving anyone with a decent cellphone (or sufficient magical ability and a blank sheet of paper) a way to chat across campus.  Jason set his cellphone on a nearby table with a sheet of printer paper, forcing a pulse of energy across it.  Words scrolled across as he thought them, and anyone within range would get a tingle in the back of their mind, signaling them to set up something similar.

Yoshi: Anyone in range, we have multiple bogeys.

Jason waited, impatiently.  Finally more words appeared under his.

RedLeader: We’ve got what?

Rilik887: Where?

Yoshi: West, near the dorms.  Not sure what, yet; anyone nearby?

RedLeader: I’m not far from there.

Cryptz: ?

Yoshi: On my way.  Maytee and I might be able to handle it, can you two back us up?

Rilik887: On my way.

Cryptz: Mhm.

KoboldStyle: Nah, on other side of campus.

Logos: Alex and I can hold the campus center, in case some get through.

Yoshi: Alright.  No one’s heard from Tom, how about Peepers or Chebon?

RedLeader: Dunno.  Weird.   Headed on.

Yoshi: Alright.  Break!

Jason grabbed his phone, and hit the floor running.  He saw James running nearby, and caught up to him.  The lanky young man had recently cut down what had been an impressive afro, and he seemed shorter without it.

“Any details?” he asked, as they passed the dorm buildings.  Overhead, the shield was slightly showing over the campus; unless an active threat was pressing, Jason could maintain it without conscious thought.  Beyond the dorm building was the steep dropoff of the potrera into the woods. As they passed the dorm yard, Maytee flew up wearing what appeared to be battle armor on her shoulders and right arm.  The rest of the armor, however, was barely visible as an outline around her, complete with helmet.   The three glanced around, on alert, and James started gathering energy together.  “We call on power, we call on might, bring us victory in this fight,” he muttered, over and over again, swirling energy around him and his two teammates.  Jason threw up a circle around them, sending sparks of energy down into the trees below the cliff; Maytee was forming small, red spheres of energy at her palms, head swiveling in search of a sign of intruder.

Long, thorned vines sprang up from the forest, digging into the cliff side.  The three defenders eyed them closely, spells at the ready, until a familiar face appeared climbing up the thorns.  Joe stepped onto the edge, and the vines retracted rapidly.  He dusted his hands off, looking from one of his companions to the next, and shrugged.  “Didn’t see anything down there.”

They all stared, quietly, as a rabbit hopped up the cliff and looked up at the four readied mages with warm eyes.  It slowly scratched in the dirt with a stick, forming rough letters in poorly spelled words.

“I… do not believe that.”  James stared in.. well, disbelief.  Maytee dismissed his armor spell and crouched down, reading closer.

“I… can… has… juz… on…. vejetabl?”  She blinked, and Jason frowned.   The bunny hopped around a little, crossing the circle of protection he’d formed without any trouble.  He swept his senses across the cliff face, and scratched his head.

“It doesn’t even have mana in it.”  He turned around and looked over the dorm buildings, thinking to himself.

A sharp laugh came from behind him, and he spun around.  Joe was playing with the rabbit, laughing and petting its fur.  It was slightly disturbing.  The rabbit squirmed, scribbling in the dirt again with its stick.  “Iz deelisous.”

“That’s pretty damn disturbing.”  James watched Joe play with the rabbit, and jerked his head towards the forest.  “What’s that?”

A scrap of fabric rose from the trees, fluttering as if on the wind, and floated towards the group.  Jason turned back around, and the three (Joe was still distracted) watched it approach.

“Creepy.”

“Creepier than that?” Maytee asked, pointing to Joe and the rabbit.

“Almost,” James admitted.  They could see that the approaching… cloth was shaping up in midair, and it landed slowly on the ground behind them.  They turned around, partially, Jason keeping an eye on the forest.  The cloth rose from the center, shaping into a humanoid form, a ‘mouth’ of a closed zipper rising from the surface of the fabric.  The shape, when it stopped shifting, came about waist-high and had stick-thin limbs with large, blunt hands and feet of simple shape.  Two buttons, mismatched, marked its eyes.  The mages watched it form, and Maytee tilted her head.

“It’s… uh, cute.”  The thing moved slightly, shifting its weight slowly from one leg to the other.  The zipper slowly unzipped itself, revealing misshaped, mismatched teeth.  Without warning, it leapt up, teeth bared, to clamp onto one of the mages’ arms.  A red energy burst flew up and exploded the cloth beast, shredding it into confetti.  Maytee lowered her hand, frowning.  Joe’s surprised yell made them turn towards his spot near the rabbit.  The animal had grown larger, with similar disproportion, and tried to gnaw on his head.  In response, Joe had conjured thorned vines to bind it in place in midair, chewing on the thorns angrily. The tattooed mage clambered to his feet, shaking his head.

“Not sure what happened…” he muttered, displeased.  James grinned.

“I think you curled up with a bunny rabbit and giggled like a-” he started, and Jason tapped his shoulder.

“Probably nothing to worry about.  Let’s catch the rest of these things before they get up here; the monsters like these must be the intruders I sensed.”  Jason took a step back, ran off the edge of the cliff, and dove towards the trees.  Joe scowled, raising a thick root from under his feet and riding the growth after the defensive mage.  Maytee reformed her armor-spell and floated into the air, illusory jetpack flames trailing behind her.  James sat on the edge of the cliff, gathering energy to act as a support system.

Three of the shifting “things” rose from the trees, changing shape and form as they approached.  Jason threw up a circle around himself, floating on it in midair, and started pulling in power from around him.  The shifters grew bat wings and propellers, rising towards him.  Jason barked out three syllables, eyes closed, and released his built-up energy.  Rapidly, the three monsters were constricted in midair, turned into monochrome masses of energy, and dissolved into dust.  Joe rose on his thorned vine, near to Jason’s circle, and nodded appreciatively.

“Something I’ve been working on,” Jason mentioned, looking over the trees underneath for more incursion.  “Hard to explain, exactly, but-” he started, but was interrupted by the rise of nine or ten shifting masses rising from the trees near the cliff wall.  Maytee hovered over them, and channeled bright red mana through her armor.  Two shimmering dragon wings rose from her back, bright points appearing on the tips of the bony frame on each wing.  She muttered something, and sharp lines of fire flew from each point, driving through a mass each, singeing and forcing it back beneath the foliage.  The wings disappeared, and she hovered back towards James.

Joe led his ride over the treetops, scanning the undergrowth with attentive focus.  He noticed a crowd of  ‘shifters’ gathering under the trees, and held a hand palm out towards the group.  Tribal tattoos and vines twitched under his skin, shapes forming and dissolving in patterns.  The tree limbs shivered, twisting into a shape over the grouping.  “Munchtime.”  He smiled, and the treelimb shape was suddenly overlain with rotting leaves, mushrooms, and dead flesh.  With some imagination, an observer might have noted how much the shape resembled a toothy maw of dead and living plant matter.  Joe clenched his fist together, and the twisted jaw swept down, crunching onto the squadron of monsters.  Joe grinned horribly, dropping from his vine into the twisted section of forest.  Jason shook his head, and started checking the numbers of attacking shapes against the number of intruders, counting against the size of the breach.

“Maytee, check again; there should be way more of these things.”  He looked up at James, who was lost in a chant, swirling mana around him and sending it towards his three allies.   “If you don’t mind, I’ll set up a palisade of sorts around the forest, and I could use the boost.”

“You got it.”  James nodded, and altered his chant somewhat.  Jason got to work weaving a new spell, as Joe and Maytee’s spells exploded against a newfound group of shifters.

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