Justin closed a hand over his sword hilt, but the shrike’s hand closed over his wrist. The blue stone entwined in the bracer flickered, briefly, and she shook her head.
“Nieah,” she said, adding something else in a stern tone.
“You sent all the others back,” Justin said, struggling to draw his sword. The delicate fingers clenched harder about his wrist, and the young man hissed as the chain link began to bite.
“You need — ”
“She says your sword will be of no use,” Petra said. “She called it ‘dead metal.’ I guess that means it doesn’t have any magic in it.”
The chorus of long howls sounded again.
Justin hissed as the shrike’s hand again tightened on his wrist as he tried to draw his sword.
“They’re just wolves—“
“Think about where — and when — we are,” Petra snapped. “The Alphatians are not here yet. There is no druid in these woods. There have been no Silver Purges. Those are not ‘just wolves.’”
Justin looked down at his sword. “But it worked when I —” He stopped, color rising in his cheeks.
Petra’s lips settled into a line. “Those are not werewolf pups. That is a hunting pack.”
The howl’s rose again, louder. Petra cocked her head, scowled. “Several hunting packs. Only the strongest of their kind get to go on the hunt. That,” she said, pointing at the scabbard, “may as well be a wooden practice sword.”
“It sounds like they’re getting closer,” Katarin said. “Maybe Halav will take us back, if we — ”
“Maybe Red Nose will accuse us of bringing those things down on the village,” Brynne said.
“Maybe… if I can pull in enough Power, I can work a warding around us,” Katarin said. She drew a long, shaking breath, closing her eyes, her fingers spreading slightly, palms towards the ground. Her hands trembled.
Brynne pinched the weaver’s behind, causing her to give a yelp, hopping away.
“It’s too much. You’re past your limit,” the taller girl warned.
“What if you only needed to ward a doorway?” Petra asked. She spread her hands, fingers wiggling at the width of a set of double doors.
Katarin nodded, slowly. “That would not tax me anywhere near as much. It might even hold until dawn if I tied it off.”
It was Petra’s turn to nod. “All right, come on.”
She turned, and started off the trail, into the woods, away from the river.
The shrike released Justin’s wrist, catching up to the younger girl in a few strides.
The others stood, staring at each other.
“You want us to go into those woods?” Jasna asked after the girl. She turned to Katarin. “Are you sure the fever didn’t make porridge of her brains?”