After Matt had finished playing his part as host - This is MY house, thought Anna - the strange army returned to the living room, slightly sheepish at her indignation. Really, it was directed at Matt, because he was the one who had turned a serious meeting into a tea party.
Anna looked at the assembled group. They were an odd mix – Telcontar, Protagonists and herself, half fairy. She was the one there who had even a drop of human blood in her, Anna knew.
“Matt, does it say where they’ll attack first?” she asked. He nodded, skimming through the text to find the appropriate excerpt.
“It’s easy enough,” he replied, looking up from the screen. “Here.” He pointed to a section of text in bold. Anna nodded. She had been almost expecting it.
Glancing around, she immediately took control of the situation.
“Right,” she said. “I’ll stay here as bait, with Matt, to draw them in. It’s me they’re after, so that’ll work. Spook, Del, you’re with us. Now, if eight of the Protagonists stand outside, defending the area – I’d say a mix of Fighters and Influencers, for best effect. But take a Telepath, because you need to warn us when they’re coming.
“Then if another eight of you circle the area, destroying the Celryn from behind, and making sure they don’t try to run away. I assume all of you can fight, even if it’s not your special skill?”
There were a few murmurings. “We’ll arm you, of course,” she said, trying to reassure them.
“Now,” Anna continued, “if the remaining Protagonists stay here and fight alongside us, we’ve got a chance. If we can wipe out this lot, the Telcontar can help us polish off the others in a little while.” Matt smirked slightly at her phrasing, but Anna ignored him, pointedly not looking in his direction.
“Everyone knows what they are doing?” she corroborated, and there was a chorus of agreement, though in some cases it was reluctant.
“Don’t forget to use your powers of Shifting,” said Delorfinde from her corner, where she stood like a shadow, silent but ever-present. Anna nodded vigorously.
“She’s right – Shifting will confuse the Celryn and make you harder to catch.”
Matt had glanced back at the computer screen, deciphering more of the instructions, but now he looked up, his eyes slightly panicked.
“They’re attacking today!” he exclaimed. “They’ll be here any minute!”
The Protagonists leapt into action, darting to their positions. Spook was very pale, and she clenched the crosses, which Anna thrust into hands that were shaking, with fingers that were white at the knuckles.
“Del, take a box of crosses to the others, would you?” said Anna. Being in charge was rare occurrence for her, but she could not deny that she was enjoying it, just slightly.
Delorfinde left the room, carrying the box that Matt had given Anna when he arrived during the snowy blizzard a couple of days previously. It had been unnoticed on a shelf until now, just biding its time.
Spook was sitting with her head in her hands. Elorithryn and Moonwalker were not among the Protagonists that would be fighting, and she could not help but be anxious. Why hadn’t they come? What if she died here, with only a pasta message to say goodbye?
More to the point, she wondered why it was that they hadn’t come in the first place. She hated to think of them as cowards, because Elorithryn and Moonwalker were two of the bravest people she knew, but it was hard not to. They should have come, otherwise. As an Influencer and a Fighter, their powers were strong, and all others like them had come, those who had got the message, anyway.