I could hear Jay's breathing accelerate slightly as the silence and stillness stretched. I could also hear the whine of panic-chatter stirring in the back of his mind, though he fought to suppress it. It occurred to me that this was far beyond his comfort zone, more used to fighting one-on-one; something that after all these years, seemed quaint to the point of alien to me.
Time for a crash-course in the way I live, Jay. The thought came ruefully, almost bitterly as the ring of opponents tightened. Still they made no demands or declarations. These seemed to be the elite. I started to get edgy myself, sensing a genuine threat in their tread and their attitude. They were too quiet in their assurance, none of the brash arrogance that had earned Council Hunters my scorn in the past. I prayed that Jay's nerve wouldn't snap as he severed the connection between our minds, settling into a fighting stance. I stood, outwardly casual, inwardly battle-ready, my attention focused on the slowly constricting ring around us.
As a single unit, at an unspoken, concealed command, they all struck. I caught a pair on each sword, sending them to the ground instantly. I whirled ninety degrees, keeping Jay to my back and was faced by the leader, flanked by another pair. His bodyguards were quickly dispatched and I was faced with the leader, distinguishable only by subtle adornment and a reluctance to get his shining sword dirty.
"No niceties? Where's the fun in a fight without foreplay?" I taunted him as I engaged him, hoping to get a response or some information as to who exactly sent them, but both my verbal and mental attacks yielded nothing and I was forced to abandon them as he began to meet each of my strokes. A chill tendril of foreboding unfurled in the pit of my stomach as Jay disposed of the final few. I took a step back, dodging a blow and felt my feet slip on the now-sodden underbrush. I felt myself fall backwards, the leader's hand grasping for my neck and finding the slender chain instead. I felt the links give and snap. Suddenly, time seemed to freeze as I felt all of the fight drain from me, Jake's ring arcing to the ground. In one fluid motion, my swords followed it, via the chest of the leader. Warm blood coated my hand as I finally gained a glimpse into his head. What I saw there drained the last of my fight. As I removed my swords, I sank to the floor, retrieving Jake's ring to stare, glassy-eyed into the middle distance.