The reports were not encouraging. A dragon and a hundred mercenaries outside. Sadow and another powerful mage, possibly a Magi, on the inside.
“Maybe we could tunnel our way inside with earth magic,” Aiko suggested. “Avoid the mercenaries altogether.”
“It might have a chance if we weren’t dealing with powerful mages,” Illyana pointed out.
“They would certainly notice the attempt,” I agreed. “In the unlikely event that we managed to successfully make it inside, the forces outside would quickly be notified and come to dispatch us.”
“In short, we would lose any element of surprise and be caught between two powerful forces,” Tynan said.
“Death would certainly follow,” Gabriel said.
“What about mercenaries of our own?” Lynai asked. “We could send them through the front and sneak in.”
“We might be able to find a few who aren’t in Sadow’s pocket,” Callie stated. “But it won’t be enough.”
“There’s another problem with that plan,” Tynan pointed out. “You can’t hire mercs and just send them to assault a Magi’s home. They’ll know there’s something up and won’t cooperate. We don’t like being used as fodder.”
“That is true,” Callie said. “We’d have to go along with them. Or most of us would at any rate.”
“Then that is what we will do,” I stated. “A very small force, two or three at most, will sneak inside. The rest will take part in an attack to draw out the outside forces along with whatever forces we can purchase.”
“Then who gets the honour of going inside?” Tynan asked. “Besides you, of course.”
“It’s obvious,” Gabriel said, crossing his arms. “Miss Illyana is best equipped for handling other mages and Miss Lynai has already fought a Magi and prevailed.”
“I want to go with Michael!” Aiko protested. “Callie, you want to be with Lyn, right?”
“Truthfully, yes,” Callie said. “But I also think Gabriel is right. I was no help against Larick. Illyana and Lynai seem like the ideal partners to take on a Magi.”
“But…” Aiko began.
“Aiko,” I interrupted her. “Please, come with me for a moment.”
I led Aiko over to Callie’s balcony. The breeze was prominent but not overly chilly.
Aiko stood away from me, nervously looking downwards. She had an idea of what I was going to say and was trying to think of a way to counter it. I was certain of that much.
“Aiko, I understand your feelings towards me and they honour me,” I began ” However, we are at a crucial juncture where all of us must take the roles that are most suited for us. That is going to afford us all the best chance of survival.” I made a point of looking directly into her eyes. “I believe your talents with void magic would be ideal for slaying a dragon and escaping virtually unscathed. It will be a dangerous task, but I would like to see you complete it safely so that we can meet again after the battle has ended.”
“I… You…” She hurried over and kissed my lips. “You just make it out safely too.” She hurried away. I could not properly respond. She had taken me by surprise and my own feelings towards her were very dissimilar from her feelings towards me. I knew I would have to address that properly if we both survived.
We returned to the group.
“How many mercenaries do you believe we could count on?” I asked.
“I’ve got about twenty vampires who would be thrilled at the challenge of storming a Magi’s home,” Callie answered.
“That’s not even a third of what he’s got,” Aiko chimed in. “Those of us storming the place will have a lot to worry about.”
“I’m confident I can kill twenty skeletons or ghouls myself,” Tynan said. “Maybe thirty. And Gabriel can do almost that many.”
“The real problem is the dragon,” Gabriel agreed.
“I’ll take care of the dragon,” Aiko said. “I think I’m well suited for it.” She glanced back towards me, her tail wagging.
“Those of you attacking the outside do not need to win, necessarily,” I reminded them. “You simply have to cause enough damage that they are too occupied to break away.”
I noticed Lynai grasp Callie’s hand. “Don’t be afraid to run,” she stated.
“Naturally, that goes for all four of you and the vampire mercenaries,” I stated. “Callie, when can you have them ready? It will have to be fast if we to strike before they notice anything amiss.”
“They’ll be here and ready to go by tomorrow night,” Callie answered.
“We will open with a powerful spell from Illyana,” I stated. “Not too powerful, something that she can cast three or four times before getting tired. With that as our signal, you four will begin using hit and run tactics. You will keep Sadow’s forces confused, frightened and occupied. Lynai, Illyana and I will move around to the, at that juncture, unguarded or under guarded side and sneak inside. We will locate and I will slay Sadow. If there is a second Magi, I will locate Sadow while they challenge him.”
“I’ve met the Magi,” Illyana said. “I might be able to get him to stand down, but if that fails, we’ll do as Michael suggests.”
“Why can’t we all face the extra Magi together and then go on to face Sadow?” Lynai inquired.
“Two reasons,” I stated “The first is that we have already agreed that I must face Sadow alone. The second is that battling another Magi may very well leave me in no condition to do so. Remember, I have vowed to do everything in my power to survive. This plan gives me the best chance of doing so.”
“Then we’re agreed,” Callie said. She reached out her hand. Tynan and Gabriel quickly reached out their own, placing them over Callie’s. Lynai and Aiko were next. Aiko then guided Illyana’s.
“Just like that,” Aiko whispered.
I placed my own hand atop all of theirs. It would provide us with a strong symbol of unity before we waged our own small scale war.