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TS43: Magic Trick

In the center of gym, fox and raccoon fought. Two atavists, muscled animalistic throwbacks tore at each other with primal speed and ferocity. Forgotten weapons, claws and teeth, returned in this form, sharper than they ever were, as if these two combatants evolved to be less civilized and more primitive. Fur and blood splattered as wounds closed only slightly slower than they opened. The dozen or so observers were huddled together, stunned by the violence of this unexpected plan.

Jove was losing. Although Aden’s spell guided Jove with zen-like precision and calm, Elsa had pure rage and mindless fighting instinct on her side. Jove called to the onlookers, “Paula, now!” He grabbed Elsa and threw her away from his friends. In the half second it took her to return, Paula and Jove chanted in unison, “Stone Fur.”

Elsa’s new attack crunched against the hardened hair that now covered Jove. The whirl of teeth and claws now included the crunching of stone. Jove was wearing Elsa down, but it was not the decisive victory that could trigger her burst.

“Mug, you’re up!” A flame spark appeared in Jove’s hand at the same time its twin appeared in the rottie’s palm. Jove could feel the easy flow of the spell, Mug was used to casting this in fistfights. “Fire Chain!”

The struggle changed significantly. Jove kept his distance now, letting the giant chain in his hands lash at Elsa. It also became clear that fire was something atavists didn’t heal quickly. In short order, Elsa was struggling to stand, glaring at her aggressor. Jove could still feel her magic. Even injured, it still relied on the atavist’s strength. It still called on the endurance of a cursed form.

In the break in the action, Jove observed, “You’re Praeda. The individual sacrifices itself for the herd. We need to find who you will protect, one who is worth more than your own life.” He looked at his friends and shivered. There was one that his form, based on Elsa’s magic, refused to consider striking. “I could be outbursting. Insane from the drive to make you burst.”

He turned his back on Elsa, looking at Julius. “I need your Lava Channel.”

The bear looked horrified. “Are you sure? Maybe we should stop.”

Jove narrowed his eyes. His control was thin but it was there. For a moment, his magic slipped past that control and grasped Julius’ magic. Julius whimpered, “Don’t.”

“Elsa, can you stop me?”

The raccoon stood up. She rushed Jove but fell as her legs were pulled to the side by a flaming chain that wrapped them. Jove shook his head. “That won’t do.”

Jove ran a few steps and leapt at Jenna. His body shook with revulsion at the act. This was the one that Elsa was most protective of, the person she might burst to protect. The one who saw herself as a monster for killing in self-defense. The only one who knew what it was like to take a life. Perhaps the only student Jove felt worse about attacking than Elsa.

Jenna called up a giant stone hand to block the atavist. Too quick to be blocked, Jove landed a moment on the tips of the fingers and leapt over the barrier. “Lava Channel,” Jove shouted. Nothing happened, Julius hadn’t started his spell. “Julius! Lava Channel!” The grasp he had on Julius’ magic tightened. The spell was inside and Jove’s magic dug underneath the surface to find it. “Lava Channel!” His fist erupted into fire as it seemed to bleed molten rock. It was aimed strait at Jenna who cowered, a second stone hand too slow to stop the fox. Jove closed his eyes and reminded himself, even if he did hit her, a medic would be here in minutes.

Elsa screamed, “No!” The first time she’d spoken in her atavist form. “Tangle Grass!”

Jove’s forward motion stopped suddenly. Vine-like strands of grass wrapped around his arms, neck and legs and yanked him backwards. Jove felt a moment of joy. It had worked.

Pain exploded in his back as Elsa used the grass vines to pull Jove into a clawed foot that connected with great force, breaking through his stone armor. She screamed, “You will not hurt her!”

A tangle of grass pulled Jove to the ground. This was followed by twin snaps, as Elsa broke through the armor on Jove’s left arm as well as the bone inside. Desperate, Jove tried jump into the abyss by moving away from all magic but the grass held him tight and pulled him back.

Chris stepped between them. “Jenna’s safe. Jove’s down. You’ve burst.”

In the silence, Jove’s arm set itself painfully. The bone itched as it knit, a pain that called for vengeance. Jove pushed the urge down. He reminded himself it was over.

Chris asked over his shoulder, “Did your arm heal?”

Jove tried to say something. Every time he got his mouth open, fresh anger flowed and he bit it back. He tried breathing.

Chris turned back to Jove. “Are you with us?”

With slow and deliberate effort, Jove gasped, “Yes.”

Tan instructed his fellow students, “Everyone dismiss your spells.”

Mug and Paula managed to dismiss the stone fur and the fire chain. However, Aden whimpered, “The lock he used was real.”

“I don’t know how to shift back.” Elsa confessed.

Jove tried to stand up against the grass. Aden’s spell was searching for some weakness in the net that held him. Panic slowly started to grip him, the instincts from the spell exciting the atavist’s enhanced strength. He could still feel Julius’ magic and he had to concentrate not to search for spells to use. His body growled.

Chris dove between Jove and Aden and grasped at the air. For a moment, Jove could see two thin threads the wolf held. Chris switched the grip on his knife to underhand and looped the threads around the blade. Jove’s eyes went wide as he realized what was about to happen. Growling, Jove struggled hard against the grass. His magic lashed out, wanting to duplicate the knife to cut the grass.

Too fast, Chris’ blade flared a pure white. He pulled it downward and severed the threads.

Jove howled in pain as part of his magic, the part that held the spell lock on Aden and the part that borrowed Aden’s spell, snapped back, severed and bleeding. Jove lashed out, shredding the spell that held him and marring the floor deeply with his claws. Defensively, the other connections pulled back. There was a moment of blackness and Jove found himself belly down on the stone floor. Without the atavist inside it was easy to calm down. Without the connections to the others, weakness filled him.

For a moment, there was the question of how Chris had manipulated Jove’s magic. It would wait until later. He was happy, Elsa had burst. It was over.

“What the hell is going on here?” Jove rolled his head to the side to see Azarias and an elephant in a suit at the entrance to the gym. It wasn’t over.

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