“We aren’t going to make it out of here,” said Illyra. “there isn’t enough time. If we run, they’ll just chase us down — there’s no cover, nowhere to hide.” She paused for a moment to take a breath. “There are too many of them.”

“We haven’t exhausted all of our options,” said Elysia. “Obadai should be here any time, with reinforcements from the Order. We only have to hold out until then.”

“Well, then, and a little longer, I think. I don’t plan to drop dead the moment he shows up,” replied Illyra. She added with a smirk, “are you?”

“No, not exactly,” said Elysia. She returned the smirk with a grin, “no, not at all.”

The old, ruined temple in front of them would soon be teeming with spectral wolves, conjured by the local cult. While the temple had once been dedicated to the five gods, it was now overrun with servants to Zeus the Wolf, and had brought nothing but misery to the nearby town of Lyceus.

“So, what are we going to do?” asked Illyra. “What are you going to do?”

“We’re going to let them come,” said Elysia, “and when they get here, we’re going to show them what powerful gods we have on our side.” She swallowed. “And if the Fates and Fortune are on our side, as I know they are, we’ll claim victory and see the day through.”

“Oh, we’ll have our victory and live to enjoy it? That’s a nice thought.”

Elysia said nothing. Instead, she began a prayer to Hestia as innumerable spirit-wolves swarmed down the nearby hills and poured out of the temple. Illyra took a step back and shot a worried expression at Elysia, but the latter had her eyes closed and made no movement to acknowledge.

The weathered stones started to shake, and a deep rumbling started up from somewhere beneath the earth.

The wolves closed in on the two women. Illyra swore and lashed out at the nearest wolf with her magic, rendering the beast a smoking heap of raw, spectral energy. It didn’t howl or cry out in pain as it returned to the aether.

Elysia looked within herself and found the tiny fire that burned at the center of her mind. She coaxed the fire until it flared up and expanded beyond the bounding stones designed to keep it contained. She was dimly aware of the beasts that were charging at her, but they weren’t close enough. Not yet.

Elysia’s magic wrapped itself around her and touched her heart, the place where the flame resided. She felt the fire surge forward, felt it explode out of her — into the world. From leagues away, Elysia heard Illyra shout her name. When she opened her eyes, she saw several eddies of magical energy from wolves vaporizing into the aether. Had she gotten four? Five? More? She wasn’t sure. More were coming.