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Elysia and Illyra were completely surrounded. Though Elysia could cut down several of the spirit creatures simultaneously, more of the spirit-wolves filled their place almost immediately. Illyra could barely keep up, and though she’d torn the cult leader to shreds with magic, it seemed to have little effect apart from encouraging the surviving cultists to fall back, out of range.

“Some of them,” Elysia said, between conjuring waves of magical energy, “are going to get past us.” She was covered in numerous claw and bite marks from the wolves, and had gone pale from combined blood loss and magical exertion.

“Past us!” said Illyra as she fended off another beast. “You’re worried,” she paused to strike down another beast. “They’ll go over us,” another lash of the magic tendrils, “through us. More than past us.” She lurched backward to avoid the teeth of a pair of beasts that came up on her flank. “Worry when we’re dead!”

From somewhere in the throng of beasts that encircled them — for there were so many now it was difficult to tell which way was what — they heard a shout, and the sound of magical energy dispersing into the aether.

“No wonder you’re having trouble!” shouted Nenshe, “Distracted, not paying attention to the fight in front of you!” He appeared suddenly as he waded through the beasts. He took a step forward between each swing of his mace, steadily bludgeoning his way across the battlefield.

“Come to save us and claim the glory?” asked Illyra.

“Where’s the glory?” he replied, “I missed the battle!” Another swing, and a mist of magical energy dispersed into the aether. Soon he was at their side. He took Illyra’s place guarding Elysia’s flank, and Illyra shored up the rear.

“Let’s put the fear of death in these beasts!” he roared.

Elysia corrected him, “technically, they were never alive.” She made to wipe the blood trickling from a wound at her ear, but found herself needing the hand again to direct another blast of energy at the approaching spirit-wolves.

“Fear of life, then! What does it matter as long as they fear me? This mace!” He smashed one wolf over the head when it snapped at his legs — though the wolves were largely insubstantial, the mace had roughly the same effect on their bodies as their fangs had on living flesh — and Nenshe’s mace proved more determined.

Nenshe drew back his arm and struck a mighty blow on one beast in front of Elysia, sending its ghostly body careening off into the pack with only a thin trail of magical vapor remaining in its place. A collective shudder ran through the closest members of the pack.

“Well I’ll be damned,” said Illyra.