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Dec 07, 2021 1:01 AM
I decided that he needed to get some sense knocked into his head
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Going places in groups is better than going alone. If you're alone, you're an easy target. A sitting moving duck. Any maleficaria hiding in the corners of the school would love to run into a solitary freshman; easy pickings. So more people is always better, right?

Well, no. Not quite.

A group of four people? Sure. Four people watching each other's backs, even if they're all just freshmen, have enough firepower to blast a monster and run for it. All of the small mals will just see the group and turn away to look for lower-hanging fruit. Five people, about the same. And none of the bigger mals are going after a puny group of four or five. Those will just stay hidden and wait for a better opportunity, wait to ambush some group of sophomores in the alchemy lab or something.

Now, a group of thirty? That tips the scales the other way. All small and weak mals are too scared, for sure. But the big ones? The ones with an appetite?

Maybe if it was thirty juniors. Maybe even thirty sophomores. Hell, thirty freshmen eleven months into the term might be too much. But thirty freshmen before the first month of the term is even out? Thirty starry-eyed fools who heard about Scorpius Lake through the grapevine, some of them before they even got inducted (he is the son of the probable-future leader of the biggest and most powerful wizard enclave in the world, after all). Thirty children, not even fifteen years old yet, who got into this hell of a school where they are facing a one in four chance of survival because that is better odds than outside, children who have spent every day since they hit puberty outside the school having to fight monsters that want to eat their tasty mana-plump bodies, children who are told, "Hey, have you heard of Scorpius Lake? He has a combat affinity and I heard he took out five mals at once in Intro to Lab the other day!" or "Lake, isn't that the kid from New York? Oh yeah I heard of him, my cousin said she was told he took out an entire nest of lyeflies when he was nine."

Thirty children who have been removed from their homes less than a month ago to go somewhere "safer", except that somewhere safer still has everything that bumps in the night going after them. Somewhere safer where they still need to cast shielding spells on their bedroom doors and even then there's a ten percent chance something nasty will manage to slip by. Somewhere safer where they only dare shower once a week because there are creatures screaming in the pipes, creatures that will suck them dry of their mana given half a chance. Thirty children who are now going to the cafeteria, accompanied by Scorpius Lake, who is sure to keep them all safe, and a group of thirty is enough that the maleficaria will surely stay away, right?

Only the small maleficaria, though.

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Fenris is fully aware that this is extremely unsafe and says so. It's unclear if the word even had the chance of reach Scorpius where he is leading the group. The other freshmen definitely are ignoring the advice.

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Well, everyone wants safety so Felix can't blame them for sticking to Scorpius. Including the enclavers like themselves.

And it's not like Felix (or Fenris) managed to do much, even as enclavers they didn't manage to break off a smaller, less targetable group, everyone wanted to be with Scorpius after all. Who wouldn't want to? Having the two of them on their own wouldn't be safe for themselves - they promised their parents to stay safe - and wouldn't make Scorpius's group much safer. And Trevor was likely already at the cafeteria waiting at a table for them.

Once they got moving they really didn't have much of a choice. Deciding to stay behind or going ahead was more likely to attract mals, not less. And there aren't that many other ways to get from the freshmen dorms to the cafeteria anyway.

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Theydies and gentlefolk if it isn't clear by now that the Vasilises are right about how much of a bad idea this was, I don't know what to tell you.

Neither does Scorpius Lake, because they haven't even properly all gotten to the corridor that leads to the cafeteria before something slams the grating from the air vent above, breaking it off cleanly. The something then drops, with agility that belies its size and number of limbs and especially heads - it has six of them - and takes its first step towards the group. Which is being led by Scorpius Lake.

"Shit," is what Scorpius Lake says, but he's not dumb and he knows that when he turns around - ah, there it is, yet another mal that they have yet to learn about in Maleficaria Studies, holding the flank and not letting the kids at the back run back to the safety of their rooms: a large ooze with thin pink tendrils running along its tentacles and a pulsating red core in the middle. "Shit shit shit," he says again, then turns to a boy - a specific boy in the throng - and says, "Thibaut -"

    "On it, cap'n," he says with a faint accent - French, probably - before casting a German incantation that creates a wall of energy behind the group and another wall in front of the group. Just in time, too, as the hydra vomits something green that smokes on contact with the floor.

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The fleeting joy of being right. Hopefully, not too fleeting. Fenris recites an ancient incantation against poisons and other chemical attacks; it manifests as a shimmer that starts expanding outwards from his skin to cover the people nearby.

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Felix follows Scorpius's suit and says several expletives. He is not the only for sure, but he reaches for Fenris' hands and helps with the incantation.

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Scorpius moves, and now thirty kids including the two Vasilis get to see what exactly all the fuss is about.

The fuss is in fact very warranted, as such things go. He grabs a little metal rod that was sheathed between the back of his trousers and his skin and a pretty dagger he had sheathed on the side of his hip, one with each hand, and then pushes mana into them. Causing them to glow.

Well, no, not true. The dagger glows. The metal rod becomes a fucking light saber.

He sends one incantation of fire in the ooze's direction and goes to town with the hydra and his two weapons. "Thibaut, can you -"

    "On it," says Thibaut, before looking around, spotting the twins, and saying, "You. Run to the cafeteria, now, get us some seniors. I'll cover you there."

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Thibaut spoke to Fenris, but they - having trained exactly for this - don't need to speak to figure out that Felix should be the one to make the run. He is faster even without the help of the spell that makes his steps almost like jumps. He also uses another spell to distract the nearest mal with a rain of projectiles that curve around and hit them from the other side, not a heavy damage attack, but a great distraction.

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Fenris heard the stories, but had assumed that they were school gossip or even propaganda by New York. But Scorpius is adept enough with his weapons that he even fails to consider the merits of a lightsaber.

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With his own cover plus Thibaut's shield spell covering him halfway up, he can somewhat easily dodge the maleficaria attacking the freshmen and get to the cafeteria in short order. It's on the same floor as the freshmen dorms, too, so that's another blessing. The breakfast queue is not yet open for them, though, it's still only letting sophomores in.

The seniors, meanwhile, are already all seated and eating, some of them even done with their food. They're the ones who afford to give the running Felix a glance when he shows up at the doors looking like he's running from Hell itself, they and the kids who are seated closest to the doors, all of whom suddenly tense up and look ready to bolt if it turns out Felix is bringing something nasty on his heels.

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One of the freshmen is more interested in the fact that Felix is running there by himself and is immediately standing up from his table and going towards him.

It's reassuring when Felix makes eye contact and there is sheer panic, but no tears.

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Felix barely acknowledges Trevor there, and instead makes a line for the nearest senior cluster. "Two mals are attacking thirty," oh, right breathing in, you use that both for running and speaking, "freshmen. Scorpius is fighting them. One is a hydra and the other is some kind of ooze."

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The seniors look up at him and most of them look back down at their food, except for one, who says, "Less for us to worry about then." And back to his food.

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Yeah, they have been told that that's what would happen. And that insisting wouldn't help. It still stings being here to witness.

Trevor drags Felix away and... well, he doesn't think that they will have any luck, but goes towards the New York table.

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New York is ostensibly lightly allied with Athens, so they're willing to give these kids the time of day. There are even a couple of freshmen among them, sitting there waiting for the freshman queue to open.

After the situation is explained, though, one of the seniors says, "I've seen Lake deal with mals before. He'll be fine."

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"He asked for help. From seniors in specific, I don't think he can deal with the two while keeping the thirty other kids safe."

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"Well, no, of course he can't keep the thirty kids safe."

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Then get your ass out of that chair and help save them.

Felix doesn't say that, which is good because there is nothing to be gained by antagonizing New York seniors as a freshman from anywhere.

He looks at the rest of the table, even the other freshmen, and then over at where Trevor had been sitting with the small Athens contingent.

There is no help to be found here, so he just turns around and goes straight towards the door.

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Trevor follows. He gives a look back at his table one last time - Yeah, suddenly they are avoiding eye contact. Fuck.

His shield is up before they are out of the cafeteria.

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Felix actually bumps into a couple of freshmen coming the other way - they were from the group of thirty. And there were a handful more over that way.

When they get back, the situation seems both worse and better. Scorpius has torn the hydra-like mal to pieces, but unfortunately this seems to be a mal where the pieces can still do stuff so now it's multiple mals harassing the kids. The ooze is dead - one of the kids recognized it and explained you gotta freeze those - but they're still boxed in and surrounded by the pieces of the hydra.

By the time the two thirds of triplets return, there are only twelve freshmen leftover including their brother, Lake, and the boy he'd called "Thibaut". But the kids don't really have much of a way to help Scorpius; no one other than him in the group has good enough spells to meaningfully damage the mal, and it's all he can do to keep it at bay while he tries to create openings for the kids to run in small groups.

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Oh, shit. Okay they can at least try to help.

"The seniors are not coming!"

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Felix tries to pelt and distract the mal bits. Or take advantage to help a student through an opening.

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Fenris keeps the defenses up and even tries to share mana so the other students can keep up their own defenses. But they are being attacked from multiple sides.

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"Get out of the way," Lake shouts, using a frankly unreasonably strong telekinesis spell to push Felix away just as one of the hydra pieces nearly falls on top of him, teeth gnashing. He continues using the spell to pull Felix into the group of freshmen as they are more well-defended than the spot Felix and Trevor were in, but Trevor seems to have a pretty solid personal shield of his own so Lake doesn't try to go through it to bring Trevor in. "You - fuck I forgot your name," he says, in Trevor's direction, as he bodily shoves one of the mals away from the group, "one of the Vasilises, you, can you share that shield?"

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Trevor looks as Felix is telekinetically dragged into the packed group of cornered freshmen with obvious concern.

"Only at touch range!"

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