Through the Wild

“Do these things ever stop itching?” I complained. My arms were nearly rubbed raw from my absent-minded scratching.

“If they do, it means they stopped working,” Reggie said. “In which case you’d be dead.”

“So how long does it usually take before marauders to go mad wearing them?” I asked. The leather and metal plates strapped around my arms looked innocuous enough. The enchantments layered upon them were nearly invisible, even to a trained eye. Without them, though, we’d be subject to the whims of the wild magic that surrounded us for miles.

I’ve seen what that can do to a man. Itching was preferable by far.

Reggie chuckled. “You get used to it,” he said. “Or maybe you just eventually flay all the nerves in your skin into submission. Either way, once you’ve been in a few years you barely notice it anymore.”

“A few years,” I said flatly. “A few years, he says. So what you’re saying is, every last one of you has gone insane, right?”

“Probably,” Reggie said. He gave me a goofy, good-natured grin then dropped it just as suddenly as he spun to face the rear, sword drawn. Never one to distrust trained instincts, I did the same, as did our compatriots.

“Trouble?” Gori asked. That was as much as he’d said since we’d left that morning.

“A troupe of Taken incoming,” Reggie replied. “At least a half dozen, but less than twenty.”

“Hoping it’s the half dozen,” I muttered.

“Don’t,” Reggie said. “A half dozen at the strength I’m feeling, each one could rip you in half. If it’s closer to twenty, they’re probably just lost newborns.”