Photo via Visual hunt
Corinne tossed her backpack into the corner and flopped onto the bed. Her feet and back hurt, but she was very satisfied with her day’s hike. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and rolled onto her stomach. She checked and saw that she actually had a signal. She dialed her best friend’s number and waited.
“Cor? Where are you this time?” Seth asked, amusement in his voice. “You freaked out your sister again, by the way.”
Corinne laughed. “She should be used to this by now. I’ve been doing it for how long? And I’m in Scotland.”
“Ah, someplace neutral then,” Seth said.
“Neutral my ass,” Corinne said. “Do you have any idea how much power runs through this country?”
“Is it as much as Egypt?” Seth asked.
“More in some places and less in others,” Corinne said.
“Did you find anything interesting?” Seth asked.
“Yes,” Corinne said. “I’m at a really tiny inn in a small village right now. When I get to Glasgow tomorrow and into an area with wi-fi I’ll send you the details. I think I’m on to something here.”
“You said that when you were in Turkey. And again in Kazakhstan. And in Greece,” Seth said.
“I know,” Corinne said. “But wait until you get the pictures and my notes. I think this time you’re going to want to bring the team here.”
“Cor, you know we can’t just drop everything every time you make some random discovery,” Seth said. “The rest of us have day jobs we can’t abandon.”
“S, trust me. You’re going to want to see this,” Corinne said. Her phone crackled. “I’m losing signal. I’ll call you when I get to Glasgow.”
“All right. I’ll talk to you then,” Seth said. The line went silent.
Corinne rolled off the bed and went over to her laptop case. She pulled out the slim machine that went everywhere with her. She grabbed her camera out of her backpack and attached it with the USB cable. She turned on her computer and logged in. She uploaded all the pictures she’d taken before shutting everything down again and putting it all away.
She stretched and decided to take a shower. Using a bit of her personal store of energy, she warded her room and sealed everything. She jumped in the shower, wishing the water would get hotter than a few degrees above lukewarm. She got out, toweled off, and changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. She exchanged her hiking boots for her knee high leather ones, tucking knives into the backs of each. She also shoved her runes in her pocket, just in case.
She went to the pub and grabbed some food before going back to her room. As she approached the door, she could feel something odd. Someone was attempting to break her wards. Corinne reached down and slipped one of her knives out of her boot. She moved forward quietly.
A wizened old woman stood outside her door, hands outstretched and eyes closed. “Is there something I can help you with?” Corinne asked, keeping the knife out of sight.
The woman jumped and the feeling of opposing magic ended abruptly. She turned and glared at Corinne. “Ye shouldna be diggin’ in matters that don’ concern ye,” she said, her brogue thick and full of anger.
“Neither should you,” Corinne said coldly.
“Yer presence does matter tae me,” the woman said. “Yer messin’ wi’ things that do better tae be left alone.”
“Why?” Corinne asked. “It’s a source of power that can be harnessed to make the world better.”
The woman spat. “Ye young mages. Ye have no respect fer the old magic. Ye’ll rue the day ye got involved wi’ it. Yer in over yer head and ye don’t even know it.” She stalked off. Corinne sighed, sheathing her knife. This wasn’t her first encounter with antagonistic locals and she doubted it would be her last. She’d just have to add a note to her report warning the others about it. They’d need to be prepared. She went into her room and locked the door behind her. She opened her laptop and got back to work.