“So are we just going to leave the harpy in the bedroom?” Kelcie asked me in the foyer. I stared at the angry, screaming bird that glared at us from behind the threshold of the door.

“Do you have a better idea?” I asked. My hands were both covered in drying blood now. I considered them for a moment before rubbing them onto my jeans. It didn’t seem to help much.

“We could just kill it,” Kelcie suggested, flexing the hand on her unbroken arm. A breeze rippled through her hair, though I wasn’t sure if it came from her or the torn out window behind the harpy.

“The circle will block any direct magic,” I said. “I’m more worried about the rune behind it.”

Kelcie frowned. “I activated it.”

“With fae magic,” I said. I could feel that rune throbbing like a sore spot in my shield. It pulsed with a bright yellow glow in my defenses, a beacon to anything trying to break in. If it was this obvious to me, how obvious would it be to the enemy?

The front door banged open and I could hear Jeff shouting out to us. Kelcie blinked away nearly immediately, and her voice trickled up from the floor below me. I rolled my eyes at the angry harpy. “She’s such a show off.”

The harpy responded by redoubling its attacks on the barrier. I sighed, stepping my way past his circle, taking great care not to step on the bloody runes on the floor. “Nobody appreciates my handiwork,” I grumbled.

When I was halfway down the stairs, I caught sight of Jeff. He was covered in mud and dark stains all over. His brown hair was soaked, hanging in limp strands against his face. He turned into the living room and I sucked in my breath in a sharp hiss. His deep blue dress shirt was torn down the back in 3 long stripes, the fabric covered in an unmistakable red.

He turned quickly at the noise. “It’s not mine,” he said quickly, before catching sight of my face and fumbling on his words.

“Good,” I said with relief, reaching the main floor before answering the question on his face. “It’s all mine.”

Jeff shuddered a bit as I walked towards the living room. I grinned at his discomfort until I saw the scene in the living room.

“Hey Rach,” Mark said weakly. Kinder held a towel that might have been blue but was now turning a reddish-brown to his right shoulder. His arm was at an odd angle and covered in smaller lacerations that Kelcie was trying to fuss over with one hand.

“Well you got yourself into a mess,” I said, dropping to my knees in front of him, trying to take the towel away from Kelcie.

“I got this.” She glowered at me, jerking her chin behind me. “Go clean up your face.”

I glanced behind me to where Amber stood, holding a handful of clean towel as white as her face. I looked away quickly.

“Actually,” I whispered, “you should talk to her. She’d probably faint if she saw me.”

Kelcie took one look at the pale, sweaty girl, and another at my bloody smile and relinquished the towel to my care.

“So what’d you do, Mark?” I asked, trying to keep the mood light. He smiled at me.

“Some harpy thought I’d make a good tree decoration,” he said wincing a little as I applied pressure to his arm. “Dropped me into one.”

“Ouch,” I said mildly. “I hope you proved them right.”

“I thought I did a fine job,” Mark said. “Karen disagreed. Something about me messing up her garden.”

“It was my garden,” Kinder said grumpily. “You damn kids need to get off my lawn.”

“Retirement sounds boring anyways,” I said. I noticed Jeff had vanished from the doorway. Hopefully that meant he’d gone to attract the attention of one of our healers.

“It was boring,” Kinder said. “Boring and quiet and for once, peaceful.”

“I never liked fae either,” I said, pointing the blame in the obvious direction.

“Is that what tagged you?” Mark asked. I smiled, feeling the clotted blood on my cheeks crack and split.

“No, this was all our team,” I said cheekily. “Our little wind mage packs a punch.”

“I’ll have to teach her to aim,” Mark whispered, glancing over my shoulder to where Kelcie had pushed Amber into a chair. The girl had her head between her knees now. I turned back to the bleeding on his arm that had thankfully slowed. The wounds on his shoulder didn’t seem to be slowing fast enough though.

“Hopefully you get the chance,” I muttered. Kinder shot me a dirty look and I hastily added, “Before we see more action, that is.”

Mark snorted quietly and Kinder jerked his head towards the front door. “Go see what’s keeping them, Rachael.”

I glanced towards the window behind him, in time to see a burst of fire light up the horizon.

“I might need some back up if I’m going out there,” I said, trying hard not to smile.

“No,” Kinder said firmly.

“Come on, you don’t expect me to go out there defenseless?” I said, already looking around for a clear enough patch of floor.

“Absolutely not,” he repeated.

I frowned, my hands covered in blood yet again. “Just a little one?”

“Rachael, if you don’t stop trying to summon demons in my living room, I’m going to smack you,” Kinder said angrily.

I sighed angrily and he jerked his head towards the front door. “Just go yell at them out the front door.”

I got up, grumbling. “You summon one little demon at the office Christmas party…”