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The silence was deafening as Bunny helped Moxi and Amy clean the common room after the last guest had wandered off in a sugar-haze induced by Jo's birthday cake. She avoided the hurt in Amy's eyes and the confusion on Moxi's face by wiping off the tables. Amy didn't even glance at her when she passed by, stacks of plates in a tub. Moxi busied herself gathering cups and mugs as far away from them as she could manage.
Bunny sighed and straightened up. "Okay, can we talk, please?" she pleaded.
Moxi turned. She tilted her head and held up a hand. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Bunny asked, annoyed at being interrupted.
Amy shushed her and set the tub on a table, slipping out of her shoes. "Where?" she whispered.
"Upstairs..." Moxi closed her eyes, listening deep. Her eyes snapped open. "Oh no! Jo's room!"
The three women ran up the stairs, pulling hidden daggers from their clothes. Bunny burst through the door of Jo's room, dagger in hand in time to see a figure in all black jump out of the window with a sleeping Jo in their arms. "NO!" she screamed and felt Amy and Moxi run past her, both diving out the window.
She moved to the window in time to see the two women shooting toward the ground, landing as if the hard packed earth was down and racing toward the retreating figure in black carrying a bundle. "SOUND THE ALARM!" Amy shouted over her shoulder.
Bunny dug in her shirt and pulled out a gemstone pendant on a leather thong. She snapped it off her neck and threw it on the floor, grinding it to dust under her boot. Outside, the dark night was lit with multicolored fire and a hollow boom, like far-off thunder. She ran to the hallway, followed closely by Zell, Tag and Ogre. They raced through the common room and out the door, met by Kiva and Anthony. "We were walking, what's going on?!" Kiva shouted.
"Someone's kidnapped Jo!" Bunny explained brethlessly. "Amy and Moxi are-"
Two horses thundered past them. The figure drove a horse onward, a bundle across his lap. Moxi urged another horse after him, a barefoot Amy crouching behind her with her hands on the elfwoman's shoulders.
"I know what she's planning!" Ogre dashed toward Marti's house.

Amy held onto Moxi's shoulders, trying to remember to breathe despite her heart turning cold as she looked at the small still bundle on the other horse. They had gone past Ogre, Amy hoped that he recognized what they were about to do and would get the second part ready. They were past the village when she saw the tell-tale shimmer in the air and relaxed a bit. "My turn," she whispered.
Moxi slapped the reins. "Now or never, Amy-girl! I can't get any closer!"
She looked at the horse less than six feet in front of them. "I got this! NOW!"
The elf reached behind her, gripped the acrobat's wrist and flung her as hard as she could at the departing horse.
There was a moment when time stopped and she felt weightless. Then gravity reached for her, trying to put her back firmly on the ground. Amy fought it's siren call and dove through the air, managing to land a handstand on the horse's withers and grabbed the horseman by the scruff of his neck. She jabbed him with a sleep dart and kicked him aside, bringing the horse to a trot.
Moxi picked up the unconscious intruder and tossed him without ceremony over her horse. "Nice job."
"Thanks." They rode together back to the village.
"What was that spell?" Moxi wrinkled her nose. "I could tell something was being used but I couldn't exactly figure out what it was."
"Ogre triggered a shield. Had we made it a bit further out, it would've been harder to move. Farther you get into the spell, the more it's like walking in honey. Once he had the intruder trapped, he would've used a personal shield and gone in after him."
"That would've been so much easier!" Moxi frowned. "Why not just use that?"
"Because he's never had to use it before," Amy explained. "I had no idea what it would do to Jo." SHe patted the bundle. "Let's get him loose before we get into town."
They dismounted and carefully set the bundle down. Amy worked the knots free and unwrapped a tightly rolled blanket with a note attached to it. Her heart fell into her stomach and she sat down hard.
Moxi took the note from her. "'We have him'", she read. "'If you wish to see him again you must come home. Your disobedience is unacceptable.'" She examined the paper. "It's the seal of the house she works for. Bastards."
Amy collected the blankets to hide her tears. "Why would they do this?"
Moxi's face was hard. "In the elven lands, servants are like furniture. Zell's seen as property not a person and certainly not allowed to leave them. As brave a move this was, it was not without risk." She mounted the horse. "This fine gentleman can give us some more information, to be sure. Let's get back before he wakes up."
She mounted without another word and followed Moxi back.

"You WHAT!?" Zell slammed her hand down on the table. "Say it AGAIN!"
"I knew they were coming for Jo," Tag said quietly. "But if you remember the plan-"
"You can take that plan and shover it-"
Ogre cut her off. "Tag, how could you let him go like that? He's just a child and he has no defenses! One of us could've gone in his place, a simple spell or potion..." he shook his head.
"No one noticed someone missing, did they?" Tag said, looking around at the hostile faces in the common room.
"Finch!" Amy shouted. "Where is he?"
"He's protecting Jo, which was the original purpose of Malevolents." Tag's facade cracked a bit as Amy dissolved into tears. "He said to give you this and say he will see you at the meeting place." He stroked the girl's hair.
She cried harder. Bunny tried to touch her but she moved away and wiped her face, regaining her composure. "What meeting place?" Bunny asked.
"NO!" Zell shouted. "This is MY fight, Tag! Not yours and I am not involving these younglings either! This is not their people and not their battle!"
Tag gently took her hands, calm in the face of her rage. "My dear, sweet love. Revolution chooses you, not the other way around. As for these younglings, they've agreed to do this."
"Why didn't you tell us?" she pleaded. "We could've been prepared..." She didn't bother to hide her emotions, anger and sadness holding equal places.
Tag held her close. "It had to look like we weren't expecting it, that we weren't prepared for what comes next."
"What comes next?" she said in a trembling voice.
He looked around the room once more. "Everyone have a seat and once the others come I'll tell you the plan."
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August 2011

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