The mystrel woman was not interested in much deliberation. Neve winced as their prisoner’s life was cut short in a haze of crimson. Swallowing roughly, she glanced away from the man’s shuddering form in an attempt to ignore the post-mortem tremors that wracked his body. No matter how many times she had witnessed death before, there was simply no getting used to it. The smell of blood, tarnished steel, and burning gunpowder was still fresh in the air, though all she could focus on was the sour stench of excrement that wafted from the corpse at her feet. Bile rose into her throat as she watched scarlet gather into a thick pool upon the verdurous sheen of the malachite.
A hand set itself on her shoulder, earning its owner a flinch of surprise. Neve cast her gaze over at Galahad and tightened her lips. ”Right.”
The rest of them were quick to follow Leifur. Armored cadavers lined the corridors, each of them bearing the viridescent hue of Edrite soldiers or the black colors of the strange men’s mail. Neve took in the sight as she kept to the center of their group, her eyes wide as platters. Her knuckles burned white around the base of her staff. Rivers of blood marred the brilliant floors with their sanguine chroma as they gathered into stagnant, foul smelling lakes along the hem of the walls. Nevertheless, no one said anything as they winded around the labyrinth of hallways. Even if she did want to say something, she was sure that all she could muster out was silence.
Slowly but surely, the clamor of battle once again swelled in the air, its rhythm matching the violent thrumming of her heart. Leifur had guided them down a long, cherry-wood stairwell whose walls were painted a golden yellow. They reached the bottom and pushed through another hallway and a set of heavy doors– and it was there, in the royal garden’s courtyard, that they came face-to-face with another skirmish. Many enemy soldiers littered the cobblestone grounds, frozen stiff in the face of death, as heavily-armored Edrite knights effortlessly weaved around the rain of gunfire. Their emerald platemail rippled under the moonlight as they struck down their foes with the ferocity of a lightning strike. Many of their enemies were felled under the brutal blows and bulletfire of their gunblades and greatswords. By the time Neve and the rest stepped out from behind the door, their numbers already dwindled.
A keen ripple of movement from the middle of the throng caught her attention. Neve’s eyes widened when she saw a young man with sunset-golden hair tied back in an entourage of azure ribbons. Clad in sapphire armor, the lord of Edren raised his lance to the center of his body as he ran through his opponent without a hint of hesitation or fear. The king is fighting? she thought in alarm, Shouldn’t he be somewhere safe?
Now wasn’t a good time to think. Their arrival had drawn the attention of enemy combatants who had refused to succumb to the Edrites’ onslaught. In a fraction of an instant, a cluster of soldiers to their left raised their rifles towards them. For a moment, Neve thought it was their turn to be riddled with holes. A grimace pulled over her lips as she raised her staff and began to channel another shielding spell– but it was too late. Matron above–
Etro must have heard her plea. Another group had splintered off from the assembly of knights and cut through the remnants of soldiers with their gunblades. Blood splattered to the ground as their blades cut through their armor like butter and rent the flesh underneath. There were cries of shock and moans of pain as the helmed men crashed to the ground– and within moments they bled out and lay still. Then, there was nothing but silence.
Neve stared at their saviors. They had turned to face them as they lowered their bloodied weapons. They bore not the emerald sheen of Edrite knights, but typical garb that hailed from elsewhere but there. Team Unicorn members, she realized, recognizing their leader, a tall blond man with a stern face. She offered him a smile, but all she received in return was a toothy scowl.
Frowning, she dipped her head in gratitude either way. ”Thank you for your help.”
”About time you lot showed up.” He bared his teeth at her. ”Make yourself useful, healer. Tend to the wounded.”
His words were like knives that pierced through her robes. Neve averted her eyes to the Edrite knights who had clustered around their liege as they attended to him. Leonhart appeared unharmed as he ducked his head towards his men in quiet conversation. Her eyes dropped to their armor. Though they had been prone to the storm of bullets, the platemail had held up well against their enemies; she only spotted a few dents and scuffs that had marred their armor. From what she could see, no one was injured.
”I don’t believe I’m–”
A flash of steel. All of a sudden, Neve found herself face-to-face with the tip of the man’s gunblade.
”Are you slow or just stupid?” he spat, ”Do you have any idea what we’ve just been through? While you were up there dreaming the night away, we were fighting for our lives. Now do as I say, girl!”