As hostile footfalls drew near, Lienna bit down hard on her lip, working hard to keep the curses inside her body lest she reveal herself too soon. With nowhere to go and the bandits closing in around her, she slipped underneath the carriage itself, lying prone and watching through the wheel spokes as the feet of bandits became visible through the fog. She held her breath as she watched them, three sets of feet shuffling blindly around until they found each other, exchanging words and curses alike as they searched for their fourth comrade.
Three, Lienna repeated in her head, already creeping to the opposite side of the carriage. But her eyes were locked on the bandits, whose legs faded into barely distinguishable dark spots as they receded into the fog. Moving towards… shit.
“Goddess be good, what is that?!”
“Cethleann’s tits, it’s a monster!”
Shit! Lienna cursed herself, inching faster to the other side of the damnably wide carriage. She hadn’t considered what would happen when they found their comrade’s body—she hadn’t thought anything at all aside from how to escape with her life! And now she didn’t have the luxury of being underestimated; then again, the terrified whimpering she heard a short distance away must mean something. Maybe if they were scared of her, they’d cut their losses and leave the caravan.
A sharp smack rang out through the fog, and the whimpering ceased abruptly. “Don’t be an idiot,” a rough voice reprimanded, “it’s not a monster, it’s magic. Remember? Like the boss uses? That girl is just a mage.”
“But shouldn’t we—”
There was a rustle and some clinking of metal. “If you’re about to suggest we turn tail and run, I will kill you myself,” the rough voice warned. There was another rustle, and then the thump of something heavy falling down. “Use your brain for once. If the boss hears we found a mage like that and didn’t bring her back, we’re as good as fried.”
Panic gripped her at that, and Lienna was done listening. An awful, awful feeling stirred inside her, screaming at her with disturbing familiarity to get as far away as possible. She didn’t waste any more time: while the bandits discussed, she shimmied out from under the carriage and broke into a sprint straight out from the caravan. She’d find the edge of the fog cloud and keep going and… and… well, she didn’t care how she did it, but she’d get away somehow. Maybe break into the trees or jump into the river, it didn’t matter.
She just ran, footsteps thundering much too loudly in the grass.
She could already hear the bandits start to shout and move as she saw the light of day begin to penetrate the fog, and she burst out of the cloud like a woman possessed, searching frantically for cover. The forest was ahead of her, and—Veronica?!
Lienna skidded to a halt in front of the brunette, only narrowly avoiding bowling her over. “What the hell are you doing?!”
The brunette threw a scowl Lienna's way, crossing her arms. "Looking for you, what else?" Her response was oddly calm. "Either the carriages have given you trouble or something is afoot, I thought I would give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it's the latter."
Lienna didn’t really hear Veronica’s words, her mind racing as she looked frantically between the princess and the shouts inside the fog. As the silhouettes of bandits began to distinguish themselves from the mist, she made a snap decision, grabbing Veronica roughly by the arm and throwing her, with all her might, towards the fog.
Veronica yelped as she was thrown, stumbling forward and disappearing into the mist. The dark splotches of bandits converged on her immediately, and Lienna watched with hard eyes as the silhouettes moved, raising her wand when she heard the sounds of struggle.
“Freeze!” she shouted, thrusting the wand forward. The same unfamiliar symbol flashed before her, and a powerful burst of magic sprang forth again, icicles stabbing up from the ground and racing through the fog. There was a short chorus of yelping, and the disturbingly wet sounds of flesh pierced by ice. Then all she could hear was her heart in her ears.