- Hall of the Martyr, three days prior -
"Everyone, calm down! And that's an order
." Kenna's voice lowered to an almost threatening rumble as she glared at her council, effectively silencing the dozen demons currently present at her table. Some awkwardly cleared their throat, while others just stared at the table's surface. The demon queen huffed softly, shaking her head as she rose from her seat, both hands leaning unto the table. She could feel the all too familiar sting in her shoulder but chose to ignore it, her pain not even registering on her face as she continued. "Honestly, I understand your worry, especially in light of recent events, but you have to know there's little choice in my decision to go ahead and accept the Magic Council's advice." Another ripple of discontentment rippled through the demons present, more subdued this time around.
"Your highness, if I may," Xaphan rose his hand, causing most others to fall silent as he spoke. As one of her father's older vassals -one of the few that's remained loyal even after the assassination- he held quite a bit of respect among his peers and younger generations of demons. Even Kenna, who hadn’t been showing herself much on the demon’s political forefront until recently, found herself in awe for the demon’s wisdom. A man who could’ve probably taken the demon world by storm and rise as its new ruler, still pledged his loyalty to her-- in fact, he’d been one of the first to seek her out instead of the other way around, taking an oath to stand by her side like he had her father’s. When this man spoke he’d always make fair points to take into consideration. With a nod she gestured for him to speak, eyeing him curiously. "With Abraxor gone we cannot allow ourselves the chance of anything happening to you. Even when he was still with us you got gravely injured; the aether forbid something similar were to happen now no-one's there to protect you, My Queen." The fire demon continued, concern prone in his eyes. It was a painful thing to bring up, but they all knew very well that it was the truth, especially in the silence that followed. They all knew what had been lost that day.
After allowing the silence to linger for a few moments longer, Kenna shook her head. "With all due respect, Xaphan, but there's a great difference between mortal and divine forces. Unlike with Ishtar, these are mortals, magicless ones at that. Their danger level won't even be half as threatening as it would've been had they been able to wield magic." Although she knew better than to belittle humans, the demoness couldn’t help it. And if it aided her cause, why not? There was none who would hold it against her, not in this room. But much to her surprise she noticed how several shook their head, looking disappointed. It drew a sigh from her lips raising her hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. “Listen, it’s… my hands are tied here. Here I may be your queen, but in Fiore I have an obligation as guild master to stand with my people. Alliances were made, and Fiore stands with Bellum in this war. Although we’re not explicitly asked to join sides, it’s expected of us to side with our allies, as per Magic Council alliances. And I can’t expect them to turn a blind eye because personal reasons dignified me to blatantly ignore their orders. Let alone that I’d stand and watch from the sidelines when my friends and the people I’m supposed to protect are fighting in this war. I’m no coward.” Kenna’s eyes stood hard, looking at each and every one of them separately, meeting their gaze and their expectations. Demons expected their leaders to be strong, and their royalty even stronger. She wouldn’t show weakness, not again. Even if she was still far from recovered, she had proven herself before them, and now it was time to prove herself to the world as well. To her guild. She’d been watching from the sidelines for far too long.
Astarte smiled softly at her young queen’s resolve and leant back in her chair, knowing Kenna wasn’t done preaching just yet. And after a lingering silence, the white-haired demoness did indeed. “If it were to ease the Council’s worries, note that unlike the previous war, this is all but personal. If anything, this is strictly business; I’ll be cautious, but because this is moreso an objective obligation, I don’t see the need for taking any risks.” Now it was the draconic demoness’ turn to speak. “Be it as it may, Your Majesty, you are our Queen
. No matter how much we protest, we cannot go against your will; and if it is your will to participate in this war… then, with or without the Council’s permission, you will. And there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s just as simple as that.” Astarte shrugged, her arms carelessly crossed upon her chest. There was a satisfied smirk playing upon her lips. “I know I speak for the entire Council when I say that we’re very much against
you joining the war without any of your troops though. But since it’s true that we demons cannot openly choose sides when we’re not concerned with the matter, we’ll compromise. A detachment under my command will join you to the battlefield, and will keep an eye on the development of the situation. Only when we deem you in grave danger shall we move out, sparing no time on pulling you out of said situation and away from the battle altogether. This is non-negotiable, just like your proposal.” The demoness had been one of her father’s early supporters as well, and next to Abraxor one of the strongest demon generals they held. Knowing she’d cornered Kenna with the things she’d said, the smugness of her smile only grew further.
Kenna on the other hand would’ve rolled her eyes if she could’ve. In any other situation she would’ve, but now all she could do was flash Astarte a knowing grin. “Fine. We leave at dawn, ready or not.”
----- Pergrande, Battlefield XXX -----
Days later, Sabertooth’s guild master found herself upon a nearby hill overlooking her chosen battlefield; one of the many scenes currently dotting both Bellian and Pergrandian sceneries. The sun had barely risen above the horizon, yet already sounds of battle resonated through the chilled air. Just like that day, except this time she wasn’t leading the troops, nor standing there donned in the regalia befitting a commander’s name. Her silver armor had been replaced for a nonchalant bodice of hardened black leather, tempered by the best craftsmen her territory could offer. It was lithe, wouldn’t burn when exposed to her flames, and would make her an unseen target among many many fighters today. It was also reinforced with a numbing stimulant in her shoulder, making sure that even if her wound decided to act up, she wouldn’t be bothered by it until the end of the day. That was the price to pay for temporarily suppressing the poison engraved unto her very cells; one day of battle would mean three more she’d have to rest before her body could endure the pain again. Aether knows how long she’d be out for if she actually used large portions of her magic as well… it was a slight worry she’d have to calculate. In a way she was happy Itori wasn’t deployed on this battlefield; she knew her lover wouldn’t have allowed her to set foot near the battle if she was aware of the demon queen’s intentions. Maybe that’s why she’d opted to pick another one as far away from hers as possible, so there wouldn’t be any chances of crossing paths until after
it was done.
Staring off into the sunset she could hear a pair of footsteps closing in on her from behind, Astarte awkwardly clearing her throat as she waited for Kenna to acknowledge her being there. “Honestly, Astarte…,” Kenna muttered softly, turning her head ever so slightly to look back over her shoulder. “You’d think that with the stunt you pulled during the meeting you wouldn’t be this bashful when the rest are gone.” she teased, feeling the other demoness’ glare drilling holes in her back. But it only made it all the more fun.
“Tsk, children will be children it seems, royalty or not.” Astarte clicked her tongue, joining Kenna and letting her gaze drift across the battlefield. Unlike the royal demoness, she could see every little detail happening down below; who was fighting whom, their outfits, their weapons, hell, even the freckles hiding underneath the helmets of some. Her eyes were trained for this. And maybe one day, she’d train her queen’s to do just the same. There was an agreeable silence as both just gazed, allowing the sun to grace them with her peaceful serenity before the true battle would explode.
The white-haired demoness smiled dearly when she suddenly noticed soft flashes within herself. Through the link of Sabertooth’s guild tattoos she could sense the others of Sabertooth lingering. One of her most powerful members was stirring on her right, far below among the tents, while another did so too, more to the left. She could only guess them to be Victoria; her magical pressure undeniably present even from this far away. And one of the new members Gaia had been doting on… Asher, whom she mostly recognised through the soft chill running up her spine as a result of his peculiar magic. Knowing they were here as well only strengthened her resolve to actually participate, to show what she was truly capable of.
“Astarte,” she started, allowing a brief pause so she was sure she had the draconic demon’s attention. “I won’t do anything reckless. I promise.” Kenna ushered softly, her voice almost reminiscing as she closed her eyes, the flashes of the battle past that had scarred her coming to life before her very eyes. There was a soft quiver as a single scene kept replaying in the back of her head; Abraxor being cut down so she could escape. Not wounded or hurt, but downright obliterated. His very soul essence erased from existence. Even after all this time, it was still a hard pill to swallow. Astarte, noticing the subtle shiver in her posture, gently squeezed her shoulder. “I know, Aelyn… We both know you wouldn’t put his memory to shame by being bold and making those mistakes again. Let his sacrifice be your strength, my child.”
A soft nod followed as she inhaled deeply, letting the scent of dawn overtake her… and the scent of something else. Her eyes opened slowly as she sighed, irked that she was being disturbed this early. “Don’t bother, humans,your scent already gave you away.” Her voice was all but pleased, both demons turning to face the four figures arising from the thicket behind them, the barrels of their guns aimed at the twosome, earning them another sigh, this time from Astarte. “I doubt they’ll be worth the effort.” she muttered underneath her breath, only to get a shrug in return, and a reply in an equally hushed tone. “Well, they’re my problem now, I guess.”
“Gentlemen, it pains me to say this, but… I don’t take prisoners.” Crimson eyes peered at them in the most unamused, cold way possible as she spoke those words, waiting for the very moment they’d open fire. Mentally counting down the moment their fingers would jerk around the trigger and hail metallic rain upon her… if the metal would ever reach her in time to harm her. A split-second later the first salvo went off, but the demoness had already taken refuge far below their initial aim. Astarte had taken to the skies, immediately taking flight until she was out of the shooters’ range, while Kenna had ducked low, far more than crouching she was nearly laying flat on the floor, hand outstretched rapidly heating up the area underneath. Frosted ground would yield for the cheer heat she sent through its veins, dodging and touching the floor as she went without allowing them time to aim properly; annoying them so that their wariness was only partially focused on the magic she was performing. Every spot she touched the ground had molten into a small puddle of lava, merely the size of her palm, until the entire area was dotted with a least a few dozen of those. When their magazines emptied and they swiftly took to refill them, she moved, slamming her full palm unto the ground. In the blink of an eye the area surrounding the four spying Pergrandians had shifted from solid earth to liquid fire, large enough to deny them the hope of jumping to the edge of the gradually growing pool of lava. Screams erupted as they sunk further in, up to their knees, but not much further, their pain apparent. She rose to her feet again, looking them over as they suffered. It was a cruel way to go, with no form of release safe for the slow one time would bring, unless she helped them across. She’d meant what she said however; letting them live would be akin to keeping them prisoner. And she was all but going to do that. With a twist of her hand a fire pillar erupted from the pool, silencing the poor unfortunate souls that had dared creep up on her before the battle. She felt no remorse as the flames died down, only leaving smoldering heaps to be devoured by the molten earth she’d created. A click of her heel and all the warmth dissipated, leaving the lava to harden in an instant.
She wasn’t going to stumble and create more victims than necessary, especially not from her side. Only those that crossed her would come to feel the literal burnt of their mistake.
And unlike last time, there would be no mercy.Wordcount:
2343 of 4000Casualties:
Imperial Army Recruit x 0/6 -> 0 of 2
Imperial Army Officer x 4/14 -> 2 of 7
Imperial Guard 0/1 -> 0 of 1