Fall back? The sorceresses were there? Panic started to well in Charlotte’s heart as she heard the voice calling, and she looked up in the air to see a weirdly colored bird flying straight towards their group- towards senior Leo.
As it got closer, the bird changed shapes into Luca from Darkside, and she stifled her gasp upon seeing the cuts lining his body, "There were too many of them. The sorceresses knew we were planning this."
"But how?" senior Leo asked, his eyebrows furrowed in frustration, "How are the others? And the mages?"
"The six of us were separated." Luca explained, panting heavily," We haven't even spotted the mages."
It didn't make sense to her as to how they'd predicted all of their movements, but she didn't want anyone to waste time trying to figure it out when what they really needed was to stop the sorceresses before it was too late.
"Senior Leo.” She said, and the warriors all turned to her in surprise that she was addressing them at all, "Take Squad A to the border. Do whatever you can, just make sure my mages and your warlocks stay safe."
With his eyes narrowed for a moment, senior Bryn looked from her back to his leader, "Let's go, Leo."
As the other Squad A members nodded and walked off, readying their weapons to blast through them once more, senior Leo stood still in front of her, "We can't leave you alone."
"I can handle myself, senior.” She insisted, pulling out her pistols and holding them up by his face in case he didn't believe her, "But my mages are powerless against my ancestors. You need to help them, and I need to find Levi."
Sighing again, senior Leo dragged a hand down his face and then quickly pulled her into a hug before letting go and heading off with his impatient team. Charlotte watched as the five of them disappeared from her view, blasting at their targets without even pausing to reload their ammunition. She wanted to help them; but her job was to simply find the last mage so at least the twelve mages could be reunited.
The castle smelled of decaying flesh as she stepped into it, her pistols drawn before her in case one of them would jump out from the shadows. She had no idea where the last mage would be found, but she had the nightmares to lead her and the sounds of their footsteps in the distance to remind her at least some parts of her nightmare would be familiar to her as she searched.
Her first destination was her own bedroom. It had been a while since she'd seen it and she wanted to make sure everything was as she left it- even though she had no use for anything in it. That's why she continued walking down the long hallways of her castle towards her bedroom. Her room was just one of many, but she was surprised to see that the closer she got to her room, the more of them she saw. She didn't want to start fighting since they outnumbered her and she still had to find the last mage, but it seemed being found out was her only fate.
As lights flickered over her head and she found herself growing ever closer to her bedroom, one of them had turned and spotted her. That caused for it to screech, and then the rest of them that were waiting around turned in her direction and she started to run. It was especially terrifying how fast they had become between then and the last she'd seen them, but her powers worked even faster. In order to keep them off her trail, she made sure a wall grew out of the floor and separated her from whatever was behind her. Yes, it meant she couldn't go back, but it also gave her time to find another way to her room.
Unfortunately, like all castles, her castle had too many hallways, staircases, and dead ends. Each time she found a dead end, she punched the wall and ran in another direction, flinching at the sounds they made as they continuously followed her.
Usually she knew her castle better than this, but considering the amount of time she spent away from home, her lack of direction skills didn’t surprise her.
Charlotte eventually found the fork in the hallways that she had seen in her nightmares, and remembering that the bright hallway didn't really have a good outcome at the other end, she turned and began running down the dimmer one; only to notice they were coming towards her from the dimmer hallway. She pulled out her pistols and started firing at them, but she knew her only shot was to run, so she pulled a wall up behind her and ran down the bright hallway.
Of course, more of them were waiting for her down that hallway, and with a hiss, she turned back and ran as quickly as she could. She was back at the fork and slammed into the wall she had created to separate her and the dim hallway, but then Charlotte figured out exactly where she was. The portrait was hanging on the wall across from her, and just next to her was her bedroom. Not only was she relieved to know the last mage was just inside her room, but she was relieved to go inside her room once more after so long.
The lights were off when she walked into her room, but as she reached for the light switch, she remembered she could just borrow Angelo's powers. She might have been paranoid, but she was afraid that the light showing underneath the door of her room would give away her location. The small orb of light let her see around the room, but she was looking around the room without spotting anything that made it obvious a mage was hidden somewhere in the room. Her room was plain and she would have noticed if a mage was in it... right?
She groaned as she started tossing clothes onto the ground from inside her closet and wardrobe. Charlotte was checking every part of her room, but there was still no sign of the last mage. Was she just being played after all? There was an urge to cry, but she didn’t, because she didn't want to give up on him yet. The mages were fighting, Darkside was fighting, Squad A was fighting; all so she could find this last mage. What would they do if he wasn't found there?
Finally, her gaze went over to her bed. Her parents had always told her not to move the bed, because underneath was something that kept the whole town supported, and now she felt like it was obvious. As she moved her bed, she couldn't help but think of her parents' knowledge of everything. Were they really hiding the last mage in their castle and then telling her not to move the mage because they didn't want to risk letting all of the rings be found?
Underneath her bed was a cupboard, and as she opened it, she was both relieved and horrified to know the last ring's box was in there. It meant that her parents were in fact hiding the ring and all the ancestors that lived in this castle before her. It meant her mages could finally be reunited and freed from their curse. It meant she won and her ancestors lost.
At least, she hoped it would be that easy. As she pulled the ring box out of the cupboard, she was left in horror as the box fell apart in her hands. Thankfully, she was holding onto the bottom, so that when it separated from the top, the ring wouldn't be shattered.
Any more than it already was.
To her uttermost horror, Charlotte found herself holding onto two halves of a ring, split perfectly down the middle where the symbol lay. She cried openly as she sat there on the ground, unable to comprehend what anything meant. The ring was broken, and so was their hopes of reuniting the mages. The sorceresses had won; their town had lost. What would she tell the mages? What would she tell Mark, who was so eager to meet Levi again after such a long time?
She had time, she thought, to figure something out. She stumbled over to her desk and pulled out a bottle of glue, clumsily gluing the ring back together and shaking her head in disbelief when it fell apart again. What else could she do? There was absolutely nothing for her to do and she still had to get back to the other mages.
Suddenly, a shot rang out in the air and her bedroom door was knocked down. When she looked over at the door, Otto had walked in, clutching onto a bleeding shoulder, "Come on! We have to go underground!"
Without waiting for her to respond, he left the room and made his way down the hallway. She wanted to stop him, to tell him what happened and beg for his help, but there was only one question she could ask, "Are my mages alright?"
"They're underground, waiting for you."
Her heart grew more nervous with that as she trailed after him, and Otto led her to a door that led into the underground- she assumed that was courtesy of Platon. The first face she saw as she headed down into the underground bunk was that of senior Leo.
He didn't look any better than Otto, but still, he only worried about her, "Charlotte, why are you crying?"
Otto finally realized she was crying as he turned to her, and then his gaze roamed down to the ring and the ring box held tightly in her hands. His face going pale, he took in a deep breath and made space for Gera.
“I'm sorry, I didn't know... this was a future I didn't see." Gera seemed to be in disbelief that he hadn't seen that, but she shook her head. There was no point in dwelling on it when there was something much more important to dwell on.
"Tell me there's a way to fix it. Please!"
But no one answered, and she stared at the sympathetic faces of Squad A and the frightened faces of the Darkside warlocks. Behind them was another hallway that was lit dimly, and judging by the looks they sent her, she realized her mages were waiting down there for her news.
"I can't. I can't see them like this." Putting the ring and the box on the ground, she crouched down and covered her face as she sobbed. What could she do? Levi had been perfectly alright during her nightmares, but... but... she didn't know what to think.
"Come on, you don't want to worry them.” She was surprised senior Bryn was the one to comfort her as he crouched down and wrapped an arm around her, hoisting her up and bringing her into the other room.
Her mages were waiting around like she expected, though they all looked worse for wear. She felt so guilty that she couldn't look up at them, even when they called for her.
"Charlotte?" Mika asked carefully, but when she didn't answer, he had fallen silent.
"We got our butts whooped." Darius's voice was quiet as well.
"I think a hug would make a lot of us feel better.” She appreciated Kaspar's attempt to make everything feel lighter, but they were all obviously worn down.
Finally, she heard Mark's hesitant voice, and she couldn't help herself but cry again, "Charlotte...? Where's Levi?"
In alarm, Nero crossed over to us and pulled her face up so she was looking at him, "What is it, Charlotte?"
“Something happened to Levi, didn't it?" Nico's voice was thick as if he was hiding his tears, and she didn't want to say anything.
Otto pulled forward then and when he got to the center of the room where a table sat, he gently spread out the last mage's ring box and ring's pieces. A sharp gasp was collected in the room and then, Nero was pulled off her and Percy was holding her.
"It's okay. It's not your fault."
Charlotte knew it wasn't her fault, but she didn't want to look at their disappointed faces. She didn't want to see Mark crying again; she couldn't stomach it after everything.
"I'm sorry.” She sobbed into his shirt, and then she felt someone else hugging her from behind.
"There's nothing... we can do." It was Angelo's tired voice, but she knew he was crying. She knew everyone was crying, because they had lost a brother with no way of getting him back.
When Percy pulled back from her, the eleven mages pulled each other into a hug of comfort as they cried and spoke wonderful things about their other leader. However, one mage was silent even as his eyes streamed tears.
"It's okay, Mark." Alex kept rubbing his back, but Mark wasn't saying a word and she was stuck to watch him with her own heart breaking in half.
"At least he doesn't have to be part of this nightmare anymore." Erik wasn't trying to be funny or lifting the mood, he spoke as if Levi was lucky to have gotten out of it before the rest of them did.
"But he's gone.” She said quietly, her head bowed in shame, "I couldn't find him until it was too late."
"We didn't even say goodbye."
And when they turned to Dale, she realized that not even the healer could help them.