The pair strode through the crowd as if they belonged. Upon mere sight of the uniform they parted and gave them a similarly clear path through the gates. Saphira kept her head high, but her stiff arms held tight to her sides announced her anxiety. Mako strode behind her with his Mirage blocking his appearance from the humans around them.
Saphira stumbled. Her knees locked too tight without her knowledge and faltered her pace. Mako took her sides and steadied her on her feet.
“Careful, we’re almost through.” He muttered, teeth an inch from her ear. Saphira gave a slight nod and trotted faster off the path to the threshold. She looked over her shoulder, the crowd filling the space in a blink. She grimaced at the sight. Their fluidity unnerved her. Mako rushed ahead and opened the shack’s door a crack, peering inside.
“Alright, clear.” He muttered. Saphira took the knob from him and slipped inside. He followed closely after.
Inside was a mound of hay, against the wall were pitchforks and garden tools. A bundle of wire tied to itself, a workbench littered with seeds and 2 pairs of broken weapons. Saphira frowned, looking back at him and tilting her head. Mako groaned, dragging his hand down his face. They were lucky to get that far and there was nothing to gain.
Mako made a feigned effort to get through the tools and litter for anything remotely useful. Saphira checked the discarded weapons on the table to find that they were beyond salvage. Their efforts were wasted.
“This was a bust… I guess we should try t-” Saphira froze as the door swung open. Mako stepped behind her and threw his Mirage up, veiling himself and taking her shoulders.
“What the hell are you doing here?” The guard growled, looking her over. Saphira opened her mouth to speak but all that came out was a fearful squeak. The guard hauled her by her arm out to the castle yard, dragging her along into the castle proper. Mako made a silent scoff at the woman dragging her away, the mixture of anger and surprise halting him before he could catch up with the two.
Saphira dug her heels in the dirt, the tactic becoming useless once dirt turned to stone. She stammered and tried to yank her arm away.
“Stop that. Aleera required every sentry on castle grounds to attend the meeting,” she growled, “that means you too, you slacker.”
“Yeah, but I d- I mean, I just have to grab something real quick.” She tried to convince her, nervously laughing. The woman pushed her into the ranks and left her to stand alone, the stiff bodies beside her glancing at her. She gulped and stood at attention.
The great hall was as vast as the forest, the solid marble floors covered in deep maroon carpets leading from the tall oak doors to the throne at the opposite end of the hall. Freshly polished steel glittered in the lamplight, their occupants sweating underneath the heavy garb. Saphira wrinkled her nose at the sweat and smoke staining the air. She covered her nose and groaned only for the body beside her to smack her hand down and give her an angry glare.
The demon strode down the hall, through the sentries lining the walls with rifles in arms and swords at hips. His pitch hair had a shock of pure white in the sweeping bangs covering his face. His eye was covered in a crimson metal, matching the solid iron that encased his broad chest. A cape fluttered at his feet with each long stride.
The queen rested in her throne, her leg crossed over, dress grazing the floor as she bounced the supporting one impatiently. Every part of her was draped in violets and silvers. Her narrow glare cast silence over the audience as the demon finally met her steps and took a knee. He lowered his head, his shattered horns jutting from the elongated, candle wavered shadow.
“Finally, Luxur,” She grumbled, resting her cheek on her knuckles, propped on the armrest, “now we can have our meeting. Perhaps you’ll remember you have a schedule to keep.” The gravel chuckle rolling from Luxur’s chest echoed in the chamber, lifting his eyes to meet the queen’s.
“Ah, if you say so, madame.” He rose, tossing his bangs away from his good eye.
“I warned you about that title,” Aleera stated firmly. Luxur rolled his neck, shifting on his feet. His lack of caution sent a wave of unease through every sentry in the hall. The queen waved her hand, the spear handlers behind her stepping against the wall as a woman stepped out and handed her a thin piece of pale parchment.
“You sent word that you captured the fugitives, but they didn’t have the package. Have they already been sent to the dungeons for questioning?” She asked, her tone icy and sharp. Luxur smirked, giving a nod and gesturing to the man entering far behind him.
Saphira scanned the ranks for Mako’s telltale pale bones among the steel and crimson armor. His forest robes nowhere to be found. Her panic was rising through her legs to her chest, her need to run becoming a need to scream. She knew they were looking for her and she stood there with only a chipped sword to protect herself.
“I believe Sorei dropped them off just now.” He said. The newcomer was just as tanned as the demon, but his white-shocked-black hair was tied back in a tattered bun. A burn ate at his jaw on the left cheek, facing Saphira. She bit her lip, the sight of a divine and an infernal together was no good omen.
“Good. I’ve been thinking, you two. I have some positions that need filling and you’ve done your part,” she snapped and took the presented saber off the silk pillow, “kneel. Now.” The two took a cautious glance at each other before falling to one knee and lowering their heads. Aleera’s heels clicked on the steps, descending to their level with the glittering blade engraved with a fierce boar.
She approached the demon first, touching the blade to his shoulders one at a time and laying it back on her shoulder.
“Luxur… you have the honor of becoming my new general. The previous one proved to be a coward, so I hope you have the courage to take his place.” Aleera said, her overtone as she stressed her key-word was rather threatening. Luxur couldn’t contain his crowing, snickering with a hand to his mouth.
Her glare ignored, she turned to the divine. Still and silent, a perfect picture of noble pride. She gave him the same gesture, folding her hands and resting them on the pommel as she leaned on it.
“Sorei. You have the honor of becoming my new advisor. I find that I lack a perspective that you, as a divine inhuman, can provide,” She returned to her throne, sitting and handing the sword over to the servant, “I am sure you understand the terms of your employ?”
“Of course, my queen.” Sorei stood, his arms tight to his back standing stiff and straight.
“Yeah, we got it.” Luxur waved a hand in faux salute. Sorei tossed an annoyed huff at his demonic blood, squinting.
Saphira’s hastening breaths gathered the attention of the sentries. It was a matter of time before they finally acted on the growing anger on the disobedient squire. A muffled grunt behind her drew a gasp to her tightened throat. A gloved hand covered her mouth. She locked her eyes shut, tearing up and shrieking in her throat.