Victory and Defeat – Ch.8

Hooves and feet marched over the road splitting the sea of green, thousands upon thousands in column. Infantry and cavalry walked south through the vast plains extending to the horizon, with Victoria at the very front. Her officers followed, and beside the lilim rode Maverick and Derrota, all following the all too unsubtle tracks the Freiksgaardians had left in their wake.

“We’ll be reaching Makillae through this path.” Said Maverick, hints of confusion showing in his tone.

“That place turned into even more of a fortress after getting repopulated.” Answered Derrota. “The Freiksgaardians aren’t stupid enough to get slowed down with an army behind them. It’s why I could predict they’d go to Kleinsborough.”

“They are in full retreat, are they not?”

“Is there something in your mind?”

“Yes. Why would they go even further into Nostrum?”

Derrota kept quiet, to then turn her head to Victoria. Maverick followed suit, and soon enough Victoria spotted the two with eyes towards her. After a pause, however, she returned her head forward without having said a word.

“The situation is unusual.” Said Derrota.

“I’m seeing many unusual things lately.” He said.

“It’s the Freiksgaardians. They’re not the type to form into a single army. They split up into multiple raiding parties and cause havoc. Kleinsborough was an important enough objective to demand forming up, but that was the exception, not the norm.”

“I don’t get it. Why would they split up? Doesn’t Nostrum and Variland have the numerical advantage? I’d have imagined they’d get picked off one by one.”

“I thought the same.” Said Victoria, gaining Maverick’s attention. “It wasn’t a matter of my troops being inexperienced or untrained, like the opening days of the war you remember. Even the most veteran of my dullahans had… difficulty dealing with them. The lower the numbers involved, the worse it got for us. Tell me… Have you had the opportunity to face a one of them yourself?”

The vivid memory resurfaced, still too recent for comfort. The mastodon of a man he had fought, as strong as his fears of what a minotaur would be like. Too strong, and too resilient.

“Unfortunately.”

“Then you can understand that it’d be highly beneficial to face them with more forces beside you. Ideally, with enough projectiles to blot out the sun. It certainly plays into our favor that they are not too adept at coordinating the movements of thousands upon thousands of men as well as Nostrum and Variland do. One on one, or even a hundred against a hundred, we are terribly disadvantaged, but when it comes to ten thousand on each side, our discipline and organization can not be matched even by them.”

“Then the reason they split up into raiding parties… is to avoid your army?”

“Inevitably. While we chase after one, ten more rampage with impunity, forcing us to split up. They’re not splitting up this time, though.”

“Were you planning on them doing so?”

“Yes. Kleinsborough was a tempting enough target. Draw them all in, ambush them there, and divide this army to only chase after a few and eliminate them with superior numbers. The other groups would certainly go around raiding as they pleased, but it would have been a necessary sacrifice.”

The answers left him in silence, staring aimlessly ahead as he let it all sink in. Almost one too many answers than he’d have liked.

‘Necessary sacrifice’.

To hear it from Victoria of all people, so nonchalantly, only sent a shiver down his spine. He remembered what word he had received from the war’s start and even before, of how she seemed so merciful and kind as to be considered suicidal. The war had changed her a lot, no doubt about that, but now only grim thoughts crossed his mind, wondering what had happened in this war, and what changes did it bring to those around him. Even her appearance had reflected a change, with greater armor and even dents as if so eager to put herself at the front.

“What are the Freiksgaardians even here for?” He asked, gaining the silent attention of both Victoria and Derrota.

“…A certain lack of forward thinking.” Answered Derrota, only confusing him further. “They come from the end of the world. A place once untouched by demonic energy, but still was as dangerous and unforgiving as you might expect from a place described like that. A lilim and her demons heard of that place and visited. One thing led to another, and you’re now looking at an isolated demon realm that found itself with no men to marry their daughters. After the renown Nostrum achieved for persevering against Variland reached their ears… They decided they’d take a few to marry their daughters, and they’re not the type to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

“…Seriously?”

“Because of that, Nostrum received the worst of the war.” Said Victoria. “Ever since my army marched north to prepare the ambush in Kleinsborough, my girls have been itching to return south and do to the Freiksgaardians what they couldn’t to the traitor dullahans back then.”

With the three falling silent, Maverick came to notice the subtle noise of hurried galloping. It came closer and closer, and when he turned his head he saw the same gremlin as before approaching, soon arriving to Victoria’s side.

“The dragons report no change of course on the Freiksgaardians.” She said with a salute. “They’re still heading south as a single army.”

A pause followed, in which Victoria kept to her thoughts.

“Send word to the Master-Commander that the Freiksgaardians must be going to Steilan.” She said. “It’d be wise for his army to intercept them there.”

“Understood.” Said the gremlin, galloping back the way she came from.

In wonder and confusion, however, Maverick followed the gremlin with his eyes as she departed. After a few seconds, he turned his eyes to Victoria.

“I don’t recall Variland ever having dragons.” He said.

“It never had.” She answered.

“Where did you get them from, then?”

“Nostrum.”

As if the word had hit his skull and bounced off, refusing to enter his mind, he remained staring without expression. First showed stupefaction, though his eyes narrowed partly as implications began to form.

“When I entered Makillae for the first time, I found Nostrians exceptionally compatible for monsterization into dragons. At least, those at the northern border.”

“You… didn’t…”

“I did. I gathered them and monsterized them. The dragons you see are Nostrian through and through, aiding my army against those wyverns.”

Skepticism turned into disbelief, silence as thought after thought came to his mind. Shifting glances to Derrota, he found her with as much a nonchalant expression as she had always had.

“They volunteered.” Added Victoria.

“To be turned into monsters? Nostrians of all people? It took an apocalypse to make a paladin even consider marrying a lilim.”

“Perhaps it was an apocalypse for them, then.”

A frown grew on him. Seemed a bad joke. Though he’d have expected some manner of tone that’d give away what she truly meant with it, her deadpan mannerism left him unable to tell whether she meant it honestly, or if she joked about her being their apocalypse. That he could not tell from Victoria of all people only left him with a greater dread of what time he had arrived to.

“They sought to find me of their own accord.” She continued. “They heard of the need for flying monsters for us to stand a chance against the wyverns, and of their potential. As for their reasoning, you only need to imagine the aftermath of the Freiksgaardian raids. They have all lost someone precious to them. They are mothers who lost their sons, aunts who lost their nephews, sisters who lost their brothers, nieces who lost their uncles…”

Maverick’s head lowered. It certainly felt familiar. Was it not similar to what Rebecca had gone through? Yet despite expecting even a simple smirk from Derrota to confirm his fears, he found her still lacking any expression at all other than a stern gaze onward.

“What drives them may differ.” She continued. “It may be hope for rescue. It may be duty to the fatherland when it needs them the most. It may even be a pure and primal desire for bloodthirsty revenge, stopping at nothing to see them trampled beneath their feet. Still, their determination is the same. When courage is required, the luxury of choosing where it comes from is unaffordable, and so they have gone to war.”

“Derrota…” He called, almost a whisper void of much emotion. “What mess have you brought me into?”

“If only you knew how bad things really are, paladin.” Answered Derrota.

Though he could still not confirm any of his myriad fears, he only gained more and more. Taking a deep breath, he raised his head to stare forward again.

“So, the Freiksgaardians are going south.” He said. “Are they going to attack the capital or something?”

“Maverick.” Called Victoria, turning her head to him with a certain tone reminiscent of pity. “Steilan is gone.”


‘Bring me Yanhildr. I won’t be too upset if she’s missing her head…’

That’s what Maverick had heard last, Victoria signalling to her troops the start of the assault into the ruins.

Ruins. From so far away he could hardly believe it, and even now after separating from the main dullahan line, moving among rubble and ruins with Derrota, still he felt it a different place altogether. The capital of Nostrum itself, one he had visited only few times to be left in awe at all its architecture and life no matter how close or far to the center, left lifeless and destroyed. On the empty streets he walked through, rubble lay every few blocks as if an earthquake had struck, all windows missing its glass, all which had not been bolted to the ground left disturbed if not gone altogether, and grievous signs of abandonment showing for all to see. Couldn’t have been days, couldn’t have been weeks, but perhaps a month or two, with clear signs of rain washing and eroding the interior of the structures unlucky enough to have collapsed. Even the once proud walls which had surrounded the city which put Makillae to shame, collapsed in great part to the point the assaulting army could just walk in.

The two had walked far enough from the main line, that no longer could they hear them in clarity. Muffled noises afar at best, still requiring clear focus to discern from the whistling of the wind among the buildings and their boots against the ground, along with the heavy stomping of the tyrannomammoth they had yet to spot.

At that moment, he came to hear noises. A myriad of same noises, all coming from deeper within the city, muffled by the distance. Gunshots, he concluded as he glanced at Derrota’s gun from the corner of his eyes, but how many if she took so long to reload one shot? Felt like hundreds, if not thousands, all in the same direction they were marching towards.

The curiosity that plagued him died in an instant, however, as soon as he walked past the corner into a ruined area left flattened; when he looked aside, he saw that which left his eyes wide open and thoughts blank in their entirety: Bones of size reaching high to the sky, of vertebrae and ribs like that of a snake lying on the ground, stripped of all their flesh by carrion birds. His legs refused to move any step further, leaving him to stop in place and turn to see the aberration of what ungodly creature the skeleton must’ve belonged to, no doubt the one who had caused most of the destruction he had seen.

“Ah, that.” Said Derrota in a nonchalant tone, arriving to his side. “I don’t think you know of any creature those might belong to, right?”

“…No.”

“Figured. It belonged to a Titanoworm, a Freiksgaardian creature extinct since millennia ago. Yanhildr brought it back from extinction and tunnelled into Steilan, avoiding the walls. Steilan’s fall was as quick as it was brutal. The Nostrians fought like rabid wolves to defend their capital and even managed to kill it before being forced off, but don’t ask me how, I wasn’t there to see it. Your kin is known for being dumb enough to forget that you’re meant to fail against impossible odds, not succeed like that.”

Derrota’s words only served to hypnotize him further to the bones which lay before him, its towering size leaving his neck so uncomfortable by how high he had to look. Where did it begin, where did it end? was it all overground, or did great part of it still remain underneath Steilan?

“…Wyvern.” He heard her say. When he turned, he found her staring at the sky in the opposite direction, and once he followed her eyes, he saw the double-headed wyvern flying overhead like a vulture, circling on and on. “It’s patrolling for targets. We should move.” She continued, to then rush away with him catching up behind.

Their steps grew lighter, hurrying their pace from a walk at their leisure to a slight jog down the street, hugging the sides of the structures and rubble in a stealthier approach.

“Those gunshots.” Said Maverick. “They’re Nostrian, right?”

“That, they are.”

“They’re coming from the same things as the one you have?”

“In essence. Muskets, though mine’s a carbine. The real thing is longer, meant to shoot from ranks without blowing the eardrums of the guy in front. Can’t expect someone of my size to handle something that big.”

“Is yours Nostrian too?”

“Yeah. Custom-made for my size. Has rifling too, while the real thing is smooth-bore; more accurate, pain to maintain, but I’m not meant to be line infantry anyway.”

“How did you convince them to make something like that just for you?”

“I… have a bit of history with them.”


Master-Commander. King and General, now stuck in the ruins of what once was his home, along with the rest of the army. At least, what remained of it. From atop the remaining structure of Steilan’s castle, reduced to rubble at best, he could gauge well what occurred along the line with a magnifying scope:

A battalion of musket-men scattered about in the streets and among the buildings, fighting a wyvern which had landed to bring its teeth to bear against those unfortunate enough to be in its path. An unorganized, messy retreat, leading to the wyvern giving chase, just for a cannon hidden among the debris to reveal itself with a deafening shot at not a hundred meters. A shower of projectiles, tiny yet innummerable, alloys of demon realm silver piercing its carapace in part and making it howl out loud before taking off and flying away. The once retreating musket-men reorganized after the baiting tactic, to then push ahead in haste.

Turning his scope, he saw wolven cavalry rushing down a street elsewhere with flanking intent, mastodons of men atop rabid beasts as great as a horse in size. At the intersection of the street, cavalry of horses and men clad in armor from head to toe, horses armored the same, intercepted them in force, crashing into them with their great lances and all the weight of their equipment behind them. And yet, it’d only be a fair match, if not slightly leaning towards the Freiksgaardians, only a great lance across the chest or a bullet through their head being reliable enough to put them down. A prolonged brawl would only skewer the balance even further, the Freiksgaardians’ speciality.

Turning it once more, he checked on the plaza. Hundreds upon hundreds of musket-men standing side by side, shooting a volley in unison at the charging Freiksgaardians; many fell, yet many remained standing, running forward, too fast for a second volley to be considered. As one, stern discipline against the sight, the musket-men remained in place, readying their bayonets against the tide. And then, impact, a wave crashing against the line.

And now, to the sky, seeing a great many silhouettes against the clouds in formation. Victoria’s dragons, signalling the arrival of the air support they sorely needed.

“Master-Commander, the men came across a paladin and a lilim.”

Hearing his officer, he lowered the scope and turned to face him.

“Yanhildr? Victoria?”

“No. Nobody seems to recognize her. Seems to be friendly, and asked to see you specifically.”

Momentary silence, a pause in which he processed it all.

“Let them in.” He ordered, putting the scope away.


Led towards the castle ruins, Maverick kept on seeing the men scattered about. Signs of proximity to the headquarters of a battle expected to be arduous and long, though the similarities to his days only made the differences even more noticeable. All had those strange weapons Derrota had, but still the same armor as he’d have expected from infantry; kettle helmets, mail, surcoats, on and on giving a sense of familiarity mixed in with an alien sensation.

In due time, the officer in front of them had led them to the castle itself, entering just for Maverick to witness the same old sight of a Master-Commander’s headquarters rife with chatter and activity, of officers and scribes, yet so too that eerie noise of static every now and then. Strange machinery stood by close to the staircase, as if super-sized versions of what he had seen one of Victoria’s new monsters carry, speaking out in a cacophony of distortion past a voice intermittently.

Reaching the staircase, they marched up to the second floor – or what little remained of it anymore. A mere room in size, with not even a wall to hide the edges of the floor ending in nothing but a ruined border overlooking the lower floor. There, he saw the Master-Commander, along with the rest of his retinue, though with a stark difference to what he had last of seen the man.

A patch going over one of his eyes, and growths of hair covering his chin, cheeks, and upper lips out of a lack of shaving maintenance. Certainly unlike what he’d have remembered; dead giveaway of a situation far beyond what he had imagined. And yet, though he had stood tall with hands together behind him, his eye slowly narrowed at him. Not at the lilim, but at him, leaving Maverick to wonder why he had gained his attention, just as the Master-Commander stepped up to him.

“Who… are you?”

The question had unnerved him, but still he had to answer. Taking off his helmet, he saluted. “Paladin Maverick, sire.”

But it only caused the Master-Commander’s eye to open wide. Slowly, he brought his finger up, pointing at himself.

“Then… who am I?” He asked.

“…What?”

“Answer me. Who am I? What’s my name?”

“…Master-Commander Vandire Castellan?”

Dead silence, from all. He quietly lowered his hand and his sight aside as if shocked to the core. Thought little could Maverick understand it, he came to see the various other officers share the response in their own ways, some staring in silence in equal manner, others raising their hand to their mouth, and some pursing their lips while shaking their heads.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“The Maverick I knew disappeared over half a century ago in Wonderland.” Answered the Master-Commander, raising his head again towards him. That alone served enough to send his eyes opening wide, frowning in confusion and unwilling to believe. “Master-Commander Vandire Castellan passed away thirty years ago, as well.”

“…Indrick?” Maverick came to ask almost in whisper, hardly trusting his own eyes anymore.

And yet, before he had even gotten an answer, someone almost tackled him from the side, embracing him in a hug threatening to break his ribs.

“My lad!” Shouted the culprit. “I knew you were out there somewhere! I never lost faith!” He continued, even past Maverick’s death grunts.

It came as relief when he was let go, breathing properly once more, but when he looked at who the attacker had been, he found only an old man all his hair as a shade of grey approaching ancient white. His beard, at least; his head no longer had any to speak of.

“Come on, guess! Guess who I am!” He continued with a smile from ear to ear, pointing at himself.

“I… don’t know.”

“Oh I’ll give you a hint. Seventh company. Rings a bell?”

“…Reynauld?!”

Breaking out into a laugh, the old man embraced him again in a deadly wrap.

While Maverick remained busy, Derrota took a few steps forward towards Indrick, Master-Commander of what remained of Nostrum. The two locked eyes, Indrick in curious skepticism, though Derrota in melancholy. It was then that Indrick’s eyes fell on the book hanging by Derrota’s waist; looking back to the one hanging by his waist, he found it to be identical. After a few seconds, Indrick returned his eyes to her.

“What will you do with Maverick?” He asked.

“Take him back. The afflicted in Wonderland must be missing him.”

Glancing over at Maverick, finding him still distracted a fair bit by Reynauld, a sigh escaped his nose.

“Take care of him.” He said. “And of yourself.”

“I will.” Answered Derrota. Indrick cracked a smile, first one in the exchange, to then drop his hand over her head and ruffle her hair, an act she snickered at with a smile in return.

“Message from the front.” Interrupted an officer, arriving in haste from the staircase. At the mention, all present turned their attention. “They’re forcing a breakthrough with the Tyrannomamoth towards our position. Even the lilim is there with what must be all of her reserves. Judging by what our flanks are reporting, the entire Freiksgaardian army is expected to take part in that push.”

“They’re going for the Titanoworm hole to escape, then.” Said Indrick. “Send word to the flanks to pull back, I want as many troops here as I can get. Lord knows for how long this mess will continue if we can’t wipe them off the face of this earth here and now.”

“Yes, sire.” Answered the officer, rushing downstairs in equal haste.

“Wish we had a bit more time, but we have to deal with a pest.” He said, marching up to Maverick, only now let go by Reynauld. “I’m certain there’s a purpose to all that we go through, so carry out yours while we carry out ours.”

“Time for us of the Old Guard to do what we do best, no?” Snickered Reynauld. With defiant smiles on their faces, the two then stepped off.

At the same time, Maverick spotted Derrota doing the same, departing down the stairs past the ruckus of the developing situation, prompting him to catch up and walk beside her.

“Are we leaving them?” He asked her.

“This is not our fight. It’s Indrick and Victoria who will face off against Yanhildr, not us.”

“Then where are you taking me now?”

“So much for wanting to save your wife, that you forget about her in the middle of a war.”

Sighing in frustration at the remindal, Maverick put his helmet back on. However, a grim thought just then crossed his mind.

“Did something happen to her in this time?” He asked, just for another yet worse one to pop up. “She didn’t follow us through time here, did she?!”

“She has not.” She answered, to then remain silent.

Out the headquarters, she led him past a few streets into a ruined building, one she knew none would see nor hear activity in. Extending her hand, she focused, distorting the air to create a simple space anomaly, before stepping in.

Asphyxiated by fears and unknowing what Rebecca’s fate in this time was, Maverick swallowed and stepped into the anomaly.


His village.

It looked the same. Time had not twisted it to be unrecognisable, but still changes existed. The greatest of them all, however, left him dreading the possibilities.

It was desolated. Other than him and Derrota, no other life could they see.

“…Hello?” He asked out loud, only to receive his own echo in return. “Anyone here?”

But no matter what he said, nobody replied. Worse yet; as he stared around, he came to see eerie hints of what might’ve happened. Some houses with their door left open, others missing it entirely, and one in particular having collapsed on itself. Signs of violence, of struggle, and abandonment, exposure to the elements with nobody to care after anything.

He broke running forward, rushing on towards his house. On the way he even spotted signs of barricades within them, inevitably failing as they had been broken into. Arriving to his own house, though, he crossed the doorway only to see nobody within.

“Rebecca?!”

But nobody answered. Rushing to the bedroom, he saw nothing but a disorganized mess, mostly from looting.

“This village was one of those unfortunate enough to stand in Freiksgaard’s path.” He heard Derrota’s voice, along with her steps as she arrived next to him. “As tragic as it is, even if you had saved her in Wonderland, you’d have not saved her here.”

Catatonic, he stared on at the ruined room, until his strength faded enough to drop to his knees.

“You’d have lived happily for a few decades,” she continued, “but you know as well as I that said happiness would’ve only been through the lack of knowledge of the upcoming Freiksgaardian invasion, and you’re not the kind of person that’d approve of bliss through ignorance.”

“And…” He said, his voice almost akin to panting, forcing the words out despite hardly finding the strength to even speak. “And you knew this, all along…?”

“Much of it, but it would not end there. The Freiksgaardian invasion weakened Nostrum and Variland considerably. Ten years down the line, the Black Hearts would return, and with Nostrum and Variland too weak to oppose them and their cultists… Imagine how it would have been had Nyarlathotep not decided to leave Nostrum after Acerrae.”

Silence. Maverick quietly brought his hands to hold his head, staring off aimlessly into the void.

“You can proceed with your attempts to save Rebecca from finding herself in a situation that requires monsterization to get out of in one piece, but first, I need to know something.”

Though once both looked at the room, Derrota turned her head to him, staring stern and cold into his eyes.

“Tell me.” She said. “How far are you willing to go for her?”

A pause. A heavy question, requiring just as heavy an answer.

But he had come this far. He could not allow it to continue. He had to keep trying. He had to keep hoping. She did not abandon him in Wonderland; he could not abandon her.

“…All the way.” He answered.

“I feared as much.” She answered, to then depart outside.

Despite his heart stuck in his throat, he made himself stand up and walked to the front door, to see Derrota creating a space anomaly to then turn it into a time anomaly. Glancing back to see him here with her, she took a step forward and entered, for Maverick to follow behind her.


A familiar sight. The Afflictor, where he had been before this mess of a trip had started. Even the sight of his wife greeted him, sleeping by a corner, sporting those cat ears and tail of a black and white checker-board motif. A monster, still.

“I put something together, back in Nostrum and Variland.” She said, both now staring at she who slept. “The Maverick I saw in the tunnel must’ve been another Maverick who has gone all the way. I aided him a few times, but I eventually saw signs of him turning into a husk of his former self. He did not heed the warnings, so I left him to try again and again on his own.”

Taking off his helmet with such painful mental exhaustion, he held it in hand while bringing the other to his head, staring narrow-eyed ahead.

“His single-minded goal of saving Rebecca left him to overlap with the signs of affliction,” she continued, “and the affliction itself took advantage of him, granting him the power to create his own anomalies just as I do with the book, as it all still involves the power of the Chaos God. Eventually, he turned afflicted without himself knowing. In due time, he saved Rebecca, though inevitably, she turned afflicted as well. Upon saving her, he ceased to care for anything else, and so too did she stop caring for anything other than the man she had entered Wonderland of all places for. From then on, they remained in that tunnel with each other.”

“Then, the reason I disappeared for over half a century after entering Wonderland…”

“You fell to the affliction, and cared not to return.”

“I… fell to the affliction? Then, was it a mistake for me to be a paladin?”

“Selflessness proves to be a great aid in resisting the affliction. Had it tempted you with personal gain, you’d not have fallen, you’d have persevered through it all for the sake of others. The affliction, however, turned that strength into a weakness. It put you in a situation where to save the one you loved, you had to turn afflicted.”

It turned painful to process it all, revelation after revelation, thought after thought hitting hard against his mind and soul. His thoughts scattered and disorganized, he lowered himself till her sat on the ground, hardly finding the focus to even stand.

“Is there really no way to save her?” He asked.

“There are many ways, Maverick. It all rests on how far you’re willing to go for her. Eventually, obtaining the affliction will become tempting. Not ‘might’, but ‘will’.”

A grimace of disbelief grew on him, before letting go of his helmet and running his hands over his face.

“…The affliction allowed me to open those anomalies.” He said, collecting his thoughts, tone growing monotonous. “But the Maverick down there accepted the affliction because you no longer aided him with your anomalies. As long as I stay clear of–“

“You said you’d be willing to go all the way for her.” She interrupted. “What if there was a way to save her… but it involved killing the man she loves most in all of existence?”

“…What?”

“Look at yourself.” She said, turning to face him. “See yourself as how you were before you entered Wonderland, see yourself as how you are right now, and see yourself as you were in that tunnel. All you’ll go through are things you’ll put yourself, the man Rebecca loves, through. Eventually you’ll turn the man she loves afflicted. Is that really what you’re willing to do? See how much you’re suffering over your loved one putting herself through danger and calamity, and imagine what she’d go through were she to find out what you’ll put yourself through.”

“Then what must I do?!”

“Regrettably…” She answered, to then look at the sleeping Cheshire once more. “Your true goal doesn’t involve saving her. You must remember what you saw in Variland and Nostrum and return to your time… and save us all.”

“…’Us’?”

“I saw with my own eyes the last dying breath of those two great nations, succumbing to the Black Hearts. Maverick, witnessing one’s homeland at war pales in comparison to witnessing my homeland be destroyed, never to return, with only myself to keep its memory alive.”

“‘Your’ homeland…” He said, low in tone and looking at her in confusion and skepticism infinite in comparison to all those other times. “Derrota. Who are you?”

Though silent in pause, looking on with a tired gaze at the cheshire, she soon took a deep breath and turned fully towards him, standing tall with eyes full of determination, though so too fury directed elsewhere.

“My name is Derrota Castellan.” She said, proud and defiant. “Daughter of Victoria, Lady of Variland and twenty-second daughter of the Demon Lord, and Indrick Castellan, Master-Commander of Nostrum. I came to you in order to save my homeland from what awaits it, and for that I need your aid.”

He found little way to react. Too much to let in, all at once, on top of what had already been shown to him. He could only stare confused, shifting glances between Derrota, Rebecca, and aimlessly around as his mind struggled to comprehend it all. He could not help but look at Rebecca once more. Sleeping so peaceful, yet his mind struggled to even think of it, to accept her as what she now was, rather than to struggle eternally to revert it. Yet, his focus had been interrupted by Derrota’s steps growing distant, departing to the building’s entrance, just to halt and glance at him.

“Are you with me?” She asked.

Sighing in pain in frustration, feeling like he’d throw himself into the gauntlet once more with nothing to save him, he forced himself to stand up and march her way.

“What do you need me to do?”

“We must go back south and tell the spades of the Afflictor’s destruction. Then, we go north.”

With him arriving to the doorway, Derrota turned and walked south, joined by him as he caught pace and walked beside her.

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