Chapter 1: Prologue
The cavern interior was made of jagged, waywardly spiked obsidian, but still hewn in a way that it looked uniformly equilateral and thought out. Thin lines of magma traced the floor in a pattern that, when viewed from the angle of the beautiful, eight foot tall equally obsidian throne at the back of the room, appeared similar to a lotus. The air was hot and filled with the scent of fire and brimstone; spurts of smoke and crackling flame occasionally erupted from the magma streams within the floor, heating the stone of the cavern hot enough that it could set paper ablaze if it dropped there. To most, this cave would be a completely inhospitable environment.
To the Summoner, however, it was home.
The draconian woman sat in her throne, tapping her claws rhythmically against the armrest in wait. It felt like years – aeons, possibly, and while dragons were known to live for thousands of years, every passing moment kindled the fire of her rage. With every minute her anger brewed, but the Summoner reminded herself to be patient. Her revenge would come, and when it did, it would be a punishment fitting the crime. Torture unlike any she had ever delivered – pain immeasurable and all-consuming and -
The Summoner’s head whipped toward the entrance of the cave. There, giving a small curtsy, stood her faithful worker – the ice sprite. She walked – tiptoed, really – atop the seething hot cave floors, the ice that naturally formed from and clung to her pale blue body melting to the floor with a sizzle before it solidified again only to melt, freeze over again, and repeat.
“Sombra.” The dragon's voice was a low rumble. “You have news?”
“Well, uh...” The ice sprite clasped her rimed hands together, giving a nervous chuckle. “News? Not really. But-”
“Sombra.” Her voice deepened into a low growl. The Summoner’s rage sparked further and her lair reacted with her; the ground gave a small rumble and fire hissed from cracks in the floor, licking at the feet of the sprite.
“Ouch!” The sprite yelped as the heat melted at her body – not that the flame would fully melt her, for her body froze over again in an instant.
“Remind me again why I haven’t melted you upon my floor.” The Summoner’s voice became distorted. She raised her hand from her armrest, twirling her pointer finger in the air; smoke followed it like it would a stick of incense as the arcane gesture caused the flames in the floor to billow until white hot.
After a moment the Summoner waved her hand away – the flames died immediately.
Before Sombra could defend herself, the Summoner finished her thought, giving the closest thing to a smile that a dragon could muster. “You've skirted punishment many times because you have proven me useful. Your knack for unearthing hidden secrets and finding leverage is...unparalleled. But.” The grin turned into a sneer as her slit eyes narrowed. “You came back empty handed. Why?”
“W-well.” Sombra was definitely jostled by the whole interaction, stilling entirely in fear until -
The dragon relaxed entirely. The smoke seemed to cease even further, flame lowering until it was almost dim.
“Don't worry, Sombra. You are my right hand.” The Summoner’s seemed more like a reassurance then an actual statement. “I promised that I would protect and shield you in mutual benefit for your services. This is what we discussed when you first came into my service, yes?”
“-then you have no reason to fear me. If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it ages ago."
Not that she ever would. Sombra likely knew that as well; the sprite provided good company, better service, and it certainly helped that she could endure in the hot environment that the Summoner thrived in.
“Now.” The flames of the room died down to a low ember – enough for the sprite to walk freely and in slightly more comfort, although she would still leave puddles in her wake. “What was it that you wanted to tell me?”
“Tell you?” Sombra relaxed to a casual demeanor with the change in environment as the dragon's anger quelled, shooting her master a sly grin. "What I was going to tell you before you were so intent on incinerating me-”
The Summoner gave out a low chuckle at that. The trifles of mortals didn’t often concern her, but her servant – Sombra, rather, for the term of servant was rather droll and, frankly, undeserved for such a prized possession as the sprite had proved many times before – was, to say the least, bemusing.
Sombra's gaze turned to the entrance of the cave, then to her mistress. “We have a visitor.”
That piqued the Summoner’s interest. “Oh?”
“Yes.” Sombra continued. “I found her– rather, she found me, for she was looking for you.”
“She?" The Summoner looked over Sombra's shoulder to the entrance of the cave. "This stranger - do you think that she is worth my attention?”
A new voice sounded from the entrance of the cave - pearly, confident, and one that the Summoner had heard before.
“I think it’s best if you let me speak for myself, but thank you for the introduction."
Although the ground was still hot, it seemed to make no difference to the simple, leather shoes of the visitor. Her stockings went up from the thigh below a tattered brown dress that clung shapely to a fair, blond haired woman – dark wings extending from her shoulder blades, her face shaded by an ostentatious witches hat.
The dragon’s eyes narrowed, heat radiating from her body as her scales bristled in anger - and wariness. She silently beckoned Sombra to come closer with her hand, who slowly crept toward her.
“And what reason might you have to darken my doorstep,” the Summoner’s pointed teeth upturned into a snarl, her rage causing the cavern to give a low rumble and rise in temperature yet again. “Witch of the Wilds?”
“Do you not know?” The Witch laughed, light and airy. “Your servant let me in.”
“Sombra.” The dragon corrected, her voice trembled with anger. “And it was likely due to your beguiling. She wouldn’t have known who you are, or she never would have.”
“No, she didn’t.” The Witch waived her hand dismissively. “But I told her that I could help you, and that seemed to move her.”
The Summoner turned to the ice sprite, who gave her an apologetic look.
“Well, then.” The dragon rose her hand once again, beginning to trace a sigil in the air that would surely incinerate the witch to ashes. “You are not welcome here. You’ll find no luck with such apocryphality-”
“On the contrary,” the Witch continued to walk towards her, her clothes and skin undamaged by the ever-rising arcane heat. “You’ll find that my offer is very much legitimate, if you’d be so kind as to give me the time to explain."
“Sombra.” The dragon growled after a thoughtful pause as she arose from her throne. “Get behind me.”
When the sprite did as she said, the dragon continued. “Make your case.”
The Witch stilled in her tracks, a smile curling on her face.
“I wish to acquire your services-”
“You take me for a fool, then, for only a fool would make a deal with the Witch of the Wilds.”
“Yet only a fool would deny such power that I could grant, Symmetra.”
The dragon recoiled, snarling at the mention of her true name.
The Witch continued. “I’ve given my gifts to many before-”
“Such gifts are notoriously short-lived, so I’ve heard.”
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken once again, child of Vishkar.” The Witch pulled a well worn leather grimoire from her side. “My spells are not simply spells, nor are they boons or curses – they’re whatever you should desire them to be. For a price, of course.”
The Summoner looked to the grimoire then back to the Witch. “I already can summon magic that protects me and my own. I've no need for other magics.”
“My magic won’t protect you, as I've explained. It will grant your deepest wishes.”
The Witch looked now at Sombra. “Your servant. She was out searching on your behest – I could tell. Based on her excitement of my offer to help you, I could tell that you were desperate. I can offer you anything you may desire. Truly, all I wish to do is help.”
Sombra and the dragon exchanged glances once again.
“In return for what?"
“What kind of favor?”
“You’ll know when I call upon you. Now,” The Witch opened up her spellbook – which, to the Summoner’s surprise, was entirely blank. “What exactly is it you desire most?”
The dragon’s gaze lingered on the sprite a while.
“My treasure.” She finally confessed, still not looking at the Witch. “It was stolen."
At this she brusquely turned toward the Witch and met her eyes. The Summoner's thoughts turned to the hatred she held - the frustration of being unable to track the perpetrator. “A thief stole from Viskhar - the dragons themselves. One of our greatest weapons, and I will not stop until I find him and end his life.”
“This...thief.” The Witch’s tone was literal. “So, you wish to kill him?”
“More than you could imagine.”
“Oh, I can imagine.” The Witch gave a sly grin as she turned a page in her spellbook. The suddenly blank pages began to fill with equations, sigils, and spells, all scrawled neatly in the arcane language. She licked the tip of her finger and turned a few pages until settling upon one. “Aha. Yes, this here is a rather horrific spell – a dark magic, so long as you aren’t opposed to a sort of...perversion from the traditional arcane. I imagine this would do - if you're interested, of course.”
The dragon’s entire fixation turned toward the book - notably, to the page that the Witch had turned to. “What’s the catch?”
“That, Summoner,” The Witch gave her a wry grin. “is that I can summon you. Only once, of course, in return for this one spell that I give you, but you cannot deny me when I call upon you – which may never happen. Or, of course, it could happen tomorrow. One may never know.”
The Witch drew a wand from a bag on her side. She murmured something inaudible as she tapped it to the page which, seamlessly, dislodged itself from the book and floated to the Dragon's hand.
“So. Do we have a deal?”
“My lady.” Sombra interrupted. “I’m not so sure that this is a good idea-"
At the single word the Summoner said, the dry heat of the air immediately turned winter-cold. Light extinguished from the cave as the magma froze to solid stone, leaving the Summoner, Sombra, and the Witch of the Wilds in nothing but complete, freezing darkness, a flurry of freezing wind swirling throughout the cavern.
It only lasted the blink of an eye. The heat returned to the room immediately and the magma streams in the floor began to glow once again.
The singular page from the grimoire was still in the Summoner's hand now – the text still shimmering, still intact despite the ever-rising temperature of the room.
The cavern was still and silent, but in the deepest corner of the Summoner’s mind, she heard a dark laughter.
A cold mug of ale slammed hard against the oak tabletop.
“This is the third time you’ve fallen asleep in my bar, Jesse McCree.” The tavernkeep threatened, grabbing the hat of the Gunslinger off the top of his head and batting him with it. “The next time I’ll be dragging you by your ear and you’ll be spending the night in the stables.”
The Gunslinger stretched, yawning as his senses slowly began to return – it was just past sunrise and he must’ve passed out from drinking the night before. “From the feel of those cinder blocks that you call beds, the stables are becoming more and more desirable each day.”
“Hmmph.” The tavernkeep simply walked away at that and returned to her bar, taking the dirty dishrag from her pocket and began polishing a glass all the while staring daggers at the Gunslinger. “If you’re so fond of sleeping with animals, I’d imagine that you’d be homesick for America.”
“That’s -” The Gunslinger wracked his tired brain for a reply for naught. “Well, that’s a good one, actually. Who’d’ve thunk you’d be the type to be funny, Zarya? I thought Russians were only known for being cold.”
“Being cold and making vodka.” The pink haired woman put down her polished glass and picked up a dirty one to clean next. “It makes for being a good tavern owner.”
“I thought I heard you say before that you were a warrior.”
“Still am.” Zarya paused for a moment, as if in thought, before resuming her work. “But one has to have a side job that’ll be steady coin when there aren’t monsters to slay and criminals to hunt. I’ve found that this town attracts all sorts of troubles.” She gave the Gunslinger another long glare.
“What did you end up here for, anyway?”
“I was looking for something – someone.” was Zarya’s gruff reply. “I was sent by a noblewoman. Still looking. I was a soldier during the Crisis and now I’m busy hunting down a sprite who is, apparently, a thorn in her side.”
“Hey, as long as it’s not me, I won’t meddle in your business.”
“Wish it was. Then I’d finally have an excuse to kick you out of my tavern.”
“Tsk, Zarya. Right when I thought we were getting to know each other!”
“I haven’t the time to get to know you,” Zarya scowled. “Nor do I want to. I’ve no interest in every single local that’s started to flock the town.”
“Seems it’s getting less and less German by the day.” The Gunslinger finally took a swig of his drink – cold, refreshing, and, most importantly, not watered down like half of the drinks often were in sleepy Adlersbruun.
“Tell me about it.” Zarya groaned. “A woman who claimed she could travel through time passed through with her pet gorilla -”
“- a gorilla?”
“And then, just yesterday, a bard showed up. Full of tales. One minute he says he stole a powerful artifact from a secret cabal of dragons trying to take over the world only to embed it within his lute, next minute he’s going on about how he single-handedly sparked a revolution of his people through his music alone. All lies, if you ask me, but it’s certainly been working on the ladies of the town.”
Zarya shrugged. “And the men. I’m not here to judge.”
Shaking her head, she started now to clean the countertop. “First you and your...Wanderers...show up,” Zarya muttered the word with a bit of distaste. “And suddenly everyone thinks they’re going to become adventurers and heroes. Poisoning themselves in their bathtubs making “potions” in order to become the next Alchemist, shooting themselves in the foot in practice of becoming the next Archer – or just blowing themselves up in an attempt to recreate the musket of the Soldier or the pistol of the infamous Gunslinger.”
“Hey.” The Gunslinger shot her a bemused, cocky grin. “Not my fault that everyone can’t do it like we can.”
“That’s exactly the problem.” Zarya rolled her eyes. “Where are the rest of the Wanderers, anyway?”
The Gunslinger looked down to the bottom of his glass, rubbing patterns with his thumb against the condensation. “We all went our separate ways after that night. Haven’t heard from ‘em since.”
“But you stayed.”
“Yeah, well.” The Gunslinger’s voice grew somber. He instinctively put his finger on the holster of his gun – well worn by the many times he’s had to use it. Silver bullets rested in holes woven onto his belt so they would be ready for easy access; his finger ran across one as he flicked it with a light ting. “I’ve got a bit of unfinished business.”
“You’re getting pretty good with age.”
The uneven road made for a bumpy ride within the back of the caravan, but the two old friends found it to be of little annoyance – after all, there were much worse things in life to experience than rough travel.
It, however, did frequently interrupt the chess game they were playing.
“Maybe you’re just saying that because you’re worried that I’ve beaten you.” The Soldier’s normally gruff voice had a slight edge to it, moving a knight piece forward toward the pieces that belonged to the Alchemist and an immediate threat of hers, giving a soft smile to himself as he gained the edge.
The older, one-eyed woman looked over the pieces carefully, as if she was mapping a real battlefield – and then laughed.
“You know,” the Alchemist started to grin. “In German, they call this a zwischenzug.”
“A move,” she grabbed her queen and knocked over the Soldier’s castle piece. “That forced you to react, which gave me a perfect opening to – aha.” The game was over at last, the queen prime to take the king her next turn. “Checkmate.”
The Alchemist started to pack up the board game, the pieces clacking against the board as the caravan rocked ever so slightly. “Someday you might beat me.”
“Sooner than you can imagine.”
“Ha, I’d like to see you try.”
The Soldier looked out the window of the wagon – to the sun that was beginning to rise above the sleepy forest, its light poring through the canopy and scattering across the carpet of fallen autumn leaves.
“We haven’t been back here in a while.”
“It’s only been a year,” the Alchemist replied, stashing the chess board and sack of pieces away in her bag – it clamored against the numerous potions and empty bottles within. “A year ago exactly pretty soon.”
The Soldier sighed. “Has it only been that long?”
The Alchemist gave a wistful smile. “In the grand scheme of things, maybe not.”
The Soldier focused on the rumbling of the carriage, closing his eyes. “I don’t know why I even agreed to come back.”
“You’d rather not answer the personal summons of the lord of Adlersbruun?”
“I’ve no love for politics, as you already know.”
“Neither do I,” the Alchemist rumbled through her bag, searching. “But the oath we took-”
“The oath we took is long gone.”
The Soldier looked down at his own belongings, stashed in the seat opposite from him. Rations, clothes but, most notably, a large musket rifle of his own design. On the bag was an area that was patched over – from where he had cut the logo of his organization off. A symbol outlawed.
“Overwatch existed for a reason.” Even in their own private carriage, the Alchemist made sure to whisper the word in case someone heard. “We used to fight to protect people, and during the Crisis-”
“Well,” the Soldier cut her off mid-sentence. “The Crisis is over. And we’re seen as criminals.”
“And the Petras Act was almost universally agreed upon and decreed that anyone who brought the head of an Overwatch member to their king or queen would receive their weight in gold, I know.” The Alchemist sighed to herself as she brought out a small tincture – purple in color, viscous and filled with silver flakes that shimmered in the light. “It’s never stopped us before.”
“Maybe you.” the Soldier corrected. “I prefer to work in the shadows. We’ve no reason do work other than side jobs. The Crisis is over.”
“You and I know well that it isn’t. It’s only delayed until something will spark it, and then -”
“And then what?” The Soldier snapped before looking around, making sure the wagon driver was distracted, and lowering his voice to a murmur. “We just come back and show our faces? Start fighting again like the old times? Even if we tried, everyone would -”
“Not everyone.” The Alchemist looked toward the road again. “The lord of Adlersbruun was a great warrior who fought alongside Overwatch and has only avoided persecution due to his nobility. We’ll be safe in Adlersbruun until we can reorganize.”
“I’m sure that’s not the only reason for being here.”
“Oh, it likely isn’t.” The Alchemist said, giving a sly smile; the Soldier could tell whenever she was lying to him but decided not to inquire – yet. The Alchemist passed the tincture to the Soldier. “But at least, whatever work he has for us, it’ll pay well.”
“I didn’t take you for a mercenary.” The Soldier eyed the tincture carefully, giving the bottle a swirl. “What’s this, anyway?”
“Alchemy is expensive. Working in the shadows, bounty hunting and mercenary work only pay so much. We’ll be set for a while after this job.” The Alchemist then turned her attention to the bottle. “And this is a potion of sleep. We still have a few hours ahead of us.”
“Well,” the Soldier uncorked the bottle, downing it. “Thank you.”
“Try to sleep, Jack. I’ll wake you when we’re almost there.”
The Soldier’s eyelids began to grow heavy by the time the Alchemist finished her sentence and, within seconds, began to fall into a deep slumber. The Alchemist sighed, looking out the window, back to the verdant wood – her thoughts turning to that of Overwatch, of her daughter, and, of course, of home.
“We’re almost there.”
The Swordsman’s silver armor gleamed against the pale golden light of dawn. He breathed a sigh of contentment, turning back to his master behind him – the Monk.
“You’re sure this is the right place?”
“Adlersbruun.” The Monk’s voice was evenly calm and metallic – mostly so due to him being a machine. He never quite told the Swordsman the full story of how a steam powered automaton – Omnics, they were now referred as – could very suddenly gain sentience, or how the many gears, levers and pneumatics could cause said automaton to float, his feet never touching the ground. When the Swordsman had asked him before when he was but his pupil, he only got a singular, half-humored answer from the Monk – that existence was mysterious, indeed. “Yes. This is it.”
“We’ll find him here?”
“I think we’ll find many things,” the Monk returned. “If we look in many places.”
Months ago, when the Swordsman was first taken in as an apprentice of the Monk – back when he was so full of rage and hatred – the vague comment might have irritated him. Now, he finally at peace with his soul – and the fact that he was half of a machine himself, now, although he was not similar to the make of his master. Shining silver and brilliant adamantine were affixed the last bits of human flesh he had left.
Most perplexing to the Swordsman was that he never met the person who saved him. He only had brief flashes of brilliant gold and light as he felt warm waves through his body – but what that was, he also never found out. It filled him with torment and rage for a while; he was killed, torn asunder yet forced to live by the intervention of a mysterious stranger.
Zenyatta had taught him to move past that and, more importantly, helped him find his soul. He only hoped that he could do the same for his brother before it was too late.
“This would be a strange place for Hanzo to find himself.”
“Perhaps he sought the same comforts that you did once before – in solitude.”
“Perhaps we are more alike than we think, then.” The Swordsman nodded to himself. “It is beautiful here.”
“And quiet.” Zenyatta said, taking in the view of the valley – the autumn leaves crowning the place in red and brown, gold painted atop the trees. “It’s easy to find yourself when one is lost – as you’ve found, Genji.”
“As I’ve found.” The Swordsman repeated the Monk’s words. “I can understand why he might find himself here, then.”
“This beauty is a mask.” The Monk’s words darkened. “I can sense a dark energy here.”
The Swordsman grew worried. “Is it Hanzo?”
“No.” Zenyatta’s face – and the Swordsman’s – could never be read, but the pupil could sense unease from his master. “There was once turmoil here, and it will come again – sooner than I expected.”
“Did you sense it?”
“No. I’ve found out that the lord of Adlersbruun has called for heroes to come to his aid, so I knew that evil would lurk here. I didn’t expect it to be so...intense.”
The Swordsman sighed, turning from his master. “We didn’t come here to pledge ourselves to any lord. We aren’t heroes – I’m not a hero.”
“Genji,” The Monk levitated toward him. “You’ve grown since I first began to teach you. I think that this will be a penultimate lesson of how you view yourself.”
“And we may find my brother at last.”
“Closure is a temptation, but can be a dangerous one – even more so than whatever reason a lord might ask for heroes.” Zenyatta simply replied. “Perhaps you will find yourself at last.”
An aged, tattered banner of purple, white and gold fluttered in the breeze. Cold, bitter wind whirled throughout the decrepit house – ancient, long forgotten, but still home.
Previously, at least.
The Countess’s family had owned the estate for hundreds of years before their family was disgraced, overthrown by revolution. The local townsfolk – prey – had finally risen in unison in torch and pitchfork, and the Guillards were hunted down into near extinction.
The Countess remembered it well. The cries of the humans as they sailed across the water to the Chateau, breaking in their windows and tearing down their doors. The Countess had barely escaped in a small dingy that brought her to the mainland; her family, confident that they could fight back against what was seemingly a simple mob were overwhelmed swiftly.
She kept to herself, mostly, skulking from a temporary home to home in reclusion. Those were the days when her hunts were simple – nothing more than humans, animals, the like. Over time – and through improvement of skill – she began to become more bold with how she chose her prey. Fantastic beasts. Occasionally, a whole family, just to see if she could overtake them. Notable figures and leaders...
She looked back to a head mounted upon her wall, the most recent of her kills. A monk – the leader of an order that focused his life upon trying to bring Omnics and people together. It was like yesterday to her; the long wait upon the shambled rooftops of London, hidden in darkness. The waiting until he walked out into the crowd that cheered for him and how it turned into screams as their leader figure fell -
She smiled, taking a sip from a tarnished goblet, not caring for the small drops of dark, nearly coagulated blood that splashed upon the floor.
Yes, some of her kills were to sustain herself, but the victims that she chose specifically to inflict fear were her favorite.
She looked out upon the misty waters that surrounded Chateau Guillard. The dark lake reflected silver in the light of the full moon, a stark contrast from the weathered, gray stone of the Chateau itself – yet, in the distance, a dark mass began to approach.
Before she could react, the dark mass swooped toward the castle. The mass – an unkindness of ravens, it had turned out – gave out a loud caw as they swarmed the balcony, chattering to themselves as they preened their feathers. One adventurous bird swooped toward the Countess, landing upon an outstretched arm, a scroll tied steadfast around its leg.
“Qu'est-ce que c'est?” The Countess murmured aloud to herself, untying the scroll from the raven’s leg, shaking it off of her as she did so.
The scroll was yellowed and torn, likely from travel, but the wax seal on it was still intact – surely regal looking, Germanic in style with a lion’s head upon it.
Curious, the Countess unrolled it, murmuring aloud as she read from the sloppy calligraphy; whomever wrote this must have done so in a hurry. It appeared to be a summons from a lord in a place called Adlersbruun, offering invitation into his castle and reward to any that would come and dispatch -
“Enemies of the village,” she read aloud to no one. “Wielding dark arcane prowess and murderous intent.”
It sounded a bit like her, she realized with a small, internal laugh. In truth, she hadn’t hunted in the longest time, and an enemy that make a king so resolute that he had to send out summons in desperation in a mass of ravens in any direction – and in the direction of France, nonetheless – intrigued her...
…and, with dawning realization, The Countess grinned. This was an invitation. Free permission for the vampire to walk right into a village and a castle and, oh, what fun would that be?
She returned to her personal quarters where her rifle – maintained and kept in the highest condition while the Chateau around her fell into disrepair, but the Countess kept her priorities straight – lie. She slung it over her shoulder, her cold hand wrapping around the door handle to close it behind her -
Before she looked back. By her rifle, her most prized possession, a framed portrait, covered in dust, caught her attention. She walked back toward it, heels clacking against the stone, as she blew the dust off the frame.
It was her husband. The only time she had taken a lover – and a human one at that – beside her in the picture. It was their wedding; Amélie would never have appeared in a mirror or in image, so Gerard had sketched it from memory. His arm was wrapped around her, the smile upon both of their faces, his eyes brimming with affection and hers with -
With careful fingers, she removed the etching from the back of the frame. She looked at the drawing – worn, now, over the many years it had been since he’d died. Gingerly, she folded it in half, sticking it within an internal pocket in her coat.
She closed the door behind her, heading her way to the small dingy that would bring her to the shore. Behind her, the purple, white and gold tapestry fluttered in the wind, the barely readable motto folding in on itself.
The sound of footfalls sounded out through the stone halls of the castle of Adlersbruun.
A young squire – much like herself, for the lord was adamant on training all within his castle how to properly hold a sword “if the time came to it” - rounded the corner.
“My lord,” he said, bowing deeply. “You have guests. They’ve said -”
“Good!” The lord of Adlersbruun interrupted, the squire startled at the volume of his voice. He clapped his hands together in delight bellowing. “Bring them here at once. Make sure that their needs are attended to.”
The squire bounded through the corner again from whence he came, and the lord turned to his personal attendant now.
“Brigitte,” he said as she finished buckling the chestpiece to the rest of his platemail. “We have very special guests. Make sure to introduce yourself.”
“Mmmhm.” Brigitte simply replied, taking out a dirty rag to polish any grime or residue on the last of his armor. Brigitte was never into politics; she was a ward within the lord’s castle at her own behest. She came to practice her craft and become an armorsmith – not to intermingle with lords and ladies.
That was business for her father. As long as she was given peace, quiet, and a forge, she would be content.
“Yes.” Reinhardt’s excitement was apparent – he wore his moods with every fiber of his being, and he was practically vibrating with anticipation, now turning to Brigitte. “They’re very good friends of your father.”
That caught Brigitte’s attention. “I didn’t know my father had many friends besides you.”
“He does, yes, although he takes more time focusing -”
“- on his craft.” Brigitte finished the thought for him. It was a bit of a bitter spot for her – and something that made being Reinhardt’s personal squire even better.
Also, the fact that she had her own quarters in the castle was a definitive plus. Reinhardt never had any children, so he fawned upon Brigitte as his ward. It made for some wonderful living arrangements – certainly much more favorable than living back in Sweden in a cramped estate with her mother, father, and literal dozens of younger siblings.
“Yes, yes.” Reinhardt sighed, pensive. “But we all fought together many years ago in many battles. Myself, your father – and four of our guests that will be coming any moment now. I consider them amongst my family.”
The squire’s brow furrowed. “Wait a minute. If these people are so important to you and my father, how come I’ve never heard of them?”
Reinhardt paused a moment; Brigitte knew Reinhardt as one of the bravest (albeit stubborn), charismatic person she’d known. Seeing him visibly deflate like he was was concerning.
“I’ll tell you everything, Brigitte,” Reinhardt closed his eyes. “Eventually. But today is not that day.”
A second passed before the footfalls could be heard from the halls again – multiple, this time.
“Ah!” He called as two figures rounded the corner, heading towards the throne room. “Brigitte, by my side!”
One was a woman – entirely white hair contrasting against her darker skin, an eye-patch over where Brigitte imagined an eye would be. She toted a rifle unlike any Brigitte had seen – blue, a lever, a capsule that seemingly was filled with a glowing, yellow liquid – and possessed bag at her side that clanked with the sounds of glass clinking together. Her face seemed kind, although weary – she seemed like she must have been traveling all night or without any sleep, likely both.
The other was a man – hair bright and yellow like a husk of corn, but with a haggard step to him that seemed equally exhausted as his counterpart. He wore a blue cloak without a hood that draped down to the floor, torn over years of use. A musket slung around his shoulder, a utility belt around his waist.
Brigitte wasn’t sure how they managed to get weapons like that, considering the fact that, despite the invention of Omnics, muskets and gunpowder had started to come into play but a few years ago and still costed about an arm and a leg. Whatever – whoever, rather – these people were, they surely came prepared.
Lord Reinhardt’s smile spread ear to ear, clapping his hands together as he walked toward the strangers.
“Ah, my friends!” His voice boomed through the castle halls. “You must be weary. Come – I’ll have a meal prepared for you immediately.”
He looked behind the two at the empty corridor behind them, frowning. “Where are the others?”
The woman gave Reinhardt a seemingly sorrowful look. “I couldn’t track them down. I can’t assume to fear the worst, but -”
Reinhardt’s hands fell to his sides immediately, brows furrowing in concern. “I’m sorry to hear that, Ana. We could have used their skills but, of course, I would be more concerned for their safety.”
“Jesse still might come if he’s received word.” The man offered, giving a small shrug – and, to Brigitte’s utmost surprise, she realized he was an American. “The Archer, on the other hand -”
“Ah!” Reinhardt cut off the man’s sentence, gesturing towards Brigitte. “How rude of me! Jack, Ana, this is Brigitte Lindholm, my ward.”
“Torbjörn’s daughter?” Ana’s eyebrows raised. “Salah, I remember hearing word of the day you were born. How time flies.”
“Certainly not while you’re having fun.” The blond haired stranger interjected, but then turned to Brigitte. “But it’s good to meet you.”
“The pleasure is, uh,” Brigitte stammered. “It’s all mine. You’ve known me since I was a child?”
“We’ve much to discuss.” Reinhardt cut her off entirely; Ana gave him a brief curious look. “Come, it’s best if I introduce you to the others.”
“Others?” Jack looked past Reinhardt over his shoulder at the empty room. “Other...friends…of ours?”
“No, but they’ve just arrived this morning.” Reinhardt replied, beckoning them to follow him as they headed past the throne room and through another corridor. “And they’re both rather curious.”
Brigitte hurried to the side of Reinhardt as they walked.
“You didn’t tell me we had other guests.” She muttered under her breath through gritted teeth.
“I...well,” Reinhardt murmured back. “It’s personal business.”
“I know all of your other business.” She looked in the corner of her eye to make sure the strangers weren’t paying attention to them. “Why not this?”
“It’s more imperative.”
“Is this about Dr. Junkenstein?”
Reinhardt stiffened a moment, and Brigitte knew she pinpointed what this was about. Her service wasn’t available to the castle when terror had plagued Adlersbruun in the form of Reinhardt’s former scientist and his automatons, not to mention the allies he had with him. It was only but a year ago - a year ago exactly, soon enough - and tension still purveyed throughout the village, but it became more of a story to be sung by a fire or something to tell children in order to keep them in line.
And, of course, of the four Wanderers, whomever they might be. The Gunslinger, the Archer, the Alchemist, and the Soldier. They dissipated as soon as they came but the town still sung their praises – or held them in a skeptical regard, depending on whom you were asking. They were powerful figures indeed, and their notoriety lead to adventurers – and the trouble that they brought with them – flocking to Adlersbruun in the masses, where they filled the town to the brim.
That, or they were promptly killed by the danger of the wilderness surrounding them. Werewolves, drakes, and a new terror that troubled the Black Forest – the Demon of the Wood. A silent, gray skinned bowman of unnatural agility that, if you accidentally stumbled upon him, would kill you instantly.
At least the coroners could make plenty of profit.
Reinhardt said nothing in reply, leading the party toward a large, oaken door, swinging it open to reveal -
If Brigitte thought Jack and Ana were strange, these two blew the pair out of the water.
One of them almost appeared to be an Omnic at first glance, but the shape and construction of the armor seemed...human. He glinted with gray and green, metal covering about every square inch of his body, a long, well crafted sword at his side.
The other was an Omnic – gray and gold, draped in simple cloth that seemed monastic in design. What was more curious, however, was the fact that he levitated off the ground. Not that she had any negative views towards Omnics and their newfound independence – which was something that her and her father argued about constantly – but Brigitte recognized immediately that he seemed to be an older model and build. It turned to the four and, amusingly, raised his arm and gave them a symbol of peace.
“Two automatons?!” Jack cried aloud.
“It seems as if your opinion of us has been determined already.” the levitating Omnic replied. “You are quick to dismiss us as machines, but are we not here with the same intent?”
“Jack.” Reinhardt turned to his old friends – and, yet again, ignoring Brigitte entirely. “He is a Shambali monk, and that is his apprentice. They’ve answered my summons.”
“...Pleasure.” Ana’s voice was more inquisitive than a declaration but even she still seemed to struggle for words.
“Now that we’ve introduced each other,” Reinhardt’s face grew solemn. “It’s best that we begin to discuss our options.
“Brigitte.” He turned to his ward. “Wait outside the door.”
Brigitte opened her mouth to reply but before she could Reinhardt closed the oaken door in front of her, leaving her baffled, confused, and, most of all, betrayed from the man who was becoming closer and closer to a father figure per day.