Chapter 58

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Zoe scowled as all her soldiers, frantic as they were, failed to make heads or tails of the ruined pile of black shards that had once been their only chance of returning home.

"Dammit," Sergeant Wagner said. "What do we do now Major?"

"I'm sorry Sergeant," Zoe said with a defeated sigh. "I bluffed and got a losing hand. For a moment there I thought we'd really found a way out." She looked over at Charlotte's charred, smoking body. In spite of the horrific state of her body, her chest still bobbed up and down slightly. Somehow, even after immolating most of her skin, the mighty Angleyan Princess remained alive. Turning her attention toward the woman she'd shot through the stomach, though, Zoe saw that at least one of her victims had in fact died.

"It's no use ma'am," a medic said. "That one explosive shot was probably enough to expel a liter of blood instantly. Not even casters can survive shock that acute."

Zoe nodded somberly and turned to their other two captives, the only two still conscious.

The one called Sophia had been watching the medics fumble with Joanna's body for a while. Sophia's body, limp from so many wounds, belied the storm of emotions that had roiled across her face. Hearing the medics declare her friend dead though sent the Knight, weak and injured as she was, into a violent and flailing tantrum.

"You bitch!" she snarled. Tears splashed out of her swollen red eyes, which somehow retained a venomous sharpness as she glared at Zoe. Her limbs fought tirelessly against the fireproof rope tied around her body.

The Angleyan boy, though visibly grieving for the dead Knight as well, remained much more docile. His mouth had remained slack and open, his eyes unfocused and at times split in two different directions.

Zoe winced at the sight of the pathetic prisoners. The sight brought back memories she would much rather have not relived. "I know it doesn't mean much," she whispered under her breath in Dannic. "But I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She grit her teeth and clenched her eyes shut to hold back tears. Now was not the time to express penitence. She turned back to Wagner, who herself was shaking at the sight of her own subordinates' corpses. Max Braun and Ava Lang hadn't even been able to take the safety off their weapons. It almost felt perverse to loot the ammo and armor off their bodies. Almost.

"We're not giving up," she declared. She broadened her shoulders and lifted her head high to convey authority and confidence. She hoped Wagner would at least humor her. "That device knocked out over 90% of this Island. That gives us just enough time to get out of this underground network and regroup in the forest. The least we can do now is give the enemy hell before we go down."

"What about those three?" The sergeant pointed to Alex, Charlotte, and Sophia- who was still thrashing and yelling obscenities in Angleyan at Zoe. "I'll make it quick and painless."

"What? No! They're our best bargaining chips."

Wagner quirked an eyebrow at her. "Princess Charlotte is a traitor and fugitive to the Angleyan Empire and Sophia Winthrop is her accomplice. And what value does a half blood hold to anyone important in Angley?"

"Blood runs thicker than water," Zoe said. "Charlotte and Alex are the Queen's sister and nephew. It's at least worth a try. Stun them and it won't even be an inconvenience to carry them out."

"Alright fine. I'll just kill the other Knight." Wagner had already drawn her pistol and was walking toward when Zoe finally mustered a good enough excuse.

"That woman's been an Angleyan spy for over two decades. Who knows how much intel we could learn and send back to the Motherland if we keep her alive?"

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