One by one, people began appearing on the hillside next to the small, huddled party that had already arrived. Some, Karla knew. Others
When they had all arrived, the purple portals closing into a tired-looking Raven, she raised her hands--
--And that was when the unicorns struck.
"Shield!" Saetan and Lucivar shouted in unison. They threw protective Black and Ebon-gray shields around the whole group, making sure that no one stood outside the safe boundaries. The eight unicorns stallions veered off before they hit the shields head-on, but the power there were channeling through their horns and hooves created blinding-bright sparks as they scraped across invisible barriers.
"Wait!" Saetan shouted, the thunder in his voice barely competing with the stallions' screams and trumpeted challenges. "We're friends! We're here to help you!"
*You are not friends,* said an older stallion with a broken horn. His voice echoed through the heads of everyone assembled, much like Emma's message had. *You are humans! You come to kill. First you call us Brothers and then you come to kill. No more. NO MORE! This time, WE kill!*
Karla stuck her head over Saetan's shoulder. "Damn your hooves and horns, we're Healers. Let us take care of the injured!" ...She'd mention that the rest were warriors to help when the unicorns had calmed down a bit.
The unicorns hesitated for a moment, then shook their heads and charged the shields again.
"I don't recognize any of them," Lucivar said. "And they're too blood-crazed to listen."
After charge after fruitless charge, the unicorns finally stopped attacking. The circled the group, snorting and pawing the ground, their horns lowered for another charge, but they didn't move.
"Thank the Darkness," Karla muttered as a young stallion slowly climbed up the hill, favoring his left foreleg. Here was a unicorn she recognized, Mistral, one of Kaetien's offspring--albeit the most war of humans and the most dangerous, as he was the recognized future Warlord Prince of Sceval after his sire passed.
"Mistral," Saetan stepped forward, raising empty hands. "You've known Lucivar, Karla, and I since you were a foal. Let us help."
*I have known you,* Mistral conceded, reluctantly.
That sounded rather ominous, but Saetan took another step forward. "Mistral, I swear to you by the Jewels I wear and by my love for the Lady that we mean no harm. We are here to help heal the injured and remove the intruders from the land."
Anyone who could read equine body language could tell that Mistral was hardly convinced, but then a brown-and-white blur raced through the gathered unicorns and resolved into a small dog at the edge of the invisible shield. Another voice echoed through everyone's heads, this one a light tenor. *High Lord! We have some little ones shielded, but they're scared and won't listen. They keep running into the shield. Jaenelle is crying and won't listen, either. High Lord?* The Sceltie looked up at Saetan and whined in confusion.
Karla held her breath. Which would prove stronger--Mistral's loyalty to his own kind or his love for and belief in Jaenelle?
Mistral looked to the north. After a long moment, he snorted. "The little Brother believes in you. We will trust. For now."
Desperately wanting to sit down, but not daring to show any weakness, Saetan cautiously lowered the Black shield. A long moment later, Lucivar followed with the Ebon-gray. Karla warily turned away from Mistral and back to the assorted Fandomites.
"Okay, here's the deal," she said, making sure she was loud enough to be heard by everyone assembled, including the still-angry unicorns. "People--we don't know who and it doesn't matter--showed up and began slaughtering unicorns. We're here to stop them and save every unicorn we possibly can. If you're neither a healer nor a fighter, that's fine, stay close. We'll probably have a million things for you to do to help."
She pushed her hair out of her eyes, calling in an elastic to hold it back. "Every human here who is not one of us is someone sent to kill the unicorns. I know not all of you believe in killing--" Lucivar snorted at that "--but just make sure that anyone you take down stays down." She wasn't going to promise no harm would come to anyone taken prisoner, either, but hopefully no one would notice that omission. "If you see a unicorn, immediately announce that you're with the Lady. They'll know not to skewer you. Remember, these unicorns are just as smart as you and have Craft, and they're angry and scared all of which means they're dangerous."
On the off-chance anyone had missed that memo.
"If you're not sure if the person you bump into is a friend, say you're with the Lady again. If they have no response, they're probably here to murder more unicorns. Feel free to dispatch them as you see fit."
"She means kill them," Lucivar growled.
"No I don't," Karla corrected. "...Much. Look, so long as you protect the unicorns, I don't care how you do it."
[Much of this was taken from, you guessed it, Anne Bishop's Heir to the Darkness, origami'd for our own playground.