Riassunto: Eight days and six hours have passed since Shiro, one of the most renowned Paladins of Altea, has been killed during a mission, leaving a kingdom in mourning. Friends and family start to move on, as much as it pains them to. (Aka Keith is a Necromancer and Shiro... is less than alive)
But Keith has a secret and less than forty eight hours to make a decision.
Note: Scritta per la M1 della 2° settimana del COWT9 per "Fantasy"
Morning doesn't come quickly. The floor isn't the most comfortable place to sleep, and even if they are somewhat protected, they still keep turns staying awake.
They might not be in Altea territory anymore, but they can't be sure that the two people who they've taken refuge to won't try to attack them during the night.
Still, Keith feels more rested than he's felt in a long while. They've slept pressed together, Shiro's hand under Keith's head because the other is stupid and rather stubborn.
Keith isn't the first to wake up, he usually never was, and he's not really surprised to see Shiro looking at him when he opens his eyes.
"So, they didn't try to kill us," it's the first thing Keith says and Shiro simply shrugs.
"We had to catch a lucky break somewhere," he rises up, then, and Keith already misses the feeling of Shiro's body. It's completely different from when he was alive, true, but it's still better than the alternative.
Still, Keith follows Shiro and stands up as well, going to pet Red. She seems more rested as well, if they wanted they could try to push her a little and actually reach the city.
"I think we should thank them before going away," Shiro interrupts his musings. "Possibly ask them for some clean water. We're... dirty."
Keith looks down at himself and then at Shiro and can't help but agree. They've cleaned themself as best as they could in the river, but there's dirt and what's he's sure it's dried blood on his shirt.
"Yeah. I wouldn't mind a bath." Keith admits, feeling almost selfish for saying so.
Shiro, however only laughs. "God, don't even tell me. I was dead, I'm sure I smell terrible."
Keith hesitates a second before stepping forward and into Shiro's chest. It feels like an intrusion, like he's taking advantage of the fragile equilibrium from the night before, but he can't help it. He wants more, he wants everything.
Shiro doesn't stop him, of course, but watches his carefully. Still, Keith puts on a show of sniffing Shiro and then shrugging. "Don't smell so bad to me."
It's true... but also not. Keith can recall at the top of his head all details about Shiro from before, he spent enough time doing so ever since they found Shiro's body, and he remembers clearly that Shiro didn't smell this way.
Shiro's smell, when he was alive, was less earthly, a little more delicate. There's dirt now, mixed with Shiro's scent, and there's magic. And while that might not have a clear scent, no one would be able to miss it.
Shiro smiles and shrugs. "Still, a hot bath..."
Keith wonders how cold Shiro feels now. His body is significantly colder than it usually was and it was another thing they had to worry about. It really seemed that they kept building up.
"Well, then let's go ask them if they have a tub we can use. Maybe they are fire users," he tries.
When they leave the barn, they see both the men from yesterday sitting down on the porch. The moment they spotted them the bigger one of the two shot up, smiling at them. "You're awake! Good! We were waiting for you."
Keith and Shiro share a glance, confused, and Keith looks back up at the sky. The sun isn't that high yet. How long have they been waiting for them? He's immediately suspicious, years of spy work and living on the street making him hyper aware of the potential dangers in this situation.
Still, they didn't try to enter the barn and that's a good sign.
Shiro steps forward smiling at them. "We want to thank you again for your hospitality, we... needed a quiet place to sleep. Could we maybe bother your for some way to clean ourselves before we go on our way?"
The men look at each other and then they turn towards them. "Ah, sure. I mean I made breakfast if you want, nothing too big, but it's something to eat. I'm Hunk and this is Lance."
Lance nods at them and then points in their direction. "You can have breakfast and you can use my bath in the back, but you owe us some answers."
Keith pushes forward almost with a snarl, ready to tell Lance that they didn't owe them jack squat, but Shiro stops him immediately. His eyes are calculating, and he shakes his head at Keith. He doesn't see any reason for attacking then, at least not yet.
"Of course, you've been most charitable with us," Shiro accepts, with a bow of his head. "My name is Shiro, and this is Keith. We will answer any question you deem necessary once we clean up."
Lance looks at them with a little bit of mistrust and Keith almost sighs. Well, the lucky break didn't last that long now, did it?
"Okay. Hunk, show them where to go! I'm going back inside. I want to check if I can see anything else," and then he disappears inside, cryptically enough.
Hunk shrugs and motions for them to follow him. "There's a bath in the back, it has a stone with some fire magic embedded on it so the water should heat up nicely. I'll bring you some other clothes if you want... I mean, I guess Lance’s can fit you, Keith, and mine would be good for you, Shiro."
Keith shrugs, uncaring but Shiro nods and thanks Hunk again. The other man smiles and walks away. When he's far enough Shiro turns towards him with a smile: "A heating rock. We really were lucky."
Keith looks at him and then shrugs, laughing. Well, if Shiro is happy then everything else can wait.
They remove their clothes quickly, but Keith sees the hesitation in Shiro's eyes when he arrives at his own dark arm. They don't know what had happened the previous day and it seems that Shiro is wary of it all over again. Not that Keith can blame him.
He can't help but think about that guard and those dark vines covering his body and sucking the life out of him. If Keith had been shocked by that, he can't even imagine how Shiro must feel.
Still, it had been an accident and if anyone was really responsible then it was Keith and his magic.
He moves forward then, taking Shiro's arm and removing the clasp of the vambrace himself. Shiro flinches when Keith touches him for the first time, but doesn't resist. When the arm is completely exposed, Keith takes the other's hand in his and looks at him.
"You wanted to have a bath, right?" he says, smiling and dragging him over to the tub.
It's nothing fancy, really, something he expects in a house so far from town, but the tube is big enough for both of them and the water is hot. Shiro relaxes immediately in the water and Keith can't help himself. He starts touching the other's shoulder in a massage, looking at the way the muscles there relax under his touch.
"You don't need to do this," Shiro murmurs, looking at him with half-closed eyes.
How can Keith explain to him that nothing about this is an obligation? Keith needs this almost as much as he needs air. Everytime he touches Shiro, everytime he feels his breathing, a part of Keith relaxes.
He missed this, all of this. Shiro's presence, of course, but the intimacy, the knowledge that there was someone in this world who knew and understood him completely. He missed everything Shiro was.
"It's okay," he answers, such a pathetic response that doesn't even begin to cover everything that Keith feels. "I want to."
Shiro looks at him and closes his eyes. Understood, that's how Keith feels. It's something he never thought he'd get back.
After the bath they go outside to see the clothes Hunk left for them. They are normal clothes, nothing too flashy really. Better to travel unobserved. Not that they need to anymore.
Necromancy isn't illegal here in the Kingdom of Earth. It might not be seen as a respectable type of magic, but he wouldn't be killed on sight for what he has done.
Still, better safe than sorry.
When they go back to the house, they find the front door open and no one in sight on the porch. They hesitate there for a couple of seconds before entering.
Lance is watching something inside a mug and Hunk is putting plates of eggs and meat on the table. "Good! You're just in time! I made breakfast. I hope you like this, it's not like we get anything else here in the suburbs."
Shiro nods in thanks, but before they can take another step Lance sighs and slams the mug on the table. Not enough to break it, but enough to make a noise. "I can't see anything! Why not? I managed it yesterday!"
Keith blinks surprised. See? He looks at the mug and then around in the room. He spots some crystals on the shelf and some cards. Oh. Seer.
Like any type of magic, Divination is something people are born with. Unlike other kinds of magic, divination is a finicky creature and it's almost impossible to control. Most seer get visions at random periods of the day and without any control.
This Lance must be one of those.
"Lance, don't be rude. Let them eat, okay?" Hunk says, sending a smile in their direction. "No one but you has eaten my cooking in so long! I miss it." He hushers both Shiro and Keith to table and they can't do anything but sit down and eat.
It's actually... really good. Nor he nor Shiro are good cooks, but they are used to eating in the palace with some of the best chefs of the city. This is just as good.
"I'm impressed," Shiro says immediately, smiling. Keith nods as well. Hunk seems to enjoy the praise and puts some more food on their plate.
"Come on, Hunk, don't make them explode with food. We need answers!" Lance pressures and Keith utterly dislikes him.
He's indebted to him, of course, but he should be more graceful with its guests. The rules of hospitality are usually very clear on the etiquette to follow. Not that Keith cares, but Shiro usually does.
"We can talk and eat," Shiro reassures them immediately. He isn't smiling anymore and he looks exactly like the young rising captain of one of the capital's garrisons.
Lance seems intimidated, like he' finally realizing what kind of man he has in front of him, but pushes forward. He's either very brave or very stupid.
"I'm a seer, and I saw you guys arriving yesterday," Lance explains, looking back at his own mug. "I don't usually get such detailed visions and even when I do, they are never so clear. I was to wait for two people who would come here and that I would have to help."
"Why?" Keith can't help but ask, furrowing his brow. From what he knows divination is never so clear. It's usually a muddled set of feelings and impressions.
"I don't know! That's what I want to know! What are you guys doing?" he asks, pointing an accusatory finger at them.
Shiro and Keith share a glance, trying to decide what to tell them. "We're just trying to find a place to stay," Shiro says in the end. Half a truth, anyway. "We couldn't stay in Altea anymore. So we decided to move here."
"Why? What did you do to be forced to leave Altea?" Lance asks again, looking at them with renewed distrust.
"Nothing, we..." Shiro starts, but Hunk interrupts him immediately.
"Shiro was dead," he says, with a simplicity that's almost devastating. Their secret, revealed so quickly and without any difficulty.
Lance, at least, seems surprised. "What? How?"
Hunk shrugs. "I can feel the energy from your hand," he explains to Shiro. "I'm... you could say I'm specialized in healing spells. This feeling of death is really hard to ignore."
Shiro's hand, even covered in the vambrace, twitches and spasms.
Even if Hunk hasn't shown to be openly hostile towards them, Keith can't help but feel a bit of irritation about the way he brought out Shiro's hand.
"Do you know why..." Shiro starts, but stops almost immediately.
Hunk's gaze turns sad, almost pitying. "I don't, I'm sorry. Necromancy isn't really something I looked into?"
"Woah, woah!" Lance stops them, looking around the table. "How can you all talk so calmly about this? You were dead?"
"He got better," Keith says immediately, sending a glare in Lance's direction. Why doesn't he stop talking? Doesn't he realize how insensitive he's being?
Keith glances at Shiro and sees him looking down at his lap, his good hang curled into a fist. Keith will really kick this idiot in the face.
"I'm sorry if I'm not just accepting this calmly!" Lance huffs pointing at them. "Necromancy isn't just something that's very common. I mean the Empire uses it, but that's about it."
"It's not really illegal here," Hunk says, shrugging. "Not many people use it because it's... controversial. But as long as you don't kill anyone..."
"It's still strange. Unnatural!" Lance replies and Keith stands up, his dagger at the read. He aims it towards Lance and hopes that his eyes talk for him.
"I suggest you chose your words very carefully," he says, angry and scared. Shiro has been getting a little better, or so it seems to Keith, but he remembers the vacant eyes in Shiro's face that night when he had told Keith he was still dead.
Keith has been beside Shiro when the shock of what he had become had hit him. The loss of his paladin powers, his hand... he won't allow Lance to hurt him more. Not for something Keith did.
Shiro stands up as well and puts a hand on Keith's arm to stop him. For once he really wished that Shiro would just let him do it. "Yes. I was dead. We're just trying to find somewhere to live where... we won't be bothered."
"You're fleeing..." Lance correctly assumes in the end. He looks a little ashamed, eyes darting from Keith to Shiro and then back again.
"Yes," Shiro confirms, "but we believe we can maybe find someone to settle closer to the city. Find work. We won't impose on you any longer."
He motions to Keith and they both start to move. Keith refuses to look away from Lance and hopes the other has enough survival instinct to let them go without opening his mouth again.
"I do know someone who could help you!" Hunk says, out of the blue and they all turn to look at him. "Not with finding work, but with your arm. You could go to the Holts, they study all type of magic. They have even..."
"Consulted with the royal mages of Altea regarding Necromancy..." Shiro finishes for him.
Keith and Shiro both know the Holts fairly well. They have seen them a couple of times at the castle and Shiro is even friend with the oldest son. They hadn't really thought about them because they were connected to the palace, and anything that brought them too close to Altea...
"You know them? They live here in the Kingdom of Earth. They are more interested in how the science works than the moral side of it." Hunk explains before stopping and looking panicked at them. "Not that there's anything morally wrong in Necromancy itself! That's not what I meant. I mean, it's a really cool kind of magic? All those black and death and... death."
Shiro turns and Keith can see him trying to hide a smile. Not even Keith can be offended by that.
"Look," Lance says, standing up, and Keith's attention immediately goes to him. "I'm sorry about how I reacted before. But if there is one thing my vision was clear about, was that I was supposed to help you. Let us get you to the Holts."
Keith glares at Lance for a moment before looking towards Shiro. The other shrugs, unsure.
"We only have one horse," Keith says in the end, "so you'll have to find one yourself."
"Don't worry!" Hunk says, with a smile, "we have a cart! We won't be of any problem!"
And that's how they get company on their travel. It's strange, being on the road with someone else. Lance and Hunk are loud and boisterous, while Shiro and Keith usually prefer to walk in silence.
It's easier to sneak around if you don't announce your presence by laughing so hard. But it doesn't seem like Lance or Hunk are used to battle. They lack any training, yes, but also any of the natural awareness of someone used to danger.
This Kingdom of Earth must be a peaceful place.
At night they camp and take turns staying awake. Keith and Shiro don't really trust the other two and so they keep their guarding schedule. They still sleep pressed to each other. On one hand, Keith doesn't want to give up on the intimacy and the reassurance of Shiro's alive-ness, on the other hand Shiro lately was always cold and not even the firecamp could give him some reprieve. So human body warmth it was.
Lance and Hunk try often to engage them in conversation and Shiro usually humors them. He tells them who they are, where they come from, where did they meet. He doesn't reveal any of Keith's secrets, talks mostly about himself.
Never mentions Allura.
Keith listens to memories they have shared, the gentleness in the way Shiro retells them and he takes strength from them. Shiro remembers everything, Shiro remembers their shared memory so fondly.
Whatever magic has taken control of his powers or his arm, it hasn't changed Shiro in any of the important ways. He's still the man that Keith fell in love with.
Keith just has to find a way to convince Shiro.
In the end they reach the Holt's house after five days of travel. Their home strands upon a little hill, looking down on a village twenty minutes by horse. Around them there's mostly green and forest.
It's a nice place and Hunk and Lance seem hestatic to finally be there. "God, this took like forever," Lance whines, looking at the house, "I hate camping outside."
Keith doesn't say that it wasn't really that long, and that they are used to marching in far worse circumstances and for far longer. Lance isn't someone who ever had to fight for his life and he would never understand.
"I'm sure Doctor Holt will be happy to see you guys," Hunk tells them with a smile, "you said you were friends!"
"Mostly of Matt's," Shiro admits, shrugging, "but I've talked to Sam a couple of times."
Keith subtly tells Red to start walking slower and waits until there's a little bit of distance between them and the cart before whispering to Shiro: "There's the possibility that Sam will write to Allura to tell her our location."
Shiro nods, evidently reaching the same conclusion Keith had. "Yeah, but I don't think we should worry too much. We're out of Altea's borders and Allura let you go in the first place. If we stay here, I think she'll let us live our life."
Shiro is probably right, but distrust is something that's slow to unlearn and Keith promises himself he will be vigilant all the same.
When they get closer to the house they see someone exiting the door to welcome them. It's a short girl who takes one look at them and seems confused and annoyed. "Lance? Hunk? What are you doing here? I thought you were my father and my brother."
It doesn't take much for Keith to connect the dots. This must be Katie, or Pidge as she preferred to be called, Matt's little sister. He usually described her as too intelligent and stubborn for her own good.
"Your father and brother aren't home?" Shiro asks, behind Keith. He sounds unhappy and a little worried.
"No, they were called by the Altean crown. I don't know about what, but it sounded urgent... They left more than a week ago."
Keith and Shiro immediately look at each other. It's impossible to think it's not because of them. He wonders what questions Allura had for them. Possibly she would ask them if what Keith brought back was really Shiro.
God, Keith should have asked them before even attempting.
(Would he have really stopped, however, if there was even a single chance that he would have had this again? Shiro riding with him, talking to him, hugging him every night. He already knows the truth.)
"Yes, but who are you guys?" Pidge asks, turning towards Keith and Shiro and trying to assess them.
"We're friends of your brother," Shiro says immediately with a smile. He raises a hand, possibly to get off from Red, but the moment Pidge sees his hand her eyes widen and she rushes over.
"Oh my God! That's necrotic energy!" She almost screams, getting really close to them. Red protests for the sudden movement and Keith tries to make her calm down.
"You-- know what that is?" Shiro asks, surprised, but Pidge doesn't even seems to hear him. She's trying to grab at his arm and, when that fails, get as close to it as possible.
"This is impossible. It looks like the quintessence and the necrotic magic merged. I never saw it actually happen..." she's babbling, not even pretending to be talking to them and Keith feels irritation grow inside of him.
"Can you stop talking to yourself and tell us what's happening?" he growls, finally catching Pidge's attention.
She turns towards him and studies him for a couple of seconds. "Are you the necromancer that did this? This is... powerful work."
"I followed a ritual," he says, annoyed. "I mean, any necromancer would be able to do this."
She looked at him for a second more and then shrugged. "I mean in theory? Sure. Any magic user could find enough power to make very powerful spells. You know why that doesn't happen? Intent. Motivation. Magic is all about what's in here," she says, tapping her own head, "but if you don't keep into consideration your emotions you will never become a powerful mage, just a good one. This," and then she points at Shiro's hand, "this is powerful magic. Wild magic. The ritual would have brought him back to life and cut any connection to the quintessence, but you managed to make two very conflicting kind of magic work together." "So I still have my powers?" Shiro can't help but ask, a hint of hope in his voice.
Pidge looks at them and then at the house. "I need to look at it a little better. I have my ritual scrolls inside. I mean, I might not be my father, but I'm good. I promise."
Keith doesn't know, but he looks towards Shiro and can't bear to crush the look of hope in his eyes. He doesn't want to take away nothing of his anymore.
"Okay, is there somewhere to drop the horses off? Red is tired," he says, waiting for Shiro to mount off Red before doing the same. He pets his horse's snout a couple of times while they follow Pidge and whispers encouraging words to her.
He really has been pushing her too much and while she had always been very loyal to him, he feels like he's pushing her boundaries a little. "I'm sorry," he tells her, "I just need to help him. After you'll be able to rest for a few weeks. I promise."
Red probably doesn't understand him, but Keith means it all the same. He'll buy her all the apples that a horse can dream of.
They finally follow Pidge inside and in a room in the back. Inside is full of magical tomes describing spells and rituals. There a couple of ritual circles around the room, drawn carelessly all over the pavement and walls. Some, Keith recognizes, are of protections. Other... he isn't sure.
"We're specialized in ritualistic spells," Pidge tells them, sitting down in one of the chairs. "They are quite useful for defense, but also to investigate how other things work. So, give me your hand. WIthout the armor!"
Shiro hesitates a second before removing the armor and letting everyone see the arm without any cover. It looks exactly like the last time Keith saw it. Black and rotten, like the flesh was completely necrotic, but he also knows that that's not what it feels like to the touch.
The arm is cold, and it almost seems to be metallic, like a second armor.
Pidge extends her hands and touches it. The moment her fingers brush the skin of Shiro's arm, a green light emanates from them and from one of the ritual circles on the table.
An identifying spell, Keith recognizes. Not one of the type of magic he's most familiar with, but something he has seen Allura use sometimes. She didn't need the ritual circle, of course, but Allura was a very powerful sorceress.
After a couple of seconds Pidge retrieves her hand but doesn't avert her gaze from Shiro's arm.
"What is it?" Keith asks, anxious about her response.
Pidge hesitates a second. "It's... difficult to explain. You were a paladin in life, right?" when Shiro nods she continues "yeah so you were deeply connected to the quintessence. It seems that in an effort to resurrect even that part of you, the ritual has... altered your connection with it. Paladins draw out Quintessence from the earth to use it to heal or support others in battle. You..." she stops and then looks around and reaches for a shard of something before she cuts Shiro's arm.
Keith jumps out immediately, ready to get her as far away from Shiro as possible, but before he can do that he's distracted by Shiro's arm.
The black flesh starts to glow from the little cut Pidge has just done with her shard. Shiro is looking at it transfixed.
"It seems that now you're able to control the quintessence present in your body to enhance your own strength. If you get hurt... if you hurt your own body, you can fight."
Keith wants to puke. Before anyone can say anything else he reaches forward, puts her hand over Shiro's cut and heals it. "No," he says, desperately. "No," he repeats, even if he's not sure what he's saying no to.
He looks into Shiro's eyes and finds nothing there. The hope from before gone in an instant. "No," he tells him, even if he knows it's useless.
Coleen Holt allows them to remain there for the night and Pidge tells them that they should wait for her brother and father to come back, that maybe they would be able to say something more. Keith can only hope that, maybe, they would find a way to reverse the effect, but he knows there aren't many possibilities.
Tonight they have a real bed and so he and Shiro are sleeping far apart. He misses the feeling of Shiro next to him, the reassuring movement of his chest. It has been more than a week, but Keith still can't believe Shiro is really back, even if Keith gave him something as terrible as that hand.
He doesn't know what Shiro thinks of what Pidge told them, after the revelation they had been interrupted by Coleen and, after that, there never seemed to be a good time to talk alone. Does Shiro hate him yet? Even if he did, Keith wouldn't regret anything.
And isn't that worse?
He closes his eyes, and tries once again to fall asleep, but it seems that even somewhere safe, sleep eludes him. He can hear Lance and Hunk from the other side of the room, but Shiro has ben put in the living room.
Maybe he can go check on him? Just a quick peak. It would reassure him and, possibly, allow him to finally rest.
Decision made he stands up, making sure not to wake the others, and walks down the stairs. He reaches the living room and finds Shiro's cot empty of him.
For a moment panic seizes Keith, an irrational fear that maybe none of this was real, that Shiro was still dead, that Keith had failed, waited too long.
He runs out of the house, looking around frantically until he sees a shadow on the edge of the hill's cliff. Keith can recognize Shiro's back everywhere.
He jogs towards him, unable to keep his distance. He knows Shiro heard him, he has never been able to sneak up on him after all.
"You're awake..." he says, anyway.
Shiro shrugs and doesn't look up towards him. "I couldn't sleep. Or maybe I didn't really want to. I don't know."
Keith nods and he stands at Shiro's side. He doesnìt know what to say, he doesn't think there's anything that could improve the situation. So he says the only thing he can.
"I don't want you using that power. Ever." He doesn't mean to make it sound so much like a command, after all he doesn't own Shiro, but the thought of Shiro hurting himself is too much for him.
"I... when Pidge cut me today. I felt it. It was like a rush of power, for a moment I felt alive again," Shiro whispers, looking at the horizon.
"You were bleeding," Keith immediately retorts, angry and scared at the same time.
"I know. But I felt warm for the first time since I woke up," he continues, transfixed, "I felt like myself again. God, Keith, you don't know how this feels."
"Tell me," Keith begs but Shiro shakes his head.
"No. I tried telling you once and you... I don't want to hurt you that way again," Shiro whispers, like a dirty confession. I'm dead, Shiro had told him that night in the forest. I don't know what you brought back, but it's not me.
He looks at Shiro, at the broken piece of the man he loved, at all the pieces he has broken himself. And he makes a decision: he won't avert his gaze only because this hurts too much. His selfish desires are the reason why Shiro is like this, and he will take responsibility.
"I don't want you hurting yourself, Shiro, but I will be here to heal you everytime. I'm not leaving your side unless you ask me to."
Shiro turns towards him, his eyes aflame with something that looks a lot like determination. "I don't want you to go anywhere but here, Keith. But what I am... what I..."
Keith stops him immediately, and touches his black arm gently. "I made this, Shiro. Whatever else you tell yourself, remember that I'm the one that gave you this burden and I'll help you carry it. Isn't that what someone does when he loves someone?"
He thinks that, once upon a time, he might have said this with a smile. Playful banter between them, but he doesn't want to smile this time. He wants Shiro to know that he's serious, that he's certain of this.
Shiro meets his gaze head on and then nods. "Then we'll carry it together."
Keith nods and kisses Shiro. He needs to feel him close, needs to feel him alive and still somewhat in one piece.
Everything else will follow through. Keith will make sure of that.
He doesn't go back to sleep in his own bed and, the next day, Pidge and Coleen find them together on the couch. They don't say anything and just offer them some breakfast.
Shiro smiles at them, nodding, and Keith just shrugs.
Lance and Hunk join them an hour later and they look well rested, happy to have an actual bed. It's a peaceful morning, with Pidge that continues talking about Shiro's arm and his condition but, after last night, Keith isn't scared by what it means.
They listen to her, eating and relaxing a little, when a bird lands onto one of the windows. Shiro tenses immediately.
"That's one of the crown's birds," he informs the others. Keith tenses immediately. He doesn't know if Coleen and Pidge sold them out during the night, if Allura would even hunt them this far beyond the Altean border. Shiro seemed confident that she wouldn't, but he hadn't seen her face the day of the ritual.
Still, Coleen opens the window and takes the message from the bird's leg and starts to read it in silence. A couple of seconds later she stops and collapses onto a chair. Her hands are shaking, her face a pale mask of horror.
"The Galra... they have attacked Altea. They... they are storming the capital..." she stops, looks at all of them. "Altea has fallen."