Gabriel and the others emerged from the trees a few minutes later and Sylver stopped as the prince began to walk the wrong way.
“Gabriel?” he called.
“I want to check something.” Gabriel said, Sylver sighed and beckoned to the others to follow.
The scorched ground had been covered by a fresh layer of snow dulling the smell of burnt flesh too. Gabriel walked slowly looking around then he saw what he was looking for. He knelt beside an uneven mound of snow and began to scrape the layer off the body beneath it.
The prince fought the natural urge to gag as the smell of burnt flesh rose the body was headless and he stood muttering to himself.
“What are you doing?” Sylver asked.
“Find one with a head.” Gabriel said vaguely.
“Why?” Sylver growled.
“I have a hunch” Gabriel replied beginning to dig in a different place.
“Should we lay them out?” Sylver asked
“We can’t” Gabriel sighed “they will just crumble if we try and move them.”
“Here” Dawn called looking down at the blackened face of a male angel Gabriel hurried over. As the prince knelt down Dawn stood without taking his eyes off the angels face, twisted in pain seemed to stare at him, his eyes sockets empty. Gently Gabriel felt around the angels neck.
“I was right.” He mumbled the others came over.
“What is it?” Sylver frowned.
“They weren’t raiders” Gabriel carefully pushed the burnt clothes back wincing as they crumbled. A flat black disc sat against the burnt flesh.
“An ident tag?” Sylver frowned Gabriel ran his fingers over the metal trying not to move it the others saw the words appear as the soot was brushed away from the red metal. Gabriel sighed as he turned the tag over ‘Vivien Harpen’ it read.
“They were royal guards.” He said Dawn saw the pain in Gabriel gaze turn to fury.
“How did you know?” Sylver asked.
“When I was in the forest on my own I was thinking” Gabriel said “I ran through everything that’s happened in the last few days and I remembered seeing something.” He looked around getting his bearings the moved to the middle of the path.
“Seeing what?” Sylver called as Gabriel moved away from him and knelt down beginning to dig again.
“Gabriel, stop” Dawn said worried about the prince as he swore and moved digging again.
“No” Gabriel said his fingers were numb Dawn walked up and bent down behind him then to everyone’s surprise he wrapped his arms around the prince and lifted him up dragging him backwards.
“Put me down.” Gabriel ordered.
“No” Dawn whispered to him as Sylver stepped forward.
“Allow me.” He said a blanket of fire spread from Sylver's hands spreading over the snow covered ground.
“Stop” Gabriel growled after a few moments but Sylver had seen it the burnt remains of a red banner. “Why didn’t I register it?” Gabriel asked himself.
“We were tired and cold” Sylver reasoned “and trying to get through them quickly.” He lifted the small corner of cloth and showed Gabriel the gold threads.
“It was a royal scout party at least.” The prince said.
“Are you okay?” Dawn asked letting the prince go.
“I trained them” Gabriel mumbled “all of them.” Sylver folded the piece of cloth carefully and tucked it in his pocket.
“It’s not your fault.” Gabriel pushed away from Dawn and moved back to Vivien carefully undoing the chain from his neck.
“Is there anything we can do?” Dawn asked as he watched Gabriel clip the chain around his own neck.
“There is something” Sylver smiled, “Gabriel?” the prince looked up and Dawn felt his chest tighten at the despondent and sad look on Gabriel's pale face.
“What?” he muttered.
“Let’s stay here for one more night.” Sylver said gently “we have four mages, enough to perform last rites for this many.” Gabriel smiled gratefully at Sylver and nodded.
”Thanks” he said Dawn folded his arms gently around Gabriel.
“I'm sorry” Dawn whispered.
“Thanks Dawn” Gabriel smiled sadly at the large angel.