Hidden 4 mos ago Post by FalloutJack
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FalloutJack The Long Dark Nuka-Break of the Soul

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White-Feathers were all cock-eyed motherfuckers.

That was the general impression given unto them by Jean. Whether the Francian knew or not a reason why Michael would not know, the fact of the matter is that this wasn't a topic which Isaac was particularly knowledgeable of either. Farming lad, he was. Wolves and livestock, and go easy on the politics. Another good word for it was insidious, or disgusting, or appalling. His dad liked words like that to throw at the unacceptable. And then, if the one flung at with those words kept going, a fist would surely follow. Some people had no right to draw breath, because everything coming out of their mouth was just a waste of air. And for Thomas, apparently his people in Oceania, they were hailed a whole buncha' promises that held about as much water as a bucket with no bottom.

"I was never promised anything, of course, and I wasn't shamed into things either. I just got my marching orders. As in, 'Here's some convincing rifles pointed at ya. Now, march!'. Some of you already know that, and that's okay. Today, I don't feel so bad about it, because today...my sister informs me that the bastard responsible was found in abuse of his position and sent to the front lines. Turnabout is fairplay, and I hope he has loads of fun up here."

So yeah, Isaac's mood wasn't bad right now. It may have been wrong to wish bad tidings on a fellow human being, but fuck it. He's an arse. Now, before anything could continue, a young man trying to look very official and army and not-at-all like a complete greeny who didn't know that war is hell...came to deliver a message to Jean. He announced that it was for him, and then belted it out before he could even confirm that Corporal Robin-Charpentier was even here. I mean, he was...but imagine what would happen if he'd gotten the wrong table? After he left, Jean got up to go see what Baker wanted and explained to Isaac that Britta needed to know that she had cooking duty. Apparently, Thomas had voted her in.

"I didn't even know there was a voting process. Alright, I'll tell her."

He got up to go find her, buuut...Britta wasn't anywhere around. She went off on that errand of hers, and was presumably looking for stuff, as per requests. Perhaps she was already on the case. He'd have to wait around and find out, though.

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Meanwhile, Britta was indeed hunting up food for tonight.

She didn't know about the vote that Thomas put forth or anything like that. No, what she decided was that, in order to help her put her mind at ease, she was going to cook. Frankly, if anybody else had been up for the task, she would have insisted otherwise, because she had struck scrounger GOLD. Oh yes, indeed... It had started...with her spotting garlic. She found some in decent condition, and from there she looked for the other necessities: Butter, bread, salt... Yes, she had no trouble, or not exactly trouble. What she found with enough poking around - sometimes literally, with her serrated blade - were a number of things that were at least passable and in enough quantity that it could be done.

She could make garlic bread, but from what she found here...she could also make something ambitious.

Her eyes lit up as she started grabbing things. Some preserved beef that was neither soft nor hard, over a dozen potatoes, tins of spam and some leftover pork, corn, carrots, spinach, a bit of cooking wine, two bottles of not-the-best rum, and some ration biscuits. This was everything Britta could get, and she had a smile on and a sparkle in her eye with ideas.

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So, of course, a little later on, the silver-haired Gunner came in with a load of things over her back. It was a little heavy, but her enthusiasm carried her...plus training and experience in hauling a heavy machine gun. Isaac caught a look at her and blinked with a smirk. What was she so geared up for?

"Alright, I brought supplies. Hand these over to Michael, would you?"

She handed him some clean cloth and a better quality entrenching tool.

"Couldn't find him explosives, sorry. I looked hard before getting all this stuff."

"What is it?"

"Ingredients."

"Oh, so you knew already."

Britta stopped and looked over at the Corporal.

"That I was cooking tonight? Not until I decided it for myself a little while ago."

"Oh, I see. What was the urgent business, then?"

"...let's handle what we need to, first, okay?"

"Alright."

So, while Britta was getting a decent pot and water to fill it with, Isaac went over to present Michael with his sharper tool and the clean cloth he wanted, saying "Sorry, no explosives yet. She tried." before returning to Britta, who had a pot over a fire and was cutting things on a makeshhift cutting board - a random flat piece of wood - with her serrated blade because it was handy. She kept cutting things apart - meat and veg - and throwing them into the pot, which was getting thick now. She didn't even look up as she started giving him orders!

"Find another board, and start cutting those buns in half."

Isaac stopped, but then shrugged and went "Yes, ma'am." before pulling out his prybar for that. The prybar was a small hatchet with a fiddly bit for the prying, so it would certainly cut bread. Britta was stirring the pot with a large spoon and making sure everything was mixed up. Isaac had noticed the beef go in and some of the spam and all of the pork remnants, all cut into small pieces. He hazarded a guess.

"Making some sort of a beef stew?"

"Well, I mean it's not gonna be a perfect one, but if I've got the math right...I'm making a dumpling stew, AND garlic bread, the dumplings being any of little loaves left after the garlic butter's spent."

Oh ho ho... The good stuff. A dumpling stew - meat and vegetable stew with bread dumplings on top, absorbing some of the stew - and garlic buttered bread. Britta figured she could get a fair few - these are small handheld bread loaves - turned into toasty garlic bread with the fire here, and that six cut loaves would make up the dumplings, with the ration biscuits ground up on top as bread crumbs 'cause...there was only twelve of those and they're not great, really.

"So, do you need anymore help?"

"I've got this. Thanks, Isaac."

Okay... Isaac took the hint that Britta didn't really want to talk right now and went off to find some glasses for the rum. Still, though... That was going to be a helluva meal.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by LetMeDoStuff
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LetMeDoStuff The Token Cripple

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The Siege of Amone, September 26th - A Change of Heart


On the cold banks of the Imperial rear lines, Wilhelm allowed the sparks of torment spread throughout the streets. All around him were the burning cries of those who still found themselves broken, disturbed by the very means of human withdrawal. Visions of their gurgling hearts spilt onto the streets haunted his head remained dominant, putting a harsh strain upon his wise eye. As he sat, silently, Wilhelm continued to slide each bullet into the chamber of his rifle. Every slight click was met with an exhalation of anger, stress and pure disgust at how the war had shaped in no ones favour. For a while, every time he loaded a bullet he'd just sit there, staring at the ground and watching droplets of water mixed with spilt blood drift by in the cracks of the road. Whenever he lifted his head, all that could be seen were the stretchers still recovering those who'd survived off of nothing for the past two weeks. Those still scavenging for clues and medical supplies in the midst of the chaos, as if the gas attack had happened only moments ago. Its lasting effect was devastating. No man or woman should have had to witness such an atrocity. The Imperials were unsure whether to feel jealous that the others were dead, or that they were lucky having to live with the memory implanted into their dreams. Hundreds had been choked, asphyxiated and drowned by the seas of gas. Truly, it was unforgivable. Many things in war were, even to the soldier at heart, but something particular stood out about it. It almost felt like torture, indirectly slowing ones death down to a crawl.

Another bullet was loaded into the chamber and a violent cough spouted from his lungs. Its taste was still bitter in Wilhelm's mouth, still burning and sizzling away at his taste buds. Whatever the chemical was, it had made its mark on the world forever. As long as the Empire would win, in his eyes, the use of such gas would need to be prohibited for the many years and generations ahead. A man of the people, he would call himself. Wilhelm didn't want that same suffering. However, even with his morality in check, a brooding anger still curdled from within. Seeing his comrades, his embodiment of success and education, sprawled across the puddles of Amone struck a nerve that wouldn't loosen. Every now and then, Imperial soldiers would wander past him, as if hesitant to talk to him, and then retreat back to where they previously were. Whereas previously he'd been talkative and as kind to his men as possible, everyone knew that this battle was not his place of comfort anymore. His mind ached, stretched and moulded into unfathomable shapes, plotting and practising his own words. Wilhelm knew what he wanted to do, but didn't think it was imaginable. Revenge was a horrific dish and even someone with such blood-lust as himself saw that. All he could do is follow the orders and hope they were for the benefit of the Empire, for the people back home who were driven by an achievable and prosperous future. The glory days of the first year were but a faint memory. Back then, people were expectant of at least some bloodshed and the mobility of freedom, pushing and taking land almost consistently, but the quick emplacement of stalemate after stalemate just allowed for the war to twist into the favour of death. Hundreds were killed each day, all across the frontier. New forms of warfare were developed and the marksman was now considered a violent tool of fear, psychologically spreading anxiety throughout all the enemies that would've faced them. Even if he was seen as a man of the people, to the enemy and the state he worked for he was a tool for butchering morale. And yet, he didn't mind at all.


"Still brooding, Harkvald?" Suddenly, without warning, the familiar voice snapped Wilhelm out of his trance and he moved to stand at attention, only for a hand to wave before him with dismissive appreciation. "Don't worry about it, Captain. I'm here making the rounds, as you should be too."

Despite his familiarity, it was a surprise to see the Colonel this far out into Amone. At the very least, he was known for sticking near the frontlines to get a near accurate advantage of strategy, constantly being updated about how the battle was going. However, he'd left the walls of Amone and moved deep into the failing Imperial territory, hoping to secure himself a better understanding of their situation. At his suggestion, Wilhelm cracked a faint smile, still begrudged by the temptation to charge back out and avenge the fallen brothers he'd grown with. But it was clear, even Colonel Müller could see the stress in his eyes.

"I know it's been hard, Harkvald. But unfortunately, the rest of the war cannot wait for us to recover. Especially in this cursed city..." He moved his hand towards his Yggdist religious insignia, laced around his neck by a thin chain. Planting a kiss upon its metallic shell, he returned it beneath his collar and turned back to Wilhelm, rubbing his eyes out of the sheer tiredness the Operation had brought him. "Cruxians tend to follow myths, but we knew that the Valkyrur were real."

"You don't need to tell me again, Sir." Luckily, Wilhelm was met with a smile and a chuckle, before the Colonel started to pull over one of the nearby crates and plant his backside onto it. Somehow he could hold his charm and his faith in the operation, though to what extent remained unknown. He was great at ensuring morale soared higher than the further artillery blast, breaching the clouds and loyally committing to not only the Emperor, but his soldiers as well. Hand in hand, they walked in faith, together. Wilhelm enjoyed him as an officer, more than any other. He was competent, willing and quite daring in previous campaigns against the Federation. Yet here he was, his hands tied behind his elderly back as the Emperor continued to remind him the significance of delaying the Federation advancement Eastwards. "What brings you nearby?"

Even as he spoke, a distinct vapidness to his tone was noticeable. The gas he'd previously taken into his throat had pained his chest, creeping up and battering his lungs. For a while now, he'd resisted the urge to talk and make demands, instead becoming more of a listening than a speaker. The pain behind it drove his anger against the Federations, even those who'd conversed regularly back at the Inn a few months ago. Even so, the Inn was likely nothing more now. Life was unstable here in Amone, now more than ever. The Colonel looked around, searching at the seas of stretcher-bearers and their patients being hauled into slow moving trucks. For a moment, he too begrudgingly gnarled his teeth towards the state of Amone, sighing heavily.

Previously, the First Battle of Amone had been the crown jewel of many Imperial victories across Europa. Not only did it signal to the rest of the continent that Assen was now under their occupation, it also solidified an iron fist across the wastelands that had been left behind. Imperial infrastructure and improvements to the towns behind had already been established as the frontline had continued to push West, but until 1913EC, things turned around in a brutish favour for their adversary. Starting with the colossal loss of life at the Battle of Cyprusia, now known no more than as a day of infamy for either sides of the war, bodies bled through every forest, street and field until it inevitably halted for a few months more. Garnia was the most recent breakthrough to turn the tides of the war, seemingly breaking the spirit of the entire Northern Army Group in an instant. Gallia was nearly reached and soon it would gain even more reinforcements. The naval blockade was to be of no use anymore once a land route had been secured into the smaller nation. It left many exposed to the horrors of defeat. And now, they were back where it all came into place. The Battle for Amone continued to rage on, every single day. Men were being sworn to unworthy tactics, and the introduction of gas only pressured most Imperial general staff to use their own radicalised tactics, viciously biting back at those who showed no mercy before.


"I suppose you heard the news, Captain?" The Colonel drew a large cigar from his breast pocket, lit it quietly and placed it into his mouth, inhaling as much as he could in one try. As he exhaled, Wilhelm felt his stress, but didn't understand why. Deep in the background, a murmur of engines and a strange roar of machinery could be heard making its way closer.

"I...can't say I have, Sir."

"Even now, the order remains the same. The Emperor demands that we stay in Amone for as long as physically possible. And as a man of his word, I've sworn to do the same." Taking another inhale of thick smoke, Wilhelm leaned forward and placed yet another bullet into his rifle's chamber. Rumours had spread around about Amone being abandoned and a mass regroup going outside the city walls, however it turned out that they were just as false as he'd imagined. Even then, he was surprised to see the Colonel as dedicated to Amone as possible.

"Do you think we can hold it, Sir?" Wilhelm inquired, taking out a lighter of his own and igniting a cigarette from within a rich packet tucked neatly away. A short pause ensued as the two puffed away, trying to relieve their stress in the process. Before long, Müller surrendered to the withdrawal of information and comfortably shifted his position. All while this was going on, the roaring of engines continued to grow closer by the seconds.

"It's no longer a case of holding Amone, Captain. We're now acting as a force to hold off the Federation advancement for as long as humanly possible. All across Amone's outskirts and beyond the reserve battalions have done a stunning job at entrenching our positions heavily. Even if we are to lose Amone, we will at least try to keep them from moving quickly." He placed the bud of his cigar against his sleeve, dabbing it out quite irresponsibly yet with an ironic smile upon his face. The Colonel had courage in a plan, even if Amone seemed like a hopeless objective. "We've been given as much support as we can. Yesterday they arrived in full force. Able bodies, though not as many as we need. Experimental weaponry fresh out of development, all the stuff we can use to dispose of the Federation's precious time. If we can steal it from their clutches, we do more for the Empire than we can ever imagine."

Behind him, the streets became lively as soldiers on their feet stumbled out of the way. From around the corner, rumbling and cracking the roads beneath it came a behemoth unlike anything Wilhelm had seen before. His eyes widened and his skin crawled upon first glance, seeing nothing but the revelation of metal mechanisms churning away. A crew operated its decks and vastness, continuously rummaging around as a constant need of operation was required. Wilhelm stood up, dropping the cigarette out from his mouth and gaping at its scientific and technological glory. Was it fear, surprise or a sense of admiration that had stumped his world? Even Wilhelm wasn't sure which emotion he felt himself. All around it were scatters of strangely dressed soldiers, some wielding strange backpacks that sloshed around with a liquid inside. Others donned masks of their own, sharing heat resistance and smoke protection altogether. It stumped him, halted his staggering words and left him bewildered. Was this another demonstration of modern warfare? How could such a behemoth go unnoticed for such a long time?

"The upcoming deployment of our brand new armoured divisions, Captain, will be coming on soon. General Staff told us that they no longer needed this prototype, but that it was in working order. Alongside them we have some Flammenwerfer's, as the staff call them. Experimental weaponry. I imagine its a reactionary attempt to combat the fear tactics the Federation used on us with that smog, but I'm unsure of whether or not they'll be effective." Colonel Müller stood up and walked to Wilhelm's side, watching the mechanical beast continue to travel across the street until it became shielded yet again by the standing buildings. Once it had left their sight, they took a moment to bask in its strange glory. Was it a good invention? Was it worthwhile? Either way, its arguable awe-inspiring size did strike a strange feeling within their minds, displacing their comfort under many different queries. "Speaking of which, I want you tonight to go set up shop in the Central Tower."

"Central, Sir?" His croaked groan was still flushed with surprise and confusion over the mechanical beast that roamed. If that was a scrapped prototype in favour of a supposedly more effective design, one that was promised to turn the very tides of the war for good, then he hoped the lords would have mercy on the souls of Europa, for war as everyone knew it was about to change in the coming months. "I'm up for it."

"Glad to know, Captain. I've got two other Marksmen positioned on the left and right wings of our territory, but I want you to take point and remain as our eyes above ground. We're expecting a few raiding parties across the board soon. The Federation have waited long enough to strike and its inevitable. Some Fed prisoners told us that at least." The Colonel held out his hand and smiled triumphantly. It wasn't due to the thought of victory, but the success that their plan was not to be in vain. No matter how hard they tried, even if they failed, the time they draw away from the Federation's advancement was spent finalising the upcoming armoured divisions that had been promised for years. This...this was their final stand in Amone, and if they had to retreat then so be it. "I'm going to wish you luck, and hope you make it out alive, good Sir. I'll be setting up with a garrison in the City when the time comes. Worst comes to the worst, I'll stay there until the bastards catch up to us. Goodbye, good Sir! We'll take these bastards to hell if we need to, and if they show us mercy then by God we'll bask in it."
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by LetMeDoStuff
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Schwartzgrad, September 26th - Diplomacy


Tensions were high elsewhere in Europa. From the war-torn fields of Assen to the distant streets of Schwartzgrad, only one subject ruled the prayers of many. Across a sea of Imperial fields, farms, cities and forests, millions were on the verge of death or were still riding amongst the steel beasts of the railroads to such demises. It was unsurprising, yet also fanatical, how so many continued to look so high unto their Imperial relic, their leader, their general-of-staff and beacon of hope through the darkest days. And yet despite such hope given to him, Emperor Reginrave was still pressured beneath the turning tides of the battle. Throughout every diplomatic meeting he'd attended the following week the same mentioning of a particular Asseni urban jungle was brought up time and time again. Its importance was undeniable. Morale was both high for the citizens and low for the fighters. Even with a crumbling frontline, the benevolent ruler held true to his intentions of seeking ultimate victory, where the lands of his fallen forefathers in the ages of stone and sword were to be reclaimed under the righteous rulership of the established autocracy.

True were the warriors of his hilt, standing close by to serve and to protect the very foundations of the Empire itself. Unlike before, however, that very day brought about a plan that would change the course of history for the future approaching. Lines had to be drawn as to where they stood in Europe, and with the Federation now approaching their borders slowly, yet indefinitely, drastic measures and counteractions were beautifully painted upon the great canvas of political balance. Reginrave stood at its centre. Around him was the circulation of Marshals, Viscounts, Lords, Dukes and Bishops beneath his very word, still holding the same hope high. As a change of agenda, they all smiled with a sort of promising gaze upon entrance. Once his first foot entered the grand hall, where many legends of the Empire had once before planned such vigorous campaigns, a synchronised click of perfectly polished shoes snapping against one another resonated hardheartedly throughout the confines of their study. A wave of the hand put them to ease, before the call and hail towards his rulership, his Empire and his word came into the light. Silent nods indicated towards all that a seat must be taken for the procedures to endure and go forth. Today was an important day. As every decision before, many lives rested on the final agreements they made in that room, around that very table. It would've been foolish to state that Reginrave was without the pressure of his people. Many saw to his own words to deliver gracious and prosperous outcomes. The war was a test, to him. Reginrave was a candidate for the Empire's great journey, where they could put his name amongst the many before him! Yet aside from such confidence, he felt the anxiety of the faces that looked to him being threatened. The Federation was a fiend, at least to him. For this war was not to be the ultimate decider.


"We are blessed by your presence, valiant Sovereign! In these trying times we seek to hear your final word of confirmation, as we may request?" In that room, tradition was lawful and encouraged. The manners of many well-spoken individuals made it clear that the war was taken as seriously as any other national crisis. Once saw as an easy win, the quickly established stalemates of 1910 and 1911EC challenged the rather dismissive nature of all previous political candidates that stood beside Reginrave. Since then, the reformation of his oligarchical cabinet allowed for a quick deliverance of maximum integrity, performance and organisation. "First on our agenda, our Sovereign, is the current happenings in the Assen-Occupation zone: specifically Amone."

"The Holyland of the Cruxian faith? Every time I hear it's name it brings great doubt upon my temples, reminding me of how desperate the times have become. Continue, if you may? Detail the events of its previous incursions and delight me of its knowledge." As his request concluded, he graciously lowered himself onto the grand throne presented before the entire conglomerate. The drapes of his almost heavenly attire folded over the armrests and onto the marble floor beneath the gathering, spreading its glory all across the silent foundations of his very ownership. Upon the request given, a feeble man with circular framed glasses took to his feet and walked over to an angled war-games board, mocking up the Assen frontline as a whole. Only a slither of Federation territory actually bled into the official and legal borders of the nation. In those small pockets, thousands of troops were likely engaged in silent exchanges of occasional rifle volleys or infatuated by the endless sieges of their enemy's wrath. Millions had already fallen, and more continued to do so each passing day. Some were worse than others, and others spoke of unfathomable deceit to human decency.

With a rather confident stride, he adjusted his top buttons to his loyal uniform and cleared his throat gently, before pointing a large ceremonial parade staff across the board to where a number of counters were. All across their cylindrical shapes laid numbers of regiments, army groups and more expressive details that the Emperor himself would've enjoyed eyeing upon.


"My Sovereign, may I present to you Assen's current situation? Here, across the great marker, is Amone, laid directly on the border that it shares with Francia. Around two weeks ago, if you might recall, the Federation unleashed its horrifying weapon and descended upon our brave men and women. Since then, no similar attacks have come through yet the Federation have managed to establish a fully functional frontline within the city, splitting it across. We have reasons to believe that they are preparing for a mass assault momentarily."

The Emperor leaned forward in his throne, scanning the board with his eyes. Beside it, a more focused map showing the approximate situation in Amone was held up, helping to detail the specifics of the city's current establishment. Even then, the hopes of him diminished slightly, flaking away at a moment's notice of Amone finally beginning its countdown. Since the Empire first struck the city earlier in the years, the Federation had made it publicly known that someday they would return to the Asseni city and reclaim the streets they'd lost. Its position was dire. In the past months, even before the second siege even began, several Field Marshals and Generals had approached him in private to discuss its importance, even going as far as to state that it was militarily and strategically not worth occupying. In reality, they were further from the truth than any other officer could be. Every inch of territory that had been claimed by the Empire in the first few years had been heavily reinforced, entrenched and fortified in preparation for a shift in the tides. Assen's borders specifically marked where the heaviest of defences laid. To the Emperor, everything beyond those City walls was a death trap for their adversary and would bleed them an ocean if they wished to make gains into the Empire's land. If it weren't for the tightly kept loyalty the nation held towards its autocratic ruler, the income of manpower would begin to prove troublesome.

A mind of ingeniousness, Reginrave spearheaded the extensive layered-defence programme as the year 1912EC came about. By then, the stalemate had been fully realised and the Federation were beginning to take advantage of it. Each mile taken by the Empire forced their opposition to become more desperate in its strategies. Developments of newfound war machines, artillery tactics and even utilising espionage against the Empire, hundreds of unheard of tactics had been employed against him.


"If I may, dear Emperor, I would like to make a suggestion as to how we apprehend this predicament." From behind, a familiar officer of high notoriety stepped forward, adjusting his moustache with a joyful twist and a pompous explosion of laughter. Controversial, even to the Emperor himself, this 'Old Guard' played with strategies as if the war itself were a game for them, a test of their own agility and memory. "I would like to request a personal arrival to Amone, where I could journey and orchestrate the cunning yet daring Operation: Fazit. I assure you, my lord, it will win us this entire scuffle at once!"

"How many more lives do you wish to waste, Dummkopf? The Empire cannot uphold a promise to its people of benevolence and prosperity if we just keep feeding them to the guns of the Atlantic Menace! Have you still not realised that the war is no longer fought with sticks and stones or are you yet to understand the importance of our dear warriors?" Without warning, an eruption of retorted anger suddenly shot towards the elder. Driven by a sudden compassion for the victory that needed to be achieved, the debate arose whilst the Emperor sit idly by, watching them bicker with a begrudging glare.

"If you want to win a war, you go and win that bloody war! Sitting and doing nothing doesn't mean squat for progress. We should strike whilst they prepare and then-"

"And what if we lose? Wasted manpower goes to no gains. We'll be as good as any defeated nation." Murderous spite shot between the two as a flurry of insults were exchanged. More officers began to join in on the skirmish and several political figures pretending to understand warfare began agreeing with the elderly officer with extreme pride. Others who were logical, understandable and atoned with the reality of the Great Europan War made their voices heard, until the sudden raise of a royal hand silenced them all. Like children, they instantaneously quietened down to their own father's gesture.

To their surprise, the Emperor suddenly started to chuckle to himself, laughing alone in the ambience of the hall's now apparent silence. Forwards, and back, he rocked and wiped his eyes gleefully at their expense, bringing strange layers of shame and belittlement towards those who began the armed debate beforehand. Eventually, he calmed himself down, taking a silent breath before recomposing his posture. With the wave of a hand he apologised kindly towards those around him, before snickering for a few more seconds. It wasn't a game by any means, but as the Emperor he couldn't help but amuse himself at the mishaps of his own people, seeing their own mischief as a strange reminder of the beacon that he held.

"I...apologise for my outburst, it was rather amusing to spectate though. I do not condone such division between our people, my good Lords, so remind yourselves of such camaraderie. Now I must begin by choosing a side of the debate, and to that I say we do not allow such an Operation to go forward." As his allegiance was made clear, the elder sat down and grumbled to himself, cursing the opportunity that had been lost over a promotion, rise in fame and eventual ascendance into the royalty's chamber-like family. Now with the silence settled the Emperor rose up from his seat, slowly walking towards the board that presented Amone. A few seconds passed as he intriguingly studied its symbols, confirming with the presenter that this was indeed the most accurate depiction of the frontlines to date. "I admire your courage in winning this war so swiftly but you forget we are challenged with an upcoming foe. The stupidity and insolence of Admiral Belgar's intuition has wrangled in a powerful threat to our war: the United States of Vinland. We must not forget that and need to take all following plans into account. Now, if I may have your attention, please hear my own plan: we stand on the defensive for the next few months. Desperate, it might sound, but we are prepared. We're only weeks away from completing Projekt Stahlsturm and we must not let the opportunity go to waste."

As graceful as his entrance was, Reginrave began to draw upon the map and highlight key areas he stocked from within his memory. A layered defence, imitating a wave-like intensity the closer it got to the Empire's borders, was yet to be proven in practice. This was the best time as ever. To him, Projekt Stahlsturm was the future of warfare to come. Not only would it shift this war, all future engagements the Empire would participate in would rather be driven by their expertise and military strength. Hundreds of steel beasts would roam down the road and eventually smash through the frontlines of the Federation. If they were unsuccessful, then a final arrangement would have to be made with the Federation, falling under yet another bigger operation the Emperor had planned.

Once his adjustments to the map were finished, Reginrave took to the front and politely took the parade staff from his presenter's hands, wiping it with a handkerchief to cleanse it from the sweat of a nervous officer. His composure and calmness suddenly began to spread across his staff, reminding them that he was the beacon, the beacon for the entire Empire. Whichever man or woman would follow in his footsteps, they too would take the flames of his torch and walk into the light.


"A week ago, I received a request from a certain Colonel Müller, who is currently the commanding officer behind Amone's defence as it is. He wanted reinforcements, and I proposed an offer for more than he bargained for. From here onward, Amone has been put under a Endergebnis protocol. A defence to the last available man. From now on, its priority is to buffer and slow down the entire Federation's progression. The longer we spend in Amone, as well as amongst the defences outside the city and further into Assen itself, the more time we have to deploy out newfound project before our enemy has a chance to deploy theirs. For us to make a successful push into Francia and to take their capital, we must whittle them down with a strong defence until the will of their people breaks, the flow of soldiers reduces and the resistance against us is squandered!" As his plans were becoming more understandable for his subordinates, a cheer of appreciation surrounded the table, bringing a wonderful smile to his face. He held much hope in the men of his army, not just the will of his plans. Everything laid in their resurgence, not some political decision making. For now, Vinland was soon to be upon them in the coming months. And when the inexperienced 'Doughboys' had set their sights upon the Imperial defences, the war would enter a new age of mechanisation. And if it failed, then the Emperor himself would take advantage of whatever peace he could get. "Like the Emperors, Empresses and Kaisers before me, they held a duty to victory and prosperity. Our national stability is at its all-time high and we must not let it crumble. Even in defeat, we will show resilience and begin the purification of Europa. From the Darcsens to the Federation fools who stand before them, this is our walk to the future. We must hold Amone, and Assen if it fails! Even if the war may not be ours, we will take the battle beyond peace and into the years to come. We will prevail in due time, my subjects. I do this for you, for my people and for my children who will take over once I am gone. I hope to rid the continent of such impurities before they succeed me, and I want to provide your children the same. Honour is our path, gentlemen. Let us make headway for the defences. Colonel Müller has been granted the prototype to Projekt Stahlsturm and contains the strongest of fighters at our disposal. His loyalty has already stated that he will hold Amone until his feet can no longer stand. Gracious our path will be, and onward you must go. Spread the word to Schwartzgrad of our new operation. Deliver hope to the people!"
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Hidden 3 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Conscripts
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Conscripts An Atom Trying to Understand Itself

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White-Feathers, that is perhaps the darkest section of the history book that he had glossed over. And yet it was nowhere as detached as he would have thought comparing to events like the Black Death or the Valkyrur Crusades. It happened nowhere beyond the range of his consciousness recognition. It was right there, happened when Michael was living, breathing and feeling in this brutal existence. He didn't want to admit it, but he was living in one of the most horrible times to be alive. To think, that no matter what good you do, no matter how dire the circumstances are, just by one simple fact that you have dark blue locks of hair on your head, you'd be considered an inferior beings, treated like an animal and even killed without any mercy or shame. It was as if...they weren't even looking at a human being. Even lions, bears and wolves mourn and wept at the death of their own pack members, so why couldn't these people do. Was it the downside to human evolution, that we had moved a little too far ahead of ourselves. That we were too smart to turn against ourselves, but were too dumb to realize the immorality of it?

What's even scarier is the crowd themselves. You could look at them with a much more sympathetic eye. They had a family. They had themselves. They had properties that they wanted to keep safe of. But their indifference to evil, ironically and tragically, led to even more losses that these people themselves failed to see. Michael was pretty certain that if each and every individuals involved had the guts to fight for what's right, this would never have happened. None of these White Feathers crap, nor Thomas's story about being denied the rights they were promised. And where else to look for evidence than right here, where there were no societal standards or etiquettes that restrict people from being 'polite' to one another. Most of the people he had interacted with didn't have much issues with Darcsens. Some had a bit of grudges, but they were mostly irrational and culturally driven, rather than anything personal. The ones with real and in-root racist values were in the minority. Not a rare one of the kind, but still not above the median bar. With that in mind, they were eventually allowed to spiral into what we had heard from Jean. It was scary and disgusting to think about.

"I guess it's a cultural difference as well. I don't recall Edinburgh having that caliber of terror. Even from the most outlandish of news sources" Michael said as he stared into the distant ground. "It's hard to hear myself. I'm sorry to know that happened to you, or anyone."

To even think about it, it was worth a sigh from the upper-class sapper. Perhaps it was best that he shared it, and without his knowledge, his superego had already been given way.

"I don't think they are the main issue." He said in a silent yet audible voice that almost seemed like a wind glossing over their cheeks, carrying wisdoms from books and archives his father had collected in his archive. "It's the others. If they keep turning a blind eye to tragedies, we'd continue to be consumed in the cycle of hatred."

They probably needed a guide. Or if they already had one, a leader. Someone or something that allowed their real goods to rise out of them. But where to find it now? There was nowhere to start. No formulas or anything that could do any help.

The talk did not go on for long though. Long story-short, a soldier, sent by Staff Sergeant Baker, summoned Jean to him for a briefing, so the Francian left the three for him. Isaac quickly left as well, leaving Michael alone with Thomas. The two proceeded to chat for a little while more before another soldier pulled Michael away from the Oceanic war hero, completely separating the group, at least for now. The person that pulled him away was a girl, apparently from Company D judging from her insignia. Looking over her side-ponytailed ocean blues was the all-to-familiar sapper gear that Michael had spent two months hugging them that it now appeared in his dreams sometimes. He could tell almost for sure that she bears the important role of sapper. And like Michael, the gentle tap of his shoulder to the semi-formal pattern of introduction were extremely impressionable for a denizen of society's upper echelon, mostly because of the dark contrast of the greasy, brutal and ungraceful nature of war

"Excuse me, are you Private Daunte of the 18th Atlantic Rifle?"

Michael firstly turned around to face the girl's matching sky blue eyes. The familiar sky blue. It wasn't good association with him. Why does every girl he talk to have that eye color.

"Yes." Michael clasped his two hands together and held it just below his stomach. "How may I help you?"

"My name is Anna. I'm a Private from Company D, sapper. It's a pleasure to be working with you in the upcoming days."

Wait, work? With the other company? Why didn't he hear anything about this?

"Uhh, forgive my ignorance but...I'm not sure I'm getting the context of this." Michael was offered a handshake to which he reluctantly took. The girl did not seem to be that surprised by the information deficit. Things like this happened all the time.

"Hehe, it's alright. It's new orders given from our higher ups." She replied. "If you want to know more, Staff Sergeant Baker is the one who briefed us. You can come directly to him."

"Where is he though?" Michael asked, to which he was quickly briefed by Anna, redirecting him over to the other side of the camp he was set up at, where Jean and Baker were being briefed. Now that Michael hated to interrupt with anyone's conversation, but Baker's warmth and welcoming upon seeing the sapper standing in the distant instantly pulled him into the circle with him. He seemed to be expecting the nobleman, although not completely.

"Private Daunte, yes?" He asked, upon Michael's approach. It was so much different from Middleton or anyone else that Michael knew. "Come in, we are just having a chat!"

"I'm glad you survived the onslaught from Middleton. I was worried for a bit." The recall of that ungraceful encounter made Michael's blood boil a little. But he knew that he should just let it go for now.

"I know how to go about things, especially with a man like him." He replied

"You were smart back there. Normal newbies would probably try to spat at him or just shudder in fear. And let me tell you, it wouldn't end well either ways." The man complimented. Comparing to the last time the Staff Sergeant saw the Private back in Hill 58, he looked like he was toughening up, and in a correct way as well. Not many people could do such a thing.

"Anyway, you must be here for that new assignment that you probably have never heard of?" Baker cleared his throat, officially ending the cycle of jokes, as the serious talk began. "So as you and Corporal Charpentier may know clearly, the Imperial tunnel beneath Amone is one of the critical supply line for their operations in this holy city. Big enough to essentially be considered an underground city of its own."

"The Imperials have been leeching from this supply line like ants for so long now, it is draining us of men and resources, and our higher ups of patience. So the they really want that city in ruin in the upcoming days, before the final assault." Michael already had that gut feeling before. And they were sending Michael in. Was it because they were a capable working squad. From the results of the last few weeks, apparently not. "Please brief this with the remaining sappers in your squad, that you'll be joining the two sappers in Company D to cut this supply line. Is that alright with you?"

All remaining sappers? Well, he only knew two others who bear the same responsibility. One of them, Gwyn, has either died or got separated and left behind at the inn. The other one is Reyna, who apparently hadn't had much interactions with the enemy, saving for that close-quarter fight before the inn happened. So it was a four man squad. Against the entire Imperial forces in there.

"I know it's a hard task, but it would be imperative to our success in Amone if you can pull this off. Do you think you can do that?"

It was probably a rhetorical question or a genuine concern. But Michael knew he wouldn't be able to weasel his way out of this. It was an order from the higher ups, and he had to do it. Chances that he would end up dead are higher than average. But then again...

'You will come back when you demand it."

"Sure." Michael replied briefly, to Baker's transformation of concern into satisfaction. "We will make sure that happens."
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Bushman501
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Bushman501 The Saber of Hungry

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September 26, 1914




Another love letter. And another, then another then another! This is getting silly! Reyna thought as she gazed upon another letter, again from Daniel. Geez, how many can one guy write?! Of course he was not the cause of all of the love letters, but he definitely made a portion of them. How many did this make from him? Ten? Twenty? She lost count after five. By the end of it all, Reyna will have thirty letters solely dedicated to being love letters. Out of that thirty, Reyna will later burn twenty-five of them in frustration.

Then, she heard a voice. Diana's voice to be specific. Reyna turned her head to see the giggling girl offering her cookies. Nothing ever beats homemade cookies so Reyna looked up at Diana with a smile of her own and a small sigh of relief. Cookies are always nice, especially homemade ones! "Thank you!" Reyna said as she took a cookie and lightly bit it, continuing to munch on the cookie while she talked to Diana. However, what came next was surprising.

Diana told her about Jean's confession. Wait a minute....herself, Diana, and Kalisa? He likes all three of them? Geez, Jean is really wanting a lot of girls just like the older days, isn't he? Reyna didn't know how she felt about that just yet. She didn't really want a relationship right this minute and she doubted she'd want one until she knew she was going to survive. That and to make sure it's not an immediate squad leader which could impair judgement on the field. Then again, there have been times where people loved each other so much they performed better on the field. However, Reyna didn't think the latter would happen, at least not yet. Time will tell, but Jean would have to talk to her himself. Randall, her father, wouldn't exactly be the happiest if she got hooked up with a Darcsen, but he also wouldn't discourage it either. "So that's why he kissed me on the forehead that night...thanks for telling me Diana. I was suspecting it myself for a while." At least this provides opportunity to have a little more entertainment and fun involving Jean....and probably not the entertainment he dreams of at night. She wondered what he had to do to deal with it. Boys will be boys.... Reyna thought to herself.

Soon, the subject changed to her letters and the burning of such. "Oh believe me, I am very tempted to. Random people giving me love letters is too annoying. This Daniel guy I specifically want to strangle." Reyna sighed with annoyance and a clenched fist, not even reading the guy's letters anymore at this point. She looked at Diana in the corner of her eye, a small smirk forming on her face as she ate the cookie and looked at Diana stifling a giggle. "Go ahead and laugh. I know how silly this looks! Reyna said with a small, barely stifled giggle, her hand moving to her mouth to cover said giggle. The attention, soon, turned towards the stack of letters from her father, Randall. "Yeah it is. Go ahead and take one of them. Father wants me to hand it out to some people in my unit anyway." Reyna said before answering Diana's questions. "Momma's Melissa. I got my hair 'n nose from her. And I'm not privy to all of my dad's business trips but he did take a few trips over to Edinburgh before and he attends a lot of high-end business meetings in Vinland. Maybe your dad met him on one of those?" Reyna spoke this with a thicker accent than usual, but only slightly. Reyna occasionally dipped into that accent from time to time, mostly when she was either concentrating or nervous.

Then, it was about tea and a drinking contest as Reyna listened to Diana. She stopped reading one of the letters for a second and looked at Diana in the eyes, who was a munching on a cookie. "Sure. I don't mind teaching you or anyone really. It's just momma's recipe. As for the dance I'm always happy to help. Though now I am curious: were there any stakes when you lost and why was the dance so embarrassing?" Reyna couldn't recall everything that night off the top of her head but there was no harm in asking questions.

Finally, there came the pendant. Reyna saw both Gavin and Rebecca, Diana's parents. This put a smile on Reyna's face as Reyna commented "Aww, they look like good people!" Reyna did not notice Diana's blushing, but she did hear the "crap" that came from her mouth. By this point Reyna simply put down the current letter and adjusted herself to face Diana a little more before asking with a little concern "Something wrong, Diana?"

@Landaus Five-One
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Landaus Five-One
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Landaus Five-One The Sadist Insaneous One

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Diana’s Brutal Reality – Whoops – September 26, 1914 (Siege of Amone)




Diana was looking over the letters, which Reyna had on her table, it was a bit insane. However, she did notice that Reyna did organize them in what they were and what not. She always enjoyed a bit of organization herself but she’s not mentally organized because of what had happened throughout this war so far. The one thing that gave her a smile was when Reyna took a cookie off the plate and said thank you to her. ”No problem, Reyna.” Diana said. It looked like Reyna needed a pick me up mostly because of the fact she looked frustrated with all the letters. Her mother definitely knows how to cheer up everyone with their cookies, but them being warm and just done and out of the oven is definitely better.

She definitely noticed Reyna thinking about what she had said about Jean confessing to her about whom he likes. It gave her much to think about to, which caused her to literally think about stuff. ”Hmm… I wonder what her response will be? I hope it won’t be shocking…” Diana thought to herself. She wasn’t expecting anything really shocking it took only a bit until Reyna spoke up. It caused her to gasp and be shocked that Jean did that, it was definitely sweet of him. She had to breath a bit because she didn’t see it at all but it would’ve made sense if she did seen it. ”Umm… That must’ve been a bit of a shock. It is okay better to tell than not to tell, which would my mother would tell me. You have been expecting that he liked you?” Diana questioned with a bit of a curious look at Reyna. However, she was a bit more forceful to tell people she liked them or otherwise, its just how she is. Because she got that strange forceful way to tell people by her own mother Rebecca, since she tells it how it is and not what people think it is or was. ”T-That is shocking… but stay strong Diana don’t do something stupid now. My mother has always said… Don’t over do it or you’ll become not what you want but what others want… I don’t understand that saying.” Diana thought to herself, with a definite look of confusion in what that means but didn’t say it out loud for Reyna to hear it.

Diana glanced over to Reyna, while she was clenching her fist and sighed with annoyance about the love letters in question. ”Rebecca has a funny way of saying things, this latest thing is a bit hilarious. It would be better to terrify them than strangle them so they never send another love letter to you or you might end up in jail for accidentally killing them.” Diana said with a slight undertone of like really mom? She shrugged her shoulders basically when she finished with what she said. It was a bit too funny, however, she couldn’t help herself but laugh at Reyna’s problems. ”I have never gotten a love letter in my life. I have a feeling it involves the same person I am scared of… But laughing is always better medicine than being sad, which is what my mother always tells me.” Diana said, with a slight saddening tone, however she looked passed the sadness with a laugh at the whole thing. She definitely felt a bit better at laughing at the love letter situation with Reyna because it gives her hope she will get one but from someone that loves her back.

Then Reyna spoke about the letters from her father are needed to be given to some people in the Squad, which made her specifically a bit shocked. She picked up one of Randall’s Letters since Reyna basically told her to take one. ”Your father has a sense of timing better than my mother Rebecca it seems. I’ll read the letter later because it sounds pretty important nonetheless.” Diana said, with a smile on her face. She had a gentle smile on her face when she heard Reyna’s mother’s name. ”Your mother’s name is pretty, Reyna. My dad Gavin also does business trips so they probably did meet once or twice. Gavin usually handles the balance sheet and gives the employees at the New Vastergoth Bakery their pay, while mom usually handles the creative side of things in terms of baking since she loves to do that.” Diana said, with a bit more understanding in how her father Gavin knows Randall but she doesn’t exactly know where her father goes on those Business Trips he usually takes. She giggled at Reyna’s thicker accent because it was a bit more thicker than normal. ”Cute accent Reyna.” Diana said, more or less teasing Reyna’s accent. It was always something she wanted to do by tease Reyna’s accent by calling it cute.

Diana eyes brightened up when she heard that Reyna would teach her to make the tea or really anyone in the squad that wanted to learn. ”Aww, thanks Reyna I cannot wait to make tea. What was that style of dancing by the way?” Diana asked, with a bit of glee. However, her mind compartmentalized what Reyna was curious about and it was definitely something she didn’t want to fuck up again. ”The stakes were a bit high in the drinking competition, I stripped myself naked just so I didn’t have to lose ungracefully like Luke had done, he basically was on the floor out like a light until I had to wake him up with water. Luke and I kissed because of the bet, however, he wasn’t a good kisser by the way. I kissed my friend Anna better than he could have kissed me though. I had to be a slave to the winner, which was Victoria for the rest of that day.” Diana said, however, she whispered Luke and I kissed in the White Hart Inn. It was pretty much obvious she was hinting what happened between her and Victoria at the inn without actually saying it. She didn’t realize what she was saying at this moment because it was in the moment as well. ”The dance in question was embarrassing because I was starring at you… and I know you were starring back at me too. But I will never forget it since it did cheer me up from Richard’s callousness.” Diana said, embarrassed in how she said starring at you. She was blushing a bit harder mostly because it was highly embarrassing to say this, however, if Reyna wanted to use this she probably could.

What Reyna said about her parents being good people put a smile on her face, however, she was blushing even more so than she had. It was obvious she did a whoops, in her line of thinking somewhere in telling Reyna what had happened at the Inn made her embarrassed even more. ”They are great, they mean the world to me…” Diana said, with a slight nervous tone in her voice. It wasn’t because of what Reyna had said it was her mind working on overdrive in trying to fix what she had said from before. She looked directly at Reyna when Reyna asked is something wrong. It was obvious there was something wrong, because she was extremely red right now. ”U-Uuhh… U-Ummm… I am embarrassed with what I had said, my family lives in the moment and are very blunt about things. However, I should have realized what I was talking about, which is why I said crap earlier. B-Because its highly embarrassing that I gave you details of what happened that night of the Drinking Competition. It doesn’t help that me and Victoria shared a night together too.” Diana said, with a slight realization a bit too late that she spoke about Victoria and her sharing a night on the same night as that drinking Competition. She was nervously shaking and blushing brighter than a tomato because of the whole thing that happened. The whole thing kinda made her want to faint but being woken up by someone else would be even more embarrassing than normal. ”The entirety of this is too embarrassing for me… why do I have to be so open with everything? First Jean and now this… Could always be worse I suppose, Luke could’ve had heard me… I have a feeling he’s going to not live down that defeat at Victoria’s hands.” Diana thought to herself, with a slight sigh of regret at herself for being too blunt for her own good. She couldn’t help but giggle at the fact he’s always going to have that over his head.

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by FalloutJack
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FalloutJack The Long Dark Nuka-Break of the Soul

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And so, while the Sovereign planned and the Green Fox was deployed, while reassignments were made and love letters were discussed...

...food was being made.

And let us be perfectly clear here. This wasn't simple ordinary rations and water, the very basics of human survival doshed out to soldiers to keep their bellies quite. No no no no... REAL food, food for champions, proper eats. As it all came to fruition, cooked and toasted to perfection, the aroma began to seriously waft. Tender beef and cooked veg, herbs and spices, and even...garlic bread!

Britta had outdone herself in two particular ways. First of all, while she had often helped her mother with the cooking at home, this would be the first time creating a large meal for many, basically on her own. Isaac's assistance was more-or-less a time-saver in regards to what she could do on her own, though she would at admit that it made the job easier. Secondly, though, the challenge of the meal itself - working with what they had, rather than having the selection of a store to decide her approach - was almost genius. That she had managed a decent dumpling stew like this was an achievement in of itself, and to top it all off with garlic bread? That was a stroke of luck the camp would soon not forget!

She worked on her own, staying in the zone of cooking and not thinking - for now - of her own troubles, and a smile planted itself on her face. It was almost ready... Even if she'd done half as well as she had, the Squad would be eating better than they had in a while, perhaps as good as they'd had it at the White Hart, even. Oh, but she hated to think of that now... All those great memories, and all that tragedy, coupled into one...

Hans, wherever you are, I hope they gave you a gasmask too.

Or better yet, that he didn't need it, and would never need it. Now, that she had pulled out some of the wood to lessen the fire, let the stew simmer and toast the bread a little, it was almost time... Isaac had gone to find glasses, but along the way he realized he needed to set out alot of things, like bowls and spoons. He did that without even thinking about it, demonstrating what HE did around the house at home. What must it be like, on the Black family lands? He was the youngest in his family, according to him, and it was a bit bigger than her own family, perhaps just as warm. Rather than dealing with crops, they wrangled animals, so they must've all been fairly-strong too, rather than just traveling on excess crop-picking stamina. Isaac returned to the cooking spot when he was done.

"Alright, everything's ready. They're gonna love this..."

"They're gonna surround us like your wolves."

"I wouldn't be surprised. It was almost impossible to keep them all away from our slaughterhouse when there's been a fresh kill. Rikes even tried to dig under it and pop up through the wooden floor."

"How'd you solve that?"

"Tossed some unused giblets outside and worked like hell to fill the hole."

"Did you ever do the slaughtering yourself?"

"Only to feed the wolves. Dad figured if I smelled like that and it wasn't feeding time, they'd get confused."

"Smart man."

She knew that he was making conversation like this to help her keep her mind off of things, like she wanted. Isaac had that 'Whenever you're ready' look about him. He wouldn't force it, and for that she was thankful, but he also wasn't leaving it. That was okay, though, because she didn't want him to leave it. She wanted to say, but not right now. Right now, they were all about to sit down to a nice meal. Right now, she was putting out all of the fire and setting out the garlic bread on a small makeshift table. Right now, it was...

"DINNERTIME!!"

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Lost. Alone. Hated that. He lost their scent. How did he lose their scent? It was all because of the smoke. That awful stenchful smoke. He'd turned and fled like a pup from something that smelled worse than decaying dead, something that was death. He had to. It would choke him to death. He could tell. There was no choice. Hadn't been able to find the others since. City smells, enemy signs, distant sounds - no friends in the curious-patterned clothes. Only the things they called the Imps. He'd killed several Imps, since then. Last resort. Not suppose to, but had to. Hungry, or nearly trapped. Got hurt, but not badly. Snagged the parcel-vest more than his flesh. Have to be more careful...

Been a while. No food. Last Imp he attacked had food, but there was a shot and he had to run. So close. Even Imp rations are okay to eat, sort of. No friends, no Feds. Must have ran fully into Imp territory when the smoke arrived, gone the wrong way. Been wandering the entire time, sleep only when absolutely sure nobody was around...so very scarcely, even for his kind. Distant sounds were resolving into...people. Lots of people. Not sure, but...wait, no. This was okay. It wasn't Imp-speak. It was English, or mostly English.

Also, there was...

Oh!

Oh, that smelled good...

Rikes' ears perked up, suddenly.

Did somebody just shout 'Dinnertime'?
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by LetMeDoStuff
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LetMeDoStuff The Token Cripple

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The Siege of Amone, September 26th - The Food and the briefing


Jean heard the call catch nearly every soldier in the courtyard's attention. A thousand eyes swivelled in their sockets towards a bright and cheery chirp, one that Britta gave to the world. Because of her distinctive voice, he knew that this wasn't just for the masses of hungry or eager soldiers preparing to descend upon Britta like a pack of wolves themselves. Jean quickly ran forward, waving his arms as he abandoned Staff Sergeant Baker and yelled out the identity of the squad, screaming that it wasn't for the others and not to get their hopes up yet. He did feel rather bad for those still waiting for their rations, but at the same time most of them hadn't set foot into Amone until two days prior. This was a welcoming gift for the surviving members of the initial first wave. Jean didn't think they deserved such luxuries at all, if they could even be called that, yet he didn't want to turn down the offer. After all, even after the gas attack they'd trudged around for approximately two weeks around Amone, avoiding armoured cars, patrols of Imperial riflemen and other optional skirmishes unless they were forced into one. Never before had their lives been clinging onto a small thread like that, to which that thread was the chance and luck they held so dearly. It wasn't skill keeping them alive, not by a long shot. No one with great skill was guaranteed a long-life in the Europan Frontier.

Jean eventually found his way to Britta, to where a minute table just big enough for her portions had been laid out, prepared for consumption by Squad 1. Well, was it really Squad 1? What defined Squad 1 was their collective companionship, or at least ability to try and work together. Whilst it stood true with more than others, more so for those who'd been there since the start, they were still somewhat of a community. They liked, disliked, hated and loved one another in differing ways. Clasped hands, tightened grips, shared breaths and thoughts, all of these combined together to create Squad 1. Yet, a vital piece was missing. A fair maiden, one who seemed to be swept off of her feet for another fellow comrade of Jean's, was absent from the beautiful conglomerate. A concession was not complete without all of its invites, yet she was locked behind the bars of imprisonment, chained beneath the steel of Captain Middleton. Every minute she spent away from Squad 1 was another minute she fell under the influence of his brutally battered sense of righteousness, one that had lost its original purpose of paternal love and protection. Now, Squad 1 was not complete. The meal itself could not be lived up to its full potential with such a loved member absent. Such a divide was not necessary yet it still continued, such as the way the world worked. Jean was not much of a philosopher, not by any means, nor a grand thinker, but he still felt disheartened having just one member away. Even those he perhaps didn't like were still invited to join and that was okay with him. They all needed that luxury to talk to one another, in many different ways. Whether positive or negative, at least they'd share a moment together, alone and secluded from the other soldiers who bustled around in orderly fashion. All of them were together in their special methods. Lovers had formed: Britta and Isaac for one, whilst others were still blooming or drifting apart. That was the beauty hidden in Squad 1. And they were missing a piece that Jean considered crucial.

As they all gathered around the table, getting ready to grab their food, Jean took a step forward and suddenly blocked their paths, standing rather firmly yet still looking vulnerable enough to break through. He knew they were likely hungry, or ready to carve into whatever delicious scents that awaited behind their Corporal, but Jean wanted to at least gather his thoughts and ensure the serious notion was out of the way. Things had to be said before the feasts could continue, as all dinners usually went by. And so, he cleared his throat, apologetically trying to regain his composure and serious tone of an NCO.


"Uhh...before we dive in, I do want to say a few words. I mean, there's a few things we need to talk about before we can get onto relaxing. Now I know everyone doesn't like business, but firstly I want to get straight into it: tomorrow at early sunrise, I will need to gather three of you to come with me...uhm...out there. Don't want to ruin the mood and all before we even start, but Baker has orders to send me, Corporal Carter and a few others out for a scouting mission. Apparently the higher-ups plan for a final offensive to take place in about two days, ending the Siege or some bizarre shit like that." Things fell silent for a short while, emphasising that Jean wasn't really bringing this up at the best of times. Yet he needed to confirm it with the others. The sooner he brought this new mission into the light the better. There was still time to decide who'd go with him, and at least mentally preparing them for such a choice would lessen the destructive capabilities of its reveal. Either way, the gawping eyes staring him down brought another sense of dread and anxiety deep within his throat, causing him to adjust his collar accordingly. "Just a scouting mission, that's it. Up and down some of the roads and then back, checking there's no major defences in front of our path. After that we come home, we have the day's rest and then we head out tomorrow to get the hell out of this city. That's something I think we could probably drink to. As for eating, I want to thank you all for your cooperation so far, and I hope we as a team will continue to try and build together for the time we have left. Cliche, perhaps, but there's nothing more to say from me. So please, enjoy this great feast-of-what-we-could-scavenge from our gourmet chef, Britta."

Jean moved out of the way, allowing for the hordes and masses of his squad to enter and devour whatever they could. Picking whatever was a crucial step into enjoying the best meal, trying to settle for the best part. Jean wasn't going to adhere to temptation, no. He was a Corporal and they had expectations of him. He was to remain formal and polite, allowing those to gain their rations before him and-

Wait...

Is that..?

GARLIC BREAD?!

With a shifting gaze, Jean rushed for the table himself and started to snatch up four loaves of garlic bread, suddenly indulging in the sweetened scent that gently whiffed off of it. Like a strip of powder intended on getting him intoxicated, Jean ran his nose across the baguette-formation of garlic bread and breathed in that succulent indulgence. How...imprudent, one might've said if they were posh. But, but it was just so good. It couldn't be helped. For almost a year, Jean had not tasted the sweetness of garlic bread. It was a commodity back home in the early days of the war but the bread began to be used for the frontline instead, just leaving the garlic butter behind to mix with other foodstuffs. Now, this was a treat. This was a luxury for a Francian. The richness of its spread, the brilliance of its formation. Britta was certainly either an experienced cook or just lucky in creating such perfection. Jean's eyes rolled to the sky as he smiled immensely, speaking such native wonders to himself aloud. Only Inès probably could've understood it at first, but that made it ever the more strange.


"Pardonnez-moi, ma chérie, car je devrai à nouveau dévorer ce pain divin, comme un animal!" As if they were the rites to some holy ceremony, Jean concluded his exasperation with the first bite, secretly groaning in nostalgic enrichment from its flavouring. If it wasn't apparent, such food was Jean's favourite, by a long shot. He looked to Inès and rose the bread upwards, holding it like a sword to present to the glorious world surrounding him. "Truth be told, I have missed this flavour before. We've been blessed, fellow Francian!"

It was surreal, perhaps. Jean, on his own accord, was making himself laugh and cheer, seemingly forgetting about the upcoming scouting mission that laid ahead. He scurried in-between a few of his comrades, randomly giving Britta a large and welcoming hug for about a second as he gave his gratitude for its flavour. He handed a piece to Diana and Reyna, circled around once more to Michael and giggled like a small boy who'd done something intolerant in the classroom behind the teacher's back. The side of him that still fed on the nostalgic thoughts came back to him and he froze, staring with a smile out into the streets, away from the group. It may have looked odd to them, but he reached out and stared, smiling with unknown intent. Yet to him, he saw it in his mind. He saw his kitchen again. He saw the faces of those who used to feast and eat richly around tables. Garlic bread, roast chicken from the market and a shitload of boiled carrots. If only there were a time and a place like that again, where Jean actually had a family...

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Jacky
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Luke Godfrey


A low groan escaped Luke, his stomach churning in nausea and his head spinning as he bent down. He frowned in annoyance at the puddle of bile he had just puked up behind his tent and closed his eyes as he fought to keep more down. “Fuckin Darkie, must have spike that rum with something,” he muttered before spitting out a glob of what was left from the bile that had escaped his stomach. Silently he knew Ines couldn’t have spiked his drink, but he had hoped putting the blame on her helped him concentrate for the moment. Sadly that wasn’t the case as his mind still struggled with the pent up frustration from his drunken dispute earlier. For the moment, as he leaned forward awaiting any more bile that wanted to escape his gut, Luke tried his best to simply hold down his thoughts along with his stomach. He could barely remember what it was he had been arguing about earlier, but he could remember the feeling of… anger? No, there was definitely anger, but there had been something much more spine chilling that had drained him on the spot. He shook his head and cleared his throat, finding it impossible to remember at the moment.

With a groan he stumbled out from behind his tent and spat to the side before looking around the camp, ruffling his messy hair with a frown. It had all been a blur, but from what he could remember he slipped away from Victoria’s comforting presence, ran behind his tent and felt as if he was going to die. A stale chuckle left him as he began to get his head on straight before he wiped his mouth and stretched his limbs with a sigh. “We really need to head back out, this sitting around his gonna kill me before the fucking Imps,” he muttered to himself hearing familiar voice ring out through the camp. Dinner time? What, did they get an extra shipment of rations, or did they catch a few rats again? At first he hated the taste of rats, but soon it wasn’t to bad, almost like chicken. If that chicken came out of a trash of severed rat asses. It was meat though and he was happy to catch it with a few people from other squads.

Luke’s mind snapped back to reality as a wonderful scent of cooked food reached his nose. Real food!? It brought pleasure to his nostrils and his recently emptied stomach began to rumble violently. He looked around to see his squad heading to the dinner table and cleared his throat, forcing down his sickness and making his way to join the others. He walked slowly, making sure he was the last to arrive and attempting to keep a low profile from the others. His head was still spinning slightly, his stomach felt uneasy and a small frown rested on his tired looking face, but the urge to start eating real food forced him to continue with everyone. His urge for food though would have to be held back as Jean began to address the team. It took everything in him to hold back a groan of annoyance, but as he listened he arched a brow as Jean announced a scouting mission they were assigned to and needing volunteers. Instantly he knew he had to go, staying in this camp any longer was going to drive him insane.

As he silently felt joy towards the mission he began to remember his talk with Ines earlier concerning Jean and felt his frown grow. He still owed him an apology and honestly it irritated him slightly. Jean, even if he hated to admit it, was due an apology. The last time Luke had even apologized to anyone was to his friend Jack when he accidentally kicked him in the groin since he mistook him for a robber. Silently he looked at Jean as he continued to speak, glancing to his blue hair and feeling a chill travel up his spine. That hair, it reminded him of more unpleasant memories. Even a tinge of anger flared up in his chest, but he forced it down and sighed. This was gonna be a mess.

Soon Jean finally ended his speech and everyone began to surge towards the food, though Luke stayed back for a moment, watching everyone begin to get their food and arched a brow as Jean seemed to like the garlic bread a bit to much. He clenched and unclenched his hands, his mind trying it’s best to come up with an apology. Finally he sighed and shook his head. Screw it, he’d just go for it. Luke approached Jean with an emotionless expression and tapped his arm. “Boss, I need to talk to you. It’s a bit important,” he said, his tone low as he tried not to gain anyone else's attention. He led him away from the table before turning towards him and turning towards him, a small frown on his face and his posture straight in a professional manner, though he wobbled a bit thanks to his little party earlier.

“Boss I… I owe you an… apology,” he said, seeming to struggle to get it started. “About what happened when we first entered this shithole of a city,” he clarified before clearing his throat and glancing away for a moment before looking back. “I may have been out of line, the whole Darcsens should live in shitholes like this may have been a bit rough now that I’ve had some time to think on it,” he admitted as he rubbed the back of his head. Luke closed his eyes and took a long breath through his nose, knowing he still needed to explain his reason.

“I realize it wasn’t the smartest move in a team like ours, but I’m not… well, use to working with Darkies-I mean, Darcsens!” he quickly caught himself and sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Damn it, hold on, I uhh… I mean, I’ve never actually been around Darcsens that are not trying to be a throne in my side,” it probably wasn’t the best way to save himself from this shitshow of an apology, but he just had to wing it now. “All of the Darcsens I’ve ever met have either done harm to my foster families business, or threatened my life and the lives of my sisters. I’ll be honest, I thought you were all the same. Thieves, thugs, sneaky little… I’m making things worse aren’t I?” he sighed and ruffled his hair. “Anyway, ever since I joined this team I’ve realized that may have been a bit, well, ignorant I guess. Honestly, I barely know the history behind Darcsens and have been going off my own experiences dealing with you people, or uh… Darcsnes,” he shook his head and felt his uneasy stomach rumble and winced as it slightly bothered him. With tired eyes he locked his gaze with his and cleared his throat.

“Again though Boss, I apologize for what I said and I want you to know I will never let it get in the way of our mission here. My life and rifle are under your command, ready to be used or discarded at your order. To prove it I want to volunteer for the scouting mission and to be in the front in case we are to engage any Imps,” he finished with a stern voice and even crossed his arms behind his back at attention. He was unsure how he did, but he awaited for Jeans reply, his stance wiggling a bit as he still struggled to stand up straight.

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Yam I Am
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Yam I Am A Crackhead, but the only crack here is sobriety

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"DINNERTIME!"

"Oh...merci mon dieu..." Inès sighed, relieved to hear the call of dinner as an end to her hours-long utility as a pillow for Franz's comfort. Indeed, it was sweet, for Inès ultimately knew that Franz would have done the same for her, had their positions been switched and she came to his aid, but neither could she reject the reality that such immobility - and inactivity - drove her well past tolerance and well into boredom-induced insanity.

"Franz," the Shocktrooper called to her companion, nudging him awake, whilst also extending a generous - yet gentle - assistance toward the man getting on his feet that would clearly suggest she wished to stand. Somehow, Inès had wondered, given the past few weeks, if awakening others was to be a habit, that she may very well become the company bugler.

"Dinner's ready. Let's go eat." she urges on, exiting from the tent with a steady look back, as if she made certain Franz would follow.

Dining standards for the military were generally mediocre, generously speaking, and those served in the field lesser than such a meager title. More often than not, the food itself on offer did nothing to alleviate such judgements, the disgusting slop in a can they foisted upon soldiers as food often making matters worse for the troops at hand. What was supposed to be some manner of potato and meat stew instead blackened and soiled inside a cold, grease-laden broth. For ingredients that were largely salted for preservation, Inès gave the packagers credit; even one who had only modest ingredients herself could not make a largely fiberous meal taste acidic. Maconochie, it was called, and was famously lambasted as, "An inferior grade of garbage."

A meal taken and prepared for the crew was, appropriately, a gift that Inès graciously appreciated, even if the scent coming from the table would have indicated they were otherwise eating char-burned scrapings from a meat pan. Though her face would never show it, whatever manner of concoction was preferable to whatever waste logistics and supply would foist upon them otherwise. At the long table, Inès took her seat at the side of Franz, across from Freya, and well in good company.

...well in good company of their one and only Corporal hoisting about a loaf of buttered bread as if he had found some holy relic itself, to everyone's amusement, Inès' note. Inès appreciated the change of pacing, sure, being the first truly cooked full meal she'd had in weeks now, yet Jean was...clearly a bit too excitable about it.

Thoroughly nonplussed, Inès' nonamused features remained rather blank while eyes and ears turned to the Darcsen Corporal.

"Uh...Jean? Ça va?"

Inès mentally noted that she likely already had an answer to such an inquiry. At minimum, it was polite to ask, if Inès' lack of formality in her query betrayed her true thoughts behind that expression. An unamused sigh flowed throughout her body, the rather unimpressed woman retiring once more to her seating. She would look about for a fleeting moment, taking view of the general demeanor of the company at hand whilst she did serve herself. Manners, it would seem, would have to wait, yet Inès knew that much was only formality she seldom had time to acknowledge. And as she folded her legs, prompt to dine, Luke's rising mood she did notice. She would pause before she dug in upon the first wishes of Luke escaping his mouth, almost freezing her utensil as she passed eyes over the scene. That would soon turn to cautious listening, never fully looking over the two as expression soon turned to fumble, then to apology, then to faux pas once again. Even whilst the poor fool threw out his racial retorts as some uncultured troglodyte, Inès did look upon the display and give a smile.
Hidden 3 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by LetMeDoStuff
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The Siege of Amone, September 26th - Confronting the demon


Jean settled down, the high of the garlic bread finally ceasing to exist once he'd finished his entire roll. It was glorious, nonetheless. Such flavours had been absent from his life ever since he'd enlisted into the Army. Even so, before he'd considered joining the military these beauties of the sensory world were still quite a rarity. Rations would occasionally hit Francia on a regular basis, though apparently Edinburgh themselves didn't face this issue much. All for the war-effort, here and now. It brought a question upon Jean's mind: with Francia rationing its food, leaving the best meals and foodstuffs that were on offer to the army, why didn't the army actually have such good meals to eat? This was the first tasty delight that Squad 1 had managed, excluding the White Hart's hospitality. Were bigshot generals with thousands of unworthy metallic medals feasting away upon it all? Maybe it'd explain the size of half of those armchair soldiers he'd come to despise. Thomas always buggered on about them, how he'd actually approached a Iberon General back when he was on the Southern Front. Sounded ugly, to be honest. Didn't seem like the wise decision to step out of line and humiliate a leading professional with his charm and wit. At the end of the day, he did gain more popularity with his Edinburgh comrades and soldiers. Probably was the only reason he hadn't ascended to Sergeant...amongst a list of other incidents.

Mustering the strength to memorise the past, the flavours themselves were a treat. They spiralled around the cognitive strands of his brain, collecting and re-assorting them into a better light. Images of his blessed kitchen, where both Mother and Father danced, hand in hand, lovingly together by the small gramophone whilst Olivia and Jean both giggled from behind the door. After that, they'd sneak a piece of garlic bread once more from the table and rush back to their rooms, where an assortment of shoddy wooden toys were littered around. Without much intention of leaving the home to purchase some, both Father and the children worked together in the basement workshop to commandeer their own designs and toys, making outrageous figures that looked barely human, yet still friendly. There, Olivia and her younger sibling, the one she so cherished, would nibble away at their prize and talk of their victories as if they were thieves of the olden era. That night, Olivia would always go to Jean's bedside, from his youth to the final day they spent together, and would whisper she's always under her shield. To her, no harm would ever come to Jean until the day he writhed away of old age, scuffing into dust peacefully without a painful anguish to accompany it. Life would be rough, but comfortable for him. Olivia had taken her own motherly compassion, even from an extremely young age, and protected Jean where anyone else couldn't. She was his shield. Partially, for once, Jean began to think positively.


"No...she's still my shield." Taking a final chunk out of his meal, he hummed happily with a wild chirp, entirely blocking out the war around him. Now, in that minute, nothing mattered. There was no violence. There were no suffering injured men or women. This was all that mattered. The loaf that fed the sorrowful boy. A charitable philanthropic mindset overcame him as he blurted out to Britta, the chef of course, and politely smiled to her. "Make sure we do not eat everything here, for there is too much! Give some to our fellow soldiers, who watch rather eagerly with the jealous thought in their green eyes!"

During his poetic formation of words, commanding Britta to share at least some of the food with nearby comrades from other regiments and squads, the happy mindset was doomed when a face walked beside him. A wobble would show his instability, the very fragility of his approach was rather jarring indeed. Luke. The boy, or man if he was considered one by his comrades, walked with a stench of alcohol dripping from his uniform. Whilst not soaked, the scent itself doused him and leaked off like the gas that had previously engulfed the city of Amone. The whiff was...uneasy. It made him feel floozy and queasy altogether, as if he himself were drunk or under the influence of yet another wretched booze. Jean frowned, but took the offer up when he was told to talk about something important. At first, he was unsure of what there was to talk about. A half-drunk racist spouting perhaps information about the upcoming mission? It seemed unlikely. Yet again, something felt really off about his formal address, or rather informal. Boss? It...felt condescending, and yet Jean didn't know why.

And so, Luke began. Honestly, it was surprising. An apology...of sorts? Jean didn't interrupt him, hoping that as he continued it would perhaps become better, and could be a gateway to connecting the two mutually. Yet...Jean just felt...more offended? Was that the right term? No...it was bittersweet. Its sweetness came from the apology, and the concept of having some repent for their actions. Unfortunately, the bitterness was far stronger, much like the smell of his bloody alcohol and the splash of vomit still smeared on the side of his lip. And eventually, he concluded, offering his services within an upcoming mission. For a solid minute, Jean didn't speak. He stared at him, half-shocked and half-taken back. How could he react? What was the appropriate thing to say? Should Jean hold his tongue and simply accept his attempt, seeing it as potentially a road to redemption ? No...Jean didn't take it like that. He...he just didn't know what to say. And because he didn't know, he simply stood there with a troubled mind. Eventually, he plucked the thought and courage to at least respond...speaking an honest mind.


"You really think it's going to be this simple, or has someone advised you to apologise?" He tried to keep his voice low to not attract and unwarranted attention, yet sometimes he felt the passion of his words slip a bit louder than anticipated. "I can see you still struggle to even put us on the same level. 'You people'? Darkies? Honestly, Luke...it disappoints me. No, it sickens me. It really makes me think that something so rotten will be swept under the rug with a simple sorry. I can empathise with you being threatened by Darcsens in the past but why did I...or our allies, or anyone else deserve such flak? Such abuse was...unwarranted. It hurts, Luke. Like a knife. Even here, with the scent of death reeking off your clothes, god forbid, you still call me a Darkie. Have you no tact?"

Desperately, he looked away. As he spat his words, his teeth gritted as he quietly scolded the man before him. It was harsh, yes. Jean felt at least appreciative of being apologised to in the first place, but it fell apart with the slurs and detachment of cooperation thrown within it. He wasn't in any state to apologise, but with the alcohol inside him Jean felt it was more of a reflection of his true personality, simply doing someone else's bidding to apologise. He'd spent time with the other Francian, which was at least a step in the right direction...yet...Ines also didn't represent all Darcsens. Jean was not going to go down and bend to his apology so easily. Jean...was...hurt. Hurt, badly. Like a knife, he felt the serrated edges of his words bleed him dry, scratching away like a cats claws until he was but a dry lump of skin and bone.

"Know, Luke, that it truly hurts me to speak my mind so vigorously, but I think you are rather ignorant, or incompetent, at realising the weight of those words you said. It's not that your apology isn't unwelcomed, at the very least I can appreciate the effort behind it, but you know nothing of Darcsen history yet continue to throw spite because of the wrongdoings of criminals that don't represent us all. I...I don't like that ignorance, it scares me. And I'll be honest Luke...You scare me. I am terrified...completely." Jean backed down, looking away as he felt his arm hold his other from across his stomach. He didn't want to talk anymore. But there was still at least one more thing to address. Jean plucked the courage once again to open his mouth, this time mumbling his words instead of actually speaking like before. Perhaps he was wrong to at least tell Luke he was scared of him. Even if he tried to prove himself in battle or protect him in a situation...he'd be scared of that drive to kill. "You...can come on the Scouting Mission tomorrow. Not to prove anything...no...This time it's because I would rather have volunteers than for me to choose soldiers myself. We leave...at 0500 hours...tomorrow before sunrise. Don't...just...please just clean yourself up, you look and smell like shit."

Quietly, he began to return to the group, only to not feel his drive to talk anymore. Jean instead gently wandered around from person to person, patting them on the shoulders before saying he was going to turn in for the day, even though the waning hours of the sunlight were still forever plentiful. From Reyna to Isaac, Michael to Franz, he silently apologised for his early departure and left, picking up his helmet and wandering to a nearby tent, where he zipped up the entrance and buried himself inside, turning into the hermit he'd tried to break out from once again. It wasn't Luke's fault entirely. No...this time it was Jean's fault. Just as it always had been.


The Siege of Amone, September 27th - A familiar silence





0440 hours. Twenty minutes clicked by on the clock. As per his orders from Staff Sergeant Baker, their equipment would be ready for collection at any time's notice. There was no need to load ammunition or webbings, only to grab the rifle, equip the helmet and get going whenever the clock stuck its deadline. Jean...he felt tired, tired and ill-willed. Something about the previous night had disturbed him, made him fear the upcoming squander into No Man's Land. Jean was scared. He hated the thought of going out and potentially never coming back. Death, even for someone who tried to put it upon himself, was a concept that terrified the living shit out of Jean. Forever. He would fear it. Nevermore would he feel safe outside those walls. Even so, the potential importance behind the group's actions and findings. They could find something that may change the way the battle the following day may play out. Who knew? Jean didn't. Jean never knew, he just did what he was told. Like the good little soldier people wanted him to be, Jean tried to appease both his friends and his superiors, yet failed in most fashions. Jean was not a leader, but a straggler put into one's boots. Now, he simply laid there, in his tent, tying the laces on his boots and preparing to head outside, meeting his supposed team and preparing for the mission he dreaded. Those who weren't coming could sleep soundly, and entertain themselves behind the closed doors of their humble resting grounds. Jean wanted mercy, but he knew that outside of those crooked walls they'd get nothing of the sort.

Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Jacky
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Luke Godfrey


Luke held back a wince Jean began to speak, glancing to Ines with a ‘I told you’ gaze before looking back to Jean as he continued. Slowly he began to grow annoyed at his superior, looking at him with a bit of disgust as he spoke and expressed his displeasure in the whole situation. It took every bit of him to not roll his eyes as he called his comment from before rotten, or how he somehow abused his comrades. Abused!? They were all soldiers here, if they couldn’t take a little shit from a little comment like that then they should work in the kitchens or away from the fighting! Again he had to hold back a scoff as he said it hurt like a knife. He had never heard anything so outrageous. He should ask someone who’s been stabbed by a real knife and see if it’s the same. Honestly, Luke couldn’t believe this was his superior. As jean looked away with gritted teeth Luke clenched his hands behind his back, his annoyance growing by the second. ‘Don’t look away, have a fuckin spine if you’re gonna scold me with this bullshit!’ Luke thought to himself before Jean finally looked back towards him.

To his surprise he didn’t continue to scold him. Instead he admitted he didn’t enjoy speaking like this to him and pointed out his ignorance towards the issue. The incompetent comment bothered him a bit, but he began to feel his annoyance simmer down as Jean pointed out he knew nothing about the Darcsen history and jumping the gun without learning about them. He nodded slightly, able to understand his point. Luke paused though, a bit taken back as Jean admitted his ignorance towards the Darcsens actually scared him. He… scared him? For some reason it got under his skin. He was used to pushing people's buttons, but never has he actually scared someone. It’s fine if it’s his enemies, but his comrades? It didn’t feel right for some reason. Soon Jean spoke again, this time mumbling his words before allowing him to come on the mission. At least he had the green light to go, though as Jean said he looked and smelled like shit Luke looked down at himself with a small frown. He wasn’t wrong, right now he wasn’t at his best.

With that Jean dismissed himself from not only Luke but the team who were dining together. For a moment Luke stood there, letting Jeans words sink in while gazing out into space as he thought about the whole situation. It was all just a huge shit show. “Shit,” he muttered before ruffling his messy hair and walking to the table. His appetite was gone now, but he did snatch up a piece of garlic bread and left the team, not sparing them a glance or word, his mind focused on his discussion with Jean. Without any detours he returned to his tent and closed the flap to deny anyone from outside to see. A grunt escaped him as he sat down onto his bed and sighed. The tent was quiet as he sat alone, the garlic bread clutched in both hands as he looked down to the ground with a stern gaze. There was a mix of annoyance and disappointment between Jean and himself. Being told he scared Jean was still bothering him a bit since he couldn’t understand why such a little comment can cause all that. There were plenty of things that he should be afraid of in this warzone, so why the hell did this scare him?

Luke shook his head before taking a bite from his garlic bread. As he chewed and enjoyed the wonderful flavor he slowly looked up, catching a glimpse of himself in a slightly cracked mirror resting on a small empty crate he had stolen. For a moment he simply stared at himself, his chewing growing slower as stared himself in the eyes. They were so tired, his face dirty with a small bit of facial hair growing, some vomit on the corner of his mouth and finally that nasty scar on the right side of his face. Once he swallowed Luke gently ran a finger over his scar, his eyes hardening as it traveled to the bottom of his chin. This was actually him? He looked different before he came here didn’t he? He didn’t look so… dead. His mind began to drift back home to his family and friends before wondering if they would recognize him. Will he even be the same person when he gets back? If he got back that is. If he’s managed to scare his superior then would he scare everyone back home, especially his sisters? Luke clicked his tongue in annoyance before chucking the garlic bread to the corner of the tent and ruffling his hair in frustration. “Goddamnit!” he hissed before looking back to himself in the mirror. After a few minutes of silence he pulled out his bayonet from his boot, snatched up his canteen and silently began to try and fix the only thing he was able to.




The rest of the night flew by for Luke and before he knew it it was almost time to head out on the scouting mission. Luke stood in his tent, dressing himself into his uniform and checking his rifle. They had tried to take it from him, but there was no way he would let them touch it. Even if he got into trouble there was nothing that could separate himself from his weapon. With a small sigh Luke looked into the small mirror, rubbing his newly shaved and washed up face. His uniform was still a bit messy, but luckily he had managed to scrub out a little bit of that booze smell. The smell of death still lingered, but there was no use trying to hide it, there was gonna be more soon to come. Finally after making sure he was prepared to go Luke gave himself a slight nod before leaving the tent, strapping on his helmet and swinging his rifle on his shoulder.

Soon he met with Jean and began to collect his gear silently, sneaking a few spare rounds into his pockets. If this was a scouting mission then it meant he would have to travel light so he made sure to take only the bare essentials. After making sure he was ready to go he looked to Jean then out towards No Mans Land with an expressionless gaze. It was definitely dangerous out there, but it didn’t scare him. He just wanted to get to work and get it over with. With a long sigh he sat down on some rubble and looked out towards the sight that would frighten most men. He remained silent for a moment before speaking. “Couldn’t fix the dead guy smell, but I did my best to get rid of the shitty smell,” he said before rubbing his chin. Luke looked to his rifle and aimed it out towards the No Mans Land before lowering his rifle with a small smirk. “Perfect mourning for stroll through hell. Don’t you think, Sir?” he asked, making sure to refer to Jean respectably instead of ‘Boss’. Might not make any difference, but it could be a small step in mending the damage between them.

@LetMeDoStuff

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The Siege of Amone, September 26th - Trading Luck



For a fleeting moment, Thomas felt something ease into his boots, quivering them around like some sort of ragdoll. The feeling was...short-lived, but...it hit hard. For a while, it had been one that stuck around in dire situations, but now was anything but that. Thomas scanned the group, seeing the strange mishaps of Jean with his Francian food, the chatting of others and the few smiles that would be shared amongst one another. And...it bothered him? Did it? Was that truly the reason? No. Clearly not. Thomas wasn’t bothered by their interactions, more scared of what could come. Time and time again, he’d seen this same scenario play out within his bombastic past:

The fields would be flourished, absolutely bloomed, with friends and familiar faces. He’d left his homeland in 1910EC to fight a war for a continent he’d never even seen before. Hundreds of like-minded, adventurous and brave souls wandered into the depths of Europa’s underbelly, boarding an armada of ships and vessels unlike anything seen before to the common Oceanic man. Courageous smiles and banterous chuckles kept them going, despite the reality that awaited them across the oceans. Thomas had friends, many friends, from his training days and saw to keep them by his side. They made promises to one another to see how many kills they could get, or if they could snag an Imperial souvenir from a corpse, as if something so grim were something to laugh about. And then, days after they first set out, the interception came.

Thomas felt afraid for the first time in a long while. The torpedoes and the cannonades, intercepting their convoy at full velocity, slammed into the side of his ship, causing it to topple over onto his side. Though the scrapes of metal screeching alongside the blaring emergency sirens tore his ears to shreds, Thomas survived and made it to the rescue craft they sent out, many of those faces he’d been chatting to never made it.

Across the war, those numbers dwindled. Some got split up to other regiments, other theatres and other battles sprawling all through Europa’s mountains, forests, hills, plains, marshes and sand-dunes, whilst many fell before his very own eyes. Battles like the Apelhout, Salztal, Dunstones and the Great Oudgem forest all tore those away from him. Until it were just Freya, Naomi and himself. Then came Operation: Breached Gates...and Naomi was added as the final nail in Freya’s coffin. Now? Now it was just them two. Thomas, in that short moment, feared that he might lose those around him, such as he had many times before. They were wonderful people, all in their own regards. To him, in the short time he’d known them, they felt like a family to him. It was an uncanny feeling, but he loved it. He loved them. They’d all felt so different from the regular soldiers and groups he’d fought alongside. They were charismatic, heart-broken, romanticised, downright strange in other cases, nervous and human. All of them: human. What did they deserve for such punishment to be put upon them? Perhaps he’d find out...perhaps...for then, Thomas stood, blankly looking at a small piece of meat he held in his hand, contemplating whether or not eating it was a good idea.


---

As Luke fell asleep in her arms Victoria had time to reflect on the letters she had sent out earlier. Maybe she shouldn’t have sent those letters, or at least not the one addressed to Elizabeth . That was some heavy stuff for her daughter to read, and she wouldn’t be doing that for another few years at least so there had been little point. The only thing that would come of it would be her grandmother slicing it open and skimming the words before promptly tossing it into the fireplace and tell her parents about it so that the wayward soldier would get an earful at the next mail call. “Goddamnit, I’m stupid.” Victoria cursed to herself hatefully, gently brushing a strand of hair from her adopted child’s face. Why couldn’t she think things through ever, get through a full week without fucking up something in someway or another.

Perhaps it was genetics, she mused, humming a quiet lullaby to an abrasive little bastard (the thought occurred to her that people might like him if they saw how sweet he looked when sleeping). After all it wasn’t exactly a well thought out decision for two parents who could barely feed themselves to have three kids. Maybe poor decisions were just part of her blood. But even if that was true she would still take the prize. She managed to end up with a kid, an alcohol addiction, multiple deaths and a nearly comical number of assaults attributed to her and a host of issues all by the time she was eighteen. It was almost impressive in a darkly comedic sort of way. She was the sort of person that a parent would construct as a straw man to frighten their kid away from consorting with the wrong types.

Victoria was fucked, her life wasted before she hit twenty. Assuming she made it out of this stupid fucking war all she could was return home and go back to the same shit she had been doing before she left Praire, knocking loose teeth and mugging strangers so she could get a little change to buy some stale bread. It was almost preferable that she catch a sniper’s bullet or get blown into a thousand unrecoverable chunks by an Imperial artillery shell. The only reason she didn’t want that to happen was because she had people to care for. She had to ensure that Luke and her daughter didn’t follow her path, and someone needed to look out for Diana and baby-proof everything for her. Once the war was ended and she was sure that they were fine, then she was allowed to give up and go back to her old ways. Luke’s offer for her to move to his hometown, while touching, wasn’t likely. Vicky wasn’t a farmer or housewife, she was a violent thug, a murderer and bandit. That’s all she would ever be.

But maybe it would work for Elizabeth. A new home could turn out to be the vaccine against a life of bloodshed, and it would give Luke another little girl to look after instead of getting in trouble. As he stirred back to life against her chest she looked down to ask him about it. Her mouth had hardly even opened when he dashed out of the tent like Hell itself was chasing him. Oh well. She had best be on her way herself. With a grunt Vicky stood up, putting on her hat and grabbing her rifle. The carbine and her flag were both carefully hidden within her bedroll before she went off to grab dinner, the packrat not wanting her trophies stolen.

She followed her nose to the mess area, loading a tin plate with food before retreating out of the way. She had already swallowed a chunk of meat and washed it down with a drink from her flask before she realized just who she was standing next to.


“Oh.” The Oceanic killer squeaked. “Hello.”

She was right next to Thomas Carter, Marathon himself, the Hero of Breached Gates, and the best she could manage was hello? Her usual mask of confident bravado, carefully crafted at the age of fourteen in hopes that acting like she wasn’t scared would translate into her truly not being, had cracked, leaving Victoria to scramble in recovery.

“Glad to see you walking. Was worried you got left behind at the Inn.”

Thomas turned his gaze away from the food, seeing the fellow Oceanic girl beside him. To hide such previous troubles, he shook his head and granted her a large smile, neatly fixating a gaze on her. Quietly, he raised his hand and swatted before his eyes, as if to get rid of a swarm of flies before them. Instead, he lightly chuckled, placing a hand by his side and gazing into the eyes of his accomplice.

“Walking? That’s the best I can muster. Left arm is still a bit fucked all over; don’t think this lucky bastard is going to be able to use a rifle for a short while.” He moved his hand towards his chest rig, where a holster was tucked away comfortably. Once again, his affinity for discarding uniform standards for practicality were apparent. Thomas laughed quietly to himself again, using his stronger and least damaged right arm to check it was still within his reach. “Jean gave me this back when we found that armoured fucker. Gon’ come in handy, I’d say, mate.”

In a small and almost surreal way, Victoria reminded him of those Oceanic comrades he’d lost. She was, obviously, from the same nation as him. They’d lived on the same dusty landmass and yet never met one another until fate had done so.

“I guess it’s more for personal protection, but tomorrow I’m heading out with the Francian Corporal himself. We’ve gotta get some intelligence on Imperial preparations for the 28th. Lil’ cunts got themselves either dug in right and tight or they are scrambling to pick up the pieces. Dunno who else is coming with us, but I can’t say it’d be a wild ride or a fun one.” He patted Victoria on the back playfully, his eyes suddenly shifting around.

In the near distance, he spied Freya, standing and chuckling with a soldier from a completely different regiment. She had distanced herself from the squad by only a few metres, but still gave it her best effort to act cheery around every living individual. Thomas knew she’d gotten somewhat closer to Inés, which in turn opened a conversation about her morality, broken mind and disputed arousement for appeasing her own loss. That saddened Thomas quite a bit, yet he simply let her do what she wanted. It was her journey, and Thomas could not babysit Freya forever. She was a woman, a grown soldier and a fighter. She had the power to change herself, but...she’d never let go, would she?

Eager to cheer himself up over troubled thoughts, which had only become more frequent over the last week, Thomas turned towards Victoria again and grew a meager smirk.


“So, heard you gotta kid, ay? Who’s the lucky angel then?”

Victoria couldn’t help but meet her hero’s (and object of foolish affection, if she was being honest with herself) wide, seemingly genuine grin with a small smile of her own. It took all her willpower to keep from averting her gaze from his, wincing in what she hoped looked like sympathy for his wounds. “Shit, bastards gave ya a right nasty fucking injury didn’t they? Bunch'a cunts. Least you got a pistol out of it, a nice trophy to crack some skulls with!”

That was what she needed to get back into the feel of the conversation, curses and violence. She could do as she did back home, bond over debauchery and bloodshed. It was like she had told Luke back at the Inn: the army was just a bigger gang. A horde of young men and women with no other prospects learning to fight so they could kill some other horde of teenagers because they wore different clothes. The rules that applied back home would apply here, right?

“With Jean? Shit, guess I ruck with you then. Someone has to show these mainlanders how shit’s done by real diggers ‘n’ not half-wits. Might as well be us Occies, right mate?” Victoria laughed harshly at her joke, the brusque sound getting cut off suddenly as he mentioned her daughter. “Who told you that?” She asked, clutching her pendant tightly. Why was she so defensive about it? She wasn’t ashamed of her girl, had shared Elizabeth’s existence to others before. Was it because she was worried that Thomas knowing would ruin any chance she had of settling down with him?

No that couldn't be it. Vicky knew herself well enough to recognize that her fantasies of settling down after the war and moving to a house somewhere where there was more than dust and dead farmland with Oceania’s hero were just that: fantasies. Nothing more than harmless dreams that she knew were dead ends. So then what was the issue?

A second more of reflection and she knew. She didn’t care about telling other people because she didn’t care if they knew she was a fuck-up. If they were in this hellish conflict with her they fucked up somewhere in their life as well. But with Marathon it was different. She didn’t want the man she respected so much to find out that she was a failure who couldn’t reliably keep a bottle out of her hand, food on her plate or her legs closed. And now he knew at least one of those facts.


“Her name is Elizabeth.” The young mother said quietly, taking another bite. “She’s two.”

“Two years a mother? Holy fuckin’ shit, girl, you’ve made gains in life!” Thomas jovially laughed to himself, patting her shoulder again with a funny grin once more. “Capable soldier and a promising capable mother? You’ve got a lot to live up to! Tell me about Elizabeth, ey?”

“Yeah, I got started young.” Victoria muttered with a hollow chuckle. “I was a stupid piece of shit and got myself knocked up by a fucking card shark.” She stared at her plate as she fumbled the clasp of her locket open, taking off the necklace to show him the photograph inside. “This is her. Sweetest little thing in the world, hardly ever cries. I’d do anything to keep her safe. That’s why I’m out here in this bullshit fucking war, only trade I know is fighting and I need to keep her fed somehow.”

“Fucking adorable little girl, she is. Looks as strong as her mother. Spitting image.” He took out his flask, glugging away at the contents and substances inside with a gasp of air to conclude it. Once he’d looked at the photo long enough, he turned back to Victoria with a playful grin, just like he’d given her back at the inn. “Maybe I can come see her someday.”

She smiled at the compliment, proud of her little girl despite the circumstances that brought her into existence. Victoria shut the locket and took out her own flask, knocking back the remainder of the rum from earlier with a friendly: “Cheers, mate.” She nearly jumped at the suggestion, nodding and giving him an ecstatic smile. “I’d love that. Our town is a dusty shithole, but it’s bearable at least for a couple days. Tell you what: if I make it out alive I’ll buy you a ticket to come see her.”

“Screw that, I’ll buy the ticket.” He cackled, playfully punching her arm in the roughened Oceanic way. “Plus, where else in Oceania isn’t a dusty shithole? Not sure we’ve come from the same country, love.”

Quickly, he began to guffaw once more at the banterous conjectures the two shared, slowly calming down and spending a minute or two simply standing, in silence, staring at Victoria. For a while, it felt like there was no one else around. Just for then, that was.

“Hey if you want to spend your money I’m glad to save mine!” she said with a smirk, reciprocating the punch. “Okay, you got me there. But Prairie is REALLY nothing else. It was a farm town years ago, a bunch of cunts scratching in the fucking dirt to make a living. Then there was a drought that lasted a few years ‘n’ people ran like hell from the place. Now the only ones there are too poor to escape.”

Her loathing for the place was evident in her sneering. She hated Prairie, hated how it was a complete dead-end. The end of the fucking earth, where crops whithered and dreams died. “I don’t have a lot to look forward back there. Probably would be a better outcome if I just shot myself the day this war finishes.” It was a joke, mostly.

As time drove by, Thomas didn’t do anything, instead he lifted his tilted brimmed hat off of his head and held it before him. In that moment, he smirked, before removing Victoria’s own Oceanic hat. With it’s tilt brim, Thomas planted his own onto her head and chuckled lightly.


“Take that home. My personal, infamous lucky hat. That gives you something to look forward to bringing home.” As he did so, he chuckled once more, adjusting the hat and tilting the brim again to make half of it stick up. With his feather tightly linked within its fabric, he chuckled again, licking his thumb to stick it back into place. “I’ll take yours. Then, we’ll have to see each other when the war’s over, no excuses.”

Victoria didn’t think much of it when Thomas removed his hat, focusing on scarfing down the rest of her meal. “Hey, that’s fucking good mess.” She said with pleased surprise, only to be interrupted by the theft of her own rabbit felt hat. “Hey, what’s the big idea?” she snarled instinctively. The aggression dropped from her tone immediately as Marathon completed the switch, thumbing the cocked brim and feather with wonder in her eyes. “You have a deal!” Vicky agreed. No way was she giving it back after the war though. She was going to frame the fucking thing on her wall.

“I’m glad to hear that, love. Keep smiling! It’ll help if you want to join us on the Scouting mission!”

In collaboration with @Smike

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FalloutJack The Long Dark Nuka-Break of the Soul

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ISAAC & Britta


Aw, Jean, don't... Don't get in the way of dinner at a camp of several people who've been smelling frankly incredible smells the past how-ever-long-it-took-to-cook. Don't do that. Even if it's important, it could surely wait. Oh fine... So, Jean had an announcement about what was going on soon. It was entirely about their latest orders, their next move as a squad. Well, actually it was to be their situation involving a scouting mission, with just three people along with Jean. Apparently, Sergeant Baker wasn't sure of the area ahead and that meant they were needed for a bit of reconnaissance. This was for a great push forward to take over Amone, which presumably the rest of the squad should be ready for, since the scouting mission was tomorrow morning and they wanted to somehow end the seige - all of it - in two days.

Good fucking luck, probably not likely, unless they were killing everyone in Amone to do it or something. Isaac definitely felt that the higher-ups didn't know what the hell they were doing or thinking, in regards to this. Jean and them may be walking into a damn hornet's nest if his own wary instincts were any good. Isaac was starting to value his instincts far better than what the likes of Middleton or Baker might say, especially Middleton. Britta was also of the opinion that Jean should have waited on this, though her reasoning was entirely culinary in nature. She'd reduced the fire to mere waning embers, which would try to keep the meal heated while they latest, but they would die out quickly, and then the meal would begin to cool. Good food is best eaten hot, especially when there's been terrible weather involved, so it's rude to keep it waiting.

Frankly, Jean's reaction to the garlic bread was priceless.

The food must've been absolutely exquisite, because we have Jean reacting this way, everyone anxious for the meal, and Luke was...was apologizing for his arsehole behavior. Let's be clear here, on this. Luke Godfrey was definitely an arsehole. He had a bitter attitude and he hated Darcsens. So, for him to be trying to make up to Jean and any other Darcsen by proxy is nothing shy of a Christmas miracle. Too bad it's not December, 'cause then we could invest in that and pray for the war to be called on cold weather. No such luck there, we thank god for small mercies. This even made Isaac smile.

Look at that. Our little pain in the ass is growing up. Well, he's trying.

Jean was, at the time, making sure with Britta that any excess of the meal be spread out beyond Squad 1, which she nodded at, saying "Of course! I wouldn't dream of letting this go to waste.". However, his response to Luke was a decided 'Try harder, next time.', because while Luke was struggling to get around his stupid hang-ups, he couldn't quite remove the bile from his mouth long enough to be polite about it and act like Jean was a person like everyone else. He called him Boss, but Jean was standing up for the intolerance against his people. Boss wasn't good enough if you weren't calling your boss a human being. People in the Atlantic Federation called the Imperials 'Imps', but they were still human, regardless of the name-calling. Isaac appeared next to Britta, muttering.

"Ya think he'll ever clear his head and act right?"

"I don't know. It's like he's salvaging a pride that isn't there. What's he trying to prove?"

"I have no idea..."

Luke wandered off and things returned somewhat back to normal as Isaac took an assessment for Britta about how many people were looking to benefit from the stew and garlic, which he'd finished eating already and Britta was about to get her own fill. However...

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Rikes


I can smell it. I can taste it in the air. It's nearby. I want it. I NEED IT.

"Whoa! What the...?"

"Hey, is that ours?!"

"Gotta be. It's our vest."

"Hey, watch it!"


Feddie humans. No worries. Home. Safe. Or safe enough. Food nearby, and closing. Wafting, taunting, teasing... So very close now. He couldn't keep his paws from moving him forward at all speed, bumping into things, into people. Feet hurting all day, cuts and bangs and wounds here and there - ignoring all to get some REAL FOOD!

There!

Right there!

At last!

The pot was still warm, but not too hot. Meat and broth... Oh, dig in! Dig in!

"Hey, stop! HEY!"

CLANG!

OW! Loud banging on the pot! How dare you! Feddie soldier saying no? WRONG.

Mine now! MINE!

He'd run from fights, run from deadly smoke, run from Imps and bombs and bullets, but not this. NOT NOW, while he was hungry and hurting! It was his now! YOU CAN'T HAVE IT! NO!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Britta had turned and had been about to announce to anybody nearby that the rest of the meal was up for grabs when...when there was this sound of something running in and stepping up onto the pot. She turned around and saw this shaggy brown thing in a vest with Federation markings tipping its head down into the pot to eat its contents. She rapped the side with the ladle and what reared up was the face of a vicious wolf.

Not a dog. Wolf. With rather big TEETH.

Immediately, Britta drew her serrated blade and held both it and the ladle defensively. This couldn't be just a wild animal. It was dressed, marking it as an army canine, except it was a LUPINE, clearly. Ears back, growling and not barking, teeth bared back to gums to show the entire set in its mouth. It was defending the pot like a kill it had made.

"Isaac? ISAAC!"

"What? Oh..."

She couldn't take her eyes off of it, but Isaac... You could see that he was suddenly overcome as he laid eyes on their intruder.



It can't be... That bastard... He sent 'im HERE...

Memories of his childhood, of raising what would have been wild animals, if not for his influence... He couldn't possibly mistake that muzzle, that growl, that pelt... He came beside Britta and gently forced down the blade. When she looked at him, she was about to question this, but his face said everything. He was handling this. He approached Rikes, knowing that if he was very hungry, he wouldn't give up a potential meal. Wolves don't need much for day-to-day operation. They can work on a few hours a day of sleep, even very little food for a time without being too hungry, but that assumes a less-than-super-active period. He looked tired, spent...

"Rikes! Down... Down..."

It wasn't the words, so much as the gesture and the tone. A firm commanding tone, and...a smell, familiar. Anger turned to uncertainty, and an urging from him to calm down in that recognized tone of voice, that accepted tone of masters... Rikes' ears perked in understanding, his nose told him who he was talking to, even though his eyes needed a minute to be sure. He saw so many faces that it was necessary to check and check again. The wolf stopped mounting the pot and backed down, letting out a small whimper because the master seemed a little angry with him.

"Gimme the ladle."

Britta, amazed at how easy it was for Isaac to get this hungry beast to back down, did so without question. Isaac scooped some of the stew into a bowl and led the wolf aside, saying "It's alright! He's with me." to any onlooker. He noticed that Rikes was limping a little, that his army dog vest was a bit tattered and torn. He placed the food down and the wolf immediately went at it. Isaac reached down to inspect the vest, but there was a growl from the feasting animal, and he decided to leave it, for now.

"God sakes... What'd they do to ya?"
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The call went through his hippocampus, yet had not settled in properly to his complicated decision making mechanism. For he was still trying to squeeze in something perhaps a lot more important than just loaves of bread. Holding up by his small yet tough hand was the small piece of paper he had placed in his pocket the other day. The map of the Amone tunnel that he jotted down when Middleton was still bastardizing about their task. It was dandy and all when he accepted (rather without other choices) the order from Baker about the tunnel attack, but reality still hit him with the fact that this is a pretty ridiculously one-sided fight. Now that he actually thought about it, this may be the closest he would ever arrive to certain death, probability speaking. Would the four sappers be enough to deal with the entire underground city? He'd only ever receive one answer tomorrow.

But eventually, the encouragement from other fellow soldiers convince the aristocratic Edinburghian to enjoy the feast of Francian garlic bread. But before the whole thing was Jean's announcement to the squad about the next day's mission and the scouting mission. It was already clear that this wasn't Michael's problem. He had his own mission issued already, and the man was there to witness it. While Michael still attentively listened to Jean's words, they were mostly non-useful info that the only use he'd have is to re-inform some slow pokes who were late. Michael just tried to recite the direction of the tunnel while waiting for the long-awaited call to dive in the food...

His brows quickly folded as if he just saw someone trying to scratch their fingernails on a solid pieces of metal. Or in this case, Jean imprudently trying to get a taste of the garlic breads like a hungry mouse falling right into the trap if there is one in the way. In one fell swoop, our beloved squad leader just violated most, if not all, of the basic table etiquette ever taught. Sure you can call this a warzone and that no one would care, but apparently that claim looked easily falsifiable. Other soldiers were already looking his way with a rather not so impressed face.

"Hahhh..."

He's even giggling at Michael. Like what? Is this even funny? It's so aggravating to watch someone embarrass himself in front of everybody else.

Deciding to spare the pain to him and him only, Michael took a couple of garlic bread and placed it on the small handkerchief he had before moving away from the commotion for a quiet meal. Seeing how Jean act upon seeing what appeared to be one of his favorite cuisines reminded him of the proper way he did at home, or at least as proper as he could with what he had. Held the bread with merely tips of the fingers, a gentle bite, not too much but not too little, followed by an occasional wipe of handkerchief. Out of this entire army, the son of a certain Edinburghian noble already seemed too unique. It may already be second nature to him already, but perhaps he was just subconsciously trying to cope with how his NCO just acted. But in anywho...

'I want to go home already.'

Would the fall of Amone be the last battlefield he and his squad'd be fighting, or would there be more than that? Would this be his grave? He probably asked that a little too many times now though. He had grown tired of dreaming of home now, but he couldn't help but crave for that day when he'd be able to be set free, to return home with the wish that his beloved mother had carried for him all the way. Back to his normal life, where he'd go to university, get a job, get a house, get married and...

Married...

Now that he mentioned it...would he be able to bring home Lucia? Of all the people he cared about in this squad? She seemed like a perfect woman for him. A naive foil to his philosophical mind, and a caring white to his devoted black. But as of the moment, she was also as chained to Michael's free spirit. She was under the control of that accursed Middleton. The name brought the blood tension rising to critical mass again, but again, things get boring real quick. Now he was just wondering if she'd ever be set free, or he'd ever be able to do that for her. He didn't intend on playing the knight in shining armor, but if that was the case. Or even more short-term than this:

"I wonder how she's doing right now?"

"Who's doing what?"

Before he realized it, the girl from company D before was already right beside Michael's shoulder.

"May I have a seat?"

Anna was it, Michael recycled his earliest memory? The blue side ponytail was a little unique to be unrecognizable. He gestured her a seat next to him.

"Thanks." She subconsciously held onto her skirt to straighten it out before sitting down. The problem was...there was no skirts. Only pants. And she seemed to realize that just now, as she flustered and tried to laugh it off.

"No be my guest. We're on the same boat."

You don't particularly wear dresses and be mindful about it unless you originate with a wealth privilege.

"Ahaha, sorry for that." She giggled. "Though I'm a little surprised. I thought I'm the only upper classes here in this war."

Michael leaned his head on his shoulder a little before answering.

"Let's just say unfortunate circumstances brings me here." He said. "And brings me to cooperate with you tomorrow. We were supposed to finish that a week ago."

"Are you ready?" Anna asked. Michael pondered for long.

"No matter how much, I can't be fully prepared."

"It really is a thing of luck and chances sometimes. If the rolled dice appeared our name, we're goners." She replied. "There's not much we could prepare for it right now than rest I suppose. But I hope we could compile some sort of strategy, you know, to maximize our chances of survival."

Strategy? Well, he did have the map. Whatever works.

"Though later. I wanna enjoy my dinner first. Is that garlic bread you're having?" She said, and Michael nodded. "Oh I love those! I miss the old days with these."

Seemed to be a Francian thing.

"I can grab you one, if you don't mind."

Anna brightened considerably upon the proposal, and accepted without hesitation. With a small chuckle, Michael headed back to the kitchen area. Today seemed like a day full of surprises somehow. Now before him was Isaac playing with a dog. He didn't know it even existed on the battlefield, and Isaac even seemed to know it much better than anyone else. An intrigue a little too much to let go.

"You know him, Isaac?" Michael couldn't contain his curiosity as he turned towards the Lance Corporal instead.
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Luke Godfrey & Victoria White




Victoria had been too entranced by the presence of Oceania's greatest war hero to take part in the conversation between Luke and Jean, but she had certainly taken notice. When she joined the war she had been expecting more professionalism, grim faced men and women going about their business with purpose and direction. Instead she got to quietly munch on garlic bread and some kind of meat while a racist that seemed at odds with most of the squad tried to lazily apologize for hurting a superior's feelings. Vicky certainly disapprovingly of Luke's antics, having spat on the ground dismissively at the "apology." Was the boy stupid or just unsure of how to go about it? She could only snicker to herself quietly when the poor idiot asked if he was just making things worse. Yes, yes he was.

What was honestly more disappointing was the Francian's reaction. He was well within his rights to reject Luke's words, Victoria certainly would have if she had been in his shoes. But the NCO's tone offended her on a personal level. She could smell weakness on him, predatory instinct from years of street life kicking in and seizing him up as a target. God forbid, you still call me a Darkie. Have you no tact? Was he serious? How could one be such a soft bitch and expect to lead troops in the heat of battle? His words were flowery and pathetic, sounding like someone's grandmother scolding a child for cursing. The way Jean looked away made Victoria feel embarrassed for him, for god's sake. There was a man who needed a good beating or two. Then he would learn what real hurt was. Words meant nothing. Knives and clubs and bullets were painful, not some stupid kid saying stupid things. And tomorrow she would be going on her first mission under his command. Hopefully he was less of a pathetically sniveling whiner when in the midst of a two way shooting gallery.

She spent the night gathering up her essentials, filling the bandoleers around her torso with ammo and clipping a couple Ragnite bombs to them. The Oceanic also made sure that she had a couple extra grenades in her satchel. If she didn't need them, great. If she did she would be glad she brought them. Her carbine was topped off with a fresh clip, a spare placed in her hatband next to the feather and rat skull. The rats were what she strived to be like, dehumanizing herself to survive the brutal conditions thrust upon her. Cunning, quick, vicious, those where the traits they embodied and would hopefully pass onto her.

A low sigh escaped Luke, an awkward tension lingering between him and Jean ever since last nights little conversation. He knew it'll be a pain in the future, but they'll have to handle it later, today they had to focus on the mission. As Luke sat upon some rubble, looking out towards No mans Land he dug throw his pockets, silently hoping he had one last smoke before their mission. A smirk rolled onto his lips as he pulled out a crumpled cigarette and popped it into his mouth before lighting it. It could be his last chance to taste sweet nicotine so he might as well take it. As he took a quick drag he noticed a familiar face arrive and looked to Victoria with an emotionless expression as she started to gather her gear. While exhaling some smoke from his lungs he rested his rifle onto his lap and chuckled lightly as he remembered their little party last night. Honestly he was a bit embarrassed that she saw him in that state. Made him feel like some hurt little kid with mommy issues. The mommy issues may be true, but it still bothered him that she saw him like that. Soon he flicked some ashes from his cigarette and smirked towards Victoria. "So, you ready to crawl around No mans Land like rats? Might be hard for someone your size, but I think I can drag ya back if ya take a hit," he chuckled before taking another drag from his smoke and looking back out towards No mans Land with tired eyes.

Victoria took a sip of her spiked coffee, the brew's bitter taste not much improved by the addition of low quality alcohol. In fact it was downright awful, possibly the worst drink she had ever had which was quite the feat. But it was strong and hot and that's what she needed at the moment. The scalding beverage was downed in a single gulp and the tin cup dropped lazily to the ground, Vicky kicking it away disinterestedly. She smirked at Luke's laughter, taking a guess at just what he was smiling about. "G'day cunt." she said easily, checking the inside of her uniform to make sure her trophies were secure. "How're you feeling?"Victoria had debated about what to do with the rest of her trophies, finally electing to sew them into the lining of her uniform. A flag taken from the enemy, a medal looted from an elderly man's run down-house and a pinup picture intended for a now dead man's hands only to end up in the clutches of a violent loser searching the pockets of corpses. Strange good luck charms but they would have to do. Once her equipment was in place the temporary scout made her way to the others, taking position next to Luke on his rubble pile.
Like rats indeed. she thought to herself, spitting on the ground. Booze scented saliva pinged off the cup with a satisfying plink, her smirk only growing wider. "Thanks, fuckwit. I really appreciate the sentiment." Vicky said with mock appreciation, words heavy with sarcasm. 'Cuz the feeling ain't bloody mutual. I'm not dragging back corpses 'n' invalids, you'll stay and feed crows." With the customary insults out of the way Victoria was free to sit next to her boy and wrap an arm around his shoulders, dragging him into her. "You slept like shite." It was a statement, not a question. She could see in his eyes how tired her was, regretting knocking back the coffee so quickly. He needed to be alert, or it was all there asses on the line.

Luke chuckled lightly as Victoria stated she wasn't dragging anyone back anytime soon and lowered his head with a smirk. 'Food for the crows huh? Sounds fitting,' he thought to himself before scratching his chin and glancing over to Victoria before she wrapped her arm around his shoulders and bringing him in close, the smell of coffee spiked booze on her breath. Luke frowned a bit, but he was use to her being so handsy by now, always looking to slip her way into peoples personal space without permission. A small smile came to his face as she informed him he didn't sleep well and rubbed the back of his neck with a nervous chuckle. "I didn't sleep at all. To much... to much on the mind I guess," he said, his voice growing lower as he finished and looked to the ground. Luke tried to get some kind of sleep, but it was no use, there were to many thoughts nagging away at him to let him rest. He was use to it now though, the sleepless nights and constant unwelcomed thoughts. It was still a pain though. Plus he was busy insuring he had something in case this would be his last mission. Gently he rested his hand onto his uniforms front pocket and frowned slightly. He shook his head and sighed. "I'm fine though, I'll be able to keep up," he said before pausing for a moment and glancing towards her again. "If I can't though, you mind doin me a favor?" he asked, his voice low to make sure no one else could hear them. "There's something in my right pocket just below my heart. If you can, you mind taking it off my corpse and sending it back to my home?" he asked before looking away with a sad smile.

Victoria noticed her boy's frown but didn't relinquish her grip. She cared about him too much for that. He had been through hell, denied the chance to have even a semblance of a proper raising. While her own relationship with her parents was nothing if not strained he had suffered through much worse than she had and needed some type of physical affection. So Mama Vicky held her little Luke tightly, holding onto him as a reassuring presence. "Ya know, you don't have to act like this ain't settling a need for love of yours." she teased him. "Stupid bastard like you has so many enemies you'll take a hug from anyone 'n' everyone who gives it." She laughed but it was hollow and half hearted, dying out quickly. "I don't know if you remember, but when you fell asleep in that tent yesterday you muttered about how I wasn't going to leave. I just want to tell you that you were right. So just fucking accept it, and enjoy it." Her light admonishment over Vicky listened carefully, an eyebrow raised at his claim that he could keep up. "Watch yourself, yeah? Don't want to be scraping chunks of bone 'n' bits of ya off my hide." Another bitter joke, another bout of laughter in the face of death. She quickly sobered up at the request, nodding without a second thought. "If I have to drag myself through artillery fire to your corpse to dig through your pockets I'll do it with a smile." the soldier promised. "Can I ask what's so important?"

A small smirk came to his face as she said he didn't like her embraces and scoffed with an eye roll. "Whatever," he muttered with a small chuckle. His smile faltered though as she reminded him of what he said to her before passing out last night. It caused his cheeks to flush up a bit in embarrassment, but as she said she wasn't going anywhere he glanced up to her, a small bit of relief in his eyes before darting back to the ground. A small chuckle escaped him from her rather dark joke before nodding. "I'll watch my step," he promised her before she assured him she'll fulfill his request. A warm feeling of relief rose up into his chest, happy to know she'll help him if he doesn't make it back. He glanced back up to her as she asked about what it was he wanted her to take and remained silent for a moment, hesitant to show her. Soon though he swallowed that hesitation and dug into his front pocket to pull out a folded piece of paper. Slowly he opened it to reveal a letter with the picture of his smiling twin sisters in the middle, their smiling faces bright and warm as they enjoyed a warm meal at the dining table. "It's for my sisters," he paused for a moment before continuing. "I... I know I've changed since I left them and I'm not sure if I'll be the same if I get back. If I get back that is. So if I die out here I want to at least send them my final thoughts," he said before a small smile came to his face as he looked at the picture. "Let them know I miss em, that I think about them everyday and how they are one of the reasons I'm here. That I... that I'll always be there even if I don't come back," he said before he noticed his vision growing a bit blurry. A quick sniffle escaped him before he cleared his eyes with his thumb before any tears escaped his eyes. He shrugged and gave a weak chuckle. "Damn it I'm tired," he muttered, hoping it to be an excuse for the teary eyes.

The eye roll meant she was getting to him. Mission accomplished. The teen mother gave Luke another squeeze as as he looked up at her, the relief in his eyes matched by gentle care. "Hey, I mean. As long as both of aren't buried, I'll be right next to you the whole time." She waited patiently for him to decide whether or not to trust her with whatever it was he wanted delivered in the event of his death, easing up just a bit to give him some space as opened the folded paper. It didn't take a genius to figure out who the two young girls in the picture were. "I understand." she whispered gently. "You have people you need to say goodbye to." That was all that needed to be said. He didn't need to explain himself anymore. Vicky opened her mouth to make a joke, to ask if his goodbye letter was as poor quality as his apology but quickly thought better of it. That was much too cruel, even for her. "Hey, listen." the young woman told her older comrade. "I'll do it. In return, I need you to mail this back to my daughter." A thumb hooked the chain of her necklace, pendant bouncing against her chest. "Do we have a deal?" She shifted a bit atop the rubble, wishing she had a blanket to wrap around them again as she held her adopted son close. "If you need to cry do it. Lean on me all you want."

Luke was relieved to hear she understood and smiled slightly before folding up the letter and placing back into his pocket. Luke noticed she was about to say something, but arched his brow as she kept quiet. Odd, he silently wondered what she was about to say. Soon though she grabbed his attention by asking her own favor from him. He looked to the neckless around her neck and nodded without hesitation. "Of course, you can trust me to get it done," he assured her, making the deal between the two official. He noticed her shift on the rubble they sat on and huffed as she still held him close. Luke held back a scoff as she said he could cry if he wanted to, even lean on her if he needed to. He shook his head and pulled back a bit with a smirk. "Thanks, but I don't need to cry. I'm just tired is all,"he said before giving a small shrug. "Besides, I don't have time to cry. I need to focus for that out there," he stated before pointing out to No mans Land. "I don't wanna be a crying mess when a Imp puts a bullet through my skull."

Now it was Victoria's turn to feel some relief, grateful that Luke had reciprocated the offer. It was much of a final gift for Elizabeth, just a flimsy chain and cheap brass locket with a picture of her inside. Nothing of monetary value or even really any emotional value either. It was somewhat tacky to give someone a picture of themselves but Vicky wanted it to mean more. She wanted Elizabeth to know that her drunken fuck-up of a mother had cared for her dearly, to understand the only reason that she had left home was earn money to put food on the table. She needed to tell her daughter that she had thought about her every single day she had spent in the mud and blood and filth of the war until she was shot or stabbed or blown to pieces. The Oceanic let her grip ease up a bit as Luke pulled back, deciding to respect his space as he lied through his teeth. "I gotcha, cobber!" she said with a friendly shrug, knowing that he wasn't telling the whole truth. Her eyes followed his finger, hands clenching her rifle so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. He was right. The time of strife was fast approaching, no room for tears, for sadness and guilt, for weakness of any kind. Hopefully Jean had figured that out. "What're we scratching about for? General intel, or something specific?"

A smirk came to his face as he was called a cobber, whatever that was before glancing down to notice her grip on her rifle grew tighter. Silently he asked himself if he was nervous about this mission. Maybe he was lying to himself when he thought to himself that he wasn't nervous at all, but all he could do was look out towards No mans Land and feel indifferent about it. They were just going out to do their job, that's all he told himself. He knew what he signed up for so he couldn't feel scared or angry about it, though that may change when the bullets start flying and he gets hit. Luke was soon brought out of his thoughts when Victoria asked what exactly they were going to scout for and shrugged. "I guess, it'd make sense if that was the case. Honestly I didn't bother to ask, they just gave us a job to do so we're just going to go do it. I just leave the details to our dark haired superior over there," he said with a nod back towards Jean.

Vicky snickered when Luke revealed that he hadn't asked for details either. "Guess we're both right fucking smart aren't we?" she muttered ruefully, wishing she had more of that spiked coffee from earlier. Perhaps it was better that she didn't know. After the armored car and the gas attack, who knew what kind of dastardly shit the diseased minds that developed weapons were thinking up now? If they were being sent out to find plans for some Imperial heat ray or engineered super disease or a flying death machine Victoria really didn't want to know. Better to let it appear out of nowhere and destroy her in an instant than to know that some unstoppable, inevitable harbinger of doom was just over the horizon and spend the remainder of her life stressing out about it. "Well, let's just hope he knows what he's doing." she said with a conspiratorial wink. She fell silent for a bit, making a final check of all her equipment and talismans, making sure the flag, medal and photo were stuck tight to the inside of her jacket. "You think your training prepared you enough for all this shit?"

"Being smart is to hard, I prefer relying on luck," he said with a grin before realizing he had a lit cigarette. It was mostly burnt out and Luke frowned in a bit of disappointment, disappointed in letting a good smoke go to waste. "Shit," he muttered and flicked it away before looking back to Victoria as she hoped Jean knew what he was doing. Luke shook his head and sighed. "So do I," he agreed with a small frown before rubbing the back of his neck with another sigh. A brief moment of silence fell upon the two as they sat together and with a bored huff he raised his rifle up and aimed down towards No mans Land, scanning the surroundings with a small frown. Silently he wondered if he'd get to add a few more kills onto his list. Soon Victoria spoke up, asking if he thought his training had prepared him for this. He lowered his rifle and checked his rifle with an unconcerned expression, more worried about his rifle instead of the mission. "Not sure, so far I'm not dead so maybe, but all I know is that my training taught me how to fight and act like a soldier. We'll just have to pray we're able to take on whatever comes our way," he said before pulling back his rifles bolt to check it's ammo before pushing a fresh round in. "I know for a fact though is that I know enough to kill me some Imps. I'm just wondering how many more bodies I'll stack up on my kill count," he muttered aloud before letting a small smirk come to his face at the thought.

"Let me tell you something about luck." Victoria said with a derisive snort. "Sooner or later, one day it'll run out on you. It might be today, might be next week. Might take a bloody decade! But it always does." That was the lesson she had learned watching Charles. Day after day he'd just managed to break even, their meager earnings being stacked into a steadily growing pile on a dirty card table as the collection of coins and crumpled bills they had earned through robbery and grifting shrank and swelled with little pattern. Once in a blue moon he would win big, bringing home fistfuls of cash with that triumphant smirk that had won her over in the first place. But those times were rare, and their positive effect was drowned out by the crushing defeats that came around every now and again to demolish what little financial security they had managed to scrape together. "If you have to rely on luck over your own skill, you might as well count your self as one well fucked cunt." She lifted her arms to the sky, still clutching her rifle as she stretched her sore back. "Well, that's as good indication as anyone. Aint't dead yet, so we learned something!"She laughed viciously at his question, falling back into conversation patterns she had picked up interacting with her fellow street rats. "Crikey, what am I up to now? Definitely two, one Imp fucker at the Inn and a dumb cunt back home. Not too bad so far."

Luke thought for a moment as Victoria spoke about luck and knew it was true, sooner or later his luck will run out and he'll probably bite the dust one of these days. For now though he'll just ride that luck until it blows up in his face. He chuckled as she said he was one fucked cunt and grinned. "Maybe, but at least my lucks gotten me this far. Some can't say that for themselves," he said with a smirk before leaning back a bit with a sigh. Honestly he should have died that day the gas dropped on them when the Imps ambushed him while he was escorting the civilians. His mind briefly remembered the mother and her child's motionless bodies and closed his eyes for a moment, breathing through his nose before letting out sigh. He opened his eyes and chuckled as she laughed at her statement. Luke nodded as she listed her kill count in respect and shook his head. "I'd say I'm almost up to a dozen. I got a few the first day I came here when I was clearing rooms with Franz, shooting a few of them dead before stabbing one to death. The last few I got was when the gas dropped. I got ambushed by a few Imps escorting the civilians away, shot one down before beating one down with my hammer. Real messy business," he chuckled at the memory of his kills, especially the two he killed up close and personal. That old veteran he stabbed to death who smiled before he died and that young Imp's pleads before he caved his head in. It was odd thinking back on it, shouldn't that bother him? He shook his head and sighed. "Yep, real messy business," he said with a lower voice, a hint of exhaustion in his tone before he looked out towards No mans Land with a tired smile.

"The only people that luck's failed are those relying on it." Vicky replied, trying to make her point. "Being good stomps being luck any day of the week. You take your luck, I'll keep skill." It was a fundamental difference in philosophy. Victoria didn't believe in fate or predestination, didn't appreciate the idea of some god already having determined where her life was headed. No longer were intangible concepts like luck or God going to rule her life. Maybe she had been born into poverty as penance for a past life of sin, or maybe fortune had rejected her. It didn't matter. From now on she was the master of her own destiny. Her triumphs and failures would be hers alone, no one else's to take credit or blame. "So like I said, you can- wait what the fuck?! A dozen?!" That was quite frankly a ridiculous number, one that would make Luke some kind of super soldier. Her first instinct was to call bullshit on the obviously false claim, but she hesitated. That note of exhaustion seemed too genuine for it to be false. "Guess I got some catching up to do then. You'll need the head start." she snickered.

Luke shrugged as Victoria told him to keep his luck and smirked. "She's gotten me far so I guess I'll keep it rollin," he chuckled. He may have had a few bumps along the road with Lady luck, but at least he was still kicking. He umped slightly when it finally clicked with Victoria with how many people he's killed and arched a brow with a smirk. "Well not a full dozen, but I'm getting close," he said before rubbing his chin as he thought on the number. Luke honestly thought Victoria would have more bodies then him stacked on the board. A grin slipped onto his face as she said she'd need to catch up and scoffed. "What makes you think you can catch up with me? The wars not over yet and there's plenty of Imps to gun down before then," he stated with a laugh. "Maybe we'll even be able to carve our way towards their capital. Now that'll be a sight to see," he said looking off towards the distance with a small smile. "Just imagine it, stripping their flag away and soaring the Federations banner over the fallen Empire. God, what a sight indeed," he said with his smile growing a bit larger.

"Just because you got started first doesn't mean you can keep up." Vicky snarled, a fierce grin stretched across her scarred face. "I'd wager that I'm a better killer than you, with guns, knives and my bare fucking hands!" There was still time for her to win this dark game, still lots of Imperials to cut through. She was going to notch kill after kill until she earned herself a medal, one to hang up with the other trophies. She was going to return home with a prize she could show off, something that she could point to and say "I accomplished something." She shrugged at the image he was suggesting, not really caring who won or lost. "Imps, Feds, who cares?? Neither of them give a shit about the common man. The only difference is accent. But it looks like I'm already ahead of you in one count." She opened her jacket again so her trophies were exposed, showing off the Imperial flag carefully stitched into the lining. "Snatched this off an officer." the vulture bragged. "Think I'll use it as a placemat from now on."

Luke let his own fierce grin spread onto his face as she bet she could kill better than him and let out a bark of laughter. "We'll see who's the best killer soon. Whoever wins has to buy drinks for the whole team all night," he declared with a competitive glimmer in his eyes. It should feel odd making such a bet, but he couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of beating her and having her pay a fortune for his bar tab. As she talked about the Imps and Feds he simply gave a shrug. "I'm just a loyal to the people who trained me I guess. The perfect dog of the Federation," he chuckled with a grin. Luke arched a brow though as she said she was ahead of him in one thing. His eyes widened a bit as she pulled out an Imp flag and gawked a bit as he examined it with curious eyes. "Well damn," he muttered before huffing in disappointment. "I did take a nice ring off one of the Imps I stabbed to death, but I gave it to Ines for her birthday present," he said with a small sigh. "Just you watch though, I'll find myself a nice sidearm that'll trump your little flag," he promised with a grin.

"You're on!" Victoria agreed, feeling confident in her chances. "Hope you remember what happened last time you made a bet involving drinks, where you got shitfaced and lost to the wee cunt Diana." She snickered at the memory, one she would hold onto fondly and bring up whenever Luke was acting a little too high and mighty. "Your politics are your own, not my place to say." Vicky shrugged. "I just find it hard to be loyal to people who never gave a shit about me. It's different for you, Edinburgh's right in the belly of the beast. But the people pulling your leash have never given a shit about us Occies except for cannon fodder." The look of envy on his face was absolutely delicious, Vicky savoring it as she closed her jacket back up. "Here, new bet: Kills will be too hard to keep track off for the whole war. How about we go with whoever has the most loot by the end?" Showing off her horde was always pleasant for her, a competition centered around robbing the dead would suit her nicely

"Please don't remind me," he muttered with slightly flushed cheeks as she brought up the bet from the Inn. "Wasn't my finest moment," he said with a small sigh. Sure it got him his first kiss, but it was from that little woman who pretty much disliked him very much. Luke arched a brow as she talked about the Federation not caring about people like her and shook his head. "Well that's why we're here, we'll look after ya in their place," he said with a firm nod. They were in this together so it was only natural they look out for each other. He paused for a moment as she offered a new bet and thought for a moment. Whoever had the most loot? A grin slithered onto his face before he gave a nod of agreement. "Fine, I'll have enough loot to bury you and the whole team with," he declared with a chuckle before holding out a hand to shake on it.

"Maybe you should hold off on drinking for a while, stick to water and milk." Vicky suggested teasingly. "Leave booze to big girls like me and Ines. And Diana!" She nodded at Luke's words, appreciating them more than he could know. She had already lost one squad, the prospect of losing another terrified her. "And I'll watch yours." She responded. The Oceanic seized the Edinburgh's hand shook it firmly, excited and apprehensive about the approaching start of their deadly game.

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The Siege of Amone, September 27th - The Scouting Mission




Within his proximity, Thomas and their fellow Darcsen talked away, chuckling lightly to one another whilst assorting their preparations for the task ahead. Preparations... That was all anyone could do? But could one soldier really prepare himself for what was out there? Out there was more than just war. There was horror, death, destruction and an inhumane embodiment of mental instability. Thousands died. Millions could have, dare Jean predict. Bleeding wounds gaping open, spraying ichor without rest, these were plaguing not only the streets of Amone but also the entire lands of Francia. Europa was a mess. No war before had been fought on such a scale. Families were torn apart by the day and yet here he was, as well as his squad, standing and preparing to go out once more into the fray. They all knew that one day their luck would run out, or that a stray marksman would strike at their skull without a second warning, and yet they still went out. Time and time again. Jean was just pretending to be a good soldier, one who followed orders. What were those orders? Jean revised them in his head again and again, time and time over. He wanted to memorise every single bit of knowledge he had in order to stay alive. Scout ahead. Find pathways. Check defences. Leave. Scout ahead. Find pathways. Check defences. Leave. Map it all out. Mentally, it sounded just as easy as any other dull operation. But this was Amone. Amone was a festival of gnashing violence. There was no way it would be that simple.

His mind had raced off to another cosmos. Making such an impression on his soldiers would be imprudent, disloyal and damaging to them to, or simply damaging to his reputation. Jean didn't want them to lose hope. In a way, hope was the main benefactor to driving them forward. Life was meaningless without hope. It fuelled their motives and gave them purpose. But when there was no hope, what happened then? Did they hollow out and become empty? All these darkened questioned flushed his mind, draining his concentrated thoughts back down into an imaginary gutter. Dash! Dash it all! Jean didn't want or need these thoughts to cloud his judgement. A task needed to be done. Potentially, this could save many more lives, or prepare those to avoid confrontation the following morning.

Peppering showers continued to dribble onto their helmets and only a thin slice of cloth above their heads sheltered them from the majority of the downpour. Trickling patters soaked the metallic frames of their helmets and cleansed their rifles of any grime, dirt or dust. A perfect day for the imperfect weather; pathetic fallacy was a strong omen to the world. Finally, Jean clicked the bolt of his Longfield into place and dipped the tips of his fingers in a small tin of chalk laid about. Staff Sergeant Baker had introduced the sort of small strategy to help increase grip on rifles, though most soldiers claimed it was irritating. Jean didn't mind. The feel of chalk reminded him that he still had fingers. And if he still had fingers, he could still shoot. And if he could still shoot...he could still kill.

Marauders of the war could still be made out in the distance, screeching in the forms of artillery shells, blasting gunshots or mechanical movement. Even as early in the morning as then, there was still some form of battle, near and far, that raged on. War had never been seen on such a vast scale. Jean found it...almost poetic. As technology grew and the ragnite stocks rose, promising riches and technological enhancement for all of humanity, it all came crashing down in a tragic twist of events. Hunters sought hunters, and prey found its own prey. Europa was never the most peaceful continent in the world, but neither was it the most volatile. But now, could the same be said? Such a romanticised idea of the nations battling it out, one last time to see who would claim the final victory for humanity, troubled Jean's view on it. It was definitely truthful that this was to perceived as the last war. The 'Great' War, so to speak, had the potential to be so damaging that no one would pledge violence again. But humans weren't like that. Jean wasn't a romanticist, not anymore. His writing had changed and his methods followed. Realistic writing, accounting his life and his days numbering away made for his pass time. With his mind set on writing, he opened his pocketbook and scribbled down more notes, notifying the events of the morning and sharing his thoughts to the vast audiences he never had. These private thoughts were never to be read, unless he made it through the war in one or two functioning pieces.


"Dash it all." He repeated the phrase within his mind, then spouting it upon his moistened lips, over several times. "It's a Scouting Mission, Jean. Someone...has to do it. And they will, and it will be us who does it. Protecting lives is what we have to do."

Even if it meant ending a few? Perhaps. Jean didn't intend on getting into conflict during their scout and scavenge of the enemy defences, but sometimes it was unavoidable and inevitable, just like war itself. Diplomacy was likely not an option. The only neutral zone of the entire city had been wiped out, scrapped and torn to shreds. Gas had once plastered the streets and hundreds of men, women and non-combatants were choked for the sake of a dirty experiment. Soldiers the previous night spoke of gas being used on a wider scale elsewhere on the frontline, as well as a large import heading off to the Principality of Gallia, their unlikely ally in all of this chaos. Of course, the constitutional monarchy over there would dare shower such hatred on their foes. After all, their backs were far closer to the wall than anyone else's.

To his right, he saw Victoria and Luke finally join the scene and brace themselves. Jean took a peak at his stopwatch, tied to a bronze chain that hung from within his pocket. 0457 hours. Zero hour was nearly there. They had little time to prepare and get set, and now the daunting task was to come. Jean walked around, clipping and tightening the straps on his helmet and fixing his webbing once more. He wasn't scared, just anxious. There was plenty to be anxious about. He may lose his life, or he'd have to watch someone else fall in battle. Best case scenario, no lives would be lost in this mission, including the Imperial enemy. But the world was never fair, and Jean prepared himself mentally for the possibility of a conventional engagement, even if it meant getting his fists up close and personal. Once his gear was completely in check, he walked to the quad-who'd be accompanying him. Corporal Thomas Carter, Private Victoria White, Private Luke Godfrey and Private Inès Levesque. An unlikely assembly, but a rugged one indeed. All followed characteristics. It was better for Luke to volunteer himself for the group, as it made choosing the rest of the accomplices less stressful and more straight-forward.


"Gather up, last minute briefing." He at least tried to keep things professional, no matter how badly he made it sound. Either way, he was a compassionate soldier. Even seeing the ones he hated die was something of a nightmare. "We'll be out there for about an hour or two. No confirmation on when or what's going to be out there, but that's our job to figure it out. We'll avoid confrontation, mark down anything worth noting and head back once we've gotten the eight sectors written down. Keep pens and pencils, all of us are gonna make a note of what we see. Can't afford to lose the booklet with all the writing down in a firefight."

As Jean walked by them all, slinging his rifle over his right shoulder, he felt Thomas' hand gently tap his back. When turning to meet his eyes, the two shared a sort of compassionate nod, as if to say let's do this. Thomas seemed to have that look in his face all the time. One of confidence, one of morale-boosting charisma. If only Jean had that sort of charm, he'd be trusted by his own soldiers.

Moving to the barricade of wooden stacks, sandbags and other scavenged layers, Jean lined everyone up behind him and stood by the nearest exit point. As the sentries on duty moved and began to clear the way for them to walk through, Staff Sergeant Baker moved to Jean and nodded kindly, trying his best to ease the mood. If it were another Captain, Jean would've disregarded his intentions and sold their kindness for aggression, but Baker wasn't so much of a bad guy. He'd done this himself, time and time again. He was fluent in the war, but not atoned to it as enough to lose his sanity. He was a man, and one who was the same as he'd been at the start of the war.


"Just a minute to go. You'll do fine, lads." Quietly, he waved his hands towards the sentries, silently informing them to double their timing and to remove the barricade quicker. Even in the dawn of the morning dew, it was wise to keep things quiet as to not disturb the slumbering assassins that stalked their every motion. "Take care, keep your head on your shoulders and get us some good information. If you can't, just get back and play things safe. Chin up. Head down. Eyes forward. You've got this, scouts."

Finally, the barricade was cleared, and the walk of pity began. Jean moved first, hoping the others would follow behind as he unslung his rifle and clutched it within his chalky hands. Either side of them, a pathway-like canyon of sentries watched them intently, their eyes speaking for them in their gratitude for them going, instead of anyone else. Scouting missions were listed in the same lethality of raiding parties, though lower down on the spectrum due to no guarantee of conflict. Their formation was to be spread across the road, giving them freedom to duck into cover. Jean and Thomas would hold the centre-most areas of the formation to lessen the dangers of their squadmates, simply out of the audacity of their survival. Jean whipped himself clean of any negative thoughts. The time to focus was now. This could be a smooth mission, it just needed him to remain calm.

---


An hour passed. An entire hour they'd been out there, scavenging the wastes of the city streets. Part of their journey was unrecognisable. Scattered bricks and tonnes of unremarkable debris piles plastered the ground and roads around them. There was nothing short of destruction, and devastation didn't shy away from revealing itself. With every careful step, Jean felt himself silently growing closer to a mechanical churn coming from the general direction of the Imperial Frontline. Where did that frontline start? No one truly knew. There was no trench or general line of barbed wire to lay it out and mark down such a location. Instead, their instincts would have to check. Either way, so far was so good. Every now and then, Jean would signal his hands for one of the party members to check a house or two, making sure the rooms were empty. What they found in there could've been anything. Pre-war trinkets, small coins, photos of families and more than they'd found beforehand, regardless civilisation was barren and nullified by the aggressive aftermath of a large battle. Jean kept his head low, knowing that they were approaching the final street. Before them stood several large church towers, acting as holy beacons that supposedly guided the way for pilgrims to the Cathedral of Light. Its silhouette had been made out in the distance many times before, but never had it been seen up close. Jean yearned for such a sight, but the upcoming battle would surely force them to battle within its sacred lands.

Confined like rats in a tunnel, they pressed on. Jean took a knee, taking a break as he listened out into the dawn's movement. He could hear strange engines burning away fumes like no more. A rumbling slander of Imperial machinery preparing its movement from point A to point B. None seemed to head in their direction nor did the sound of foot-soldiers. For a while, it felt like the city was completely abandoned, or potentially being evacuated, but Jean knew that the Empire was simply fortifying a concentrated area for the best possible defence. They knew an attack was coming. It was obvious. It was just a case of how fast they could prepare for it, or perhaps provoke it.

Jean pointed to yet another building, writing down their latest findings of deactivated anti-personnel mines laid around, previously exploded. Bullet casings, though not very fresh ones, were still scattered around, and the remnants of sandbagged machine gun nests were laid in peace to remind the party that this had once been a terrible bottleneck. Not anymore, they hoped. Not anymore. Once he pointed to the building, he looked to the Darcsen and the Oceanic woman, signalling his hands and speaking in a loud whisper.


"Check the building, make sure it's clear then see if you can spot anything in the distance or further down the road. Write down if you see any defences, soldiers or whatnot. Just head back once you're clear and we'll proceed to the final street corner, then we can get the fuck out of here."

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CFProxy Für Gott und Kaiser

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There was still so much to be done.

Remembering the deaths of so many she calmly watched the skies wondering if maybe any of them could see her smile. She sure hoped so. She hadn't the chance to speak with many of them beyond that day of defense. There was hardly any time at all after that. She owed her life to Anneli and yet still she felt like there was so much more. It took a lot not to make the decision to break down and that in and of itself was of a trained mindset that she put herself into. Her life wasn't of rough reasons for being bitter or hateful dissonance created through personal reasoning of the madness. She kept her chin up and remembered that life was what you made of it. For many that was something that may have offended them upfront, but to Senja it was true.

She laid down in front of a flower, wondering just how long it had managed to survive this war and if it could make it the rest of the way. There were other flowers as well but many had simply been trampled upon or killed from poison. She admired its ability to soldier on for as far as it had and as such she dared not pluck it for herself. It didn't matter how pretty those white pedals of golden core were. The smoothness of the stem and the scratched but in tact form inspiring her yet again.

"You will be joining the corporal in his endeavors then?"

"Sir."

"Godspeed."

A brief snippet, she thought, but one that held in her head as she watched the mainland Federalists march along with Anneli by her side. They were inseparable, at least. It was a whole new experience yet one in the same. In the Nordic lands they operated differently and spoke with various marks that these central and southerners did not. It seemed that even the Edin had their own way and all the same it showed similarities in her own cultures from how they dressed, talked, marched, relaxed, and drank their problems away.

Joining the squad after much consideration was fine. It allowed her to look over the people she hoped she could protect and gave her a chance to follow the man who insisted on being behind everyone else.

Franz hadn't been the same. Since that day at the Inn she had seen a bright man looking to break free from his chains to a defeated slave to his own misery. She saw someone who was on the brink of sinking but held on with fleeting strength to the only thing keeping him afloat. She wanted to know what. It wasn't unreasonable to wonder why he hadn't given up yet and neither did she think he deserved to go. She wanted him to recover but it was hard to know how to fix him... She had a clue, anyway...



"Huh?"

"Come play with us. We'll show you a good time." Anneli chuckled, pressing her fingers softly into his shoulders.

"I shouldn't. I just wanted to pay my compliments to the talented woman. That's all."

"Oh? And where would you be going without us?"

"I... need a smoke break."

"Let's go take a quick break then, hm?"

"Hey! Hey! Hold on-whoa!" With a hand dragging him along Anneli lead Franz to the front, smirking as she slowly pushed the door open and stepped outside. Franz briefly followed, not having the clearest of choices as he didn't particularly resist but his steps ground to a halt once he noticed a group of Vinlanders standing out where he planned on smoking.

"Then I fucking smashed his legs in. Fucking Darkies man. They think they can take what they want and get away with it. If it isn't cash then it's your property, your job, your life, or, worst of all, your women. You can't trust a single one of those scum sucking bastards man."

Senja stepped out behind Franz, staying to his side and respecting his personal space while he stared deeply at the Vinlander with white hair. Senja heard not a reason of explanation for why he stared so deeply, but she didn't need exposition to know what his eyes told her in but mere moments. She needed not his mouth to open for the frown upon his face to tell her that he was done here. Still, she would not pressure him.

"What room?"

After leading him upstairs and into their own private room Franz appeared to be quite shaky, not exactly used to this scenario and perhaps still shaken up from something that was on his mind. The way he slowly stalked into the depths of the room like a hunter looking for any clues at his prey's whereabouts reminded her fondly of her father. Her town often called him "Jäger." Imperial skilled with a rifle and knife.



In the coldest of nights in the countryside of the Eastern Nordic lands there lay in the forest the breath of two mists. Quiet and cunning the crunch of snow spoke only to itself. Wind whispered nought but a fragment of a time before. It was dark. It was quiet. It was the last chance at a warm meal. Things were difficult that night. Never before had the duo such unfortunate difficulties in looking for mere game, but it seemed as though the predator would not be eating tonight.

Hand felt at tracks left behind. It was fresh and this time it was on a level they could follow on. The man looked back to the girl behind him, giving her a nod. The girl simply nodded back and followed, holding rifle tightly to chest while the man stalked in his iconic fashion. In his mouth he carried his knife. In his right hand he held his rifle, and in his left he balanced himself. His left hand felt through the earth and felt the wind. He kept it visible to her always.

The young Senja was scared. Following in the footsteps of her father she was afraid that all would go wrong. It was a tough time for the Penttilä household. Henrikki had fallen ill. Albert was tending to Tuija and Vilhelmiina was still recovering from giving birth to Tuomo. In a life that had mostly been without difficulty, the young and naive Senja had no choice but to join her father, August, in bringing home food. What a daunting task it had been.

For hours they had marched and for hours August stopped to correct her in how she moved. Time after time he told her to stop rushing or to move faster. Time and time again he scolded her for not paying attention and told her to stop crying. It was hard. Senja had always been nurtured by the family and as the precious daughter she had always been given easy jobs. Even still, August made it a point to take her around the Nordic lands and point out the poor and unfortunate. Every time he did so he did it with the conviction that was so very clear. She didn't understand, and, truth be told, never did so early in her life. His words were always clear and the message she could break down.

"Never forget that one day you may be like them. Never forget where you come from. Never take your life for granted."

Nothing spoke so true like this moment. Shivering in the cold she felt her hair freezing, burning into her skull as the creep of the night bit into her skin. She tried to come closer and take refuge in her father's wing, but his hand signaled to stop and a glare darted from the side of his head only made her whimper in pain. She hadn't known what his words truly meant or just how much those poor folk endured, but in this moment she felt their pain. Aching bones and a chill that was putting her to sleep. Thoughts kept her awake. Thoughts kept her in pain.

She thought about her poor family. It was but weeks ago that they were all happy and healthy. The unforgiving blizzard made sure to fix that right up. A regretful father marched in the snow. A guilty daughter followed from below.

"You may have killed us all!"

Her heart hurt at remembering his words. The disappointment and anger in his eyes was too much to bare. He told her to move slowly. In trying to warm herself up she ignored him. In trying to give herself a brief moment of comfort, she scared their game into hiding. The trek had been long already, but this... this was so much worse. They were lucky to find a meal when they did, but to have frightened it when all Jäger needed was complete still for a moment longer was devastating. Her heart broke realizing what she had done and who she had hurt. Her soul hid deep within herself knowing that she had shamed her father and held up her family's desperately needed meal. How much longer would they last at home? How much longer would they last in the snow? She didn't know, but she couldn't feel her fingers anymore. She wanted to wear something comfortable and stylish. Foolishly, she didn't wear enough. Yet, her father let her learn on her own what it was like. She cried quietly, letting her feelings of failure sink in as they continued on their way.

Halt.

This was it. In a single gesture and she froze in place. Everything hurt. Never had her body felt so numb and her legs so sore. Dizzy thoughts and fluttering eyes fought to regain focus. A sneeze she buried into her arm and resisted. As she pulled her head slowly from her elbow she watched August in motion. He gave her another signal.

Left.

Slowly, she shifted left and tucked behind a tree. She fought the urge to pass out and kept eyes on her father.

Ready rifle. Hold.

With shaking hands she took her position, aiming as best as she could manage at the deer in sight.

Three. Fire.

With August's hands sliding back to his weapon he waited the three seconds. Eyes snapped dead onto the skull of that creature.

BANG! BANG! A hit!

The daughter, overjoyed, moved closer. They did it! The family wouldn't starve! They would make it! New clothing! More money! More-

"SENJA!"

In her haste she hadn't thought of the fact that it was still moving. The clear shot to the head had gone through clean... but it it was still moving in a panic... towards her. She couldn't move.

"SENJA MOVE!"

"AAAGH!!"

SNAP!

A loud cry of pain ripped from the daughter's throat. Her leg had been broken in two. The beast ripped from her, digging hoof into dirt and spastically moving uphill until it shook its head once more and dove into the ground. It was over.

With blood and tears the daughter lay upon the ground. It was hard to look. She couldn't move her leg and placing her eyes upon the broken bone made her wonder just how long it would remain. What if she got sick? She was already freezing as is. Frost often took limbs. Panic spread as she considered awful words that could come from a doctor with bone saw in hand. Oh if only she had heeded her father. Even after all this time she hesitated following with him.

The sound of a knife took her attention away for the moment. August ensured the animal was dead as he ripped across its throat and, in anger, brought his blade skull deep into its eye. He stood, looking between the animal and his daughter. In such rough conditions, it was quite possible that he would lose a daughter tonight. What then, was worth it? If he took the Elk it would be difficult to carry his daughter. If he took his daughter then there was no promise of food being there upon returning. It was sapping to participate in this and there simply wasn't time. Even if he brought Senja back.... they would starve. They needed money to fix her injuries. This was a rough year and profit... oh how he wished he had more. In thinking, he stared at his daughter, knowing what would be the best for the family. She was dead weight. She cost the family twice already. She cost them a third by not being allowed to work as hard as the rest. Beautiful, yes, but was beauty worth such a price? He tightened his eyes.

Senja could see the struggle in his eyes. She knew that he should just leave her there. As it was, she would have ended up dead without him. Even if he carried her, she was so cold. It was a struggle to make it this far. How could they possibly make it back together? They came all the way out for this and now a sacrifice had to be made. She wasn't ready. She was scared and in pain. She was losing blood by the second. Vision began to go dark and August knelt beside her, holding her hand as he sighed deeply.

"I'm sorry, my love."

"I-I'm scared..."

"I know."

"I-I don't want to die."

"None do... If... If we don't get that elk back..."

Senja knew what he was getting at, yet she could see the hesitation as he turned his eyes from her. "Th-then... let me die."

It stung like a bullet in the gut. He didn't want to listen to her.

"It-It's my f-fault. D-don't let them st-starve because of me... D-don't let mama die... because of me..."

"In... my home back in the empire..." He paused for a moment, pulling out his supplies and pouring liquid over her leg as he rolled back the cloth. A shriek came from Senja, her upper leg shaking wildly as he poured. As he sighed and took from his pack what bandages he had. He rolled around her leg tightly, causing her to slam her back against the ground and slap her arms against the snow. Adrenaline pulsed through her on edge body with eyes darting and looking for escape from this misery. Cries echoed into the forest as her shrieks of agony ripped through trees and even her father.

"We had a saying..." He rolled her sleeve back down, tightening her boots and moving back to hold her hand. She was in awful condition. Her eyes, now more relaxed from the lack of immediate pressure, began to roll. With his other hand placed on her cheek he shook her gently to get her teary eyes to look at him.

"A frozen thought warms the soul."

"Papa..."

"The sacrifice of one ensures the rest will live... It's how we got by in the hardest of nights... Do you understand?"

"I..."

"Senja... I love you... If we never see each other again, know it is because I believe in this as well... Now hush."

"I-I..."

For the first time in all that day, he wrapped his arms around her. Burying his face into her forehead he offered her warmth by shielding her from the blizzard. She heard his heartbeat... Defying her expectations, it was calm... soothing... it reminded her of home... so warm... so...comfortable.

"Papa... I... love... you..."




The sun rose upon the household. Beyond those walls there was a calmed wind. Beyond those walls there was the rays of the sun. Beyond those walls, the smell of meat awoke her senses.

Eyes slowly opened as her brother sat down beside her and placed bowl upon the counter. Her instincts took over. The normally proper and graceful Senja crawled toward the food and nearly plunged her disheveled person into it. Albert easily pushed her back into bed, sitting closer to her and placing a warm piece of meat into her trembling mouth.

"Don't. You've been asleep for two days. Save your strength."

"Pa..." She raspily cracked. Her brother shook his head.

"Eat. Sleep."




It had been some time past that day. Her leg felt awful but the family was just happy she was alive. Even still, they were a desperate bunch. Albert was a man in pain himself. Walking with a cane, he approached her at the windowsill.

"He hasn't come back..."

"I know. He sacrificed everything to get you home."

"Why? He could have kept us all fed... Why did he waste his time on me?"

"He loves us all, Senja. He said you did your best and that he was proud of you. He promised that he would return in a day."

"It has been longer."

"It has. I've sold some things to help keep us alive... but if he is gone much longer... We may need to sell our home as well."

"It's all my fault... It's my fault he isn't home! If I had liste-"

"Senja!"

With a shake, he brought his sister back in line. "He didn't do this for nothing... Don't let this be for nothing... Do you know what he said before he left?"

Senja calmed herself, crying, but quietly as she swallowed her emotions and listened to her elder.

"When I asked what he wanted you to do once you were able he only told me one thing. 'Smile.' That's all. It doesn't matter what happens now. Honor his words."




Further time had passed and through it all Senja slowly changed. Day after day the family starved, but they survived. The meat that their father had brought back ensured they would make it yet longer. With a trader back in town, the Elk's pelt and horns provided them more time.

A week had passed.

In the cold dark night, a wagon rode into the forest. Within its cargo were several men armed with rifles. Across from Senja was the mayor who had arrived the day before. He was furious still, but in his eyes she saw compassion as he handed her another piece of bread.

"Forgive me, Ms.Penttilä. I can't believe my own men denied you help. Worrying about people abusing our funds be damned. Victims like yourself deserve help. I only wish I had been here to speed things along."

"Thank you, Mayor."

"Pekko. Call me Pekko or Simola. There is no need to be formal with me."

For the first time in the ride, she giggled. Ever curious, the mayor developed a warm smile and pondered aloud.

"It's good to see you laugh... I'm honored to have citizens who can smile through hardship. I doubted August years ago... but I see he has made such fine children with strong hearts. I must ask. May I share in your joy?"

"It's just... You called me Ms. Penttilä but you won't even acknowledge yourself. Why?"

"You have proven yourself worthy of respect. What you went through and how you have behaved since I met with you... I can only dream of being as strong. I am barely a man in your presence."

"You flatter me, Mr. Simola."

"You honor our lands, Ms. Penttilä."




They found August hours later. Laying in the dirt and kept alive by his own will and scraping he survived a brutal series of nights. The large scars upon his chest told of what he had endured. The dead bear near him confirmed the suspicions. Their reunion had been worth every moment of trials. The embrace had been for hours. From there to the doctor they held tightly onto each other. From there to the doctor, they connected far more than ever before.

Even months later after all he suffered he carried that stance. He was more prepared and better funded, but he walked that stance again. Even with her brother well again, she adopted it as well. She did so always smiling. A knife in their mouths, a gun in their hands, a signal to their sides.

In Franz's eyes as he took another step into the room, she saw within his eyes a sliver of that same man. Perhaps that is why, as she relived her past, she felt a burning sensation in her chest.

Whoever you were, Franz Blau, Senja had every intention of finding out.

The movements in the room were still cautious from the Imperial half breed but so two was this one as she approached a step forward which drove the hunter into a brief state of panic. One step back. Senja moved backwards as well. A warm and welcoming smile developed as hand tied behind her back and twisted ever so slightly. Body language was timid, although Anneli showed the most dominance in her presence. Her chest was puffed, hand on hip, looking down upon Franz like a subordinate, and a grin that followed her hunting eyes. Each observation focused on his vulnerable points and looking for ways to render him helpless in her grasp. Her intentions were perhaps a bit too clear, but such was the personality of the openly dominant one. All of this, however, changed as Senja stood in front of Anneli and leaned her back into her. The soldier grunted softly, hands shifting to hold Senja and a smile developing as focus shifted from Franz to protecting the one thing she cared about in that room more than anything else. The warm and enveloping reaction was not, in fact, unplanned. For even the sweet and innocent plot as the cunning and devious. With room lightened in mood, Franz approached the ladies with a softened guard.

"Mr. Blau?"

"Yes, Senja?"

"I want to play a game!"

"A game?"

"Have you ever played tabletop?"

"Table...top?"

Tabletop. Interesting developments had always come from such things. A new item presented to a man who is freshly exposed to it. Anneli and Senja had purchased the board set from a young man who was selling spares to the traveling army to help pay for food. Each game had been handcrafted with his brother who worked the maps and his sister who helped write a number of elements including a leather cover rule book. Where it may have been foolish to some to make such trade for the soldier, he who is tired and weary from war, the youth saw it differently. Senja and Anneli had certainly seen some play with such things years ago. In fact, they had played such things long ago with boys who wished to shoo them away for their difference. For Senja, it was a matter of her elder brother, without knowing, threatening the kid with the helmet on using a silent gesture in the background. For Anneli, she simply challenged the wit and pride of the others. For Franz? Why... he had never played such a thing. Did people really play make believe? Was there any time to? Who would ever waste time on such things?

As Franz pondered the usefulness of such games his eyes focused on a silver figure that he held with his eyes. A broad sword, crested shield, feathered helmet, silver boots, faceless mask, steel bow, and a pouched belt. A human warrior-ranger.

"Jäger."

Franz's eyes looked over to Senja as she held her human priestess in her delicate hands.

"W...what?"

"Hun-"

"-ter..."

The man felt his piece. It was his for this game. Deep inside, something strange kicked up. It was... bubbly. It was... special. It began to curve his mouth, but his consciousness rejected it. His feet couldn't resist, however, and as he sat there cross legged his toes idly wiggled.

"And his name?" Asked Anneli, putting on glasses and placing a divider on her end of the board.

"...Ostwind."




Ostwind and Loffilda, the traveling duo. Conquerors of the Loquix dungeon, slayer of Borran The Ox, and now tavern dwellers.

"You come across a tavern in the town of Lovine. It is bustling with hearty patrons and warm bellies. The sweet voice of a lively maiden reaches the ears of your dulled hands. Tired and weary, this is a good place to rest for Borran the Ox is no more. Grateful for your service, the tavern owner passes a round of free drinks to your numb hands!"

"I propose we drink!" Senja declared!

"I suppose we've earned it." Franz spoke, a smile on his face. He was still pent up from the fight, his own exclamations as he tossed the dice going over his head as he lived in the moment. He felt proud, loving of Ostwind and looking forward to this rest as they had endured fight after fight. Anneli had allowed his pick and as the party's recently acquired sorceress she didn't object to his durability.




"Ahaha! A drink to our victory!" Ostwin declared, resting an arm against the counter as he idly counted his coin. Saving the life of the fair maiden had been an accomplishment and bolstering ranks with Flora The Red made him feel accomplished as a leader. They were all still so young and had yet more to learn, but the death of those goblins, spiders, brigands, and that mercenary gave him the feeling that everything would be just so perfectly right.

"Ostwind?"

"Yes, Lady Loffilda?"

"I wanted to give you something for all of your hard work!"

"And what would that be?"

The beautiful maiden stood up on one of the stool's bars, leaning in and kissing the warrior on his cheek. For Franz Blau, he blushed a burning red as Senja's lips touched his own cheek. Flustered, but determined, the two men attempted to continue.

"T-thank you, Lady Loffilda. I erm... Thank-"

"Oh, Ostwind~ I have something for you too!"

"Flora?" A moment later and the warrior's face was met with a pair of panties upon his face and a confused Franz soon found a pair upon his own face!




"Hey! Wh-" With back slammed against the floor, Anneli pounced on Franz, giggling with a loud voice.

"Oh my! Franz! You naughty boy!"

"Wh- I- WHA-"

"Anneli! No!" Senja interjected, quickly getting up to stop her friend.

"Anneli, yes!"

Arms tugged at Anneli's back as the trio loudly protested and aggressively insisted with veracity. Shouts of pleasure and pain riddled the room. Rolling on the floor and wrestled with each other. Perhaps it had been five minutes. Maybe it had been twenty. However long it had been, the three were laying there together, laughing and talking about the fun they had had. Not that long after... they laid in bed, a happy but fast asleep Franz caught in between Senja and Anneli by soft spoken begging and promises to not do anything to him while he is asleep. Senja herself? Well, she was happy resting her head against his chest, his arms idly hanging off of her and his body providing her much desired warmth.

What had she learned about him? Well, she supposed enough for now.




Thinking back on that night Senja carried supplies to make those delicious desserts with Anneli calmly walking behind.

"And you're sure he'll want to play again?"

"He might be sad, but it revived him last time. I think it wouldn't hurt to play again while we have time. Just try not to molest him again, okay?"

The laughter from her taller friend was all she needed to hear. She could picture that smile and imagine that joy. Franz Blau, whoever you are... Senja is going to make you feel better!
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Jacky

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Luke Godfrey


A small smirk rested on Luke’s face, surprisingly enjoying his talk with Victoria. It was odd really, it was clear most of the team didn’t particularly enjoy his company, so why did she? She still seems to treat him as if he were a child sometimes, but he didn’t mind. It was better than getting slapped or barked at like usual so he couldn’t complain. At least he knew he could count on someone to watch his back, or at least send his letter back home to his family. After some more small chit-chat Jeans voice reached his ears and pulled his attention towards his superior as he announced a quick briefing. A small sigh escaped him before rising to his feet with a grin aimed at his companion. “Looks like it’s time to get the ball rollin,” he said before moving towards Jean and listening to his short briefing, resting his rifle on his shoulder with a frown. He knew this scouting mission was important, but honestly it sounded like a pain having to write everything down. He was never good at paying attention in school, one of the reasons he left to go work instead.

Once the briefing was over Luke rolled his shoulders and let a small smirk roll onto his face, a small bit of excitement rising in his chest. Finally, he was getting out of this damn camp. With a little pep in his step he moved with his team towards the exit of the camp before being stopped by a man. Baker was his name if he remembered correctly, having heard his name popping up a few times from a few soldiers he hung around in camp. He didn’t look all that impressive, but it didn’t matter at this point. No use getting to know him if he’s not connected to him and his goals. At least he made an attempt to wish them luck before they started to head out. As he passed him though he glanced over to him and the sentries with a grin. “See ya later boys, we’ll try to bring back some Imp souvenirs,” he chuckled before finally heading out into No mans Land. He managed to hear a few quiet chuckles from the soldiers before they were too far to hear.




“God, what a shithole,” he muttered quietly as he moved along the ruined city streets, his eyes scanning every inch of their surroundings. It’s felt like hours since they’ve been out here scouting the ruined city and yet it feels like they haven’t gotten that far from the camp. Silently though as he looked around the destruction that surrounded them all he couldn’t help but feel impressed. He could only imagine this place was once an impressive sight to see, yet everything around them was completely destroyed. Homes, families, so many lives taken away. It was sad to think about, but Luke honestly wanted to know what type of weapons caused all this. He even wished he could have seen them in action. First it was the slaughter of the cavalry outside the city, then the armored trucks, the gas and now all of this. Such destructive weaponry interested Luke. Maybe one day he’ll get to use such weapons, but for now he just hoped they didn’t get used on him.

Soon he was brought out of his thoughts as Jean directed him to clear out a building, it being his turn to search through it. With a firm nod he hurried inside, his rifle raised as he scanned the hollow building. Slowly he moved through the building, stepping over a few fall beams and ducking under a caved in ceiling. The structure seemed scorched with some occasional bullet holes decorating walls. Room after room he cleared, one of them he found an old body belonging to a fellow soldier of the Federation who looked to be decaying. From the dried blood that surrounded him and the stench the poor bastard must have been here for awhile. He shook his head before moving on until he reached the last room of the building. As he attempted to open the door he grunted as it refused to open. He cursed under his breath before taking a step back and planting his boot against the nearly rotten door, breaking it open before hurrying inside with his rifle raised. Luke paused through, freezing in place before lowering his rifle, a deadly silence hanging over him.

The room scorched from the floor to the ceiling, the right corner of the room barley collapsed and a horrid stench filling his nose. The stench of burnt flesh. Across from him, pinned under a fallen beam were three scorched bodies. One looking to be a woman and the other two small children. Luke stared at the scene, not noticing himself holding his breath. His attention was fixated on the poor souls in front of him. Both of the children seemed to be clutching onto the woman for dear life, their heads buried in their burnt chest as if they could hide from their unavoidable fate. Meanwhile the woman seemed to wrap her arms around the two, pulling them in close as she could, trying her best to protect the two till the very end. Their charred skin was black as coal, yet their exposed teeth remained bone white as their mouths were still open as their final moments were screaming in agony and desperation. He could feel their empty burnt out eye sockets stare through him and sent a chill through his soul.

“Fuck,” was all he mutter as his eyes widen and clutched his rifle tightly. Soon though, he began to hear a crackling noise that soon grew into the roaring of a raging fire. His breathing began to quicken, his heart pounding as the noise only grew louder until he swore he could hear three distant screams of agony. Wailing as the fire raged on, begging for help. It was beginning to become deafening and drove him mad before he was brought back to reality by a squeak from behind him. Luke spun around with his rifle raised and his pupils shrunken in fear only to see a rat in his crosshairs. Shakily he lowered his rifle, his breathing heavy, his skin pale and sweat running down his face. It took him a moment to calm himself before remembering what he was doing here in the first place. With a deep breath he gave the scene a final glance before closing the door and making his way out of the building. As he returned to the team he gave Jean a nod before moving on with their mission, remaining silent and glancing back to the building before pressing on.



(Some time later)

Luke moved with his team in silence, no longer having anything to say and simply trying his best to focus on the mission. Soon they all came to a halt as Jean took a knee and gave a small sigh as he kneeled down behind a collapsed wall. The distant sound of rumbling engines reached his ears, yet his mind began to drift off, unconcerned of any of the dangers around them. He was quickly brought back from his thoughts as Jean spoke to Ines and Victoria, telling them to clear out a nearby building in a hushed voice. Luke gave a small sigh before sliding down the wall to sit down, wiping some sweat from his face and resting his head against the wall. He hadn’t realized it yet but he felt exhausted. With a sleepless night and slinking around through the ruined city it was clear why he felt so tired. Not to mention that damn building from earlier, he couldn’t get it out of his head. With a frown he pulled out his canteen and took a sip, the cool water running down his throat eased his parched throat, but as he pulled the canteen from his lips he noticed his trembling hand. “Shit,” he muttered before putting away his canteen and lowering his head, his helmet hiding his face as he closed his eyes.

“Fuckin shit show,” he muttered to himself as his mind continued to drift back to that damn room and the three charred bodies. What were those sounds he heard? Was he just going insane!? He shook his head and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he struggled to focus. Just thinking about those two children… he couldn’t help but think about his sisters. What if that was them? What would he do? If he couldn’t protect them? What if this war spreads out towards them? He gritted his teeth and forced the thought out of his mind, not wanting to think about it anymore. He raised his head and sighed before looking over to Thomas and Jean with tired eyes. Luke could feel his hand still shaking and attempted to hide it by holding onto it with his other hand. “What do you think this place was like before all this shit went down?” he asked out of the blue, hoping to keep his mind off his thoughts with conversation. It was probably a better idea to focus on the mission, but he couldn't think straight.

@LetMeDoStuff

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Landaus Five-One The Sadist Insaneous One

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The Siege of Amone, September 26th – The Call of Dinner



@Bushman501@Landaus Five-One
Disclaimer: There is minor retcons in this collab.




”Hmm… I wonder what her response will be? I hope it won’t be shocking…” Diana thought to herself. She wasn’t expecting anything really shocking it took only a bit until Reyna spoke up. It caused her to gasp and be shocked that Jean did that, it was definitely sweet of him. She had to breath a bit because she didn’t see it at all but it would’ve made sense if she did seen it. ”Umm… That must’ve been a bit of a shock. It is okay better to tell than not to tell, which would my mother would tell me. You have been expecting that he liked you?” Diana questioned with a bit of a curious look at Reyna.

"Yeah, I have for sure ever since the White Hart Inn, on that first day. And honestly a little before then." Reyna replied, remembering the pendant that Jean gave her. She never found an opportune time to give it back, but she had the feeling the time would come. Reyna switched between reading the letters and looking at Diana in the eyes. " He's a very romantic Francian, not that I'm surprised. I bet he had a lot of rendezvous's with different girls before his enlistment." She half-joked to keep her mind off of the letters for the moment. That attempt, however, was a failure.

In terms of what Diana was thinking was many things at this point, which what Reyna had said. It gave her a slight smile on her face, with what was said by Reyna in question. "That is very nice to know that he did like you before the Inn. He was a bit taken aback by my outright bluntness and forwardness of wanting him on the Hill 58. But it seems like he likes that part of me even though I should take it slightly slower since it is a bit of a pain." Diana said, with a cute little smile on her face. However, she was a bit more forceful to tell people she liked them or otherwise, which its just how she is. She softly giggled at what Reyna said, while starring at her. It was obvious it was a joke, since she was trying to distract herself from the letters that are abundant. "He definitely looked happy while dancing with you. Which is why I must say he's a bit of a shy romantic. But a smile is the best policy, which is what my mother Rebecca always said when working in our family's bakery." Diana said, which she always liked bringing up what her mother talked about. She looked over the letters, which was a bit much even for Reyna. "If you had anymore letters, it would be like raining cats and dogs." Diana jokingly said with a slight giggle.

"Yeah, he did. I had a little fun with it too." Reyna was not going to mention the reason she committed to dancing. However, she did have fun dancing. She liked moving around, and because she was in a warzone she could not exactly go out on a jog. Wanting him? Oh...oh geez. That sounds like a story, but I should probably not ask right now. Reyna conveniently decided to just note that and not comment on that specific topic and move on. "You got that right. It's mostly love letters. This Daniel guy is the worst. I really feel like strangling him." Reyna clenched her fists, one of the love letters in her hand.

Diana sweetly smiled with what Reyna responded with about she had fun dancing. It was a bit cute to say the least, all she did was softly giggles because of it. However, when she heard Reyna wanting to strangle the person, which sent her love letters. It made her specifically remember what her mother had said about it. "My mother Rebecca has a funny way of saying things, this latest thing is a bit hilarious in my opinion. It would be better to terrify them than strangle them so they never send you another love letter to you or you might end up in jail for accidentally killing them." Diana said with a slight undertone of like really mom? She shrugged her shoulders basically when she finished with that she said. It was a bit too funny, however, which caused her to laugh at Reyna's problems a bit. "I haven't ever gotten a love letter in my life. I have a feeling it involves the same person I am scared of... But laughing is always the better medicine than being sad or scared, which my mother always tells me." Diana said, with a slight saddening tone, however, she looked passed the sadness, fear with a laugh at the whole thing. It was obvious, whom she was talking about Richard Averring Donster.

"Your mother does have a point, but I can't exactly do either of those in my position. Also, no love letters at all? That's weird." Reyna gave Diana a smile that quickly faded when she processed the sadness of the tone Diana had. Or was it sadness? It was difficult to tell but she decided to go with her gut feeling for now. Tossing the four love letters in question in an unorganized pile she deemed specifically for "junk," Reyna glanced over at Diana as she spoke "Your momma's right. Laughter is some of the best medicine out there, but so is talking about it. At least, that is what my momma would say, not that I listened to that particular thing."

Diana sighed a little bit at the question, which Reyna posed in terms of no love letters at all. It was basically obvious in why she never gotten any of them because of Richard Averring Donster. "Yeah... guess everyone is afraid of Richard Averring Donster. However, my father Gavin on the other hand isn't afraid of the Donster Family. They are more afraid of my dad than anyone else." Diana responded to the question. She couldn't really ever get over her fear of that man, since he did pick her up and slam her against a wall and made her deathly afraid of him ever since that day. In the back of her head, which it could've always turned out worse. She smiled and giggled slightly when Reyna replied with what she said. "I do have to agree with your mother. However, Rebecca usually knew what was wrong with me just by a glance and usually got me to open up with what's wrong with ease. But I guess that's what mothers are for. Oh yeah, what's your mother's name? Might as well ask." Diana said, with a smile and looking at Reyna. However, she did realize the other letters in terms of the ones that are directed at the Squad in question. "Your father's timing is a bit well timed. I should really take a letter so, it would be probably delivered to the right person... since it is required for the whole squad to get these letters." Diana said, with a slight gasp. As if she forgot about Randall's letters while talking about other important things. It was pretty silly to do but chatting with someone is important.

"Donster huh? We have a Donster family back over in Darport. They're kinda uhh, as my dad put it, 'assholes and nothing to be afraid of.'" Reyna recalled. In Darport, at least one of the major families and one that Darport takes pride in being the home of was the Hall family. Philanthropy goes a long way, she learned, and giving back to society and helping it flourish was strongly emphasized to her as a duty of the rich. Not everyone was as fortunate, but Reyna didn't learn how exactly until a few months ago. She dipped a little into a thicker accent without realizing as she answered Diana's question. "Momma's Melissa. Melissa Hall. And yeah, go ahead and take one of those letters. Dad's annoying with the timing, but that's 'cause he loves me. Don't know what's in them yet but I hope it's not bad."

Diana gave out a small annoyed sigh of frustration in hearing the Donster Family lives in two places, which means they all have citizenship in both countries. She always knew of the history of the Donster Estate in Castleton since they are highly dogmatic believers in Yggdism and all those Darscens in the far past that were hanged on the tree of that estate was brutal. "My father Gavin once told me of Richard's parents living in another country but I didn't really understand why they would live in another country. But it makes perfect sense now, that family is broken beyond repair because of the parents living in Darport, Vinland. And the kids specifically living in Castleton, Edinburgh. I have to say I agree with your father, even my mother would agree with it..." Diana said, with a slight smile but still frustrated at the fact they have two estates in two different countries. It takes a bit of her to calm down from that utter frustration because it definitely ticked her off a bit but made her more afraid of Richard since he acted like he owned the place. When in a sense he did since he was the smartest, had the cunning and able to make her afraid of him easily. However, when Reyna slipped into a deeper southern accent made her giggle a bit since it was definitely cute. "Your mother's name is really pretty, Reyna. And I must say, your accent is cute as well. It's always good to have fathers that love you instead of what the Donster Family is." Diana said, with a smile since the accent cheered her up a bit more. She picked up one of the letters, which said squad 1, however, she'll read it later even though she has no idea what it says either. It took her a bit and remembered something that her parents do at the Bakery. "Oh yeah, my dad Gavin actually does business trips once or twice every now a then. When its important or otherwise. My father also handles the balance sheet and gives the employees at the New Vastergoth Bakery their pay. While my mother Rebecca handles the creative side of things like baking the bread, cookies, etc. She loves baking and drinking mostly since the earlier is a passion and the latter is what she always does." Diana said, with a hint that Randall & Gavin probably met once or twice on her father's business trips.

A small red flush of red appeared on Reyna's cheeks as Diana complimented her accent, making her aware of it. Reeling her accent back to a more refined state, Reyna gave a small smile to Diana "Oh, uh thank you for the compliments." Reyna noted what Diana was telling her about the Donster family. It seemed Diana's family and the Donster family were at odds with each other, or at least Diana really hated that family herself. Whatever the case, it was interesting to hear considering a part of them live in the same town as her and something to ask her father, Randall Hall, later. "Mhm. Dad takes a lot of trips being he is the CEO of Hall Industries. He's taken a few to Edinburgh to work out deals and meet influential people. I don't know what goes on in those business trips too much, but since you family runs a bakery your dad and mine could have met." Reyna smiled with the thought of more cookies and a bakery. "Homemade cookies and milk are among my favorite snacks! Sometimes cookies and homemade sweet tea are good too."

Diana saw Reyna's cheeks turn slightly red, which she couldn't help but giggle at Reyna blushing at her compliment. She tried to smile back at Reyna but couldn't help but continue to giggle a bit. "No problem, Reyna. My mother Rebecca always said, give out compliments to people that deserve them. And you definitely deserve a compliment or two." Diana said with a slight goofy smile on her face since she can't help but continue to giggle at the accent. It was the first time she heard any kind of southern accent before. She calmed down a bit since the giggle fit she usually has is more about certain things. She heard what Reyna said about Randall being the CEO of Hall Industries, it makes sense since Reyna family's last name is Hall. "Oh yeah, my family's bakery is a historical landmark in the center of Castleton. It's been around for along time, around 250 years I think? My father keeps on telling me its 250 years old but I have a feeling its older than that. But my father and mother always had problems with sabotage from the Donster Family by people they hired and they have a large list of people they can hire. Since they are bloody rich assholes, my father complained about that a few times at home. He never raised his voice that loud before, guess he was getting sick of worrying about the employees that work there being injured by sabotage. Gavin definitely did mention meeting Randall once or twice but that was around the time that the bakery was firebombed, I think?" Diana questioned a bit, since she wasn't there at the bakery but how her father was yelling, cursing and other things were definitely a thing. Her father puts everyone who works at his bakery over himself since they require the work since they are pretty much hated throughout the Federation, the Darscens. "I have to agree with that, my mother always makes the best homemade cookies." Diana said, agreeing with Reyna. However, when Reyna mentioned tea, it made her smile a bit more and gave Reyna a look like can you teach me. "Uhh.. Reyna can you teach me how to make tea?" Diana questioned with a smile.

There was concern on Reyna's face as she heard of what supposedly the Donsters have done, as well as obvious horror and disgust. Did they really do that kind of stuff? She hoped it was just suspicions and bad luck, but Diana seemed very sure of what she was saying. A firebombing? How could someone do that? Biting her lip, Reyna spoke in a lower tone of concern. "Geez...I'm sorry to hear that. Hey, if you need help you can always ask my dad. He might be able to help and if he can't he probably knows someone who can." After that, Reyna desired a quick change to the subject and took Diana's question for the tea as that and answered with a small smile "Sure! I'd be happy to teach you how to make my homemade sweet tea. Every Vinlander should know how to make it!" It was true, at least in Reyna's mind. If you didn't know how to make sweet tea as a Vinlander then you are weird. Other nationalities can be forgiven...not all could be graced with the ability to make sweet tea like Vinlanders, but sharing the knowledge didn't hurt one bit!

Diana saw concern in Reyna's face but Reyna doesn't know that the Donster Family owns half of Castleton as a high governing sector in northern Edinburgh. And the primarily reason why her family's bakery is constantly attacked is because of the Darscens that work there. "Thank you for your concern. Doesn't help that the Donster Family are a high governing sector in Castleton, they control half of it. That is mainly the reason for the harassing nature of the Donster Family, because they want to control our bakery. My father Gavin will never allow them to take control of it. You can probably tell why they attack our bakery is because of the Darscens my parents employ, they are vehemently against anything Darscen, their Estate in Castleton has a pretty dark history to say the least. Your father will probably help my family out in someways or find someone that will since I dislike hearing my dad curse he's a kind and gentle man." Diana said, with a sigh of annoyance at the whole thing. She was mostly afraid of one of those Donsters because of what Richard did to her before she was conscripted into the military, while he got to join said military. However, she wanted to change the subject to something else. It brightened her mood much when she heard Reyna said sure about teaching her how to make tea. Aww, thanks Reyna I cannot wait to make tea, with your help. The tea you've made helped me during that one competition thing." Diana said, with a bit of a realization. She facepalmed slightly because she just put her foot in her mouth, but talking about the Donster Family is a sour subject for her and her family.

"Huh? What competition?" Reyna asked as she raised an eyebrow. This was new, but the last time she made tea and distributed it to the squad was when they were at the White Hart Inn. The place was of enjoyment until the gas attack, but Reyna didn't think of said attack. Instead, she remembered the shenanigans that happened there. Things couldn't be worse than she heard behind the closed doors, could they? "I'm glad my tea helped, but what was it? Were there any stakes in that competition?" Reyna expected something like having to do push-ups or doing something silly or even money.

Diana looked at Reyna when she said, what competition and blushed a bit hard because she remembered every little thing that happened at that competition. It felt like a far flung dream since it happened before the gas attack at the White Hart Inn. "Uhh... hmm... it was at the White Hart Inn to say for sure." Diana said, with a bit of red in her face. She was stuck in a remembrance of said event since it was a bit too embarrassing for her, however, when Reyna asked were their any stakes. It made her go full circle and decided to be blunt about them. "It was a drinking competition, and the stakes were high in my case. It was between Luke, Victoria and me... Luke was already drunk off his ass before he entered into another drinking competition. It was embarrassing to say the least, when he fell Victoria stripped him completely naked since that's what one the stakes were. The winner of the drinking competition was allowed to make the rest of the losers their slaves, and I for one wasn't the winner of said drinking competition. I cutely slurred my words a bit and gave up while drinking your tea so I would be graceful in defeat by stripping myself naked in that case." Diana said, with a pause since she was highly embarrassed with what would happened next. She nervously shaken her head a bit and was blushing a bit harder. Because it was highly embarrassing to say the least. "I had to wake up Luke via splashing water on him, so We could kiss because we both lost the competition. He wasn't a good kisser... but he was the very first male I've kissed though... Lost my first kiss to a bit of an ass." Diana said, with her face redder than all get out. She realized again she was being so blunt and embarrassed herself a bit much that she decided to add something. "This... is so embarrassing my mother Rebecca would be embarrassed at my behalf I think..." Diana said, with a cute little smile on her face while she put her face into her hands.

Reyna almost wished she didn't ask Diana that question. What she thought was gonna be something really silly turned out to be something else entirely. Yes, it was silly but it was a different kind of silly and something Reyna couldn't believe happened. Having seen some of Victoria's more minor shenanigans and knowing her sense of humor a little but not too much combined with the other events that happened at the inn, Reyna could put two and two together when the word "slaves" came up. With a really red face, Reyna could barely contain herself. "So....all three of you were drinking, Luke and you lost and Victoria made you do some really....interesting stuff." Reyna put both of her hands over her mouth as she started to giggle, both from embarrassment and how absurd the whole thing sounded to her. She believed Diana, which made the matter worse. "I uh, didn't know you were into showing yourself off, Diana. Or think that you like girls." This was surprising, funny and slightly awkward, but they were both girls and comrades so Reyna didn't mind the awkwardness. There was far, far worse things after all and her curiosity was sparked regardless.

Diana did see Reyna's look on her face, which turned red really quickly after listening to what she had said. She blushed and couldn't help but giggle slightly at with what Reyna had said. "Interesting is putting it mildly... there Reyna. I shared a night with Victoria... completely naked in bed with her." Diana said, with her face all but red because it was embarrassing to be so blunt about that. She heard Reyna trying to cover her mouth because she was giggling a bit much. She started to giggle because it was a bit funny about the whole thing after the fact anyways. However, when Reyna said what she said, made her head go a bit compartmentalized and think of something that made her face turn a bit redder than usual. "I-I'm not into Exhibitionism... there Reyna. But it's odd you didn't knew that... I do have a childhood friend by the name of Anna, whom I did kiss on the lips because she was crying and it definitely stopped her from crying. It was pretty cute in how she acted... But I am... Bisexual after all..." Diana said, with an oddity of happiness in talking about her childhood friend in that way. Because she dislikes seeing her friend crying. However, her entire face turned really red and realized something a bit funny to her but it was peaked by the fact that Reyna didn't knew that she was basically a bisexual. She still needs to tell her mother about the fact she is bisexual, unless her mother somehow already knows this.

"Oh, so that's what it's called. Exhibitionism...." Reyna couldn't help but get into a giggle fit with a face as red as a tomato. The bluntness was absurd, but it was amusing. Reyna decided not to comment about it just to see what else Diana would say at this point. After about twenty seconds to both giggle and recover, Reyna moved her hands away from her face and looked at Diana with a smile. "Yeah I imagine. If I was kissed suddenly by my friend I'd be surprised and stop crying, boy or girl. As for me, uhh..." Reyna paused for a moment with a little embarrassment of her own as she decided to admit it. "I know I like boys but... I've wondered how'd it feel to be with a girl for a while. It's not that big of a deal, at least to me, but it's embarrassing and weird."

Diana giggled a bit when she heard Reyna say Exhibitionism alike she never knew what it meant before, it was a bit funny to her but it did make her red alike Reyna. It was definitely embarrassing to her to say things like this but its in her veins to say things as they are and not hide from it. She wasn't raised to be a coward unless it involves life or death situations alike Richard after all. "Aww that sounds really cute there Reyna." Diana said, with a bit of a confused look on her face mostly because Reyna was about to admit something. However, with what Reyna had said afterwards made her blush really heavily and couldn't help but blush at what she had said. It took her a bit to answer with what Reyna exactly said. "Oh my... that's a big deal to say that don't you think? But... I could always be that girl if you want... unless you want to try something else. I am all fine with that... uuhhh crap why did I say that exactly?" Diana questioned a bit and put her face back into her hands because she was blushing brighter than a tomato. She couldn't help but feel like that's what her mother had said once or twice to a friend or two once in a time. "T-That's why I was embarrassed when I danced with you... because our breasts were rubbing against each other." Diana said, with a slight gasp of oh boy if anymore happens she'll faint basically.

Surprise is what Reyna was made of right now as she heard the words from Diana's mouth. Is she....coming onto me? Or is this an offer for doing the deed? Reyna tried to process what was going on. In doing so, she stuttered "I...I guess so but..N-Not now! I mean, I'm not against it but I can't just do it..." Embarrassment being high was an understatement, but it was in good fun regardless and only between her and Diana. "A-Anyway... yeah of course! Both of our breasts are well-developed and big. Th-They're not bad and I'm proud of my own but sometimes they're a paaain, especially when dancing even just laying down on my chest. I know how it feels." Reyna had to wonder: how did this conversation reach this point from letters as she took out her canteen and drank some water. At least she knew that it could not get much worse than this, this bluntness.

Diana saw the surprise on Reyna's face but giggled a bit at the whole thing. "My god... what am I doing right now? This is outright embarrassing for both of us... the bluntness has got me in trouble already before with Jean after all." Diana thought to herself, with a deep thoughtful look on her face. However, when Reyna started to stutter and say what she had said. It made her blush a bit harder than normal because she was highly embarrassed with what she had said. It took her awhile to fiddle with her words since she was a bit speechless at what happened but she could tell that Reyna was curious in someways. "U-Uhhh... u-ummm... I'm trying not to come onto you, it's just something to think about. I guess? But you are cute when you stutter Reyna. I haven't ever had this much fun just talking to someone about certain things, that matters to me and not someone else." Diana said, with a smile on her face but her face was blushing really red. It was basically like, she had no idea what to say in particular because with what Reyna said took her off guard. "Y-Yeah, I was a definitely early bloomer in terms of my breasts. My elder sister Astra Sara Vastergoth is a late bloomer and she's only 21 years old right now. I have a feeling my elder sister was jealous of my bust size for some odd reason. I have to agree with that laying down face first is a pain... I'd rather lay on my back rather on my chest since it feels better." Diana said, with a bit of her wanting to tell her sister off still but she wants to help her get out of that soon to be permanent relationship with Richard. However, she did think about how it went from this to that in such short time because it was embarrassing. It caused her to take a drink a water out of her own canteen, since she did make sure of that. "I must say, water is such refreshing. Even though Tea would be so much better to drink right now with all the embarrassing things I've said." Diana said, still embarrassed at the whole thing.

"Uhhh, thanks I guess? You're cute when you're embarrassed too." Reyna gave a sheepish smile to Diana as she breathed a sigh of relief. "And yeah, she must be. Take pride in them and you won't have many problems aside from the obvious." Reyna snickered a little as she said that, her face still red but it was starting to return to normal color. "Yeah.... I want tea right now too. Hmm, dinner is about to come up I think so.." Reyna looked at the pile of letters that were the "junk" letters and started taking them to a fire. "Let me show you how to make some. I still have a little sugar and some teabags left. We can make the tea while we figure out how to torment Jean and possibly the other boys."

Diana embarrassingly giggles when Reyna compliments her via calling her cute too, it made her blush slightly more than usual. "Thanks for the compliment, I suppose. My mother Rebecca, has a saying for this. One's embarrassment is another's gain, which is an odd saying to say the least. Since it makes me a bit confused in what that means." Diana said, with a smile back at Reyna. She gleamed with a smile like herself since she enjoys smiling a bit more since, she should be proud with what she got instead of worrying about what others have. "That's very good advice, there Reyna. It seems like you have your own words of wisdom. My mother Rebecca would just tell people to mind their own business than starring at her. It's a bit odd, but my mother doesn't really like wearing a bikini... I don't know why." Diana said, with a bit of a giggle at her mother's oddity in how she acts. But her mother never really leaves Castleton to go to a beach or what not. Her eyes goes wide when Reyna says Tea, and about Dinner coming up and remembers that Jean was talking about that earlier in terms of one of the Squad mates would create dinner. "Oh yeah, I completely spaced that in terms of dinner, mostly because most of the time the military rations aren't that great... But I guess its better than eating your shoes though." Diana said, with a slight sigh at that fact Military rations are better than eating nothing and starving to death. She noticed that Reyna was looking at the letters of annoyance to her, which she smiled really happy about with what she said. "That would be lovely, in terms of the Tea and how to make it. Torment the boys... hmm... my mother Rebecca would do something unjustly mean and tormenting to the tea... Don't know what she does since she doesn't want to pass that down. Uhh, think Diana... think.. guess no sugar or something?" Diana questioned a bit, unless that's what Reyna already thought of.

Reyna gave Diana an evil grin and nodded. "Yes, that will work just fine! No sugar, and you'll be the one distributing it!" Reyna said when she came back from the fire, destroying the last of the letters. "Oh, and I prefer one-pieces. As for military food, bleh! I really miss the mansion's chilli from home....and the chicken...." Reyna drifted off, musing about the rich food the cooks in the mansion fixed. All of it really good and most of it healthy.

Diana saw Reyna's evil grin and shivered a bit because it was a bit devious in question. However, when Reyna said she'll be the one distributing it as well, kinda made her give a sigh. "That's going to be fun I suppose. I am the one who thought of it..." Diana said, with a slight smile. However, when Reyna was talking about food from home and how bleh military food is, she definitely agreed with her sentiment. She always missed her mother's cooking since she goes all out for dinner. "My mother Rebecca's most favorite dish to cook for everyone in our home, is basically. Lamb Steak with a special sauce, Mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes and corn. It's her specialty..." Diana said, with an awed look in her eye since she loves that meal from home much. She enjoys what her mother does in cooking and wants to try to copy her way of cooking all the meals she does, since she wants to keep whomever her husband and children are. However, it'll take awhile for that to happen in her mind, since there's still this blasted war going on.

That listing of food was getting her hungry. Reyna was already hungry, but this only served to make it worse. "Geez, that's sounds so good! Ok, let's go make the tea before you make me even more hungrier." Reyna stated as she finished the cleanup and headed towards an area where they'd be free to make both types of tea: the sweet and unsweet tea, showing Diana the steps all the way. When to add the sugar, what tea bags she prefers, all the instructions her mother, Melissa, taught her. When dinner was called, Reyna was very annoyed by Jean's sudden interruption, not processing the majority of his words because of how hungry she was, only thinking that he deserved the fate of receiving the unsweet tea unwittingly for blocking her way towards garlic bread and food in general.

Diana couldn't help but giggle a bit at hearing what Reyna had said about that sounds good in terms of what her mother really enjoys making. It was a bit funny to say the least but not as much since it was making her stomach grumble a bit since its always amazing. "Yeah, it does sound so good. Oh yay, I'm going to definitely enjoy that. To make tea for the better or worst, for certain people after all." Diana said, with small giggle and smile on her lips. It was definitely funny in terms of certain people were going to get the unsweetened tea if they are doing something that is a bit wrong in some cases. She was a definite good study with Reyna teaching her how to make both types of tea, which definitely showed that Reyna was a good teacher in that respects. However, while making the tea, she showed her pendant necklace to Reyna, which had the two pillars in her life. On the right, showed her mother Rebecca, the one she constantly talked about and Gavin her father on the left. She was grateful she had these two parents in her life, it's the only thing keeping her strong throughout the whole war basically, however, she was grateful she meet someone on this hellish battlefield she thought as a friend. "Here's my parents Gavin and Rebecca, my mother still basically looks like this... these were taken when they were 23 years old." Diana said, happily while talking about her parent's photos in the pendant.

This put a smile on Reyna's face as Reyna commented "Aww, they look like good people!"

Diana was happy with the response that Reyna gave to the pendant necklace and what her parents look like and nodded. However, when Dinner was called, which she was very hungry nonetheless. She sighed verily annoyed at Jean's sudden interruption, she rolled her eyes mostly because of the fact she didn't really want to go on the scouting mission to search for a weakness in certain things. It felt like a waste of time in her eyes. However, she was shocked and amazed to see Garlic Bread at dinner, something her mother usually makes regularly on certain types of meals. "J-Jean, Garlic bread here and you are talking about a scouting mission that I don't want to go on." Diana said, mostly because of the awfulness that happened with the Gas Attack mainly.
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