Status

Recent Statuses

10 mos ago
Current Honestly I look at how new/young rpers slam down back to back posts and wonder how I even had the energy to do all that years ago.
15 likes
2 yrs ago
Finally back. Looking to finally settle into a thread or DM one.
1 like
3 yrs ago
I want to make a WWII themed thread but I'm writing so much lore for it that I'll be done in a few years. FeelsBadMan
1 like
3 yrs ago
Fallschirmjäger is such a fun word to say.
4 likes
4 yrs ago
The most irritating thing is wanting to RP but the moment you start writing you lose interest. Sad days.
11 likes

Bio

I write WWII related stuff and RP a lot. Dunno when I'm going to make one for here.

Most Recent Posts

@Bushman501 Approved for roleplaying.
---
"You like him don't you?"

"Hm?"

"Don't play coy Senji"

"Oh lord... What have you wrapped around your mind today?"

"So what is it about him? Think he's cute?"

"Still avoiding the question like you are so very certain that I know."

"Still so very dismissive when you're smart enough to know who I'm talking about."

"Even if I liked a boy it isn't my place yet. Have patience, Anneli."

"Hmph. You're normally more flustered. I guess I can't blame you. How many bodies did our Darcsen friend bury?"

"Too many. It's always too many. He carries a darkness in his heart. I think that he is on the brink of losing himself entirely. If he suffers more then he may just become what he desperately hopes he never becomes."

"They call him a reaper. A black headed Darcsen who has an equally black hand."

"Tsch! A reaper? He's a victim doing his best! They have no foundation for such claims!"

"Oh? Sensitive are we?"

"An-Anneli!"

"Ha! So you like them both!"

"Huh?"

"Here I thought you were the homogenous type. So tell me, why the shrimp?"

"Look... Even if it is true I can't get involved. I don't even know them. I want to- but I also understand how relationships can be here. Their culture is different from ours."

"How different could it be?"

"Religion, region, tradition-"

"Okay- not what I meant. Hush." With a sip of water Anneli laid back in her bed, pulling Senja in with her. "You mentioned religion first so I guess you just like that he's a Cruxian then?"

"...In my order it is said that we are best matched when we are upon someone of equal yoke. He is an intelligent man with a heart beyond himself. My sisters of faith dream upon finding someone as selfless as he."

"Oh? So what is different for you?"

"I have heard- there is another. Similarly- Franz also seems to love another."

"So that's why."

"I am not to ruin what has already become. That is not who I am."

"So what are you going to do then- Senja? Wait until you find someone who doesn't have loose feelings for someone else? What about those children you keep naming in your sleep? Will they ever be born?"

"Anneli!"

"Ha!"

"I... I don't know. I just don't want to be responsible for another's heartache."

"Naive- aren't you? Maybe they've been looking for someone who will chase after them yet you cower here in our room speaking of responsibility. Don't you think they would be heartbroken that you never tried?"

"You don't know what you mean. Besides, I must know the man I am to marry. I wish to never subjugate myself to multiple partners- and god forbid marriages."

"Hmm... Well if it doesn't go well, you can always marry me."

"Persistant as always!"

"Trust me, if I could give you children I would. Damned be my parents for giving me the head instead of the handle!"

"You're sweet... in your own way. Although rather crude!"

"Senja!"




From the distance came a familiar humming. Though its tone was foreign in its melody the voice of the huntress approached followed by the humming of the taller one behind her. Into the presence of the support group came another. The foreigners of another land made themselves known by their noise and their flags which they wore with pride. In the hands of Senja was some fresh sweet rolls held by a blanket of a handkerchief. In the hands of Anneli was an extra canister of potato soup.

"I guess we got the adorable crew today, didn't we Senja?" Anneli chuckled, Senja just looking over to her briefly with a smile.

"Behave."

"Yes, Senja."

"Who's hungry?" Senja pondered, looking to ensure that the morale of the soldiers would be high as they ventured into danger.

@Bushman501@Conscripts



Despite what you may have thought of them, none could deny their involvement postmortem. Woven in the fabric of war, threads of destiny crossed hatched and gripped together where the wounds needed closing most.

Exhaustion piled upon the Nord as vision weakened and yet still she gave but one prayer.

"Loving son of man..."

A body placed upon bed.

"Give me yet still the strength..."

Blood stained hair and clothes. No time to rest yet.

"To carry this weight for those who have none left..."

More rubble shoved aside. Arms resist degrading to jelly.

"Inspire me with love..."

Pressure applied to wounds and banadges tightly coating over delicate wounds. The injury is bad.

"So that they may love again..."

Legs buckle, there is yet still more to be done!

"And give them peace..."

A smile pushes through, hope musn't be lost.

"So they may live again. Amen."

With each body a miracle of life. With each haul a comfort... but where there is life... so too does death lurk.




The Reaper

Some say that any who are touched by his hands are doomed to death, entombed be thy soul to the memory of the one who buries the dead.

Franz was such a reaper.

Though every bit of strength rolled off stone and metal there would still yet be the inevitability of what had become. Blood gushed through the pouring reality and stained the soul of the survivor.

Every detail of their face drained into his memory as though it were a shower of information.

He told them what they wanted to hear.

"You'll be okay." He tells them.

They nod, oh yes. They fade, oh yes.

"I will remember you." He assures them.

They feel peace, oh yes. Lost to the books, oh yes.

"It's only a little further!" He urges them.

They remember the past, oh yes. To the past they go, oh yes.

But they all know. They all know...

Left to the shadows, oh yes. The empty reaper carries them along. There is nothing left. Another dogtag in hand.




And in the storm they cross. One brings life. One brings death. So briefly they pass, but so vivid its imagine. Over the shoulder of the man a limp body who has lost his life. In the craddle of the figurative mother a life is saved. They eye each other as they pass, but they don't say a word. The sadness in the man tells it all. The strength in the woman says it tall. The man screams within for it is all he can do. The woman screams aloud for hope cannot be lost. He carries another to their grave. She brings another to their hearth. Cold and dead is what he knows. Warm and lively what she knows. A restless night and a worn out dream. A hopeful song and a loving beam.

At the end of the day it was all he could do.

At the end of the day it was all she could do.

One left empty and another left full.

"It'll never be alright. It never will be."

"It will be okay. You will be okay."

"This world is fucked and it will never be alright."

"Just rest now and make it alright. Love and it will be alright."




A pleasure it was to be welcomed by one who seemed loving and kind. Taking her seat she adjusted her coat, keeping it straight and perfectly lined up as she gently placed her hands in her lap and gave him a warm and endearing smile. Without hesitation, she spoke in both gratitude and curiosity.

"You're a kind man, Michael. Generously giving like the son of man- though may we all strive to reach the bounds of the love he shows for us all. I do wonder about the squad in its entirety- but you I find so much interest in right now. Do you mind if I ask about who you are? What you did before the war? Oh! And would you like a snack later? I'd be more than happy to bring you something."

It was a rather high paced flurry of inquiries and responses for sure, but all the more did it speak of just how much she wanted to say to the man who spoke so little.

From Michael's point of view, it felt a little funny that when he mentioned about how he sort of had that strange feeling with Cruxians who tend to romanticize their own religion, one paragon appeared immediately when he called it. What she said was indeed taught in the holy book, but that's not how you normally approach a person, regardless if he or she shares the same belief system. But hey, she was nice, polite and seemingly more than a kind person for Michael to tolerate it. Unlike a certain Cruxian he met on Hill 58.

Regardless, the barrages of questions he was asked too were a little strange, considering the two probably had never met in their entire life. But it wasn't that personal to be uncomfortable. Nothing shameful or worth hiding in fact. His family had been respected mostly, and was never too deep in politics or royalty to be marked as overly pompous or obnoxiously ignorant.

"Who I am? Well, aside from being the son of the 2nd Viscount Daunte, I'm just a normal citizen living in Tyrella before being dragged off to war. I was...well am...an engineering student, if this war doesn't affect it in the end." Michael said. "I grew up to a pretty academic mother and father, and was about to be admitted to university, where my father now teaches, before being drafted, and here I am. I don't have that much of a backstory I'd say, but perhaps you may find it different."

Senja's offer for a snack was also a nice gesture Michael appreciated, though he probably didn't have that answer now.

"I'll see if I need anything later, and I'll tell you, is that alright?" He replied, before trying to get to know Senja more. She did want to know him after all, and that in turn made him also as curious. "How about you? You look a little different than Europans I've met. Are you by any chances from north Europa?"

Nordic citizens are rather unique and interesting. Michael had read about them, but had never been there or met anyone there, so if it's the case, this may turn into an intriguing conversation

Senja listened patiently as Michael described his past to her. Although there was so much more to explore she was more than satisfied to get what she had. Maybe it was early to ask such thing and perhaps it was simply something that would have come naturally through a long term relationship, but this was only so far from war. She wished to know as much as she could without pushing too much. Discovery was its own reward and in her time of searching through the cold there were times when you found a treasure beyond belief. Mmm... but the snow was always gorgeous. Maybe once they were done here, she could return home to lay in it once more where it was the only thing in sight aside from the trees. God was always quite the artist, after all. Never a dull moment.

"You appear to be a man of talent. Being raised to be an intellectual must have its perks but I also believe there is so much more to it than what you tell. Your own stories of hardships, triumphs, and experiences do not fall on deaf ears when you bring them to me. I'm sure others would love to hear what lovely tales you have to share." A nod came as he brushed aside the question for now, not wishing to push it any further but so willing to provide should he ask. "As you wish."

She gave a giggle upon being asked if she was from the north. "And your intellect also reflects in your guess. I am from the Eastern Nordlands. Our culture seems to be a bit different from that of the 'mainland' as it is referred to here. Many of you seem to have more color as well, which is evident of the sun's warmer embrace. Given it seems to be my turn to answer, what are your inquiries?"

Senja had a point about that, but...what should Michael say? You're not walking into a library and expect a librarian to give you the book that would entertain you if you just gave the cue saying give whatever. He sure had triumphs, like the time he constructed a working glider with a couple of friends, or his experience going to the far away nation in the east, but it wasn't anything comparing to things like Jean's experience with the White Feather movement. Speaking it out loud out of nowhere would seem like bragging about it.

"True to what you say. The whole is not as meaningful as the sum of its parts, but I can't magnify on those sums unless you tell me so."

As an invitation to find out more about the Nordic, Michael felt a surge in curiosity, but was stopped by his own superego, letting only its carefully thought and chosen questions out.

"Thanks." He didn't forget that systematic word in a conversation. "You have good observation. I also notice, your skin color is more white than us, and pretty in its own way. As I read, I believe snow is a very common thing there. How do you find life in a snow-common country like that feel? And, if you don't mind sharing, how you feel about your life so far?"

A nod acknowledged Michael when he did in fact point out the awkwardness in her general gesture to openly speak of himself, but it was well placed in her heart. After all, she wanted to let the man know she was open to listen to the tones of his story lay out upon the sheet in the ballad of Michael. That was, at least, a piece of her hope. "Likewise, friend."

"Thank you, Mr. Daunte." She interjected, appreciating his liking for her skin. Returning to the task at hand, she spoke. "I have always loved the snow. Though harsh it can be in particular parts of the year, I do not regret living life in such a wonderland. It comes with its own difficulties, especial of automotive function, but I love its many splendors. The cool upon your skin, the shade from the blazing sun, wondrous nature littered upon a cool canvas of mountains, trees, and rivers. I could say that I couldn't imagine one living outside of its atmosphere- it would be out of negligence to the world around us. To answer how I feel about my life comes in this same view. There is yet so much to explore, and so much love to give. I am content. Through all things, explorations, and hardships there is but that one feeling. What of you, Michael? How do you feel about your life?"

The wondrous nature of the Nordlands, Michael didn't expect any less. Hearing Senja's descriptions of her life, her philosophy and joy for exploring and loving, although a little romantic for him, Michael found it admirable, and worth a learn. It was true that while what she had described were a lot more positive than what Michael had experienced in the latest years, it was probably worth looking her way. Politics, war and social issues is like a drug. You couldn't help but feel like you have to crave more, and when you encounter hideous things, you couldn't turn away from it, nor you could refrain from anger. Perhaps it is best that he focus on the more beautiful side of things. The innocent and pure minded. Nature, animals, children. The beauty that purifies the wickedness in humanity right now.

"I find most of my life to be fairly kind to me up until recently. You know I was born to an aristocratic parent, well-educated and caring, so my life has been quite easy-going. So this stage of my life has been...well, not so good at first. But I'm getting used to it. Humans do adapt well to changes. Well...some humans. And I find it quite amazing. But I have to thank the squad for the change myself. You're in right now at a good squad, I can say. You'd enjoy your time here."

Unbeknownst to Michael, his enjoyment of a good conversation ends right there.

"Say, do you-"

With a huge thump.

'What the hell is that?'

It sounded like an artillery shell, but it was way louder than what he normally heard back in training. Did the Federation even have artillery in this camp? It was loud enough that the Squad 1's sapper thought that it was coming from his side. Maybe they just transferred them in. He at first wasn't paying them much mind, and was about to resume the conversation when all eyes suddenly aimed at the sky. Shouts of curiosity and later panic, mixed in with a couple of finger pointers soon drew his attention again.

A black dot. Seemingly harmless at first glance. But upon sight, Michael knew that harmless dot could be the end of dozens of soldier's lives. And it is getting bigger. It's coming towards them!!!

"Oh my lord...Ms Senja, get under the table, quickly!"

Despite the plead, Michael still held onto her wrist instinctively, trying to pull her to the ground and to beneath the table they were sitting at just a second ago. He didn't want to lose someone before his eyes again.

BOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!


He was fully expecting to die right there. Or at least a violent fling of his small and light mass. But by some miracles, he was neither of that. The explosion was deafening, and the shock wave blasting through him was nerve-wracking, but he somehow was fine. The shell had found its place hitting other places, sparing Michael's life for now, but in exchange probably had taken a bunch of other brave soldier's lives. It was disturbing to think about, but Michael didn't have the time for that.

"That was close." He said, turning to Senja, wherever she was. "Are you alright?"

"Hng!" The only sound that escaped Senja when Michael tore her from the crafted seating. With her own shattering thud she collided headfirst with the floor. Deafening silence came from her. No movement, sealed eyes, and soft breathing. Limp and exhausted of energy the woman did nothing but lay unconscious for the moment.

Soul seemed suspended in air as a revolving feeling swirled within her spirit. Neither awake nor asleep. No feeling yet understanding. A dialog erupted within.

Where am I?

Where is Michael?

God? Is it my time?

...

No... It's too soon...

Wake up Senja... The broken need you... The hurt need their healer...

Wake!

Feeling of limb returned as she hauled her head from the red droplets upon the floor. A soft groan waned as her hands roared across the floorboards. Clutched as a hammer she punched her fist into an anchor, supporting her superstructure with a heave bringing her back to life with dragging vision. Legs awkwardly positioned themselves before evening out and locking in place. Using the momentum of a hard forced push up she threw herself to a crouching position and at crawling speed moved to Michael with that endless smile still upon her person. Crimson river flowed gently to the apex of of her brow.

"I will be fine, Michael. Can you stand?" Senja asked, beginning to wrap hand around arm and back to help him to his feet.

”Thank you, Senja. I think I can stand.”

Even though the shockwave really shook him to the bones, thanks to prior preparation, Michael’s injuries were merely reduced to maybe little sores at the joints as they hit the ground first. After a brief moment feeling his body afterwards, Michael rose back to his one feet and a knee, under the support of Senja. It was then that he got full view of the Nordic girl after the chaos.

”You’re not fine. You’re hurt!”

He started to guilt if pulling her to the ground would’ve been worse. But what if in the case that the shell hit a little closer than it should have. What if...no don’t think about it now. What’s ahead needs to be done first. What’s to dwell on should be left for later.

’I need something...’ He rummaged through all his uniform, until a soft piece of fabric brushed through his hand. His cleaning cloth. And thankfully, it was clean.

Brushing her fluffy silky emerald hair aside, Michael gently pressed the cloth onto the fresh stream of crimson. His other hand now wrapped around Senja’s arm, just like how she did just before, trying to get her back on her feet and back on the table they sat on.

”Have this on, I’ll be right back!”

He needs some proper first aid tool.

After a couple of minutes running over to the medical area of the camp, Michael returned, the sack with the red cross bouncing on its handles. He could just get Senja over to the medic himself, but it seemed like the nurses and doctors were already quite occupied, with the number of casualties and wounds mounting non-stop, and Senja’s injury looked simple. Potentially dangerous but treatable.

”Tell me if it hurts.”

Basic medical training, he should do this fine. Clean the wound, check for debris, disinfect it and then wrap it up. The first part was easy enough, it was a head collision, so there’s little chances of an impaling object - otherwise it would’ve been way more serious. The cloth had somewhat helped with the cleaning partially already. The problem of keeping the bandage in place was usually the more difficult part. Thankfully it wasn’t that high above in her head so a little change in angle when he wrap the bandage could work.

It felt a little bad, as while treating the wound that he probably caused, he had seen and brushed a little of her face. Her skin really was that white, and it was soft, unexpected in a time of war like this. Her smooth hair appeared to be natural, an honest impression of Nordic citizens. It felt as if she didn’t really belong, or deserve to belong in this war. No one does, but if there is a group that least deserves it, she would be in that group, along with Lucia.

”Now that should work.” It was better than he expected. ”I’m sorry that happened.”

Truly his was a soul greater than his own body. Though it didn't seem to be much, character formed most from the smallest of details. The blood of one's body was worth as much as they were willing to lose to save their own. Any man in his position could have simply registered the shelling to be a reason to flee. Yet here he had been and yet still had he stayed. His priority was not himself. Even as she had told him she was fine he still went out of his way to provide a way to coat and purify the wound. A million thoughts could stop one from helping her. What if the Empire was about to run them through? What if another shell was due? What of his own life? What of his own family? Perhaps that's why she quietly and somewhat open mouth accepted his help. His touch had been gentle as the breezes of the summer night, spirit bursting of warmth where the frozen heart knew no comfort. Perhaps it was overly loving and kind to address him as such for one simple action, but it was always better to assume the best of someone rather than the worst of their character. Giving into thoughts of grief and anger- to judge with cynicism- was to be the downfall of the brokenhearted. No joy can be found in someone who has married themselves to sadness.

"I have suffered worse in hunting accidents. You're only helping me."

Even as her eyes slightly winced at the cleansing she gave a calm response. Though, she had the distinct feeling that what she was about to see at the bombing sight was going to hurt a lot more. At least he didn't seem so shaken for the moment, but war was hard on many and plenty wanted to go home after even one shelling. She couldn't blame them, especially when it was nearly the end of one's life... especially when it could have been her and Michael's. Though such thoughts faded away as he lay delicately fingers to her person. Now- was time to help those in need.

"Thank you for protecting me, Michael." With a smile she tapped the applied bandage and brought herself to his person, laying hand upon his cheek with thumb gently pressed against his chin. Bringing herself closer with grace did she secure her place in his space. With the other hand upon his chest she laid upon his free cheek a soft touch from her lips. It wasn't much, but it told of her gratefulness. Brief and affectionate. The moment, however, could not last.

With determination she stepped away from him, facing the direction of the blast and closing her eyes shut to breathe. "Michael, please, call what help you can. I have to help the survivors. I pray that I still have time!" With eyes open and breath focused the huntress pressed through the entrance as a predator. Strides of a fearless soldier dug into the ground.

Though it may not have been enough to save them all, it would have to suffice to save the rest.



The 27th day. A beautiful day it was.

Although, she had been quite busy with Anneli, she made it clear that it was time for her to move along for some time. No break was more worthy than the song of praise and worship. She attributed much to the followings of the Son of God and proudly wore her crucifix without a care in the world. Anneli was, not incredibly fond of such worship, but she understood Senja had her past to give reason to praise. For any who had been around, perhaps they would have known it as well. Her voice, to Anneli even, beckoned of an angel. Her movements were graceful, smooth in sailing and effortless as she closed her eyes and twisted in circles with arms wide open. Insanity may have came to the thoughts of those who would instantly see her as a heretic, but she cared not for what was said of her loving almighty. She care not that she believed in one who many rejected. She cared not if she was audibly confessing her love aloud for the Son of God. She cared not of anything but her devotion and sharing in her love for he who had sacrificed for her own sake. With eyes closed she swooped down, catching a book that a soldier dropped and handed it to him before heading on her way. "Where?", one might ask. Wherever her heart and soul took her.

Today, it took her to a man by the name of Michael Daunte.


"Oh the overwhelming- never-ending- reckless love of God~ Oh it chases me down- fights until I'm found~ Leaves the ninety-nine!~" Senja stopped mid dance, opening her eyes to survey the facility she had just entered. Bubbly and filled with warmth of sun and son the Cruxian placed hands behind back and approached the short man in curiosity. There was a certain aura she felt from him- or- at least- a feeling that she should approach him. Even as she approached she felt emotions of shyness and questioning how random and weird she would have looked like to do such a thing, but such emotions failed to sway her. He looked like... Yes- he had to be. Franz spoke of him briefly.

Gliding step after step she moved to the table the man sat at, presenting herself before him in clear view. She had a good feeling of this one, but even if he yelled at her she had nothing to lose! It was always a good time to spread love and cheer.


"Excuse me? Mr. Daunte? I am Private Senja Penttilä. I recently transferred here to help your squad in its mission. May I join you in enjoying this day?"


@Conscripts
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!

There was a bit of silence as the hardened man shifted through thoughts. His expressions were neutral, hand clutched to letter before placing it down over the gun. Even as she came to sit down he was slow to meet her. It was as thought she called him back from a far away land. In the depths of his own thoughts he found himself quite far.

Returning to his fellow Darcsen, he spoke quietly. "Inès?" Eyebrows furrowed as each eye regained control from staring into nothing. He seemed almost lost. A captain adrift with his ship nowhere to be found. Slowly, he matched her gaze. "I'm... I... It's good to see you." His back straightened to better support himself. He sat upon the bed with some feeling returning. Memories of that night... and her choosing another over him. He honored the decision. "How is Freya?"



The sudden question poked a short smile out of Inès, fuddling about while she slowly looked down, then darted her eyes back to Franz. Freya she loved, true, and she would not dare deny herself nor Franz that truth that the two shared their intimate moments together. Yet, even through her slight, so slightly sweet smile, as if a single grain of sugar touching the tip of the tongue, Inès maintained her cool warmness.

"Freya's well. She's a chatterbox, as always." Inès smirked to him, slightly adjusting her seated position as if to get closer to him. Her head turned more upwards, meeting Franz's eyes at a slightly elevated level, as if to match his natural height.

"How have you been?"



How had he been? It seemed to confuse him at first. He shifted his eyes to the left and then back to her. Yes, of course, it was perfectly normal to ask. He was alive. He was here.

"I'm a Darcsen. I'm fine." It was a lie, sure, but it was his initial offering. It was what he was able to muster as he asked her the same in return. "How about you?"



"I'm well." she nodded back, if only after slight hesitation. 'Well' was very well within the means of stretching the truth, but, in comparison to the pallid states of many of Inès' comrades, 'well' was a very suitable state to describe her condition. If anything, the Darcsen handled the Inn remarkably well. Inès herself would even say that wasn't the worst she had seen a bar be destroyed.

Slightly, she etched her smile just a bit more permanently, looking at Franz intently, like she were about to ask something of him. A light breath escapes, the precursor to her query:

"But...how do you feel? I guess..."

She chortled and retracted, a huff and a relegated smirk turning from Franz.

"I...just want to see how you are." Inès clarified, the awkwardness of her pacing almost uncharacteristic of her.



The question stung. It hurt more than anything she had asked of him thus far. It hurt to think about it and yet there was a certain numbness to his person. He wished he could have answered it simply. It just wasn't that easy. To answer her query he had to know himself and what he looked for, but in this time and in this place he was so unsure of everything. Well, he knew he was on the brink of something. It took a lot to bring himself to remember that he was a part of something and meant something to someone. It wasn't out of doubting self worth, but instead was much more about trying not to let the present consume him and the past dominate him with the future a dreadful blackened world. He had to concentrate.

"I'm glad you are well. I am... I am... The girl... The one I talked to you about at the... at the inn. She moved on." He picked up the letter, seeming to exhale difficulty. "...I joined this war to protect my friends back home. I searched for that woman for years. We missed each other by days... minutes... seconds... And now she's with someone else. So how do I feel? I don't know. Too much... too little."



Inès listened. For a time. Her smile did slightly fade, even as she tried her hardest to emulate Freya's radiance to Franz and be the friend he needed. Yet, Inès wasn't Freya. Perhaps a Freya wasn't what Franz needed, and if so, all the more reason he would have gone to her seeking out that famed Oceanic Beacon. No, even as that thought subsided, no matter how brief, Inès sighed, dropping her head.

"...i'm sorry." she told him. For what? Franz knew full well. Likely for everything. The Inn. Amber. Her actions. Freya. Inès being Inès.



The breaking man pursed his lips, thinking of something to say. He felt... something. He knew that since she had entered something was different about the atmosphere. More than anything, he knew that there was some warmth on the inside that was beginning to emerge. Logic concluded it was her that was causing it. The breaking man continued.

"Don't be. I'm... I feel... happy- I think. Glad that... I'm glad that you're here now. I know that we shouldn't spent too much time together, but it means so much to me that you looked for me. You even did it without anyone telling you to. I know we shouldn't... but... Ines can you- hold me? I think I'm..."

The distressed man began to tear up. He didn't made audible noise aside from choking lightly on his tears and suppressing the noise. Oh Franz, what are you doing? Putting her in such a situation so freely. You trust her at the cost of, perhaps, both of your mental states.

"The... The nightmares won't stop... They w-won't... The Inn... The gas... I-I-I can't make them..." He held his head for a moment, breath rapidly destabilizing as the screams began to fill his head again. Breathe Franz... Breathe...



Franz felt that same warmness envelop him, his own interior melancholy mixing with the familiar warmness of Inès beside the bath he felt those weeks ago. She held him loose, at first, then slowly tightened, enveloping him as she stiffened her firm hold upon him. Childish, in a sense, yet thoroughly warming. She allowed him to rest upon her upper chest, slowly stroking her fingers along Franz's scalp, like a mother might their son.

"It...it will be alright." Inès hushed. She never knew if it ever would be.

"...we-...we're Darcsens, Franz. Like the sky and the seas, we will endure."



For a moment, Franz struggled, his legs and arms shaking as he gently kicked his leg. As she tightened her grip on him he slowly felt the warm enter him, panicked breath riding his throat as the blood in the river made him gag. Part of him couldn't escape. Part of him felt her warmth. He was almost well into the nightmare before he forced his face into her with arms wrapping around her. He was terrified, his confidence shattered as he devolved into a teary mess. His voice shook as he began to speak again. "I-I saw the gas before the inn! I saw the gas before the inn! In my nightmares I saw the gas before the inn!" He whimpered, crying into her at a tone that her ears could register. This wasn't the same man she knew. This was the child inside that was scrambling for cover while the hardened Franz took time to rest.

Yet, like a child clinging to its mother, Franz listened to her hushing and held onto her tightly. Gently... Gently...

His grip reduced with time. His sobbing calmed to sniffles. His breath slowly stabilized. Bit by bit the cold nightmares were being replaced with her warmth, but he felt tired now. He felt... sleepy. There was a warmth in her and she was the only one he was willing to confide in. He whispered to her as he regained some of his composure.

"Please... You can't let the squad know how broken I am. The money I'm making is helping feed the family I have... I..." He exhaled sharply, inhaling just as sharp as he felt his chest tighten. "MMhmmhmm... Like... Like the sky and the seas... Like the skies... and the seas..."

His shaking calmed to a crawl. Soon, he was still. His breathing was so low and his body so still one could have questioned if he had died right then and there. How awful it must have been for Ines to witness that. Some medical units facing a panicking soldier bleeding from a vital area endured such a similar tale. You hold them knowing you couldn't save them. You hold them trying to give them some comfort in their panic. You hold them feeling their fight begin to wane. You hold them feeling their life fade away. Cold and lifeless. It was eerie how similar that was in this moment. He was partially conscious, but he wore himself out. He needed a moment to breathe.



'Saw gas before the Inn?' Inès couldn't resist but assume the worst of Franz when those words had reached her ears; The man had gone thoroughly mad. But...



"They're antiques. Mining masks."



Inès saw it all over again. Like Max was there again, his Imperial accent selling it as well as Franz's sobbing, in a horrifying, sobering sense. Earnestly, she wished she hadn't, just for that moment. She shook her head, and gazed back upon the tremoring fellow Darcsen who needed her company most. "Needed", she wondered, closing her eyes as he wept into her.

'Not let the squad know?', he said? Inès fell flat. She comforted him the best she could, but she knew she wasn't enough. To a broken man, she may have been enough. But was it any surprise that a broken man could be sated by a fractured woman?

"...I wish I was alright..." Inès whispered to Franz. Like he had learned some secret in those vague words alone, so filled with regret and remorse that some paltry confession meant so much.



"I'm sorry..." Franz struggled out. He held onto her as he braced himself with her comfort. Now, at least, he could speak. "You came to me and all I've done is ruin your stay... I didn't mean to-"

He exhaled, sighing as some of his strength came back to him. "I trust you, Ines. More than anybody else I trust you... These nightmares have been plaguing me. They only stopped that night I slept with you. Some nights they aren't as bad. It all started after I killed Melanie... It happened after I watched Mila die. So many... bodies... I-"

With conviction, he took a breath. With conviction, he tried to straighten out. "Forgive me for what I've done to you, Ines. We're Darcsen. We help each other, not hurt each other."



"It's fine." Inès told him, slowly taking in his own words. That...they were Darcsen. It almost hurt to relinquish in that misfortune, that being born to something so ancient into a conflict which stretched back further than anyone could reasonably discern how quite it started...to be born a loser.

The names of the unfamiliar rung to Inès like some familiar church bells at their passing. Just how Franz spoke about them, in hushed, regrettant tones, how he so gently whispered their names, like their callings may perturb them from slumber...but what Franz did to her was no crime, for reflection was nothing to be ashamed of. Inès patted him and consoled him, for whatever her apparent abandonment meant to him now, that this woman, so broken and hushed could be the only one he could confide in did show how broken he truly was. Inès knew that full well. She almost hated it. She would have. Had Franz not shown one ounce of sympathy.

"Franz, I know you-..."

Her throat nearly choked itself closed, so badly did it pain her to say it.

"You....you can always come to me. Freya and I will be well. But I don't want you to think that you can't ever talk to me."



"I never wanted to get between you two. Your life is one deserving of union, safely. I wanted you to explore your love freely. Life is a burden to many, I thought myself clever to keep my own struggles to myself. Wishful as I was... I break apart at the seams. Even now I feel as though it is wrong to hold onto you... Yet, despite those feelings, I give in to the craving desire for this peace that I only find in your grasp... The nightmares stop... I feel peace... I... Thank you. I will come to you as necessary."

The torn Franz Blau sighed, pulling himself away enough to look her in the eyes. A mutual feeling flowed between them and as the flames of emotion burned the world around them he had only a simple statement to give. It was an extension provided by mutual interest and a reaffirmed idea which was stated before. Franz wanted her to be sure. He might have been a mess but he was a mess that was absolutely certain in his drive to help his favorite Darcsen on the field.

"If you are ever in need- even if it is about Freya- feel free to find me. I'll do everything I can to help you. That is my brotherly promise."



Inès smiled. Her little philosopher was musing on again, like she remembered so fondly in their moment at the Inn. She found it so endearing, his overly obtuse language, his oddly poetic phrasing, how he seemed to try so hard to impress a girl from the slums, yet did so with no thought. Her fingers tugged him tighter, slowly coursing along as they consoled him, grace by grace.

"Thank you, Franz." she responded, lightly positioning herself to readjust her steady hug. Breakage was not what she desired, but the woman made herself enough space to peek down at the slowly-crafted mosaic that was the broken man of Franz Blau. His tears welled up, drying like the seasonal streams of the coming winter, and his patchy red eyesockets slowly paling to their natural hue.



Breath became slower as the eyes began to show weakness. First, a flicker, then a shutter, and finally, in the relaxed beating of his heart, came a close. He placed himself against her, going against his thoughts and bracing her for who she was. She was his friend. She was his sister in race. She was his shelter. She was his equal. In the brief moment they shared together he felt all nightmares coming to an end. There was no more blood. There was no more suffering. He had fought the hard fight and so too did she. He had nearly lost his mind and in the battle for his sanity he nearly took his own head off as well. It was a miracle he had yet to destroy himself, but so too was it a mercy that she be here to stop him from losing it all again.

He was no longer a cold man crawling in the dark. He was tired. He was exhausted in every respect as this battle for his soul came to a close. In the cold winter night the embers encircled him. Though the song they sang were not for his demise, but instead for his warmth. The demon of the dark had lost this night. Franz would live once more. In his thankfulness, he forgot himself and did so without regret. As arms wrapped around Ines with such a delicate touch, he whispered to her once more.

"The honor is mine... Inès... I only ask one more thing of you... Let me hold you... just a... little bit longer... Just one more... time..."

But, as every warrior after a hard won battle, he found his strength failing him. His eyes sealed close. Arms welded to her person as legs went limp and his heart slowed to a crawl. He basked in every moment of her sunshine. Not very long after the fact he found his peace. It was eternal in this finite moment. It would be enough to stay like this forever. Little by little his conscious faded, his body laying at rest with her until he was gone.

"Thank you..."

No more pain. No more suffering. Only comfort. Only warmth. Only Inès in his arms as he lay. Only peace in his mind as he was put to rest.



Hold him? For just a while longer? Certainly. Inès obliged his request with a soft, "Sure.", allowing the exhausted Darcsen to take refuge along her shoulder and chest while she held him. How he clutched her so thoroughly that even while his strength loosened, technique alone held him steadily along her...it was that of pure fatigue, of inability to do nothing aside from committing thorough rest. Too well, she knew that expression, for on innumerate occasions did Inès find herself collapsing to that of immobility, drained both of energy and mind by the recent events. Inès held him, even softly smiling as he lulled himself into a slumber.

...

...until she tried to move slightly. Franz wouldn't budge. Inès didn't care to move more, nor rest him aside on the cot, for that ironclad entrapment Franz emplaced her in was not one to be escaped from with any ease. Her mouth shrunk to awkward pursing as her eyes widened, darting her eyes down upon Franz.

Still asleep. Steadily asleep.

...

...Looks like i'll be here for a while...
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