Recent Statuses

5 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.
1 yr 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.
3 yrs ago
The most irritating thing is wanting to RP but the moment you start writing you lose interest. Sad days.


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

Most Recent Posts

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 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.


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...


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 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?"

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?"



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...


"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.


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.


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-


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.




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."


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


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


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-"


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?"


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.


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




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 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.


"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:

" 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.

" 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 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.

" 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 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...

It had been a rough talk with Franz. He wasn't holding up well and he was collapsing under pressure but overall he would make it to the next night. That was the reality of his situation. He had been beaten and battered by the war and the visit Anneli and Senja paid him only did the man so many favors. There hadn't been much that he had to say after that gas attack. He hadn't been one for words to begin with, but now he seemed more distant. He was colder. His skin seemed greyer and his spirit had perhaps been shattered again. His brief brightening with Ines had been that and with her turning from him and that letter that he held in his hand... Well... Maybe he wouldn't have minded if he did get shot. It was hard for the Nords to know what he was thinking with how unresponsive he was.

A shame that it was they couldn't get him to say much more than small replies or flat out ignoring them at times. He spent more time than ever distancing himself from everyone else and to that extent he felt very alone. He had obviously pushed himself away quietly and always insisted on being in the back to ensure the safety of the squad but there wasn't much more to it than wanting to be alone. It was probably better for him to be with the friends he made but how he felt... it... it didn't feel right. He couldn't even express himself to Ines very well. He felt like he never quite got it across as to how thankful he was for her intervening that day. Sure Issac and Jean put their two cents in but he didn't care about either of them in that moment. The Nords had come not long after to help get him along.

Now it was the letter... At least, in the darkness, there was a peace he could find and with his slowly degrading health he had more of a reason to stay in. He still did his jobs, but returning to bed as often as allowed meant he got the thing he felt like he needed. So much emptiness and questioning... He hadn't touched his stencils in a long time.

There was a time when she meant so much to him and even now she meant everything. He risked his life, his pride, his money, and his gang all to look for this girl who escaped his grasp for so long. Was it some kind of sick joke? While he shook his arm quietly did it have some kind of punch line he failed to read? Was he in another nightmare? They seemed so frequent and so damn real. He read the letter again to be sure, but like the time before all the words were there.

"Dear Franz,
It has been too long. It has been far, far too long. I have read your letters and loved them all. I can't believe, even now, that you looked for me all this time. You are a treasure beyond treasures and a man who has stopped at nothing to find me. I always knew you were a strong boy with great determination, but now I see that as a man nothing has changed. You'll always make me proud, Franz Blau... So I guess I'll tell you what I've seen."

The words on paper told of her journey and struggle to keep the family afloat with her mother taking select choices in attempting to provide a better life chasing opportunity after opportunity without fail. She had seen many things in her life. The monuments of the nations, the heroes of marble and stone, and honored them with photography. She found her triumphs in the postal business and found her failings in pursuing some of her artistic dreams. A tough choice to choose one over the other, but her ambitious mother had to make do. The most amusing, and damning, detail was the sheer fact that over the course of time that they had pursued each other they had just missed each other by days, hours, or minutes as Amber guessed. For Franz it felt like seconds. All the same they were lovers who had simply found themselves unable to match each other's tempo. It hurt so much that when Franz decided to stay in to cope with his sadness instead of looking for her that he had simply missed her when she had spent a couple of days sitting out in a park he would have went to on those days. Devastating.

Still, she was trying. It had only been when she came back from the empire that she settled... and she had done so not so long after he enlisted for the army. It was only three months ago that their cafe and bakery mix had been established. It even hosted a bookcase collection of which the Longblades found themselves fond of. Franz smiled the first time reading about all the men who had taken time to read the books and discuss them in their little book club that a patron had decided should be opened... and he frowned knowing that it took over her visits to the park.

Idly he read through each word and felt a barrage of emotions. He was proud of her and all she had done and so often she spoke of how she would have wanted to share it with him. So often she talked about how dear he had been to her. He hadn't left her mind for so long... but, as she would present to him yet again as he dissected every line, she did.

"And even though I loved you I knew I had to move on. I couldn't have spent more time looking for you. Mother wouldn't have had it. Someone who became dear to me wouldn't have appreciated it either. I always fancied the idea of being with you, Franz. Please, never forget that. You were a world far away that I could never find no matter how hard I looked. I always regretted- and I still do- not taking you with us. I will always regret never chasing after you when you said you were going home. I thought about it for so long and now that I have the chance to talk with you again it breaks my heart to know what you suffered. I've never felt such pain like knowing how the world has treated you my poor, sweet, Franz. I wanted nothing more than to see you, but I know that now that I can I'm only going to hurt you more and you deserved better!

But... I can't break two hearts tonight. Franz... I'm engag-"

A finger pressed against the word as breathing became unstable. His heart throttled his throat and tears ripped at corners again. Sharp knives pierced his skin as he closed his eyes to hide it from himself again.

No more... just... please... no more...

Franz was left spinning as he remembered everything he had done wrong. What should have he had done so long ago? He knew there was no point in staying with his father and all the same his naive mind thought something would change. He thought that maybe with time he would potentially see his mother again. He thought that with such powerful strides in learning he could make something of himself. He thought that maybe if he stayed in Gallia he could find something of out of the miserable kingdom he resided in. Even with his father's growing complications and abusive attitude he held idiotic hope that anything would change. He just let resentment build and sink in viciously with teeth of the sands ripping at his life. How much more sand would he bleed from the hourglass? From dust to dust for nothing?

Even now he had to ponder, with such droning repetition why it was that he waited for a flag that would never be passed onto him. Henry... Fucking Henry. The abusive Kraken tangling his reluctant arms and frying his blooming mind... It was his fault. All of it was HIS fault! Playing sympathy, tricking him at every turn, pretending to care, using him for leverage, beating him for not being home on time, giving alcoholic speeches on virtues he never once held! Henry the fucking Gallian and his god damn queen! What good was a fucking queen for a fucking pathetic kingdom when it was as frail as her brittle arms and powdered face!

With a loud grunt Franz flipped his bed over with a kick! FUCK!

It was... it was Franz's fault. He tried to reason his actions. Nobody asked him to stay with Henry. He did it himself. He let his life escape him and now here he was in hell. What about his own virtues? What fucking virtue did Franz have? Honor? Loyalty? Chastity?

He killed a woman and let her bleed to death and had shot countless more who just wanted to live. He took supplies from soldiers to scrap by and make petty excuses for why he took so long.

Loyalty? What fucking loyalty? An Imperial killing Imperials! An Imperial defending the worthless Gallians through the snake mouth Federation! Who's side was this turncoat on? He killed his brothers! He killed his sisters! He did so fighting against the truth of the world! Without the empire this world would be nothing! Democracy is the system of puppets and masters but too shy to say it! It kept its population nice and stupid so it could manipulate its very core while pitting them against petty objectives with the intention of pushing their own agenda! At least the empire was honest! In its very name the empire made its intentions very clear and despite being a collective of annexed territories and multicultural prowess none could debate that their way of life worked! None could debate that it could not only go toe to toe with those pathetic Federalists but it could supersede it! Is this what Franz fought for?! Regression?! The worthless wimps of politicians playing house?! Franz was a traitor to his own blood! He was a traitor to his own family! What fucking loyalty?!

And! And! And... Amber... Oh Amber... He couldn't even keep loyal to her. What is a decade in the span of a life? It's nothing. With life being so finite and capped one should be able to hold any promise and desire. One should not let the stresses of the world to break his short lived will. From dawn to dusk the ideals of the hero should be maintained... but Franz was no hero... He was a coward who caved in when the cards were down. He was an adulterous whore who couldn't even wait another month. He gave up at the prospect of affection and like the fool he was he gave it up for a woman who didn't even want him...

Ines had Freya... Franz?... Franz had no one.

He chuckled to himself in the corner.

"I deserved this." He thought.

Not a moment would go by where he wouldn't think of his mistakes. On the path to being a great he squandered it on pettiness. On the road to being a hero he built his legacy on the blood of his own. In pursuit of being a paragon he found himself being below the very star of destiny but looking through a scope. It was a fantasy... his ideals... his perfect world... he was beneath them. He would never be a hero and he would never be the man he wished he could be. He was a husk of a man who died long ago and it took him this long to realize it. They say you see your life flash before your eyes before you fade into the darkness... As the candle lost its luster and the ember gripped at its last he found this to be true.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed but his tent was a mess. All the same, he held onto that letter. It was all that was left of him. He had to cling onto this. It was the only thing that made him feel. Even if he felt so much pain... even if he felt endless sorrow... it was better than nothing. Remembering the feeling... he got back to work. Piece by piece he paced himself at a rigid timing and reset his tent. Piece by piece he put back everything where it belonged and thanked himself for not creating more of a noise than he did. It would be annoying to listen to some pompous bastard explain why this retched existence was worth fighting for. He already knew that. He had obligations to fulfill and that was all. It wasn't just his life that would be affected. Markus needed his money. The gang needed his money.

"Yet perhaps they did not." The shadow crawled from under his bed and even with darting eyes Franz met his gaze without so much as a blink. It wasn't until but seconds later that he flipped his lids and looked back at the letter in the lifeless cage.

"Who says you need to live? In this war you may very well die. Do you honestly believe Markus needs you? The gang has managed despite its many deaths... and yet still you believe you matter to them. You are a number, Franz. You are a Darcsen. The only purpose of the Darcsen is to die so that the rest may live. Yet... what a worthless endeavor it is, do you not think so? In the fight of our lives with every inch gained and all purpose searched one finds the fight is for naught. You know this. WE know this. Yet like actors in a play we dance and sing and fall when the script calls us to die. Even the greatest of heroes will be forgotten and all the same you are a thief of the beginning. The beginning will punish you with the prospect of the end, yet you don't revere it. You find yourself pushing to save people who are worth nothing in this life. You're just another character in a made up world waiting to die, aren't you Franz? A poor tragic character in a ballad of sorrows."

Franz made no refute, simply eyeing his inventory and looking back to the letter.

"You want it, Franz. You don't want to fight anymore. Every moment you've lived to this point has been for a woman who has been fucked dry by some Federal dog waiting to infect her with his cursed blood. Ahahahaha! And the Imperial hero gives up!"

With a slide the magazine locked in place. The parabellum of that poor victim that Franz killed now pointed at the shadow with steady arms and a fixation upon his ghastly skull.

"Do you think that this changes anything, shadow? You think you tell me anything new or do you hope that I cave into your desires for me? Or do you truly think me such a coward?"

"You are worthless, Franz. WE are worthless." The shadow grinned turning into a mirror of Franz and pressing its skull against the barrel of the gun. "End this story so that you can have your rest."

"Do you think I'm incapable?"

"I think you are a coward. WE think you are cowardly."

"Then pull the trigger if you think I am afraid to die." Franz turned the gun onto himself, wrapping his lips around the barrel and locking eyes with his shadow. The sounds of the world around them subtly played. Then- a deafening silence. In this moment there was nothing. There was just a man staring into his soul and hating what he saw. Even with the nightmare in his face he found himself without any fear. He found himself without any anger. He... felt... nothing... He stared into the abyss and the abyss stared back. With a jolt, it grabbed the gun and pushed the barrel in slightly deeper. Even with Franz's hand on the gun, he made no effort to resist it. The grinning shadow slide it in all the way and adjusted the angle.

"An instant death."

Franz adjusted it back.

"A slow and painful demise...ehehehe."

Franz had no such laughter.

"Then, die."

With Franz's finger leaving the trigger the shadow slipped its own in. "Die, Franz Blau!"



“What should happen when I die, Franz?”


“What should happen when I meet my end?”

“I suppose we’ll bury you.”

“Like the others?”




“Why should I be buried like all the others? Why must they all be the same?”

“There is no other way.”

“There is, but it starts with you.”

“...I don’t understand you, sir.”

“Steffen. Call me by my name.”

“Explain to me what you mean, Steffen.”

“Why must it be that when a man dies the clouds turn grey and the light runs dim? Why must it be that when life is out there to live people would rather spend it in death?”

“People hurt, Steffen. They hurt and in the end death is what gives life meaning… or so I’ve been told.”

“Death gives death meaning. Life gives life meaning. When you are happy it is not because death has made it so. You are happy because you are happy. You live because you have more of the same.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“When I am gone, long buried away in the cold dirt and the rain soaked soil, buried in a box far away from home… do not weep for me. Let that be clear. Remember me! Remember Dennis! Remember Rothe! Remember them and be merry as I was!”

“We missed them dearly, brother, how are we to drink and cheer when they are long gone before us?”

“Because it is how they would have wanted you to remember them. It is how I want you to remember and celebrate me. I want to feel the sun against my cheeks when my time is done. I want to hear my friends drinking and being merry as I rot in my box. I want them to, even if they are crying, pour me a drink and tell me how they can’t wait to see me again! That is how I want to die!…. Because… to die any other way…”

The older man placed his hand on the young one’s shoulder, gripping it gently and staring him in the eyes.

“Live your life, Franz. Don’t look back. When all is said and done I want you to not let those scars define you. If you give up because of them… If you keep hurting yourself over them… You put all the effort we poured into you in vain. No matter what you have to promise me you will try. If not for yourself then for the people around you… Try...”

"Personally, I think you do have a future. Everybody does."

"Even if it isn't allocated to you yourself."

"You did say you grieved for Mila. Then you're already better than me..."

"But it shows you do actually care about something. About her. About her future. And I think Mila does too, in her final moments and decision to cover you. I know she probably doesn't live your life, doesn't fully understand what pain you have to go through, but I think that's one of her future, even if she doesn't come out of that alive..."

"She saw that she could preserve and protect others' future. And she jumped right at it. No hesitation, no thinking. Even though her ideals are a little simplistic and to be honest unhealthy, I still respect her greatly to know that she saved you. Sometimes it would be in vain. I know, because I too failed to save my friend. His father owned a carpenter shop, and he was waiting for his son to inherit it, but what he would receive now would merely be a letter saying he died for his country. Only because I missed that shot. But the thought alone also speaks. I know it sounds a little sophisticated, but I just think that..."

"To preserve people's future is also a future."

"If you need anything, come to me. Darscen look out for one another. I don't care what it is, find me and I'll watch over my brother. Enjoy your life for those who cannot, Jean."

"Love me as though there were no tomorrow~"
"Take me out of this world tonight~!"
"Take me~!"
"Make me forget my sorrow,"
"So when I wake tomorrow, I'll know our love was right."
"Kiss me as though it were now of never~"
"Teach me all that a heart should know~"
"Love me... as though there were no tomorrow~"
"Oh my darling~, love me; don't ever let me go~."

"Kiss me as though it were now or never~"
"Teach me all that a heart should know~"
"Love me as though there were no tomorrow;"
"Oh, my darling, love me~"
"Don't ever go~"

"And...this isn't goodbye. It's not 'no.' I just...I can't hurt you."

"You're not losing me..."

"It's not like we're dead. I'll still be here. No matter what happens."

"We should just make sure we feel about other people. See other people. know...i'm not going anywhere. We'll still talk and see each other. Because...I don't want to lose you, either."

“Am I going to die?”


“I-I don’t- want- to!”
Another gagged gasp.

“I know.”

“Did… I do… The empire… proud?”

“Yes… Your family too...”

“Will they remember...”

“...I will remember you...”

“...I will remember you...”

“...I will remember you...”

"Franz, it's morning."

Dark faded to the light as eyes slowly cracked open. A numbness was present in every bit of his body. Lungs took in air and his heart gradually made itself known to him. Everything was blurry. His mind wandered as the feeling crawled back into him. His head hurt and his hands were full. He pressed his hands against his forehead and listened to the familiar sound of paper grinding against skin- and the cold reminder of the time before. His eyes regained focus as he looked to his right hand, slowly pulling the pistol off of his head and... just staring at it blankly. He blinked, even if only twice, before turning it over and looking at his hand.

He didn't do it...

The cool of the gun reminded him of everything. He remembered it all and felt so numb. Here, perhaps,where any other would have taken shock in their situation and contemplated regret, Franz felt only memories flooding. He stared and stared... the art of the dream fresh in his mind. He supposed he wouldn't find rest. There was no rest for someone like him. There was just picking off where you left off. That was all there was... right?

In the other hand there was the letter. Just looking at it sparked emotions but none were as intense as the time before. There was much he had to say but at the same time nothing at all. He had words but no structure. He had numbness yes no logic. There was a pattern somewhere lost in the broken vase and where it began and where it ended left him spinning in the dark. Perhaps it was why he sat up to find his body was sprawled out in a ragdolled position. Still... it must not have been so long that any would have assumed him dead.

With the gun left under the letter on the bed Franz quietly contemplated the many words that continued to pursue him. He wasn't sure if he had the will to go on, but evidently he didn't kill himself either. He wasn't afraid... but maybe he was. It was hard to know what he felt anymore. The dawn of another day was just another day to relive the past and another to contemplate the future. The present was the never ending act of pushing for a point in time where all would be forgotten. Despite this truth of his, he found himself breathing in some miracle performed by a hypothetical god... and at this point... maybe he needed one.

Franz had never been big on the idea of religion and certainly not when it involved the destruction of Darcsen for the sake of being a lowly dark hair. What black hair would willingly subject themselves to hours of torment by people who spoke of his lack of worth? Well, ironically, Franz would. He very lightly chuckled at the thought as he had endured vocal torment once by his father. He endured it yet again with so many others and endured it here thinking of the notion. Perhaps he was a lot more tolerant than he ever gave himself credit for but what remained so very clear was that no matter the amount of tolerance he had towards the pain he still had much to straighten out for himself and that was where he was at. If religion had even the slightest of answers... well... maybe not.

He supposed it was a funny thought. Normally, at least in what he had read, war was where one went to abandon their faith. There was nothing more gruesome and faith killing than watching hell burn life to ashes with no seen intervention from a deity. Maybe there was reason behind a creator sitting idly while his creations died, but maybe he couldn't understand. It made no sense to him to simply give up and let your beings fight for their lives... but maybe the expectation was for them to not be awful to each other to begin with. Maybe the solution relied entirely in themselves. Perhaps there were no gods and perhaps the true demons were the ones they allowed to exist. Given the awful state of the world, he couldn't count out the true demons being themselves.

So what then did Franz believe in? He thought on this as he laid back down and sighed. Well, he believed there was simply life and death. Truth was what you held it to be. Life was... a fight for others... He wasn't so sure if he wanted to retain that belief. It caused him so much pain and so many times over he hated going through the notions when it created so many more issues for him to fight in... but... he couldn't say he regretted it. Nothing felt better than helping someone else and ensuring your own safety through the bonding of others... Maybe that was it. Maybe he just... wanted to feel loved? Maybe he... just wanted forgiveness? He... didn't know and it didn't feel like the time to contemplate it.

Pulling away from the questions of existence he just thought about his friends and wondered why the hell they ever cared about him. Tough as it was he didn't find much reason to the chaos and without a doubt he was going to be facing more of it. He didn't want to lose the people he loved and true to himself he would have rather jumped in the middle of a machine gun to ensure that others survived. At least, they had a shot at true happiness... right? Right?

Doubt riddled the Darcsen's tired and faint soul. All he could do... was rest...

Senja and Anneli

"I hope Franz has been alright since we left him."

"He's a tough one. Maybe hurting, but a warrior like him doesn't give up so easily."

"Hmm... I just wish I could cuddle with him all day. He deserves to know he has people who love him."

"We can't cook and hug at the same time."

"Have you tried? It's fun!"

"You know we can't do that."


"Right now we just have to keep moving. Even for as much as I'd like another tug at his pants-"


"Huh?" With a light bap the taller woman twitched back.

"That's lewd!"

"Oh my sweet, innocent, daughter... Never change, Senja."

"We... should... Hmm..."

"Something on your mind?"



"The one who- uh- screamed Fr-"

"YESS FRANZ! OOHHH FFUUUUCCK! OOH!" Anneli recited, laughing as Senja hit her arm.

"Ow- What was that for?" Anneli asked, still giggling as Senja showed an endearing look.

"Don't be like that. I don't want there to be any tensions between us. We're friends, not enemies. So please? Be on your best behavior."

"Okay Senji~ Anything for my best friend."

The two hugged briefly and with a skip and a jump they were off to find the Francian Franz seemed to hold dear. Although, Franz had never openly expressed just how close they were, she often caught him taking glances and wishing to be in her company. Something got in the way of that and the little detective supposed that it was probably just Freya.

Senja remembered that day with the gas. She remembered how despite Isaac's strength and Jean's protests that the only thing that calmed the beast, and perhaps the immediate murder of Isaac, was Ines. Her voice, and her voice alone, calmed him. When she touched him she brought Franz to tears. When Ines leaned into him he broke down sobbing as though he had just been pulled out of an inferno and was told that everything would be alright. He spoke in the Imperial dialect he was so traumatized. What a poor thing! This all only meant one thing. There was only one person they could go to to count on helping Franz while Senja worked with Anneli to nurture the boy who was rejecting his meals and spent more time than ever trying to distance himself from everyone else.

The joy filled travel ended as Senja landed with a foot in air and leaned with arms behind her back to take a look around the camp. "She's... not too hard to spot, I hope."

"Knowing what I do about her she's probably off getting hammered."


"She's a big drinker. Probably parties a lot. Could be found where the degenerates are."

Senja grinned for a moment at Anneli, the woman spotting the grin and rolling her eyes with a smile. "The other kind of degenerate. I'm not sure what he sees in her."

"I'm sure she's kind to him."

"Right, but why chase someone who doesn't love him?"

"Maybe... he just needs friends."

"What he needs is a real woman to take care of him."

"Oh! Anneli, please, don't be mean!"

"I'm just saying that the spot is open and she doesn't want to fill it. Elections are underway, Senja."

With the two walking again Senja couldn't help but be a bit perky as she thought of where she could find Ines at this time of day.

"Hey, Senja."


"Why don't you get closer to, Franz?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean. You're sexy. Anyone would kill to be with a goddess like you."

Senja giggled and fanned her hand at Anneli, simply speeding up to avoid the conversation. "I have my reasons, okay?"


After more travel Senja finally stopped with a mental hopscotch and in a sweet, sing song tone, with a smile wide enough to hold a bridge, the short woman called out to Ines.

"Ines!~ Where are you?!~ I want to speak with you!~"

Day 2

The Darcsen awoke without much difficulty after Ines spoke life into him. One simple whisper of his name and he found his eyes fluttering. He held onto the covers for a bit, just enjoying the time he had to relax before turning over to watch Ines stretch. It made him blush, probably from all the invested feelings he had in her, but it wouldn't stop him from thinking about what he had to do today. He started to drift into his thoughts of the past and pondered how the gang was. There was nothing so critical at this moment as the safety of the squad, but then again there wasn't much that was going on. He didn't even know how long they were going to stay in the Inn and as he sat up he wondered and wondered. Maybe he spent too much time thinking bu-

Ines gave him one last indication and as she did he darted eyes to her and gave her a warm smile and wave as she left. Just like that it seemed his thoughts on what would happen if... if she died came to mind. No. She was strong. she wouldn't let herself get harmed so easily, right? Then again...


They tried so hard. Death came for them so effortlessly. Sure he had been the one to pull the trigger on Melanie, but it didn't change the fact that it was either him or her. It didn't change the fact that her death came swift and his would have been just as quick if she had corrected her aim. This war was awful, but he understood it. He knew that more than anything it was a necessary means to an end that would ultimately determine newfound peace that would otherwise be impossible to obtain. There was going to be power struggles forevermore so allowing himself to be weighted down by the deaths of others was wrong, wasn't it? Life was very much so about survival and he had lost friends before even in combat with the police. Then again, he wasn't so personal with some of them and as it was none of them he felt something deep with. Wagner? Melanie? It was awful. They were both women he wanted to love and get to know, in retrospect, but he never could now.

The tragic fate of Wagner weighed on him constantly as he remembered how pointless it all was. He pushed so hard to save her but in the end she just had shrapnel embedded into her in too many places with a depth that was uncomfortable. Well, it wasn't pointless in the moment. It just hurt to know that no matter how hard he pushed she died anyway. He was too late. Her death came immediately and he had no say in it. It was a failed task to start and this was where he ended up.

He got out of bed and got fully dressed, taking a minute to look in the mirror with his new uniform to wonder how much he liked it. It was good, to be sure, but the last thing he needed to worry about was military fashion. Stepping out and looking over the squad after arriving near them had put a smile on his face. Everyone was safe and that was good. There wasn't much more to say for the time being but right now he needed a smoke break.

As he moved to step out of the Inn, he heard a familiar song being played with hand placed on the door. Was that?...

Die Forelle

Franz... couldn't help himself. The Trout? Who in the world?-

He marched off to find the source, following those beautiful melodies until...

Senja played with vigor as she followed every note delicately on her violin. Her fingers graced her uniform as she kept her eyes closed. So focused in playing the music yet so far gone from reality that her smile pierced his heart in the mist of war. He had not seen her before and yet this short woman ensnared him. What was it that was so alluring? She was of favorable size, that uniform was so beautifully made and maintained. What was it that was so alluring? Well he could see it as she turned with fluttered eyes flashing those beautiful blue eyes behind that long emerald hair. Her smile could have killed a tiger as it stabbed him in his heart. From this angle it really all poured together. Imperial, but not full blooded. She was wearing a federation uniform from the north... She must have been born from a family on the border up north. How... familiar. Still, he didn't want to fill himself with thoughts of inc-

Face slammed into the chest of another woman as he had turned to exit the room in haste. He bounced back, blinking with worry as he regained himself.

"Erm, apologizes. I was just trying to l-"


"Hush? Do you- hey!"

As Anneli grabbed his arm she walked him closer to Senja, elbow locked to his own. Carried back toward the siren he found himself unable to resist, even the few attempts to break free were denied by Anneli's incredible strength! He was trapped! And yet... he didn't want to go. The way she memorized it all... her looks... and then she spoke after she finished her song.


Oh no...


"Can we talk?"

"Oh, um... sure. I'm Franz."

"So I've heard!" Senja giggled.

Franz felt his face burn red as he remembered just how loud Ines was... sigh... did she have to scream so loud? Not that he didn't enjoy it but-

"I'm Senja. My friend here is Anneli. We thought you looked a little lonely, so, how would you like to spend the day with us?"


Day 3

"YOU SON OF A BITCH! GET OUT HERE! COME ON! WHERE ARE YOU HIDING?! WHERE ARE YOU HIDING?!" A blast from his rifle and frantic dancing in the middle of nowhere. Blazing hatred pouring through his veins while feeling completely out of control of his situation.

Dashing left to right he noticed the shotgun peaking out of the corner and dives to cover. The blast left Franz holding his ears, fighting off visions of the nightmares as he cocked rifle and peaked over a knocked over barrel to fire. Once more the man he was fighting went into cover and Franz found himself right back to not knowing where to look.

"Go on then you bloody pansy! Give it your best!"

"Dammit! Dammit! I'll kill him! I'll kill him!" Franz began to cry, planting his back against a few more barrels and adjusting himself as he tried to calm his mind. What was happening?

Franz awoke quietly in the morning, unsure of where he was for the moment. Fingers glided to his pants and with a tightening they were on. Anneli and Senja were still asleep, it seemed, but that was fine. He left the nords to take their rest after their activities last night. Truth be told, he was still a little stressed from Anneli's interesting plays but more than anything he was happy that he got to spend time with the two. But no-


Franz stopped. Seemed as though one of them was up, at least. Still, he recognized that voice. With a smile he turned to her. "Yes, Senja?"

The shorter woman walked to him from the bed, placing his coat on and fixing his uniform for him before taking a step back to admire her work. Every wrinkle had been worked out. The proper placements had been corrected and the mask had been strapped carefully onto his right side. "There. Have fun."

"I did." Franz chuckled, moving to the door before being grabbed and pulled back to the bed. Well, a little talk wouldn't hurt...

After another delay Franz was outside the room and enjoying a smoke outside with a rather upbeat attitude. There was nothing quite like it, really. The entire time spent at the Inn had been quite the fever dream and he didn't know why such a bizarre twist to his life had come. In all honesty, he thought about maybe just asking Senja if she wanted to just leave. Take Anneli along, of course, but see what the northern lights were like. See how much that Imperial village up on high liked having another Imperial in their ranks. It wouldn't have been fair to the squad or even Markus, but it would have been nice to live in this dream forever.

Still... Something was off about this morning. Nightmares had ceased, but the image of that man persisted quite heavily as he stared off into that distance. It was odd. Here he had had nothing but good thoughts and dreams and yet... and- and ye-

That whistle! BANG!

He couldn't remember where he was, but that taste was death. But wait! Senja! He reached down to his side, looking exactly where Senja had placed his mask and slammed it on, strapping down and screaming in fear as his body remembered this feeling all too well. How could this be? HOW COULD THIS BE?!

Franz stumbled as he went back for the entrance, but he heard the step just as he did. Turning to the figure he listened to him chuckle.

"I know what you're wonderin' 'What's all this then?', 'Who the bloody hell are you?', 'Are the girls going to be safe?', 'When will this fucking stain leave me alone?' Well... I've got an answer for you." With that the man in the mask cocked his shotgun, another chuckle leaving him as the gas roared in as a flood behind him. "Come get me sweetheart."

The gun play was calculated as Franz bolted at the man and dived to avoid shot after shot. Where the frantic Franz scrapped across the ground like a wounded animal the man in the mask calmly walked the outskirts of the building, taking a potshot with his shotgun every time Franz dared to challenge him.

"I can do this all day sweetheart."


"You first."

Another bang and Franz was sent reeling. The ground beneath him turned to ash as the wails of fallen soldiers echoed in the mist. Franz used shattered glass as a mirror as he pressed himself against yet more cover, spotting the shotgun aiming right at the reflection of the glass in his hand and tossing it aside as the pellets destroyed what remained of that shard.

"Bloody well say 'pull' if we're going to play clay pigeon you muppet!"

Franz shifted in his spot, there wasn't anywhere to go! Shit! Wait! The knife! The knife that's it! Lets see how smart you are you masked fuck!

Franz shifted to the left side of his cover, taking his spare knife and thinking to his past.


"Franz, I wanna show you something. It won't take long. You see this?" Markus pulled out a standard throwing knife, flipping it in his hand as Franz stepped closer to the cornfield outside the Daiko Farm. The young man watched Markus flip the blade casually with his hands tucked into his pockets. A moment later and Markus moved into position, arcing himself back slightly and tossing forward with a step dug into the dirt path. Over the corn and into the head of a scarecrow

"Whoa! Markus! How'd you land that?"

"Practice, brother. Go ahead. Give it a try."

With a light pass Franz caught the knife by the handle and closed an eye, shuffling his feet for a moment before taking a double step and wildly throwing the knife. As it cut through wind it bladed a corn crop and missed the target completely. "Shit!"

Markus laughed, grabbing Franz by the shoulder before the boy could run off to grab the knife. "Don't worry about that, Franz. Here. Try again. Grab it by the blade this time and don't rush it. You can't just force it to happen. Only take a step if you need to readjust but remember every step you take is going to fuck up your throw so limit it. It's a knife not a javelin."

Franz slowly took his advise, readying himself and taking a step forward with his arm wildly cocking back for a throw before Markus caught his arm.



"You can't do that. Here, take it slow. Cock back."

With slight irritation the man listened, cocking back his arm hard and feeling Markus adjust his position. "You don't need to throw all of your weight into it. You're just going to hurt your arm doing it that way. Take a breath and hold it." Holding his breath he cocked his arm back proper, using his other forearm as a gauge as he took a step forward and threw his arm forward. "Now!" Before the arc completed Franz released the blade, exhaling upon release and watching the blade fly straight and true before hitting the right arm of the scarecrow. Still, not bad.

"Not bad at all, Franz. Just work on keeping yourself straight and we can see just how far you can throw. Good boy."

Franz poked his rifle off to the left side, dropping it and stepping to the right side where he took a diagonal step while the blast went off in the other direction. He took a mental note of the man's exact location before breathing in and planting his foot into the ground. Arm finished cocking back and a moment later it launched horizontally. Using his momentum he dived to the right, rolling into cover as he pulled out his spare knife and ran back for his rifle as he heard the blade connect.

"AAGH! BLOODY HELL!" Blood spewed from the chest of the man in the mask as he felt where it had landed. Had Franz angled it just a little better it was plausible that it would have struck him right in his heart, but for now that bought the soldier all the time he needed to pick up his rifle and go on the offensive. Blast after blast drove the shot-gunner away, running while crouched to avoid what he could before a bullet snagged him in the back and threw him to the ground.

"Fuck with me? YOU WANT TO FUCK WITH ME?! COME ON! COME ON!" BANG! BANG! BANG! The shuffling of feet as he closed the gap! BANG! BANG! BANG! "COME ON! FIGHT ME! FUCKING FIGHT ME! YOU WANT ME?! COME AND FUCKING GET ME, 'SWEETHEART!'" Even as Franz fired as quickly as he could from the hip to keep the man from loading a shell. He watched the man squirm, crawl with hands and feet slapping at the ground to generate any kind of lift. Blood trailed the ground but did little for Franz in the poor visibility of the smoke. Not long after the man had escaped to a building behind and Franz was left running to catch him off guard. With a side step right he sprinted with rifle held tightly in one hand and knife in the other.

"Come on... come on... come and fucking get me... I'm ready... I'll cut your throat out before you can pull that trigger!" He growled, slamming down foot after foot as he rounded the corner and bellowed a battle cry! One corner later and he was wildly driving his knife into the air, looking around for the body.

Where? Where?! Where?!?!

Franz frantically checked everything behind that building before he heard it yet again. Footsteps! Right! Swinging his body right he fired! Nothing! To the left! Swinging left he fired in motion! Nothing! Fuck! Back peddle! Step after step and Franz was listening to everything. Footsteps left! Fire! Right! Fire! Left! Fire! Left again! Fire! Behind! Fire! Fire! Fire!

"YOU SON OF A BITCH! GET OUT HERE! COME ON! WHERE ARE YOU HIDING?! WHERE ARE YOU HIDING?!" A blast from his rifle and frantic dancing in the middle of nowhere. Blazing hatred pouring through his veins while feeling completely out of control of his situation.

Dashing left to right he noticed the shotgun peaking out of the corner and dives to cover. The blast left Franz holding his ears, fighting off visions of the nightmares as he cocked rifle and peaked over a knocked over barrel to fire. Once more the man he was fighting went into cover and Franz found himself right back to not knowing where to look.

"Go on then you bloody pansy! Give it your best!"

"Dammit! Dammit! I'll kill him! I'll kill him!" Franz began to cry, planting his back against a few more barrels and adjusting himself as he tried to calm his mind. It was too much! How could he still be standing? How could he still be this fast?! Anger and fear wrecked havok on his body with blood punching his system with brass knuckles! That's it! Live or die!

With a battle cry Franz charged the position of the soldier, hip firing to throw off his aim. He stopped halfway and took a steady position, avoiding getting shot by the abrupt movement and blasting the masked man's right shoulder clean off. But Franz couldn't control himself! Fixing his bayonet he saw nothing but blood seeping into his vision! This ends now! Thunderous feet cracked the very terrain in his charge! His voice ripped at the mask with his battle cry striking fear into the man as Franz closed the gap!


"DIE! DIE! DIE!" Blood poured violently as Franz carried the other all the way back to the Inn with a loud slam as he pinned the man against its walls. Ripping the blade from the body with a foot slamming against his chest to gain leverage the soldier removed his knife from his rifle and toss the gun to the side. With a kick he kept the soldier from moving, kneeing him in the face three times over before picking him up and throwing him back against the wall! Pulling his other knife out he drove both into his legs and ripped his mask off, grabbing him by his hair and slamming his face against the wall! Slam! Slam! Slam! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! "FUCK WITH ME?! FUCK WITH ME?! GET OUT OF MY HEAD! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!"

Throwing the Imperial against the ground Franz ripped the knives out of his legs and picked his gun back up, punching hole after hole into the Imperial until the gun clicked empty. Using the stock he punched the cranium, digging and digging with every strike against the forehead. "HOW MANY NIGHTS WILL YOU TAKE AWAY FROM ME?! HOW MANY LIVES WILL YOU TAKE AWAY FROM ME?!"

Tossing the gun aside he dropped onto the man and stabbed him in the chest over and over. "WHY WON'T YOU ANSWER ME?! ANSWER ME!!!" It wasn't apparent to Franz at the time, but he was coated in blood. There was a bloody mess in his hands and uniform as he endlessly struck the man beneath him. As it turned out, there was no nightmare man who had come from his dreams. There had simply been an Imperial soldier who tried to save his own life by taking a fed's mask. There was simply a man who tried to kill Franz so he could rescue his own friends. He held no shotgun, instead using a revolver which Franz had perceived as a greater weapon. And even now, with Franz grabbing the man's revolver and bashing his head with it Franz had no idea where he was or that it wasn't real.

He was living in a nightmare, screaming in blood curdling rage as he demanded a corpse answer him. He was none the wiser, and a victim of this war.

All alone...

Sad in the dark...

Why wouldn't it stop?

Would it ever stop?

Is there anyone out there?

Help me... please...

Time of his life. Had he ever experienced more joy? Had he ever felt such intense intimacy? No. Quite clearly not. This was a dance he had always seen around him and heard through floorboards and paper walls but never did he imagine it so intense that it would drive him to hours of endless drive asking for more.

He had waited patiently for her return and as he did he imagined so much they could do together, mind so focused on her form and her person. He was lost to his own fantasies and he lived them freely upon the floor of that bathroom. He even worked more on the art piece, her figure so ingrained into his mind that he couldn't help but know so many of her details from experience and observation without a single regret in knowing just what he was doing. The war didn't exist anymore. Nothing was real except for what mattered to him more than anything else and it was the principle and loving desire for a family and one to protect. Ines filled that void. She gave him a family where he had but one maybe present. Even still he didn't think of Jean in this moment. In fact he wasn't thinking of anyone except for his beloved Ines. It might have been more lust than love but as Franz figured it he loved her character thus far and wanted to know more! He wanted to know so much more of who she was, where she had been, what she liked, how she felt about everything! He just wanted to know her in and out with the expectation that she did as well.

He pondered what the ceremony would be like. Who would be his best man? Markus? Absolutely. The man had been by his side for years and with the money the gang had Markus could quite simply fund it all and Franz would never be expected to pay it back. Life was finally turning around.

"Mrs. Blau." He spoke quietly to himself, chuckling at how ahead of himself he was getting but he couldn't help it. He was so happy! Realism escaped him as he danced around thinking even of what they might name children should they have them in the future. They could end Darcsen oppression as well, he supposed. Maybe if people could see how beautiful of a couple they were they'd realize Darcsen weren't as bad as those ill informed people of the past claimed. Yet, in this state he harbored no ill will. Convicted anger became plausible misunderstanding as he sought to find a much more accepting and compromising attitude towards the potential future. He maintained his thoughts and felt stress melt away. Productivity encompassed his mind as he thought of solutions and imagined scenarios. In his head he practiced what he and Ines could say to change the minds of others. In his head he thought of how beautiful life could be if they tried. Even if it all failed he would have her, right?

Round 2? Fine by him!

Exhausted was he when their back to back love making was over. He loved very moment and cherished every moan that came from her lips. Her exasperated breath and the pulsing high from their euphoric intercourse left him satisfied in a way he had never been before. Nothing was better than being right here and right now with the woman he had fallen for.

Then she wanted to talk. Oh. Oh...

Franz's expression shifted from unreasonable joy to a concerned one that was trying to process what it was hearing. Everything they did and all the time they spent together and not a moment spent considering the alternative. There wasn't a single moment that had passed which reminded him of Amber and neither was there one which spoke to him of Mila or Melanie. He forgot about Markus and the gang. He forgot about the war and all they had been through but as she tore his world apart he found himself in a free fall from the heavens. Spiraling down and out of control Franz couldn't do anything but watch as every fragment burned to dust and the artificial light dimmed. He was back in the real world now. Every dream had become just that. It was all just a dream as she explained herself to him and suddenly he felt very human again.

It hit him immediately with a sharp hook in the throat. It punched him with such fury that he wanted to... cry? He felt it build up in his heart and he closed his eyes to try and control himself before he lost himself. He felt so stupid. He felt so idiotic for not trusting in logic. He let his emotions dominate and now his reasoning, but more so his doubt and worry, were invading his subconscious. The man in the mask, the shadow, the soldier all flashed in his mind as he tried to remember what was real...

And... she cared about him... that was real. She just wasn't sure if... That was okay.

Franz took a moment to look away. He placed a hand behind his neck for rubbing while he tried to think. He brought that same had to wipe his face to attempt and hide away his own emotions by stealing away the few drops before they came out by themselves. A few moments later and he turned to face her. He had so much running through his brain, but his first move was to go back to her side with the same gaze she afforded him.

"I... I understand. I-" His fingers tightened around hers, not wanting to let go as he came closer to her. "There was... a girl from years ago. I- I had been saving myself for her for years. I promised chastity but I haven't heard from her in so many years... I have never been this close to someone. I don't know if I'll ever see her again, but I know I want to see you. I don't want to lose you- but I understand."

With some more thinking Franz cracked a half smile, trying to let her know he would be okay as he stared into her eyes. "You deserve to be happy. I want you to be happy."

@Yam I Am

Great work to all three of you. Add your characters to the character tab at your leisure.

Yes, we will be working from the rainbow angle so when you create your sheet be sure to make it counter terrorist oriented. I'll take a look at them once they are ready! Join the discord and speak with Conscripts or Stuff to gain access to the Operator role and feel free to ask me questions there or here.
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