[Agnar Gunnrulf] Sunny Days of Yore - (Chapters 1-5.5)
Sunny Days of Yore:
A Prologue to the Adventures of Agnar Gunnrulf
They charged at each other, a noble Breton warrior with his long two-handed long-sword & his opponent, a proud & able Nord, toting a single one-handed blade. The two soon clashed, locking weapon for weapon, the furious song of battle echoing across the fields as these two great men fought for their homelands.
"What kind of Nord are you that you can't overpower some decadent, half-Mer spawn?!", the breton shouted, only to be met with a bellowing retort from the Nord, "If you'd simply stand & fight like a man, instead of dodging all the time like a coward I would've won by now".
The twin weapons slipped from their lock, and with one final swing the two struck at each other, the Nord's weapon hitting the Breton's blade with such force that it flew out of his hands. The Breton warrior wasted no time & struck low, knocking the proud Nord off his feet, he raised his sword preparing to issue the death blow--
"Come back inside you two! It’s getting dark! You don't want to be outside when the Frostbite Spiders come, do you?", a stern but mischievous voice said from the nearby house.
The two "men" snapped back to reality at the sound of Elyna's voice, beckoning her young Breton son, Verick, - who was off playing wargames with his best friend, Agnar - to come home, whilst urging the young & incorrigible Nord boy to return to his residence.
It was getting late, the sun was setting behind the wondrous, frozen peaks of Skyrim, leaving behind a orange-ish-red hue in the sky, the two boys, while no strangers to adventures in the cold dead of night, thought it best to part ways & make for home.
They happily parted, Agnar taking the long way home through the forest, he was no stranger to his woodland home, his sister Aeri was, despite her youth, a talented up-and-coming hunter & scout, who delighted in passing on her skills to her younger brother... In between scolding him for any faults she could find, not that it bothered him much, for such was their relationship - built of playful torment that conceals a deep familial love for each other, for as harsh as they may tease each other, neither of them could imagine life without the others' presence in their lives.
It was getting darker now, but Agnar could pick up on the familiar, comforting scents of home emanating from his family cottage & seeping into the air. It wouldn't be far now, he thought whilst joyful expectations of what he'd return to threatened to consume his focus entirely. Their father, Erikr, was seldom home, he often left the two young children in the care of Verick's family when he was summoned off to be stationed in some Divines-forsaken land in the name of the so-called 'Empire', which was becoming more & more these days less a proud cosmopolitan organization founded for the good of mankind & more of a congealed mess of squabbling politicians each vying for power at the expense of the common man - this... Might not have made much sense to young Agnar, but it was roughly the general consensus amongst his town as tensions grew between the proud & noble sons & daughters of Skyrim & their Imperial Overlords.
Still, for the moment, everyone was where they should be, he'd just have to enjoy these moments while they last... These brief, shining moments--. His trail of thought was interrupted as he came around the bend & caught sight of his home - a weather-worn cottage situated just on the edge of town, certainly, it had seen better days, and by far there were better places to live, but it was home. It was where his family lived, and that was enough to make any place seem like Sovngarde.
The young boy trotted inside the cottage, kicking the door closed with the back of his foot. He gazed around the room, bathed in the warm light of the hearth. To his surprise only his sister could be found, sitting by the fire tending to a quiver of handcrafted arrows, gently filing the wooden tips to ensure maximum penetration.
“Where has father run off to?”, he asked in bewilderment, although deep down he already knew the answer.
“Recalled”, she began, “just like every other time he comes home”, she threw the arrow that she was busy finely honing to the ground in frustration, although she quickly sought to supress it in front of the young boy – he had enough reasons to be upset over this, he didn’t need her adding to a already bad situation.
Once more he scurried out the door, more blur then boy, as he rushed to try to catch one last fleeting moment with his beloved father before he would leave under the very real possibility that he might not return from this one – he had heard the stories of the men he fought, fierce men who were masters of the blade & willing to die rather than surrender; they called these men the Akaviri – fierce warlords from a foreign land, a land rumored to be nothing more than a barren desert wasteland, devoid of all sentient life.
It was not uncommon for his sister to be brought along on his marches as his unofficial squire, but this time he had pointedly left her behind – perhaps he was scared for her life this time? Maybe he wanted more glory to himself? Maybe he just worried that much over his son that he felt he needed someone extra to protect him? Who knew, all they knew is that she was left behind… just like Agnar… just like his son.
He dashed through the woods towards the village center, where, he thought, they’d be most likely to round up the contingent before heading out. By the time he reached the village, however, everyone who took up arms in the name of Skyrim was gone, leaving only their families & those to weak to fight behind.
Quite a sad scene, he thought to himself, most of these people wouldn’t see their family members again. While Agnar had never been in a war himself, the stories he was told made the harsh reality of warfare clear to him. It wasn’t like sparring with his friends, where once you lose you can just get back up & fight again. No, most of the time once you’ve fallen, you never get back up again. The thought brought a tear to his eyes & filled his mind with sorrow, what if his father was the next one to fall? Who next? His sister? All in the name of a Empire who fails its subjects time & time again…
His sorrow turned to anger at the concept, but quickly shattered & become a sort of depression, the young lad ambled about town without purpose, merely doing it for the sake of a distraction from his thoughts &, to a greater extent, reality itself.
Posted Feb 6, 14
· Last edited Jul 13, 14
Seven months had passed since Agnar had last seen his father, though he was slowly adjusting to the idea of him not being there. He never knew what was worse, his coming home to remind him that he actually has a father, or his leaving, reminding him how he’s never around anymore.
He pushed the thought out of his head & refocused his attention back to the forest, remembering that he still had a job to do – his sister was ‘gracious’ enough to educate him in the art of hunting & warfare from the shadows. As if he needed a lesson on warfare from someone who’s methods involve cowering in shrubs & taking pot-shots at real warriors, he scoffed.
The two were crouched down inside a nearby bush, quite a distance away from the village of their youth, silently tracking one of Skyrim’s many native, majestic stags.
The young girl took aim from the shrubbery, adjusting her body so that her younger brother might see her technique. After a few brief moments that felt like a eternity to the overeager young lad, she loosed the arrow which quickly buried itself into the beast's throat. The noble creature squirmed & struggled briefly before collapsing to the ground - its wild & untamed life brought to a end by one little child.
The two stood up & began their approach towards the still creature, however, upon Aeri touching the creature she realized it yet still possessed some life, even if it was faint. Rather then let it suffer she drew a small dagger from her waist & quickly shoved it deep into the stag's heart &, with one final twitch it was laid to rest.
Agnar was sickened by his sister's lack of concern that it had survived. The kill should've been clean, swift & painless, or at least, as painless as death can be, he thought, unable to muster the strength to challenge the methods of his sibling that he cared for so dearly.
She gazed behind her to Agnar briefly, noticing the look of disgust on his features but dismissed it as him being naïve. Killing is a necessity of life, be it on livestock, during a hunt, or on the battlefield - bloodshed remains a constant for those who wish to see another sunrise & more times then not there is hardly enough time to think of your own well-being, let alone that of another, she thought, as she yanked the knife from the beast's thick hide.
She turned her attention back fully to the carcass in front of her, describing her actions & the purpose behind them to her brother as she proceeded to carve the flesh from the corpse.
She initially moved the corpse slightly to position it on flatter ground before digging the blade into the anus of the creature & carving a line straight to it's lower lip then proceeding to carve down its legs. "This is done in order to make the removal of the hide easier, as opposed to simply carving it off in chunks & ruining precious material." She explained, before peeling the fur from the flesh with relative ease.
She grabbed a bone-instrument from her waistband & began scraping off the remaining fat & flesh from the flayed hide, continuing her narrative: "it should be obvious, even to you, brother," she said with a mischievous grin adorned on her delicate features, "that the reason behind doing this is to ensure that it fetches the best price amongst the hide-workers. After all, who wants such fine fur if its oozing with blood & meat is dropping all over your fine clothes?", she snickered to herself over her snide remark, not caring if anyone other than herself found it funny.
She proceeded to place the hide on the ground while her brother continued to watch her intently, even if he was a bit sickened by her lack of respect for the poor beast. Man or not, it was still a living thing & deserves the same respect as any other creature garners.
She proceeded to strip the beast of what little flanks of meat the two could carry in conjuncture with the weight of the recently removed hide, it wasn’t much but the two combined might be enough to keep them fed, or at least, alive, for another week or so. She did this much more rapidly than when she had done the skinning, in part because less care needed to be taken & because a ever encroaching sense of urgency was washing over her mind, years of hunting & ambushing had taught her to ‘know’ when you’re being watched, & she could feel it through every bone of her body. She wasn’t even bothering to keep her full attention on her brother, let alone instruct him, after all it’d be pretty damn hard to protect him if they are both dead, she thought to herself in a vain attempt to rationalize her present actions.
Once her task was complete she stood up slowly & calmly, as not to give away her knowledge of her would-be tracker watching her. She drew her bow & made as if she was simply checking it over to ensure it was not damaged during the hunt. The sound of a tree branch snapping was what set off her razor sharp reflexes, - knocking an arrow, drawing the string back & spinning around to face the noise all in one fluid, albeit perhaps a little careless, motion.
However, before she could release her first arrow towards her would-be attacker, her eyes locked on what it was… a boy from the main village, one of Agnar’s friends, Grimr. Clearly, this was far more dangerous than any troll or wolf could ever be, she mused as she slipped the bow back across her lithe frame.
The boy was a known trouble-maker, nothing serious mind you but none the less a pain in the ass for anyone who might give him an ‘in’. she always figured it wouldn’t be long until the boy took to more serious forms of mischief but, for the moment, his antics weren’t harming anybody… and, well, they can be kind of funny… usually.
The lad, Grimr, who was about a year older than her brother, charged at the boy & gave him a friendly slap on his back, he turned to face his friend & smiled at him… before punching him in the shoulder & the two breaking in laughter. Children, she thought, as she laughed beneath her breath, despite the irony of her only being two years older than her sibling.
The two boys started to separate from Aeri, albeit they did motion for her to tag along but she simply shook her head & went back to flaying the meat from the stag’s bones. They had to eat & this stag was their ticket to a free meal, fresh from Kyne’s table.
The two boys soon left earshot of the over-protective girl, breaking into a sprint & charging deep into the woods. Grimr playfully shoved Agnar mid-sprint, unfortunately for him, he was knocked off balance & tripped over a root protruding from Nirn’s soil. He fell, but in a spat of vindictiveness he grabbed hold of his friend & pulled him down just as he hit the ground, the two rolled for a bit before coming to a stop, play-fighting all the way.
Once the two stopped shifting each & every way imaginable, Agnar took one last gentle swing at his friend before rolling off of him & onto his back, both laughing heartily.
It felt like a eternity had passed within a brief few moments, the two were utterly exhausted from their escapade, staring silently up at the age-old tree canopy that hung aloft above them.
Grimr would be the one to break this endless silence after turning his head to face his friend. “ya’know, your sister sure is something” he started, “And that knife of hers… what is it they say about people who carry large knives?”, he said, grinning.
“I know what they say about you & your axe…”, Agnar replied in the hopes of setting his friend up for a fall.
“oh?”, he replied.
“Yeah, something about ‘overcompensation’.” Agnar retorted, desperately not trying to laugh himself to tears. His friend shoved him again & the two went back to staring at the sky in silence, albeit it briefer this time.
“so, why do you mention it?”, Agnar had said. In his heart he knew the answer, but dismissed it as the wild whims of a ‘maturing’ boy, if such a word could be used to describe his friend.
“Never mind. It’s not important.”, Grimr said, dismissively.
The two spent the better part of a half a hour there, playing, joking & generally making fools of themselves, at which point the two got up & walked back towards town, a uneventful end to a uneventful day.
The next morn Agnar woke up with a start, he had dreamt of the hunt he partook in yesterday, however, it was not a stag he had killed this time – it was a man. He dreamt of the man’s blood oozing from his throat, the man making stomach-curdling gurgling sounds as he tried to scream out in agony to no avail as death slowly took its hold – as he slowly fell to his knees, onto his back & slowly got stiller & stiller until the man twitched & squirmed no more, the coppery-red essence of his life forming a pond beneath his breathless body as his heart beat for the last time.
He was horrified, barely able to keep his dinner from the night before down. Too disturbed to simply ‘shake it off’ he decided that perhaps a walk in the cool, silent night would be the answer to calming his nerves. He quickly rushed through getting dressed, throwing on whatever he could find: a light, brown linen shirt, a thin pair of hide-breeches & his thick shoes intended for traversing the thicker-snowed-in areas of his homeland, his mix of clothes might’ve looked questionable but he didn’t care, he just wanted to get away from the place of his dream as soon as possible. He bolted to the door, flung it open, dashed outside & slammed it shut, in mere moments he was gone, moving quickly through the woods towards town.
He couldn’t shake the desire to explore his dream, no matter how unpleasant it was, something in him made him want to confront it despite the horror, despite the pain.
His mind wandered to the man, who was he? What did he represent? He tried to focus as he wandered through the woods, careful not to trip over anything or end up as a snack for something more dangerous than man or mer. He pushed & pushed himself but he couldn’t figure it out by the time he reached town. The sun was just breaking through, Magnus’ warming rays beating down on the boy’s back, chasing off the shadows & relative chill of the night. Confident that the dream wouldn’t come back & pushed to exhaustion from his midnight hike, Agnar opted to collapse on a bench in front of the local in, drifting off to sleep once more under the protection & warmth that is Magnus’ true glory.
He awoke some hours later - refreshed, albeit sore from the hardwood that he was slumbering on – to the sensation of something breathing down on him. He slowly opened his eyes & prepared to strike at whatever it was that was nigh-on-top of him. In one quick move he flung off of the bench & wrapped his hands around a Breton boy… Verick, his friend, who has holding two sticks in his hands & laughing at his friend.
“Up for a fight, sleeping beauty?”, he said, glancing at the startled, angered Nord.
“Perhaps it’ll finally teach you some manners, little elf-boy”, Agnar said, half-angry, half-jokingly.
The two wandered off to an open area just outside of town to resume the age old battle for supremacy between these two would-be warriors.
Each assumed their favored stance, but this time, sensing Agnar’s drowsiness, Verick didn’t strike immediately, instead, stalling & assessing his friend’s style, slowly circling him as his friend did the same to avoid being caught from behind.
After a few minutes of this the Nord grew frustrated & broke into a zeal, sending a flurry of strikes at his opponent, hitting so hard (in part due to venting frustration from the earlier dream & because he was too tired to manage the strength behind his blows) that he threatened to knock his friend right off his feet & onto his rear.
Verick, determined not to be beaten so easily, countered the next blow, shoving his friends ‘sword’ towards the ground & ‘riposting’ his friend, jabbing him in the chest & knocking him back. He took a swing for the nord’s shoulder but was sidestepped & hit in the back of the legs by the stick.
Verick swung around to catch his opponent off guard but his attempted blow was parried, he jumped back a bit & started pacing around his friend again, looking for an opening while he caught his breath.
After a moment he charged towards Agnar, swinging his left arm to bash his friend’s chin, he succeeded but he missed his mark on his swing, giving the nord boy enough time to counter, smashing down on the Breton’s stick with enough force to rip it from his hand.
As he was about to strike his friend during moment of weakness & finish the session as the victor, they both heard the sound of approaching cavalry. Agnar threw his stick to the ground as his sign of resignation while the Breton gave him an overtly gratuitous bow, slightly mockingly given their equal peasant status.
The two rushed off towards the source of the noise, dashing through the streets & over fences until they came to a band of soldiers riding into town.
They were sons & daughters of Skyrim, not an invading force, clearly. Too small & ill-equipped to be here to round up more men for ‘the fight’. No, by the looks on the others’ faces, they were here to deliver news – news of the dead – Agnar reasoned.
The unthinkable dawned on him, he bolted up to one of the officers & practically shouted his father’s name to him – Erikr – the soldier shrugged as if the name meant nothing to him. He repeated this process with several others, only to net the same results. Agnar patted his friend on the shoulder, nodded as if to dismiss him & wandered off towards home, wondering all the way if his only other family, besides Aeri, was alive – or if his father had ended up like the man from his dream.
Posted Feb 6, 14
· Last edited Mar 4, 14
Howling, piercing frigid air; Rainfall pouring from the sky like the tears of a widow for her fallen beloved; the ground so slushy it was if walking through the floor of a slaughterhouse, each step a trial of perseverance to get to where one wishes to go.
Normally, one wouldn’t be out in this kind of weather unless they had a damn good reason for doing so: unfortunately, Agnar found such a reason.
As he trudged along, the rumor he had heard echoed in the back of his mind: somewhere in these woods a caravan, being escorted by veterans returning from the war, was traveling along up until it was ambushed & damaged. Supposedly, it, its occupants, cargo & guard contingent were out here somewhere, rotting while waiting for their chosen messenger to send aid from a nearby town.
Agnar might not be of much help when it comes to getting a caravan back on its feet & neither was his intention. His interest was in the returning veterans. One of which might be the one he seeks.
After what seemed to him to be ages of walking his keen ears picked up on the sound of struggling, grunting & quarreling. Nervous & on edge, he warily snuck towards a nearby overlook & hid close to the ground, trying to see what was going on.
Several wagons lay broken, splintered & burned upon the ground; others, likely while trying to escape the onslaught, lost vital parts to their wagons in the mud & dirt & became entrenched amongst it.
The few remaining guards & merchants who had not fled or given up on their mission stood around, most quarreling amongst themselves about what should be done or fighting against nature itself, trying to move their hefty wagons from Nirn’s vice grip.
Believing the situation to be safe Agnar cautiously approached the caravan, keeping a watchful, assessing gaze upon all he could see.
Amongst the caravan attendants stood several guards dressed in either Imperial or Nordic regalia, several merchants – none of which were all that special – dirt splotched faces, impatient, irritated men focused only on their profit, nothing new or worth noting about them, he thought. He was about to turn his attention back entirely to his approach when his eyes caught a glimpse of a robed & hooded man, oddly shaped, leaning against one of the wagons, as if oblivious or disinterested in this whole affair – actually, if anything, he seemed rather amused by the sudden turn of events.
Agnar approached one of the guards who appeared to be dictating orders, a good sign that he was the one in charge – if anyone could tell him what he wished to know, it would be him.
“Greetings… sir”, he said grudgingly, he always hated titles, especially when used to kiss the ass of some useless, cowardly Imperial “might you have a man by the name of Erikr under your command?”
The imperial officer gestured casually to the back of one of the wagons & immediately went back to shouting incessantly at his men.
Agnar hesitantly walked up to the nearby wagon, a sense of dread washing over him. He couldn’t make out anyone in the wagon, so either no one was there or they are all “lying down” – a corpse wagon.
He came around the back of the wagon to see a young Nord crouched down, packing up some of the lost personal belongings that were strewn about during the attack.
“excuse me”, Agnar said, nervously “I believe you are the one to talk to about Erikr, a fellow warrior, such as yourself”.
The Nord paused & turned to face the boy, a brief silence between the two as he looked the child over from head to toe, after a short while a brief smile of recognition gleamed across his hardened, scarred features.
“You must be Agnar, right? If your even half the man your father is you’ll do your people proud one day” he said.
Agnar’s face lightened up at the words of praise for his father before responding “Ah, so you know him?”
“know him? He’s saved my ass many of times, there would be far fewer of us left here today if it wasn’t for his & a few other’s efforts.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “ha! How forgetful of me, name’s Brandr, at your service…” he stood up & slapped the boy on his back, catching Agnar off guard & nearly knocking him on his hide.
“So, betcha lookin’ fer your father, huh? He left something for you…” he said, trailing off before rifling back through his comrade’s possessions & bringing forth a small note, he slipped it into the boy’s hands promptly thereafter.
“he said if we were to bump into any of his blood while he’s out to give this to them – guess that means you, huh?” he said, in a casually humorous manner.
Agnar glimpsed over the letter, it stated his father had gone with a advanced party to find the nearby village & request aid in digging out their wagons & that he should head back to catch him.
“that was written a few hours ago, I think” said Brandr, “if you wish to catch him, ye’d best be hurrying.”
“least I can do for your father’s seed”, he said, before once more attending to his duties.
Before walking away Agnar heard the sounds of light chuckling at Brandr’s comment coming from the direction of the hooded man, half out of curiosity & half out of misunderstanding just why he found that comment funny, a somewhat angered Agnar strode up towards the man.
As he approached the sound of the voice he found that it wasn’t the hooded man at all, but rather, one of the cat-folk he had heard stories about – a Khajiit.
“What is it you find so funny, my friend or myself?”, Agnar asked.
“Neither, this one is amused by that one’s words, not by himself.”, replied the Khajiiti mercenary.
“What was so funny about what he said?”, asked the naïve boy.
The Khajiit sighed & said mockingly under his breath but loud enough for his pesterer to hear: “Ma’Gzalzi”
“What did you just say?”, Agnar said, voice raised high in irritation.
“That one called you a absurd, young virgin, Nord.” Uttered a new voice, Agnar turned to see who it was & realized it was the robed figure from before.
Upon closer inspection, made possible by this confrontation, Agnar realized that his initial perception was mistaken, this was not a man at all, he was a Khajiit – similar to the one that was intent on offending the boy’s sensibilities. he could scarcely make out what appeared to be thick, brown leather armor concealed beneath his robes, along with assorted knives, a short sword & a broadsword. Clearly he wasn’t just prepared for a fight – he was expecting, nay, LOOKING for one.
The instigating, foul Khajiiti sellsword grinned at his slander being known to the boy before turning to face his fellow ‘cat’, “this one does not appreciate your involvement, this does not concern you, Renrij.”
At that the fellow Khajiit ceased his casual, dismissive attitude & trotted slowly up to his fellow mercenary, right before taking a clawed-swing at him, knocking him off his feet, his head crashing down on the side of a nearby wagon, blood now rushing down his face the Khajiit sprawled on the ground, so much in a daze that he could barely move away from his attacker.
“You are right, this one is not concerned by what was happening, He was concerned by what YOU had said.”, stated the leather & robe clad Khajiit before he turned to face the boy “This one apologizes for my ‘friend’ there, he is not the brightest of cats in the desert.” He, grinned mockingly at his fellow sellsword before turning his attention back to his conversational partner, “This one’s name is Dar’Maaszi. Dar’Maaszi is pleased to meet you, young…?”
“Agnar”, replied the boy.
“Ah, yes. So this one was not mistaken, you are His son”, the Khajiit pointed to a fresh scar above his left eye, “if it was not for your father, Maaszi would have a split head, this one is fortunate to have been by his side during the raid. This one hopes to one day repay the favor, should he live long enough to do so.”, smiled the Khajiit.
“this one wishes to be allowed to return to his ‘work’, you should go, pass on his regards to your father, young Agnar.”
“Agnar wishes you safe travels.”, he said, humorously using the Khajiiti grammer, before wandering back into the woods on his way back to town.
It wasn’t long until he had found the tracks belonging to his father & his compatriots, it was times like this that Agnar would finally appreciate all that time spent with his sister having hunting & tracking techniques beaten into his thick skull – sometimes literally.
After following the tracks for the better part of two hours he noticed that they broke into two. He didn’t need to know anything about tracking to figure out who’s the other set was or where they were heading, instead he bolted towards home, hoping someone would be there to greet him.
Agnar, by the time he reached his homestead he had lost all track of time, he could easily have been running for minutes or hours, neither mattered or occurred to him, he was just happy to be back where he felt like he belonged.
He strode up to his door &, grasping the handle, he took a deep breath & turned, only to be greeted by a still house. Still, but not vacant.
As he walked in he saw his father & sister - as well as one other man in traditional Nordic armor – sitting at a nearby table close to the hearth, all looked rather grim & deep in thought, barely a glance given towards his entrance save from Erikr, who stared for a moment, nodded & turned back to his daughter.
As Agnar approached the table he saw a blade & a writ on the table, as well as several empty bottles of mead & ale alongside two tankards.
“Well?” said Erikr, “I” he paused briefly & swallowed before resuming “We have once more come to need your services, the war is turning against the people & every hand is needed to hold the line against the Akaviri. You’ve served your people, your family & myself faithfully in the past, I only hope that you’ll do so again, by my side, as my squire.” He said, blatantly formal, trying not to let his ties to his family show through, he hated the idea of putting his daughter in harm’s way but he was right, they were losing the war & they needed able bodies to carry on the fight for the good of all of Tamriel, &, unfortunately, she was one of them – she had a duty to perform.
A long, awkward silence reached throughout the room, as if holding the breath back from the entirety of the world. The silence was only broken as Aeri reached forward, shoved the blade into its scabbard & placed it in her belt.
The other man bowed his head & took a drink from his bottle of ale whilst Erikr spoke: “Good, we set out in a weeks’ time. Until then, let’s make the most of our last few days alive, shall we?”, a tone of subtle dread disguised as humor accompanied his words. There was truth in his words, every time they set out to war, fewer return. Soon, perhaps none will.
Posted Feb 13, 14
· Last edited Mar 4, 14
The last few days had been the happiest of Agnar’s in a long time; finally, they could be together as one – even if for a short while – it was still better than nothing; still better than losing him outright.
During his stay, Erikr spent half of his time training & sparring with his two ‘prodigal’ (from a father’s eyes, any blood of his is exceptional beyond words) children. Aeri, an up-and-coming scout & hunter; & Agnar, a warrior who’s rage was almost frightening at times – his drive & ambition nearly unstoppable, proving just as dangerous for himself as those who interfere in his goals & his definition of ‘right & wrong’. Still, both, despite their strengths & flaws, each found something to learn; not just from their father, but from the various returning soldiers as well.
Alas, time was running short for the duo, soon they would have to part, something each one of them dreaded; albeit for different reasons. The signs were all there, in between the endless training sessions with his two children & simple, everyday activities necessary to delaying the inevitable, he was off petitioning villagers to join him & the combined Dunmer, Argonian & Nordic coalition in fighting off the wretched Akaviri invaders; that is, when he didn’t have his head skull-deep in a bottle – trying desperately to drown out the memories of everyone he’d lost; family, friends, comrades & worst of all, time; time he could’ve spent with his children, time he could’ve spent seeing them grow up, becoming proud, capable adults. So much time had passed & very little remained. Assuming he lived to the end of the war – assuming he was LUCKY enough to live until the end of the war, what would he have left to do? Everything he fought for would be gone… but at least they would be alive & well, he thought. For that, any price was worth paying, any curse worth suffering, any pain worth bearing.
Agnar, for one, wasn’t as worried about time as his father. No, his concern lied in the greater loss – his father’s death; for what is the value in time when you have no one to spend it with? Even if he managed to survive, even he could tell that Erikr was a changed man, no longer quite the same person he was when he first picked up the blade; if only he had known when to lay his sword down, Agnar thought to himself, but quickly dismissed it; no, he’s doing vital work for us all! Asking a man not to fight for his homeland is like asking the hunter not to kill for food; the craftsman not to use hide; the farmer not to milk or toil in the field; the… executioner… not to bring forth the People’s Justice; it might be unpleasant, undesirable work, he thought, but still, it had to be done, or the world as it is, as imperfect as it is, would fall apart & crumble into nothingness.
He continued to lay upon his back on one of the cold, granite boulders near the village’s outskirts & let his vision drift into the sky, watching the occasional bird fly past: at least they don’t have to worry about such things, he said quietly to himself, before letting his thoughts drift off as aimlessly as a soul amongst The Void.
Aeri was at the edge of a tall hillside, flat on her chest, shrubbery dangling & tickling her flesh, threatening to break her concentration.
Normally, this would be her most precious of moments, the time when adrenaline would pump through her veins; the moment of the great hunt, when both man & beast would face off against insurmountable odds, neither seemingly having any chance at survival; to both, victory would seem assured; yet there was one constant: one would live, & one would die.
One would live. One would die.
This same, reoccurring thought echoed in her mind. This was what war was about. Another aspect of the hunt, just man against man, (or mer, as the case might be.) fighting valiantly against death itself in the name of their beliefs & values.
What is it the Akaviri are actually fighting for? She mused, for honor? Land? Faith? None of these they bothered showing, if they even held meaning to them at all. It was as if all they cared about was fighting – pure & simple. How could anything like that be natural? NOTHING in this world, save perhaps the Daedra, live by those rules. Everything has a purpose. But it is that same purpose that holds one back, so how could one ever hope to stop something that cares nothing for life? Only for battle? Only for bloodshed?
No! she shouted in her mind; this is why she was here; To hone her skills & ensure that she was the one who would live, & that they would be the ones to die.
She reached for one of the arrows by her side, slid it against the bow string &, slowly rising from amidst the flora, taking aim at the throat of her target.
“Doesn’t matter; it’ll all be over soon.” She thought, just before releasing her grip & sending the arrow flying towards its target, relinquishing all doubt from her mind & once more feeding her purpose.
“It had been two weeks since they left, or was it more? Less?”, Agnar mused, he was alone once again, and now, more than ever, he was feeling the pain, desperation & fear of loneliness. Time had stopped holding meaning to him, each day felt like a lifetime of existence, living merely for the knowledge that he would continue. Nothing more, just that, continuation. “But continuation of what?” He wondered, “why bother going on when I have nothing left?”, his only answer was that it was for their return, for their benefit, the one thing that gave him joy these days amidst his worries.
As he walked through the village streets, it occurred to him just how quiet the town had gotten since the soldiers left – conscripts & all – to return to the war, to once more gamble away their lives.
He couldn’t take it anymore, the silence of the town was getting to him, if he was going to be alone, he’d be alone in a less depressing atmosphere, he thought, as he ambled out of town & towards the woods.
He had been walking for over an hour, between his shattered will & aching, tired body, he opted to collapse in nature’s cradle, quickly slipping into unconsciousness & drifting away, his mind miles away from his current situation.
He awoke some time later, the sun still up but the world around him had taken on a significantly colder feel to it, the wind more piercing than it had been before & frost clung somewhat lazily to his face from his time spent asleep on the ground - forest or no, this was Skyrim, land of wind & snow, these things were to be expected, especially when sleeping exposed in the wilderness.
He considered remaining in the woods for a while longer, but his hunger got the better of him; he could’ve stayed, hunted & dined on his quarry in the woods, but it didn’t feel right to him, after all, he had plenty of provisions back home, why should another die just to feed his selfish desire? At that thought, he pushed himself slowly back towards town.
Not long after having set out from his bed of leaves, grass & snow he had come to a local river, clearly he had taken a bit of a detour on his way back as, while close to the town, after all, it was frequently used as the town’s water supply & used to wash the villagers’ apparel, was not something he had bumped into on his initial excursion into the woodlands.
Taking a brief moment to rest, he knelt down by the river & helped himself to the (relatively, being Skyrim & all) warm waters flowing down Nirn’s wrinkled surface.
Suddenly, as if by a trick of the mind or by will of the gods, he heard the sounds of struggle in the near distance. Hurriedly, he rushed to his feet to investigate, - nearly falling face-first into the river in his zeal - & darted swiftly into the woods like a wolf catching the scent of prey on the wind.
A few moments run & he had found his quarry, one of the Imperial soldiers left behind to keep the peace in the absence of the town’s militia, which has been called to the front against the Akavir; & pushed up against a tree & partially bound by his strength, one of the local hunters, a young woman, screaming, kicking & clawing against the Imperial, like a cornered animal, blood pouring down her body leaving crimson patches on both the frost-laden dirt & her clothes.
Despite the shock of the event & his inexperience, Agnar knew he wouldn’t be able to rest letting this go on – there’s a law involved beyond gods & men – one that this ‘man’ violates on this day, he thought, trying to rationalize his brewing anger like a man trying to calm a flood.
He knew, despite his strength & prowess that he was no match for a hardened soldier in direct combat, so, instinctively - remembering the lessons from his sister in the art of the hunt – he crept forward towards the duo, a hunting knife held in his vice-grip, thirsty for blood.
During his approach his eyes never left the pair, his bright round globes taking in every aspect of this horrific display – the trembling & desperation on the woman’s sweat & blood stained body, the look of ‘hunger’ & power-lust on the soldier’s exposed features, the panic & screams echoing throughout the air…
His thoughts faltered, as the imperial soldier turned to face his would-be assassin, a look of bewilderment across his exhausted, rugged features, no doubt because a mere savage boy would seek to kill him.
The Imperial grinned at the half-frozen Nordic boy, throwing his partially-bound victim towards the nearby tree, bashing her already bloody skull against its hard surface.
In an instant, his sword was drawn, a devilish grin adorning this bastard’s face as he twirled & spun his sword in front of his assailant.
Agnar would have none of it, he had nothing left, the world was slowly crumbling into Oblivion, war ravaged the world, & his kinsmen were dying so that monsters like these could continue to exploit the weak & innocent. His thoughts turned to blood, his own crimson fluids felt as if they were boiling within his chest cavity, his breath pulsating from his chest as he girded himself for battle.
Agnar, hitting the peak of his bloodlust, charged towards his quarry, but not to attack, he used the edge of his blade to cut the leather scrap girding a short sword to the Imperial’s waist, the blade fell & in one swift motion he grabbed the blade & swung for the soldier’s hamstrings, however, the imperial’s blade swung backwards, deflecting the blow, rising & came charging downwards towards the boy’s neck, barely missing its target by means of a well-timed drop, followed up by a kick towards the man’s chest, lurching him back.
Agnar, letting not a moment go to waste, spun around with his hunting knife, jabbing the blade deep into the soldier’s left leg. The imperial roared in pain & sent his blade crashing down, but the Nord was quicker, he slipped under the blade, grabbed the imperial’s right wrist with his left hand & shoved his captured short sword through the Imperial’s right eye, pushing it ever deeper at an agonizingly slow pace before ripping it out as the man collapsed.
His bloodlust, anger & zeal still not quenched, the Nord boy continued his assault, ramming the blade time & time again into the man’s body, blood, intestines & bone breaking away from the battered corpse until, at last, the blade was lodged in the imperial’s skull & unable to be removed despite Agnar’s strength & fury.
His eyes darted across the carnage in sheer panic & horror at what he had just done; Slowly he rose from the ground, still breathing shallowly & burning with hate & disgust, looked to the girl he had ‘rescued’ then once more to his victim, &, without a moment’s notice, fled back towards town, leaving the girl behind in shock & disbelief over what had happened.
A few days later after Agnar’s ‘disposal’ of the Imperial rapist, Agnar was sitting by the edge of town, his ears catching the sound of a familiar voice, turning his head slowly he saw it was Brandr, his friend from the caravan & one of the few warriors who wasn’t recalled back to the war, at least, not immediately.
The young Nord warrior looked grim as he sat down next to Agnar, several long moments passing before anything was said between them…
“She was my daughter, you know.” Said Brandr, finally breaking the silence, still not looking at the boy.
“who?”, replied Agnar.
“Forgotten already?”, he said harshly before lowering his tone once more, “my girl… my precious girl… the one from the woods… Ye saved her, me reason fer livin’. The one thing I ‘ave left.”
Silence emanated amidst the pair once more, only to be broken once again by Brandr.
“I know what yer thinking, its natural, I suppose. Happens a lot on the battlefield with the younger ones. They don’t understand the body’s limits & the surge of battle drives them overboard… its nothing to be ashamed of, happens to everyone, & at least you let it happen for the right reason” he paused, took a deep sigh & looked to the boy “I know nothing I say will lessen your burden, but perhaps I can help in other ways”, the warrior reached for his sword & shoved it into the dirt in front of Agnar “should you ever need my services, I’ll always be here to answer your call, kinsman” he said.
A moment passed before Agnar stretch out his hand, grabbing the man’s right hand that rested on the hilt, his head nodding once before he released, at that, the two ambled back towards the town’s inn, not a single word being spoken after this fateful union of two noble souls.
Posted Feb 13, 14
· Last edited Mar 4, 14
Agnar stood staring at one of the many local farms that dotted Skyrim; this particular one was owned & operated by a Breton & his daughter, an uncommon occurrence up in Skyrim, but not entirely rare – it’s not like they were Altmer, after all.
Still, their dream of a better life in the cold North is exactly what had led them to destruction, just as so many before them. Tensions had been rising steadily as of late; everyone knew now that the Empire was rapidly falling apart into disarray – even some of the Empire’s strongest supporters were turning tail & deserting the ever-precious ‘Imperial Cause’. Troops were rarely being deployed outside of Cyrodiil for anything more than forced conscription of the locals; former allies were taking up arms in the wake of the Akaviri invasion – signing charters, forging new alliances & gradually seceding from the Yoke of Imperial Oppression; of course, a naïve concept, the Empire didn’t get to where it is now by accepting ‘no’ as a valid answer – whether anyone liked it or not, war was coming.
It was these very tensions that had culminated in this – a pack of angry Nord-purists now gathered outside of the farmstead of this family; a family who had no involvement in the so-called ‘Second Daggerfall Covenant’ - just another one of those loosely affiliated factions taking up arms in a foolish struggle to take what is not rightfully theirs; not much different than those Nords who were ransacking the farmstead, he thought to himself as he saw the owners being dragged out the door & receiving a thorough beating from the crowd.
Such things were hard for him to witness & he wanted desperately to intervene, but unlike his previous confrontation, he’d have to deal with a small contingent of fighters if he wanted to help & frankly, he knew that to interfere would result in just another bloody, mangled body lying face-down in the snow.
There was nothing he could do.
Reluctantly, he pushed himself off the soft-snow-covered-grass where he was watching this ordeal from & headed off towards the local guard camp as the screams of pain & horror accompanied him from behind – he had to get moving anyway, after all, he had someone he needed to see.
He was nearing the clearing where the camp stood, he noticed, however, that the creatures that called this place home were strangely quiet. He paused & just in time, for an arrow nearly impaled his head, instead it had flown past & became lodged in the bark of one of the many trees dotting the great frozen tundra of Skyrim.
From the direction where the arrow had been fired from, deep, hearty laughter could be heard; Agnar turned to see Brandr cackling like a mad-man at the shock he had put the boy through; Brandr continued to laugh, toting his steel-clasped bow in his right hand as he walked up to the still-traumatized Agnar.
As he reached within a few miniscule feet of the boy his laughter had ceased, instead replaced by the appearance of seemingly stern-countenance.
“I nearly pissed myself, thanks to you.” Spoke Agnar, still jostled by his newest brush with death.
“so? You should be thanking me”, replied the stern-faced Brandr, entirely out-of-character even by his somewhat-erratic standards.
“Thanking you? For what? Nearly killing me?!”
“Nae – ye can thank me for savin’ your life”
“First thing you’ll learn in the field is that letting yer guard down is tat-amount to shoving your sword through yer own ribs – you, boy, brought that one on yourself”
The two paused for a moment, staring at each-other with cold, unflinching eyes before breaking into laughter; the poor Nordic boy nearly laughing himself to tears as his stoic counterpart struggled to stay on his feet in the aftermath of the hilarious outburst.
Several minutes had passed before they finally regained their composure; Brandr turned towards Agnar & asked “You ready?”
“As always.”, he replied as they ambled towards the bustling camp.
Upon entering the encampment, the duo were greeted by the sounds of Sons & Daughters of the Battlefield - men & women who've spent most of their lives fighting in one conflict or another, surrounded by constant bloodshed & death; That term was one of Aeri's favorites & Agnar had adopted it in passing - during the few moments of peace in their lives; Sparring; crafting of weapons & armor; plans being drawn up; the few mages that operate in Skyrim's military were also present, practicing whatever Oblivion-cursed spells they had learned in order to prepare themselves to channel their full destructive power amidst the chaos in the field - the sound, Agnar thought, was practically deafening, but something to be proud of; these brave men & women were willing to kill & die for what they believed in & pay the ultimate price for Skyrim & her people.
Brandr had led the young Agnar to one of the more vacant sparring rings within the rather large encampment; Brandr parted from the boy briefly to draw two swords from one of the nearby weapon racks while Agnar himself observed what was around him.
Everywhere he looked he could see brother fighting brother in mock-combat; Officers & Enlisted alike running between tents, some carrying weapons, others scrolls, all sharing the same look - pride & perhaps, some fear as well, albeit not quite as obvious; His father had told him once that all warriors were afraid, something to this day Agnar didn't understand; how could someone who is willing to kill & die for a cause be afraid? He always asked himself that question whenever those words came into his mind.
His thoughts were interrupted by a smack on his shoulder; coming to, he saw Brandr brandishing both blades - the warrior having slapped Agnar with the blunt-side of the blade to get his attention before ramming one of the two blades into the ground just in front of the boy.
Before Agnar could even draw the blade Brandr was already positioning himself into his stance; Agnar, now nervous that Brandr would take advantage of this early opening, rushed to draw the blade, nearly running into it in his zeal. Ripping it out from the soil of Nirn, he twirled the blade briefly to get a feel for the weight of the weapon before positioning himself, now wielding the blade in one hand with it pointing behind him.
The two moved around each other in circles for some time, letting the tension build in the other whilst looking for possible openings but, by their third pass, Brandr gave in, charging towards the boy; Agnar stood his ground until his partner came in for the blow, to which he sent his blade upwards in a slash to deflect & force the blade away before turning his back towards his opponent to jab his elbow into Brandr's chest, which, in turn, was met with a block from his arm & followed up by a kick to back of Agnar's leg, forcing him into a kneeling position.
As Brandr prepared to follow up with a strike from his sword, Agnar instinctively spun himself around on the ground, trying to slash at Brandr's legs but only hitting air - He had jumped back, much to Agnar's surprise; this did, however, buy him enough time to get back on his feet & assume a more protective stance, his blade now being wielded in both hands & slanted to his right in preparation for the next onslaught.
Brandr twirled his blade, before once more assuming his stance, this time with a slight grin as Agnar, furious at almost being beaten, charged at the veteran warrior.
In short order both blades crashed together with a resounding din; both men pushing with all their might in order to overpower the other but to no avail.
Clear to the both of them, this was turning into a stalemate - something Brandr hated & something that drove Agnar mad; but it would be Brandr who would break this stall - feinting a slip of the blade & ducking his upper body back to avoid the built-up force of the incoming strike before spinning around with his blade to catch the boy's chest.
That was, however, Agnar's specialty, something he'd been perfecting into his combat repertoire & this ploy was easily detected & countered by him dropping to one knee & ramming his sword forward, piercing Brandr's leather jerkin but not his flesh.
Brandr raised his sword to bring the broadside down on the boy but before he could Agnar has rolled to the side, stood up & had his blade pointing forward towards his competitor just as Brandr regained his position.
They began pacing around each other once more before charging again; they were but a mere few feet away when a man came running up, shouting.
Agnar was too committed to the charge to stop now & Brandr had already stopped mid-charge.
The Nord boy swung his blade at the first chance he had, but tripped & fell - glaring around in disbelief at what had happened he had noticed that Brandr has completely sidestepped the attack & was now grinning at the dirt-covered boy.
"You really are an ass, you know that?", said Agnar between gasps, trying to regain the oxygen that had been knocked out of him during his fall.
"Let that be your second lesson, boy. Never over commit to a strike; wieldin' a blade is all about maneuvering it to hit at your target's weakest point; its not all about force, but rather, options &, judging from yer position right now, ye have none."
At that Brandr turned to wave the man into the ring as Agnar was forcing himself up from the ground.
"What's so urgent that ye had tae run all this way & ruin a good fight, lad?" Brandr said which boosted Agnar's morale at the concept that he had actually given such a experienced warrior a run for his mead-money.
"I... I bring... Important news for you." The man said.
"And just who are ye to be delivering such news to me & not the commander of this post?"
The man crept closer & asked in a hushed tone, albeit loud enough that Agnar could hear "What is a warrior's greatest desire & his greatest fear?"
Brandr's face was now showing a combination of bewilderment & understand as he replied "knjak land"; Agnar only understood a little bit of the Old Nordic tongue, enough to figure out what was said roughly translated to 'a quiet land'.
The man asked a second question in short order, "And how might one win this land?"
"Snilla vor signa", replied Brandr; once more Agnar struggled to comprehend the meaning behind this display as much as the definition, but after some thought he concluded that it meant something along the lines of 'to kill is to win'
At that the courier finally relented & handed the missive to Brandr, whom spent several moments reading it over before turning to Agnar "Its a casualty list." He sighed briefly before continuing "I knew a lot of the men on that list - fought alongside a lot of those men."
He handed the missive back to the courier & dismissed him before leaning in to talk to Agnar.
"Erikr's name is on it"
Posted Mar 4, 14
· Last edited Jul 6, 14
Agnar had fallen silent in the wake of the news, whilst true that he trusted Brandr through & through, part of him didn't believe him or the contents of the letter; somehow, he couldn't believe a man like his father could be done in by any mere soldier - any cowardly, dishonorable dog - on the battlefield...
He abruptly snatched the missive from his companion's hand & began reading it over & over - dozens of names lined the parchment's surface, only a few did he actually recognize, but each time he read through the list he'd always find the name 'Erikr' listed as deceased.
He threw the parchment onto the ground of the sparring ring & practically yelled at Brandr, "Explain this! How, how could he die? How did he die? Why did he die?!"
He was drawing in shorter & shorter breaths - bordering hyper-ventilation - and fighting to restrain the twin urges of wanting to break everything in sight & wanting to collapse & let the whole world slip away.
Brandr tried to comfort the lad by holding his shoulder, only to have his hand slapped away & yelled at once more with the same order as before: "explain this, damn it!"
Brandr, increasingly being tested by the boy's somewhat understandable emotional state, replied harshly "By the Eight! If I knew, don't ya think I'd tell ye? He was my comrade too, you know! Don't even think for a gods-forsaken moment that his death means more to you then it does to anyone else who knew him! This didn't happen because of you, or for you, or have anything exclusively to do with you! You are NOT. that. fucking. special."
"You think that I think his death has anything to do with me? Is THAT why you think I'm upset?!"
He was outright yelling now between panicked breaths "he was MY father! Not yours!"
"So what? Do ya honestly think he didn't know what he was getting into? That he might be killed one day? If anything, its your fault for not being prepared for this. Divines' sake, you should know gods-damned better!"
Agnar took a swing at Brandr with his right hand, only for it to be grabbed by the wrist, tightly clenched as it was yanked far in the air behind the boy's back, causing an immense pain to travel down the entire arm & shoulder both.
Bellowed Brandr before lowering his voice to a more calm, if frustrated, tone "I'm not telling you that ya shouldn't be upset, angry even; I'm simply saying that this is what he was trained for. He didn't go out there to get himself killed, but rather, he died fighting for his home, for his family, for you & Aeri. Be proud of him - he'd want that."
Brandr released the lad's wrist, sending him falling into the ground onto his hands & knees; tears clearly could be seen falling down his face.
Agnar spent a few moments there, struggling against his emotions before wiping his face with his left arm & forcing himself up.
"Your right; but that doesn't change anything."
He said, as he turned around & started walking towards the edge of the camp.
"Where on Nirn do you think your goin'?"
"Away; for a while."
Agnar said, taking a few more steps before looking back briefly & stating coldly "Don't. Follow."
A moment later, he was out of view, moving between the hectic swarms of men going about their business amongst the camp.
Only one thought remained in his head as he walked away from the camp: "How long until these men lie dead as well?"
He'd made his escape; Gotten as far away as he could bring himself to from both the camp & his home.
What exactly makes it my home now?
, he mused to himself, completely absorbed by his inner turmoil - his anger, sorrow, ever-burning hatred; he wanted nothing more than to be on the front lines - to be able to butcher every bastard Akaviri-snake he could find; to let them know his pain, if only for a moment before they, too, would part from this world - then he'd just find another target for his anger to snuff from existence.
He was so lost in these thoughts; these feelings; that he didn't even realize where he was or where he was going - to him, all he cared about was where others were going; where he'd send them...
His thoughts turned back towards home, and with them, more tears began streaming down his face.
Father's gone, so is mother before him; and now...
He paused, choking back the sorrow as if it were a physical object lodged in his throat.
Now she's out there. Aeri... Not even half as experienced as father--
the tears began again, blurring his vision &, amidst the inner pain, he gave in, collapsing towards the ground in front of a nearby tree.
--How long will she last? How long until this damned, accursed, fucking war takes her as well?!
He clenched his right hand into a fist, taking some of the dirt from the ground into his grasp inadvertently before swinging his fist outward into the tree, sending waves on pain through his knuckles straight into his arm as streams of dirt poured forth from his hands... Much like the tears coming from his eyes.
He pulled his hand back slowly, inspecting it closely like a scholar might do when presented with some unknown & ancient relic.
The pain; the pain felt... Good. Better than what he felt inside, deep down. It almost complemented how he was feeling - made it... Complete... Somehow, on some level.
The only other time he felt this way... Was with the Imperial.
That thought ripped another wound open in his soul; "Have I really fallen so far?"
, he asked quietly, as if some unseen & all-knowing entity might answer, "So far that I relish the chance to fight? To kill?"
He stared up at the sky & called out once more, now no longer whispering but shouting his fury up into the sky; "Is this what I was meant for? Is this my purpose? Answer me!"
He started choking again as he collapsed back down, trying desperately to both hold it all in & unleash his torrent of emotions upon the world.
He whispered once more; "Is my life nothing more than some cruel joke?"
He brought himself down towards the ground, still drenched in tears as he curled himself up on the dirt.
"Why... Why must I suffer like this?"
Posted Mar 31, 14
· Last edited Sep 13, 14
Edit/Shameless bump (I only do it when I actually add stuff. I'm not that bad, right
Okay, so apparently I'm lazy; its a bit late but here's the second of hopefully three parts of the final chapter, added on to Chapter 6.
As always, I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I have writing it.
And of course, please feel free to leave any comments, criticisms et al. Below; I assure you, they are always welcome.
Thanks to the aforementioned editing, there MAY be an epilogue - consider this my final reserve for this story just-in-case.
Also, as mentioned earlier chapter 6 is partially up for reading, enjoy