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Thread: Caged No More (Shingeki no Kyojin / Attack on Titan)

  1. #1
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Caged No More (Shingeki no Kyojin / Attack on Titan)

    Posting this here because it's my largest fan story endeavour yet, and it'd be a shame not to share it to a wider audiences due to the effort put into it. You may also find it on AO3 and SpaceBattles.

    Archive of Our Own

    SpaceBattles

    QuestionableQuesting

    Ymir is a born again, haunted by the memories of the boy she killed and the past life she once lived. In order to put her mind to rest she must uncover the truth behind her past, even if it means reliving it once, twice, three times more. Along the way she meets a girl who craves to be special; something that her father couldn't be and so much more. This girl's name is Historia, and though the two of them are often at odds their fates are intertwined, both inheritors of a legacy that was too much for one goddess alone to bear.

    The Year is 845.

    This is the year that a girl reawakens, another fights back, and a third, a harsh mistress, is born.

    This is the story of those who are caged no more.






    Part 1 Point of View Characters


    Other Characters
    Mathias Kramer - scion of the Kramer Merchant Association
    Rita Iglehaut - member of the Garrison, West Division (Quinta)
    Ada (original character) - survivor outside the Walls
    Kelly - leader of the survivors outside the Walls
    Amanda - member of the Garrison, West Division (Quinta); Rita's best friend
    Klaus - member of the outlaws
    Nikki - member of the outlaws
    Jörg Kramer - Mathias's father; head of the Kramer Merchant Association
    Isolde Lenz (original character) - farmer; Riecka's mother
    "Baggy-pants" Leon - member of the Garrison, West Division (Fuerth)
    Kenny Ackerman - member of the Military Police Brigade
    Doris Iglehaut - Rita's adoptive mother
    Henning Iglehaut - Rita's adoptive father
    Ducio - member of the Garrison Regiment, West Division (Quinta); Rita's assistant
    Wilco - member of the Garrison Regiment, West Division (Quinta)
    Bernhardt - leader of the outlaws
    Jarratt - member of the outlaws
    Gabriel - agent of the Royal Government
    Erhardt - member of the Military Police Brigade

    Sources

    Attack on Titan written and illustrated by Isayama Hajime.
    Attack on Titan: No Regrets written by Gun Snark and illustrated by Suruga Hikaru.
    Attack on Titan: Before the Fall written by Suzukaze Ryō and illustrated by Shibamoto Thores.
    Attack on Titan: Harsh Mistress of the City written by Kawakami Ryō and illustrated by Murata Range.
    Attack on Titan: Lost Girls written by Seko Hiroshi and illustrated by Fuji Ryosuke.
    Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom (video game) based on the manga written and illustrated by Isayama Hajime.
    Attack on Titan Guidebook: INSIDE & OUTSIDE based on the manga written and illustrated by Isayama Hajime.
    Attack on Titan Choose Your Path Adventure: Last Stand At Wall Rose written by Fujinami Tomoyuki and illustrated by Fuji Ryosuke and Yoshii Tetsu based on the manga written and illustrated by Isayama Hajime.
    Attack on Titan: End of the World written by Asakura Touji based on the manga written and illustrated by Isayama Hajime.
    Garrison Girl: An Attack on Titan Novel written by Rachel Aaron based on the manga written and illustrated by Isayama Hajime.

    Sources (Doujinshi)

    A Distant Fragrance written and illustrated by Tokawa.
    MESSENGER written and illustrated by Tomo.
    Story of the Goddess Who Sought Death written and illustrated by Kuzumochi Shio.
    Night at the Hut in the Mountain (and other shorts) written and illustrated by tbtbii.
    Song of Prayer Dedicated to You written and illustrated by Poncho.
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 06:01 AM.

  2. #2
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Prologue


    In a time lost to the pages of history, in a land where the recent emergence of science outweighed a centuries long reign of the enigma of faith, war was the one and only constant; endless and without pause. Every nation vying for more, expanding upon their once god-granted rights under new banners, turning once lush and lively regions to desolate desert wastes where no man would ever walk again. Poisoning the land further with the even more destructive seeds of death and decay, the people caught in the crossfire, their citizens, their subjects, were forced to live in fear, forced to flee in terror, and it was when an entire village seemingly vanished overnight without so much as a trace, a faint whisper of dark deeds done on a dark night, leaving one meek, insignificant, but wrathful child as its only survivor, that this changed forever.

    Alone and forced to fend for herself, after a lifetime spent in ruined and war-torn lands and much hardship, this child blossomed into a woman who united the world with a mysterious power and became a mighty ruler. This woman was named Ymir Fritz, and unlike those before her, she ruled benevolently, with her mind close to her heart, ever beating in favor of those less fortunate, of those less able to pull themselves from the tragedy of war; ever bleeding for those who sought to continue the tyranny of the past, the disappearance of hopes and dreams for so much as to fill their chests and stomachs with greed.

    She spent a long time rebuilding the world in her image; thirteen grueling years of using a gift many perceived as a curse, a black murmur of the past back to punish the world that had abandoned it, passed before all was peaceful, all was quiet, all was calm, until she was usurped—murdered in her sleep when her eyes were shut—her body disemboweled and decapitated and her mysterious power split nine, the world plunged into a great war that lasted a lifetime longer than she herself had lived. Its victors rewrote history, the defeated ousted, butchered, and enslaved as the world came back under the thumb of oppression and savagery until history dared repeat itself again. Another rebellion, another great war, colossal, violent, and more devastating than the last; another beheading, a new victor, the shackling of the old, and, in the midst of this all, the child that was reborn.

    But, the world… the world was unforgiving.

    Its wounds never healed and the scars tarnishing its surface left it puckered and sore with horrendous, atrocities galore.

    The child was taken, growing up beaten and bruised, then sacrificed for the greater good before her rule truly had a chance to begin.

    The year is 845, and the world was still cruel.

    Humanity has been beset by monsters known as Titans for a hundred years. A seemingly endless tide of giant, humanoid devourers that managed to wipe out all life save for a lucky few, and nobody knew where they originated from, what their purpose was, and, most important, most dire, how to effectively end them once and for all. So, in desperation, these lucky few shut themselves behind three fifty meter high walls for their own protection, thinking themselves safe. Only, they were being kept in the dark, gathered like cattle in cages for the inevitable until, one day, one red-colored, quiet, unassuming morning after dawn, this all changed when they were given a grim reminder of what it meant to be locked away.

    And, in the midst of it, a child is reborn.

    All she remembers is the blood, tissue, and bone. All she remembers is the torment of the mindless. All she remembers is the face that haunts, the face that always reminds her of the cruelty of the world. That it always has been and that it always will be; that it should always be held in a certain light, and that she was never meant to be born, molding herself as someone who was nothing, who thought herself worthless. Crimson nightmares, bringing death, the world her enemy, her string, and her fate. A causality in a world which resented and cursed her as it always would.

    So, the girl ran away from her fate and the world, in retaliation, in retribution, started its end, but, the child, the girl, she kept running, and running, and...

    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:35 AM.

  3. #3
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 1

    Ymir

    Running.

    Running, running, and running away.

    In her dream, the boy was running.

    Running further and further away.

    Though, his legs wouldn't carry him anymore, and so he fell. Whereupon, he tried, desperately tried, to stand, as the ground began to shake, but his arms wouldn’t move, either; his body exhausted. Thus all he could do was listen, and wait, as his companions fled, leaving him to his fate as it, the monster that’d been chasing them, got closer, and closer, and closer still.

    Until its hunched, misshapen form loomed over him, its shadow stretching so far and wide he saw only darkness anywhere he looked. He could feel its rotten, hot breath on his back, steam rolling over his body as many flies buzzed around his ears, as it sniffed him then pulled away and there was one moment of respite; one, surreal second of quiet, his fear abated, before something, something sharp, hooked itself underneath his skin and hoisted him high into the air. There, he dangled, tall as a mountain, able to glimpse a last look at the others now in the distance for but a moment before the monster’s clawed finger dug into his spine, and he cried out in anguish. Slowly lowered into its waiting mouth, that second became an eternity of pain.

    Unthinkable pain, as its teeth sank into his legs and he folded like parchment when they snapped. It chewed up his waist, pulling out his insides. He vomited and spat and coughed bile and blood, the juices spilling down his chin and dripping onto his chest as upward still its hunger moved. His ribs were crushed, his lungs skewered, his heart pounding, and gasping for air while he tried to suck in more, his head felt ready to explode, the whites of his eyes filling with red, popping out their sockets, as the boy let out a scream that died in his throat and the world, his world, became dark.



    Letting out that scream, frightened awake, the girl hit the back of her head into the tree she'd been sleeping against. Wrapped in a blanket from the last village she passed through, having taken refuge in a hollowed out tree-trunk shortly after finding herself lost in another forest of giant trees, the girl grimaced.

    It was still raining.

    Pulling her blanket closer around her shoulders, she peered into the distance, wary of what lurked in the undergrowth, then up at the treetops.

    The canopy in this particular forest was so thick that no light, let alone rain, touched the forest floor. Perpetual darkness enveloped her, and in the gloom, mistaking her stomach for wolves, she almost dropped from her perch before catching herself.

    She looked down at her trembling, frost-touched hands. She put one on the back of her head, grabbing a tuft of matted hair, and winced, coming away with blood. She let the black strands slip between her fingers, watching them fall toward the ground until they were lost to the dark as she wondered of the wolves that'd chased her up here; if they were still standing silently at the base of the tree.

    She broke off a branch and threw it down, then waited, hearing nothing, and once she assumed it was safe, the wolves gone off to hunt less troublesome prey, the girl swung from her perch.

    She slid down the trunk of the tree, clenching her teeth as a sharp, sudden pain split through her skull, nails scraping bark and her vision filling with blinding shades of red; scarlet flashes of pain as the memories, the monster in her mind, the boy’s never ending pain, attempted to resurface. Pushing them back down, fighting the urge, the hunger—the want for blood that once licked her tongue—she fell the rest of the way and landed on her back.

    It was wet. Sodden from the rain.

    Winter's tears.

    Thinking of the boy from her dream, his name had been Marcel. And he was dead.

    Her name was Ymir. And she didn’t want to go back to the way she was. What she was. Couldn’t be that way again, as she let his memory fade and there she was again, alone and unashamed.

    Ymir. That was her name.

    And thus she picked herself off the ground, mud caking her body as she turned away from the tree.

    She had to keep moving, and stumbled on, continuing to wander the wilds, keeping the memories at bay until she couldn't walk anymore and heaved, bending over, knees in the mud. Harsh, ragged gasps of dry, cold night air, spittle drooling from her mouth, clinging to her skin, and nothing more, as, with them, came the monster and its hunger and those horrors creeping their way back inside her mind. Like the wolves she'd had to fend against, roused from their black slumbers, circling her and closing in, bright yellow eyes in the dark; waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Tear out her throat. Haul her body off. Bring her back into the fold, into the nightmare, and consume her whole. Pawing their way, pawing their way, gradually, gradually…

    She vomited. The stench seeped into her. It soaked into the ground, as the memories began anew.

    As they did, Ymir curled into a fetal position and buried her face in her hands, as if doing so would make it go away, but, the memories, they were still there, and she chuckled to herself, at her own naivety, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand as she tried to rise to her feet again because of course they wouldn’t simply go away; seared and branded into her brain forever.

    Of the boy, and the terrified look on his face above her head as her jaws widened and she bit down—the taste of his blood, and the sound of his bones.

    And after, when she woke up, when she saw his remains against the smoke billowing toward that crimson sky, the trail she followed to a scene of even greater carnage—that wall, and town thereafter, the utter silence which waited beyond—these memories assaulted her relentlessly, giving her no time to rest, and, lying in her own puke, searching for stars that weren’t there, she thought she heard one of the wolves from before approaching her, actually this time, and she forced herself to stand because she didn't want to die again, not yet, even if she had to become a monster again, biting so deep into her hand she scraped bone. Only nothing happened, blood trickling down her wrist, iron in her mouth, and she shut her eyes because that was it, this was the end, until the wolf tried to speak. Infantile attempts at communicating its thoughts into one word, chanting it over and over and over again until she didn't want to hear it anymore and spun to face it, intent on glaring her killer in its yellow eyes and came face to face with the boy forever pained, Marcel, whose sacrifice allowed her the mercy of being freed from a decades’ long nightmare, instead.

    His body was broken, spine twisted so he walked on all fours, his intestines dangling and feet dragging across the ground. He walked with his hands, holding himself up and wading along. The back of his shirt was torn, skin shredded and viscera exposed. He leaned further left than right, his right arm not much but loose sinew and bone. His black hair was spread out in patches atop his peeled head, his crimson skull visible beneath the fleshy flaps hanging down. His neck was partially ripped open. What remained of his jaw hung low. His mouth was snapped wide with a drooping tongue. The only thing wholly intact was the upper half of his face, barring the bottom of his nose.

    She knew he wasn’t real. Knew that he was guilt personified, molded from memory and nothing else, though she also knew that the only way to learn more about him was the same as her past, of a certain battlefield from her past that she kept being returned to, and a voice that guided her through it: to keep moving forward in search of something grand. Except, no matter how far she went, the land seemed endlessly empty—every place she came upon was deserted.

    There were signs that people once lived in these places, these villages, but if not for the fact her scavenging them for leftover food and clean clothing, Ymir might’ve thought herself to truly be alone. Herself, and her hallucinations. She had to find people, civilization, but the farther she traveled the riskier it became, as well. Dotting the land also were these forests of giant trees in abundance. She didn’t linger any near them than she had to, avoiding them entirely whenever she could because of the sounds from within. In the day, it was the grunts and groans and earth-stomping feet of those mindless monsters she never wanted to become again. During the night, it was the howls and growls and struggle of wild animals that prowled around as these monsters slept. That had stalked her all the way to that tree. They were full of dangers, full of nightmares, and full of death—and she’d her fill of all that for two lifetimes, and wasn’t so keen on revisiting those times anytime again soon.

    … Not that it was up to her to decide.

    The boy’s jaw swayed as he looked at her, his vocal cords closing and opening like an insect’s mandibles. No sound came out except one short higher-pitched, blood spurting wheeze, but Ymir could hear his words in her head because his screams would never truly go away. He was a part of her, and as she replied to him, asked herself the question as she stood back to her feet reluctantly, following him until she was at the precipice of one of these forests of giant trees once again: what purpose was she here? Why was she given a second chance, spirited away from the nightmare which had consumed all the mindless others like her? That this boy had to die so she may live again? She felt he was only the beginning in a long, estranged history that, she, no matter how hard she tried, couldn’t remember anything except that battlefield, guided by the voice of someone else.

    Of someone caring, and kind.

    Someone who told her that no matter how terrible things seemed she must keep moving. To follow this boy.

    But standing before this entrance to this giant forest, its trees so enormous they seemed to touch the stars themselves, she hesitated.

    The trees appeared wicked. Ancient, twisted tawny tower-gates blocking passage to whatever secrets lay within.

    Ymir peered beyond them into, seeing only blackness. She felt her chest tighten, a rumble in her heart in anticipation at what might be waiting inside. She dare not risk it, but, again, something, someone, told her otherwise; that her past would only come to light if she plunged into the dark and dragged it out herself. That she had to go forward, keep moving, ever onward, until the land disappeared beneath her feet and there was nowhere left to be.

    And so she listened, because she didn’t want to succumb to the nightmare again.

    And scratching and tearing herself on thorns trying to keep pace with the dead boy's surprisingly lithe form down, she came to something after a time: a church in ruins.

    Ravaged, raped, despoiled, once a solace, was now just a shell of what it’d once been, and while she was afraid of what lay inside, lurking, and would’ve moved past it out of instinct, ignore the boy—just another hallucination in her mind—and continue even further on, if not for that voice—oh, that gentle, loving voice—beckoning her from that dark. It persuaded her otherwise. Intimidated, pressured, pushed, her on. That voice of someone caring and kind, turning vile and cruel, ordering her forward. Into that darkness, into that unknown, to brave the peril, swallow her dread, and conquer her own fears. It shouted. Screamed. Keep moving, keep moving.

    And soon her body was at its splintered doors, arms weakly pushing them open, blood rushing through her veins as her heart pounded in her ears. Thump. Thump. Thump. She had to keep moving, and forced her way inside, tripping, tumbling on.

    Falling in a dusty heap, eyes to an open ceiling above, there were still no stars. Around her nothing moved. Nothing stirred. Only silence reigned, and she turned to the boy, to Marcel, to ask why here, what was the purpose of leading her to this place, but he was gone. And the voice that spoke to her, remained quiet in kind.

    She was alone again.


    Eventually she caught her breath and sat up on one of the old and rotten wooden pews lining either side of her, assessing even in her own awful state a lone podium flanked by two large statues at the front of the room. Behind them, was an altar, and slowly, but surely, she continued her way towards it and, reaching it shortly thereafter, its worn and aged plaque, rusted and cracked, was cold to the touch and small dark shapes began to appear as her focus narrowed. Knowing them to be letters, she stepped back and squinted and tried to sound out the word they formed. Though, she couldn’t, and, instead, looked up at the statues again. The depiction of what they were. What they were called—long abandoned, long forgotten, only, she couldn't, she couldn't... she was so very tired…

    Ymir doubled over beside the podium.

    It was hollow in back.

    Scrunching herself into the void space, she put her knees up against her chest and rested her chin on top of her hands, an infant inside her mother’s pregnant womb once more, eyelids heavy for the first time in what felt like ages.

    It wasn’t long before she was fast asleep and the world, her world, became dark, and her last thought was that she’d been led here because it was time for her to truly live.
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:36 AM.

  4. #4
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 2

    Historia

    For the first time in a hundred years, Wall Maria, the outermost wall and the first line in humanity’s defense against the monsters at their door, fell, a great many people perished, and today, four days after, the sole thought in Historia’s mind was that nothing mattered. That nothing was the one, singular absolute in the world. The end. The book shut. Curtains closed. That being nothing meant everything, and looking down at her feet dangling off the carriage, watching the blood seep between her toes on that night again, four days earlier, the moment her life was nothing from the very beginning was the best in her entire thirteen years of existence.

    When, again, she saw those frightened eyes of her mother, with her pathetic attempts at struggling against the knife drawn across her throat, slicing so deep it carved straight to bone.

    When, again, she felt that warmth when in sprayed, violently striking a vital vein, as it rushed down her mother’s neck, drenching her clothes and soaking the ground beneath in crimson regrets, her final words cut short by her killer's blade.

    When, again, those final words, their intent clear, had been that one, defining thing that set Historia's mind at ease everytime she relived it in her head—she was the bastard child who shouldn’t have been born.

    Now, gazing out at the farmland stretched out before her in all directions, far as her bright blue eyes could see, rows upon rows upon many stalks of wheat and barley and other grains swaying briskly in an evening breeze—territory within the confines of Wall Rose set aside for orphans in the unlikely event of Wall Maria’s fall—it meant that while her mother was little more than a whore, she herself who was nothing, meant everything. The only surviving daughter of her late father, the impoverished noble with a weak heart and only one drop to spare. A heart that had finally run dry the day the Wall fell. Who's actions were entombed in her memory forever, the same as her mother’s death, with his last act being to shield her from harm and send her away with a few parting words, lest his legacy, his secret, die then and there.

    Because...

    "Goin’ to sit there all day?" the man hired to move her from place to place that same night and at current—after one too many fights, after one too many bitten fingers and after one too many refusals to do what was what demanded, what was expected—had brought her to this place in the middle of nowhere, asked. Sweaty and reeking heavily of alcohol, he motioned her down. "This your stop. Come on, move it."

    She glared at him and didn’t budge.

    "I said move!" With a raised hand, he slapped her. Hard. Then, lifting her by a tuft of her blonde hair, he dragged her to the front of his carriage, behind the horses. "You'll learn one way or another." Taking a last swig of his bottle, he poured the few drops left down her throat and tossed it. “You’ll learn!”

    She spat it out. The man’s rough hand caressed up her thigh, and she thought of her father's words as he clumsily tried unlacing her undergarments beneath her dress, punching her in the stomach out of frustration when he couldn't quite do it as her eyes went to the bottle he'd tossed away and he licked her cheek, groping her chest, her small fingers closing around it, because she knew what those words meant: that she was more than nothing.

    Historia brought the bottle down as hard as she could on the side of the man’s head. It shattered into a dozen dazzling shards and she picked up one of the larger ones and slashed his neck as he whimpered on the ground from the sudden blow. He made his last sighs in gurgles, grasping where she’d left the shard buried deep in his throat.

    Staring at the body, she fastened her undergarments on again and inspected her hand.

    Blood ran along the crevices of her palm.

    She wiped her hand on her dress and turned to the horses, then to the farm. She looked down at the man again, back to the farm, then to the horses, and, managing to climb her way up onto the end of the carriage, crawled to the front and took the reins of both horses between slippery fingers. Unhooking the harnesses that bound them, she let them go and watched them glance around in confusion, awkwardly sliding onto the nearest one’s back and leaning forward. She wrapped her arms around its neck.

    "Everything's going to be alright," she told it. "You're free now, so you can do whatever you want. You can go wherever you want." The other horse was already gone. "Your friend left you… you're all alone now…" Tears rolled down her cheeks. They tasted sweet. She tugged at its mane. "You're all alone with nowhere to go, but, you're free now so it doesn't matter. So go! Leave already!"

    The horse just flung its head forward, then back, and threw her off, but, when she raised herself up, didn't attempt to run away. Instead, its tail swishing this way and that, the horse simply trotted over to the side of the dirt road and began chewing some wheat.

    Historia laid her head back down, eyes on the drifting clouds above as she sobbed.

    From here on, she had to forget herself. Who, and what, she was. Her father's first, last, and only words to her.

    From here on, your name is Krista.

    The tears wouldn't stop.

    Because she was special.


    She named the horse Almond, after its color.

    Since leaving the farm, Historia had gone a far distance, retracing the trail the carriage took, reaching the edge of a small village by midday.

    She didn't recall them ever passing by it, but she hadn't exactly been paying attention to anything other than her own thoughts the entire time and, drawing nearer, could hear the villagers up and about, working, toiling, slaving away. The thump and thud of hammers and nails on wood, the splashing of water and hoisting of buckets from wells, the flapping of clothes left out to dry, so unlike the stillness of the servant-tended ranch she was raised on, brimming with the hard work of everyday folk that was lost on someone like her.

    Sliding from Almond's back, she led him over to a tree in the shade nearby. He plopped down, exhausted.

    As she stroked his mane, now observing the villagers go about their daily tasks from afar, something swelled in her chest that she’d only felt when her mother's blood splattered her cheek: warmth.

    So, letting Almond lay, curiosity getting the better of her, Historia set her sights on one of the houses closest to her, furthest away from any equally curious eyes.

    She went underneath one of its back windows and peeked inside.

    Seeing a table set for evening supper, her stomach rumbled.

    She hadn't eaten decent in the past day and could smell the freshly baked bread from where she was hiding. Though, gulping, she moved away from the window because, regardless of how hungry she was, lingering any longer was risky.

    She especially didn't want to be around in case that man's body had been found, as the only thing between here and there was the plain, everyday, unassuming countryside. But, just as she was about to slip away, a slumping, groggy-eyed girl with long, red-brown hair came into view, and, keeping against the window, Historia held her breath as the girl opened it further, yawned, grumbled to herself, then left. She waited until her feet pattering across the floor were distant, and, slowly, started back before something else happened. That was when she saw the girl leave out a door from the house, carrying a bucket.

    She gulped, again.

    That's right, she hadn't drank anything decent in the past few days, either. Her mouth was dry as a bone.

    She looked after the girl as she disappeared around a bend. It lead into a forest, and though she thought of following her, there was already a well not far away with a bucket and rope already set up. Approaching it, she glanced around.

    Nobody.

    Quickly, quietly, she pulled on the lever. The bucket dropped with a hollow thud and dark crash, and she peered down at it in splinters at the well's bottom. The well was empty, and realizing the noise it must’ve made, one of the villagers—that other girl—probably heard it. She reared back. She had to get out of sight before someone ca—

    "Ouahf! "

    Bumping into someone, they cleared their throat, the rim of their hat blocking out not nearly enough of the sun, angled just enough to blind her, prevent her from seeing clearly and making a fast get-away without stumbling, as Historia peered up into an old woman's wrinkled, sun-kissed face.

    … Too late.

    "That one's no good," the old woman said with a slight hoarseness to her voice. "Better off comin’ inside and takin’ what I have stored there."

    Watching her go, Historia noticed that the old woman was heading straight for the same house the other girl had come from and proceeded to panic. She turned to run, eyes down, the sun behind her, but the old woman called out, reaching her before she could. With a grip strong as iron, the old woman took her by the wrist and dragged her to the house. As she stepped inside, Historia glanced back to where Almond was.

    "Your horse is gonna be fine. I already gave him some water and an apple after you'd came sneaking over. Don't worry about him right now,” the old woman assured.

    The old woman led her to that same table she'd been eyeing earlier and sat her down, then went to a counter, poured a cup of water, and offered it to her.

    Taking the cup with her good hand, Historia hid the other underneath the table. She drank it with hesitation. The old woman didn’t seem to have any intentions of hurting her, or worse, though she could never be too careful, and when she was finished, the old woman gave a tilt of her chin at the concealed hand.

    "Let me see it."

    Historia laid it on the table, palm side down. She realized that if the old woman wanted to hurt her, it’d have already happened.

    "Flip it over."

    She did as told.

    Grabbing a cloth and a bottle of what could only be a strong alcohol because of its smell—she knew it well—the old woman firmly held her hand down. For all her strength, her harshness, she went over the cuts and wiped away dirt and dried blood with extreme care, rubbing it in with a gentleness that was surprising. Then, she sighed as she began wrapping the cloth around it. "Young girls shouldn't behave so recklessly. I’m still makin’ today’s bread, but I’ve some leftover from yesterday. It's still safe to eat. Otherwise, it’ll be for the livestock."

    Historia watched the old woman get up and go get some.

    "Why are you being so kind to me?" she immediately asked when the old woman brought it over and sat back down.

    "My own selfishness." The old woman didn't hesitant and ruffled her hair gently. "My daughter, you resemble her..."

    "Your... daughter...?" Looking down at the table, she now noticed it was actually set for three, and then turned her attention over to the door.

    "No, not who you're thinkin’ of," the old woman said with a coarse, though sincere chuckle. After a moment, she continued. "My daughter is much older—joined the Scouts before Maria fell. Hasn't been home since, the ungrateful child..." She chuckled again. "No, that one’s Achi. She's… been through a lot.” Reaching over and ruffling her hair again, the old woman gave her a smile. "And I know that you have, too. I can see it in that face you're makin’. Saw you comin’ down earlier, and figured ‘ah, here comes another one… ’ So… naturally, I suppose... "

    Eyes going to her hand still on the table, Historia had no words. She didn't have anything to say. She didn't know what to say, as the atmosphere between them began to part and the silence grew; she didn't know what it meant to feel that way for another person. Let alone, a stranger she just met. For someone as caring and kind as this old woman appeared to be, she herself was—She felt the old woman’s hand on her head fall away, and looked back over.

    "My daughter…" There were now tears in the corners of the old woman's eyes. "... They burn the bodies, you know that? Could just be ash by now... and I wouldn't even know." But, through the tears, in those eyes, was nothing except pride. "She's alive," she continued saying, fiercely. "Otherwise, I’d know… ain’t any Titans worse than me, after all."

    Searching the old woman's face, Historia placed her own bandaged hand over one of hers. It was covered in calluses. "I believe she is... has to be…" She looked into her eyes; eyes so full of what she’d never received from her own mother nor her father nor from anyone else. "Can I... stay here a bit longer, before I move on...?"

    The old woman nodded. "Of course. I wouldn't have let you say no for an answer, anyway." She wiped her tears away, all hint of heartfelt emotion of the past buried down deep again. Locked in a cage only she could open. "My name is Isolde. Isolde Lenz."

    Her father's words coming back to her, Historia nuzzled her head into the old woman's shoulder, squeezing her hand tighter, and returned her smile. "Krista."

    "Welcome to your new home, Krista."

    A smile that was all too fake for her own good.

    Because she was better. One of a kind.
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:38 AM.

  5. #5
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    A / N: This is chapter is meant to be read after Chapters 1 & 2 of The Harsh Mistress of the City Part 1.

    The story from here on runs co-currently with Chapter 3 of The Harsh Mistress of the City Part 1 and beyond.

    Chapter 3


    Suzanne

    Suzanne, head Servant to Jörg Kramer of the Kramer Merchant Association within the Walls, stood in the doorway to her employer’s study, hands clasped in front of her apron awaiting an answer to the question: your son is missing .

    Shortly following the Fall of Wall Maria, news had come in the form of fleeing refugees that Quinta, the frontier District to the south of Shiganshina where the Titans had broken through that was also thought lost, had in fact survived the initial onslaught by way of its people barricading themselves behind its gates.

    This was both good news and bad news.

    Quinta was where the main Kramer estate was located and where the majority of the Kramer Merchant Association’s financial records were kept. Which meant that with its gates barred the Titans were unable to tear through the District, keeping everyone safe and everything intact. But, this also meant that anyone currently trapped in Quinta could possibly ransack it, and Suzanne doubted that the handful of servants, though she’d hand-picked them herself,would be able to stop whomever it may be.

    Jörg had brought all his bodyguards along when he moved to Fuerth where he’d been conducting business from for the past several days and it wasn’t so simple a thing to just make the journey back, let alone trying to enter the District. Not to mention their hands were full dealing with the refugees that were still pouring into Fuerth and the surrounding territories within Wall Rose, spread out between his holdings in what was previously the Interior and there wasn’t anything he could do about it, either. Though, he couldn’t obviously sit idly by and let all he’d accomplished over the decades in building up his legacy be for naught, so he’d called on a favor from the Royal Capital. One that he’d been disinclined to share, only that the matter would be taken care of shortly after they’d arrive in Quinta.

    Whereas, in the meantime, his son, Mathias, still too young to sit among his father’s inner circle and much too fiery for his own good, was left to twiddle his thumbs as he watched the rosy world he knew crumble before his sheltered eyes and the days went by and ever since the day before yesterday Suzanne noticed his growing anxiety. Pacing around his room in the guest quarters late at night unable to get a wink of sleep because all his thoughts were of Rita. Of the childhood friend he hadn’t seen in over a year, and who may very well be in Quinta with, reportedly, half of its remaining population, cut off, isolated, and last seen trying to save a man and his daughter from an overturned wagon in the fields, not far from its gate or so one refugee had said, who’d witnessed it and went around parading the gallant tale of the ‘girl with the golden locks, who stabbed one of those things right in its stinking eye and felled it in one blow, straight through to the other side’. Though unfortunately unable to save the man and his daughter, Rita’s bravery allowed him and several others the chance to escape. As for what happened to her after, he shrugged, ‘eh, can’t say’ .

    And, though she’d assured him that Rita was alive, that she’d taken refuge with the others in Quinta, wasn’t enough for the scion of the Kramer Merchant Association. He had to see her, with his own two eyes, and this want only further propelled his anxieties; which, as proven by his abrupt absence this morning, had finally reached a peak.

    Not knowing if she were alive or dead, the girl he loved and was like a little sister to she in kind, had gnawed at him until enough was enough and he’d ran off on his own just last night and now he was gone; joined the first line of volunteers, soldiers and civilians alike, out into the now Titan-infested territory in the hopes to save what and who they could, or at least that was what she’d gathered, having asked the Military Police officers and spoken with a few of the lesser drunken Garrison soldiers who’d been signing up these unfortunate men and women—the grand majority of them the same refugees who narrowly avoided becoming Titan food with nothing left to lose because they’d already lost everything and recalled the one stand out among the crowd: the boy in the nice clothes with an air of nobility and the refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer despite his application being denied.

    Obviously, he’d found a way around it, and Suzanne’s hands twisted cloth, watching his father, this man who’d done nothing but unhurriedly divide his shares and shuffle his holdings since his son left, the ‘how’ Mathias left prevalent in her mind, remembering that particular morning where she’d dealt with that worker and he’d barged into one of his father’s many meetings, both of them unannounced, uninvited, and loathed by their recipients. She, receiving a threat to all she held dear. He, told his concerns were still being looked into, even though everyone knew they weren’t.

    Quinta had already been considered abandoned, left to fend for itself by the Kramer Merchant Association and its peers, the Royal Government, and even the King himself. Jörg and the others like him saw it as an accountable consequence, a minor setback at best, though they still funded this expedition that his son sneaked his way on. The Royal Government considered them a lost cause, yet they still sent soldiers to recruit and organize this expedition. The King spoke through his advisor, who from no word had reached Suzanne’s ears what was to be done about Quinta, silent since the Fall began, which only meant one thing: all eyes were on the refugees and what was to be done with them. Where to send them. Dispose of them.

    And it wouldn’t surprise her if this expedition was just the first of many, as Jörg still didn’t bother to look up well after he was finished, his coins sorted, payments signed, taxes and levies and owes collected, written down in his record book, as always, so she dared inquire again, falling back into her old habits, once again.

    “So what’re ya gonna do about yer son, hah? Did ya know he knows about the artworks?” she blurted out, accent and all that she’d been doing so well in biting back on for the past twenty years. Until now, that is. Until her passion flared, spurred by Mathias’ own and the lack of it within his father, oh! and it all came trickling back and blinding her better judgement red for but a moment like the blood dripping down from the sewer grates of Mitras above.

    The disrespectful roughness in her voice brought his eyes up from his record book. It was a scandalous tome of transgressions, its pages dank and rancid from Jörg’s ever dripping brow, hunched over it relentlessly each night same time same day, every second to last of the week and though she knew it was forbidden the only thing that would coax him into tearing his eyes from the damned thing to lift a finger to help his son was the knowledge that Mathias knew where his priceless artworks were kept, hidden beneath the Kramer family mansion, ever since the day he and Rita first met.

    It was a secret he’d told no one, not even his wife before she passed, and she herself only learned of recently from one of his midnight fevers, induced by his lack of proper rest, day in, day out, week after week, month after month, of nothing but work. In one of those rare moments where the man, in his delirium, saw and spoke to not the girl he rescued from the slums beneath Mitras but his wife who died too young, telling her of his woes.

    A loss that had consumed him, body and mind, descending further and further into his fortune, entrusting her to care for his son in his stead while he worked tirelessly to see his legacy secured. His artworks were the most prized of his pieces that if discovered, if stolen, could be worth more than the Kramer Merchant Association and its assets combined. He trusted nobody but himself to retrieve it. His only solace was that nobody else knew of their existence except the two of them in this room, making her swear she’d never utter what he’d let slip after realizing his mistake, and that was a liability, too.

    He was inclined to, if he so wished, and had every right, to dispose of her, then and there.

    But, then, she told him of the threat she’d received. That if Mathias was in the company of whom she thought he was then he was in danger from more than just the Titans or the wrath of his father and if he had agreed to reveal the location of the artworks in exchange for “safe passage” to Quinta, there was no guarantee said person would keep his word. Mathias would be murdered, and, then, whatever happened after, artworks or not, meant nothing. If his son died, his legacy died, and then Jörg would lose everything and be just another refugee only with empty things to keep him company, for the rest of his life.

    She wouldn’t allow that to happen. Neither.

    So, uncaring whether or not of the consequence, she told him of this man, her connection to him.

    Whereupon, what little color remained drained from his sickly face as he turned even paler still. His eyes, hidden behind his loose, black strands of hair, lit by the candlelight upon his desk, seemed to blaze. His lip curled back, showing his once fine teeth now yellowed. He rose from his chair, fat fingers reaching out as if to grasp her throat, and, then, he stopped. He slumped back down, and stared for a long time at his precious record book, until he heaved a heavy sigh and looked up at her with the eyes of the same man who’d rescued her lifetime ago. It was the man who loved his family, his wife, his son, and a sliver of hope went through her, only to become a shiver of disbelief down her backside as that man vanished again, abruptly as he’d surfaced, buried by the gold weighing heavily upon his heart and thereupon he spoke for the first time.

    “Then just let the boy die.”

    It was his final answer, laid bare.

    And she began to protest, only for him to raise his hand to silence her.

    “I gave explicit instructions to turn him away. They didn’t work, so it’s out of my hands now,” he said, sounding defeated. Bitter. Disgusted. And it’s all because of you , his eyes seemed to say. “I’m done trying to steer that boy on the right path.”

    She coughed. Loosened her collar. Choose her words carefully, this time. What she wanted, in exchange. The last request of a humble servant; his best. “Then let me accompany the agent you sent for. He can secure you estate. I can make sure your son is safe. He has been my responsibility, after all.”

    “And after?”

    “I’ll leave your employ. You’ll never see me again.”

    “Fine, fine,” he said with another heavy sigh. “The ‘agent’ arrives in a week. Two, if he’s late. But, know this,” he warned, holding up three stubby fingers. “This is the third time.”

    Grateful, she bowed and left.


    Suzanne - Main Servant of the Kramer family & tutor of Mathias
    circa 845
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:40 AM.

  6. #6
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 4

    Ymir

    Ymir had no way of knowing how long she’d been in the ruined church, but the sun had risen into the sky and sunk beneath the earth several times since nor how long she should stay. The voice had yet to return, though Marcel’s walking corpse ever kept her company. Without that voice to guide her, she decided to wait, gathering enough twigs, branches, and whatever else to build a fire to keep warm and heal her battered and beaten bones, spending her newfound freedom simply gazing up at the stars that were now there through the hole in the ceiling.

    Fascinated by those twinkles of white bright against the night, she often found herself looking to the brightest, most brilliant one, reciting and repeating words learned so long ago, once forgotten and now returned. Words she couldn’t yet place, from whom and from where—much like the rest of her past, spoken to her by that voice in her head.

    Though, as with the letters, words, and phrases which slowly came back to her, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, so too would everything else.

    But, for some reason still unknown to her, Ymir knew that she couldn't stay here forever and would need to continue on, in order to do so. To keep moving still, as the voice inside her head kept telling her, a constant faint whisper in her ear ever since.

    And tonight was the night it spoke again , she thought. She could feel it in her bones, as she stared into the fire’s heart, watching its flames lick the air and devour the wood, again reciting and repeating those words learned so long ago as wisps of light danced and disappeared and embers fell to the ground.

    That while words held meaning, names held power.

    They were undying labels, etched on the actions of the past, present, and future; a representation of who you are, and what, you were—your identity to the rest of the world until the end of time.

    So, then, what was the significance of hers?

    Ymir lumbered back inside the church, glancing up at the beginning of a cloudy, grey morning before settling underneath the podium the same as she’d done her first night and every night after.

    Closing her eyes, she thought of that voice in her head, the one which was cruel, ordering her to get up and march. March until her feet sored, eyes straight ahead, facing front. March until she couldn’t march anymore. She knew they were different now and that this one was a man’s, while the other was a woman’s. And, like before, it shouted at her, at them, warning that if they didn’t advance that their superiors would do worse things to them than their enemies ever could. No, on the contrary, to be killed by the enemy would be a blessing.

    She remembered his voice over the hum and drops of the shells, over the bullets whizzing past her head, the screams of the dying all around, and that whistle blowing in her ear. With it came the sight, smell, and feeling of the ground, muddy, blood-drowned, and ridden with holes; the sweat on her brow, rolling down her cheek; the stink of gunpowder, emptied bowels. Of her dirty uniform, the rifle in her small hands grasped tight with knuckles white.

    She tried to put a face to the voice, but couldn’t—her head still hurt something horrible when she did—and got out from under the podium, deciding to take a walk away from the church and into the wilderness, thinking that by retracing her steps she might more easily make sense of the things which assaulted her mind—these scarlet flashes of pain, and her past which accompanied them, the boy, the voices, and all.


    Her journey of self-discovery led her to the entrance of a grove within the giant forest, and glancing up at the luminous twilight through the canopy of the trees, casting silver pools of light upon the ground she now trod, highlighting the many shadows surrounding her, did she see them clearly: the monsters—that which she never wanted to be again, their eyes shut and bodies still, slumbering.

    And, gathering her courage, she approached one of them.

    The rumble in her heart became quiet, thinking of her own ugliness, of what she'd been and what she still was, deep down, as the voice in her head abruptly changed, softly telling her to put her hand upon it, but not why. When she asked, it only said that anything might happen, or nothing at all, the other option being to stay her hand, leave this place, and never learn what she wanted most.

    As always, she didn’t have much of a choice.

    Thus, holding out her hand, with Marcel besides her watching intently, Ymir touched its skin, leathery and warm, and kept it there, waiting for something to happen. Anything, or nothing at all.

    She waited.

    And waited.

    Until, at last, she saw it: a light. A pale orange light outside her peripheral vision, and her head turned so her eyes could take in the full view: a line of wire at the edge of the grove, half-concealed in the forest’s dark and half-revealed in the moon's light. Twisted, haphazard, barbs of razor-sharp, skin-sticking steel wires, and, peering closer, all of them were trampled, their frames flattened against the earth as faint flickering flames smoldered just beyond them and wisps of smoke rose to the sky.

    Ymir took a hesitant step toward the wires, careful not to remove her hand from the flesh of the monster it was up against, when there was a hum in the air, turning the quiet in her heart dead silent, and she stopped, frozen still. The sound had come from the flames, deeper in the forest. Deeper in the dark.

    She waited.

    For anything, or nothing at all.

    The hum became louder, and more intense, and with it, footsteps; sloshing heavy beats upon the ground.

    Each footstep fell with a distinct purpose, a harrowing, and impetus rhythm, toward her.

    Her silent heart sunk down into the depths of her gut, her insides swimming around as she fought to keep it down. Her breath caught in her throat, and she suffocated in that silence, the hum a roaring pain to her ears, the footsteps so close she could hear the jostle of bodies, side by side, and the rattle of weapons, rifles, pressed against their shoulders.

    Deadly afraid, she dared pull her hand from the monster though the hum was still there.

    The footsteps were still there.

    Get closer, and closer, and closer still, and she looked over, but Marcel wasn’t there nor was the forest, staring at not the thick canopy of giant trees, but a clear blue sky full of large, round-shaped objects in the sky, peppered by clouds of smoke. And the monsters, yes, they were still there, and they were now moving across a vast empty scarred land, full of holes. Then, she looked down at herself, to the rifle in her small, shaking hands, and her dirty, mud-covered, blood-smeared uniform, again; the bodies all around, ridden with red; broken, bullet-riddled children dressed in uniforms like her own, festering with worms and maggots and torn apart by hungering beasts and all manner of other telling signs of prolonged death and decay. Half-bodies, half-skeletons, limbs and torsos and heads sunk into the earth, sodden and soaking in scarlet.

    It was the terrible day she’d her first taste of combat.

    And ducking her helmeted head as the hammering of artillery burst above her head, she was thrown from their shockwave and found herself sprawled on the ground, pulled back into the mud and the blood and the stench of that battlefield she knew well. And unto there she sank, the battlefield a muffled quake to her shell-shocked ears, before a hand reached down and saved her, only to push her once more into the fray.

    It was the voice of the man, her commanding officer, but before she could get a look at him the shadows beyond the wires became the lines of human shapes, and she raised the rifle, instinctively, expertly, and fired at them, and reloaded, and fired, and reloaded, and fired, until it clicked—until her rounds were spent and then the smoke cleared and she saw even more bodies littering the ground.

    Approaching one, fresh with wounds, face down in the mud, she turned it over with the butt of her rifle, and her eyes widened. Her mouth opened, and she heard something above her, its shadow looming, an enormous hand reaching down, and she screamed, cowering when something hit it, sending it reeling back, steaming. Standing in its place was a woman with a joyous smile and beckoning hand, juxtaposed by fresh corpses torched black and being tossed in with so many others piled high in a mass grave as the scene shifted and strewn all around her were charred bodies, what was left of their rotten, maggot-ridden flesh hanging off their blackened bones, wrapped in tattered uniforms that once might’ve been blue, or grey, now soiled red.

    Ymir instinctively backed away.

    A dread overtook her because, yes, there was power in a name, and she didn’t want to think what the womans’ might be. Only, just the same as she surmised the things previously unknown and questioned by her would be revealed, the words, phrases, and symbols of her past, through these fragmented memories too would she remember that woman’s—and the man’s—name, like her own, the boy’s, and thus more about her past. So, she swallowed her fear and stepped forward, approaching the woman and standing before her, shaking like a wet and wounded dog with its tail between its legs.

    The woman opened her heart to her, and Ymir fell into her arms, burying her face into her breasts. Caring and kind, the woman stroked her hair and whispered to her, telling her that everything was going to be alright. That there was nothing to be afraid of. Though, that was a lie. No amount of comforting embrace or soothing tone would hide the blood thirst behind the woman’s words—that hunger, hidden underneath the mask of an angel skinned alive, of the devil disguised.

    Yes, this woman was the nightmare.

    She was the battlefield.

    But, if Ymir wanted to know her purpose for being reborn, she would have to accept the woman. Brave the nightmare. Traverse the battlefield. Wrestle the beast. Strike down the devil and emerge victorious upon the other side.

    She looked up into that face, so very kind.

    She smiled, said okay, before like an infant in her mother’s womb, now a child vying for her mother’s love.

    And that was when the façade ended.

    The woman’s angelic face melted away, taking her left eye along with it, showing the lidless socket. Her smile became a scowl, the back row of her teeth peeking through the gaping hole of shrapnel-mangled tissue of her upper cheek on that same side. Then, her everything disintegrated, slipping through her fingertips.

    It was like sand.

    Ymir moved her hands toward her chest, and fell to her knees, and then curled up on the spot where the woman had just been.

    And in the end, surrounded by the many fallen from that day, did the surviving soldiers chant amidst their victory, and it was then that Ymir learned the woman’s name.

    Hail, Helos!

    Hail, Helos!

    Hail, Helos!


    The harsh light of the late morning blinding her as she sat up, hands resting in her lap, head down, Ymir wiped crimson spittle fell from her mouth and looked around. Those things, the monsters—no, these Titans —hadn't noticed her presence and since moved on.

    Standing up, she yawned, stretched, and then made her way back to the ruined church and to the statues. She stopped to look at them, remembering what they were now.

    Angels.

    They were called angels.

    And spinning around to the rest of the place behind her, she let out a tiny laugh and didn't give them or any of it a second thought as she walked outside into the waking world, one step closer to her past.

    A new world.

    A different world.

    And it was time to find her place in it.
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:41 AM.

  7. #7
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 5

    Historia

    Thorpe sat near the edge of Wall Sheena, close to the outlying District of Yarckel. Other than having to acquire fresh water from other sources during seasons of dry spell, usually from the forest not far away, it was self-sufficient. Almost everybody lived in self-build homes in a wide circle, each connected to a separate longhouse made primarily of wood, their floors lightly covered in hay or grass. The livestock and food were all located inside these longhouses, sectioned off from one another, maintained in rotating shifts by everyone in the village, young and old, and as a result the community was tight-knit. It kept stress down, work steady, and brought them closer day by day.

    Its main purpose was the raising of pigs, chickens, cows, and goats and the production of grains, stalks of wheat, barley, and others, with only the fattest and well harvested hauled off to the Interior, where the product was further processed foremost for those citizens within Mitras, the Royal Capital, then the leftovers distributed to everyone else in Wall Sheena, and last—and certainly the least of the Royal Government’s concern—whatever remained given to the residents in the Underground, all but forgotten by those living on the surface.

    Before the fall of Wall Maria, it was one of several villages that provided primarily for Wall Sheena, but since its fall, resources—which were already scarce enough with the overcrowded population—were being stretched so thin now because two Walls were forced to provide for three, what survived, and had been somewhat before, and thus with so many “extra” mouths to feed, that Isolde said it was simply a matter of time until the Royal Government would take drastic measures; that they would probably send a number of the refugees from Maria’s fall somewhere else. Exile them, she’d said. Throw them to the wolves so they wouldn't have to worry about their already limited resources dwindling down to nothing in less than a year forward. In other words, the government plot that’d been on the tip of everyone’s tongue since Shiganshina.

    This also meant that Thorpe and these other villages were working twice as fast, and producing twice as fast, to meet the needs of the people.

    Currently, Historia was getting her bandage replaced after one of these laborious day’s normal events.

    “It’s healin’ well,” Isolde said, peeking underneath the grimy bandage on her hand before gently unwrapping completely and setting it aside. There was a visible pink gash in the center of her palm, and Historia winced when Isolde wet it in alcohol. “But’ll leave a scar alright.”

    Her mind flashed back to the drunken carriage driver, each sting of pain she felt like another slash at his throat until the new bandage was on and the pain subsided and the memory of his death faded, too. Soon enough, she was staring at his lifeless body on the dirt road, eyes wide and mouth agape, gazing back up in shock and surprise. No word had yet reached her ears of a body nor the carriage being found, but, rubbing her wrist as she brought her scarred hand closer toward her chest, she wondered how long she should continue to stay here.

    The Fall of Maria was still fresh in many peoples’ minds. The day that red, huge, skinless Titan peered over the Wall, staring down at the citizens of Shiganshina, right before the outer gate exploded inward, and then disappeared almost as if it’d never really been there to begin with, though there were those who swore otherwise. Of the one that broke through the second gate, the inner gate, into the territory of Wall Maria itself, which cannons had no effect on, and spewed fire from its mouth, its body armored head to toe. The news of Quinta District, a District not far from Shiganshina that was surrounded during their evacuation, those within its gates barely managing to shut them in time before a similar fate befell them, as well. The whispers of a government plot, a last resort, that villages such as Isolde’s were being pushed to prevent—it wasn’t safe for either her or the people living here. Eventually, perhaps even already, they would find her. They would silence her. Then she wouldn’t be able to learn the truth about her family, about her father, whether the stories he’d raved and ranted of weren't just that: stories.

    Historia looked up from her hand, watching Isolde prepare their late evening meal. She was a tough old woman, not as old as she looked, years’ worth of hardship having taken its toll, and since becoming a part of her world three weeks ago to the day after she first stole her way in, had immediately put her to work around her farm.

    Actually an extension of the house farther out in the territory, this farm was one of the few larger properties connected to the village and was responsible for herding sheep that weren’t kept in the village like the rest of the livestock for fear of wolves, setting down different crops like corn and potatoes, and producing bales and stacks from vast abundance of wheat, barley, and rye in the fields.

    The work seemed far too large for one person alone.

    But, according to those in the village, Isolde managed just fine by herself until she or Achi came along, excluding the help she occasionally got from the village children whose families were indebted to her for some reason or another, and those individuals who simply wanted to help—which wasn't so rare a thing around these parts.

    Already it was a common daily task for her now.

    Bruises and sores regularly covered her body, dirt and sweat her clothing, and tiredness her eyes with dark circles beneath.

    Nothing she wasn't used to before.

    Except, unlike before, when other people would look at her, they saw a delicate creature taken in by a lonely mother. Their stares, their whispering, their accusations and assumptions—they wouldn't go away. Things had changed, but not for the better, exchanging one for the other, and at times it honestly felt like nothing ever truly would.

    Historia hated that word: nothing .

    She could never escape it no matter which way she turned. Left, right, up, down, north, east, south, west—it didn't matter, and, catching a glimpse of a mouse as it scurried back into its hole in the wall, whether she was one of these mice that scurried along the floor, or one of the hawks that circled outside in the skies above, waiting for them out in the open to snatch them up, she didn’t know.

    Was she the mouse, or the hawk? Was she the sheep, or the wolf? Was she something to be used, like her mother and father before her? Or something to be cherished, like Isolde always reminded her?

    While she was learning a great deal in her time here—most notably the importance of herbs and medicine—from Isolde, a relatively peaceful existence mending the locals’ various cuts and scrapes wasn't enough.

    Her hand closed into a fist. It hurt.

    It just wasn't enough.

    She was still nothing.

    She was still worthless.


    Night approached swiftly, and Historia was just finishing up in Isolde’s study when she chanced upon a book tucked away in a corner, well-hidden and well-worn.

    Isolde’s study was one of the first things Historia had been introduced to on the farm. Given free reign of it so long as she kept it well-maintained, it was well worth the extra work. Through the books in the study, she knew better all the things Isolde taught her about medicine, herbs, ointments, and ailments and the mending of those cuts and scrapes. The truth behind them. That there was one she overlooked was a delight, because she previously thought she’d read every single one of them twice over already and was hungering for something new.

    It’d been sitting there for some time.

    She blew on the front and wiped the dust off and opened to its first page, seeing it blank, then began to leaf through the next several pages expecting it to be full of diagrams and instructions related to medicine and bodily functions like the rest. For an old woman who spent most of her time instructing others in how to properly rack a field, Isolde having a serious study that smelled of moldy paper and dry ink was a welcome, if not entirely unexpected surprise and certainly whatever was contained in this book would offer no different. Upon a first look it seemed exactly that: just another in-depth examination of the body, inside and out, detailing everything from skin to muscle to bone but with one distinct difference—it was in a text she couldn’t read.

    While she could decipher that names were given to each part examined, what appeared to be with a brief description or two of their make-up, functions, and about the specimen itself, there were also strange measurements and weights, unorthodox comparisons and differences, a plethora of information about something that looked like an intricate, connected root with its stem at the head. It was a size and body of work much more advanced than anyone within the Wall excluding what physicians in Mitras might be capable of understanding let alone using and only until she attempted to sound out some of what was written on the pages that the realization dawned on her: these were just like her father’s ramblings only in written form!

    She was sure of it. These words, these symbols, this… language … Historia had heard it before.

    Lost in his stories about the King, the King’s adviser, the whole lot of nobility that did their family wrong, she’d heard her father often mumble to himself using words and phrases that nobody understood. To most, the whines of a washed-up alcoholic, once noble and now a pauper, but, to a few, to her he’d been trying to say something. Something unspoken, which couldn’t be uttered openly. Something damning, and horrible. Something that sent those men to murder him, her mother, and have her taken away, the men in black who carried out the deed.

    And if she wanted to know whether his stories were real or ramblings, she’d have to seek them out. Learn more than just the words on a page and uncover the truth behind her father’s—her family’s—descent in obscurity under the watchful eyes of the Royal Government and nearly severed forever in the immediate aftermath of Wall Maria’s fall.

    Historia closed the book and put it back where it lay. She wouldn’t ask about it even though the old woman didn’t seem like the kind of person to hold many secrets. The fact that her father wasn’t completely delusional was enough. The fact that she still lived, was enough. Thus, her next course of action would be to find a way to Mitras. Records, reports, registries, documents, notes—anything that might help her discover more about her family’s history. About the Reiss noble bloodline. Only, they knew her face. Showing it in the Royal Capital would be foolish and her father hadn’t died to see the last of his legacy willingly throw herself to the wolves. No, she would have to become that wolf, and claw her enemies to shreds. Cut out their throats like they did her mother’s. Sink her teeth into the truth, and not let go. She already had blood on her hands, after all.

    But she couldn’t do it as she was. She couldn’t do it alone.

    And it was then she remembered: Isolde's daughter.

    Her only daughter.

    Her real daughter.

    The old woman spoke a lot about her; about her being a soldier in the military and one of the protectors of humanity. A member of the Scouting Legion, the only branch of the military to extend their arms outside the Walls and face humanity’s greatest threat head-on. Said that, in the end, Riecka and the others were the only thing between them and those things. Their saviors, putting their lives on the line for a cause greater than themselves, and their martyrs, dying for that very same cause in humanity's struggle to survive against the Titans. Those things, those monsters which breached Wall Maria and its lands within. Two of them, the Colossus and Armored—as they’d been officially named by the Royal Government—being the ones personally to blame. Those two, specifically, needed to be dealt with before they breached Wall Rose, too, and Sheena after, and that the military's soldiers would stop them. That the Scouts would stop them. That they would eventually take back Wall Maria and drive the Titans out.

    She couldn't rely on the Military Police. They would be on the lookout for her. Nor the Garrison, who were a lax bunch of drunkards. But, the soldiers in the Scouting Legion. They were people to be proud of. People worth value—fighting for what they believed and sacrificing themselves for what humanity might accomplish in beating the Titans once and for all.

    Historia stared at her feet, the book back in the corner, and whispered her father's words beneath her breath, adding to it.

    From here on, your name is Krista Lenz, a soldier of humanity.

    A savior.

    A martyr.

    A wolf.

    A person worth value.

    Special.

    And she knew where she needed to go next.


    Isolde Lenz - farmer and resident of Thorpe & caketaker of Achi Almen and Historia Reiss
    circa 845
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:42 AM.

  8. #8
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 6

    Ymir

    Since leaving the church, gradually, bit by bit, the faint whispers from her life before which she’d glimpsed via the cadence of marching boots and war drums were becoming discernible. More of her first battle that was fought long ago, yes, but also of two times that she couldn’t place either before or after it. One involved a bed, with that woman, Helos, standing over her and saying something as she stroked her hair. She wore a necklace that glowed as bright as a star. While the other was the man, her commander, and another woman—a different woman than Helos—who was pacing up and down a lineup of uniformed children, inspecting them. Her dreams switched between the two frequently, brought upon by those blinding flashes of red. Piercing pains against her frontal lobe, bombarding her with frequent fragments, each night, every night, to the point where she got little sleep for fear that simply shutting her eyes would induce another skull-splitting headache.

    In each dream, out of all the other words spoken, one stuck out to her: progenitor. Emphasized by Helos’ soothing lullaby and her commander’s whipping tongue, it was a word which held no meaning to her as she was, but must’ve been important at some point. Why else would it be so prevalent in her dreams? Regardless, it was just one part in a larger puzzle that she wanted nothing to do with. She just wanted them, these dreams, these nightmares, all of it, to stop. Except in order for that to happen she had to learn more about the significance, if any, of her name and why she was forced into such a life of punishment, and who, or what, was responsible.

    Only then could she rest.

    Only then could she finally be free.

    But until that time came, she was back to her original goal of finding people, shelter, a place to put her head that wasn’t another tree now that the ruined church was however far behind her.

    She had to keep moving.

    Still traveling through the giant forest, not any closer to the way out, Ymir had been surviving on nuts, berries, and whatever leftover meat clung to the remains of animals killed by predators. She didn’t have the means to hunt them on her own, and even if she did though her strength had returned her lack of sleep made her off-balance, ready to keel over as it took all her concentration not to continuously run into trees.

    She hadn’t a new change of clothes in several days, coming across no villages or so much as a secluded hut, forced to either attempt to wash herself in whatever body of water large enough she could find, or go bare.

    With the countless swarms of insects and irritating, itchy undergrowth her decision on that had been made easily, though she still stripped nude to bath; which, again, she could also barely wash herself, just submerging herself until the bloodsuckers went away. Rid herself of her own stench except that didn’t last long as her progress was slow and tedious.

    There were times when she would have to cover herself in mud to hide it, or wait out both the Titans that ambled into her and the wolves or other predators that shortly followed by climbing the nearest tree or a thicket of fallen leaves or within the twisted insides of the tree itself, squeezing herself in as far as she dared hoping they wouldn’t follow.

    Most Titans were mindless, short-attentioned things. They lost interest quickly and moved on crashing against the giant trees like drunkards between tables. Some weren't so simple, content to sit and wait for her to come down. Few were actually intelligent. These ones utilized their misshapen bodies in such ways to attempt to reach her, though luckily none had. In all instances she had to wait until nightfall to safely come down, and then it was what lurked in the shadows, stalking her, that she had to contend with.

    There were some nights where she woke up not knowing how she got where she was, guided by her voices. Which didn’t help.

    Without much sleep she was ever one misplaced foot on the verge of complete collapse at times, where the pain felt as if someone was taking a mallet to her skull, chiseling it away piece by piece. Wherever these voices led her often coaxed more of her past to the surface, which only caused the pain to worsen.

    And it was today she suffered for it again because she must’ve blacked out after one such journey, touching the back of her head, hoping she didn’t crack open her skull from the fall. Running from a pair of wolves had been the last thing she recalled, where she’d managed to drag herself into a place to hide as the sun rose and the Titans scared them off.

    She ran her fingers through her hair, expecting to find something but there was nothing and she frowned.

    It must’ve mended itself, as if it never happened, again.

    All of her wounds disappeared overtime, regardless of their severity, and she still didn’t know why. She suspected that Marcel might, but he was silent. Trying to force it out of him—out of her jumbled recollection of his memories that accompanied his screams—only caused her more pain. Whatever the reason, it was a gift that came with a cost, and coupled with the pain induced from her own lost memories, sapped her strength away, leaving her fatigued and unable to do much until it healed leaving her vulnerable and helpless while she recovered so she quickly tried to get a hold of her surroundings until she realized she was no longer on the forest floor, but inside a cave and lying on a soft bed of leaves.

    There was a light somewhere just outside her field of vision and she turned her head toward it. As she did she spotted something peeking from behind a corner and shook it back and forth, cradling it in her hands, but it'd vanished, darting out of sight.

    Was she just hallucinating again?

    She looked at Marcel, but he only cocked his head like a grotesque dog in human skin.

    “About time you were awake,” a voice said.

    Her eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness within the cave and she twisted back. A woman stood behind her. Around her above and below were these pointed rocks that looked like teeth inside of a Titan’s mouth, closing in. The woman appeared to be holding something over her shoulder. A stick? No, a spear?

    “Don’t know what you thought you were doing out there, but I can tell what you were doing. And it wasn’t smart, rolling around and yelling like that in the rain. How did you survive out there, being that stupid? Hah?”

    Her features were grim, two massive cuts across her face, hair cut unevenly short, crudely as if by a knife, brandishing old marks, old burns, along her muscular forearms and, yet her movements were somewhat delayed as she set the spear down, her eyes were bright and intense, betraying her youthfulness.

    “Ada,” she said, pointing at herself.

    Ymir hesitated. Then, she opened her mouth, struggling to get the words out though she’d spent so much time saying it back to herself alone. “Y.. m… Ym… ir.” So much time.

    Alone. Her and her hallucinations.

    “Well, Ymir, you’re one lucky kid.” Ada crossed her arms, leaning against the cave wall. “Kelly should be back later, so in the meantime I’m in charge.”

    Ymir blinked at her, confusion setting across her face. She wanted to ask who this Kelly was, but her name was all she could manage to say. Her throat was dry, constricted. So alone… her and her hallucinations.

    “Our leader,” Ada answered her unasked question. “Just wait. She’ll be here. Get some rest. Gonna be a long day.”

    Lying back down, Ymir placed her hands over her stomach and gazed up at the ceiling of the cave, unsure what was to come next. But, she didn’t care, just relieved that she’d found people again. She wasn’t alone anymore. And the thought of what her life had been up until now, those many years of torment, stuck as one of those monsters, a monster she never wanted to ever be again, brought tears to her eyes. Before she knew it, she was crying—she didn’t have to live in fear anymore, and, in the moment, the damp, safe silence that followed was the greatest comfort in the entire world.


    Ada - survivor from outside the Walls & former soldier in the Scouting Legion
    circa 845
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:43 AM.

  9. #9
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 7

    Historia

    In two years the military would start their next Training Corps. She had to be ready. In preparation, she would do more work around the farm, build up her strength. Remove Historia far from her current state of mind, and develop her persona as Krista further. A monumental task, but—if she wanted to succeed—this is what she must do. Historia needed to die, and be reborn.

    In order to do that, she found herself back in Isolde’s study, in the late night.

    Plans for the first undertakings to cull the refugees, so a messenger who’d traveled all the way from Fuerth District and heading to Mitras, didn’t say but was relayed back to them as such by Isolde, were being made by the Royal Government, which meant their long days spent doing twice the usual workload around the farm would start to come to an end sooner. Which meant more time to indulge in whatever free-time Isolde gave them. Which meant, for Historia, a means to explore the study in-depth.

    And it this one day when work was slow that she was able to get away from it for a brief time, using a stool to reach the higher places on the shelves that she couldn’t before, thereby opening a whole new chest to explore the contents of, a wealth that she’d never the chance to have until now, for her mind to hoard.

    It took her several days after to read through the majority of what books she found, her fingers bandaged from repeated cuts because of how fast she turned their pages. Something that Isolde teased her for, telling her she’d grow a head too big for her shoulders if she kept going at the pace she was. But I’m glad to see someone enjoys to read as much as I do , the old woman had said bemusingly.

    Isolde’s love was a small comfort in the world Historia knew, and just that. She couldn’t stay. She couldn’t replace Isolde’s daughter nor act like another in turn. The dream of a peaceful existence constantly tugged at her heart on nights such as those and only the carriage driver’s hand tugged harder.

    She killed him in her sleep over and over again, watching the blood seep off her hand, down her wrist, onto the ground and shattered glass. Stabbed his throat, again and again and again and again , until morning came. Whereupon, her thoughts were consumed by that of her mother, begging for her life. Of her father, sending her away. Those weeks being rode around, forced from place to place, touched and defiled and raped, until nothing was enough.

    And that was how she knew that it was only just that; because her most comforting moment was when nothing was enough .

    Where she finally stared down upon the carriage driver's lifeless, convulsing corpse lying on the dirt road, covered in his own blood, and knew, for the very first time, that she was more than nothing .

    That nobody—not Isolde—was ever going to change that.

    She took a book from one of the top shelves, and blew on its cover.

    The plethora of medical knowledge wasn’t the only reading material that Isolde’s study had to offer. It also held on its shelves a colorful assortment of books related to the Titans. Many were simple stories written down from the mouth of old wives, of legends and tall-tales for frightening misbehaving children, but some were first and secondhand eyewitness accounts from before The Fall—one of which caught her rapt attention, that she held in her hands now once more. It was entitled Titan’s Son and detailed the adventures of a boy born from the belly of a Titan and locked away, or so claimed, and the girl who taught him about the world then set him free.

    Together, they braved many perils.

    One such peril was the boy’s harrowing encounter with a Titan outside the Walls, face to face with what could only be one of a special kind because the author had given it a name: Ogre . Described as imposingly large, with bulging, venous muscles, it'd been strong, and fast. Far stronger and much faster than any previous written encounters by the Scouting Legion.

    Another was the pair’s involvement with the messy internal affairs between the Scouting Legion, the military’s misfits, and the Military Police Brigade, the military’s elite, that had boiled over from years of wasted resources and even less to show for them—an issue that she discovered was continued to still be debated over today, when she'd asked Isolde about it one evening. A question that surprised the old woman, and one she dare not ask again for fear of drawing her suspicions. That of a child in the midst of such tragedy wondering about a feud decades old, over the Fall of Maria like everyone else. An overly curious mind invited trouble, and trouble wasn't allowed under Isolde's roof.

    Others included the various attempts on the boy’s life that were thwarted by his friends or their help in the efforts of a man whose name but not his achievements erased from official records, so claimed, to create a tool to effectively combat the Titans. The tool, in fact: Vertical Maneuvering Gear.

    Though, above all, it was the girl’s struggle that went on to barely be mentioned within its pages that intrigued Historia the most. That resonated with she, herself, and her own plight.

    On the surface, they shared much.

    Both the girl and she were the daughters of a noble household and held a lust for literature. Both their fathers were obsessively single-minded, selfish bastards, and when trouble came knocking on their doors, did what had to be done to protect their legacies. But, that was where the similarities came to their end because while the girl was the daughter of a wealthy, self-made merchant, she was of a broke, washed-up disgrace. While the girl loved fantastical tales, of the world beyond the Walls, she cared for the practical, with her mind seated closer to home. Whereas this girl’s father looked to the future, murdered by cultists, hers dwelled on the past, murdered by the Royal Government. And, when life as she knew it drowned in its own blood, the girl fled to help another and rely on others, but when Historia fled her only thought was to rely on one person, and one person only: herself .

    A thought that still rang true, at least for the time being.

    She sank her teeth into her bottom lip, sucking in the particularly cold night’s chilling air through her closed mouth, remembering the kids whose parents mocked her father, harassing her in turn. Of her mother, who turned a blind eye to her daughter’s suffering and let her get pelted on the streets, shutting herself indoors and rarely seeing the light of day because she was afraid. Always afraid; lost in her own tiny, miserable world. Hoping that, if she ignored everyone and everything not inside its sphere of imaginary solitude that her troubles would just go away.

    Her mother died because she willingly closed her eyes, plugged her ears, silenced her heart, and caged her mind from the truth.

    That nothing mattered except what you chose to believe.

    To Historia, when she'd murdered the carriage driver— no , even before then, watching her mother hidden behind a door as a young child, she realized nothing mattered unless you made something out of it.

    Grasped it with your own two hands and never let go.

    That was why her mother died—not because she loved a man like her father nor gave birth to a bastard, but the simple, appalling fact that she did nothing about them. The one moment her mother actually did, was when she fought against that knife drawn across her throat, when she stopped being a victim and started to live. A moment that’d arrived too late.

    Ignorant and timid and weak. That was her mother. That is who she would have to become. Except, she couldn’t. She didn’t want to be anything like her mother.


    When she returned to her room shared with Achi, Historia noticed her tossing and turning in her sleep again, squirming beneath her covers howling in her whispers. Against her breast, held fast, held tight, was a luminous shard that caught the candlelight, illuminating Achi's features in the dark, the sweat running down her face.

    Whatever the other girl had went through, after many a night observing her, listening to her frights, a side she never showed in the presence of others during their work together, always cold, rigid and guarded more securely than any of the locks in the old woman's house, Historia deduced it was the one thing everyone feared except she herself: loneliness.

    Eyes never leaving the precious shard between Achi's fingers, it was always so distractedly, dazzlingly bright when night fell, like now, and though she hadn’t asked nor ever would, Historia wondered how someone like Achi, this simple-minded girl from Shiganshina, had come into possession of it. There’d been similar descriptions of such shards of crystal, mined from the now long since depleted Underground, that Sharle’s father was luxury to. Though Achi’s shard was the size of her own thumb, perhaps a minuscule larger, the gem was at least worth several small fortunes to the right person.

    Must’ve stolen it , had been her first thought. Which it continued to be. And that was when it occurred to her, as she turned over and gradually drifted off to sleep, thinking once again of the girl in that book, Sharle.

    She had to be more like Sharle, that was it!

    That was how she would carry herself from now on. Not the terrifying wolf, but the shy sheep. The smallest, most vulnerable sheep, who hide among the herd. Who helped others, and relied on them just the same. Yes, a girl like Sharle is who Krista ought to be.
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:44 AM.

  10. #10
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 8

    Suzanne

    A month and a half.

    The agent Jörg had sent for was late by a month and a half.

    Passing the divide and approaching the gate which led out to the territory of Wall Maria, Suzanne again found herself leaving the familiar white, decorated buildings of Fuerth. She came into the area reserved for the refugees crowded on either side of the gate. Little more than a collection of broken down wagons turned into shacks spread between them, she looked around for the man she’d spoken to yesterday, Leon, while carrying a basket of expensive, many decades aged fine wine.

    The first week during the time the agent was supposed to arrive she’d asked the women and children and old men and whoever else remained here about Mathias or those he traveled with, from sunset to sundown, to no avail. On the second, with no sign of the expedition’s return or the agent’s arrival, she’d looked around for the man who’d initially intimidated her, which led her the taverns deeper within Fuerth behind. Then, after some inquiries she found a tavern in the District’s heart populated by soldiers Garrison and Military Police alike, and, getting one of them drunk enough, she’d learned that a man matching his description was found dead the same morning she’d told Jörg about Mathias’ missing whereabouts but when she tracked down the soldier who’d written the report, there hadn’t been a name on record and so whatever trail she’d discovered vanished along with it. Not that this stopped her from visiting the refugees time and time again to inquire about Mathias or any news of the expedition that quickly became a daily habit, until, then, three weeks later, what survived of the expedition returned, she’d asked them about Mathias, again to no avail, until she came across this man, Leon, who said he remembered Mathias and who he was with. Said that it was two men and three kids. One of the men had been older, and carried himself proud ‘like a king’ and she knew at once he was talking about Bernhardt. The other four, barring Mathias, must’ve been his followers, because wherever that man went he always drew others to him.

    When she asked about what they looked like, the three besides Mathias and Bernhardt, the other man had been ‘muscular, big and strong as a bear’ and used to be a butcher, or so the man said himself. His name had been Jarratt. ‘Real nice, he was’ . The kids were Klaus and Nikki and Leon wasn’t sure if they were brother and sister or what but that ‘he ain’t talk much and she wouldn’t ever shut up’ . When she asked about Mathias, all he said was he looked nervous the whole time. ‘Like he was ready to jump out the wagon any moment’ , so Leon said, after picking wax from his ear, wiping it on his uniform. ‘Cuse me, missus.’

    When she asked for specifics, the last time he’d seen them, he said they’d just come across their first village, and he, Mathias, Mathias’ group, and another soldier had been searching the houses for any survivors when a Titan attacked them. ‘And he just murdered Markus right in front of me!’ Leon had recounted, taking a swig of the ale she’d bribed him with from the tavern and wiping his mouth with a belch. ‘Ah. ‘Cuse me again, missus...’

    As it went, after they were taking their sweet time arguing about what to do with two fat cows they found, he’d wandered off to relieve himself in the woods nearby when the Titan came out of nowhere, and he’d run back with his pants around his ankles, everything flopping front and center for all to see. ‘Quite embarrassin’, you know…’ . Though the only one who commented was the girl, Nikki, giggling at him and pointing. ‘That little shit’. The Titan crawled on top of the houses, Bernhardt then killed the other soldier to distract it ‘and when I saw that I ran for my life’ . He hadn’t seen what happened after that, but assumed they’d used the chance to escape, or whatever it was they were really up to. ‘I never did trust that mustache. Too curly for any respectable gentleman to have . The sing-songin’ jolly bastard. Lad this, lass that...’ Yes, that was Bernhardt all right.

    After kindly answering her abundance of questions best he could, she’d thanked him for his time and promised to get him something better to drink to drown his woes, but then she thought to have him take her to the village, and if she was going to get him to do that she’d need a lot more ale. Hence, the basket. And, just in case Jörg might discover the missing bottles, she’d asked one of the other servants to replace them with whatever they could find, he couldn’t tell the difference ill as he was, she knew, and that it served him right for not doing anything to help his son, she thought.

    And as she searched around for Leon because it seemed he liked to wander off more than he claimed she became aware of the increasing number of stares in her direction and whistles that were promptly ignored.

    Still dressed as a servant of the Kramer family, Jörg spared no expense when it came to his appearance and everything in his life reflected to match, from the water in his bathes straight from the mountain springs outside Mitras to the clothes on his servants’ backs from the same tailor as the supposedly the king himself used. Even her dirtied apron, made of a fine, interlaced cloth in an array of elaborate patterns, was alone worth a great deal. It made her stand out. She’d come straight from the mansion today instead of switching out here clothes because it was that important, she wanted to leave immediately if Jörg’s agent wasn’t soon to be coming, because if he was late then it meant things were worse than anyone could’ve guessed, the expeditions would continue until most of the refugees were gone, and the longer she sat doing nothing watching Jörg sit and do nothing himself she might go deteriorate faster than he was. Not to mention there was no telling what state Quinta was in, or if Mathias had made it there, Bernhardt or not. Or if he was even alive, for that matter. The worries just kept on stacking like the wealth Jörg kept collecting despite the current situation within the Walls, and it was after the sun began to set that she finally came across Leon returning from his shift atop the Wall, angry as could be.

    “Oh, hello, missus,” Leon slurred, doing a tispy bow. Alcohol wafted off his breath and she wondered how much it would take before she killed him from poisoning, but it turns out she didn’t have to because he smiled, crooked teeth showing with a gap between. “I was just thinkin’ ‘bout your situation, and, well…” He hiccuped. “‘Cuse me. I was just thinkin’... ‘Why, this young lady is so determined, it brings a tear to my eye’ .” He pointed at the lazy one, which veered off to the left as he tried to focus on her, or what he thought was her. “ ‘Even bringin’ me drinks and all, I gotta help her’! And so, here I am.”


    Days after, when he was off duty and she had finished all hers, and when he’d sobered up enough and she still hadn’t been successful in getting the soldiers guarding the gate to let them leave, Suzanne let her take her to his favorite tavern and together they ordered mugs of ale, and she listened to him talk about his life and his own heroics, how much she had inspired him, and about young Mathias’ plight, rescuing him from those villains, and all that, through his rambling remembered when she was a young child with a fond smile. Of one evening when she’d spent the whole day following a rich young couple around the Underground and how stupid she thought they were for taking a tour of it even with an escort, stealing the jewelry from the young woman’s neck only to be chased down by said escort, and the besting she took after. How she was spared from losing a hand, or worse, by the young man. The first one is free , he’d said. The second will not be. That the debt she incurred that day, though she hadn’t known it at the time, not until the second came around, several years later after falling in with the wrong people and then spared again, this time from execution by that same young man who recognized her during the trial, would last a lifetime. That would turn into something better than anything she could’ve hoped for or imagined in her wildest dreams, and, which now seemed all the more like one.

    Before Sara’s death he would’ve done anything, paid any price, to save his son, to preserve his legacy, and seeing how he was now was heartbreaking. She couldn’t deny it, no matter how much she loathed him. Where was that man when he was needed the most? He was in there, somewhere, deep down, she knew, but until he came back she was keeping all the wine.

    The smile faded.

    With her plans denied all she could do was spend her days away tending to the man holed up in his mansion during the day and across from the man—spirited though he was, and thankful for his kindness though she was—seated across from her during the night, but that was only if she didn’t have another to fall back on, and it just so happen that she did.

    She’d sent for her own favor from the Royal Capital, addressed for a certain man who probably had nothing better to do and was sure to come down. If that didn’t work, as Kenny wasn’t exactly known to do things out of the kindness of his heart, or likely honor the promise of a dead man they’d both known, she had something that was sure to help him reach that which he wanted most, locked away in the Kramer family mansion in Quinta.

    She just hoped he would get here fast, faster than Jörg's agent anyway, who's arrival was now indefinite, or however long it took them to draft their plans for the refugees and tie any dangling loose ends, because she couldn’t wait much longer, and, nor, she feared, might the Titans outside Quinta.


    Bernhardt - leader of the outlaws
    circa 845
    Last edited by Historia; September 4th, 2020 at 05:45 AM.

  11. #11
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 9

    Historia

    “My name, is Krista. My name, is Krista. My name, is Krista. My name, is Krista…”

    Historia frowned in the mirror that very next morning, wanting to start immediately except her voice didn’t sound convincing enough as a girl brought upon in a world where everything had been handed to her and her only daily struggles were how to dress up her hair in the morning and what outfit to go with. Too gruff. Too strangled. She needed to be more… happy. Cheerful .

    In order for that to happen, she would have to give way to the girl who once upon a time dreamed of peerless heroes in shining armor and hapless damsels in need of rescue in the books she oh so loved to read during those innocent years before the dark, lonely nights when her father was away and mother finally asleep. Drag her out of that dark, and back into the light again somehow. Otherwise she couldn’t convince herself that she could pull this off, and if she couldn’t convince herself then she couldn’t convince others. Then she’d be stuck on this farm and force herself to live peacefully, ever after. Willingly ignorant. A fool, like her mother; the one person she didn’t want to become. With all the things she’d seen, the deeds she’d done, all these questions in her head, to be gentle now would mean this was all for nothing and she might as well just had her throat slit alongside her mother’s.

    So she cleared her throat and tried again.

    “My name, is Krista. My name, is Krista. My name, is Krista..."

    Better.

    Though she wanted it to be perfect .

    Historia pounded lightly on her chest this time, spit into the sink, massaged her vocal cords, and tried again.

    “My name is Krista. Krista Lenz. It’s a pleasure to meet you!”

    Her frown lessened. It was an improvement. Still not perfect, but a start in the right direction, and, looking at her reflection in the mirror, the ugliness of a girl with little left to lose than a father's squandered legacy, she'd have to do something about that, too.

    Sharle's family had been notable enough to buy their eldest son's way into the Military Police Academy in Mitras, passage atop the Walls anytime they wished, and whatever material luxuries they so desired. So, naturally, she had access to the best products and accommodations available at the time, resulting in a fair-haired beauty with soft white skin and gentle green eyes or so the book described. All Historia had, on the other hand, was a bar of soap and a bucket of water.

    Their circumstances weren't the only thing that differed, but, turning back to the mirror and fixing her hair, tying it behind her head and out the way, as Krista, besides the sunshine in her voice, by the time the next two years rolled around, that wouldn't be a problem. Her appearance, how she carried herself and the burden upon her shoulders, would be completely changed. Transformed . A pauper turned princess, as her eyes went down to the scar on her palm, she finally let slip a genuine smile, and it was still on her face the moment Achi poked her head through the doorway.

    ‘You coming or not?’ was all Historia discerned through Achi’s thick, south Walldian accent before the other girl was gone along with her smile.

    “I’m comi—” she started to yell back, but then, no, that wouldn’t do. That wasn’t how Sharle would respond...

  12. #12
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 10

    Achi

    “I’ll be right out in a moment!”

    Achi stopped mid-strut and slapped an ear, tilting it to let the dew out because she must’ve heard that wrong, but still turned to see if it was Krista who stepped out the backdoor of the house and not someone else.

    “What?” Krista snapped, her brow coming down like gloomy weather over her big, light blue eyes.

    She pointed over toward the farm. Specifically, the broken fence and the hogs running wild because someone didn’t lock it the proper way. Krista followed her finger but said nothing, but Achi knew she was the one who was last up to do it. The other girl was slacking on her chores and then disappeared and she didn’t care where nor why only that when she woke up this morning she’d found their crops dug up, the grain spilled out, grass stripped, all manner of smaller critters fleeing for the hills’, the troughs meant for the other livestock dry and full of mud, and that her butt was sore from falling on her behind one too many times trying to catch the culprits: these fucking hogs. If Isolde saw it there was no telling what she could do. Not beat them, of course, no, she’d never—not like her mama used to, anyway—but still something unpleasant.

    Giving a jerk of the head for Krista to come along, Achi was having a hard time thinking of what that might be because it was already punishment enough she was here, and this girl beside her only made that worse, all high and mighty, acting like she wasn’t scared like the rest of them. That she wasn’t crying at night, too, sweating in her sleep so much like she went and pissed herself more than once. How she tried to hide it behind that ugly smile and the sweet words that everyone except her and Isolde was fooled by.

    When they were done corralling the last of the hogs into their pens, she showed Krista how to lock it properly and watched her do it to make sure for the next time, the right way. Afterward, the two of them were washing in buckets of water. Pulling clumps of mud from her hair, staring at her reflection in swirls of brownish red.

    The swirls spun and twisted and contorted, and in them she saw her mama’s insides hanging like tangled rope and she clenched her teeth as she bit back her tears.

    She still remembered how it snatched and hoisted her mama into the air, playing with her and jostling her around like a doll. Only her mama hadn’t been a doll, and so when she’d struggled to grab hold of something as she was thrashed around like one, the strain pulled her apart. After she stopped twitching it’d dropped her like a bored child, and before she knew it, Achi was staring at the body of her mama again. The blood and spit gurgling up from her throat, bubbling out her open mouth and down the side, pooling behind her head, spilling all over their kitchen floor as Achi sucked the snot back up her nose and she wiped her face with a scabbed elbow, a watery glare flickering over to Krista, who was lost in her own little world. Like a doll to be thrashed around and eaten by the horrors of the world, helpless to stop it, Krista just stood there with that unsettling, blank look of hers. Then, as if she remembered where she was, it lit up with that smile. That fake, ugly smile like a mask stretched across her face similar to a Titan’s only somehow more disturbing but equally as infuriating.

    Their eyes met in a sideways glance.

    ‘She’s hurtin’, too. She’s dealin’ with it in her own way, same as you.’ Without a word between them, she shouldered past her and went back inside. Sitting down at the dinner table, she took one of the biscuits left out by Isolde for them while she was gone, as something rose from inside her and she took a bite. She remembered that monster. That Titan. The one who'd eaten her mama and, shoving the rest in her mouth, chewing vigorously and swallowing hard, watching Krista sit down on the other end, she was angry. Angry at herself for not being strong enough; angry at this girl who looked down on her and everyone else; and angry at the Titans, those monsters who took everything from her that she vowed never would again. ‘So, I want you to look out for one another. You don’t gotta be friends, but trust each other. Hear me?’

    Against the backdrop of that humongous hole in their kitchen wall, smashed through by some monster's giant fist, her papa told her to run as he got the Titan’s attention and led it away. To make a dash for the far edge of the village as soon as he had. That he trusted her to do it; trust being one of the most valuable things in the whole entire world. Her family’s golden rule, and one that Isolde shared, but no, she couldn’t. No matter if it was her papa, her mama, the old man who’d taken her in first, the old woman second, none of them could ever convince her to look out for this girl sitting across from her that acted like a goddess fallen to earth, forced to wallow in the shit and piss of poorer people and nibbling on her own biscuit as if it were her last meal, and she knew Krista thought the same in their continued silence, until it was time to get started with today’s work and they broke away for the rest of the day.

    Yeah, because she wasn't fucking fooled.

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