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Author Topic: [EVENT] Where Courage Comes From  (Read 370 times)

Where Courage Comes From
« on: December 03, 2019, 05:16:47 AM »
Early May, 845
Cadet Barracks; North of Trost, Wall Rose

Colorful paper lanterns strung on twine tried to corral the magenta and lavender -streaked sky; cadet chatter and friendly greetings from hawkers rose with steam and from street foods. A myriad of aromas from the latter -- vegetables, baked fruit, rare and sizzling offerings of meat -- mingled with the sweet and familiar smell of the hay bales dotted here and there for seating. A troubadour, back from a brief break, took a request from an Instructor and experimented with a few chords. Shadows lengthened across the packed earth, reaching for her.

Like everyone else who hadn't come to the barracks with someone they knew, Mercedes had spent most of the day keeping to herself. But now that evening was upon them and the celebrations begun, it seemed as though most people had started to form burgeoning friendships. This morning when she'd heard about the plans for today she'd initially decided that this was going to be her time to shine -- she was going to make a lot of friends, get to know as many people as possible, make her mark, fit in beautifully, not miss home and Julia at all...

It was a cruel joke that now that she was here, nerves had slammed into her full-force and stolen her voice, made her shoulders sink a little. Instead of being in the middle of the action, she'd slunk off to one side of the common grounds between the dorms, mess hall, and supply sheds, and taken refuge by a vendor selling good luck charms. She leaned against the back corner of the stall, tugged at the unfamiliar uniform jacket. In tugging on her sleeves her knuckle grazed the jeweled back of the jaguar bangle on her right wrist and the brief glance became a lingering one.

What if this wasn't the right decision? Granna really didn't want me to go... Maybe there was a reason? But why wouldn't she tell me, if so? But then, she reasoned, there hadn't exactly been a choice, as much as Julia would have liked to believe otherwise. Wall Maria had fallen, and Julia couldn't do anything about that. If Mercedes hadn't come here of her own accord they would have come and got her. Julia probably would've embarrassed herself -- tried to shoot someone or something... Mercedes smiled softly at the thought, and then it faded. She folded her arms.

As she looked out into the bright square of festivities she willed courage to come back from wherever it'd gone. « Last Edit: January 01, 2020, 11:03:56 PM by Mercedes Carello »

“I’m surrounded by the past and it is demanding something from me.”
~ Anna Akhmatova

Re: Where Courage Comes From
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2019, 09:48:32 PM »
It was so beautiful. Like nothing she had ever seen before. The orphanage had never had much pretty things, and at home, well, they couldn't afford anything. With so many people around, Claude wondered what they were all like. Whether they wanted to be here. It wasn't just the cadets, it was instructors and soldiers too. And civilians, ordinary people, doing what they could to make their way in the world. Get some money, impress people, meet everyone. She wanted to buy something, even a little thing, but the orphanage hadn't given her anything. They didn't want her to be comfortable or to actually be a soldier. Being here... that was just to give money to the people who ran it. They'd get more kids, and do it again. The others she'd travelled with had said as much.

But they did better than her. She saw them, Alie - who was older than her, tougher than her, better than her - did so well at getting people to like her. Loitering around the stalls, laughing off comments from others, charming people. They didn't need to know that little Claude, that quiet thing, had comforted Alie when she'd first arrived in their crowded room, sobbing her heart out because she was alone. Now she was gaining new friends, finding her own way, and leaving all that horrid stuff behind.

Claude felt so very, very alone.

The uniform felt big on her, even though it had been practically tailored for her size, and it felt horribly stiff. She meant to stand up straight, but instead she slouched against a wall and watched Alie. Jealousy melting green more vivid in her eyes than ever. It was unfair. A tear sprang from her duct, and she wiped it away quickly with a hand, shuddering at the thought of crying even here. People were around, she wouldn't be so weak around them. That would make everything worse. She craved freedom, wanted to jump on top of the stalls and stay up there, cradled in materials softer than any bed she'd slept in, but that was stupid.

Another tear came, and then another, and then she held her face in her hands.

Re: Where Courage Comes From
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2019, 08:16:35 PM »
Mercedes turned rapidly around the back of the stall and paced as she took a couple of deep, calming breaths in through her nose and out of her mouth.

"Come on, you've got this," she hissed to herself. She even lightly slapped her cheeks a few times, rolled her shoulders.

This should be easy. She'd practiced making friends in her head so many times throughout her life. She'd watched other people so closely whenever she got the chance. And besides, if they didn't like her it didn't matter. Right?

Right. So go do it!

Mercedes straightened and turned back toward the light as quickly as she'd turned away from it. She adopted a small smirk to help soften what she thought was her intimidating face, and strolled out. Maybe she'd buy something just to have something to do with her hands. And that'd be a good conversation starter. She re-scanned the area quickly. Food was probably a good idea. Julia had agreed that she could take a portion of her saved allowance money with her ("Just in case."), so she could indulge a little just this once.

She began to stalk the ring of vendors slowly, but didn't get very far -- a shadow disappearing down between the stalls much in the way she herself had done. Curiosity drew her after it.

Leaning against a wall partly out of sight from everyone was another cadet, smaller than her -- possibly even moreso than Julia -- with her face in her hands curtained by dark hair. At first Mercedes thought maybe she'd been hit in the face by something then reasoned she wasn't moving -- or sounding -- like that was the case.

She slipped into the shadow with her. "Hey, you all right?" she asked, forcing gentleness into her voice. Julia had rarely been gentle with her so Mercedes had to operate on theory and vague memories of her parents. She hoped the tone didn't sound as clunky on her as she felt it did. « Last Edit: January 01, 2020, 11:04:31 PM by Mercedes Carello »

“I’m surrounded by the past and it is demanding something from me.”
~ Anna Akhmatova

Re: Where Courage Comes From
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2019, 10:16:17 PM »
It was unfair. She hadn't asked for any of this, hadn't wanted any of it. If they hadn't come knocking, she could have stayed at home for longer, looked after herself better. But that was unreasonable, and Claude knew that, ultimately, it wouldn't have lasted. They would have stopped by eventually, would have questioned the girl who lived all on her own. It would have been better if she'd had anybody to turn to. But she hadn't. She hadn't known what to do.

Maybe it was better to be here. Still alone, but only in spirit. It had been awful listening to the emptiness at night. The orphanage had been overcrowded and loud. So far, the barracks hadn't been awful... though she'd heard someone crying, she hadn't been able to bring herself to do anything about it.

That just made her cry more, her tears sticky against her palms. The odd voice that spoke startled her away from it, cheeks flush and wet, eyes wide and panicked. How hadn't she heard anyone approach? Oh, no. It was going to be like before, wasn't it? The baby who couldn't stop crying; the easy victim when the others were bored. "I- I'm fine," she stammered out, swallowing a dry lump in her throat as she pushed back against the wall. She hoped she sounded more convincing to the other cadet than she felt it did.

Re: Where Courage Comes From
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2020, 10:20:43 PM »
Mercedes was initially a little startled by the girl's flushed, wet, panicked face. Her hands rose a little, compulsively, and sank back to her sides. Now that it came to it, she struggled to know what to do -- she'd never comforted anyone before besides herself. What if she did it wrong?

"Try anyway," Julia's ubiquitous words spurned her on even now.

Mercedes shrugged softly with a half-smile, "Clearly you're not." She paused, then added, "Homesick? I know I am, a bit."

Admitting it aloud made it worse in a way. She averted her eyes sheepishly to the ground and hoped it hadn't been the wrong decision to be honest. What if the girl took offense, or was upset about something unrelated? What if later on she used Mercedes' own confession against her? Mercedes could picture Julia's disapproving scowl and fought to ignore it. She flinched a little at a passing group laughing loudly, but the two of them weren't noticed. The girl having not said anything made Mercedes nervous and her eyes rose to watch her face intently for clues, the same way she'd watched others in Krolva from afar in an effort to understand and imitate.

She held out a hand, "I'm Mercedes," and strengthened her smile. Maybe if she feigned confidence, the girl would believe it and draw on it, too. 

“I’m surrounded by the past and it is demanding something from me.”
~ Anna Akhmatova

Re: Where Courage Comes From
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2020, 08:50:58 PM »
She didn't wipe away the trickling trails of her tears, staring in anxious trepidation at the girl who would no doubt tease and taunt the crybaby. There was something odd about how she spoke, though she couldn't place it, and couldn't be sure whether or not the girl was making fun of her. Was it so simple, to be homesick? Did they all feel like it? Maybe it was meant to lull her into a false sense of security, to make her reveal her secrets so they'd have ammunition against her.

But Mercedes, as her name was given, was alone.

"I guess so," she answered uncertainly, looking down at the ground too. If only it were that simple, she'd surely have been able to cope better with it. Thinking about home always stirred her stomach, rose bile to throat, made her want to pull out strings of hair in an effort to bury the pain, but she did none of that. Maybe somebody would understand, but she couldn't bear to open that door; she couldn't cope with the thought of more mocking her.

But after a pause, she offered, "I'm Claude." Taking her hand, she didn't know what to do next - it was the first time she'd really held anybody's hand since placing hers in her mother's. The orphanage had just tugged her along by the wrist when they wanted her to move anywhere.

Re: Where Courage Comes From
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2020, 12:49:43 AM »
As soon as her hand was accepted, it occurred to Mercedes that outside of Godfrey teaching her the essentials of a firm handshake -- Julia did not, on principle, shake anyone's hand; not that Mercedes had seen anyway -- that she'd never shaken anyone's hand. When the awkward moment extended into another, Mercedes realized with a mix of relief and amusement that evidently she wasn't the only one.

She let go. The girl -- Claude -- hadn't brightened as much as Mercedes had hoped and she clamped down on the little flurry of panic.

"I guess so."

Uncertainties made Mercedes confused and uncomfortable. Julia had successfully ingrained in her that if nothing else, she should at least be certain of her opinions and feelings. But she was here now -- it wasn't like she could just walk away. Not that she wanted to. She had to try harder, learn quickly.

She tried something else foreign, though no less genuine. "Claude's a pretty name. I don't think I've ever heard anything like it before," she smiled. Compliments were sparse at home and she'd had to piece together the concept of them from more of her journeys into town and the furtive spying therein. « Last Edit: January 25, 2020, 12:56:05 AM by Mercedes Carello »

“I’m surrounded by the past and it is demanding something from me.”
~ Anna Akhmatova


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