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Author Topic: A falcon's duty. [Farran]  (Read 1008 times)

A falcon's duty. [Farran]
« on: March 15, 2018, 01:39:04 AM »
[ April 845 ]

Devastation had befallen the Walls. People had died, blood still smeared the cobbles from injured evacuees who'd poured into Trost District. Tears cascaded down miserable faces. The reek of death hung in the air. Desperation clung to so many.

The boy had lost his father, his grandparents, his aunt. More, likely. How long had it been since he'd seen them? Had he even visited Shiganshina District before? Grief muddled his memories. Yet he pushed on, as a Falkenrath must, to do the duty his father had been forced to abandon. A good man had been lost to the jaws of Titans. It had only encouraged the twelve year old to strive not for greatness, but for a duty befitting one with the falcon's blood. Enlistment was the gate to a path of war, to wage against those who hadn't just taken away his father, but the family and friends of others too.

He was going to fight for every single one of them.

His uncle was visiting. Axel had written to him plenty, though how many of those letters had reached Utopia District, let alone his dutiful uncle's hands, he did not know. They were not alone, not yet. As long as Farran was alive, Axel felt eased that some part of their family's soldier blood lived on. His mother may well be a soldier, but she had not been lost. The Titans had taken his roots away in marching upon Shiganshina.

No, not marching. Lumbering. Crawling. Roaring. Screeching. Every word he'd heard from whispers amongst the survivors. He had to do something for them.

"Fight for all of them," he'd whispered when his decision was made. The next day his name had been signed. Soon he would wave farewell to the smell of the bakery and the feeling of dough kneaded by his hands. He would gaze upon Wall Rose from a different angle, with a new perspective. The next three years of his life would be streaked with determination and struggle. But he'd come out fighting in the end.

All that was left was to tell his uncle.

He stood on the street, having slipped through the arms of adults with his small figure hardly noticed. Everything was different. All the streets felt more crowded, and crawled with unease and wariness. Some expected another attack. He couldn't think of that now. So Axel waited for Farran, eager to find him first and to take him home. A visit was going to be short-lived no matter what. A soldier of the Garrison had plenty of work to do, and he would soon be set to leave for the barracks. If Farran had been of Trost, he might have worried about the potential of never seeing him again, a fear he'd squashed in thinking of his mother. Trost was strong, it had her working its wall, it wouldn't fall. Utopia was even safer.

Instead, this would be the last time he'd see his uncle as a boy. When he left the cadet corps, he'd be just as much of a man as any.

The brunette child stood with his eyes wide, seeking out Farran from those that lingered and those who walked by, some with struggle. Sunken, deadened eyes stared back at him from across the street. He pressed his hand into the hem of his green tunic shirt, swallowing a vile guilt. Maybe if he were older, he would have been able to help more. Simply trying to help with rations went poorly enough. Becoming a soldier was the best thing he could do. His uncle would see that too. He'd be just like him, maybe, and they'd defend the Walls together.

And yet... bringing the fight to the Titans would be just as good.

Re: A falcon's duty. [Farran]
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2018, 12:51:10 AM »
Even now, in the wake of Wall Maria’s fall, Farran struggled to come to terms with what had happened.  It was unthinkable.  In all his years of serving in the Garrison, he could safely say he never truly contemplated the possibility that the Walls might fail them.  Before now, it seemed that as long as those sheer faces were maintained, as long as there was defensive artillery in place, humanity would be safe.  That was his regiment’s sole purpose - and they had failed.

Roses were painted red for a reason.

Farran had been leagues away when it happened, in the safest district of Wall Rose.  How he hated that.  While Titan jaws had claimed his father, his mother, his sister and his brother - while their blood spilled hot and thick, while they took their last frantic breaths, grey eyes rolling back into their skulls - he had more likely than not been sitting at his desk, or walking the Walls, marvelling at how few Titans bothered them in the north, and wondering what Lana would have on the table come dinner time.

It put him in mind of his family’s table growing up.  His sister was bold, an only daughter who would shamelessly lift food from the plates of her brothers; his father would talk at length about his day, lessening his burdens by sharing them with his kin; his mother would have flour in her hair, as she so often did, and a seemingly endless well of patience; his brother, Tybalt, would be sitting by his side, a font of terrible jokes and knowing sideways glances.  They had not lived to meet his long-awaited firstborn, the smallest and newest addition to their close knit clan, due in only a few short months.

There was one blessing, however: Tybalt’s wife, Silke, drew breath, as did her son.  Farran yearned to see Axel, the boy who his heart broke for.  While he could say he knew the pain of losing a father, he was a man grown, who had enjoyed decades in the presence of those he loved.  Axel was not so lucky.  It was a terrible thing, to be robbed of kin so young.

The Falkenraths were not alone in their suffering.

The streets of Trost were filled with ghosts.  Entire families had been shattered, their fragments now haunting the district.  Widows, orphans, cripples, beggars, the displaced and the lost.  Blood, property and history torn away from them.  Hosting the refugees was an unenviable, logistical nightmare; there wasn't enough food, the streets were rank with human filth, water supplies were sullied and disease ran rampant.

Leaving his mount at the Garrison stables, Farran headed to the rendezvous point where he would meet the youngest surviving member of the Falkenrath family.  Drawing near, he spotted the boy.  In the crowd, he looked so small.  Slight of build, all dark brunette hair and piercing grey eyes, Axel comforted and pained Farran in equal measure. 

Wall Rose could never be allowed to fall, whatever the cost.

Farran closed the distance between them, his face pinched with grief, as though he could not rest until he had the weight and shape of Axel in his arms.  Somewhere not so far away, someone was wailing, and yet none of the weary souls on the street stirred.  Awful as it was, this was the new normal.

“Axel Falkenrath,” he greeted, vaguely mimicking the way one soldier might greet another by full name.  In the past, this might have earned him a smile from his dutiful nephew.  But now, he failed to inject any joy into his voice, which was painted only with relief in knowing that something of Tybalt still remained.  “My lad,” Farran breathed, pulling Axel in for an embrace, a work-worn hand resting near the boy’s neck, his fingers tickled by tendrils of dark hair.  It lingered for long moments and it was only with difficulty that he stepped back, hands not ready to relinquish contact just yet - they rested lightly on Axel’s shoulders as Farran’s grey eyes swept over him.  “You got taller,” the soldier whispered fondly.

Maybe Silke will let me take him north. He would be safer in Utopia.

With his mouth set into a grim line, and with the threat of tears shining in his eyes, Farran pulled Axel to him once more, as though the proximity might allow him to fill the gaps left by those who were dead and gone. 

Re: A falcon's duty. [Farran]
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2018, 03:53:03 PM »
Before the fall of the Wall, Axel would have visibly brightened, and torn across the street to greet his uncle with all the enthusiasm he could muster. When his grey eyes spotted him now, he waited, patient, not wanting to get in anybody else's way. The noise of those around him made his ears ache and his heart pinch. He wanted desperately to help them, but he knew his efforts would, at best, be rejected.

He gazed up at Farran as his name was spoken, dipping his head in greeting. Older beyond his years. It was a strain to bury some of that inner want to throw himself at his uncle, to cling to him like he was five or eight again and to declare his joy upon seeing him. But he didn't want to look like a child. Not today. Excitement could still flash in his grey eyes, and he could bolt down the street at the first sign of something interesting. Today he had to look like he was old enough to deal with the future, when he told him of the decision. Being surrounded by those driven from their homes, of being forced away from their old lives... it was easier, crowded in by misery.

And yet, to be pulled in to the embrace, to remember that he was with his uncle, the other survivor of the bloodline. An idol in his eyes. It made him want to curl up, knees to his chest, to let out the tears. But he resisted, wrapping his arms around the man, leaning in to the touch. Had his father come home, to be hugged like this wouldn't have felt so odd. But even blocking out the sounds around couldn't stop the niggling feeling that this was strange now.

To look up at his uncle again, the youth wanted to shatter under his hands. "I'll be as tall as you one day," he finally said. Doubtful. Even now, he felt smaller than the rest of the world. A speck of an ant.

"Uncle," he murmured, burying his head back into the warmth of his body. What he'd give to stay there, and to never have to let go again. But he couldn't, and he wanted to get away from everything. The wail of the background continued, and a sobbing fit seemed to have erupted close by. He couldn't delay in telling him any longer. But he couldn't speak with so many around.

Axel pulled away, not even offering his hand as he might have before, and tilted his head. "We should start walking now," he said, already beginning to walk away. As a cadet, he'd have to leave behind the comforts of childhood, and separating himself now, and showing he was capable of it, might help him. He didn't yet know how Farran would react. Hadn't it always been on the cards? His future had drawn two paths: to follow the military as his mother, uncle, aunt, and grandfather had, or to follow the path of baking with his father and grandmother. Two worlds he'd been split between.

Now he'd chosen.

Once the thick of the crowd was behind them, he spoke, sticking close to his uncle and glancing up to him. "I want to help them," he whispered, voice pained. It was high; hadn't even broken yet. He was still a child, and there was little he could do, he felt, to truly help. "They argue over food. Even fight, just for a little extra, and take it away from others who need it." How many arguments had he tried to wedge between, a small child easily ignored? Worse, how many times had he had to pick between throwing himself in and keeping himself safe? Because if he got hurt, there would be two less hands to help for even a short while.

"I heard some talk of stealing - I had to report it." His eyes filled with anguish as he looked up to his uncle. "It's wrong, but everything is now. Nobody deserves this, but everything gets worse every day." Tear-streaked families. Desperation that clung to them more than the meat on their bones. Pain that wailed and whispered.

Axel drew a sharp breath. It was better to tell him immediately. "I'm enlisting. And I'm going to do everything I can to help them. There's nothing I can do here."

Re: A falcon's duty. [Farran]
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2020, 04:46:45 PM »
Gazing down at Axel, Farran had to wonder when his nephew had grown up.  Had it been in the slow passing of days, weeks and months since they had last stood in one another’s company?  Or had it come abruptly, childhood wrenched away by trauma and sorrow?  It was most likely a combination of the two.  Ever a mature and thoughtful boy, there was now something much more adult and measured in the younger Falkenrath’s disposition.  A glimmer of the man he was to become.

I’ll be as tall as you one day.

“Perhaps even taller…” Farran added goodnaturedly, with a faint, sorrowful smile.  In that moment he felt the loss of his brother bitterly, knowing that Tybalt would not be present to watch his son grow.  Grief walked hand-in-hand with a profound sense of duty to his remaining family, small and fractured though it was, bonded by blood and bereavement both.  Tybalt was gone but he remained, Silke too.  Together, with their remaining kin - Axel and Fritz being the future of the Falkenraths - they could close ranks.

It was Axel who pulled away, of course, looking older than his years.  His feet were already moving as he suggested they walk, and Farran was quick to take his place at his nephew’s side, his hand conspicuously empty when in previous times it would have been occupied by Axel’s own.  All they could do was keep moving, literally and figuratively.  Purposeful steps carried them away from the crowd, and there was a selfish kind of relief to be found in leaving behind the swell of endlessly weary, horror-struck faces.

When Axel spoke, there was a note of pain running through his young voice.  His anguish was understandable, as was his desire to do something - who could look at the suffering all around them and not feel compelled to help?  With a sympathetic frown, Farran glanced down at his nephew as they walked.  Doing the right thing was not always easy, but the talk of theft amongst starving mouths seemed such a muddied, extreme case for a boy to navigate alone.  He had done well, but it must have been a struggle, and a lesson hard learned. 

It’s wrong, but everything is now. 

And there it was, the reminder of how astute Axel was.  Those words resonated and would be carried in Farran’s heart for days to come, having been put so simply and with brutal accuracy.  Still, the soldier did not speak, sensing that his nephew was building to something.  And yet, somehow, the revelation stunned elder Falkenrath.

I’m enlisting. And I’m going to do everything I can to help them. There’s nothing I can do here.

The words fell like a hammer, and Farran came to an abrupt standstill.  He could not even say he was surprised - not truly - not when theirs was a military family for the most part, not when Axel had always been brave, bright and just.  For a moment, the soldier was conflicted, caught between the knowledge that it was better Axel to take up arms and be prepared - wasn’t that preferable to him living as a civilian, relying entirely on others for his own safety? - and abject horror at the notion he might one day perch high on the Walls, ready to defend humanity down to the last man and his final breath.  Fortunately, in this moment, Farran could only envision Axel donning a Garrison jacket, imagining his nephew’s blood to be the same rose-red as his own, as so many of their kin.

“Axel…” Farran began quietly, trying to muster the words he needed to say.  There would be no dissuading his nephew, not even if he wished to.  Steely grey eyes gazed down at the boy, who was small for his age, and still young even if recent events had seen him shed much of his boyishness.  Hadn’t their family given enough?  Must they give still more?  But the sorry truth was that some things were more important than individuals, than entire families.  Somehow it seemed that Axel already understood this.

With slow, unhurried movements, Farran reached out to cup his nephew’s face with a hand.  His jaw was smooth, his voice unbroken, and yet there was a man’s determination burning in those familial flinty eyes.  The hand, callused with work, dropped to the boy’s shoulder, not wishing to baby him needlessly.  At last, Farran dipped his dark head in understanding and acceptance.  “You will make an excellent soldier,” he murmured fondly, swallowing down his anxiety and uncertainty, choosing instead to put his faith in Axel, in their shared blood.  Being familiar with the military - or the Garrison at least - the boy had some knowledge of what awaited him. “Have you told your mother?”


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