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Author Topic: Winter Wonderland (Struna)  (Read 2047 times)

Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« on: March 21, 2018, 01:42:46 AM »
Hilda loved festivals- the shopping, the food, the music, the excitement- it felt almost magical. The Winter Festival of Lights today was no exception. Krolva had its own winter festival, but it wasn't quite as big as this, and there wasn't always snow. Here, however, snow and icicles sparkled as she walked to the lake with Struna so they could rent skates and glide across the ice. She could already see people skating as they drew closer to the lake.

She was having a fun time with Struna. They'd already been shopping- among Hilda's purchases was a good-luck charm, which she had asked Struna to help her pick out. She wasn't nearly as superstitious as the older cadet, but a little extra luck never hurt. After shopping, they went for a snack. There were all kinds of delicious things to eat, many which had the added benefit of keeping your hands warm while you ate- hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, baked potatoes... She went for her favorite festival snack, a soft pretzel with mustard, and some hot chocolate to wash it down.

"Have you ever been skating before?" she asked Struna, after washing down one last mustardy bite of pretzel with her drink.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2019, 02:42:45 AM by Hilda Meissner »

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2018, 01:03:36 AM »
​So close.

Snowflakes peppered Struna's midnight hair as her lips parted, an exhaled breath pale and ghostly on the frozen air.  Home was out there somewhere, beyond the inky dark.  On the distant, unseen shore, lamplight peeked out of tiny windows and frost painted the hulls of fishing vessels.  She yearned to walk those old paths and step through that weatherworn half-door, to peel off her boots and climb into that familiar bed she had shared with her sister, to fall asleep listening to the low rumble of her father’s voice as he held hushed conference with her mother.  The draw was almost enough to tempt the girl into striking out across the great ice sheet, despite knowing that the lake ran wild and deep, utterly untamed by the cold, despite knowing that the winter-forged pathway would fail her, and lead only to lethal waters.  Oh well.  There were worse ways to die, and at least home would be in sight.

But there was no point - The Blackbird was gone, wrenched from her grasp - and all that she once was had vanished.

Luckily for Struna, she was not alone, there was someone yet who she could anchor herself to.  Turning to Hilda, she smiled softly, the expression tinged with a fleeting sort of sadness.  The younger cadet was a likeable soul; offbeat, kind-hearted and generous.  Struna couldn’t help but be happy in her company.  Smiling a little wider now, dregs of sorrow and nostalgia falling away, the violet-eyed girl looked out across the lake.  Fingerless gloves exposed slender digits that wrapped tight around her flagon of mulled cider, its contents warn and flavoured with cloves and spices.  Skaters laughed as their blades carved into the lake’s surface, their joy almost palpable.

“Aye, use’ta a fair bit.  My village has a harbour - its waters run too deep t’ freeze proper - so we’d walk along the shore a bit t’ find a good spot.”  Back home, there was always work to be done, thus gliding across ice on ramshackle, home-crafted skates fell into the category of frivolous - but even the most begrudging and grim fisherfolk allowed the village children the occasional afternoons of delight.  Focus shifting, Struna glanced down, brushing errant crumbs from her scarf and coat, having just enjoyed a warm, cheese and relish-filled roll.  Tidied up, she turned her attention back to Hilda, and offered her an excitable, hopeful smile.  The question had hinted at the possibility of them hiring skates and joining in with the festivities.  “What about you?  You skated before?”  The more pressing question - Do you want to? - went unasked for the time being.

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2018, 11:50:43 PM »
Hilda shuddered a little as Struna told her that the harbor wasn’t really frozen enough to be ideal for skating on. “I think I’d be too afraid to skate on the harbor, even at the shore.” she murmured, tucking a stray hair behind her ear. Even if she wasn’t, it’d be a shame to be limited to just the shore, though she herself tended to avoid the very middle of the pond she’d skated on in Krolva, even on the coldest of days. Still, she didn’t just stick to the edges, it was only the innermost area that she avoided, as did most skaters at the pond.

“I have.” she answered. “One of my cousins has a skating party every year for her birthday- it’s at the coldest time of winter, so it’s always been cold enough for it.” She’d visited the pond to skate a few other times every winter. She’d never learned any fancy tricks, like spinning on the ice, but she’d learned to skate fast and trace a few simple patterns into the ice, such as figure eights. She wished she’d had her own skates with her, but it had been a while, and she’d grown- she didn’t think they’d fit her anymore. Her sister Nadia was probably using them, if she hadn’t outgrown them as well. Besides, there were skates being rented. She saw some people on benches near the pond fastening them on over their boots.

“They’re renting out skates for a cheap price.” she said, seeing the price of rental skates on a sign next to the stand where people were getting skates. "We should go and skate once we’re done with our cider.”


Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2018, 11:14:27 PM »
​​Struna’s purple-hued eyes widened at the thought of a skating party, a smile catching the corners of her lips.  “Sounds like a dream,” she sighed wistfully, her breath a pale plume on the frigid air.  Back home, birthdays scarcely seemed marked, save for the quiet acceptance that whosoever was celebration would get to take the helm that day.  If they were lucky, they would be gifted with a handful of small presents - anything from hawk feathers to knitted socks, from fishing hooks to fragments of gemstones.

At Hilda’s suggestion, Struna brightened further, her smile stretching into an excited grin.  “Aye, let’s get out there and show ‘em how it’s done!”  A giggle rose in her throat as she nudged her friend lightly, playfully.  Struna’s enthusiasm was evident in the way she now sipped at her cider mulled with renewed fervour, keen to get out on the ice.  They both had some experience and were guaranteed to surpass many of those currently wobbling and gasping their way across the ice sheet - and certainly they would do better than all of those who had fallen, doomed to scoot along on their backsides or their knees, begging companions to take pity and help them back onto their feet.

As soon as the tumbler was drained - it didn’t take long - Struna abandoned it on a nearby empty stall, one that had already collected all manner of used cups, tankards and plates.  Returning eagerly to Hilda’s side, she offered her arm for her friend to link her own with.  “C’mon, let’s get to it.  At least skatin’ is one way to stay warm, eh?”

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2018, 05:08:03 AM »
"I don't know about a dream, but it was a lot of fun, except for the first time, because I kept slipping." Hilda remembered. "I made sure to get in some practice after that." Her own birthdays were more low-key, usually a tea party at home, sometimes outside if the weather was nice enough. Though they weren't as fancy as her cousin's, she liked them anyway.

"After I finish my hot chocolate!" she said, sipping some more at the warm drink in her hands. She didn't want to let such a delicious hot chocolate go to waste, but she didn't want to drink it too quickly, for it was still very warm and she didn't want to burn her mouth. She finished her drink not long after Struna returned from disposing of her own, taking the taller girl's arm and following her to the skate rental stall, disposing of her cup along the way. "I guess so." she said with a wry smile. "Guess we're going to need that now that our drinks are gone!"

There was only two people in front of them, so they didn't have to wait long before they moved up to the front of the line. Hilda told the man at the stand her shoe size and paid the rental fee before he handed her the skates. She went over to a bench nearby and fastened the skates on over her boots while she waited for Struna.

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2019, 08:28:41 PM »
"It's hard at the start, eh?" Struna agreed, reminded briefly of her own falls on the ice, and of the spectacular bruises that had painted her limbs with purple splotches. "Though I s'pose that's true of just about everythin'…" Skill came with practice, natural flair only carrying a person so far. Not for the first time, Struna wondered what her own potential was. If she actually applied herself, just how talented a cadet would she be? While it was an interesting thought, it was not so intriguing as to prompt her into working harder than the bare minimum.

Once Hilda finished her hot chocolate, the pair went arm-in-arm to the stall that was renting out skates. Struna followed her companion's lead, giving her shoe size and paying what was due, before taking a seat on a nearby bench to eagerly strap on her skates. Checking the laces one last time, satisfied they were tight and the boots snug, Struna climbed to her feet and began the ungainly walk down to the frozen lake. The shore was covered with tarpaulin, to make traversing the uneven, chilled banks that bit easier.

At the lake's edge, Struna flashed Hilda a smile and stepped onto the ice. She moved slowly at first, her strokes long and leisurely, and took a moment to rotate each foot, loosening her ankles. Her movements were deliberate, relatively confident as she became reacquainted with the sensation of skating.

There were other cadets out on the lake, gliding (or staggering) beneath the stars, their breath freezing in the frigid air and forming crystals on scarves. The comforting sound of laughter and conversation drifted to Struna's ears and she felt a peculiar emotion that she could not quite identify. It was akin to sorrow, or nostalgia. "I can't believe we only have one year of trainin' left…" she murmured, glancing Hilda's way, her eyes dancing over her friend's form, checking that she was also finding her feet.

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2019, 01:04:01 AM »
“It really is.” Hilda agreed, remembering having to wear a pillow tied over her bottom the first several times she practiced skating. But learning to skate was far from the most difficult thing to learn at the start. That would be training, and it still wasn’t easy. She had gotten better at it over time, but even now she was often tired and sore at the end of the day. That said, it was no longer the never-ending struggle it had been in those first several weeks.

Hilda had almost forgotten how awkward it was to walk in skates, and wobbled a couple of times before regaining her balance. She smiled back at Struna as she watched her move across the ice. With a deep breath, she made her way onto the ice, too. It had been some time since she’d skated, so she was cautious at first, gliding slowly across the ice until she felt comfortable enough to skate at a faster pace.

“It doesn’t seem real, does it?” she sighed, tracing a figure eight onto the ice. “I’m not sure how I feel about it.” Last year, she couldn’t wait to leave training behind. But even though she was still looking forward to it, a part of her wasn’t sure she was ready for the changes that graduation would bring. “It’s a little overwhelming once you think about it.”

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2019, 03:48:24 PM »
It seemed Hilda was quick to get reacquainted with ice skating, her movements soon growing confident. Struna was happy to match her friend's speed and watched, with a smile, as she traced a figure of eight on the lake's surface.

"It really doesn't," Struna agreed, feeling a distant trepidation rising in her chest, so at odds to their almost ethereal surroundings. It was overwhelming. And confusing.

Home was so close by and, if it had been even a year earlier, she would almost certainly try to sneak away, to flee back to where her family's boat bobbed in the harbour. Struna had attempted that once before, getting as far as saddling one of those hateful school horses, intent on riding into the night and leaving the Training Corps behind. Except she had been caught by a boy with a gentle voice and a face painted with freckles. Damn Marco managed to talk her out of it.

Why didn't she run now? What had changed?

"I never wanted this. Never wanted t' be in the military…" In this, she knew she was not alone. Plenty of the cadets had been conscripted against their will. "But at least I've got t' meet some real nice folks." Struna flashed Hilda a smile, obviously including her among this number. The brown-eyed girl had proven a friend to her over the past two years. "I don't like the thought of any of us bein' separated. Going t' a regiment… it feels like startin' all over again."

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2019, 05:55:02 AM »
Hilda looked down at the figure eight she’d traced onto the ice. It wasn’t bad, but not as good as usual. Maybe once she was a little more warmed up. She bit her lower lip as she listened to Struna.

“I know the feeling.” she sighed, the blades of her skates moving in forward strokes again. “I couldn’t believe they conscripted me. I didn’t think I’d make it this far, that I’d be dead before the first week was over. I still can’t believe I’ve made it this far.”

She smiled back at Struna, but only for a moment before a frown replaced her smile. “I don’t like it, either. I know most people here are going into the Garrison, but even then, the Garrison is scattered all over. Have you decided what regiment you’re choosing?” It seemed that as graduation grew nearer, more people were making up their minds. Hilda had made up her mind early on that she’d go to the Garrison.

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2019, 09:15:06 PM »
Although the subject of their conversation was sombre, Struna was glad that Hilda was feeling similarly to herself. Graduation ought to be exciting and instead she was experiencing a low-burning sense of dread. For a moment, she fell into step - or stroke - beside her friend, savouring the grinding, hissing sound of their blades as they carved over the ice.

"We've both done well t' get this far," Struna offered Hilda a small, encouraging smile. "Hell, we mightn't be MP material, but there're things we're good at." The dark-haired brunette at her side had shown a flair for mechanics and engineering, something about the way numerous gears and joints slotted and worked together seeming to click for her. Struna herself had been glad to find that her strength lay in ODM manoeuvres, the athleticism of her upbringing and her head for heights serving her well.

At the question of which regiment she preferred, Struna shrugged at first, exhaling softly. "I kinda want t' say the Garrison. When I think of it, I imagine us all in a squad. You, me, Nack, Mara and Kieran pissin' off the edge of the world. I'd like that, for us t' all be together. That'd be… that'd be a good life. I think I could be happy, then."

With a sigh, Struna swivelled, so she was now skating backwards, propelling herself with slow, mindful movements. "But it's like you say, we'd probably be split up. And I think, after a while, I'd maybe find it suffocatin'. And lonely." She hesitated then, chewing on her bottom lip. "Then I think, I always feel most alive when there's risk, y'know? I've always climbed and sailed and swam and, fuck me, if I haven't diced with death a dozen times. So why not the Survey Corps?" The risk of that choice was death. A death far from the lake she felt she must be laid to rest in, the bones of her kin lying at its bottom. If she perished beyond the Wall, she would be left to rot and bloat in the sun, and her spirit would never know peace.

"Y'know, the last time I visited my folks, my da told me not t' take my boots off. That means I'm not family anymore, not really. I was just a guest. A visitor. And he gave my fuckin' boat t' my no good thug of a brother. There's no goin' back, not now." To Struna's horror, she felt her throat tighten, and the sting of tears in her violet-hued eyes. She cursed under her breath, hurrying to blink them away, and to swallow the knot in her throat. When she looked at Hilda next, she smirked, though behind her seemingly nonchalant expression lay a deep well of hurt. Truth was, she didn't belong anywhere now. "Besides, I'm lucky. If anyone can face down Titans and live t' tell about it, you better believe it's me." The words came confidently enough, even if they were followed by a sniff. "What about you, Hilda? Tell me the choice ain't as much of an ordeal for you."

Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2019, 05:06:50 AM »
“Huh, I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I guess we have done pretty well for ourselves.” Hilda murmured. But it was true, it was just that sometimes it was easy to forget that you were good at things when you weren’t in the running for the top 10. But to have made it as far as they did was an accomplishment in and of itself, considering not everyone managed to even finish the first year of training.

It did sound nice, the idea of being together in the Garrison. Hilda would rather not be in the military at all, but since she had to, she supposed the scenario Struna described was one of the better ways it could go.

She blinked as Struna got to that ‘but’. She had a feeling what she’d say next, and that feeling proved right. The Survey Corps. Hilda couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread at hearing it. She knew it was important and they needed people, but she didn’t want Struna to die. She was at a loss as to what to say. She wanted to tell her that she belonged in the Garrison, that she might die in the Survey Corps, but it was clear that she’d thought this through and knew the risks, and it’d be hypocritical to tell her her choice was wrong. Hadn’t Hilda always rolled her eyes at people who felt the need to be judgmental over what regiment others wanted to go into?

“Wait, what?Hilda came to a stop, shocked that anyone would treat their child like that. Especially over something she had no control over! Her own parents weren’t perfect. Far from it, really. But she couldn’t imagine them ever deciding she wasn’t family for being conscripted. She glided forward quickly until she was next to Struna before slowing down to the same pace. “But- but what did he expect you to do, get arrested for refusing to come here?” she sputtered indignantly.  “Is your father really mad at you for something you had no say in?” She shook her head.

“So, the Survey Corps, then? Or are you still undecided? Anyway, no, it wasn’t much of an ordeal for me. I’d been leaning towards the Garrison from the beginning, and I’ve been sure of it for a long time.”


Re: Winter Wonderland (Struna)
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2020, 09:59:35 PM »
When Hilda stopped, Struna smiled faintly, grateful for her friend’s indignation.  It validated the hurt she felt, the disappointment, the sense of loss.  Her estrangement had been insidious, slow, the passing days stretching into weeks and then months, testing her father’s patience until it shattered.  Blackbird belonged to another now.  As Hilda caught up, the girls fell into a steady, matching pace once more.  “I use’ta think you landfolk were strange,” Struna admitted, trying to explain the oddities that came with isolation.  “I see now it’s my family - my village - that’re odd.  Anyone who lives more than a mile or two from shore isn’t t’ be trusted.  And I’m one of ‘em now.  One of those faraway folks.  I guess… I guess sometimes it’s easier to let go.”  It seemed so foolish now, to think that people lived far from the lake’s shores were any different.  “I dunno what he expected me t’ do.  I s’pose he’s disappointed.  I am too.  We didn’t plan for this, y’know?”  Hilda would understand that sentiment, Struna was sure, given she was a fellow conscript.  They would make do with what fate forced upon them, even if this wasn’t the life they would have chosen otherwise.

“Still undecided for sure, don’t worry.  Good thing there’s a bit more time t’ decide,” Struna smiled, nudging her friend gently with her elbow.  “The Garrison is a sound choice.”  And she meant it.  Hypocritical as it was, Struna felt relief that Hilda was being sensible with her decision.  That girl would suit the roses.  Some chose the Garrison because they weren’t eligible for the Military Police and, not wanting to sign their own death warrant with the Survey Corps, simply drifted into the regiment.  Hilda was different, for her it was an active choice and Struna was sure she would leave her mark.  “What d’you think you’d’ve done if you hadn’t ended up in the military?”  A bittersweet question, perhaps, but if there was ever a time to ask it was now, with the stars glittering in the sky above them, with their futures spread beneath their feet. « Last Edit: January 07, 2020, 01:03:30 PM by Struna Mayberry »


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