Free Fall
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Free Fall

Quattordici: Viking

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Free Fall
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It was a sunny day. A figure cut his way through a throng of people and looked out at the crowd below waving. He waved back though he had no-one to wave to. He felt the wood he was standing on move as a sound bellowed through the air. The people next to him swayed a bit, but he held himself upright. His eyes glinted in the bright sunlight and an observer might have thought they were the ocean below. A smile played at the corner of his lips as he saw a bubbly tour guide lead a group of young children around deck. Most of her listeners were gazing around in awe. He smiled in empathy as he saw a young couple completely engrossed in their love as they leaned over the rail, hands clasped tightly, laughter bouncing, joy emanating. Her dress was a bright light even under the sun, his tie a guiding light to its radiance. An woman shepherded her children away from the railing they were using as a jungle gym while the man next to her bit back a smile and assumed a grim façade as he faced them.

The sea-eyed figure closed his eyes as he leant against the railing and felt himself drift far away under the effect of the sea breeze and keen scent.

He was on a ship a million miles away and what felt like a million years ago. He was wearing a round hat with stag's horns poking out. He was surrounded by comrades and the sea stretched forever ahead of him. He felt a hand clap on his back and turned to see the man he considered a father behind him.

"First voyage's always like that. Seems like the world is water and nothing more."

"It's a powerful sight."

"That it is. You miss land?"

"No."

"Spoken like a true Viking." Pride emanated from the man who looked at his de facto son. He had found him wandering and had taken him in. He seemed to have forgotten all about who he was and had taken naturally to a Norse lifestyle. "Does it remind you of anything?" Though his words were gentle, he felt the body underneath his hand stiffen.

"No. I can't remember anything. Maybe it's because what happened isn't- it's not anything I should be remembering. I'm sorry; I don't know."

"Hey, that's okay. I just asked because I know you want to. Whoever you were before, you're my boy now. And that's all that matters to me."

"I know I'm not a child- I'm grateful you didn't treat me as a vagabond."

"You didn't know who you were or where you came from. I don't care about how old you look, you needed help and I knew you and I shared a kindred connection. You're my boy and I don't care if you're mine or a boy, but you're my boy."

*** Will Add this Scene in this Chap at some point

The woman moved closer to him, he felt something sting his neck, then nothing at all. The oblivion lasted for a infinitesimal infinity before he felt an all-consuming pain in his head, his knees buckled, he knelt to the ground, emptied what felt like his innards, and felt himself lose even the energy and controlled required to maintain a kneeling position; as he fell forward, his head hit a sharp outcropping of rock, and that collision - which normally would have been no more harmful to him than knocking on a door was for the average human - was enough to overpower his weakened body and rob him of his senses.

***
The strong built man with bright red hair and fiery love to match searched frantically for his son. Normally, disappearances of youth were not much to worry about, but his boy had been missing for a few days and it was not like him to delay return especially so close to sailing. He had used his weight in his community to have a search party organized; he would do everything in his power to find him - and give him a thorough tongue- lashing. He thought of what he would say even as he ran and called.

"He's been found!"

"What? Where?"

"Ah, come on, I'll show ye...but I got to warn ya'...it's not a pretty sight."

"He's my boy; he'll be fine."

"Ah, but will you?"

"What kind of example would I be settin' if I weren't?"

"Ah, parenting's not tha' simple."

What he would have replied will never be known for it was at that precise moment that he saw his son, saw him lying unconscious near what looked to be his own vomit, saw the rain coming down on him - as it was on all of them, but that didn't matter- saw the pallor of his face and exposed body and ran. He ran like he had never run before, he must have been screaming because his throat had never felt so sore. He gathered his son in his arms and ran back to the boat, calling for help. He handed his boy over to familiar arms and stayed as close as he could, watched them run and fetch supplies, bring blankets, lay his son down and cover him as he shivered helplessly - had he been shivering so in his arms? Had he carried his son while he ached and hurt and shivered like a wee babe? He watched as they stepped back, felt an arm on his shoulder, heard the words "wait" and "time" and "willpower". He knew when he was alone with his child and moved closer to him, knelt at his bedside and grabbed his hand- his too pale, too cold, too shivering hand- and asked him to be okay, to come back to him, to not leave him.

***

It had been seven turns of the sun and his boy was not back to him; he didn't shiver as much as he used to, but his body seemed to be on a constant vibration; he was no longer pale, but had taken on a blue color, the blue his eyes would be if he would just open them; he tossed now too and had developed a fever, he was hot to the touch but covered in ice; he had also lost what little weight he had; his boy had always been thin but now it was as if he didn't exist at all. He had stayed with him the whole time, leaving only to relieve himself; ashamedly, he thought, he had fallen prey to svefn. He was in such a shameful state when he heard retching and jerked awake. His boy, his beautiful boy, was awake and retching; he moved to his side, and held him as he body shook; he felt every tremble strike his heart. His boy seemed to be leaning entirely on him, unable to support himself as he emptied his body of who knew what - there was nothing to empty.

Finally, the spell subsided; it was at this moment that the matron walked in; the noise had gotten his notice; he moved the bucket out of the room and emptied it before bringing another one back. Then, he moved to his boy's other side. But his boy did not look at him, no, he looked at his father and mumbled two words. "I remember."

"What?" The matron jumped in.

"I remember...who I am...where I come from... all of it." His boy drew a ragged breath and coughed. He leant into his father and then began to fall towards the bed. The two men gently helped him lie down once again. "Tired."

"I know. You can rest." He looked to the matron for confirmation; the other man nodded.

His son, unaware of their exchange, drifted back to sleep.

The matron whispered. "He may be okay yet. I was givin' up hope...but I think he'll pull through."

"Ah course he will. I never gave up hope. He's my boy, he won't give up." The man scoffed though his heart sagged at the matron's opinion.

"That he is. Wouldn't believe it weren't by blood if I didn't know. I saw you in 'im. And your father in you."

"I know our families never got on, but heal him and I'll be in your debt 'till the end of my days."

"That's what yer father said too."

"My father declined in his morality in his later years. I won't."

"I know. I decided when I lost mine I wouldn't continue this legacy of hatred."

"I never did."

"There's no debt. We're all Vikings. We can't conquer the world if we think like that."

"Sounds right."

They stood in silence until the man's son jerked upright; he looked ill, but lucid. "You okay, boy?"

"Mmm, just...memories."

"Our past catches up to us...remember you're one of us now, the past is over."

"I know, but it was...horrible."

"Listen to your old man, you need to focus on the now and the future. There'll be plenty of time for self- realization later. You young un's - always trying to grow up too fast."

The younger man nodded. "So, when do I get to leave?"

"We'll see in the morning." The matron walked out.

"How ya' feelin'?"

"Like a piece of meat."

"Ah, boy. You look better than you did when we found ya'."

"How long ago was that?"

"Seven moons ago."

"Seven?"

"Yeah, had me worried there. Had us all worried."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't you apologize," the man said sharply, then continued, "but do you remember what happened?"

"All I remember is pain, a sharp pain in the head."

"That's it?"

"Of seven days ago...My life, however, has just come back to me."

"You know you can tell me whatever whenever you need to."

"It's cold. I remember but that's the only way I know how to tell you. So cold. Not like when it's cold back home, but cold like your insides freeze and you don't want to be near anyone because they're cold and you're cold and there's no love, no care. There's nothing."

The man's face showed signs of perturbation as he listened to his son; the boy had certainly had a harsh life; he wanted nothing more than to prevent him from it, but as he had listened, he had realized that his boy was a man - he wished he had seen him grow, but was reminded of how they had met and wanted nothing more than to change life, but he knew he couldn't - so he did the next best thing. He moved over to his son, because he was his son, and held him as tight as he could. "You're not there anymore. You're here. With me. With us. And there's so much. And even when it's cold, I, we, you won't be cold."

"I know. You taught me. This changes nothing...unless you want it do." The young man looked younger than ever as he shyly spoke the last few words.

The older man drew a sharp breath. "Never utter those words again, ya' hear? Ya're my boy! My son! I stayed with ya' every moment and ya' better believe none of that is going to change because of yer 'cold' past."

To his surprise, the younger man drew back in fear. "U-understood, s-sir."

"What?"

"I understand, sir." He couldn't seem to meet his eyes.

"Hey, listen to me, I'm not going to hurt ya'."

"I- I know. I don't know what came over me. Sorry."

"Nothing to apologize for, but you know that, right?"

"'Course."

"Probably just the shock of remembering."

"Probably."

"Am I interrupting?" The matron stepped back in.

"No. What's the verdict? Can I leave?"

"Depends. How do you feel?"

"Perfect."

The matron took in the still too pale skin, the cold sweat, and general haggard appearance. "I'll be the judge of that. Would you like to try getting up first, or eating first?"

"Getting up."

"Okay. Just take it slow. We'll catch ya' if need be."

"Ok." The young wished to get up with gusto, but forced himself to take it slow. He didn't want to tip anyone off, and if he was completely honest, he wasn't feel 100%. He pushed off, but was overcome with intense vertigo.

The matron noticed his charge go rigid; he caught him as he shuddered and fell forward. His heart rate felt off...sluggish but at the same time, extremely high. Lowering him back on the bed, he brought out his equipment and began a test. His results were beyond strange, but he figured it was the stress of the moment. He nodded to the other man. "He's not getting out of here today."

"I'll say."

"I'll bring something for him - and you- to eat. When he feels up to it, let him know. Don't worry. I was expecting this...but wanted him to see it."

"I get ya'."

The matron left once again. The young man looked up at his father, dazed. "That did not go as I wanted," he slurred.

"That so?"

"Yeah, I thought I would be fine."

"That's because you're his son." The matron walked back in. "Got the food earlier than I thought. Ya' feel up to it?"

"Definitely"

Needless to say, this second attempt at heroics fared no better than the first.

***

A thin blue - eyed figure stared at the sea from the deck of a mighty ship; he longed to be practicing but he didn't want his first day out of the infirmary to culminate in his re-entering it. He pondered why he wasn't healing as he used to and if it was related to his weird memory condition or if he had lost who he was - well, he knew that wasn't true for he had needed his usual sustenance. That had not been easy to do down in the infirmary which probably played a part in how long he had had to be down there. Regardless, he smiled as he watched the waves on the dark water. He heard his father come up behind him and smiled to himself. Unfortunately, that was just when his body realized it had another cough in it, a violent one.

"Should you be out here?"

"I'm fine. Just a tickle."

"Who taught you how to tickle, boy?"

The two lapsed into comfortable silence; the older man noticed the younger's thoughtful gaze. "Hey, don't dwell too much on what happened...seen that drive grown men out of their minds."

"I just don't understand."

"There's a lot out there we don't understand, but what we do helps everyone understand. Focus on that. Let that be your light."

"Thank you." Blue eyes brightened.

"There ya' are. We're most there; cap'n wants all up for the approach." A man spoke quickly as he rushed past.

"Intimidation?" the young man inquired.

"Ah. Ready to go and see what it means to be a Viking approaching a foreign land?"

"Definitely." The two joined their comrades and faced the shore they were approaching; every man and woman wore a fierce expression. The young man saw a figure upon the shore look out, tense, and run inland, shouting and constantly looking over his shoulder. Other figures soon appeared, some turning back, others pulling spears, swords, and weapons out of seemingly nowhere. Their ship plowed on; battle was imminent. He readied himself mentally and physically. Squared his shoulders, readied his stance as they reached land.

The instance they touched dry land, they charged. Adrenaline pumped through his comrades, their hearts raced; he supposed he would be feeling the same if he were truly alive. As he fought, he gave into the temptation to feed; he disguised those wounds by sword- inflicted ones. He made sure he didn't kill anyone though; his company had decided they would take prisoners and instill their way of life rather than slaughtering men - this had played a huge role in his taking part of this expedition. In the heat of battle, he did not notice moving towards the woods; defenders came out from every side, but he had the advantage of who he was. Near the end of the battle, when there was no-one around him, he saw her.

"You survived."

"Was I not supposed to?"

"Call it a test."

"You should know better."

"I have been doing this for a long time, haven't I? And yet, you never learn. Your survival makes me stronger; I am your sire after all."

"You do this because it makes you stronger?!"

"I sired you because it made me stronger."

"My whole life ruined, my love's... you're a monster."

"No, I'm a survivor, a thriver. I survive, thrive, get stronger. What do you do? Not kill? Not sire?"

"There's nothing admirable about taking life."

"But it's so beneficial to me. Power is like a muscle; one must exercise it to strengthen it."

"But it's not meant to be strengthened, not like this."

"I am master of myself and I can do whatever I want to others. What have you mastered? Constraint? That doesn't win you any wars."

"I'm not here to win wars. You would think you would have matured beyond that." The figure turned to walk away but the slender, brunette with striking features had other ideas. She produced bright sparks and took aim. She set them off aimed at the middle of his back, a location that may not kill him, but would do a great deal of damage - especially since he had not quite fully healed from her last attack. If he pulled through, she would get stronger and maye he would take his place at her side. That's why she had turned him after all; he and she would look right side by side.

He heard the sparks flying at him and let them hit him; his armor absorbed most of them, but the rest took their toll on his abused body. Refusing to let that show, he whirled around and attacked her.

Caught off guard, she took his sparks head on. Her strength ensured her survival, but she was defeated for now.

"Maybe constraint is good for something...constraining your pain...interesting. But you gave in to release when you attacked."

"No. I constrained my attack."

"But you attacked."

"I don't need to explain something to someone who will never understand." The figure moved out of her view; leaning against a tree, he collected himself, put on a warrior's face.

He made his way out of the forest.

"Ah, there ya' are! Ya' missed the raid! Where did you get to?" A man around his age walked up to him.

"Followed the battle."

"Well, you look a mess."

"Don't we all?" The two started laughing.

"I've always loved the way I look after a battle but cap'n wants us to clean up...did you find a spring in the forest?"

"No, I got a bit lost...where did you clean up?"

"Uh...the ocean."

"Right. I'll - I'll do that." The figure went over to the ocean and began to clean off the grime of battle.Looking around, he saw that most of his comrades had removed their armor, with only a few remaining ready for battle- the sentinels. He knew he didn't have that duty for a while so he took off the protective garment. As he ran a hand across where she had struck him, he felt pain but it was a pain unlike any he had ever felt. It included elements of the physical pain of sparks as well as emotional distress, but it wasn't emotional distress he solely owned; it included elements that dated farther back than he had been alive.

"How did they do that?" He started at the captain's voice.

"Do what?"

"Those markings on your back. They look unlike any sword wound I've seen."

"Oh, I've had those forever."

"You ain't lived long enough to say that, boy."

"Well, as far back as I can remember, I've had them."

"Hmm...well so long as they don't have any special weapons they can attack us with."

"None that I know of, sir." he knew she wouldn't be involved; she considered herself too complex to be involved in such matters. He shook his head internally as he thought of how complex these matters really were and how the things she held so dear were truly primal.

"Well, we're going to head out and explore soon. If i were you, I would hurry - and put a shirt on; gave your father quite the fright earlier; i don't want my best man compromised."

"Yes sir." The figure quickly finished washing up and slipped the thin fabric over his head before pulling on breeches and boots. Shaking his wet head hair out of his face, he turned back to the party and made it back just as they headed off in pairs. He caught his best friend. "What'd I miss?"

"You miss when you were in the spa, your highness?"

"Some of us don't need the spa to look this good."

"And the rest of everyone is you."

"Haha. Very funny."

"I know I am....All you missed was the usual spiel."

"Ah, the we're Vikings not savages doctrine."

"Haha, yeah."

The two made their way down the mountainside that bordered the water. They came upon a hut with thatched walls and a straw roof. Knocking on the door, they received no answer. As per custom, they knocked a few more times; When no-one responded, they peered in through a window and seeing no-one, cautiously tried to open the door. It swung open revealing a dust covered floor; the lean figure with bright blue eyes lost himself in reverie; he could not help but think of another hut, long, long ago with a man much like himself and a beautiful woman entering for the first time; he remembered the way her eyes lit up as she took in what was to be her new home and the way her laughter bounced off the walls, adding life to thatch and grass and wood; he recalled his own joy, his baritones reverberating off the straw at the top, giving it purpose, meaning. The windows shone for them, the stars seemed to come down to Earth and the moon kept them company. The night was their companion and their guard as they crawled through the enclosure, exploring and exclaiming; he had built everything in the structure, but seeing it with her was an entirely new experience and he felt as though he were seeing it for the first time. She had giggled when he had told her this upon her questioning gaze at his amazement and he had bottled that sound, knowing he would never hear anything akin to it again; she got him; she didn't know but she understood and she was as excited as he was to see this play out. They had both chosen each other and that was all that mattered.

"Hey, mate, you ok?" A hand waved across his vision.

"Oh yeah...just taking it all in. Pretty old place."

"Yeah, lots of stories i guess...didn't know you were into that though."

"Oh, I...I'm not. Just never seen anything quite this old."

" Probably abandoned long ago. I wonder who lived here." The two moved about the place until the blonde, green-eyed fellow saw something defining. "This might tell us a little about the owners of this place." He picked up a binding of carved bark.

The other figure moved next to him and took it in before promptly running outside and being violently sick. His comrade let him have his space before moving next to him as he walked back. "Reckon you'll tell me about that?"

"Reckon so."

"Do ya'?"

"Yeah, as long as you don't tell anyone else what happened."

"S'long as ya' tell me why."

"I recognized that writing, s'all."

"You did? Tha's old writing, I'd wager."

"I remember whence I came."

"Ya' do? Well what was it like?"

"Ah, I don't reckon tha's worth tellin' 'bout."

"But this writing? What is it?"

"Lemme look it over carefully."

"Sure. I'll see if I can find anything."

"Don't move a thing."

"What?"

"It'll be easier to figure out if it's where they left it."

"Alright. I'll holler if I find anything."

"Ya' do that." The two ventured back inside; the blue eyed man picked up the bark binding and looked at the first age. Memories flooded to him as he stared at it.

He stared at the writing and remembered holding the hands that had done the carving; he remembered tugging at skirts the bark rested on, desperate to get his mother's attention. He remembered days running in the grass with others who showed up later on the bark as he recalled. His flashbacked to days of living, but found himself being repelled by the pain reminiscence brought; he could no longer live that life and it would not do to be continually thinking of it; he felt odd enough as it was; it seemed her spell -or curse or whatever it was she had done- was still in effect; truly, he had not known who he was until that day he had seen her and collapsed; all he had known was that he needed blood to stay alive and the strange aftereffects were all real too- granted, the most recent puking spell had been due to shock and perhaps some lingering effect of her toxicity; all he knew was that he wasn't feeling like he normal and after having felt that way for as long as he had, his experience was akin to jumping in ice water after traversing the desert or jumping in a pool of lava after spending a decade on ice; point is, he felt weird and strange and like he wanted to curl up in bed and make it all just stop.

"Hey, mate you ok? You look a bit peaky."

"What? Oh yeah, I'm fine." His friend looked as if he were about to say something but was silenced by the strange howl that pierced the night; it was unlike any wind he had ever heard, but his blue-eyed friend didn't startle. "Relax; that's just the wind."

"How can you know?"

"The wind never changes."

"Huh?"

"If you listen to it right, it has all the same undertones and overtones, just arranged differently. from place to place."

"Oh ok." That was enough for the green eyed man, but the blue orbed figure really meant that the wind sounded exactly the same as when he had heard it the frist time; it was the same wind that had licked the moisture from his body after his first swim in the lake that had dried many human lifetimes ago, that had tickled him as he lay in the grass long gone.

"We should leave."

"What do you mean?"

"Sentry duty."

"That time already? Well, let's go. Our people need us; we're their heroes after all."

"The finest." The two took off towards camp where they donned their armor once more and stood guard. Waves lapped at the shore as sand washed away and reappeared; the night sky lightened slowly at first, then all at once; birds began to chirp; grasshoppers silenced their song. Our 'heroes' however, noticed none of this; they rergistered changes, perhaps, in some faraway corner of their minds, but nothing came to consciousness; the only thing in their conscious awareness was danger and it's warnings. They focused solely on their duty for they werere their people's first and last line of defense until the rest mustered the cognition to join; the few seconds, maybe minute, of delay could mean life or death.

They were relieved of this duty as the sun came up and two others took their place; nodding to them, they hastily stripped off their armor and lay down in their civil wear they wore underneath. Emerald orbs soon closed and remained so. Sapphire however closed only to open moments later when all was quiet. He hurried into the forest and listened for a human heart and checked for her tell- tale signs. Finding nothing, he moved closer to the edge opposite the camp where he heard it; the distinct thump thump thump of a healthy human heart; although, this one clecnched in anticipation; probing further, he could tell that this personhad no good intentions as he inched towards their campsite. He moved towards the would-be perpetrator and saw the fat neck soon; he found himself behind the man soon enough and bent forward and tipped his fangs onto the neck before the man knew he was there; sensing the body, or body-to-be, tense up, he sank his fangs in and covered the mouth; slowly he let the blood flow out of the body and into him, the thick sustenance trickled down his throat in a sensational movement, it flowed thick and dark from the body and into his waiting mouth only to join the trickle, eventually he let it rush and engorged his appetite;; it was rare he let himself feed fully, but this man had intended something so vile, so devastating that he could not make himself stop. He drained the body before long, then because he was no monster, he buried it- and marked it with what he could. He even drew a portrait of the man on the bark he used as a gravestone so that anyone looking for him would find him. He knew this did not make up for the life lost, but at this point, he could do nothing about it, and whenever he felt too bad, he remembered his intentions and felt he were playing a vigilante of some sort; his intentions were good,; the man's were not. Did he have the right? Probably not. But if he didn't, who would. And who would give back what would have been taken if he had not done what he had.

"Hey! Hey, mister, can you help? My sister's falling!" One of the children who had playing earlier ran up to him and tugged on his shirt, panic streaking his voice. One finger was stretched, pointing to where his sister must have been. He pulled away from the railing and ran to where he could see small fingers clasping the railing; leaning down, he pulled her back up. As he did, he noticed something remarkable about her; there was something in her eyes he had seen in only one person before, long ago; if he would have looked harder he would have seen it was not one but two. Two he had known at vastly different times in vastly different ways, but two who had been family all the same.

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