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“This all seems a bit familiar, isn’t it?” Aubinaux said to Mariko, who just tersely nodded. It wasn’t until Mariko stepped on the battlefield that he was reminded of what happened five years ago, when last the Alliance and the forces of Garlemald clashed. In an open field. With the threat of a calamity creeping up on them.


The noises and clamor of armies moving, shells hitting in the distance and the general din of pitched battle was also not helping. Mariko found himself nervously glancing at Aubinaux and Elly. If Aubinaux was nervous, he wasn’t showing it easily. Or maybe he was gripping his axe a bit too tightly? Elly however, looked about as nervous as he did. She seemed to be focusing on her breathing, trying to keep herself calm and focused.


He glanced over at Syngigeim. She was over by General Raubhan, seemingly talking strategy. He headed on over, as close as he could feel comfortable overhearing.


“I was thinking of spreading everyone into three teams of four. The question is, whom should go where?” Syngigeim said.


“Well, let’s hear of your teams, first, Mistress Usynlonwyn,” Raubhan said, nodding.


“Well, I was thinking Arashi and, Mariko for the Doman irregulars, at least. Percival, Elly, Dreaming Sheep and Rostik for the Ala Mhigan resistance support group. Aubinaux, myself to support the Alliance...”


She was going to separate him from Aubinaux and Elly! Not now! Keep your cool, Mariko. “If I may make a suggestion,” he said, striding on up to the two “Can you keep Aubinaux, myself and Elly together for this one?”


“Easily done,” Syngigeim said, smiling.


“And...can you stay with me, Syngi?” He asked a bit more timidly.


“Alright, one moment, Raubhan,” She said over her shoulder. He nodded politely as Syngigeim motioned for Mariko to follow her to a relatively private corner of the fort. She knelt down in front of him, ensuring they were face to face. “Right then, what’s wrong?”


Mariko realized he was holding his breath and exhaled. “I’m a bit on edge. This place...reminds me of five years ago. And you know what happened then…” Gods, he was tearing up. He did his best to wipe away the tears threatening to spill over and continued. “...I’m scared. And I know you are as well.”


Syngigeim nodded. “Been anxious about this ever since Baelsar’s Wall sort of,” She gave a short laugh. “Not even being named a liberator can ease that fear.” She then put her hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have to fight if you don’t want to.”


Mariko gave a short bit of laughter at that, and some tears spilled out. “Says the Roegadyn who’s in danger of strange magic at any point. Who can fall...we can fall at any moment here. Besides which,” he said, staring her straight in the face as he said this, “I think you know as well as I that there’s no going back on any of this. That we made our choices ages ago to die for this realm.”


“For our friends,” She replied. Tears were beginning to spill down her face as well. Seeing that, he jumped up slightly to wrap his arms around her neck and hug her tightly. He felt her arms hold his head, hug his back, and felt her tears on his shoulder. He too, cried, doing his best to keep his sobs quiet.


After awhile, the two broke off and looked at each other. Awkwardly smiling. Syngigeim brushed the last remnants of tears from Mariko’s face. He reached up to do the same. “Til the end?” he asked.


“Til the end,” she answered.