It's entirely possible for a single moment to destroy a person.
Lieutenant Tomathren was born with one of those smiles that always managed to elicit a response from whomever it was directed at. Ranger Valanna was definitely no exception, as she was most often the target of those crooked, sheepish grins.
"You idiot," she'd say when she caught him looking at her like that, as if he were some lovestruck fool who didn't have a clue.
His response would always be to chuckle, hiding his amusement behind a hand.
The Farstriders loved him—perhaps it was his easygoing personality that won them over. He never worked them too hard, never yelled too loud, and always demonstrated kindness and patience.
They would die for him.
(Not because he was experienced, because he was not—not because he was a genius, because he was not—but because he was as real as the soil beneath their feet, a being with faults and a sense of honor and dignity and that wonderfully reassuring smile that made them want to follow wherever it was he lead. He had their respect and their loyalty. He had earned it.)
Ranger Valanna was the one who saw the expression on his face as the men and women around him fell. His men and women. Those that had admitted a willingness to die under his command met their ends on the sharp points of crude javelins and swords. A direct approach had cost them the lives of their friends and comrades-in-arms. It had not granted them victory.
A few survived, but only Valanna stayed with the lieutenant. Time passed, and she nursed her own broken arm with a splint and careful tending… But, she mused, over and over again, day after day, night after night…she didn't know how to fix his broken mind.
"It's not my fault!" he said loudly, suddenly, one evening, and she looked up from her food, used to his outbursts but startled nonetheless at the wounded tone of his voice. She still remembered a time when he would hide behind trees and jump out to frighten her as she passed by. She remembered a side of him that she worried she would never see again.
With some difficulty, she managed to scoot closer to him. Her arm had healed with agonizing slowness. "You idiot," she murmured, using stiff fingers to pull his napkin from his lap to wipe soup off of his face.
He watched her with an air of confusion about him, as if the reason the soup had spilled eluded him completely, and when she settled the stained cloth across his lap again, he shuddered and swallowed thickly. She knew it wasn't because of the spilled soup.
His shoulders hunched, and his eyes glanced toward her, never leaving the ground. His arm reached out just the smallest bit, and she bit her lip as his fingers touched her arm.
She had done her best, but it would probably never work perfectly again. Neither would he. They were quite a pair. A horrible, perfect pair. Suited for one another. She had, of course, followed him just as blindly as the rest. Wasn't she then just as foolish as he? Was this the cost of survival? Broken bones and minds that would never recover?
"It's not my fault," he whispered. "It's not my fault." And then, he petted her arm in silence, his thumb moving over the edge of the crude twigs she had found to keep her forearm aligned properly. He paused for a moment, his eyes focusing as if he had only just realized something.
His voice was soft, but sure. "I'm sorry." He licked his chapped lips and let his gaze meet hers for a fraction of a moment. "I didn't mean to."
More practice. Lieutenant Tomathren and Ranger Valanna are NPCs that can be found in the Ghostlands. They are blood elves.