Friday of Strange Updates, #1
Summary: Everyone believes in something. Even though He has never shown himself, Nina still believes in God. One day, Mist will understand. OneShot.
Warnings: For possible randomness, contentlessness, strange topics and … interesting characters. Also, this is a requested story so there won't be another one shot on this topic. But I enjoyed it a lot.
Set: Story-unrelated, future-fic
Disclaimer: Standards apply.
Dedication: To Keo-bas. I hope you like it! Thanks for your returned visits and your willingness to talk to me, crazy person that I am.
~Knights. For those of you who seek honor, engrave this into your hearts:
Your sword exists to protect the weak.~
For some unknown reason – might it be a law of nature or her tired mind playing tricks on her eyes – Katrina Antonina Visemper couldn't discern whether she was travelling forwards or backwards.
The darkness beyond the dusty glass window of her father's carriage seemed to solidify around her as she strained her eyes to see something, anything. But there was nothing except the black curtain of day's daughter and night would last for many more hours.
She would be travelling the entire time.
After spending hours in the rattling carriage, she had now lost track of their movement. Not that she didn't know where they were heading. What suddenly occurred to her was the fact that, hadn't she known she had been travelling forward for the last hours, she could have been travelling into the other direction entirely. There even was the possibility that she wasn't moving at all because suddenly the sounds of the wheels, the silent creaking of the coach's door and the soft rustling of her skirts seemed to have ceased. There was no sound except the wind rustling through the foliage of the invisible trees in front of her window.
The coach didn't seem to move.
Maybe they were standing still, unmoving, but the darkness outside didn't convey anything. It even blocked out the presence of human beings. Nina knew there were other people with her, the coachman and the knight who had been sent by her father and who was riding alongside the carriage. But neither the coachman's encouraging cries nor the knight's horse's steady galloping could be heard.
She couldn't remember when she had felt that alone the last time.
Through the cool window she glanced outside, feeling the glass underneath her hands. The darkness wasn't something to fear. How many nights had she lain in the dark, waiting for something (someone)? As a child, she had been afraid. But then, as a child, she had been selfish and naïve and easy-going and her childhood had ended rather abruptly. She was nineteen now, old enough to be married, old enough to bear children. She was old enough to know the world, to know human beings and their way of thinking. She had seen so much she sometimes felt older than she really was. She had seen suffering and cruelty, pain and blood. And she still was alive and so were the people she cared for most.
Thank you, God.
It was a paradox, as so many things in life were. He had never helped her, had never shown Himself. Had never done anything to right the wrongs in their country – and yet, she believed. But she understood the doubts others had as well. If there was a God, how could He watch His people suffer without acting? If there was a God, why didn't He descend in flames and fire and let His wrath come down on all the sinners in this world? Nina didn't know but she still believed. There had to be something, more than everything, there had to be a reason. Nothing happened without reason. She had been accused of witchcraft, had been imprisoned, tortured and nearly killed by people who claimed to fulfill His wishes. She had wondered whether she herself was a sinner. Or were they? Who was wrong and who was right? Was it her who was selfish and impure or were they?
Knowing there was no way of finding an answer, she had agreed with herself on a compromise.
People can be judged by their actions.
In her mind, people who imprisoned, tortured and burned a young woman for nothing but her knowledge of herbs and medicine were evil. Were sinners. Acted against God's wishes.
People who fought those men, who killed and injured on behalf of those who couldn't defend themselves were good.
~Knights. For those of you who seek honor…~
There had to be a distinction. There had to be a difference because if there wasn't, life was pointless.
Mist had laughed at her stubborn determination to continue praying, continue believing. He had told her once that there was no God but that he would protect her, no matter what, mere squire he had been then. Those words had made her happy beyond belief and she still could hear his voice in her mind. Mist refused to believe but he didn't see what she saw. He didn't see the women he sent to her, he didn't see the way they had to be nursed, mended, had to be brought back to life even if their injuries healed. Yes, he saw the terror, the fighting and the wounds. He knew how those felt. But she saw what it had done to him. She saw the scars those women and children carried on their souls. And she saw the way they (and he, too) clung to the knowledge – or hope, sometimes – that there was more. Some prayed for forgiveness. Some for healing. Some prayed for hope and some simply for happiness. Some for revenge, too, but they were only human and after what they had experienced, who could blame them? She didn't pray for anything.
One day, Mist would understand. One day, he'd look outside and see what she saw, feel what she felt. One day. Her faith was nothing like the religious frenzy the Church had maintained throughout her rule of terror. Her faith was soft and warm, gentle and loving. It demanded nothing, asked for few things and tried to give even more. Mist would understand because he, even though he didn't want to see it right now, was similar. He believed in his sword and in his oath. He believed in the people and in a reason for every existence. He believed, though he refused to direct his belief towards a deity. But he had faith. And he didn't try to change her. He accepted her faith and her belief and simply watched and she loved him even more for it.
The cloudy sky broke open and the cool, silvery light of the moon flooded the carriage. Suddenly she could see the trees, the bushes and the hills. Yes, she was moving; the carriage was speeding through the night both too fast and too quiet. What was it that made nightly hours swallow all sounds? Unconsciously, her hand curled around the small pendant around her neck. It was warm where it had lain on the soft skin of her throat. Eyes wide with wonder, she watched the nightly landscape fly by: a picture of immeasurable beauty. A quiet world of secrets. Blackness surrounded her softly, covered her ears and weighted down her eyes. Suddenly feeling tired to the bones, she leaned back into the soft cushions of her father's carriage and smiled.
Sometimes she felt like she was watching life and years fly by without being connected to it.
Hadn't it been only yesterday that she had met a strange, masked knight and had been saved by him? Hadn't it been only a short time since she had left the safety and protection of her home to follow him into the world? It felt like it had only been a few months ago and yet – she felt like she was worlds apart from the young, naïve girl she had been then. But she wasn't the only one who had changed. Partly with anger, partly with amusement, she remembered voices whispering about her being selfish and him being shallow. Not only shallow, but empty, without honor, being driven by demons and most probably the devil himself. Her anger sparked because the gossip was wrong, utterly and entirely. Mist wasn't shallow, he was stubborn and strong and kind and sensitive and his sense of duty was admirable. He wasn't empty but kept to himself a lot and didn't talk about his feelings. He had opened up somewhat but to those who didn't know him he still remained an enigma. Who believed he didn't honor the knight's codex, or other people, didn't know him.
But that was the point, wasn't it?
They simply didn't know him. They didn't know the squire who had fought so valiantly to save women accused of witchcraft. They didn't know the boy who had been abandoned by his father and had watched his mother die, they didn't know the nameless teenager who had come to over-exceed the expectations people had set in him even if he only was a squire. Now he was a knight, a true one, and as Nina's eyelids dropped, her smile widened even more. Mist. At the same time, pain swelled in her heart. She hadn't seen him for such a long time and she wasn't sure when she would be able to meet him again. Maybe that was why her father had sent her away. She was old enough to be given away in marriage but until now had refused every suitor he had introduced to her. Her father hadn't had the heart to force his only daughter into an unwanted marriage. Of course, she would immediately have said yes if it had been Mist who had been asking for her hand. But her father had made it abundantly clear that this was impossible. He wouldn't marry her to someone she didn't want, but he wouldn't let her marry a complete social outcast, either. And besides, Mist was always travelling from there to here, from here to there. Always protecting the weak, saving damsels in distress and carrying out diplomatic missions, entirely forgetting to live his own life.
Forgetting her, too.
~… engrave this into your heart.~
Nina was already used to the tiny pang and the sudden burst of pain at the mentioning of his name.
Probably her aunt had already invited all the handsome and not-so-handsome-but-rich-and-famous knights of their country to introduce them to her. From what she had overheard her father telling the courier he had sent to ask her uncle if she could stay with them she knew he wanted her to meet other people, other men, and to find someone she could agree on marrying. He was worried about her, wanted to see her happy. She loved him for that.
Of course, when she had been younger, she had dreamt of marrying Mist.
Being swept away by the strong, mysterious knight, living with him, travelling with him – those dreams had accompanied her teenage years. But he was a knight and she was a lady and whatever she wished for, dreams didn't come true. He was a knight, and a famous one, too – or infamous? And she was the only daughter of a wealthy and influential noble man. Their paths had crossed and diverged again and she had long ago accepted the fact that Mist would never ask for her hand and her father would never give her to him. But still, she could dream. She was able to dream, at least.
Her eyes fell shut. The ghost of a smile still on her lips, she fell asleep.
Sunlight shone through the windows of the carriage and Nina tried to loosen her stiff muscles as her party approached their final destination. Despite laying awake for long hours last night she felt refreshed and energetic. There hadn't been many possibilities to make herself look pretty but she had requested a stop in a roadside inn and, thankfully, had found a bowl of warm water, some soap and a mirror. Now, her hair was artfully braided once again and she thought she must at least look presentable. Only now a pang of nervousness rose in her chest and she swallowed hard. She didn't know her mother's relatives and she knew what her father expected from her. The sight of the high, white castle walls and the strong towers was impressive and humbling at the same time.
The knight knocked on the wall of the carriage.
"My lady, we have reached Sir Johannes von Liechtenstein's castle."
She merely nodded and brushed away a strand of hair that was nonexistent. The coach rumbled across a wooden bridge and into a stone-paved courtyard. Voices and noises crashed over her like a wave, threatened to drown her, sent her wishing she was somewhere – anywhere – else. With a short command, the coachman let the two horses stop and the carriage stood still. The door opened and the knight offered her a hand to descend the two little steps from the coach into the courtyard. Surprisingly, the stones were swept and clean and the voices she was hearing sounded friendly and happy. The foreign accent sent shivers of giddy anticipation down her back. So this was the place she would be staying in for the next year. It didn't seem all bad.
"Lady Katrina Antonina Visemper wishes to greet her uncle, Sir Johannes von Liechtenstein", she heard her guard announce. Looking over her shoulder, she saw three children chasing a goose across the yard. A tiny smile formed on her lips. And then, something dark flashed by her peripheral vision and she froze.
It couldn't be. But she had to be sure, entirely sure…
She immediately regretted not having used an honorific. When had she stopped calling him "Sir"? But right now, it didn't matter, because it really was him. Mist turned around and the same mixture of happiness, wonder and surprise flooded his face.
With another, painful pang she realized he had no idea why she was here. What her being here meant. So he really didn't care for her in that way anymore. She… With an effort, she pushed back those thoughts and smiled.
~Your sword exists to protect the weak.~
She wasn't weak any more, she reminded herself. She didn't need his protection anymore. But still, it felt good to see him.
It seemed her faith had, once again, paid itself well.