AN: So second chapter, yay :) I'm sure you can tell that pretty much none of this actually happened in the game, but it helps to reveal character and expand upon things they don't tell you about. The story also includes some of my headcanons too as you can see, but I don't want to reveal too much before you actually read the chapter. This one isn't quite as long, but I tried my best to stretch it out. I hope you like it!
Solo lay curled up in the corner of the stone room his face was completely soaked, and a small puddle had begun to form where his head met the ground. He had been there for several hours, listening to the sickening sounds of death above and the cracking fires burning down the town. Around the time he guessed it would have been dawn, were the sounds of cracking bones and celebratory screams proclaiming victory for their master. He couldn't quite catch the name, but he was too busy trying to keep himself together to pay attention anyway.
After a few more hours of being locked within that lonely stone room, Solo felt his stomach groan with displeasure, so he carefully inched the door open to ensure that all the monsters had gone. He quickly wished he hadn't and shut the door again, with near tears falling onto the ground. Lying in the middle of the room, in a thick pool of blood lay the mutilated body of Eliza. She still had his face, or what was left of it.
There was a long gash from ear to ear, across her neck; patches of hair were missing and strewn about the room, stuck to the wall in some places by drying blood. The clothes were completely soaked and browning from exposure to the air, and her limbs were bent at odd angles, except for her left arm – his dominant arm – which was completely gone. Her ribs were showing through her back like her front had been cut open and they were pushed through her back.
Solo, despite his grief for his friend, quickly realized that could have been him, and that they desperately wanted him dead, for whatever reason. He clamped his eyes shut and opened the door again, dashing through the room and up the stairs, trying and failing to ignore the feel of blood and other things he didn't even care to think about getting squished between his toes.
He emerged on the surface and took a deep breath, glad to be in the fresh air again, only to choke of the stench of death and smoke. Most of the buildings of the once peaceful village were now either completely demolished, or only a few boards and maybe a cloth remained. The grass was dead and most of the trees have been severely charred by the fires, even most of the bodies were gone, though there was evidence that they had been eaten, rather than burned. The sky was still filled with smoke, and although it was likely noon or later by that time, he guessed, it was as if the town was trapped in night.
"Hello?" he called, hoping someone had survived somehow and would answer him. "Is anyone there?"
There was no answer.
He wandered further into town, thinking that maybe someone was hiding. The once pure stream had been stained scarlet and all the fish were gone, the bridge had been burnt, so he had to wade through this filth, fighting to hold back more tears.
"They would have wanted me to be strong," he thought. "They knew this might happen, but they cared for me anyway. I must repay them somehow."
As he got closer to the center of the town, a small smile spread across his face. This place wasn't all dead, not yet. He ran to the little patch of green that had some how survived and collapsed upon it. Somehow, the grass and the flowers here had not died. He knew that once day this place would be habitable again. After what seemed like days, Solo slowly stood from where he'd fallen.
Just a few feet away, lying on some flowers was a little feather cap. It looked very much like the one that Eliza used to wear in the wintertime, so Solo picked it up and stuffed it into one of his pockets. He was sure all his all his clothes must have burned up in the fire, so he didn't even bother to check the remains of his house, it would have been too painful to return there anyway.
"I guess I'll just have to get some money somewhere," he sighed. "I bet there's some left in one of the houses if the monsters didn't take it all."
Solo walked around the remains of his childhood home, inspecting the various charred homes and eventually finding about four hundred gold that had been stuck under floorboards or buried and that the monster hadn't taken. He also found some boots that were in decent condition and put them on, screwing up his face at the unpleasant feel of the mud, or so he hoped, in the shoes. He was still forced to wear his pajamas since all the clothes had been burned up, but he decided he would buy something later.
"It's getting dark. I should get out of here just in case they come back."
He gathered the various items he'd deemed worthy of bringing with him and started walking away from the little spot of green. He looked back as he reached the edge where the village met the forest for one last look and forced himself to continue onward.
It was well past sunset when Solo finally stopped to rest on a rock. He was surrounded on all sides by tall trees and pitch-blackness. He had nothing with which he could start a fire, so he just sat there, holding onto himself to try to stay warm.
It was impossible for him to sleep. Every time he would close his eyes, the violent death of another loved one would flash before his eyes. His stomach was even more upset by this time, having had nothing to eat since the previous afternoon except for a few berries he'd found along the way that weren't even ripe and made him sick.
Solo jumped in surprise as he heard footsteps approaching from the south, and saw a prick of light. He scrambled behind a tree, holding his possessions closely to avoid them making any loud noises.
"They can't be out here looking for me, can they?" he thought to himself. "They think I'm dead."
He crouched low to the ground to avoid being seen and peeked to get a look at where the light was coming from. He let out a breath when he saw it was just an old man taking his dog out for a walk. He moved to get up and stepped on a fallen branching, making a small cracking noise.
"Who's there? What're you doing on my property?" the old man demanded from the darkness.
"Um, it's just me sir," Solo said, getting closer so that the man could see him.
"Who're you? I don't know of any other people who live round these parts."
"Oh, well I'm Solo. I came from that little village north of here, up in the mountains."
"There ain't no village up there. And what kind of a name is Solo? That's just silly."
"It's my name and I happen to like it! And there is so a village up there! Or there was anyway!" Solo exploded.
"Alright, calm down boy. If what you say is true, then what brings you all the way down here?"
"Oh well… the village was burnt down and I'm the only one who survived," he said choosing not to tell the whole truth to the old man.
"Well sorry about that kiddo. Hope you enjoy your stay in the forest and get off my property."
"Wait!" Solo pleaded. "Is there any way that I could spend the night with you? I have nowhere to go, no way to keep warm. I haven't had anything to eat since yesterday and I've been through a lot since then!"
"Fine, but you're leaving first thing in the morning," the man said harshly, but not without a twinge of sympathy.
"Oh thank you, thank you!"
"Shut yer trap. Come on, my dinner should be done by now, I guess I can share it with you," he said.
The strange old man and his dog, who had been anything but quiet once they started walking again, preferring to jump all over Solo like an old friend, led Solo back to a large clearing where there stood a sturdy log cabin with smoke rising from the chimney. Off to the side, Solo could see a shed, likely where the man kept all his tools or anything else he needed for outdoors. Though right in front of him was something he did not expect.
"Sir," he said, "what's that?"
"That's none of yer damn business! Now come on before me whole house burns down."
"Right, sorry," Solo stammered as the old man continued walking. He took a quick glance at the gravestone and stared down at his feet as he walked.
The man opened the door and slammed it in Solo's face. He stopped to rub his nose and opened the door to follow him. The inside of the house was nice enough. There were only two rooms, the kitchen and living area in one, and the bedroom in the other, though there wasn't a door and the two rooms were only separated by a wall. The insides were decorated with various plants, and a few rugs, and the old man even had what looked to be some very high quality drapes all things considered. Solo smiled sadly as he marveled at the room and how much it reminded him of home.
"Are you just going to stand there like an idjit, or are you going to come get your food?"
"Oh right, sorry," Solo said nervously. He went and took a seat at the table and the man set a bowl of fresh beef stew in front of him. "This smells delicious, sir."
"Thanks," he grumbled.
"If you don't mind my asking," said Solo as he scooped up some of the stew to put into his mouth, "I never got you name, what is it?"
"Sidney Seule, but don't call me by my first name if you got a lick of respect in you boy."
"Yes sir, Mr. Seule," he replied. "That's a coincidence though, my last name is Seule too."
"You don't say."
The rest of the meal was eaten in silence, except for the time when Mr. Seule's dog decided to jump up on Solo's lap and nearly knock over the table. Instead of getting mad at the dog though, the blame was put on Solo, for letting the dog climb onto his lap.
After dinner, the old man made Solo clean all the dishes, which he was more than happy to do in exchange for being allowed to stay the night. He was also told to take the scraps and leftovers a safe distance from the house and dump them in the woods. On the way back, Solo stopped by the grave once more. He sat on his knees and read the marker.
"May they rest in peace," it read.
Below there were two names and dates. One belonged to a woman and one to a man.
The stone also read, "I will never forget my wife or my son who were so dear to me." This portion looked like it had been added after the stone was complete. Quietly, Solo reentered the house and made sure that he wouldn't do anything to upset the man for the rest of the night.
Just as Solo drifted off to sleep, Mr. Seule pulled a picture of his wife and son from a drawer and stared down at it.
"You're the spitting image of your father," he mumbled.
"Wake up you lazy bum!" Mr. Seule yelled from the kitchen. "It was dawn hours ago!"
Solo begrudgingly crawled out of the bed and fell onto the floor with a crash. He stumbled over to the kitchen, stretching along the way. The old man tossed a few pieces of toast his way and indicated the door.
"Well you can leave now, freeloader."
"Oh, right. Thank you, Mr. Seule."
"Don't mention it. Really."
Biting into the toast, Solo left through the door, slipping his shoes on outside, the insides newly muddy from the dew. Beside his shoes was a small sack, big enough to fit a few possessions, but not much else. On this bag there was a note scrawled in messy handwriting, which seemed very similar to the writing Solo had seen on the gravestone the night before. He read the note, a small smile spreading across his formerly grim visage.
"Dear Solo," it read, "I'm sorry for giving you such a hard time. This grumpy old man doesn't mean half the things he says. You're a real good kid, and whatever you end up doing from here, I wish you luck. Inside the bag are some of my son's old clothes; I think they'd suit you. You should head on south to Casabranca from here, you're likely to find many more opportunities there than in some dumb little town. Sincerely, Mr. Seule. Now get off my property."
Solo chuckled at the end of the note. He opened the bag to find a green tunic, a white shirt and pants, and a pair of Slime earrings. Solo quickly stripped down and put on the new clothes, glad to be wearing something warmer. He yelled thank you to Mr. Seule one last time and ran off into the forest.
He was going to go to Casabranca like the old man had said; maybe there he would find some people who could help him. Maybe there he could finally figure out what he was supposed to be doing.
He ran all the way until dusk when he finally reached the end of the woods, his face and hands covered in scrapes from his rush and clumsiness. From there he could see all the way to the ocean, and there on the coast stood the magnificent castle town of Casabranca. He guessed that it would take him another half day or so to get there.
So he continued on.