Disclaimer: I own none of these characters!
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived with her mother in a forest. One day, her mother told her to take a basket of goodies to her grandmother. But the girl's mother was firm, telling the little girl to stay on the path. And when the little girl asked why, her mother replied that there were wolves who liked to eat little girls. So her daughter nodded and put on her bright red cloak, and made her way to her grandmother's, staying on that path.
This is not that story.
The meadow was flushed with warm colors. The trees had turned to orange and yellow. Where there was once grass, there were now fallen leaves, creating a blanket over the earth. The air was cool and fresh and smelled of sweet pumpkin pie and cinnamon sticks. The sky overhead still had enough sun to provide some warm light.
It was autumn, beautiful autumn. Children ran around and rode in stacks of hay on carriages. Fires stayed on until morning, crackling slowly and adding an earthier scent to the cabin comes. People were in good spirits with warm ciders and the occasional brandy.
The day was nothing special. Completely normal. Eren, his sister, Mikasa, and their friend, Armin, were all outside. Eren chopped away at a tree, gathering firewood. He would switch off with Mikasa when his arms grew tired and the axe was too heavy for him to use. Armin stood close by and picked up the wood to carry it to their baskets.
Eren handed the axe over to Mikasa and wiped his face. The air tickled his skin and a few leaves fell around him. He flopped down into the leaves on the ground and took a long breath.
"I'm really glad it's nice out," Armin said. "Otherwise, this would be awful."
"You have the easy part at least!"
"I do it though!" Armin cried. "Do you really want me to swing that axe around?"
Eren laughed and shook his head, leaning back on his elbows. "Of course not. I'm just joking with you. Hey, do you think mom will make more pie, Mikasa?"
"No," Mikasa replied. "You ate all of it last night. You need to start pacing yourself. If you eat a whole pie a day you're going to end up fat."
"What's wrong with that!?" Eren cried, placing his hands on his stomach.
She shook her head and calmly kept chopping at the wood. Eren helped Armin put the piles of wood into the baskets as neatly as possible. Once Mikasa finished with the last few chunks, they grabbed their baskets, strapping them on to their backs and started to walk. Eren carried the axe, since Mikasa was the last one to use it.
They found the road to their village and made their way along the winding path.
They lived in the village of Shinganshima, a humble village with fairly friendly people. Everyone lived close to each other, or at least within a ten mile radius of the main street. There was a town guard, lead by a man named Hannes, who spent most of their time drunk than actual much work. But they were kind-hearted men who managed to keep the peace as much as they could.
Outside of the comforts of the town, there was a surrounding forest. Small towns were scattered across the kingdom, many of which Eren had never seen. Kingdom Maria was much larger than a town of three hundred people, he was sure. And he had heard that the other kingdoms of Rose and Sina were close to thousands.
He had no time to really adventure out to the other towns or cities or even kingdoms. He was too busy with—
"Eren!" His mother ran out of the house, wiping her hands on her apron. She covered her mouth as she coughed and looked back at him to shake a finger. "It's about time you came home! I need you to do a favor."
"Sure thing," Eren said, setting the firewood down. Mikasa took hers and Eren's baskets to the firewood crate by the fireplace. Armin sat his pack down and stretched out his back.
"I need you to run to your grandma's house," his mother, Carla, said.
Eren made a soft noise and sighed. Carla snapped her head around at him.
"Eren, it's your grandma!" she coughed out.
"I know! And I'll go! Can I rest for a bit?"
Carla smiled and pinched his ear playfully. "You kids go wash up. Dinner is almost ready. And yes, Armin, that includes you. You can stay."
"Ah, thank you, Mrs. Jaeger!" Armin laughed.
Eren, Mikasa and Armin washed their hands and faces as Carla set the table. It may have been hard, since Carla was the only parent in the house, but she always managed to get food in their bellies. Eren had a job at a small bakery not too far away. Mikasa worked as a barmaid, much to her despair. And Armin helped his grandfather manage the library.
All humble jobs. Nothing extravagant. But it kept them all busy.
Carla herself took care of the house and the animals. Making sure they stayed healthy and not overworked. And then there was the garden; picking out bugs and trimming leaves.
Though being sick made her a little slower at her jobs, she managed to get most of it taken care of.
"Eren, stop shoveling food into your mouth," Mikasa muttered. "You're going to choke."
"I have to go see granny after this," Eren snapped back. "And the sooner I eat, the sooner I can leave."
"Eren, stop sassing," Carla said.
"It's true, ma. I don't want to end up walking in the middle of the night."
"You're not," Carla said. "But slow down while you eat. If you choke, don't expect me to save you."
Eren took a big bite of bread and dunked it into his soup.
"I guess if I have to, I'll just be walking home in the dark. But it shouldn't be for too long."
"You shouldn't walk at night," Armin said. "There are monsters."
"Oh, Armin, don't give us your stories," Carla teased. "Eren'll be up all night."
"I will not, ma! Stop it!"
Mikasa poked at her soup with a bored hand. "Last time Armin told you about the trolls under the bridge, you wouldn't go across the creek for almost a month."
"Mikasa! You weren't supposed to tell anyone. You know what, fuck you all."
"Eren Jaeger, you watch your damn tongue at this table," Carla snapped. She held up an angry finger and coughed again. "I'll lock you out of the house and make you sleep outside in the barn again."
The four of them ate their food in some silence after that. Armin occasionally laughed to himself, amused with their bickering. Eren continued to inhale his food, his eyes locked on Mikasa. After they ate dinner (there was no pie as expected, much to Eren's despair) Carla left the table to pack a basket. The table duty fell to the teens as Carla placed a bowl of soup and a loaf of bread into the basket. She added an apple and covered it with a handkerchief.
"Almost ready, Eren?"
"Yeah, I'm good," Eren replied.
"Mrs. Jaeger, I hate leave but I have to get going," Armin said softly. "My grandpa always needs help about the library at this time and I need to get that firewood to him. But thank you so much for dinner!"
"Oh, you're welcome, Armin," Carla said with a pleased smile. She handed a little pack out to him, wrapped up nicely in a handkerchief. "You're always welcomed. Take this to your grandpa, won't you? It's some soup."
"Ah thank you!" Armin cried with a nod as she walked off into a room.
"We'll catch you later, Armin," Eren said as Mikasa picked up Armin's basket of wood. She helped Armin strap the basket onto his back. "Thanks for your help."
"Heh, it's no problem," Armin replied. "Be careful on your trip. Look out for wolves."
Mikasa slapped a hand to her head. She pushed at Armin, ushering him out the door. "Don't. He'll never get anything done now."
"Bye! And thank you for dinner!"
Armin waved and ran off before Mikasa could do any damage. Carla walked back into the room, carrying a long red cloak.
"Wear this," she said, throwing it around Eren's shoulders. "It'll keep you warm. And in case there are any hunters out, you'll be easily spotted. They won't shoot you."
Carla patted him on the head and tied the cloak around his shoulders. She tugged the hood over his head and Mikasa offered the basket.
"Mikasa, I'm sure you want to go, but would you mind staying behind to help me with the house? It needs to be cleaned. And there's some yard work I still haven't done." Another little coughing fit stopped her from saying anything else.
Eren could see the reluctance in Mikasa's face as she nodded. Just as he could see the tiredness in his mother's face as she smiled. Eren gripped the handle of the basket tight.
"I'll be back as soon as possible, ma," Eren said. "And if it's too late, I'll just stay over there. Grandma won't mind."
Carla kissed him on the cheek. "Good. Be safe."
"Please be safe," Mikasa sighed.
Eren smiled big as he walked to the door. "No worries. I'll be fine. Besides, wolves aren't that scary."