N O S T A L G I A
Written on August 23, 2019 (♍)
Author's Notes: I'm using "nostalgia" here both to indicate homesickness in the general sense that we understand it today and in the way it was used circa the 17th century as a medical diagnosis for soldiers that seems to have predated PTSD.
Violent Imagery: Somewhat graphic account of what Google tells me its like to have an arrow embedded in your bone.
It wasn't the first arrow he'd taken--not after a decade's worth of fighting--but Wiegraf had yet to meet with injury in conditions quite this bleak. The supply lines had been cut weeks ago, and even the Nanten were rationing their shoe leather at this point. Magic, medicine, even a stiff drink... all out of the question. If the Thundergod himself fell in this siege, he'd be lucky for them to find a clear patch of ground on which he might bleed to death, and Wiegraf didn't expect any greater luxury awaited him. It was scant solace that Margriff had been able to drag him from the parapets, however; it meant that the Ordallians weren't on top of them yet.
He was hoarse by the time they'd finally propped him against a section of wall, and it occurred to him that in the midst of the chaos, he'd probably been screaming. The arrow had hit bone, and each stumbling lurch through the fray had made him acutely aware of the edges and contours of everything foreign and fragmented in his shoulder. Now that he was at rest, he tried--impossible as it was--to find some respite in stillness. If he didn't breathe, if he didn't move, the razor sharp burn in his muscle took on a shape and sensation he imagined he might control. A sudden shout and the beating of talons sounded from the west gate, and the smell of smoke hit him as he heard what he imagined must be himself screaming again. Looking up, Gustav barked orders to a nearby squire. The world seemed to blur and he felt that some unseen humour would ebb from his brain as the men around him touched his face, pressed a rag against the wound, moved their lips in signatures of things he was supposed to understand. By the time that Miluda's face floated before him, he began to wonder if he hadn't already died.
"Can you keep him distracted?"
Gustav pulled out a knife, gestured at him, at her, made some sort of explanation as Miluda knelt on the dirt. She tilted Wiegraf's face towards hers and looked at him, her dark eyes going wide as they heard the sound of some projectile hitting Bethla's outer wall. Somebody grabbed hold of his arm as Gustav leaned towards him.
"Think of something, anything," she said incisively, wringing his hand "Think of home."
Gustav twisted the arrow, grinding the head against whatever it was lodge in. His vision shot to white as the pain jolted through him. "We don't have a home, Miluda!" he bellowed in between curses.
"We had one. We'll have one again," she replied with a firmness out of step with the situation. She didn't look away from him when Gustav explained the arrow would need to be pried free. "They can't take everything."
"Miluda..." his speech failed him. He thought of the Romandans on the coast, of skies blotted with smoke and the endless trails of refugees and penitents, marching over a scorched Gallione like lines of ants. She touched his damp hair and repeated herself, bringing a hand wrapped in the wool of her cloak to his face. He felt Gustav's blade in his shoulder, its tip digging against where the arrowpoint lay lodged as he crudely tried to enlarge the wound enough to pull it free. Biting into his sister's balled fist, he felt the visceral snap of metal parting from bone and the hands of several of his men holding him upright.
He saw nothing for a while, heard nothing but shouts muffled and transformed until they took on the quality of animal chatter or birdsong. He remembered later how she’d led him towards the inner keep, sweat and blood drenching his torn clothing as she laid him down amidst the injured. A lone priest scrambled past them, trying to bestow final rites where he could.
She’d stayed with him longer than she ought, promising him again and again that there was something they could cling to from which no calamity could sever them.