Unwilling Night

Changes

Henry stumbled around dizzily, giggling as went. Behind him, Maribelle was faring no better, though she tried to keep her dignity—and failed when she tripped over her own boots. Henry finally collapsed to the ground laughing manically, much to his wife's disapproval and son's embarrassment. As all the Shepherds tried—and failed—to walk in straight lines, Gangrel alone kept his coordination.

When he'd been a slave to Pirates, such behavior would have indicated severe drunkenness on behalf of the entire crew. Not so with the Ylisseans: they were just having some trouble regaining their land legs after two weeks at sea.

It was quite pathetic, which made it even funnier.

As Lissa performed a remarkable impersonation of Sumia's famous falls, Gangrel made a point to laugh tauntingly at her. The blonde girl glared up at him from the ground vehemently.

"Oh, I'll get you for that later!" she hissed, sitting up and brushing dirt off her yellow skirt. Her rage—so much like that of a fuzzy little kitten—wasn't even remotely frightening; it just made Gangrel laugh louder.

"Really, princess?" he sneered, enjoying her embarrassment. "You would waste your oh-so-precious time on me? I'm flattered."

The moment of smug satisfaction was cut short as someone crashed into him, sending Gangrel tumbling to the ground. Rising to one knee, the former king searched for the clumsy oaf who had dared to knock him over while in the middle of something. He scowled when he saw the verdant green armor, knowing it was Stahl sprawled on the ground. Any thought of recompense was halted as Nisha ran over, extending her hand to Stahl, who took it and stood.

"I must say, that's the worst fall I've seen today. Well," she corrected herself, glancing over at Henry, who was still rolling on the ground, shaking with mirth, "I should say second worst. I think he's going to hurt himself if he keeps that up."

Realizing that Stahl had not been the only one affected by the bout of clumsiness, Nisha approached Gangrel, offering a helping hand. He promptly ignored it and got up unassisted.

"Oh man, I'm sorry," Stahl apologized. "The ground felt like it was swaying and I lost my balance. I didn't mean to crash into anybody..."

"Speaking of balance," Nisha interjected, "how are you keeping yours, Gangrel? Everyone else has stumbled or fallen at least once, but not you. Why is that?"

"Sorry," Gangrel said nonchalantly, brushing past the tactician as fast as he was able. "I won't be sharing that little secret with you Ylisseans."

Gangrel continued to walk past Shepherds, ignoring them all except for the occasional bark of mirthless laughter at their expense. Once free of the main group, he rested on a grassy knoll, watching the Ylissean League from a distance. Breathing deeply, he relaxed the tension in his shoulders.

Blasted tactician. Always getting in the way of things. He watched her, noticing that she too was affected by the sudden change from sea to land, though not as severely as some of the others. As Nisha made her way over to her beloved princeling, Gangrel looked up, watching the clouds lazily float by. How annoying; Gangrel preferred days when the clouds were little more than whips of white on the blue expanse of sky, swirling in miniature wind storms. Or better yet, during the wild chaos of a thunderstorm. Of course, he hadn't seen many of these beautiful storms in his lifetime, which made them all the more fascinating.

"Gangrel!"

The red haired man snapped out of his thoughts at the sound of his name. He scowled at Frederick as the Great Knight relayed that he had been selected to go further inland on the island, looking for any signs of civilization. Oh, how exciting. NOT.

The twenty minute march—in the forced company of fourteen Ylissenas—was entirely uneventful, as were the successive fifteen minutes of waiting for the village elder to bring the oh-so-interesting "mystery girl". Sure, there were more spectacular falls worthy of his attentions, but it was the ceaseless mixture of idle chatter and complaints that really grated on his thin nerves.

Gods! he thought irately as Lissa fell for the third time in a row, moaning about her scraped hands. These blasted Ylisseans are trying to annoy me, aren't they? If one of them says so much as a single word after this...

His mental threat was silenced when he saw the village elder returning, a blonde woman in tow. Gangrel could feel the blood draining from his face as he recognized her, a deep sense of mixed guilt and dread settling into his stomach.

Someone else had escaped the clutches of death.


Of course the first thing her radiance would do is run off and sacrifice herself to the Grimleal. Her blatant idiocy was truly astounding at times.

As another Grimleal dark flier died under the Levin sword's brutal lightning, Gangrel couldn't help but glance up at the hills where Emmeryn stood, silently watching the proceedings of the battle. He felt a twist of regret as he watched her, feeling the full effects of his deeds toward her with new agony. It hadn't hurt this badly when he thought she'd been dead.

"Gangrel!"

His head snapped forward and he saw an arrow flying straight at him. Even if he tried, he couldn't dodge it; it was too close, moving too fast.

Gangrel pitched forward as someone rammed into him, pushing him out of the deadly projectile's path. As the bow knight who'd dare shoot at him burned under the lighting strike of his sword, Gangrel turned to see who had saved him. It should not have come as a surprise that it was none other than Nisha.

He waited for the scolding, the harsh words that were sure to follow a mistake such as that—as a commanding officer, he would have never allowed any of soldiers to escape his vicious discipline. They never came. Instead, Nisha sighed in relief and gave a half-smile.

"Let's not do that again, okay?" was all she said.

For once in his life, Gangrel was speechless. His life had just been saved by a Ylissean, and there hadn't been one moment of smugness from her at all, no superiority. Nisha's smile widened for a moment before her attention was stolen by approaching Grimleal reinforcements. As she studied the enemy's advance, Gangrel noticed something else: the sleeve of her cloak torn at the shoulder, the all-too-familiar shade of crimson peeking through the hole. She was bleeding. For him. Not because of him, for him.

"Think you can take out that Griffon Rider?" she asked, pointing at the beast rider in question. Gangrel looked and laughed once, some of his humor returning as the shock wore off.

"Just try keeping up with my bodycount," was his only reply. Together, Plegian and Ylissean threw themselves back into the fray, side by side.

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