In Which We Learn of Lady Eleonora and Lady Petra
Ymir awoke in the middle of the night.
It was a strange thing, for she craved sleep no longer. She nictitated slowly, staring at the dark ceiling.
"Ymir…" a voice called to her, softly.
The girl lifted herself up. She looked towards the end of her bed, seeing the woman standing there. The woman smiled at her. The dark fringe of her hair rested upon her eyelashes, the curly tresses falling far down her back. She had brown skin and black, narrow eyes. She did not look unkind or threatening in any way.
"Ymir," she said again. "Ymir, it is time for you to return to the place you have never been."
Ymir leaned her head to the side, eyes slitting skeptically. She knew this woman was dead, in the way she knew all the spirits she spoke with were. But this woman was odd. Ymir could not figure out how or why she died or who she was or how she had lived, almost as if she had never lived or died at all. She existed without and end or beginning and that was alarming.
"… Who are you?" Ymir asked harshly.
The woman smiled again. She moved to the side of the bed, hovering over the girl. Ymir gave her an evil glare, teeth bared.
"Silly girl!" she scolded with humor. "I am Eleonora, I am your mother!"
"… My mother?"
The woman bobbed her head. "Yes, yes! I have come to tell you that you must go into Faerie. The Diviner's of Sina are trying to capture the life of some one who lives forever and I cannot allow that."
"Then why don't you stop them yourself?" Ymir hissed. She felt used. Her mother had ignored her for almost two decades and only came now, when she needed something. It made Ymir feel unwanted, unimportant.
Eleonora reached down, cupping her daughter's cheek. Ymir jumped at the contact, actually feeling a full hand instead of a kiss of wind.
"Silly girl…" She repeated. "You must know I gave up my immortality and art for you to have yours, for that is what I do: share life, not take or give it away. I would go after them if I could, but yet, I cannot. I would rather you live with your father in this world as you are instead of venturing into Faerie as something you could have been. I am sorry, Ymir. I truly am."
Ymir hated the sensitivity she showed with her tears. She held the weeping to burn at the back of her throat, only single droplets falling down her cheeks. She touched the hand on her face with her eyes pinched shut.
"Oh dear baby…" Eleonora soothed. "It will not be difficult, I promise. You must only know their names and that you are my daughter."
Lady Eleonora whispered into her ear, telling Ymir of all the matters she needed to know.
Ymir walked the dark streets alone. She traveled eastward to her destination: the wall. The moon and stars cast black, full shadows of utter darkness, the shades outlining the clear road. Ymir moved silently in the loneliness of night.
"Ymir…?" The voice was so hushed the girl nearly missed it. She halted, waiting.
"Ymir, where are you going?"
It is then she noticed the girl sitting on the ledge of her window, one foot dangling outside. Her skin was smooth and pale in the moonlight.
Ymir looked upwards to the second-story window. "Historia? Historia, what are you doing up?"
The girl leaned into the light of the moon, hair tumbling over one shoulder. She blinked, fully registering the matter of the person below her.
"I, ah, can't sleep…"
"Go back to bed." Ymir said with finality, turning away. She continued walking.
"No, Ymir, wait!" Historia cried, hushing her desperation immensely. "Ymir, if you are leaving, I want to go with you."
Ymir paused at that. She faced back towards the window.
"I am going where you cannot follow me. I am going over the wall."
"I want to go with you."
The girl sighed, shaking her head. "Why? You are a Reiss, you have a great and rich life here. Why would you want to come with me?"
"Because," Historia said, the fierceness pretty upon her pretty face. "I am always on your side, Ymir. Wherever you go, I follow. Being a Reiss or a rich does not make me happy. You are the one who makes me happy. And I must follow the one who owns my heart."
Historia wore her riding habit, hat and all, jacket tight and skirt long and thin. Ymir carried both of their bags out of kindness. She became strangely uncomfortable after Historia joined her, staring at the sky and countless stars.
"Ymir…" Historia asked after the road had ended and they began to climb the hill towards the wall. "How are we going to get passed the guards?"
"… I don't know."
Ymir knew her father was assigned that night. He, along with Alberich Bodt, waited at the opening. Týr's sharp eyes caught the forms of the pair as they journeyed towards him, Alberich asleep against the wall.
"Father," Ymir addressed when she was before him. Alberich snorted quietly, Historia swallowing audibly.
"Ymir," He said, nodding his head. The freckles on his bearded cheeks were hidden by the shadow of his hat.
"Mother said I must go over the wall." She said, deciding to be straight-forward.
"Eleonora?" Týr said with surprise. He spoke the word with a loving fondness.
"Yes, Eleonora." Ymir confirmed. "I must do as she did before when she was a necromancer."
Týr stared at his daughter for a long while. His eyes drifted to Historia, regal beside Ymir.
"Must she also follow in her mother's footsteps?"
"My mother ran away," Historia said with a coldness Ymir did not know she had. "I have nothing to run away from, only something to run towards. Wherever Ymir goes, I follow."
The man rumbled in his chest. He rubbed his prickly chin, thinking. He looked between the woman before him.
"… Very well." He said. "If Eleonora said you must go, then you must go."
He parted to make way. Ymir looked at Historia and Historia looked at her. They joined hands, squeezing.
"Thank you, Father."
"It is the least I can do."
The pair crossed the threshold together, leaving the world we know and voyaging into Faerie. It was Historia who broke the silence when they were far into the woods and surrounded by the unknown.
"You know… While I am here, I want to be someone different, someone who is not Historia Reiss. I want a name that defines who I am and not who I was."
"A name? What kind of name?"
"Well… I have always liked the name Christa."
Levi trotted along on a young workhorse. When he had reached the bottom of Mount Stohess he had traded the pony to the first farm who would take it. He also did as he promised and buried Erwin beneath a rowan tree. The process was quick as allowed, the goodbyes already said. The dead son's of Phoenixwing followed him now, waiting for the time when he finally recovered the stone. Their souls would no longer be earthbound then.
Levi heard the stars speak of their fallen brethren venturing to Wall. Besides learning that this star carried the topaz he sought by listening to the stars, Levi learned that the star's name was Armin and that he traveled with a boy. He knew they had spent many weeks aboard a flying ship as well. Levi knew when they landed and the way they were going because he listened. The only magical ability he had was to observe when one speaks, and it was not really a magically ability at all, more like a choice. Nothing like the location or self-healing prowess of the blood of Phoenixwing.
The man moved along the path to the Market of Wall at the pace of his horse. He slept and ate when he could, but his hunt never tired, his determination dead-set. He knew his obligation.
It was when he was nearing Shiganshina Gate that he came upon the painted caravan of Hanji. He made to pass the lumbering wagon but was stopped, the witch shrieking his name.
"Levi! Is that you?"
The man looked over his shoulder, viewing the woman. She lifted up her arm in a wave, beckoning him over.
"Levi, it is you!"
Levi pulled his horse back, leveling its pace with that of the caravan.
"Ah, Shitty-Glasses," he greeted her in a crude way. "I haven't seen you since you were ruled unfit to be a noblewoman and banished to the outer provinces."
She pouted at that. "It is not my fault they thought capturing necromancers and running tests on them was wrong. All in the name of victory! Yes, yes, it has been a while."
Levi eyed the caravan coolly. "I see you have put your arts to other uses."
"Indeed! Why, just the other day…"
Hanji chatted with her old friend incessantly, the man tuned out to her babble. The golden ferret climbed onto the caravan roof, ears perking. She looked upon the man atop the horse.
Her red eyes flashed. Her heartbeat sped up, excitement and joy clashing within her. Her cry came with an ungodly shrillness.
Levi, Levi!, she screeched, scrambling down to the driver's seat to catch his attention. The man took notice when his name was said, eyes flicking to the ferret.
Levi, say my name!, she pleaded oh so frantically. Levi, you must say my name! Levi, Levi please! Say my name!
"… Say your name?"
"Oh, you foolish ferret," Hanji chided mildly. "No need to scream so loudly."
The witch snapped her fingers and the ferret could say no more, slumping to sleep. She rested upon the coachman seat without another word.
"Animals." Hanji sighed, shaking her head. "They do the weirdest things. I do not know why she came out to shriek at you."
Levi looked forward again. He watched a cloud gliding upon the wind.
"She told me to say her name." He said.
Hanji laughed at that. "You are funny, Levi! You know animals cannot talk."
He said nothing to that. He glanced towards the golden ferret sleeping peacefully, her fur amber in the sun.
"Did you have that ferret before?" Levi asked. "Something seems familiar about her…"
"I did!" The witch said immediately. "Don't you remember? Well, it has been a while. Do you remember when…"
And her speech continued. They walked together through the afternoon. The star and ferret slept all the while, one inside and one outside.
The two reached Shiganshina Gate before the evening. It is not a gate, not really, only a pair of stones marking the side of the road. They lie beside the only flat path through heavily hilled country and everyone on their way to Wall must journey upon it.
Annie waited beside the eastern stone. She used the stolen coach as a temporary home, something to keep the elements away, the horses finally resting. She questioned every traveler that passed her, dismissing them when she was satisfied that they did not possess the star she searched for.
"Small world!" Hanji said when she stopped her caravan beside the road.
"I would be careful not to insult me, Lady Zoë," Annie warned coldly, lifting herself to stand.
Levi inspected her carefully. Even though the hood of the green cloak shadowed her face, Levi could see the skin around her eyes and neck was missing. He knew a necromancer when he saw one and knew she was one, a weakened one, nearly free of all her skin. The hairs on his neck rose.
"She is the one who cut my throat," Erwin said to Levi. He made sure to whisper this into his ear and disappear quickly, knowing the lady necromancer could not only hear him like Levi, but see him as well. Levi nodded once.
"Who travels with you to Wall?" Annie asked the witch.
"What's it to you?" Hanji said stand-offishly.
"No need for the attitude." Annie said. "Or would you rather be a worm left for the birds?"
A shiver graced the witch. She gulped, answering truthfully. "There is me, there is the mules, and there are two ferrets. That is all, I swear upon my art and my true name."
"And you?" Annie said to Levi.
"There is me and my horse." He said with a briskness, looking down upon the woman. She narrowed her eyes.
"… Very well, go along. I suppose I shall see you in Wall."
The caravan began to move again. The star continued to sleep upon the witch's bed and the ferret upon the witch's coach seat, both oblivious to the dangerous situation they had avoided.
Hanji and Levi departed when they reached the market. The sun was setting in the west, blotting the man to blackness as he left to disappear within the bustle of the rising tents and people. He said he had matters to attend to and nothing more. Hanji waved a tulip after him, just a small charm, one that would not make him hanker to come around the caravan again. Only an extra precaution.
Armin frightened awake when the witch opened the caravan door, the wood creaking terribly. The witch took the cage from the hook, waking the black ferret as well.
"You will be a little disoriented for a while, so be careful." She said, putting the open cage onto the grass. The ferret chattered, toeing himself out of his confinement.
Hanji used the tulip once again, bopping the animal atop the head. In a whirl the ferret was suddenly Eren. The boy blinked, stumbling. He went for his knife only to fall onto his side. He gasped, limbs twitching ferociously.
"Eren!" The star said, tripping from the caravan. He hurried to the boy's side to aid him.
"A-Armin?" He mumbled something barely considered speech. "Y-You…?"
"I am alright." The star assured him. "She did not harm me at all. I do not believed she even saw me or knew I was there… Why, I do not know."
Eren contented himself with that, shutting his eyes with relief.
"I warned you," the witch hummed. "Just wait a few hours and it will pass."
"H-Haggard." Eren spat.
"Now, now," Hanji said, waving a finger. "I lived up to my promise. None of that now."
She then turned her intent to the golden ferret. With a snap the creature was up. She stood on her haunches instantly, looking to and fro. Her expression darkened when she did not see the one she wanted, a sad squeak opening her throat.
"None of that either." Hanji reprimanded. She waved the glass flower, murmuring words as well. The golden ferret was soon replaced on the coachman's seat by a woman with honey-colored hair and eyes, pointed ears brushed with fur and earrings. She looked towards the star with pity and sorrow, her expression wholly pained. Her lips quivered.
"So that is your true form…" Armin said and she nodded, dropping from the caravan seat, the chain still about her foot and wrist.
"Take him to rest under a tree," she said quietly. "And get him some food and drink. He will feel better after he sleeps."
After that she ignored them entirely, diligence upon the witch squawking at her to take the mules to the stream. She did so without a word and without opposition.
The star dragged Eren as gently as he could to the patch of grass under a mulberry tree. The only substance he could find for an agreeable price was warm wine and soft bread. He fed the bread to Eren piece by piece, and wine sip by sip, the alcohol putting him into a soft and silent sleep. Armin fixed the sun-faded, green tunic sleeves down to the boy's wrists, the night coming cold. Eren was not bothered.
The star sat beside Eren with his back against the tree. He presided over him protectively, possessively, looking at the stars through the billowing branches. It seemed unreal that they were already in Wall, their adventure already over, the star feeling like he had fallen only yesterday. He glanced down to the sleeping, wolf-eared boy beside him. He did not know when the love had began, only when the hate and distrust had stopped. Or maybe he had loved him ever since they had met and mistaken it as loathing as is often done. Whenever, or however, he knew that he loved him now.
A sound came from behind the tree. Armin startled, looking with panic, heart racing.
"Only me," a voice provided tenderly. The golden ferret who was now a woman walked from behind the tree. The star settled.
"Poor child…" She whispered with care, kneeling beside the boy upon the ground. She smoothed back his long hair and picked at him in other ways, motherly. Eren only sighed in his sleep.
"He has such a good heart…" She admired. "Not always good intentions or good actions, but a good heart. It makes me… proud."
The star smiled at her joyful tears. She was quiet for many moments, simply basking in the happiness of her son's existence. She finally, hesitantly, wiped her eyes.
"But I did not come only to praise," she said. "I have come to warn you. You must not go beyond the wall or you will die. You will become what you are and nothing more: stardust."
Chills overtook the star. He balled his fists firmly atop his knees. "I see."
"I want you to stay who you are, not what you are."
They remained together and did not speak again. Armin watched the cycle of the moon and stars, time infinite and unmoving. He did not notice when the woman left, caught up in the rotation of himself in relation to the heavens.
It was near sunrise when Armin jolted from his doze. He sat erect against the wooden trunk, blinking. The tree appeared to be shaking, but stopped when the star woke, bemusing Armin. Eren dreamed on, unaffected, snoring lightly with a leaf on his face. The star's heart brightened.
"Good morning," an abyssal voice greeted, the star instinctively putting himself closer to Eren at the salutation. He puffed up, brows knitted, teeth bared, giving his best effort at appearing menacing.
"No need for that," the man said casually, unmoved. He sat before them, cross-legged, sword and sheath across his lap. He looked fairly aged with a weathered face, his apparent height more of someone in childish youth. His eyes were thin and sharp at the edges. They also looked incredibly unfriendly, the color cold silver. His eyebrows were slender and arched, his hair trimmed short beneath the parted and utterly perfect silkiness of the longer top-half. The shade was black, midnight black, black as void. The only relief from its pureness was the glare of purple in the rising sunlight.
"… Who are you?" Armin asked, swallowing his nervous awe. He ached like he already knew the answer to the question he asked, ached in wonderment and disbelief.
"My name is Levi," he said like it was the most normal thing in the world. "And I have come for the Power of Phoenixwing, the topaz." And he held out his hand like the star had no problem giving it to him, like he knew he would. "That is all I want, little star."
Armin inched backwards. His arm brushed Eren's and the boy did not stir, only snorting louder. The star looked down at the outstretched palm, then to the man's face, then to his hand. His thoughts were mixed, scared, questioning how to react. His body shivered.
And then he acted on impulse. Intuition took over, fitting information and ideas together, giving the star something to work off of. He spoke, immediately.
"If you want the topaz, you must say her name."
Levi raised his eyebrows with curiosity.
"Say her name? Whose name?"
"Yes, your wife's."
"I… Don't know my wife's name." And his hand fell to the grass pathetically. He pressed his forehead with the other. A screaming headache was drowning him, tearing apart his thoughts. He knew he had a wife but did not who she was or who she had been. She was absent, nonexistent, missing for years. Every memory of her shuttered away as soon as it came, jumbling any mental picture he had of her. He knew she was a princess, a princess of Phoenixwing, a solider like her brothers, alive. She was pregnant once, whether with a boy or girl he could not remember. The man gritted his teeth against the pain.
"Yes, you do." Armin said with conviction. "You know her. You know her by her golden hair-" Levi held his face with both hands now, sweat pooling. "-and you know her by her golden eyes-" A grumble escaped his throat. "-and you know her by how much she loves you. So say it, Levi. Say her name."
"I, her name-"
"Levi." Armin thrust forward abruptly, pulling the man's hands away from his face. His storm-grey eyes forced the other to look at him directly. They both waited.
"Levi, who is the one who owns your heart?"
And then it came, softly.
"… Petra. Petra is the one who owns my heart."
And then everything shattered.
Hanji scowled, looking at the display of flowers before her.
"We need to find more of these." She said with a nod. "When we finish here, we will climb to Mount Calamon and retrieve more."
"No." The servant-girl said from behind the stall. "You can do it alone."
The witch gasped, horrified. The woman held up her chain, unlinked, free from her wrist and ankle. Hanji screamed with anguish and fumbled for the loose article. The woman tossed it to her idly.
"What have you done?!" She howled with rage.
"I have done nothing." She said with simple mockery. "You said I was bound until the day the one who truly owns my heart says my name. And that day as come. My terms of service are fulfilled."
The witch began to weep. She gripped the useless chain to her chest in woe.
"I would silence yourself before I give you a reason to cry," She said with absolute certainly, quelling the witch to only tears.
"And now that my service is over," she continued. "You must call me by the name you stole from me, for it is mine now: Petra, only daughter of the former Lord of Phoenixwing, Lady Petra. You must also treat me with respect, Hanji Zoë. My husband is a fearsome man and he always, always catches his prey."
Lady Petra at last held out her hand, equal fearsomeness in her fiery orbs.
"And now you owe my payment. These matters have rules as all matters have rules."
The witch gave her the payment without insolence, without even a thought of disobeying. Done with the woman, forever, Petra set off into the growing day.
"Petra." Levi said again, stupefied. Armin smiled, knowing deep in his glowing heart that to be her name.
"She will be free when the one who truly owns her heart says her name." Armin said. "And now she is; she is free. You should go to her, I am sure she is looking for you among the market folk."
Levi stood then, wrapping the sword about his waist. He steeled his face expertly.
"Thank you." He said, taking off at a brisk walk. Armin only nodded.
The star shifted and felt the topaz under his clothing. It was only then he noticed that Levi had forgotten it in his haste. Armin sighed with comfort, knowing the man had more pressing matters. He fanned himself along the ground, putting his hand atop Eren's, blissful.
"Levi!" Petra shouted over the noise of the crowd. "Levi! Levi!"
A disadvantage of his short stature was is inability to see over others. Petra, however, could see him, herself on a stump. He stopped, hearing her call above the crowd. He woven through the throng of people, finding his way to her by her voice alone.
Her heart shivered when she saw him. He was just as she remembered and more, for time wears all things, even the memories of those cherished. But she knew it was him. And loved him just the same as she had before and after the years spent with him.
The man paused before her. He looked up, eyes narrow against the bright rays of the new sun, hair floating with the breeze.
"Levi…" she said, hushed.
She fell into his embrace then. Levi was fierce with his hold, sentimental. The woman he loved was against his chest and beating heart once again, at last, after a time of eternity. Petra burrowed into him, all of him, body and soul and lips and scent alike. She never wanted to let him go and knew she did not have to. She was finally allowed to keep someone who meant the world to her.
She was finally allowed to love again.