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Before The Storm (8 Hours Before the Horn Sounds)

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Post by Cynical_Aspie June 17th 2024, 7:08 pm

Ruokolahti, Finland

The woods around the Ruokolahti Church in the town center were quiet, betraying an ignorance of the nightmare to come in a mere eight hours later.  The church itself stood since the mid-19th Century. It was featured in a 1887 painting by Albert Edelfelt: Ruokolahden eukkoja kirkonmäellä, literally translated as "Women outside the Church at Ruokolahti". He hadn't seen it himself, but the lone man wandering the graveyard knew it was housed at Helsinki.

Though the man wandering the church's graveyard appeared no older than his mid-Twenties, he was far more ancient than that. He was old enough to be great-grandfather of the current generation. And only one grave interested him right now: a fellow veteran of the Winter War, known best by the epithet of the "White Death".

Taavi Virtanen - three time war veteran and a contemporary of Simo Häyhä's during those wars - wandered to the burial site of his former comrade-in-arms. Ever since Simo died of natural causes in 2002, visiting the grave site had become something of a yearly ritual of Taavi's - the dead may not have been able to speak, but Taavi like to imagine they were able to listen. Taavi held a hip flask of sima (a sweet mead typically brewed for the Feast of Saint Walpurga) in his hand, taking a sip from it, taking the edge off of the cool air. Under normal situations, Taavi was a teetotaler, but visits like this were an exception to the rule.

"How's my old comrade resting?" he asked at the gravestone. He knew there would be no response, but he imagined what Simo would say based upon what remaining memories he had of the man in his twilight years.

Taavi felt for his fellow veteran - not everyone saw him as a hero. Hatred and even death threats were sent his way - the man lived his entire life unmarried and with no children. Simo lived the rest of his life alone, but he found some level of solace in returning to agriculture. It was more solace than Taavi ever found.

After the Lapland War, Taavi couldn't even return to his own family, much less a peaceful life. Wars left scars, and in Taavi, the deep scars manifested as a wanderlust. It was only when he heard his best friend was in his final years that he returned to his nation of birth to see him off.

"I, for one, am glad you found a measure of peace in death," Taavi trailed in his imagined conversation. "If you saw what this world is becoming, you'd be horrified - I have to live it every day. If you were around, Simuna..."

Taavi imagined that Simo would disapprove of what he had become - a mercenary for hire by the alias of "White Glint" - but he also wanted to think that he'd understand why he became one. He had a new home within Finland, and it needed to remain fed and alive. He had a purpose, and something to apply the talents he'd developed during those wars.

Funny...Simo became - simply put - the deadliest individual rifleman in history using nothing more than practiced aim, his environment, and great deal of luck on his side despite being a completely normal human being. Taavi had to learn his abilities as an artificial Meta to come anywhere close to him - at the end, experience trumps special powers.

Laying down a set of yarrows on the earth, Taavi continued musing on the grave, his flask in hand.
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Post by Tybrid June 18th 2024, 2:13 am

She was in pain. She was in pain and it agitated her. Made her irritable. On the plane ride back to Europe she nearly snapped at a stewardess who forgot her drink order and at the airport almost jumped a woman who grabbed a similar looking bag at the luggage pick up. She hated the state she was in because of this.

A week ago Eevi Väinölä woke up in her apartment to a disturbance in her kitchen. No stranger to dealing with unwanted intruders she readied her powers and made her way downstairs. What she found instead was still stuck in her memories as it wasn't someone that had let themselves in, it was something.

Perched on her kitchen counter was a figure, draped in black, it’s gangly limbs giving visible outlines under the thin, wispy cloak. On her stove counter was a cooking pot which she had never seen amongst her cooking dishes. Darker than the creatures robes, this pot looked like a cauldron from old folk tales she would be told as a child once upon a memory. The oddest thing about her encounter was that she couldn't bring herself to raise her arm and fire.

She was stunned, paralyzed even. Some compulsion or immeasurable fear held her in place with absolute control. Eevi was so stuck in the moment she hadn't even noticed her lack of breathing until she gasped for breath suddenly and sharply. The thing in her kitchen raised it’s head. Not alerted like an intruder on alert, but like a parent hearing their child stirring a room over.

It’s black maw of a face the cloak created in the darkness raised itself at her, staring over it’s strange pot, and it pointed at her. Gnarled, necrotic hands, stained black like her own ink, reached out towards her with an accusatory finger aimed like a spear at her. One word struggled from whatever mouth was hidden under the dark veil that obscured its horrible visage, clawing its way free from it’s lips like a wrongfully buried person tearing away for freedom. One terrible word creeping as a cold wind. "Kooootttiiiiiiii.."

Before she could process the word, she awoke with pain igniting her hands. The sun crept through her blinds and a calming ambience contrasted her horrid awakening. Every mark of ink on her hands seared deep into her hands like a million bee stings jabbing each marking of ink. And she was crying. Eevi could not even remember the last time she had cried. But it certainly wasn't in fear as she now found herself waking from.

Cold water from her sink alleviated her pain enough for a moment to catch and compose herself and to think about her waking nightmare. Like her burning hands, that word was branded into her thoughts now. "Koti". Home. She somehow knew what this meant but did not care for the implications. She was almost 90 years past the last time she had "gone home". But the pain was intolerable.

And as such that was the situation she found herself in. Now riding a shoddy cab through the countryside of South Karelia, she pondered through its faded windows. She had to travel covertly in Europe after her "incident" in London not even 8 months ago. Interpol was on alert for her, no doubt because of the unwanted intrusion that left her in such a sorry state after by her reasoning. But it wasn't the government or their dogs that had her worried. It was home.

Not once. Not a single time in almost an entire century had she felt any desire, need, or urge to return to her homeland. No sentimental anniversaries or nationwide celebrations like its centennial. The Finnish citizen Eevi Väinölä died the night everyone else in her life did was how she figured it to herself. Now through the potential of eternal pain and a nightmarish visitor she had been compelled to the country of her birth. She felt as powerless as that girl more than 90 years hence did on her fateful night.

The town of Ruokolahti was the closest civilization there was to Metsäjärvi when she was a child and as such, needing a walk to help clear her head, she had chartered this cab to take her there so she could return home at last by foot through the bite of Suomi-Neito welcoming her home with her chilled kiss. Dropped off in the quiet town center, she admired the iconic church of the town. Her father had told her stories of her grandparents and their parents making the trek from Metsäjärvi every Sunday to attend liturgy no matter what be it from to coming unforgiving snows or debilitating sickness. He even said that is how his Grandfather had died. Foolishly.

Once she had wondered, thought in her most private of moments, had Ruokolahti even noticed the absence of their neighbors from their sister town? Had they gathered one Sunday as regular, even during the perils of the Winter War, and waited, affording what time they could waiting for their regular guests? Or was the absence barely noticed at all? Did they seek them out? Search for survivors in that blackened ruin? Did someone look for her?

She found herself standing now in the graveyard of the church. Another compulsion of hers. Another justification that the world left her first. She had to find it. On the chance that there was something. Any sign that their 'friends' in Ruokolahti had commemorated and memorialized the loss of her entire life, the loss of everything she loved. Looking amongst the old and sometimes fading stones she searched for any markings that even mentioned just her home. Even the chance of reading her own name on a long list of others and reaching some closure from it. But she couldn't find anything. Not a single name.

Almost pacing now, hoping that she had missed a stone, she stopped in her tracks hearing another in this somber place. Slowing her feet and creeping like the predator she had become, she stalked to a man staring at a dark gravestone between greenery and almost resting against a young tree. He held a flask, his quiet, private moment being very inappropriately observed by her, and she read out the gravestone aloud in her native tongue as she approached him from behind.

"Häyhä, Simo. 17th of December 1905 to April 1st 2002." Hanging her head to the side at this person, she moved closer. "A hero is what the whole nation calls him. 'The White Death'. The most confirmed kills with a sniper rifle any person has ever achieved. My Father was quite the fan when he spoke of him. Settling comfortably distant yet familiar enough away from this man, she raised an eyebrow.  "But you don't look like a patriotic Suomalainen paying respects to the countries most adored son along Mannerheim or most known as Törni. So what is it then?"


Last edited by Tybrid on June 18th 2024, 8:01 pm; edited 12 times in total
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Post by Cynical_Aspie June 18th 2024, 5:33 am

Taavi had started humming "Maamme" before a voice cut through the otherwise silent graveyard. Someone who knew the language, if not native outright. The accenting was a bit off. Perhaps they were like him - a person who put down roots in another nation for an extended period of time. For Taavi, that nation had been the United States until the Nineties - he saw the writing on the wall after 9/11 and fully anticipated a social and moral decline in the national fiber.

He had been completely on the money.

"Hmm...I personally met Mannerheim," he said absentmindedly, in Finnish. "Hell, I was around during..."

Taavi was born prior to Mannerheim's regency for Pete's sake...

Taavi trailed off and turned around to see the source of the voice. Apart from an eye color he was unfamiliar with, her features carried the hallmarks of being Scandinavian - and most likely Finnish, given her grasp of the language. Her eyes spoke to him in a way - someone so shell-shocked through experience that they came away as a changed person. Someone like him.

His emerald eyes met hers - his spoke of a man whose psyche had been ravaged by war. Whose personal morals and ethics were the only thing keeping him from madness.

And he couldn't shake the feeling that he should remember her...like someone buried in a memory long past, clouded by an existence of pain. He scraped around in his mind, but only made out blurry fragments when he was still recovering from his injuries and what the Soviets had done to him during the early months of 1940. An extremely brief period of peace he experienced between the Winter War and the Continuation War.

A pleasant, if troubled, young lady in his memories - they'd barely talked for only a few days before he had to move on. He'd been called back to action when the Continuation War sparked, and the Lapland War soon after. Thinking back, the days he spent talking with that young woman might have been the last days he'd been able to get anything resembling true rest before the trauma of participating in three different wars started to rob him of a genuine sense of peace in the decades that followed.

"Are you familiar to me?" he asked. "Have we met in some distant village a long time ago?"
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Post by Tybrid June 19th 2024, 3:07 am

'Oh great, he's drunk.' This man knew Mannerheim? Right. For him to know the only Marshal of Finland he'd have to have been as old as..... well as old as her. From what she could see of his body though he was absent of any tattoos like her and she didn't know of any famous metas from Finland, certainly not during the war. It must have been something else, she had to find out exactly what. Indulging the town drunk would have to distract her from herself for a moment of entertainment.

His eyes were the only thing betraying her belief about him though. They were tired. Aged. She saw a similar thing most mornings in a mirror. Even children could grow to look like that through enough hardship though. It didn't mean he was like her. No one was.

Then he asked her if her knew her. She was caught off guard. She couldn't remember anyone's faces after soo long. Eevi could barely even remember most of the names now at this point. She tried to laugh it off though, waving a hand at him. Her mood had switched to being guarded, and irritable. "Hoh, certainly not. I've not been back here in a long time. I don't even think I would recognize my old schoolmates if I saw them at this point. Besides, my Mother always said my eyes were very unique. Too unique for you too have forgotten no?" She advanced towards him, clenching her fists tightly for a twofold purpose of relieving what pain it could and to release what anger she could. "This town and these people forgot though. This whole country did too apparently. Friends, family, neighbors, and loved ones. They all were forgotten." Eevi bit each word out now. Spitting her venom at this stranger.

She was glaring now, feeding an anger she rarely ever indulged but the pain was making her more unstable then usual. "Know me? No I don't believe you do. I don't even no myself anymore. But I knew them." She threw her arm in the direction of her old home. Her finger stabbing in the opposite direction she walked as she was forced to abandon her old life. "And none of you people ever cared to remember outside of me right? Too busy remembering this killer and the failure that failed to protect any of us? Those green eyes started at her, trying to be understanding with her. She hated it. No one could understand her or her pain. She was alone. She wanted to hurt him with her words. Eevi needed to.

Nodding her head and recalling his unfinished statement about the Marshal, she laughed. Bitterly and full of spite. Eevi's tone became mocking to him."Yes you and he were good friends I take it? Had his ear in every strategy meeting and even got to meet the Führer once hmm? Had a whole plan to win, you, he, and the dear marksman for it all then someone else somewhere else fucke—” Her hand snapped her back from her moment. It was as if each hand was bathed in fire and dipped in acid now. All she could think to do was cry in pain and plunge her hands in the snow, falling on her knees in the cemetery. She hated this. She hated this stranger. She hated this country and the whole damned world. She hated herself for being this weak.

The snow did little to relive her pain, put she was too tired from the lack of sleep up until then from the constant pain. Now there was tears. Her own tears. They fell onto the snow from her eyes out of sheer frustration. Eevi held her head low in shame with herself, she wouldn't let this stranger see her face crying. She began to slam her hands against the rough cold ground. Maybe hoping to hurt the world itself as it had her. Her voice crept out, so quiet as if it were afraid of being heard at all. "Damnit. Damnit Damnit. Goddamnit. Goddamnit why? You're not supposed to be weak anymore." Once her hands were beat sufficiently bloodied enough on the ground, enough so that the pain distracted her from the prior one, she stayed like that on the ground. She sobbed now, just a young girl alone again in the world for the first time in a long time. "Maybe you knew someone like me once stranger, but not me. No one knows me anymore." And her tears flowed freely, mixing with the blood and dirt on her hands.
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Post by Cynical_Aspie June 19th 2024, 3:58 pm

Mannerheim and Taavi could hardly be called friends. Hell, the only involvement Taavi ever had with Mannerheim was a few words exchanged after the Lapland War, when he was awarded with what was - in retrospect - an empty medallion. Did Taavi really do anything to merit honor? Or was he simply just lucky enough to be the right man in the wrong place and with just the right timing to save the lives of his fellow conscripts?

Taavi was taken aback by the sudden lashing out of the stranger in front of her. Where she had pointed had been a direction all-too-familiar to him: a town he had visited only twice before the Winter War had broken out. Metsäjärvi - a small village named for the lake that it overlooked - fell to the Soviets early on in the Winter War. A village he hoped he could warn of its impending fate - only to fail.

"Metsäjärvi...It wasn't forgotten. Not by me," he said. "Despite everything I did to try and forget everything from fighting the Soviets to mopping up the Nazis in the Lapland, the memories refused to fade. I kept Metsäjärvi in the back of my mind every day over the past nine decades - the village I failed. A village I was willing to abandon my orders to warn. I never managed to reach it...I got careless."

If that Soviet sniper had been somewhere else, or even looking in a different direction, could he have reached Metsäjärvi in time? Perhaps not, but the impulsiveness - the raw arrogance - of his youth would have wanted to believe so. A young dreamer who wished he could save everyone, only for a massive reality check - that there were things too far out of his influence - to hit him in the face.

"Whether it was in a prison camp, strapped to a Soviet surgical table, or recovering in a field hospital, the truth was that I didn't reach it in time. My parents lost their lives there," he trailed, his fist clenching. "Don't you dare presume that you know what's in my heart..."

At first, he was hit with the impulse to hit her for daring to assume she knew a single thing about his heart. Rationality stayed his hand, however - there would be no point in doing so. Then, as he looked down at the stranger, broken down in emotional anguish, everything seemed to come together.

"I was recovering from malnourishment after the Soviet prison camp I was held in was attacked in 1940 when I came across a young lady with eyes like yours. We talked for a few days, trading stories of loss, before I was moved elsewhere," he said, kneeling over. "Looking back, it may have been the one time in my life that I felt a sense of true kinship - one of several that felt the same loss as I have."

Alarm hit him when he saw her hands bleeding - in that moment, all the hard-set cynicism that turn him into a mercenary concerned only about his pay was shelved, and the Taavi Virtanen that existed before he was ever a prisoner of war reemerged - the Taavi that willingly put himself out there to protect not just his nation, but his people.

He had to sacrifice some of the stuffing of his coat, but he was determined to bandage the woman's injuries. His arms became bare in the process - while time had faded the scars on his arms to just a few bright lines, that didn't change the face that the surgical scars remained from the days the Soviets decided to use him as a lab rat.

"Stop it. You'll catch frostbite in this cold," he firmly said, ignoring the red staining the white stuffing as he tied them across the lady's hands. "Just let it all out, and just let me help you."
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Post by Tybrid June 20th 2024, 3:16 am

He was helping her. A filthy criminal. A deplorable murderer. Someone who shunned simple human decency was still receiving even more than that from someone who was a stranger to her. His fabric provided a soft, warmth over her hands and the relief that provided made her hands feel better than anything she had tried over the last week. It was comforting to feel this. A forgotten feeling of being cared for by someone else. Eevi, still hanging her head low, bit into her lips, hard enough to draw blood. to hide the the bitter scowl that began to hold her face.

She was weak. Weak to let him touch her and weak to accept his care. She bit her words out through her tears, spitting blood onto the ground from her mouth. "Nothing changed. You're still as useless as you were." Eevi began to shake from her bodies response to the stress, adrenaline and cortisol flowing in her system. She began to pound her hands on the ground, this time not to hurt herself. Her balled fists hammering into the snow with each word. ”NOTHING CHANGED!”

Eevi then threw her head between her arms and screamed. Her voice reached a level she had never raised it to in the 90 years since she had left Finland. She screamed until her voice was gone and her throat dry and stinging. She lay there on the ground for what felt like an eternity as only silence passed between the two kindred spirits, the only noise being the wind and her exhausted pants as she regained her breath. When she spoke again, her voice was quiet and muddled with her snot. She sounded as if to be apologizing through her tears along with sobs interrupting her words. "Papa... I can't.... I couldn't.... why.... why am I alone? I... I... still can't... be who you wanted.... me to be. Please... Papa please.... find your Kullannuppu"

When she raised her head to look at him, her eyes were full of tears and her face was flushed completely red. "You meant it didn't you? You did know me? Wiping tears from her eyes and sniffling, she sat back up now resting on her knees. Eevi attempted to regain some of her composure. "Don't blame yourself for my home. This world is cruel it only proved that to both of us. It was just my turn for the cosmic lesson to lose your stupid ideals like hope." Eevi looked at the improvised bandages adorning her hands now and she shook her head. "You can't help me. No one can. That girl you met is as much of a ghost to me as you are now." Flexing her fingers in front of her, she continued. "Maybe you should let the frostbite take me? Help this world and make up for how you failed mine as you say."

While sitting in the silence for a moment, she thought to herself. Could she recall him? Green eyes, brown hair, close to her age and on his way to war. He felt something unique with her he said. She tried, recalling anything she could gauge deep in her psyche to put a face together. But every person in her mind after a night in the fire and snow was a blur to her now. She had made an impact on him once, but he was another to the mass she had felt completely alien towards after the loss of her family.

Shaking her head in resignation, she tried one last thing to help her remember. "You still haven't told me your name? I am Eevi. Eevi Väinölä of Metsäjärvi."


Last edited by Tybrid on June 20th 2024, 5:00 am; edited 6 times in total
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Post by Cynical_Aspie June 20th 2024, 4:22 am

"Me...useless," Taavi trailed. "I guess that's one way to look at me. Especially after I turned tail and left when those wars ended. I left across the Atlantic - I guess that's one reason we haven't seen each other since. I promised myself I would only return long enough to see my old friend off - that plan fell through. It never occurred to me that either of us - much less both of us - had stopped aging."

When the stranger finished screaming out years worth of suppressed pain, Taavi checked his flask. Not much left, but a low alcohol content to help a parched throat.

"Here," he offered it over. "I'm not a frequent drinker, but you seem like you need it after that."

Time had worn away the girl that the woman had been, to the point that the very way in which she carried herself was hardly recognizable. Taavi believed she had a point - he wasn't sure if anyone could help her, let alone him - a veteran of war and mercenary. Still, for so long after the Lapland War, he wandered around, believing it would help him find a meaning in his life. And with the passing away of old comrades-in-arms, purpose seemed so far away.

A man will crawl through a sea of glass shards if it meant finding a purpose to live, or a challenge to face. This woman saw herself as someone who should have died out long ago - a walking body that time hadn't caught up to yet. Helping her come to terms with herself was going to border on impossible.

He'd take those odds, and overcome...like he'd overcome his own previous loss of will to live.

"Hope is a tenuous and fickle thing," he said. "There's a certain safety in being indifferent to life. When you remain at rock-bottom, nothing can disappoint you anymore. I look back at the military honor I was issued and see nothing more than a hunk of metal - one I don't believe I deserved. That was my rock-bottom for seven decades".

"Eevi Väinölä," he tested as she gave him her name. "I think...yes. I remember the name. I am Taavi Virtanen, rank of Alikersantti at that time...from Kuusamo."

"Let me tell you something - as a military veteran and as a survivor, Eevi," Taavi said. "It took me that nearly eighty years to realize: no one deserves a medal, and no one can remain hopeful forever. No matter what, despair comes - but it's just more of the same shit on a different day. I remember an old Vietnam veteran in when I was living in Maine tell me it best: hope isn't a tap to turn on when you feel like it - it's a tool of comfort to help someone survive. And tools are made to be broken...and fixed. I think he was trying to tell me in some weird American way to get over it."

Taavi had to face it: life, even if it wasn't ravaged by endless war, still threw a lot of other issues ready to break you if you're not prepared. So, whatever new crisis came his way, it was just more of the same shit on a different day. Perhaps, with a little help, Eevi will come to learn that, too.

"I don't know if it really helped me, but it gave me an excuse to look for something new to hold on to - if only for a while," he added.
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Post by Tybrid June 22nd 2024, 5:05 pm

"Taavi. Taavi Virtanen. I like that name." Taking a sip of the offered drink, Eevi dug deep into her memories. Some few soldiers had come through their village that entire winter. Some scared, others eager to prove themselves in battle, and the few who just saw themselves as doing their duty. But no young man with green eyes who had yet to add their now present weariness. The memory was lost to her at the moment it would seem.

While she delved into her past, she still listened on Taavi's words. His views on hope. The struggle over decades they both knew. To try and move on, to find her place and a purpose again maybe. Of course an American would have shared such platitudes.

She laughed when he finished speaking. And for once in a very long time it wasn't a mocking or condescending one. Taking another drink, she smiled at him. A genuine smile that she had not show for a very long time. "It would seem at least one of us has acquired some wisdom over the centuries." Standing, she drank once again. "It makes me wonder what path you went down to wind up like this as opposed to me." His life, his experiences and journey, had shaped him into a much more different person than Eevi after almost a century. The world hadn't broken him it would seem.

And if he was unbroken, then maybe she could repair herself.

Handing the flask back to Taavi, she approached the grave. She touched the bright lettering on the gravestone with her fingers, feeling the cool stone on her hands and tracing over each detail. "I don't know what happened to you. But he'd be happy I'd imagine. Seeing you here still healthy, young, and maybe, happy. It would give me some peace knowing that a part of what I had fought for, and with, was still in the world today and doing something." She wanted to ask him everything. But something in her, fighting her usually intrusive habits, held her back.

"Are you telling me to find a purpose then? That maybe if I am still alive there was a reason for it and not some tragic cosmic roll of dice?
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Post by Cynical_Aspie June 22nd 2024, 5:52 pm

"It's different for everyone. You may not be surprised, meeting me now, to figure out that there are others like us who've stopped aging. Finding a purpose is what's helped me," Taavi said. "For one man I've met back in the Eighties, he saw nothing more than living to the next day as his purpose - I didn't fault him at the time, for the very same incident that left him unable to age left him widowed and with a missing daughter. I was honestly envious that he clung to that at all."

Taavi sighed - the American he just mentioned was even older than he was. He never got the full details of his past, but from what he was told, they had one thing in common: they were veterans of war. He had always been better at connecting to those who had fought and survived war than those who had never seen it.

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind by then to just point the rifle I had in my mouth and pull the trigger," Taavi admitted. "Just punch out rather than gamble that the next thing I tried would disappoint me. I promised myself I'd return to the States after Simo was laid to rest. I did, for a few years, until the pissing contest of the Iraq invasion. I returned here and didn't look back. Confronting the changes over the decades wasn't easy, nor were the memories."

Taavi looked through the changes in fortune of his live. From the negative fortune of being captured, unable to warn anyone, to being a guinea pig...all the way to the positive fortune of traveling the world and meet new perspectives, to meeting that veteran who convinced him not to give up in the most American way possible, to the current positive privilege of being relied on by an entire town. Not that the positives didn't come with their own pressures.

"If there's a cosmic reason for still being around, you dig until you find it," Taavi said. "If it's all happenstance and the cards you were dealt don't look good, you wait it out until the right hand to toss your chips in. Either way, you're digging for a reason to go on - I found mine, for as long as it lasts anyway. You know, there's a book I read a long time ago; still quote it to myself every day. It talks about analyzing one's judgment of self and others - the spiritual versus the physical. Ancient Stoic philosophy - simple on its face."

"'You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength'," he said, quoting Marcus Aurelius. "Neither of us can change the fact that the wars have hurt us, or that people exist who are trash - but we can change our perspectives, and how we approach things. When I still thought of my worth as being defined by how others saw me, I was utterly miserable. Things changed when I decided the only one truly able to determine my worth is me. It took a long time to change that mindset."
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Post by Tybrid June 24th 2024, 2:00 am

They were very similar. Eevi saw that now. They had one difference though from what he was saying to her. She had never considered "punching out" as her had put it. This world was cruel and hurtful. The "good ones" are always taken too soon while the terrible people of the world, people like her, deserved to stay here for as long as possible and suffer through life. She deserved to suffer through every day.

Could she change? Alter her mind and her views and roll with the punches while she kept walking forward? She would have to find out on her own. Taavi was far from the first to tell her things such as this over the last year. His opinion was more personable to her however.

She found some strange comfort at the purpose he found however. Taavi kept it vague but she figured he was speaking from experience about his reason to go on and changing his perspective. At least one of them could find peace in this new world. Maybe one day he could tell her what it was that kept his heart beating.

Eevi moved away from the grave once he finished speaking. His words had reached her, but she wouldn't let that slip. She already felt too vulnerable with him after her earlier outburst. Attempting to bring her cool demeanor back, she sat on another headstone nearby. "I'm going to 'respectfully' let you finish here in silence without me adding any more to your moment. Say your fare thee wells and other sentimental whatnot." She cocked her head at him, her smile still on her face. Why couldn't she remember him? "When you're done I'll be leaving after that. Going home. Maybe you'll join me for a pleasant walk through the woods hmm?"

Metsäjärvi was where she was meant to go. She was sure of that now. Her chance meeting with Taavi, the figure that appeared in her sleep, the specific pain on her tattoos. It all pointed towards going home at last. It was only a matter if she would return alone just the same as she had originally left 90 years ago.
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Post by Cynical_Aspie June 24th 2024, 5:39 pm

It was clear to Taavi that Eevi prided herself on not showing any major feelings. She liked to project a feeling of always being in control of a situation - perhaps something about being reminded of her past brought it all bubbling up at once instead of piecemeal as it had for him. A part of him wanted to berate her for sitting on a gravestone, but honestly...he had little energy left after a heart-to-heart like this.

"If home is overseas, you'll likely have some difficulty getting a plane," Taavi said. "There's supposed to be a whiteout coming in that will keep flights grounded until it passes. And if you're going somewhere on foot, the temperature will dive soon. But I can book each of us a room locally, and we can part ways in the morning - or take that walk".

Taavi left the flask on the grave, nestled on the yarrows he left earlier, before saying a phrase in Latin he had adopted ever since becoming Naarajärvi’s Mercenary.

"Ego sum quia sumus..." he said.

I am because we are...

As long as Naarajärvi remained standing, and its people remained, this is what he was. Being the breadwinner for the town was his purpose...his raison dêtre, as it were. When it was all over, whether due to the destruction of his new home or to the ravages of time, he'd have to find a new thing to fight for - a new reason for being. It definitely wouldn't be the first time he looked, and until he dropped dead, it won't be the last.

"Still, if you ever find yourself in the country again, there's a town half the country northeast of here: Naarajärvi," Taavi said. "We're small, and don't have much going on for us since 2024, but we'll take care of anyone willing to pull their weight. You'll have a place at my table as a guest."
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Post by Tybrid June 25th 2024, 2:02 am

He proposed a counter offer. Of course he would. It was enticing to Eevi, to relax and try to get sleep for the first time over the last week. Something about right now gave her a feeling that she would be able to peacefully sleep tonight if she said yes. It's why she could never accept it.

"Bad people always get what they deserve, Eevi. It may not happen when we want it to, and it may not happen the way we think it should, not even while we still live mayhaps, but there is a balance in this world. A reckoning. They will face the consequences of their actions." Her father's words echoed in her head, reminding her of a peace she'd never deserve as her penance.

Standing from the grave, she shook her head at his offer. Her smile now had a sadness to it, betraying the happiness she was trying to make it convey. "It sounds like a beautiful place you've found for yourself in this world. Maybe once I would've liked to see that and to have sat with you as your guest. But I can't do that anymore. Consequences and all that yes?" Reaching into her pocket she produced her wallet. Pulling out what money she had, some €87, and placed it at Simo's grave. "For the damage to your clothes, I'd hand it to you but it's a thing I have with handing things to people." A lie. One she tried to laugh off awkwardly. She just didn't want to feel the warmth of another person right now. Not even through a simple exchange of handing him money.

Standing again and pulling her coat tightly around her, she took in the surroundings of the town of Ruokolahti. It was pleasant, peaceful even. How long had it been since she'd appreciated such beauty of the world? The beauty of her homeland? Far too long by her reckoning. A content sigh left her mouth, the steam of her breath providing a warmth to her face in the cold wind. Looking back at Taavi, she smiled and closed her eyes. "I think I'm ready to go home now. If you'll excuse me Taavi, I have a walk to make." Turning from him, she began to walk home for the first time in more than 90 years.
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Post by Cynical_Aspie June 25th 2024, 2:32 am

"I'm not talking you out of this, eh?" Taavi said, grabbing the money from the grave. "I suppose we all have our choices to make."

His phone rang, and he answered when he saw who the caller was.

"Talk to me," Taavi said.

"I trust your trip has been recuperative?" asked Eemil Jarvi - Naarajärvi’s administrator, of sorts.

"You could say that," Taavi said. "You only ever call when business pops up, Eemil. Let's hear it".

"GA's come through on a number of choices of contract, and they want your answer as soon as possible," Eemil said. "Ilona is getting worried about you, too".

Ilona was Taavi's latest partner in his mercenary career. Not a combatant, she acts as an intelligence officer and battlefield monitor.

"Guess my trip is cut short, then. Don't worry - I'll be in before the blizzard hits," Taavi said. "See you shortly."

With that, Taavi hung up, and he looked back over to the kindred spirit who was walking away - probably to see her old home one more time before moving on.

"I hope you find what you're looking for, Eevi!" he called out before moving in a different direction. What started as a slow walk moved up to a light jog, then to a sprint. Anyone looking in his direction at the end of it all would see nothing more than his afterimage and hear a crack as the sound barrier was broken. Like an arrow from a bow, he moved along the snow, with no regards to the setting sun, and unaware of the nightmare that lies ahead.
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Post by Tybrid June 26th 2024, 5:52 pm

The cold gave her a familiar bite. Instinctively, Eevi hugged her arms to her chest in spite of the comfort she felt from the chill touch of the breeze. "One foot after another Eevi, time to make a house call. You're long overdue for one, imagine the dressing down Mama is going to give you." She laughed to herself, bitterly, at her sarcasm. Mama was long dead by now.

She had some small hope Taavi would join her for her walk in the woods but she knew better. He had his own business and made no plans whatsoever to run into her that afternoon. It was to be expected that she found herself walking alone now. Unexpectedly however, he called out to her. Taavi wished her to find what she was looking for. Hoped for her.

It was naive of him. Hadn't he seem she didn't have a prayer of hope left to her? The girl he met in the 30s was long gone. It still struck her though. Someone cared enough to wish her well. In spite of everything she had done to take from this world and hurt the people in it, someone cared. "He doesn't know you. There'd be no part of him willing to extend any such kindness to Inkwell."

The snow had begun to fall by the time she had exited Ruokolahti. Soft snow adding a blanket on top of what hard, packed snow from the days prior was already across the ground. With each crunch of snow under her feet, Eevi caught herself smiling at his kindness no matter what dissuasion she was telling herself. He was a good man, he still is a good man. Just on the chance that he knew her from all those years ago he had extended kindness to her the likes of which she had not known in a long while.

Her arms were trembling now as she pulled them tightly to her chest. The bitter snow of her lonesome walk began to sting at her as she trudged through the woods. It wasn't the cold of the snow that bothered her though. It was the freezing of the tears down her cheeks that affected her the most. She allowed them just this silent, private moment to fall freely though, and she continued into the woods, disappearing into the trees.  Eevi Väinölä of Metsäjärvi was coming home.
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