Ad Astra Per Bellum: Black Sun - Homecoming Dec 10, 2020 4:55:04 GMT -6
Post by Ottoman on Dec 10, 2020 4:55:04 GMT -6
The curt, kinetic snap of the car door being shut behind her summoned something of a start from the single figure that had emerged from it. Were it any other day, she would have donned a smirk, shaken her head, and silently teased herself over such a small sound - the tensing of her shoulders, how suddenly her eyes snapped shut - for a car door, of all things. But as the soft whirr of the vehicle’s motor faded into the distance, the former passenger allowed her eyes to open, straining at first in the light of a bright summer afternoon, that she might see her destination. Across the gulf of the cobblestone walkway up from the drive, dozens of windows stared back at her, and it seemed almost as if the manor was more glass than anything else.
As her chest rose and fell, the soft clink of the bullion upon her breast was overwhelmed by the sigh that slipped past her nostrils. Her grip tightened about the handles of the suitcases that flanked her, and with no small effort she made the first step towards the veritable palace that lay before her. Already her mind was wild at work, quick to remind her that there would be no more lean-tos, no more torrential downpours, no more powdered instant meals, that instead there would be a lovely, soft mattress waiting for her at the end of her day, that she could enjoy a meal free from dirt and questionable ‘meat’. All she had to do was endure.
The grinding of steel upon stone, cut short with every new step, had become a most distinct sound to those that dwelt here, synonymous both with blessings and curses, joy and sorrow. But to the sable strider they had become not simply a common noise, but an integral piece of the aural static that she, like so many others, filtered out every day. It should have come at no surprise to her that someone would investigate such a thing - much less the car door - and yet something cut through the air that stopped her mid-stride.
No, not simply her name.
“Liese, y-... you’re back! Why didn’t you call!?”
It was something reserved, something private, something that she heard only from those she had known the longest. To be stopped dead in one’s tracks by a single word, to hear it once in person after thirteen years away. No more time delays, no more screen between them. She would finally have the opportunity to speak face to face with her family again.
Because I didn’t want to.
Gone now was the measured step of her boots on the walkway beneath, replaced now by the hollow clicking of heels and the swish of fabric, and dull green eyes rose to behold the girl - no, woman - that ran towards her now. Skirts bunched in gloved hands, the youngest scion of the house bolted towards the eldest, at least as much as her attire would allow. But at such a sight, Liese’s gaze softened, and a smile grew across her hawkish features. She had but mere moments to drop her luggage before her sister, the missile, collided with her, arms wrapped in tight embrace. “I knew it would be soon,” Came the words, muffled from being buried in the gabardine of Liese’s tunic, “I just knew it the day I saw the news, I-... it really is over, isn’t it?”
After rocking back onto the balls of her feet from the forceful impact, Liese slowly reached about her baby sister, hesitating for but a moment before returning the hug. Her expression stumbled, the curve of her smile drooping as the question hung in her ear. For so long it had been her life, her normal, her very purpose for existing, that now even this gesture felt foreign, almost unnatural.
“Yes,” She murmured, “It’s over.”
The grin that soon looked up to her was all it took to return Liese’s smile, and the elder sister leaned in to place a small kiss on the other’s forehead. Her hands soon moved to her sister’s shoulders as she pushed her away, if only to look her up and down, “Let me... my God you’ve grown, Linde,” Liese mused, teasing exasperation, “What has happened to my sister?”
“Life,” Was Linde’s reply, her joy replaced briefly with a stern tone as equally facetious as her sister’s, “And worrying about you.” The expression that returned spoke more than any words could have, the warmth of her eyes and the small burst of child-like laughter Linde let slip, and though it took a moment, Liese recognized what it was that she saw there in Linde’s face - or rather, what she didn’t see.
“I’ve got so much to show you, and we’ll have to - no, no, let me.” Linde’s excited babbling found itself interrupted as Liese reached again for her things, the younger woman reaching quickly for one of them. Any protest Liese could muster wouldn’t suffice - this she knew, despite her absence - and so with a light shake of her head, she resumed her walk to the manor beyond, Linde speaking all the while.
It was almost comical, the soft young woman beside her holding the suitcase with both hands, lopsided by the weight of it, undeterred. “I was accepted into university! The Krohn Institute, on Eos!” Liese cast a quick glance to her side, and even in that brief moment she saw the glint in her sister’s tawny eyes, the curl of her lips. It had been so long that even the small things that Linde once did, the habits and mannerisms of her mood, had changed. One could see where they had evolved from her distant childhood, but they had become something new - just as Linde had.
“On Eos?” Replied the raven-haired elder, brows raised, “No small feat - now, don’t tell me…” For the next few steps her voice trailed away, her mind wandering itself as it sifted through long-dormant memories, trivia and knowledge long since buried in lieu of more pertinent, visceral matters. “... chemistry?” The widening smile that Linde wore told her that she was, at least in part, correct.
“Of a sort!” The lilted click of her heels coming between the harsh footfalls of her sister, “Papa is most pleased, I… well, I think he thought my tutelage a waste, for a while.” The elation faded from her voice, the two walking in silence for a moment or three before she bothered to elaborate, a slight huff emerging alongside her admission, “I-... I was a bit of a fool, before.”
Liese, smiling, looked once more to her sister, “As was I, once, though I think everyone’s entitled to be a fool for a time.” Her gaze fell again to the house before them, the rapidly approaching steps, and the doric columns that flanked them. “Part of growing up. But! I’m pleased to hear father is proud - he has right to be.” As if on cue, the door left ajar by her hasty sister opened fully, and the gray-haired figure that emerged looked with curiosity to the pair that approached. Though it took a moment, Liese could see, despite squinting her eyes from the glare, that he too wore a grin.
As he descended the steps, Linde spoke again, the joy remerging in her voice, “Mama isn’t, but-”
Of course she isn’t.
“... few things seem to put her at ease of late. I think she has been worried sick about you.”
A lingering sigh from Liese spoke her thoughts, even if her words did not, “No doubt, she always was the worrying sort.” The sullen look that had settled upon her face vanished as the two came to approach their father, whose smile seemed to grow wider with every passing step. It was never an easy thing to see one’s sire grow older, to see a man that was once an immovable oak slowly slip away, weathered with the passing of time. But to be free of that gradual turn, to bear witness to the stark contrast of thirteen years with one’s own eyes, was an experience that Liese found she wasn’t quite ready for.
At least his joy dulled that pain.
“Papa! Look who has come back to us!”
The start of a throaty laugh was cut mercilessly short, “So I see, so I see! Oh…” Even from where she stood, still some twenty paces away, Liese could see how he favored one leg over the other. Perhaps it was age, she assured herself, the curse that all must bear in the end. As he approached, the scent of his cologne - a smell so long removed from her life - wafted across her senses, and the wayward daughter felt the beginnings of tears well in her eyes. “... it is you, Liese.”
Within seconds he had crossed what space remained between them, and for the second time today Liese felt the embrace of one long denied the opportunity. While not as forceful as the first, the woman could feel the squeeze of his arms, and for but a moment, right at the beginning, she felt him falter, as if to test that she was really there. “Thank you, God,” Whispered her father, his voice wavering, “My little bird is safe.”
Liese’s grip on the handle faltered, the breath caught in her throat as she heard her father’s stifled words. Once again she delayed in her response, a hand moving to place itself square upon his back as she returned the affection, her own words just as faint, “I love you, papa.”
She found that she could not help herself as her father pulled away, almost instinctively the hand lingered, holding fast to the fabric of his shirt if only for a moment. Mirrors of sage met once more as father and daughter were reunited and took their first, proper look at one another. No matter the ravages of time or the weakness of flesh, Liese knew those eyes, as she had the very same.
For the first time since she had left that terrible place, she allowed herself tears.
It was only a flourish of incandescent blue that drew her gaze away, as another skirted individual left the door beyond. In an instant the smile Liese wore vanished, and her free hand, quickly as she could manage, reached to wipe away the joy that trickled from her eyes. It was only fitting, or so they claimed, to not shed tears in a lady’s presence. No, that wouldn’t do at all - it was the last thing that Liese wanted to do before her mother.
Beyond the dark cuff of her tunic, Liese’s knuckles grew pale as an already firm grip tightened about the leatherbound handles of her suitcase. Once more did the click of heels sound across the open grounds as her mother approached, a pleasant expression coming to make itself at home on her face, and Liese narrowed her eyes without thought. “My dear,” Came the elder’s voice, “It is so very lovely to see you home and safe again.” Auburn locks framed a weathered visage that held a warm and welcoming expression - though Liese knew well the sort of vitriol that lingered behind such a pleasant disguise.
“Yes it is, mother.” Came the curt reply, the wayward daughter’s gaze slipping quickly to the cobblestone that lay between them, not allowing her eyes to be drawn into the azure layers of her mother’s skirts. “A welcome reprieve,” The muttered words were lackluster, an unspoken sigh permeating their sullen tone, though with a slight heft of the suitcase’s handles the eldest child once more started towards the manor. Without effort, Liese evaded the last of the trio to emerge from their home, even as she had begun to lift her arms up to Liese in an attempted embrace.
“No sense in waiting - I am rather eager to sleep on a proper mattress, you know.”
No words were spoken the remainder of the walk up to the house, Liese not bothering to turn to look to see whatever mute exasperations her mother undoubtedly shared with her father and sister. It was reassuring to see the violet hue of Linde’s dress enter the periphery of her vision, pulling ahead of their parents behind. Not even the sight and sound of her mother could prevent the small curl that returned to the thin lips of the elder sister. Only once they reached the steps did the staccato click-clack-click of Linde’s heels finally cease, replaced instead with a measured twin clicks as the softer sibling took each step one at a time. Regardless, they reached the zenith of the front steps soon enough, Liese taking a moment to glance to Linde, who had only just sat the baggage down, “Remember to breathe,” She teased.
“Well,” She huffed, “I may need a moment.” Her sister’s dulcet voice subsided to do as Liese advised, taking a moment to produce a kerchief, dabbing at the beads of sweat that had gathered on her brow. A playful tap to the broad side of the suitcase, delivered with her shoe, “Sneaking your man in under mother’s nose?” With a toothy grin Linde looked to her eldest sister, her eyes alight with mirth, and even frigid Liese took a moment to share in Linde’s jest.
“Don’t bruise him, I’ve my needs,” Once more the mock severity returned, raising a finger at the younger, “He’s going to be your brother-in-law, don’t start it on the wrong foot.” A stifled snort was her sister’s immediate reply, drawing Liese’s smile wider as the former moved to lean against one of the nearby columns, grinning with her hands placed neatly at the small of her back.
“Learned a thing or two from my letters?” Linde cocked her head, regarding her sister with a minute squint to her eyes. Some small part of Liese recoiled, knowing from whence it came, and knowing how it felt to be studied - analyzed - but she had to remind herself that this was her sister, a woman who she treasured deeply, the sort of friend one could never find elsewhere in life. “I thought you hated puns.” For as different as Linde proved from their mother, there was no denying that she was her daughter, from auburn hair to that slight tilt.
Most fortunate that they looked better with kind eyes.
“Only when they come from you.”
Linde’s mouth fell agape, aping shock as she blinked, “Wow. Alright then,” Gloved hands reappeared from behind her thin frame, raised to accompany an exaggerated “Elisabeth.” Fingers that had once clutched tightly to the handle of Liese’s suitcase relaxed, setting her luggage on the floor of the portico, her own hands, now free, moving to mime her sister’s.
“Ugh, don’t, please,” With a half-hearted groan Linde’s ashen eyes lulled in a dramatic roll, ending in a glance out towards the walk, and the parents of the pair that lingered behind. A lengthy, nasal sigh slipped from the younger woman as she beheld the two, Liese able to see as her eyes darted between them, “Only mother calls me that,” She mused, looking back to Liese, “Or dad, but…” Linde shrugged, a sheepish grin creeping across her face, “Only when he’s cross.”
“Papa, cross with you?” Dark brows rose in curiosity as one of Liese’s hands moved to set itself upon her hip, just below her belt, “I’m not sure he could be, I know how he dotes on you.” Such words elicited something of an incredulous huff, her sister looking back to Liese with a quizzical expression, though it soon faded, along with her grin. Lips pursed, Sieglinde shook her head, looking back to their father beyond, who practically beamed even now despite the limp in his step, and Liese couldn’t help but follow her gaze.
“No, Liese,” Came her voice, cloaked in a sigh, “I’m the baby, not the favorite - no,” Flashing her sister a look through the corner of her eyes, “That title belongs to you. Nothing thrilled him more than your letters and your calls these past few years. On the Fulcrum,” Linde swore, invoking the scales, and with three fingers together drew the sign of the triad over her heart, “His hair got darker every time.” Lips once pursed fell into a small smile, and the young woman crossed her arms, “Don’t be mistaken - father loved whatever word we got from Adam too - but it never made him glow like hearing from you.”
For some fleeting moments Liese remained silent, her smile fading as jade eyes danced between her sister and her father, and without thought her hand slipped from her hip, arms crossing themselves in an echo of her baby sister. “It doesn’t help you look just like him,” Linde mused, “I think the only thing mother ever gave you were her eyes. The rest of you is Redwing - well, save for that Austran nose.” Sieglinde flashed a grin, wrinkling her own nose at the note of her sister’s in jest, summoning a small curl to Liese’s thin lips.
“My turn to groan, I suppose.” She murmured, eyes falling to the flagstone underfoot, fists balling in the corners of her arms, “What’s good for the coins of antiquity isn’t exactly what’s in vogue today...” Silently her pupils traced the topography of the hoary stones beneath, running across its ridges and hollows, as if she were looking down on some foreign land from high above. The gentle swish of Linde’s skirts - indeed, most any noise - was lost on her as she stared, the white marbling seeming almost like clouds, the black streaks like smoke, as if a thousand cities were -
Once more did the clap of a car door ring out across the grounds, and with a start Elisabeth’s sullen eyes snapped back to reality, looking across the length of the walk to the source of the noise. Another car had come, but this time there was no dark-clad figure stepping out, but a lady, bedecked in a lavender dress, accompanied by two small children. Before she could manage a word Linde’s voice returned, “Helen’s arrived, and so have - oh, you haven’t met Adam’s boys yet, have you?” With a mild shake of her head, Liese answered Linde’s otherwise rhetorical question. Thirteen years was quite some time, especially when one refused furlough. “They’re darlings, Liese, and they’ve heard many stories about their aunt Lizzie.”
The young woman smiled, meeting her sister’s gaze as she stepped closer, reaching to take Liese’s hand, offering it a reassuring squeeze, “Only good ones, I promise. Between Adam and I, they’ve almost deifi- …” Linde’s voice trailed away, her elation at the arrival of their brother’s family faltering, “... what’s wrong?” Already her brows knitted themselves, her grip on Liese’s hand tightening slightly. It only took a moment for Liese to return the squeeze her sister had given her hand, though it took several more for her to put thoughts to spoken word.
“I… knew he had children - sons,” She corrected herself, keeping herself from stammering, but only just, “I remember the day I got your call to share the news. It’s just-” Liese’s voice caught in her throat, mouth just barely ajar as she blinked, as if to dispel some baleful spell. “Just to think I’ve never met them. How… how old is the eldest now?” Came her question, the soft, shifting clink of metal-upon-metal sounding again as she turned to her sister, and back to the newest arrivals. “Six?” She ventured.
Linde nodded, though she remained, for the time being, silent. Hand still clasped about Liese’s, Linde’s gaze remained locked on her sister, inspecting her with a scrutiny that would only serve her too well in the vocation that she had settled upon. Indeed, her sister might never have noticed that studious look return to Sieglinde’s features were it not for the soft words, barely more than a whisper, that she dared speak - especially since their parents had turned about to greet Helen and the children, as was proper. “Liese, I-” She murmured, squeezing her hand once again until the other bothered to look at her, “I know that I don’t know - could never know - what happened out there, but, you know you can always speak with me, candidly.”
“Right?” Again Liese felt the younger woman squeeze her hand.
Green met gray as silence reigned between them, the elder simply staring at her baby sister. Already she felt her arm tense, stopping just short of pulling it free from the other’s grip, but what restraint she managed there fell through with her gaze. Hanging her head, Liese too remembered to breathe, gingerly nodding at Linde’s confirmation. With eyes shut tight, she managed a strained smile, if for nothing else than Linde’s sake. The both of them knew well enough that not everyone could be trusted, not even their mother. “Right.”
But it isn’t a matter of trust, is it?
“Always.” Linde repeated herself, no doubt hoping to reassure her sister, “Now,” Already her expression brightened, looking back out to the walk as Helen and the children converged with her parents, “Brace yourself,” She warned with a smirk, “I’ve no doubt Markus and Gregor will have endless questions.” The thought of the children - her nephews - and the barrage of inquiries typical of their age. Already Liese remembered how it was with Linde when she was small - and how she had to leave not long thereafter. “Do you want someone to see to those?”
With a furrowed brow Elisabeth’s visage popped back up to behold Sieglinde. A blank, uncertain look was paid to her sister as she slipped her hand from Liese’s, soon using it to gesture to the luggage the two had hauled up the stairs, “Your bags, Liese. Do you want someone to get those for you?”
Shaking her head, Liese dismissed the notion, looking out to the five that now approached them from across the way, “No, I’d much rather they see to Helen’s, since Adam’s not here.” It simply wouldn’t do to have two little boys, much less their mother, manage their belongings on their own - no, Liese mused to herself, she could handle her things, just as she had for the past few years. With a small breath, she shut her eyes once more for a moment, chest still as her family only just began to rise up the steps below. The morass of indistinct conversation between the trio of adults was run through, thankfully, by the baritone notes of her father, summoning her gaze.
“Liese, I don’t believe you and Helen have been properly introduced yet,” Quickly enough her father looked between Liese and Helen, his peppered eyebrows high, “Feel free to correct me if I am mistaken, of course.” Some may have considered his tact to be superfluous - the sort of rhetoric that was almost stereotypical of their class - but between the poorly suppressed grin her father wore and the lilt in his voice, even the most ardent republican could be convinced. He had always had that manner about him, ever since she was a girl, and it was such a pity that she didn’t possess it.
Liese was the first to speak, “We haven’t, but I have been looking forward to it for some time,” Heel-irons clicked across the flagstone as she approached Helen, hands settling on the other’s shoulders as she moved to kiss the Helen’s cheek, alternating between them twice as was tradition, “Helen, Adam told me so much about you, but I suppose it’s a bit late to vet you, hm?” The smirk that had come across Liese’s features elicited a small nod and smile from Helen, though there was something about her, some air that Liese couldn’t quite place. A droop to her chin, the smile fading as quickly as it had come, and her eyes.
“I suppose so,” Her sister-in-law offered whilst the smile had remained, returning the three kisses paid to her, though she held onto Liese for but a moment, having to crane her neck slightly to look up to the other, “Now you’re stuck with me.” It was only then, in that moment, that Liese recognized what it was she had seen in Helen’s gaze - fatigue. It was a shame, between her dollish round face and tawny curls, Helen had the sort of features some women would kill for, but to see such tired eyes set in such a woman’s face…
“And you with me, lest you forget,” Liese countered, the smirk growing into a smile as she squeezed the other’s shoulders briefly before letting go, looking to the two small figures that had trailed thus far behind their mother. Without a second thought Elisabeth moved to kneel that she might look them in the eye, offering them the same pleasant expression that she had paid their mother. The taller of the two, no doubt the eldest, stepped forward, even as his brother still clung to Helen’s skirts. “And you must be Gregor,” She murmured, one hand settling upon her knee as the other reached out for his.
The boy only paid a small nod in response to her question, his voice turned instead to ply one of his own, “Are you aunt Lizzie?” Already one could see the way his lips tried to curl, but with every attempt something halted them. It only made sense, Gregor had only known her through photographs and his father’s stories, and there was the possibility that she didn’t quite resemble the young woman fresh out of academy anymore. One of the boy’s hands came up to brush an umber lock out from in front of his face, which even now at his age smacked of Adam. Liese resisted the urge to grin, choosing instead to purse her lips and look around, as if searching for some wayward thought.
“Well,” She hummed, lips quirking to one side, “Last time I checked, I do think so - unless we have another Elisabeth in the family.”
Like a dam finally overcome by its reservoir, Gregor’s hardly restrained smile leapt onto his features as he crossed the distance between them in a flash, and Liese was caught unawares by a second hug in one day. Within a moment small arms wrapped themselves around her neck, and the eldest had to watch her footing, lest she be knocked onto her backside, “I knew it!” Came the child’s declaration, grinning from ear to ear, pulling away only to look up to Liese’s stunned - if pleased - face with awe in his own, “Dad told me about all the games you used to play, and, and-”
“And that you bit him.” Came the murmur of Markus, still hiding partially behind his mother. Liese’s warm expression slipped briefly, her brows arching as the younger boys words registered with her.
“... bit him?” She managed with a light chuckle, her eyes moving no longer in faux recollection but genuine curiosity, trying to recall what episode Adam could have possibly scarred that poor child with. Hazy, distant memories, like long forgotten tax documents, flitted through her mind, until the events of a particularly heated disagreement over access to the crook of their favorite tree played back across her mind, “Oh. Right, well -” She mused, a light flush to her cheeks as she realized just what it was the boy knew of, “Don’t fret, Markus. I only bite my brothers.”
The younger of Adam’s sons remained where he was, fingers still wrapped tightly in the lavender fabric of Helen’s dress, regarding Liese with narrowed eyes. A muffled huff was all the answer the boy would venture, prompting Liese to pay him a brief wink before planting a kiss on Gregor’s forehead, unentangling herself from his arms that she might rise again. With a light ruffle of the elder child’s hair, her green eyes danced eagerly between Helen and her father before she spoke, “Speaking of, is Adam coming? I do hope he’s been furloughed for the celebration.”
Elisabeth’s inquiry, as well as her glances, would go unanswered. Without a sound Helen’s visage drooped, a hand reaching to place itself at the nape of Markus’s neck, and Liese’s father almost immediately looked away, lip bitten as he gazed down the walk to the drive. The silence grew deafening as the smile that Liese wore faded with each passing moment, coming to rest finally on Linde, whose fingers fidgeted with the embroidery on the backs of her gloves, “Liese, y-... you mean you-”
“Elisabeth,” Sieglinde’s voice was cut short by a hiss from their mother, whose tone drew Liese’s vision in an instant. What pity may have been present in Linde’s voice proved utterly absent from their mother, whose own narrowed eyes regarded Liese’s - now wide and flitting about those gathered - with nothing short of disdain, “Helen is still in half-mourning.” Blank, desperate eyes locked with the matriarch’s as their owner attempted to rationalize what was said without being said.
“H-... half-mourning?” Came her stammered query, Liese not daring to blink in the face of the revelation that had been foisted upon her, “Adam? Is, is Adam-”
“Yes, half-mourning, hence the color.” In a blur Elisabeth’s eyes turned back to Helen, whose head still hung low, quickly looking over the gown her sister-in-law sported. Lavender, yes - what few traces still remained of her mother’s lessons in social propriety rang out in the tumultuous depths of her mind, this was an appropriate color, at least after the first year. Year. Her mother’s voice almost didn’t register upon her ears as that singular thought lulled in the cerebral cyclone that now raged within Liese, “He was… martyred, just over a year ago.”
The soft click of approaching heels did little to ease the stupor that had come over the eldest daughter, though she was fortunate that Linde had stepped forward to place a hand on her shoulder - the slight touch alone was enough to shatter the illusion of calm that had settled about her. Once strong and confident legs soon began to buckle involuntarily, yielding to the chaos present in their master’s mind, her footing saved only by Linde’s timely intervention - shifting quickly from a concerned touch to genuine support, “A year?” Liese couldn’t help but hiss the thought-made-manifest, one hand beginning to desperately flail for something to latch onto, ceasing only once it held fast to her sister’s arm, “... w-why wasn’t I i-informed of this?”
Quickly enough the younger sister helped right Liese, still standing close by as she waited to see what it was the other would do, “It came to us straight from the Home Army’s command, I don’t know why it wasn’t sent to you, all members of the family should have received notice from the duchy.” Sieglinde’s fair face, having worn such a pleasant expression moments before, found itself now twisted, her own eyes searching amongst those gathered, before settling - just as Liese’s soon did - on their mother.
“... did you take the liberty of seeing to it personally, mother?” Liese’s mezzo-soprano voice labored, intense nasal breaths punctuating her sentence at beginning and end. Hurriedly enough she released Linde’s arm, wringing her fingers about her wrists as dark eyebrows contorted into harsh angles, “I know what an interest you take in my well-being.”
Neither Helen nor her father dared utter a word now, Gregor having stepped back, rejoining his brother in the safety of their mother’s proximity, as all stood transfixed by the simmering passion that Elisabeth just barely contained. Without missing a beat her mother simply nodded, folding her hands one over the other as she spoke, “Indeed I did, I cannot be blamed for the shortcomings of communications at the front - can I?” The way that the woman raised her eyebrows with the rhetorical question she tacked on ignited something in the eyes of her eldest daughter, and even she was taken aback by the vitriol that slipped from Liese’s lips.
“How could I have ever guessed?” She spat, grinding her teeth as she stepped forward, using her greater height to loom - as much as three extra inches allowed - over her mother, “It seemed to work fine for when I wrote to the families of the men I had to bury - but I could be mistaken.” There she lingered, arm tensing as visions of her mother, clutching with a yowl at a twisted and bloody nose, danced across the stage of her mind. Yet, such visions did not come to pass, the eldest daughter stepping away, catching herself as she briefly shuffled her feet. Harsh, emerald eyes darted between all those gathered, save one.
“M-... my apologies, I… am feeling unwell,” For a moment those green orbs locked with Helen’s, and in a moment that felt like a century, her eyes blinked desperately to hold back what her ignorance had sown, “I must retire for the evening.” Without a second to consider what she had said, the woman turned, hands desperately seeking out the handles of the luggage that she had deposited earlier.
Kind Sieglinde rushed once more to her sister’s side, a hand again placing itself upon her sister, though the sable-clad shoulder refused to yield. “Liese, please, I-” With no small force Liese pulled away from Linde’s moderating touch, and strode forth for the door - thankfully ajar - beyond, slipping inside with little trouble. The light, despondent click of Linde’s heels followed after her big sister for a short while, but soon ceased, her outstretched hand falling to hang limp by her side.
Inside the threshold of the manor the wayward daughter hurried down the hall of windows to the room she remembered from long distant childhood. The warm kiss of the summer sun was lost upon her as it poured through the high portals, glinting across the various commendations that now jingled and clinked upon her breast, and twinkling in the beads of her newborn sorrow.