The Osgord: Wardroom

Dinner reminds you immediately that you’re on one of the Armada’s best ships. Large bowls of fruit and vegetables from the arboretum on the bottom deck are lined up down the center of the table along with platters of fresh mirchn and fiskr grown in that same artificial habitat. The colors alone are enough to make your mouth water. There are small bowls filled with various insects, oils, and nuts, too, but your adventurous sense of taste doesn’t yet stretch that far. Your own plate is filled with a large, dark salad with lots of fruit and a moderately sized cut of fiskr on it. After some gentle prodding by the Osgord’s Chief of Nutrition, you agree to add some oil and nuts to the salad, along with a small, red fruit you had originally thought to be a berry but which had a much more succulent taste. Apart from the small meal with Shilo before the encounter with the wyrms, you haven’t had a bite to eat since the attack on Nivlahim, so you dig in as soon as the benediction is finished.

“It’s Keria’Ledrii, isn’t it?” The nutritionist sitting beside you seems to be attempting conversation. You set down your fork, returning yourself to the appropriate mindset for engaging in conversation and taking that time to swallow your food.

“That’s right,” you reply.

He continues, “Did I hear the Cap saying that you were on your way to train as a, umm…” his throat catches for a moment before he manages, “a Valkyrie?” His eyes briefly catch on your hair, and he makes it a point not to gulp out of apprehension. You’re not used to this type of response to your appearance, but some of Shilo’s memories surge up for a moment, particularly ones of a nasty incident between the monarchy and the Blue only about twelve cycles ago, more than a lifetime for you but not even half of one for the man beside you. There is a very violent reason that the Valkyries came into light and became the only group independent of monarch control those several cycles ago.

“Yes, that’s right,” you say again. “My sister was a Valkyrie, and my mommy was one of the Blue before their official formation.” The mention of this causes a twinge of discomfort to spread across the table like a small explosion. “My daddy died a little while ago, and then my sister found me, but then she died, too.” As the words make their way out of your mouth, they grow progressively slower and further apart, tears welling up in your eyes upon realization of the full tragedy of it all.

You notice when you finish speaking that the previously tumultuous table was now silent all but for the sobs of a girl only five cycles old. Nonetheless, the sobs don’t stop, and the men and women surrounding you make no effort to look away from what you can only see as a broken child. None of them can know the pain you feel, and none pretend to. Quite different from the petty consolations you’d received upon your mother’s death from strangers who’d never truly known her as you did, the respecting and gentle gazes you receive now are those of men and women who have known similar pains and have experienced great loss themselves and, thusly, who know that the pain they felt was not the same.

So you cry. You cry for your mommy and daddy. You cry for Shilo. You cry for the friends who hadn’t been evacuated. You cry for every life lost in your city and every heart broken over this war. When the sobs finally begin to peter out, and the slim hand of one of the female officers makes its way to your shoulder, you look into her warm, blue eyes and realize that the only person you won’t ever have to cry for is yourself. The room remains silent until you wipe your eyes and nose, quietly thanking everyone. “Thank you. I’m sorry if I ruined your dinner.” You give a halfhearted smile, and a few chuckles make there way around the table.

Suddenly, as if it had been no one’s idea at all, the wardroom began to fill with a somber dirge of a tune:

“In lonely nights,

The shadows fill the room,

And the nightmares

Hang my heart in gloom.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“We once had dreams,

But never now fulfilled,

Stillest waters

Ripple now with guilt.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“The cold of night

Has reached my lonely heart.

But golden gates

For your good soul part.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“In sweetest fields

Of golden felmag hum,

We’ll run again

When my day has come.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.”

A few moments pass as you realize that the song is finishing slowly throughout the ship, having made its way through bulkheads and open doors and hatches. It’s a song the crew knows well, having sung it for plenty a fellow, and you feel as though you’ve just witnessed the exposed hearts of these men and women as must as they have yours.

The executive officer of the ship quietly takes a drink and clears his throat. “We may not know your pain, but we know ours well enough to say that if you keep moving forward, time heals all wounds.” A hushed assent makes its way across the table as various men and women look down in memory of those they had been singing for. “Now, I’m not sure how good you are on a quarter-grav platform like this, but there’s only one way to keep moving forward on a ship like this, and that’s working. The captain may have gotten to welcome you to the ship, but I would like to welcome you to the crew of the TAS Osgord, if you’d have it.”

You blink away the tears in your eyes. “It would be an honor.” Everyone smiles. No one expects you to become a fully qualified spacer, but they know how much it means to have something to do, particularly in the hard times. You, of course, take the offer to heart. You plan on becoming the best spacer you can be in the time it takes to reach Osgord.

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