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Helen POV

It’s been six months since I last heard about David. Molly received a letter from her husband, Ser Ethan Roc, just before the battle of the Trident where he mentioned David was with him. We soon heard of their victory over the king’s army and a week ago I heard the king had been killed and Robert Baratheon was named the new king and the soldiers had been sent home. The only part i cared about was the last. the nobles could drown for all i cared so long as they let David return.

Every day I pray to the Gods, once at the edge of the woods and another at the bridge to honour both the woods and stream. I swear I wouldn’t have been able to cope without Marg and Ben. Before David left, he brought our son to the bridge and asked him to swear on the Gods that before he returned, he would take care of the family. I swear I almost laughed despite the tears, with how serious he looked as he gave the oath before they embraced.

Since then he has doubled his efforts to help the family. He started gathering water despite only being 5, played with his sisters and cleaned the house. The 2 things I find are quite strange is that he’s started to throw stones at targets and has been running laps around the village. He says it is a game and that he is going on patrol while David’s away. It was funny at first but he started to bring birds home that had their skulls cracked for dinner and several of my friends have praised me on how fast he’s been running. Despite it being about a mile and a half around the village it only takes him about 15 minutes to perform a lap. The older kids sometimes joined him at the start for parts of it but now none of them younger than 10 can keep up for any significant time.

I’m worried that he’s pushing himself too hard, but I'm sure once David gets back everything will be back to normal. Just then Mike burst into the inn shouting,

“HEY!! They’re back!! the men that went to war are back.” He shouts in between breaths

*smack*

The bowl I was cleaning drops to the floor. I whip my head towards Greta, the question already on my tongue, when she interrupts me.

“Go, you silly child, go to him.” Greta snaps at me

I thank her and rush to the bridge as fast as I can.

As I reach the bridge, I can see the small procession of soldiers, Ethan, I mean Ser Roc at their head, mounted. As I continue forwards, I start to slow. ‘I don’t see David’ the despair beginning to take hold. When i arrive in front of the group i confirm he is not there. I turn to the only one on horseback, and someone i consider a friend.

“Ethan, where is David?” I ask, forgetting to call him Ser in public.

Ethan doesn’t mind, and instead answers in a placating voice. “Helen, I am so sorry. David died at the battle of the Trident. He fought valiantly.” just like that my world turn on its head and i collapse to my knees.

 

Ben POV

*THWACK* a stone hits the log from the stump.

I get up from the ground. Since I've just about perfected my aim at stationary targets I decided to start throwing while moving about. I would run towards and away from the target to start, moving on to zigzagging and even trying to throw while mid dive. My accuracy is much worse this way but I can now hit the log about 3 times in ten.

When dad went to war, I started to think that I couldn’t just wait around to grow up before picking up archery again. I should make use of my youth to improve my skills since my cultivation is unlikely to surpass my previous life. Unfortunately, I can’t practice by bow skills at the moment as my body doesn’t permit it. With my training that consists primarily of stretches, fighting kata and cardio exercises, I have the physical strength to out bench press any 10-year-old, however, the problem lies in that my arms are still too short for even the smallest bow.

Since improving my skills as an archer is out for the time being, I have thought to improve my hunting skills and develop other skills. I've starting exploring the edge of the woods and nearby fields, searching for tracks and identifying the nearby flora and fauna. As for combat I thought of training in one of the few weapons just about every child has used at some point... stones.

In my previous life I used hunting and throwing knives as my back up weapons, so since I didn’t have enough sharp knives, other those we cooked with, I decided to use stones which could be found everywhere. It took me only a short time to get used to their weight and which were better for use than other, and my previous skills transferred onto this. When spring started a month ago, I started to hunt the surrounding birds, not too many as they would rarely return to the same place, I would kill one every few days and I could only catch enough to supplement our dinners otherwise I would get in trouble. While it’s not illegal to kill and eat animals it is illegal to sell them when you’re not a registered hunter. It requires 500 coppers a year and if you’re not of age then you need a guardian to sign with you to become a legal hunter. Of course, I could easily make the money, my parents have over 2000 coppers or 2 stags in savings for a rainy day, and I could make that back just by selling a single bird for about 50 coppers to Mike the butcher once a week. With my knowledge of where the best place to hunt them and ability to crack a bird’s skull from 10 metres with a stone I could bring in about 5 every 3 days, 8 if I use some simple twine traps. But if I want mother to register me, that would expose that I have been going to the woods, though only the edges, and that’s just not worth it at the moment.

As I’m heading back, I notice the rather celebratory mood from the front of one of the houses. A family is hugging each other outside and I notice that the father was one of the guardsmen that went with dad. ‘They must have returned’ I thought, already running home. As I reach the front door, about to open it, I can hear the sound of mum crying, something I only heard once.When dad left, though this sounds worse. Reluctantly, I open the door.

Mum is in the middle of the room sobbing, Ed is crying as well, asking why can’t he over and over again, Elsa is crying as well though likely from confusion than sadness, she’s still not even 2 yet. Mum turns to me.

“Oh baby, I'm so sorry, it’ll be alright, come here” she tries to smile and wave me to her. Without knowing I had already started to cry, not even bothering to ask or deny what I already know.

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