Go West, Young Man (Closed)

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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25 December 2020
6:34 pm
On a Friday
Coire, Saintonge


Léopold-Christophe Beauvais carried a bottle of wine out of the kitchen as his wife Ásthildur got Christmas dinner ready to be served as she tended with the one year old Christian-Arnaud.

Sakura Reynholt, Léopold's wife's aunt, was speaking to his eldest, his daughter Mariette-Renée. Mariette was only four, but she knew enough Prydanian to communicate with her aunt. She'd picked up some from her mother, and then insisted her mother teach her more when she was first going to meet her uncle, the football star.

In fact Mariette would normally be talking her Uncle Tjörvi's ear off about everything football-related. She even insisted on wearing his jersey to Christmas dinner. Still, Sakura could see that her nephew looked exhausted. She was happy to save him from the relentlessness of an excited four year old.

"So you're excited, Mariette? You'll be five soon. Your mother tells me that's when you can sign up for football yourself" Sakura said.
She was truly grateful. For so many things. Grateful that, six years ago, a beaten and battered Tjörvi returned to Markarfljot. At only twelve. She was grateful that they had both survived the War- each having lost their families. And grateful that her niece had turned up alive and well in Saintonge. And now...her own sons Daníval and Jóhannes, along with her husband Gústav, were gone. They were taken by the same people who took her brother and his wife, and who left her niece and nephew separated and alone. Christian and Mariette though...they were the closest she had to grandchildren. And that she could see them and speak with them...that was worth being grateful for too.

"Yeah!" Mariette replied.
"I'm going to win too, like Uncle Tjörvi!" the four- nearly five- year old exclaimed, as she turned to tug on Tjörvi Hagtvedt's sleeve.

Sakura smiled and chuckled. She'd been holding Mariette's attention for a while, but the girl loved her football. And she loved her uncle. That her uncle was a football star was enough to make sure he was never far from her mind.

"Heh" Tjörvi replied, smiling.

"God bless him" Sakura thought.
"The lad looks like he's about to fall fast asleep in his dinner, but he's not brushing his niece off."

"Well I'll give you some pointers when you start playing" Tjörvi chuckled.

"Why not now?" Mariette asked, nearly bouncing in her seat.

"Because" Tjörvi winked, "you're not a football player yet. You need to be one before I can share secrets. Otherwise it's against the rules."

Mariette giggled, but the explanation seemed to sate her.

"Are you ok, Sakura?" Léopold asked before taking his seat. He too knew how his daughter could be. He didn't want Sakura run ragged. Not during their first Christmas as a family.

Sakura looked up with a smile and then turned to Mariette.

"Pabbi wants to know if you're ok Auntie Sakura" Mariette replied in Prydanian. Sakura herself didn't speak Santonian.

"Oh I'm quite alright. Mariette is a lovely girl. I can see she has her father's manners too!" Sakura said as she turned back to Léopold.

"Auntie Sakura says she's alright and that I have good manners, like you Papa" Mariette told her father in Santonian. Léopold chuckled and took his seat next to his wife, who was speaking to her brother.

"You really shouldn't worry about me sis" Tjörvi chuckled.
"We're all doing fine. You've seen the standings!" he beamed. The truth was he had no idea how he'd stack up in the Santonian league. He'd proven he belonged on the Prydanian national team, and had even won a gold medal at the Odinspyl. Logically he knew that he could play at a top level but he still doubted how he'd fair in Saintonge. This wasn't the six club Prydanian circuit. And yet there he was, helping his team with goals. Taking on more responsibilities with AJSTC's top scorer Matthias-Aymeric Bombardier out with injury, and not cracking.
But boy, was he tired. And Ásthildur could see it. And she wasn't falling for her brother's bravado.

"Yes, but I also know you're only one of two strikers now with Matthias out. They're running you ragged!"

Tjörvi couldn't help but smile. His sister had become quite the football fan since he'd arrived in Saintonge to play for AJSTC. No doubt Léopold was helping her. The man was an encyclopedia of football knowledge. And it was to his his brother-in-law that Tjörvi turned to save him from his sister.

"Léo, come on" Tjörvi said in accented Santonian, "tell Ásthi there's nothing to worry about!" Ásthildur gave her husband an inquisitive look and Léopold just chuckled.

"I'm not getting involved" he said, throwing his hands up in faux frustration.
"A nineteen game win streak is impressive though!" he said, throwing his brother-in-law a lifeline. Tjörvi seemed appreciative too, gesturing to him as if to say "see?"

"I'm just worried is all. You look tired. I just want to tell the coach to stop running my little bro ragged" Ásthildur insisted with a smile. The fact was that she had been very protective of him since they found out the other was alive. Even when Tjörvi was in Prydania...she felt protective. She couldn't help it. She never wanted to leave him all of those years ago. She'd tried to find him before a Santonian diplomatic team had saved her. She knew she wasn't at fault for their separation but for the better part of a decade she wasn't there for him. And now she could be. So she would be.

"I'm not that tired" Tjörvi tried to say, only for his own defence to be betrayed by a yawn. He smiled sheepishly with a blush as even Mariette giggled.

"Tjörvi," Sakura said, causing Tjörvi to gulp. His aunt was speaking in a tone that said she was serious.
"Tjörvi, you look very tired. Your sister is right. It's Christmas and you look like you'd be face down in your turkey if you didn't have us to keep you upright."

"Papa, Auntie Sakura says Uncle Tjörvi would fall into the turkey because he's tired!" Mariette relayed to Léopold. Léopold knew some Prydanian, but not a lot. Mariette was relishing her role as translator. Léopold just chuckled with a "thank you princess."

Tjörvi signed, but he knew better than to try and bluff his Aunt.
"It's just a bit harder because Matt is out with injury, but I'm holding up."

"Uncle Tjörvi says he's ok, but it's hard with Matt out. Who's Matt? Papa, is that Bombardier?" Marriette asked as her father motioned for her to keep her voice down.

Sakura reached an arm over her nephew's shoulder and pulled her in, giving him a kiss atop of his head.
"You always make me proud, but just make sure you're ok. Will you? We all love you and we worry."

"Yes Auntie" Tjörvi smiled.
"But please... can we not make Christmas about how tired I look? This shouldn't be about me."

"Well we're just all very proud of you" Ásthildur replied, patting her brother's hand.

"You're the star here anyway" Sakura added.
"Who else would be the centre of attention?"

"You, for starters" Tjörvi replied with a soft smile. He turned to Léopold and switched to Santonian.
"Thank you. I really mean it Léo" he said, with wide eyes.
"Thank you, for helping bring my Auntie down here for Christmas."

"It's my pleasure Tjörvi" Léopold replied.

Tjörvi then turned to his Aunt, switching to Prydanian.
"I know you told me not to worry about you, when I approached you about the offer to play in Saintonge. I know that's what you said, but I miss you. Thank you for coming...to meet Léo and the little ones, to see Ásthildur and I."

Sakura smiles and was on the verge of tears herself. She wanted to hug him right then and there. The fact was that for all three of them- Sakura, Tjörvi, and Ásthildur- this was the first Christmas together with what was left of their family. And it was Ásthildur who stood up.

"I wasn't sure how I would say this, in two languages. I think it makes it special though" Ásthildur began in Santonian, before switching to Prydanian.
"Because I have my Aunt here, with my little brother. And I..." she began to cry just a bit.
"...I don't know how God could have done this for me. I have you both here, with my family- with our family- after I was ready to believe the worst. You're my miracles. I don't know if Mamma and Pabbi, if Uncle Gústav and cousins Daníval and Jóhannes were looking out for us, but I thank God that you're both here."
She sniffled a bit before switching back to Santonian.
"And today is special, because I hope it will be the first Christmas of many where we're all together as one family."

Léopold rubbed his wife's arm as she sat, before standing himself. And reciting a prayer. It was in Santonian, but Sakura knew what was happening and quickly closed her eyes and bowed her head.

"My precious Lord, Jesus," Léopold began.
"I adore You with profound love and rejoice in the celebration of Your birth. Your love for us is unfathomable, it is glorious, transforming, awe-inspiring, and deeply personal. You chose to come and dwell among us, being born into poverty, rejection and humility. Yet Your mother knew whom she bore, Her heart was filled with the tenderest love as she adored her Child and her God. Help me, dear Lord, to come to love You with the heart of Your mother. Invite me to adore You with St. Joseph and the poor shepherds. Reveal to me the glorious power of Your birth and change my life on account of this perfect gift of Yourself. I love You, dear Lord Jesus. Help me to love You with all my heart. Newborn Savior of the World, I trust in You. Mother Mary and St. Joseph, Pray for me and for all. Amen."

"Amen" everyone said in unison.

For Tjörvi his brother-in-law's prayer was a time to think about what his sister had said. And she was right. It didn't even matter that everyone had to switch between two languages. His Aunt was here. Who took care of him when he had no one. His sister, who he refused to believe was dead, was here. Her loving husband was here, and their two children. Their wonderful children. He'd accept a dinner where every language in the world was spoken, just to be with everyone here. His only problem? He was deep in thought. And Léopold's "amen" jolted him out of a shallow sleep. He blushed with a smile, and thankfully no one noticed as everyone began to eat their meal.




OOC Note: A huge thanks to @Kyle for the idea behind this post
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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25 December 2020
9:07 pm
On a Friday
Coire, Saintonge


"
It's so strange to not see any snow on Christmas" Sakura said as she and Tjörvi made their way down the street that Léopold and Ásthildur lived on.

"It is, Auntie" Tjörvi replied, looking around.
"It sneaks up on me. I didn't even notice it until October and I realized I still didn't need to wear long sleeves. Now I have a closest full of sweaters and jackets I won't ever use!" he chuckled.

Sakura put her arm around her nephew and hugged him tight. They'd found each other again back in 2014, when Tjörvi managed to get back to Markarfljot. They were all each other had.

"I hope it's not too hard for you, with me here" Tjörvi said softy as she held his aunt. He was reluctant to come play for AJSTC, even as the thought of being closer to his sister, his brother-in-law, and niece and nephew was appealing. Along with the money. The Santonians said it wasn't that much, but it was more money then he ever thought he'd see.
And despite all of that, he couldn't leave Sakura alone back home. She had to convince him to go. He still sent back half of his salary to her though. It was fine. Even half of what he was being paid- even after taxes- was still more than he knew what to do with.

"Shush Tjörvi," Sakura replied somewhat firmly, but still smiling.
"Don't talk like that. You're pursuing your dreams. Please don't feel bad on my account. I'm so proud every time you score. I am worried though, with everyone else. You look so tired!"

"Auntie, please!" Tjörvi smiled.
"I told you I'm doing fine...please don't worry."

"Me not worrying will never happen" she said as she kissed her nephew's cheek.

Tjörvi nodded with a soft smile. He loved his Aunt. What she said though...it brought up a chance for him to broach a question he, Léopold, and Ásthildur had decided on bringing up with her. Tjörvi wasn't sure how to bring it up, but Sakura had given him an opening.

"Well, maybe you wouldn't worry about me so much...if I were closer."

"Tjörvi!" she replied.
"I told you to stop it. You're staying in Saintonge, to follow your dreams and that's that."

"I know Auntie" he laughed softly.
"But maybe you could be here too?"

The two walked in silence for a few moments, but it felt like an eternity.

"You're not coming back to Prydania, are you" Sakura said. Sounding a bit forlorn.

"I want to" Tjörvi said, correcting his Aunt.
"And I will. Some day. But I like Coire. I like being near Ásthi and Léo and the little ones. I like the team. I think I, God willing, could have a career here and become a permanent resident. I can go back home, once my playing days are done. That's in a long time though, so...I just don't want you to be alone. And neither do Ásthi and Léo. Besides, Saintonge has more resources to help you as you get older. You may worry about me, but I worry about you too!"

Sakura smiled meekly at her nephew and looked ahead as they walked.
"Markarfljot is my home" she said softly.

"I know Auntie..." he said softly as a knot formed in his throat for a moment.
"It's my home too. And I'll see it again some day, but right now I'm following my dreams here. Like you said. And you can be here too, with me. With your family. Remember when you'd come to Alaterva now and then to watch me play for the Lakers? You can do that all the time if you came here."

They came to a bench. It was a bus stop, but the streets were quiet.
"Come on Auntie, let's sit" Tjörvi smiled as he sat down with Sakura.

"I don't speak Santonian" she said softly. Tjörvi nodded. He'd only begun learning it himself when he found out Ásthildur was in Saintonge. Even now, his Santonian was accented. He wondered if it bothered his aunt though? Obviously she could converse with her niece in Prydanian, and Mariette knew enough Prydanian that she could talk to her great aunt. Still...Léopold didn't speak much Prydanian. Meaning that the family had to switch between Prydanian and Santonian, and act as translators. It wasn't a bad thing, at least Tjörvi didn't think so. Still...did his aunt consider herself a burden, for not being able to speak Santonian? His heart broke at the thought, and he kissed her cheek.

"I could hardly speak it when I got here. People here are nice though. And there are Prydanian immigrant groups that can help you. You'll pick it up in no time!"

"You know what they say about teaching an old dog new tricks" Sakura smirked, looking at her nephew.

"Auntie! Don't talk like that!" Tjörvi laughed, before taking a deep breath.
"I know that it's scary, to move your life. I did it though. And I can help you do it. You can live out your golden years here. No snow, family close by. Please Auntie, I know how you are. Promise me, you'll think about it?" he asked as he held her hand.

"Tjörvi" Sakura replied, placing her hand atop of his.
"I will. I promise."

The two of them sat there in silence for a moment. Both of them embracing each other. They were celebrating Christmas with family. Such a thing seemed impossible for both of them, even a few years ago. Whatever else happened, they cherished this moment.
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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12 January 2021
7:31 am
On a Tuesday
Coire, Saintonge


The sun was out and the smell of freshly cut grass filled the air. Tjörvi Hagtvedt strolled a bit around the field, smiling as a slight breeze blew past. It was funny to him how often he'd thought of it, but it was true; he really did find it so strange to not need winter clothing in the winter! He was wearing his cleats of course, along with team shorts, but was wearing a shirt emblazoned with AJSTC's outreach training camp logo. He, Thorbjörn, Tobias, and Hugberg were all wearing the same getup, and they were all here for the same reason. AJSTC as a club focused on outreach to refugee kids, with a focus on Prydanians. The system was a good one- parents of refugee families knew their kids were doing something safe and healthy, the kids got a good education in football and sportsmanship, and the team got an inside track on any emerging talents among them. It was, after all, how Hugberg got into AJSTC's system.

So the team, seeking to put its best foot forward with the kids and their parents, sent their Prydanian players. Tjörvi had known about this. It was something the team had told him they'd ask him to do if he signed with them, and he'd agreed to it. It wasn't that he didn't want to do it; CEFA had run the Prydanian national team from 2013 to 2017, and their outreach programs in Prydania had found him, and given him a chance to excel at football. If he could do something for other kids affected by the Prydanian Civil War, well that was a nice idea! The problem was he wasn't sure how he fit in.
He wasn't a refugee. He spent the War in Prydania. Three years in a Syndicalist re-education camp in Alaterva that he DID NOT like to think about, and the rest back in his home town of Markarfljot, with only his Aunt as they tried to pick up what was left of their lives following the Syndicalist Republic's assault on their family. CEFA though, had given him a chance. He became a top young Prydanian football prospect, and was just old enough to make the Prydanian national team for the 2020 Odinspyl. Old enough to be the third wheel to Kurt Mörch and Peter Bach's attack.

"Tjörvi! Come on over here!" Thorbjörn waved him over happily. He smiled and walked over to his teammate. He wasn't afraid to say he adored the guy. It went back to Prydania, actually. When he was just a fifteen year old kid at the end of the War, and desperate to find his sister. Thorbjörn had helped boost a Twitch he had made that had helped him reconnect. It was a small thing but...in a very real way Tjörvi could thank Thorbjörn for finding his family.

"Hey," Tjörvi said with a soft smile.

"You ready to help some kids?" Thorbjörn asked. The guy had such a sense of energy about him, kicking a ball to Tjörvi.

"I...I mean yeah," Tjörvi replied, stopping the ball with the inside of his foot, dribbling a bit before bouncing it on the tip of his toes.

"You sure? You sound like something's wrong. Don't worry about it. They're kids, they won't bite!" Thorbjörn insisted, joking to try and calm whatever was bugging Tjörvi. It worked, to a degree. Thorbjörn, aside from helping Tjörvi find his sister, had also been very welcoming to him when he came to AJSTC.

"It's just..." Tjörvi began before kicking the ball back to Thorbjörn, "I'm not sure how I'll relate to the kids."

"You're kidding, right?" Thorbjörn asked, returning the ball.
"You're having a great season."

"I'm not a refugee like Toby and Huggiez," Tjörvi replied, nodding over to Hugberg and Tobias doing the same thing they were, kicking a ball back and forth.
"They know what these kids are going through, I don't."

"I'm not one either," Thorbjörn replied. It was true. He was actually born in Saintonge.
"But it's not that hard. In fact you can probably relate more than me. Refugee or no, you were affected. By the War I mean." Thorbjörn didn't want to go into it, he'd seen enough people from Prydania just not want to get into the specifics of their situations.

"Yeah, I guess," Tjörvi replied.

"Guess, nothing," Thorbjörn said as he walked over to Tjörvi and wrapped an arm around his shoulder.
"These are football-crazed Prydanian kids. And you're a star on that national team."

"Please," Tjörvi protested with a chuckle. "Kurt and Pete are the stars. I'm just the third guy."

"You had your moments when you guys won that gold medal!"

"Yeah, sure," Tjörvi replied with a smile. Thorbjörn patted him on the back as he called over Hugberg and Tobias.

"You guys ready? It's a great day for football, right?"

"Yeah," Hugberg replied.
"Sure thing. Never a bad day to help the kids, right?"

"Right," Tobias answered.
"Let's give 'em a fun day," he added before looking over at Tjörvi.
"Your first time doing something like this?"

"Yeah," Tjörvi nodded.
"I was actually on the other side when CEFA came to Prydania."

"Well so were we, when we came to Saintonge," Hugberg replied happily as he motioned to Tobias.
"Don't worry. It'll be fun."

Thorbjörn nodded. Good, everyone was on the same page. Now it was time to be the boss. The team had put in him charge here, and he needed to make sure things were ready.
"Ok good, now everyone knows what drills they're running, so set them up. Kids will be here in less than half an hour, so let's go!"


12 January 2021
8:17 am
On a Tuesday
Coire, Saintonge


Tjörvi clapped as he encouraged the kids through his drill, a rolling drill.
"Ok, come on," he said encouragingly. There were four cones on his portion of the field, and he was instructing the kids on rolling the ball under their foot. It wasn't how one played football, but it was key to developing good ball control. He demonstrated again, slowly at first.

"So you go like this, side to side and then when you get here to this cone..." he switched to moving forward, "you keep the ball like this. I know it doesn't seem like much, but once you get the handle on it you can do this..." he smiled and picked up the pace, rolling the ball under his foot side quickly, easily between his feet and flipping the ball up, causing the kids' eyes to go wide in unison.
"But," he continued, "you just have start slow so you can get used to it!"

He watched as the kids began doing the drill, smiling. The kids were between eight and twelve...twelve. The age he made it back to Markarfljot after the FRE liberated Alaterva. After three years in...that place. It was also the age his aunt convinced him to give the local CEFA camp a try. That camp not only allowed him to have a future in football, it allowed him to focus on something positive. His Aunt Sakura and football- two things that saved him from an endless depression.
He looked across the faces of these kids- how had their families struggled? That he could relate- Thorbjörn had been right after all- caused his heart to flutter. He grinned as he stopped a kid who was trying to go a bit too fast.

"Hey, it's ok," he said as he put his hand on his shoulder, getting him to stop.
"You're just starting out with this drill, yeah? You're losing control because you're not used to it yet. You need to learn how it goes." He took a spare ball under his foot and rolled it as he moved side to side again, slowly.
"Your muscles need to learn how it goes before you can speed up."

"Thank you Herra* Hagtvedt," the kid replied, smiling nervously. Tjörvi couldn't help but laugh. He hadn't heard anyone referred to as "Herra Hagtvedt" since his father was alive. It was a good memory too, of his father. And the idea of being called "Herra" just made him feel strange in a "oh God I'm old" way. Not that he'd say that out loud. Thorbjörn wouldn't let him get away with it!

"Just call me Tjörvi," he said to the kid with a laugh.

"Really?" the kid replied excitedly. His parents had always told him to be super respectful to grownups but...

"Yeah," Tjörvi smiled. "What's your name?"

"Geri Bergholt," the kid replied, sounding a bit timid. Tjörvi nodded.

"Glad to meet you Geri," he said. "Let's go try the drill again, yeah?"

"Ok!" Geri said with a nod as he followed Tjörvi back to the first cone.
"Um...Tjörvi?" he asked nervously.

"Yeah?" Tjörvi asked, looking down.

"You..." Geri said softly.
"You're my favourite player."

Tjörvi's eyes opened wide at that. He was shocked.
"For AJSTC?" he asked.

"Of all time!" Geri replied.
"You won gold for Prydania, and you knocked out Goyanes. You beat the world champs! You're my hero!"

Tjörvi was a bit taken aback and felt his heart suddenly thrust into his throat. He'd imagined he could give these kids a good camp, and that he could relate, but here was a ten year old Prydanian refugee kid...telling him he was his hero. Because he gave him a reason to be proud. He felt his heart sink back to where it was supposed to, only to race for a moment as a few tears formed in his eyes. He smiled wide and overcome the wave of emotion though, and pat Geri's shoulder again.

"That means a lot Geri," he said softly.
"I'm really honoured...and do you think you can do the drill again? Nice and slow? I promise you can go faster once you get the handle on it" he said, remembering he needed to be a teacher, even if he was a role model.

Geri nodded and began to go slow, managing to make it from one cone to the other, before starting to the next leg.

"Good job!" Tjörvi clapped.
"Nice and slow!" he repeated, smiling. Thorbjörn was right. He could connect to these kids. And it did mean something. He could be here for them.




*Herra- Mister

OOC Note: Post approved by @Kyle
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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19 January 2021
12:06 pm
On a Tuesday
Coire, Saintonge


Ásthildur made her way out of her townhouse carrying a bowl full of salad and a plate with some chicken and potatoes, and a side of bread and cheese, all lovingly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Her poor brother...God. She was sure he hadn't even begun to unpack the kitchen supplies she gave him.
She was relieved though. Relieved that he'd only moved next door. After all that time apart...it felt good to have him living with her family when he moved to Coire. It was the first time since they'd been separated that they had lived under the same roof. It made Tjövi moving out hard, even if it was literally to the next townhouse over.

She knocked... no answer.
"Hmm," she pondered, balancing the lunch she'd made her brother as she pulled out her phone and checked her calendar. No...there was no practice today. She shrugged. If Tjörvi found time for a social life outside of football? All the better. She'd just leave the lunch in his fridge and leave him a note.

She mastered the balancing act of switching her phone for her keys, using the spare key Tjörvi had given her to open the door and made her way down the short hallway into the living room. She suddenly gasped, dropping the food.

“Tjörvi!” she called out, rushing to his prone body on the floor next to the couch in the sparely decorated living room.

“Tjörvi! Wake up! Oh God! Please be ok!” she was full of panic, full of worry. For her brother to be alive after all of this time...to have lived his dream, winning a gold medal, and reuniting with her...only to fall to some illness. No. She wouldn't let that happen!
“Tjörvi! Please wake up!” she said as she went to try and wake him. Only to be knocked back by Tjörvi jolting upright!

“Yeah! I’ll be right there!” he gasped as he awoke, his speech changing from Santonian to Prydanian mid sentence. Ásthildur looked on with a worried and frantic wide-eyed gaze.

“Tjörvi?” she asked.
“Are...are you ok?”

“Huh?” Tjörvi asked, surprised to see his sister as he looked around.
“Oh? Oh! I'm home! Hi Ásthi!”

“Wha...where...what? Are you ok?” a confused and shocked Ásthildur asked.

“Um…” Tjörvi ran his hand through his hair, “yeah? I think...yeah. I must have rolled off the couch after taking a nap. Couldn't remember for a moment if I was here or the team clubhouse,” he chuckled. Ásthildur, however, was not amused.

“Þú hræddir mig til dauða! Asninn þinn!*” she said, punching his arm.

“Ow!” Tjörvi protested.
“I’m fine!” he insisted as he pulled himself up to sit on the couch.

“You still scared me!” Ásthildur insisted, sitting down next to him.
“I thought you were sick. Or hurt.”

“Just tired,” Tjörvi insisted with a smile.

“So what they're saying on all the sports shows is true. You're exhausted with only two strikers!”

Tjörvi smiled wider, liking it when his sister talked football, even if he was sure she got most of it from Léopold.

“Maybe,” Tjörvi replied.
“But it's ok. A few afternoon naps will fix it,” he added before looking over by the door and seeing the plate and bowl on the floor, the food thankfully contained by the plastic wrap.
“What's that?”

“Lunch, you kjánalegt*,” she chuckled.
“For you! I figured you wouldn't have unpacked the kitchen supplies I got you and…” she looked into the kitchen, seeing stacks of boxes, “...I was right! So I made you lunch. Better than fast food.”
She collected the bowl and plate and brought it over to the coffee table, unwrapping it for her brother. She smiled at him as he excitedly looked over the food and began to enjoy the bread and cheese.

“Thank you sis!” he said with his mouth half full.

“You're welcome,” she replied, her smile only growing, before hugging him tight. She couldn't help it. Going from the edge of calling an ambulance to seeing her baby brother healthy and well was too much. She'd thought she'd lost him forever when they were separated during the War. She wasn't going to miss a chance to take care of him now.

Tjörvi chuckled as put his food down as he hugged her back.
“It's ok. I just rolled off the couch.”

“The fall didn't wake you?” Ásthildur asked as she let him go from her hug.

“I was really tired,” he insisted.

“Then go to sleep in your bed!”

“The couch is really soft and fluffy though!” Tjörvi insisted as he bounced on the cushion as he was sitting on it.

“Well ok you do you then,” she said, getting up and making her way to the kitchen.

“Where are you going?” Tjörvi asked.

“To unpack your kitchen supplies. It won't ever happen otherwise,” Ásthildur replied.

“Ok,” Tjörvi said with a chuckle as he continued eating.

“We’ll go shopping after your game this weekend,” she said from the kitchen as her brother ate.
“This place is way too plain looking.”

“I think it looks alright!” Tjörvi replied, munching on potatoes.

“You have a lawn chair next to the television, Tjörvi.”

“Oh...well you know, it works, já?” he asked.

“Nei,” Ásthildur replied, sticking her head out of the kitchen before returning to unpacking.

“I’m sorry about your team's loss though,” she added, referring to AJSTC’s 2-0 loss to AS Beaucaire.

“Eh…” Tjörvi replied as he ate.
“Twenty-one wins in a row is impressive.”

“I hope,” Ásthildur continued, hoping she wasn’t going to upset her brother, “that the rumours that Jacob called Snæbjörn slurs aren't true.”

“No it's not true,” Tjörvi replied, flopping down onto the couch.
“It was a miscommunication between our defence and there was an argument but no one said any slurs…” he sighed.

“You know,” Ásthildur replied, looking out of the kitchen again.
“Just because you're a football player doesn't mean you have to flop all the time.”

Tjörvi laughed and pulled himself up to sit up as Ásthildur came out to sit next to him.
“There. You have a functional kitchen.”

“Thank you stórasystir*,” he said as he leaned against her. She smiled and held him tight.

“Of course, litlibróðir*,” she replied.

“It's just frustrating,” Tjörvi grumbled. “You have this François-Louis Villault out there saying all sorts of kjaftæði* and now people are trying to inject it into my team and it's not there.”

Ásthildur smiled softly and rubbed her brother’s arm as she held him. She was relieved to hear that there weren't any slurs being tossed around on his team.
“You shouldn't worry about people like Villault. They speak loudly but they're small in number.”

“But you and Mariette and Christian...even Léopold, if they go after him…” Tjörvi said nervously. Ásthildur rubbed his arm again. She couldn’t blame him for his nervousness. Tjörvi never talked about the re-education camp the Syndicalists tossed him in, but it wasn’t something that could be forgotten. She was sure. So she understood why perhaps radical political dialogue might agitate him.

“Do I worry about what my children might hear someone call their mamma? Yes,” she said. “And God forbid them too! But the world is mostly good. And people in this country are mostly good. You know that. I’ve seen your Twitcher feed.”

Tjörvi chuckled. It was true. The Santonians of Coire had been very welcoming, and he had the pictures on Twitcher to prove it.
“I know,” he said with a smile.
“But I love you and I worry. And then people spreading rumours about the team, it has me brjálaður*.”

“Well the only thing you should worry about is learning how to cook. I can’t bring you lunch every day,” Ásthildur chuckled.

“You would if I asked nicely,” Tjörvi said with wide eyes, causing Ásthildur’s chuckle to turn into a laugh.

“Yeah, you got me. But come on, you should learn how to cook."

"I can bbq!" Tjörvi insisted, but Ásthildur rolled her eyes.
"Burgers every night won't impress the ladies."

Tjörvi blushed and chuckled.
“Dating, right, maybe when the season’s over.”

“You need to get out more, you really do,” Ásthildur said as she patted him on the back and got up.
“Do you need anything else before I head out?”

“You brought me lunch and unpacked my kitchen! What more could I ask for?” Tjörvi said with a smile.

“Well ok. I need to head back to...oh wait!” Ásthildur asked as she was halfway down the hall to the door.
“Has Aunt Sakura gotten back to you? About moving?”

“Not yet,” Tjörvi replied.
“But I don’t want to pressure her. It’s a big decision.”

“I know, but tell her we have room at our place, now that you’ve moved next door.”

“I will!” Tjörvi replied. “I just don’t want to make her nervous.”

“Well you’re sweet. You’ll figure it out. I’ll see you later!” Ásthildur said as she left her brother’s new townhouse.

“Bye!” Tjörvi called out as his sister closed the door.

“Rolling onto the floor. God. What would Mamma and Pabbi say? He needs a girlfriend,” Ásthildur muttered to herself, rolling her eyes.




*Þú hræddir mig til dauða! Asninn þinn!- You fool, you scared me half to death!

*kjánalegt- silly

*stórasystir- big sister

*litlibróðir-little brother

*kjaftæði- bullshit

*brjálaður- crazy
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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WARNING
The following post contains themes of sexual abuse. Please do not read if you find such themes upsetting or offensive. Thank you.
-Pry

21 May 2014
9:46 am
On a Wednesday
Markarfljot
, Prydania


Sakura Reynholt was a bundle of nerves as she waited in the waiting area of what was, a long time ago, the town's local office for fishing and hunting licencing and certification. FRE soldiers moved to and from it though, using it as a general purpose administrative centre.
Markarfljot was not freshly liberated. Syndicalists had been driven out of it and the surrounding countryside four years ago, just after her brother Felix, his wife Berghildur, and their children Ásthildur and Tjörvi vanished at the hands of the Syndicalist People's Militia.

The liberation of Markarfljot, however, did not come soon enough to save her husband Gústav or her children Daníval and Jóhannes from additional Militia purges. It all felt like a cruel joke. Everyone she cared about...taken. Except for her. Did the Militia do that on purpose? To make her suffer? She wouldn't put it past them. She had no love for the Syndicalist Republican Army, but at least they acted like proper soldiers. The Militia were just thugs- often drunken thugs- with uniforms and guns. She'd raised her children to be respectful and proper, but after all she had been through? Well she didn't feel an ounce of shame about spitting on captured Militia members when the FRE took the city four years previous.
Since then Markarfljot's FRE administration had grew. It was a functional town, albeit in a slapdash sense. Though the FRE liberation of Austurland in 2013 had helped a great deal. There was no longer the threat of Syndicalist takeover. And now Alaterva was liberated. Which was why she was here.
Sitting alone.
Tense.
Waiting for someone to speak with her. Her foot tapping the dirty tiled floor nervously.

They said they'd found Tjörvi. If that was true...maybe they could find Ásthildur? Maybe? Her brother and her sister-in-law were dead, but their children- her niece and nephew- were just gone. She didn't dare to dream about the best case scenario, not after what had happened to her, but if they'd found them...

"Sakura Reynholt?"

She looked up. The man standing before her was wearing FRE fatigues, but no additional armour or gear. Obviously someone who did desk work.

"Yes?" she asked, nervous all over.
"They said, they told me, that they found my nephew Tjörvi?"

"So you are the wife of Gústav Reynholt and sister of Felix Hagtvedt?"

"Yes," she answered, a bit more agitated.
"I already told the fellow that when he asked me at my door. Do you have my nephew?"

"I'm sorry Fröken*," the official replied as he looked over some papers he was holding.
"I just needed to confirm. Yes. We found your nephew Tjörvi. He was being held in the Syndicalist Re-Education and Realignment Complex in Alaterva."

"He's been there? This whole time?" Sakura asked, her heart racing in her chest. She wanted to see him, now.

"As best as we can tell. They destroyed a lot of the records before we took the complex."

"Did...did you find his sister too? Her name is Ásthildur Hagtvedt and she's four years older. She'd be sixteen now and..." she said panicked, before the FRE official cut her off.

"I'm sorry, Fröken Reynholt. The agent who you asked earlier ran the name, but no child at that complex has your niece's name as far as we can tell. We're still sorting through the files, but we've got a complete roster of names from the children. We can ask if anyone knew her."

Sakura nodded, and clenched her jaw for a moment, before taking a deep breath. It was better than hearing that she was dead, and she still had her nephew.
"May I see my nephew now?" she asked.

"We need to go over something first..."

"Herra* Soldier," Sakura replied rather formally. The old teacher in her coming out for a moment.
"You have my nephew, and for that I am grateful. But I have been through too much to wait here and answer more bureaucratic questions. Please. Take me to Tjörvi."

"I understand," the man said taking a deep breath himself.
"Fröken, I understand more than you know. Believe me, but this isn't red tape. You need to know that your nephew has been at the mercy of the Syndicalist People's Militia for five years. He's... in a bad state mentally. Our agents can't seem to get through to him. Even our specialists who deal with traumatized victims. He's just been inconsolable since we found him."

"I need to see him then, now," Sakura said as she stood. The agent sighed.

"We sedated him to give him a physical exam. In addition to undernourishment he's showing signs of abuse. Physical, and sexual. I wish I could say it wasn't common among the children in these complexes but..."

Sakura had heard enough. She pushed her way past the soldier, and past the door that led the building's offices.
"Which one? Which one is my nephew in?" she asked firmly.

"Fröken Reynholt! Please, hold on!" the agent called out.
"I just need to make sure you..."

"I understand," she said firmly, on the verge of erupting, though she calmed herself down. She wanted to eviscerate whoever it was who hurt her nephew, but it wasn't this man. This man had helped bring him back home, had helped save him. And he didn't deserve the wrath she so badly wanted to let out.
"I just..." her rage subsiding into sorrow as she held back tears, "I need to see my nephew right now. He needs family. He needs someone who loves him."

The agent gulped, nodding.
"This way, Fröken," he said as he led her down the hallway to an unassuming office door. He opened it slowly. And she saw him, sitting at a table, his gaze angled downward. Wearing the drab, blue outfit Syndicalist prisoners wore. They were too big though, like they were meant for an older child. And his hair had been shaved to a short buzzcut. Still, it was Tjörvi. Through the ill fitting clothing, the hair cut, five years of aging, and the haunted look, that was Tjörvi.

He noticed the door opening and began to cry again. Bawling as he clutched himself across his torso. He just...he couldn't help it. The pain. Abuse. Humiliation. The haunting memory of his dead mother in the snow. And now...he didn't even have his friends from the complex to comfort him.
He just broke down, crying at the mere sight of anyone. Holding himself as he rocked in his chair. The agent sighed and stood aside for Sakura. Her heart tore in two, seeing her nephew like this. She wanted to cry too, but she couldn't. He needed her to be strong.

"Tjörvi," she said, entering the room, her voice soft.
"Tjörvi it's me, Auntie Sakura..."

He looked up. He looked up through tear soaked eyes, shaking and gasped. He was trembling. He'd been crying so hard, and for so long, that he was trembling. He sniffled, and tried to talk.
"Auntie?" he asked. He felt his heart leap through his chest. An uplifting feeling take hold of him.

"Yes, yes, it's me," Sakura replied, trying her best not to cry along with her nephew as she entered the sparse office and crouched by his chair, looking at him...
"Oh my God, Tjörvi, I'm...I'm here, sálitli*. I'm here," she said tears running down her cheeks.
"I'm here, and no one will ever hurt you again."

Tjörvi looked at his aunt, his reddened and tear soaked eyes wide open. Seeing someone he never thought he'd ever see again. He broke down and cried again, this time tossing his arms around her, burying his face in her shoulder.
"Auntie Sakura..." he cried, holding her as tight as he could.

She cried softly as she held him. Squeezing him, doing what she could to make him feel loved. Safe.
"You're safe now," she said quietly.
"Now and forever..."




15 September 2017
2:09 pm

On a Saturday
Markarfljot, Prydania


"I'm home Auntie!" Tjörvi called out. He was early. The football academy usually went until four on Saturdays, but today's last few hours were heavily defensive focused. He was a striker. So he, along with the other strikers and midfielders, got to leave early.

CEFA had come to Prydania to take control of the national team in 2013, when Austurland was taken by the FRE in the Civil War. They ran the team as an apolitical entity. They also set up football academies across the country. A good will gesture, to help children who had suffered from the War. Now, with the fighting over, the Prydanian Football Federation had taken back control of the national team. Though they kept the academies going with CEFA.

Sakura knew her nephew loved football. Her sister-in-law had always complained about him kicking balls into their fireplace grate. And football seemed to be what worked best at getting Tjörvi out of the shell he'd built around himself after five years of abuse in that God-forsaken place the Syndicalists had tossed him into.
So she'd encouraged him to sign up for one of the academies. And it worked. The smiling, happy boy Sakura remembered returned thanks to football.
In fact the program he was in now was advanced. The Prydanian Football Federation had earmarked him as a promising prospect. And so he was with other top prospects. All of them young, all of them using football to cope with the world around them, and all excited for it thanks to Prydania's surprise run to the World Cup this past summer. Their war-torn country had, just after King Tobias' coronation, made it to the Finals of the World Cup. That they lost on penalties didn't matter. It gave everyone involved in the Football Federation energy. And Tjörvi was no exception.

"They let us go early, so I picked up some lunch from one of the food trucks! It's steiktsv..." he paused, seeing a woman in her 20s wearing medical scrubs in the kitchen smiling.

"Hello Tjörvi," Marie-Laurence Barbier said in Prydanian, though her Santonian accent was obvious. Tjörvi tensed up. He'd come out of his shell with his friends and coaches at the academy, and with his aunt. The Santonian nurse who helped his aunt with her health issues was a kind enough woman, but he was still closed off with people he didn't really know. Running into her unexpectedly just made him that much more nervous. He looked down, and just stood in place, his hands tightly clutched on the styrofoam containers of food.

"Hi," he said nervously. He'd forgotten that Marie would still be here, since he was home early. She nodded. Marie knew Tjörvi was a quiet kid, and kind of closed off. She didn't know the specifics of why, but growing up amidst a war couldn't be easy. She wanted to help though. It was the same instinct that led to her volunteering to head to Prydania in the first place, once the Syndicalists had been defeated.

"Your Aunt is watching tv. Her heart is doing much better today," Marie continued.
"I can take the food if you like. I'll get it on plates for both of you."

Tjörvi stood there, tense for a moment before nodding.
"Yeah," he said quietly before he gulped.
"I mean yeah, thank you," he said meekly.
"That would be really great," he said as he handed over the containers to Marie, keeping his eyes downcast.

"How was football?" she asked as she parsed the food out onto two plates.

"Oh," Tjörvi began, relaxing a bit. It wasn't so awkward to talk about football.
"It was fun. We got out earlier because they're focusing on defence today. Last week was offence, so I'm kind of happy for the break," he said with an awkward chuckle.

"My brother plays football recreationally, back in Saintonge," Marie said, handing him a plate of steiktsvínakjöt and potatoes.
"It's a great game. Come on, let's go see your aunt."

"I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking. If I had realized you would still be here, I'd have gotten you some too," Tjörvi replied. He would have, even if another order would have wiped out all of his krossar.

"That's ok, I ate earlier," Marie replied as they entered the living room.

"Tjörvi," Sakura said with a smile.
"Come on, sit down!"

Tjörvi happily complied, sitting next to his aunt. She wasn't that old, only in her mid forties. Still, her atrial fibrillation had gotten to the point where she needed some care.
Marie took a seat in a chair next to the couch, as Tjörvi sat with his aunt.

"Marie said your heart is doing better today," Tjörvi asked optimistically. He'd lost his parents, his sister, his uncle, and his cousin. He didn't want to think about losing his Aunt. He couldn't bear it.

"Well small miracles, you know," she said as she began to eat.
"I feel wonderful though."

"You'd feel even better if you stopped checking your heart rate," Marie replied with a smile. "That's what I'm here for. You don't need to worry yourself."

"And maybe, talk to the school?" Tjörvi asked.
"Maybe teach less? It will be less stress for you."

"You're just saying that because you don't want me as your math teacher next year," Sakura replied, teasing her nephew.

"You wouldn't fail me would you?" Tjörvi asked, giving her a wide eyed stare.

"Now, Tjörvi, there's only one answer with any math problem. And the numbers don't care if I'm your aunt," she said in a faux stern manner, betrayed by her smile.
"And I'm not taking time off or lessening any workload. The country needs teachers, and I'm doing my part. Besides, I can't afford to take time off. Not until you become a famous football star."

Tjörvi chuckled, and took his Aunt's hand.
"I just worry."

"So do I. About you. That's why we take care of each other," Sakura said with a smile. Marie grinned, watching the two before returning her attention to the television.
As closed off as Tjörvi could be, he did love his aunt. And Sakura loved him. It was sweet to see. She didn't intrude into their conversation though, just watching television with them.

"Did you hear back from the government?" Tjörvi asked after a pause.
"About Ásthildur?"
Now that the FRE was the government- now that the Syndicalists were gone- there was a chance that the government could find his sister. He hadn't seen her since they were separated the night thier parents were killed. There hadn't been any other word. Not even of her death. Which was what both Sakurka and Tjörvi held onto. If they didn't hear that she was dead then they would choose to believe she was alive.

"They don't know where she is," Sakura said, gently shaking her head.
"They can't find any record of her from any of the Syndicalist files."

"Oh," Tjörvi said softly, trying and failing to hide how much that news affected him. Sakura rubbed his hand softly.

"You can't give up hope," she said to her nephew.
"I had given up hope, and then they brought you to me. And who could imagine that after all that fighting we'd be sitting here? In peace?"

Tjörvi nodded, and then looked up. Not at his aunt though. At Marie.

"Saintonge has a lot of Prydanian refugees, Marie?" he asked.

Marie had been listening but had chosen again not to involve herself. The matter was family business and she didn't want to intrude. Tjörvi had asked her though...

"Yes," Marie nodded.
"It's how I learnt Prydanian. Many of our patients hadn't yet learned Santonian."

Tjörvi smiled and turned back to his aunt.
"Maybe Ásthildur is in Saintonge?"

Sakura looked at her nephew. The notion sat with her for a brief moment. Part of her didn't want Tjörvi rushing into assumptions with nothing to back it up, but it was a possibility... maybe the government didn't have any records of her being in Syndicalist facilities because she was never in any? Maybe she did go to Saintonge...

"I'm sorry Marie," Sakura said, "I know you're not a government worker, but would Saintonge have taken Ásthildur? She was eleven when she and Tjörvi were separated. Would they have taken her, without any parents or guardians?"

Marie nodded.
"Yes. They would have. If she found herself with anyone in the diplomatic corps they would have. Especially when she told them what happened to her family."

Tjörvi nodded.
"Erik reunited with his cousin," he said, revealing what had spurred this line of questioning on.
Erik Tynning was one of Tjörvi's friends from the football academy.

"His family didn't know what happened to his cousin's family, but the Santonians found them in their country. They talk all the time now."
He was getting excited, now.
"Erik said they could find people, even if they weren't in Saintonge."

"I don't think that's possible," Sakura said, trying to caution her nephew. She wanted him to keep hope in his sister being alive, but she also didn't want him believing in the impossible.
"How could Saintonge find people if they're not in their country?"

"Actually," Marie added, "that's possible. Seventy-five percent of Prydanian refugees in Highton and Goyanes passed through the 'Santonian Line' and so the Santonian government would have information on where they are, at least."

Tjörvi was smiling now, and managed to jump as he sat, folding his legs under him on the couch. It was quite a sight. Marie had never seen him so animated.
"Do you know...where we could go?"

"The consulates would be able to help," Marie said.
"The two closest are in Alaterva and Haland." In fact the Alaterva consulate was where she was working through.

Tjörvi nodded. He knew both cities. His football academy sent them to both to meet other regional groups for mini tournaments hosted by each city's pro team. It was especially good for him when it came to Alaterva. He was able to associate the city with something besides the five years in that Syndicalist camp.
"A train ticket to Alaterva and back costs x190," he nodded. He only had x124 and change left over after buying lunch. Thankfully he had a job doing garden work- pulling weeds and cutting grass- for one of his coaches.
"I'll be able to afford it after a week working for Coach Bragi after school. And I'll go, and find Ásthildur for us!"

Sakura smiled and nodded. Maybe, just maybe, it would bear fruit? She worried of course. That it would come up empty. And Tjörvi would be crushed. She had told him to hold onto hope though...
"I'll go with you," she insisted but Tjörvi shook his head.

"No! You need to stay here. With Marie where she can take care of you. I'll go in a week, once I make enough," he insisted.
"I know Alaterva, I can manage," he added reassuringly.

"I can help with that," Marie interjected, before getting up and walking into the kitchen. Tjörvi sensed what was going to happen.

"I'll be right back Auntie," he said getting up to follow Marie.

Marie found her bag on the kitchen counter and fished her purse and wallet from her gear. She pulled out a blue x200 bill. And she was startled hearing Tjörvi behind her.

"You don't need to," he said softly.

Marie turned around, holding the bill in her hand.
"It's not a problem, really," she said as she approached him.
"It'll help you get a ticket, and you don't have to spend any of your money. You work hard. You shouldn't have to waste it, to find your sister."

"I'd spend every kross I had to see Ásthi again," he replied.
"I'd give up anything. Football, money, anything."

Marie was moved by how his eyes just...they seemed to full of so much pain.

"I know," she said softly.
"But now you don't have to."

"You already take care of my Auntie," Tjörvi said, choking up.
"I can't...I mean..." he began to tear up.
"She's everything. I love her so much. And you make sure she's healthy. And happy..."

"Tjörvi I..." Marie began, but he continued.

"I..." his voice began to dip slightly before he forced himself to speak at a normal volume. As much as he wanted to curl up and just vanish when around people he didn't know...he owed it to Marie to at least not cower.
"I know I can be quiet but I really am grateful for you helping my Auntie. Thank you..." he said trembling. He stepped forward and hugged her. It was awkward. Opening up to people was hard for him. Marie just gently hugged him back though.

"You're welcome," she said softly.
"Your aunt is a strong woman. And she's proud of you. She tells me how brave and talented you are, every day."

Tjörvi squeezed her.
"I can't take your money," he said softly.
"You're keeping my Auntie healthy. I can't take anything else from you."

Marie smiled and pat him on the back. He let go, looking down to hide the tears in his eyes.
"Here you go," she said, handing Tjörvi the bill.

"But..."

"It's just money. Money comes and money goes. But this will help you find your sister sooner. And then you'll have her back forever."

"Thank...thank you..." he said as he reached out and took it.
"I'll pay you back, I promise," he added as he stuffed the bill into his pocket.

"You don't need to worry about it," Marie insisted.

"Well...what if...next time I get lunch I get you some?" he asked sheepishly.

"Deal," Marie replied with a grin.

16 September 2017
12:26 pm

On a Sunday
Alaterva, Prydania

Tjörvi had spent the last night looking at the only thing he had to remember Ásthildur by; an old family photo of his parents, Aunt Sakura and Uncle Gústav, his cousins Daníval and Jóhannes, and his sister and himself. It was taken a few years before the Syndicalists came for their family, and Ásthildur looked younger than he remembered her being when they were separated, but he still treasured it. He thought about it, and about what he'd say to his sister if he could find her, all night and during the train ride over.

Finally though, he was where he had to be be. He gulped as he stood before the Santonian consulate. There was a big fluttering red-and-white flag with a heart in front, symbolising that it was an extraterritorial jurisdiction of another country. A jurisdiction that had saved millions of his compatriots. He hoped that his sister was one of them.
He was nervous though. This was something different for him. He was going to a foreign country's consulate. It seemed like a big deal. He gulped and entered, and then grinned.
"I guess I've been to Saintonge now," he said to himself before nervously approaching the front desk. And then he realized a huge flaw in his plan.... he didn't speak any Santonian. He stopped in his tracks, blushing as a woman at the desk looked up.

"Hello," she said in accented Prydanian. Tjörvi breathed a sigh of relief. Of course they'd speak Prydansk here.

"Hello..." he said nervously as he approached the desk, blushing.
"My name is Tjörvi Hagtvedt..." he paused, already feeling flustered. He fixed his posture. This was an important building. He should stand up straight, like his aunt always told him to.
"Sorry, I'm just...I'm looking for someone. My sister. I haven't seen her since the War, and I was told your government might have information on her?"

The woman at the desk nodded, giving him a sympathetic look. The fact was that they dealt with a lot of similar requests. Even if they did have the information this boy was looking for, well...it would take time. There was some sort of project in the works, between the Santonian government and the new Prydanian government to make the process easier and more proactive, but it was just in the planning stages.
"If you leave me her name, your name, and your address we can run her name, but there are a lot of people who are looking for family. It might take some time before we find any information."

"Oh," Tjörvi replied, sounding dejected. It wasn't what he expected, but he didn't know what he expected, exactly? Maybe that he'd give them Ásthildur's name and they'd run a quick search? It was fanciful and wishful but... but he was being told he'd have to wait. Just like the government had told his aunt she'd have to wait when she inquired, before telling her they couldn't find Ásthildur. He felt a sinking feeling. Just yesterday he'd had hope that this would work and now...now it just felt like it had failed, even if it hadn't.
"There's nothing else you can do?" he asked.

"I'm afraid not. I will have your request processed as soon as possible, but there are a lot of names being searched."

Tjörvi felt himself breathing heavily as anger and sadness built up inside of him, before he breathed deep to calm himself. Blushing at the idea that he'd break down in front of this person who worked for a foreign government.
"Ok," he said sounding dejected.

The woman at the desk felt her heart go out to this boy, but there was only so much she could do.
"Here," she said, handing him a pen and a blank sheet of paper.
"Just write her name, your name, your address, and the year you think we might have seen her. It doesn't have to be exact, it just helps us narrow down the search a bit."

Tjörvi looked down, the realization that he wouldn't leave here with answers now forcing his quiet, defensive nature in front of strangers to re-assert itself. He began writing when suddenly...

"Oh," the woman at the desk had a realization. It was far from official but it could help. And she couldn't have this boy leaving looking so dejected.
"You could try Twitcher."

"Twitcher?" Tjörvi asked. He'd heard of it in passing from some kids at school at the football academy.

"It's a website," the woman replied.
"You create a profile and you can post whatever you want. You use special phrases to tie what you say into conversations with other people. Prydanians have been using the phrase 'ástvinir'* to share stories about missing family. We sometimes use it ourselves, to help coordinate with people who might know people we're looking for. Maybe someone knows your sister, wherever she is. If they're on Twitcher and they see your post they'll help you."

"I um, I don't really go online much," Tjörvi admitted. They had a computer but it was his aunt's that she used for her work.

"Here," she invited him to come behind the desk.
"I'll show you. Then next time you're at a computer you'll know what to do."

Tjörvi gulped.
"Seriously?" Going behind a desk at a foreign consulate seemed like a big deal.

"It's easy," she said, waving him over. So he went over, and was exposed to the world of Twitcher.

16 September 2017
3:56 pm

On a Sunday
Markarfljot, Prydania

"What did they say?" Sakura asked as Tjörvi came in the front door. She had to admit...as much as she wanted to make sure her nephew had realistic expectations the chance that maybe, just maybe, the Santonians knew where Ásthildur was exciting.

"I left her name with them," he said with a nod.
"They said they had a lot of names to work through, but they'd get back to us if they found something."

"Oh," Sakura replied, sounding a bit dejected.
"Well just keep hope and..."

"Also, I need to use your computer Auntie," Tjörvi added before blushing. And adding "please?" when he realized he might have come off as demanding.

"What for?" Sakura asked.

"The lady at the Santonian consulate said we might be able to find her if we used Twitcher."

"Oh," Sakura was a bit taken aback. She knew what Twitcher was, but it wasn't something most kids here knew about. Internet access wasn't high...but Polykor was always laying new lines. And she'd heard the kids from families who were on those lines mention it with increasing frequency at work.
"Sites like that," Sakura said, "can be home to a lot of gossip and a lot of nonsense," she said with the certainty of someone who who considered social media a "fad."

"But Prydanians are using...they say it's a hashtag... to find family lost during the war. Auntie, what if Ásthi is on Twitcher? Or someone she knows is? We could find her this way!"

"If I let you use my computer..." Sakura began, causing Tjörvi to smile wide, "...then you only use Twitcher for this. Promise me?"

"I promise Auntie!"

Sakura smiled.
"Let's get you set up then."




Tjörvi typed slowly as he navigated the Twitcher sign-up page.
"User handle?" he muttered to himself.
"Well...it's going to be easier if people know where I am..." he typed out @tjörvierímarkarfljot

"Display name?" he typed out Tjörvi Hagtvedt. He contemplated a Prydanian flag and a football emoji in his display name but opted not to. He still didn't fully "get" this, and didn't want to "break" his profile.

Finally he was ready. He filled out a few other fields, uploaded a picture of himself for the avatar, and hit "create profile."

And then had a page before him...with a blinking cursor. He could type anything. Anything at all, and send it out to the world.

"I love you and miss you Ásthi," he typed before backspacing. No. As much as that was true, it wouldn't be helpful. He had to be as direct as possible. So he began typing. Explaining himself as best he could without violating the character limit. Finally...he capped it off with #ástvinir and hit "Send Twitch."

He nodded. Whatever else would happen- either here or from the Santonian consulate- would happen. He'd done all he could though. Even if it felt like it wasn't enough.

Little did he know that two Santonian footballers of Prydanian descent would pick up his Twitch. And help it reach a wider world...



*Fröken- Ms
*Herra- Mr
*sálitli- little one
*ástvinir- loved ones
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
-
-
-
WARNING
The following post contains themes of sexual abuse. Please do not read if you find such themes upsetting or offensive. Thank you.
-Pry

26 January 2021
6:09 pm

On a Tuesday
Coire, Saintonge


"You're here!" Tjörvi exclaimed happily seeing Thorbjörn Kjellander at his front door for his house blessing party.

"Of course!" Thorbjörn replied, giving him a hug before stepping aside.
"And look who I found sniffing around the clubhouse!"
Tjörvi's eyes went wide. It was Hyltir Hyldegaard. An AJSTC player who had been out doing his National Service all season. And who Tjörvi had wanted to meet for years.

"Hey," Hyltir replied offering his hand.
"It's nice to finally meet you Tjörvi. I've heard you've been having a great season."

It was now Tjörvi's turn to get touchy-feely though. He hugged Hyltir tight.

"Ha!" Hyltir replied.
"You're an affectionate one! Or has Thorbjörn's hugging habit worn off on you?"

"Heh, sorry," Tjörvi replied, letting go as Thorbjörn laughed.
"It's just...I don't know if you remember and I wouldn't be mad if you don't, but a few years ago you and Thorbjörn helped me find my sister after we were separated in the Civil War."

"Oh my God, you're that kid?!" Hyltir asked, that Twitch suddenly coming back to him.
"She was here in Coire, right?"

"Right over there!" Tjörvi said, pointing to the townhouse just to his left.
"I had a lot of options from foreign teams after the Odinspyl but I decided to play for AJSTC to be closer to her and her family...they're here actually. Come on in!"

Hyltir followed Thorbjörn in, thinking for a moment about Tjörvi. How hadn't he realized that his team's new striker was that kid in Prydania he'd helped via Twitcher all of those years ago? Memories of Tjörvi's story came back to him though. And they reminded him of his cousins. Matthea and Bjartmar.
Hyltir's mother and father had fled to Saintonge during the SoComm years, and he himself was born here. His aunt and uncle had stayed in Prydania though. They had died at the hands of Syndicalist Militiamen, and his cousins had been raised by his grandparents ever since. It was only recently that they'd emigrated to Saintonge to be with their family, but Matthea in particular was still very withdrawn much of the time. Hyltir thought that maybe, just maybe, Tjörvi was someone she could relate to? He'd approach it another time though.

"Hey," Tjörvi said, speaking his passable Santonian.
"This is my sister Ásthildur, her husband Léopold-Christophe, and my friends Leif and Varmar from Santonian language classes at the university and..."

"Thorbjörn Kjellander! Hyltir Hyldegaard!"

"...that would be my nice Mariette-Renée," Tjörvi chuckled.

The four year old girl ran up to the two football players who had just arrived.

"Mariette, be polite," Léopold insisted only for Thorbjörn to chuckle and crouch down to her level.
"It's ok! Tjörvi has told us all about you. You're going to be a football star someday too?"

Mariette smiled, nodding.
"I watch every game!" she insisted.

"She does," Ásthildur replied, with a chuckle.
"Like clockwork."

"This place looks pretty good," Hyltir remarked.
"You have an eye for decorating?" he asked Tjörvi.

"Ha," Ásthildur laughed.
"This room was nothing but a couch, a lawn chair, and a tv before I got here. It was tragic. I needed to save him, so any poor girl he brought him wouldn't think he was entirely hopeless."

Tjörvi chuckled and blushed as Hyltir laughed.

"Hey, I'll give you all the tour, and you can all make fun of me in new rooms," Tjörvi joked, leading them upstairs.

The townhouse was a basic layout, much like Ásthildur and Léopold's that Tjörvi had just moved out of. The upper floor had a number of bedrooms and a bathroom, though only two bedrooms were furnished.
The first was Tjörvi's bedroom. It was, like the living room, spruced up thanks to Ásthildur. Pictures of Tjörvi with his aunt and his friends from both the Prydanian national team and his old club Alaterva VF dotted the dresser, along with his gold medal from the 2020 Odinspyl.

The other room that was furnished upstairs was a training room. It only had an exercise bike and a treadmill, and the only decorations being the flags of Markarfljot, Prydania and Coire, Saintonge hanging from the walls opposite the exercise machines.

"It's not much but I like the flags," Tjörvi remarked.
"Just a little bit of home...and my new place!"

"Why is the Markarfljot flag pointy like that?" Léopold asked.

"It's based on an old viking banner," Tjörvi replied.
"I like it, because it pissed off the Syndicalists," he said with a smile.

The group migrated downstairs and Leif asked about the spare rooms.

"Any plans? You could probably fit a nice table tennis set in one."

"Oh please don't," Ásthildur begged.
"Please don't go full bachelor. Léo had a table tennis set in his apartment when I met him. And it took having Mariette to get him to give it up."

Mariette looked up at her father with wide eyes and Léopold chuckled.
"You're so much more fun than table tennis, sweetie," he said, causing the four year old to grin wide.

The party settled down in the living area, Tjörvi occasionally excusing himself to answer the door as more people arrived.

Hugberg Steenstrup and Styrfinnur Bergenhammer were among the additional arrivals. Hugberg being a teammate of Tjörvi's and a friend he made at the Odinspyl, and Styrfinnur being a Prydanian-born striker for Loudun, the team AJSTC just played over the weekend.

"Styrfinnur, Tjörvi, Tjörvi, Styrfinnur," Thorbjörn said, formally introducing the two.

"It's good to meet-meet you," Styrfinnur remarked.
"You had some good moves out on the pitch though."

"So did you!" Tjörvi replied. They had each scored a goal in the game they'd just played.
"Thank you for coming though. I'm glad you could come before you left town."

"Hey no problem. Who doesn't like to unwind?"

The party continued as Tjörvi began to grill for people, and showing Hugberg how. He'd promised him he'd teach him for months now.

"That's beer huh?" Hugberg asked pointing to the spice-looking stuff Tjörvi was putting on the hamburgers.

"Well kind of, it's spice that's 'beer infused.' I don't know what it means, really, but it gives it kind of a beer taste."

"So that's how my uncle does it," Hugberg mused.

"I learnt how to grill from one of my coaches at the academy back home," Tjörvi nodded.
"To help my aunt so she didn't have to do all the cooking. This stuff," he held the beer rub spice bottle up, "is a bit different from the stuff you'd find in Prydania. It's not as strong, but it's still good."

"You can probably get the Prydanian stuff at a Prydanian food specialty shop," Hugberg suggested but Tjörvi grinned.

"I did. It's in the kitchen. I'm going to have to start subtle if I'm going to bring these Santonian boys around," he winked, referring to Hyltir and Thorbjörn. Who were Santonian born and raised despite coming from Prydanian families.
"They get me wine, I'll give them Prydanian-style burgers. Cultural exchange for everyone!"

Hugberg just chuckled as Tjörvi taught him the art of grilling, especially timing and how to tell when something was done.

The party went on as food and drink were shared, people mingling and sharing stories.

Eventually the night wound down though. It started with Ásthildur and Léopold taking their leave to get Mariette home- it was a school night after all- and relieve their babysitter of looking after their one year old son, Christian-Arnaud. Mariette was disappointed, but consoled by the fact that every footballer there signed her AJSTC jersey.

Styrfinnur was next. His team was leaving Coire and he had to be up early to head back to Loudun. Lief and Varmar took off as the clock reached ten in the evening, each needing to be up early for work the next day.

So it was just Tjörvi and his teammates Hugberg, Thorbjörn, and Hyltir. Tjörvi was talking to Thorbjörn and Hugberg when Hyltir came out of the bathroom.

"Hey, Tjörvi, would you mind if we talked for a bit?"

"Um, yeah, sure, is everything ok?" Tjörvi asked.

"Yeah," Hyltir replied.
"I just wanna get to know my teammate! Maybe outside by the grill on the patio? It's a nice evening."

"Sure," Tjörvi said as he stood up and grabbed a beer from his fridge.
"You want one? Or wine?"

"Wine, thanks," Hyltir said with a grin. "White would be good."

Tjörvi nodded. He wasn't quite used to wine and so didn't buy any when he moved in. Léopold though, he'd insisted. Everyone needed wine! If only for company. So he got him one bottle of red and one of white. And had insisted on proper storage when Tjörvi tried to lay the bottles down sideways in his fridge.
He poured a glass of white wine and took his bottle of beer as he and Hyltir took off to the patio.

"What do you think they're talking about?" Hugberg asked.

"Eh, Hyltir just wants to get to know Tjörvi. We actually helped him out, a few years ago after the Civil War in Prydania was over. We amplified his Twitch looking for his sister."

"Oh wow..." Hugberg replied, looking at the two through the sliding glass doors.

"Yeah," Thorbjörn replied.
"So Hyltir probably just wants to get to know him a bit."




"You seem like you like Coire. Own place, fitting in on the team..." Hyltir began as he took the glass of wine from Tjörvi as the two sat down on lawn chairs.

"Everyone- the team and the people in the city- have been really great. And it's exciting. This is actually the first time I've been by myself."

"Oh?" Hyltir asked.

"Yeah. I was put into a Syndie camp at seven..." he said softly.
"But I lived with my Auntie back home in Markarfljot after the FRE liberated us. I lived with Coach Höj when I played for Alaterva. And then with my sister and brother-in-law when I moved here."

"You seem to be managing though," Hyltir replied.
"I mean...I can't imagine what you went through, but you're on your own. Doing well."

"It's lonely, I admit. And this townhouse...it's made for a family. I only got it because I could still be next to my family, but there's a lot of space I don't use."

"Heh," Hyltir replied, sipping his wine. It was as good a time as any to broach the subject.

"I can't believe I spent all of this time not realizing you were that kid we helped back in 2017."

"It's ok," Tjörvi replied with a smile as he sipped his beer.
"You helped me find my sister. I'll always be grateful."

"And now you're playing for us. Who knew that kid would end up a gold medal winner and a AJSTC scorer?" Hyltir said with a smile.

"My Auntie always said that good things happen, if you don't give up hope," Tjörvi replied.

"She's right," Hyltir replied.
"Look, man. I don't want to prod...but..." Hyltir sighed. He wasn't sure how to broach this so...this was the best he could do. Just say it.

"I remembered a bit about what you went through. I really don't want to prod but...I wanna ask if you could do me a favour?"

"Um..." Tjörvi was a bit unsure what Hyltir was getting at, but he meant it when he told him he'd always be grateful.
"Sure, anything."

Hyltir nodded and sipped more wine.
"My grandparents and cousins from Prydania joined us here, not too long ago. My aunt and uncle were killed, and my grandparents have been looking after them since."

Tjörvi nodded along, recognizing some parallels to his own story. And then Hyltir got to the point...

"My cousins, Matthea and Bjartmar. Bjartmar is adjusting well, even if his Santonian isn't good. It's getting better. Matthea though...grandmamma says she was in..." he paused for a moment. "Some sort of horrible Syndicalist camp."

Tjörvi couldn't help but feel a pit open in his stomach. He breathed deep to keep calm as he tried to keep the worst memories away. Hyltir noticed his distress.

"I'm sorry man, I don't..."

"No. No...it's fine," Tjörvi replied.
"Please continue..."

"Grandmamma won't tell me what it was. She says it's Matthea's right to tell me. I don't want to push her, but she's been very sullen and withdrawn. She doesn't want to engage with anyone. I didn't want to push her, but I wanted to help her. So I asked...and she won't tell me."

Tjörvi nodded. He understood that. He'd never told his sister what he'd been through. He couldn't. He just...he just couldn't do it.

"I want her to be happy," Hyltir said softly as his thumb wiped away some condensation on his wine glass.
"But I can't imagine what she's gone through."

"She doesn't want to burden you," Tjörvi said softly.
"I've never told my sister about what happened to me because..." he felt himself getting overwhelmed by emotion.
"It was such a miracle to find her. And a blessing to see she was with a man she loved with a family. I didn't want to bring down that joy with my own...problems. Matthea doesn't want to do that to you."

"Maybe I can't relate to any of that," Hyltir replied softly.
"But I know...they're not problems. It's not your fault. Or her fault. Whatever was done to you, it was them. Not you."

Tjörvi nervously scratched at the label on his beer bottle, looking down for a moment...




"Come on," Thorbjörn said as he stood up.

"Where are we going?" Hugberg asked.

"Out there."

"But it's just the two of them."

"Yeah but they'll need us. Sad stuff's happening."

"How do you know?"

"Big bro instincts. Come on."

The two went onto the balcony, surprising Hyltir.
"Hey guys, if you don't mind..." he began but Thorbjörn shook his head, seeing Tjörvi looking down.
"We're here for emotional support," he said as he and Hugberg pulled lawn chairs up.

Tjörvi smiled, though kept looking down, as Thorbjörn and Hugberg came out. He decided to say something to show Hyltir that it was ok that they were here.

"I know it's not my fault," he said to Hyltir.
"And Matthea knows that it's not her fault too. But...knowing and feeling are different. Trust me. I know how your cousin feels. She loves you Hyltir, but...it's hard to cope with this. With what we've been through."

Hugberg gulped. He remembered when he and his cousin Styrbjörn were at the safe house in Haland. And how they'd see the children at the Syndicalist controlled camp from a distance.
Thorbjörn just listened.

"You seem to have coped," Hyltir replied.

"I had football," Tjörvi said with a nod.
"My camp was liberated when I was twelve. I was reunited with my Auntie, and that's when CEFA began running academies in safe zones in Prydania. She urged me to join the one in our town. It saved my life. I had something...something else to focus on. And strive for. But I still remember what happened and..." he couldn't help it. He went from relatively collected to crying softly.
"I'm sorry," he said, lowering his head to hide his tears. Thorbjörn reached over and wrapped a hand over his shoulder.

"It's ok man, you're with people who care about you. Please don't apologize."

Tjörvi nodded, and Hyltir blushed.

"I should be apologizing to you...I'm sorry. I didn't mean to dig this up..."

"You just want to help your cousin..." Tjörvi replied, struggling to get his tears under control.
"It's hard," he sighed as he got his emotions under control, if even just for a bit, as he sniffled.
"It's hard because we have people we love...but we can't open up to them. So what can we do?"

"I was hoping..." Hyltir gulped, "I was hoping it would be ok if I introduced you to Matthea? Maybe you two could open up to each other? You would understand what each other went through."
Hyltir had started this hoping Tjörvi could help his cousin, but it seemed to him more and more that they could help each other.

Tjörvi drank some more beer and looked down again. He...he felt a sense of relief? Maybe...he could open up to someone who knew what he'd been through.

"I'd like that Hyltir," Tjörvi said softly.

"Thank you," Hyltir replied, still feeling guilty that he'd caused Tjörvi to remember this stuff. He seemed so...happy and fine. He didn't expect him to be as sad as his cousin was under it all.

"If you need to talk..." Hugberg said, patting Tjörvi's knee, "we're here."

"Thanks but...I can't..." Tjörvi said solemnly.

"Why not?" Thorbjörn asked, raising a finger up to stop Hyltir from protesting.

Tjörvi blushed. He'd been playing football since he was thirteen. He'd spent a lot of time in a lot of locker rooms over that five year period. Locker rooms were curious places, and not the sort he'd feel comfortable opening up about what was done to him. AJSTC's locker room was no exception. He got on well with his team, but he just couldn't...
"It's..." Tjörvi began, before choking up. Thorbjörn suspected what was up. And he'd poked around online, reading testimonials from people who had been liberated from those camps. He did it when Tjörvi came to AJSTC, in case he needed to help him. And Tjörvi's reaction- trauma mixed with embarrassment- confirmed everything.

"Tjörvi..." he began.
"Nothing that happened is your fault. And it doesn't make you less of a man. Look at you! Almost a goal a game. You're a machine my guy! Those monsters couldn't break you. No matter what. You can tell us. And if anyone- and I mean anyone- gives you shit for it they can answer to me."

"And me," Hugberg said, patting Tjörvi's knee again.

"I just finished my National Service," Hyltir nodded. "I just learnt how to kill a man with my thumb. So no one better mess with my bros," he said as he smiled at Tjörvi reassuringly.

"I was beaten," Tjörvi nodded.
"And starved. And worked until I nearly fainted, making ammunition. They liked to put us kids on those assembly lines. Said our smaller hands were good for making bullets..."

Hugberg felt his heart twist. The miserable faces of the children he saw at the Haland camp...he went to pat Tjorvi's knee, but Tjörvi grabbed his hand instead and squeezed.
"And then they'd choose us. Every night. To use us..." Tjörvi had no idea why he'd just said that. Maybe it was Hugberg's hand he was holding. Maybe it was Thorbjörn's assurances. Maybe it was how Hyltir wanted to understand him...
Maybe it was all of it.

But he cried. He couldn't help it, remembering the drunk Militia soldiers selecting them at night. How he'd pray every night not to be selected- but to himself. They ABSOLUTELY chose you if they heard you praying.
And he cried as he tried to fend of the memories of what happened after he was selected...
...all the while hoping and praying that his teammates, his friends, really wouldn't think less of him.

Thorbjörn stood, and he beckoned Tjörvi to stand too. Tjörvi nodded, still crying as he stood. Thorbjörn hugged him tight. He didn't say anything. He just hugged Tjörvi tight, and beckoned Hugberg and Hyltir over. They each stood and joined the hug willingly, hugging tight.

Tjörvi cried, his head in Thorbjörn's shoulder. He couldn't hold anything back. He'd never told anyone this. His Aunt Sakura knew, but even then...he'd never gone into specifics with her. He'd finally unburdened himself. And it felt...it felt...good if sad, as he cried.

Eventually the hug dispersed and they all took their seats again...

"Hyltir," Tjörvi said as he sniffled.

"Yeah?" Hyltir replied softly.

"I'd be happy to meet your cousin. And help. She deserves to know she's not alone."

Hyltir nodded and smiled.
"Thank you," he said, his voice still soft. He still felt...he felt guilty. For bringing this up, but he was happy that Tjörvi still wanted to help.

"No. Thank you. All of you. Thank you," Tjörvi replied. Feeling an old weight at least partially lessened.





OOC Note: Thanks to @Kyle for both writing a few bits and for giving me permission to use some of his characters!
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
-
-
-
WARNING
The following post contains themes of sexual abuse. Please do not read if you find such themes upsetting or offensive. Thank you.
-Pry

3 February 2021
12:03 pm
On a Wednesday

Coire, Saintonge

Tjörvi didn't own formal clothes...not before he signed with AJSTC. He never had one growing up...he never had the opportunity to have one. Even after FRE lines stabilized.
He spent his childhood after his rescue from the Syndicalist camp going to church in his normal clothes, always washed by his aunt. She insisted that just because they didn't have formal clothing it wasn't an excuse to look dirty.

And then AJSTC signed him. They wanted him for a press conference to introduce him and he had to get some formal clothing. It was Jakob Höj, his coach on Alaterva VF and the Prydanian national team, that bought him a suit, some dress shirts, and a tie for the announcement.

He was wearing some of it now. He didn't know how to dress for this, really, but he felt he needed to wear something else besides a t-shirt and jeans. So he wore jeans, a polo shirt, and the sports jacket from his suit.

"Yeesh," he ran his hand through his hair as he waited outside of Hyltir's place.
"What have I gotten into?" he asked himself. Hyltir had asked him to meet his cousin Matthea, from Prydania. She- like him- had survived something terrible in a Syndicalist re-education camp. And Hyltir, worried about his cousin being so withdrawn and nervous, had asked Tjörvi if he could be a friend to her. Someone who understood what she went through.

He was only 18 though...19 in a few months. He didn't even fully understand what had happened to him. Football had helped him deal with it, but was he truly qualified to help someone else?

He breathed deep. All Hyltir wanted was for him to be a friend for Matthea. He could do that, right?
He checked his phone for the time and then...

"Tjörvi?"

He looked up, and saw her. She was conspicuously underdressed compared to him, wearing jeans, sneakers, and a dark blue hoodie. It was a men's size hoodie- probably her brother's or cousin's. It seemed to swallow her, but she seemed to like that, nervously holding herself across her stomach. She seemed to wear it as protection almost. Her blonde hair in a simple ponytail.

"Já," Tjörvi replied with a smile.
"Matthea?" he asked.

"Já," she answered with a nod.
"I recognized you from tv. With Hyltir."

"Oh," Tjörvi replied with a blush.
"Thank you," he added as she came up to him on the sidewalk. She had trouble looking at him. Tjörvi noticed that right away. It had taken him a long time to be able to look at anyone straight on. He still had trouble with it at times, if he was meeting someone new. He'd likely have been doing the same to Matthea if he hadn't been struck by her beauty, in spite of her rather plain dress. And doing that brought to his attention how she diverted her own gaze.

"I'm still new here myself," he added with a friendly smile. He was nervous as all hell but he could see how withdrawn Matthea was. He had to be the forward one here. It was scary but...
"There's a really good Predician place. Pasta and pizza, the whole deal. Maybe we could grab lunch?"

Matthea nodded.
"I could do that, yeah. It sounds nice, she said with a faint smile.

"Cool," Tjörvi said with a nod. "I know the way."

The two talked as they walked, with Tjörvi leading the conversation. They spoke about how they were finding Coire. They found early agreements in deciding it was too hot and that the people were nice. Matthea tended to keep her head down but did look up to smile or laugh at a few jokes. It was during one of these times that Tjörvi saw that her eyes weren't blue- they were grey instead. That meant she was thoughtful and empathetic, according to folklore from back home. And they added a sense of charm to her.

"I'm sorry I'm not very talkative," she said as they arrived at the restaurant.

"Don't apologize," Tjörvi replied with a smile.
"All the Prydanians I know here have either been here a while or they're born here. It's nice to talk to someone else who's recently arrived."

"Born here...like my cousin," Matthea said.

"Yeah," Tjörvi replied with a grin before ordering. He didn't speak Predician, but he was getting proficient enough in Santonian to order lunch.

"Your Santonian is really good," Matthea said with a smile as they took their seats.

"You're the first person to tell me that," Tjörvi chuckled.
"But I know enough to get around."

Matthea nodded and signed. She reached out and rotated the pepper flake shaker in her hand.
"I know why my cousin asked me to talk to you," she said.

Tjörvi was a bit shocked. He...didn't expect that. Nor was he sure what she meant exactly.

"I love Hyltir but...he's from here. Born here. He wouldn't get it." She looked down. And her jaw clenched. Tjörvi knew that look. She was holding back tears. So he said...what was on his mind.

"And you don't want to tell him, because you're embarrassed. You know it's not your fault but you feel embarrassed anyway. And you don't want to burden him- or your brother- with what happened. I know..." he sighed.
"I feel like that every day."

"Bjartmar managed to stay out of the camp, but he had to help grandmamma and grandpabbi get by after mamma and pabbi died. He had to do so much. I can't..." she began to break down, crying very softly. Blushing deep.

Tjörvi just reacted. What was the first thing in his mind? Comfort. He didn't dare touch her. He knew exactly how she'd react to suddenly being touched by someone else. So he just spoke.

"He loves you so much... so does your cousin. Know how I know? Because my Auntie loves me, and my sister loves me. I can't burden them with what happened to me either but..."

"What happened to you..." Matthea said.
"You mean...."

"I..." Tjörvi replied.
"I thought you knew..."

"I thought Hyltir wanted me to...meet someone like me, who was a new arrival...I didn't think..."

Now it was time for Tjörvi to avert his gaze.
"I spent five years in a Syndicalist camp just outside of Alaterva," he said softly.
"I only got out when the FRE liberated the city."

"Bygde," she replied, looking away herself.
"My camp was outside of Bygde...God that's fucked up. Calling it 'my camp.'"

"I don't think so," Tjörvi replied.
"But if...if you didn't know I was...you know...why did you open up to me?"

Matthea looked up.
"You just...seemed nice. And I guess...Hyltir wants me to open up more. I guess I owed it to him to try."

"Hyltir loves you," Tjörvi said with a nod.
"But you don't have to open up to anyone if you don't want to. But...but I...I..." he needed to take a breath. Lest the memories of his abuse become too vivid.
"I have been through what you've been through, Matthea. All of it. So if you need to talk I am here..." he was on the verge of tears himself. Admitting what had happened to him to his teammates at his party, that was the first time he'd said those things.

"But you...you're a star. You're a football player. You won a gold medal..." Matthea said softly.

"It doesn't matter," Tjörvi said, looking down.
"I can still smell the scent of the dorms. The sweat, the rancid...seed. I can still imagine what it's like to be lying in that bed, scared and hurt and alone and..." he began to cry himself. And this time it was Matthea who said something.

"With the instructions from the intercom blaring every day. I can still recite them..."

"You are entitled to shelter and food. Everything else must be earned through loyalty to the Party," they easy said at the same time. It made both of them, with red, tear soaked eyes, smile a bit.

"I know exactly what it's like," Tjörvi said.
"And if you need to talk, I am here."

Matthea nodded.
"Thank you..." she said quietly.
"I can still smell it too...all of it..."

"We're safe here though. You and me," Tjörvi replied.
"No one can hurt us anymore."

Matthea winced and nodded as she held back tears and reached out for Tjörvi's hand before stopping. She knew he wouldn't like to be touched suddenly.

"It's ok..." Tjörvi said softly. He reached out and they held each other's hands. Just as the food came.




Both Matthea and Tjörvi began to feel more comfortable talking about happier things as they ate, their understanding of each other's trauma helping that comfortable feeling.

"So you like art?" Tjörvi asked.

"Já," Matthea said softly as she ate a slice of pizza.
"On Viedéo. I follow artists who share 'how to' tips, and I share my work on Twitcher."

"I need to see!" Tjörvi replied.
"I can't draw anything else but stick figures."

"You're an artist. On the...what's it called? Field?"

"Pitch," Tjörvi replied happily.

"Whatever you call it, you're good. Probably better than I am at drawing."

"Let me be the judge of that," Tjörvi replied.

"The last thing I drew were the hills around Hildisey. At least from what I could remember," Matthea said with a nod.

"Maybe..." Tjörvi said, feeling bold.
"One day, maybe, you could show me around Hildisey." He was blushing. He had no idea how she'd take it. She looked up at him- he was lost in her grey eyes- and then she smiled.

"Only if you show me around Markarfljot."

"Deal," Tjörvi said with a wide grin.
"Hey Matthea?"

"Já?"

"I know how hard it is, to be with people and to trust people. So...thank you for agreeing to come out to lunch with me."

"I..." Matthea smiled meekly as she looked down. She pulled her legs up so she was sitting crossed legged in the chair.
"I'm glad I came too."

Tjörvi smiled and felt a sense of relief wash over him. He nodded.
"One last thing about what happened and then I promise we won't talk about it again unless you want to."

"Ok..." Matthea said curiously.

"They're gone. In jail, or dead, for what they did to us. We're still here. We're stronger and better then they are."

"I wish I could feel that way," she replied softly.

"I know," Tjörvi said with a nod. "If you feel down though, just ask Hyltir for my number."

Matthea just perked up.
"Can I see your phone?"

"Um...sure," he said. He was blushing. Was she going to give him her number. He handed it over and waited for it back. She was done in short order.
And she had entered her name into his address book, not with a number but with a Twitcher handle.

"You can message me there whenever," she said with a smile.

"Twitcher?"

"My escape," she said with a grin.

"Well thank you," Tjörvi said, smiling himself.
"Maybe...we could get lunch again?"

"I'd like that," Matthea said quietly.
"I'd like that a lot."

Tjörvi grinned. Against his worst insecurities, he'd actually managed to connect with Matthea. And he was already looking forward to seeing her again.
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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3 February 2021
1:18 pm
On a Wednesday

Coire, Saintonge

Matthea gave Tjörvi a shy wave and smile as they got back to Hyltir's family's house, before slipping inside.

She peaked out through the door's peephole, watching as Tjörvi looked up at the door and then walk away. He was cute. And beyond that, he understood. She smiled softly and backed away from the door, turning as she made her way to the staircase. She'd just started to ascend when she heard her cousin.

"Hey Matthea," Hyltir said softly, poking out from the kitchen. He knew not to startle her.

"Hey," Matthea replied with a smile. Not a nervous smile she put on to convince her family she was ok, no...she was actually smiling. And Hyltir picked up on that.

"I hope you had a good time with Tjörvi," he began as she stepped down and approached him.
"He's a really good guy and..."
Hyltir stopped, wide eyed as his cousin hugged him.

"Thank you," she said softly as she squeezed him tight.

Hyltir didn't know what to do at first. He knew Matthea didn't like to be touched. He slowly put a hand on her back, patting her gently.

"I'm glad it went well," Hyltir replied softly.
"I really am..."

"Thank you," Matthea said again, squeezing Hyltir a bit longer before letting go.
"He's a really great guy," she added, giving her cousin a smile.

Hyltir couldn't help but smile too. She seemed... happy.
"Bjartmar and I were going to go out for dinner. Maybe you would like to join us?"

"Yeah..." she said with a nod.
"Yeah I'd like to."

Hyltir grinned.
"That's great!"

"Yeah..." Matthea said with a smile.

"I'll let you know when we're going, it won't be for hours though."

"Ok," Matthea said with a pleasant smile.
"Just um, knock on my door, já?"

"Ok," Hyltir said with a nod as his cousin went upstairs. Whatever Tjörvi and her had done...it seemed like a good thing.




Matthea didn't have much space to herself but that was fine...she changed into a loose t-shirt and sweat shorts as she tossed herself onto her bed...

Tjörvi...
Finally. Someone she could talk to. Who understood what she went through.
She thought back to what he said. How he knew...exactly...how she felt. How she couldn't tell her loved ones...but he knew. And he wanted her to know if she needed to talk...her laptop pinged. Twitcher. It was Tjörvi sending her a friend request. She accepted and then just a few moments later...

Twitcher Private Message:
tjörvierímarkarfljot: hi! I had a great time today.

stjarnaleitandi: me too i can't wait until next time.

tjörvierímarkarfljot: :)

She smiled and grabbed her sketch book and flipped through to a blank page. She grabbed a pencil and began to draw...

She just met him. And yes, her cousin introduced him, but still. She wanted to hug Tjörvi so much right now....just because...because...he understood. She could bare her soul to him. Every nightmare every bad memory...and he would get it.
She was also in awe of him. Here was a guy who was abused. Like her. And despite the pain she saw in his eyes, and heard in his voice, he could carry on. He was friendly, he was outgoing. If he could get to a point in his life where he was like this...could she?

She sketched some more and and began to cry, at what she was sketching. They were happy tears though. She just wanted to hug him- it was strange to feel that way about a guy you just met, right? But...it was how she felt. She sniffled again as she wiped away tears with the back of her hand.

She set the sketch pad down and pulled the laptop over.

Twitcher Private Message:
tjörvierímarkarfljot: hi! I had a great time today.

stjarnaleitandi: me too. i can't wait until next time.

tjörvierímarkarfljot: :)

stjarnaleitandi: :) thank you for listening. and being there. sorry for crying.

tjörvierímarkarfljot: Thank you too :) And it's ok I cry too. It's hard not to.

Matthea went back to sketching and cried softly again, but breathed deep as she drew. It was a simple scene. Just the corner booth where she and Tjörvi had lunch in. It made her feel safe though. Like he did.
 
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