While others take up sword and shield, he searches for something more.
A dutiful knight, he aches for something that none other possesses, something of his own, faithful to him alone.
On a cold midwinter's morn, tiny men made of twigs lead him to a tree in the heart of the Black Forest, and there he finds a knotted bough, the length of his forearm, straight and strong.
The moment he picks it up, he feels it channel his energy. Unbidden, words come to his lips, and a shower of sparks erupts from the tip of the bough as he sweeps it through the air, adjusting his grip until the feeling is as natural as waving a hand, the summoning of words unknown as effortless as breathing.
With it, he is king.
She has nothing to look forward to.
The very thought is blasphemous, but she cares not. There is no afterlife, and certainly no happy life ahead for her. Her mother does not appear any more Christian or peaceful after bleeding to death, taking her father's only heir with her.
Her mother has naught to show for nine month's labor, her father is left with nothing of value and a burdensome daughter, and so now the duty will fall on her, to wed and save them from starving out in the cold. They will at least have the luxury of dying with a roof over their head, no matter what sacrifices it requires of her. It matters not that the wife of the reeve's son is only recently deceased, and some say by his own violent hand.
Tears blurring her vision, she very nearly misses the sliver of substance, a wink of something shimmering on the bank as she wanders alongside the river, treasuring her last day of freedom. She reaches for the thing on the ground, the supple material nearly slipping from her grasp, and picks up a cowl that rends her hands invisible as the fabric slides over them.
Within a heartbeat, she realizes that she now has everything to look forward to.
It is the last anyone sees of her, and that is how she wants it to be.
Though from a lineage old and brave, he prefers his life of peace and quiet, surrounded by those beloved few of his family. But he is expected to lead the charge, and so he does. Duty-bound, he wields his sword and crest with skill and pride, though he would rather not.
Every day, he risks his life and thinks nothing of it, all in the service off others—kith, shire, king. It is only when his own hundred is sacked and set ablaze that he realizes his own mortality, and fears of it.
He digs fingers through the soft black ash that was once his home, and sets his jaw against the emotion rising in his breast. He feels his fingertips graze a stone, and digs deeper, catching it between thumb and forefinger, and clutches it in his fist as he stands, blinking hard as it digs into his skin.
From a lineage old and brave, he tames that fear, and fights on.