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Five Ways Sigrun Died Fighting the Watcher... and One She Didn't

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One:

It's quick, ignoble, final: The frost stiffening her wet gear, her numb fingers in their slippery gloves losing their grip as the tentacle strikes before Mikkel can haul.

There's a myriad cold spikes like needles straight for her heart. Dritt, she thinks. She's seen this in service on ship, reminded of Hildny flinging herself after one of her men, vanishing with a splash in the icy sea, not the whale's kill. For Sigrun it's the fatigue of that night, it's her heart failing, she's not even falling in battle.

There's barely still time to pray she's already earned her place.



Two:

Down. From train wagons at the bottom of the pool grows the troll like an anemone opening a mouth like a dark door, bones and once-human teeth down its gullet from smaller and smaller mouths opening. All from people in the wagon, a nest of trolls fused into one subsurface horror.

There's an arm around her, strong and pulling her further down, though Sigrun struggles. The water grows foul and brown with the rot of so many corpses, her lungs burn as she holds on to conscious thought through slow black spots over her vision -- she's got to -- not -- drown --



Three:

Another battle would have been better. She's always wanted to go by giant, but for fame's sake she'd have wanted a stab at winning. From the moment she's aware of her adversary she knows she's out of her league, a woman alone against a giant isn't fair.

Fate doesn't care for fair.

An old-age battle and scars, she'd have wanted that over the Silent World waiting for her to take it still ahead. The others'll carry on, safe, but it chafes anyway, her attention wanes. Fatal. The back of her head smashes into the wall. Crack. The dark comes fast.



Four:

Unbelievably, she's escaped from the clutches of the monster, struggles up rusted steps to level ground while Emil's gun spits bullets, cuts through tentacles pursuing her. She stumbles, shuddering, toward the nearest ruined building - troll-less; any creature would have rushed outside for the uproar. She's fought enough.

Snow turns to sludge in water pouring from her. Numb, Sigrun burrows into a corner, until Emil finds something to burn, a turn of a day rubbish since noon.

A rush in her ears, but her eyes shut. Thoughts become sluggish, useless - a dumb rookie once lost in the woods - and run out...



Five:

Red seeps into the bedding. She's seen other people bleed, but never lost so much of it herself. Mikkel doesn't help, momentarily petrified, not serene. Greatly reassuring, from a medic. The tank rumbles.

And she bleeds.

The others watch while Mikkel's efficiency re-emerges, he peels her shirt away, examines, exerts pressure on her stomach - the giant speared her with a bone spur. Hurts, but hell, she's gonna live, though things grow dim and dreary at the edge.

Her heart still beats - means she still bleeds.

Then Mikkel shakes his head, resigned, calls the others, draws a syringe from his bag…



One:

What dumb dreams of dying, like something like a tentacle giant and ice water could rattle her after she's been through all sorts of stuff: People going overboard on ships to wind up dead in the sea, separated on patrol just after she'd started, spending two nights alone in freezing weather in the woods. Ambushes on backtracks, more attacks than she can count. More deaths than she wants to remember, but forgetting would be unfair to every single sacrifice.

It's still bound to do stuff to your mind, she says to Tuuri sitting near her, reading and keeping vigil. Sometimes all it takes is luck, the first rule, lots of hope, holding your breath, knowing how to float, play dead until you're out of the thick of it. Then run to keep up circulation, heartbeat, warmth. Reach the tank's camp stop. Hot water, herbal tea, twig mage, awake again, singing Finnish gibberish over her.

It does its job. She's got a fever and a cold from hell, still sometimes shivers, but all things considered, that is fair. Things will be well after a few days' rest, and after that whole mess she's earned a real vacation, best spent in bed.