For all her planning, all her waiting, all her wishing…. Primrose hardly knew the true extent of what she was getting herself into.
For years she had stayed steadfast, biding her time and waiting to catch even a glimpse of the men marked with the crow. She’s had countless dreams of meeting them face to face and letting them experience the sweet kiss of her dagger as she exacted her revenge in full. She’s held on to this desire for ten years, and endured constant disgrace for eight. She refused to let go of this wish. She told herself that whatever happens, she would see it through the end. It was something that she alone would accomplish.
She had been careful not to say anything. No one knew of her origin, least of all her fellow dancers. Aside from the sneers she would have inevitably gotten, this burden was hers alone to carry. She would scrape and claw at whatever she needed, and as she did, she would keep others at a distance. There was the issue of not knowing who to trust, but she found herself not wanting to trouble others as well. Her path was a violent one, splattered with blood. She endured each indignity in order to trudge through it, hoping one day her efforts would bear fruit. How could she subject anyone else to it?
Yusufa still ended up dead, and she was dead because of her.
There was no reason Yusufa should be dead. That was carelessness on Primrose’s end, and she loathed the burden of it. She had always been fond of Yusufa, even though she hadn’t been eager to show it. When Yusufa offered to distract Helgenish for long enough, she had accepted against her better judgement. Her carelessness, her recklessness ended up getting her one friend in that hellhole of a place killed.
What she loathes more than Yusufa’s death, is how she benefited from it.
She hates thinking about how without Yusufa’s help, she would have never known Helgenish had a map that led straight to where she needed to go. She hates thinking about how without Yusufa there, without Helgenish’s sadistic inclination to make an example of her, she wouldn’t have been able to finally put an end to his rancid affairs. She hates thinking about how Yusufa ended up being used as a tool in service of her own selfish desire.She hated the feeling that she had used and discarded her. She hated that with that sacrifice, she considered getting another companion to help her. It wasn’t as if she was looking for sacrifices. If anything, she was looking for the opposite. She didn’t want another Yusufa. She didn’t want another person to help her from the goodness of their heart, only to get killed. She didn’t want anyone else to make sacrifices on her behalf. She didn’t want to grow to care about someone, only for them to be caught in her twisted journey for revenge and die. She wanted someone who could fight alongside her, instead of leaving a trail of sacrifices in her wake.
She headed towards the Highlands by chance. Stillsnow was marked on the map Helgenish was given, but from what she could tell from the conversation he had with her target, it was a base of operations. Meaning whether the other man was there or not by the time she arrived mattered little. He would need to be there at some point, and when he was, she would be ready. But preparations were in order. She needed warmer clothes, for starters. But the main thing on her mind was finding a reliable partner. She could convince men and women alike to join her for a little bit, sure, but she needed someone that would actually stay with her throughout. She wanted someone more… permanent to rely on. Someone that didn’t only follow her because of her pretty words and face. She wanted someone she could depend on, who wholeheartedly believed in her. Someone… like Yusufa.
So when the sleepy Highland town she was staying in suddenly erupted in a panic, Primrose found herself quick to investigate. Brigands had come, and a boy was taken. She could hear the mother crying, not quite hysterical, but grieved enough. The town’s guardsmen seemed torn on whether to go rescue the boy, or to stay in case of another attack. She considered offering herself to go. After all, she had managed to fight off Helgenish and his men. But what the brigands lacked in skill they had in numbers, and she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to handle it if things got dire. Not to mention the life of the boy. If she couldn’t protect him, then what was the point of offering?
It was then, amongst the panic, that a man spoke. “I’ll go after the boy.”
He was a large man with an imposing figure to match. When he spoke it was with conviction, and Primrose could see the panicked townspeople already relaxing at his words. He went back and forth with the guardsmen, the village’s elder, and the boy’s mother before walking off to make preparations. Primrose was quick to follow.
She caught him near what she was assumed was his home, and wasted no time trying to convince him. He seemed confused at first, and why wouldn’t he be? A strange woman from out of town, offering to assist him out of the blue? She would be suspicious too. But whatever doubts he had were short lived, because soon after he gave her a nod of acknowledgement accompanied by a small smile.
“It would be my honor to call you my comrade.”
The trek to the base was simple. The man (Berg, he told her) proved to be more than capable of the task. He cut through each brigand with ease, and she found it easier to support him with her dances than do any direct fighting herself. It was obvious that he wasn’t the ordinary hedge knight he kept claiming he was, but she had no intentions to pry. Everyone had things they wished to keep a secret. She certainly did.
Primrose assumed it would be the same fare once they got to the leader. In a stroke of luck, the boy (Phillip, she learned) was situated in a way that allowed Berg to immediately stand in front of him, and for her to be ready at his side. Berg and the brigand leader began to talk, and Primrose tried to use that time to plot out a path to escape. She could take Phillip and run, tell Berg to provide cover from any bandits that tried to take a swing at them...
But then the leader took a swing at them. Her feet moved quickly to Phillip, holding him close while Berg parried the blow. There were awed murmurs from the other men in the room, but she wasn’t paying attention to them. She wasn’t even paying attention to Phillip, who she still crouched over protectively. No, she was more focused on Berg, and how something in him seemed to change. There was recognition in his tone when he noticed the leader’s blade, and that recognition gave birth to an anger she was all too familiar with. He spoke of a new name, “Erhardt,” with a bitterness that she was no stranger to. She knew nothing about Berg save for his name, and yet in this moment, she felt like she could see right through him and down into his soul. She could see the wound buried deep inside him that refused to heal with time.
It was then that Berg and the leader clashed. The rest of the groups were roused to action, and Primrose wasted no time uncurling from Phillip and preparing her dances. This fight was different from the rest. She saw that the leader could actually match Berg blow for blow, and that even with her dances he was being kept on his toes. With the bandit’s aiming at Olberic and Phillip both she found herself working harder than ever to make sure both remained relatively unharmed. It was a bit funny to her, how she worked so fiercely for people she barely knew. It was a kindness she didn’t know she still possessed.
The other man yielded eventually, and with him, the rest of his group. Berg and the leader spoke, coming back to the topic of Erhardt, and Primrose hears the edge in Berg’s voice return. When she had learned of her mark’s location, she was impatient. She wanted to do nothing but chase him down. But what about Berg? She had her place in Sunshade, but it was a place she could easily discard. Berg had a place here as well, did he not? Would it be easy for him to abandon it? She could see clearly that he was seeking some sort of closure, and now that he had direction, would he go forth to find it?
Especially now, after the leader revealed him to be a knight from a fallen kingdom?
The ordeal was over now. They had returned back to town, reunited Phillip with his mother, and Olberic briefly explained what it was he planned to do next. He mentions leaving for Victor’s Hollow, and searching for someone from his past, but not once does he utter Erhardt’s name or state his intentions. Primrose couldn’t blame him for that.
Instead, she waits by his home again. He clearly doesn’t expect this move by the way his eyes widen at the sight of her, but it fades away into an easy smile as he approaches.
"You’re still here,” he says. “I was unable to find you after we returned from the brigand’s den.”
“I’m still here.” She returns his smile and gestures to him. “I wouldn’t run away after fighting alongside the Unbending Blade of Hornburg.”
He gives a small huff of laughter. “Will I receive the same fawning from you as well, then?”
“No, no. I think you’ve earned enough of that.” She shifts her weight, casting her eyes downwards. “...You know, there’s a reason I came to this town. You could probably tell I’m not from around here.”
“Aye. I could tell.” He replies with a nod. “I’ve been curious about that ever since you asked to come with me. I mean no insult, but for what reason did you come? And why were you so eager to assist me today?”
Primrose hesitates, finding her words caught in her throat. A part of her wants to dance around the topic. It wants to lie, sweet talk him, weave her words around him like she’s done to so many others. But for the first time in a while, she feels like she’s only doing this out of habit. She feels like she doesn’t need to try and lure him. She feels like she can just… talk. So she does.
“Ten years ago, my father was murdered by three men, each marked with a tattoo of a crow. Eight years ago, I was led to the town of Sunshade, and had worked in its pleasure district waiting for an opportunity to present itself.” She keeps her sights on the ground, one hand nervously running through her hair. “A few days ago, that opportunity presented itself.”
“These men… they are my targets.” The hand in her hair falls to her side, trailing over her father’s dagger. “And I seek them…”
Olberic finishes for her. “...For revenge.”
Primrose nods, finally bringing her gaze to meet his. His brow is furrowed, with his lips pressed into a thin line. It was obvious he was thinking, but she wasn’t sure what. Did he find her pathetic? Reprehensible?
“I… cannot do this alone.” She hates how she hesitates under his gaze. “I know you have found your own opportunity, and I have no intention of taking that away from you. But I…”
Her hand comes to her chest, and she leans forward in a slight bow. “I want you to accompany me. Please, Sir Olberic.”
He’s silent. And Primrose stands there, unmoving. Vulnerability like this was something she wasn’t used to, nor was she used to the silence that followed. A part of her regrets it. She regrets thinking that she even had the right to ask this of him, to delay his own closure for the sake of her own. She felt disgusted with herself, picking him off from the rest to do service for her. Legendary knight he may be, she was treating him as another tool, wasn’t she? A tool to use and discard. A tool that she would shield behind when death’s blow came, just like she did to--
“Raise your head, Primrose.”
His voice brings her out of her thoughts. Slowly, she lifts herself to meet Olberic’s gaze, hand falling back to her side.
His brow is no longer furrowed, and while he was still frowning, it wasn’t as tense as before. There’s a look in his eyes that she can’t quite place.
“You seek to avenge your father’s death?” he asks.
Primrose nods silently.
“And it is for that reason you request my aid?”
She nods again.
“Very well, then.” He crosses his arms over his chest and gives her a small nod. “I will join you.”
Just… like that?
He would join her, just like that?
Primrose can’t help but stare. There was no glint of deceit in his eyes. No signs that he was expecting anything from here. She could gather that he was, at the very least, a man who was forthright but even then she couldn’t let go of her doubts. Things… had never been so easy.
“...Truly?” She’s surprised by how small she sounds. “You truly mean to join me?”
“Aye. You seek a strong companion, and I am here.” He nods again, casting his sights to the side. “And our goals… they are not dissimilar.”
“So you also seek…”
“Revenge? That, I cannot say,” he replies quietly, looking over the Highlands’ expanse. “Erhardt’s actions have cost me all that I held dear, and I intend to make him answer for them. But killing him… I do not know if…”
He trails off, and for the first time Primrose notices how tired he looks. It was completely unlike the man she saw cutting a path through the brigand’s den. He seemed worn and unsure, as if he was questioning what was the correct path of action. Something in her chest twists with the realization.
“I will help you.”
The words are out before she can stop them. Olberic blinks in surprise, turning back to look at Primrose.
“I will help you, Sir Olberic,” she repeats, placing her hand back on her chest. “In your journey to find Erhardt. And if you need help when he is found, I will be there to lend my aid.”
She knows what it’s like. She knows what it’s like to have indignation simmer in you for years, only to be fanned into a blaze by the smallest clue. Maybe she and this knight were nothing alike. Maybe she and Olberic had no common ground to stand on, even on their paths for vengeance. But she would be lying if she said she didn’t feel a certain kinship with him after all she’s learned. And with him accepting her wholeheartedly without question, she felt indebted. She would help him on his journey for closure.
The edges of Olberic’s mouth pull up into a smile, and Primrose can feel tension melting away from her body. She exhales softly, unaware she had been holding her breath to begin with. He mimics her position, lifting his hand to his chest.
“You have my thanks, Primrose. And my blade,” he says. “I will assist you in your hunt for these men marked by the crow, and will see that they meet justice by your hand.”
There’s something about that that makes her smile. She wonders if it’s too much, if she’s letting herself be read too easily. But for this moment, she’ll allow herself to smile.
“Thank you, Sir Olberic.”
“You needn’t be so formal with me. Just ‘Olberic’ will suffice.”
Primrose chuckles, feeling the corner of her lips rise even more. “I look forward to traveling with you then, Olberic.”