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fog of war

France – 1918

Thick fog, turning everything into indistinct shapes, covered the French countryside most mornings until midday. To Bren, having grown up in the North York Moors, such weather was nothing new, but it still bothered her after the spate of sunshine they’d experienced lately.

Bren nursed a cup of hot coffee as she sat in the mess tent before her rounds. At first, coffee seemed too bitter and revolting, but since everyone always offered her a cup of it and it warmed her on mornings just like this, she began to acquire a taste for it.

Days slipped by since Sam’s dramatic revelation, and Brenzel made a conscious effort to engage their prisoner while tending his wound. To her surprise and delight, Hans seemed to open up and share more and more about his life in pre-war Germany.

The young German soldier never knew his birth parents, who had passed away in a tragic accident about which he knew little. Hans was raised by a distant family relative named Wilhelm Von Roar. In actuality, Hans saw little of the man he would come to know as his father. Most of the time, Von Roar’s duties as leader of Prussia’s elite military forces kept him away from the estate. Later, Hans attended private boarding schools and finally, Humboldt University.

Though Bren couldn’t say for sure, Hans seemed to fear “Herr Roar” in a very visceral way. His recollections of him mostly centered around discipline and/or disapproval. On more than one occasion, Hans intimated Von Roar beat him soundly for trivial mistakes.

On the fence

Doc protested, “Nothing? No, I can’t simply do nothing!” to 3 several days later as they walked together outside the camp. “3, this is Brenzel we’re talking about” she pleaded, “we can’t just do nothing.”

Stopping to lean on a wooden fence, 3 said, “Hatty, I know what you’re thinking, but anything we do may alter her destiny.”

Iris flashback

Seeing the distress on Doc’s face, 3 thought back to the look of utter calm in Dove’s eyes when he admitted he’d found a new permutation. Those steel blues revealed nothing, yet he had the oddest sense that Dove knew for certain all along that he would find just that. “Do you think she is the Recurrence?” the Seraph said in her smooth, melodic voice.

3, who usually had an answer for everything simply said, “It’s difficult to tell until she chooses.”

“Of course, of course. . .” Dove words trailed off as she turned, wings and markings shimmering in the sunlight, saying softly to herself, “I wonder. . .”

“You see these violet flowers, 3?” Her Highness asked as she caressed the petals of an impossibly large iris. “Did you know that these are not native to Elysia?” She continued.

“No, your highness, I did not,” he acknowledged, wondering where this was going.

“Actually, without special care, they cannot survive in our realm, much less grow so large and lovely.” Smiling to herself, Dove leaned over, smelling one, saying, “The fact they are so rare only adds to their beauty, don’t you think?”

“Well yes, I suppose so,” he said, still confused as to her point.

Turning back towards 3, the exquisite patterns on her shoulders glowing blue, Dove charged him by saying, “Watch over her, 3, she’s quite unique and it’s important that she be given every opportunity to fulfill her destiny.”

“Yes, your highness,” 3 acknowledged, bowing as he left the sanctuary.

Returning to the present, looking at Doc, 3 reassured his love, “You know, Hatty, I know it’s the fog of war now, but everything does work out in the end.”

“Ugh! I know, but it’s just so hard to wait and do nothing,” she groaned finding comfort in his strong arm underneath his uniform.

Guard duty

Sam truly disliked Hans, his prisoner. Assigned to guard him until his transfer to HQ, Sam counted the days until his regular duty resumed, even if it was dangerous econ in no-man’s-land. However, the one bright spot in every day was seeing Bren walking up in her nurse’s uniform and wicker basket. Lately, his spy-girl (his nickname for her) brought him something to snack on each visit.

“Good morning Sam,” Bren said cheerfully handing him a warm muffin.

“Morning Ma’am,” Sam replied gratefully.

“Sam, I said you could call me Bren or Brenzel!” she said with mock exasperation.

“I know Ma’am, but I was always taught to respect my elders” Sam explained.

Surprised and a bit annoyed, Bren retorted, “Sam! I’m not that old!”

Stubbornly, Sam smiled, “I just respect you is all…ma’am.” Rolling her eyes, half smiling, Bren slid past the young soldier into the stockade.

“Guten tag, Fraulein,” Hans said as Sam unbolted the door to let Brenzel inside.

“Good morning to you. How’s my patient today?” She replied.

“Though my accommodations are not up to my usual standards, the room service is excellent,” Hans said with a wry smile.

Do you believe in Gott?

While Bren was dressing his wound, Hans suddenly said, “Fraulein , do you believe in Gott?”

“What?” Bren said, not understanding.

“Not what, Fraulein, but who. Gott is how we say God in Germany,” Hans explained.

“Oh, I see,” Bren said, but caught off guard by his question, simply finished with, “yes, why do you ask?”

“I believe in Gott because I’ve seen a devil.”

A shiver running down her spine, Bren replied after a moment, “Why do you think that, Hans?”

Looking uncomfortable, Hans continued, “Ven I vas only eight years old, I found a silver crucifix lying on my guardian’s desk in his study. I thought it was beautiful, so I put it on. Later that day, when I met Herr Roar in the hallway, I showed him my new necklace.” Hans trailed off.

Feeling a pit in her gut, Bren encouraged Hans to finish by asking, “What happened, Hans?”

Hans, fidgeting, continued, “Herr Roar looked at me and said, “Where did you get that, child?” Looking into his eyes, I could not speak, for an unseen force gripped my entire body. Without grabbing my clothes, he lifted me off the ground and pulled me close. I smelled something like rotten eggs on his breath, and he said ‘Give it to me, boy!’ growling like an animal as the whole house shook. Trembling, I barely managed to remove the necklace and hand it over. The look in his eyes, Fraulein, was as if I looked into hell.”


“I am sorry Hans, that must have been terrifying,” Bren said sympathetically.

“Yes, Fraulein, I have never forgot it even up to this day.” Hans concluded.

Finishing her duties, Bren got up and turned to go when Hans suddenly caught her arm. Startled, Bren tried to pull away, but Hans held it firmly, whispering, “Wait, I have to tell you something important.”

Bren, barely controlling her fear, asked, “What?”

“Fraulein, your life is in danger, but I can save you.”