Photo by Mert Kahveci on Unsplash

The Start by Katie Kocheski

A short figure was standing in the middle of a field of blood and bodies.

She was panting, puffs of air coming out like smoke; it was freezing. Sword in hand staring off into nothingness, doused in the blood of her enemies, with clouded eyes, she thought, calculating. The crunch of bones startled her out of thought. Whipping around, she pointed her bloody weapon at the source of the sound. It was her comrade, Edward.

“Time to go, leader.” He spoke, head tilted with a small smile, and she nodded. They were maneuvering through the field of death and destruction that she had created. As they were walking, she sheathed her weapon on her hip, taking note of the snow becoming heavier. Their camp was about a fourteen-mile walk away. She could tell Edward was wanting to ask her some questions. Out of the five in their group, she was the leader and he was the intellectual. He watched her, her hair blending perfectly with the falling snow. She looked at him, nodding permitting him to ask his questions.

“Can I ask a few questions?”She nodded again. Edward gave a smile. A small smile but still big enough that it was noticeable to the ever-watchful eyes of his leader.

“Alright,” He clapped his gloved hands together “so are we going to go back to the camp or are we going to find the other generals?”

“We go to the camp, that was the plan when we left.” He nodded, thinking about his next question to ask.

“Ok…” She looked straightforward. “Are you sure we got them all?”She paused, side-glanced at him, before answering his question to give it some real thought.

“If the others did their parts then yes,” was her short-quip response, eyes roaming the field for enemy survivors.

“No more questions, let’s keep moving.” He slowly nodded his head. They proceeded walking as the snow crunched under their heavy boots as it got heavier and heavier. Lara was staring straight ahead in thought, her breaths slowly evening out as she walked through the snow. The others should be finishing up by now if everything went as planned. All the soldiers should have returned and taken account of everyone who has died.

Lara suddenly felt a shot of pain in her right thigh. It was excruciating to the point it made her stop. She had to take a knee because the pain was too much to handle. Her breathing was hard, as she grasped her leg as if that would take the pain away.

“Lara, what’s wrong?” Ed went into action right away kneeling beside her to help. His bright blond hair came out of his hood as he got down on the ground with her to see what the problem was.

“Nothing. Just a scratch, that’s all.” She said her breathing became more labored as she talked.

“No. Let me see.” He said in a commanding tone. Gritting her teeth, she slowly pulled her hands away from her right leg showing the large gash in her thigh seeping blood through her clothes down to her calf. Edward sucked in a breath, examining the wound.

“We need to move quickly and get to camp. Come on, put your arm around my neck.”

“No, I can walk.”She tries to stand but as soon as she’s up, she’s back down again. Edward quickly scoops her up bridal style and grimaces at the sound she makes when he pulls her up. Trying not to show the fear on his face about the situation.

“Edward! Put. Me. Down,” Lara demands.

“No, you’re hurt.” She growls at him in frustration.

“Fine but when we get to the outskirts of the camp put me down.” His only response was a head nod, quickening his pace.


Right at the edge of their camp, Edward set Lara down reluctantly. However, she kept one arm around his waist so that she could walk and he kept his hand and arm around her upper torso taking more weight off her leg. They walked the whole way to the General’s tent that way, shaking hands, greeting their soldiers, making sure they were ok, and that they had everything they needed. When they walked into the tent Lara was pulled right back into Edwards’s arms and then set on a chair at their table of plans quickly, her leg was put up on another chair that Ed had dragged over to her, to help stop the blood from flowing out any quicker and Edward called a medic to their tent.

The other Generals were not present in their tent, so the two assumed they were coming back and were just behind schedule. A medic slowly poked his head into the tent seeing as it was rare that anyone who did not have a high rank stepped foot into this particular tent. He was summoned by Edward with a wave of his hand, telling the medic everything he could think was important.

The 17-year-old medic examined the wound.

“She’ll need stitches” He mumbled. “ About four or five. It’s not too deep but she won’t be able to walk on it for a few weeks so that it can properly heal.”  Ed nodded with a scowl and his hand over his mouth, rubbing from chin to cheek, in response to the medic’s words. The medic got up and grabbed his leather physician’s bag that was left on the plans table and opened it up to get the needle, thread, and cloth. He hands Lara a bottle of rum to numb her senses. While waiting for the alcohol to go into effect the young medic starts to cut the clothes around her wound and clean the excess blood. After ten minutes of waiting, he takes the bottle from her and pours it on her leg. The shock and sting had her lurch forward at an inhuman speed to wrap her hands around the boy’s throat. However, Edward is just as quick to grab her hands and force her back into the chair kneeling next to her uninjured leg to stay out of the medics’ way.

“Lara, hurting him will do no good. Hold my hand and squeeze them through this. I know it hurts but he is just trying to help.” Ed whispers into her ear trying to soothe her fight or flight reflex. The medic makes quick with the stitches so that Lara may not suffer any longer and in fear that she may go after his neck again. The whole time Ed and Lara’s hands are locked. He whispers praise to her as the medic got to the last stitch. After the stitching was done they released each other’s hands. Ed stands up next to the side of Lara’s chair.

The medic wraps Lara’s leg as she stares at the plans in thought of where her other three Generals were, not paying attention to the world around her in an intoxicated lull. The map that they decided the plan on was marked with five places where the Generals would be. Edward was marked closer to Lara with a figurine. During their wars, Edward and Lara were placed closer together. Just as the other generals were closer to each other. They all had a color, a system as Lara would describe it, and would not veer from it. Lara was red, although most would assume blue because of her nickname the Ice Queen. Edward was yellow. There was the Blue General, the Green General, and the Purple General.

“General Red!” A low-ranking soldier shouted while skidding to a halt in the tent doorway.

“What is it, soldier?” Lara asked in an irritated tone and began to tap her fingers on the arm of her chair slowly sobering up.

“General Blue and General Green are back.” He huffed out, exasperated from running across the camp to deliver the news.

Lara tried to stand up but Edward stopped her putting his large hand down on her narrow shoulder. He was staring at her with a hard blank look pinning her to the chair. Edward dismissed the soldier with a jerk of his head towards the door, as well as the medic who could sense the tension rising to an all-time high in the room, scrambling out the door, Lara watched, then looked back to Ed.

She huffed in disagreement, crossing her arms in the process, in a child-like manner.

“I want to greet my Comrades.” She mumbled out to him. Edward sighed with disappointment, disagreement, and dismay all rolled into one.

“Fine. Go.” A small smirk appeared on Lara’s face. She pulled her leg off of the other chair and stood up and crumbled to the ground as soon as she did. He smirked at her and helped her walk to the entrance of the tent. He held the cloth door to the side and helped Lara walkthrough. Both of them could see Blue and Green walking up with a small layer of snow on their clothed shoulders and hooded heads. Blues grey eyes find her friends. Her waist-long dark chocolate brown hair pulled into a long braid rested on the left shoulder of her 5 ft 9in’’ and 26-year-old body, her bronze skin glowing after a day of success.

“BLUE!”Lara shouted.

“RED!”The Blue General Tala shouted.

As her comrade sprinted ahead of the Green General to throw her arms around Lara’s waist in a bear hug, she, in turn, wrapped her arms around the other’s shoulders and was lifted off the ground. She set her down lightly as they began speaking to one another. The two have been friends since their childhood. They were raised together, schooled together, trained together, and fought battles and wars together.

The Green General Arthur and Edward shake hands as their common greeting, talking about the mission and what happened, watching the girls talk in hushed whispers and chuckling at their humorous allies. Arthur pulls his hood off his jet-black hair. It was at an ears length and slicked back so that his dark mocha eyes stood out on his pale ivory skin. He stood at almost the same height as Ed at 6’4″ he was a year older than Ed at 28, the oldest in the group.

“We should go in, the snow is coming down harder,” Edward states, breaking up the girls’ little conversation. They look at him and then at each other and then nod as if they had the idea themselves. As they all turn to go in, Lara makes a sort of small squeak noise after shifting ever so slightly on her banged-up leg, however, all the Generals take notice and it hits Edward that she is still deeply hurt. He sidesteps the others and scoops her up into his arms, as she wraps her arms around his shoulders loosely giving a lazy grin to the other two as she is still feeling the effects of the rum. Ed walked past the others, Tala and Arthur looked at each other with deep worry and rushed into their tent after their injured friend. They watch as Edward helps Lara into the chair from earlier, noticing that there is a substantial amount of blood and rags, that it could have not been from the enemy’s warriors but rather from their teammate. Tala is the first to speak and break the spell that she and Arthur were under.

“What happened to her?”

“Nothing,” Lara states plainly, her mood turning sour, as she starts to tap her fingers on the dark wood of her chair.

“Lies. That is a big fat lie, otherwise, why would we have all this gauze and bloodied rags around?” She gave a pointed look to her sister-in-arms.

“For the S’s and G’s of it,” Lara mumbles under her breath but it was loud enough that the others in the tent could hear.

“Very funny. Edward,” Tala looks at him with a stern face “What happened?”

“I don’t know what happened, all I know is that she has severely hurt her leg and that the medic says she is not to walk On the Leg, but she has deliberately ignored that.” He answers, stressing the word On and Leg. Looking at Lara as if he was scolding a child.

“You know, while you all hash this out I’m gonna go get cleaned and lay down,” Arthur calls out as he walks to his section of the tent. Knowing that Lara is okay and just stubborn.

“Mkay” Tala shouts to him, not breaking eye contact with her immobile friend. She takes a seat at the War Table near Lara so she may grab her if Lara makes any attempts to run, or any form of running she might do.

“Now that you are here, you can help me keep her in this chair and wait for Maya,” Edward says, as they stare Lara down.

“Great.” Lara bites, all the while she taps away with her fingers. Minutes pass as the tent is filled with the sounds of Arthur changing, bathing, and Lara tapping her fingers.

“Edward, I’ve got this, for now, you go change out of your gear,” Tala whispers, as they hear the soft snores of Arthur close by.

“Thanks.” Edward smiles and leaves. As he leaves Lara burns a hole in the back of his head. Once he gets behind his curtains, she turns her steely gaze back to Tala and they have a staredown for a good ten minutes as they listen to Arthur snore, hearing Edward change his clothes and wash up, and of course, Lara and her fingers ‘tap tap’ tapping away on the wood of her oak chair. This caused a sort of static to build in the air as they size each other up. Tala was daring Lara to try to move from the chair. Lara challenged Tala because she was the lead General out of the five and was not one to take insubordination lightly. Tala broke first and looked away because she knew she was pushing her luck with Lara. Taking notice that she still had all her gear on. Even her weapons were still strapped on, which looked quite uncomfortable.

“How about we make a deal?” Tala suggested, lifting her head and tilting it to the side. Lara raised her left eyebrow with her scowl intact waiting for Tala to continue.

“Okay… I’ll take your weapons and gear. Go and clean them, if you promise to stay in the chair. Deal?” Tala asks. Glaring a second longer Lara heaves a sigh, breaking her stony face.

“Yes, please. They are starting to hurt my body, more than it already is.” Lara responds. Tala pushes herself up from her dark red oak chair placed across from Lara and crouches in front of her. She starts unstrapping all knives and hidden weapons she keeps on her person and slowly makes it up to the sword that rests on her leader’s hip as her status symbol. Tala takes notice, that as she removes the armory hidden on her friend she relaxes more and more. Tala softly smiles at her lifelong friend, taking joy in the small thing that she had done to help relax Lara because she has so little time to do so even at the age of 24 and being the youngest in the group.

“Thank you” Lara breathes. After everything was removed she slowly starts to drift off, even if she is coated in blood, dirt, sweat, and snow, because she has not had a moment’s rest in a long while. As soon as her eyes shut about to fall asleep, Edward comes back into the common area. He takes notice of the sleeping girl.

“Lara,” He whisper-shouts, “you can’t sleep, not in those clothes at least.” She groans and slowly peels her eyes open so that she can glare at her teammate from across the room. He approached her and then took notice that Tala is no longer present.

“Where did she go? Tala, I mean.” Edward whispers. Lara lifts her hand and points to the outside flap of their tent.

“She went to clean my weapons and made a deal with me not to move from this chair in exchange.” She responds, dropping her hand. He hums in response to her answer. He walks around her chairs to go speak with Tala in hushed tones, however, Lara could care less and decides to close her eyes again tuning out the people speaking, resting her head on the back of the chair. The darkness consumed her.

It felt like only a minute to her, however, Edward and Tala had waited till the last possible moment to wake their drained leader. Finally, Tala decided to shake her.

“Lara.” She whispered trying to gently wake her. “Lara. Hey, Lara. Come on, I know you’re tired but you need to get clean and out of those blood-soaked clothes.” After a moment, Lara grumbles and reluctantly opens her eyes, squinting at the amount of light piercing her retinas. She holds her hands out slowly to the two sleep deprivers. They wrapped a hand around a wrist each and helped Lara stand, she stood for a second and then swayed towards Edward. He reached out and steadied her with his hands on her waist.

Tala kneels and helps Lara remove her raven-black leather boots. She sets them to the side, away from the wooden tub filled with steaming water that Lara had not taken notice of until now. Pulling her wool socks off, Tala glanced up at Edward and then noticed that Lara had closed her eyes again and leaned into Ed. She needed to hurry up.

“Ed, help her get out of her coat. Down to her undershirt. I’ll do the rest, while you clean the stuff that you have now.” Tala rushes. He nods his head and works her coat off, trying to be gentle but quick. They had gotten her down to the bare essentials before Ed had to leave. He takes all Lara’s clothes to the wash outside their tent and Tala helps guide Lara’s 5’ 6’’ figure into the tub, pulling the rest of her clothes off and setting them down on the ground. Lara steps into the water, turning the once clear liquid a deep red with her bruised and battered body. Tala rushes off to hand Edward the rest of Lara’s clothes, although there was no blood on the shirt, her pants were coated in both hers and the enemy’s blood. Lara was slowly sinking further and further into the toasty water against her frosted skin. She slowly drifts off again.

As Tala came back she noticed she forgot to grab Lara a change of clothes. She walked to Lara in the tub and squatted down.

“Hey,” Tala gently speaks “ I’m going to go get you some clean clothes. Here is a bar of soap, start washing, okay?” Lara only nods her head and takes the bar of soap that her friend held out to her, mindlessly starting to rub her arms and midsection. Tala leaves the common area and goes into Laras ‘room’. Snagged a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and wool socks, she returns to find Lara crashed. Chuckling, she places the clothes down on a chair close by and takes the soap from the top of the water, and helps the snoozing grouch wash up.

After a long and grueling fight to get Lara to cooperate, Tala has her dried and dressed. Tala calls Edward back into the tent to save him from freezing to death. When he enters he sees Lara sitting in a new chair as Tala brushes Laras’ hair.

“I thought you forgot I was standing out there.” He chatters out, rubbing his arms to get some feeling back.

“Sorry, Ed. She is so out of it, it’s hard to get her to move quickly.” Tala says with a sympathetic face, she helps Lara to her room for some much-needed rest.

“All is forgiven. Is she better?” He asks. She nods her head and hums as she walks back into the room to stand near him. They stand there for a second in silence looking at the map, both wondering if Maya is okay or if they need to go send a rescue party. So many thoughts swirled in the air but none were spoken. The air hummed with worry for Lara and Maya as the minutes progressed.

Finally, Edward breaks the silence.

“I’m going to go…and make sure she’s settled.” Tala only nods her head in response, still deep in thought about everything that has happened and what is to come. He crosses the room in only a few strides.

Ed pulls the thick cloth to Laras ‘room’ back to check that she is resting well. A small smile plays on his lips as he takes her in. She lays on the makeshift bed with only her head and a single foot sticking out. Her snowy white damp hair is tousled all over her pillow and part of her face, lips slightly parted as shallow breaths come from them. He watches for a moment before he fully enters, taking a chair from across the room to place next to her bedside. Sitting quietly he watches her rest peacefully. He brushes some of her hair from her face examining it closer. He counts the small number of scars she has on her face while resting his warm hand on the side of her face, one through her left eyebrow, a small thin one on her right cheekbone, a long medium one close to her hairline on the far right of her face, and finally the newest addition a fresh pink line from the left side of her lip down to her chin in a straight line. Hating and loving the scars at the same time; hating them because she never deserved a life like the one they had but loving them because they are what make Lara, Lara. He was so focused on the scars that he didn’t notice her icy blue eyes flutter open to watch him. Then with a raspy voice, she mutters “You know it’s rude to stare, cradle robber.” Edward, slightly startled, chuckles lightly. His warm green eyes meet her icy gaze.

“I’m hardly a cradle robber. I am 27 and you are 24. Also, you know I can’t help but stare at such beauty.” She hums an “mhm” lightly, eyes closed again, the silence sitting for a second. He had thought she had fallen asleep again removing his hand from her cheek.

“Lay with me?” Opening her eyes once again, she whispers, slight pink tints on her pale cheeks. Chuckling again, he nods his head and stands from the chair, walking around the bed. He lifts the blankets and slides into the bed with her. Wrapping her up in his arms, pulling her back closer to his front. She pulls her foot back into the blankets and scoots back into the warmth that Ed is emitting. She tangles her feet with his and locks her fingers around the hand that he has on her stomach. They both have small smiles as they fade into the night.


In the morning, Tala and Arthur are sitting at the plans table eating their breakfast with light morning chatter and warm blankets. Lara and Edward still sleeping in bed. After a long mission, they are all relaxed, taking in the day.

“How did you sleep last night?” Tala questions the Green General sitting next to her.

“It was good. I’m still sore from yesterday though.” He grimaces. “Do you think those two will get out of bed any time soon?”

“Maybe, I think Ed is gonna try and keep her in bed as long as he can. She was battered yesterday if she doesn’t stop with her destructive tendencies it might kill her. That leg was just another warning.” Tala’s expression mirrored worry and stress.

“True but Lara was never one to slow down for anything, especially with a family like hers. It’s good she has Ed to help take care of herself.”

“Yeah.” she sighs “I’m concerned about Maya. Where could she be? She usually beats all of us back.”

“Mmm. I don’t know, but if she’s a no-show by tomorrow morning, I’m suggesting a search party to Lara.”

“Good idea but she’ll want to come so we’ll need to talk to Ed before we say anything to Lara about it.”

“Talk to me about what?” Startling both Blue and Green as Ed emerges from the depths of Lara’s room, his hair in a messy style, shirt, and pants both in disarray on his body. Tala is holding her chest taking deep breaths trying to calm down after that scare.

“You’re going to scare me to an early grave and that’s Lara’s job.” Tala breaths. Arthur rubbed her back helping her calm the nerves that had just spiked. Edward crosses the room and grabs some toast, eggs, and water, taking a seat in one of the oak chairs across the table from the two.

“Well?” Ed questions with raised eyebrows.

“Me and Tala were thinking…”

“Tala and I” Tala corrects.

“Right, Tala and I were thinking of sending out a search for Maya if she’s not back by tomorrow morning. However, because of her injured leg, Lara can’t come. We all know that she’ll want to come and search for Maya but we can’t let her, so we’ll propose it to her but insist we keep her here.” Arthur concludes. Nodding his head, Ed thinks it over for a second.

“How about this? I will stay behind with Lara, while you two take a team of our healthiest men and women to search for Maya, say 30 people. You will take until mid-afternoon and if you don’t find her we’ll assume the worst. If it comes to that. Deal?” Ed counters.

“No.” Comes the firm voice of their commander. All three of their heads snap toward Lara. “ I don’t care about my leg. Maya is more important than a small scratch.” The tall blond rushes towards her to help her to her chair in the main area. However, she shakes her head, holding out her hand to stop him.

“No, I can walk by myself.” She states matter of factly, even if she was heavily leaning on her uninjured leg and holding on to the structure holding up the tent. She attempts the first step on her injured leg and grimaces as soon as she steps onto it. Ed reacts immediately, he scoops her up in his arms and holds her close.

“I’m fine.” Lara mumbles. In response, Edward only looks at her with a blank expression. He walks her to her chair at the head of the table and gently places her down on it, wrapping a blanket around her small frame, pulling his chair and blanket alongside her to sit next to the world’s most suborn leader. She sighs heavily. Tala and Arthur side-glance each other and then nod.

“Lara,” Arthur says to get the white-haired women’s attention “ it is in your best interest to stay here. Ed says he’ll stay with you while we search.” Everyone nods looking from Arthur to Lara who has her head down, turned away from them. Holding their breath, waiting with bated breath for her response.

“Fine.” She snaps.

The other three people in the room looked at each other with disheartened looks.

“I know that you want to help but we can’t slow down to look for Maya. What if she’s badly injured or worse you injure yourself more? We can have that.” Tala speaks carefully to her. Lara slowly and stiffly nods her head not looking up at her friends. It broke her teammates to see her in such a state. Ed nods his head to tell the others to leave so that he can talk to Lara and make her feel somewhat better about waiting at camp.

Tala and Arthur scrape their chairs against the dirt floor, grab their plates and drinks, and head towards Arthur’s room to give them privacy. Waiting a moment, Ed looks at Lara, forming the words he will say to her.

“Shortcake-” Ed starts.

“I am not short.” Lara interrupts with a melancholy tone.

“No, but to me you are. Listen. I know as the leader it is hard to not go and recover the dead, wounded, and missing, however, you are hurt and we can’t afford to lose you.”

“I can walk. I won’t complain, I’m not a complainer.” She begs quietly to him looking at him with desperate eyes.

“I know you aren’t but that’s not the problem. The problem is your leg getting worse. We don’t know if the snow will let up so you walking in the snow with a hurt leg could worsen your condition. The medic also said to stay off that leg for a few weeks so it can heal. Please, just stay here with me and rest. And who knows Maya could show up at any point today.”

“False hope is not something we rely on, you know that.”

“I know. I was just trying to make you feel better.”

“Thank you.” She interlocks her fingers with his giving him a small smile of gratitude. He nods at her and then stands from the table, letting their hands unwind.

“Where are you going?” Lara panics.

“I’m just grabbing you some breakfast. A person recovering from injury should eat big healthy meals three times a day.” Ed lightly responds. “You guys can also stop spying on us and come out now.”

“We were not spying. Just gathering information.” Tala argues.

“We weren’t spying?” Arthur asks Tala, surprised.

“Oh no, we were totally spying but I’m not going to give Ed the satisfaction of being right.” Arthur chortles at her.

“Tell me about the plan,” Lara demands. Everyone looks at her in surprise. “What? I need to know the plan if I’m going to be sitting on my butt the whole time while you two go look for Maya.”

“Well, we’re going to wait and see if she comes back before tomorrow before we do anything, however,” Arthur goes into the plan that he and Tala had been talking about earlier.