Chapter 5 - The longest chapter yet
Klaus Stahm intended to hide his past for as long as time permitted, leaving the horrors of war behind he fled during a hopeless charge. Punishable by death but the order to charge was a death sentence in its own sense, so fleeing at least had a chance for surviving no matter how slim, destroying his pride he stripped himself of his war emblems and fled into the darkness.
Night turned day, days into weeks, Klaus endurered the hunger and thirst, never asleep for more than a few hours a time. He would be a wanted war criminal by now, avoiding towns and roads he travelled. In his native homeland across the sea he was seen as an average man but here in the foreign island of Kör he towered over all his enemies as did his brother in arms, the issue being that tales of the giants monsters that tore through these lands had reached most of the villages. There was no safety, his own army would slay him where he stood and the enemies would do worse if they caught him. Klaus had a plan, he would head as far north as possible, bundle himself into a trade ship and escape.
He had nothing for him at home, his family would have already disowned him, sickened of the idea their son would abandon his country. He would rather risk exile and hope for the best.
The countless days running off small game and low energy took there toll on the man.
Most nights, clutching the hilt of his blade it was his final form of safety, he could no longer wear the armour his father gave him, weighing too much on his now frail frame as well as his consciousness, he could hardly cross these harsh lands while encumbered with such a burden. His once tall, proud figure had all but gone replaced by skin and bones, laboured breath, lacking nutrition was going to be his downfall.
On one fateful night as Klaus pulled himself through overgrown bramble he lost his footing on an unexpected decline, the fragile body flung itself down the hill. His body tumbling, cutting and slicing on debris and undergrowth he fell, rocks, thorns and roots soon replaced by dirt as Klaus finally reached level ground. His final sight was that of a horse hoof stopping mearly inches from the wounded soilders face, under the cloudless night Klaus sucummed to the strain, passing out as the rider clambered off his horse.
When Klaus regained consciousness his reaction was that of fear, he clasped to his hip ready to draw his blade but it proved fruitless, his weapon no longer by his side Klaus finally came to the realisation where he was.
Slowly pulling himself up to take in the surroundings, the sound of boiling water, the comfort of straw matress resting on the sturdy bed frame but most importantly the warmth of the sun light as it caresses the wounded man's bandaged skin.
He sighed with relief, he was safe for now and that was enough for Klaus. As Klaus carefully laid back into the mattress the distant sound of children playing and adults enjoying their morning gossips seemed to send Klaus into a deep slumber. The sun had set when Klaus finally awoken again, body still weak from hunger he at least felt refreshed, glacing around this time taking in where exactly where he was. It was a small home, no bigger than his old room back in his own country. It seemed the living quaters, kitchen and bed chambers were all in the same room. It was a commoners home but regardless they took sympathy on the wounded giant which made Klaus somewhat relieved.
Most likely the news of the ongoing war hadn't reached here yet, but where was here? Klaus didn't know how long he had travelled, the war could have been forgotten already and the solider wouldn't have been the wiser.
Lost in thought he never noticed the slim figure approach his side, cautious but curious. She had never seen a man so huge before, even under his frail composure he still stood taller than anyone else in the small village and the girl was still slightly afraid.
Klaus suddenly aware drew his attention to the young girl, startled slightly by the sudden appearance of the small, dainty villager. The young girl blushing, flustered spoke out to Klaus.
"S-sir, are you hungry?"
It had been so long since Klaus had spoke to anyone, haunted by old memories, he was too afraid to speak out. Eventually he simply forgot that he even had a voice. Through a hoarse throat Klaus managed to croak out a response.
"I-if that's not too much to ask."
His voice as timid as his appearance almost startled Klaus from just hearing himself speak, 'what's happened to me?' The thought crossed his mind.
The girl darted outside, for a second leaving Klaus to enjoy the comfort of the night, a fire crackling in the corner of the room heating an empty cauldron reminded Klaus of his mother preparing food back home. A sudden sense of nostalgia washed over Klaus making him long for home, the door opened again and the small girl shuffled back into the room carrying a steaming bowl of stew which brought a smile to Klaus's face.
Never in his life had he enjoyed a hot meal in his life, thanking his gods for being so merciful when he thought all hope was lost.
He nurtured every spoon full of stew, enjoying the salted meat to the warm broth, the girl bemused sat at the end of the bed never feeling hunger to the same extent as the soilder could only appreciate how he enjoyed her cooking.
Placing the bowl in his lap Klaus finally found the strength to speak, his voice stronger than before surprised the girl with his foreign accent.
"You saved me life, I am truly grateful but with nothing to pay you I am deeply ashamed."
The girl flustered and blushing, blurted.
"No, no, no, don't worry, I do not need coins, me pa would turn in his grave if I left 'ya to starve 'ere."
Relief washed over Klaus the girls sweet voice was like honey to him, he smiled at the young girl, something which he hadn't done since he boarded the war ship to pillage and destroy the nearby land of Kör. He originally intended to raze these lands now looking at himself and thinking about his current situation, wounded, malnourished on the verge of death in a hostile land yet here he lay safe and alive.
Looking down at his bowl he aimlessly moved the spoon around as if trying to find a hidden chunk of salted meat in the already empty bowl. Finally placing the spoon down he looked towards the girl who was now staring out the nearby window soaking in the last of the sunlight, Klaus somewhat hesitant decided he needed to know the name of his saviour to truly thank her.
"I'm Klaus, Klaus Strahm of the Strahm House."
Not shifting her gaze from the window a small small developed on her face as goosebumps developed lightly on her skin.
"Kiera, Kiera Musgrove, pleasure to meet you Mister Strahm."
She turned to the wounded soilder, blessing him with a most pure smile. Klaus realised at that moment, his heart suddenly beating against his ribcage that he might be developing feelings for the village girl who cared for him when he thought all was lost.
The following days seemed to fly by as villagers came to see the gentle giant each more eager than the last, they comforted him realising that the wounded man had no where to go back to. Saying he could stay for as long as needed and that once nursed back to health could help toil the lands or fetch lumber. As day light fled Klaus would tell Kiera tales of his journey, always leaving out his original intention of attacking these beautiful lands.
Days turned to weeks and weeks to months. Klaus with his regained strength worked the nearby fields toiling away from morning till night, Kiera worked the stalls during the day and in the eve, both would retire, sharing a meal together before Klaus retired back to the local tavern for a peaceful night sleep.
One particular evening Klaus sat patiently outside Kieras home soaking in the last of summer sunlight, his body back to its original stature and to much to his surprise started to grow facial hair. The villagers would always joke on how he was slowly turning into a werebeast which always made him chuckle. At this point he became a part of the community and tonight he was going to seal away the final part of his past and hopefully create an ideal future.
In the distance Kiera was gracefully making her way back, Klaus saw her elegant movement, her grace and her beauty. He had truly fallen for her and tonight he would confess to her, as she approached her home the welcoming sight of Klaus made Kieras heart rush through the months the pair had developed a close bond, both had fallen in love yet couldn't see how the other felt.
"You hungry Misses Mudgrove?" He shouted to her, his old accent fading away he lightly chuckled on how his life has changed so much.
"I've got some salted meat for the occassion Mister Stahm!" Kiera responded cheerfully as she finally reached the giant giving him a quick courtesy before entering her home.
The home no different to when Klaus first woke up here, starved and wounded, quickly came to understand the beauty of the modesty and simple life that Kiera lived, he too wanted to indulge into this simple life by her side. Whilst Kiera rummaged through the bountiful basket of vegetables, Klaus reached into his tunic retrieving a small package no bigger than the palm of his hand.
Unsure with how the villagers of the town express their love too each other decided to go his own way and hope for the best, soaking in what he hoped would be his soon to be home he noticed the final piece of his past that he wanted to hide from the world.
He walked over to the far corner, peaking from the bed frame the black sheath stood, grasping the cool leather what was once comfortable resting in his hand now felt violated and disgusted. If Klaus never left the battlefield he would have used the weapons for bloodshed on this innocent island, not one villager was armed and the idea that one point he might have come to this peaceful town bringing with him death and destruction wether he wanted to or not.
Kiera noticing Klaus grasping the sword always wanted to ask about the origin for such a dangerous weapon but was afraid of the answer. Seeing the pain in his eyes as he held the sword she quietly spoke to him.
"You could always hide it, the blade I mean. Just put it somewhere safe since these lands won't always be a place for peace."
With the blade in one hand Klaus nodded whispering his thanks to Kieras understanding he reach overhead carefully placing the blade on one of the rafters in low home, here it would be safe and he would use it to protect the one he loved no matter what cost. Past finally hidden Klaus took upon himself to start his future eith the women he loved. Heart pounding and sweaty palms Klaus fumbled the package between his hands, unsure on how he would present it to Kiera, lucky for Klaus the young girl noticed the package asked curiously.
"I hope you don't damage that gift with all that fidgeting? If it was for me I would hate to see such a beautiful gift ruined by your giant hands."
Laughing at her own statement Kiera closed the gap between them, her face blushing ever so slightly.
"If it was for you? I would hope you'd love the gift regardless of the wrapping." Retorted Klaus, a false bravado in an attempt to hide how awkward he felt.
The gap between the pair closed as Klaus took a step towards Kiera, their eyes locked for a second before he handed her the gift. Her smile unwavering carefully unwrapped the gift to reveal a necklace, a simple pure silver necklace. The materialistic value was nothing compared to the emotional value that this gift held.
Kiera looked up towards Klaus, eyes fighting back tears was left speechless. This was the first gift the girl had ever received and it meant more than anything that it was given to her by the man she loved. As if not missing a beat Klaus took up all his remaining courage finally asking Kiera the question that would change their lives.
"Kiera, I fell for you so many moons ago but I was always afraid that you wouldn't feel the same way back. I'm taking the plunge Kiera but, would you take me as your husband?"
Tears no longer held back Kiera wrapped her arms around Klaus weeping tears of joy in his tunic.
"Yes! Yes! I would love for that. More than anything I would love to become your wife."
They held each other for what seemed like eternity, Klaus never wanted this ideal life to end. For a while it didn't either.
Years started to flow by like a stream of memories, the married couple had a modest ceremony outside the village, every villager responding with joy to Klaus and Kieras marriage. Soon after the consumated their marriage, an awkward ordeal for both parties. The next few years were unforgetable for Klaus, from him moving into her modest and humble home, to countless nights cuddling beneath the stars simply enjoying their time together. Conversation never seemed to end between the two as new topics would arise and both Klaus and Keira were eager to respond.
For years the tranquillity between the two never wavered, not a single argument arose as they enjoyed each day together as if their last. Eventually on the fifth year of their marriage Kiera delivered that she may have fallen pregnant to Klaus's child, overjoyed by the news he ran from street to street telling anyone who would listen. Klaus finally felt at home and with the news of an expecting child had made him feel happiness that he never felt before.
As the months passed, Klaus developing a paternal bond with his unborn child set to work making Kieras life as simple as possible, taking over her role at the stall he struggled to understand the basics of finance he somehow managed to keep it afloat throughout the pregnancy. When Kiera reached the stage of swollen ankles and laboured breath Klaus started to take upon himself to make every meal and cater to her every need. Kiera hating the idea of being bed bound was greatful in her own stubborn way.
One night in particular, Klaus had sat there at the edge of the bed in the same way Kiera did all those years ago looking at his wife, drained of all energy. Her body weak from the pregnancy had taken a turn for the worse. Struggling to stay awake Kiera spent most days fading in and out of consciousness made Klaus sick of worry, the village cleric coming by daily would always be a comforting sight for the couple.
That night while Kiera was still aware, conversation flowed like wine this time revolving around their child.
"We need to name our son."
Klaus boasted even though they had no way to tell gender Klaus said his family on birthed males and rode that confidence much to Kieras disapproval.
"We need to name our 'child', if it's a boy I would want to call him after my father."
Enjoying his current life Klaus had no intention bringing his past memories back with a name from a family who'd disowned him all those years ago. He would happily accept any name from Kiera, especially if it was the name of her father he proudly accepted the idea of it only asking her the name of the man who his son would take after.
"Tyron, Tyron Musgrove. He helped build this village when I was just young child." Her voice dropping at the end, the strain of pregnancy making each sentence laborious to the extent that she saved each sentence to when she really needed to. Klaus undeterred smiled softly at his wife.
"And so it shall be, Tyron Strahm will carry our name and our legacy!"
Bashful as he may be Klaus still worried deeply, he had never experienced pregnancy before yet he had never seen his wife so weak before, waiting till she finally fell asleep Klaus never once left her side. Morning rose when the screams started, Kiera had gone into labour much to Klaus's dread. Never in his life had he panicked before as he ran from house to house hunting the village cleric.
When he got back Kiera was barely making it through, heavy breathing and constant contractions had almost made her succum but she withstood it all, waiting for as long as possible baring it all till her husband came back. Klaus held her hand afraid of squeezing in case he injured her, he just sat holding in the tears, the last few days her body was snow white in colour and cold to the touch he knew it was nearly the end but a part of him hoped that their son, little Tyron could be held in her arms as they watched the stars like they did all those years ago.
His eyes never leaving Kieras kept talking, comforting her the best that he could even though he knew she wouldn't respond as each contractions passed she would cry out in pain. It broke Klaus's heart, the man who should be her hero sat by her side unable to do anything for her.
"I can see the head!"
The cleric called out, it was nearly the end and hope started to rise for Klaus and Kiera, her breaths shorter and more laboured final part would be the biggest challenge, trying his hardest to motivate Kiera the final contraction hit Kiera, her cries would be heard throughout the villager and she strained and pushed.
"It's nearly here, one more push Kiera darling. You can do it."
Soon Kieras cries died down and was now replaced by the sound of their son. Tyrons cry rang through Klaus as a gentle melody his attention now drawn to the bundle of joy wrapped by the cleric, he never felt happier. The cleric passing the child to Klaus as he held his son close to him, Tyron Stahm the newest family member looked like the spitting image of his mother, sweet and innocent.
"Look, dear he looks exa-"
As he turned to Kiera his words froze, she lay there eyes closed, a small smile on her lips she looked tranquil, her arm drooping off the side if the bed where Klaus had let go to hold his son an emotional pain shot through Klaus.
Her chest motionless, her skin still holding a fleeting warmth she lay there. Kiera Stahm, the light of Klaus's life, the saviour when he needed her, the only person he loved and most importantly the mother of his child was no longer with him.
"Kiera? Kiera, please speak to me? Kiera?" His voice breaking Klaus knew it was too late but as grief took over tears started to fall as Klaus wimpered her name over and over. The sound of Tyrons cry brought Klaus to his senses as he turned to the cleric passing him the boy.
"... find one of the mother's in town ask them if they could feed Tyron. I'm sorry if that's a lot to ask but... I need to say goodbye." Trying his hardest to maintain control he ushered the cleric out before sitting by his wife's side.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. I love you Kiera Musgr-, Stahm, Kiera Stahm. I promise I'll look after Tyron no matter wh-"
Klaus couldn't hold on any longer as the pain finally tore through him.
His cries filled with sorrow travelled over the village that day.