Daylight shone through her eyelids. It pissed her off because her head felt like she'd been beat with a table leg. Daylight, the last thing she remembered it had been night…
Where in the hell am I?
She sat up abruptly, her eyes snapping open as she noticed noise all about her, she noted that she was in a tent, and was not shackled in any way. She was actually on a reasonably comfortable cot. A blanket of fine fabric was stretched out over her.
Scanning the room, she found the rooms only other inhabitant.
He was large, nearly of a height with Reiner, but much thicker in the chest and shoulders. His hair was also much shaggier, although it didn't look too much longer. Judging by his face, he wasn't very much older than she was, maybe seventeen or eighteen. And...
He's quite attractive, she tried to redirect her thoughts, but they eluded her, He's got a nice big set of arms on him...
She finally stopped herself, but not before taking quite an eyeful of the man.
Remember the mission!
From the way his chest moved, he was clearly asleep. She'd do her best to not change that while she made her escape, she'd have to get her bearings and find the wall. Then link up with…
As she moved to stand, she became aware of her lack of a right leg. The man jolted awake as she fell hard onto the ground.
"Hey, you're awa-"
Annie bit down on her hand as hard as she could, and felt the skin break under her teeth.
Warm blood seeped into her mouth, but she didn't transform. Instead, she chided herself, she was lying on the floor biting her hand and looking quite foolish.
I must look like an idiot... Great first impression, Annie!
"You're too weak to shift into a Jotunn, Miss," She looked up as the man came over and offered her his hand. "You haven't eaten in quite a long time, and you've drank only sporadically… Please, let me help you."
His voice was deep and rich, with a tone that sounded like he could shift into a bellowing laugh at any moment.
She made eye contact… His eyes, were the color of burnished bronze. A slight terror filled her, and her mind spun with flashbacks that wound all the way back to her days with the 104th.
Why must I think of him right now?
Annie looked down and finally noticed that she was no longer in her uniform, but in what looked like some kind of casual wear, as Ragnar was wearing something very similar to it.
Her one good leg swept out, aiming to connect with his ankle and bring him down, but he darted back. For being so large he was quite light on his feet…
"W-Who are you," Her voice came out less as a purr and more as a squeak, much to her embarrassment, "What ah, what happened to my uniform?"
Annie shuddered, finally noticing just how dry her throat was, and how tired she felt. She slid herself up against the bed, glaring at this man who fancied himself her rescuer.
"Well, your uniform was in a shambles, I had one of the caravans women… um, change you," One side of his mouth quirked upwards, "Don't worry, your dignity has been maintained! And I am Ragnar Mosher, at your service"
He swept into a theatrical bow, then stood and turned his appraising eyes upon her. She felt the need to cover herself...
"Now, I believe it fair for you to give me your name. I'm getting tired of calling you 'the girl' or 'Miss'."
He's got quite an aura about him. I may need to look into this situation more closely.
And he smiled, revealing pearly white teeth. She very nearly smiled back.
He dipped his head in acknowledgment, and approached her once again. He stopped just outside of where she could kick him.
"It's nice to finally meet you, Annie." He paused, listening as a bell was rung, "Now, I know we have breakfast going, and having been asleep for a week, you're probably starving!"
A week? How could she have been asleep for a week, there was no way…
Her thoughts were interrupted as this man offered her his hand once more.
This time when he reached down, she allowed him to help her up, but once up she pushed him away and hobbled forward using the cot and differing objects to make it to the tent flap.
As Ragnar held the flap open, she was assaulted by the bright daylight, and closed her eyes. In a moment of embarrassing weakness, her leg gave out and she was forced to let Ragnar assist her outside.
When she opened her eyes, all she could see were several other tents, and their strangely attired inhabitants. It took her a moment to notice that they were in various stages of undress, and she felt her face warm as she averted her gaze.
"The food tent is this way," Ragnar said, still assisting her as she stumped forward. "Eleanor!"
Annie looked up, and watched as a large black haired woman walked out of a nearby tent, her eyes widening as she saw who Ragnar was assisting. She positively beamed as she scrambled out of the tent.
"So, she's finally awoken! Tyr, get off your lazy ass and go and fetch Luigi," A large man, his long blond hair tied into a ponytail, who had been sitting in the same tent that she had walked out of, got up and trotted off in the opposite direction Annie was going. "Ragnar, let me take her from here. You're still not totally back to normal either."
And so Annie now had a new assistant, who for all intents and purposes carried her the rest of the way to a particularly large tent that lacked sides. A series of barrels were set up in its center, and tables and chairs that looked to be easily assembled and disassembled were arrayed around it. They also happened be full of men and women who were looking directly at her.
These people don't seem to have a stigma against staring...
Eleanor dropped her off at one of the few empty tables, and Ragnar came up and sat across from her. In the light of day, she could tell that he was in almost as bad of shape as she was. Dark bags hung under his eyes, and she saw that his hand shook slightly where it fell upon the table.
However, he turned and scanned the crowd behind them. Then motioned with a flick of his head, and they all got up and took their meals elsewhere. As he turned around, their eyes locked, and for a moment those eyes seemed cold, but when he blinked the warmth she had noticed before was back.
"Now, here's some food for you, child," She broke eye contact with Ragnar, looking down at the plate that Eleanor had placed before her. "You better dig in before it gets cold."
"Her name is Annie."
Eleanor nodded, and then turned to Ragnar.
"My Prince, you better go intercept Luigi and get some rest," She heard the woman Eleanor say with a motherly tone, "I can watch Miss Annie well enough without you."
Annie heard a note of protest form in Ragnar's throat, but it died before he said anything. He slid back the bench on which he sat, excused himself and walked off back the way they had come from.
Eleanor plopped down on the bench, causing it to creak under the stress of her impressive frame. She shed the motherly demeanor which she'd first approached with like a wayward coat. Her voice was notably rougher as she spoke.
"Now, I'm guessing you have some questions. Ask them now. Eat while I explain."
Why did how she act change… And, wait, she called Ragnar "My prince"… Might as well start off with that.
"Why did you call that man Ragnar a prince?"
She began to pick at her food, which turned out to be eggs, boiled potatoes and salted pork, while waiting for this woman to answer her question.
"Ragnar," She began, putting her impressively muscled forearms on the table, "Is Prince Ragnar, of the House of Mosher, seventh in the line for the throne of Jotunheim, and commander of the southern city of Vanirheim. He also happens to be a seventeen year old boy who defied his father's law to rescue you. You should act a little more grateful. Next question."
"Where are we?"
The food turned out to be pretty good, but she kept her face impassive, though she reveled in the simple act of eating. She could already feel her strength returning.
My god I'm hungry... As she felt the energy returning her, she felt her amputated leg warming as her Titan powers began to heal it, but she stopped them before any noticeable signs of healing revealed themselves.
I must be careful around these new people... They seem to be Shifter like me from the way they talk, but one can never be too sure.
"About a hundred miles outside the outer wall, so a good portion into our journey back to Vanirheim."
Annie filed all of this away at the back of her mind, noting that she was outside of running distance for her titan, especially with any other titans around, as she slowly nibbled away at her plate, for when she would inevitably make her escape. Her Three-D Maneuver gear would need to be reacquired to make her escape even easier.
"Um," She said, feeling herself draw blanks on what to ask next. "Why are you here? Did you come to attack the walls?"
Eleanor let out a peal of laughter.
"Hell no, the King wished us to check up on those people inside the wall since it's been at least twenty years since he himself came. So he sent Ragnar, who commands the closest city to the walls. The fact that you are here is in clear defiance to King Hoenor's edict against involving ourselves with the Wall People. It's for the simple fact that Ragnar is a good man that we saved you, otherwise we likely would have left you to be eaten."
Annie looked up into those cold, unblinking eyes, and nearly dropped her spoon.
"Now, I have a series of questions for you," She leaned forward, bringing her grey eyes close, "Why were you being pursued by those soldiers? What was that gear you were wearing, we have that in the supply tent. And why can you transform into a Jotunn?"
"A… Jotunn," She said, slowly chewing a piece of pork, "You mean my titan form? I've been able to do that since I was a child. The men were chasing me because they disliked me."
The table jumped as Eleanor's fist smashed down.
"You're only telling me half the truth, so drop the sarcasm" She hissed, "And yes, I mean your titan form. In Jotunheim, men and women who have that ability are called Jotunn. Most of us can do it. Now who were your parents and where were they from… Oh, hello Luigi. And Prince Ragnar."
Hmm… whenever Ragnar is about, her demeanor changes. So strange. She thought to herself, turning to look at the newly arrived prince, and his companion.
She was surprised, Prince Ragnar's companion looked strangely like… Mikasa. But the set of his eyes was slightly different, and his skin was the color of mahogany. He was also rather short, being of a height with herself.
"We have some problems El," Luigi said, his voice deep, "At least a hundred plus wild titans moved into the valley we came through on the way south. With a group that large they won't be wary of us like the smaller groups. That leaves us only one option to get home."
El swore under her breath, and stood, the table groaning as its load was lifted.
"The Muspell Valley… We know that Suttungr is active in that area. Muspelheim is only a few days travel away, and that is where Suttungr holds his throne. I really don't want to deal with the Surtr on this trip... We've had enough problems as it is."
She cast an eye down at Annie, who was doing her best to look innocent and bored, as she and Luigi began to argue about the demerits of trying to slip past a hundred titans and through this "Muspell valley".
A pair of flashes and a strong gust of wind burst through the group of tents, and the ground began to tremble. She immediately looked to Ragnar, who didn't even flinch. He seemed to feel her gaze, for he looked down at her, that little quirky smile coming to his lips.
"Two of the caravan guards, Frederic and Frey, twin brothers, have a tendency to fight," He shrugged, as the pair of ten meter tall titans tumbled into view. "Would you like to go watch? It's usually quite humorous."
He reached down and picked her up, embarrassingly carrying her towards the edge of camp on the crook of his arm like a child, to where the two titans were wrestling.
Such strong arms though... It's like he doesn't even feel my weight.
"It looks like Frederic is winning again," She heard Eleanor say from a few feet away, "How many times has he won now? And why did this fight start?"
A black haired fellow spoke up from the gathering crowd.
"The idiots were playing cards," He gestured lazily with one hand toward a crate with a number of cards strewn about it, "They both caught each other cheating… and well, you see the result."
The man's mention of cards jogged her memory, and she was transported back to that night, which was a week ago but which might as well have been a dozen years before. She remembered her mission. She remembered Eren's green eyes as they seethed with rage.
She'd only been partially aware of her surroundings while inside the crystal, but she had dreamed.
Back to those final words her father had given her, before the Council of Elders had given her the mission, to when she had first met Reiner and Bertoldt. Her first sighting of Eren while waiting in a meal line...
Everything came flooding back to her, and she felt a terrible weight pushing down upon her, her chest tightening, as she remembered her failure, the warm tears that had flowed after she fell from the wall.
"Annie," She snapped back to reality, remembering that she was still sitting on Ragnar's arm, "You look like you just saw a ghost. Would you like to go back to the tent?"
Annie looked down and noticed that she was shaking, her hands trembling. She used the sleeve of her shirt to wipe away the tears.
Ragnar walked over to the crate that had held the cards over which the two brothers were fighting and sat her down. Then he knelt beside her and looked into her eyes.
He's quite close to me, She thought, feeling slightly uncomfortable.
"Listen," He began, pursing his lips like he was searching for something to say, "I am-"
A roar went up from the crowd, it appeared that the titan who had been losing before had won with a head severing choke hold, and all eyes turned to Ragnar, whose face flushed a deep red. He stood and straightened his shirt, then turned and gestured towards the winner, who held the rapidly disintegrating head of the loser.
"I declare Frey Larson the winner of this… I suppose it was a duel of sorts."
Someone in the crowd, she thought it was the large blonde man she had seen before in Eleanor's tent, shouted something out above the muttering crowd.
"Prince Ragnar should duel Luigi!"
The crowd took up his call, and soon enough a hundred voices were yelling for it. After attempting to quell the crowd, Ragnar turned and looked down at Annie.
"Will you be okay for a few minutes?"
His concern for her was… beginning to bother her a little bit, but she nodded and he walked outwards into the field. Luigi walked out until he was a hundred meters his opposite.
They each raised a fist, said a few words which Anne was unable to hear, and then bit down on their hands.
The explosion was so great that the majority of the crowd was knocked down, even Annie, who was further away found herself on her back. She scrambled back onto the crate to watch the incredible scene before her.
Where Ragnar had stood was something simply… terrifying. She had seen his form in fleeting the night, but now she saw it during the light of day.
Twenty meters, or more likely he was around nineteen meters, with an incredibly muscular body, and as she had noted before, four arms. His titans face was similar to the one with which she had become so recently acquainted, except that he had a pair of canines as long as she was tall. Other razor sharp teeth filled its maw.
Beside him, the fifteen meter form of Luigi paled.
Eyes wide, she stared at Ragnar, a thought beginning to form at the back of her mind. It was shattered when he looked towards her, and those plate sized eyes locked onto her. They held each other's gaze for a moment, then he turned away from her and advanced towards his opponent. She felt her cheeks heat as many of the people in the crowd followed his gaze.
"This is going to be a good fight, girl. You should watch closely."
Annie jumped as Eleanor appeared behind her.
Ragnar was the first to move, taking a quick step forward to throw a punch, but Luigi stepped back out of his reach. Then he countered with a quick jab that Ragnar blocked with one of his lower arms. While all of this was going on, Eleanor annoyingly kept prattling on.
"For the past fifteen years I have watched that young man struggle against a tide of ill will," Another quick exchange of blows, the ground shaking as Luigi connected with a kick to the ribs, sending Ragnar off balance. "He may be a prince, and you would think life would be easy for one such as himself. But no, quite a bit of unhappiness has been heaped upon him. Look at me girl."
Ragnar attacked with a ferocious series of blows, his arms blurring into motion, and pummeled Luigi backwards. The crowd simply loved it, and they roared their approval. Eleanor snatched Annie up, her hands in her armpits, and brought her up to eye level.
"If you pile a single bit of additional unhappiness on him, I will kill you. Do you understand me?"
Annie didn't nod, or even acknowledge the older women's prescence, for she was doing her best to watch the battle taking place behind her.
Luigi had one of Ragnar's arms in his grasp, while he himself was having his head twisted about by Ragnar. Then, in one swift motion, Luigi lifted Ragnar up and threw him over his shoulder. A beautifully executed throw in her opinion.
Eleanor sat her back down, and stalked away to watch the fight from closer, leaving Annie alone once more.
Gears began to spin and connect within her mind, and a plan began to form. She had failed, rather badly, in her previous mission. She could only assume that Reiner and Bertoldt were attempting to complete it by themselves, thought she doubted those two fools could complete it.
Annie knew that without completing her mission, she would never be allowed to return to her home. The Council could not allow that. But if she brought this prime specimen back… it may alleviate their angst with her failure.
And if that failed, then maybe she could convince Ragnar to join her in destroying the Council.
Lost in thought, she missed the end of the duel, as Ragnar was able to get his lower arms wrapped around Luigi, and used his upper arms to rip the other titans head off.
It looks like I'll have to play nice, she thought to herself as Ragnar pulled himself out of his titan form and began to make his way back towards her.