Snake's cradle. Chapter 3. Sigurd

Sigurd woke up at dawn, glanced at the room drowning in darkness and realized that he couldn't move again. He thought he felt shadows huddled all around him, sneering at him in familiar children's voices. For a moment, the steppenwolf felt the smell of damp mould, reminiscent of the past.

The feeling passed suddenly, and as soon as Sigurd's feet felt like his own again, he got up and went to the shower, where he gazed in the mirror for a long while. From behind the glass, he was watched by a giant with a bumpy scar cutting right across his nose.

“If anyone knew that I was afraid of my nightmares — they'd probably just stay awkwardly silent. Idiots…”

Sigurd thought of his friends and smiled weakly. It's good to know that no matter how funny his weakness was, none of them would laugh at it.

Having cleaned himself up, the steppenwolf felt right again and put on unusual lightweight armour. Today was the day he had to train recruits.

Sigurd waited for the wakeup call and left the room to happily plunge into the roar of waking base. He knew very well that routine could heal in moderate doses. It helped forget about anxieties because it made you focus on the boring yet important daily things. One of such processes for Sigurd was always training the new soldiers. Not all of them were immediately open to new comrades. It was tough.

It seemed that the citadel itself skillfully treated anxiety. Nothing extra — straight corridors with smooth walls, windows freed from armoured curtains, letting in sunlight and fresh air. Every step here reflected with a barely audible stone echo. Sigurd took out the notes he had personally received from Stahl and once again looked at the recruits' personal files. Outcasts, with the ever gloomy glances, shimmering even in the half-light of the interrogation room.

— It's OK, guys, — Sigurd murmured thoughtfully. — You don't have to fight alone anymore.

A dull pain emerged somewhere deep inside, and the steppenwolf closed his eyes. The wound from the recent loss of comrades in the ambush was too fresh. Unfortunately, the routine couldn't cure the pain of loss — persistent training and combat missions coped with it better. Sigurd was just turning to the playground behind the outer wall of the citadel, where he was supposed to be waiting for rookies — but he faced the messenger instead.

— Commander calls. Urgent assignment. Secret.

A quiet morning, long-awaited and pleasant, dissolved in the anxiety.

— Understood, — Siegfried reported, not noticing how dull his voice sounded.

At the time, the steppenwolf did not yet know that he was in for a trip to Dawn's Children and a meeting with old friends from the old world. The only thing he was sure of was that routine, alas, was powerless against the feeling of impending doom.

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22 June 2020