Mourning

Who: Morgenstern, Toure
When: May 11, 2006
Where: Allied Front Line North
What: Morgenstern mourns Byrd in his own way. Toure brings him out of it.

Allied Front Line North

The lines have been through here at least three times now. The reek of blood and death is thick in the air from the corpses of the men scattered all around that fought for this place.
Trenches old and new scar the bare earth, mostly old an unusable, but recently cut trenches, with redoubts and bunkers, mark the current front line.
Already the poppies can be seen pushing up through the earth, the hardy flowers thriving in a soil made acidic by explosives.
It is currently night time but the light of a flare provides illumination.

Morgenstern has been given a bit of a wide berth by the rest of the Legionnaires or French troupes this day. He has hardly moved from his spot on a crate and is staring down on a photo. A few has brought over food which has been untouched, some are discussing if they should go tell an officer of a case that /might/ be shell-shock, while others argue that that's not necessary. He's not even smoking.

Toure strides along the bottom of the trench line. The tall man has to hunch even more than most soldiers as he walks, to avoid sticking his head over the top, but he does it in a smooth, purposeful manner that looks less like creeping than even the shorter men can manage. He is alone, but seems to be looking for something. Or someone. When he passes Morgenstern he stops and looks at the corporal. Just looks at him. Unblinkingly, for long enough that it does become staring.

The photo, although rather badly treated, still clearly shows a group of mudstained Legionnaires and an ANZAC soldier in the middle. Morgenstern is resting his arms on his knees, leaned over the picture in a comfortable enough position. It takes some time before his gaze shifts from the photo to the boots that occupy Toure's feet. (Did you know,) he begins, his voice coarsely accenting the French language, (that Byrd loved the sea?"

Toure looks down at the photo, then back at Morgenstern. Just looks, in that same unblinking manner. (I did not know,) he answers Morgenstern, his own French smooth is accented. His eyes go to the picture again. He likely did not know Byrd at all, let alone anything about the man. He then asks simply, (What are you doing?) The question is asked with only mild curiosity.

Some other soldiers have moved a bit closer, curiously eyeing the interaction between Morgenstern and Toure. The former is sitting on a crate, looking at a photo. Toure's question makes Morgenstern think. Nobody else has asked that particular question today. He frowns, then slowly folds the picture and tucks it away under his coat. He rolls his head, there's a few interesting creaks and snaps from his spine. Then he looks up at Toure. It's not like he's had a lot of interaction with the Colonials, but at least enough to not be surprised. (Nothing,) he replies. (I'm not doing anything.) He glances around at the others and smiles lopsidedly as he stands up. (Corporal Markus Morgenstern. Who're you then?)

(You seemed very intent about this nothing of yours,) the African soldier observes, still in French, in that same mild tone. (I thought it best to ask.) Toure hasn't had a lot of interaction with anyone /outside/ his fellow colonial troops since he came to Arras. Yet he's alone now. (I would not want to interrupt.)

Morgenstern spots the tinbowl with his food and picks it up and pokes at the now cold and non-appetizing contents with the spoon. (You didn't interrupt,) he says, a bit gruffly. He squints at Toure, looking him over as if sizing him up. He sees a veteran and he nods respectfully. (What's your name, soldier? You just arrived to these parts?)

Toure shows a flicker of surprise when Morgenstern asks his name. Only a brief flicker, but his face has been so impassive that it stands out. (I am Soldat Ousmane Toure,) he replies. (I have not been here long. Only since April. Since the spring.) He says it with a quiet sort of grimness. Lots of reinforcements were needed for that horrible spring. (Have you been here long?)

((Illumination)) A Very light goes off over the battlefield!

Morgenstern begins eating anyway, grimacing around the mouthful. (Must've arrived about the same time as you.) He drinks from his hipflask, washing down the cold, tasteless food. (I've been all over the front lines before that, hard to keep track. One place looks just like the other after awhile.) He spots Tommy, the trench dog that Byrd was so fond of and he hesitates for a moment, before he crouches down and calls for the dog. He's never spent much time with either of the trench dogs before, but now he puts his tinbowl down so Tommy can eat the rest. The dog carefully wags his tail and comes closer, sniffing Morgenstern's hand before he digs in on the food. The Legionnaire pats the dog briefly on the head, then straightens up again. (Where are you from?)

Toure nods to Morgenstern, understanding that well. (I have seen much of France this last year.) He doesn't sound particularly happy about that. Or upset or bitter, for that matter. It's hard to tell what, if anything, he feels of it. (It all does look much the same.) He looks up at the dog, a ghost of a smile curving across his face. (I am from a town called Ouro Sogui. It is on the river. In Senegal.) The strangeness of Morgenstern's accent seems to have been noticed. (Where are you from?)

In the light of the flare, Morgenstern's face is pale and a bit gaunt, though there's strength in those green eyes. A sort of relentless determination. (Senegal,) he echoes, now lighting up a cigarette and offering one over to Toure. (I know where it is. At least, I have seen where it is, on a map. Maybe when the war is over, I'll go there. So many places to visit, so little time.) He grins a little, then answers the question. (I'm from Frankfurt. Germany.)

Toure shakes his head at the offered cigarette. (No, thank you. The country by the River Senegal is beautiful. It is something a man should see. I never wanted to see any place else.) And yet, here he is. His expression remains impassive when Morgenstern answers, but he does give the man a second look. As if just to make sure he's wearing a French uniform, instead of the other. (You are far from home.)

(Not as far as you. In fact, France is my home now,) Morgenstern points out, cracking a grin. (Bled for France, I got citizenship here now.) Maybe Toure's meaning wasn't that he was physically far from home, but he choses to hear it as such. He tucks away the cigarettes again, puffing contently on the one lit while he idly scritches Tommy the mongrel behind an ear. (This here,) he explains, about the dog, (is Tommy. He's a messenger and scout dog.) The dog perks up when hearing his name mentioned, ears turning to home in on Morgenstern's voice.

Whatever Toure's meaning was, Morgenstern's answer seems to satisfy him. He nods his head, turning his nearly black eyes to Tommy. He reaches out a big hand to pat the dog. He's doesn't act overly familiar with the animal. The touch is more an acknowledgement of the soldier dog than an affectionate gesture to a pet. (He is a fine animal. Strong.) He turns his gaze back to Morgenstern. For moment, he just watches him silently. Finally he says, (One of your French sergeants came to our platoon today. They needed to dig graves. I was chosen.)

Tommy sniffs briefly at Toure and seems satisfied with the smell. He licks the last of the food up, then wanders down the trench. He stops briefly at the spot where he and Byrd has spent so much time in a dugout, sniffing around the area. But no Byrd is there, so he paces around anxciously for awhile before continuing onwards. Morgenstern notices it and his expression hardens. (Oh?) he asks, turning back to Toure. He looks confused. (Graves… Where are you to dig?)

(In the village, the cemetery,) Toure answers Morgenstern. (There is much work to do.) Again, it is a moment before he continues speaking. (I have heard the French men speak of you. I thought, perhaps, you would help with the work.)

Morgenstern blows smoke out his nose. He stares hard at Toure for a moment, then he nods curtly. (I'll go.) He glances around, then waves to a lance-corporal to come forth, exchanging a few words with him. (I'll take the opportunity to make sure some ammunition is brought here too, while we're back in town.)

Toure regards Morgenstern while the legionnaire stares at him. It's not a particularly hard look but he doesn't blink. When he says he'll go, the colonial man just nods and straightens up a little. That's settled, then. Now, to work.

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