Children In Winter
Matt "Axe" Hardin
Frost Raven member and opera enthusiast
Matt “Axe” Hardin had always been a little too big, a little too angry, a little too for everything in life.
He’d played football in high school, but not because he really wanted to. No, the coach had sought him out, asking him to consider joining. So he had, and had found he was good at it. Running the plays, taking the direction, following the orders had proved easy for him. He’d liked it well enough, too, being a part of something, a team all working for one goal, having his very specific role to play.
It had been much the same with the army. A recruiter had come after him, based on his grades, his aptitude tests, and his size. And so he’d gone for it, finding the training easy for someone already as physically fit as he was, as used to operating as a cog in a large wheel. The team was bigger, here, but the concept of a battle plan was not so different from a football play. He proved equally skilled at doing his own part in both.
But the crazier the world got, the less satisfied he became with his place in it. The military seemed ever more inept, training and deploying soldiers for foreign conflicts that never materialized, and for domestic crisis that could’ve been handled peacefully.
Still, it wasn’t until Matt was forced to fire on hungry civilians that he finally snapped. The people could just have easily been his own family, his own friends. The town could have just as easily been his own. No one had enough food, except perhaps the army. The riots were understandable, and he hadn’t been able to rest quietly, not after he pulled the trigger, obeying orders which, for the first time, he knew he shouldn’t have.
No, he hadn’t found rest. Not until he’d raided the store of emergency MRE’s the brass had stashed away for themselves. Not until he’d distributed them through the people.
Not until he’d deserted, and found his own life and his own direction.
Matt had been lucky enough to fall in with Karl, after the bombs fell. He’d joined up with the Frost Ravens almost against his better judgement, but something had led him to trust the other man, when there’d been few left who could inspire the emotion.
In nearly ten years, he hadn’t regretted it for a moment. The Ravens may have been mercenaries, but with Karl at the helm, they were more principled than any other unit with which Matt had ever served.
Karl led a group that fought for pay, yes, of that there was no question. But he also picked his clients very carefully. More often bodyguards than guns for hire, the Ravens protected merchants bringing vital goods from town to town, or travelers wanting to avoid trouble with slavers. Honest people, with real needs.
And that, Matt could believe in. He threw himself into the work, devoted himself to providing safety and peace of mind to average people. In doing so, he felt he served them more fully than he ever had in the army.