I decided to open up with some Lenore goodness. Because really, she doesn't get enough writing time yet. This'll change once the plot picks up, but as of now, she's pretty side-character-ish.
So we get major posttraumatic stress disorder and a good glimpse of what she goes through on a nearly daily basis.
“Nora, wake up.”
Flashes of memories, bits and pieces, frames of smiles, of kisses, of tears, were in her mind’s eye before she could stop it. Lenore screwed her eyes shut tighter and dragged her arms down to her stomach with a sleepy groan. Allen’s snoring jarred her completely out of her slumber. Lenore opened her eyes, unsurprised to find that Thomas wasn’t beaming down at her with his usual wakeup.
He never was.
She shut her eyes again and pushed herself up onto her elbows. It wasn’t even light out yet, but she knew she wouldn’t be getting any more sleep. It was happening more and more often, too, she noted with no small amount of irritation.
Lenore ran her fingers over the nivedidus on her arm, contrasting the smoothness to that of her skin. It may as well be part of her skin, but even after years of service, it felt so alien. Especially in the real world, out of the wastes. She looked over at Allen, still snoring quite loudly, and couldn't help a small smile. She silently got up, untied her hair, and knelt down beside his bed. “Allen,” she whispered as softly as her voice would allow, although he immediately cracked an eye open, “I'm going to go take the shower first. Go back to sleep.”
“What time is it...?” he whispered back, settling back into his pillow with a sigh.
“Early. Go back to sleep.”
He didn't need to be told again. He was snoring once more by the time she had the water running. Lenore moved her long hair behind her shoulders and tried to concentrate on the shower, she really did. All that came to mind, however, was Thomas. She could practically hear him complaining about her taking too long in the bathroom. Lenore shook her head, biting her lip, trying to stop the tears. It was much too early in the morning for such things.
“Thomas, I miss you.”
The scalding water didn't answer her. Lenore slowly sunk down to the floor, nudged the drain shut, and let the water and her hair flow around her until she stopped crying.
That's right. She actually, canonly wakes up every morning to "Nora, wake up" as her mental alarm clock. If she lets it happen, she would completely zone out and get lost in memories. Also, the stomach thing - in case people had forgotten, she was pregnant in the prologue. If she ever wraps her arms around her stomach, it's either damn cold or she's trying not to dwell.
And then, surprisingly, we get a dose of helpless angst from Nathan of all people. Imagine this one: You're nineteen, twenty in a couple months. Almost fresh out of school. Oh, you've had training. Graduated (nearly) top of the class and whatnot. Feeling pretty cocky about everything. Sure, the first mission was a bit of a surprise, but everyone came out more or less okay. At least on their team.
Then this mission. (Minor spoilers, but it's implied in the end of the last chapter and it's in the beginning of this one, so...) You meet this family. Adorable kids, beautiful wife. Cue monster the second you leave them alone for five minutes. You come back, manage to kill the thing, only to find one child mercilessly and literally ripped to pieces, the mother dead, the father wounded and breaking down, and the other kids and your goddamn Inven missing. You have two dead bodies and a dead monster lying at your feet and a man sobbing over it all and your literal link to life is hiding somewhere. It's dark out, the smell of blood and death hangs in the air, and your heart is about to explode. What do you do in this situation. Do you go out looking and leave the man alone? Do you lead children back to where their sister and mother are brutally murdered and still laying in their own guts and blood? Do you dare hope there aren't any more creatures roaming the wastes around you this very second?
The Lannish man took all of two steps before collapsing to his knees. Nathan started forward—only to be halted when he heard a sob.
I... I don't know what to do. He had never felt so helpless before. Training didn't prepare him for this. It didn't teach him to shoot monsters or what to do with attacks or how to comfort a man who had just lost a wife and child. Nathan looked, almost unwillingly, at Seraphine and the other body. It—she—was one of the girls. He wished desperately he could have remembered her name.
I think helplessness is one of the worst feelings in fiction, but when conveyed properly, is worse than almost everything else. It's incredibly powerful. Nathan has NO IDEA what to do, regardless of his class rank, regardless of his gun, regardless of his training, regardless of everything. He's just thrown into this and wasn't prepared in the least.
(I'm also reminded tragically of an episode of Adventure Time. Yes, it's a kid's show (but it's kickass). But in the episode The Jiggler, amongst catchy tunes and goofing around and an adorable little whistling creature they call the Jiggler, they nearly kill it and without anything else to do, the main character (a young boy) starts kissing it. "Why are you doing that?" his partner asks, alarmed. "Because--I don't know what else to do," he replies in the most heartbreaking little voice imaginable. It's short and sweet and that's how these things should be, lest they completely overpower the reader/viewer and break them/the character. A key element of tragedy is the helplessness, but mostly it's implied. When attention is drawn to it, well... Well maybe I'm just tired, I don't know. But I enjoy this.)