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Found 114 results

  1. Hi, I'm requesting active participation for the story in this link: http://serenesforest.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=63004 I'm working on polishing my story and I need your help in making it beautiful.
  2. I have been making a story concept in mind that I hope to pass to IntSys. However, it seems improbable so, for the first time, I'm sharing my incomplete story. I'll be needing your help in polishing the story but I don't want it to be too far from the plot outline I've made. You can post your feedback here: http://serenesforest.net/forums/index.php?showforum=35 So, here's the map description I suck at making maps: Our first hero lives in a southern archipelago akin to South East Asia, and it is the trade capital of the continent. The main land has at least four known nations, two of which are the archipelago's biggest trade partners: East of the Great Wall is a martial arts country named Juiyo inspired by East Asia (3 kingdoms China, warring states Japan, and Korea); West of the Great Wall is a romance and arts country named Gemran inspired by west Europe (Spain, Portugal, UK, Ireland, and France). The religious center of the continent is Yeshuo inspired by the Mediterranean Countries, here lies the Temple of the Dragon King (while a temple is there, the real temple is the people). [spoiler=The Fourth Nation] As for the other nation, they are at the back seat for now Part One (the Rose Guild) The Prologue may start at the training section: Sheena Jade Rosas Daughter of Senator Kin and Chef Josephine . She is a very charitable salesperson and talented sword fighter. She wishes to establish trade networks in the continent for the benefit of the people. Class: Apprentice Well, she will be training with her father Kin Rosas (currently a very popular Senator) Watching from the sidelines: Ghin Rosas The hot blooded brother of Sheena, despite his efforts to train with swords he doesn't seem to handle it as good as throwing axes. He shows of the most often. Class: Journeyman Then followed by a scene in their mother's restaurant where Bandits attack. Here joins: during battle Shmuel Habagat A fresh graduate of law enforcement. His family is close to the Rosas. He speaks very little unless necessary. class: Archer lv 10 (yes overleveled) After battle (I haven't polished the story yet) Anika Amihan A mage from a family of apothecaries. She is usually snarky and mean but is surprisingly sweet to her good friends. Class: (Wind) Mage Genny Bianca Best friend of Sheena. A novice preacher. She is exceptionally knowledgeable of the Scriptures and seems to know better than present priests. Class: Cleric/Deaconess Andy Narra A shy inventor from a family of blacksmiths. He keeps a book of drawings of his designs for future inventions. Class: a unique crossbow class And they formed the Rose Merchants and set off to an adventure. Why? Well, Sheena's mother, Chef Josephine wanted to cook a rare dish she hasn't cooked in a long time. It requires a rare ingredient form an outlying island. Yeah, a silly plot device I will update the story time after time. Country names by Hylian Air Force
  3. How did you get into Fire Emblem? For me, (like with a lot of other people) it was Smash Bros. I just looked up Fire Emblem after I played Smash Bros. because I wanted to find out where Marth and Roy came from, and I downloaded the FE7 ROM. But I don't remember it appealing to me, so I didn't really get into it. It was not until I downloaded FE8 on 3DS (when it was offered on the eShop for free along with 9 other GBA games back in 2011) that I really got into it. So, what's your stories?
  4. I don't know if we already have a thread like this or there's a better place for this thread, but I wanted a place to talk about different ideas someone else or I might have as to how the story could've gone/ what would make a better story. This is all opinion based of course, but I'd like to see some speculation and maybe some people's head canon get unleashed... My own ideas... What would the ramifications on the story be if Corrin and Azura were legitimate hostage exchanges for the sake of peace rather than mutual kidnappings? Would this lead to their adopted siblings treating them more or less the same or with a greater distance between the two? How would this effect a Corrin's choice to side with the nation of their birth or the nation that has been their home for as long as they can remember? [spoiler=Conquest Spoiler]Would it be "more" justifiable if instead of doing it to sit Garon on the throne, the Conquest!Corrin fought Hoshido to build support in Nohr for Xander's cause. Or basically, Xander plans to revolt but can't do it in the middle of a war? Just some thoughts If anyone has ideas on these thoughts or their own feel free to share, and if there is a better place for me to discuss these types of ideas please feel free to direct me as such.
  5. So I have been bouncing ideas for my book that i've been working on and off for the last several years and I decided last year to make a hack based off my story. Problem is, I'm not a good writer, at least I dont think i am, and was hoping the fine lads and lasses here would give me some feedback and help me sort through my ideas into coherent writings and sentences. As for the story, I've always had trouble summarizing the story in a few sentences. But the basics are, hero ends up in new realm/dimension/universe, has to solve political problems as well as personal problems in order to be able to go back to his own realm/dimension/universe. He ends up on the continent of Eldrahgo where the five kingdoms are currently on the verge of war. The reason our hero, Richard, is important to the plot is because his arrival to the continent triggers the impending war that will wipe out life on that continent. I do have various names, backstories of characters, and historical information about various locaitons in this worl dof mine. I can also tell you what the main character does when and where and what happens. I can also list big name historical events and upcoming battles, events, names and information on various factions and groups. I just can't seem to summarize everything into a few sentences. I already made a topic on my hack over at concepts in the fan project selection. It will be updated shortly as I'm finalizing the next patch update. Are there questions I can answer that would enable others to better understand my story? If there are more details that I can/should list, please let me know. I'm pretty sure what I written above is rather confusing but I hope that those who read it are able to help me sort out my story. Thanks for taking the time to read and if anything doesn't make sense, just post here or PM me.
  6. http://archiveofourown.org/works/5878057/chapters/13547128?view_adult=true
  7. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1aT84ig1W_52nBgGlgJ3wVKXxpGFsi1DojuNq4EAqLAY/edit?pref=2&pli=1
  8. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UGsCDnY5MUuZyyRYxLuVvhy_uBFowzWqHoNOL-9g1p0/edit?pref=2&pli=1
  9. https://docs.google.com/document/d/12x5RftpUutWbjc-8HDGEmKiTJAFdfan2Vo9B4ljUEeU/edit?pref=2&pli=1
  10. Tangerine

    Deja Vu

    Déjà vu Once again, I find myself floating in a dark void. No light, no ground, no anything. It’s just me, myself and the guy with the creepy glowing red eyes. He shares my face, my hair, and my outfit. In fact, he is me. Well, technically he’s me from a bad future, and I’m him but he’s also a dark dragon god and... Look, it’s complicated, all right? The important thing is that I’m stuck here again. What gives? A scream escapes from my doppelganger, “No! Not this again! Not this prison!” “Oh for god’s sake Grima, shut up! You lost. You keep losing. Accept it and move on with your damn life!” I pause, letting the silence add weight to my sarcasm. “Oh right, we don’t exist anymore! And why’s that, I wonder? Because you keep doing your whole ‘I’m going to end the world’ thing! You know, maybe if you didn’t try to kill everyone, maybe we wouldn’t be dead! Ever considered that?” That got a blank stare from him. “Not kill everyone? How foolish are you, mortal?” “Not as foolish as you, asshole.” A silence passed between us. Grima might be a one-dimensional asshole of a god, but at least he was a predicable one-dimensional asshole. His strategy didn’t change, his tactics didn’t change; he always did the exact same things every single time. It was almost as if he wasn’t even trying. At first I thought he was trying to lure me into a false sense of security, but after the third time through I stopped worrying. Apparently, the god of destruction is not the best at strategy. “Hey, you think Naga’s going to show up anytime soon? I’d like to get back to kicking your ass.” “I am here,” says an angelic voice; the voice of a god. A woman with flowing green hair approaches us in the void. “You’re here again, Robin?” the woman asks, cocking her eyebrows. “Obviously!” I respond, not bothering to keep my voice down, “I keep stabbing Grima in the face and I keep coming back here. What gives, Naga?” “You didn’t form any bonds, did you?” She said in a voice of weary resignation. “I did! Everyone got happily married and had a bunch of crazy kids who came from the future who also got happily married! I don’t know what else I can do.” “Robin,” Naga says, “when I said ‘bonds’ I meant bonds with you.” “Wait, what do you mean?” Naga sighed and caressed her face with her palm, “I need you to make friends. No not just that, I need you to get married; have children. Have a life beyond that war.” “What?” I sputtered, “Have a family? Kids? Naga, why the hell would that matter?” “Did you not listen to anything I said?” Naga’s voice was seeped with frustration, “We’ve gone through this seven times already and you haven’t figured this out? Not once out of all those times did you make a single friend. You didn’t even talk to most of your army.” “I figured they didn’t need my…” I tried to protest. “NO,” said the goddess, “No excuses. I send you back in time, again and again and you learn nothing! For all your smarts you are a very foolish and stupid mortal.” “I’m getting real tired of being called that. Aren’t I part god or something?” “No god worthy of the title would act like you. You might be a brilliant strategist, but for all your smarts, you are lacking in one key area.” “And what area is that, huh?” “Compassion, empathy, understanding your fellow man. Don’t argue with me on this. Either you do this, or we keep doing this until we all go crazy.” She raised her hands, “Now go. You too, Grima, I haven’t forgotten the rules. He goes back, you go back, same as always.” And with that, we faded away. Naga’s words echoed in my mind as I closed my eyes. I have to make friends. No, I have to have a family if I want to survive. I have to make friends with people I barely know. I’ve always been a strategist, always looking for the best possible outcome; growing up I would always win at games of chess. That same strategic thinking extends to everyone in my life: they’re statistics, data, and tools I manipulate to beat my enemies and save the world. But now I have to think of them as people? That’s like asking me to fall in love with a sword; it’s a gross violation of both our purposes. Naga’s crazy if she thinks I’ll do what she says. At least, that’s what I told myself. It grew dark once again. It always starts out like this. Just wait a second aaaand…. “Chrom, we have to do something,” Says a girlish voice. A different, deeper voice responds “Well what do you propose we do?” “I… I dunno.” I smile. And it begins anew. --- “…so we’ll have Vaike hold the chokepoint while Lissa keeps him healed. Any questions?” I said, looking out over the assembled troops. I had settled into my role as Chrom’s tactician with practiced ease. Already, I was thinking who to pair up together, and how best to deploy them. Of course, explaining my strategies to the very people I was trying to pair together while not revealing my hidden motives is tricky at the best of times. “Robin,” said Chrom, “Why are me and Sumia working together again? Wouldn’t it be better to have Kellam watch her back?” Why? Because you and Sumia make for one hell of a Lucina; I love seeing your embarrassment when you call Cynthia a “pega-pony princess;” and Kellam doesn’t want to talk to Sumia for some strange reason. That’s what I think, what I actually say is this: “Kellam is needed to protect Miriel, and you two make for an excellent team.” He nodded, apparently satisfied. A hand was raised in the back of the room and Ricken stepped forward through the crowd, “Excuse me, but why haven’t you sent me out on a mission yet?” Because you are annoying, Miriel does your job better, and your genes are shit. You are never getting a chance to breed, you stupid benchwarmer. “I’m saving you.” I say, “Right now you’re way too powerful; I need to give everyone else a chance to catch up.” Ricken beamed with pleasure. Too easy. Vaike shouldered his way up, “Hey man, The Vaike just wanted to let you know that he appreciates what you do.” He gave me the thumbs up, for some reason. Vaike, you might be nothing but a pile of muscle fit to be a meatshield, but you will make up for Lissa’s crippling strength deficiency and make Owain a lot stronger. That is the only reason why I tolerate you. “Uh, thanks for you input Vaike.” “Any more questions?” I asked. No one said anything, so I continued, “alright everyone, dismissed!” Everyone made their way out of the tent, all except for Chrom. “Need something?” I asked. “I just wanted to agree with Vaike,” he said. “Well, that’s a first.” He smiled, “Indeed. But it’s true. I appreciate what you’re doing here. I don’t know how you do it, but without you, I don’t think half of us would be alive right now.” You have no idea. If I die, all of you start dropping like flies. “Uh, thanks,” I said. “I mean it.” He clapped me on the shoulder, “You’re an amazing tactician, and someone I’m glad to call my friend.” “Friend? You think of me as a friend?” “Of course! I don’t think we could’ve survived this without being friends. After all that fighting and watching each other’s backs I don’t think we could not be friends. And I’m glad of that. Anyway, I’m sure you’re busy preparing for the fight, so I’ll leave you to it.” And with that, he left as abruptly as he came. I stood there staring off into space for a while, pondering; thinking. One little change I had made this time was having me fight in the battles next to them. I always knew I could fight, and did so often, but I never fought next to anyone. I was always alone. I told myself that I was mixing things up, seeing if this led to any more interesting tactical developments. What I hadn’t counted on was me growing closer to everyone. Without even realizing it, I had made friends with Chrom, when I usually kept my distance. This had improved my combat performance, but it also made me confused. It was statements like his that raised questions; questions I didn’t know the answers to. If I am the tactician and he’s my sword, what changes if the sword can talk back? My numbers were talking back to me, taking shapes in addition to their roles. Chrom wasn’t just a solid, reliable number to me anymore. I knew him as a person, knew his struggles and his clumsy way of being friendly. I knew Vaike not only as a trustworthy meat shield, but I recognized him as the braggart and idiot that he was. I still hated Rickens guts, but that hate was fueled by much more than just distaste for his genes. There were so many questions to think about, but I had a world to save, so I left those questions for later and tried to get back to business. --- It was a cloudless night the night before the battle and I couldn’t sleep. We were at the cusp overthrowing the Mad King; tomorrow would decide his fate. I went to bed early as I usually do before a big battle, but something was different tonight. After hours of tossing and turning, I decided to go for a walk around the camp. Despite the late hour, I could hear plenty of noise coming from everyone’s tents. I could hear Lissa fussing over Vaike while he gently tried to reassure her; the sounds of slurping and eating coming from Stahl and Panne’s tent; and the sounds of an upset Pegasus and the gentle voice of Sumia trying to comfort it. My walking took me away from all the people I had grown to know over these past months as I walked to the edge of camp. There, I saw a quiet, heavily armored figure standing watch. “Hey there, Kellam,” I said as I approached. “Oh, you saw me,” he said, sounding a little surprised. “Of course I did, you can’t keep up that vanishing act forever, you know.” He didn’t respond, so we just stood there looking at the stars. “Er,” he said, breaking the silence, “what brings you out here?” “Couldn’t sleep.” “Why’s that?” “I’m worried about tomorrow. It’s going to be a tough fight. I don’t know if everyone will make it through.” “I’m not,” he said with certainty. I looked at him and cocked my eyebrow, “why not?” His face remained impassive, but I thought I saw a ghost of a smile on his face, “Because you haven’t let us down yet.” “I suppose.” That fact was true, but he didn’t know how many close calls we’ve had; how many times someone’s fate came down to the roll of the dice. “I… uh, look. I’m not the best at this kind of thing, but I wanted to say ‘thank you’ for what you’ve done. I know you set me up with Cordelia. I doubt she would’ve even noticed me without your help.” Ok Robin, calm down, he might’ve just made a lucky guess. Play it cool. “Why do you think I set you two up?” I said, “From my perspective you’re the one who did all the work.” “I guess, but you’re the one who introduced us. You told me to protect her with my life.” “That’s because she can’t take a hit and you can. It made sense to have you protect one of our most vulnerable people.” He sighed, “I guess you’re right. But... even so, I like to think that my friend helped me meet the woman of my dreams.” Another silence passed between us. He was right, of course, I had set them up. Cordelia needed someone to watch her back while she destroyed everything and Kellam was the right man for the job. Plus, I thought that Cordia could use someone reliable in her life and Kellam… well, Kellam wasn’t going to attract anyone’s attention unless drastic measures were taken. A reliable guy like him deserved someone like her. A shiver ran through my spine as I realized something. I wasn’t thinking of these people as numbers any more. They were people. I cared about them. When did that happen? How had this happened? Was it the conversations I had been having with everyone? Was it fighting in battle alongside them? “Dammit Naga,” I muttered under my breath. “What was that?” asked Kellam. “Nothing. I had better be going back to my tent, and you had better be going back to your fiancé. I bet she’s looking for you.” With that, I turned and left. I didn’t get much sleep that night; I was too busy worrying and cursing Naga. --- “Come on, think of something!” I mutter under my breath, slamming my hand against the table. I’m looking at a collection of maps with scribbles all over them, marking the location of enemy positons and fortifications; trying to figure out the best strategy to overcome this obstacle. But nothing comes to me, nothing at all. My head, usually abuzz with the numbers and calculations, is only thinking about one thing. The very thing I’m trying to avoid thinking about. My shoulder’s slump and I cradle my head in my hands. I don’t know how long I sat there before someone came into my tent. “Robin?” I hear Lissa ask, “you in here?” I hear her footsteps as she approaches me, “We’re waiting on you.” “Go away.” I say through my hands, “A tactician should never get too close to his troops.” A snort from the princess, “Well, it’s a little too late for that, isn’t it? Come on, she’s out there waiting for you.” That sent my heart pounding. Today is the day I am supposed to marry my fiancé, Cherche. If you had told me that I would get married I would’ve laughed. If you had told me that it would start with me trying to find a mate for her wyvern, I would’ve thought you were insane. But that’s exactly what happened. The wyvern also tried to set me on fire when I proposed, but I suppose that’s the danger of dating a woman who rides that giant scaly beast around all day. I look up from my hands. Lissa is standing there with her hands on her hips and the biggest grin on her face. “Can I ask you something?” I say, “Were you this nervous on the day you got married to Vaike?” She thinks for a moment before responding, “Can’t say I was. I was worried that he’d make an oaf of himself.” “Which he did.” She nodded, “But I was expecting that. Kinda. But it was a small goof in an otherwise wonderful day.” “I... guess it was.” I sighed. “What, didn’t think you would get married?” She said, sticking her tongue out. “In all honesty, no I didn’t.” “Really? Everyone else has been getting married, especially that whole thing with the Mad King. It’s easier to list off the people who aren’t married in this army. And today, we’re taking two off that list!” She puts her hand on my shoulder and leaned in, “You’ll be fine, silly. You’re just worrying over nothing.” She grabbed my hand, pulling me forward. “Come on. Your blushing bride awaits!” She led me out of my tent with me dragging my feet. All I could think when walking down the aisle was simply “Naga, you clever, clever god. You finally got me to do it.” --- It was supposed to be a routine monster clearing mission; nothing too bad. What worried me about it was that it was something completely new. Besides my whole “getting married” thing, this cycle had had no surprises, so I was on edge the entire march to the ruins. By this time, Lucina had showed up and we picked up a few of our sons and daughters. I looked out over the ruins, besides the hoard of undead monstrosities infesting them, it was rather beautiful. The place seemed to be partial submerged. But there was also something strange about them. I have never seen anything quite like them in all my travels. My moment of contemplation was ended by a slap on the back. “You ready to kick some ass?” Vaike said, hefting his axe. I grinned, “You know it, just watch your back, ok? I can’t keep saving it all the time.” He grinned, “The Vaike always remembers!” “Except when you don’t!” Lissa chimed in. I turned to my assembled team, “alright everyone, you know the drill. Stick together and stay alive!” We made quick progress through the ruins until we hit the central chamber. There, across the water, was someone. Whoever it was, she was fighting off the undead creatures like us. I pointed to the figure, “Cherche, can you get me over there? We need to help whoever’s that is; it might be another lost child.” She nodded and I mounted her wyvern with practiced ease. In a blink of an eye we were across the water and the undead were dispatched. The figure, a small woman with short red hair and bright eyes, looked at me and smiled. “There you are, father!” she said, “I was beginning to think we got separated.” “…I’m sorry, what?” I said, dumbfounded. “Well, no harm done.” She continued, oblivious to my hesitation. “At least we can head home now. Goodness, the air here agrees with you! You look a decade younger, at least." “Wait. Let's go back to the "Father" thing. You mean I’m your father?” “Of course! Hello? It's me! Morgan! Your daughter? Love of your life and Daddy's little girl and all that?” I stared at her, completely oblivious to the undead approaching. “Dear,” said Cherche, “there’s still fighting to be done. You can look dumbfounded all you want later.” “Ok,” I said, shaking my head to try to clear the shock. “Morgan, was it?” she nodded, “come with us. After we clear this place out you, your mother, and I are going to have a long conversation.” “Yes sir!” She said. We quickly rejoined the fight and moved to hit the main hoard. Despite the threat of death, all I could think of was one single thing: I have a daughter. I have a daughter. And she’s going to join up and probably fall in love with one of the guys. It’s how it works. I’ve done it a dozen times before. I have a daughter; like hell she is going to marry one of those idiots! --- “No, not Yarne, he’s way too neurotic. Hmmm, Inigo? Might be hilarious to see, but no; way too much of a flirt for his own good.” “Dear, what are you doing?” said the gentle sound of Cherche. I was sitting at my desk where I usually plot out the army’s next move, except this time I was plotting out something much more important: who Morgan would end up with. “Oh, nothing important,” I said. My wife frowned, “You’re up to something, aren’t you?” I grinned, “maaaaybe.” She just gave me a look, which only made me grin even more. “Ok, so I might be trying to pair up our daughter with someone.” “Oh, like you did with everyone else?” I sighed, “Does everyone know about that?” “Yes.” she said with one of her cheerful-yet-sarcastic smiles. Another sigh, “Ok then, there goes my grand reveal.” I shook my head, “Anyway, I was trying to figure out who to pair our daughter with. She’s going to be fighting with us and you apparently know what’ll happen.” She sat down next to me, “Mind if I help?” “Uh, sure,” I said, not sure where this was going. “So what about Brady? He seems like a nice guy.” “What, Brady? The spineless priest? She’ll eat him alive. That poor sap won’t know what hit him.” “Ok, so what about Owain? He could handle her and he’s pretty good in a fight.” I gave a deadpan stare “Do you really want someone like that as our son-in-law?” She paused for a second, “No, no I do not.” “So who will it be?” “What about Laurent? He looks like he could use someone as lively as Morgan in his life.” I thought for a moment, “You know, that’s a pretty good idea. He can handle her for sure, and I would love to see his reaction to her antics.” “So it’s decided then?” “Yes.” I said, grinning from ear to ear. “This is going to be fun to watch.” --- In ever cycle, no matter how many times I did it, I was always giddy during the final battle. It isn’t every day you get to fight on the back of an evil dragon god while facing down the possessed version of yourself from the future. It’s insane and I love it. The small army in our way didn’t give us any trouble. Nothing could stand in our way. Our army of couples smashed their forces until only Grima was left. As I did every cycle, I stepped forward alone to face him. It was only fitting. “Mortal,” he said in his usual hammy voice, “you will not foil my plans again!” “You know, Grima,” I said, ignoring his threats. “I’ve been wondering something. Did ever get laid before you went into your slumber?” He stared at me, as if he didn’t know how to respond. “I mean, obviously you have thing for Naga. Did she reject you or something? Is that why you’re trying to destroy the world?” “Mortal, what games are you playing?” “Cause it’s remarkable what having a beautiful woman at your back will do to you. It can change your whole perspective on life. I think I’ve learned something this time.” “And what is that?” He said, breathing in deep to roast me with his breath. In the span of a second, I closed the gap on us and sunk my blade deep into his chest. I leaned in, and whispered into his ear: “Love is completely over powered.” I left my blade in his chest as he slumped backwards. For the seventh time I felt myself fading away. But this time, I looked back to see my friends and family. I gave them a grin and a wave while my eyes watered up. “See you on the next go around,” I said as I faded away. I’m glad I didn’t see their faces. --- Once again, I found myself floating in a dark void. No light, no ground, no anything. It’s just me, myself, and… I? I looked around. Where was Grima? It wasn’t long before the angelic figure of Naga appeared, grinning from ear to ear. “Yeah, yeah,” I said, “you don’t need to rub it in.” “I didn’t say anything,” she said, still smiling. “So… is this it? Is this how it ends? I did what you asked.” “Indeed you did! And what did you think of the experience?” “Aren’t you a god or something?” I asked back, avoiding the question. “Didn’t you just see the whole thing? You know how I feel.” “Indeed I do,” she said, still smiling that damn smile. “Look, I don’t know how to ask this, but I want to go back to my family. There are people who care about me, and I care about them. And you did promise me I could go back.” “That I did, didn’t I?” She put her finger across her mouth and looked upward in an exaggerated thinking pose. “Well, I think you deserve this, after all you’ve been through.” She raised her hands, “Goodbye Robin, it has been both a frustration and a pleasure to have you.” With that, I faded away like I did usually. All was quiet until… “Chrom, we have to do something,” Says a girlish voice. A different, deeper voice responded “Well what do you propose we do?” “I… I dunno.” I opened my eyes to see Lissa and Chrom standing over me. “I see you’re awake now,” said Chrom. “Hey there,” Lissa said. “There're better places to take a nap than on the ground, you know. Give me your hand.” I took it and Chrom pulled me up. “Welcome back. It's over now.”
  11. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NaKBqdq9OvWNEdrAFgB38J1erEraFvZRKjVGifFVoaA/edit?pref=2&pli=1
  12. The Mirror's Fate I am the Brammimond, and this is an account of my doings and whereabouts from my awakening before the defeat of Nergal on the Dread Isle to shortly after the Disturbance of Bern. Sleep was not exactly sleep. Eyes closed, laying in the darkness of my chamber, I had observed events across the continent since the day I placed the last seal. Nothing caught much attention from me until a man too powerful to just die chose to throw himself into the Dark. I might have chosen to silence him myself, but soon sleep ended, and I met the boy, the girl, and the lout. Their presence was unexpected, and looking upon them was strange at first, but the unfettered interactions were not unwelcome. After a certain incident during the Scouring, only a few had been permitted to be seen by me, usually only from within the Eight's number. (Elimine attempted at some point to prevent Durban from interacting further with me, but her attempts failed and the rumblings continued.) Athos intended for me to meet Roland's children. Had he come alone, the seals would have been released. I may have even allowed him to borrow my tome. With some study and effort on his part, the seals could have been released without me. And so I came to believe it was for them. I would not be releasing weapons that might tear the continent asunder (again) to these children, or so I thought. Athos helped their case, but it was not settled until the boy truly spoke, not quite like Roland, but Hartmut. I would have given him his blade, but he did not have the key. Instead, I followed them. Before long, the children stood face to face with their enemy. I watched from the shadows as they cut down puppets, and finally brought down the man holding their strings. The amount of quintessence he had gathered was significant enough to be a threat even as he died, but his control over it was damaged enough for me to take it without much effort at all. As I did, he looked at me. He spoke, and for the first time in a thousand years, I was the one looking into the mirror. "Why? Why did I... want power?" I repeated that question to myself, the first one in over a thousand years. That man had no power left, not quintessence. Yet...the earth shook and the gate opened, not by magic, but the force of his unending, unimaginable sorrow, sorrow of incomprehensible depth that still reflected off of me, so deep that looking away did not even end it. Lest the world be filled with dragons once again, I could not allow that pain to continue. How, though? How could I, who reflects, sooth this, let alone understand why... Love. He loved someone, and sought power. It consumed him, and he forgot, ultimately hurting what he loved. I gathered the children and readied myself, not knowing what form my solution might take. I gathered my power (including what I'd taken from Nergal) and unleashed the first emotion I'd felt in this millenium. The half-dragon girl, loved and slain by mistake by the boy, rose from death itself, brimming with power. The rest of that day is merely history. Athos left us, and I returned to my home. Why did I want power, though? That question and reflection somehow agitated me, an empty vessel. The self had been an afterthought to me, but I wondered what I'd lost. I held on to that man's sorrow, and drew upon it for the next fifteen years to gain what little recollection I have now. What I recovered brought more questions to mind at every step, and at this time they are beyond reasonable number...still, I am not unsatisfied. At the end of the Scouring, I could easily remember something odd that had been dismissed easily enough. For the duration of the war, I performed my duties without error, tearing apart dragon after dragon along with the time and space around them. It could be said that I took a faint level of pleasure in dispatching them, but in our final battle, I hesitated. The divine weapons would have won the battle, but I did not move until an exchange of blows blew Hartmut back to my position. I placed my hand on his shoulder (this physical contact is the only time that I have actually touched anyone that I can remember fully), and spoke softly, staring at the demon before us. "Not this one..." This was also the only time that Hartmut had ever been shocked. Eckesachs dropped from to the ground, and he drew the Binding Blade. The rest of the battle is already documented well enough. The blade was not a human invention. Its power in battle was comparable to any of our legendary weapons, but the utility beyond that was beyond human knowledge...well, beyond theirs. I was the one who delivered it. I had forgotten, but the day I joined the Eight Generals to repel the dragons, I brought the Binding Blade and the Fire Emblem with me. Human history has no record of this, or my existence at all before then. With that much remembered, I reached for more of my self, but it is...fractured... I cannot remember living with humans. It is possible that I was discovered abandoned somewhere and rescued by dragons, but I do know that my aptitude for the Dark impressed them, and I studied it with them until my knowledge surpassed even theirs on the subject. When the Scouring began, I thought to leave with the divine dragons, but..she... Idenn, the demon dragon, was something to me before that war. Sister, friend...lover? And who or what am I? Man, woman, perhaps even a dragon? Still unknown, and not entirely important. I stayed behind with her, and she must have grown worried. She must have known what they might do, and crafted the Binding Blade and the Fire Emblem herself. Just before she was captured, she gave them to me and sent me away. "End this war." When they destroyed her soul, hatred and sorrow threatened to overtake me. Anyone else could have used those to their advantage and might have slain every last one of them, but the Dark threatened to swallow me whole...and so, I penned the Apocalypse tome, my Silencing Darkness, my Dark Revelation. I emptied this vessel of myself, delivered the weapon, and ended the war. As I reached this understanding and began to wonder what use this knowledge could possibly have, the Disturbance of Bern began. I thought once again to intervene, but another of Roland's descendants caught my eye, son of the boy I met and the half-dragon girl. He fought and won hopeless battle after hopeless battle, and even had success in finding and gathering the divine weapons. He reached them all before Bern could, though they might have won my tome and the blade if I had not slain all who attempted to reach them before him. Even without knowing the trust I had placed in him, he fulfilled my wishes without error. Idenn was subdued without being killed, once again, and returned to her (our?) clan. I returned as well, but only yesterday. Much time was spent in deliberation and gathering whatever lost knowledge I could from the ruins of the dragon temple. I thought for some time that I should keep distance, but...a thousand years was enough of that. After meeting with an elder, I unpacked my things and found her out in the gardens. She turned, and I saw life in her eyes once again. I do not know whether I reflected her or really was myself in that moment, but she spoke, and a tear rolled down my face. "A warm...breeze..."
  13. Tangerine


    "Ah... it's so hot. I suppose I should have expected it... she warned me, after all. But still, this is..." A low muttering, half-caught under her breath. In all fairness, Jill Fizzart knew that such a thing wouldn't really make a difference, but saying it was... somewhat comforting. She had certainly been blindsided by these conditions. She had been told that the dense forest was hot, but this was entirely unlike the arid heat that permeated the Northern desert. Something such as that, she had faced before; had triumphed over, but this? These forests were another beast in their entirety, assailing the Daien-born rider with an impressively oppressive humidity. Even soaring above the treeline, free from her usual segmented armour, wind blowing in her face in a desperate attempt to remedy the situation. Well, it simply wasn't enough. Opening her mouth for but a moment, in the hope of breathing in the forest air, was enough to expose herself to an unfortunate taste of salt, as the sweat pouring from her brow found another place to slink into and call home. "Ugh... how do they even manage this with those heavy coats? And within the woods themselves, at that..." Jill inquired to no one in particular, a grimace on her face as she began wiping her arm against her brow in the hopes of clearing some sweat from her face... not that it would assist anywhere else, but it was a welcome gesture to her own self, nonetheless. Honestly though, what sort of place was this to live? Trees upon trees with no end in sight, aside from the distant mountains which housed the royal overseers of the region. She had been told to look for a clearing, but as of yet, there were none in sight, and Jill's morale found itself fading rather fast. "But I suppose it would have to be... Gallia was formed as a haven where the Laguz could escape Begnion, after all..." Jill noted, biting her lip at the unpleasant memories that thought brought about. It was still a bit astonishing to her, than before being told by Lethe of such things, that she had not a single clue. The grim history of the Laguz, which had lead to the creation of Gallia, was one of war, slavery, and slaughter. Jill was certain that the first time she had heard it, her face must have grown as pale, if not more so than the scales of Goldoa's mighty white dragons. Of course, Lethe would never tell her exactly what her expression had been. Whether that was out of an urge to tease, or sheer pity, Jill had never managed to figure out. But it was likely for the best, after all, by this point. Yune herself would likely be unable to predict what sort of chaos might ensue by opening a box that had been forced shut so long ago. But, such reflections would be saved for another time, it would seem, as Jill finally caught sight of the first clearing she had been witness to for miles. "Ah, could that be it? I certainly hope it is..." She murmured to herself, as she gently shifted the reigns in her hands, directing her mount towards the clearing of the forest. Hopeful optimism soon gave way to a wide grin spreading across Jill's face, as her descent brought a small, homely hut into her field of vision. Oh, she hoped that this was her final destination, the place where Lethe called home, and if not, it would hopefully contain a friendly face. One that with any luck might part with directions of some description. Soon the suspense would come to an end, at any rate, as Jill touched down in the small clearing, and hopped to the ground from her wyvern's back, taking care not to trip herself on a nearby root... oh, what an entrance that would have been, had she done such a thing. "Excuse me! Lethe, are you here? Am I at the right place?" Jill called out, listening for a reply as soon as her own voice had ceased. A few moments passed, and within them, so many sounds, foreign to Jill's ear, yet soothing, natural... the bubbling of a nearby creek, chirping of the birds and what she assumed was an insect of some description. It was all quite relaxing, and just as Jill began to consider perhaps resting in this place regardless, the reply she had been wanting came echoing from the trees. "Jill? I see you've made it in one piece, excelle-" The reply began, as Lethe leapt forth from the woods, transforming into her human shape as she touched the ground. Though, with such a prompt, the Laguz had no chance to conclude her greeting, as she found herself practically tackled by Jill, and pulled into a tight embrace. It was the best she could do, to brace herself and keep the both of them from toppling to the ground, her head forcibly buried into Jill's shoulder by the Beorc's strong grip. Such displays of affection were still not her forte, by any means. While Jill had no problems throwing an arm about Lethe's back and waist, before immediately pulling her into some sort of pseudo-death grip, it took the proud Laguz warrior a few moments before her own limbs responded, gently wrapping about Jill's back and giving the rider a light squeeze. However, as soon as it had begun, the embrace appeared to be over and done with, Jill pushing away in a bit of a hurry. "Oh my, Lethe, I'm so sorry! Ah, I'm so full of sweat from the heat, I must smell absolutely dreadful..." The rider explained, waving her arms about wildly, a mortified expression plastered over her face. Within a few moments, with a look of realization, Jill's flailing ceased as well, her arms firmly planted at her sides, and her face flushing to match her hair. "No need to worry, Jill. The smell was, uhh... very you. I didn't mind it, so much." Lethe retorted, her own cheeks growing ever-so slightly pink as she spoke, though ever were Jill to catch it, such a thing would be fervently denied until the end of time, if not longer. It had certainly been strong, but Lethe couldn't bring herself to lie about it... Jill just smelled like Jill, and despite the reservations that the red-headed girl had, Lethe could not bring herself to consider disliking it. Swiftly dispelling her embarrassment at such a thing with a shake of her head, Lethe reached out towards Jill, gently grasping her shoulder, a smile forming on her face. "But that doesn't matter, really. Come inside, you've traveled a long way to get here." Lethe offered, pulling Jill along by the arm towards her abode, getting most of the way to the small hut before Jill offered any resistance, digging her heels into the dirt to stop herself from being dragged any further. "Even if you think that, I'd still like to wash up, first. I'm rather conscious of it... I heard the sound of water nearby, would it be alright for me to bathe in the stream?" Jill finally interjected, giving Lethe a tug of her own for emphasis. With that, the Laguz stopped pulling her along, at least, turning to look back at Jill. "I suppose that's fine. There's a path behind the house, it leads straight there." Lethe replied, releasing Jill so that she could go over to her bags. Watching as Jill began to dig through her packed belongings, Lethe's brow began to raise, as the rider's searching seemed to become more and more frantic, the deeper she dug. After a few moments of Jill's movements continuing to escalate, Lethe eventually began stalking closer to the Beorc, her curiousity getting the better of her. Just as she did so, however, Jill retreated from her bags, a defeated expression on her face as she turned. "Hey Lethe, I uhh... it looks like I forgot the bag I packed my clothes in, uhh... could I maybe... borrow some from you?" She finally admitted, scratching the back of her head in embarrassment, as she began pouting at Lethe. Said Laguz letting out a sigh after a moment, as she turned around and started walking towards her hut, waving her hand almost dismissively. "It can't be helped, I guess. Wait there." Lethe called back, stepping inside and scrounging around for a few moments, before coming back outside with an ensemble that was rather familiar to Jill, that being what Lethe had tended to wear casually during the war, a pair of slitted shorts and simple top, both in green, though the bottoms were a notably more vibrant shade. Closing the gap between herself and Jill, Lethe swiftly pushed the clothing into the rider's hands, before turning away and back towards the hut. "Well? Go on, then." Lethe noted, her voice somewhat chiding, receiving a quick thanks from Jill, as the rider walked off towards the brook, humming and with a skip in her step. Lethe couldn't help but sigh again at the prospect of Jill having forgot her clothing at home, yet at the same time, she couldn't really get mad over it. Something was just so earnest about the whole situation that Lethe couldn't help but smile as the sigh passed her lips, laying back and watching the clouds as she awaited Jill's return from her bath... *** "It's my fault for forgetting, so I can't blame anyone but myself, but these are kind of... tight. Well, Lethe is awful slim, so I guess it's not surprising... after all, she fights and trains in another form entirely, so the fact that she's not all that muscular makes sense." Jill murmured to herself, gently tugging at the tighter areas of the clothing she had borrowed from Lethe, on her way back from her bath. As she rounded the side of Lethe's hut, the rider was about to call out, before stopping herself on sight of Lethe. As cats ought to do, it seemed that lazing in the sun had lead Lethe to take a little catnap of her own, gently snoozing on a soft mat that had been placed in the front of her abode. Giggling gently to herself, Jill sat down next to her friend, before laying herself down on what remained of the mat. She likely wouldn't fall asleep herself, but it was certainly comfortable, and she had no problems seeing how Lethe, who was likely closer to nocturnal then a Beorc would be, might have dozed off. Unfortunately, it seemed that relaxation would be short lived, as Jill's settling in had caused Lethe to begin stirring. "Well, your hearing is really good, after all, Did i wake you up, sleepy cat?" Jill asked, holding back a chuckle as she did so, while Lethe began to wake up. Still groggy, and already with a bit of a grimace, being mocked in such a way was not what she had been hoping for. "Shut up... it's just... warm out, and comfortable. Plus, you took forever..." Lethe retorted, stretching as she spoke, letting a yawn escape her in the midst of it all. Soon sitting up, and rubbing at her eyes, before shaking off the tiredness from her body, and getting to her feet. Looking over Jill as she did so, it appeared that the clothing she had provided was, at the very least, functional. It was clear that they weren't exactly the same size, as to be expected, but it would do the job that it needed to do. "You must be hungry, coming all this way. Luckily, I caught a good sized elk, earlier. It should do nicely, for food." Lethe added, once her mind was cleared of it's drowsiness. She began to start over towards a small cooler where she had stowed the meat, until Jill stopped her by grabbing at her wrist. "Honestly, left to you, we'd have just the meat on it's own... don't think I haven't seen how you like to feed yourself, Lethe. I brought some vegetables and grain with me, since I figured this would come up. I'll cook dinner, it's the least I can do, forcing myself on your hospitality, like this." Jill noted, eliciting a grimace from Lethe, and a chuckle from the rider herself in retort. "Yes, to force... vegetables down my throat. Truly, you could not pick a better way to show your gratitude..." Lethe muttered in feigned contempt, her tail fluttering about in the breeze, as her ears lowered, matted against the side of her head. "Oh come on now, it's not that bad. I swear I'm a good cook, I'll bet I can even get you to like them!" Jill retorted, standing as well, swinging her arms about for emphasis as she spoke, her face growing into a puffed-up pout. "We'll see about that... but I know you won't take no for an answer, so go ahead." Lethe concluded, giving in to Jill's demand without all that much of a fight, eliciting the Beorc to pull her into a light hug, and leave a swift peck on her cheek, before pulling away with a gleeful spin. "You won't regret it, Lethe. Hehe, I'll make you eat those words along with everything on the plate, promise!" Jill added, practically glowing. Lethe was a stubborn one, after all, and to get such a concession without so much as any kicking, screaming, or clawing of faces was a miracle in of itself. But if she was gonna pull it off, Jill knew she'd have to make a truly knock-out dish. You did not sway a learned carnivore with a half-assed dish, that was for certain. But at the same time, if she strayed too far, well, it would have the same effect. It had to be something familiar enough to stick, but exotic enough to titillate the taste buds... "Enough talk of food for now, anyway. If you're going to make it, then make it. I'll admit that you have me curious." Lethe replied somewhat quietly, sitting down near the fire pit, wondering what exactly Jill had planned. "Alright, well, if you could start a fire while I get things ready, that'd be great." Jill noted, as she began looking over what she had. In all honesty, her options were kind of limited with what she had available. The best bet that she had was likely a stew, it was simple, but Jill knew it tasted good, and it shouldn't be anywhere near offensive to Lethe's palette. With that decided, Jill gathered her ingredients and began to set up the area for cooking, starting with going to fetch some cooking water from the stream in a nice-sized pot. Humming along the way to the nearby flow of water, Jill gathered as much water as she would need, about midway through her trip hearing the sounds of a crackling fire back from the clearing. Turning back towards the hut as soon as she was ready, Jill began carrying her water back with her. *** "There, I started the fire. Is there anything else you would like, of me?" Lethe asked, as soon as Jill returned with her bounty. The rider couldn't help but laugh a bit, at that. Despite how stoic she wanted to act, it was rather obvious that Lethe was interested in what she would be doing. "Not really, actually. I'm just going to be making a stew, so I've got it pretty well handled from here. You can relax, or you can watch, whichever you'd like." Jill replied, and almost immediately Lethe had assumed a prime watching position. Well, that answered that, it would seem. It wasn't like she hadn't dealt with an audience before, so without paying much mind to her audience, Jill began cutting the vegetables, as well as setting the meat to sear for added flavour. Humming along the way as she brought her meal along, getting all of the ingredients prepared so that they could be added together for the finished stew. "That song... it's the same that Reyson and Leanne sung in Serenes Forest, is it not?" Lethe interjected after a time, lazing about in the fading sunlight, listening to and watching Jill as she went. She had an inkling for a while, but she was sure enough by now to say something. Taking a whiff of the cooking meal, the cat Laguz licked her lips in anticipation. When Jill had first said she was going to force vegetables on her, Lethe had assumed something for more egregious than a simple stew. "That's right. I was wondering if you'd recognize it." Jill replied, as she stirred the pot absentmindedly. By this point, the preparatory work had been completed, and now it was simply putting it all together and allowing the flavours to meld together. Giving it a preliminary taste, Jill couldn't help but smile. Surely Lethe would enjoy this, with how it was turning out. A hearty stew made from fresh elk, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomato, and fresh herbs? Jill figured there was just about nothing to dislike about that, truth be told. All that needed be done now was let the stew simmer down and thicken, and it would be finished and ready to eat. "It... does smell good. I'll admit that." Lethe noted, finally cracking under the pressure and smell of the cooking stew. That alone was enough to make Jill feel ecstatic, even at this juncture. If Lethe was saying such things already, then the end result was almost a guaranteed success. "I'm glad that you think so. It'll taste even better, I promise. And now, all we do is wait." Jill replied, standing up and walking over to where Lethe was resting, sitting down beside her, and taking a deep breath. The smell of food was in the air, the fire was going, and the darkness of the night's sky was starting to set in, the firelight illuminating the surrounding wood. "It really is pretty, out here. You can see so many stars in the sky, and everything is so serene and peaceful. I can see why you would choose to stay here, even if you hadn't picked it out of necessity." The rider stated, as she settled into a comfortable position, laying on the grass, allowing her hair to flow out beneath her. Such a place was absolutely nothing like the bustling suburbs of Nevassa, nothing like Talrega, or Melior... the seemingly inescapable scope of what people had created, where they had settled. It all seemed so... minuscule, unworthy of mention. Jill felt entirely divorced from the grip of that civilization, and felt her current situation to be anything but lacking. "I suppose it is. I never took care to notice, after a little while, it was just everyday life." Lethe replied, twirling a blade of grass between her fingers, watching the light bounce from it, as it's facing turned too and fro. "I guess you do stop noticing after a while, huh... it's the same with everything. You get used to it, and forget how special it really is." Jill agreed, shuffling around a bit, as she had not yet found a position she was fully comfortable with. Eventually settling into one, Jill craned her head towards Lethe, giving the Laguz a smile as she did so. "But you know, I hope it's not everything. I hope that I can always remember... how special you are to me. You're the reason that I changed everything I felt about the Laguz, after all. I don't want to see the day that I don't regard our friendship as special, anymore." Jill continued, glad for the dimming light and the fire, as it would hide her blush. "Err... thank you, Jill. You too, showed me something important. That if they are willing to change, all hu-... Beorc, are capable of that. I suppose that you would call that a... special friendship." Lethe replied in kind, also glad for the fire, for a very similar reason to Jill's own. It felt nice, to open up about this sort of thing, every once in a while. So long as it didn't become the norm, there was no problem with having talks like this, from time to time. "Thanks, Lethe. I'm glad you feel the same way." Jill replied with a smile, before sitting back up, and standing soon after, pumping her fist in the air, to the surprise of Lethe. "Alright, I'm even more determined now! That stew should be ready, and I am so gonna blow you away, Lethe!" Jill announced with renewed fervour, practically marching over to the pot, so as to remove it from the fire, before ladling out a bowl of stew for Lethe. Along with it came a spoon, and Jill sitting herself directly in front of Lethe. "Okay Lethe, say 'Ahh~'" The rider demanded, opening her own mouth, for emphasis. "I am more than capable of eating on m-" "I said, say 'Ahh~'" Lethe began, before immediately being interrupted by Jill, whose expression had grown decidedly harsh, practically scowling. Lethe was unused to such... forceful demands from Jill, a bit unsure of whether to comply, just yet. "You're not 'Ahh~'ing, Lethe." Jill announced sternly, her frown deepening. Lethe sighed, nothing good could come of denying Jill further, and thus, despite some reluctance, opened her mouth for the bite of food. "A-ahh~" Lethe mouthed, and so soon as she had finished, the spoonful of stew had been pushed into her mouth by Jill, an expectant look on the Daien's face. After recovering from the sudden insertion of the spoon into her mouth, Lethe began to taste the stew, savouring it for a moment, before swallowing. "It's good." Lethe noted, licking her lips as the spoon retreated from her mouth. "See, I told you~ Now again, say Ahh~" Jill replied, readying another spoonful of stew. "I said I am capable o-" Lethe began, once again cut off, though this time not by Jill's words, but by her sticking another spoonful of stew into the Gallian's open mouth. Resigning to her fate of being fed, Lethe swallowed the spoonful of food, before opening her mouth again for the next one, much to Jill's audible delight. *** "I can't believe that I let you spoon-feed me half a pot of stew." Lethe grumbled, rubbing her stomach as she laid on her mattress of soft grass and fur, a groan passing her lips as she stretched, giving Jill a lazy look. "But you enjoyed it, didn't you?" Jill retorted, having not eaten quite as much, and thus having slightly more energy at her disposal, was still sitting nearby where Lethe had chosen to lie. "I suppose I did. I still can't believe that it happened, though." Lethe retorted, repeating her previous statement, eliciting a pout from Jill, which continued until the Gallian patted the spot next to her. "It's getting late, and you'll have been flying since morning. Get some sleep, we'll talk more tomorrow." She noted, curling up slightly, before stretching once again. "Oh, okay. I'll do that." Jill replied, slowly adjusting herself until she was lying at Lethe's side, her surprise audible as Lethe pulled herself close to the rider, wrapping an arm about her. "Lethe, wha-" "The nights here are surprisingly cold. I am used to them, but you will enjoy the warmth." Lethe interjected, before Jill could make her complaint. Accepting the answer for what it was, Jill complied, pulling herself up to her friend. "Hey Lethe?" "Yes, Jill?" "I'm really glad I came to visit. It's been great seeing you again, and finally getting to see your home." "I agree. It has been good, seeing you again, Jill." "Thanks, Lethe. Good night." "Good night, Jill." Lethe finished, the conversation finishing as the small hut grew quiet, in the dark of night. Jill would remain for a few days more yet, but that is a tale for another time. -Fin
  14. A calm, stiff breeze weaved amidst the sea of tents within the camp. The temporary abodes of tattered cloth and linen stretched in rows, leaving narrow spine-like pathways in the space between them. The fabric whipped around, restrained only by several meager wooden stakes at the corners. A darkly attired, masked man strode along one such causeway, walking alone. The tent-backs that flanked him concealed his passage from the prying eyes of passers-by. Soldiers scuttled about on their business and duties, a fusion of anticipation and fear crossing many a face. The coming battle filled the air. The dark clothed man knew of the coming struggle, but neither hurried his pace nor let his mind wander to places of fear or doubt. He continued on his way, seemingly unphased by the threat of war and combat. "Gerome." He turned backwards to face his hailer, a brown haired myrmidon who had just entered the passage between the tents. "Fathe—" he caught himself. "Lon'qu. What do you want?" Lon'qu's lips slanted in what Gerome could gather to be a smirk of approval. "You almost said it again." "I told you not to get used to it. If that is your reason for stopping me, then you're wasting my time." "I was going to prepare my equipment, and I oft use this path. It's more...solitary." Lon'qu tried to make small talk, but Gerome simply waited in grudging silence. Lon'qu's eyes narrowed and he sighed. "The battle will be joined soon. We had best prepare." "I am prepared." Gerome clenched his gauntlets around the shaft of his battleaxe, iron gripping iron. "Don't delay me any longer. I must prepare Minerva." Lon'qu paused. "Very well." Gerome turned and moved onwards, called after by the brooding swordsman. "Can I count on your blade today?" He stopped and quickly rounded. "Live or die. My blade cannot change fate. There is no point in protecting the doomed." With that, he drove onwards towards the stables, axe in hand. "So you've said . . . but what if the doomed are your family?" Despite his father's protestations, his pace did not slow as he called back over his shoulder. "I fight alone." Tightening the straps of his saddle one last time, Gerome again glanced up to survey the battlefield, squinting through his mask. Before him lay an open plain of green, occupied only by a river cutting across its center. A few sparse boulders and trees dotted the landscape. Several hundred meters away, he could make out the shambling frames of the enemy, the glow of their red, empty eyes gleaming visibly in the daylight. At the head of the Shepherds was Robin, collectedly calling out final words of instruction and encouragement to the troop before they sallied out to meet the enemy. "Our bonds—the ties that we forge—they are our strength. These fallen creatures have none. They bring nothing but death . . . and in return, we will bring them no less. To me, Shepherds!" Gerome said nothing as hollers and cheers issued from the soldiers surrounding him. As the fighting force jogged and trotted forward in advance, he spurred Minerva aloft. Cynthia and Sumia sped past him, lances raised, as Minerva gained altitude. They swerved to the right flank of the field. Gerome's voice barely carried over the sound of Minerva's thrashing wings, but her sharply attentive ears caught wind of his command. "Let's move. To the left." Muscles rippling, Minerva roared in obedience and threw herself towards the left flank, speeding against the foes stationed there. Holding onto her saddle with one hand, Gerome leaned over her side to survey his targets. Scanning the enemy, he spotted a bow and quiver amidst the blinding glint of armor below. "Minerva, archer! Dive!" Patting her neck, he leaned close against her as she fell into a heavy slope downwards. He opened his mouth to call out further orders, but the gale-force winds relentlessly pummeled his face as they fell, halting his words before they could emerge. He grit his teeth and continued the dive. Pressing his thighs deep into Minerva's side to avoid being thrown from her back, he used both hands to lift his axe. In position, he focused and listened. Upon hearing a faint whistling he quickly tugged on Minerva's reins, forcing the wyvern to drift sideways in her descent. As she broke her dive several feet shy of the ground, an arrow flew past her right flank. "Now charge!" Gerome was not sure if Risen felt fear, but he mused that this one did—internally quaking as a roaring wyvern and rider bore down upon it. He inwardly smirked. Swooping down, Minerva passed to the right of the target, giving her master an opportunity to strike. Carefully timing his blow, Gerome drew his arms back and snapped them forward again, cleaving against the rushing air. As his axe hewed the archer's light armor, he heard the sound of leather and iron disintegrating before his blow. As the pair flew past their target, Gerome tightly gripped his axe. Bone and sinew gave way to steel as he wrenched it free, a guttural, unearthly howl signifying the trueness of his blow. Ascending again, he glanced back to see the form evaporating into a cloud of purple ash and smoke. Without prompting, Minerva dove toward a pair of swordsmen below. "Steady now." Minerva pounded the air with her imposing wings, halting a dozen meters from her prey. As she steadied herself, one of the Risen charged forward to meet her. "Attack the one in the rear! Destroy him!" With a shout, Gerome spurred her forward. Waiting until Minerva passed over the first swordsman, Gerome suddenly leapt from saddle and mount to assail the charging creature. Snarls and otherworldly screams bellowed from behind him as Minerva pounced upon her quarry. Silence again fell, his axe following close behind. With supernatural agility, the decaying fiend parried his attack, glancing the full weight of his blow harmlessly to the side with its silver sword. Both blades caught rays of sunlight and sparks flew as they ricocheted apart. Using the momentum of his deflected attack, Gerome spun around, allowing the force to carry his axe into a second strike. Within a moment of the first deferred blow, his axe lay embedded in the Risen's chest. There was a short silence that followed. When no purple death issued from the creature, Gerome knew that the fight was not over. With a death-rattling groan, the creature lashed out at him with its blade. Axe still entrenched within the monster, Gerome had nothing to defend himself with. Ducking under the axe handle, he pressed against the creature's body, taking cover behind the weapon still embedded in its abdomen. As silver fell against steel, the blow glancing harmlessly off his weapon, Gerome seized the axe and lurched away with all his speed and might. The cleaver shuddered momentarily before dislodging, leaving an oozing cavity of blood and darkness in its wake. Facing about to stand guard, Gerome barely blocked the second strike of the creature with the long shaft of his war axe. The two combatants, weapons locked, pushed against each other in a contest of raw might and mettle. I am not too proud to give way... Gerome withdrew his effort, letting the strength of the monster win out. Leaping to the side, he narrowly dodged the blade as it slipped off his axe. The sword whistled through the air and into the grassy soil below. With one swing, he beheaded the defenseless creature, the body collapsing into fibrous dust around him. All that remained was its wielderless sword, jutting out of the ground. With no more enemies left standing in the immediate area, he took a moment to discern the progress of the battle. His comrades had just as quickly dispatched their foes, the zenith of the battle having already passed. As the Shepherds cleaned the remnant Risen from the field, he quickly retreated, his talents no longer needed. After several minutes of lonely flight, save for Minerva's company, he arrived at the empty camp. After resituating Minerva in the stables, he decided to enjoy the several minutes of solitude he had before the rest of the force returned. The typical post-battle haze that hung over him had begun to lift, and he was suddenly hungry; he glanced up at the sun and realized it was almost midday. Finding his way to the main road, he made for the mess tent. With the camp vacant, he found his walk to be just as private as his journey between the tents. After a short walk he arrived, pushing aside the tent flap and finding it empty. He stepped inside and sat down at a table in the middle of the room, quietly thinking to himself. The thunder of hooves reached his ears as the Shepherds began to return, first the fliers and horsemen, then the foot soldiers, and lastly the knights. As he expected, the first to arrive at the mess tent was Stahl, his stomach audibly growling as it often did. He walked past Gerome and made for the table closest to the food line, casting a cheerful "Hello!" towards him as he passed. Gerome dipped his head in acknowledgment, but made no sound. He maintained his silence as the others arrived, recognizing those who bothered to greet him. It took roughly half an hour before a quorum of Shepherds had assembled and food began being served. He joined the line despite the unholy smell wafting from the kitchen area. Reminding himself that he had to eat did not help appetize him to the foul odored soup in his bowl. He returned to his seat. He sat alone for some time, aimlessly stirring the unappealing meal before him. Within his bowl was a stew-like substance, its broth black in color. Small bits of what he presumed to be meat floated in it. He glanced around distractedly, hoping to somehow delay tasting it. As he surveyed the room, he saw Stahl hastily devouring his portion, keen on getting seconds before the others were likely to have begun their firsts. Before he could hazard a bite, Gerome's attention was drawn to the entrance as Cherche and Lon'qu walked inside together. His father had a typical blank, hardened expression set upon his face, while his mother wore a contented smile, her arm locked in Lon'qu's as she nearly dragging him along. As they approached, Gerome attempted to look busy, pretending to spoon some of the stew into his mouth. The smell was horrendous. His stomach turned within moments of it entering his nostrils; he couldn't help but speculate who had concocted such a vile brew. Kjelle must be on cooking duty today... Gerome took a bite, cringing as he chewed through the gamey meat, his attempt to act nonchalant failing as he nearly choked—it was bear. Near the entrance of the tent, he could see Frederick dumping the contents of his bowl into Sumia's, explaining to his wife with an insistent smile that "she needed to keep up her strength.” As his parents passed, he sensed Cherche pause. Lon'qu continued walking, getting in line to fill their bowls with stew. Painfully aware of each others’ presence, they both waited in silence for several moments before Cherche spoke. "Gerome, might I have a word?" The option of stealth being out of the question, he replied coldly, not turning to face her. "If you must." "May I sit?" He grunted in response. "Do as you wish." Circling the table, she sat in front of him. "Must you give us the cold shoulder, Gerome? Our intention is simply to get to know our son." "I passed through time and left my world behind to make a difference, not to make friends. But as far as I have seen, we can only defy fate for a time. It will find its mark, even on you. I will not suffer that loss again." His mother frowned. "You fear losing us again, and yet you would do nothing to avert that fate?" Her question was met with stony silence. Lon'qu returned presently with their bowls of stew, which they began eating without complaint. Having been lost in thought, Cherche cocked her head and questioned him again. "Why did you join the Shepherds?" Seeing that he could not easily extricate himself from the conversation, he answered reluctantly. "I had hoped to accomplish with others what I could not alone. But I was a fool. At our full strength, the best we can do is delay the inevitable. Even if we could make a difference, I still would have no need for friends. The fewer friends I have now, the fewer dead friends I'll have later." He paused to breathe, his voice growing in intensity. "Furthermore, any interactions I have risk altering the future. I see no advantage in what you seek." Lon'qu interjected suddenly, his rough, low voice being barely audible amidst the noise of the mess hall. "You said yourself that your blade will make no difference. That fate cannot be challenged. Why then do you fight?" The question caught him off guard. Nodding in agreement, Cherche added to her husband's thought. "Gerome, if you don't believe you can change fate intentionally, why do you worry about altering it by accident?" Gerome quickly rose, his mask inadequately hiding his flustered anger. "This conversation is over." While he was tempted to call Minerva to his side for a quick escape, he thought it better to leave the mess tent in tact. He stalked outside, his parents staring after him in somber silence. Worse still, he didn’t have an answer. He was convinced that he could not change fate, while simultaneously being afraid he might do so. Even with a mask, his parents had seen straight through him, disarming him without a single blow. If a few words were enough to undercut his conviction… It is better to stay silent, perhaps. Gerome pulled his lance from the fallen brigand in front of him, the man's eyes still agape with shock and fright. The ground was littered with barbarian corpses, their shirtless bodies scarred and bloodied by the combat. Gerome's lance was sullied with their blood; he thrust it into the ground, the grass and soil cleaning it of any stain. Quickly retrieving it, he scanned the surrounding plains for any new foes to dispatch. As far as he could tell, none still stood to oppose them. When he was about to retire from the battlefield, a deafening screech sounded from the forest at the edge of the field. Apparently attracted by the din of the previous skirmish, dozens of Risen streamed from the dark forest, leaving trails of purple cinders behind them. Panicked calls to regroup filled the air as the Shepherds hastily struggled to draw ranks again. Still more Risen poured from the forest. For the first time, Gerome counted wyverns among their numbers, three in total. Contrasting their appearance of animalistic stupidity, the Risen seemed exceptionally organized. The Shepherds' line had finally come together; it rushed forward to meet the enemy. Gerome, being strongest in the sky, targeted the wyvern riders. Nudging Minerva with his heels, they sped off towards the battlefront. Hoping to stay out of sight until the appointed time to strike, Gerome urged her upwards, achieving an uncomfortably high altitude; the clouds served as excellent camouflage, however. After a minute of flying, they found themselves directly over their three wyvern-riding foes. "Stop," he commanded Minerva. If wyverns could smile, which Gerome of course believed they could, she grinned from horn to horn when he gave her the order. No matter how old Minerva got, she always found great thrill in a free fall. Obediently, she stopped moving her wings and dropped soundlessly towards her prey. Gerome faced his spear downwards as they dropped. Taking the first rider completely unawares, Gerome's lance completely penetrated both rider and beast, effectively skewering them together. Unable to retrieve his weapon from such a thrust, he let go to escape being pulled down with the now-dead weight. Minerva instinctively began flapping her wings again, howling in triumph at her master's kill. Drawing his axe, Gerome spotted the other two wyvern riders beginning to charge him. Daring not defend against two airborne foes with nothing but a short-axe, he commanded Minerva to dive down towards their allies with all speed. Both foes pursued. The chase quickly led to the ground where Gerome called out a command, wyverns hot on his heels. "Turn around!" Minerva instantly slanted upwards and whipped around with one smooth motion of her wings, giving Gerome opportunity to strike as his opponents careened past him towards the ground. As he struck at the enemy wyverns, still helpless in the midst of their dives, he caused them to recoil from his blade. Losing their balance, they wavered precariously above the ground. While they were still stunned, Minerva dashed between them. Targeting the riders, Gerome sliced twice, scrawling an "X" with his axe at their shadowy forms. The two Risen tumbled limply to the ground below. To his surprise, once their riders had fallen, their mounts seemed to have no interest in violence. The hollow darkness of their eyes suddenly brightened and their pupils turned from bloodshot to white again. Happily, the freed creatures roared before flapping away from the battleground. Gerome took a moment to watch them go, as did Minerva, before returning to check on the state of the battle. They slowly drifted down to the ground to get a better look. Heaving a sigh of exertion, Gerome scanned the horizon with his narrow vision, his gaze impeded by his mask. Near the axis of the battle, his father was locked in combat with a Risen that looked like it had been a Great Knight in its previous life. Lon'qu struck with precision and strength, his body and blade dancing around the heavily armored horseman. His attack was relentless. Though his blade made contact many times, the beast's armor held fast. It struck back with its lance, jabbing downwards at a nigh impossible target. The myrmidon dashed behind the horse, aiming to strike the creature from the rear. As he pulled back his blade to stab, the horse suddenly kicked backwards, its heavy hoof connecting with Lon'qu's chest. He was instantly tossed backwards, his guard down as he struggled to get up. "Father!" Gerome shouted and spurred Minerva forward, speeding towards his defenseless kin. "Gods, not today . . . I won’t endure it again!" As the Risen sprung forward, lance poised to strike, a flash of blue passed by the horseman and arrived at Lon'qu's side. "I'll keep you safe!" There was a grinding clash of metal against metal heard across the battlefield. Gerome searched for the source of the voice amidst the tumult. Crouched over Lon'qu's fallen form was Lucina, her drawn rapier holding back the lance from its target. Having blocked the initial strike, she continued to parry the blows of the Risen as Lon'qu rose slowly, his breath sputtering. With great effort, he stumbled to his feet and humbly backed away from danger. Gerome could see that Lucina was no better equipped to face a lance-wielder than Lon'qu had been, her rapier lacking the reach to properly attack. He urged Minerva to fly faster. Seeing Gerome's fast approach, Lucina adopted a defensive stance and kept the creature's attention on her, trying to fend it off until he arrived. He and Minerva silently drew into striking distance, making no noise to betray their presence, save for the rhythmic beating of her wings. Approaching from behind, he drew back his axe and swung a heavy blow. The hit connected, knocking the Risen from its horse. Dismounting quickly, Gerome trotted to his fallen foe and dispatched it with one strike to the head. Exhausted both physically and from panic, he took several moments to collect himself. Once he had caught his breath, he turned to Lucina, who was still standing nearby. Though she wore his mask no more in combat, she was still garbed in her outfit that was reminiscent of the hero king’s. She smiled as he approached. "You have my thanks, Lucina. I would not have made it in time." He dipped his head in respect. "I don't deserve your gratitude, Gerome. I count you and your father as friends. Any of us would have done the same." There was a long pause before she turned back towards Lon'qu, who was still breathing heavily and trying not to clutch his chest. "I should check on him." Gerome nodded in response and rejoined Minerva. The skirmish was winding to a close and allies swarmed all around. A girl carrying a heavy healing staff ran past, joining Lucina by Lon'qu's side. His father tried to extricate himself from the two women, but lacked the strength to protest or recoil. He gritted his teeth and endured as his wounds were attended to. Lucina's words rang in Gerome's head as he mounted and flew away. Any of us would have done the same. He hung his head, as if his mask was not adequate to conceal his shame. His mind turned back to his father’s request. He had the chance to protect a comrade, a kinsman—his father . . . and he had not. He had refused to do the same. "Lucina? I need to speak with you." Gerome had been restless ever since the battle that afternoon; he had finally tracked Lucina down, barely recognizing her in the growing darkness. "What is it, Gerome?" Her smile was warm as she turned to face him, contrasting the chilly air that surrounded them. "It's about those of us who traveled from the future. What is our purpose here?" She paused slightly, a hint of confusion showing. "I certainly hope you knew that before you agreed to come with us." Seeing that he was clearly unsatisfied with her answer, she continued. "We all have our reasons, but I am here to avert our future from coming to pass. No one should have to endure what our world has." Gerome shook his head. "You yourself have said that time always favors its original course. Take your efforts to save the exalt as an example." "That is true. I don't know if I can change the past or the future, but I choose to challenge my fate. Our fate." "Is that why you tried to save my father?" She replied without hesitation, smiling. "I helped your father because he was a friend who needed aid, and I was there to furnish it." Gerome nodded. "Unless I had seen it with my own eyes, I would still count you a fool for believing that fate is changeable. But I cannot deny what I have seen. I believed that nothing could alter our destiny, and did not bother trying to do so." His eyes fell downcast in remorse and he gritted his teeth. "My father—he asked me to fight with him last battle . . . to watch his back. I refused. If not for you and our journey to this time, he would have died where he lay. Perhaps fate can be averted—at least for a time. You have my thanks." "You're most welco—," she began to respond, but was quickly cut off as he continued. "However, while saving a life is understandable, that does not explain why you call him a friend," Gerome challenged. She eyed him quizzically. "Is he not our friend and comrade?" "It matters not what he is to us. This is not our time, Lucina. We have no place here. Why should we build bonds that we will have to break as soon as we are born in this time?" She cringed at his words, turning her face away. Gerome pressed on, too enveloped in his speech to notice her reaction. "Would you have us steal our own futures away? I expected you, among all of us, to understand that . . . this world's Lucina has already been born, and the rest of us will soon follow. The closer we become to the people of this time, the harder it will be to pull away . . . as we must." Gerome finished his rant and turned to face Lucina. To his surprise, her eyes were filled with tears. "I—I know. It isn't our place to be here, Gerome." Her lips quivered as she spoke. "But our task is not yet done here. I would like to enjoy their company while we can." Though taken aback by such a rare showing of emotion, he cautiously replied, his tone measured. "Surely we can protect them without building relationships and meddling with this time. Every interaction risks changing something. You know this, so why do you insis—" Lucina tightly grabbed his wrist as he spoke, cutting his words short as he slightly recoiled. "The bonds we have in this army are strong, Gerome. Without them, I fear we cannot win this fight. A time may come when we have to break them..." She released his hand and stepped back, her eyes distant. "...but not now." With a tear-stained smile, she briskly walked away into the night before Gerome could collect his thoughts. He was left alone in the bitter cold to stew over his thoughts. At the eve of the next battle, Gerome found himself by Lucina's side. He flew to her as they approached the Longfort, the defenders upon the thick walls under heavy duress from Risen attackers. The ice laden air stung any exposed skin, leaving the part of his face uncovered by his mask reddened and numb. With a shout from Chrom, the procession was halted and all ears were turned toward the front of the line. "Shepherds! Regna Ferox has come to our defense in our time of need before, and now the time has come to return the favor. Let's give these Feroxi soldiers some breathing room!" Chrom reared his horse and lifted Falchion aloft, raising a cry of vigor from the assembled force. Gerome gazed down the snow-filled road, the Longfort looming in front of them. Risen forces were piled at its gates; the air was filled with arrows and inhuman roars as the Feroxi border guards beat back their assailants. Several days before, Ferox had called for aid. Their armies were already stretched thin from the conflict with Valm, and now they faced assault from the Risen along their southern border as well. Lucina, who had been fixated on the enemy before them, noticed his presence. A faint smile crossed her chapped lips as she spoke. "I thought you fought alone. Did you change your mind?" "No. I owe you a debt, and I intend to repay it here." Lucina sighed, trying not to sound exasperated. "You owe me nothing Gerome—though I won't object to your company. It is reward enough, if you truly insist on such unnecessary payment." Though it was impossible to tell because of his cold-reddened cheeks, his face slightly flushed at her words; While embarrassing, they warmed his heart. "I will be your shadow in the air. Direct me and Minerva as you will." He bowed his head in fealty. "We will strike down any who dare oppose you." She nodded determinedly, drawing her Falchion from its sheath. "Try to keep up." Charging ahead, she joined the rest of the force in their advance. As he followed her lead, he found himself amongst the main body of the force. The presence of so many soldiers surrounding him, though they were allies, made him uncomfortable. With little room to maneuver, he followed close behind Lucina, hoping she would break away from the rest of the army. As the road opened up into a clearing, the noise of battle grew closer in his ears. Their enemies came into sight at last; the force was composed of several heavily armored generals, a few cavaliers, and a band of archers. For the first time, Gerome saw Risen wielding magic tomes. New enemies had been appearing with every encounter, and their arsenals grew in diversity and lethality. The undead valkyries, mounted on horseback, shot bolts of fire and lightning against the towering wall. As the magic struck the Fort, large chunks of stone and mortar shattered and fell to the ground; ash, dust, and stone showered the snow below. The Shepherds sized up their enemy quickly, and sent word to the convoy for weapons. Within minutes, dozens of Ylissean soldiers arrived bearing extra spears, hammers, and bows. One such soldier ran up to Gerome, handing him a hammer. He hefted it with one hand, testing its weight. It was surprisingly light for its size, at least to someone with his strength. Once the whole company was properly outfitted, it charged into battle. Despite the snow beneath her boots, Lucina dashed forward with surprising speed. As the two of them pulled ahead of the main force, the soft crunching of snow beneath her feet was all that could be heard amidst the sounds of battle ahead. The Risen were unaware of them. Before Lucina and Gerome, a pair of generals were heaving lances at the Feroxi defenders upon the wall. They turned upon hearing Minerva in flight. They were too late. Lucina's sword glowed with blue, fiery moonlight as she approached her target. Before the armor-encumbered foe could react, she had impaled it through the abdomen. It let out a screech, which was suddenly cut off as it crumbled into dust. Gerome and the second general's emotionless gazes met. Neither moved for a moment, as Minerva was hovering just out of range. Gerome grunted in contempt and raised his weapon. "This is farewell!" Minerva dove, shooting forward at a dizzying pace. Gerome's hammer fell. Making contact with the helmet of the Risen, the hammer evoked a sickening noise as metal crunched and folded beneath its mighty blow. Seconds later, no trace of his foe remained, a heap of blackened snow and a fallen lance being the only evidence to its existence. Gerome scanned his surroundings, trying to gauge the battlefield with his limited vision. He wished he could simply rip off his mask, but he quickly pushed away the thought. No longer distracted by combat, he suddenly realized that Lucina was no longer at his side. Looking around, he saw her engaged with a swordmaster a dozen yards away. She was no doubt holding her own, but the scuffle had attracted the attention of several nearby Valkyries. Gerome could see their tomes glowing as they chanted broken words; spectral glyphs began to hover around them as they prepared their magic. "Minerva! It's time to repay our debt." She dove towards Lucina without any further prompting. Gerome didn't bother calling out a warning—there was no time for that. As the reached Lucina, a crackling bolt of lightning was already in midair. Leaping from Minerva's back, he kicked her away to safety, prompting a roar of despair as she attempted to right herself and return to her master. Gerome fell in-between Lucina and the bolt. He raised his hammer, though he doubted it would absorb much of the attack, and braced himself. Electricity coursed through his body, paralyzing him with shock and pain. He fell into the snow, his onyx armor sizzling against the cold ground. As his vision faded in and out, he saw Lucina's lips form his name, though he heard nothing. With renewed vigor, she sliced off the sword hand of her opponent and ran him through. Not bothering to make sure her foe was dead, she dashed towards him and slid to her knees by Gerome’s side. He winced as his hearing slowly began to return, his ears ringing violently. Lucina was still mouthing his name as she leaned above him; it sounded far away as she repeated it. He vaguely felt her grab his shoulders, trying to shake him, but she quickly recoiled as his armor singed her hands. Too exhausted to keep his head up, it fell sideways into the snow. A distant roar echoed in his ears as he perceived Minerva charging his attackers, ignoring the bolts that whizzed by her as she ripped them apart. His lips parted as the world began to fade. "My debt . . . is repaid." He coughed and sputtered. "You have to live . . . you have to change things. Don't let my parents join me . . . this time . . ." With that, his senses faded. The last thing he heard was a promise. "I will, Gerome. I'll change fate for you . . . for us all."
  15. "Are you awake?" It was a soft, gentle inquiry, but the effect it had on the youth was wracking. Its echo pounded inside his skull, desperate to escape. "I found you unconscious on the plains. My name is Lyn, I'm from the Lorca tribe. It looks like you've taken a nasty hit to the head, but you're safe now." Ignoring the voice hadn't caused it to go away, and the slim hope that everything was just a bad dream that could be waited out was cruelly dashed. Opening his eyes and raising his body to a sitting position--was a huge mistake. The world was a flash of bright white and blue, and it swirled dizzyingly about him. The unmoving blur of tan and green barely served as a point of reference, something to focus on in an attempt to get his bearings. "Who are you? Where are your people? Can you remember what happened to you?" Fighting back the urge to retch, he blinked several times, and drew a deep, ragged breath. There was an unpleasant taste in his mouth, but swallowing brought a measure of relief. Raising his hand, he felt a sticky spot on the back of his head, which seemed to confirm the girl's words. But as he opened his mouth to respond, he realized he didn't have an answer for her. "I... my name is..." he croaked out, and frowned. Who was he, what was he doing here? "Oh, wait, is that it stitched into your clothes there? But such strange attire... let's see. It's hard to read, and... I've never heard anyone called that before, kind of odd for a name... But does that say 'Mark'?" Strange attire? He looked down at himself, then back at the girl. If anything, she was the one who didn't fit... or did she? His head still ached mercilessly, but he had to figure out what was going on. That name wasn't right, but it had to be close. Then, swift as a thunderbolt, something came to him. It was just a piece, certainly not the whole thing, but it was more than he'd had before. "Hawk. Not Mark, Hawk. I'm from... I'm sorry, I can't remember. Where are we?" Looking around at the surroundings filled him with a strange sense of wonder, and a vague disquiet. The surroundings were wide open plains, the tall grasses bending and swaying beneath the wind. No signs of civilization unless... "I see, Hawk, huh... That's a nice name, actually! But pay me no mind. You're in Sacae, and I frightened away the man who attacked you, but he might return with friends, so we should really hurry and get a move on. Let me take you home to my ger and we can speak more there. C'mon, let me help you up." "Ger?" The confused tone in his voice, and quizzical look he must have had on his face prompted a further explanation as she helped him to his feet and threw his arm over her shoulder so she could help support him. "That's the name for the type of small round hut my people build. It's not much, but since we're pretty nomadic that's to be expected. Still, it serves us well enough until the herds move and we have to follow after them." There was an oddly melancholy cast to the girl's voice as she explained this, but Hawk couldn't spare the effort to figure out why. His mind was too busy racing with its own questions, trying to solve the more pressing mysteries presented him. Namely, why he couldn't remember much of anything. "'ey boss, there she is. That's the bitch what got me interrupted," a crude voice from behind them broke apart the previous stillness of the plains. "Oho, is that so? Lil missy there's gotta be either pretty brave or pretty stupid to mess with Batta the Beast. Let's get 'er boys!" "What ill timing," the girl swore softly and swung her head around for a better look. "Three... four of them. If that's all they've brought, then I think I can handle them on my own, but I'm not sure I can keep you safe..." Her obvious concern made Hawk uncomfortable. He felt weak, useless. There had to be something he could do. "I... can help," he said, somewhat unconvincingly. "You're in no condition to fight," Lyn protested, "And you haven't even a weapon." She stepped aside, as he was attempting to shrug off her support, and gave him a disapproving look. "Not... fighting," Hawk tried to explain, but stopped when he realized he wasn't sure exactly what it was he'd had in mind. His right hand instinctively moved to the contraption he was wearing on his left wrist, as if perhaps that held some answers. "I give... orders?" It wasn't the most confident explanation of his abilities, and it might not even be correct, but it's all he could come up with. "So, you're a tactician? I guess that could be useful, but those bandits are closing fast and there aren't enough of them for tactics to really be an issue. Still, I appreciate the offer." She pulled out her sword as she talked, and tightened her sash to prepare for battle. Batta and his men were nearly upon them. Hawk couldn't argue against that, and frowned, watching the young girl turn to face their enemies alone, then returned to fiddling with the strange device. COMP ACTIVATED, strange blocky letters informed, scrolling across the surface. DEMON SUMMONING PROGRAM ENGAGED. What did that even mean? There was a strange crackling sound, and a flash of light, and the air felt strangely energized; all of his hairs must have been standing on end, then the odd sense of tension vanished and normality returned. Well, mostly. There was a strange creature standing a few paces in front of him. It had long, shrivelled limbs; a disproportionately large head; and an enormous, grossly distended belly. "Give Macca?" it crooned, and looked at Hawk expectantly. Just what in the-- "Heh, you think that thing can stand up to Batta the Beast?" Coarse laughter accompanied the whooshing sound of a swinging axe, cleaving through the air. There was a shriek as it barely clipped the grotesque creature, which immediately changed its attention from Hawk to Batta. "Give Macca?" it called out once again, before diving at the man in a whirlwind of flailing limbs. The spectacle was almost unbelievable, and Hawk would have been caught up in watching it, had a strong grip not tightened itself on his arm. "We have to run," Lyn hissed to him. "I don't know what that thing is, but it'll keep him busy, and that's all we need. I handled two of them, and the third fled, so if they manage to take care of each other that's all we could ask for. I'm going to have a lot more questions for you, though, when we get back to my ger, that's for sure." Hawk nodded mutely and let her drag him along across the plains. She wasn't the only one with questions, but she was probably the only one with any answers, and he hoped she wouldn't be too disappointed when she found that out.
  16. Tangerine

    The Answer

    The Answer "Ya've heard o' 'im, haven't ya?" He didn't stop his hands from peeling spuds. "Tha' one down in the dungeons." "Him who?" Hermes didnt dare look up. If he did, he was sure to get clobbered by the cook. "Tha' old Druid, emperor's last teacher." The teacher, imprisoned in the dungeons? He kept his hands busy, thinking of the day before last. He took a meal down there for the wizened old man. Blind, smelly, and very, very old. He grunted, hoping to hear more without looking up. "He was a-ravin' this morn. Wouldn't stop talkin' bout it." It. So it was this story again, about the it. Grados old beloved national treasure, spirited away by the Demon Kings servants. There was no other explanation. But that was years ago, years and years before even Hermes grandfather was born. And he told him the story about the Fire Emblem, it was only proper. People still remembered it faintly, about the hero Grado sealing the soul of the Demon King in the stone. They had to. Because the monsters ravaged the edges of the cities and towns still. "Do ya think he's right 'bout it?" He stopped, raising his eyes just a little. "Dat it ain't no more." "Who knows." The people had rallied together, each nation gave soldiers to an order called the Magvellian Alliance, and they fought to keep the monsters away. His father was out fighting now, same with his mother. They'd be out for a few years still. "It's been s'long. Stories are just for kids, y'kna." "He says he knows how'a get peace." Hermes went back to peeling. "He's just raving senile things. Poor 'im." [line-break] As Hermes descended into the dungeons, he shivered as the chill cut him to the bone. He didn't like it. His boots stepping on stones set older than him, in dirty pools of water and droppings of creatures. He didn't know what lined the walls and he didn't think he wanted to know. It was never clean down here, Gus never did his work. He said it didn't need to be clean for no one. No one was down here. Except for the emperors teacher, Galalilei. He hurried to the cell, the torches throwing enough light for him to find his way. There wasn't even a guard in front of his cell, and there weren't any chains. Chains were for the dangerous ones, his father had said. But what could a blind man do to anyone? He had to be down here for something, but what? Just as he turned the corner, a cry startled him and he dropped a roll of stale bread. Cursing, he left the morsel where it fell. Rats feasted better on those than on the old man, he didn't deserve that. "You the boy?" The wail was ghostly, but Hermes would not show fear. Fear was a trick, to stop and delay people from doing their work. He was not afraid. "Erick, you've come! Come to reason, have you!" A shuffle of robes, he could see the rich cloths hanging off the thin mans frame through the bars. He grit his teeth, keeping his mouth a stern line as he reached for the keys on his belt. "It is what we need, the Fire Emblem--everything was created by it, do you know? Do you know! The power--the Demon King stole it. Stolen it from the dragon-kind, he is the last. The last of them, of them all!" The rasping voice, strong in conviction and weak in volume. It brought another shiver down his spine as he opened the door. Thank the gods he couldn't get up from off the ground, but could feed himself as a young child was able to do. "He is not gone, his body may be destroyed, but he is not gone. You need the stone Erick, the Fire Emblem--get it back. Get. It back. Get it back get it back get it back." The old man worked himself into a frenzy. And still Hermes stayed aloof. It was Emperor Erick's merciful decision to let him live, he didn't do anything deserving death. And the ravings would stop. They always stopped, he was sure of it, after he was gone. He set the soup down, shoving a spoon in a gnarled hand and left. Locking up behind him. [line-break] "Can there be peace?" The weeks wore on, and Hermes still did not hear from his parents. It was the first he'd spoken to the old man, since bringing him meals. The laughter that answered him did not sound promising. "There is peace now. Do you hear anything Erick? Do you hear it?" He stood, muttering to himself about senile old men. He nearly fell when those bony hands grasped his foot. But Hermes didn't yell--what could the old man do other than grab at him? "That is what the Demon King brings, he brings peace to us. There is no greater peace than in death! Everything, all things die and he brings it to us, wrapped up as gifts. His servants bear his will and, and Erick we receive them with weapons swinging and magic flung. How can you do that, to such a generous master?" He wrest his leg out of the grip and left. [line-break] "I told you, I've found these notes. Knoll's life's work, and he was a good one. Took lots of notes, just like you did Erick, he took many notes. He discovered the secret of the Fire Emblem, you see. He knew the power that the Dark One had--it could raise the dead from their graves, it could heal people, it delayed the peace he would bring but his power is just. You need to get it Erick, you need it. Grado needs you to find it again. You know the legends, you know them well boy. I taught them to you. The new heroes, that silly L'Arachel had hundreds of songs composed of good winning against the Demon King. They destroyed his body, you know they did Erick, but his soul. The fount of his power Erick! If Grado had its power, can you imagine? If Grado had its power and used it? You would become the greatest emperor of all Erick, the greatest! They made us weak, they said we were vile. Lyon was a rash youth--I've taught you better than that. You could do what he could not. You can be great, Erick. You! And only you..." To Hermes' surprise, the prisoner wasn't just raving to himself. There was someone else by the cell, as he brought the meal down. He lowered his gaze, and swallowed hard, muttering the proper greetings. He waited. His neck began to hurt when he caught the end of a whisper. Lifting his head a little, he kept his back straight and stared at the cobbled stones. The emperor watched him lay down the tray of bread, cheese and old meats. He could still feel the emperors eyes as he rounded the corner, walked down the dungeon hall, and reached the surface.
  17. "Balmung, this way hurry!" My heart was racing. This must be what it feels like to be hunted at night. The darkness accompanies our hunters, surrounding the two of us in their encroachment. "Dammit, I didn't think they'd catch up to us so soon!" Grunted my prey buddy. By they, he means the Empire's Lizard Runners. Crazy lot, using black magic for experimentation. In this case, a dragon horse hybrid and we have a small group of them right behind us. "What kind of mad man comes up with those kinds of things?" I asked my companion. "I don't even know, I'm just glad you got me out of there." He replied. The guy running with me was Balmung, just as he explained, I helped him escape his confinement within Empire walls. He was a Manakete, a dragon in humanoid form. It's because he's a Manakete that we're in this situation but, that can't be helped. "Keep the pursuit! They couldn't have gotten far!" Ordered a loud voice. This is a lot to take in for someone like myself, but I've already come this far so what's there left to lose? "Balmung let's jump down here!" Both Balmung and I jumped down a small cliff. It was a bit steeper that I thought so we ended up crashing hard onto the ground. More of the wind knocked out of me than I thought, I had to hold down what could've surged from my bowels. "You alright? We should keep moving." Explained Balmung. Taking a final gulp to ensure my innards stayed inside, I tapped his shoulder signaling to go. We just kept on running, never mind our pursuers for a bit, I just hope we're going in a good direction. "Hey Balmung, what are we going to do after this?" I asked, keeping my pace with him. "Honestly, I don't even know. As far as I know the other Manakete must've sailed safely out of Glendios by now." "How about you help any other stragglers that might still be out there? I'll even help you out?" "Really? That'd be great! We can even help the other species as well!" Balmung's face lit up, at least that's what I'm hoping happened. It was still pretty dark here, maybe it's affecting our pursuers as well. "There's a river up ahead, let's take a break there." Balmung suggested. Up ahead the moonlight was shining decently, it's shine bouncing off the river water. Balmung knee dived near the river side scooping up water with his hands to quench his thirst. Now that I think about it, he really sticks out in his ragged clothing. His long bluish green hair and dark brown skin only fortify my comment. I felt around my back, thank all that is good, my prized weapons were still holstered behind me. I walked towards the river, scooping up it's cold delight into my mouth. "To think you'd end up here of all places." My intake of water stopped as my body froze up. Balmung knelt next to me trying to bring me back on my feet. "Why? Why are you here? Sakit(saw-keet)!" I cried out. "Wait, you mean the Empire's Lord of Pain Sakit?" Questioned Balmung, who began squeezing my arm. Walking towards us from the opposite side of the river was a hulking suit of red armor lined with black markings, and a black cape. What was most intimidating was the dragon head helmet that covered his head. "You're supposed to be out suppressing the rebels south of the Empire." I explained. "That has already been taking care of, I was just out for a stroll before reporting back to the king. That's when I received a message telling me to prevent the escape of a Manakete and his accomplice. I never expected the accomplice to be you young-" "STOP!" I cried out. "What's wrong? Don't tell me this Manakete doesn't even know who you really are?" Sakit asked. "What's he talking about?" Balmung asked, staring at me with doubtful eyes. "I'm sorry Balmung, I wasn't trying to keep it a secret from you." I muttered back. Sakit walked towards us, his metallic footsteps meshing with the rocks beneath his feet. "So the Manakete doesn't know... My prince." "Prince?" Balmung whispered. "Balmung... I..." I stuttered. Balmung backed away from me, his face covered in the shadow of his hair. "I thought you were a worker or servant for the Empire." Sakit finally made his first step in the river as he began laughing. "To think his majesty's son was the accomplice all along. What a riot, but most importantly what a scandal!" "Quiet human!" Balmung ordered, the atmosphere getting a bit heavy. Grabbing me by the collar, Balmung punched me across the face and threw me into the river. "Prince was it? Did you think you were doing me a favor by hiding your bloodline? Did you think I wouldn't speak with the son of the man who captured, experimented, and killed my brethren?" Balmung stepped into the river pacing towards me. "Of course I was thinking that! Do you know what it feels like to be spoken to with my background? Everyone thinks of me as just a prince, or the king's son. Everyone was too afraid to speak to me normally because of my social standing!" I yelled out. Standing up, it was my turn to grab Balmung by his clothes. "But you were different! You spoke to me informally, and without regards to who I was. If I told you who I was, you would've treated me just like the others!" I knocked Balmung over into the river. "Then you should've said something sooner!" Balmung retorted back, getting back up and grabbing my collar. "How could I? I was afraid you'd stop talking to me. I was afraid of losing the first friend I made that didn't see me as a prince or my father's son!" A sudden impact to my forehead made it's insides scream with pain. Going blank for a bit before regaining my senses I see Balmung's lightly bruised forehead. "Damn fool! I'm a Manakete, we treat those who respect us with respect! Not to mention someone, some human, who would call our kin friend." "Are you done? I must return your bodies to his majesty!" Sakit drew a scaly winged claymore from behind him and charged straight at us. Luckily we were pretty lightly equipped so we could dodge his first strike easily. "Do you like it prince? This wyrmslayer was outfitted to match my preferences. I call it wyrmcleaver." Sakit rose his blade in the air and struck down where we were standing. By luck this time we managed to dodge it again. "Sakit! What did you just say earlier? You'll bring our bodies back to my father?" I questioned him angrily. "You heard right prince. I have to bring back the specimen that ran away, and since you were the one who helped him escape you're considered a traitor. Ahahahaha" Sakit laughed, pointing his weapon at us. "That's quite a statement Sakit. But in a way you're not wrong, I can't approve of the Empire's actions." I unholstered the weapons strapped to my back. They were a couple of short swords, a bit bent in the middle making a slight V-shaped curve. "The prince's prized bladerangs? You honor me, I'll be sure to give those to your father along with your body!" Sakit came at me, his intent to kill almost suffocating. I know I'm not strong enough to beat him, so I'll just have to make an opening for Balmung and I to escape through. Swinging down his wyrmcleaver, I caught it in the bends between both my blades. The weight of both his swing and blade were overwhelming. I was being pushed down on one knee just trying to block it. "Don't forget you're fighting two of us!" Balmung shouted. A radiant green illuminated from where Balmung was standing. Following the light Balmung's features grew scaly, and his limbs grew in size. Spiked wings grew from his back and his face turned dragon like. By the end of his transformation a giant shadow eclipsed both Sakit and I. "The Manakete was able to get his hands on one of the dragonstones we kept locked up. That wouldn't be your doing again, would it prince?" Sakit asked, thrusting his leg into my abdomen. "What if it was?" I replied, wondering how he could kick me in that situation with all that armor on. Most of the wind was knocked out of me as I gasped for air. "Then that'll add on to your crimes!" Sakit switched his target to the towering bipedal brown dragon before us. Those arrow piercing golden eyes were enough to make any grown man run away. But the only thing on my mind, was how cool it was to witness such a thing. Balmung threw his claw at Sakit who in turn parried the attack. Sparks flew with each hit that followed afterwards. I stood there watching for my chance to strike, for that one window of opportunity to show up. "Foolish dragon, soon your kind will be nothing more than tools for us humans." Sakit taunted, fending off another blow. "QUIET!" Balmung roared as he opened his mouth. Within that oral opening, a furnace of fire burned fiercely. The air around me felt tense, forcing me to move away from Balmung's flame filled mouth. "Good, show me what you got dragon!" Sakit raised his weapon above his head. Don't tell me he plans on slashing through that attack! Bringing his head up a bit, Balmung shot out a breath of flame towards the Lord of Pain. The flames raged towards their target, only to be cut in half by Sakit's vertical slash. It was really astounding to see someone cleave dragon fire in two, but it also gave me the opening I needed. I brought both my arms back and flung my bladerangs at from behind Sakit. The bladerangs crossed paths over one another before arching towards their destination. I was aiming for Sakit's neck hoping to kill him, but alas as he was more battle hardy than me he nearly dodge my incoming blades. At that moment I ran towards Sakit and using him as a stepping stone, launched myself upwards. "BALMUNG!" I cried out. With a clear replying roar, Balmung swiped his claw at Sakit sending him flying off to the side. My bladerangs returned to my hands as I landed on Balmung's back. "Hold on to something." The Manakete grunted as he ran in the opposite way of Sakit. "Hey why didn't we do this before?" "We were in a forest, there wouldn't be any space for me in this form." --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- After what felt like a few minutes, Balmung let me down and reverted back to his humanoid form. I wonder how he manages to get his clothes back after turning into that form? "I think we're safe for now. Are you injured?" Balmung asked me. We ended up at another river, this time, one that we both knew. "So we ended up reaching the edge of the Empire anyways. What luck!" I cheered. "All we gotta do is cross that bridge and we'll be in Eliwoodain territory." Mentioned Balmung. "Ready to go friend?" I asked my companion. "You know it pal." Balmung raised his fist at me. I looked hard at it trying to figure out what it meant. "Stick your hand out just like mines." Balmung chuckled. I brought up a fist near Balmung's, and he bumped them together as he chuckled again. "That's called a fist bump, something my tribe picked up one day while conversing with humans." Balmung smiled eagerly. Not sure why, but I felt all warm inside. We made our way towards the bridge, the running water underneath was pretty fast. But the bridge was sturdy, although you'd probably be swept up with the current if you fell off and into the water. We crossed it in no time at all, I took one final look back at my home country. Even if I was only allowed to venture off to the forest near home, I've never been this far out. But I know this country has to change, and I feel something big is going to happen soon, with my homeland at the root of it all. Hmm? What's this sharp pain coming from my back? I looked at Balmung who was staring at me all wide eyed. "Hey...what's the matter friend?" I asked. Somehow it was getting a bit hard to breathe. "Stay... me! Hey! Hero!" Balmung's voice was cutting off. My back was feeling a bit wet, so I reached for the spot. Some of the water must've gotten on me, when I brought back my hand it was shaded with light patches of red. Looking behind me again there was a line of Lizard Runners, several of them pointing their arrows at us. "So... That's... It... Balmung... Get out... Of here..." My strength was beginning to drain, so with the last bit I pushed Balmung forward also pushing myself off into the river. All I could feel was cold and the busy water spiriting me away somewhere. I hope Balmung got away ok, otherwise all this would be for nothing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Hey... Think... Waking up." What? Whose voice is that? "Brianne get dad, tell him the guy we brought in is waking up." "You got it Geo!" The hurrying footsteps helped me open my eyes a little. It was still a bit blurry, but I could make out long black hair and green clothes. "Hey are you wide awake now? My sister found you floating down the river just outside the village. I'm Geo by the way, what's your name?" It was a girl's voice, nice and soothing actually. Trying to get up only brought me pain from my back. The girl named Geo put her hands on me trying to hold me down. "Hey wait a minute, you're still injured! Just lie down alright?" "Where am I?" I asked softly. "You're in the Town of Beginnings." "Come again?" "The Town of Beginnings, we're right outside the kingdom of Hectora." "Hectora? How the heck did I end up here?" I spurted out, writhing in pain trying to get up. "Like I said, you were floating down the river with a broken arrow in your back. Geez, I told you to lie down, now lie down!" Geo pounded her fist into bedside table to my right. Literally right into it, her blow was so strong a portion caved in. "Yes ma'am..." I answered quietly. Really, are all common folk and the like this strong and surprising? Balmung... I hope he got to somewhere safe in Eliwoodain. I recalled our escape from up until I pushed myself off the bridge. Sakit's words echoed through my mind, I guess I really have gone traitor haven't I? "So are you going to tell me your name now or not?" Geo demanded. Remembering the damage to the table she just made, I nodded my head. "It's Hero, just Hero. I thank you and your family for saving me and treating my wounds." I gave a weak smile. I thought it best I use the same name I gave to Balmung when I first encountered him. "Hero huh? That sounds more like a title, but you're welcome nonetheless." Geo gave me a reassuring smile as an older man in armor walked in. "My daughter told me you were awake so I came by to check up on you." Said the older man. His armor seemed worn out, his hair was a bit long and grey. "I'm the captain of town guard, you can call me Brock. But since you'll be working for your treatment, just captain is fine! Ahahaha" Giving a big hearty laugh, captain Brock took a seat at the foot of my bed.
  18. The Adventures of the Crimean Liberation Army April, 2014, Presidential Palace, Kiev, Ukraine, Earth Petro Porshenko, President of Ukraine, was overall having a pretty shitty year. Oh, things had started out swimmingly for his country, with the peaceful (ironically, in hindsight) overthrow of former President Viktor Yanukovich. Then, of course, Putin entered the equation. God, Porshenko hated Putin, no matter how muscular and bear riding the man might have been. Russia’s President had acted quickly to secure the Crimea region, which Russia claimed. The really galling thing was that there wasn’t a thing Porshenko could do about it, as long as Obama continued to be a goddamn pansy about it. Why didn’t the rest of the world realize that Crimea was worth a nuclear war? It made Porshenko’s blood boil. Thus, it came as quite a surprise to Porshenko when he stumbled upon a lamp. He had always heard as a child that if one were to rub a lamp, a genie would emerge and grant one a single wish. He paused briefly. “Fuck it,” he reasoned, “what’s the worst that can happen?” The lamp was rubbed. A genie burst out of the lamp. “Jesus fucking Christ!” Porshenko exclaimed, falling backward onto a table. “What the fuck, man?” the genie inquired. “Werent you always told as a kid that if you rubbed a lamp, a genie would emerge?” “Well, sure,” Porshenko replied breathlessly, “but I never actually expected for it to happen!” The genie shrugged. “Whatever floats your boat. So, one wish, you know the drill?” Porshenko did, indeed, know the drill. He also knew exactly what he was going to ask for. “Genie,” he began, doing it just like he saw in Alladin, “give me a Crimean Liberation Army!” Castle Nados, Crimea, Tellius, 646 Sir Ike, leader of the Greil Mercenaries, supreme commander of the Crimean Liberation Army, and, according to a good deal of the fandom, Elincia’s rightful Husbando (fuck you Geoffrey!), was having a splendid day. He had, after all, just defeated the Black Knight, the man who murdered his father. Now, he, along with Queen Elincia, Geoffrey (fuck him!) and Count Bastian, pored over a map of Crimea. “So let me get this straight,” Ike began. “All Daein has left is one city and some crappy ass tower, and they STILL outnumber us?” “Well, you see, Sir Ike,” Bastian replied poetically, “if they did not outnumber us then the endgame would be boring, and that would piss the fans off.” “What?” Ike replied quizzically. “Oh, nothing, just breaking the fourth wall.” Bastian was a smug little bastard, wasn’t he? What our heroes did not know was that this strategic meeting was about to be broken up by a rather unexpected occurrence. That unexpected occurrence was the familiar surroundings of the command tent being replaced with the Presidential Palace in Kiev, Ukraine. The Aforementioned Location Ike and Porshenko stared at each other for a solid 5 seconds before the reality of their respective situations registered with them. Porshenko, ever the politician, smiled warmly. “Ah, you must be the Crimean Liberation Army! I have been expecting you!” “For about 5 seconds,” the genie sniggered. “Yes, that would be us,” Ike replied. “More importantly, who are you, what are you wearing, where are we…” 2 Hours Later “… and why is that tiny naked woman trapped in that glowing box?” Ike demanded. “Shit man, keep it down, my wife might hear!” Porshenko said angrily. “I believe I can answer most of those questions,” the genie said self importantly. “You see, Ike, you and your friends have been transported to a place called Earth.” Knowing that the audience is probably already familiar with the basics of Planet Earth, the author decided to leave out the genie explaining the entire history of the planet. It took a good deal of time, as you can imagine. Elincia specifically began to look rather ill at around the 1789 mark. All in all, it took 5 hours. Aren’t you glad the author didn’t show that? “…and THAT is why Putin wants Crimea!” the genie concluded. “Okay, that’s great,” replied Ike, “but why should we care? We have our own Crimea to save.” “Well,” came the reply, “I won’t send you back until you take care of this.” “Wow,” Ike observed, “you’re a dick.” “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” the genie replied. He was quite happy about this chance to say that; since Ike had never seen “Gone With The Wind”, he was able to get away with making that reference. “In any case,” Porshenko finally said, “I think its time you met my boss.” In the other room “Um, uh, let me be clear,” began President Barack Obama, “these, these uh, people are going to help us?” The author, in case you were not aware, wishes you to read Obama’s dialogue in his stereotypical voice. Before Porshenko could respond, Ike stepped in. Or at least he would, if he was not in shock. You see, there were not any black people in Fire Emblem until Awakening. Thus, it was understandable that Ike and his friends were completely dumbfounded by the presence of a black man. Really now, it wasn’t that they were racist. Finally, Lethe broke the silence. “Its… its… a Beorc with brown skin?” Obama, naturally, was rather miffed at this. Or, at least he would have been, if he was not too busy falling off of his chair. “Um, let me be clear,” he stammered, “what in the name of god is that thing?” Hypocrite. Lethe, of course, was furious at this. “Now listen here, I deal with enough from the humans as is, so you shut up or I’ll make you!” Lethe suddenly found her head was bathed in red light. “Um, uh, let me be clear, secret service, uh, bitch,” Obama gloated. “Alright, enough of this,” Ike said, frustrated. “Lethe, shut up.” “In any case,” continued Obama, “your mission is, uh, simple. You are to march into the Crimean peninsula, and, uh, take it over.” “That doesn’t sound simple to me,” Geoffrey (fuck him!) observed. “Yeah, well, uh, that doesn’t matter,” Obama shot back, “because you aren’t getting back until you liberate Crimea.” “And then,” Ike said, “we can finally liberate Crimea.” Moscow, Russia It was a dark and stormy night. Lightning struck everywhere. The “Imperial March” from Star Wars played in the background as a man in black armor marched through the halls of the Kremlin. Reaching a door, he saluted at two guards, who opened the door for him. The man knelt at the feet of a bald, shirtless man, sitting on a throne of bears. “What is thy bidding, my master,” asked Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. “There is a great disturbance in the force,” observed President Vladimir Putin. “The Ukrainians have called in heroes from another world. You, Dmitri, must stop them if the ritual is to be complete.” “Yes, my master,” Medvedev said dutifully. The ritual had to be completed, if Russia was to be great again. Kiev, Ukraine “Hey, Ike!” Mist yelled brightly, “check this out. It’s a whole site dedicated to us!” Needless to say, the Greil Mercenaries were greatly enjoying the benefits of the internet. “Serenes Forest,” Ike asked. “That’s a bit insensitive, I suppose. Whatever. Lets see what people have to say about us!” “Hmm,” Mist mused, “Serious Discussion, maybe? We’re pretty serious.” “Of course we are!” Ike agreed. “Lets check it out.” “My god,” Mist noted correctly, “that guy blah the Prussian is so smart! He absolutely destroys the opposition, doesn’t he?” “He sure does,” Ike agreed. “If I were to meet him in real life, I think he would probably be quite handsome!” The author can confirm this particular hypothesis of Ike’s. Suddenly, they heard someone burst into tears. “Why do they hate me so much?” asked Geoffrey (fuck him!) crying. “Who?” Ike demanded, concerned. “They call themselves ‘Ikelincia’ shippers,” Geoffrey replied, tearfully, “and they called me ‘boring’! Can you believe it, Ike?” Ike promptly bit his tongue. Suddenly, a voice rang out over the PA. “Greil Mercenaries, President Obama summons you for mission briefing.” Ike gratefully complied. Briefing Room “Um, let me be clear,” Obama began, “your objective, uh, is to take the city of Sevastopol, Crimea.” Still reading in Obama’s voice? That’s what I like to hear! “These planes”- Ike and co. had already found out what airplanes were- “will stealthily transport you to Sevastopol, the capitol of Crimea. If you take Sevastopol, you take Crimea.” There was a pause. “Why?” Ike asked. “Well, uh, that’s how it works in Total War,” Obama replied. Ike looked skeptical. “Anyway!” Obama continued, “You leave in one hour. Any questions?” There were none. Above Sevastopol, Crimea Jill was still beside herself with anger at the injustice of it all. She had been doing this for a while now, ever since she had been introduced to the novel concept of an “aircraft.” “I mean,” she fumed, “how are you supposed to form a bond with a hunk of metal?” “The idea,” the pilot explained, clearly finding this process tiresome, “is that you don’t need a personal bond. This baby can go faster than any dragon can fly!” Jill was about to retort when a voice over the loudspeaker shut her up. “Um, uh, let me be clear,” Obama began, “we are now, uh, over Sevastopol. Prepare, uh, to jump.” Ike was not too sure about this “parachute” invention. He was still, of course, getting used to all modern technology, but the Parachute was the first one he had to stake his life on. Still, though, it was the only way to get home, and, he reasoned, if this was just a dream then dying would probably make him wake up. Thus, he got to the door of the plane and called out “Crimean Liberation Army! Prepare to liberate Crimea!” He then threw himself out of the plane. The wind ripped through Ike’s face as he descended. Hurriedly pulling the strap, he looked down at Sevastopol below him. That was the key to getting home, to getting to the real Crimea. Also in Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia/Ukraine, depending on who you ask “I am not mad, Dmitri,” President Vladimir Putin said icily, “I am just disappointed.” “I am so, so sorry, Mr. President,” Mendvedev apologized, “but you have to understand, I don’t actually have the force. ‘Star Wars’ is only a movie.” “No excuses!” Putin yelled. “The future of the Motherland is at stake here, Dmitri. I must complete the ritual if we are going to make Russia great again.” The computer screen through which they were skypeing (the author apologizes if he spelled that word wrong) went black. Mendvedev got over the loudspeaker. “Mobilize the Spetznaz!” he yelled. Guys, seriously, its still in Sevastopol, Crimea Sothe returned from his scouting mission outside of the fortress. “Ike,” he began, “it doesn’t look good. The enemy have about 50 guys!” “Well,” Ike replied, “we have around that number. It shouldn’t be a problem.” “Don’t you remember?” Geoffrey (fuck him!) chimed in. “We can only deploy like fifteen units at a time, regardless of how many we actually have!” “Damn, you’re right,” Ike admitted. “well, okay, Titania, you go here…” The author decided to skip this part, because he recognizes that no one likes watching the LPer take like 5 minutes to decide on if he wants to take Shinon or Mordecai. When Ike was done deploying, he yelled out “Crimean Liberation Army! Charge!” Immediately, they ran into a massive steel door. “Fuck!” Ike observed in frustration. “We need a key!” “Or,” Soren pointed out, “I could do this.” Using his magic, Soren summoned a hurricane and sent it at the door. It crashed to the ground. Ike shrugged. “Huh. I never really thought about that.” “Yeah, well,” Soren replied, “it just seems that everything makes more sense in this world.” There was no more time to talk, though, as Spetznaz commandos stormed into the room, guns at the ready. They opened fire. With some effort, Soren grabbed them with wind magic and sent the bullets flying at the Spetznaz. “Seriously,” Soren continued, “wind magic has so much potential.” The Greil Mercenaries plunged into the fray, and Ike noticed a door. He smashed through it (wasn’t Soren a good teacher?) and found an elaborate chamber, with all kinds of technology Ike had never seen before, like toilets. So we meet again, young whatever your last name is,” said Dmitri Mendvedev. Ike was confused. “Uh, you don’t know me,” he pointed out. Mendvedev considered this information for about a minute. Finally, he came to a conclusion. “Fuck,” he admitted. “You’re right.” “Glad we got that cleared up,” Ike said, rolling his eyes. “Now, lets fight!” With a roar, he charged towards Putin’s bitch the Prime Minister of Russia. Mendvedev rose his sword up, blocking Ike’s initial strike. Drawing back, Ike moved in for a stab. Mendvedev blocked it again. “What is this?” Ike demanded. “Ragnell is the most powerful sword in the world!” “Maybe in whatever fantasy land you came from!” Mendvedev shot back, sneering. “But this is the real world! Here, a sword’s strength is based on material, not some arbitrary statistics!” To prove his point, Mendvedev swung his sword a third time, cleaving Ragnell in half. “And,” the Prime Minister finished, “gold is a fucking terrible material for a sword.” Ike couldn’t believe it. How had he lost? He had Ragnell! Then, he remembered that he still had other swords in his inventory, because that makes sense for some reason (The author, as you might have guessed, is somewhat incredulous as to the means by which someone can carry 5 steel swords in their inventory and not be weighed down). Grimacing, he drew out a steel sword from his bag. “Ah,” Mendevedev said happily, “you’re learning. Steel as a material for swords does not, in fact, suck balls!” Ike charged towards his opponent. Mendvedev blocked, but the strength of doing so knocked him back. Ike pressed the attack, pushing Mendvedev back more and more. Finally, Mendvedev was pushed against the wall of the room. With one strike, Ike finished him. At that moment, Obama called in via Skype. “Um, uh, let me be clear,” he began, before doing a double take. “Um, Ike? Why are you in the bathroom?” Obama demanded. “Oh, that’s what this is?” Ike replied. “A room where you take a shit… interesting idea! We just take shits in pots and then wash our hands in the rivers that we dump our shit in!” Obama looked like he was about to throw up. That was probably because he specifically remembered shaking the hands of every one of the Greil Mercenaries. He had a lot of scrubbing to do. Obama would have commented on how absolutely disgusting he found this, but then a massive rumbling shook the world. “What the hell was that?” Obama demanded. “Well, sir,” one of his assistants replied, it seems to be coming from… Moscow…” Suddenly a massive roar rang out. A few minutes earlier, Moscow, Russia “So, Mr. President, you have one wish,” the genie informed Vladimir Putin. The genie thought himself to be very clever with this arrangement. It was quite simple; he would summon heroes to this world, and then he would, for his entertainment, pit them against a monster, and watch the fun. “Well,” Putin replied, “I want nothing more than for Russia to be great again. To do that, I offer up my body to the man who made Russia a superpower: Joseph Stalin! Oh, and give him absolute power and make him a giant.” The genie shrugged. “Whatever floats your boat.” And so it was done. Now Ike and the Greil Mercenaries looked out of the helicopter gunship at the city of Moscow. Well, actually, they looked at the giant fat man with a mustache and a military uniform that stood over Moscow. “I have returned!” Joseph Stalin yelled gleefully. “Now I will once again abuse my own people for my profit!” “Oh my god,” Ike said, “we have to stop him!” “Um, uh, let me be clear,” Obama replied, “no… fucking shit!” Ike chose to ignore the President, and instead began to shout orders. “Shinon, Rolf, Soren, Tormod, any other mage attackers the author forgot about, stay in the helicopter and fire at him! All cavalry, grab a cable and run down around his legs!” Joseph Stalin felt a small sting in his neck. Looking up, he saw that they were coming from that filthy capitalist pigdog helicopter up there. Stalin hated pricks (yes, the author intends you to take that as a euphemism). With a roar, he turned around and shot a laser beam made out of soldiers of the Red Army at the helicopter. Clearly, Stalin was just as ready to sacrifice his own people as he ever was. Meanwhile, on the ground, Titania, Kieran, Oscar, and Geoffrey (fuck him!) had grabbed a giant chord called a Deus Ex Machina. The plan, if the reader hadn’t figured it out yet, was for Stalin to run forwards and get tripped by the chord. Ike would then deliver the finishing blow. Ike, however, had noticed a problem: Stalin had a ranged attack. His Red Army Eye Beams (yes, the author intends for this to be stupid) were more than enough to destroy the helicopter. Ike had to think of something. Suddenly, he got an idea. It was a long shot, but based on what he had read on Serenes Forest, it just might work. “Hey, Geoffrey(fuck him!)!” Ike shouted. “Tell Stalin over there what you and Elincia do in the end!” Geoffrey (fuck him!) didn’t really get where Ike was going with this, but he complied. “Hey! Stalin!” Geoffrey (fuck him!) yelled at the Soviet dictator, “At the end of the story, I fuck Elincia!” Suddenly, Stalin was overtaken with a total, inexplicable rage. He wanted to grind Geoffrey (fuck him!) underfoot, to destroy him. Ike had guessed correctly. Stalin was an Ikelincia shipper. With a roar, Stalin charged Geoffrey (fuck him!) intent on destroying the man who prevented Ike and his waifu from being together. Quickly, Titania and Oscar got the chord into position. Stalin, hitting the chord, experienced a complete whipeout, smashing into the ground. Ike ran up to his opponent, jumped up in the air, and… Fuck. Great Aether didn’t activate. Dammit. Ah, well, the savestate was reloaded. Maybe this time? No? Fuck. After about fifty tries, Great Aether activated and Ike, triumphant, jammed his sword into Stalin’s spine, killing the dictator instantly. Everyone let out a massive cheer, and the reward of Geoffrey was to not have ‘fuck him’ after his name for a whole 24 hours! Isn’t Geoffrey lucky? Unfortunately for him, this story is almost over, so the author guesses he doesn’t get to enjoy it much, does he? Poor Geoffrey. In any case, celebrations were had, everyone was happy, Poroshenko got Crimea back and won the next election, the Romanovs were restored in Russia (the author is, after all, a monarchist) and Ike and the Greil Mercenaries prepared to go home. Suddenly, though, Obama came running breathlessly up to them. “Um, uh, let me be clear,” the President began, “wait!” “What is it now?” Ike demanded. “Well, uh,” Obama replied, “there’s something called ISIS…”
  19. (This is dedicated to Shin Kobayashi, Intelligent Systems, and Nintendo for spinning such a driven, gripping, and thought provoking scenario that had me near crying while trying to write this. And I haven't even played the game properly here yet. So I do apologize if the events in this story aren't portrayed quite the same as they may be in the game; I'm going mostly from conjecture and what I know and have seen of the game up to the choice in Ch. 6.) Keep being an awesome place to be SF! :) The Impossible Choice "Come to Hoshido, Corrin!" She knew. "No Corrin! Nohr is your home!" She had known this moment would come. Since the day her life was turned upside down when she was taken to her birth nation Hoshido. Since her mother's arms had encircled her lovingly, welcoming her home. Since the point she had begun to feel something for her estranged Hoshidan family. Since she had heard the news that Nohr was invading. Nohr. The place she had always known as her home. Where she had spent years growing up sequestered, yet cared for by an unconventional family of siblings and servants who loved her just as much as her blood family. Two nations. Two families. And Corrin knew the time had come to choose. Why? They were all in view before her. Ryoma, offering her a beckoning hand and urging her to come to his side, while Sakura called for her as Hinoka and Takumi stood slightly behind, apprehension in their expressions. Her Hoshidan family. Her blood siblings. The ones who were there during her early days and months, the ones she should have grown up alongside with. The people she was kidnapped from. In the short time she had spent so far in Hoshido, she had come to care for it and it's people. The peace it was blessed with made it seem like another world, one she had never truly known in Nohr. Everyone was so open and friendly, and this was reflected in its rulers. Queen Mikoto was the mother she had never known she had, her kindness and compassion boundless and endless. Ryoma, her elder brother, was honorable and loyal to all he held dear, and would defend them no matter what. Hinoka, her elder sister, had shown underneath her fierce demeanor was a girl mourning the loss of a family member; she had cried tears of joy upon finding her lost sister returned. Takumi, her younger brother, though not quite as welcoming and affectionate as the others for understandable reasons, was still a true and honest person who only wished for his family's and nation's safety. And Sakura, her younger sister, was perhaps one of the sweetest and most considerate people to ever exist. Despite the fact that she was practically a stranger to them, they had opened their arms and hearts to her. And Corrin could not deny in her heart that she wished to know them even more and make up for the lost years. Why? But she also could not deny the other half of her heart. She turned to the other side and saw Xander upon his horse, reaching an arm down towards her that she might come to his side, with Elise entreating her name next to him. Camilla and Leo stood nearby, concern for her wellbeing flitting across their faces. Her Nohrian family. Her adopted siblings. The ones who were with her during her life, the ones she grew up alongside with. The people who raised her to this day. In all the long years she had spent living in Nohr, she could not deny that the nation was not the friendliest of places or the brightest. It didn't have the bountiful resources of Hoshido, and the warlike culture put it in direct conflict with them. And yet, it was her home. She knew what a hardy breed of citizen it took to live in Nohr, and she respected them for it. Though King Garon did not bequeath much, if any, love for her during her life, what love that was lacking from him was made up tenfold by her siblings, who knew that love in general was a preciously rare gift in the Nohrian Royal Court. Xander had been both her elder brother and the kind father figure she always wanted. Camilla was her elder sister but acted more like a protective and indulgent mother to her and the others. Leo, her younger brother who was definitely more intelligent and probably more mature than even her, taught her things about the world and about life that she may have never known otherwise, cultivating her healthy desire to learn. And dearest Elise, her all loving and impossibly innocent little sister who brought light into their lives when none thought it possible in such a place. She had absolutely no blood relation to them, no prior connection to their family that would endear her to them after she was brought to Nohr. Yet she knew nothing but love and adoration from them for all the days of her life and every echo from her memory. Why? "This way," called her brother Ryoma. Called Hoshido. Hoshido was under attack from Nohr. The peaceful nation that had known no war and struggled to avoid it under the benevolent rule of their Queen. But now she was gone and they could no longer avoid bloodshed. Corrin tried to think with her head, like Leo had taught her. Objectively in her mind, Hoshido was in the right. They were the victims in this; their lands were invaded, their queen murdered, their peace destroyed. It is only natural to believe that their side is the side that should be defended. But was she, a complete stranger despite her heritage and from the enemy nation no less, a person suited for this task? Moreover, could she stand against Nohr? Was she prepared to fight and even kill her own siblings, the people she had loved and who had loved her for all her life despite their lack of blood relation? Could she tear out her own heart? Why? "We're your family," entreated her brother Xander. Entreated Nohr. Nohr was dying. Its land was resource depleted. Even she knew from history that Nohr had developed it's warmongering nature for conquest due to a need for survival. No matter what machinations their King had planned, she couldn't turn her back on this fact. Corrin tried to reason with her heart, like Elise had shown her. In the tempest of her feelings, she felt she had every right to return to Nohr. Kidnapped or no, they were still the family she was raised by and loved without end. The Hoshidans, in comparison, were almost complete strangers who captured her and took her away from the life and family she'd known and been so far content with. Why should she risk life and limb for them against her own adopted family, who have been by her side through thick and thin. But after everything she saw and experienced in Hoshido, could she really turn her back on such injustice from Nohr? Could she forget the horrible events leading to her birth mother's death? Would she be ready to fight and kill the family who only wanted to reconnect with her after having been so cruelly torn apart? Could she abandon her own morals and beliefs? Why? Why?Why?Why?Why?WHY?WHY?WHY?WHY?! "It's not fair!," Corrin thought, lowering her head. What terrible, horrible, awful thing did she do in another life that such cruel fates would offer such a choice? That she should be made to choose between her blood and adopted families, her mind and her heart. She began to feel the same anger, the same indignation that caused her first dragon transformation at the sight of her mother dead in her arms. In her rising fury and frustration, she wondered why her siblings, both Hoshido and Nohr, why they all would put such a choice on her. Did they not care for her own feelings or realize what choosing meant for her?! It was an impossible choice. Her feelings raged internally to a boiling point, and at that moment she simultaneously loved them beyond measure and despised them beyond words. She started to feel the familiar surge of draconian power as it flowed to her arms, her legs, her back, and her head----- A face appeared in her mind, accompanied by a clear and soothing melody that promised calm, serenity, sanctuary, safety. The memory of Azura and her song, echoing from the haze of her mind as she had raged from loss and grief over her mother as a dragon. Corrin reached for the dragonstone that hung from her neck like a pendant, a gift from her fellow sister of circumstances Azura. In that moment she felt no love, no hatred. Only clarity. Clarity of thought. "Was there ever really a true choice to begin with?" She raised her head to face her siblings, both sides waiting for her answer. All the time she had spent ruminating in her mind must only have been a few moments, for they appeared as she'd last seen them. Concerned, apprehensive, expectant. Corrin glanced between them both, and looked her elder brothers each in the eye. She, eyes brimming with human sadness and draconic fury, a sister's love and a soldier's conviction, answered. And Corrin chose. ~~~~~~~~
  20. Go to sleep, Marx! “What am I doing this for again?” he thought, struggling through the haze and fatigue of his mind in search of a suitable answer. He rested his forehead on his palm and watched the quill in his other hand quiver in between his shaky fingers as he tried to recall the memory. His eyes flicked back to the parchment in front of him and then to the other three finished pages he had spread across his desk to dry. He picked one up gingerly around the edges and studied it, trying to make sense out of what he'd written, but it was no good. The words escaped him. The letters danced about, intermingling and twisting into something akin to a dance. His hand fell to his lap. A cool prodding at his palm caused him to start. He chuckled after a moment. “I forgot you were there, Penny,” he said. The tiny cat mewed and wrapped her paws around his hand. He rubbed the smoky gray fluff of her cheek with his thumb. The hearty purr that resounded from the cat caused him to smile momentarily, but then he remembered his predicament. He scowled and rubbed his eyes. An irritated sigh escaped him. “Kamui, come here,” he said, waiting as he heard his mattress creak from behind him and bare feet slap against the hard wooden floor. His youngest brother appeared by his side within seconds. He turned towards him. The boy offered him a bright smile which fell slightly when he caught sight of his elder brother's weary face. His brow furrowed a bit more and he held the page out towards Kamui. “What was I writing about?” he asked in a frustrated tone. Kamui's smile vanished and in its place was a look of worry. “Marx... You were writing a report for the battle you just came back from. You said you wanted to get it done tonight so that you could be free for when uncle Johann comes tomorrow.” “Ah, yes.” “Maybe you should just leave it till tomorrow,” came a voice from behind them. He heard more rustling as their brother, Leo, sat up in the bed. “Or let me finish it. I was there and can write battle reports just as well as you can. You're probably almost done, anyway.” “That's a great idea,” Kamui said, resting his arm on Marx's shoulder He glanced down at the paper then back at Marx. “You look so tired, brother. You need to rest.” Marx was about to agree to this plan until he turned to look at Leo and saw exhaustion on his little brother's face. He smiled instead. “No, no. I'm alright. You two go back to reading your book. Oh, but first, Kamui... Go ask Jakob to brew some coffee for me.” “...Yes, brother,” Kamui said. He didn't seem happy about the decision, but obeyed, leaving the room. Marx watched Leo absently flip the pages of the book he and Kamui had been reading back and forth. He wore a tight frown on his lips. His head lifted and he held Marx's gaze. “Are you sure?” “Don't worry. As you said, I should be done soon. You fought as hard as I did, Leo. You rest.” He smiled warmly at his younger brother. “What?” Leo asked. “You were a marvel out on the battlefield. Did I tell you how proud I am of you?” “You did.” Leon smiled, but the embarrassment of being praised by his elder brother caused him to shift his gaze to a large golden-red dog that had stretched himself to the left of Marx's chair. His eyes lingered on the splash of white on each of the dogs toes before meeting his brother's eyes again. “Using flattery to change the subject...” He shook his head in mock disgust, but Marx could still see the ghost of a smirk on Leo's lips. “Well, I know better than to keep on. You're too stubborn.” “And you aren't, little brother? “If I am, it's because I learned it from you,” Leo countered. Marx chuckled. “I suppose.” At that moment, Kamui appeared in the doorway. Seeing Marx laughing lifted his mood and he smiled. “He said he'd get to it as soon as he can. One of the maids made a mess of things in the kitchen earlier and he's still trying to clean up after it.” Marx frowned. “Really? Did he seem upset?” “Yeah. Anyway, he said he's almost done and will make a treat for us to go with the coffee.” Kamui clasped his hands together excitedly before joining Leo back on the bed. “Sounds good,” Marx said, turning back to the paper on his desk. This little break had worked wonders clearing his mind and he was able to struggle through another paragraph before he noticed a little head peek around the corner of the doorway. He straightened himself and smiled. “Hello, Elise.” “Hi.” She entered the room and came up to him. “Little kids should be in bed at this time of night,” Leo picked. She frowned at him. “Are you hiding from Camilla?” Marx asked. Her frown deepened and he leaned backward to look at an ancient grandfather clock situated against the wall on the opposite side of the room. “It is pretty late.” “She hasn't come to put me to bed yet.” She smiled and patted the top of his head. “Can I play with your hair until then?” “Sure.” She gently lifted his circlet, being careful to not jostle him while he wrote. This caused his golden locks to fall around his cheeks and forehead. He glared upwards at a long piece that hovered between his eyes and blew impatiently at the strand. She took that piece first and carefully knitted it together into a tiny braid. “Better?” She asked. “Yes, thank you, dear.” He smiled at her. It was only momentary, a look of seriousness replaced it as he hunched back over his work. Elise moved from her brother's side to behind him and ran her hands through his soft, flaxen hair, admiring it first before setting to work fitting locks of it into more braids. She had done a good portion when she finally spoke, “You have such pretty hair, big brother.” A couple of snickers came from behind them and he paused in his writing. “I don't know why you're laughing, Leo. We share the same hair color.” “I'm pretty sure she didn't mean just the color. We do have the same color, but I don't have the pretty curl to my hair.” Marx swiveled to face Leo, which made Elise lose her place. Leo, who was lying on his back with his head towards the foot of the bed holding a book above his head, and Kamui, who laid beside him, jumped at the sudden movement. “It's not curly. It's just a bit wavy at the ends...” Marx said gruffly. Leo had to turn his away for a moment so as not to laugh. The normally fearsome and intimidating countenance of his brother's face when angered was completely offset by the scraggly braids that stuck out in different directions. He focused on Kamui's head and clamped his teeth together. Leo took a breath to keep his voice level and turned back to Marx. “I have memories of when we were younger. When your hair was short. All of it was curly.” “...It's a false memory, then,” Marx grunted. Elise was luckily standing behind her brother so she was free to smile as she pleased but still had to cover her mouth with both hands to keep from laughing. Kamui raised his head slightly to peek at Marx. “I think I remember-” Kamui started, but Marx interrupted him. “You do not. You were far too young to have memories of that time.” Kamui cringed into Leo's arm. He tried to hide his mirth but his body convulsed with each strangled laugh. Marx watched this for a moment then let out an irritated groan. “Everyone be quiet so I can finish my work,” he said. He turned back in his chair and bent over the paper. His three younger sibling glanced at each other, grinning. Elise had just finished braiding the rest of Marx's hair when Jakob entered the room. He pushed a cart topped with a kettle of steaming coffee with little plates and cups piled by its side, cream, sugar, a pitcher of milk, and a towering plate of ginger cookies. Both Kamui and Elise gasped when they saw the contents of the cart. The servant wore a tired scowl and he was seemingly oblivious to the going-ons in the room. He did little more than offer the three a quick smile when Kamui, Leo, and Elise came to his side to inspect what treats were brought. Marx reclined in his chair and watched as Jakob went straight to preparing his coffee. He immediately noticed that he looked paler than usual. Jakob placed a saucer on the edge of Marx's desk and was about to place the cup on it when his eyes flicked to Marx's and then to his scarecrow hair. A ripple of amusement spread across his tired face. “Am I lovely?” Marx asked. Jakob placed the cup down and straightened himself. “You're beautiful.” This caused Kamui and Elise to giggle and Leo to grin. Kamui poured some milk for himself, Leo, and Elise. He took one plate, placed a few of the sweet treats on it, and handed it to Marx. “Thank you, Kamui,” Marx said, taking the plate. Kamui smiled, but Marx noticed he also looked tired and a little piqued under his eyes. Kamui then filled his own plate with cookies and raised it to show Leo. “I got enough for both of us,” he sai and went back to sit on the bed. Elise took a cookie and began munching on it. Leo was about to follow Kamui but stopped. “Jakob?” he asked. “Did brother have curly hair when he was younger? When it was short?” “Yeah,” Jakob said. Marx grumbled, lifting the cup to his lips and carefully sipping at the scalding liquid. Jakob grinned, catching Marx's eyes again. “His whole head was filled loose curls.” He looked back to Leo. “Your mother adored his hair, but he loathed it.” “You're wrong,” Marx replied. “I'm not,” Jakob said. “You would have me brush it over and over to see if I could get the curls out. It never worked.” “You're remembering wrong...” Marx pouted, causing Jakob and the others to laugh. “Why did he hate it so much?” Elise asked. “Your mother's friends would always comment on just how pretty his hair was when they saw him. No boy wants to be told his hair is pretty,” Jakob explained. Marx frowned. Leo covered his mouth and stepped behind Jakob. A soft snickering was heard from behind the butler. Gunter and Camilla appeared in the doorway. They had been passing by and were drawn by the activity in the room. “That's a nasty look on your face, Marx,” Camilla remarked. She glanced at the devilish grins on her younger siblings' faces. “Have you three been teasing our poor brother again?” “Leo has. Not me,” Elise tattled. Leo peeked around Jakob and scowled at her. “You seemed to have found it amusing enough,” Gunter said. He looked at Leo, Kamui, and Elise. “Leave him be so he can finish.” They cringed at his stern tone and nodded. He came to Marx's side and glanced downward at the paper. “How far have you gotten, Marx?” “I'm almost done, Uncle.” Gunter placed his palm on Marx's forehead and pushed back gently to get a better look at his nephew's face. Marx gazed back up at him wearily and Gunter's stern frowned softened. His hand dropped to his side. “Can I do anything? I'd be happy to help if you would just let me.” “You're tired too Uncle...” Marx replied. Gunter opened his mouth to reply, but Camilla cut in. “I could help. I'm not too tired yet. You could dictate and I'll write it out for you.” Marx glanced from Gunter to Camilla. “Thank you, but I really am almost done.” This elicited a groan from Camilla. She smiled, took Marx's cheeks in her hands, and raised his head to look in his eyes. “You are so stubborn.” She said each word slowly and with emphasis. “It's incredibly frustrating.” She gave him a quick kiss on his forehead before releasing him and crossing her arms. “Sorry,” he said. Gunter reached down and patted his back. “You know,” Leon said, “if you leave those braids in too long, it'll make your hair curly again.” Marx cringed. “Elise,” he said. “take them out.” “Can't I finish my treats first?” “No. Get them out.” This caused a groan from the little girl. She quickly took a sip of milk from her cup and then began releasing Marx's hair. “I'll help,” Kamui said. He moved to Marx's left and begin pulling apart the braids. “Thank you, Kamui.” He smiled up at him. “Such a good little brother.” The praise caused Kamui to beam. “I guess I'll help, too,” Leo said. Marx leaned back to look at Leo and they both smiled. “It'll go faster this way.” Each sibling set to work freeing their brother's hair. “Something smells good.” A voice came from behind Jakob, who was blocking the door. “Indeed. I hope you made enough for us, too, Jakob.” A man stepped up to his side. He was smiling smugly at the servant. “Don't I always, Zero?” Jakob replied. He raised a hand to his mouth to stifle a yawn. “Want me to help you to bed?” he asked, wrapping an arm around Jakob's shoulder and playfully winking at him. Jakob chuckled. He stopped when his eyes caught the obliviously amused faces of Kamui and Elise and he gave Zero a not-so-gentle nudge to the ribs with his elbow. “Stop.” “That would be so funny to see,” Elise giggled. “How would you do it?” There was an eruption of laughter from the older people which frustrated the little girl and caused her to let out an irritated squeal. Kamui laughed too, even though he didn't understand what was funny either. “I'd tuck the blankets around him like he was in a cocoon.” Zero made a tucking motion with one of his hands. “Oh...” She pouted, still feeling as if she was missing something. Zero let go of Jakob and spoke, “Lord Marx, I've done what you asked,” he said, but when he finally focused on Marx and noticed the he was doing paperwork, a slight frown formed on his lips. Marx raised an eyebrow at Zero's sudden change in demeanor. “Thank you...” Marx said. Zero glanced at Jakob, examining his face. He could see the flicker of irritation in those gray eyes. The other man stepped closer to Marx. His face was set sternly with obvious frustration etched in every feature. “Marx...” he said, in a frustrated tone. “Klaus...” Marx mimicked, which caused the man to cross his arms and scowl. Marx laughed. “That look doesn't suit you at all.” Marx's eyes flicked to Gunter and then back to Klaus. He couldn't help but notice how much Klaus resembled his father at the moment. He pointed towards the paper at his desk. “I'm almost done, see?” Klaus walked forward, rested his hand on Marx's shoulder, and bent slightly to inspect the writing. His face fell as he turned back to the prince. “Oh, Marx... This is nothing but gibberish.” “What?!” Marx said in an almost strangled cry. He ignored the confused and worried gasps of the rest of the rooms occupants and grabbed the page. His eyes feverishly raked over each word. His fingers trembled so hard it made the letters hard to make out. He didn't notice the man slowly backing away from him or the devilish smile slowly spreading across his face. Jakob and Zero spotted this, however, and stepped away from the door. They exchanged an amused glance. Gunter and Camilla also noticed and moved from the doorway. The older fellow shook his head as he watched his boy back towards the door but couldn't help but smile. Camilla gritted her teeth, trying to hold back a laugh. The realization hit Marx sharply that he had been fooled. A primal growl came out of his mouth and he shot straight up, which caused the poor cat that had been sleeping peacefully in his lap to tumble to the floor. “Damn it, Klaus!” The other fellow had already flown out of the door before Marx was even out of his chair and was already halfway down the hall once Marx had left the room. The others stood quietly in Marx's room listening to a strange cacophony of laughter and angry curses echoing down the hall from the two men. Marx could only muster the energy for a short chase before slowly coming to a walk then stopping. Klaus was already out of view at that point.“You're a hateful bastard,” he yelled. “That was cruel.” He let loose a final string of curses before making his way back to his room. He sat down and hung his head. No one dared to speak for almost a full minute. “Poor guy. You must be so tired to have fallen for that,” Zero chuckled. He moved to stand behind Marx and placed his hands on the prince's shoulders, giving them a couple of squeezes. Marx pushed the paper out of the way, folded his arms on the desk, and rested his head on them. Zero continued with the massage. Leo reached over his brother, grabbing the last piece of paper and looked it over. “Marx, it's absolutely fine. There's nothing wrong with it.” “Good,” came the muffled reply. “That's what happens when you stay up like this,” Jakob fussed. “He's right, brother,” Camilla said. “Yep,” added Elise. “You should've known better. Trusting that scoundrel son of mine...” Gunter chimed in. Marx groaned and burrowed his head further into his arms to drown out their nagging. The shoulder rub was greatly appreciated but with it came waves of drowsiness that were threatening to drag him into the abyss. Zero quickly held a finger to his mouth to quiet the others in the room. They all hushed and listened to Marx's increasingly deepening breathing. Kamui came closer to examine him. Suddenly, Marx sat up giving everyone a start and causing the boy to yelp and stumble backward, bumping into Leo, and falling on his bottom. The dog jumped up at the sharp noise and gave out a husky bark before shuffling over to Kamui and sniffing his ear. “Stop, Sammy,” Kamui said, laughing while he pushed the dog's head away. Marx stared at him dazed. “Kamui?” “I'm okay.” He smiled as Leo helped him up. “You scared me. I thought you were asleep.” “Sorry, kiddo. You're not hurt?” he asked. Kamui shook his head. Marx rubbed his eyes and focused on Zero. “I was wondering... Where's your partner?” “Asleep.” “Of course,” he said, shaking his head. “He nodded off at the kitchen table in front of the stove. It's his favorite place to nap since it's so warm there,” Jakob added. Zero nodded. “He always hogs that spot.” “Yeah, especially now with this chill in the air. I'm going to go down and put him to bed.” He turned to leave. “He's probably drooling all over the table, and I'll be the one who has to clean it up...” He grumbled as he left. “It's time for us to get ready for bed, too, little lady,” Camilla said. Elise started to protest, but Camilla put a swift end to it. “Now, Elise. I'm tired.” Elise gave up and followed Camilla out of the room. Leo returned to his place on Marx's bed. Kamui grabbed one of the books off of the bed, a book of painted landscapes that Zero had given him for his last birthday, stepped around the dog and sat on the floor beside Marx's feet. He leaned against the drawers and opened the book. “Kamui, aren't you cold down there?” Marx asked. Kamui shook his head. “You can sit in the chair,” he said, pointing to his right to a chair that set between the desk and the doorway with its back flush against the wall. Marx had set it out for anyone who might want to visit with him while he worked. “I like it best here,” Kamui replied. He leaned his head against Marx's leg and smiled up at his brother. Marx returned the boy's warm smile. “Okay then,” he said, patting Kamui's cheek. Kamui put his book on the floor beside him and slapped his knees. “Sammy,” he called. The dog walked to him and flopped down on the floor. Kamui pulled the dog's head onto his lap. He ran his fingers through the dog's thick fur. Marx reached down and scratched the dog's ear. Sammy rolled his head back, his wide mouth pulled back into a grin that showed off all his teeth. Marx and Kamui laughed. “Marx,” Gunter said. Marx straightened in his chair and turned to look at his uncle.“We do worry about you when you stay up so late.” “I really am almost done, uncle.” “Then why not leave the rest till tomorrow?” “Because he's stubborn and bull-headed, old man.” They heard Jakob say as he passed by in the hall. He poked his head around Gunter's shoulder and made a face at Marx. Then he was gone. “He's so funny when he's upset,” Zero laughed and started rubbing Marx's back again. “Funny is not the word I'd use, Zero,” Marx said. He groaned when Zero discovered a particularly sore bunch of muscles and focused on the spot. Zero smiled when he noticed Marx sagging forward towards the desk. “He's just worried about you. Go to sleep soon, okay?” Gunter said. Marx nodded. “Good night,” Marx said. Gunter gave his good nights to everyone before leaving. “Zero, I appreciate the back rub, but I can't concentrate. You're almost putting me to sleep.” “Alright.” Zero stopped and sat in the chair. “It just frustrates him, you know?” “Did he tell you that?” Marx asked, picking up his quill and beginning to write again. “Can you imagine being stuck here while your loved ones rush off to fight in a war? And you are being a bit risky-” Marx held up his hand. “I've heard this enough times from Jakob.” “...That's why he's so irritated,” Zero said. “Yep. He's tired of worrying about you.” Klaus sheepishly peeked his head through the door, a slight smile was spread on his face. Marx scowled when he saw Klaus. Klaus offered him a wave. Marx rested his chin on his palm, frowning, but that gesture reminded him too much of his father and quickly he sat up. “Marx?” Klaus asked, stepping further into the room and grabbed a cookie from the plate on the cart. “It's nothing. I'm fine,” he said, bending back over his work. Klaus took that as Marx being okay with his presence and sat down on the floor in front of Zero's feet. Marx couldn't help but notice the grin Zero was giving to Klaus and the proud, mischievous smile Klaus was returning to him. “Zero, you stop congratulating him on that nasty little joke he pulled on me earlier.” “I said nothing, Lord Marx.” “Your face said plenty...” Marx fussed, causing the other two men to grin at each other. Just then, Elise walked in. Her long hair was tied back in braids and she was dressed in a soft green nightgown that was covered in lavender flowers that Marx had brought back for her as a gift that afternoon. She moved around Klaus and stopped beside Marx. “Big brother?” She said, holding out the edges of the gown and posed, waiting for his response. Marx looked up and smiled. “It looks very pretty on you,” he said, which caused her to giggle. Jakob and Camilla entered the room shortly after Elise. He moved silently by the others to the fireplace and Camilla stopped beside Elise. “Have you said your good nights, Elise?” she asked. The little girl frowned. “It's already late.” “Why can't I stay up as late as everyone else? I always have to be the first to go to bed,” she whined. “That's because you're the baby,” Leo said, not even looking up from his book. “I am not!” Marx groaned and rubbed his forehead. Zero, Klaus, and Kamui glanced at him. Jakob bent over stoking the fire but stopped when he heard Marx's grunt. He studied the blond curls for a second before straightening. “Camilla is right,” Jakob said. “You've already gotten to stay up much later than usual,” he said, as he walked back to the others. “But-” Elise started. “Elise,” Marx said with a voice that was low and full of authority. He didn't look up or stop writing. The little girl's shoulders stooped. “Okay.” She knew that tone and there was no point fighting against it. She walked forward. Marx stopped writing momentarily and turned to her. “Good girl,” he said. She wrapped her small arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “Good night.” She made a considerable effort to make it come out as pitiful as possible. “Sleep good,” Marx said, giving her a hearty one-armed hug and mimicking her tone. She tried to hold back a grin. Moving around Marx to Kamui, she knelt down, hugged him, and gave Sammy a quick pat. On her way back to Camilla's side, she offered a sneer to Leo, who returned it. “You don't want to kiss Leo goodnight?” Camilla asked and laughed when both Elise and Leo shook their heads. She walked behind Marx, wrapped her arms around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder and her cheek against his, and squeezed. He leaned back into her hug. “I hope you will go to sleep soon,” she said. She moved her head back a bit and rested her cheek on his shoulder so she could look him in the eyes.“Why do you make us worry about you like this?” He sighed and glanced at the paper. “Sorry. I thought I could get it done fast but my mind isn't cooperating with me.” He smiled at her sheepishly. “You look so tired. Your brow is knitted into a knot...” She smoothed at his forehead with her fingers. “You're going to get wrinkles if you keep pushing yourself like this, big brother.” She kissed his cheek and stood back up. “Go to sleep soon, okay?” “Yes, ma'am.” He offered her one more smile before going back to his work. Camilla grinned when she saw him mindlessly reach up and rub the center of his forehead. “Let's go, Elise,” Camilla said, holding out her hand. “I'm hungry, sis.” “What? You had cookies.” “Only a few... And I didn't have any coffee to go with them.” “You wouldn't have gotten any coffee regardless. Besides, you ate plenty at dinner.” “Aww.” “Let her have something,” Jakob interrupted. “She's a growing child.” He looked at Elise.” Why don't you get some of the orange slices we froze earlier?” Jakob looked at Camilla to see if she approved. She smiled and nodded. Elise's face lit up. “Yes, thank you.” She bounced out the door. “Thank you. She would've been whining about her stomach caving until she fell asleep,” she said to Jakob. He shrugged. “I have to deal with that almost every night that you're away at battle. Anything to delay bedtime.” Camilla gave him a knowing smile and nodded her head. “Jakob, you go to bed soon, too. You look terribly tired. ” He turned to fix Marx with a glare. “I will as soon as I can.” Marx cringed. “Keeping our dear Jakob up so late...” She shook her head. “I know. I'm trying to get done,” Marx said. Camilla gave Jakob an apologetic look and cupped his face. She wished Klaus and Zero a good night before following after Elise. A movement from his foot caught Marx's attention and he looked down to see Penny wrapping herself around his leg and peeking upwards. She meowed at him. “Elise!” he called out. Camilla poked her head back in the door. “She's already gone, Marx.” “She forgot her cat.” He lifted the ball of fluff in his hand and held her out. Camilla took the kitty, held her closely to her chest, and scratched at the cat's ear as she left once more to find Elise. “Kamui,” Jakob said. “Let's get you to bed as well.” Kamui stood up, frowning. Marx looked at his pout and wondered why Jakob was insisting on sending him to bed. He usually let Kamui stay up as late as he wanted now that the boy was older. Marx had noticed a strain on Kamui's face earlier. And Jakob was crabbier than usual... He wondered if they had not slept well the previous night. More nightmares? Kamui had suffered from frequent nightmares ever since he was little and it was always either Jakob or Marx that would stay up and comfort him afterward. Marx looked at Jakob. He appeared even worse off than Kamui. Kamui wrapped his arms around Marx's neck and hugged him. “Good night, brother,” came his muffled words. Marx returned the hug tightly, placing his hand on the back of Kamui's head and rubbing his feathery-soft hair. When the boy released him, he walked over to Jakob, who wrapped him in a tight embrace and rested his chin atop Kamui's head. “Jakob, Zero, and Klaus. You go to bed as well,” Marx said. He turned to glance behind him. “You too, Leo.” He read the hesitation on their faces. “That's an order,” he said with a bit more sternness. Zero stood. Klaus grabbed his hand and Zero pulled him up. “What about you, Lord Marx?” Zero asked. “How can I sleep knowing you're exhausted and struggling with work up here?” His mouth turned up slyly at the end. “If you get in bed now, I'll give you a full body rub.” “I'd love to have a massage like that,” Kamui said, sleepily. Zero grinned. Marx, Leo, and Klaus, however, laughed loudly Kamui frowned. “Why are they laughing?” he asked Jakob. “Who wouldn't want-” He turned to look at Jakob but stopped when he saw that the man was biting back a grin of his own. He turned around abruptly and grimaced. A faint blush crept across his face. Noticing this, Marx stood. “Aww, Kamui.” He walked over to him and hugged his little brother. “Don't be embarrassed.” Kamui allowed the embrace for a moment but then pulled away. “What was funny about that?” “Well...” Marx began. “Uh... I'll tell you later.” “You promise you'll tell me tomorrow?” Marx studied the boy's stubborn look. “Sure,” Marx said, returning to his chair. He looked at Zero and Klaus. “Go on to bed,” he said, waving them off as they left the room. Leo stepped off the bed, approached Marx, bent, and gave his brother a hug. He said good night to Jakob and Kamui as he left, but Marx caught a look Leo shot to Jakob. It was a desperate, pleading look. Marx then focused on Jakob, who was looking at Leo. He wore a mildly irritated look, but then gave an audible sigh and his face softened. He reached out and patted the young man's back. “Go on, then. Sleep well.” Leo's face brightened immediately and he waved to everyone as he left. “Come on, dearest,” Jakob said softly and lead Kamui out of the room. He stared at the empty doorway for some time after they left, wondering about Kamui's possible nightmare and the silent conversation between Jakob and Leo before pulling his mind to getting his work done. He put all his focus into writing the last few sentences. It wasn't as hard as he thought. Before long, he was done. He wiped the extra ink off the tip of the quill and placed it in its holder. As he was topping the ink pot, Jakob came in again. He was dressed in his sleeping clothes now and had his hair pulled up into a messy bun atop his head. He held a bowl in one hand and a mug in the other. Marx chuckled as his stomach gurgled with hunger. He hadn't even realized he was hungry. Jakob raised an eyebrow. “Are you done?” Marx nodded. A pleased smile spread across his lips as he stretched, which felt exquisite after sitting still for so long. “Finally,” Jakob huffed. He placed the bowl and mug down on the desk as Marx pulled his papers out of the way. “I thought you might be hungry. I noticed you didn't eat very many of the cookies I brought up earlier.” “Yeah, I'm starved,” he said, pulling the bowl in front of him. He took the spoon between his finger, but first leaned down and inhaled deeply. Jakob had prepared him some broth with meat and dumplings, a warm, buttered bread roll along with a mug topped off with hot cider. Marx dipped the spoon in the bowl and drew up some broth, giving it a quick blow and placing it in his mouth. Jakob lowered himself onto the chair and watched Marx close his eyes in pleasure as he took that first bite. He smiled briefly and was glad he had put that extra couple of scoops in the bowl. Marx caught his eye and the spoon drooped between his fingers. He gave a sheepish smile. “How did the battle go?” Jakob asked. “As well as it could. It was only a small force from Hoshido this time. We were able to push them back from the border village with minimal deaths on our side. We didn't pursue them. It seemed too much like a trap to draw us into Hoshidoan territory. Father was furious that I didn't lead the men after them, though.” “Did he mistreat you again?” “Just some yelling and going on about how spineless a man I am.” “Horrid old snake,” Jakob growled. Other, more foul curses came out unfiltered from his mouth before he shook his head. “You don't need to hear that right now.” He clenched his hands to force his anger down. “Jakob... I'm sorry,” he said earnestly. “I promised I would stop doing this. Staying up so late with work... But haven't I done better lately, not counting this time?” “You have. What's to say you won't revert right back into it, though?” “I just want to get it done. Uncle Johann is coming tomorrow. If I can help it, I don't want to have to think about battles or paperwork while he visits. I want to enjoy myself.” “I can understand that.” “Yet you still look cross with me.” Jakob rubbed his forehead and readied himself to repeat many conversations they had had before.“What if you were called away to battle right now? You'd be too tired to even lift your sword...” Jakob's scowl deepened. “It worries all of us. We don't want to lose you. Not to mention you are the only one able to talk the king back from invading Hoshido. The lives of the people of both countries are-” Jakob stopped when he noticed Marx's shoulder's sag. He scooted back in the chair and pulled his knees close to him and sighed deeply. “You don't need to hear any more of that either. We've spoken of it enough. I just worry. I hate seeing you struggle like this. And you absolutely refuse to let anyone help you.” Marx sighed and took another bite of his soup. “I know, but I don't really have a choice,” he said softly. “You do too have a choice. Leo is perfectly capable of doing the reports.” “Is that what the look he gave you was about?” “Yes. He asked me to speak to you about it.” “Why didn't he just talk to me about it himself...” “He said he's already tried and you brush him off every time. He knows you can't do that with me.” “I just don't want him to have to deal with any more than he already has. I hate that he even has to come out to battle with me. Don't misunderstand me, he's been a huge help. He's wonderful in battle, and I love having him with me for company. I just don't want to burden him with anything else.” “But he wants to help you. It frustrates him to watch you taking everything on yourself when he could help lessen your stress.” Jakob paused for a moment to let that sink in. “It's hard being the eldest, huh?” He offered Marx a smile which Marx returned. “Well, it's not easy being a young sibling either when one has to watch his elder brother wearing himself out. You want to protect everyone. You want us not to worry. You have to understand that it's miserable for us. Watching you work yourself to the point of breaking is incredibly frustrating. We should be allowed to support you in any way we can.” Marx nodded. “I guess I've been a bit selfish not considering all of your feelings.” “Also, I can't go to sleep if I know you're still up working. I lay in bed thinking about you slaving away at your desk, knowing you probably have fallen asleep, and that if I don't wake you, you'll probably stay there until morning. And what of that last time you fell asleep working? You ended up resting your head on the paper before the ink had dried. When I went to check on you, you had ink all over the left side of your face. You might not remember since you were still half-asleep, but it took me forever to scrub it off.” Jakob made no attempt to cover his amusement. “You looked ridiculous. And you had to rewrite that whole page the next day, too. All that work was for nothing.” Marx laughed. “It was such an odd feeling. Waking up sprawled on the bathroom floor with you hovering over me. I couldn't fathom what you were doing to my face. I thought I was having a night terror.” A splash of pink spread across his cheeks. “You just love teasing me about that, don't you?” Jakob grin grew wider. “Ugh, alright. I'll let him take over writing the reports.” “Really brother?!” Leo stepped into the room and went to stand before Marx, unusually excited. His unexpected arrival caused both Jakob and Marx to jump and Marx to place his hand over his heart. It took a few moments for Marx to speak. He frowned deeply. “Were you listening to us? Have I not taught you better than that?” “Forgive me, but I couldn't wait to hear your response,” Leo said, forcing his features into an apologetic look. “Brother, I'll do my very best.” “I know you will,” Marx said. “How long were you listening for?” “From the beginning. I saw Jakob come into your room.” Leo took a breath and continued. “I've read every battle report you've written at least twice, so I know exactly how to write them,” he said. “And if you should need my help, don't hesitate to come to me,” Marx said. “Yes, brother.” He gave Marx a tight squeeze. He did the same to Jakob, thanking them both. “Go to bed now,” Marx said. Leo nodded and was about to leave when he paused at the door. “Did that really happen?” He looked at Jakob and pointed to his own cheek.” Brother getting ink on his face?” “It's happened twice actually,” Jakob laughed. “The first time he must've been trying to change positions and get comfortable because it was on both sides of his face.” Leo snickered and disappeared from the doorway. Jakob grinned at Marx. “You just made his night. No, his whole month probably.” “The ink story did that I think,” Marx said. He picked up the roll, tore off a chunk, and stuffed it into his mouth. “I mean it. He values your esteem more than anyone else's. He wants so badly to prove himself to you. You just validated him,” Jakob said. Marx smiled. “Jakob... I noticed earlier that you're looking a bit pale. Kamui looked off as well. Did you two not sleep well last night?” Jakob sighed and nodded. “Nightmares again?” “Yes. It's always more frequent when you and the others are gone. I wish he'd just tell us what it's about.” “We already know what it's about...” Marx said, before stopping to take another bite of soup. “It must be so confusing for him.” Marx stopped and looked at the door causing Jakob to do the same. “No one's there,” Jakob said. Marx leaned closer to Jakob and spoke in a hushed tone. “I've been thinking I should tell him,” Jakob cringed. “I've been so fearful that Father will say something or he might hear gossip from some of the older servants who were here when he came to live with us. How painful it would be to find out from someone other than us. And he so desperately wants to leave the castle. If I deem him strong enough, Father will send him off to fight with us. What if he were to run into one of the more volatile members Hoshidoan royal family?” “That would be the worst way for him to find out,” Jakob said, his lips trembling. “...You could just keep him here a bit longer. You could delay it. He'd be safe, at least.” Marx watched as Jakob pulled and twisted at the edge of his night shirt. This had him visibly upset, almost to tears even. “I've considered that, but he's suffering here, trapped in this cage. And he's not the only one I'm concerned about either. I've noticed how this has affected you. It's like your spirit's been broken. And poor Elise... She's never stepped foot out of this horrid place. I don't know who to feel worse for,” Marx said, shaking his head. “I do know that I want to be the one to tell him. I can't take the chance that he'll find out some other way.” “Yes,” Jakob said, quietly. “You're right. I support whatever you decide even though I hate it with everything in me.” “Do you want to be there?” Marx asked. Jakob stared at the floor and nodded. The movement forced a tear to slide down his cheek. He quickly wiped it away. “I know,” Marx said softly, leaning across the desk and holding his hand out. Jakob took it. Marx frowned. “Your hand is cold,” he said. Jakob only shrugged in response. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't have bothered you with that right now. You look like you're ready to drop... Why don't you take the next few days off and rest up, okay?” Jakob's lip quivered almost into a smile. “I can't. Uncle Johann is coming and you're all back. I want to make something nice for everyone.” Marx started to speak but Jakob stopped him. “Don't worry. I'll get Leo and Kamui to help. Zero, too. He always helps out when I ask him.” “Just do the cooking, then, and make something simple, okay? No housework for you.” Jakob nodded. “Bless you. You look so tired. I won't do this to you again.” “Promise?” Jakob said, holding out his pinky. Marx laughed, wrapped his own around Jakob's and shook. “I promise.” “So, you had a bit of a problem with one of the maids earlier? Kamui mentioned it before,” Marx asked. Jakob let out an irritated groan. “I keep telling her, “Do not touch any food that I'm preparing.” but she won't listen. She thinks she's helping, I guess.” “What happened?” “I had a pot of sauce on the stove. I have no clue what she called herself doing, but before I could stop her, she picked it up and somehow dropped it. It went everywhere. It took Flora and me forever to clean it up. I've banned her from being in the kitchen when I'm cooking from this day forward.” “What can I do?” Marx asked. Jakob shrugged in response. “Do you want me to send her to work in Father's section of the castle?” This caused the other man to sigh. “I've thought about that but she'll probably end up getting herself killed. I just imagine her serving the king and dropping a pot of hot coffee or soup on him.” “We'll figure out something,” Marx said, scraping up the last bit of soup with a chunk of bread and placing it in his mouth. “You done?” Jakob asked. Marx nodded while chewing. “I'll warm your bed for you.” He stood, walked to Marx's bed, and pulled a folded wooly blanket off of it. He walked to the fireplace, shaking the blanket to unfold it and held it out in front of the fire, alternating the sides till the blanket was hot. When he was satisfied with the heat, he bundled it to his chest and walked back to the bed, quickly spreading it out under the top cover. Marx stood, wobbling a bit. The lower half of his body felt stiff and creaky from sitting so long. “Want me to help you undress?” Jakob asked. “Yes, please.” Marx let out a long sigh and stood straight with his head held high. Jakob went to work unbuttoning Marx's vest but then stopped. “I'm sorry for giving you such nasty looks earlier and for fussing at you,” Jakob said. “You're under so much stress and I know I added even more.” “I deserved it. I'm sorry for keeping you up so late. Can you forgive me?” “Of course.” Jakob smiled and stripped him down the rest of the way. “Especially if you stop being stubborn like an old mule.” He then held up the cover and Marx chuckled as he slid under them. “Try to cheer up. We have Uncle coming. That, at least, is something to look forward to. And don't worry about Kamui. We'll talk to Johann and Gunter about it before we do anything,” Marx said. His words came out a bit slurred as Jakob loosely tucked the covers around him. He could barely keep his eyes open. Jakob nodded and gently patted his head. He was almost gone when he heard Jakob whisper, “Sleep good.” He tried to return the words but all he heard in return was a soft chuckle before he drifted off to sleep.
  21. Hope Never Dies A Fire Emblem Awakening short story All he knew was darkness and pain; pain so extreme that he could barely stand breathing, almost making him wish for the specter of Death to finally drag him to whatever world he was destined to go to next. It would be so easy to simply let go and cast off his mortal shell, an act that would certainly free him of the agony he now endured. The temptation was incredibly strong and alluring . . . yet Robin ultimately found himself unable to simply give in. He had come too far to merely die now, at least not at this particular junction. There was yet more to achieve, still a job that needed to be done. There were no other options to consider. Dying was not something he could let happen. With that thought firmly in mind, Robin forced himself into action. The first order of business was banishing the darkness that blinded him, which was the simplest of his current dilemmas. The solution was no harder than opening his eyes, though his eyelids were dreadfully heavy, and resisted his commands to move. Robin’s will to see again won out eventually, and his eyes slowly opened, once more bringing light into his world. The sight that greeted him was a grim one, however. It nearly made him shut his eyes again, if only to avoid viewing the heartbreaking scene that awaited. Above all else, the sheer number of bodies was what drew most of his attention. There were countless corpses strewn across the battlefield, not all of them in his line of sight due to his prone position on the ground. Many of them were the enemy’s troops, though there were a far greater number of his army’s own soldiers than Robin would’ve liked. Most of them were no-name soldiers that Robin hardly knew; generic warriors whose names were likely to be lost to history. Not all of them were so unknown to him, however. Looking carefully, he could spot several of the Ylissean League’s top fighters, the people Chrom charged into battle with every time the League entered a skirmish. Robin paid close attention to those bodies; or rather he did as best he could, what with still lying on his stomach in a pool of his own blood. He was close with nearly every one of the League’s star soldiers, as many of the rank and file had taken to calling them, and knew all of their names and was close to each in varying degrees. They were his friends, and pained him to know that some, if not many, of them were now dead. He struggled to take note of who was well and truly deceased, and who was simply unconscious or unable to move. To his immediate left lay Stahl, the genial cavalier who had been fighting with him prior to everything going horribly wrong. It didn’t take any sort of genius to see that the young man had parted this world, the many wounds on his body clear indication of how much punishment he took. He didn’t go quietly, though. The number of enemies that were piled up around him was a testament to how tough of a fight he put up before finally being overwhelmed. A few paces away from him was Vaike, face down in a massive pool of blood, though it was more than likely that not all of it was his. Still, it didn’t change the fact that he was dead and gone, naught more than a memory to those who knew him. A bit off to Vaike’s right and a couple of yards down, Robin spotted Miriel. She was gone too, her mage’s hat askew on her head. Robin might’ve laughed had the situation been different, as he’d never seen as much as a hair out of place on Miriel’s head. Right beside her was her son, Laurent, several arrows stuck fast in his chest. Robin took some solace in the fact that poor Laurent had at least died next to his mother. It was difficult to imagine what it’d be like to have to go on living after losing a parent, or even both parents. Robin was aware that Laurent knew exactly how that felt, knew how painful it was to be forced to live without the parental guidance that children needed. He wasn’t the only one, either. There were other members of the Ylissean League who knew those feelings. They’d gone to great lengths to change the terrible fates they had been faced with, though Robin forced himself not to dwell on that just now. There were more immediate matters to deal with. Continuing his survey, Robin laid eyes on one of his closest friends, Lissa. The young cleric was the first he saw that wasn’t dead, simply injured. Straining his eyes, he could spot a gash on Lissa’s right arm, and her left leg was bent at an odd angle. She probably couldn’t move, but she clearly still held her healing staff. Assuming it still had a charge or two left in it, she could quickly heal Robin of his injuries and allow him to try and salvage this situation. All he needed to do was get to her, which was a task easier said than done. The moment he tried to stand up, pain shot through his entire body, keeping him pinned. He needed to fight through the pain if he hoped to get over to where Lissa sat. With a grunt of effort, he managed to climb to his feet, steadfastly ignoring the fact that he was still bleeding. Lissa can fix me up, he thought. I just need to get over to her. Finally standing, Robin began the trek over to Lissa’s location. It wasn’t a massive distance he had to cross, but his wounds made it feel like miles. Hoping to get her attention, he called out to her. To his dismay, his voice came out as a hoarse whisper. Lissa, who was staring at the ground in front of her, didn’t move an inch or give any sign that she heard him. Annoyed with his weakness at such a crucial moment, Robin called out to her once more. His voice climbed an octave or two, but it was still pathetically weak. Again, she showed no signs of having heard his call. Mustering up all the energy he could manage, Robin tried yet again. The third time was apparently the charm, as his voice came out strong enough for Lissa to hear, instantly causing her to raise her head and look around for who called her. It took mere seconds for her to spot Robin, and she gasped when she saw the condition he was in. Robin gave her a small smile and a weak wave, trying not to look too broken and battered. He knew he failed at that task, both because his wounds were that bad, and because his body picked that moment to give out. He went crashing back onto the ground, more blood spilling from the gaping wound in his chest. I’ve had my share of axe wounds, but this is something else. Of course, the man that gave it to me is something else too. Robin didn’t bother trying to move again, aware that he had gone as far as he could. With the amount of blood that he’d lost by this point, it would be a grand miracle for even Lissa to be able to fix him. After all, a healer could close up his wounds, but there was no getting back all of the blood that now stained the grass beneath him. Though he loathed admitting it, death was rapidly approaching. His mind desperately scrambled for a way to hang on a little longer, but it could discern no possible solutions. Robin let out a long sigh, resigned to his fate. At least no one could tell him he didn’t try. “Robin, hang on!” Lissa called out. “I’m coming!” The man in question looked over at Lissa, unable to keep from gasping as he watched her shakily get to her feet, letting out a yelp as she put pressure on her left leg. She was trying to come to him since he could no longer reach her. Given how delicate Lissa sometimes was, despite her protests otherwise, seeing her slowly march over to him through what looked to be incredibly intense pain stirred something deep within Robin’s core. Through her actions, she managed to bolster his previously fading resolve, making him mentally bounce back and resume his attempts to stave off his impending expiration. Not for the first time since he met her, Robin thought of just how strong Lissa truly was. After what felt like an eternity, the young cleric finally reached the rapidly fading Robin, wasting no time in holding her Mend staff over him and releasing the healing energies the wondrous rod held within. Robin could feel the healing effect immediately, marveling at the sensation of all his wounds closing right on up. In just a few seconds, his body was right as rain. The massive loss of blood was still an issue, though, as he still felt very weak. Even so, he was yet again impressed with how quickly he was healed. He’d born witness to the effect countless times before, both used on himself and others, but he never really got over how miraculous such a tool was. “Oh, I almost thought I wouldn’t get to you in time,” Lissa said, sitting down beside him. The look on her face told Robin that she was relieved to not be standing on her injured leg anymore. “I’m surprised I held on long enough, to tell you the truth,” Robin said honestly. “I was sure my life had reached its end. I’m glad you managed to save me.” He decided not to mention how dizzy he was beginning to feel, due to all of his missing blood. After seeing her struggle so hard, it didn’t feel right to worry her even further. Thinking about her leg brought a question to the forefront of Robin’s mind, though. “Lissa, I’ve been wondering something for a while now,” he began. “What’s that?” she inquired. “Well, I see you and Maribelle heal others all the time, but never yourselves. How come you never do? Wouldn’t that be more effective than relying on vulneraries?” Lissa smiled faintly, looking unsurprised to hear the question. “That’s just the way healing staves work,” she said. “My tutor, Father Selas, told me that a healing staff works because of the user’s ‘desire to aid others’, or something like that.” “That doesn’t explain why you can’t heal yourself, though,” Robin said with a slight frown. Lissa went quiet for a moment, searching for the right words. “It has something to do with self-sacrifice, or whatever. I don’t really remember my lessons all that well, to tell you the truth. Maribelle knows this stuff way better than I do. You should ask her about it.” “I think I will,” Robin said, recalling that Maribelle was back at base camp, having remained behind on his orders. That thought brought his mind back around to the current situation before him, making him cringe a little. He’d spotted a few of his friends lying dead on the battlefield already, and he had no idea of how many more might’ve fallen. He needed to see the extent of the casualties for himself, now that he could at least walk. He still felt extremely dizzy at some points, however, and knew he’d have to take it reasonably slow. With a determined grunt, he began to heave himself off the ground and onto his feet. “Hey, where are you going?” Lissa asked, fear creeping into her voice. “I need to survey the field,” Robin told her. “I can’t just sit here. There might be survivors around that can use my help.” “How are you gonna heal them without me? You don’t have a staff, and even if you did, you don’t know how to use one.” “You can’t walk right now. Just hang tight here and I’ll bring anyone I find back here.” Lissa gave him a look of uncertainty, coupled with a dash of fear plainly visible in her eyes. “And what if they’re too injured to move? What will you do then?” “I . . . don’t know, actually. I’ll work it out when the time comes,” Robin said, not entirely confident that he could carry anyone in his current state, especially if they were heavy. Still, what else could he do? He doubted he had the strength to carry even Lissa, who was as light as a feather. “Robin, wait!” she screeched as he tried to walk away. “I don’t want to be left alone here again. Please don’t leave me . . . .” Robin couldn’t help but return to her side, dropping to his knees in order to hold her in his arms. As he gently rocked her, attempting to soothe her, he felt the stirrings of feelings he hadn’t felt since the campaign against Mad King Gangrel, back when the Ylissean League had just been the Shepherds. He momentarily looked back fondly on old times, especially those he had with Lissa, but he dismissed the unbidden feelings as quickly as they had come forth. While he treasured those days, fate had seen fit to take him in a different direction. His heart was now firmly held by another. Even so, he’d probably always have some lingering deep feelings for Lissa. She was, for all intents and purposes, his first love. It was never an official thing between them, but it was close enough. This isn’t really the time to be dwelling on such matters, though, Robin thought. It’s imperative that I focus on the issue at hand. Lissa tightened her hold on Robin, now quietly sobbing. It was clear that she couldn’t deal with being alone while surrounded with so much death. Even though she had been present for many battles by this point, Robin understood why she was breaking down. She had never before seen a comrade fall, and seeing so many lose their lives at once had to be a soul crushing sight. The young cleric looked to be in a difficult place, mentally speaking. Robin wished to check on the status of the rest of the army, but Lissa’s situation called for a delicate touch. He racked his brain for a suitable way to detach himself from her and go searching, but as his friend pressed herself into him even further, a sudden sense of foreboding crept its way into Robin’s mind. There was something important he wasn’t remembering, but he had no idea just what it was. “Lissa, I need to go now,” he told his friend, slowly extracting himself from her hold. She didn’t give too much resistance, but she still tugged on him a little. “Don’t leave me alone, Robin. I really need you right now,” she said in a quiet voice. “I promise not to be gone for too long, okay? I’ll come right back in a little bit. Hang in there for me, Lissa.” The cleric looked at him, tears streaming down her face. A number of emotions could be seen swirling in her eyes, and Robin wondered what she was thinking. Though it was partially obscured by her fear, there was something in her expression that Robin was quite familiar with, especially as he saw it in the eyes of another every day. It was unmistakably love in her eyes, but to such a degree that it caught Robin off guard. He originally thought that Lissa had moved on from the relationship they had two years prior, the one from before Robin had started to fall for the woman that eventually became his wife. Looking at her now, he started to realize that he may have been wrong. “I’m so sorry, Robin,” Lissa said, giving him a sad smile. “I bet I’m embarrassing myself, huh? I’ll pull it together, I promise.” “I wasn’t worried about that. I know how strong you are,” Robin told her. “And I will come back as quickly as I can. I won’t leave you here any longer than necessary.” She smiled more brightly this time, though it was quickly replaced by a hesitant look, as if she wasn’t sure she wanted to say the next thing on her mind. Robin watched her for a moment, silently telling her to go ahead. After a few more seconds of silence, she complied. “You know . . . Sumia is really lucky to have you. You’re the kind of man that girls dream of.” Robin focused on her face as she spoke, noticing the slightly pained expression that flashed across it before being replaced with a smile. It told him all he needed to know. Lissa, despite his hopes, hadn’t moved on to anyone else. She still pined for him, and that was difficult to accept. Their relationship hadn’t been anything more than holding hands and the occasional kiss on the cheek, most of which had been unconscious actions. It never truly got defined as anything more than friends who were unsure of whether or not to take that next step. He had come close, though. When Chrom had mentioned his plans of getting married after Gangrel had been dealt with, Robin realized that he had been going woefully slowly with Lissa and planned to finally advance their relationship beyond the childish level it had been stuck at for some time. He had been heading to talk to her that same day, but he’d gotten sidetracked by running into Sumia, who had clearly been in low spirits. Perceptive as he was, Robin quickly worked out that Chrom was the reason she had been so down, a fact she confirmed. Wanting to cheer his friend up, Robin temporarily pushed back his plans to speak to Lissa and spent the day with Sumia. When he finally left her to return to his room late that night, he had realized immediately that Lissa was no longer the only woman he had more than friendly feelings for. In the span of a day, Sumia had managed to capture his heart. His mind returning to the present time, Robin considered what he could say to Lissa. He knew he had probably hurt her more than he knew by ultimately shifting his affections to Sumia, but neither of them had ever given word to their feelings, while Sumia had very quickly fallen for the tactician and made it known to him. In retrospect, it was obvious who he was going to choose. Still, he felt that he owed Lissa some sort of apology. “Lissa, there’s something I need to say to you,” he started, formulating his apology in his head. “What’s wrong?” she asked, noting his tone. He opened his mouth to speak, when it hit him like a bolt of Thoron. He had just realized the reason for his unease earlier. His immediate reaction was to berate himself for somehow forgetting such an important detail, but that annoyance quickly transformed into fear as he considered the implications. “Robin, what is it?” Lissa asked, sounding worried. His sudden distress must have shown on his face. He didn’t bother trying to cover it up. “Where’s Sumia?” he asked, head whipping about frantically. “She was fighting in this battle.” “I think she’s in the castle,” Lissa responded, pointing towards the structure in question. Robin followed her gaze, heartbeat steadily increasing. “The battle moved into there not too long ago.” Robin stared at the castle for a long moment, his fear threatening to dominate his being. As he thought about everyone that was inside, continuing to give all they had to defeat the enemy, fear was gradually replaced with anger. His rapidly increasing rage was all directed at the man who the Ylissean League had come to defeat; the man who had very nearly killed him and now threatened his wife and friends. “Lissa, I’m going to go help end this,” Robin said, voice devoid of any discernible emotion. It was a stark contrast to the boiling rage within. “We’ve had far too many casualties, and I won’t let us rack up any more.” Lissa looked as if she’d put up an argument, but thought better of it. “Okay. Be careful in there. You’ve almost been killed once, and I doubt it’d feel nice to be in that position again.” “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” With a last look at Lissa, Robin took off for the enemy’s stronghold, where the League was making the final push to end this fight. Though he knew his body was still weak, complete with persistent dizziness that came and went, he forged ahead with determination. His wife was in danger, and there was no way he was going to stand by while she fought for her life. He had to find her, or bring a decisive end to the battle before she could get hurt. It took Robin a few minutes to reach the castle gates, lacking the energy to run. Along the way he managed to scavenge a Bolganone tome and a silver sword, the latter coated in fresh blood. Sounds of battle could be heard through the open gates, and Robin moved as fast as he could to join the fray. Once inside, he spotted soldiers in the thick of battle all over the place. He took particular note of Brady and Lon’qu, who were fighting near each other. The Feroxi swordsman moved like lightning, cutting down foes left and right. Brady, meanwhile, was deftly bludgeoning those that came his way with his axe, and simultaneously using a Mend staff to keep allied soldiers healed up. The two made an effective team, and Robin made a mental note to keep their teamwork in mind for later battles. Though he could’ve stopped to aid them, Robin kept moving. He had one major goal: find Sumia. Nothing else mattered at the moment. He did halt a few times on his journey though, pulling out his Bolganone tome to rain fire down on those who were easy targets for him, or the few who were giving his allies trouble. He’d saved the lives of Inigo, Cordelia, and Nowi through such actions; though he wasn’t entirely sure they needed his assistance to win their fights. Better safe than sorry, he reasoned, waving to Nowi as she flew by him in dragon form. She spared him a friendly wave of her tail before turning her attention to the many remaining foes spread out through the halls. Robin noted that Sumia was not among the group and called out to Cordelia, who had been flying through the hallway astride her pegasus, using the space the incredibly high ceiling offered her to dive bomb enemies. “Have you seen Sumia anywhere?” he asked when the redhead swooped down to answer his call. “I did a bit earlier, but I lost track of where she went,” Cordelia answered. “She was on foot rather than riding her pegasus, so she disappeared pretty quickly. It’s possible she went to help Chrom. He went straight for the throne room once we breached the castle. He can probably use your help too.” “I’m on it,” Robin said, setting off. Hopefully he’d find Sumia fighting alongside the prince. At least he’d protect her with his life. After what felt like an eternity, Robin finally found himself standing in front of the double doors to the throne room. He could hear the sound of metal clashing from within, assuming that Chrom was currently engaged in combat. There was no way to tell exactly how many people were present inside without going on in, but even if Sumia wasn’t inside, Robin wasn’t going to pass up the chance to end this whole fight. The man who’d nearly killed him was within, and Robin intended to defeat him before anyone else fell in battle. Working with Chrom should give him the edge needed to emerge victorious, or so he hoped. With a deep breath, and a prayer to Naga, Robin took hold of his tome and flung open the doors. He was greeted with the sight of Chrom circling around the man who’d been far more challenging than Robin had initially expected. He also noted Sully standing a step or two behind Chrom, lance at the ready. He didn’t immediately spot Sumia anywhere, but his attention was admittedly grabbed by the opponent Chrom and Sully faced. For a moment, all Robin could see was his enemy, the man who had become the biggest obstacle the Ylissean League had ever faced. The one known as Walhart. Walhart, the man known as the Conqueror and the one who had given Robin his earlier wound, failed to see the giant blast of fire until it was too late, resulting in a direct hit. The blast swept him off his feet, though the Emperor of Valm didn’t stay down for more than a few seconds. Once he was back up, he turned his gaze upon Robin, a surprised expression crossing his face for a few moments before being replaced with what Robin could only assume was respect. “Well, well, it seems you yet live, tactician!” Walhart said in his booming voice. “I was certain you would not rise again after my attack, but you have surprised me. I applaud your tenacity, but you have made a mistake in coming to face me.” “I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Robin said, walking towards Chrom’s side. “I count three of us against one of you. Not even the Conqueror can stand up to such odds.” “I agree,” Chrom added. “This ends here, Walhart!” “Ha! You’re all fools if you believe I will be defeated by such measly numbers. I have broken far greater men than you, and in larger numbers. All of you shall fall before my axe!” Robin truly believed that his side had the edge. Three against one was not favorable odds for anyone. To his utter disbelief, Walhart proved him wrong. Chrom had been the first to attack, dashing towards the Conqueror, Falchion poised for a piercing strike. Walhart met the prince’s blade with his axe, parrying the blow easily. Sully moved only seconds after Chrom, approaching from the side, and Robin provided support by invoking the fiery magic of Bolganone again. Walhart reacted with impressive speed, sending Chrom reeling with a kick to the chest, gripping Sully’s spear with his off hand and pulling her forward into the raging fire, capping it off by deftly leaping out of the magic’s range himself. With no way to avoid it, Sully took the full brunt of Bolganone, screaming in pain as the fire blazed around her. Chrom, who had managed to stay on his feet despite Walhart’s vicious kick, let out an almost feral roar and charged. Walhart dodged the blow, countering with a mighty strike that could’ve shattered rock. Chrom spun around to block the attack, but Robin got there first, abandoning his tome in favor of his bloodied sword. He didn’t want to risk Walhart maneuvering out of the way of another fireball and putting one of the others in the path of the magic. His reasoning made sense, but he hadn’t taken into account how weak he still was. Robin’s legs nearly buckled under the weight of Walhart’s blow, Chrom’s timely intervention the only thing that prevented it from occurring. The blue haired prince leapt over Robin to deliver a powerful overhead slash, causing Walhart to raise his axe in order to block it. Robin thought to strike while he had an opportunity, but Walhart preempted him, performing another kick that struck Robin’s midsection and sent him tumbling backward. In the same motion, Walhart spun around and whacked Chrom with the handle of his axe, causing the prince to roll off to the side in pain. “He’s a monster,” Robin mused, feeling weaker than ever. His body wasn’t up for heavy punishment just then. “A monster, am I?” Walhart asked, looming over Robin. “Perhaps you now understand just who it is you face. I am the man who will unite this world, and you will not stand in my way! Your life ends here and now, boy!” With a victorious grunt, Walhart raised his axe, preparing to bring it down upon the tactician. Robin froze, unable to move an inch. Death seemed a certainty this time around. “Not a chance!” rang out the determined voice of Ylisse’s prince. Chrom darted forward, sword raised. Walhart quickly turned around to defend himself, but a distraction appeared in the form of Sully. She came forward, lightly smoking from the Bolganone blast, and struck with her lance. It pierced Walhart’s side, causing him to groan in pain. Chrom took advantage of the momentary distraction and went for the killing blow. Walhart, however, wasn’t distracted for long and launched an attack of his own. Chrom had been committed to his strike, and thus had no chance to evade. The fatal attacks hit their targets at exactly the same time. Chrom’s Falchion pierced Walhart’s jaw and went straight through his head, while Walhart’s axe went through Chrom’s midsection, coming close to bisecting the prince. The damage was extensive, and Robin instinctively knew that Chrom was not long for this world. Though Walhart had been killed instantly, Robin barely noticed. His whole being threatened to shatter as he watched Chrom fall over, blood spurting from the large gash in his side. “Chrom!” Sully yelled, running over to him. Robin watched his best friend for a few seconds before pulling himself together and heading over as well. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Chrom, his best friend, was suddenly on the verge of death. “Chrom, you can’t die on me,” Sully said through her constant sobbing. “You’re tougher than this. You’d better hold on until we get Brady in here. You got that?” Chrom smiled, though it was one filled with regret. He knew he wasn’t going to remain conscious for long, with as much blood as he was losing. He then noticed Robin standing there, and his expression became much sadder. Robin took no notice, his mind too occupied on what he could say to his dying friend. Chrom had been his truest friend, and the one who had provided endless inspiration and support. It mortified Robin that he couldn’t bring himself to say anything. He was saved the trouble when Chrom spoke instead, his voice extremely faint. “Robin . . . sorry,” he said. “It’s okay, Chrom. You did what you had to. I wish you’d let him kill me, though.” Chrom tried to shake his head, only managing a near imperceptible motion. “No . . . way,” he got out. With a shaky hand, he pointed to a corner of the room. “Forgive me . . . my friend. I couldn’t . . . protect her.” Robin couldn’t help but look in the direction Chrom indicated, fearing what he’d see. When he spotted the body that lay forgotten at the room’s far end, his whole world froze and subsequently shattered into a million pieces, nearly taking his sanity with it. His worst fears came to life as he looked at the unmoving form of his wife, either dead or well on her way. He willed his body to move, using up what energy he had to run over to her. He collapsed in front of her body, totally spent and on the verge of shutting down. The only thing that kept him from that fate was that Sumia was still breathing, though her breaths were labored. “Sumia, can you hear me?” he asked quietly, wanting to hear her voice. She opened her eyes upon hearing him and smiled. He couldn’t help but smile back. He loved her angelic smile. “Robin, you’re alive!” she said, already tearing up. “I thought you were dead!” “Lissa saved my life. I was lucky she was still out there. She wasn’t able to come with me, but Brady’s still out there. Just hang in there and I’ll go get him.” “No . . . it won’t be necessary,” Sumia said, shaking her head. “I’m already fading. I just want to spend these last few moments with you.” “Please, Sumia! I can’t let it end like this! I don’t know what I’d do without you. Brady, get in here right now! We need healing, dammit!” Robin broke down, the tears flowing fast and freely. The love of his life was dying in front of him and he could do nothing to stop it. He had never felt this powerless before, and he wasn’t sure he could take it. “These last two years have been so wonderful,” Sumia said sadly. “I never thought I’d find someone who would love me so deeply. I’m a lucky woman, if I do say so myself. I love you so much, Robin. I wish we could have more time together.” “We can, you just have to hold on a little longer,” he said, adding, “Brady, hurry the hell up! I need you over here!” “I want you to promise me something, Robin. It’s important to me that you do.” “Anything, honey. You name it.” “Live,” Sumia said. “I want you to live your life to the fullest, no matter how you may feel. Don’t let grief destroy you, okay? Do that for me, and I can die happily.” “Sumia, I . . . I can’t. Without you, I have nothing. You’re my everything, my entire world. I don’t know how I can go on.” “Can you hold me, Robin? I want to feel your arms around me one more time . . .” Robin did as she asked and embraced her, his eyes filled with tears. The moment he would be forever separated from his most precious treasure was fast approaching, and he wasn’t certain he could bear the pain. There was a brief flash of an idea in his mind, one that would allow him to follow his wife into the hereafter, but he dismissed it after looking at Sumia’s expression. She was watching him carefully, her own eyes leaking profusely. She gave her head the tiniest of shakes, as if she knew what he was thinking. “I love you so much, you know that?” she said, though it was something that Robin was well aware of. “When you asked me to marry you, it was the happiest day of my life. I never knew just how amazing life could be, and the time I spent with you was magical. You’re so wonderful . . .” “I feel the same way,” Robin said, his voice cracking slightly. “That day I spent with you turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done, huh?” “Yes, definitely. Robin . . . never lose that kindness and compassion. I think it’s your best trait.” Robin leaned down and placed a kiss upon Sumia’s lips. It wasn’t intensely passionate, or filled with lust, but a soft and innocent kiss that lasted only seconds. When he straightened up again, Sumia smiled at him one last time, eyes beginning to close. “Tell Cynthia and Morgan to stay strong, and that their mother loves them dearly. Someday, we’ll all see each other again, I know it,” she said. “I have no doubt of that,” Robin agreed. Sumia nodded. “Until that time comes . . . goodbye, my valiant knight.” “Goodbye, my precious angel.” With that last exchange, Sumia’s eyes finally shut for good, the last embers of her life’s fire now extinguished. Robin simply stared at her body, the pain of both her and Chrom’s deaths weighing heavily on him. How could it all have ended this way? “Hey, I’m here, I’m here!” Brady yelled from behind, crashing through the doors. Robin looked back to see the priest ready to wield his staff, wishing he’d arrived earlier. It was too late now. “Robin, I brought Brady to help,” Sully said, coming in behind him. She must’ve left a little while back. Robin hadn’t noticed. “. . . Thanks, Brady, but you can’t help now. She’s already gone,” Robin said sadly. Brady fixed him with a heartbroken look. “I’m sorry, man. If only I’d been here sooner.” “Don’t worry about it. You couldn’t have known.” Robin climbed to his feet, picking up Sumia’s body as he did so. He gave Chrom’s body one last look, then, without another word, left the room. It took everything he had in him not to scream in despair at the outcome of events. Robin was an utterly broken man. A week had passed since the tragic events of the battle against Walhart, and each day had been an almost unbearable challenge for the young tactician. Dealing with the deaths of his wife and best friend had been arduous enough, but having to tell his children that their mother had died nearly destroyed what little sanity Robin had left. Cynthia had reacted to the news fairly well, managing to keep her sorrow inside until she was in private. Morgan, on the other hand, had broken into tears immediately, unable to contain her sadness. Cynthia ended up leading her sister away, showing a maturity that Robin hadn’t even been aware she possessed. He figured it had something to do with her desire to be a hero of justice, probably assuming a true hero would be strong for others. Robin admired her for that, as he couldn’t quite do the same himself. He didn’t visibly cry or outwardly reveal his emotionally distraught state, though. In actuality, Robin showed no emotion whatsoever. He spoke only when it was absolutely necessary, and kept out of sight whenever he could do so. He led the League in their roundup of the last few pockets of resistance around the area, but adopted a cold and unfeeling demeanor for the whole process, as if none of it was important to him. He knew that his attitude wasn’t helping morale much, as shattered as it already was, but he just didn’t care. He’d suffered two major personal losses, and no one was going to deny him his period of mourning. The League was preparing to finally depart Valm, ready to return home to Ylisse for the time being in order to give Chrom and Sumia a proper burial. Even those who made their homes elsewhere agreed to come to Ylisse, wanting to pay their respects. Robin dreaded the funerals that would follow; unsure he could get through them in one piece. He knew there was no way he’d miss them, but it still wasn’t something he expected to be able to handle well. In an attempt to clear his head, he decided to spend the last hour or so in precious solitude. He chose to climb to the castle’s roof, as no one would likely be up there or come seeking him out, short of an emergency, of course. He was starting the long climb up the staircase that led to the rooftop, when a voice called out to him. “Robin, wait up!” He turned around to see Lissa running up to him, panting heavily. He wondered what she wanted, as they hadn’t spoken since that fateful day. “What’s up, Lissa? Something wrong?” “No, nothing’s wrong. I saw you heading this way and I wanted to talk to you,” she replied. “How are you holding up?” “I’m managing,” Robin said. “What about you? Losing your last living family member can’t be easy for you.” “It’s not, but I’ll be okay. You’re the one I’m worried about. You’ve been so distant this past week. I know you’re hurting, but it isn’t good to cut yourself off from everyone else.” “I haven’t. I’ve just been busy, that’s all.” Lissa scoffed at his words. “You’re a poor liar sometimes, Robin. I know you don’t feel like interacting with people, but what good does that do? It won’t bring Chrom or Sumia back. Besides, you’re the leader of the Ylissean League now that my brother’s gone. You aren’t doing any favors for everyone else’s morale with your reclusiveness.” Despite his dark mood, Robin couldn’t help but grin. “Frederick told you to tell me that last part, didn’t he?” “Maybe,” Lissa said with a grin of her own. “Doesn’t mean it’s not true, though.” Robin let out a sigh. He knew he was making everyone worry, but he was too emotionally drained to do anything else. He recalled his promise to Sumia, but wasn’t sure he could keep it. How could he live without her? She was the love of his life. Life wasn’t complete without her by his side. “You’re heading to the rooftop, right? Come on, let’s go together,” Lissa said, pulling him out of his thoughts and leading him up the stairs. It didn’t take long to reach the top, where Lissa quickly threw open the door, revealing the sight of the landscape of Valm, stretching off in every direction. “Wow, look at this view!” Lissa said in awe. It appeared that she hadn’t yet come to the castle roof. “I mean, it’s no Ylisse, but still, this is amazing.” Robin said nothing as he stepped forward and made his way to the edge that overlooked the field of battle he’d been on just a week ago. As he looked down, he could only grimace. The grass beneath, which had once been a beautiful green color, had been stained with all of the blood that was spilled during the battle, turning the field into a sea of crimson that served as a reminder of what had happened. Robin stared at the reddened field, the blood coating it dark and dry, and thought about all that was lost. He, and the Ylissean League in general, had given up so much to defeat Walhart, and it all felt like a waste. He hated to think what might await them in the future, especially if what Lucina had said was true. The ultimate fate of the world seemed bleak, and Robin almost wanted to give up and die. He carried on, though, if only to honor the promise to his wife. It would be difficult, but he would at least try. After all, he still had Cynthia and Morgan. They needed a father, and he couldn’t bring himself to abandon them. Sumia would never forgive him if he did that. “Robin?” Lissa asked, coming to stand next to him. “Yeah?” “Um . . . you know that I’m here for you if you need me, right? I know you’re having a tough time right now, but you don’t have to suffer alone.” Robin felt her hand slip into his, giving it a soft squeeze. He looked at Lissa, unsure of what to say. She just smiled and planted a kiss on his cheek. It was an innocent gesture, one that told him that she really would be there for him, no matter what. Suddenly, things didn’t look quite as bad as they had before. Sumia may have been gone, and there was no bringing her back, but maybe, just maybe, his life might one day be complete again. As he looked toward the horizon, Robin felt a spark of hope come to life within him, a hope he thought was long gone. Lucina had always said that hope never dies, though. Robin never felt the truth of that statement more than he did right then. Despite all of the despair he’d felt, his hope never fully died out. He would see to it that no one else’s would, either. No matter what it took.
  22. The Car… of Legend! “Tonight,” said Ike Clarkson through the TV, “I power-slide past Marth!” The scene changed to Ike in a little sedan as he slid by Marth May in a stodgy and far slower hatchback. “Ha-ha-ha-ha Ha-ha-ha!” cried Ike out of his window. “Marth catches fire,” continued Ike’s voiceover. “It’s quite simple, actually,” Marth said as he examined his car’s engine, which caught fire, “Oh for—” “And Roy runs himself over,” Ike concluded. “AHH!!” cried Roy Hammond. He tumbled out of the way of his car as it careened down the hill. The image of a spinning gear that burst into flames appeared. The title card of the TV show popped up over the gear. “Fire Gear,” it said. The camera pulled into a vast studio with a packed audience. Thunderous applause filled the room as the imposing, burly blueheaded figure of Ike Clarkson stood on a platform slightly above the crowds. “Hello!” cried Ike over the applause to the camera, “Hello and thank you. Thank you so much.” The audience died down after a few seconds. “Now, every so often we like to remind ourselves that this is, in fact, a motoring show.” “Right,” said the thin and long blue haired figure of Marth May as he walked out of the audience toward Ike, “And we also often ask the question of how much car could you get for a thousand gold.” “So the producers,” called Roy as he popped out of the audience from another direction, “told us to get any car we wanted… provided it cost less than a thousand gold and was also made before 1980.” “That wasn’t my idea,” said Ike. “I know, it wasn’t mine either,” said Roy. Both looked discreetly at Marth. “Anyway,” said Ike quickly as the audience laughed, “What we usually do is pick a location and buy the cars locally. We take turns to pick where we’re going. If it’s my turn, it’s usually someplace sunny and with really good food like Lycia or Crimea. If it’s Marth’s turn we usually end up in… the year 607—” The audience laughed loudly as Marth looked confused, “…What?” Ike ignored Marth and continued, “Tonight, though, it was Roy’s turn.” Roy beamed from behind the much taller Ike, who looked annoyed, “So guess what?” The scene changed to a parking lot in the middle of the desert. “I was the first to arrive,” said Ike’s voiceover, “In the United States of Ylisse state of Macedon south of Law’s End.” Ike drove up in a sporty little blue sedan with circular headlights and fog lights. After squeezing himself out of the car, Ike spoke, “This is what I bought. A Bernese Moteren Werke 2002 SuperTurbo. It’s 40 years old, it’s done 400,000 miles, and it has a… bit of rust. But look at it! It’s still staggering!” “I didn’t have much time more to boast about m’car because Hammond arrived,” said Ike’s voiceover. “Oh look, it’s Billy Roy Hammond,” said Ike. He watched as a tired, rusty two door sedan trundled up and came to a rest. “What have you done?” Ike asked. “Aha,” said Roy. His door made a crunching sound as he shut it, “You laugh now but just you wait. In a minute, this’ll be brilliant! This is a 1964 Bord Falcon Knight. It’s got the big engine, the four speed, the bucket seats… This is a rare car!” Ike stroked his chin, “I don’t know what Bord were thinking of when they were naming that the Falcon Knight but I can tell you it wasn’t two tons of rust.” “It’s a fifty year old car, of course it’s going to get a bit rusty,” said Roy, “Mechanically this is running perfectly.” Before Ike could get another comment in, Roy went on to his car, “Did you really find a BMW 2002 out here?” “It’s the turbo,” answered Ike. “It is?!” cried Roy, “You got a SuperTurbo for a thousand gold!?” “750.” Ike said smugly. “750 for all that!?” “And how much did you pay for your car?” asked Ike. “A… thousand,” answered Roy. “A thousand gold for two tons of rust!?” “It’s not that rusty!!” cried Roy. “It is!!” “Twenty-five hours of arguing later,” said Roy’s voiceover, “And our infamously slow colleague finally turned up.” “Did he really? Oh gods,” Ike shook his head in disapproval. Marth’s ride was a very old hatchback with faded beige paint, a dismal sounding engine, and dirty headlights. “What is that?!” cried Roy. “This, gentlemen,” said Marth, “Is a Renault 4.” “Marth, for once in your life could you show a little personality?” Ike asked, “Did you put any thought into this challenge at all?” “I did, actually,” said Marth as the trio walked around his car, “I don’t know what challenges the producers will have us face here but I’m sure this’ll endure them all.” Roy quipped, “If the challenge is who’s got the beigest or most boring car…” “This car is so simply built even you,” Marth pointed at Ike, “could fix it with a hammer.” “Well, yes,” said Ike, “But Marth—” “As opposed to what you two brought,” said Marth, looking over at the other cars, “Hammond, the first bump we encounter will make your car dissolve into powder.” “It’s not that rusty!” cried Roy. “And Ike,” said Marth, “You’re just asking for trouble driving a Bernese car through this.” “Before another day was wasted by our arguing,” said Ike’s voiceover, “a challenge arrived.” A girl in a white lab coat walked up to the trio. She had red hair in a ponytail and her index finger on her chin as she passed a golden envelope to Roy. “Thank you,” said Roy before he read, “You will drive your cars from here, in Ylisse’s southernmost continuous state to Kidnapper’s Point… in northern East Ferox.” “What? Drive the whole of Ylisse? That’s it?” asked Ike, “Oh, this is a doddle!” “Owain!” called Lissa from the other room. Owain turned away from the TV to see his mother enter the living room. “C’mon, let’s go look at cars!” “Yes! Finally!” cried Owain as he shut the TV off and launched from the sofa, “It only took you three episodes of Fire Gear to get ready this time!” “Oh stop it, you goofball,” said his mother as she pinched his nose a bit. She looked up the stairs and called, “Morgan, if you’re coming you’d better be out here right now!” Morgan almost tripped over herself but that was how the bubbly blond always rushed down the stairs. “Yeah, I’m coming,” she said, “Owain’s going to be driving me to school, I have some say in what kind of car he gets.” “You doubt my abilities to pick a car… of legend!?” asked Owain as the siblings followed Lissa out of the house. “Of course I don’t,” said Morgan, “but I do think you could use a second opinion. You know, somebody who wants comfy seats… of legend.” “Just as long as this legendary car of yours doesn’t cost more than a thousand gold,” said Lissa. The three of them got into Lissa’s minivan. The kids stayed in the back so they could talk more easily. Lissa looked longingly at the passenger seat for a second. Her husband was at work, even on a Saturday. She knew his advice to the president was invaluable stuff but she wished he could be there when their son picked his first car… They drove from their suburban home outside of Ylisstol into a commercial district which looked a bit sketchy. Lissa really hoped nobody would mug them but she had to remind herself both her kids were black belts in Chonsinjutsu. Nevertheless, the district had some of the best used car dealerships in the capital. Lissa picked one of the big ones, “Honest Gangrel’s EZ Cars” and pulled her car in. “Ah, welcome to Honest Gangrel’s,” greeted a slimy red haired man, “I’m Gangrel, at your service. Looking for a trade, madam?” Lissa could see through the slimy charm but she chose to indulge in it if it would give Owain a good deal. If not, they’d carry on to next door, “Anna’s Secret Cars,” though Lissa had hoped she could go a day without bowing down to the megalomaniac AnnaCorp. “Actually, we’re just here to look for a first car for him,” she indicated Owain, “what have you got under a thousand?” “Right this way,” Gangrel beckoned as he led the three to the rear of the lot, “Everything behind the building is less than a thousand. If anything strikes your fancy, don’t hesitate to call…” He walked back to the office. There were a lot of cars to choose from and Lissa didn’t know where to begin. She looked at her son, “Anything you had in mind?” “Uh… something legendary to start,” Owain answered. “Well, what about this one?” Lissa asked, looking at a large sedan, “It’s got Legend written on it…” “An Ashera Legend?” asked Morgan, “Those are kind of a lot of trouble… plus they get terrible gas mileage.” “How did you know that?” asked Owain. “Because I do actual car research, Owain,” answered Morgan, “Rather than watching Fire Gear all day.” “But Fire Gear chronicles valuable excellence!” Owain proclaimed, “It is the quintessential height of the coolest; the pinnacle of all things automotive awesome—!!” “Driving a 200,000 gold car in the mud through a whole rally is pretty awesome,” nodded Morgan, “But it’s not very helpful.” “I—damnit, Morgan, why do you always have to make sense?” asked Owain, “It kills my momentum.” “Well, we’re here to look at cars,” replied Morgan, “Plus Mom’s starting to lose her patience.” “Me?” asked Lissa as she laughed, “Never.” Before either of her kids could say anything else she said, “Let’s keep looking…” They looked at a very rusty Volkewagen Bug, a half-broken VW Golf, a sullen looking Bord FestyFestFest, and a dreary Renault Twingo. Another man came their way from the other direction, browsing alone. He had red hair and was between Owain and Morgan in height. “Morning,” he greeted in a Fibernian accent. Owain’s jaw dropped to the ground. He gapped at words for a second. “O—Oh my gods! You’re Roy Hammond!!” “Holy crap, we’re huge fans!!” cried Morgan, “My brother and I—” “—I watched every one of your shows six-hundred times—” “—You’re my favorite presenter, and—” “—My sister has this HUGE crush on you, and—” “—Because of you I named all my family’s car—,” Morgan paused and looked at her brother, “Wait, what did you just say?” “Please excuse my fan-child-ing kids, Mr. Hammond,” said Lissa as she tried not to blush with embarrassment. The redheaded TV star just smiled. “I’m used to it,” said Roy, “Really, really used to it…” His smiled faded and his face went more towards a look of horror but he sprang back to a cheerful grin after a second. “Um, what brings you to Ylisstol?” asked Morgan, mustering a little courage in the process. “We’re doing another cheap car challenge in Ylisse,” Roy answered. “Wow,” said Owain in awe, “We must have been fated to meet this day… I’m looking for my first car.” “Oh really?” asked Roy, “There’s a few good ones over there.” He pointed off to the far right of the back lot, “I didn’t pick them because we have to pick an estate car.” “Oh thanks,” smiled Lissa before turning to her children, “Let’s go over there, guys.” “Good luck,” called Roy. “You too,” called Lissa back as the two parties went their separate ways. When the three crossed to the area Roy had pointed to, Lissa asked, “Are any of these calling out to you, Owain?” “Nothing yet,” he said. Most of the cars over here were old sports cars. Lissa was glad her son was passing over these things. She just knew he would turn into a reckless delinquent driver with a bunch of trampy girlfriends… But far more importantly, Lissa couldn’t bear to see her son’s handsome face on top of a pile of twisted, burning metal. Owain gazed upon the cars around him. Fire Gear had taught him above all that a car was a companion, not an appliance. None of these cars had the spark, the reassuring grin, the look of something legendary in Owain’s eyes. Owain had to believe that the car he’d pick would be a staunch ally in all his travels to the bitter end. He rounded a corner in the rows of cars and at last his gaze lighted upon a particular little car. Owain gasped, “That’s it! I’ve found it at last! The fated car I’m looking for!” “Wait, what?” asked Lissa, looking around, “Where?” Owain was already running for an ancient little sedan with faded dark blue paint. Lissa finally spotted her son and looked at the car he seemed to have picked, “Oh… what is that?” She and Morgan followed Owain. “It’s a Volug 122 Amazon. 1965, based on the grill trim,” said Morgan. “Is it… any good?” asked Lissa. Morgan nodded, “It’s a lot more reliable and safe than a lot of cars here.” “I guess that makes this my lucky day, then,” said Lissa, “At least I don’t have to worry about him flying through the windscreen…” “I wonder why he likes it so much?” asked Morgan. Roy came up from the other direction after rounding the whole lot. “Did you find anything you like?” he asked. Owain was now hugging the car. He didn’t answer. “Found would be an understatement,” said Morgan. “I shall call you Mystletainn,” said Owain to the car. “Oh boy, now he’s talking to it,” noted his sister. Owain continued obliviously, “and together we shall ride across this land…” “Are you sure about this one, mate?” asked Roy, “It’s pretty ordinary.” “Can’t you feel it, Mystletainn? Destiny beckons!” “Er… hello?” It was no use. Owain was in his own blissful world. “What’s wrong with it?” asked Lissa. “Well,” said Roy, “Volug’s aren’t exactly impressive.” “…and we will cross continents with a vengeance,” continued Owain, “and never be late to school again and…” “Is it a safe, reliable, and slow car?” asked Lissa. “Well yes, but—” “That’s perfect for a first car,” said Lissa. Roy shrugged, “It makes sense if you’re picking it, you’re his Mum. What I don’t get is why did he go for that when it’s parked between two Bord Mustangs!?” “Your guess is as good as mine,” said Morgan, “My brother marches to his own drum.” Gangrel approached the group surrounding the little car. “Did you find anything you like?” Lissa nodded toward her son. “…and nobody will laugh at me for riding a bike to school anymore,” Owain continued, “and we’ll be the cool guys because you’ll be my ride and I’ll have a ride…” “Is he… worshiping that car?” Gangrel asked. No, there was no stopping Owain now. Lissa sighed and rolled her eyes, “How much?” *** Author's note: Ah yes, this is what happens when I let my brain wander (have you ever tried corralling your brain back into your head??). Nothing Owain does is ordinary, not even looking for his first car. Fueled by the awesomeness of his favorite TV show, Fire Gear, Owain is determined to find a car... of legend! Set in a modern AU set on a planet that has all the Fire Emblem continents! (Except the Fates one) This also classifies as an oddball crossover between Fire Emblem and Top Gear (UK)... as if my subconscious needs to prove just how eclectic my interests are.
  23. How many ages hence Shall this our lofty scene be acted over In states unborn and accents yet unknown! William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Through fire and death this army had ventured to finally reach this point. The road behind them was paved with the corpses of friends and enemies alike. Yet at last Doluna Keep loomed before the armies of the Akaneian League, its spires and battlements cleared of enemies while forces inside still awaited the final struggle for the future of the continent. While tents and gear had been pitched outside, there would be no long siege of the final bastion of evil. The Earth Dragon had to be stopped now while there was still a chance, the threat Medeus posed was too great to simply try and contain him within his fortress. So preparations for a final assault on Doluna Keep to be undertaken upon the next morrow were underway. The assembled forces of an entire continent from almost every nation, profession, background, and motivation were on display here as all but the most unaware knew the deadly seriousness of the situation. It would seem a strange thing to look upon this army if you were an outsider, for rather than a uniform force it seemed no one soldier was alike with this band. Knights and mages, clerics and thieves, royalty and even legends themselves walked among this army. It was like no army the lands had seen since the time of their ancient legends, and it would probably not see it’s like again for generations. At this time however, the entire camp was all action and bustle, preparing for the final battle that would decide everything for themselves and those they cared about. Many dealt with the tension and fear of the coming storm in different ways. Some sought the company and laughter of others, a few sharpened their weapons and practiced their strikes with all the diligence and care they could muster, the religious among them felt called to prayer and contemplation of their gods and goddesses, and a some among the group simply readied their weapons prepared to treat this as just another job or battle that needed doing. No matter how they chose to prepare for battle, all were filled with a sense of finality about the whole affair. This task ahead of them was hard fought for by the struggles behind them, and all their weapons, power, and skill would be brought to bear one last time for one final test of resolve and courage. However, no more could a feeling of worry and despondency be felt than in the largest of the army’s tents. Inside a blue colored construct of canvas and cord sat Prince Marth of Altea, Lord and Leader of this might host of colorful characters. He of all people knew the destruction that could be brought by the forces of darkness, of what could be lost if evil was not vanquished and defeated from the lands. A tender lad of 14 he had been, when he had seen his home put to the torch, his family killed or captured, and his homeland torn asunder by greed and evil ambition. It was hard to imagine that here he was now, only 16 years of age leading the greatest army on the continent and having the command of men and women of far greater age and experience. Yet here he was, the boy prince come back to finally redeem the land and lead the forces of good against the earth dragon once again. Here he was showered with accolades and the praises of his men and the people, here he was hailed as Anri come again, but still why was he so uneasy? Why in his sleep did he still dream of endless fires and of the faces of the dead on his side and the enemies? Resolve wasn’t a thing he was lacking in, quite the contrary, he knew what he had to do and how to do it, before him on the table was the legendary blade Falchion, and next to it was the symbol granted unto him of the Fire Emblem. Still though the prince’s mind was uneasy as he scoured over books on military strategy, planning, and logistics. This last battle would be the defining moment of this generation, and maybe for a thousand generations to come. Perhaps that’s why this was how Jagen found his liege lord hunched over his desk as the sun began to set low over the mountains. The stalwart paladin witnessed that the desk of the leader of the Akaneian League had innumerable books and ledgers scattered across its surface. However, there was only one book that was clenched in the hands of the young hero he’d seen grow from a child in the castle gardens to a warrior of great renown and skill. It was an old book from the libraries of the Capital of Altea, one Genealogy of the Holy War. Jagen remembered that book well, as did nearly all who studied history and legends. A story of faraway lands, of bloodshed, of treason, of tragedy, love and loss, of the bitterness of defeat and the grim exaltation of victory won at a heavy cost. Jagen could see plainly that his lord was engrossed wholly in the book, barely noticing his entrance even as he heavy armor clanked unsubtly. Rather than simply stand waiting for a response Jagen cleared his throat rather loudly, Marth was startled out of his reading stupor and quickly turned to face his knight, standing as he did so. “Oh, Sir Jagen. I apologize, I was wrapped up in my thoughts. I should’ve noticed your entrance.” “Think nothing of it my lord.” The Paladin waved off good naturedly, “The troops are preparing diligently for the battle to come, and everyone is ready to give everything to end this war.” “Yes, to end this war... At last it will all be over” There was a heavy step to his voice, and though he tried to mask it beneath the layers of command and decorum drilled into him through study and experience Jagen could see right through the image his old ward wished to project. The old man’s eyes softened and once again Jagen had to remind himself this Hero-King as some were calling him, had not yet seen 20 winters. Speaking more as a friend and mentor than as an advisor and warrior Jagen allowed himself to relax and ask a simple question. “Are you alright my lord?” It was a simple enough question, but one that people still sometimes had to learn to be willing to ask. “You seem troubled and ill at ease.” There were a few thoughtful moments of silence that hung in the air before Marth once again took the tome of the faraway Holy War and held it his hands. “I was tired after looking over the various paperworks that plague me even to this day, and i decided to set my eyes upon this old book. I read it remembering as a boy how much I would relish my father reading to me stories of Prince Seliph or Lord Sigurd.” Prince Marth began to pace around his tent, a steady gait that somehow shone with purpose despite its apparent aimlessness. “I was a young man on the run in Tayls before I read of just calamities as the Battle of Belhalla. Of all that Prince Seliph had suffered to redeem the name of his father and restore his kingdom. Heh, when looked at in its entirely my own troubles seem very small indeed.” The smile that once adorned his face faded after a moment though. “I then got to the end, wherein much is set to rights, but the struggle against the Lopto is not ended in its entirety. From what the book says there was times of great peace but almost as if it was routine, the continent was plunged into terrible war once again and again.” There perhaps lay the crux of the matter Jagen understood now. The feeling of some who have seen war at its worst and wonder if there will ever come a day without such struggle. It is for those who have kind hearts and have seen the worst of the world, and it is for them to wonder if despite all their works and deeds there will never be a day they and their children would not need fear war and death. It was a question he himself grappled with at times, but though the answer he found for himself was not one he found until he was ready to accept it. “And what did you take away from all this, my Prince?” “I’m.. I’m not sure really, I’m not sure what I was hoping to find or to think after everything.” There was another pause, and Marth’s eyes lingered on the Fire Emblem and Falchion. “The road to get here has been a long one indeed, father dead, mother dead, countless others fallen upon the sword of my foes and mine own alike.” “I suppose I’m just thinking... will this really be the end of it all? Can there ever exist a lasting peace? I want to believe that somehow after this war so vast and terrible that we can lay down our swords, but can that truly ever be?” A grim but firm countenance set itself upon the head of the Champion of Altea, and with tones more fatherly than knightly he spoke. “If there is an end, I do not know if I will live to see it, I do not know if any of this generation shall see a day without war. It is for us and our descendants both however to try and build towards that day no matter how far away it must seem. The future that you speak of and dream of must be built with your own bravery and the bonds of yourself and others, even if none of you may see that glorious day.” “Somehow I think I knew you would say that, and perhaps deep within myself I already knew the answer.” The prince said as he held the blade Falchion in his hands, “Perhaps what I was wondering in the end is, after we win, and I believe we shall prevail because I have faith in this army. How long before with blade must once again be used in anger with the fate of the world on the back of the one who wields it?” “In how many lands will other rally around their own “Fire Emblems” with everything at stake? In the hands of how many unknown men and women will holy weapons be placed as they must charge into fire and death because no one else can?” The answer was simple, concise, and it came without hesitation. “I do not know.” The words echoed somehow in the tent, “I do not know, you do not know, we cannot know. Only the gods themselves will ever know the sufferings of all and the plight of those beyond our sight and knowledge. It is not however for us to fret over what we cannot control with our minds or know with our hearts. It remains only to us to do what we are able in the moment. In that way we work ever so harder to a day without war.” The old knight began to feel the weight of age and tiredness upon him suddenly, as was becoming the case more and more as the years dragged on. He was not so young as he once was, but perhaps age had given him wisdom even as it sapped strength from his body. The prince’s eyes once again turned to the old paladin’s and rather than speaking like a prince or a king he spoke like a boy once more, a young man forced to grow older before his time. “Thank you Jagen, for listening to my inane ramblings of nothings while their are much greater things at stake that you and I should prepare for.” “No, they are not nothings my prince, and do not think of them as such. Keep those questions in your heart, even knowing the answer know that you must do your part every day, as other do, and as I will until the end of my years.” “I shall take that into my mind and keep it there till the end of my days Sir Jagen.” The prince turned back to the book once more, “I think I should like to be alone for a little while once more.” “As you command, your grace.” Jagen responded ever dutifully as he moved to step out of the tent. Before he left one last bit of word’s left the prince’s mouth as the knight moved the blue tent flaps. “Jagen,” He said, “Thank you, for everything.” Another rare smile cross the normally stern old man’s face. “You are most welcome, Prince Marth.” With that he turned to the rest of the camp to begin his own preparations for the final battle. With a loud and triumphant voice the bard spoke the last line with a flourish and a sigh. The final part of this little side story to one of her larger epics completed at the end of a long storytelling session. There was a great roar of applause from the crowd as the redheaded bard stood from her stool and bowed before the audience. In particular the children in the front of the crowd seemed particularly enthused by the whole thing, many of them begging for more or for another retelling of a previous story and song. Some clamored for the oldest of the bard’s thirteen ballards, others for those she had only recently begun to sing across the lands, and there were always those who begged for the bard to tell her their favorite story as loudly as they could even if others tried to shout them down or deride their choices. The bard smiled sweetly at them all, for all their arguing wasn’t born of hatred for others but pride in their own choices and their own loves. (It also didn’t hurt that they and their parents paid good coin.) Though for her part, there was another song he had yet to sing for crowds she had just learned from other bards across the ocean. She decided there was always time for another song, and looked through her books for the notes. Before she could begin singing though, one of the children dared to move in close and tugged at the bard’s cloak and looked up at her with beady eyes. “Miss Anna,” The child said, “Did Prince Marth win?” This must’ve been a child she had not performed for before, but that didn’t matter too much to her, it was always good to have new customers. “Of course they did!” She said with a smile “We’re all here aren’t we?” “Yeah, I guess so, but he didn’t get to see people stop hurting each other did he?” “No, no he did not, but until the end of his days Prince Marth and those who came after him worked to see peace and prosperity come back to their lands. And most of the time, they ruled peacefully and happily till the ends of their days.” The mood of the child’s face brightened a bit, bringing a smile to Anna’s face. “Oh, okay, than I guess it’s still a good story...” “Yeah, it is. Now, do you wanna hear another story?” “More than anything!” The child decreeded loudly. “Alright then,” The bard continued, “Now this story begins in the land of Hoshido....” FIN “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” ― Frank Herbert
  24. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1x6zVxIH-pWL9nfTlT6atA9xF3Wsh5YXLb4EykkjvvwM/edit?pref=2&pli=1
  25. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dQWezQpURcWjdXkLKoJxh9qBea9LBK5q0ZtiDSFE5zg/edit
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