Robin let his face fall forward, impacting on the wooden table beneath him with a hollow thud.
The Shepherds had returned to Port Ferox nearly a week ago now to find it under heavy fortification; apparently Basilio wasn’t about to lose his port town again. One thing that the tactician hadn’t taken into consideration, though, was the massive logistical nightmare of moving thousands of troops from one continent to another, or even just getting the boats into place. It would be an entire month, maybe even longer, before they could start boarding the first of the ships with the advance party; all the while Valmese forces drew ever closer to Regna Ferox and disrupting the process even more by assaulting the port.
He regretted volunteering to take some of the pressure off of the military strategists and quartermasters; regretted it dearly. Unfortunately Robin was exceedingly gifted at any sort of organizational endeavour, despite his chronic laziness.
He and the other tacticians that had been brought in from Ylisse were working in a low building that might once have been a seamstress’ shop, thick tables stretched its length, allowing plenty of space for the tacticians and quartermasters to sprawl out and do their work.
Stretching and groaning, glad to be done with the last of the papers he was working on depicting the boarding process for the support regiments, he stood and stuck his head out the window, flagging down the first runner he could see and ordering the man to bring the completed forms to the Knight Commander.
Then, before Frederick could dump more work on him, Robin snatched up his coat and beat a hasty retreat, almost walking directly into Cordelia as he exited the room.
“Robin!” she said with an enthusiastic smile. “I was just coming to find you.”
Robin leapt back, holding his hands out in a warding gesture.
“Stay back!” he shouted. “I just finished that massive pile Frederick gave me yesterday and my poor aching wrist needs a break!”
Cordelia laughed. “Don’t be silly. I’m trying to hide from that maniac right now, too.”
Robin sighed, pulling his coat’s collar up around his neck as they began to walk, trying to remain inconspicuous so that none of the runners and assistants and whatever else was hiding in the city wouldn’t recognize him.
“So what’s up then?” he asked, casting Cordelia a sidelong glance.
“The Prince has called a meeting,” she explained, matching his pace. “We’re all supposed to meet at the command tent near the harbour.”
Robin groaned. “So much for avoiding Frederick of the insane-amounts-of-work.”
Cordelia hesitated a second before giggling quietly.
Robin cast another glance at the woman. She was still wearing her breastplate and armoured greaves, but the majority of the ornate armour she usually wore was absent. It was a nice change, seeing her relax a little; even if it was still by military standards and in the middle of a war-zone.
“You go on ahead,” Robin said, veering off to where the Shepherds were camping near the town square. “I have to grab some stuff first.”
Like my sword in case Frederick wants me to work on more troop dispositions.
“Of course,” Cordelia said with a nod. “I’ll stall them until you get there.”
Robin waved thanks as he jogged towards their camp, dodging and weaving through the crowd of townspeople and soldiers going about their preparations for the campaign.
The people of Port Ferox had been unbelievably generous with their space and indeed their entire town for the visiting Ylisseans. A lot had vacated, though, traveling away from the frontlines of the war and seeking refuge in the Coliseum and other smaller towns with friends and family.
Robin passed quickly through the camp, exchanging rushed greetings with many of the Shepherds that were simply going about their regular business of training and the like.
He bustled into his tent, angling straight for the table supporting his pile of strategy manuals as he searched for the empty book he wrote the majority of the work he did in.
“Have you been ignoring me, my love?”
Not expecting anyone to be in his tent, Robin jumped, knocking most of the books to the floor. At least in doing so he unearthed the prize he was seeking…
“Dammit Tharja,” Robin gasped, turning with the book he was seeking in his hands. “You promised to stop doing that!”
The pale Dark Mage pouted petulantly from the corner of Robin’s tent, arms crossed.
“We haven’t spent any time together lately,” she went on, her tone one of hurt. “After we spent all day, every day, together for so long I’m feeling a little neglected.”
“Tharja,” Robin explained slowly. “We are not in a relationship. We’re just friends, and friends can get busy, especially as they prepare for war. Why don’t you go and play with that new guy Henry? He’s a Dark Mage too, and I’m sure he’d love to have hexing contests or whatever else it is you people do.”
Tharja was across the tent instantly, leaning bodily against Robin and stroking his face as she spoke in low, seductive tones and ground against him, completely ignoring the first half of what he had said.
“The only man I want to ‘play’ with is you…”
“Okay, I really don’t have time for this,” Robin said, brushing her off gently but firmly. “I’m late for a meeting. I’m sorry. Just… try to make some other friends or something. Go boss Donnel around; make good on Gregor’s soul or something.”
I am going to regret that later he thought as he exited the tent; he could practically feel the rage and frustration at his dismissal emanating from the tent as he departed. I can already tell that there’s going to be a bunch of new frogs hopping around tonight…
Robin stepped into Chrom’s command tent as nine sets of eyes looked up at him.
“Sorry I’m late,” Robin said sheepishly as he entered.
“It’s no problem,” Chrom said with a smile, indicating the chair next to him, asking the tactician to join the group at the large table in the middle of the tent.
The glare Frederick levelled his way said otherwise, though.
“Now that we’re all finally here,” the Knight said, still glaring steely at the tardy tactician, “We can begin.”
Frederick, Chrom and Cordelia were in attendance, with Sumia sitting close next to her husband. The one-eyed Duke Roark was there too, having arrived not long ago with the reinforcements from Themis, a legion of men in shining white mail; where he had found a full legion Robin had no idea, but they were there. Virion chuckled softly as Robin wilted under Frederick’s visual assault; the two Feroxi Khans were there as well, with Raimi. Lucina, the newest addition to Chrom’s war council, offered Robin a quick nod as he sat across from her, thumping his book softly onto the table top.
“I’ll get right to the point,” Frederick said brusquely. “Now that so many men-at-arms have been moved north and west, respectively, the rest of Ylisse and Regna Ferox are reporting a serious crisis in the form of bandit raids.”
Robin heard cursing around the table.
“So what’s the problem?” Robin asked confusedly. “We just ride out in small groups and deal with it.”
“It’s not that simple, lad,” Basilio grunted. “Not when we’re expecting an attack from the sea any minute now.”
“Hey,” Robin said, indicating to himself with a thumb. “Tactician. I’m sure I can come up with a solution to this… problem. Uh. Some... how.”
He trailed off, realizing with wide eyes and a sinking feeling that he was volunteering for more work.
“Well, that issue was resolved rather quickly,” Chrom said, clapping his hands together happily. “I look forward to your preliminary report, Robin.”
Robin nodded, smiling on the outside while on the inside he was crying.
Dammit! I just finished that gigantic stack of work! Me and my big stupid mouth…
“Now, on to other matters…” Frederick began, his monotonous voice quickly fading to background noise as Robin zoned out, trying as hard as he could to come up with some reason he couldn’t do the planning.
“Robin!” Sumia called. “Oh Roooooobiiiiiin!”
Robin’s head popped up from behind a mountain of papers; all of them spoke of, in gratuitous, painstaking detail and of course in Frederick’s meticulous handwriting, bandit sightings, incident reports, and bandit troop dispositions on maps, known associates of bandit leaders…
Robin was close to tears by this point, but he had finally, finally finished the work he had volunteered for.
“There you are!” Sumia said cheerily. “We missed you at dinner; have you eaten?”
Robin whimpered and collapsed back into his chair.
“I’ll take that as a no then,” Sumia said, coming around the other side of the table and dragging the tactician to his feet.
“Release me!” Robin protested half-heartedly. “Release me and let me die in peace!”
“Oh don’t be so melodramatic,” Sumia admonished. “Come on, you’re going to leave on another big adventure and leave us behind again, I’m taking you out for drinks first!”
“No!” Robin moaned, drawing out the word as he offered token resistance. “I’m only going to be gone for like a month this time!”
“Don’t make me turn it into an order! I can do that; I’m the Queen!” Sumia said. “Besides, Lucina needs to get to know her new tactician.”
“Noooooooooooooooooo!” Robin screamed melodramatically as Sumia dragged him from the building.
Robin sat swirling the watery brine that passed as beer in Port Ferox as the other Shepherds chatted around him. Usually Robin would be chatting just as happily or drunkenly as his friends, but the sheer amount of work that had been pressed onto him lately was exhausting the tactician; all he wanted to do was lay his head down on the table and sleep.
Sumia had sat him down next to Lucina, the only other person in the tavern swirling her drink around silently like Robin was.
Lissa and Lon’qu were happily talking away with Chrom and Sumia at the next table while Miriel and Vaike had a spirited discussion over the qualities and failings of the weak Feroxi beer that Robin was sure was mostly going straight over the man’s head another table over; Sully was once again having arm wrestling contests with everything that moved while Stahl held her beer, although this time it was Gregor refereeing the mini tournament as a crowd began to form, taking bets and shouting out odds; Olivia was busy preparing a stage that she was going to perform on later; the other Shepherds were milling about, making small talk and simply enjoying themselves before they were all split up again.
Robin supressed a yawn, trying to figure out just how long he had to stay before he could sneak off without hurting Sumia’s feelings.
Robin watched as Kellam went around dolling out drinks before his wife Maribelle grabbed him by the arm, forcing him to sit down and relax a little. He saw Nowi arguing with the barkeeper over her age, and Ricken trying desperately to convince her that no, turning into a dragon to prove her point was not a good idea. He watched Cherche drag, literally grab and drag, Virion away from a gaggle of swooning town girls, threatening to feed first them and then him to her wyvern. Gaius explained to Panne the finer points of ‘working the room’, which Robin assumed was code for pickpocketing as the Taguel woman listened intently. Cordelia was happily talking to a gaggle of her off-duty Knights, laughing as one of them told a story from basic training. Henry, being either brave or stupid, was trying to talk to Tharja, completely ignoring her not-so-subtle threats; occasionally the woman would cast a dirty look in Robin’s direction, and he really didn’t have the energy to even look apologetic. Anna was arguing with the other barkeeper over the price of wholesale goods, trying to assure the man that her associates could bring in much better ingredients for their drinks for only a little extra cost. Frederick floated from group to group, ensuring the safety of the Shepherds and nursing his drink, Donny sticking to his side like glue in his shining, brand new armour.
“Is it always like this?” Lucina asked quietly from next to Robin.
Robin looked up. “You mean this loud? Yeah. Wait until the firewine starts flowing.”
Lucina smiled a little as she shook her head.
“No, not that,” she explained. “I’ve never been to a celebration like this. Even things like birthdays had to be small, quick affairs because we were always moving, or always fighting.”
“Celebration?” Robin laughed, forcing himself to wake up a little. “This isn’t a celebration; we’re just drinking. If it were a celebration there would be a lot more food, much higher quality beer, and things would be getting broken.”
As if to punctuate his statement the table Sully was currently arm-wrestling the biggest sailor Robin had ever seen toppled and splintered; the two of them simply got up, moved to another table, and started again, much to the crowd’s delight.
“Okay, more things would be getting broken,” Robin amended, sipping from his cup as he leaned back casually.
“You mean this is an average part of daily life?” Lucina asked astonished.
“Well, it doesn’t happen every day,” Robin shrugged. “But yeah, this kind of thing is pretty normal.”
Lucina was speechless as she watched the hustle and bustle around her with renewed interest.
“We are on the cusp of war, and yet everyone seems so…” Lucina struggled, looking for the right word.
“Unprofessional?” Robin prompted.
Lucina shook her head. “They all seem so happy.”
“It’s the booze,” Robin said dismissively, taking a deep swig from his mug to try and hide his yawn.
“If you say so,” Lucina said with a light chuckle.
“Well why don’t you go and talk with some of them?” Robin suggested. “They’d all love to get to know you better. Okay, maybe not Tharja or Lon’qu, but I’m sure the others would.”
Lucina shook her head sadly.
“I have already meddled with the timeline more than I should have…”
“So what’s a little more going to hurt?” Robin pointed out. “Believe me, you’re not going to get away again now that Chrom and Sumia know who you are; you may as well make the most of this; go have fun with your family.”
And more importantly give me the opportunity I need to escape…
Lucina seemed to think for a moment before she took a big swig from her mug, draining it.
“You’re right,” she said, standing up and thumping the empty mug on the rough wooden tabletop. “I’m going to go and socialize like a normal person does.”
“Not that I’m implying you’re abnormal,” she added quickly, seeing the look Robin was giving her.
“Oh no, I’m quite abnormal,” he said with a cheeky grin. “Now go! Go and socialize! Seize the day and all that other junk!”
Lucina nodded, heading over to where her parents and aunt and uncle were talking, seamlessly joining the conversation. Robin watched with a happy grin on his face for a few moments before he realized that if he disappeared now, no one would miss him.
Content in this knowledge Robin slipped out into the night through the tavern’s back door, making his way back to the Shepherds’ camp and his bedroll, hands in his coat pockets as he walked, replaying the image of Lucina’s smiling face as she laughed with her family over in his head as he did.
Then his head hit the pillow on his cot, and all was blissful darkness.
“I don’t see why I can’t go with you,” Chrom complained for the hundredth time.
Robin sighed exasperatedly.
“Because,” Robin repeated for the hundredth time, “You need to be here in case the Valmese return; we need our leader on the front lines, and these bandit raids are a minor nuisance at best. Now stop hovering and go do something important and Prince-like!”
Chrom hadn’t taken well to the part of the plan calling for himself and the majority of the Shepherds to remain at the docks. He’d actually seemed rather offended, but Robin’s reasoning was sound. So as he packed up the things he would need during day-to-day life on the road for another month while his team hit the bandits and slavers along the north of Regna Ferox Chrom had hovered around him like an annoying fly, pestering him about his choices.
The worst of the bandit activity was around southern Ylisse, from bandits, actual bandits this time, based out of Plegia. Frederick and Cordelia would be leading a squad of Knights and Pegasus Knights against them, with the King of Plegia’s blessing; the plan was to use overwhelming force to simply snuff the bandits out before they caused any more damage. Stahl would be riding with them, leading the new recruits as an officer for the first time. Needless to say, the man was nervous. As much as Robin hated moving the Knights away from the front he was assured that Captain Seth and the troops from Jagen would be arriving soon to bolster their numbers further.
The second group, led by Gregor who apparently had experience leading troops, and consisting of Nowi, Ricken, Miriel, Vaike and Cherche along with a squad of some of Basilio’s best trackers would be heading east to where smaller bandit groups were hounding villages near the mountains and a desert region south of Jagen. Robin had thought of sending Virion with them, but he wanted the archer with him where he couldn’t get into trouble with village girls. Again.
Leaving Robin’s group, who would be taking care of a small group of slavers that had been terrorizing northern Regna Ferox; himself, Virion, Tharja (who had actually threatened to hex his eyeballs out if he tried to leave her behind), Sully, who’s horse was still recovering from the ordeal in Plegia a week ago and would be on foot until it did, and the new mage Henry, so that Robin could get a better idea of the man’s strengths and weaknesses. Robin had opted not to deplete the front any further by brining soldiers with his team; one little group of slavers shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the veterans in his team.
Chrom shook his head.
“I know all that,” he said defeated. “But, well, if I’m being entirely honest we’re worried about you.”
Robin stopped going through his tactical manuals and looked up.
“What?” he asked, a little annoyed at the constant interruptions. “Why? Who?”
“You’ve been pushing yourself so hard since this war began, too hard, and we haven’t even left the continent yet,” Chrom explained, leaning back against Robin’s desk. “You’ve been snarkier than usual lately, and colder, more distant; not to mention the fact that you’ve been doing the work of ten other strategists entirely on your own, and we all know that you’re barely sleeping. We’re worried you’re burning out, and the blame lies squarely at my feet for letting you take on so much responsibility.”
Robin ran a hand through his hair.
Have I really been that bad? He thought. I mean I know I’ve been a little crabby lately because I’m not getting as much sleep, that much is true, but… wait, did he say ten other strategists!? No wonder I’m so tired… I’ve just been doing what I normally do but on a bigger scale… right?
“Maybe you’re right,” Robin admitted, rubbing his eyes a little. “I promise to take it easy when I get back.”
“Not good enough,” Chrom said. “Sumia will be beside herself with worry if we don’t send someone to keep an eye on you.”
“Okay, one; do you really thing Tharja’s going to let anything happen to me? And two; going from the superior smirk on your face I assume you already have someone in mind?”
Chrom grinned. “You could say that.”
Lucina hitched the light pack on her back on top of her red cape up a little higher, skipping a little to keep pace with Robin.
“Lucina, you don’t have to watch me all the time; one stalker is enough.”
The woman tilted her head a little as she cast a glance at Robin.
“I am under orders from my father to keep a close watch on you,” she explained.
Chrom had actually sent her with him; it was an astounding thought, one that beggared belief if he were to use the man’s own words against him.
He couldn’t be there in person, so he had sent the only other person that he could trust implicitly besides his wife; the only other person apparently as stubborn and single minded as he was. Lucina had shown up at the meeting point outside of Port Ferox, pack in hand and ready to march. The others were a little unsure what to make of the woman, but Henry was still a stranger too, so Robin guessed things would balance out a little once they all started to talk. At least he knew Lucina was a capable fighter, and Henry had seemed skilled enough in Plegia.
“Gah! This walking everywhere sucks!” Sully complained loudly from the back of the group, breaking Robin’s train of thought.
“All you do all day is train, and a little walking bothers you?” Robin said over his shoulder with a grin. “I’d say you need to do a little more endurance training.”
“I will stab you,” Sully warned. “I will stab you, and no one will find the body.”
Robin laughed, turning to face ahead again as Lucina cast worried glances back at the darkly muttering Knight.
“She will not really stab anyone, right?” Lucina asked in a low voice, leaning in close to the tactician once Robin had stopped laughing, prompting him to break out in a new fit of laughter.
They made a light camp that evening in a clearing just off the road. Sully offered to take the first watch, heading out into the forest to find a good vantage point. Robin assumed she just wanted some alone time to secretly pine for her husband.
It was late in spring, so the Shepherds decided to eschew tents and sleep under the stars around the fire in the warm night air, something Robin was actually looking forward to. For some reason he really loved camping. Virion was busy preparing some form of stew, and the others were all settling in for the night.
Robin let out a satisfied sigh as he stretched out and fell backwards onto his bedroll.
“This is the life,” he said to whoever was listening. “No stress, no worries, just me, the open road and a roaring campfire.”
Chrom was right, Robin thought as he let his tired body relax. I was working too hard. I just needed this break. I belong in the field, not behind a desk. I’m a battlefield tactician! That’s what I’ll continue to be; I’ll let the gaggle of planners do their own clerical work from now on.
Robin looked up as he heard rustling next to him, expecting to see Tharja laying out her bedroll next to his again, something he had tried really hard to put a stop to and failed miserably during their travels. Instead, Lucina was shaking out her bedroll, preparing to lay it down a short distance from Robin’s.
“You’re taking this watching me thing a little far, aren’t you?”
“I am following my father’s orders,” Lucina repeated, straight faced.
Robin sighed and shrugged, pointedly not looking over to where he knew Tharja would be glaring at him.
“Sure! You want me to cast a death curse on someone?”
Robin’s head snapped up the words ‘death’ and ‘curse’ being used so close together. Henry and Tharja were talking across the fire from Robin, a welcome change from her sulking every time Robin rebuffed her constant advances. But death curses?
“Someone in camp?” Tharja asked, making Robin think he might have to intervene. “No, that could be problematic.”
Robin sighed and relaxed; it wasn’t quite the answer he was hoping for, but seeing Tharja turn down a death curse was surprising personal growth for the woman.
Robin let their conversation tune into background noise, content with the knowledge no one would be dying that evening at the hands of the two Dark Mages. Well… No Shepherds, anyway. Robin looked up, chuckling at Lucina’s worried expression.
“You can relax,” he said with a loud yawn. “I won’t let them curse anyone to death.”
“It is the simple knowledge that they were considering such actions that disturbs me,” Lucina said under her breath, still eyeing the two mages who had moved on to discussing the various tenants of their creed.
Robin shook his head, letting himself drift further into sleep.
I can eat later, he thought drowsily, letting his first untroubled sleep in weeks overtake him.
Robin woke in the early pre-dawn light, yawning and sitting up.
Ah crap, he thought absently. I slept right through dinner, and my turn for the night-watch… Why’d they let me sleep? This was Chrom’s doing, I just know it.
Robin stretched, his back popping lightly as he raised his arms above his head. Once he was finished, he spotted the covered pot sitting next to the pile of packs and supplies sitting to one side of the fire. He tentatively got up, doing his best not to wake the others as he snuck over and lifted the lid.
I knew they’d save me some! He thought excitedly, spooning the last of the stew into a bowl and beginning to eat it cold. Damn, Virion’s getting really good at cooking.
Robin sat watching the crackling embers in the fire, simply enjoying the peace and serenity of the morning in the forest as he ate his breakfast. He looked across the various others; Tharja curled up on her side under her coat and blanket, Henry much the same; Virion sprawled on his back in a very undignified manner, blanket practically hanging off of him; Sully lying straight, sleeping in her armour with her hands resting on her stomach.
Robin started as he realized someone was missing.
Lucina’s probably just taking the early watch, he rationalized, finishing his impromptu meal with gusto as the others began to stir.
They spent another day on the road, passing farms where the Feroxi farmers were frantically trying to harvest their spring crops before they needed the space for the summer crops; they passed through small towns and hamlets where life was simply going on like usual, and where Robin could see evidence of villagers warily keeping watch for bandits.
“So where are we supposed to find these slavers, anyway?” Sully asked as they passed through their third town that afternoon.
“Dunno,” Robin admitted with a shrug. “The last reports of their whereabouts put them in some ruins up north from where I went traipsing around looking for those healers last year. Kinda hoped I’d never have to go back there, to be honest.”
Sully nodded disinterestedly before a commotion near one of the buildings in the town caught her attention.
“Whaddaya make of that?” she asked, stopping to watch the confrontation.
Robin glanced over disinterestedly. A young woman in heavy armour was shouting down a weasel of a man over some slight or another; not really something that demanded their attention if Robin were honest. As the Shepherds watched the two arguers settled on a duel in the ruined fortress up ahead on the road, and headed off.
“Problem solved,” Robin said with a shrug, making to continue on.
“Milord?” a small voice from behind him asked, making him hesitate and turn.
“Oh my,” Virion said, his ‘there is a woman’ mindset instantly kicking in. “Please, milady, a frown on such a beauteous face is truly a sin against all that men such as myself and my companion stand for. What must I do to put a smile on your radiant countenance again?”
Robin had to resist the laughter growing in his belly as Sully wrapped one massive arm around Virion’s neck, hauling him away from the flustered woman a few steps.
“Sorry about that; he gets excited easy,” Robin apologized, some laughter finally slipping out. “Now what can I do for you, miss?”
The woman hesitated a little, looking off in the direction the other woman had gone off in for her duel.
“It is alright, madam,” Lucina urged, giving a perfect imitation of Chrom’s reassuring smile. “We’re here to help.”
Robin rolled his eyes as he heard Henry mutter “we are?” and Tharja snickered a little.
“Yes,” Robin said, pointedly glaring at the two mages, “we are.”
“I thought we had a mission,” Tharja complained as they walked to the fort. “An important mission that we couldn’t waste time on.”
“Our mission is to take down bandits and slavers,” Robin pointed out. “These guys sound pretty skeevy; I’d say they fit the bill.”
Robin heard a crash from the fort and drew his sword reflexively as the others all did the same with their own weapons.
“Besides,” Robin added, “It sounds like you’re about to get to kill things again.”
Henry started jumping up and down a little in excitement, actually repeating “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,” under his breath.
“What’s the plan?” Sully asked, coming up alongside Robin in the front.
He liked working with the Knight; she wasn’t as imaginative as some of the others, but she was a ferocious fighter, and followed orders to the letter. Robin could honestly say he had missed working with her after the war.
“No plan,” Robin said. “We go in, act as official adjudicators as witnessed by the Royal Family of Ylisse, and make sure the duel is fought fairly.”
“And when people start trying to kill us?” Virion asked drolly. “As they are so oft do?”
“We kill them first,” Lucina said, outpacing Robin and Sully and getting to the fort first.
The others jogged to keep up, Robin shaking his head.
Just like her father, he thought wryly.
“I think I’m starting to like her,” Henry chuckled, grinning from ear to ear with anticipation.
They entered the main floor of the fort, coming in to a long hallway with a couple of rooms off the sides and a great space in the back. It was dilapidated, and Robin honestly worried about its structural integrity, but hopefully they wouldn’t have to linger. He was already picking out men that obviously thought they were hidden, while more of them crowded around the woman in armour, blades drawn as the weasel-faced man from the village laughed at her from safely behind them.
“You bastard! You soulless blackheart!” the armoured woman roared. “You promised me an honourable duel!”
Weasel-face laughed. “It is honourable! These men are all just acting as my seconds! Still, if you get down on your knees and beg, I might ask them to spare your life.”
Robin shook his head; he could already tell where this was going.
The woman answered by roaring again, thrusting with her lance and skewering the nearest bandit, lashing out with the great shield in her other hand and swiping at the others, making them jump back.
“Shepherds!” Robin called. “Get them off of that woman!”
“What about the leader?” Sully asked as Virion began firing into the press assaulting the armoured woman.
Robin smiled cruelly. “He wants a duel, right? Let’s cut the distractions for him.”
Robin turned and charged, Sully and Lucina close behind him. Virion and the two mages brought up the rear, lashing out with magic and arrows at the hidden bandits.
Some of the bandits toward the back of the group pressing the young woman turned, paling when they saw she had reinforcements tearing through their sentries and moving to group around their leader.
Then Robin and the two women were among the distracted bandits, felling them with ease.
“Hey!” the armoured woman shouted indignantly. “I didn’t ask you for help!”
“No, but you got it all the same,” Robin said with a shrug. “Now don’t you have a duel to fight? We’ll handle the rabble; you fight your duel.”
Sully grinned ferally as she stared down the bandits, many of whom were eying the hallway, no doubt thinking of making a hasty retreat. Their plans were dashed, though, when Virion, Tharja and Henry appeared in the doorway, magic crackling around the two mages while Virion lined up a shot, kneeling in the front.
“Shepherds!” Robin called, watching the faces of the bandits fall as they realized who they were fighting. “Leave the leader to our duellist!”
Sully charged as Lucina followed, moving much more gracefully than the Knight as Robin held back, casting a few quick lightning spells to get the bandits’ attention. Virion began to take carefully aimed shots, taking his time and firing for maximum effect. Henry and Tharja did the same while watching the hallway, making sure there were no more surprises waiting to sneak up on them.
The woman in armour strode forward confidently, throwing her shield to the side and gripping her lance with both hands as she advanced on the weasel-faced bandit leader, who was quaking and trying to hide behind his thin sword as his men moved to engage the Shepherds.
Robin lost sight of her as two of the bandits crowded him, before falling to his lightning spells.
Henry was dancing, actually ballroom dancing with himself, as he cast spell after spell into the bandits. As strange as the man appeared to be, he had real skill with magic and his dagger and Robin began to form a high opinion of the mage. Tharja just glowered next to him, casting away as Virion continued to shoot from beneath her.
Lucina and Sully finished off the last of the bandits, the princess wiping her version of Falchion’s blade clean on the coat of the last bandit she had felled.
The Shepherds all watched as the armoured woman squared off with weasel-face, striking with lightning speed despite her heavy armour and weapon. Robin winced a little in sympathy as she struck his blade to the side with an armoured backhand before driving the lance through his midsection and pinning him against the wall she had backed him up to. With a yank she freed her lance and let the bandit drop to the ground where he sat gasping in a widening pool of blood.
“Let that be your final lesson,” she said coldly as she stared down at the man. “Never screw with a Knight.”
She turned her back and the man sighed, the light leaving his eyes as he slumped forward.
“Kjelle!?” Lucina exclaimed as the scowling woman approached. “I don’t believe it! Thank the gods you’re unharmed!”
The woman, Kjelle, stopped and looked at Lucina for a moment before comprehension dawned in her eyes.
“Princess!” she exclaimed, hurrying across the remaining space and stopping just before Lucina. “I don’t believe it! When did you… How…?”
“Well at least you can cross one off of the list,” Virion said slyly to Robin as he came up beside him.
Robin looked to where Tharja and Henry were leaning over one of the corpses, doing lord only knew what as they poked at it, muttering quietly to each other.
Well I’ll be damned. She found a friend.
Sully came up beside the archer and the tactician, huffing as she leaned her lance over her shoulder.
“See?” she said victoriously. “Toldja I didn’t need to work on my endurance!”
Kjelle looked up at the woman’s exclamation, going pale when she spotted Sully. She said a few more hushed words to Lucina, who snuck a quick look at the Knight before turning back and nodding and heading over to where the three Shepherds were watching.
“Ah, perhaps we might assist Sir Henry and Lady Tharja,” she said, grabbing Robing and Virion by the arms and dragging them away from Sully.
Robin struggled, craning his neck to see what was going on.
“Awww, nooo,” he moaned childishly. “I wanna watch!”
Lucina rolled her eyes as Virion finally caught on.
“Wait, you mean to tell me… oh. Oh!”
The Princess shook her head as she continued dragging the two Shepherds.
“Severa was right; men really can be dense.”
Robin leaned against a tree near the outside of the fort as the five other Shepherds waited for Sully to finish talking to her daughter from the future.
“They do share a certain aesthetic similarity,” Virion said thoughtfully from his position resting on a root near Robin’s feet.
“She has her father’s hair,” Robin said, thinking back. “And his nose.”
Lucina giggled from the other side of Robin.
“This is a very strange scene,” she admitted when the two men turned to look at her.
“How do you think we feel?” Robin asked with a grin. “I literally held you in my arms not two months ago, and you were much smaller. I personally think Chrom and Sumia took the whole situation very, very well; Sully hasn’t even had Kjelle yet, though.”
“What of us?” Virion asked, looking up at the Princess. “Do we have children lurking out in the wilderness somewhere, too?”
“Well, your son was among our number,” Lucina said to the archer with a light chuckle when his eyes lit up.
“Wait, wait!” Virion said desperately. “Say nothing of his mother! I would not wish for you to spoil the surprise for me!”
The three of them laughed at Virion’s plea, and Robin looked expectantly at Lucina.
Her face fell as she met Robin’s gaze and she looked away quickly. “You… ah…”
“I never get married?” Robin asked.
“No,” Lucina said. “Your daughter, she… she went missing just after you died. I had not seen her for years before we travelled through time. We all feared her lost…”
“Oh,” Robin said simply, unsure how to take the information.
So he did have a child? His own little girl, just like Chrom and Sumia? His heart swelled at the prospect, but then sunk again when he remembered what Lucina had said.
She goes missing… She probably dies, just like I do; all because I wasn’t there to protect her…
Virion and Lucina went quiet, seeing that Robin was upset.
Well now I have another reason to survive, he thought with conviction.
“Eh,” Robin said with a shrug, trying to dispel the awkward atmosphere that had settled in. “I’ll get over it.”
Virion grinned. “Excellent! That just means you can put in more effort to helping me locate my son.”
Robin grinned as Sully and Kjelle came out of the fort, the Knight with one arm around her daughter’s shoulders and big smiles on both of their faces.
“Well someone sure looks happy,” Robin said as they approached, before moving away from the tree and looking into the forest.
“Tharja! Henry!” he called into the trees. “We’re leaving!”
The two mages jogged out of the trees, both holding handfuls of what looked like…
“Newts!” Henry said excitedly, holding up the bundle of little squirming amphibians in his hands. “Look at these guys! Do you know how hard it is to find newts of this quality?”
Robin laughed as Lucina blanched and Virion inadvertently took a step back.
Robin lounged on his bedroll, watching as Virion cooked another stew, Tharja and Henry went about drying out their newts for easier transport, and Kjelle and Sully tested each other’s martial prowess.
The mother and daughter had been going for at least an hour now, dancing around each other and striking with their lances. It was truly an impressive spectacle; both women were obviously extremely skilled warriors, and Kjelle had obviously been trained by her mother their styles were so similar.
Robin let himself fall backwards onto his bedroll, vowing to remain awake at least until dinner this time.
He yawned, arching his back as he did so and catching a glimpse of Lucina sitting on her roll close to his again out of the corner of his eye.
“So,” Robin asked, rolling onto his side and propping himself up on an elbow. “Getting sick of watching me all the time yet?”
Lucina looked at him sideways, shaking her head.
“No. I find watching the people of this time period to be very interesting.”
Robin glanced up as one of the newts Henry was frying over the fire fell into the flames and the man instinctively reached to catch it, lighting his sleeve on fire.
“Okay, so maybe we’re not the most normal bunch to be watching,” Robin admitted, watching the mage frantically wave his arm around while Tharja burst into hysterics next to him. “We should find you a nice boring village to sit you in where you can watch normal people for a while.”
Lucina looked over at Robin and smiled.
“I did not have much to do with you in my own timeline,” she admitted. “I was very young when you died, but one thing I remember is you saying quite often that ‘normal is overrated’. It was something of your catchphrase in a way.”
Robin leaned back. “That does sound like something I would say.”
Henry had finally managed to put his sleeve out, but his shouting had distracted Kjelle and given Sully the advantage she needed to finally win their duel. They laughed as Sully helped Kjelle to her feet, clapping each other on the shoulders and moving to sit by the fire.
Oh they are so related, Robin thought with a smirk. They even stink the same after training. Phew! Maybe we should try and find a stream or something…
A week passed as the Shepherds and their newest member travelled further east, making great time by taking the major roads and coming into the area Robin had spent so much of his time after the war with Plegia much quicker than last time. Virion, Lucina and Sully took the chance to gather information at every town they passed through on the slavers; most of the villagers said the same thing: that the slavers were horrible, came through periodically and were based somewhere in the far east.
“I’m beginning to get flashbacks,” Robin admitted as they passed through another town.
“Indeed,” Virion agreed. “Those were truly simpler times, were they not? Just you, me and the lovely Tharja on the open road; ah how my heart longs for those days again.”
“Yeah, but we didn’t accomplish anything during that year,” Robin pointed out.
He, Virion and Lucina were walking in the front, Sully and Kjelle following them with Tharja and Henry bringing up the rear.
Since the two mages had started talking they had become inseparable. At one point Robin thought he might even be experiencing jealousy, but then he remembered that she watched him sleep. It was good for her to expand her social circle a little, anyway; plus it integrated Henry even further into the Shepherds, so everything was coming up win-win for Robin.
When he thought about it Robin decided he was really happy that Tharja had found someone to make her happy; she still never smiled, but Robin could tell she was happier.
“That’s not entirely true,” Virion corrected him, drawing the tactician’s mind back to the present. “We in fact accomplished much; we dealt with a great number of bandits preying on villages, we brought two new Shepherds into the fold, and yes, we even discovered great things about the ancient past.”
“But no Robin memories,” the tactician added.
“Glass half empty,” he muttered, just loud enough that Robin knew he was meant to hear it.
Laughing he grabbed the archer around his shoulders.
“Hark, noble Virion, oh Archest of Archers!” Robin said in a clear voice, waving a hand through the air. “We embark upon another great quest, this time with the noblest goal of protecting the lambs of Regna Ferox from evil! For what else do Shepherds do but tend the flock?”
“You jest,” the archer chuckled, slipping out of Robin’s hold, “But you did enjoy our journey.”
“Of course I did,” Robin laughed. “I made good memories to replace those I lost. That alone made the whole trip worth it.”
They walked on in silence for some time before Lucina broke it, all business.
“When will we be coming up on the slavers’ camp?”
“We should hit the ruins they’re holed up in… sometime today…” he answered, digging around his pack and pulling out the map he had been working from. “Yeah, sometime this afternoon if we keep up this pace.”
“It astounds me that people can hold the lives of others in such low regard,” Lucina said distastefully. “A life was a precious thing in the future; we needed every able-bodied person to continue the fight.”
“There’s a lot more people in the past,” Robin explained. “Some think they can profit off the suffering of others. It is true that blood money spends like any other…”
“But then the Shepherds track you down and it curtains for the evil bastards!” Sully said confidently from behind them.
“What she said,” Robin said with a grin as they all burst into laughter.
Virion hung back to strike up a conversation with Sully and Kjelle, leaving Robin and Lucina walking alone.
“Life is still precious,” Robin said to Lucina after a little thought as they continued to march. “All life. It’s your father’s favourite philosophy. During the last war the man behind it all, King Gangrel, did unspeakable evils. He tortured our friends before he executed them and strung them from the gates of his castle like meat.”
“That’s awful!” Lucina said with shock writ on her face.
“It is,” Robin agreed. “But despite that, despite all the evil he had done, your Father still gave him every chance to lay down his arms and surrender. He gave him the chance to survive, when every other Shepherd would have struck him down without a second thought. Even I would have put his head on a pike and paraded it through Ylisstol. But your Father fought him in single combat and gave him an honourable end, before giving him a proper burial; the man responsible for murdering his sister, your Aunt.”
“Exalt Emmeryn,” Lucina nodded with a frown, remembering her failed attempts to preserve her Aunt’s life.
“Do you know why he went through so much effort? Why he gave Gangrel so many chances?” Robin asked.
Lucina shook her head.
“He once told me a story,” Robin began. “Oh don’t look at me like that, I swear there’s a point at the end of this. This takes place about the time when Emmeryn had just become the Exalt. Your Grandfather had just died in the first war with Plegia, leaving her to care for the people and rebuild Ylisse’s shattered economy. The people hated her for her father’s actions; they were starving after the war; they needed someone to bear their hate so that they didn’t tear each other apart, and Emmeryn took all of their anger willingly. One day, as she travelled through the capital an angry crowd formed, and one of the people in the crowd threw a rock, striking her in the head and knocking her down.”
Lucina gasped, shocked at the story she had obviously never heard before.
“The Knights escorting her acted immediately, charging into the crowd and apprehending the man. The Guard Captain was all set to execute the man on the spot, but Emmeryn stopped him. She came forward to the man, and knelt before him, blood still running from her wound. She forgave him and allowed him to return to his family. Chrom told me that that was the kind of ruler he aspired to be, that that was why he gave Gangrel so many chances. He doesn’t want to take any lives unnecessarily, and he wants to live up to his sister’s example.”
“I never knew my Aunt,” Lucian admitted sadly after a moment of contemplation.
“I only knew her a short time,” Robin said, looking up to the sky as he did. “But she was truly an amazing woman. You never felt like you were talking to royalty around her.”
Lucina smiled at Robin.
“Thank you, Robin,” she said brightly. “I think I have a better idea about the kind of man my Father is now.”
Robin smiled back. “Happy to oblige.”
All Robin could think as he tromped through the forest was that Lon’qu was such a better tracker than he was, and that he should have brought the cold Feroxi man along with them.
They had found the ruins that the slavers were operating out of no problem; locating said slavers was another matter entirely.
“Why aren’t they here?” Robin muttered as he watched the ruins.
“Perhaps we just missed them as they rode off?” Virion offered.
Robin ‘hrm’ed thoughtfully, stroking his chin as he considered the scene.
The ruins were huge; easily two buildings spread out over a huge area, with a small creek running through the centre of the compound. They had staked out the more intact of the buildings, Robin reasoning that the slavers would use it as their base and quarters, but he had still sent the two mages Tharja and Henry to check on the other building, just to be sure.
Robin spotted something in the distance; it looked like a person, wandering around with no idea where they were.
“Possible victim?” Robin asked.
“I don’t know,” Lucina muttered, squinting to try and get a better look.
“If she is not, she’s about to be,” Virion warned, pointing to the plume of dust on the road they had come off of.
Riders wearing quality armour and wielding heavy spears, some carrying nets and ropes rather than weapons, came quickly up the road. There was no time for any of the Shepherds to warn the person wandering around the ruins, but that didn’t stop Lucina from trying; Robin had to grab her and force her back down.
“No!” he hissed. “You’ll just get caught, too! We’ll help them, but we need to be smart about this!”
Lucina quieted and Robin released her, glancing back into the forest where Sully and Kjelle were waiting for orders.
Robin gave them the hand signal for ‘hold position’ before sneaking through the forest to try and get a better view. Virion remained with the Knights, while Lucina doggedly stuck to Robin’s side as he moved almost silently through the thick undergrowth.
I really hope that Tharja and Henry don’t blunder into this mess, he silently hoped.
As they got closer Robin watched as the slavers’ leader dismounted and approached the… girl? She was a pale young woman, short raven hair held out of her face by a thin circlet, no older than Lucina, staring and trembling as the slaver approached her. More words were traded, and just as Robin and Lucina got into the perfect ambush position the girl bolted, scattering the bandits and ruining Robin’s plan.
Cursing, Robin signalled for the two Knights and Virion to attack and get the slavers’ attention.
Out of the group about half took off after the girl as she leapt into the shallow creek, wading across and taking refuge in the ruins on the other side, moving a lot faster than Robin would have given her credit for.
Before the other half of the slavers could follow one was thrown from his horse by a perfectly placed arrow between the joins in his armour, Virion’s shout of success ringing out clearly in the quiet afternoon air.
The others all spun in their saddles, looking back to where Sully and Kjelle were crashing out of the forest, whooping challenges and generally providing the distraction that Robin knew they would.
Robin used the Shepherd hand signals to tell Lucina quickly that they would wait for the slavers to go after the Knights and then come from behind. The girl watched uncomprehendingly and Robin sighed.
“Just follow my lead,” he hissed as the slavers started to move.
Robin ducked out of the forest and onto the road, casting as he went and conjuring a wall of flame in front of the slavers, causing their mounts to rear up and halting their charge before they could hit the two Knights. Another fell from his horse, an arrow sticking out of the gap between his helmet and gorget.
The leader spun, eying Robin and readying his bow. He shot an arrow, which Robin rolled to avoid, coming up closer to the forest and ducking back into the relative safety of the trees as arrows began to fly around him.
“Shoulda thought this through a little better…” Robin lamented, peeking out from around the side of a tree and cursing.
Lucina was charging the slavers, sword held ready and completely ignoring the hail of arrows flying past her.
Robin cursed again, throwing himself out from behind the tree and dispelling the flames enough for Sully and Kjelle to pass through them, before knocking a volley of arrows from the air with a well-timed wind spell.
Lucina faltered as an arrow nicked her leg, but regained her momentum and hit the slavers at the same time as Sully and Kjelle, executing a classic pincer attack.
Virion crashed through the forest near Robin, taking up position near the tactician as he began firing again.
“Did you put any thought into this plan!?” the archer shouted, ducking back behind a tree as more arrows began zipping through the forest.
Robin leaned out, casting three fireballs in quick succession before ducking back.
“I may have dropped the ball here,” he admitted as an arrow whizzed by his nose.
At least they were keeping the four archers busy while the others dealt with the slavers with swords. Kjelle and Sully were having no trouble, the reach of their lances more than making up for their lack of manoeuvrability now that the slavers had been trapped by the magical flames. Lucina was having a little more trouble though, and had taken several small wounds as she felled the first three men that had tried to encircle her.
Robin ducked back again, reaching for his spellbook.
“Nuts to this. Cover me,” he grumbled, looking for…
He stepped back out, eyes shining with power as he raised his free arm and began casting, reading from the spellbook.
“Oh mighty Earth, open up in rage and hoist up your flames!” Robin called, grinning when the ground began to shake and his spell took effect.
The leader and the other bow-wielding slavers looked around in a panic before the ground beneath them opened up and magma and flames began to surround them. Not one of them managed to escape as the spell ran its course and the earth closed, swallowing them all.
“Did… did you do that?” Virion asked with wide eyes.
Robin nodded, keeling over and gasping for breath. “Big spell…” Robin panted. “Too much… mana… Need a second here…”
He looked up at Virion, taking a deep breath to steady himself before speaking. “Cross the river! Find Tharja and Henry and back them up!”
Virion nodded, taking off like a shot and crossing the distance to the creek in a few heartbeats; he didn’t hesitate as he plunged into the water, wading across and disappearing into the ruins where he had seen the slavers go.
Robin turned back to where the others were fighting.
Lucina was limping a little, but still held one of the last two slavers at bay, while Sully and Kjelle doubled up, striking again and again and knocking the man they were attacking to the ground before Sully pounced on him, driving her lance through his chest.
Robin breathed and focused, casting a small thunder spell.
The spell hit the last slaver square between his shoulders, distracting him long enough for Lucina the dart in and slide Falchion under the man’s guard. The slaver jerked once before sliding off of his mount’s saddle.
“Sully, Kjelle! Go help Virion!” Robin shouted, hurrying over.
Sully nodded, grabbing one of the startled horses milling around the battlefield by the reigns and swinging herself into the saddle. Kjelle looked uncertain, but the other woman simply grabbed her and dragged her up onto the saddle behind her, before taking off to the ruins.
Lucina made to follow them on foot before Robin reached her and stopped her.
“Hold on, you!” he said, pointing down to her blood-soaked pant leg. “You’re not going anywhere yet!”
“Release me!” she said, pulling away. “The others need my help!”
“They need our help,” Robin corrected, reaching into the pouch at his hip. “And you’ll be useless if you drop dead from blood loss halfway there. Now hold still; this will only take a second.”
Lucina fidgeted, looking worriedly at the other set of ruins as Robin prepared the first aid equipment. The wound was on the outside of her leg, midway up her thigh. Her pants would need mending, but that could wait. Robin clucked his tongue, inspecting the deep wound gently to make sure that there were no splinters of arrow shaft or anything like that in it before he cleaned it. He dabbed away the excess blood and opened the tin in his other hand.
“Okay, this is going to hurt like hell,” Robin warned as he scooped some antiseptic salve onto his fingers from the small tin Cordelia regularly restocked without him knowing and quickly slathered it onto Lucina’s wound.
Lucina ground her teeth, hissing and gripping her sword’s hilt tightly as she glowered at the tactician.
Robin proceeded to tightly bind the wound with the bandages he carried everywhere, doing so over the pants. They were in a hurry, after all.
“Alright, you think you can keep going?” Robin asked, putting the tin of antiseptic back into his pouch.
“I’ll be fine,” Lucina assured him, limping away towards the bridge crossing the creek.
“Just as pig-headed as her father,” Robin said with a wry grin as he followed after her.
They found the others on the opposite side of the ruins, Tharja and Henry crackling with magic energy as they shot spells into the slavers that had followed the girl; the girl in question cackling maniacally as she shot arrows into the slavers riding circles around her. Robin watched, silently questioning where she had gotten a bow and arrows, as she landed a good shot and the slaved fell from the saddle. Kjelle, Sully and Virion had the other four slavers occupied, and Robin shrugged as he saw things were well in hand.
“Stick close,” he said to Lucina before heading in the direction of the two mages.
Robin could tell Lucina didn’t like being sidelined, but as much as she didn’t like it she knew that she was just a liability while she was wounded.
“Sit rep?” Robin asked as Henry and Tharja paused in their casting.
“The girl just picked up a bow and started going nuts,” Henry said excitedly as Tharja kept casting. “She’s a really good shot, too! Her body count’s almost as high as mine!”
Robin nodded as the last slaver harrying the girl in question dropped from Tharja’s spell, giving her a chance to sag and fall to the ground with equal parts relief and exhaustion.
“Right,” Robin said, thinking fast and handing his pouch to Lucina. “You two stay here and continue overwatch; Lucina, there’s first aid gear in here, go and see if the girl needs any help; I’ll engage with the others and hopefully this won’t take much longer.”
The trio all acknowledged their orders, leaving Robin to go and help the other three fighting with the slavers closer to the ruins.
As Robin approached, though, he saw Sully and Kjelle both skewer their respective opponents as Virion shot the other. The last slaver decided that discretion was the better part of valour and wheeled his horse about, making to flee. Sully snorted with derision and hurled her lance like a javelin, knocking the man from his horse.
Okay, so much for engaging, Robin thought with a wry grin. I should have known that they wouldn’t need my help.
Robin offered the others a wave before he turned back to where Lucina was helping the girl over to Henry and Tharja.
“Thank you!” the girl was saying in a timid voice. “Thank you so much! If you hadn’t saved me then I… I fear to think what could have happened.”
“I know what would have happened,” Henry said cheerfully before Robin silenced him with a light elbow to his ribs.
“It’s alright,” Robin said with a reassuring smile. “We were hunting these slavers anyway, so we figured we may as well help you out.”
The girl nodded, going silent as she stared at Tharja.
“What?” Tharja asked brusquely after a few moments of being stared at.
The girl shied away as if she had been struck, and Lucina wrapped an arm about her shoulders comfortingly.
“It’s okay, Noire,” she assured the girl. “Go ahead.”
The girl, apparently named Noire, nodded and looked back up at Tharja again.
“H-here…” she stammered, holding something out to the Dark Mage. “Please… please look at this.”
Tharja took the small ring she was being offered, studying it as she turned it over in her hands.
“Nice ring,” she said after a moment. “It bears a very familiar magical resonance, too. Are you related to me somehow? Did mom and dad have another kid while I was away?”
“N-no…” Noire stuttered. “It’s… it’s just… I… I’m sorry, I… I need a moment…”
“Out with it, girl,” Tharja said impatiently, unaware or uncaring that the others were crowding around now.
Robin watched with a morbid curiosity as Noire fished a strange little medallion out of her pocket and held it tight to her chest, taking a deep breath.
“I am blood and thunder!” the timid girl exploded, her whole personality shifting. “I am righteous fury! I AM YOUR FUTURE DAUGHTER!”
“You are trying my patience,” Tharja deadpanned.
“Insolence!” Noire thundered. “I speak the truth! The ring I bear also hails from the future! A memento of you, my departed mother!”
Tharja’s face lit up like a Christmas tree as she spun on Robin, throwing herself at him.
“I knew we were meant to be!” she squealed, doing a personality shift of her own as she almost knocked Robin to the dirt. “Our future daughter proves it, my love!”
“Fool!” Noire thundered. “He is not my father! HE is!”
Robin and Tharja followed Noire’s pointing finger to a very uncomfortable looking Henry.
“Oh thank Naga,” Robin gasped as Tharja stepped away from him, her eyes wide.
“HIM!?” she shrieked, her hands clawing at the air in Henry’s direction.
“Nya ha ha ha!” Henry burst out after a moment of indecision, doubling over as he laughed. “Isn’t this just deliciously awkward!? I suppose I should make a ring now, right?”