Invisible Ties

Chapter 22

To say that the atmosphere in the camp that night was awkward would have been an understatement.

Tharja hadn’t spoken a word since Noire’s parentage had been revealed; she had simply clammed-up, becoming non-responsive to anyone’s gentle prodding; once they had chosen a campsite the woman had simply moved a little further away and sat with her back to her friends. None of them had the guts to go and ask if she was okay, not with her well-documented love of cursing people that annoyed her.

Noire, her daughter from the future, had spent the evening quietly talking with her father Henry, who was taking the news much, much better than Tharja had. After all, what did he have to be upset about? Noire had gone back to what Robin assumed was her usual timid self after Tharja had gone silent, occasionally casting glances at her mother as she answered all of her father’s seemingly endless questions about the future.

Sully and Kjelle had opted to steer clear of the whole hornet’s nest, talking quietly together and mending their armour after the day’s battle with the slavers they had been hunting.

Virion had begun silently preparing dinner, giving Robin a pointed look before he did and refusing to be drawn into a conversation with the man, answering all of Robin’s questions with prompt, monosyllabic sentences; which in itself was strange enough, considering how much Virion loved to talk.

Lucina, for her part, seemed content to sit silently, ignoring the awkward atmosphere as she massaged her wounded leg, waiting patiently for Virion to finish with dinner.

Leaving Robin in an awkward situation.

He stood leaning against one of the trees ringing their campsite, watching Tharja to make sure she didn’t do anything she would regret in her emotional state.

For the first time since she had started stalking him Robin felt genuinely bad for Tharja. She had dedicated herself wholly to Robin for three years, following him everywhere and doing everything for him, despite his continued requests that she not. She had accompanied him on a journey basically around the world, crossing three countries to try and find a remedy for Robin’s amnesia without a word of complaint. As irritating as she had been, she had been a loyal and faithful friend.

And now her world had been shattered by her daughter from the future; a daughter that wasn’t Robin’s.

Robin realized he felt wretchedly guilty for the way he had been treating her lately. She had continued to stay by his side, making sure he ate properly, making sure he slept at least six hours a night, chasing off others when he declared he didn’t wish to be disturbed; and he had snapped at her repeatedly, treated her with more irritation than she deserved and taken her for granted for the entirety of their association, treating her as little more than a nuisance most of the time.

Some friend I am, he thought bitterly, running a hand through his hair. I don’t even know how to fix this. I’ve ignored her for too long; I have to be the one to fix this.

Robin bounced off the tree, rolling out his neck as he turned and approached Henry and Noire.

“Hey-o Robin!” Henry greeted enthusiastically. “Can you believe Noire’s mine? She’s so great!”

The young archer looked down and blushed at her father’s praise.

“Do you mind if I talk to her for a little while, Henry?” Robin asked seriously.

“Be my guest,” Henry said, all smiles. “But try anything with my little girl and I’ll have you hexed up to your eyeballs.”

Robin chuckled at Henry’s half-joking threat as he held out a hand to help Noire up, which she hesitantly took before Robin led her away from the camp in the opposite direction that Tharja was brooding in.

“I want to ask you about your mother,” Robin said once he was sure they were far enough away that the others wouldn’t hear them. “Specifically, what she was like in the future with Henry.”

Noire shuffled a little, looking down and not answering.

“If you’re worried about messing with the time flow you can stop,” Robin said as he sunk down to an upturned tree. “I said this to Lucina already; I need every advantage I can get in this war. I will not take ‘I can’t tell you’ for an answer. But in this instance I just want to help your mother. So please, Noire. I do actually care about her, despite the way I act.”

Noire looked up tentatively.

“You don’t change at all,” she said with a slight smile. “You were always saying things… things like that to encourage me to be strong in the future when I was young.”

Robin nodded, indicating for her to continue when she stopped talking.

“I was… young when you and Father died; it’s not really something I like to think a lot about,” she said quietly at length. “But I remember you being a big part of my life, and a big part of mother’s. She was always happiest when we were all together, you and Morgan and our family. When you and Father died Mother was shattered; it happened at the same time.”

Morgan? Robin thought absently, cursing himself for becoming distracted as Noire looked at him expectantly.

“But she was happy being with Henry?” Robin asked, getting to the point he was chasing. “He was a good man? A good husband and father?”

Noire nodded, eyes glazing over as she lost herself in memory.

“You were never as close to Father as you were to Mother,” Noire said quietly. “But he never questioned her devotion to you; he never held it against you. It was just a part of our lives. He loved us both, though; enough to die for us.”

Robin nodded, lost in thought.

That’s what really matters then, Robin thought.

“Thanks, Noire,” Robin said, patting the girl on the shoulder. “I’m sorry I made you dredge up painful memories.”

Noire smiled at Robin, looking every bit like Henry in that moment.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m just glad to have everyone back again.”

Tharja looked up at Robin as she heard his approach through the forest, and his heart broke for her.

Lines from tears streaked down her face, although she hadn’t let out a single sob; one thing Robin had learned about her early was that she was emotionally strong, stronger perhaps than any of the other women in the Shepherds. Seeing her like this was a shock he wasn’t soon going to recover from. Her eyes were so pleading as Robin sat down next to her that he almost became lost in the dark orbs.

Instead he did something he had never done before and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, holding her gently as she shuddered at his touch.

“You’ve never held me before,” she muttered, her voice thick but not breaking. “I’ve seen you hug the other women in the camp, but you’ve never…”

“I’m sorry,” Robin said quietly, holding her a little tighter as she trailed off.

“It was never going to happen, was it?” Tharja asked quietly after they sat in silence for a few minutes. “You and I? Gods I must look quite the fool right now.”

“No. You don’t look foolish at all,” Robin assured her. “But I do owe you an apology. For everything. You’ve been so devoted to me all this time, and I’ve been a pretty crappy friend in return.”

“No you haven’t,” Tharja disagreed, resting her head on his shoulder. “I’ve been… obsessed. You tried to tell me it wasn’t healthy, but I… I wouldn’t listen to you. You were all I wanted, and I was too trapped in my own little fantasy world where you and I were so happy together to see reality.”

“You’re still all I want,” Tharja muttered sadly, gripping Robin’s coat over his chest tightly.

“You have a chance here,” Robin said seriously as he looked down at the mage. “A chance for real happiness. Just because it’s not with me doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon you completely. You’re my friend, Tharja; in fact you’re more than that. You’re my family.”

“For what it’s worth, I was always happy to be your friend,” Robin added comfortingly after a few more moments of silence. “And that hasn’t changed. I care about you deeply, Tharja. Just… just not in the way you wanted me to.”

“I know,” Tharja whispered. “And I think… I think I’m ready to finally move on. But just for now, just this once… just hold me.”

Robin nodded and shifted, wrapping his arms around Tharja’s shoulders. The two continued to sit there, Robin wrapped around Tharja as she silently said goodbye to the fantasy she had cultivated in her head for nearly three years. By the time she finally rose again the sun had set completely, and they were sitting in darkness.

Robin watched Tharja and Noire speak quietly as Henry looked on, a huge smile plastered on his face. For some reason though it didn’t look like his usual smile; it seemed so much more genuine than normal. The man was practically glowing as Tharja cast her usual glares at him.

After the previous night the woman had opened up a little more to her daughter, although she was still acting coldly to Henry. The jovial mage just grinned and bore it the way he had been for the last two weeks, smiling every time she threatened to hex him. Robin could tell she was giving him a chance, though; none of her threats had their usual venom to them.

“Twas a beautiful thing you did for Tharja last night,” Virion commented as they walked. “I’m glad that everyone was unharmed and unhexed, too.”

“That mess was mostly my fault,” Robin said with a shrug. “I needed to fix it.”

“And you did so ever so smoothly, you heart-breaker you,” Virion said with a cheeky wink.

“We’re still out in the wilderness,” Robin warned the man playfully. “I can still find someplace to stash your body.”

They laughed a little before continuing to walk in amicable silence.

Sully had ‘liberated’ two of the horses from the slavers the day before, and had ridden ahead with Kjelle attempting to teach the younger woman to ride properly. Judging from the large, armour-shaped divots along the side of the road, her lessons weren’t going so well. Every so often they heard a scream from up ahead, marking another divot in the road. They were beginning to happen less frequently, though.

“You can ride, can’t you?” Robin asked idly.

“Of course,” Virion answered with flair. “I was quite the polo player in my younger days, but I am hardly the combat rider our companions are.”

“Really?” Robin asked with a derisive chuckle. “Polo? You played polo? Let me guess, you played croquet too? On a big, sprawling grass lawn in the shade of your manor while the servants watched?”

“But of course,” Virion said, failing to see the humour in his statements. “Why is that so funny?”

Robin snickered. “No reason.”

Virion huffed. “Now you simply must tell me, or it will be your body hidden in the woods.”

“Is it normal for friends to threaten each other so much?” Lucina asked curiously from behind them. “I find many things in the past strange, but the threats I find to be very confusing.”

Robin shrugged as Virion chuckled.

“You’re not friends with someone unless you’ve threatened to kill them,” the tactician said with a laugh. “It’s… ah, complicated.”

Lucina nodded, unconvinced and still confused.

Things had returned to some semblance of normality as they stopped that evening to make camp. Virion set about making dinner and Tharja and Noire began to practice some small curses while Henry played guinea pig for them. Apparently Noire hadn’t been properly taught to curse or hex in the future; she had a passing skill with dark magic and was a little better with the easier elemental magic, but had opted to train with a bow once her parents had both passed and there was no one left to instruct her properly. Henry giggled as Tharja demonstrated a curse to make his nose run constantly.

“Clears out the sinuses,” Henry said happily, snot beginning to run down his face.

Noire gagged, making Henry laugh and Tharja scowl at her daughter’s apparent weakness.

Robin noticed Lucina stumble and hiss with pain as she set up her bedroll, her leg wound from the previous day obviously still bothering her and refusing to take her full weight.

No wonder, Robin thought to himself, spying the dirty bandages he had put on the other day still wrapped around her leg.

“You should let me take a look at that,” Robin said, pointing to her leg as she sat on her bedroll. “You know, dress and clean it properly. I probably should have done it yesterday, but with all the drama it kind of slipped my mind.”

“I will endure,” she said stoically, staring into the fire as she sat atop the bedroll.

Robin sighed and squatted down next to her.

“Remember how I said it would be bad if you dropped dead from blood-loss?” he asked. “Well getting gangrene and dying a slow and painful death from infection would be worse. I promise to be a little gentler this time, if that helps.”

Lucina blushed as she glared at Robin.

“It is not the pain that bothers me,” she said stubbornly. “But I would prefer not to remove my pants in front of a man until he and I are wed.”

Robin shot to his feet, blushing heavily and remembering exactly where her wound was and how it would need to be treated; he wouldn’t be able to bind it properly unless Lucina removed her pants.

How exactly did that slip my mind? He thought embarrassedly.

“I, uh, I’ll get… Sully and she can… ah, bind the wound… properly,” Robin stammered, purposely avoiding eye contact.

“That would be acceptable,” Lucina said stiffly, blushing as much as Robin was.

The tactician stumbled over to where Sully was watching Kjelle clean the dirt out of her armour and explained the situation.

“Sure, no problem,” Sully said, standing and accepting Robin’s little first-aid kit with a knowing grin. “I’m not quite the field medic Stahl is, but I can clean and bind a simple wound no problem.”

Robin nodded awkwardly and walked around the fire, face still beet red as he sat next to Virion, pointedly trying not to look at Lucina as Sully helped her up and they walked a little way into the woods for privacy.

Apparently the archer’s keen hearing had allowed him to overhear Robin and Lucina’s entire conversation and the man lost control as the tactician sunk down next to him, howling with laughter as Robin buried his face in his hands.

“Okay,” Virion said as his laughter subsided. “I take back what I said about you being a lady-killer. That was so pathetic it hurt.”

“I swear I will kill you,” Robin moaned, robbing his hands on his face to try and ease the blood from his flushing cheeks. “Naga help me if Chrom finds out about this.”

Robin awoke that morning to find two empty bedrolls around the fire.

Kjelle sat with her back to the embers, staring out into the forest on the early morning watch, nodding a greeting to Robin as he stumbled into his boots.

“Where’s Lucina?” he asked with a quiet yawn, running a hand through his hair and noting absently that it was beginning to get quite long.

I’ll have to ask Olivia to cut it when we get back to Port Ferox, he thought, pushing a few loose strands away from his face.

“The Princess wanted to be alone,” Kjelle answered, pointing a seemingly random direction. “She went off that way if you need her for anything.”

Robin nodded and began walking the direction Kjelle had indicated, his curiosity getting the better of him while his brain was too tired to resist.

He found her just out of earshot of the camp, leaning up against a great oak tree, resting her weight off of her wounded leg as she stared blankly into the distance.

“Morning Princess,” Robin greeted casually, hoping to put the awkwardness from last night behind them. “What’re you doing out here all alone?”

“Ah, Robin,” she said, turning to face him.

She looked at him for a moment before seemingly coming to an internal decision.

“I was just thinking about the future again. My future, I mean. I wonder how everyone is managing now. Do they still live, or...?”

Robin shuddered in the warm dawn sun as Lucina went back to staring into the distance.

“I can barely even begin to imagine what it must have been like growing up in a world like that,” Robin said. “A future that was lost... That we couldn’t save... I don’t think I even want to. But you said that there were people that still fought against the Risen, right?”

“Indeed,” Lucina said, her voice as distant as her gaze. “Remnants of the old dynasts survived here and there. We had to move often, though. Nowhere was safe from the roaming bands of Risen for long. It was… difficult to constantly be on the move and defend the civilians that travelled with us at the same time. Although in the end there were hardly any left that could claim to be civilians.”

“So the future of humanity hinges on our actions in the near future?” Robin asked. “In this war and then the next one with Plegia?”

“Yes, and my father is the key. Without him, that future will come to pass. Our struggle there can only postpone the inevitable, not alter it. When I fight for my father or follow his orders, no matter how terrible the foe, or how powerful... I know that I have no choice. I simply cannot lose.”

Robin sighed tiredly, sinking to sit on an exposed root near Lucina, indicating for her to do the same. She hesitated a moment before sitting next to Robin, careful not to put too much weight on her wounded leg.

“You have to beat fate itself,” Robin said, understanding her burden for the first time. “That’s a terrible burden to bear on your own. But you need to remember something.”

“And what is that?” Lucina asked curiously.

“You’re not alone anymore,” Robin told her. “You have friends ready to aid you against whatever you face. And your father has an entire army ready to fight and die for him; ready to march to the very gates of hell and back behind him.”

Robin hesitated a moment before adding, “And you also have me, for whatever that may be worth.”

“It is worth a great deal, Robin,” Lucina said with a small smile.

“Perhaps I can never truly understand where you come from and the world you lived in. But I do know that we can help you in this one; and I intend to do just that for you, and your father and everyone else.”

Lucina smiled and laughed happily.

“What?” Robin asked confused. “Why is that funny? I know I’m lazy, but I can be dangerous when I’m motivated!”

“No, it’s not that it’s funny,” Lucina said, still smiling. “It’s just that it makes me so happy to hear the passion in your words. It means a great deal to me.”

Robin shrugged, grinning a little as the conversation took a lighter turn.

“Your father took me in three years ago and has treated me like a brother ever since. I kinda owe it to him to be completely loyal.”

Robin stood, dusting off the seat of his pants.

“Come on,” Robin said tiredly, offering his hand to help Lucina stand. “We should wake up the others before Virion sleeps the day away.”

Still smiling Lucina took Robin’s offered hand, pulling herself up and walking with him back to the camp site.

“You need to loosen up a bit, though,” Robin said mischievously. “All work and no play makes Lucina a dull girl, after all.”

Lucina dubiously stared at Robin for a moment.

“I cannot rest until my future has been averted,” she reminded him.

“Sure you can!” Robin said, going out on a limb and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “And I’m just the man to teach you about slacking off. I can guarantee you that your father will agree with me.”

“Cheers!” Sully and Kjelle shouted, loudly clinking their thick ceramic mugs together before downing the ale inside in one go.

“I shall go and get another round,” Virion said with a sigh as the two women smiled and held their empty cups above their heads, upside down.

“Thanks, Ruffles,” Sully snickered as the archer took the mugs and headed for the bar.

They had been making such good time that Robin had decided they could stand to stop in the closest town for a proper lunch that day as a reward for their hard work with the slavers, giving everyone a chance to relax a little.

Sully was intently showing her daughter the finer points of ale, explaining the various drinking games that could be played with the amber liquid; Tharja and Noire were sitting in the corner, watching as Henry procured them lunch from the barman, trying to haggle him down by offering to curse the establishment to be easier to clean; Virion was sitting with the two Knights, or had been until the call for the next round had come; leaving Lucina and Robin to sit at a small table in the corner on their own.

The tavern was admittedly small, and the small group of Shepherds took up at least half of it. However, it passed the all-important ‘is it clean?’ test, so Robin hadn’t complained as they sat down at their respective tables.

Robin poked idly at the meat pie in front of him, sighing as he fondly remembered the one that Tharja had cooked for him back in Plegia.

“Are you not hungry?” Lucina asked curiously as Robin picked at his pie, eating small mouthfuls of her own in a very dignified manner.

“Once you have looked upon the face of pie god, none can ever compare again,” Robin said cryptically.

Lucina’s response was interrupted when Virion sat down quickly at the table, obviously very excited about something.

“Friend Robin, we have another stop to make,” he said excitedly.

Robin raised an eyebrow, indicating for him to continue.

“You recall the purpose of the start of our travels two years ago?” Virion asked, smiling brightly as if he were about to let Robin in on the biggest secret of his life. “Well I have news, courtesy of the fine barman over there, of an ancient artefact that may be able to help you, located not far from this village.”

“No,” Robin said flatly, placing his fork down on the table. “Oh no. No more wild goose chases. Remember what Nagi said? I haven’t got any memories to recover; they are gone. Zip. Nada. None. We’re just going to go back to Port Ferox and focus on the war at hand.”

“I knew you might react thusly,” Virion said, giving Robin the impression he had played directly into the archer’s hands. “Therefore I suggest we go to these ruins and slay the Risen that are gathering there before they spread out and attack the village; if we by chance find the artefact, then so much the sweeter.”

Robin looked at Lucina.

“It is your decision,” she pointed out unhelpfully.

Robin groaned. “Fine. We go and kill the Risen, but I’m not wandering around ruins looking for Naga-only-knows what.”

Virion winked. “We already know what the artefact is called, though. We seek the ‘Tear of Naga’.”

“Did somebody say ‘kill Risen’?” Henry asked excitedly, all of a sudden beside Robin. “Because I am very on board for that plan.”

“Where’s our drinks, Ruffles!?” Sully called angrily from her table, making Virion jump and look back to the bar where two mugs of ale were still sitting guiltily.

“I can’t believe I let him talk me into this,” Robin muttered as he and Lucina followed the mountain path.

“If there really are Risen gathering there then we should destroy them before they become a problem,” Lucina pointed out.

Robin silently agreed with her, but refused to get his hopes up about any artefact.

The tactician watched Lucina as she navigated her way over the treacherous mountain road that they were following; she was obviously healing quickly, but still favoured her wounded leg as they travelled further into the mountains.

Sully and Kjelle led the way with Virion, both on foot again as the mountains were hardly the place to bring strange horses; they had chosen to leave them in the care of the barman at the tavern, who promised to keep them safe. For a nominal fee, of course.

Robin silently wished he had taken Anna with them in that moment; she would have had the barman paying them for the privilege of watching their horses.

Noire marched silently with Robin and Lucina, Robin noticing her panting and struggling to keep up. Obviously she was out of shape; she was pale and skinny to a fault, making Robin worry that she might collapse at any moment. She had insisted that she had endured worse though, and had pressed on with them.

Leaving Tharja and Henry to bring up the rear as they conversed quietly between each other. Occasionally Henry would let out his loud trademark laugh, reminding Robin that they were still following the group.

Robin had kept a close eye on Tharja since they had spoken a few nights ago; she had been quiet at first, but had returned to as normal as she usually was as she spent more time with Noire. She was still giving Henry the cold shoulder, but at least she was giving the man a chance. She did warm incredibly slowly to people.

Noire gasped from next to Robin, struggling to keep up with the pace the Shepherds had set.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked. “Do you want to lean on me for a little while or something? You’re no good to us dead.”

Noire glanced at her mother and shook her head.

“I can… I can keep up,” she managed, doing her best to look strong.

Robin shrugged, stopping behind Virion as they reached the top of the pass.

“Whoa,” Robin breathed, looking down at the valley below them.

Built into one side of the valley’s wall was a giant fortress, carved into the side of the mountain itself. Its walls and parapets melded seamlessly with the stone around it, making the fortress seem almost like a natural construct rather than something man-made.

“Whoa is right,” Sully breathed, looking down at the fortress obviously impressed.

“Why is something like this abandoned?” Lucina asked curiously.

Robin watched as Risen milled about the fortress’ entrance.

“Could have something to do with them,” he said, pointing to the creatures.

Robin looked down at the fortress, eyeing the terrain and coming up with plans to deal with the Risen crowding the entrance to the fortress.

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” Robin said, making the others stop and listen as he explained his plans.

It was amazing to watch Noire go from being timid and practically collapsing as she gasped for breath to the all-business commando-esque hunter that was crouched behind a rock a little bit ahead of Robin with her bow drawn and held at the ready.

Robin’s plan had been simple, as they so often were when it concerned the mindless Risen.

Virion would lead the other Shepherds in a diversionary strike around the flank of the Risen, luring them away from the high ground at the base of the mysterious fortress and back to the bottleneck at the base of the pass they had arrived from. That would allow Robin, arguably the most potent mage, and Noire, who had proven her skills with a bow during the battle with the slavers, to get into position on the high ground and strike from the Risen’s rear, catching the Risen between them.

The terrain was rough, with lots of cracks and crevices off of the main road to the fortress for Robin and Noire to hide in as Sully and Kjelle charged ahead, shouting obscenities at the Risen and throwing random rocks from the edge of the road.

Robin grinned as the two Knights started running back the way they had come, being chased by a horde of Risen, laughing and whooping like they were having the time of their lives.

“Now’s our chance,” Robin whispered, ducking out from behind his cover and jogging past Noire up the gentle slope to the gaping entrance to the fortress.

She followed him, and the moment she was in place next to the tactician she began to let loose, firing deadly accurate arrows into the milling Risen and cackling in a manner that left no doubt to who her mother was, her personality shifting again.

The Risen at the back turned, confused as arrows began peppering their ranks from both directions. Fireballs from Henry and Tharja began erupting in their midst, throwing twisted and corrupt Risen bodies into the air.

“Blood and thunder!” Noire shouted, firing more and more arrows into the Risen.

Robin wasn’t in the mood to waste time, and flipped through his spellbook, looking for the most potent spell he could find that would eradicate the Risen entirely.

“Flame of Death! Exhaust this foe with your inferno!” Robin chanted, focusing all of his mana into points beneath the Risen horde, centring around where they were thickest.

Pillars of flame began to shoot into the air, conjured by Robin’s spell beneath the feet of the Risen. With a quick twist of his focus Robin turned the pillars into a conflagration, engulfing the majority of the Risen and turning them to ash, most not even getting the chance to evaporate into mist the way they usually did.

Noire stopped shooting, staring back at Robin with awe.

When the spell was done Sully, Kjelle and Lucina rushed forward to finish off the last few Risen that had escaped Robin’s wrath, Virion and the two mages not far behind them.

Robin sagged as spots danced in front of his vision and he gasped for breath.

“I’ve gotta stop doing that,” he moaned, sinking back against the massive archway and letting himself slide down into a sitting position.

Once again in his haste he had expended too much mana in his casting, leaving him weak and drained. However this time he had prepared for this contingency, and blindly dug around in his hip pouch, looking for the thin vial he had packed.

Grimacing as he downed Gregor’s secret concoction, he looked up at a very worried looking Noire.

“Relax,” Robin said, the concoction beginning to take effect. “I’m okay. I just need a second to catch my breath.”

Noire nodded silently, watching him closely. She really didn’t talk much, but then again neither did her mother. At least she didn’t seem to be as obsessive about things as Tharja was; Robin couldn’t help but wonder idly if maybe it skipped a generation?

Virion came jogging up the hill, looking down at Robin worriedly.

“Come on,” he said, offering the tactician a hand. “I’m not particularly fond of the idea of searching this entire fortress alone.”

“It was your idea,” Robin reminded him, allowing himself to be pulled up.

Robin still felt a little shaky, but at least the Risen had been dealt with.

Henry came running up to him, bouncing up and down as he did.

“You have got to teach me that one!” he said excitedly. “Can you imagine how much death and destruction I could cause with something like that!? Come on! C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!”

Tharja silently slid by them, casting an annoyed glance at Henry. Robin rubbed the back of his head, looking at the other mage.

“Sure. I’ll copy out the spell for you if you really want.”

Henry looked so excited Robin thought he was going to start frothing at the mouth as he gratuitously thanked the tactician before running off after Tharja.

“What was that about?” Sully asked as she came up next to Robin.

Robin shrugged. “With him? I honestly don’t know.”

Sully chuckled a little before turning and glowering at Kjelle, who was still at the foot of the hill.

“Move your ass!” she shouted.

Kjelle perked up instantly, running up the hill and apologizing to her mother as she passed, entering the fortress after the others.

“Yeesh, drill-sergeant Sully,” Robin said as she turned to follow her daughter. “Kinda harsh, don’t you think?”

Sully grinned viciously over her shoulder as she walked into the fortress. “No daughter of mine’s going to be a weakling.”

Robin ran a hand through his hair as he blew out a breath.

“She’s a very military lady,” he muttered as Lucina crested the hill.

“How’s the leg?” Robin asked, turning to the princess.

Lucina shrugged. “I will endure.”

Looking around Robin realized that the others were all already inside.

“They could have at least waited for us…”

Sully let out a low whistle as she wandered through the cavernous hall.

“Big place,” she commented as Robin walked in behind the group.

“And you want to search this entire place, top to bottom?” Robin asked Virion incredulously.

Virion shrugged apologetically. “I wasn’t expecting it to be this big. A small shrine to Naga perhaps, not an entire abandoned fortress dug out of the very earth.”

Robin sighed and rolled his eyes theatrically, grinning at his friends.

“Well, while we’re here we may as well take a quick look. Let’s split up into three groups; one will go east, one west and the last group will head north, and we’ll meet back here in an hour. We’ll try to stick to the main level; I’d rather someone not fall through a ceiling or get trapped by falling masonry. Sound good?”

Virion was instantly standing between Sully and Kjelle, arms wrapped around their shoulders.

“Group one!” he said happily, ignoring the uncomfortable look from Kjelle and the murderous glare from Sully.

Robin chuckled. “Alright, you guys go east. Tharja, Henry, Noire, go west. Lucina and I will go north.”

Everybody split up, heading in their assigned directions. Robin could hear Virion’s flowery speech as he talked excitedly of their journey the year before with, or rather to, Kjelle. Sully just sort of groaned and tolerated the man, but Robin knew she counted him as a friend, just like all of the Shepherds did with each other.

Henry was excitedly hoping to find more Risen, eager to test out a new variant of death curse he had been playing with. Tharja seemed more interested in finding magical artefacts, though, and Noire simply followed the two mages looking pale and worried the way she always did.

Robin looked around as he passed through the hall with Lucina following him, heading for the back of the giant room where he could see a doorway that hopefully led to something deeper than a storage closet.

The entry hall was gigantic, Robin mused. There were great columns that put the ones in Ylisstol’s palace to shame they were so wide, stretching up into the darkness above them, hiding just how high the ceiling really was. The fortress would once have been a grand sight before the decay of time had set in; reducing the once grand fortress to the shadow it was now. Robin could see shadows on the walls where pictures had once hung, but now were stolen, looted or destroyed in whatever had seen the monolithic edifice abandoned. There was strangely no structural or cosmetic damage besides what one would expect from a stone fortress that had stood empty for hundreds of years, although wear from time and the elements had dulled edges and faded the colours that had once obviously been vibrant and beautiful.

Once again Robin wished his magical senses were more developed like Tharja’s; the woman was practically a magic-bloodhound her sixth sense was so advanced. He could feel something in the air, some ancient magic that still lingered. He also regretted not asking her about it when he had the chance, but wouldn’t dwell on the road not taken. He would simply investigate the ruins as much as he could in two hours and come back later once the war was over and the world safe to properly document the place. Who knew what kind of historical value was hidden in its depths? Miriel would have a field day with the fortress; she loved old ruins and the like.

“This fortress is amazing,” Lucina muttered as she followed Robin deeper, echoing his own thoughts. “If we had known a place such as this existed in my future we may have been able to set up a more permanent home.”

“It’s been abandoned for a reason,” Robin said, sticking his head through the doorway at the end of the hall. “Makes me wonder what we’re going to find.”

Sure enough it opened up into another smaller hallway, closed doorways lining the hall, with another, heavier door at the end.

“Shall we?” Robin said, flourishing his hand as he stepped through into the hallway, inviting Lucina to follow.

The rooms that Robin could get into were all empty; those that he couldn’t convince the doors to open remained a mystery, but not one that he was particularly bothered about as he approached the great wooden doors at the end of the hall.

“Look at these,” Lucina said, running one gloved hand down the surface of the door. “They’ve held up so well. It’s as if time itself has forgotten them.”

Forgotten by time itself… Robin repeated in his head, shoving at the doors and thinking about a certain set of ruins in Plegia. Sounds kinda familiar.

The door opened with little effort, simply swinging backwards and revealing another huge, high-ceilinged chamber. Dark, brackish water had pooled around much of the chamber, although it appeared there was still a way to get to the other end of the room, where an altar was sitting with a small idol atop it.

“I guess that’s the artefact?” Robin said, pointing to the altar.

“Perhaps,” Lucina said. “But this feels too…”

“Stop! Don’t jinx us, please!” Robin pleaded too late.

“Easy? Robin, what are you talking about?”

Robin groaned as he heard the moans of more Risen echoing from deeper in the cavernous chamber, coupled with violently sloshing water.

“No offense, Princess,” Robin deadpanned, drawing his sword. “But you really need to learn when not to tempt fate.”

“They would have ignored us had you not shouted like a fool!” Lucina argued, drawing her own blade.

Robin jumped, the retort on his tongue dying and being replaced by a yelp as a purple, clawed arm reached up out of the dark water, digging its blade-like talons into the stonework at Robin’s feet.

“Kill it! Kill it with fire!” Robin shrieked, recoiling and being caught off guard by the Risen’s sudden appearance.

Lucina darted forward, stabbing downward as the Risen pulled itself out of the water.

“Okay, I am officially creeped out,” Robin said, looking around the room as more of the creatures began pulling themselves out of the miniature lake around them.

“We can take them,” Lucina said confidently, holding Falchion at the ready.

“It’s not that,” Robin muttered as they advanced slowly, constantly eying the inky water and shuddering. “I don’t think I’ll ever go swimming again after this. I don’t think I can even bathe anymore!”

“Why Robin,” Lucina teased, grinning over her shoulder. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were afraid of water.”

Robin perked up, blushing slightly as he overtook Lucina, holding his sword out.

“Come on, we have Risen to slay!”

The Risen shuffled towards the duo, hooded heads twitching from side to side as they groaned and stumbled. Robin had only seen this variety of the creatures a few times before; almost naked and pale as corpses, with long, distended arms ending in large taloned claws. Rather than the shaped leather masks the ‘soldier’ Risen wore, these ones wore simple pointed hoods with eye holes cut into them. Some had slits where their mouths were, but all of these were inexplicably roughly stitched back up.

Robin shuddered again as they drew closer, their slow and ponderous movement belying their incredible strength.

They came closer to the first of the creatures, and Robin lashed out with his sword, felling them with much more ease than he was used to. The normal Risen were much tougher; these ones were almost like Risen-in-training or something else along those lines.

“See?” Lucina said as she came up next to Robin. “I told you that we could-”

The rest of her sentence was cut off as she fell face first, almost slicing Robin’s face open as her sword hand flailed. Robin leapt forward as Lucina began sliding along the stone walkway towards the water, taloned claws wrapped around her ankles.

Robin stabbed down with his sword one-handed, catching her cape near the shoulder and stopping her movement with a jerk as he cast a light wind spell, blowing the Risen off of her feet.

“Are you okay?” Robin gasped, yanking his sword free as Lucina pulled her feet from the edge of the water.

That cannot be good for the blade, Robin thought, carefully eying the blade in case he had chipped it.

Lucina sat, gasping with wide eyes as she held her ankles, knees pressed to her chest.

“Lucina?” Robin tried again, laying a hand on her shoulder.

She looked up sharply, taking a deep and calming breath as she stood.

“I’m fine,” she assured him. “The creature just startled me.”

“Well let’s just get out of here,” Robin said, watching as more of the slow moving Risen pulled themselves out of the staircases periodically set into the walkways leading to what Robin assumed was a lower level beneath the pools.

“I think that might be prudent,” Lucina agreed. “We can return with the others when we-”

Lucina was cut off again when a blast of flame shot up from one of the staircases set into the walkway further into the room, making Robin dread the thought of a spell-casting Risen, before someone wearing a coat stumbled up onto the main level, before turning and shooting another blast of flame back down the stairs they had just emerged from.

“Is that one of the others?” Robin asked quickly, forgetting about their plan to retreat.

“I don’t know,” Lucina admitted, squinting at the distant figure as they instinctively began advancing into the room again.

Robin sighed and hung his head. “Then let’s go and save them before the Risen eat them.”

The two Shepherds crossed the walkways carefully, mindful of both the Risen congregating on the stranger and the fact that more could potentially pop out of the water at any moment. However they threw caution to the wind when the stranger, evidently a girl from the sound of her voice, let out a shriek as the Risen crowding her began to press her, forcing her to back up against the edge of the walkway.

“Hoy!” Robin shouted, his voice echoing around the chamber as he swung his sword in the air, trying to think the way Sully did. “Over here ya ash-faced freaks! Skip the entre, come get the main course!”

Lucina and Robin crashed into the Risen as a loud splash heralded the fact that the stranger had fallen into the pool; Robin could hear her coughing and spluttering as she tried to avoid the Risen and get back onto the walkway.

Grunting with effort Robin spun, twirling between three Risen with his sword out at neck height in a move Lon’qu had taught him and decapitating all of them, showering himself with their mist-formed remains. Lucina moved a little slower, still favouring her wounded leg, but doing much more damage to the tightly packed Risen with her heavier sword as she struck out in lateral lines and felling Risen with every sweep of her blessed blade.

Robin drove his sword through the last of the Risen, its back to him as it tried to reach the girl still struggling to get back onto the walkway. It exploded in a shower of ash and mist, making the girl look up as Robin bodily dragged her out of the water one-handed, dropping her on the stone walkway.

“We should be safe for a time,” Lucina reported, her back to Robin and the girl as she watched the other Risen shambling towards them. “They don’t seem to be in any hurry.”

Robin nodded, before turning to look down at the girl on all fours, coughing and spluttering as she took deep breaths, her wet coat obviously weighing down on her.

“You don’t look like a treasure hunter,” he said as her coughing quieted a little. “What are you doing out here alone?”

Robin’s own breath caught in his chest as his gaze travelled up and down her back, realizing that she was wearing an exact replica of his most beloved coat; the one he was currently wearing, right down to the faded bloodstains beneath the back of the collar.

There’s no way… he thought with wide eyes as the girl’s head snapped up.

“Father!” she cried happily, wrapping her arms around his neck in a tight hug before pulling back. “What happened to your beard?”

Robin stared speechlessly at the girl, heart skipping a beat as Lucina spun, her own eyes wide.

“Morgan!?” she said incredulously. “Is… Is that really you!?”

“Well you look great!” the girl said, ignoring or not hearing Lucina. “No wonder you grew the thing; you’ve got a total baby-face going on without it! I mean you look at least twenty years younger without it! Maybe this mountain air is good for you? But when did you find the time to-”

“Hold on, back up,” Robin interrupted, heart beating out of control in his chest. “Specifically to the whole ‘father’ thing. Did you travel back in time with Lucina as well?”

“Huh? Who's Lucina?” the girl asked, quirking her head quizzically and laughing a little. “And did you seriously just ask me if I came from the future? Uh… Why are you looking at me like that? Hello? It's me! Morgan! Your daughter? Love of your life and Daddy's little girl and all that? Wow, you're really acting strange today. Let's go home and get you to bed. Wait a sec… which way is home? Is it— Ngh! M-my head!”

Robin sighed, caught between laughing and screaming with frustration as the girl doubled over holding her head, recognizing the very familiar signs of amnesia and deciding they could deal with the whole scenario when they were safely far away from the fortress.

Robin cast another glance at the artefact, making his decision.

“Easy there,” he said, laying a hand on her sodden shoulder. “It won’t come if you try to force it, believe me.”

Robin and Lucina both looked up as a Risen moaned loudly, having shambled halfway across the room to them, reaching out with grey, decayed talons and grasping at the air in their direction.

“Listen carefully,” Robin said quickly. “This is going to sound kinda nuts, but I think you’ve come from the future.”

“Are you out of your mind?” Morgan asked, looking up at Robin with tears of pain in her eyes. “That’s not even possible!”

Robin leaned back, indicating to his face.

“Do I look old enough to have a kid your age?” he asked impatiently, casting another glance at the Risen encroaching on them. “In this timeline you haven’t even been born yet; I don’t even know who your mother is.”

Morgan made a panicked face.

“Oh gods,” she moaned, eyes going wide as she stared into space. “I can’t remember mother! I can’t… I can’t remember anything at all!”

“It's hard, I know,” Robin said in what he hoped was a soothing tone, “And you don't have to believe me right this minute. But we’ve got to move and move now. It's dangerous alone, especially if your memory is gone; I was in the same position once, you know. If Chrom hadn't found me lying in that field, who knows what would've happened to me.”

Morgan looked up again, calming a little.

“Wait, you woke up in a field too?” she asked.

Robin grinned and nodded encouragingly.

Morgan laughed a little as she rose to stand with Robin, water still dripping off of her, strands of wet hair plastered to her face.

“Like father like daughter, right? Oh, that’s too funny!” she giggled.

Robin began to chuckle, too. “Let’s never tell Vaike about that; we’ll never hear the end of it.”

“Who?” Morgan asked, quirking her head again, still giggling.

“Never mind,” Robin said. “Just try to stay close.”

“Yessir!” Morgan said excitedly, stooping to pick up the sword she had dropped.

Lucina was still eying the encroaching Risen when Robin came up alongside her.

“You’re handling this awfully well,” she commented as he watched the Risen.

“It’s called compartmentalizing,” he said distractedly. “I’ll flip out later. We’re pushing for that artefact.”

Lucina looked over to him questioningly.

“But I thought…” she trailed off.

“I don’t care about my memories,” Robin explained as they started to move, casting a thumb over his shoulder to the girl following them. “But if I can get hers back…”

“Hello! I’m standing right here!” Morgan said irritatedly.

“Good, get your butt in the line,” Robin said, moving to the side to allow her to stand between him and Lucina, away from the edges of the walkway.

The girl did as she was directed wordlessly, stepping forward with her sword held perpendicularly near her face in a two-handed grip, much the same way Lon’qu had taught Robin to.

The Risen didn’t really stand much of a chance as the three warriors crossed the walkways; fortunately no more crawled out of the water, but Robin watched it attentively all the same.

Morgan fought in much the same way Robin did; analysing her opponents before striking fast and efficiently with her thin blade. Her fighting style was the same one Robin used, too; a bastardized combination of Chrom’s, Lon’qu’s and his own style, with a couple of little quirks of her own thrown in. Robin actually hung back a little, letting her handle the slow moving Risen as they moved towards the objective and studying her technique.

They cut through the Risen easily, making it to the altar against the opposite wall easily.

“So this is it?” Robin asked no one in particular, bending down to pick up a little carved marble statue of Naga, stylized tears falling from her eyes.

“We got what we came for,” Lucina said impatiently, watching as more Risen crawled up the numerous staircases. “Now let’s go!”

“There’s no end to them!” Morgan moaned as the three of them began to jog back the way they had come.

The horde began closing in, some of the Risen actually falling off of the walkways as others crowded around them. The water began to froth and bubble around the stone walkways again, countless taloned arms reaching out of the pools and dragging hooded forms out of the depths.

“Keep moving!” Robin called as they began sprinting, desperately trying to outpace the encroaching Risen.

They barrelled through the doorway, Robin pausing long enough to slam it closed behind them before taking off after the girls ahead of him. Not that it would hold them long.

Apparently they were the last ones to arrive at the hallway; the others sat or stood around near the entrance, looking bored. They all looked up as the three panicked people ran towards them, shouting and waving their arms.

“Run!” Robin shouted, looking over his shoulder as Risen started spilling out of the doorway behind him. “Tactical retreat! I don’t care, just move!”

Sully and Kjelle looked like they were going to stand and fight, while most of the others looked confusedly at Robin. Noire just looked like she was going to pass out.

The varied responses of the Shepherds all turned to shock as Robin barrelled by them, heading straight for the entryway and the safety of the mountain pass.

“Every Shepherd for themselves!” Robin screamed through cupped hands, grinning as he ran backwards. “C’mon people! We got what we came for!”

“What the hell did you do to piss off so many Risen?” Sully gasped, doubling over as the group finally stopped their flight.

Robin and Morgan were both laughing in between gasps. They shared a glance between each other and began to laugh even harder.

“And, perhaps more importantly, who is this charming young lady?” Virion asked, recovering a little and sidling up to Morgan.

“Back up, Ruffles,” Robin warned, straightening. “She’s apparently my future daughter.”

“There’s no ‘apparently’ about it!” Morgan huffed as Virion stepped away, eyes wide with shock as he laughed awkwardly.

“Ah, I understand completely,” Virion said with a small bow in Robin’s direction. “My hands shall remain on my own person at all times, good sir.”

Robin saw a vein in Tharja’s forehead twitch as she glared at Morgan and was instantly overwhelmed by a combination of intense guilt and protective annoyance.

“She’s an amnesiac,” Robin explained. “Just like me. So that, ah, complicates matters a little.”

“But I remember you,” Morgan pointed out chirpily. “Just, er, not the rest of you.”

“She does kind of look like you,” Henry pointed out, staring intently at the girl.

Kjelle, Noire and Lucina had been silent, staring suspiciously at Morgan.

“It does indeed look like her,” Kjelle said after a moment.

“We haven’t seen you in years, though!” Noire said. “What happened to you?”

Morgan shrugged, smiling brightly.

“No idea.”

“How did you travel back in time, though?” Lucina asked. “We were all present together when we travelled through Naga’s portal.”

Morgan shrugged again, still grinning.

Robin massaged the skin between his eyes, thinking.

“She’s got my coat,” he pointed out.

“Perhaps it is just a replica?” Virion offered.

Robin stepped forward, running the collar of Morgan’s coat between his fingers, as Morgan flinched a little from his sudden movement.

“It has the same resonance,” Robin said, shaking his head. “I can feel the same spells holding it together. This is definitely my coat. Now that I think about it, she actually has a similar resonance to me, too.”

Morgan nodded enthusiastically. “See! I am your daughter! But what’s with all this time-travel nonsense?”

Robin’s eyes locked with Lucina’s and he sighed when she nodded.

“Follow us. It’s a long, long story.”

“So that’s everything we know,” Robin said, spreading his hands wide.

“That’s…” Morgan said, holding a hand to her forehead. “That’s a lot to take in all at once.”

“Tell me about it,” Robin muttered.

They had set up camp in much the same way they usually did; the usual little groupings formed and Virion set right to making dinner.

Tharja had been much quieter than usual, though. Robin felt like he was rubbing salt in an open wound, parading Morgan around and talking with her constantly.

She, Henry and Noire had crowded around the idol Robin had snatched from the fortress though, trying to figure out a way to harness the power they all felt inside of it.

“So the… the ‘future’ I came from is in ruins? You’re sure about that?”

“Uh-huh.” Robin nodded. “Unless you’re from a different future and just travelled back for another reason. Honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this time-travel stuff myself. We’re really not entirely sure how it all works yet.”

Morgan ran a hand through her hair, imitating the way Robin did it. Virion laughed as he watched her, shaking his head slightly as he stirred the stew.

“We’re fighting right now to ensure that the future of this world isn’t lost, too,” Robin went on.

“I think I understand,” Morgan said hesitantly, before adding guiltily “But I still don’t remember anything about you.”

Robin chuckled and shrugged. “Then you know about as much about me as I do. Don’t apologize. I’ve got no memories from more than a few years ago; I’d say that makes us about equal. I’ll make sure you get along okay.”

Morgan smiled and Robin felt his heart swell.

I wonder if this is how Chrom feels when he looks at Lucina? He thought to himself, smiling back at his future daughter; there wasn’t a doubt in his mind anymore that she was telling the truth about that. He could feel it.

“I’m sure that as long as I stick with you everything will work out,” Morgan said excitedly. “I can’t believe we get to go on an adventure like this straight away! It’s so exciting!”

Robin stopped to think for a moment.

“I’d prefer not to get you involved in this war,” he said honestly after thinking about it. “I mean, we’ll be fighting pretty constantly once we get to Valm. Is that really… I mean, are you going to be okay with that?”

“Sure!” Morgan said flippantly. “I’m a tactician, too, remember? Just like you!”

Robin’s eyebrows rose as Morgan held a hand to her mouth, eyes wide.

“I remembered something!” she said excitedly, her voice going up a few octaves. “And now I even get to learn from you first-hand! I can’t believe how lucky I am!”

“She really does take after you,” Virion chuckled from the fire, making Robin roll his eyes.

“Aw, thanks mister Virion!” Morgan said happily.

Virion groaned. “Please, my dear; I am far too young for anyone to be calling me ‘mister’ anything.”

The three of them laughed as they sat in the forest near the fire. Robin laughed so hard he completely missed Tharja approaching them.

“Robin,” she said shortly. “We’ve figured it out.”

The tactician glanced up. “What? Already?”

Tharja nodded, her expression blank.

She’s still pissed, Robin thought guiltily.

“Yep!” Henry said, bouncing next to Tharja with Noire right behind him, the idol in his hands. “Our little Noire here figured it out! She may not be one for hexing, but gee has she ever got an eye for magical theory!”

Noire blushed and fidgeted embarrassedly as Henry clapped a hand on her shoulder.

“We’re ready to go when you are,” Henry added, waving the idol around a little.

Robin nodded, glancing at Morgan.

“Do her first,” Robin said, pointing to his daughter.

Everyone watching besides Lucina looked a little shocked at Robin’s request; the vein in Tharja’s forehead twitched again as she looked down, the shadows from her hair hiding her eyes.

“Are you sure?” Henry asked. “We might not be able to go a second round with this bad-boy; I think it might break from the spell we have to use. Ooh! Maybe it’ll explode! That would be perfect!”

Robin nodded, choosing not to question how an explosion would be perfect.

“Dad, are you sure?” Morgan asked, looking over at Robin. “I mean, I don’t want to take this away from you…”

Robin shrugged. “The whole reason we went back for the stupid thing was so that we could use it on you; Lucina and I were ready to bail out before you showed up.”

“Really?” Morgan asked, eyes shining as she threw herself around Robin in another tight hug. “Aw, thanks so much, dad! I love you, too!”

Robin choked, pushing the girl off of him.

“Why does everyone have to hug me around the neck?” he lamented, rubbing his collar and straightening his coat.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Tharja snapped, snatching the idol from Henry and standing in front of Morgan with a scowl on her face.

Noire and Henry both flinched and stepped back. Robin looked up at Tharja concernedly, wondering what was going on in her head.

She’s still really pissed. And why shouldn’t she be? I tell her ‘no, we’re never going to make a baby’ and the next day poof! Here’s my daughter from the future with another woman.

Robin scratched absently at his chin as Tharja began to cast her spell on a nervous looking Morgan.

I wonder who her mother is, anyway… Maybe Virion had it right not wanting the surprise spoiled.

The others crowded around, watching from a safe distance; Sully and Kjelle looked mildly curious as they both leaned on their lances, and Lucina seemed rapt with curiosity, watching for any slight change in Morgan’s bearing. Virion stood and stepped back, too. It was never safe to be too close to an untested spell, but Robin stayed by Morgan’s side, watching as Tharja began casting.

Morgan shied away a little as a glowing magic circle formed in the air before Tharja’s hand, spinning around the idol as she finished her incantation.

There was a loud crack, and the idol crumbled to pieces in Tharja’s hand as the circle flew forward, spinning around Morgan’s head before shrinking and sinking into it.

Morgan swayed a little as the campsite held their collective breaths, watching for her reaction. Robin reached out to steady her with a hand on her shoulder, watching for any reaction she might have.

“I… I still don’t…” Morgan stammered, holding her head as her brow furrowed with concentration. “I still can’t remember anything…”

She looked up when Tharja snorted, dusting the remains of the idol off on her cloak.

The girl’s face lit up again as she threw herself at Tharja, wrapping her arms around the shocked mage’s neck in the same kind of hug she had given Robin.

“Auntie Tharja! I remember you now!”

Robin gasped, holding his breath to see how Tharja would react and waiting for the worst, expecting to be picking little pieces of Morgan off of his boots for a week.

Tharja’s eyes went wide as a gambit of emotions played across her face; confusion, anger, rage at being touched, before realization set in.

Tharja reached up, her face calm, and instead of hexing Morgan or even throwing her off she returned the girl’s hug.

Morgan realized what she was doing and stepped back sheepishly.

“Sorry, I know you don’t like to be hugged,” she said, head held low. “Or touched at all, for that matter. But I remember you now! Not much, but I can remember you looking down at me and smiling! You were older, but it was definitely you!”

Tharja nodded silently, smiling a little before she turned and strode back to her bedroll, looking much calmer than she had in the last two days.

“Is she always like that?” Henry asked with a little grin.

“Yeah,” Morgan said with a wink. “Yeah she is.”

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