Invisible Ties

Chapter 23

Robin stretched and groaned, his cot creaking beneath him as he did. They had arrived back at Port Ferox first out of the other groups the day before, and he had pretty well taken the opportunity to sleep while Frederick the slave-driver was still away.

With a loud yawn Robin rolled over.

His yawn turned into a yelp as he fell out of his cot for the third time that morning. Not counting the amount of times he had fallen out of it the previous evening.

Getting to his feet and glaring venomously at the traitorous bedding, he knew exactly what he had to do to have his revenge.

Morgan skipped happily through the early morning Shepherd camp. It was a little surprising to see so many others up and around so early in the morning, but Morgan reminded herself that she was in a military camp, and in a military camp life started as soon as the sun’s first rays crested the forest around the town, even before then. The frontline never truly slept.

She stopped dead as she was walking by a row of tents, reeling back as a perfectly good cot came flying out of one of them, crashing to the ground noisily.

Morgan poked her head inside the tent it had flown out of, catching a glimpse of her father shaking out his camping bedroll and flopping down atop it, not even noticing her.

I guess he kept falling out of his bed last night, too, she thought, rubbing at the bruises she knew were forming beneath her clothes.

Morgan smiled and shook her head; it was a comforting thought that they were so similar.

Deciding to help her father lest one of the other Shepherds get upset about it later, Morgan picked up the cot, folded it up and began to head in the direction of the supply wagons with the cot that had so offended her father under her arm.

She passed through the tents to the area behind the camp where the various wagons were kept and the food was prepared, silently thankful that Father had given her a tour the previous evening.

A pink-haired woman in dancer’s clothes glanced up from the breakfast she was making; a great pot of oats from the smell that was currently making Morgan’s mouth water.

“Good morning Robin,” the dancer, Morgan was sure her name was Olivia, sang. “Don’t go too far, breakfast will be ready soon, okay?

Morgan giggled a little as she placed the cot under her arm into one of the supply wagons.

“I’m not Robin, though,” she said, grinning as Olivia’s head snapped up with an embarrassed look on her face.

“Oh, Morgan!” she cried, going red. “I’m so sorry! It’s the coat, and, and, the hair and… Oh Naga this is mortifying.”

Morgan laughed. “It’s okay, I take it as a compliment. Is there anything I can help with?”

“You can be my taste-tester,” Olivia said with a shy grin, ladling out a bowl of oats and handing it to Morgan with a spoon.

Morgan groaned with delight, rolling her eyes back in her head after the first spoonful hit her tongue. It tasted just as good as it smelled.

“It’s perfect,” she said around another mouthful. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Olivia smiled and nodded, continuing to stir the pot.

“Thank you so much, Morgan. I can begin letting everyone know that it’s ready now.”

The girl smiled and waved farewell as she walked away, balancing the bowl in one hand as she continued to eat, savouring every bite.

The rest of the camp was starting to stir now; line soldiers were mingling with the Shepherds in the mess tent while quite possibly the prettiest man Morgan had ever seen delivered a morning sermon; Sully, Kjelle and a number of others began to head to the training field, Prince Chrom among them; she passed Virion’s tent and could smell the pungent tea he only drank in the mornings coming out of it.

Deciding she didn’t exactly have anything better to do just yet, she downed the rest of her oats on the way to her tent, traded her bowl for her sword, and started heading to the training area.

Her sword wasn’t like the swords of the others in the camp, or even Father’s; the sword was a curved, slender, single-edged blade with a circular guard and long grip to accommodate two hands; most of the Shepherds that wielded swords had larger, heavier ones with straight, double-edged blades, some even having short one handed grips. Her father’s rapier was similar, but it was straight, and again it had two razor sharp edges.

Morgan liked the uniqueness of her sword though; it was important to her, and not just because it was the only possession she had besides her coat. Her spellbook had been destroyed when she had fallen in the water in the mountain fortress, but Father had promised he was going to track down an empty book she could begin transcribing spells into that day.

Morgan drew her sword a little, admiring the way the early morning sun reflected off the polished steel.

She looked up as she entered the section of camp put aside for training, watching the others for a moment.

Sully and Kjelle were eagerly wailing on each other with their lances, Sully clearly winning; nothing new there…

Prince Chrom and a smaller man with the only other sword of similar make to Morgan’s were duelling, striking with blinding speed at each other and parrying blows that made Morgan’s head spin.

A few others were also training, but Morgan became lost in watching the two men duelling, seeing snippets of her own style in both of theirs. Father had explained his style was a combination of three different ones, and obviously she had learned from him; apparently he had learned from these two.

Morgan became excited at the prospect of learning from the men that had taught her father.

The smaller man used Chrom’s own momentum against him time and again, parrying and moving fluidly around the Prince, who obviously relied more on strength than speed.

Chrom noticed Morgan watching, and stepped back from the other man and saying a few words that she couldn’t hear, ending their training. The other man cast Morgan a sideways glance, huffing as he moved to begin running through solo drills with artistic precision.

“For a second there I thought that the sky was going to fall on our heads,” Chrom said jokingly as he approached. “There’s no other explanation for Robin to be on the training grounds this early in the morning. But then I realized it wasn’t him, and that his daughter may want a training partner.”

Morgan nodded enthusiastically as she drew her own sword. “If you wouldn’t mind, Prince Chrom.”

She had been introduced to the dashing Prince the previous evening when they had entered the town; he and Father had greeted each other like long-lost-brothers, hugging and shaking hands, all smiles and laughter. Chrom was apparently Lucina’s father, too; Lucina being the instigator of the time-travelling warriors from the future. Morgan liked the other girl and the two had instantly taken a shining to each other, but Morgan hadn’t really gotten to know her too well during the week long walk to Port Ferox. Admittedly, she had been busy talking to her father most of the time, but had also taken the time to talk to everyone else present.

Her distracted thoughts returned to the present as Chrom chuckled.

“Please, just call me Chrom,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “I hate formalities.”

Morgan nodded enthusiastically as Chrom sank back into a defensive posture.

“Whenever you’re ready, Morgan.”

Morgan took a moment to study Chrom’s stance and posture as she sunk into a more aggressive stance than his, holding her sword firmly with both hands. Dashing out and striking at the Prince’s exposed shoulder, she watched as he snapped his sword up, parrying with ease. Morgan retreated back a step, before driving forwards with the point of her blade, switching to a more general duelling style as she realized aggressiveness wouldn’t work on the experienced swordsman. She struck at Chrom’s upper section a few times before twirling and striking lower, watching as the Prince stopped her attacks cold every time. Without warning she found herself on the defensive as he began to strike back. It was like being hit by an angry bull he struck so hard. Her hands began to go numb as she desperately parried his blows, but she began to see a pattern to them.

High, high, low, high, middle, high… Now!

Darting forward under his guard Morgan flipped her grip and brought the blade up, holding it against the Prince’s neck.

“Not bad,” Chrom said with a smirk. “It’s a tie.”

Morgan looked down, realizing that he had purposely been leading her on with the pattern in his attacks as the blade of his sword pressed against her stomach.

“Damn,” she said, stepping back. “I thought I had you there…”

Chrom laughed a little, sweeping his sword back and forth through the air as he warmed down.

“Don’t worry, your father falls for that one every time.”

Morgan nodded, staring at her sword.

“Can you teach it to me?” she asked hopefully, spinning back to Chrom.

He looked confused for a moment before smiling and nodding.

“All right. Here, copy my stance…”

Morgan looked up from the book she was reading at the small table in her tent as she heard shouting.

“Coward! Craven! Yellow bellied dirt farmer! Fight me, damn you!” Kjelle was yelling from the direction of Father’s tent.

“Fine, gods damn it! Fine!” Father responded just as loudly. “But just one time!”

“One time is all I’ll need!” Kjelle responded.

There was a moment of silence, when Morgan could hear Kjelle’s heavy footfalls beginning to fade, before the sound of a sword striking armour rang out.

“What are you doing?!” Kjelle shouted.

“You wanted to fight!” Father shouted, grunting as he did so. “So fight me!”

“This isn’t the training area!” Kjelle responded as more loud strikes to armour could be heard.

Morgan rose and stuck her head out of her tent, watching the confrontation.

Her father, grinning like a maniac, was dancing around the armoured woman with his sword in his hands, bouncing it off her heavy plates as she tried desperately to defend herself with her heavy lance.

“War isn’t restricted to one battlefield,” he laughed, ducking under Kjelle’s lance and striking lightly three times in quick succession at her back. “If you are unprepared, then yield!”

Kjelle stumbled as Robin kicked out at her leg from behind, collapsing to one knee as he held the blade of his sword to her throat.

“I win,” he said before flipping his sword around and theatrically sheathing it.

Kjelle grumbled, standing and striding away frustration evident in her posture.

Father began walking back to his tent, a superior smirk on his face before he spotted Morgan watching.

“Remember that thick armour like hers limits movement,” he said with a wink. “Just get behind them. That’s pretty much the downfall of heavy armour.”

Morgan smiled and nodded, rushing back into her tent to make a note of what he had just said.

Morgan sat with her back to her tent’s entrance, nose stuck in a book.

Father had been writing down the history of what had happened in his life since Chrom had found him in the field (something Morgan still thought was utterly hilarious) in case his memory failed him again, and had decided that her reading it would be the quickest and easiest way for her to catch up on current events.

She read about how Ylisstol had been attacked, how Gangrel had provoked a war between the two nations, how they had marched across Ylisse and Regna Ferox and Plegia, battling all the way… It was absolutely riveting.

Morgan was so engrossed in the book that she completely missed her tent flaps opening, jumping out of her skin when Tharja appeared behind her.

“I have a job for you,” the Dark Mage said, looking down at her expectantly.

Morgan shot up instantly, standing at attention and not entirely sure why she was doing it.

“What can I do for you?” she asked brightly.

Tharja held up a small, golden amulet hanging from a leather cord; the one Morgan had seen Noire constantly holding on to during their trip.

“I want you to keep this away from Noire,” Tharja said, offering no further explanation.

Morgan reached out hesitantly, confused. She could feel the power and magical resonance oozing off of the amulet, a potent curse obviously having once been put on it.

“Sure…” she said, eying the little thing in her hand. “But, er… why?”

Her ‘Aunt’ scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Because the girl relies too heavily on it. I need to toughen her up a little. Going cold-turkey seems to be the best way to do that.”

And then Tharja was gone in a swirl of cloak, raven hair and tent flap, leaving Morgan standing in the middle of her little tent, still confused and holding a potent magical artefact.

Morgan admittedly had no memories of ever disappointing the woman before, and she didn’t want to start now. Even if her request was a strange one…

Shrugging and reasoning that she had nowhere else to put it, Morgan slipped the amulet around her neck and tucked it into her shirt, smiling and making a noise of satisfaction as she sat back down at her table to continue reading.

Noire would never notice.

“Where is it?” Noire demanded, barging into Morgan’s tent with wild eyes and a dishevelled appearance.

Morgan looked up, a little annoyed that Noire would be distracting her while she was reading about the Shepherds’ final showdown with Gangrel two years ago.

“Where is what?” Morgan asked innocently.

“You know exactly what I’m looking for,” Noire growled, inviting herself into the tent and beginning to riffle through Morgan’s sheets and new clothes, both of which had been provided by Olivia, who was apparently the camp’s resident carer. “You’re the only other person she would have given it to! Where is it!?”

Morgan laughed nervously as she stood and began backing towards the tent’s entrance.

Noire’s head snapped up, eyes flashing.

“Noire, you need to calm down a little,” Morgan reasoned, still backing up.

“Give it to me!” the girl screeched, hands extended as Morgan ducked out of her tent.

She ran like the wind, moving as fast as her legs would carry her through the Shepherds’ camp as Noire chased after her. Morgan leapt over barrels, slid under fences and realized she had left the camp and entered Port Ferox proper.

She spun, groaning as she saw Noire still racing after her.

“Blood and thunder!” the girl screamed. “You will pay for your insolence!”

“Oh man,” Morgan sighed, taking off again in a random direction. “I am going to get so lost.”

The city was bustling as Morgan wandered through it aimlessly, taking in the sights and simply enjoying being out and about. She stopped to look at the fruit vendors and bakers in the marketplace, breathing deep the scents of fresh fruit and bread. She wandered past the taverns and inns near the edge of town, watching the off-duty soldiers relaxing and having fun as they whiled the day away. Eventually she found herself on the docks, which had been all but taken over by the military. Soldiers drilled on the wide open space and tents sat near the buildings that hadn’t already been conscripted for use by the Ylissean and Feroxi armies.

One of the officers, a grizzled looking man with an eye patch in white armour looked up from the open tent he was leaning over a map in with four other officers, each in different armour.

Of the other three one of them was the Shepherd Kellam; the other was a Feroxi woman with severe features and short blonde hair; the fourth man was wearing thick, pale blue armour with white trim. Morgan only knew Kellam, but so far meeting new people had been an enjoyable experience.

“Excuse me, miss,” eye patch said gruffly. “But this area’s been cordoned off for use by the military. You need to return to your home or one of the civilian areas.”

“That’s okay,” Morgan said. “I’m a Shepherd!”

Eye patch’s eyebrow rose as one of the other officers looked over to a big man in thick armour.

“Is she, Kellam?” he asked.

Kellam had been present when Morgan, Kjelle and Noire had been introduced to the others the previous day, so she smiled brightly at the man, entering the tent as he nodded.

“She is,” he said, smiling back. “She’s a tactician, too, so she might be able to help us with the little problem we’re having.”

Morgan nodded enthusiastically, leaning on the table.

“What can I do to help?”

The Feroxi woman raised an eyebrow as eye patch moved back to his position at the table.

“Aren’t you a little young?” the woman asked condescendingly.

“Age has nothing to do with experience, Raimi,” the blue-armoured man said. “Think about it; the Shepherds are all ten year younger than us, but any one of them could mop the floor with all three of us at once.”

The woman, Raimi, nodded as Kellam beamed with pride.

“Anyway,” eye patch said. “I’m Roark, that’s Raimi and Seth, and you know Kellam.”

“I’m Morgan,” she said excitedly, beaming at the four soldiers. “I just read about what all of you did during the war; I can’t believe I get to work with you guys! You’re all heroes!”

Seth cleared his throat as Raimi and Roark grinned happily at the praise.

“Anyway,” he said, getting back to the matter at hand. “We’re trying to go over how best to load the food supplies onto the various ships. It’s boring clerical work, but it needs doing.”

Morgan ran her hand through her hair, looking at the sheets of paper on the table.

“All of these supplies are bulk lots,” she said after examining them. “You won’t be able to get a good variety of foods onto the different ships. We need to split a lot of this stuff up so that we get a good mix of the different food groups onto each ship. They’re still not here yet; why not have some of the lower ranked soldiers begin redistributing the food into smaller crates so it can be split up properly?”

“Very well,” Roark said, nodding as he waved down a runner he could use to send the orders. “I’ll send the orders now.”

“Good work, kid,” Raimi said as Kellam clapped her on the shoulder.

“Got any more problems?” Morgan asked excitedly, looking around at the gathered leaders.

Morgan hummed as she skipped back into the Shepherds’ camp that afternoon. She had spent most of the morning working with the various division leaders and Kellam, organizing little things that would make everyone’s lives easier in the long run. She was proud of her contributions, even if they were only minor in the grand scheme of things.

Morgan turned, watching as a couple of the Shepherds unloaded crates from a wagon and placed them near their own supply wagons, Lucina among their number.

She rushed over to help her new friend, grabbing the other side of a particularly heavy box the Princess was struggling with on her own.

“Hey Lucina!” Morgan greeted cheerfully. “What’s goin’ on?”

“Hello Morgan,” Lucina greeted, nodding gratefully as the girl grabbed the other end of the crate. “We’re just unloading some supplies. Thank you for your assistance.”

“No problem!” Morgan said as they set the crate down with the others, going back for another one.

They worked for another twenty minutes, unloading the wagon with the priest Libra and the swordsman that had been duelling with Prince Chrom earlier in the morning, Lon’qu. As Morgan and Lucina put the last crate down an idea came to Morgan’s head.

“Are you doing anything right now Lucina?” she asked as the other woman stretched her back.

“I… believe I am free,” Lucina said hesitantly.

“Good!” Morgan said, taking off in the direction of her father’s tent. “Meet me back here in fifteen minutes!”

Robin was busily re-inking some of the spells in his spellbook he used more frequently that were beginning to fade when he heard Morgan’s voice outside his tent.

“Father? Are you in there?”

Robin looked up. “Yes. What’s up?”

Morgan stepped into the tent, panting and out of breath.

“Can I borrow some coins? I haven’t actually gotten any for myself yet…”

“Hrm? Oh, sure,” Robin said, reaching into his coat and dropping a small bag on the tabletop with a quiet clink.

Morgan snatched up the bag, thanking her father before he stopped her by grabbing her coat’s sleeve and yanking her back.

“Noire was looking for you earlier,” he said disinterestedly as he returned to carefully re-inking the focusing circle to one of his spells. “She seemed pretty out of sorts. I mean more-so than usual.”

Morgan internally wilted guiltily.

“Okay, thanks dad!” she said quickly as she bustled out of the tent, leaving Robin leaning over his table alone.

“Maybe I should have given her an allowance rather than my entire savings…” he mumbled absently.

Robin’s head snapped up, his pen-nib snapping as he realized what he’d just done, eyes wide with horror.

“Oh dear lord I did not just gave my teenage daughter my entire savings.”

Lucina stood wither arms crossed, waiting patiently for Morgan near the supply wagons as she came running up, doubling over and panting when she reached the other woman.

“Are… you… ready to… go?” Morgan panted.

“Are you?” Lucina chuckled. “You look like you’re about to pass out. Where are we going, anyway?”

Morgan straightened, her heartbeat finally slowing.

“We’re going shopping!” she exclaimed with a grin as she held up Robin’s bag of coins, jiggling it and making a very satisfying clinking noise.

Lucina and Morgan wandered through the shopping district of Port Ferox, looking into each shop and chatting, just unwinding and having fun.

In the week that she had known her, Morgan had never once seen Lucina relax. She’d seen her rest, but never truly unwind and let loose, something that mystified the tactician-in-training. Father had explained that she felt solely responsible for ensuring that the world didn’t, in a word, end.

He had also explained that it was now their mission, as a father-daughter-duo, to ensure that she loosened up a little.

So Morgan had come up with the plan to go shopping and get something to eat. It sounded like fun to her.

But Lucina seemed pretty put off by the way people just… existed around her. Plus she looked pretty strange in her cape and armour wandering around boutiques with Morgan; not that Morgan could talk, wandering around the town in a man’s coat a size too big for her.

Morgan was prepared to label her efforts as a failure until Lucina spoke up as they walked into yet another small store.

“Thank you for this, Morgan,” Lucina said as they browsed the racks of clothing.

Morgan smiled as she waved off the Princess’ thanks.

“It’s nothing, really. I was actually starting to think you weren’t having fun.”

“It’s not that I’m not having fun,” Lucina admitted. “It’s just that, well… I’ve never done something this frivolous before. I will admit to fantasizing about this kind of simple pleasure in our future. It’s really very enjoyable and relaxing, though; everything I always hoped it would be.”

Morgan grinned as she looked closer at a flowing purple skirt.

“Well it’s not like I can remember ever doing this,” she admitted, deciding that she wanted the skirt and laying it over her arm.

And now I just need a cute top to match, she thought, looking around the store.

Her search was distracted when she heard Lucina gasp from behind her, leaning deeply into a rack of colourful dresses.

Lucina emerged triumphantly, holding the gaudiest looking sun-dress Morgan had ever seen in her life. All seven days that she could remember, anyway.

Fluorescent colours clashed horribly beneath large pink polka-dots, but Lucina looked at it with unabashed wonder in her eyes.

“This… this is…” she stammered, looking at the dress.

A horrible sin against nature? Morgan thought as she flinched away from the mess in the shape of a dress.

“This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!” Lucina gushed excitedly. “It’s gorgeous!”

Morgan’s brow quirked, but she kept her mouth closed. She had never seen Lucina excited like this before, and it made Morgan happy to see her friend behaving like a normal girl. Or at least what Morgan approximated as a normal girl. Try as she might, she couldn’t bring herself to tell the girl not to buy it.

Lucina turned sombre, looking longingly down at the dress in her hands.

“But I have no money for such a frivolous purchase,” she lamented, moving to put it back.

Morgan reached out, stopping her. “I’m sure Father wouldn’t mind purchasing such a… unique piece of clothing, especially considering it makes you so happy.”

“Really?” Lucina asked hopefully.

Morgan grinned and winked. “As long as you help me find a top to match this skirt I don’t see why not.”

Robin looked up from his spellbook again as his tent flaps swished open, revealing his daughter with a gigantic smile on her face.

“Hello father!” she said happily, wrapping her arms around his neck in a tight hug.

“How was your day?” Robin asked once she had withdrawn.

“It was so perfect!” Morgan said, twirling happily. “I don’t remember ever having so much fun! Plus Lucina and I even got new outfits! I’m going to wear mine to dinner tonight!”

Robin nodded, looking at his daughter and dreading the answer to the question he was about to ask.

“How much of my savings did you spend, anyway?”

Morgan stopped to think for a moment.

“With the clothes and our afternoon snack I think I spent about… two silver?”

Robin sagged with relief. He should have known he could trust his daughter not to go overboard, but stereotypes were hard to overcome.

Robin reached out, taking the little purse back and tucking it safely into his coat.

“Just let me know if you need any more,” he said, turning and picking up the wrapped object sitting on the floor of the tent next to his table.

“Here,” he added, handing it to Morgan.

His daughter squealed with delight, tearing at the thin brown paper.

“Dad, this is…” she trailed off, eyes going wide.

“An empty spellbook,” he finished for her. “You can start adding spells to it as soon as you’re ready.”

In her hands was a black leather-bound tome, roughly the size of Robin’s, but of a much higher quality. The pages were thicker, too; he had accidentally torn the pages of his own a couple of times now.

Morgan looked up excitedly, reaching past Robin to grab one of his spare pens and seating herself on the ground next to his desk.

“I’m ready now!” she said, opening the book and beginning to transcribe simple spells from memory.

Robin chuckled as he returned to his own work.

Robin had to admit, his daughter had fine taste in clothing.

Her new outfit looked good on her as they walked to the mess tent together that evening. The calf-length purple skirt matched her boots and the dark vest she was wearing, while she had pinned her shoulder length brown hair back from her face close to her head. She almost looked like a completely different person.

The illusion was broken, however, when she had thrown her coat over top of her new outfit. Not that he could really judge her; it was a fine, fine coat after all.

Robin could honestly say he had never seen someone so carefree as she practically skipped alongside him. Her good cheer was infectious, and Robin soon found himself smiling along with her.

They entered the mess tent, where food was piled high on every table. One of the good things about being stationed inside a town was the fact that there were proper facilities, and that night’s dinner was testimony to this. Roast meat and vegetables were in dishes in the centre of each table; fresh bread and cheese, butter and jugs of water and wine had been distributed around the dishes.

Lissa and Lon’qu were already at one table, and the blonde girl waved the pair over enthusiastically.

“You’re looking mighty happy today,” Lissa chirped as Robin and Morgan took their seats at the table.

“It was a good day,” Robin said with a shrug, trying to supress his grin and failing miserably while he poured himself a cup of water.

I think I might skip the wine tonight, he thought, sipping at his water.

“We should all enjoy the peace while we can,” Lon’qu pointed out, squirming in his seat a little as Morgan looked at him. “After all, the boats are supposed to arrive soon.”

Robin nodded, heaping the roast food onto two plates before passing one to Morgan.

“Let’s just hope that the others get back first then,” Robin commented.

“I like your new outfit, Morgan,” Lissa said conversationally as the four began to eat. “It’s very pretty.”

Morgan smiled shyly. “Thank you, milady. I bought it today from the market with Princess Lucina.”

“You can drop the formalities,” Lissa said with a laugh. “Robin’s practically like family; that means you are, too!”

Morgan nodded as she crammed an entire bread roll into her mouth, making Lissa giggle.

Aaaaaand the formalities are gone, Robin thought, watching his daughter choke down the roll.

“Of course,” Morgan agreed, forcing the roll down. “So what did you get up to today?”

Lon’qu shrugged, obviously content to let his wife do the talking.

“We got some training in,” Lissa said. “Then we went and helped with the civilians who are planning to seek refuge elsewhere. It’s just making sure they have enough supplies and are healthy enough for the journey, but it’s satisfying work.”

Morgan nodded. “Maybe I can help tomorrow?”

Lissa beamed at the girl’s offer, agreeing and beginning to go into further details for the following day’s plans, Morgan listening intently.

Robin looked up as Chrom and his family entered, doing a double-take when he saw Lucina. He would have laughed at anyone else wearing such a ridiculous dress, but the pained looks on Chrom and Sumia’s faces made him hold his breath, bite his tongue and discretely stab himself in the leg with his fork to stifle his laughter.

Fortunately the majority of the Shepherds were either still attending to duties this early or else still in the field with the various missions Robin had given them.

Sully was very obviously trying not to laugh while Kjelle shook her head, looking at her friend with sympathy in her eyes. Libra’s facial expression barely changed as he went right back to eating, grinning a little to himself while Olivia looked very confused next to him. Gaius used the opportunity to steal her dessert right off her plate, but snickered quietly to himself as he sat back down next to Panne, who was probably the only one in the tent not bothered by the gaudy, clashing colours. Virion did his own double take, eyes wide as he looked back down at his plate, studiously avoiding staring at the Princess. Lon’qu merely raised an eyebrow, which was still the most facial expression Robin had seen from the man all week, while Lissa snorted, desperately trying not to burst into laughter as she covered her mouth with both hands.

Robin heard Morgan groan “Oh gods I can’t believe she actually wore it,” from next to him as she blushed slightly.

“Good evening everyone,” Chrom said stiffly, sitting down at the head of the table, Sumia silently sitting down next to him beside Lissa.

Lucina sat next to Robin, cheerfully oblivious to everyone else’s behaviour and reactions to her dress. The dress was a sleeveless blue, yellow, green and orange sun dress that accentuated her figure nicely; not that Robin could stand to look at it long enough to enjoy that fact. A bright pink ribbon around the middle, tied in a little bow around the back completed the look. Look being a word Robin used very, very lightly.

“Good evening,” she said to the table as she reached for a plate.

At least Robin could admire her bare, toned arms he thought, until his gaze travelled to far up and back to the dress…

“Evening,” Robin responded shortly, rubbing at the spot on his leg he had been forced to stab. “I… ah… like your dress?”

The comment came out sounding more like a question, but Lucina beamed anyway, glancing down at it.

“Thank you Robin. I initially acquired it thinking mother might wear it, but it was not to her taste. I thought ‘waste not, want not’, and fortunately it fit!”

I can’t imagine why Sumia wouldn’t want to wear it, Robin thought, nodding silently as he tried not to stare at the polka-dotted monstrosity, reminding himself that the woman wearing it was his friend.

Conversation picked up around the table again, Chrom and Sumia joining in with Morgan and Lissa’s talk of refugees while Robin sat in comfortable silence.

At one point he had to slap at Gaius’ hand as the skinny thief went for his cookies, but the ginger-haired man took a hint and slunk away in defeat, grinning and whispering “next time” in Robin’s ear as he did.

“Not bloody likely,” Robin muttered back, grinning himself.

“I suppose I should thank you,” Lucina said quietly to Robin as everyone else was engrossed in their conversation.

Robin looked up questioningly from guarding his cookies until he finished his main meal.

“This dress,” she explained. “Morgan offered to buy it for me.”

Robin nodded, understanding what she meant. “Please. Don’t thank me.”

Really. Don’t thank me for that, Robin thought with an internal grimace as he outwardly smiled. I shall have to have words with Morgan over not stopping you, though.

“I know it’s… unusual,” Lucina said, searching for the right word. “But in my future many were reduced to wearing little more than rags. I spent all of my time in my armour, day after day. It is nice to own a piece of clothing that’s purpose is not to keep me alive in combat.”

Although that dress might prove adept at that purpose, Robin thought, hiding his grin by taking a swig from his glass. The enemy would take one look and run as far away as they could. That or just become blinded by the colours.

“I’m glad you like it, then. And I accept your thanks,” Robin said instead. “At least you… er… pull off the look well.”

Lucina smiled shyly at Robin’s comment, looking down at her plate as she picked at her food.

Robin had to resist the urge to shake his head.

“Just… promise to go shopping with your mother instead next time,” Robin pleaded. “I’m sure she’d love the chance to spend time with you.”

And the chance to stop you from repeating today’s mistake…

There was a great bustle outside the camp the next morning as Frederick, Cordelia and Stahl all arrived back, the Knights and Pegasus Knights that had accompanied them all making directly for their garrisons to take a well-deserved break.

Sully was the first one to welcome them back; or welcome Stahl back, anyway, as she pounced on the man lips-first before dragging him off to meet their future daughter.

Robin brought Morgan out to meet them with him, intent on introducing her to the two commanders.

Okay, showing her off, he mentally corrected himself as they strode up to where the stable where the two were storing their mounts.

Cordelia noticed Robin first, looking up and smiling brightly when she recognized the tactician, but having to do a double take when she saw Morgan.

Frederick frowned a little as Robin waved brightly to the duo, but that was nothing new wherever Robin was concerned.

“Good morning Knight Commander, Wing-Commander,” Robin said brightly, shaking Frederick’s hand and giving Cordelia a light hug. “I’d like you to meet my daughter from the future; Morgan.”

Morgan stepped forward, shaking both of the Knights’ hands eagerly.

“It’s nice to meet you both,” she said enthusiastically.

Frederick nodded, returning a terse greeting before begging his leave, no doubt heading straight for Chrom’s command tent.

Cordelia smiled brightly at Morgan. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Morgan.”

Robin’s next words were cut off as Panne rushed past him, going right up to Cordelia.

“Man-spawn!” she said urgently. “You will tell me why you smell of another Taguel and you will tell me now!”

Cordelia hesitated a moment, not knowing how to respond before grinning a little.

“I sent him to the mess tent to get some… food.”

Panne was off and running again before Cordelia had even finished speaking. Robin spotted Gaius racing after her from across the empty space in the middle of the camp, altering his direction and heading for the mess tent, too.

“We should head over there, too,” Cordelia said. “There are a couple of people I think you should meet.”

Robin watched, trying not to laugh as Panne circled one of the new arrivals, sniffing at him intently. The young man, another Taguel wearing leather gear similar to Panne’s, shifted uncomfortably as she did, flinching every time she came close to touching him.

“Geez, just look at the ring already!” he cried as she got a little too close to him, backing up and holding out a small golden ring, an exact double of the one Gaius had hand-made currently sitting on Panne’s finger.

“I get one too?” Gaius asked, looking at the young Taguel unbelieving with wide eyes.

The Taguel in question, Yarne, shifted to look at his father and grinned a little sheepishly.

“Yeah, dad,” he said after a moment. “It’s… ah… good to see you again.”

Robin smiled a little as he turned to face the other new arrival, letting Panne and Gaius greet their son without an audience.

“I’m the Shepherds’ tactician, Robin. And you would be…?” Robin prompted the girl, already having a good idea from the way Cordelia kept smiling at her.

“Severa,” she said shortly, glowering at Robin.

She looked almost exactly like her mother, including the long saffron hair. But where Cordelia let hers flow naturally, Severa had tied hers up in long twin-tails. She was also wearing a combination of dark leather and bare steel armours and a long-sword at her hip. Also, Robin had yet to see her face shift anywhere near the easy smile Cordelia usually wore off-duty.

She crossed her arms and huffed as Cordelia beamed at her, before her eyes settled on Morgan and widened, her face changing from irritated to shocked.

“Morgan!?” she exclaimed, shoving Robin bodily out of the way to get to his daughter and gripping her by the shoulders. “Is it really…? Yarne! Yarne, it’s Morgan!”

Yarne looked over from where his mother was still sniffing at him, his own eyes widening.

“Morgan!?” he exclaimed, crossing the room and wrapping both her and Severa in a tight hug, smiling and laughing happily.

“Not me, you moron!” Severa shouted, flailing and trying to get loose as Yarne hugged them both.

Morgan laughed as Yarne released the girls and Severa smacked him upside his head.

“It’s nice to meet you both, but I need to warn you right now I’ve got no memories. Total amnesia. All I remember from more than a week ago is my father and my name.” She said apologetically.

Yarne frowned as he stepped back. “But it’s you! I can tell; you smell exactly the same!”

Severa’s reaction was much more animated.

“Oh that is so typically Morgan!” she shouted, throwing her hands in the air. “I guess we weren’t important enough for you to remember, huh!?”

“I’m sorry,” Morgan said with a slight frown. “I’m sure you were just as important to me as I was to you. Hey, I have an idea! Let’s go find Noire and Kjelle! I’m sure they’d love to see you, too! Come on!”

Any protests Severa might have made died on her lips as Morgan grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the open tent in the direction of the training ground.

“Wait for me!” Yarne called, chasing after them.

Panne’s nose twitched before she took off after her son, Gaius shrugging apologetically as he followed her.

Robin looked at Cordelia, now the only other person in the tent with him.

“That was…” he struggled for the right word. “Interesting.”

Cordelia sighed and sat at one of the long benches.

“I know, I know,” she said. “Severa’s been difficult since we found her. I think she’s just hiding her emotions after losing both her father and myself once already. At least I hope that’s it…”

A thought occurred to Robin.

“Who is her father?” he asked curiously, sitting at the bench opposite Cordelia, his back to the table as her rested his elbows on it.

Cordelia sighed. “I don’t know. She won’t tell me. For all I know it could be you.”

Robin’s brow quirked faster and higher than it ever had before.

“I jest,” she laughed, seeing his expression. “I think she doesn’t want to interfere with the timeline in case she somehow alters events.”

Robin barked a quick laugh. “She may as well not bother. I’ve been messing with the timeline since my first conversation with Lucina. Plus, and lets face facts here, simply by being here all of those kids are messing with the natural order of things. For instance, did you know that I was supposed to pursue a military career rather than wander around a frozen forest, a tropical island and a desert for two years?”

Cordelia nodded, thinking.

“I think I’d rather still not know,” she said. “It would ruin the fun of getting to fall in love.”

Robin chuckled. “You know Virion said the exact same thing?”

They laughed together for a time before Robin stood, offering a hand to help Cordelia up.

“As much as I’d like to sit and talk all day, the tactician in me cries out for a proper debriefing. Let’s go find Chrom and Frederick and get this over with.”

Cordelia nodded her agreement, stretching her tired muscles a little before she followed Robin in the direction of Chrom’s command post.

“So that’s basically everything I remember,” Morgan said, finishing her very short life-story and still leading Severa by the hand to the training ground.

“Okay, great!” Severa said harshly. “Now please stop dragging me!”

Morgan stopped and let Severa’s hand go.

“Sorry,” she said. “I guess I got a little carried away.”

Severa huffed, straightening her top and giving Morgan a haughty glare as Yarne caught up, doubling over and panting, his ears flopping forward over his face.

“Geez Morgan… you move… really fast…” he panted, casting a glance over his shoulder, searching for his now absent mother.

Watching the two, giant, soft and fluffy looking ears flop around with his every movement made something inside Morgan snap.

“Bunny!” she exploded, pouncing on Yarne and grabbing at his ears.

“Waugh!” Yarne shouted, recoiling but not getting away from Morgan’s already tight hold on him.

“Oh look at these ears! So soft and adorable!” she squealed, rubbing her hands all along the length of his ears and not being entirely sure why she was doing it.

Severa just stood silently, ignoring Yarne’s pleading look and laughing into her hand.

“Quit pulling you maniac! You’ll tear them clean off!”

“Aw, I’m just touching them!”

“It hurts, though! It hurts! It huuuuuuurts!”

Morgan squealed again. “Even your wince and tiny tears of pain are adorable!”

“Gah! Severa, get her off of me!” Yarne pleaded. “I’m an endangered species here! Be gentle!”

“Aw, no need to be shy,” Morgan cooed, rubbing her face against the downy softness of Yarne’s ears. “I'll make sure nothing's permanently damaged.”

“I think you’re permanently damaged!” Yarne yelped, finally freeing himself of her hold. “Hands of the merchandise already! What’s up with you? You haven’t done that since we were kids!”

Severa lost her battle to hide her laughter, the loud mirthful sounds exploding past her hand as she doubled over.

“I don’t even remember you,” Morgan explained. “But just looking at your ears makes me wanna cuddle them, Bunny!”

“Can you please just take us to Noire and Kjelle?” Yarne pleaded, positioning Severa between himself and Morgan. “Please?”

Morgan was sitting at a table in the mess tent with Severa, Yarne, Noire and Kjelle, looking around at the others as they laughed and caught up, telling stories about the time they had been separated.

She didn’t feel left out; even though she was sitting silently watching the others talk. It was fun to observe the other ‘future children’ as they had started being called around the camp just relaxing and chatting. Usually Noire and Kjelle were so grim. It was kind of sad.

Morgan noticed Noire shooting her a dirty look again, and smiled sheepishly, recalling the amulet still sitting under her collar.

Should I give it back? Morgan wondered as Kjelle burst into laughter at something Severa had said. Something tells me I don’t want to disappoint Tharja, though…

“Where’s the Princess?” Yarne asked, looking around again. “She’s here too, right?”

He sure was twitchy; his eyes hadn’t looked at the same thing for more than a few seconds since he sat down, and he was constantly shifting in his seat, trying to see behind him. Fortunately his mother still hadn’t taken him away, giving Morgan all the time she needed to go after his ears again.

“She’ll be in a war council with the others right now,” Morgan said, eying Yarne’s ears.

“And what, we’re not good enough to join in the war council?” Severa asked bitterly, glowering at anyone who looked her way.

Morgan had yet to see her smile; even when she was laughing at her antics with Yarne earlier she had hidden her mouth with her hand. Morgan made a mental note to make the other girl laugh again at some point to view the results.

“It’s just a debriefing,” Kjelle said, sipping from a cup of water. “If it was a real council Morgan would be there.”

Morgan wilted under Severa’s glare. “I can get you in to the next one if it bothers you that much.”

Severa just huffed again, turning away and crossing her arms.

“I wonder if the others are out there somewhere, too,” Noire mumbled, looking down at the table.

“How many others travelled through time, anyway?” Morgan asked.

“Not including us already in the camp there’s eight more,” Kjelle said. “But I’m still curious how you got here. You weren’t at Mount Prism with us when the spell was cast, so how did you get back here?”

Morgan shrugged as everyone turned to look at her.

“Amnesia?” she reminded them, pointing to her head. “I have no idea. Fate brought me here, I guess.”

Severa narrowed her eyes while Yarne nervously shifted away from the two women.

The awkward atmosphere that was building was dispelled instantly when Yarne yelped, being dragged backwards off his seat by the scruff of his neck.

“You will come with me now,” Panne growled, dragging him away.

“Oh gods, somebody help me!” Yarne screeched, trying to break his mother’s iron grip.

Morgan laughed at the absurdity of the situation, the other three women at the table joining in.

“Bye-bye Bunny!” she called, waving at him. “Have fun with family time!”

We’re in the same camp now, she thought. His ears will never escape me!

Robin ran a hand through his hair as he walked away from the command post, a small pile of books and scrolls under his arm.

They were officially ready to go. The ships would start boarding the next day; the Shepherds, all of them, would be travelling on the Plegian flagship Dragon’s Claw. They weren’t boarding first, though; a few smaller skiffs would be set up first to relieve the force that had been patrolling the harbour, giving the Feroxi mariners that had been constantly watching the waters a chance to rest.

Robin silently hoped that Gregor’s team would be back in time. They were supposed to return that night or early the next morning.

I don’t feel like going through these stupid notes in my tent, Robin thought irritatedly, looking up at the clear blue sky. Maybe I’ll find a nice shady spot under a tree or something.

His thoughts were distracted when Panne, dragging Yarne by the scruff of the neck, crossed his path.

“Heeeeeeelp meeeeeeeeee!” Yarne pleaded as his mother dragged him past Robin’s field of view.

I am not getting caught up in that, Robin thought, leaving the boy to whatever his mother had in mind.

It was interesting, Robin thought, that even though the future children they had found were all the same age as the rest of the majority of the Shepherds, he still thought of them as children; Morgan especially.

But I don’t think of Lucina that way, Robin reasoned. Maybe it just takes some getting used to having them around.

Robin turned, his thoughts interrupted when he heard Chrom calling his name, instantly thinking he’d forgotten something at the command post.

“Quick, keep moving,” the Prince muttered, dragging him forward as he kept walking. “I managed to ditch Frederick but we have to leave now.”

“Where are we going?” Robin asked, grinning as he matched Chrom’s pace.

“Somewhere with ale,” Chrom answered with a grin of his own.

Chrom and Robin both slammed their mugs down on the tabletop, sighing contentedly and signalling for the serving girl to bring them another round.

“Gods, I needed this,” Chrom sighed, reclining in his chair and letting his head loll backwards.

Chrom had led Robin to one of the smaller ale houses still open near the docks, its interior was hazy and dark, but once Robin’s eyesight adjusted he’d been able to tell it was clean enough for him to relax a little.

“I feel like all I’ve done since you left is paperwork,” Chrom complained, perking up as the serving girl brought their second round of drinks to the table.

“Really?” Robin asked, sinking lower into his chair comfortably as he began to relax a little, too. “Because in the month I was gone I got nothing but awkward personal situations. I kinda started to miss the paperwork.”

“I did notice that Tharja was following you around less,” Chrom pointed out. “You finally let her down, eh?”

Robin rolled his eyes.

“We were never an item,” he said. “But Noire being someone else’s daughter was kind of a shock to her system.”

“Well, your daughter seems to have some serious skill with a blade,” Chrom said, unconsciously reaching up to rub his neck where she had held her sword.

“Yeah, I heard she beat you yesterday morning,” Robin goaded.

“Tied me,” Chrom corrected. “We tied. Then I taught her that little trick you always fall for.”

Robin groaned, glaring at his friend.

“It’s not bad enough you always beat me with it, but now you’ve made it so she can too? I thought you were my friend!”

“Friends help friends grow!” Chrom laughed, leaning back and taking a long sip from his mug.

When he lowered the ceramic mug Robin burst out laughing; the Prince of Ylisse had an ale moustache.

“Don’t wipe it away,” Robin teased, still laughing as Chrom desperately tried to wipe the ale froth away on his sleeve. “It’s a good look for you!”

Robin and Chrom both laughed a little, before trailing off and sitting in comfortable silence, thinking their own thoughts, occasionally sipping from their respective mugs.

“Tomorrow the real war begins,” Chrom said with a sigh.

“No,” Robin corrected him, “Tomorrow we board a boat for two months. Have you been on a boat-ride that long before? It’s exceedingly unpleasant.”

Chrom chuckled. “You know what I mean.”

“I do,” Robin agreed. “But you were bringing me down. Why worry about the problems of tomorrow today when they can wait until… uh, tomorrow?”

Damn my weak constitution! Robin thought, glaring at the ale that had betrayed him so.

Chrom laughed and raised his mug.

“To waiting until tomorrow!”

Robin echoed his toast, clinking the rim of his mug against Chrom’s.

The war could wait for them to have a few more ales, at the very least.

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