Robin stared blankly at the sheets of paper in front of him; reports mostly, some tactical manuals opened and propped up so he could see key elements for their assault on Steiger, a few troop rosters for the regiments that had taken higher casualties than the others and were being rotated off the front lines.
He stared at them and all he could see in his mind's eye was Morgan kneeling over her friend's body.
Robin ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head and forcing himself to focus. A small command tent had been set up in the aftermath of the battle, one which was completely empty save for the frazzled tactician and his piles of work. Chrom had come and gone, apologizing for the amount of work Robin was expected to do. Frederick had been, too, his armour looking freshly forged it was still gleaming so brightly as he dropped off the troop rosters.
The guy wasn't a Shepherd, Robin reminded himself, leaning back in his chair and thinking of the day's casualties.
Lari had been an excellent tracker and a fine leader, but he wasn't a Shepherd, he was just a guy his daughter had gotten along with and that the Shepherds had worked with on occasion; he hadn't broken his promise to Lucina that no one else would die, but he had still couldn't shake the feeling that he had failed in his duty today.
It had been the first time Morgan had lost soldiers under her command. It had been the first time she had lost a friend.
The guy wasn't even a Shepherd, Robin reasoned again, running a hand down his face. We performed adequately on the field today and managed to keep casualties to a minimum. Soldiers die during wars. Why is this bugging me so much?
"One word; Morgan."
Robin groaned and thumped his head forward onto the table. The voice in his head was right; he couldn't stop thinking about Morgan.
She had been crushed, clinging to Say'ri the entire way back to the little forward operations base that had been set up. As far as he knew she was in the medical tent having some minor wounds looked at, and all he wanted to do was check and make sure she was okay. But with Morgan down there was literally no one else to make sure the plans were up to date. Virion could maybe handle the smaller stuff once Robin took care of the major planning, but the way the archer had looked at him after he had almost executed the scout-captain…
Robin shook his head again.
He had to ensure that the forces remaining outside were properly positioned, taking into account the casualties from the previous battle; he had to make sure that the distraction force led by Duke Roark, who would be assaulting the Fortress' front was properly equipped and prepared for the overwhelming odds they would face while the Shepherds snuck in the back.
And then there were the Shepherds; splitting such a small unit into three separate squads had really been the last thing that Robin had wanted. In the end the Shepherds that also belonged to the Knight Orders or military groups would be joining them on foot for the assault; Frederick, Sully, Stahl, Cordelia, Sumia and Cherche were all leaving their mounts out with Olivia and Jake at the forward base to join the assault.
Cherche wasn't impressed, and neither was her wyvern Minerva, but they simply didn't have the numbers to assault the fortress without either using members of the regular army to fill the ranks or calling in the rest of the Shepherds, and there was no way Robin would be using the regular army for such a sensitive mission until he had done a thorough investigation into morale levels and unit discipline.
After all, it was his fault that the battle had progressed the way it had; Liung's front-line squads had morale levels similar to the Ylisseans, and the Feroxi were as unshakeable as always, but so many of the lighter support units were being filled out with more of Liung's Valmese men, mostly untrained recruits and conscripts with low morale, like the scouts that had gone with Morgan and her team.
Robin groaned again as his train of thought circled back to his current subject of woe.
This is driving me nuts, he thought bitterly.
Liung had offered to execute the scout-captain and his men for their cowardice, but Chrom, true to form, had opposed the idea and requested that they be moved to the front-lines under one of the stricter regiment leaders to whip them into shape. In a funny twist of fate they had been assigned by Frederick to one of the other Feroxi Tracking regiments for retraining, led by Lari's uncle of all people.
Intellectually Robin agreed with Chrom; they could hardly afford to lose that many men. Emotionally, Robin wanted to tear Lee's stupid little moustache off and beat the man to death with it.
"So do it," the voice pressed. "Live a little. The skinny little bastard nearly killed your daughter, and you're going to let him get away with it?"
I'm not a murderer, Robin told the voice sternly.
"But you are a soldier," the voice pressed. "You kill all the time, and you're quite good at it. Go on; exercise some of the authority Chrom's trusted you with. You have power for a reason."
"I'm not listening to you…" Robin muttered, closing his eyes tight.
"I'm not even telling you to kill all of them. Just him. Just the idiot that told them to escape at the cost of the lives of so many others," the voice persisted in a low, seductive tone.
"It's not murder. It's justice."
No matter what he did lately he couldn't get the voice to shut up. Before he could quash it by thinking of something else; hell, he had even imagined physically assaulting it in his mind to make it quiet sometimes, but lately he couldn't seem to make it stop. All he could do was ignore it, and even that was getting harder and harder. Moments like today, when he had lost control and nearly executed Lee were becoming more and more commonplace. It was getting harder and harder to fight it.
His internal conflict was interrupted when the flap of the tent was flung open and a very confused looking Virion was shoved into the tent, a glowering Severa hot on his heels.
The red-head glared down at Robin with the wrath of gods in her eyes.
"You," she said to Robin. "Medical tent. Now."
"You," she said, rounding on Virion. "Sit. Finish his paperwork; I know you can."
Virion looked questioningly at Robin, who shrugged in reply. A brief moment of understanding passed between the men as their eyes locked. Virion winked and Robin almost sighed with relief; the dandy archer still had his back.
"Severa, this is important work, and-" Robin began, turning back before the irate girl cut him off by slamming her hands on the table, and papers, in front of him.
"And your daughter is practically catatonic in the medical tent waiting for you!"
A vein above Robin's brow twitched.
"Ouch. Score one for the red-head."
"Just go," Virion said with a theatrical sigh. "I can tell you've done all but the most tedious of tasks; go and play father rather than tactician for a change."
Robin glanced back down at the papers through Severa's splayed fingers; his reshuffling was indeed almost done thanks to his ability to work on auto-pilot, but he really wanted to go over the order for the Shepherds' assault one last time, and…
"Oh no you don't!" Severa practically shouted, hauling the tactician up from his seat by the back of his coat.
"I know that look! No more work! You go and you comfort your daughter right now, mister!"
Robin made a strangled gagging noise as he was dragged from the tent, Virion laughing and waving as he settled in to finish the task of which Feroxi squads would be outriders for the scouting parties checking the surrounding roads.
"Okay, okay!" Robin pleaded, almost losing his footing. "I'm coming already, stop with the dragging!"
"You're just as bad as my mother," Severa growled, ignoring Robin and continuing to pull him along. "Naga forbid either one of you comes to check up on your children after they both almost die!"
"Hey, that's hardly fair," Robin said, digging in his heels and yanking his coat free. "Lives rest on the actions that your mother and I take; a lot more lives than just you and Morgan. I'm sure you're just as important to your mother as Morgan is to me, but neither of us can shirk our duties that easily, and you're both meant to be soldiers, too."
Severa faced away from Robin as he spoke, taking a few more steps before coming to a halt, her shoulders going rigid and shaking a few times.
And now I've pushed too far.
A paternal instinct Robin didn't know he possessed until very recently took over, and he crossed the distance, wrapping an arm around the red-head's shoulders.
"That being said, sometimes it takes a… forceful personality to remind us what's important."
Severa glanced up at Robin, a look half-way between irritation and gratitude on her features, her eyes wet with unshed tears of frustration.
"Your mother has also been known to allow me to use her like a walking stick," Robin said, burying his own feelings and grinning as he leaned heavier on the slight girl's shoulders.
"To the medical tent!" he shouted theatrically, brandishing his hand in the direction of their destination as Severa stumbled forward a step.
"Alright, get off!" she shouted, slipping out from under Robin's arm and letting him fall to the ground in a cloud of dust.
Robin could have sworn, for just a second, he had heard Severa giggling and seen her smiling a little as he had fallen.
Oh gods I'm not her father, right!? The tactician thought with a jolt of panic as she grinned back at him over her shoulder.
"Would that really be such a bad thing?" the voice asked slyly. "Cordelia's a very attractive woman, and I know for a fact you've thought about it in the past."
"What are you doing?" Severa asked in her usual impatient tone, her usually severe expression returning much softer than it usually was.
Robin glanced up, hastily planting the grin back on his face as he climbed back to his feet.
Great. One more problem to add to the list. Focus on Morgan first. Unknown parentage later.
Morgan heaved a sigh as Princess Lissa ran her healing staff up and down over the girl's torso again.
"It's just a few bruises, Lissa," Morgan complained from the bench she was laying on, ignoring the painful twinge in her side as she spoke.
"So sit up," Lissa said, stepping back to give her space.
Morgan attempted to do so, hissing in pain and falling back down, clutching her side.
"It's not bruises, you have three broken ribs," Lissa explained, setting about healing again. "Nothing major, but if you don't let me work, you'll be benched for the assault."
That was the absolute last thing Morgan wanted; which was why she had agreed to allow Lissa to perform an inspection of her wounds and then treat them, rather than rush off and help her father with planning like she had wanted to. True, on the walk back to camp she had been forced to lean on her mother to walk… She had even agreed to strip and wear the ridiculous white sheet so that Lissa wouldn't miss anything in her healing… just looking at her coat across the room rather than in its proper place on her back made her anxious.
If she was planning, if she was doing something rather than simply sitting and waiting for Lissa to finish, she wouldn't think about…
Focus, Morgan told herself sternly. Father wouldn't go to pieces like that. It's bad enough you broke down on the field like a child. Get a grip! You can mourn later; Dad needs you to be strong right now. Tactics; think tactics. How are we going to assault the fortress? Go over the plans in your mind again. If you come up with anything new, make a note and tell Dad about it.
Say'ri, her newly-discovered mother, shifted in the chair next to the bench.
Her mother, whom she had absolutely no memory of and was desperately happy to finally have found, was in the chair next to her bench, looking on worriedly, and she was sitting there thinking about her father.
"I said I'm fine," Morgan said, smiling at the other woman and doing her best not to feel guilty about fixating on how she would rather have been planning with her father.
Say'ri smiled back before looking away awkwardly.
They were both in uncharted territory with their relationship; any memories that Morgan had, no matter how fragmented, were of her father and her 'aunt' Tharja. She had absolutely no idea how to act around her mother, let alone how to talk to the woman, especially after how traumatic the revelation had been for her.
Great, now I have to try not to relate finding out who my mother is to my greatest failure to date. That's just wonderful.
Morgan clicked her tongue a few times in frustrated boredom as the healing magic knitted her damaged flesh back together. She let out a hiss as one of the ribs shifted back into its proper position, magic securing it and forcing the bone to heal. Serious wounds like this were never pleasant to have healed magically.
"Where is she!?" Morgan heard shouted from outside the small partitioned area, interrupting her thoughts on the order of the assault for the 'dagger' team.
Libra, the other healer on duty who was currently tending to a stab-wound that Yarne had gotten, said something that Morgan couldn't hear before her father burst through the curtains.
"Morgan!" he said, practically throwing Lissa out of his path as he rushed to her side.
"Dad, I'm fine!" she gasped as he pulled her into a hug and disrupting the sheet covering her.
Well, the broken ribs didn't make me pass out when he moved me; apparently Lissa works fast, they must already be nearly healed.
"Idiot!" Say'ri said, pulling Robin off of her and smacking him in the back of the head. "You simply rush in and start moving the wounded around!? What manner of tactician does that!? And what of your daughter's modesty!? Have you no shame, sir!?"
Robin stepped back, looking down at Morgan, desperately trying to cover herself again, as a bright blush spread out on both of their faces. They stood like that, frozen in the awkward atmosphere a few seconds, simply blinking at each other before something in Robin's head seemed to click.
"Oh gods, I'm so sorry, Morgan!" he said hurriedly, panicking and rushing back out of the small space.
Lissa burst out laughing so hard that she almost dropped her staff, wiping tears from her eyes as she doubled over.
Morgan blushed just as bright as her father had been, clutching the sheet even tighter around her body.
"That was an encounter I could have lived without," she mumbled, lying back down as Lissa attempted to stop laughing long enough to finish the healing.
As Morgan tried to relax and let the Princess do her job she watched her mother scowl at the curtains that her father was no doubt waiting behind. It wasn't just a look of annoyance, though; it was one of down-right hostility.
But… they're my parents, right? Morgan wondered, gasping as there was a light pop in her side, marking the last rib repositioning itself beneath her bruised skin.
They have to be together. Right?
Robin leaned against one of the empty benches in the medical tent as the three other occupants snickered at him, beet-red face buried in one hand while the other clenched aimlessly at his hip.
Yarne and Libra were at least trying not to laugh at him, while Severa was openly mocking him.
"You are such a dolt," she laughed, reclining on the bench next to him.
"You couldn't have said 'hey, it might be a good idea to knock first'?"
"I do recall saying that," Libra said from across the tent.
Robin just groaned again, shaking his head without looking up.
I really am a dolt, aren't I?
"Yup. No arguments here. Did you see the way the Princess was looking at you? She wants your blood, man."
No she doesn't. We came to an understanding.
"Obviously you know nothing of women. She want's you dead."
A cold, mocking laugh echoed in Robin's head, making him twinge as pain blossomed behind his eyes.
"Sure I am. I'm exaggerating right up to the point she sticks a knife in your back while you're not looking."
She's… she's not like that. Is she?
"I don't know. You shared her bed, you tell me."
There was a commotion outside the medical tent in the ensuing silence, the clanking of armour getting closer and louder, interrupting Robin's thoughts, until Cordelia burst into the tent, her face as red as her hair and her eyes shining with unshed tears.
"Severa!" she called, pausing at the entrance for a moment before rushing forward to wrap her bewildered daughter in a tight hug.
"I heard about what happened!" Cordelia sobbed. "Thank the gods you're okay!"
"M-mother!?" Severa stammered into her mother's armoured shoulder, utterly shocked.
"To think I almost lost you today!" Cordelia said, pulling back from her daughter and staring fiercely at Robin. "I insist on the two of us being put on the same assault team! I will not have a repeat of today's debacle."
"Righto, Wing-Commander," Robin drolled with a grin. "It's a good thing I already thought of that, huh?"
Cordelia nodded, her stony expression softening as she turned back to Severa, stroking the younger woman's cheek.
"You're sure you're okay?"
Severa nodded mutely, her eyes still wide with shock.
"Thank you for dealing with the situation already," Cordelia said with a nod in Robin's direction. "That coward is lucky I was not there."
"You know, Tharja said something awfully similar."
"Okay," she said, looking back to Severa. "I have some last minute orders to give out. I'll meet with you again soon, and we can go over the assault plan together. I love you, dear."
Severa just nodded again, blinking a few times and looking confused as Cordelia left the tent.
"Well, if I knew it was that easy to shut you up…" Robin muttered with a smirk.
"Sh-shut up," Severa stammered, looking away and blushing a little.
One thing Robin had noticed about the girl was her obvious and glaring inferiority complex when compared to her mother. To be fair, Cordelia was one of the stars of the Ylissean Knighthood, an absolute genius in matters of war and battle, not to mention a natural beauty that Robin wasn't ashamed to admit he had been quite smitten by when they had first met. But Severa was every bit her mother's equal in every regard, except, of course, Robin being smitten with her. Seeing her reaction to Cordelia's love made Robin wonder what his friend had been like in the future that had made Severa so defensive about everything.
"Something I've been meaning to ask," Robin said quietly to Severa while Libra continued his ministrations on the Taguel in front of him. "Who is your father?"
Sever fidgeted uncomfortably for a moment at the unexpected question, a sight very rare on the usually confident and expressive girl.
Okay, loud and irritatingly stand-offish, but that's neither here nor there, Robin internally corrected himself.
"If I tell you, you can't interfere," Severa said seriously, turning to face Robin. "We all made a pact to interfere as little as possible in the past before we came back here, and I won't break it; I'm only telling you because I want to be even for the incident on the boat."
"You have my solemn vow," Robin said with a nod, heart thumping in his chest.
Don't say my name don't say my name don't say my name…
The girl took a deep, calming breath.
"My father is Frederick."
Robin's jaw hit the floor.
"Fr-" was as far as he got before a furious Severa clamped her hand over his mouth.
"Mouth. Shut," she hissed dangerously as Libra and Yarne glanced up curiously. "If he finds out he'll feel obligated to be with Mother, that's just the kind of man he was. Is. Whatever. I don't want to… I…"
"It's okay, I understand," Robin said, gently prying her hand off of his face as the shock wore off.
"I was actually starting to worry you were going to say my name," he added with a chuckle.
"Ew," Sever said, returning to the bench across from Robin.
"No, I just mean, you and Mother were close before you died," Severa explained with a trademark huff. "You were… almost like an Uncle to me after Father died. You… took over as interim Knight Commander for a time and I saw a lot of you while you worked with Mother. It's weird to think of you and… and…"
"Oh, gross!" she exploded suddenly, eyes wide as she went pale. "You didn't… with my Mother!? That's disgusting! I did not need to know that!"
"What!?" Robin said quickly. "What the hell are you on about!? Your mother and I are friends, dimwit, nothing more! Now lower your voice before I have to convince Morgan that you're not, in fact, her forgotten half-sister!"
"That's not even funny," Severa grumbled with disgust still evident on her face as she pouted and crossed her arms, glaring daggers at the tactician.
"How do you think I feel?" Robin asked, burying his face in his hands again and ignoring the questioning stares from Libra and Yarne.
No doubt Morgan, Lissa and Say'ri had heard the entire encounter. Robin cursed internally, realizing he didn't actually deny Severa's accusation so much as deflected it. And remembering that Lissa was the biggest gossip in the camp. And that Morgan was really impressionable. And that Say'ri…
"Oh, that's going to piss Say'ri off," the voice goaded.
For once, we are in agreement… Robin thought, groaning and massaging his temples.
More cold laughter bounced around in his head, giving him the mother of all headaches.
Morgan twitched a little as she leaned against the bench next to her father in the now empty medical tent. Libra had finished his ministrations on Yarne and volunteered to help heal the wounded soldiers, while the Taguel was no doubt off hiding somewhere in an attempt to stave off 'extinction' for another few hours. Severa had departed not long ago, saying something along the lines of checking up on Noire while she had the time, leaving Morgan sitting with her father while her mother was being treated for the smaller injuries she'd gotten.
The atmosphere between them was awkward and tense, but not because of what had transpired earlier; her father had just dropped a pretty big bombshell on her.
"So you and mother aren't…"
"Nope," her father answered with a sigh. "It's… complicated."
Morgan's brain kicked into overdrive. What could possibly come between two people meant to be together? It was fate that Robin and Say'ri got married and settled down together; the fact she was sitting right there proved it! Right?
"Can I ask why?" Morgan asked hesitantly. "I don't mean to pry, but…"
"No, I'd say you have the right to know," Robin answered with another heavy sigh. "I've been meaning to talk to you about it for a while now, but with everything that's been going on…"
He swayed a little, grimacing and pinching the bridge of his nose as if being assailed by a severe headache.
"Urgh, sorry," he mumbled before continuing in a low voice. "I've put a lot of thought into it, and it's just not something I can do; I can't be with your mother. Not… not now. Not after…"
Panic shot through Morgan as her father trailed off.
"Does this mean I'll never be born!" she asked in a panicked whisper. "Am I going to fade away now!? Or am I just going to go 'poof' and disappear!?"
Robin let out a soft chuckle.
"If you were going to fade away I'm pretty sure that would already have happened."
"But…" Morgan asked hesitantly. "What's wrong with Mom? I thought you two were getting along great?"
Robin grimaced again, holding a hand to his temple as his jaw twitched.
"Are you okay?" Morgan asked with concern.
What was wrong with her father lately? She'd seen him twitching, muttering, and sometimes even hitting himself, like he was punishing himself or something. It was something that had been getting increasingly worse in the last few days; it had always been present since she'd found him in this time, but initially she'd written it off as just another eccentricity. Now it seemed like he was possessed, and there was the matter of the story of him almost executing Lee before coming to rescue her…
"Yeah, I'm fine," he replied with a clearly forced smile. "Just… Thinking inconsequential things. Your mother and I… well… it's easiest to just say my heart belongs to someone else."
"Wait, does that mean that this other person's my mother?"
"No, I'm almost certain you're Say'ri's daughter," Robin said with a nod. "You two look alike, sound alike, and whether you notice or not there are a few subtle tweaks in your personality that speak of spending a lot of time around her when you were younger. I've spent a fair bit of time watching all the women in the camp, and it has to be Say'ri; no one else fits. Quite frankly I'm a little concerned that I didn't pick up on it sooner, if I'm being honest. Too wrapped up in this bloody war to notice…"
Even through all of the battles lately he's still been so observant, Morgan realized with a feeling of awe. He's spent all this time watching me and everyone else trying to figure out who my mother is, just for my benefit, even though he's obviously so exhausted he's about to drop.
"Well… okay," Morgan said at last, perking back up. "Whatever. I won't pry into your personal life and I haven't poofed into nothingness, so I guess it's your business."
Morgan leaned close, grinning wide and whispering conspiratorially. "But you gotta tell me who she is!"
"Virion," Robin deadpanned without missing a beat, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms as he stood. "I'm deeply and madly in love with Virion. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go and find the leader of this army before he does anything stupid without my consent. All stupid plans must have my seal of approval, after all."
Morgan had wanted to stop her father and pester him further but by the time she stopped laughing he was already long gone. At least his sense of humour was still functioning.
"What, pray tell, is so amusing?" Say'ri asked, stepping out of the portioned area while Lissa cleaned up behind her.
The warrior princess had a strange look on her face as she adjusted the straps on her armour, glancing around the big tent.
"Nothing," Morgan said with a dying chuckle. "Just Dad being silly."
She couldn't miss the way that Say'ri's face hardened at the mention of her father; obviously the situation was a lot more complicated than he had let on. Morgan vowed to get the whole story eventually, but perhaps when they weren't on the cusp of an important battle.
At least talking with her father had improved her mood immensely, she realized with a breezy smile, even if she was still worried about his health.
"Come on," Morgan said, tentatively grabbing Say'ri's arm the way she often held her father's.
"We've got some time; let's go get something to eat."
The other woman stiffened for a moment before relaxing and smiling down at Morgan, nodding and walking out of the tent with her.
Lucina marched through the small camp that had been set up with her shoulders back and her head high, as befitting a princess in a time of war. Her cape was torn and dirty, and her armour was scarred in places, but she still marched proudly as her father's troops milled about her, carrying out their duties and preparing to hold this position so the Shepherds had somewhere to retreat to once their goal was accomplished and General Pheros was dead.
It was inspiring to see so many men and women bearing the crest of Ylisse working toward the same goal; she hadn't seen a campaign on this scale since her youth, making working together with so many soldiers an interesting and nostalgic experience.
In her arms was a small basket full of sandwiches; so many of the other Shepherds had been so busy with the camp preparations that she had taken it upon herself to assist Lady Olivia with handing out the rations so that they weren't fighting hungry.
So far she hadn't been able to keep pace with the pink-haired dancer, who had flown through the camp like a glittering wind, depositing food into the hands of hungry soldiers as she went with practiced movements, never lingering any longer than was necessary.
As clumsy as she was normally, Olivia obviously took her camp duties seriously.
Lucina scratched at her head as she watched happy Shepherds breaking for lunch, laughing and singing Olivia's praises, and her competitive streak, long held in check, suddenly flared to life as she and Olivia both noticed Robin exit the medical tent at the same time.
As childish as she knew it was, Lucina found herself rushing over to Robin in an attempt to beat Olivia to the man.
She was just being competitive and childishly silly, she told herself. Her haste to get to Robin had absolutely nothing to do with the warm feeling that spread through her chest every time they were near each other.
"Robin, have you eaten yet!?" she asked quickly as she reached him.
The tactician jumped, his eyes widening as he noticed the blue-haired woman rushing towards him.
"Uh… no?" he said hesitantly, taking a step back as Lucina skidded to a halt.
"Then you should eat this!" she said, thrusting the sandwich into his hands and glancing up victoriously to where Olivia was, feeling a little silly as she did.
Lucina blinked. The pink-haired dancer hadn't moved, instead offering her a wink and a knowing grin as she strode off in the other direction, leaving Lucina confused standing alone with Robin.
She… herded me towards Robin on purpose?
Lucina checked the basket that the dancer had provided her with more carefully. It was smaller than Olivia's had been, and only had one other sandwich in it, along with what was obviously a wineskin.
The woman forgets herself! Lucina thought, cheeks darkening as she tried to shield the basket from Robin's gaze.
"Hey, ham and beets!" Robin said happily as he took a small bite from the corner. "How'd you know that's what I was in the mood for? Oh man, I am starving!"
Lucina looked back at the tactician and shrugged, doing her best to remain calm and cool in the face of the tactician's tired smile, his whole face lighting up as he looked at her gratefully.
"Have you eaten?" Robin asked around a mouthful of sandwich.
Such dreadful manners, Lucina thought with a small smile of her own, forgetting her embarrassment at Olivia's transparent machinations.
"I have not."
"Then perhaps you would join me. I think we can chase Virion out of the command tent. He can't stand beets, all I'll have to do is wave this under his nose," Robin said, brandishing the sandwich like a sword.
Lucina let out a very un-princess-like laugh at the movement, but was distracted as Lady Say'ri and Morgan stepped out of the medical tent not some distance away, angling for the mess tent in the opposite direction.
She felt her heart fall into her stomach as she noticed the way that Morgan looked up at and clutched the arm of the woman by her side, and knew for certain that Morgan's forgotten parentage was a mystery no longer.
Vowing not to interfere in the past she had sworn the others to secrecy when Morgan's amnesia had been made common knowledge; the time-travelling warriors did not want to alter the past any more than was necessary to stave-off their lost future. The fact that the others seemed content to travel with the army was disconcerting enough, but that they were actively engaging with their parents and forging bonds would make parting even more difficult. Not that she was one to talk, though…
"Perhaps another time," she said to Robin as her eyes locked with Say'ri's.
The woman sent a cool glare in her direction when she noticed them talking and Lucina felt a small shiver crawl up her spine.
"Aw, c'mon," Robin persisted, still flailing the sandwich around. "You're the only one that I can relax with while I'm talking to; well, you and Virion, and all he ever wants to do is play chess. I'm so sick of chess. Please don't make me play another game of chess."
Lucina looked back at the man.
He looked terrible, like he hadn't been sleeping. She had been watching him for some time now; he was still operating at his usual unmatchable level with his tactics, and on the battlefield he was still a force to be reckoned with, but in camp and in their spare time he seemed to be consumed by a strange lethargy. Even today he had obviously given up on shaving halfway through, something he never usually did; Robin was usually very meticulous about his personal hygiene.
The way his eyes had lit up at the thought of getting to spend some time with someone he obviously considered a friend had made her heart speed up, but…
"I'm sorry Robin," Lucina said, looking away from him and imagining the glare that Say'ri had given her. "I have duties I must attend to."
"M'kay," Robin said cheerfully around another mouthful of sandwich.
Lucina's gaze snapped back up. Rather than looking upset or sad, the tactician was smiling as he continued to eat.
"As long as you remember to eat something, too," Robin said with a wave as he started to walk away.
"Thanks, Lucina. I owe you one for the lunch. And the ammo to keep Virion off my back for the afternoon. You're a lifesaver."
Lucina nodded mutely, conflicting emotions warring in her chest.
With a frown she quashed her emotions, reminding herself why she was in the past in the first place.
Besides, she let herself think dejectedly. He is where he belongs, and with who he belongs.
Robin resisted the urge to groan again as he walked in step with Chrom from the command tent.
"Well, we're ready and the army is in position," Chrom said, rolling out his shoulders.
"Do you think that Roark, Liung and the Khans can hold things together?" Robin asked. "I mean really hold things together?"
"Didn't you spend an hour making sure the plans were flawless?" Chrom asked with his best winning smile.
I hate it when he does that, Robin thought, realizing that the Prince's smile had eased his worries a little.
"That doesn't mean I have to like leaving the Valmese forces with so much responsibility," Robin muttered.
"Liung's just in charge of the infantry regiments," Chrom reassured his tactician with a tired chuckle. "Roark has the cavalry and the Khans have to scouts and outriders. Stop second guessing yourself already."
"Hey, some of us are just careful," Robin said defensively. "Like Frederick says, Naga forbid someone at the head of this army shows even a modicum of caution."
Chrom burst out into laughter as they crossed the base to the Shepherd's rally point.
"Frederick!" the Prince called as they neared the other warriors. "I think Hell's frozen over! Robin's quoting you now!"
The tactician and Knight Commander rolled their eyes in tandem as Chrom and a sizeable amount of the Shepherds began to laugh, chuckle or giggle at the two other men's expense.
"I find your incessant good cheer to be infuriatingly irritating," Robin grumbled as Chrom slapped him on the back.
"I was hoping that by repeating myself over and over again my words would sink into your head, milord, not his," Frederick said with a light bow Robin was pretty sure was meant to be a mocking fashion.
The Shepherds had already split into their three divisions for the assault; Chrom would lead the Sword team, Frederick the Shield team, and Robin the Dagger team.
Sword team would cut right through the enemy's defences and penetrate directly to the throne room. Chrom's group was going to rely on an immovable line of himself, Lucina, Lon'qu, Donnel, Panne and Yarne protecting the mages Henry, Miriel and Ricken as they bolted down the basically straight path to the throne room. Sumia was also in their group, but would be playing a support role with Lissa as healers for the battle while Gaius acted as their bodyguard. Robin had thought of overwhelming magical superiority when he had put sword team together, intending for them to breeze through and capture the anteroom before the throne room as a rally point for the other groups.
Shield team, consisting of the heavily armoured knights and veteran soldiers, would cause the biggest distraction they could by charging through the fortress' receiving dock and barracks before meeting at the throne room. Frederick eyed his group of dismounted knights as they paced back and forth, familiarizing themselves with fighting on foot. Sully, Stahl, Cordelia and Cherche were all forces to be reckoned with on the battlefield, and regularly trained in dismounted drills, so Robin had no doubt they would be fine. Kjelle, Severa, Vaike and Kellam were stretching, preparing for their running battle, while the two manaketes Nowi and Nah talked quietly amongst themselves.
The two girls would be the last resort; Robin had sent them with Shield team for two reasons; one was that the path Frederick's team would take was the only one big enough to support the size of the transformed dragon-girls, and two was that the group's healer Maribelle had insisted, very, very vocally, on an escort. Robin chuckled darkly as Nowi clutched onto the high-born troubadour's arm in what he knew from experience was an irritating fashion.
Careful what you wish for, Maribelle, he thought with some satisfaction as the blonde woman scowled at him across the field.
Dagger team would move stealthily through the servant corridors, and support Sword; most of Robin's soldiers were the lighter armoured units relying on agility and speed, so he was hoping they would meet little resistance. Morgan would be at the front with him as they moved swiftly through the less-used pathways while Tharja, Anna and Libra would form a second line, and Virion and Noire would take up the rear. His team was light, but skilled and he had no doubt that…
His thoughts trailed off as he beheld Say'ri, standing in his position next to Morgan while Chrom went over some last minute details with one of Khan Flavia's runners.
I forgot about Say'ri.
"Looks like she's joining you guys," the voice said, pointing out the obvious. "She's in our spot."
Obviously now that Say'ri knew Morgan was her daughter she was set on accompanying her in battle; something Robin hadn't planned for. He had honestly thought she would be co-ordinating with Liung; the other Dynasts were supposedly on the move, and he had intended to let her play politician and try and sway them to the Ylissean side.
She cast a quick glare at the tactician before turning back to Morgan and ignoring him completely.
Why is she still so mad at me!?
"The mind of a woman is an enigma. I'd watch your back around her if I were you."
Robin rolled his eyes, turning to where Chrom was at the head of his team now.
His gaze lingered on Lucina's profile, and he realized with a guilty twinge that he had desperately wanted to be in her assault group today.
"We all know our parts to play," Chrom said in a loud voice. "Let's capture this fortress! Strike swift and true, Shepherds! We will not fail!"
"Follow the Prince!" Frederick shouted. "To victory!"
And with that, Sword and Shield teams charged forward for their respective entry points.
"Alright, team," Robin said in his best commanding voice, something he admittedly hadn't practiced very often. "We have our objectives. Let's move."
The team fell in around Robin as he jogged at a much slower pace to the other teams to their insertion point. Morgan was instantly at his shoulder, her features set to a concentrated frown. Say'ri was on her opposite side, her face like stone, staring directly ahead.
Robin looked up, catching a glimpse of Lucina's long blue hair blowing in the breeze as she followed Chrom into their entry-point with the rest of sword team, disappearing from his view.
A cold feeling of worry wrapped itself around Robin's stomach as he watched the others vanish into the comparative darkness of Fortress Steiger's interior.
Robin advanced at a jog through the tight servant corridors, his previous exhaustion forgotten as he focused entirely on the mission before him.
They were all tired from the battle earlier, but being to core of the army meant that there was no room for weakness; they would fight at the forefront of every battle, take on every dangerous mission, and it was Robin's responsibility to see them safely through it.
He glanced around the empty corridors trying to get his mind to focus on other things.
They were clean and obviously often-used, but Dagger Team had yet to run into any guards or even fortress servants. Shield team inside and Roark's distraction outside must obviously be doing their job well.
Robin realized he was disappointed. He wanted to have something to fight. He wanted…
No I don't, he realized with a sickening lurch in his stomach.
Ever since he'd stepped into the Fortress it was as if a current was passing through him; the voices in his head were mercifully silent, but rather than the usual running commentary he was forced to endure he could feel his control slipping.
His eyes ached and his flesh burned like someone had crammed embers beneath his skin.
He could tell was finally losing control.
Robin barely slowed as he went to round the corner, Morgan's shouted warning coming too late as he barrelled head-long into the red-armoured Valmese soldier coming the other way, both of them falling to the floor in a heap.
Robin felt arrows pass over his head as Virion let loose and Morgan darted into the rest of the soldier's squad with Say'ri and Libra, but his attention fell solely on the man currently trying to free his sword pinned beneath Robin's hip.
With a grunt the tactician brought his fist down clumsily on the soldier's elbow where the armour plates met, before climbing up to one knee and lashing out with a backhand as his other gathered mana. The soldier finally tugged his own sword free as Robin thrust outwards, a weak fire spell bowling the man backwards.
Robin felt his concentration start to wane as his vision blurred.
A sound like roaring wind filled his ears, and he could hear the voice laughing in his head again, the same cruel, deranged laugh that always gave him headaches.
When he blinked a few times he found his sword buried in the soldier's chest, piercing the thick armour and stuck in the stone floor.
"Dad?" Morgan asked hesitantly.
Robin realized he was panting, and sweat was pouring down his face, yet he had still managed to jam his sword into a solid stone floor.
So not good for the blade, he lamented, yanking it free.
"I'm fine," Robin said, shaking off Libra's silently probing hands as they checked him quickly for any wounds.
"Are you sure?" Tharja asked in her usual, quiet tone. "You seem… off."
"I'm fine," Robin snapped, knuckles tightening on his sword.
Why were they acting like he was an invalid? He'd just been knocked over, that was all.
The voice riled beneath his flesh and inside his chest like a wild animal yanking at its chains, almost felt as a physical sensation. It had tasted blood now, and it could tell there was more to come.
Robin took another deep, shuddering breath, the hand clutching his beautifully crafted rapier shuddering. That laughter had just been in his head… right?
A quick glance at the others seemed to say otherwise.
What the hell is happening to me? He thought, desperately trying to reign in his bloodlust.
How had he managed to summon the strength to jam a sword into solid stone the way he had? How was he still standing at all after the exhaustion he'd felt earlier that day?
He finally felt alive, though. For the first time in a long time he felt good.
With a horrified start Robin realized what he was thinking and shook his head.
"Keep moving," Robin ordered shortly, breaking into another jog.
As if the proverbial dam had been broken they came across a number of other Valmese squads, but none of them were much match for the Shepherds now that Robin was alert again. He tore through the squads almost as fast as Panne or Lon'qu usually would with reckless abandon, spinning and striking with speed and skill far surpassing his usual level.
Morgan tried valiantly to keep pace with him, fighting with sword and spells in an impressive manner, but Robin barely slowed when presented with a new foe, he barely hesitated a fraction of a second every time they came across a new squad, and Morgan was starting to slow.
Breathing heavily after dispatching their fifth squad Robin stopped to take a break, flicking his rapier clean the way he'd seen Lon'qu do.
They'd been fighting almost nonstop for hours now, one squad of Valmese soldiers melting into another, and another without end.
"We should be getting close," Virion panted. "But hark, noble tactician; you fight as if possessed by the very gods of war!"
Robin glanced up from under his brow, still breathing heavily.
I made a promise… he thought. That no one else would die. I intend to keep it.
"I want to see this war over," he lied instead, gulping in one last breath as he straightened. "The sooner we take this fortress the sooner that happens."
"Keep pushing forward," Robin ordered as the other Shepherds fell in again.
Morgan was panting just as hard as her father, despite her rigorous training regime. Tharja and Virion looked just as bad, but kept quiet, carefully controlling their breathing. Anna was red in the face, and Say'ri stoically tried to steady her breathing. Even Libra seemed a little out of breath.
"We… we need a break…" Morgan gasped.
"There's no time for breaks!" Robin snapped. "We're moving! Keep up!"
The others stared at Robin's back as he began to run again, before struggling to keep up.
We're soldiers, dammit, Robin thought in his head. We have to keep moving. If anything happens to her, or anyone else, I'll never forgive myself…
"That's not why you want to keep moving," the voice whispered knowingly in his ear.
"We're close now. You can feel it. So can I. A little more now, Robin. Just a little more."
Robin ignored the voice as he ran, his hands clenching around his sword's hilt.
They burst out into a large anteroom full of Valmese soldiers at about the same time Chrom's team did; the Prince's team didn't even hesitate, throwing themselves against the Valmese with speed and ferocity worthy of legend.
Robin held up a hand, signalling a halt; the Valmese hadn't spotted his team at their left flank yet…
"Virion, Tharja, Morgan," Robin ordered quietly. "Front and centre. Hit the flank with everything you've got on my mark…"
Robin waited, hand poised to cast the spell he was gathering mana for, waiting to see…
Lucina whirled like a beautiful angel of death, striking high and driving Valmese soldiers back on their right flank, fighting alone the way she always did while the others struck the front.
She's safe… Robin realized with an audible sigh, relief flooding him.
"Now!" he shouted, making the Valmese soldiers look up and take notice of them.
Arrows began felling Valmese men along the flank as a ball of destructive dark magic flew through their ranks, sending men flying with its passage. With a flick of his wrist Robin sent a stream of lightning dancing from soldier to soldier, smoke rising from the gaps in their armour as the spell jumped between them with a mind of its own.
The sound of wind roaring in his ears returned as he cast another lightning spell, and another, and finally a third in quick succession.
Elthunder, Arcthunder, Thoron!
As hard as he tried more laughter bubbled to the surface, the feeling of flames dancing beneath his skin intensifying to an almost maddening point. He couldn't even feel his mana being used any more. He didn't even have to form a circuit with his spellbook anymore. The magic just responded to his call.
He could do it with Dark Magic, too. He could feel it. He wouldn't even have to offer the sacrifice, he could just command it.
But why were he and Tharja the only ones attacking?
Looking to his side, ready to berate Morgan for her slowness to cast, he stopped cold, realizing the girl had collapsed to all fours on the stone floor of the fortress.
"Defensive positions!" Robin called frantically, skidding to his knees next to his daughter as the other Shepherds moved to form a wall around them.
It was as if someone had dumped a cold bucket of water over his head. His visio narrowed until all he could see was Morgan.
"Morgan," he prodded desperately, grabbing her by the shoulder. "Morgan, what happened? Are you okay? Morgan!"
"'M okay," she mumbled, lifting her head to grin at Robin. "Just… just tired. Sorry... my spell... got away from me."
The tactician exhaled a breath he didn't even know he was holding as he grabbed the girl in a rough hug.
"Don't do that to me," he muttered. "I'm sorry I pushed you so hard…"
Get it together, Robin, he told himself, helping Morgan to stand. This is a battlefield. Get it together.
"Stay in the back with Anna," Robin ordered over the sounds of snapping bowstrings. "Help out however you can, but don't push yourself. We're almost done."
"No, Dad," Morgan protested weakly. "You were right. We're soldiers. I'm sorry, this is nothing. I'll be back on my feet in no time."
The girl valiantly tried to push Robin back and stand, but he held her down with a serious look on his face.
"The one thing I keep seeming to forget is other people's limits. Rest for now. I'll need you for the next phase of the assault."
Morgan nodded numbly, struggling to stand next to the red-haired merchant, who was giving Robin the mother of all dirty looks.
Say'ri looked like she was about to throttle him, but held herself in check, shaking with barely contained rage.
They can all hate me if they want, Robin suddenly realized. I don't care, so long as they all live to do it.
Robin strode forward again, tapping into energy reserves he didn't know he had.
"Everyone too tired to keep up hang back with Morgan and Anna," he ordered softly. "The rest of you, on me."
"I will… I will manage," Tharja said quietly, stepping to his side.
"You needn't even ask," Say'ri ground out from Robin's other side.
Libra silently took a place next to Robin, giving him an encouraging nod.
Robin nodded back before turning and glancing at Virion.
"Avert your envious gaze!" the archer chuckled. "An archer does not charge into the fray! I shall stand guard over Morgan and the ever-lovely Anna, and rain death upon our enemies from here."
Robin nodded, stifling a grin and turning back to the battle before them as a new sound reached his ears.
A moment later Frederick came barrelling through the doorway opposite them, his team close behind and creating the perfect distraction for the others as the Valmese forces tried desperately to reform ranks to take on this new threat.
Giving Robin's team the perfect opening.
"Charge!" Robin called, sprinting forward with his sword at the ready.
Time slowed down as it always did when he was charging toward the enemy, every detail becoming crystal clear as his brain sped up, taking in every variable and danger, every opening and every opportunity before they even formed.
He could feel the bloodlust returning, beating beneath his skin in time to his heart, like his blood had been replaced by molten metal.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see a blue blur charging forward, sword held out as she spun and danced between foes. He saw Tharja skid to a halt, beginning to cast deadly spells from a safe distance while arrows zoomed around her, while Say'ri grimaced and charged shoulder to shoulder with Robin and the unshakable Libra.
The tactician watched comprehension dawn on the faces of the Valmese men he was charging towards, realizing his own face was twisted in a dangerous scowl as they began falling back in fear.
Time snapped back to its regular pace as he, Libra and Say'ri slammed into the left flank a few seconds after Tharja's spell did, men falling beneath their combined onslaught.
Fighting next to Say'ri wasn't like fighting next to Lucina, Robin realized sadly. Where he and Lucina almost knew how the other would move instinctually, striking together and vaulting each other, trusting the other implicitly not to accidentally wound them, Say'ri's approach was much tamer, much more reserved; she hung back, allowing Robin to take the lead and striking around him and beside him, fear of accidentally hitting him staying her blade on numerous occasions. Robin didn't even take the time to think that it was amazing she was following his orders, let alone fighting aside him in such a manner.
Robin grunted as a Valmese sword bounced off his shoulder, his coat's magical improvements holding and turning the blade. He'd still have a bruise the next day, though.
Lucina would have caught that, Robin realized, grunting as he cast a small fireball in the soldier's face, throwing him back a few feet.
Libra darted in, his axe coming up and turning the blade of another soldier's weapon as Robin stepped back, casting a small bolt of lightning into the soldier. Libra nodded appreciatively before moving on to the next foe.
Robin glanced around, realizing that the battle was winding down, eyes locking on Say'ri.
"She did that on purpose!" the voice howled. "How dare she stand idly by and let us be injured!?"
"Shut up," Robin growled under his breath.
His hand was twitching, magic beginning to pool.
The only thing that distracted him was when Chrom gave him a rough clamp on the shoulder.
"Ha! Beat you here!" Chrom called competitively as the groups reunited before the archway into the throne room.
"The Vaike got distracted by mages," Vaike grumbled, flexing an arm with a recently healed burn scar on it as Frederick rolled his eyes and shook his head.
Vaike was once again not wearing any armour.
"Armour only works when you wear it," the Knight Commander berated, making the axeman pull himself up straighter and grin wildly.
"Friend Robin set an absolutely punishing pace," Virion said with his usual flair as the rest of Robin's team fell in. "Twas like following the god of war himself!"
"Can we just focus and get this over with?" Robin asked irritatedly, realizing that Lucina was purposely facing away from him.
"Of course," Chrom said, surprise evident on his face at Robin's cold tone.
Chrom spun to face the other Shepherds.
"Vaike, take command of Shield squad two and hold this room," the prince ordered. "This is our way out, so nothing gets by you. Frederick, I want you with me on this one."
The shirtless man thumped a fist on his chest as way of acknowledgment as the Knight Commander nodded, falling in with the rest of Sword squad.
There was a subtle shift in the groups as Sword and Dagger teams melted into one group, and Shepherds from all three groups began to mix. A few from Shield merged with the assault team, and a few from the others would hang back with Shield.
"The rest of you, with me!" Chrom ordered, before turning to Robin.
"If you would be so kind, master tactician?"
Robin nodded, still glaring at his friends.
With a deep breath and a light flick of his wrist Robin sent a powerful wind spell crashing into the two great doors, blowing them down and revealing a large group of heavily armed Valmese knights waiting for them.
He spotted the knights and it was as if someone poured molten metal into his very soul; a renewed fire broke out beneath his skin, urging him to kill and maim to satiate it, to stop the thoughts that had plagued him so for the last few days.
Bring it on, Robin snarled in his head, racing forward before Chrom could even signal the others to charge.
"Robin, what…?" Chrom called after him before sighing. "Fine! Into them, Shepherds! Show no mercy!"
Morgan watched her father race forward with a sense of foreboding as he outpaced the others.
He had been different the last few days; harsh, cold, short tempered… and what was with that laugh? Nowhere in her mind had she ever heard something so evil come from her father before.
It was like he was a completely different person in battle.
Morgan hesitated as the others charged ahead and Vaike's newly minted team took up defensive positions around the room, ready to stop any enemy soldiers that came anywhere near them.
Morgan noticed Lucina hanging back, too, staring into the distance with her sword hanging limply in her hand.
She was another person that had been different lately, too; but rather than the darkening mood Morgan's father had been slipping into, Lucina had been becoming freer and happier in a way that she hadn't been when they had met.
Until recently, that is.
Morgan wasn't so naive to think that something hadn't been going on between the Princess and the tactician, but with word of the revelation of her parentage spreading throughout the camp like wildfire Lucina had flipped a switch, becoming as cold and distant as she had been before, if not more so.
She was a tactician after all; that was one thing her father had tried to instill in her from the very start of their training. That she had to be observant. That she had to watch every subtle nuance of camp life, listen to every rumour, as well as their official duties, because those rumours could sometimes lead to situations that could be disasterous on the battlefield.
Morgan had decided to stay out of her father's personal affairs, but it was hard seeing them both so unhappy. Obviously their friendship meant a lot to both of them, and seeing them become distant was a little disconcerting for the girl. Her father was inadvertently becoming isolated from the people that cared about him, and that needed to stop. Maybe Lucina was just backing off to give Robin and Say'ri space; that was a huge misunderstanding right there, one Morgan would need to clear up before rumours started circulating around the tight-knit camp.
Well, rumours were always circulating. But this was one more that didn't need to be added.
Maybe I can do something about it after the battle… Morgan thought as she approached her friend. It's probably just a silly misunderstanding. All they need to do is talk it out.
"Hey, Luce," she said quietly, approaching her friend. "Are you okay?"
Lucina looked up quickly, eyes meeting Morgan's for a second before she nodded.
"I am fine," she said shortly, looking away again.
Morgan was going to press the matter before both women were brought up short by the sounds of a ruckus from the far side of the room, where Frederick's team had come in.
"Hold on a sec, Luce," she said, striding over to see what the disturbance was.
All of a sudden grateful for the stash of tonic she had won from Gregor months ago, she downed one of the small vials as she approached the altercation.
"We're resistance, damn you!" a man was shouting on the other side of the line of Shepherds.
"Yeah, and I'm the Queen of Plegia," Severa answered sarcastically. "We have our orders; hold position! Now get lost or we'll attack!"
"What's going on?" Morgan asked, laying a calming hand on Severa's shoulder and squeezing between her and Yarne to stand before the two new people.
A man wearing armour similar to Say'ri's, but made out of metal like the soldiers from Chengshi, sighed exasperatedly in front of one other man dressed similarly to him.
"I've been trying to tell this one," the man said in a thick accent. "We are the Resistance! We infiltrated the castle as your backup, but our men are trapped and we need assistance!"
Morgan nodded, not even hesitating when she spotted the same symbol on their armour that Say'ri wore on her own.
"We have to help them," Morgan said, turning to the other Shepherds, taking charge the way her father would; besides, they were expecting the Resistance to meet them here anyway, right?
"Severa, I need you to help me with this."
"Are you serious!?" Severa shouted disbelievingly.
Morgan ignored her, turning to Laurent and Yarne, who were currently guarding the door.
"Can you two hold this door alone for a little while?"
"Uh… sure?" Yarne said worriedly. "I mean… I guess?"
"Of course," Laurent answered for the Taguel. "But hurry back."
Morgan nodded, looking back to the Resistance fighters.
"We'll come with you," she said, indicating to Severa. "Lead the way."
"I will join you, too," Lucina said, stepping forward.
"Fine, fine," the Resistance member in charge said irritatedly. "But we must be swift!"
Morgan nodded, smiling at the blue haired Princess, and the small group started running, being led by the men from the Resistance.
They rounded corridors, running for nearly twenty minutes before coming out into a landing above a large staircase, the two men muttering animatedly between each other the entire time in whatever language they spoke.
"It is down here," the one in the lead said.
"I don't hear anything," Severa said hesitantly.
"Then we need to hurry," Morgan said, beginning to descend quickly behind the two Resistance fighters; obviously the fight was going bad for the men below if she couldn't hear anything.
The two men led them quickly through a series of cellars, empty storage rooms all interconnected that would normally have been full of supplies and preserved food, but were all sitting worryingly empty.
The earlier sense of unease returned as Morgan and the others were led into a dead-end room, the three of them skidding to a halt as the Resistance soldiers leading them turned with sour looks on their faces.
Morgan spun as two more resistance soldiers appeared out of the shadows, closing the heavy door and leaving them all standing in near-darkness, the only light a small torch on one wall.
"I am sorry, my friends," the lead Resistance soldier said sadly as he drew his sword.
Morgan felt her heart freeze, realization hitting her like a cart.
It was so obviously a trap and I walked right into it!
"I'll save the 'I told you so' for later," Severa muttered as the three women formed a triangle with their backs together.
Before Morgan could reply the four men pounced on them as one, moving quickly.
They were no match for the three Shepherds, though, and fell back just as quickly, all suffering some form of wound as the women pressed them.
Morgan allowed herself a relieved smile. Amateurs trying to gain favour by kidnapping a few Shepherds to hold for ransom… the three Shepherds could take them no problem.
"Looks like you boys bit off more than you could chew," she said confidently, flourishing her sword before her.
"Oh, I don't know about that," a new voice said from the shadows.
Lucina went stiff, her eyes widening in recognition as a short, toad-faced man stepped into the small circle of light, glowering at the traitor-Resistance fighters.
"Can't you morons even get a simple kidnapping right?" he asked, holding up a hand and sending a torrent of magical electricity at the Shepherds.
Lucina and Severa leapt aside, but Morgan, unprepared, moved too slowly and caught the entirety of the attack, falling to her knees as the world grew hazy.
Well crap, she thought. Gotta get back up… Gotta save the others! Move, dammit! I can't fail again!
She was dimly aware as she struggled to make her wounded body move of yelling and the sounds of more fighting, before someone suddenly grabbed her under the arms and started dragging.
Morgan looked up, moaning in pain and preparing to fight off one of the Resistance before catching a glimpse of red hair through the haze and realizing that Severa was pulling her out the door they had come in through.
"Go!" Lucina was shouting over her shoulder as she parried another strike from the Resistance traitors, kicking out viciously at something Morgan couldn't see.
"Get her clear! I'll be right behind you! Run!"
What!? No! We can't just leave her!
Morgan screamed as Severa lifted her, jarring the fresh burns covering her skin and making her pass out from the pain.