Invisible Ties

Chapter 39

Flavia blinked a few times, staring at Robin in confusion. He looked… different somehow; besides the obvious cosmetic differences of snow-white hair and the blood red Valmese officer’s armour. There was something different in the way he held himself. Plus he was smiling, an expression she hadn’t seen on his face since the war had begun.

“It is you, right?” she asked, her hand drifting towards her sword in momentary suspicion.

Robin chuckled, his smile growing.

“Yeah, I know I’m still not that pretty even with the new duds and hairdo. But it’s me, I assure you of that.”

“So why’s everyone wearing enemy colours then?” Flavia asked, relaxing a little and seating herself back on the corner of the small cot in the room.

The scruffy blue-haired man clicked his fingers and three soldiers brought chairs for himself, Robin and Lady Tiki almost before Flavia had finished sitting.

“You wear red too, you know,” Robin said, his smile becoming a wry grin as he took one of the chairs.

Flavia rolled her eyes. It was definitely Robin.

“It’s all a part of Robin’s genius plan,” Tiki explained excitedly in his place. “We’re hiding in plain sight! Khan Flavia, please allow me to introduce you to Sir Priam, leader of the Valmese Resistance Movement.”

The scruffy man, evidently named Priam, wordlessly inclined his head respectfully towards Flavia, and she responded in kind.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Robin said, leaning forward and staring intently into Flavia’s eyes suddenly. “But what of Basilio?”

Flavia took a breath.

“He met his fate at the end of Walhart’s blade,” Flavia said woodenly. “We will sing songs of his sacrifice once this war is over.”

Tiki gasped, covering her mouth with her hands and tightly closing her eyes; Priam respectfully averted his gaze. Robin nodded, winking at Flavia who resisted the urge to grin back at him.

“It couldn’t be helped,” Robin sighed, growing serious again. “How many men do you have left?”

“Four hundred, all told; but at least a hundred are wounded, twenty too seriously to even walk, let alone fight.”

“We’ve taken care of them,” Priam said shortly. “My healers will have them back in the fight in a manner of hours.”

Flavia blinked again, stunned into silence. Priam’s voice was surprisingly deep and strong; she resolved to review her initial opinion of the man.

“A lot has happened since we all separated,” Robin said with a shrug. “For instance, we’re-”

The tactician was cut off when the tent flaps were torn back and an exhausted looking runner wearing standard Valmese infantry armour burst into the small space.

“Milord!” he panted, reports gripped tight in his hands as he held them out to Priam. “Milord, the scouts are back!”

“Well, give them to him,” Priam said dismissively, indicating to Robin. “It’s his plan, not mine.”

The runner only hesitated a moment before handing the reports to Robin with a deep bow and excusing himself.

“So why is everyone wearing enemy armour?” Flavia asked Tiki again while Robin read the reports at lightning speed, Priam standing over his shoulder.

“We were blending in with the Imperial Army to get past the blockade checkpoints,” Tiki explained. “It was Robin’s idea to use stealth, rather than force. This way they don’t know we’re coming.”

“They know we’re coming,” Robin said without looking up.

Tiki and Flavia’s eyes both shot to the tactician, still leafing through the reports.

“Well, not us per say,” Robin said apologetically. “Sorry, force of habit; they know that the Ylissean League is on its way. They’ve been spotted on the march with… a lot more troops than they should have. Chrom must have roped another Dynast into helping them, maybe more than one judging from these reports, although they are second hand from the Imperials... They’ll be at the capital in two days, and it looks like the Imperial army doesn’t know their exact location. Thank Naga for small favours. The order to hasten back to the capital has been passed for all Imperial Valmese units, including conscripts; all of the dynasts are being called in and… well. Damn.”

“What? What’s ‘well damn’?” Flavia asked, leaning forward to peek at the papers.

“Two days,” Robin said tiredly. “The Dynasts will be here in two days with nearly a million soldiers.”

Flavia sat back heavily as Tiki and Priam went quiet.

“So all the fighting we’ve done so far has been barely a drop in the ocean?” Flavia asked defeatedly.

“Say’ri did say his standing forces numbered more than a million,” Robin murmured, massaging his temple with the corner of his fist. “But I didn’t think it possible he could marshal them in such a short period of time.”

“So it is hopeless, then?” Priam asked matter-of-factly.

Robin shook his head.

“The orders apparently weren’t signed by Walhart, but by Excellus,” Robin said, looking at the deeper papers in the stack and chuckling. “Look, we even got sent a copy. I guess our acting is pretty good, huh?”

He held up a piece of parchment with orders, stamped not with Walhart’s signet but Excellus’.

“He’s planning a coup,” Priam said, voicing the thoughts of everyone in the tent.

Robin nodded. “He must think that the Dynasts will back him the way Yen’fay did. Will they?”

Priam snorted. “They barely support Walhart; everything the Southern Dynasts did for Walhart they did in fear of Yen’fay’s wrath. They’re coming only because they have been ordered to by a higher authority. Frankly I’m surprised there hasn’t been a power vacuum yet.”

Robin bolted up as if struck.

“If we could convince them to meet with you, do you think they would listen to reason?”

Priam stroked his chin in thought, his eyes taking a far-away quality.

“Perhaps,” he said at last. “But not all of them; they still fear Walhart above all else. At best I may be able to convince them to hold off on their attack until a victor is decided between Ylisse and Valm, but…”

“Good enough,” Robin said, reaching out of the tent and signalling for all available runners. “If we can just keep them off of the League long enough for Chrom to take out the Imperial Army proper, we can end this in one fell swoop without a massacre!”

“Assuming the Dynasts will listen to me,” Priam grunted.

“What of my men?” Flavia asked, becoming excited again. “What part will we play?”

“I think we may still have a few suits of Valmese armour lying around,” Robin said, grinning over his shoulder before going to meet with the runners and give them their orders. “Why don’t you talk to the quartermaster and see what he can drum up?”

Once the tactician was gone Flavia let out a low laugh. Tiki and Priam both looked at her questioningly.

“Isn’t it funny the way he ends up accidentally taking over every army he works with?” Flavia chuckled.

“Take them out!” Morgan shouted to the archer unit moving up behind the main scouting force from her position on a small hill.

A large squad of Valmese scouts in light armour were trying to desperately retreat back to the safety of the trees nearly a hundred meters away, but hadn’t scattered like any good scout party would know to. More conscripts pressed into service, about to die for trying to protect their families from the wrath of the Conqueror. The Feroxi archers lined up, Noire and Virion among them, and began shooting. It only took one volley and the entire squad was wiped out.

“Send some trackers down there to make sure none get away with our position,” Morgan ordered the closest Feroxi who nodded mutely and ran off to relay the orders.

“That’s the fourth one today; they must be getting really desperate,” Sir Kellam said, suddenly appearing behind Morgan and making her jump.

Morgan nodded once she composed herself; how he kept sneaking around everywhere in his huge suit of armour she’d never understand.

The Imperial Valmese were getting more and more desperate the closer the League got to the Capital; they were only about a day and a half away by her reckoning, but the constant harrying by scouting parties trying to pin down their location was becoming bothersome. Morgan was wracking her brain trying to come up with a better plan to expedite their progress and avoid detection, but so far the best they could do was continue as they were; having their own scouting parties watching for the Valmese ones and taking them out before they could escape. It was a high-risk plan, but they didn’t have any other options; moving nearly one and-a-half hundred thousand men in secrecy was a colossal undertaking.

Morgan jumped a little again when a heavy gauntleted hand dropped on her shoulder.

“Morgan? You okay?” Kellam asked kindly, leaning down so that the taller man was on her level.

She nodded, straightening. “Yeah, just trying to come up with a better plan.”

Kellam dropped his hand and chuckled.

“You know your father did the exact same thing constantly. The amount of times I had to take a blow for him because he was lost in thought… not that he ever noticed, though.”

Morgan smiled a little at the Shepherd’s reminiscing, but it was bittersweet.

“You know you look almost exactly like him with that on,” Kellam added as the scout party began to move again, leaving Morgan standing on the hill staring down at the silver breastplate under her coat.

Chrom had insisted that if she were going to continue to be on the frontline, she needed proper armour in addition to her magically enhanced coat. To her mind there was only one piece that would do, even if it was a little snug around the chest; it had originally been smithed for a man, after all. A pair of matching greaves over her dark leather boots and light, fingerless gauntlets Jake had thrown together at the last minute completed the suit, both made out of the same silver material as the breastplate.

“He’d have wanted you to wear it,” Chrom had said with a sad smile the first time she’d worn it on the field. Her mother had looked shocked; apparently the resemblance was uncanny, but she too had approved.

“Are you coming, child?” Virion called, waving from the bottom of the hill. “Surely you are not going to spend the rest of the war up there? If you do not hurry I shall have to win all the glory for myself!”

Morgan scoffed and hurried down the hill, dashing past the archer and sticking out her tongue at him. She only needed to be strong a little longer, and then she could finally relax…

That night Robin let his excitement get the better of him, and he stayed up late looking over his copies of the reports and strategies again. He was so close to being reunited with his friends and his family, and they were all so close to being done with this gods-forsaken war that he could hardly bear it.

He was so close to seeing Morgan and Lucina again…

Robin looked up as the flaps to Priam’s command tent were drawn back and Flavia ducked in, cradling a bottle in each hand. She wasn’t wearing the armour that the Resistance quartermaster had supplied her, but she was still clothed in the tunic of a Valmese officer. Her only additions to the outfit were the fact that the top buttons were undone, exposing the dark tan skin of her chest, and the animal-tooth necklace that hung in the gap. Her sword was, as always, strapped to her hip.

“Good evening Robin,” Flavia said pleasantly. “I thought you and I could share a pre-victory celebratory drink.”

“If that’s firewine or sake you can just keep right on walking,” Robin drolled, tapping the side of his head with the end of his quill. “Besides, isn’t it a bit early to be celebrating victory?”

“It’s simply a matter of course,” Flavia said, gently kicking out a chair and sitting across from Robin. “Especially with you leading us. And it’s ale from Regna Ferox; it’ll put hair on your chest.”

Flavia thumped her chest over her heart as she said the last part, grinning maliciously at Robin. No doubt she was referring to the way Robin had described her during their first meeting when his imagination had gotten away from him. I can picture him now; a giant of a man with arms as thick as my head; swinging an axe that would take two average men to lift; his chest a forest of thick hair; that’s what Robin had said. Much to his surprise and terrible embarrassment, Flavia had been the one to walk through the doors of the room they were waiting in.

“You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?” Robin asked, shoving the stacks of paper to one side as he reached for his bottle. “No cups?”

The Khan answered his question by tearing the cork out of the bottle with her teeth before spitting it off to one side and taking a deep swig. Robin chose to remove the cork with his hands but didn’t hesitate to down the no-doubt potent alcohol, if firewine was anything to gauge the other Feroxi drink off of. Much to his pleasant surprise the smooth malt-flavour that met his tongue only carried a small bite of liquor, the drink itself sending warmth to Robin’s tired extremities and making him sigh contentedly when he lowered the bottle.

They drank in silence for a time before Flavia broke it by quietly scoffing.

“I hate these clothes,” she muttered, picking at the long-sleeved tunic before growling and rolling the sleeves up to her elbows. “They’re so stifling. I need to feel the wind on my flesh!”

Robin snickered. “I know how you feel. I miss my coat like I’ve lost a limb.”

They both laughed quietly.

“Do you really think we can win this?” Robin asked seriously after a moment, looking down at the bottle in his hands and momentarily letting his doubts get the better of him.

“Sure,” Flavia answered flippantly. “Why not? We’ve got the best damn soldiers from west of the sea, we’ve got the best leaders our lands have had in generations, not to mention the two best tacticians in the world on our side. I don’t see how we can lose.”

Robin took another deep drink from his bottle, savouring the feel of the ale on his tongue.

“I wish I had your confidence,” he said tiredly.

Flavia placed her half-empty bottle on the table, the sound startling loud in the quiet of the camp as the older woman took a deep breath.

“I know that it is a terrible burden you carry,” she said seriously, staring intently into Robin’s eyes. “We that supposedly lead our people simply pass all the responsibility off to you. Where we would normally only worry for the lives of our own people, you must carry the lives of not just the entire League, but all the hopes of their families back home. I’m sorry, Robin, for making you bear that in my place. You are so brave and quiet that sometimes I forget how you must suffer. I wanted to tell you this now, in case I did not get the chance later. And I know that the oaf Basilio feels the same way. We trust you implicitly, Robin; never before have I met a man I was so willing to put my life in the hands of.”

Robin was silent, looking down at his bottle before grinning and chuckling a little.

“It’s nice to be appreciated,” he said, looking up and leaning back, resting an elbow on the table. “But when have I ever been quiet?”

Flavia snorted before reaching over the table and punching the tactician in the arm.

“I was being serious, you ass,” she laughed.

“So was I,” Robin said with a grin as he moved out of her striking range. “I’m the loud one at parties, the one that comes up with the ‘bad’ ideas, remember?! You honestly think I’m quiet?”

They laughed for a time before Flavia became serious again.

“Robin, I wanted to ask you something.”

“Uh oh,” Robin chuckled. “Buttering me up with kingly-booze and compliments? This is going to be a doozey, isn’t it?”

Flavia snorted. “I am reigning Khan; I only drink the finest of wines and ales, and I meant every word I said before. But I wanted to ask what you plan to do once this war is over.”

Robin shrugged. “Same thing I did before it, I guess. Live day by day, give tactical advice when it’s needed, spend time with my daughter. Why’s that?”

“I was hoping you’d join me in Regna Ferox,” Flavia said, a glint in her eyes. “And become my personal tactician. You could even join the Royal Family of Eastern Regna Ferox if you wanted.”

Robin choked on the ale he was drinking at her offer.

“Wow, Flavia, I’m flattered, but…” Robin started before she cut him off.

“You don’t have to answer now,” Flavia said hurriedly. “Now that I think of it, it kind of does feel like I was buttering you up. Why don’t you sober up first and then consider my proposal?”

“Might take a while,” Robin chuckled, swirling the contents of his bottle a little. “This is some pretty brutal stuff right here.”

“Just shut up and drink your ale,” Flavia laughed, and the two finished their bottles in comfortable silence.

Just as he was draining the last of his bottle Robin stole a surreptitious glance at Flavia, who was doing the same, a contented smile on her lips.

Oh gods I hope that some culture-lines got crossed here and she didn’t just propose to me, Robin thought, feeling the tips of his ears begin to go red.

Morgan jerked awake as someone gently shook her shoulder, blinking in the weak torch light leaking into the command tent. She had fallen asleep over her papers again, and no doubt had ink smudged all over her face. The young tactician looked up into the tired of the one that had woken her.

“Hey, Luce,” Morgan yawned. “Y’re up late. Or is it late enough to be early again now?”

“I find sleep does not easily come to me lately,” Lucina said, taking a step away from Morgan and grinning a little. “However I am not so hard pressed for it that I fall asleep at the planning table.”

Morgan stretched, stifling another yawn as she readjusted her coat’s collar to cover the burn scars on her exposed neck.

“I still have lots to do,” Morgan argued weakly.

“I am technically the Princess of the lord you serve,” Lucina said playfully. “I could order you to take rest.”

“That would be counter-productive,” Morgan huffed, crossing her arms before caving. “But you’re right; at least in the sense that I can’t sleep here.”

“Will you be alright to get back to your tent?” Lucina asked.

Morgan stood, stretching and yawning.

“Sure, but I’m not getting much farther than that.”

Morgan shuffled out of the tent, yawing again as she passed Lucina, who fell into step with her.

“Can’t believe this is all almost over,” Morgan mumbled, still half asleep.

Lucina nodded an affirmative. “It will be nice when this war is ended and we can focus on Grima.”

Morgan groaned. “After the vacation, right?”

Lucina smiled sadly a little as they walked. “Naga willing. We could all use the break.”

“I’m thinking somewhere tropical,” Morgan said airily, letting herself think of something besides tactics and the movements of armies for the first time in days. “But you know what? I’d settle for a hammock in the hull of whatever ship brings us back to Ylisse.”

“Tropical may be difficult to come by,” Lucina said. “The seasons are changing again. Fall will be over soon.”

“Has this really taken so long?” Morgan grumbled, her hopes being dashed in an instant.

“We were at sea for nearly four months,” Lucina reminded her.

Morgan groaned, remembering the claustrophobic conditions on the Dragon’s Claw and the incessant sea-sickness she’d suffered.

“Okay, maybe not a hammock then,” she mumbled, running a hand through her hair before stopping and bursting into a fit of hushed giggles.

“What’s so funny?” Lucina asked, the corners of her mouth quirking upwards as well.

Morgan snorted a few more times, trying to reign in her laughter before sighing and growing pensive again.

“For all of my father’s complaining about the length of his hair, I just thought he was too lazy to go and get it cut. Now that mine’s getting so long, too, well… I think I understand just how busy he was before. In short I really, really need a haircut.”

Lucina nodded once, her weak smile dropping as they began to walk in silence again; Morgan’s tent was a fair distance away from the command tent for some strange reason. It didn’t make sense that the tactician was so far removed from the place they spent the most of their time, but her father had insisted that taking the time to walk through the camp in the mornings and evenings helped keep a tactician grounded.

“I miss him, you know,” Morgan said after a few minutes silence, her shoulders drooping a little. “I mean I know that’s a given; any daughter would miss their father. But I don’t feel like I can do this alone.”

Lucina surprised Morgan by reaching over and wrapping her arm around the younger girl’s, holding her close so that their shoulders were touching as they walked in a kind of pseudo-hug.

“You’re not alone,” Lucina said as they walked. “As long as we’re all here, you’re not doing this alone. And…”

Morgan glanced up at the slightly taller girl, watching as she internally struggled with something.

“You’re not the only one that misses him,” Lucina finally said in a small voice.

Morgan nodded understanding. Lucina had been as close to her father as any of them, maybe as close as her mother or Prince Chrom; easily the only people closer to him would have been Morgan herself, and perhaps her Aunt Tharja. That, and he had rescued her from torture and imprisonment almost single-handedly, as Gaius told the story. No doubt she missed him too.

“I know,” Morgan said comfortingly, her grip on her friend’s arm tightening a little. “Thanks, Luce.”

Robin woke to sunlight streaming merrily into the tent he shared with Tiki, birds chirping outside in rhythm with the sleeping manakete’s deep breathing. Robin held his head and shut his eyes tight, willing the entire world to go away. He was hungover. Again.

I have got to stop drinking strange booze before battles, Robin groaned internally, doing his best to shield his eyes from the sunlight. I mean really? One bottle? What in Naga’s name did she put in that stuff?

The tactician finally admitted defeat, sitting up with a quiet groan and blinking a few times, dreading the amount of wine and ale that would no doubt be flowing once the war was over.

I am doomed to being perpetually hungover, aren’t I? he lamented as he slipped into the dark officer’s tunic that would go beneath his borrowed armour.

The tent he was currently sharing with Tiki was small, but not so small they couldn’t squeeze two single cots into it. Apparently other races besides humans weren’t as big on personal space; something Robin was very overly acquainted with. Thoughts of being tackled by young manaketes or waking up with Taguel on top of him flashed through his mind as he strapped his pouch to his hip and began gathering up the things he’d need for the day that were strewn about the tent; his spellbook, the latest reports that would probably be rendered obsolete when he finally made it to the command tent, the same old waterskin he’d been carrying around for three years now that Lissa had given him in the field he’d woken up in, some dried fruits and nuts in a bag. Robin stopped when his fingers grasped the hilt of the broken rapier Chrom had given him. Of course, it hadn’t been broken when Chrom had given it to him, and as Robin held the drastically reduced blade up to the sun he felt pangs of guilt as the light danced along its surface. Even broken the sword was still chillingly beautiful. On a whim Robin tucked it into his belt; it was about the length of a long dagger, maybe it would come in handy and save his life one last time.

Tiki snorted softly and sat up in bed, blinking a few times as her tired mind struggled to wake. Robin had to admit he tried very hard not to chuckle seeing the Divine Dragon Voice sitting with dishevelled hair in her pyjamas with a thin line of drool on her chin. It was, in a word, adorable.

“Good morning sunshine,” Robin sang cheerily.

“Mornin’” Tiki mumbled, yawning and stretching.

Robin politely averted his eyes by spinning his back to her as she climbed out of the cot and began to put on her own matching officer’s tunic; he’d never noticed considering how late he always got in, but her pyjamas appeared to be little more than a thin chemise and her smallclothes.

“Today’s the day, huh?” she asked sleepily as sounds of rustling reached Robin’s ears.

Stealing a glance over his shoulder to make sure it was safe Robin turned back to face Tiki as she sat on the edge of the cot, yawning and stretching again, now clad in her officer’s tunic disguise. As if moving without thinking Tiki began to brush her long green hair for the day.

“Yes it is,” Robin said conversationally, leaning back against the table in the corner of the tent he had been working at lately.

Tiki pouted, sighing irritatedly. “You were drinking without me last night, weren’t you? Don’t try to lie, I have enhanced senses, I can smell it.”

Robin snickered a little at the child-like performance the manakete was giving, making it harder and harder to connect her to the colossal dragon-form he’d seen incinerate the Risen hordes the other day.

“My apologies, Lady Tiki,” Robin said with a slight bow. “Next time I get sloshed, I’ll be sure to send a runner.”

Tiki nodded once, satisfied before she stopped what she was doing, glancing up at the tactician with his head still bowed.

“Aren’t you going to brush your hair?” she asked.

Robin quirked his head to one side questioningly before reaching up and running his fingers through his tangled mop a few times; it was almost past his shoulders now, but that would be good enough to keep it presentable.

“What I’d like to do is cut it all off,” Robin admitted with a sigh.

“We don’t have time for that,” Tiki said authoritatively. “Come here and sit down. I’ll brush it for you.”

“Er… I’m okay, thanks,” Robin said, raising both hands in a warding gesture and starting to back towards the tent’s entrance.

“Nonsense!” Tiki insisted. “We’re meeting up with all your friends and family today! Don’t you want to look presentable for them?”

“No, really, I appreciate the thought, but-” was as far as Robin got before Tiki pounced.

Flavia stepped quickly through the resistance camp as she headed for the command tent; Sir Priam had asked that they all be there before breakfast, and now she was running late. The camp was coming to life around her, veteran soldiers all around her age or older rising and preparing for the inevitable battle that would no doubt be fought today. Red armour was being inspected while weapons were being sharpened. Men were splashing their faces with cold water in an attempt to wake while others trudged towards the latrines. It was strange seeing so many veteran soldiers in one place; strange because this was the first time in a long time that Flavia had actually felt younger than the majority of the people around her.

The Khan’s progress halted when she heard a scream coming from the direction of Robin’s tent.

“No! Get off me you maniac!”

Changing course and picking up speed, Flavia hurried to Robin’s tent and didn’t hesitate to burst through the canvas flaps, sword in hand to rescue the tactician from…

“Flavia!” Robin shouted desperately from beneath Tiki when he saw her enter. “Save me!”

The tactician had a brush hanging from a particularly large knot in his long white hair; obviously Tiki, who was currently holding him in a headlock, was trying to brush his hair. Obviously Robin did not want his hair brushed. It was a simple matter to deduce this and decide that it was really not something she needed to get involved with so early in the morning.

Flavia snickered once before backing slowly out of the tent, much to Robin’s dismay.

“Where are you going!? Save me, dammit!”

Once the tent flaps closed she heard Tiki chuckle.

“Just give in; we’re almost done and you’re not getting away!”

Robin’s resounding cry of “No!” could be heard throughout the camp. Even a few of the closer resistance soldiers, who had apparently gotten used to the shenanigans of the Shepherds lately, looked up at it.

“Just… ignore them,” Flavia managed to say, struggling not to burst into laughter the entire time.

“Form up on me!” Chrom was roaring. “Lancers to the front! Swords and axemen behind them! Come on, this is our final battle!”

The soldiers of the Ylissean League, brave men and women from Ylisse, Regna Ferox, Chengshi and now Chon’sin and it’s protectorates as well all moved to form ranks while Morgan watched with Chrom and Lucina. In the distance the fortress walls that marked the beginning of Walhart’s Capital city stood ominously like a black tumour on the land; all the forests around it had been culled and only weeds and sporadic patches of grass still grew for kilometres in every direction from the walls.

Knight-Commander Frederick and Duke Roark would personally be leading the two mounted divisions that they had been able to scrape together from the surviving knights, Sully and Stahl among their number. Wing-Commander Cordelia was leading the Pegasus Knights with Queen Sumia and Cherche, Nowi and Nah joining them. Her mother Say’ri, newly crowned Queen of Chon’sin, would hold the front lines with Lord Liung, leaving Chrom and Morgan to lead the Shepherds in the inevitable assault against Walhart himself once he took the field.

Chrom stood tall before the assembled men, looking out over them with fire in his eyes.

“Men of Ylisse!” he called, his voice crystal clear in the early afternoon air. “Men of Regna Ferox! Men of Chengshi and of Chon’sin! Today we face the greatest challenge we ever have! Today, by our sweat and blood, Walhart’s reign of tyranny ends!”

A smattering of cheers rose up from the soldiers at Chrom’s words, but he held up his hands for silence before the applause could grow.

“However let us not forget how we have come to be here,” the Prince said, his voice still carrying. “Let us win victory today, not just for us, but for those who gave their lives to see us here. For all the brave men and women that sacrificed their lives so we could have the opportunity to stop Walhart’s madness and bring peace back to the world! That is why we are here! That is why I am here! I stand before you and make this promise not as the Prince, but the Exalt of Ylisse!”

A stunned silence descended on the crowd for a moment before quiet murmuring broke out. It was no secret why Prince Chrom hadn’t taken up the title of Exalt after his sister’s death, but to do so now…

All at once the murmuring was silenced when a single voice rang out above the crowd, roaring “Long live the Exalt!” at the top of its lungs. It took Morgan a second to realize that her fist was raised and it had been her that had shouted.

All at once the rest of the crowd took up the chant, men from different nations claiming their allegiance to Chrom as the soldiers from Ylisse shouted loudest and with the most pride.

“Long live the Exalt!”

“Glory to Ylisse!”

“In the name of the Divine Dragon!”

Chrom drank all of this in, looking over the men and turning to Morgan and offering her a grateful smile before taking two steps forward and drawing Falchion, holding it high in the air as blue flames danced around the blade from within.

“For the future!” Chrom roared, the cry echoing around him as the soldiers turned to face the Capital and began marching, their heads held high and their spirits higher.

They could do this; they could win.

“I can’t believe this is still working,” Robin muttered as the newly re-formed resistance army marched alongside the Imperial and Dynast soldiers returning to the capital.

No one was even looking at them; a thousand enemy soldiers sneaking into the capital under their very nose, and no one was even looking at them. They’d marched all morning and no one had even given them a second glance. Walhart’s reach had officially extended his grasp.

“Shut it before ya jinx us,” Brady grumbled, fidgeting uncomfortably beneath his red priest’s mantle.

Owain and Inigo snickered while Gerome watched on impassively; all of the boys were wearing red Valmese armour, but only Gerome had opted to wear a full-face helm. Probably because his mask would stick out too much and he’d been forced to remove it, but Robin still hadn’t actually seen the boy’s face.

Cynthia and Tiki were somewhere in the crowd of bodies with Sir Priam while he sought out the Dynast leaders, and Flavia and her disguised Feroxi soldiers were at the front of the group. Robin would have liked to be up the front, too, but this close to the capital he ran the risk of someone recognizing the famous Ylissean tactician, even if he was meant to be dead. All he could really do at this stage was wait and hope everyone else played their parts according to his predictions. There were a lot of variables going into this battle, and he hoped he’d accounted for them all properly. People would die if he hadn’t…

He stole a glance over to the side where the Imperial soldiers were marching, laughing and chatting amongst themselves idly without a care in the world, and found himself desperately hoping that his plan worked and the Dynast leaders listened to what Priam had to say.

Robin glanced up towards the sky in the north-west, towards the capital, with a troubled expression.

“What’s wrong?” Inigo asked curiously.

“Nothing,” Robin heaved a sigh. “At least, nothing we can do anything about.”

If his predictions were correct, right about now the Shepherds and the Ylissean League would be beginning their assault of Walhart’s honour guard outside of the Capital.

Stay safe Morgan, Lucina, Robin silently pleaded as they continued their monotonous marching.

Wave after wave of Imperial soldiers broke against the Ylissean front lines, being repelled time and time again. Not once had the line even come close to buckling, and they were steadily gaining ground. The capital now loomed above them, dark and foreboding as a cursed castle in a child’s fairy tale. At some point the Shepherds had taken the front, Chrom leading the inexorable advance across the empty land before Walhart’s gates and sweeping aside any and all opposition that stood against them.

The Imperial soldiers were knocked back by rows of lancers before having arrows rained down on them, and swordsmen and axemen would dart out to finish the enemy off before the lines reformed in time for the next wave. Mages from Ylisse and Chon’sin worked tirelessly in tandem to defend against Imperial mages, who were mercifully few compared to the noble ranks of the Ylissean Mage Academy or the Chon’sin Royal Mage Order, and the Imperial magic wielders soon found themselves on the defensive as magic lightning fell from the sky and the ground beneath their positions opened to swallow them whole and spew burning rivers of magic lava on the enemy rear lines. Priests and clerics from all of the nations worked together under the watchful eyes of Lissa and Maribelle to save as many lives as possible, dragging wounded soldiers off the front lines and back to be administered to, before sending them on their way recovered and itching to return to the fight. Roark’s knights waited patiently in the rear, guarding the priests and clerics while waiting for the order to fill any gaps that might appear, while Frederick’s knights harried the enemy flanks, causing disarray everywhere they struck, which was taken advantage of by the forward units being led by Liung and Say’ri. The seven Pegasus Knights, led by Cordelia and Sumia, swooped and assaulted points of strategic import while Cherche, Nowi and Nah caused distractions by dropping out of the sky atop stunned enemy units.

Among it all, in the thickest of the fighting, was Morgan standing side by side with Chrom and Lucina in her father’s place, her mother’s sword from the future flashing through the air as she fought in her father’s memory.

“Lancers form up on the left!” she shouted, pointing to a specific squad. “The enemy is going to try charging again!”

“Archers take down the enemy wyvern riders! Don’t let them get near the priests!”

“You! Signal the Pegasus Knights and tell them to strike hard at the eastern flank; tell Cordelia that Frederick’s knights will need the opening, so not to hold back.”

“Prepare for the next wave!” Chrom shouted in warning, holding his sword in the air to gain as much attention as he could in the chaos. “Form up! The next wave is coming!”

“Archer squad three!” Morgan shouted over her shoulder. “Slow them down a little!”

A squad of archers separated from the rest that were all currently firing at the wyvern riders above the western flank and began to shoot at the approaching Imperial soldiers. Noire and Virion joined in, and the enemy charge faltered. As the first line faltered Morgan saw what she’d been waiting hours for; above the lines of cavalry behind the infantry Walhart’s banner was flapping.

“Chrom!” Morgan called, forgetting herself and instantly correcting her manners. “I mean Exalt Chrom!”

“Aren’t we a little busy for formalities right now?” Chrom asked with a grin.

“I think we need to take the offensive,” Morgan said, grinning back.

“You think?” Chrom asked, raising an eyebrow and looking out over the enemy soldiers charging at them.

“We need to take the offensive, Chrom,” Morgan corrected herself again. “Walhart’s taken the field.”

“That’s more like it!” Chrom said excitedly.

“Form ranks!” Lucina began shouting, having heard their entire exchange. “Prepare to advance! Full charge; Dragon’s Teeth formation! Form ranks!”

The call was taken up by the signallers, horns blaring out the new orders as line sergeants began to cajole their men into position. Much quicker than the last time they had attempted it despite the new soldiers from Chon’sin the lines shifted, becoming jagged triangles with lances at the front and swordsmen on the sides; archers and mages stood at the ready in the rear to rebuff any assaults that threatened to break the lines. At the tip of the central ‘tooth’ Morgan, Chrom and Lucina stood, a multitude of Shepherds behind them.

Morgan looked over her shoulder. Virion gave her a confident grin and a thumbs-up while Noire trembled next to him, doing her best to look brave. Vaike was beating his bare chest with his off-hand, his other wrapped firmly around his axe as his eyes hungrily scanned the approaching enemy. Yarne and Panne were both sniffing the air, claws digging into the earth at their feet in anticipation. Severa gave her a wink and circled her sword, bringing the point up to a ready-stance. Her eyes met her Auntie Tharja’s, and the woman gave a curt nod from next to her bubbly, blood-splattered partner Henry, who was apparently doing his best to paint himself red. Kellam and Kjelle stood ready and immovable in their massive armour; Lon’qu kneaded the grip of his sword impatiently; Gaius and Ricken both looked a little nervous being so close to the front lines, but stood ready all the same; Donnel stood tall and proud, his sword held high and his armour, while dirty, still gleaming in the sunlight; Anna looked nervous but determined next to Libra, as cool and calm as ever, who was muttering prayers for salvation and retribution. The Shepherds were assembled and ready, or else fighting elsewhere. They were prepared to lay down their lives to end this war if need be.

“Advance!” Chrom ordered, the ‘teeth’ moving in perfect synchrony towards the still reeling Imperial line.

The Ylissean lines moved slower in formation, but they closed the gap quickly nonetheless, tearing through the infantry and engaging with the cavalry behind them. Without room to manoeuvre between the ‘teeth’ the Imperial cavalry lost their greatest advantage of mobility, reducing them to little more than mounted infantry hacking and slashing low with their swords or axes, most forgetting about their lances in the close quarters.

“They’re pulling back!” Chrom shouted. “Close the gap! Don’t give them room to pick up momentum!”

The Imperial forces were indeed pulling back, but rather than regroup they merely created space, flowing to the sides and creating a gap between the armies in front of the Shepherds.

“They’re not pulling back…” Morgan muttered, before realization sunk in.

“Prepare for assault!” she shrieked as red-armoured forms began to charge towards them again.

At the head of the red tide was a giant of a man, white hair contrasting sharply with his black cape as he led his horse faster than Morgan had ever seen anything on land move before, aiming directly for them with some of the biggest knights she’d ever seen at his back.

“Behold!” Walhart roared, his horse rearing up as he pulled it to a halt before the Shepherds. “I am Walhart the Conqueror! And you are all naught but pebbles on the path to my immortality!”

As one his knights, who had stopped behind him, kicked their horses forward, screaming battle cries with their weapons held high.

“For Ylisse!” Lucina screamed, throwing herself forwards before Chrom and the other Shepherds followed her.

Once again Chrom found himself at the centre of the conflict, spinning and striking with his sword at any who dared stand before him, Falchion blazing with blue fire from within as he stared down the motionless form of Walhart. The red-armoured Emperor stood with his head slightly cocked to one side as Chrom approached, the newly crowned Exalt striking down one last knight that chose to attempt to impede him as he did. With a satisfied smile Walhart dismounted his horse and drew a long, curved sword with a single blade reminiscent of Say’ri’s or Morgan’s.

It was him. After all this time, Chrom finally stood against the man that had caused so much death and destruction; the man that had been responsible for the death of one of his Shepherds, Gregor, and his best friend Robin.

“Why do you resist me, little Exalt?” Walhart asked him, sounding genuinely curious as the two leaders faced off against each other.

“You enslave the weak and kill the able. You are the enemy of peace,” Chrom ground out, his fist tightening around Falchion’s hilt.

“I would end the reign of the gods, and you object on moral grounds?!” Walhart thundered. “Blood is spilled in any new birth, Exalt. And in many a just cause, as you know-”

“There is no justification for what you’ve done!” Chrom shouted, cutting Walhart off.

He would dare… he would dare speak of justification after he enslaved the entirety of his own continent? After invading the shores of a nation allied with Ylisse, with the intent of invading Chrom’s own nation? The Exalt felt his smouldering anger begin to grow, the fires of rage being stoked by the Emperor’s harsh laughter.

“By whose laws do you judge me?” Walhart laughed. “Yours? Your sister's? The gods'? I do not recognize the authority of Ylisse; here, you are the invaders. And the gods? The gods are dead to me.”

“You cannot-”

“Look at you!” Walhart thundered again, cutting Chrom off mid-sentence. “Are you not ashamed? Your mind is filled with nothing but second-hand beliefs. You dance upon the stage of your gods like a mindless puppet! That is what I reject: being a slave to tradition, to obligation! The old ways. Damn the gods! Damn their fates and their destinies! I will have true freedom! Any man who offers less is my enemy!”

Chrom reeled slightly at Walhart’s rant. In truth, was the Conqueror’s reasoning any different from his own? Was he not fighting to reshape destiny, to create a new world free of the threat of dark gods where all could be safe? Chrom looked into the cold, dead eyes of the Emperor standing glowering before him and realized the folly of his current train of thought. No; Walhart was mad; he was nothing like Chrom or Lucina. He was nothing like Robin, who had died defending Chrom’s ideals; his own ideals. Chrom steeled his resolve. There was no place for Walhart in the world Chrom was making. Not for his sister; not for Naga; Chrom would defeat Walhart for himself. He would bring justice to the man that had murdered and butchered thousands of innocents in the name of ‘conquest’. He would kill Walhart for murdering Robin.

“Enough! I don't require every detail of your twisted philosophy. You're a villain and a murderer, plain and simple. And I am the justice you deserve.”

Walhart let out a deep belly laugh before snapping his sword up and assuming a ready stance.

“Better, Exalt,” Walhart almost purred, his voice a deep rumble in his massive chest. “Much better! Be not an agent of someone else's justice, but justice itself! Now, let us fight as two great men, freed of their gods. I grant any challenger the chance to test his will against my own... but you, too, shall be found wanting!”

“Not today,” Chrom said, swinging his sword up in a circle to a ready stance, before darting in low at the giant of a man.

Without even watching Chrom Walhart moved one mighty foot back, bringing his sword down in a perfect slice that would have struck most men, cleaving them in two from shoulder to hip. Chrom wasn’t most men, however, and rolled to the side at the last second, sparks flying as Walhart’s sword grazed Chrom’s shoulder-plate. Snarling, the Exalt jumped back up, striking high and fast at Walhart, who parried easily and threw Chrom back with his sword one-handed.

“Is this the best that the Exalt of Ylisse has to offer me?” Walhart asked, sounding to be actually insulted. “Are you truly so pathetic without your vaunted tactician at your side that you cannot even stand against me?”

“Don’t you dare speak of Robin, murderer!” Chrom roared, launching a barrage of strikes with such blinding speed that Walhart was actually driven back a few steps.

Reaching out as if to grab Falchion the Emperor slapped the blade aside, more sparks flying as the divine blade rubbed against Walhart’s gauntlet. Faster than Chrom thought possible Walhart brought the pommel of his sword down on Chrom’s shoulder, driving the Exalt to his knees. Chrom reeled as a massive red-armoured knee smashed into his face, throwing him onto his back.

The fight had barely lasted a few minutes; never before had Chrom been so thoroughly beaten, not since the earliest days of his training against his father.

Walhart approached calmly, kicking Falchion out of the reeling Chrom’s hand before raising his sword above the prone Exalt, point towards his heart.

“And now you die, Exalt of Ylisse,” Walhart spat.

“Father!” “Chrom!”

Before the blade could descend Walhart was thrown back, magical green wind buffeting him and nearly lifting him from his feet as he fought to steady himself.

A flash of silver and blue heralded the arrival of one of Chrom’s saviours, striking at the retreating Emperor with more speed and ferocity than even Chrom had been able to muster. He looked up, eyes settling on Morgan as she leafed through her spellbook, eyes never leaving Walhart’s duel with his new opponent, Lucina.

“We’re late,” Robin muttered, watching the battle unfolding below the assembled Imperial and Dynast soldiers.

The Resistance army, still hidden in plain sight, was assembled around him, with the five other future children waiting closest to him. Tiki and Priam were due back any minute now from meeting with the last of the Dynast leaders; so far the majority had assented to sitting on the sidelines and waiting for a victor, but Priam had felt optimistic and decided to try his hand at the Imperial leaders as well.

“Are they…” Cynthia muttered, gripping her staff hard as she trailed off.

Robin scanned the field as the Ylissean army adopted the ‘dragon’s teeth’ formation in preparation of the immanent cavalry charge that the Imperials were preparing; Robin spotted Walhart’s banner and knew they were fast running out of time.

“Dammit,” he cursed, watching as the two armies closed with each other again, debating simply throwing caution to the wind and going with ‘Plan B’.

Magical fire rained from the sky over the Imperial forces, red-armoured foes being thrown into the air by the force of the strikes. Robin spotted two Knight divisions circling the field, striking wherever they could find an opening, and the Pegasus Knights flying above doing the same.

The Ylissean League was holding their own, but Walhart’s Honour Guard still outnumbered them.

“We should be down there,” Flavia growled from beneath the cloak she was now wearing over her usual armour.

Now that the threat of the Dynast soldiers all around them pouncing on the Feroxi was non-existent, they had all returned to their furs and leathers, and their assorted, mismatched armour. Flavia wore her own red and silver armour beneath a rough brown cloak as her fist creaked on the hilt of her sword.

“Are your men ready?” Robin asked, not looking away from the battle as the two sides finally clashed again.

Flavia nodded an affirmative.

“Prepare them to charge,” Robin ordered. “Whether the Imperials are going to stay out of this or not has nothing to do with your part of the plan.”

Flavia grinned predatorily before turning, her clock swishing with the movement.

“Stay alive, Robin,” she said over her shoulder. “We still have to finish that discussion about you being my new tactician!”

“Yeah,” Robin said with a faint smile. “You too, Khan Flavia. But you’d better bring more ale!”

The older woman’s laughter rang out long after her form had disappeared into the press of Resistance bodies.

“My sword hand twitches,” Owain growled beneath his breath. “We should be going with them, not waiting up here.”

Robin shrugged as he went back to watching the battle.

“So go,” Robin said distractedly. “Take Inigo and Brady with you.”

“What?” the three boys in question all asked at once.

“The Feroxi lack healers,” Robin explained. “And I’m not going to listen to Owain bitch about his sword hand for the next thirty minutes. And… well, I don’t trust him on his own.”

“Yes!” Owain cried, running after Flavia. “Khan Flavia! Wait! Owain, hero of the future, has been given leave to accompany your charge! Keep up if you can!”

“You really, really hate me, don’t you?” Inigo asked, watching the blonde-haired boy disappear into the press of Feroxi warriors lining up.

“Just keep him safe,” Robin said, patting the lady-killer on the shoulder. “You’ll be fine.”

“Apparently, that’s why I’m goin,” Brady grumbled, trailing after Inigo. “To keep you two idiots alive long ‘nough to go get killed again.”

“What of us?” Gerome asked in his usual whisper of a voice, still wearing red armour but having replaced the stifling helm with his usual black mask again.

“Yeah!” Cynthia piped up excitedly. “Can we go with them too!?”

Robin shook his head.

“No,” he explained quietly. “Look; the battle’s going bad. If it gets any worse, the three of us are ‘Plan B’.”

“What’s ‘Plan B’!?” Cynthia asked, latching on to Robin’s arm. “What is it!? Tell me it’s heroic! Please!?”

Robin chuckled, shaking the girl off of him.

“Oh, it’s heroic,” Robin said with a devilish grin. “And stupid. And suicidal. You’ll love it.”

“Marvellous,” Gerome muttered, scanning the battlefield again before climbing atop Minerva and readying his gear.

Before Robin could utter the witty comeback on the tip of his tongue the Feroxi warriors let out a lusty roar and charged towards the battle, Flavia, Owain and Inigo at their head.

Morgan stepped back, bringing her hand up and throwing balls of fire at Walhart as the giant of a man danced his way between Lucina and Chrom’s swords. He simply ducked and slid, forcing Morgan to bring her sword up to ward off the advancing Conqueror’s blows. He completely ignored the fact that the two best swordsmen in the entire Ylissean League were now behind him and pressed in on Morgan, striking with blinding speed and scoring a deep hit on her right bicep.

Hissing with pain, Morgan hopped back as Chrom barrelled into the man from the side, forcing him away from Morgan. Lucina followed her father, bringing her Parallel Falchion up and stabbing at Walhart’s face. The Emperor of Valm moved a fraction of a second too slowly, and a red line opened across one of his cheeks.

Bellowing his fury like the angry bull his strange crown made him resemble, Walhart began raining blows down on Lucina, slapping Chrom away and sending the Exalt reeling. Morgan cast three successive thunder spells, succeeding in drawing Walhart’s attention as Lucina stepped back and Chrom struck from the Conqueror’s rear, but without even looking he swept his sword out behind him, slapping Chrom’s thrust away and circling his blade, gouging a deep line on Chrom’s chest-plate as the Exalt stumbled to one side.

“He’s… he’s not human,” Morgan panted, wiping the sweat from her eyes as Walhart stood, barely even breathing heavily.

Chrom and Lucina were like her, breathing heavily and covered in small wounds from near misses; there was a particularly nasty looking scratch on the side of Lucina’s neck bleeding rather heavily, but she fought on regardless. One of Chrom’s shoulder guards had been literally torn away, and his chest-plate was dented on the left side. Morgan’s coat had several holes in it; the impenetrable magically-armoured coat that had been a gift from her father in the future was useless against Walhart’s power.

“He’s bleeding,” Lucina growled, slowing her breathing and readying her sword again. “We can kill him if we keep going together.”

“Congratulations, Ylisseans,” Walhart said, bringing his steel-clad fingertips to his split cheek and dabbing them in the blood flowing from it.

“It has been a very long time since anyone has wounded me. I congratulate you. But now I must cease this playing and return to my place at the head of the army that will conquer the world.”

“Oh, give it a rest already!” Chrom shouted, launching himself into the air and striking at Walhart from above.

The Conqueror moved faster still, reaching out and grabbing Chrom by the wrist before swinging the Exalt through the air over his head and throwing him into Morgan. They went down in a heap, Morgan striking her head against Chrom’s armoured knee.

“Father! Morgan!” Lucina cried before Walhart was on her again.

Bringing her Parallel Falchion up in a blur she managed to block the one-handed downward strike he aimed at her shoulder, her hands going numb almost instantly from the sheer brutality of the blow. Walhart’s free hand shot up into Lucina’s stomach, making her gag and fall to her knees as Walhart stood over her.

“You are nothing but ants compared to me!” Walhart roared as he brought his sword down again, Lucina narrowly avoiding the blow by diving to one side and scrambling back to her feet.

“Know your place!” the Emperor snarled, leaping forward again, his sword held in both massive hands as he advanced like quicksilver.

Lucina momentarily glanced over to where her father was still picking himself up off of Morgan, both of the others dazed and vulnerable. She had to keep Walhart busy for at least long enough for them to get back on their feet.

Lucina swept Walhart’s blade aside, spinning away from him and striking at his shoulder, rewarded by the feeling of Falchion cutting through the armour and biting flesh beneath. The Conqueror bellowed again, swinging his sword with reckless abandon and knocking Lucina from her feet when she tried to parry the blow.

Walhart was above her in a flash, viciously kicking her side and sending her flying through the air again. As Lucina landed she felt confident that the blow had broken at least one rib, even through the now indented armour, if not more.

Walhart grabbed the Princess by the throat, roughly lifting her from the ground and preparing to run her through with his sword as she kicked futilely, Falchion falling from her hands as she desperately tried to pry Walhart’s fingers from her neck. Chrom and Morgan’s shouts of denial went unheard as he drew his arm back, but the blow never landed.

Lucina fel to the ground, coughing and spluttering as she greedily sucked air into her lungs, watching in astonishment as Walhart fell back, smoking scorch marks decorating his red chest plate.

A burst of wind magic from directly above them made Lucina shield her eyes, even as Walhart was forced further back, roaring wordlessly in rage and frustration before a red blur descended on him, striking with a broken sword and shouting with a voice Lucina had thought to never hear again.

“Death from above!” he shouted as he fell through the air, landing on Walhart and burying his broken sword almost to the hilt in the Conqueror’s shoulder before leaping nimbly out of the man’s attack range.

“You keep your filthy hands off of her, monster,” he growled, holding the broken sword one handed in his right hand as magical lighting crackled around his left fist.

Lucina shuddered as she felt tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. It couldn’t be Robin… Robin was dead… he was dead!

The ghost turned slightly and gave her a wink and a confident grin, white hair dancing in the after-effects of his wind magic like a halo surrounding his head, before he turned back to Walhart and launched towards the giant of a man.

Without even thinking Lucina called his name at the top of her lungs as he darted towards their enemy. “Robin!”

This is a horrible idea, Robin repeated over and over in his head as he clutched onto Cynthia’s waist tightly, watching the battlefield zoom by beneath them.

I mean I’ve had some bad ideas before, but this on; this one takes the cake. I’m going to die! Why did I think this was a good idea!? Some genius plan ‘Plan B’ was; leap onto Walhart and strike in surprise from above. I’m such an idiot! There’s no way I’ll-

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Cynthia called over her shoulder above the howling wind, interrupting his self-destructive thoughts. “I could come in a little lower!”

“No!” Robin called back, ignoring his own inner monologue. “We need to take him absolutely by surprise! I can’t do that if he spots you two!”

Robin involuntarily shivered at the cool air; to be light enough for her pegasus to carry him so high Robin had been forced to shed most of his armour; all he still wore were the gauntlets and the shoulder-plates, mostly because he couldn’t figure out how to get either off.

A small way off Gerome was steering Minerva one-handed, while scouting beneath them for wherever Walhart was.

Flavia and her Feroxi warriors were way ahead of them, cutting right through the Valmese flank to the Ylissean lines like a knife through butter. Behind them Priam led the Resistance against the remainder of the flank and the Imperial army proper, his veteran soldiers making short work of the less-experienced Valmese men. Further back the entire force of Dynast and Imperial conscript warriors had moved into position, but stood stock still as if awaiting further orders, completely at odds with their written orders to join the fight and crush the Ylisseans between them and the Imperials in the Capital.

All Robin had to do was cut the head off the serpent and kill Walhart, and this war would be as good as over.

“There he is!” Gerome called over the wind, his usually quiet voice ringing clearly through the sky.

Robin squinted and sure enough, just below them was the colossal red-armoured figure of Walhart, facing off against three Shepherds and holding his own while the battle raged on around them.

Ohgodsohgodsohgodsohgodsohgodsohgods! Robin repeated over and over in his head, taking a deep breath and letting himself slide from behind a very shocked looking Cynthia and into freefall.

Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap! Robin screamed in his head, too terrified to make his voice work.

As he drew closer to the ground he could make out the three Shepherds fighting against Walhart; to absolutely no one’s surprise it was Chrom, Lucina and Morgan. His friend, his daughter and the woman he loved were getting thrashed, and as he watched the Conqueror used Chrom as a projectile to temporarily incapacitate the Prince and Morgan, leaving Lucina to fend for herself against the mountain of a man. He was still too high up to use any magic for fear of striking Lucina by accident, but he’d be close enough soon…

Robin ground his teeth, attempting to arrest his fall by spreading out his arms and legs, forced to watch as Lucina was knocked to the ground. Magic lightning began to gather around his fist as she was brutally kicked while still reeling, and Walhart grabbed her by the neck, preparing to impale her on his sword.

“No!” Robin roared, lashing out with all the strength he had.

Three thunder spells hit Walhart dead centre, making him drop Lucina and stumble backwards in surprise. Robin only had a few moments to celebrate his victory before he realized he was supposed to use that mana to land.

“Oh crap,” Robin muttered, desperately trying to gather enough mana for the wind spell he needed, his voice lost to the roar of the wind in his ears. “Oh Naga, please give me strength…”

At the last second he cast a wind spell directly beneath him, the shock of deceleration hitting him hard as he changed his trajectory and launched himself, broken-rapier first at Walhart’s red form.

“Death from above!” Robin couldn’t resist shouting now that he could hear over the wind again.

The Conqueror’s enraged face changed to one of shock as Robin landed on top of him with the force of a projectile shot from a catapult, but he barely stepped back. Sensing that he was in danger, Robin pulled his broken sword free of Walhart’s shoulder and leapt back, narrowly avoiding the swinging blade aimed at his neck.

“You keep your filthy hands off of her, monster,” Robin growled, gathering mana in his off-hand for a powerful arcthunder spell.

Seeing that Walhart was still in shock at his sudden appearance and doing his best impersonation of a fish as his mouth silently opened and closed, Robin risked a glance over his shoulder at Lucina. She looked weakly up at him, and his heart broke to see her so beaten and wounded again. Smiling reassuringly Robin winked at her before turning back to face Walhart.

Kicking off the ground Robin used the remaining wind magic still lingering in the area to speed his charge, becoming a blur as he raced towards Walhart. Behind him he could hear Lucina calling his name, but he ignored it as he focused on Walhart. With blinding speed Robin closed, striking not with his sword but point-blank with his primed arcthunder, knocking Walhart back further before he brought his broken rapier up, the jagged tip biting into Walhart’s stomach armour, but not penetrating deep enough to be a clean hit. Walhart recovered, bringing a fist down and indenting the red shoulder-guard Robin was still wearing, but the tactician ignored it as he lashed out with one of Lucina’s favourite moves and shattered the Emperor’s nose with a well-placed headbutt. Walhart fell back, spluttering and spitting blood. Seeing his opening Robin thrust his hand forward, lightning crackling along his armour and his skin for a second before becoming a stream of pure light that bowled Walhart off of his feet.

Seeing that their Emperor was in danger the soldiers of his honour guard panicked, crowding around him with shouts of “Protect the Emperor!” and “Long live the Conqueror!” as Robin backpedalled. The enemy progress was halted when two more shapes fell from the sky, blocking their path and knocking back the soldiers that weren’t busy dragging a struggling Walhart away from the battle. Cynthia and Gerome presented an impassable barrier, stalling the Imperial Honour Guard long enough for the other Shepherds and Ylissean soldiers to race past and give chase to them, freeing the small group from any imminent danger.

Robin breathed a sigh of relief, all the tension leaving him as he realized he’d just survived jumping from a pegasus that was pretty much as high as the clouds.

“Dad?” Morgan asked weakly, still sitting dazed on the ground next to a wobbly-looking Chrom.

Robin grinned, strutting over to his daughter and standing above her a moment, before reaching down and lightly rapping her on the head with his knuckles.

“A tactician never gets bogged down in duels with single opponents,” he said in his best teacher voice. “A tactician must always be half in and half out of the battle, always watching the flow of war and adjusting their plans where necessary. Understand, kiddo?”

Morgan stared up at him with wide, teary eyes for another few moments before Robin found himself being forced back a few steps as she tackled him into the most brutal hug he’d had in a long time.

“Gah! Morgan, when did you start wearing armour!?” Robin shouted as she ground her plates against his chest.

Morgan didn’t answer, instead sobbing hysterically into his shoulder as he gently patted her back.

“Robin, is that really-” Chrom started to say before he, too, found himself with a young woman wrapped around his chest.

“Father!” Cynthia cried, losing her composure.

“Father!?” Chrom repeated as the girl buried her face into his chest-plate.

“It’s me!” Cynthia cried without looking up. “I’m your daughter from the future! Your daughter Cynthia! Your Pega-Pony Princess!”

Chrom looked over her head to Lucina, who was slowly climbing back to her feet. She nodded once at her father’s questioning look, which was all Chrom needed before he started to calm the girl down, speaking in a low, soothing tone to her as she valiantly tried not to cry in front of him.

Pega-Pony Princess, huh? Robin thought, grinning evilly as he watched Chrom comfort his younger daughter. I’m going to have to remember that one.

“Alright,” Robin said, attempting to pry the now quiet Morgan off of him. “Alright! You have a battle to win! I’m just here with reinforcements!”

Morgan stepped back, nodding and looking up at Robin again.

“What happened to your hair?” she asked brightly, completely at odds with the lines in the dirt and blood caked to her face from her crying.

“Long story short, I don’t know,” Robin said, watching as Chrom disengaged himself from Cynthia and began to walk towards Robin, a sense of foreboding running down the tactician’s spine.

“Ohgodspleasedon’thitme!” Robin shouted, involuntarily taking a step back.

“Hit you!?” Chrom shouted back. “I should kill you!”

To Robin’s surprise, though, the Prince wrapped him in a tight bear hug, lifting him clear off the ground.

“You mad, crazy bastard!” Chrom shouted, laughter in his voice and his wounds momentarily forgotten. “Where were you!? What happened!? We feared you for dead!”

“Gah! Chrom! Armour!” Robin cried desperately as Morgan and Cynthia giggled, watching the tactician thrash and squirm in his best friend’s embrace. “Come on, what would the soldiers say if they saw their Prince like this!?”

Chrom chuckled as he put Robin down, grabbing his shoulder and squeezing it gently.

“It’s actually ‘Exalt’ now, not Prince,” Chrom said proudly.

“Good for you,” Robin said with a smile breaking out on his face. “Excuse my over-familiarity, Lord, but it’s about damn time!”

Chrom laughed again, pulling Robin into another rough embrace before stepping back.

“Now somebody please give me my coat!” Robin said enthusiastically, earning more laughs from Morgan and Chrom, Cynthia joining in as well.

Robin looked over to where he was expecting to see Lucina smiling and laughing along with the rest of them, only to find her standing a few paces further away than the others, staring at him with wide, disbelieving eyes.

“Luce?” Morgan asked worriedly, following the direction of her father’s gaze. “What’s wrong?”

The battlefield sounds faded to a dim rumble in the background as Robin turned and approached Lucina.

“You’re alive,” she said, her voice little more than a whisper.

“I am,” Robin answered lamely, suddenly at a loss for words.

“I… watched you die,” Lucina said, her voice haunted as tears began pooling at the corners of her eyes.

“I don’t know what to say,” Robin said with a shrug. “Brady’s a hell of a healer.”

“Brady?” Lucina sniffed, looking around and noticing Gerome and Cynthia for the first time. “Gerome? Cynthia?”

The mask-wearing wyvern rider nodded silently once from atop his mount, visibly working to restrain the excited Minerva beneath him. Cynthia was animated enough for the two of them, though, launching herself from Chrom’s side to wrap her older sister in a huge hug, crying “Lucy!” over and over the whole time.

Lucina stood dumbstruck as she returned her sister’s embrace, completely overwhelmed and at a loss as to how to react.

“What was it you said about reinforcements?” Morgan asked curiously as the battle began to wind down, Walhart’s forces escaping back towards the Capital.

“If I may be so bold as to suggest you take the Shepherds after Walhart while I take command out here, my Lord Exalt?” Robin asked Chrom with a cheeky bow.

“Sure, but… you won’t have the men to hold the Imperial forces while we’re inside,” Chrom said, his gaze becoming confused.

“Not a problem,” Robin said nonchalantly as the sounds of Feroxi battle-cries began to overwhelm the other sounds of battle. “Like I said. Reinforcements.”

Chrom’s face turned into a feral grin.

“It’s good to have you back, Robin,” he said, patting Robin on the shoulder one last time before turning and striding away, shouting orders to reform the lines on Robin and to gather the scattered Shepherds to push into the capital.

“I’ll leave the clean-up operation to you, then,” Chrom called over his shoulder.

“Oh this is just like old times!” Robin shouted back. “Me doing all your dirty work while you hog the glory!”

Grinning, Robin turned to survey the battlefield. The majority of Walhart’s army was still outside the massive walls, and the Dynasts and Conscripts made no move to assist them; Robin wouldn’t have any problem-

“Don’t you dare die on me again!” Morgan shouted, breaking Robin’s train of thought as she grabbed him in another armour-clad hug.

“Is that my breast-plate?” Robin asked suspiciously, making Morgan step back as her face blushed and she studiously looked at the space between her feet.

“Sorry dad gotta go lead the last battle!” Morgan said as she began to sprint after Chrom, leaving Robin to chuckle alone as the Ylissean League began to form up and prepare for the last charge against the Valmese.

Soon the Feroxi would join them, and they would be able to crush the Imperial force between them and the Resistance.

“Hey Lucy, aren’t you going to go with them?” Cynthia said hesitantly, drawing Robin’s attention behind him again.

Robin turned, coming face to face with Lucina. Without warning she reached up and practically tore his head off when she pulled it down into a deep kiss. And in an instant everything Robin had done up to this point was vindicated as his spirits soared.

With a sigh as they separated the last of the anxiety he’d been feeling left him. He was with Lucina again.

“I believe I will be more help out here,” Lucina said to her sister without looking away from Robin.

No doubt Cynthia’s jaw was hanging open, perhaps even Gerome’s stone face had changed expression; Robin didn’t care as he gazed down into Lucina’s brilliant blue eyes.

“You should go with them, Lucina,” Robin said, hating himself as he did. “Morgan and Chrom will need you.”

Lucina frowned a little, still not moving away from Robin.

“If I promise not to disappear again would that help?” he asked with a grin.

“If you do I’ll never forgive you,” Lucina said before pulling away.

She nodded, stepping away from Robin. Before she could move out of arms reach Robin’s hand flashed out, grabbing her and pulling her back into his arms for a second passionate kiss.

“Okay,” Robin said when they finally separated, both red-cheeked and breathing heavily. “Now you can go.”

Lucina smiled and stroked Robin’s cheek before turning and beginning to run in the direction that her Father and Morgan had taken.

When Robin looked up he was pleased to note that his prediction for the other’s reactions was right on the money; Cynthia’s face, wide eyed and mouth hanging open, was busily snapping back and forth between the figure of her disappearing sister and the smugly smiling Robin, and Gerome’s eyebrow was arched almost to his swept-back hairline.

“You’re going to catch flies like that,” Robin said as he walked past Cynthia, now spluttering wordlessly in shock, something on the ground nearby catching the tactician’s eye.

Robin bent, picking up the sword that Walhart had dropped when his soldiers had dragged him from the field and hefted it over his shoulder. It was much longer than his rapier, and only had a single curved blade, but it would do nicely.

“Shall we join the army and finish the war?” Robin drolled to the two Shepherds still staring at him in disbelief as he toted the massive sword on one shoulder. “Because once this is over there’s going to be a hell of a victory party.”

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