Invisible Ties

Chapter 42

Robin sat with his head bowed, hands resting in his lap and shoulders slumped outside the medical tent. Around him the Ylissean camp was an ordered chaos, the unwounded soldiers and the other camp followers running to and fro, setting up tents and preparing patrols for the newly established League camp outside the capital. Fortunately Robin was in the Shepherds’ camp, far away from the moans and cries of the other wounded soldiers; right now those piteous sounds would have pushed him over the edge into despair as he waited for news on his daughter’s condition.

Say’ri was sitting next to him, tense and stiff as a board, still filthy from her ordeal out in the field before the armistice had been called. She would need healing, too, but the line was already pretty long.

Morgan was currently inside the tent behind them being treated by all three of the Shepherds’ healers simultaneously. She had been barely alive when Walhart had finished with her, beaten to the verge of death. Her injuries were mostly internal, the kind that took that much longer to magically heal for fear of making a mistake, which given the circumstances could make matters much worse. Every so often they heard hushed voices hurriedly whispering to each other beyond the canvas, medical jargon that went right over Robin’s head. At some point he’d managed to get the last pieces of Valmese armour off of his shoulders and hands, but he was pretty sure he ruined the gauntlets when he’d yanked them off, not to mention almost dislocated his fingers. The red steel was sitting in a forgotten heap off to one side, utterly forgotten. He was still wearing the dark officer’s tunic, but he’d change that soon enough.

Night had fallen while he wasn’t paying attention, and all around him the other wounded Shepherds were being treated by more mundane means, those with first aid knowledge applying it to their wounded comrades while they waited for the healers to finish with Morgan.

Kellam had been almost fatally wounded, too, but Brady had personally worked on his father’s wound before collapsing from exhausting his mana much the same way Robin was known to do; now the soldier sat, holding his son up and talking quietly with him while they waited patiently for Maribelle to finish in the medical tent. Severa was sitting on a crate across from Robin, the vain woman looking fierce as she held a rag to her bleeding face; a blow from Walhart had split her lip, but fortunately not done any damage to her teeth besides rattling them a little. Robin hoped for everyone’s sake that it didn’t leave a scar. Vaike had the usual list of cuts and contusions on his bare torso that Miriel was busily cleaning with an experimental antiseptic she had been developing. Sumia was busily fussing over a deep looking gash to Chrom’s sword-arm while he insisted that ‘it was only a flesh wound’. Frederick sat off to one side with a concussion, Donnel supervising his commander and forcing him to stay awake while Severa occasionally cast worried glances at her injured father. Panne watched over Yarne like a hawk, viciously glaring down anyone that stepped anywhere near him while he rested, the young Taguel’s neck bruised and shoulder muscles sprained. She was so obsessed with her son’s safety that her superior senses hadn’t even picked up Robin’s scent yet. Sully and Kjelle were busy comparing wounds with smiles on their faces while an increasingly irritated Stahl tried to bind them. The list went on; there was barely a single Shepherd that hadn’t suffered some form of injury that day. Much to Robin’s immense relief, however, Lucina wasn’t among the number waiting for treatment.

The fact that most of the Shepherds hadn’t even spared him a second glance concerned Robin a little, but he just assumed that they hadn’t noticed him yet. After all, they were all wounded and exhausted, and he hadn’t been ‘dead’ for more than a week, so perhaps they just wouldn’t notice him unless he did something to get noticed. It sounded like an interesting social-experiment to Robin. Chrom had waved a quick greeting to him before Sumia had latched onto him, but now he was simply waiting to see how long it took the rest to realize he was there.

The tent flaps rustled and an exhausted-looking Lissa popped her head out, motioning for Robin and Say’ri to enter before disappearing back inside.

Robin got up silently, following the princess into the small, well-lit healing tent; it reeked of lamp-oil and antiseptic, and the benches along the sides of the space were piled high with bandages and bindings that would be needed to treat the others. Libra sat in a position similar to the one Robin had been in outside while Maribelle was busy organizing and cleaning the tools they would need to use for the next patients, fully invested in her role of a healer rather than the high-class lady she usually presented, as Lissa led them to the table Morgan was resting on. Libra glanced up and blinked a few times when he saw Robin approach before breaking into a radiant smile.

“By Naga’s grace it is good to see you well, my friend,” the priest said softly, rising and giving Robin a light embrace before stepping back. “I had thought the Exalt mad when he gave us news of your return, but…”

Whatever Libra had been about to say was lost when Lissa wrapped Robin in a tight hug, making the tactician squeak as the air was pressed out of his lungs.

“I’m so glad you’re alive!” she sniffled, trying to hold back her tears. “It is you, right? It has to be you!”

“Yeah,” Robin said with a tired smirk. “Yeah, it’s me.”

Robin glanced up to where Maribelle was watching the ordeal and shot her a grin once he managed to pry Lissa off of him.

“Would you like a hug, too?” he asked, spreading his arms out a little.

“I believe we have had this conversation once before,” the haughty noblewoman scoffed, turning away from him.

“However,” she added, glancing over her shoulder. “It does my heart good to see you well, Robin.”

Robin chuckled a little before sobering and approaching where Morgan was resting, her entire torso and her right shoulder wrapped tightly in thick bandages while she breathed shallowly. Where the bandages ended the bruises began, and Robin felt his blood rise as he looked down on his injured daughter. Hesitantly Robin reached out and ran a hand along her cheek, trying to assure himself that she was still actually alive. His fingertips brushed warm, soft flesh, and Robin let out a breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding.

She’s still alive.

“We’ve done everything we can for her,” Lissa said, laying a hand on Say’ri’s shoulder as the woman silently circled to the other side of the table, staring stunned at Morgan. “It was close, but she’s going to be alright. She just needs rest now. We were hoping you could take her to her tent where she’ll be more comfortable. It should be safe to move her.”

Robin nodded, leaning down and gently scooping his daughter up. Morgan moaned a little, but instinctively curled into her father’s arms as if she were accustomed to the motion.

“Thank you all,” Robin said, his voice hoarse from spending half the day shouting orders at everyone.

Say’ri echoed him before following the tactician out of the tent and past the knot of inattentive Shepherds patiently waiting for their turns.

“Maybe you should stay and get those wounds looked at, too,” Robin suggested as they walked through the camp in the direction of the younger Shepherds’ tents.

Say’ri shook her head. “Eventually, but there are things I must do first.”

Robin shrugged, choosing not to press the issue. As far as Say’ri was concerned he really didn’t know how to act. Before Steiger she had been cold and distant, even hostile, and rightly so in Robin’s opinion; he had acted a right-royal arse, as Vaike would have put it. But then during their rescue mission she had softened a little, even encouraged him when fear and despair had begun to grip the tactician and shake his resolve. Now she was being docile, like she was afraid Robin would disappear in a puff of smoke if she said or did the wrong thing. To say that the atmosphere between the two was awkward would have been an understatement, and Robin hated it. He wanted to go back to being friends, to being comfortable around each other, not just for his sake, but more for the sake of the unconscious girl in his arms that called them ‘mother’ and ‘father’.

Fate had apparently decided long ago that Robin and Say’ri were meant to be together, but Lucina had changed that fate when she had travelled back in time with the other Shepherds. Robin didn’t regret his choice, and never would, but he regretted the way he had handled things with Say’ri and regretted the situation he found himself in now.

The camp was still practically empty as they walked through it, the majority of Shepherds either helping out with the rest of the army where needed or patiently waiting out front of the medical tent. Robin was actually grateful for the solitude at present. He was indeed looking forward to reuniting with the rest of the Shepherds, but right now he was exhausted and had a million things on his mind, chief among them the whereabouts of a one Shepherd in particular.

They reached Morgan and Noire’s shared tent, the timid archer nowhere in sight as Robin gently laid Morgan down on her bedroll, careful not to disturb her. After ensuring that she was comfortable Robin reached out and stroked her cheek, simply happy that everyone was still alive.

“Will you stay with her?” Robin asked the other woman in the tent without looking up from his daughter’s peaceful face.

Say’ri was silent for a moment before answering.

“You are going to go and find Lucina,” she said, stating it as a fact rather than a question.

The tactician nodded. “Morgan is safe. The fighting is over. I need to see her.”

“Robin… I…” Say’ri began, unsure how to continue.

“I’m sorry, Say’ri, but my heart hasn’t changed,” Robin said quietly.

“Fie, Robin, I know that,” Say’ri said past the lump in her throat. “And I accepted that the moment I saw you striding across the field, shouting at my soldiers. I am simply happy that you are still alive. But while we thought you were dead…”

The woman trailed off again, and Robin stood to face her. She wouldn’t meet his gaze, looking everywhere but at Robin’s face.

“Robin, we thought you were dead,” she said at last. “I was… I was devastated; angry. I loved you and you were taken away from me not once, but twice. In my anger I… lashed out. I said cruel and hurtful things to her. I fear that is why she is not with the camp at present.”

The exhausted tactician felt a spike of anxiety as his tired mind woke instantly.

“What happened?” he asked in a neutral tone.

Say’ri continued to look away from him as she spoke. “I… found myself going to your tent for comfort. Simply to be around what was… left of you. She was there and… gods, Robin, I’m sorry.”

“Say’ri, what happened?” Robin repeated.

Of course this had to happen, Robin growled in his mind. Why didn’t I see this coming? Of course everyone would be upset by the thought of me dying, but I didn’t properly think about how they would react. I was too busy drinking and carrying on with the resistance like a child on holiday.

Robin had to physically stop himself from slapping his head as he sat by Morgan’s bedside.

I’m such an idiot!

He had done it again, not thinking the whole situation through before jumping to conclusions. Of course there would have been people venting their grief and frustration; that was just human nature. While he had been off gallivanting, his friends had been suffering and continuing the fight, tearing themselves other apart in the process.

“I’m such an idiot,” he muttered, running a hand through his hair.

“So… what’s tha’ make me?” Morgan mumbled, stirring beneath the blankets of her bedroll.

“Well, that’s easy,” Robin chuckled without thinking. “It makes you the daughter of an idiot. How’re you feeling?”

“Like I got hit by Anna’s cart,” Morgan groaned, shifting a little and grimacing.

“Yeah, you gotta learn to duck, kiddo,” Robin said with a small smile, gently ruffling her hair.

“So… it’s really you?” Morgan asked groggily. “You’re not going to disappear again?”

“And leave you to take all these beatings in my place?” Robin scoffed. “I don’t think so.”

“I got stepped on…” Morgan groaned, trying to shift again.

Robin burst out laughing; he tried not to, but couldn’t help it. The amount of times someone or something had trod all over him on the battlefield…

“Like father like daughter, eh?” he chuckled when he noticed Morgan’s curious stare.

“’M thirsty,” Morgan mumbled.

Robin reached into his pouch, pulling out the waterskin he carried everywhere with him before helping Morgan sit up a little.

“Here,” he said, bringing the spout to her mouth. “It’s not particularly fresh, but it’s wet. I’ll make sure to bring you some more later, okay?”

Morgan nodded before drinking greedily, Robin holding her up the whole time. She let out a small sigh when she finished draining the half-full skin, and Robin gently eased her back down. She didn’t seem to be fully conscious yet, but she was aware of her body’s needs, so Robin’s worries eased a little. They sat in silence, Robin gently stroking the girl’s hair as her breathing slowed.

“I did my best while you were gone,” Morgan muttered, coughing a little.

“You did better than that,” Robin said without hesitating. “You led everyone better than I ever could have. I’m proud of you, Morgan.”

“But… I got hurt,” she whined, sobbing a little. “I… got taken out of the battle. I’m… I failed at the end…”

“Honey, have you seen me without a shirt on?” the older tactician chuckled sadly. “I look like a thatched roof under this coat I’ve been hurt and taken out of the battle that many times. Tacticians like us that lead from the front, we make ourselves targets. Any enemy commander worth his title will recognize us and what we do and target us over any others, that’s the lot of a tactician. We bear the heaviest burden, and we bear the deepest scars, all to keep our men alive. Every time we march on that field we’re in greater danger than even the front-line soldiers.”

“I know all that, but-”

“No buts,” Robin insisted. “You minimized casualties not only on our side, but for the Imperials, too. You did so well today, and all the time I’ve been gone. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Now rest before I find Tharja and have her put a sleeping hex on you.”

Morgan closed her eyes and went silent again, the only sounds in the tent her laboured breathing and Robin’s heartbeat in his ears. Just as he thought that his daughter might finally have drifted off again she turned her head, staring up at him with big, tear-filled eyes.

“I’m so glad you’re back. Promise… you’ll still be here when I wake up.”

“Of course,” Robin said, leaning down and kissing her forehead. “Now sleep.”

Robin rushed through the Ylissean camp, hood up in an attempt to stave off being delayed or distracted by people recognizing him. He had delayed just long enough to change back into his spare set of regular clothes, lovingly cared for in his absence and waiting in his tent, but was still carrying his ‘liberated’ sword slung over his shoulder; it was just too long to strap to his hip.

It had taken the better part of an hour for Robin to gently goad the entire story out of Say’ri, after which he had made her go back to the healing tent so that he could think while he watched over Morgan and had his little conversation with her. He had done his best to be calm and gentle with Say’ri, but it was a difficult task as his tension grew with each passing moment. He had also felt bad about leaving Morgan again, but he would be there when she woke up in the morning, he would make sure of that. However for now he was racing around the camp looking for the future Ylissean Princess.

She hadn’t been in her tent, or any of the other common areas. Robin had considered asking one of the trackers for help, but had decided against it; he needed to find her before…

The tacticians thoughts ceased as something barrelled into him from behind, lifting him off the ground for a second before he crashed painfully back to it, two strong, furry arms wrapped around his midsection.

“Good gods!” Robin choked, pushing himself up and reaching for his sword as the weight settled on his back.

He relaxed as a familiar musky animal scent reached his nose.

“Panne, what in Naga’s name…?”

“Once I had your scent I knew it was you,” the Taguel said, releasing Robin and pulling him to his feet by his scruff.

“You are alive, man-spawn,” she stated, looking at a very confused Robin as if she had just approached him casually rather than crash-tackled him.

“Yeah, although that came very close to just changing,” Robin complained, rubbing his ribs.

“The dark-haired woman that never smiles is looking for you,” Panne said, matter-of-factly. “She said that it was of the upmost importance.”

“And for that you crash-tackled me?” the tactician complained.

Panne shook her head, long hair and rabbit-ears swaying with the motion before her usually severe face softened into a charming smile.

“No. I tackled you because I was glad you are alive.”

Robin sighed and smiled a little himself, running a hand through his hair.

“Alright, but let’s make this quick. Take me to Tharja. After you do I have a… mission for you. More like a favour, really.”

Before they could start moving back towards the tents a shrill and outraged cry echoed around them from the direction of the supply wagons.

“What in the name of unholy hell happened to my beautiful cart!?” Anna raged in the distance, reminding Robin what he had done in the pursuit of his coat earlier that day.

“Go, now, go,” Robin urged, panicking and starting to urgently push Panne away from the angry merchant. “If she catches me I’m dead, and I don’t think I’ll be able to come back this time!”

There was a stench of cloying smoke in the air as Lucina ran through the palace corridors; a sickly sweet mixture of burning wood and charred flesh, thick black smoke billowing through the once-beautiful palace as the young Exalt fought her way through the crowd of servants running the opposite direction.

She had known that eventually Ylisstol would be attacked; they couldn’t hold out forever, and the skirmishes with Risen testing their weak spots had increased of late, but still she had clung to the vain hope that Ylisstol would remain a bastion of freedom. Refugees had flocked to the capital from as far north as Regna Ferox; from the Eastern lands of Valm across the sea, there had been no word in months. Plegia, too, had been silent, and the tales that the refugees from the north had told were all grim stories of thousands slaughtered and lands despoiled.

And now they had come to strike at the heart of the final hope for humanity.

“I will not allow my home to fall,” she promised herself quietly as she hurried to the fighting, putting even more distance between herself and her friends leading the mass exodus with Duke Roark of Themis and Khan Flavia of Regna Ferox as the city burned around them.

Despite the panic rising within her breast Lucina presented a firm face as she continued to press through the fleeing servants and retainers, clad in the blue tunic and armour that her friend Gerome had crafted at her request, Falchion gripped firmly in her hands.

No doubt Severa and Laurent would give her an ear-full about her foolish decision afterwards, and the thought of having to leave Cynthia and Owain alone without a word of what she was doing didn’t sit well with her, but she had no choice. They were the best hope for the future, so she couldn’t endanger them. But at the same time she couldn’t simply escape into the darkness while her soldiers fought and died in vain.

She came out into the Great Hall of the Ylisstol palace from the servant corridors, although one might liken it to diving feet-first into the pits of hell themselves. Flames were everywhere, as were bodies. Blood coated everything, but still the brave Royal Guard fought on against the Risen invaders, foul monsters from beyond death itself. At one end of the hall the beautifully carved statue of Naga was aflame, wreathing Lucina’s goddess in a hellish halo.

“Stand firm!” a booming, strong voice shouted from somewhere in the press. “We hold them here! For the Exalt and Ylisse!”

Lucina leapt into the fray, swinging Falchion two-handed, desperately trying to fight her way to the source of the voice. What old man Cullen was doing in the middle of a battle…

She came upon him almost instantly, beating the Risen off of the soldiers around him with his shield, his silver armour gleaming atop the blue uniform tunic of the Royal Guard as he swung a beautifully crafted morning-star in wide arcs. He was still nimble for an old man, but Lucina could already see that the heat and smoke were taking a toll on him; he was far too old to be on the field like this. His lined face was grim as his long white hair fluttered in the breeze created by the flames, turning to shock as he noticed Lucina fighting her way towards him.

“What are you doing, fool girl!?” he roared over the battle. “Why are you still here!?”

“I will not allow my castle to fall so easily!” Lucina responded, twirling Falchion in a figure-eight as her father had taught her to before lashing out in a quick over the shoulder strike that Cullen had taught her.

“I will not retreat!” she added, stabbing another of the endless horde of Risen.

“Then you will fall along with Ylisstol and all hope will be gone!” Cullen snapped, lashing out again and again with his mace. “You must survive, my lady! We can hold them here! If you die then all of our deaths will be for naught!”

Lucina continued to hack and slash at the enemies around her, but for every one she felled three more entered the hall through the broken gates at the other end. She couldn’t win; not here, not this time, not like this. The thoughts pained her as she realized she was simply denying the truth.

Ylisse had fallen.

“Go, Exalt! I beg you!” Cullen urged her in a brief lull in the fighting, wheezing now as his old lungs fought against the thick smoke for breath. “This will be your last chance! Go!”

Lucina nodded once, turning away as frustrated tears threatened to overflow.

“Here they come!” one of the guards called as a fresh wave of Risen poured into the hallway, some of the biggest and cruellest looking that Lucina had ever seen.

“This is where we make our stand!” Cullen roared above the incessant moaning of the monsters, his brilliant cobalt cape flapping in the wind as he strode forward, every inch the hero of song he was said to be. “This is where we show these soulless bastards what it means to attack the halls of the Exalt! This is where they die!”

With a lusty shout the Honour Guard charged forward with him, but the Risen greatly outnumbered them and their line was broken almost immediately, the hall descending into a gory free-for-all once more. The Risen were merciless as they set upon the Ylisseans with axe and sword, butchering them. Lucina watched from the doorway she had come in from, two steps from safety and escape but unable to tear her eyes away from the spectacle of Cullen holding the enemy back almost single-handedly.

Lucina watched as one of the Risen pinned one of the few female Guard against the wall, holding her by the neck and leaning in close to inspect her face, and it hit her like a bolt that they were looking for her specifically. Throwing caution to the wind as her blood boiled she charged back out as the Risen pinning the woman raised its axe, impaling it before it could strike at the defenceless Guard.

“I believe the woman you’re looking for…” she said, running the beast through the back with her perfect blade.

“Is me!” she roared, neatly bisecting the Risen in a cloud of purple and black ashes.

The Guard sunk to the floor against the wall, whimpering and holding her shoulders as shock began to set in.

“We can’t let these things win! Now grab a sword and fight!” Lucina urged her, returning to the melee herself.

She wouldn’t let her castle fall; she couldn’t. Between her and Cullen and the soldiers still fighting in the streets they could repel the Risen, at least from the castle so that it could begin to offer sanctuary for those still in the city.

“Dammit all, girl!” Cullen grunted, seeing that Lucina had re-joined the fighting. “You’re worse than your father was, do you know that!?”

Lucina ignored him and kept fighting. Slowly they were driving the last of the Risen from the Great Hall. Then they would take the fight to the grounds and eventually the gates, form a line there, and move into the city.

Lucina’s plans were dashed when the side wall of the Hall erupted inwards, knocking the majority of the Guard off their feet. Unnervingly the Risen still fighting stopped and stepped back, retreating to the periphery of the room as the smoke and dust settled as a great gust of wind extinguished all of the fires and knocked the statue of Naga from its dais.

In the darkness a voice began to laugh, one so eerily familiar yet horribly deformed that Lucina couldn’t recognize it as chills ran up and down her spine.

“So ends the human race,” the voice called from the darkness.

Lucina’s gaze snapped up as three giant red orbs lit up the dark, before turning to focus on her, more evil laughter echoing through the otherwise silent hall.

“No…” Lucina whispered, breaking out into a cold sweat as she beheld the Dark Dragon, Grima.

She had failed. All was lost. He would kill her here and extinguish the last hope for the human race because she had been too stubborn and hot-headed to admit reality. The world was over, and it was her fault…

“Your mother and father are dead, tiny one,” the giant dragon mocked, a note of laughter still in his voice as his head rose on a great serpentine neck.

Now all six eyes stared down at Lucina from between the creature’s massive horns, teeth longer than she was tall glinting wet with saliva in the firelight from the burning city behind him. Even the screams from the city, which had been constant so far, died away as Lucina stared into those six hellish red orbs.

“And now…” the dragon added, his head rearing further back as four wings wide enough to wrap around the entirety of her palace spread wide, eclipsing the moon in the sky.

“So are you!” Grima thundered, his head shooting forward.

Lucina screamed, bringing her sword up as a meagre show of futile resistance. The endless maw of the Dark Dragon closed, coming closer and closer. She could smell his ancient, carrion breath, the breath of a thousand innocent souls consumed for no better reason than the destruction of all mankind.

Just as Lucina closed her eyes something hit her from the side, throwing her clear with a pained grunt. From the corner of her eyes she saw a flash of blue and silver as Cullen barrelled into her, spinning to gain momentum as he grabbed her and tossed her clear across the hall.

For a split second the entire world stopped as she watched the face of the man that had been like a second father to her after her own had died, raising her and the other children, teaching them to fight and safeguarding them until they were ready for the war. A sad smile played across his rugged features as Grima’s maw crashed down around him, shattering the stones of the hall and consuming the old Knight in a single bite in her place while Lucina watched.

Cullen’s last word echoed in the silence that followed as Grima’s head withdrew.


And Lucina ran, the Dark Dragon’s taunting laughter following after her, even if he did not.

Robin ducked into Tharja’s dimly lit tent, the familiar smell of her hexing materials and other spell reagents making his nose itch.

“Tharja?” Robin called out, jumping a little as one of the shadows separated from the rest and quickly approached him.

“There you are!” Tharja practically hissed as she glared at Robin, not wearing her usual robes but the skin-tight body suit she usually wore beneath it. “Where did you run off to? Do you have any idea-”

“I’m sorry, I get you’re mad, but I’m in the middle of something,” Robin cut her off quickly.

The dark mage blinked up at Robin a few times, a perplexed look on her face. In all the years they had known each-other Robin had never snapped at her like that; he hadn’t meant to, but he was in a hurry right now.

“Then I will keep this brief,” the Dark Mage said shortly, regaining her composure. “Do you recall your loss of control in Steiger?”

Robin groaned and nodded, glancing down to the dark purple brand burned onto his hand.

“It is my belief that you were under the influence of an ancient and powerful curse,” Tharja said simply before she turned and began to dig around in the chest behind her. “I suspected it for some time, but that potion I gave you confirmed it.”

“You never did tell me what was in that,” Robin muttered as he watched his friend digging around her chest.

“And I assure you, you still don’t want to know,” Tharja said forebodingly.

“So… I was cursed?” Robin said, scratching his head and choosing to change the subject.

This didn’t seem all that important; why it couldn’t wait until later…

Tharja shot back up, holding a small amulet hanging from a leather cord in her delicate hands and approaching Robin again.

“Yes. However I no longer sense the curse’s influence lingering around your aura anymore,” she continued, holding the amulet up in front of Robin’s face and watching his eyes intently. “It is not unheard of for a curse victim to throw off the afflicting spell alone, but…”

“What was I cursed with?” Robin asked, mesmerized by the patterns on the slowly spinning amulet.

Tharja made a satisfied sound and dropped her hand and the amulet.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Which means it was either custom-tailored for you, or immeasurably ancient; I have studied every known curse available to practitioners of dark magic during my years as an apprentice, so I should have recognized it, but…”

“Okay… I’m all better now, though, right?” Robin asked hesitantly when the mage trailed off.

“For now,” she said, her bearing darkening again as she held out the amulet. “However I do not know how long that will last. I suggest you wear this around your neck at all times. It will protect you from other curses at the very least. I’d also like to do a few more tests when you’re not ‘busy’ just to be sure.”

Robin took the little trinket and pulled it over his head without hesitation, almost feeling a little disappointed when nothing happened.

“What’s wrong?” Tharja asked, reading his face.

“I just… I dunno. I don’t… feel any different.”

“That is a good thing,” Tharja said, rolling her eyes. “If you had burst into flames then I would have known there was a problem.”

Robin blinked a few times.

“Are you telling me this amulet could have set me on fire!?” the tactician exclaimed, staring aghast at the tiny golden circle hanging on his chest.

“Er… no?” the mage said awkwardly, moving away from Robin.

“Tharja, I need you to tell me this thing isn’t going to cause me to spontaneously combust,” Robin said, a note of pleading entering his voice.

He trusted the dark and enigmatic woman with his life, but she was still a dark mage, and as a profession practitioners of the Dark Arts weren’t exactly known for their overwhelming care for their test-subjects’ safety. As answer to Robin’s question Tharja shuffled awkwardly, looking away from him.

“Tharja!” Robin insisted.

“It should get unbearably hot before you ignite!” she assured him quickly. “The only other options were to place a scrying hex on you or follow you around everywhere again! And I know from experience how you value your privacy and personal space.”

Robin sighed, running a hand through hair that now hung to his shoulders as he approached Tharja. The Dark Mage let out a little squeak as she backed away from the man towering threateningly above her.

“If this thing kills me you had better believe I will haunt you for the rest of your days,” Robin warned her half-jokingly.

Tharja nodded, breathing a soft sigh of relief as the tactician stepped back again.

“Was that all? Because I was kinda in the middle of something just now.”

Tharja shook her head, lowering it and beginning to blush before stepping forward and embracing Robin for a second time.

“It’s… good to have you back,” she whispered.

“Hey, no-one said you get two hugs,” Robin chuckled, returning the embrace. “I’m limiting everyone to a single ‘welcome back’ hug. But you gave me a present, so…”

“Stop talking,” Tharja muttered, making Robin burst into a fit of hushed laughter.

“Morgan?” Lucina called as she wandered the halls of the Ylisstol castle. “Morgan? Where are you?”

Of course, it was her castle now; her mother and father were dead, killed in battle with Plegia. The only thing she had left of them was the sword sitting in her room and the pegasus that she had given to Cynthia, the budding Pegasus Knight.

“Morgan!? Please answer me! We’re all worried about you!”

Morgan, the daughter of her father’s tactician Sir Robin, had been missing since the night before. She had not come to dinner, and her bed was still made the next morning. It was enough to begin a city-wide search for the girl.

Lucina’s younger cousin Owain and her little sister Cynthia were searching the lower floors of the castle, treating it as an epic quest while they tried to distract themselves from harsh reality they now found themselves in. Lucina would take the upper floors; the royal apartments and the library, the offices that her father and Robin had used that had been sealed on her orders. Cullen was leading the Royal Guard and the City Guard in a joint effort to search the city and the surrounding countryside with the surviving Shepherds and their children, while her Aunt Lissa spoke to every servant in the castle that might have seen her.

“Morgan!” Lucina called again as she stepped into the corridor that led to the various offices.

Perhaps she was in her father’s old office. Not that the Ylissean Royal Tactician and Ambassador to Chon’sin had spent all that much time in there recently, but it had still strongly felt of Robin’s aura when Lucina had sealed it up a few weeks ago. She had left his coat folded up neatly on his desk as a sign of respect, but eventually the office would have to be cleaned out for the next tactician to use. Once Morgan came of age, anyway. There was no one else that Lucina could imagine as her tactician, just as Robin had been the only tactician for her father for more than ten years.

Lucina cautiously cracked the door, peeking inside. She noticed that everything was as she had left it before; Robin’s things were piled up everywhere, books and parchment spread around the room haphazardly on low tables and hanging over the backs of couches. There were various weapons lying about too; an axe sitting on the floor, half covered by a collapsed pile of books; a beautifully crafted lance, one of Lady Cordelia’s if Lucina wasn’t mistaken; a long, thin sword that Robin had been presented when he had married Queen Say’ri, called Sol, the sword of the King of Chon’sin, sat across his desk. His weapon of choice had been the rapier that her father had given him so many years ago, though; lovingly cared for and restored time and again by the master artisans in Ylisse. The hook that the rapier usually hung on while Robin was working sat empty and forlorn, looking like a beckoning finger in the dim study.

Lucina became aware slowly as she walked deeper into the room that something had changed since she had sealed it, though. Something small but important was different. All the books were in the right place; all the scrolls and grimoires were exactly where they had been left; the multitude of weapons and other junk were still there…

Lucina gasped, rushing towards the desk.

The coat. Robin’s coat was gone. In its place was a small sheet of paper, familiar messy handwriting on the front of it.

~I’ve gone to go and find my father. He’s still alive, I can feel it. I’m sorry, but I needed the coat as a scrying catalyst. I’ll be back with him soon. Don’t worry about me. Lots of love, Morgan~

That was all that was written. It hadn’t even been addressed to anyone. Lucina sat down heavily on the sofa closest to her, reading the note over and over and not fully grasping its meaning. At first they had all talked about riding out together to find their parents and taking vengeance against the Plegians, but then the survivors had returned and those thoughts had been extinguished by tales of the twisted monsters that had been summoned by the Dark Dragon’s return. So few had returned from so many that had set out in the initial rescue party, including even more of the Shepherds…

And now Morgan was alone in the harsh wilderness, surrounded by enemies. Her best friend, just like Robin had been her father’s… alone and at Grima’s mercy.

She should have seen the signs… she should have paid more attention to her friend’s condition…

Alone in the dark office Lucina brought her knees to her chest and for the first time she gave in to despair at the crushing weight of the hopelessness she felt.

Robin wandered around the night-time camp, scratching his head and looking around. He was running out of ideas; hopefully Panne would find him soon with news, or else he’d simply have to widen his search area. He’d tear the entire Valmese capital apart if he had to.

In the distance and all around him Robin could hear the sounds of post-victory revelry beginning as the soldiers and the Shepherds all began to relax and unwind, breaking out the wine and ale as musicians began to play. Hopefully Roark had been smart enough to post guards and patrols so that no celebratory shenanigans got too out of hand, but it had been a hard won victory and the men deserved to let off a little steam.

As the tactician shuffled back through the Shepherd camp on his third circuit he noticed a shirtless brawny man with tanned skin and spiky blonde hair carrying a cask of ale over one shoulder, heading towards the mess tent. Robin gave an evil smirk, his hand wrapping around the trinket in his pocket as he decided to finally pay Vaike back for the incident with Sully’s horse so long ago. Vaike was one of the Shepherds that weren’t aware he was back yet, too…

“Vaike…” Robin whispered in a ghostly fashion as he ducked behind the nearest tent.

The larger man turned, looking around curiously before shrugging and beginning to walk again. Robin snuck forward, getting as close as he could and gripping the trinket tightly in his fist as he got less than a foot from his friend.

“Vaiiiiike…” Robin whispered again.

When the spiky haired man turned the space behind him was empty. He looked around, taking a few steps back the way he had come before shrugging again and turning around to head to the mess tent, only to come face to face with Robin doing his best impersonation of a zombie, eyes rolled back as he reached one hand out to the man.

“Vaaaaaiiiiiiiiike…” Robin moaned before activating the spell in the ring he had taken from Excellus and disappearing again with a small flash.

The tanned man went pale, dropping the cask he was carrying and glancing every direction around him while Robin tried to desperately stifle his laughter behind the nearest tent, watching from the shadows with a hand clamped over his mouth.

“Robin!?” Vaike called in a shuddering voice, turning in circles. “Buddy!? C’mon, man! I… we were friends, right!? You… you wouldn’t haunt ol’ Teach, now, would ya?”

Robin decided to put the cherry on top and teleported so he was standing directly behind Vaike. The tactician reached out and clasped a hand onto the axeman’s shoulder and leaned close to his ear.

“Boo,” Robin whispered before teleporting back behind the tent again.

Vaike’s reaction was priceless. He swirled, lashing out at the empty space behind him and falling as he lost his footing before darting back to his feet and running as fast as he could in the direction of the mess tent, screaming the whole time.

“Waugh! Robin’s haunting me! I’m sorry, buddy! I never meant to steal your desert rations! Don’t haunt meeeeeeeeeeee! I’ll never do anything bad again, I swear! Miriel! Miriel, save me!”

Robin burst out laughing harder than he had since he had travelled with Virion and Tharja so long ago, falling backwards and holding his sides as he rolled around on his back for a good few minutes as Vaike’s screaming faded into the background.

“Was that entirely necessary?” a voice asked from above him.

“No,” Robin chuckled, his laughter finally dying down a little as he climbed back to his feet, wiping a tear from his eye. “But then again revenge never is. But he had it coming and you know it. I didn’t even realize he’d been stealing my desert rations…”

Cordelia stared down at the tactician with a frown on her face before her stern countenance cracked and she let a grin break through.

“I can’t believe you’re alive!” she practically shouted, throwing her arms around his shoulders in a tight hug.

Robin winced involuntarily, mentally preparing for the all-too familiar sensation of metal plates grinding into his chest, but it never came. For the first time since Robin had met her Cordelia wasn’t wearing her armour, obviously fresh from the bathing tents considering the damp smell of soap coming from her hair and the plain clothes she was wearing.

“I knew that you would make your way back to us,” Cordelia continued with a sniffle, squeezing the life out of Robin. “I prayed for you every day you were gone, and here you stand! Gods, Robin!”

The tactician blushed a little, hating himself for enjoying the contact as he realized why she constantly wore her breastplate everywhere: The plate was a lie. Her chest was flat as a board. Severa finally had something up on her mother, although it really wasn’t Robin’s place to ever mention that to the volatile redheaded girl.

“Okay,” Robin groaned, somehow managing to pry the Knight’s iron grip off of him. “It’s good to… see you too, Cordelia… but… stop with the… squeezing now… please…”

“Sorry,” Cordelia said, sniffling again as she took a step back from him. “I guess I got a little carried away. Er… why is your hair white?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” Robin said with a grin and a shrug. “You haven’t seen Panne or Lucina around by chance, have you?”

Cordelia shook her head, clearly still studying Robin’s new hair colour in the torchlight.

“Okay, well, if you do run into either of them let them know I’m looking for them, okay? Oh, and keep the whole ‘teleporting’ thing under your hat. I want to mess with a few more people before it becomes common knowledge.”

Cordelia nodded, smiling as she crossed her arms and sunk back to a hip. “It’s nice to see that you haven’t changed a bit.”

“I was gone for like, a week,” Robin scoffed, waving her comment off. “That’s not exactly a lot of time for personal growth. Or maturation, for that matter. I’m still a kid at heart, you know.”

Robin poked around the camp for a little longer, considering giving up a few times as cold winds blew through the tents and made him shiver. Winter was definitely approaching, and all he could think about doing was going to sit by the bonfire that the others had lit, perhaps teleporting in directly next to Vaike just to mess with him a little more, getting the reunion over and done with and getting absolutely plastered with everyone in celebration of their victory, just like they all had together when the war with Plegia had ended.

One thought about the person that would be missing from that gathering was enough to steel his resolve, however. He’d just have to start searching the rest of the army camp, starting with the medical tents. If she were anywhere she would probably be helping with the relief efforts.

Robin cursed silently as he rounded the corner and came face to face with a long, black, reptilian maw. Minerva stared at him inquisitively, tilting her head a little. Of course, behind Minerva would be…

“So the rumours are true,” Virion muttered from next to Cherche, holding a hand to his chin and grinning. “However I think that the oaf Vaike may have been exaggerating a little. He seems fully flesh and blood to me.”

“Yeah, I’m alive,” Robin said, reaching up ad stroking the patiently waiting Minerva’s crest.

The wyvern let out a soft croon, shaking out her wings and dropping to the ground like a dog being scratched behind its ears.

“Although your new hairstyle does make you seem particularly spirit-like in this darkness,” Virion added, stepping over the wyvern’s splayed legs as she panted and lolled her tongue over razor-sharp teeth.

“Truly the most tactical of tacticians is a genius if he can out-manoeuvre death itself!” Virion said gleefully, patting Robin on the shoulder gracefully.

“Oh stop holding back already,” Robin said, rolling his eyes and wrapping the archer in a tight hug. “You know you missed me.”

“But of course!” Virion chuckled once the tactician released him, stepping back and flipping the hair from his face. “No one even presents a challenge in the most tactical game of chess. I was beginning to grow bored without you.”

Cherche crossed the distance while Virion was composing himself and gave Robin a quick hug, too, before kneeling beside Minerva’s head and proceeding to pick up pampering the wyvern where Robin left off.

“It is good to see you alive and well, my friend,” Virion said as the two men watched the spectacle of a miniature dragon rolling onto its back so that its master could scratch at the softer scales on its stomach.

“Yeah,” Robin said softly. “Thank you for watching over things while I was gone. Morgan especially.”

“What else are friends for?” Virion said nonchalantly with a theatrical shrug, the effect being ruined by the giant smile plastered to his face. “She did you proud while you were gone. Pride, I am not ashamed to say, I felt for you in your stead.”

“Well, your son definitely impressed me, too, while we were with the resistance,” Robin said, mimicking the archer’s earlier movements.

Virion’s jaw dropped as he stared at Robin.

“Wha… you… my…” the normally eloquent archer stammered.

Cherche, however, was much more animated as she jumped up, suddenly in Robin’s face and invading his personal space.

“Our son, hrm?” she purred, smiling pleasantly like a cat about to eat a bird. “Tell me Robin dear, where is he now?”

Robin tried to backpedal, only to have Cherche stay with him, smiling that terrifying smile.

“Look… look for the other Minerva,” Robin finally managed. “Gerome’s the one wearing the mask with her; you can’t miss him.”

Cherche nodded, still smiling as she spun and grabbed her fiancé’s wrist and hauled him in the direction of the bonfire, Virion still stunned and following silently.

“Wait!” Robin called after them. “Have either of you seen… aw forget it.”

He looked at the wyvern still lying on the ground and looking up at him expectantly.

“Well, while I’m here…” he muttered, beginning to thoroughly scratch at every spot he knew that Minerva loved, the creature’s tail happily beating into the ground and raising small clouds of dust while Robin worked.

“Man-spawn! I’ve finally found you!”

Robin bolted up from where he was still pampering Minerva, having moved on to scratching at the ridges under her jaw. The large reptile’s eyes were glazed with pleasure and she crooned disappointedly when he stopped.

Crap, Robin thought, momentarily panicking. How long was I playing with the wyvern for!?

Panne approached them, shifting back into her human form as she stepped closer, slightly out of breath.

“Well?” Robin pressed excitedly. “Did you find her?”

Panne nodded, warily eying the large wyvern.

“I did. Her scent looped around the Valmese capital a few times, before heading back to the palace. It was difficult to find. She has not actually returned to camp yet.”

Robin’s heart skipped a beat; Lucina was still at the palace, and hadn’t come back for healing!? She had been barely standing when they had separated that afternoon, even with the healing she would have needed to keep fighting she should have returned to take rest at the very least!

Curses on the stubborn women in my life! Robin growled internally.

“You’re sure?” he asked instead.

Panne nodded.

“Thank you Panne, this means a great deal to me,” he said, beginning to walk in the direction of the castle.

“I wish you the best, Robin,” she said after a moment, making him stop and turn back.

The usual brusque tone of voice the Taguel spoke in was gone, replaced by hesitation as she looked intently at the tactician.

“I… never told you how much you helped me to… acclimatize to life with humans when we met,” she said quietly. “Before you… died. I had thought I would never get the opportunity. It was due in no small part to your kindness that I was able to open my heart again. You were the first man-spaw… the first person to treat me like an equal since my days as a kit in the warrens of my people. Thank you, Robin. In case I do not get the opportunity to say it again.”

Robin turned and walked back to the Taguel, wrapping her in a light hug.

“That’s what friends do, Panne,” he said softly. “Now go and celebrate with your son and husband. You’ve earned that much ten times over. Thank you for your help tonight.”

The Taguel woman nodded awkwardly when Robin released her, turning and walking away at a brisk pace, no doubt excited about spending quality time with her family.

A thought occurred to Robin as he beheld the wyvern still sitting and watching him with its tongue lolling.

“Feel like stretching your wings a little?” he asked Minerva, to which she answered by slapping her tail into the ground with delight again.

Owain sobbed brokenly as he stood with Lucina and Cynthia over his mother, laid out on a beautiful pyre in the centre of the place grounds.

“There there, Owain, don’t cry,” Cynthia soothed, tears streaming down her own face. “Heroes don’t… don’t cry, remember?”

Lissa had died defending a village beset by Risen, shielding the villagers with her own body while the monsters had closed in around them. The scene Lucina had come upon had made her retch; the people had been butchered and the bodies of Ylissean soldiers littered the ground. Then, in the middle of it all, lay her Aunt, Princess Lissa, still shielding the bodies of the children she had been trying to protect. No one from that village had survived though.

Lucina watched her sister comfort their cousin with a cold disposition; she couldn’t go to pieces in front of the entire funeral procession. The people from the city crowded into the grounds needed her to be strong, to show no weakness. She told herself that as Cynthia led the distraught Owain away, leaving Lucina standing alone with the body of her beloved Aunt. They were all alone now. Lucina was officially the oldest member of the Ylissean Royal Family now. She had to be strong. She had to be like steel, cold and unwavering, to shepherd her people through the war for their very survival that they now found themselves in.

With a nod as Lucina stepped back the priest of Naga began the last rights, and the pyre was lit. Lucina was the only one with dry eyes, even the normally unflappable old man, Cullen, wept silently for his departed mistress.

As the funeral ended and the pyre burned down Lucina turned away from the crowd, silently walking back towards the palace. In the cool night air she could hear the citizens’ voices carrying as they watched her, accusing her of being cold and unfeeling. They said that she felt nothing, that she had a heart made of ice and that even though she was their only hope Princess Lissa had been the compassion from the ruling class that had kept the populace’s faith alive.

She ignored it all as she passed into the shadows of the castle. She had hardened her heart out of necessity. There had been no other option available to her; she had to become cold to lead the last of humanity to victory. She had no time for grief; she had a world to save. Nothing else mattered, not while the entire world burned down around them. Not even the sobs of her cousin and sister as she left them standing by the pyre.

Robin slipped off of Minerva’s back onto the churned-up earth of the Valmese Imperial palace, giving the affectionate wyvern a quick hug around her neck before telling her he would walk back to camp and sending her back alone.

The palace was dark, and Ylissean guards were posted at all the entrances to protect it from looters that would take advantage of the fact it had been temporarily vacated. He had snuck past them atop Minerva, though, landing away from the gates and in darkness. Wind whistled forlornly through the remains of what must have once been beautiful grounds, ruined garden beds trampled under the feet of soldiers dotting the silent plain. Thankfully the bodies had been cleared, but a slight scent of sweat and blood still lingered.

Robin forced himself forward, nerves taught as he prepared himself for what was apparently waiting within.

He was nervous. He had no idea what he was going to do or say, but he knew that the end result would be that Lucina was coming back to camp with him. That was the only option here; no other result would be good enough. He had briefly thought about bringing flowers with him, but that seemed a little tacky and desperate given the circumstances. He would just go in, tell her to ignore what Say’ri had said, remind her how he really felt and hopefully things would go smoothly from there.

“I hate winging it,” Robin muttered, climbing the stone steps to the gaping palace doors and realizing that he didn’t have an actual plan.

The hall beyond the doors was a wreck; rubble from smashed columns was everywhere, as was the detritus of war in the form of abandoned plates of armour and broken weapons. In the moonlight from the various skylights Robin could make out dark stains on the floor, scorch marks from both spells and bloodstains stained into the stones and carpets. Robin shivered, noting the fact that it was cold in the hall for some reason, colder than outside. At the end of the hall under a shaft of moonlight from one of the many skylights was a raised dais with Walhart’s throne sitting untouched atop it. Perched on the edge of the dais was a woman in silver armour with long, straight blue hair, looking at the ground between her feet.

Robin gathered his courage, suddenly aware he had yet to bathe after the day’s fighting, and stepped forward, his footsteps echoing in the silent hall. Lucina showed no sign of hearing him approach as he crossed the hall, making Robin almost believe that she had fallen asleep.

“I’ve been looking for you all night,” Robin called softly as he approached.

“I was going to leave,” Lucina said without looking up as Robin finally reached her a few moments later, standing only a few feet away. “I have caused so much discord by meddling with the timeline so far… Your death; Morgan being wounded time and again; this entire war went off the rails, and it was my fault. It would be best if I returned to watching from the shadows, ensuring that fate is averted without interfering any more than necessary.”

“Firstly, I’m still alive here. Not dead. Everyone needs to get that one right already. Secondly, I don’t believe what you just said for a second,” Robin said, taken aback by her defeated tone.

“But it’s true!” Lucina cried, her voice echoing around the hall. “I brought all this misfortune on all of you, simply by being here! I… I have no right to… you… you don’t belong with…”

Lucina trailed off, her shoulders beginning to shake.

“She was right,” the Princess sobbed brokenly. “It’s all… my fault… My foolishness in meddling with things that were unnecessary to my goal… it cost everyone so much… She was right… I don’t… don’t deserve your affection. I’ve acted out of selfishness this entire time, altering events that are meant… to be set in stone. You and Say’ri…”

“Not this again,” Robin groaned, rolling his eyes. “She and I are not, and will not now, be an item. End of story. We’ve already come to terms with that, she and I.”

“You and she are meant to be together, not you and I,” Lucina insisted quietly. “I had no right to… interfere the way I did. I am sorry, Robin. I pray you forgive me.”

“No,” Robin said flatly.

Lucina finally looked up, her cheeks shining as she stared at Robin in shock. The look on her face tore at his heart, but he couldn’t stop now.

“No,” he repeated, stepping forward. “If you leave, I won’t forgive you. Ever.”

“Please,” Lucina begged, dropping her head again. “Do not make this harder for me. Return to the camp and… and…”

“No,” Robin repeated again. “If you leave, I’ll follow you. To the ends of the earth. Back to your own forsaken future if I have to. I’ll fight my way through hordes of Risen, armies of men and the Dark Dragon himself if that’s what it takes. Naga knows your father will be right there beside me, too. But you’re not getting away. Not now, not after I finally made it back to you. For pity’s sake, Lucina, I’m pretty sure I came back from the dead for you! I don’t know what you’ve been sitting here thinking about all night to wind you up like this, but you leaving is not going to fix anything. It’s just going to hurt you and everyone that cares about you.”

“I spoke to Say’ri,” Robin added in a softer tone as he finally reached Lucina’s side, the woman flinching involuntarily when he spoke. “About what happened while I was gone. Everything she said was out of grief and anger. Even if she meant it, she was still wrong. You belong here, with us, and with me.”

“I cannot…” Lucina persisted, still refusing to look up at him.

“Why?” Robin asked, moving around to her front and kneeling down. “Tell me. Please. Don’t shut me out.”

“I have been sitting here,” Lucina mumbled after a brief silence, “sitting here and thinking of all the deaths I have caused, all the people I have hurt, both here and in the future. Men and women dead because of my pride and arrogance, dead because I couldn’t accept reality, or because I was foolish enough to think I could change fate itself-”

“Fate can be changed,” Robin said, cutting her off. “Nothing is set in stone. Nothing. You’re grasping at straws now because you’re scared, and you know I’m right. You belong with us, Lucina.”

“Stop saying that!” Lucina pleaded.

“It’s the truth,” Robin told her, reaching out and taking both of her clenched fists in his own.

It was like grabbing ice; she had been sitting here so long she was probably numb from the cold. Without thinking about it Robin stood and shrugged off his coat, draping it about Lucina’s shoulders.

“You feel like a Feroxi lamp post,” the tactician said softly, squatting back down.

Lucina shuddered as the coat settled on her back. “Why are you… still…”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” Robin said lightly. “I love you, Lucina. I’m not going to leave you alone again.”

Lucina shuddered again, curling in on herself slightly before letting out a sob and throwing herself towards Robin, knocking him off balance in his precarious position squatting on the balls of his feet and sending them both tumbling to the ground as she wrapped herself around him.

“I’ve been sitting here, unable to leave,” she sobbed into the tactician’s chest, clenching his shirt tightly in her fists and burying her face in it. “Unable to because… I can’t do this alone anymore… and it’s your fault.”

“Guilty as charged,” Robin said softly, wrapping his arms around her back and pulling her close. “So you’ll come back with me, then?”

“Yes, gods damn you,” Lucina half sobbed, half laughed. “You win. I’ll go back. With you.”

They stayed like that for a time, lying beneath Robin’s coat as Lucina let out all the wretched emotions that had been building up for so long inside of her. Robin waited patiently, stroking her hair and tacitly ignoring the armour grinding into his chest, a feeling he was sadly beginning to become accustomed to. When Lucina finally quieted Robin continued to hold her, relishing the fact that they were so close at present, even if there was a suit of armour between them.

“Feel a little better now?” Robin asked gently, to which Lucina sniffled and nodded.

“I sat here, hoping that you would find me,” she admitted softly, turning her head up to look at him. “I think I knew that you would be able to convince me to return. So I waited here for you to find me.”

“I’m sorry I made you wait so long,” Robin said earnestly, looking into the captivating blue orbs and losing himself in them for a moment.

“But, er, maybe we should be getting back to camp?” he added, realizing that it was now getting quite late.

“Of course,” Lucina agreed quickly, drawing back from the tactician.

The Princess finally rose, still wrapped in Robin’s coat and stumbling a little, almost falling as she did so.

“You’re hurt!” Robin said, reaching out and stopping her from falling. “Dammit, I knew you were too stubborn to go and see a healer on your own! Curse all the stubborn women in my life!”

“I am fine, Robin,” Lucina said, much calmer now than she had been as Robin held her up. “I am merely exhausted from everything that has happened today.”

“Okay, so I’ll just carry you back,” Robin said nonchalantly, scooping the woman up in a bridal carry and starting to walk back to the camp.

Lucina let out an involuntary shout, followed by a very girlish giggle as Robin lifted her up, throwing an arm around his neck.

“It is a long way back to camp,” she pointed out, a note of laughter creeping back into her voice.

Robin did his best to shrug with the added burden in his arms.

“I have good motivation,” he said flippantly, continuing to walk.

Lucina smiled as she leaned forward, planting a kiss on Robin’s lips that stopped him dead in his tracks for a good few minutes.

“See!?” he practically shouted when she withdrew, breathless now and blushing hard. “Great motivation! We’ll be back to the camp in no time at all!”

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