Morgan woke, slowly and painfully opening her eyes as consciousness gradually returned.
By the gods above and below everything hurts so badly, she thought, blinking a few times and letting out a soft moan. Her lips were dry and her throat was parched; she felt like she’d been run over by a berserk wyvern and then marched over by the entire Ylissean League in a single file line, in the middle of a desert, but at least she was alive.
The events of the previous day returned slowly to her groggy and pain-addled mind; they had won, her father had come back from the dead, she had been stepped on and then passed out. That… was the sum of her day.
A sound from Morgan’s side made her slowly and painfully glance over, the muscles in her shoulder and neck protesting the entire time. When she finally managed to turn she felt a smile rise unbidden to her lips. On the other side of the tent, curled up on Noire’s cot, was her mother sleeping peacefully, and on the ground next to Morgan’s bedroll, using the very edge of it as a pillow, was her father sleeping curled into a ball on the bare floor.
The young tactician sighed and relaxed, scratching absently at her bandages. The fact that she was wrapped up the way she was, not to mention the fact that her mother was sporting bandages of her own visible beneath her flowing white clothes, spoke volumes of just how desperate the fighting had been. The healers only resorted to more mundane methods of healing, like bandages, ointments, salves, vulenaries, elixirs and the like, when they were running low on mana. The three healers in the Shepherds, Libra, Maribelle and Princess Lissa, were among the best in the League, if not the entire world; for them to be so exhausted they were using such methods made Morgan realize just how close her plans had come to failing.
She desperately wanted to lie there and bask in the moment of having both of her parents alive and well, in the same space and not trying to kill each other; but she was overcome with anxiety thinking about what the Ylissean League’s next move was going to be. Her head spun with possibilities, each of those possibilities coming along with three or four tactical scenarios at lightning speed, but her thought process was derailed when something prodded her in the hip.
“Stop thinking tactics so early in the morning,” her father grumbled sleepily, burying his face deeper into the bedroll substituting a pillow as he drew his arm back.
“How could you tell?” Morgan whispered, wary of waking her mother.
“I can smell it a mile away,” Robin muttered, sitting up and letting out a wide yawn.
Morgan raised an eyebrow from her prone position, realizing she wouldn’t be sitting up unaided for a while.
“Okay, so I’m your father and I can read you like an open book,” he mumbled, pushing the hair from his face after stretching.
“Without even looking at me?” Morgan chuckled.
“I followed the most logical thought process you’d take, considering what I knew and what we talked about last night,” Robin muttered blearily, blinking and obviously struggling to return to full consciousness. “I could hear you shifting and sighing; it was an easy deduction after that, really. Want some breakfast?”
Morgan nodded, marvelling again at her father’s thought process and deductive skills; he hadn’t even been awake that time, and he had read her like an open book.
“Yeah,” Morgan said, squirming a little. “But first…”
“Huh?” Robin asked when she trailed off, looking away and blushing.
“I can’t really move around… all that well yet,” Morgan explained, obviously embarrassed. “And, well… I have to go to the bathroom.”
The older tactician blinked a few times, mouth opening and closing as his tired brain struggled to comprehend what she had just said.
Only one word popped into Robin’s head: Nope.
“Say’ri!” he shouted at last, making both of the women in the tent jump. “Wake up and take your wounded daughter to the bathroom!”
Morgan’s embarrassment intensified as she turned scarlet, staring aghast at her father and praying no one outside had heard his shout as Say’ri looked around much the same way Robin had when he had first woken.
“Dad!” the younger tactician cried, hiding her face with her hands.
“What?” he asked with a curious shrug. “This is most assuredly not a ‘dad’ job, so I asked your mother. Elementary, my dear Morgan; nothing to be ashamed about.”
“Fie, Robin, you truly are dense,” Say’ri muttered as she rose and stretched before she shooed him out of the tent, softly cuffing him upside his head for good measurement. “Out! For once allow your daughter a modicum of privacy and modesty befitting a young woman.”
“And take a bath, for pity’s sake!” she called after him as he disappeared from the tent. “You reek of a battlefield! Show some pride in yourself and clean up!”
“Bring back food!” Morgan called, her voice still strangely strained and sounding more like an order than a request in her current embarrassed state.
Wait, Robin thought, blinking as the canvas flaps were closed in his face. Why am I all of a sudden the bad guy here? Ooh, I do reek, though.
Robin stumbled a little as he walked through the pre-dawn camp, running a hand through his long hair and yawning again, thinking to himself that it might just have been a better idea to stay awake rather than try to sleep in the few hours left of the night when he’d gotten back to camp with Lucina; no doubt the Princess was still out like a light. She probably slept like a log, just like her father. His arms still ached like he’d done a thousand push ups, but he was proud to say he’d actually managed to carry her the whole way back without resorting to the teleporting ring in his pocket. Yesterday had been a long, long day, and then he’d spent all night running around looking for the errant princess before finally finding her. He estimated he’d barely gotten three or four hours sleep at most.
And yet I feel better than I have in months, Robin mused with a small smile creeping onto his face, attempting in vain to tame the tangled mess that was his hair at present.
Giving up on doing it with his hands as he ducked into his own tent, Robin stretched and let out another huge yawn, blinking and looking around as he scratched idly at his chest. It was exactly the way that the camp followers always set it up for him beneath the clutter of the items he’d simply dropped in his haste to return to Morgan’s side last night.
Feels like finally coming home, he thought with a smile, sitting down at his table and glancing around.
Lying on one side of the floor was his new sword, the one he’d taken from Walhart after the initial duel with the Emperor; he’d have to see Jake about getting a proper sheathe made for it, one that actually fit. Sitting on his desk was the remains of his old rapier; another job for Jake, Robin had decided he’d have the remains of the beautiful weapon turned into a dagger, and the blacksmith was the only one he trusted to do it. His soiled Valmese officer’s tunic disguise lay strewn about the floor; he’d either have to wash it or get rid of it, and considering the fact that he was the Ylissean tactician having an enemy uniform may raise some eyebrows back in the capital, so he’d probably wind up just throwing it away. He’d definitely have to get more clothes soon, or simply walk around shirtless under his coat for a while; he could probably get away with it, too, it was starting to get cold enough to keep his coat closed now.
Robin rose and stretched again, thinking that a bath might not be a bad idea after all as he caught another whiff of himself and tried not to gag; the fact that precious few of the male Shepherds bathed in the morning made the prospect all the more appealing. Grabbing his last clean clothes from the bottom of his trunk, the dress uniform shirt and pants that he’d acquired before they’d set out from Ylisstol for Valm, he set out for the men’s bathing tent.
With a towel wrapped around his shoulders and his soiled clothes under one arm Robin slowly made his way back through the early morning camp, basking in the sensation of finally being able to properly clean himself after so long as the new dawn sunlight washed over his aching form.
“Robin?” someone called from behind him.
The tactician spun, coming face to face with a familiar green-haired woman in red and pink walking towards him, a cheerful skip in her step.
“Morning Tiki,” Robin said with a lazy wave. “Sorry it’s just me today; no Mar-Mar over here.”
“Oh, I know who you are, Robin,” Tiki said with an embarrassed laugh. “I apologize again for my mistake the other day.”
“Eh, no harm done,” Robin said with a shrug. “C’mon, while you’re here let’s go get some breakfast.”
Tiki smiled happily, nodding assent as she fell into step with him. They walked in amicable silence for a few heartbeats before the ancient and powerful manakete let out a soft sigh.
“You have no memories of your past, do you, Robin?” she asked, glancing over at him. “It must be especially unnerving, then, for someone to confuse you with another. For all I know, you might start thinking that you really are that person...”
The tactician let out a depreciating snort.
“Me? Compare myself to the great Hero-King Marth? Not likely,” he said dismissively. “I was only kidding around; don’t give it another thought.”
“Even so,” Tiki persisted. “It must be frightening to look into your past and see nothing there. I know that better than most, for long ago I fell under the control of an evil man...”
Robin considered her words; he knew all too well of the pain she spoke of, losing one’s control to another overriding force that forced them to do evil things, but he really hadn’t been bothered by her mistake. In fact he’d been so busy in the last few days that he had barely thought about his loss of control in Steiger. She’d obviously over-thought this, though, and was worried that his feelings had been hurt.
“I'm touched by your concern, but you don't have to worry about me,” Robin said sincerely, giving his best approximation of Chrom’s ‘winning smile’ that melted hearts when the Exalt had first taken the throne. “Still friends?”
“Oh, I surely hope so!” Tiki said earnestly.
“To be honest, I don't even mind if you do call me Mar-Mar,” Robin said, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “After all, it's not so strange for close friends to share nicknames, is it, Tikiwiki?”
The manakete woman actually stumbled and blanched at Robin’s awful sense of humour, making the man laugh even harder as she hurried to catch up to him.
“Please,” she said, blushing furiously. “Never call me that again, Robin.”
“So you're not going to call me Mar-Mar after all, huh?” he asked, still chuckling.
“I much prefer Robin,” Tiki said, glancing away from him. “Don’t you?”
“Sure; I mean, it is my name, right? I’m kinda stuck with it.” Robin said as he discretely tossed his dirty clothes and towel into his tent while they passed it. “It's just that, well… I have no family here, nor even memories of a family. Okay, well I have Morgan, but she’s not technically from ‘here’, though, and I don’t have any past memories of her; I haven’t had her yet. So when you called me by a nickname, the truth is, I rather liked it. Even if it was someone else's nickname.”
“I understand,” Tiki said, growing slightly more serious. “But there is only one Mar-Mar, and that was Marth, the great king of ages past.”
“Yeah, I guess I’m hardly qualified to fill his shoes, am I?” Robin snorted, resting his hands behind his head and looking up to the sky as they walked.
It’s so blue this morning… Beautiful. Just like Lucina’s eyes…
Robin hesitated a moment, eyes going wide as a slight blush crept to his cheeks.
I did not just think that, did I? Oh gods, that was so embarrassing. Thank Naga no one can read my mind.
“And there is one more reason I cannot call you by that name…” Tiki added.
Robin glanced over questioningly, tearing his eyes away from the spectacle above them and raising a brow as he did so, thankful for the distraction. “That being…?”
Tiki crossed her arms, pouting and looking away again.
“Mar-Mar was never such a jerk to his friends,” the manakete said in a child-like tone so cute Robin burst out laughing again, making Tiki ‘humph’ and speed up her pace a little.
“Oh come now, my lady Devine Dragon Voice!” Robin said, reaching out and latching onto the woman’s arm with his own. “I merely jested! Please do not take my jerk-ness to heart, oh divine-maiden of nana-naps fit for a goddess!”
Tiki shook him off, struggling not to encourage his behaviour by laughing at his antics as they reached the mess tent.
“So,” Robin asked around a bite of whatever porridge had been ladled into his bowl without him noticing that morning. “What now?”
“Yes, what now indeed?” Virion added unnecessarily from across the table as he glanced over the rim of his tea-cup; all morning the archer had been like a baby chick that had mistaken Robin as it’s mother, following him everywhere.
It was nice to have been missed, but Robin was dreading the moment the rest of the Shepherds started crowding into the practically empty mess tent. He had tried to get there before everyone else so that he could actually eat before the others started hanging off of him like everyone else so far had been.
Chrom shrugged from next to Robin, Sumia sitting beside the Exalt eating from her own bowl as the quartet spoke. Tiki was on Robin’s other side, slowly eating from her own bowl and seemingly struggling to stay awake as she did so; after Robin had introduced her she’d been welcomed as a new member of the Shepherds, no questions asked, and offered breakfast. Olivia and Cherche were on cooking duty again, making Robin think he’d have to take a look at the roster and make sure that it was being rotated properly, and the timid Feroxi dancer let out a pitiful sniffle as she stirred the large pot. Despite knowing he was going to be there she had started bawling and clinging to him as soon as she’d seen Robin, completely the opposite to the graceful reaction he’d gotten from her partner Libra the previous evening; she’d practically strangled him, she’d hugged him so hard before Cherche had saved his life by dragging her behind the cooking bench.
“Once everyone wakes up and shakes off their celebratory hangovers I think we’ll need to have a war council,” Chrom said. “We’ll need to remain in Valm for the time being to make sure that the continent doesn’t descend into anarchy in the power vacuum.”
Robin perked up instantly, dreading the answer to the question he was about to ask. “So… playing politics, then?”
“It appears so,” Chrom said with a resigned sigh.
The tactician crossed his arms, closing his eyes and nodding a few times as if he were in deep contemplation. Coming to a decision he made a satisfied sound, opening his eyes again and resuming his breakfast.
“Well, I’d love to help you with that, but technically I’m dead, so…” he said, hiding his grin in his bowl.
Chrom burst out laughing as Sumia blinked a few times uncomprehendingly. Virion sighed and shook his head, no doubt rolling his eyes beneath his fringe, and Tiki let out a soft giggle.
“Well the first thing we need to do is decide what to do with Walhart dead,” Chrom said once he stopped laughing, making Robin choke on his food.
“Are you kidding?” the tactician asked. “He’s got to have some kind of line of succession; let the Imperials figure it out. Besides, how’d he wind up kicking the bucket, anyway? If I recall correctly it took four of us just to wound him, let alone…”
“Peace, Robin,” Chrom said, holding a hand up to forestall the tactician from getting too worked up. “It was the damndest thing. Out of nowhere, while Walhart was running roughshod over our lines, a lone swordsman appeared and started to duel with him. They fought each other to a standstill and then…”
Robin sighed and nodded his understanding once Chrom trailed off. Tiki had said Priam had been absent from the fighting…
“Priam,” Robin said after a moment. “The swordsman… his name was Sir Priam.”
“We will honour him as one of our own,” Chrom stated after a moment’s pause. “As for Walhart, I would personally have seen him brought back to Ylisse to stand trial for his crimes against us.”
Robin sat silently for a moment, choosing not to address the Exalt’s awful joke, mind working in overtime. Walhart had been, in a word, dangerous. He was the most physically dominating man Robin had ever met; the tactician had fallen out of the sky and landed on the Emperor, and Walhart had barely taken a step back. The monster had practically killed Morgan, and Chrom was saying he would have rather taken him alive for, of all things, a trial.
“Well, you’re definitely living up to your sister’s ideals,” Robin sighed.
Chrom blinked a few times, cocking his head slightly. “What do you mean?”
“See?” the tactician said to Sumia, ignoring the Exalt’s perplexed face. “He doesn’t even know he’s doing it!”
“I can’t help but feel vaguely insulted right now,” Chrom muttered as Robin and Sumia shared a quiet laugh at his expense.
“And to think, we actually missed him,” Virion drolled, placing his cup down and scooting to the side.
Before Robin could ask what the man was doing he noticed the white-and-green blur careening towards him across the table. The tactician was thrown backwards from his chair as Nowi barrelled into him, squealing in delight.
“You’re alive! You’re alive, alive, alive!” the young-seeming manakete cried shrilly, all laughter and smiles at her friend’s return.
“Yeah, and if you don’t let go of my neck that’ll change really fast!” Robin managed to gasp.
Really, he wondered as Nowi climbed off of him, half dragged by a wistfully smiling Tiki. Why must everyone hug me around the neck?
“What happened to your hair!?” the manakete asked loudly, looking at the unruly white mop sitting atop Robin’s head. “It’s so pretty! It’s like clouds or snow! Oh! I know exactly what it needs! You wait right here, I’ll be right back!”
Damn Virion, using manaketes as ammunition against me now… Robin thought, rubbing his chest where Nowi had hit him.
With that the energetic little manakete rushed out past the press of Shepherds waiting to get into the tent, all of whom stopped and stared when they noticed Robin.
“Riiiight,” Robin said, moving back to his chair and running a hand through his hair, a sheepish grin on his face. “It’s breakfast time now, isn’t it?”
There was another moment of silence before a shout came from the back of the crowd, spoiling the moment and growing steadily more distant.
“Waugh! It’s Robin’s ghost!” Vaike screamed as he ran as fast as he could. “I told ya! I told ya! He’s come back to haunt me! Run for your lives!”
“Geez, mom, I’ll be fine on my own,” Morgan grunted as she was lowered back onto her bedroll.
“And yet you could not even reach the latrines on your own,” Say’ri pointed out. “I cannot afford to not attend this meeting, but I cannot simply leave you here alone. Do you not share this tent with another? Where is she?”
Morgan perked up a little. “Noire? I have no idea. She’s probably pestering her father to protect her from Auntie Tharja’s weird curses again.”
Say’ri let out a sigh, sagging a little. “I will simply have to find Seiko and send her to watch over you while-”
“Er… ex-excuse me?” A timid voice said, light knocking coming from the thick canvas of the tent flap. “I… er, I couldn’t help but… overhear…”
“Yarne!” Morgan exclaimed, shooting into a sitting position and instantly regretting it as pain shot up her injured back and shoulder.
“Owwwwww,” she moaned, falling back as Yarne shuffled into the tent.
“You were eavesdropping?” Say’ri accused coldly, narrowing her eyes at the Taguel and dropping her hand reflexively to her sword’s hilt.
“No!” he said, eyes going wide and taking a step back. “It-it’s the ears! I couldn’t help it! But I… I can keep an e-eye on Morgan while you’re at… your… thingy…”
He trained off, trembling and looking exactly like an animal caught in the gaze of a hunter. Say’ri cast one glance at her ecstatically smiling and nodding daughter and relented; she didn’t have the time to waste anyway.
“Very well,” she said, stepping up to the Taguel, invading his personal space and getting right up into the taller boy’s face. “But if you lay so much as one hand on my daughter for any reason besides her health in my absence I shall have a new rabbit-fur coat. Are we clear?”
Yarne squeaked and nodded, ears flopping about from the manic movements. Morgan practically swooned from the cuteness on display from the terrified shape-shifter as the fur on his shoulders, arms and ears rippled with terror.
“I will return once my business is concluded, but that may be many hours from now,” Say’ri said sadly, moving to kneel by Morgan’s prone form.
“That’s okay,” the young tactician said cheerily. “You’re Queen, right? That means you’ve gotta be busy. When I can get up again I’ll start helping out with whatever I can, okay? I mean, if you want me to. That is what a Princess does, right? Help out?”
“Of course. I would welcome your assistance,” Say’ri smiled before leaning down to place a light kiss on her daughter’s forehead, before standing again, casting one final warning glare at Yarne, and leaving the tent.
The Taguel let out a sigh and relaxed a little, but was still tense when he sat down by Morgan’s side, fidgeting and looking around like a caged animal.
“Why the eyes the size of dinner plates?” Morgan asked curiously. “And why’re you sitting so far away? I practically have to shout to talk to you!”
They were alone now, so he should be able to calm down a little. But it looked like he was still on guard against something.
“Because you're always tugging on my ears and tormenting me,” Yarne replied, holding his long, fluffy ears close to his chest protectively.
“I wouldn't do anything like that anymore, silly!” Morgan laughed, a radiant smile lighting up her face.
“Uh, why not? I mean, I'm glad, but... Hey, you called me by my name just then. What happened to Bunny?”
“You've been a changed man in the last few battles,” Morgan explained. “It's only fun teasing you when you squirm and squeak and try to run away. There's no reason for any of that now.”
“So all that torment was your way of encouraging me to be braver?” the Taguel asked, wrinkling his nose a little.
“Nah,” Morgan said, waving her hand a little and trying to hide her master plan from him.
She had actually been trying to motivate the timid young man into being a little braver on the battlefield, in all honesty; it had worked, too! He’d even leapt to her defence against Walhart, even after the Emperor had tossed aside the other veteran Shepherds like an instructor breaking in the new recruits, completely heedless of his own safety. He’d been fighting on the front lines and he hadn’t even realized it yet; Morgan wasn’t about to tell him that, though. If she did he was liable to have a panic attack.
“Growing up, all girls know that boys overreact when they're teased,” Morgan said, hastily coming up with an excuse on the spot. “I figured it was worth trying, so I gave you a little push and watched what happened.”
“Well… thanks… I guess,” he muttered, looking away and stroking absently at his ears.
“Huh?” Morgan asked, looking over at him.
“It was the fear that you'd cuddle me to death that ‘encouraged’ me in combat. I guess I owe you one for taking my ears hostage… Which is weird, by the way.”
“So, what, I don't get to play with you anymore?” Morgan asked, feigning at being heartbroken.
“You're the one who said it was no fun to pick on me now,” Yarne reminded her with a small laugh.
They were silent for a few moments before Yarne glanced over, scratching his nose.
“Hey, so I've got to ask... In the end, were you trying to cheer me on, or were you really just torturing me for fun?”
Morgan’s heart jumped into her throat as she desperately tried not to blush.
Timing could be better, but hey, what the hell, she thought to herself.
“Both, I suppose,” she admitted, taking a deep breath. “But more than either of those, I just... I just wanted to play with you. To… touch you.”
Yarne went still and blinked a few times, ears twitching a little. It was adorable, but Morgan couldn’t afford to get distracted at present.
“What's that supposed to mean?” he asked slowly.
“Rrgh, are you really going to make me say it in so many words?” Morgan asked, exasperated that he was being so dense. “I like you! Okay?!”
“Oh,” the Taguel said dumbstruck. “I guess that makes sense.”
“I mean, you were always kinda… there,” she explained quietly. “I don’t remember my past, or if you were in it, but you’ve been around constantly supporting me since we all gathered in Port Ferox. Always there in the background. Just having you around made me feel more confident.”
Yarne nodded silently.
“Plus you scored major points jumping on Walhart to get him off of me yesterday,” Morgan said with an awkward laugh. “So from here on, I hope we can have real fun together. Fun for both of us, I mean. Together. No more teasing, I promise!”
“Hmm,” Yarne sighed, finally relaxing a little more to a somewhat normal level. “I suppose you did help me to become less of a coward… And I guess I like you, too. Don't ask me why.”
“Really? Yay! Woo-hoo!” Morgan whooped, pumping her fists above her and wincing when she remembered her shoulder was still wounded.
“Wasn’t that going a little overboard?” Yarne asked with a sigh, obviously concerned as he leaned over her to inspect the bandages.
The young tactician surprised him by reaching up and pulling him into an awkward hug, oblivious to anything else around them at present as she linked her fingers behind his back so he couldn’t get away.
“Can I still call you Bunny?!” she asked excitedly, ignoring his desperate squirming.
“No,” Yarne half-shouted, trying to pull the girl off without causing his own strained muscles any further pain; something Morgan was not making easy for him. “Easy, easy! I’m still wounded here, too, remember!?”
“Ooh, and can I play with your ears every now and again? Maybe give you an updo?” Morgan persisted, still completely oblivious.
“No!” Yarne repeated a little more forcefully.
“Aw, worst boyfriend ever! You're no fun at all…” Morgan pouted, still not relinquishing her hold on Yarne’s shoulders.
“You don't want a boyfriend. You want a rag doll you can abuse!” Yarne muttered, giving up his struggling and deciding to wait for her to just get bored.
“I totally do!” Morgan laughed happily, rubbing her cheeks against his closest ear, the soft fur tickling at her skin. “Good thing there's no rule that says you can't be both, Bunny!”
It was Morgan’s turn to be surprised when Yarne shifted and pressed his lips to hers.
“I said don’t call me that,” he muttered when he pulled back from the stunned tactician.
Morgan smirked evilly, no longer able to hide the blush creeping up her face.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Bunny,” she whispered into his ear. “What’re you going to do to stop me?”
Yarne grinned before leaning forward again, Morgan moving to meet him this time.
“So what was it like with the resistance?” Ricken asked curiously from the crowd surrounding Robin, his short stature making it difficult to pinpoint exactly where the question had come from.
The tactician shrugged, leaning back in his chair and throwing a gesture in Tiki’s direction.
“Ask her. She spent more time with them than I did. But from what I saw it was like an army of Shepherds. Scary stuff.”
Most of the Shepherds new and old were crowded into the mess tent, eating their breakfasts and having one giant communal conversation with Robin at their centre. Of course he had been nearly killed by strangling hugs and bruising slaps and punches of greeting, but he had endured the initial burst of attention. Vaike, however, had yet to return to the tent. Miriel had given up trying to coax him at some point and bade Robin farewell, choosing to make sure her husband still ate by bringing food to him. Nowi had returned, too, and had spent about fifteen minutes organizing an entire garden’s worth of colourful flowers in Robin’s ‘blank canvas’ hair. Chrom and Sumia had disappeared as soon as the crowd had descended on Robin, the tactician barely hearing the Exalt say something about needing to prepare for the council as he was crushed in a friendly headlock by Sully.
“So what took y’all so long ta get back?” Donnel drawled, spooning some of the porridge in his bowl to his mouth.
Robin was interested to note that the young soldier was now sporting a cross-shaped scar on one cheek, making him look like a hardened veteran in his Ylissean uniform. No doubt the village girls back on his island would be fawning all over the boy next time he went home.
“Discretion is the better part of valour,” Robin said nonchalantly.
“We snuck in right under the Imperial army’s nose,” Tiki explained with a yawn. “We stole or made uniforms matching theirs, then pretended to be part of the Imperial army and blended in right up to the Capital. It was all Robin’s idea.”
A chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ greeted the revelation, making Robin chuckle and roll his eyes.
“And the Feroxi?” Stahl asked, on the edge of his seat beside his wife and daughter. “When did they join up with the Resistance?”
Robin grimaced internally; he’d already told the story once, but apparently he’d left a lot out, lacking the same artistic flair for telling a story that Virion possessed. The archer in question was sitting in the corner watching the unfolding spectacle with a smirk on his face, no doubt enjoying Robin floundering at something he was so good at.
“Well,” Robin said with a smile plastered on his face. “We ran across them by chance when…”
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the attention, Robin reasoned as he ducked between tents, hoping to avoid any of the others that were so insistent on spending time with him now that he was back. I just can’t handle another neck hug, arm punch, drink offer or training challenge.
His friends and comrades were just over-excited that he had seemingly ‘returned from the dead’. He had gotten distracted and wound up talking for a lot longer than he’d intended to; he was supposed to be fetching Morgan breakfast, after all. The food in his hands was testament to that fact; a bowl of the same oats he had eaten, diluted with fresh sheep’s milk to make it easier for the poor girl to digest, plus a fresh waterskin.
Sheep’s milk, huh? Robin thought, wrinkling his nose at the strange smelling stuff. Well, there were no cows around here, so… I hope it’s not too bad.
Robin slowed, dipping his pinkie finger into the porridge and tasting it.
The tactician rolled the peculiar taste around in his mouth a little; it was… different; weird, but not all that bad. It would do, though; apparently cows were scarce in Valm, despite all the grassland they could use as pastures. Sheep were apparently the big thing on this side of the ocean, meaning the entire time Robin had been eating meat he had been mistaken about the animal it had come from; he hadn’t been eating beef, he’d been eating lamb.
Probably should have tasted it before I started bringing it to Morgan, Robin thought as he started walking again, staring down at the bowl. Hindsight really is 20/20, isn’t it? However I find this taste… oddly addictive…
The tactician was so engrossed with the small bowl in his hands and reminding himself not to eat the contents of it that he completely missed the shadow falling across the gap between the tents when he stepped out, and collided with the shadow’s owner, desperately shifting his weight and throwing himself backwards in an attempt to not drop his daughter’s meal.
With a loud thump Robin fell on his rear, hissing in pain and yet also relieved he’d managed to save the porridge. Looking up he could see Sumia sitting in a similar position, rubbing her head and moaning in pain as she tried desperately to collect herself.
Oh gods I just assaulted my Queen, Robin thought with a mixture of horror and amusement as he climbed to his feet and dusted himself off with one hand, before offering it to the former-pegasus-knight-turned-Queen.
“Sorry, Sumia,” Robin said earnestly as she allowed him to pull her up. “I didn’t see you there. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said with a sad sigh. “By now I’m used to falling down like this.”
“I thought you were at that big whatever-council with Chrom?” Robin said, momentarily forgetting his current quest.
“I was,” she said chirpily as the duo began walking again, Sumia falling in with Robin as she apparently completely forgot what she was doing beforehand. “But it ended pretty quickly. All we really managed to decide was that there was going to be a peace summit in Chon’sin in about a month.”
“Really?” Robin asked, curiosity piqued. “Why Chon’sin?”
“Well, Lord Liung pointed out that it is, out of all the kingdoms in Valm, the most untouched by the war, so the different leaders would be most comfortable there. Chrom agreed to it, because he wants to give the Shepherds a chance to rest someplace safe. And I think Lady Say’ri agreed to host this summit because she wants to use it as a show of power now that she’s in charge of the nation. But I could be wrong on that last one; I’m hardly the politician you or Chrom are.”
“You know how you can tell Chrom and I are good at politics?” Robin asked in a low voice. “Because we absolutely hate it. You’re probably right about it all, though; post-war stuff tends to be pretty transparent. Might be nice to get a chance to rest again.”
Robin let himself relax a little as they strolled through the camp, occasionally waving the other Shepherds that were out and about and trading greetings with the ones that crossed their path; it was idyllic, in a way, the atmosphere in the camp right now. It felt like a different, secluded world. If one didn’t look too hard it was easy to completely miss the bandages and limping, the bruises and slings.
“Wait,” Robin said, snapping himself out of his reverie. “Where exactly is Chon’sin, anyway?”
“Don’t you stare at maps most of the day?” Sumia asked playfully.
“Yeah, tiny battlefield maps,” Robin snorted.
“It’s to the east,” Sumia answered him. “Near the coast. The Capital, where we’ll be headed, is in the mountains. Say’ri said that it would be snowing by the time we get there, but there’s a private palace just outside the Capital that she’s having prepared to house the Shepherds while we’re there.”
I hope it’s a big palace, in that case, Robin chuckled inwardly, thinking about the size of the current roster of Shepherds. But snowing this early in the season? It must be pretty high above sea-level…
“That high up, huh…” Robin mused, something about the entire conversation striking him as odd.
Then it clicked.
Wait, Robin thought, eyes widening. If Say’ri was at that meeting then… who’s with Morgan?
“I gotta go,” he said quickly, rushing off in the direction of his daughter’s tent with a strange sense of foreboding and ignoring Sumia’s questions about what he was doing.
Robin panted a little as he reached Morgan’s tent, still carefully cradling the bowl of rapidly cooling oats. Rather than barging straight in Robin decided it was probably a good idea to reheat the little wooden bowl with a small fire spell. Doing his best to ignore the strange sense of foreboding that just wouldn’t leave him be, the tactician conjured a small flame into existence above the fingers of his free hand and held the bowl just out of reach of the flames, glancing at his daughter’s tent the entire time.
She was most likely fine; safe in there with her tent-mate Noire watching over her; the timid archer was a good friend and practically family. Or would be when she was born in this timeline. There was no way that Say’ri would leave Morgan alone with her wounds, anyway, and-
A soft moan from within the tent made Robin’s little fire spell explode upwards before sputtering out, charring the bottom of the bowl and almost lighting the cuff of his coat in the process.
Morgan! the tactician thought desperately, swinging the tent flap wide and racing in.
He shouldn’t have left her alone! He should have just done what she needed, rather than being a child and palming it off to Say’ri! Now she was alone and in pain and it was his… fault…
Three sets of eyes widened at once as three throats let out strangled sounds of surprise. A shirtless Yarne leapt off Morgan like she was on fire, the young tactician quickly pulling her sheet back up over her bandaged but otherwise bare chest while Robin looked on, absolutely stunned. They all stared at each other a moment, Robin completely at a loss as to what to do in this situation.
How… I… What… They… Marp? Marp is good. Let’s go with marp.
“I’m so sorry, Sir Robin!” Yarne was saying quickly, eyes wild and clearly on the verge of hyperventilating from fear. “Lady Say’ri asked me to keep watch on Morgan and I’ve been so worried about her and I really care about her and she was hurt and I was so, er, worried and please don’t kill me you’ll be condemning an entire race to extinction if you do and-”
“Take a breath before you pass out,” Morgan said softly, grabbing the shirtless Taguel’s hand reassuringly.
The older tactician blinked a few more times, watching the way they looked at each other.
“Please don’t let me interrupt anything,” Robin mumbled, mind still blank as he set down the bowl on the closest flat surface and turned on his heel, all but falling back out through the tent flaps.
I did not… need to see that. How… how do I react to this? I’m so… so lost here. Chrom! Where’s Chrom!? He’ll know what to do! Or Virion! Yeah, Virion’s used to this kind of thing! Hell, I’ll take Vaike right now! Anybody!
Robin set off at a run, looking for anyone that could help him sort through his incredibly conflicting thoughts and emotions.
“Well that was… incredibly awkward,” Morgan sighed, relaxing a little as her father left the tent without lighting anything, or anyone, on fire.
He’d actually taken it quite well, all things considered. Yarne, on the other hand, looked like he was the one that belonged in a bed resting, not Morgan; the Taguel was pale and shaking, looking like he’d just stared down a dragon or something of similar fear-inducing qualities. This, considering the general consensus in the camp at the moment was that Robin had fought his way back from the dead, could be considered an accurate assumption.
“I just saw my whole life flash before my eyes,” he muttered, sinking to the floor and staring into space.
Morgan chuckled, wincing a little as she managed to push herself into a sitting position. She was starting to get a little more mobile now that her stiff limbs were being used again, but most everything still hurt. Fortunately Yarne had been being veeeeeery gentle…
“Aw, poor Bunny,” she couldn’t help but laugh. “And you were all worried about Noire being the one to walk in!”
“I think I had a heart attack,” Yarne muttered in a high voice, falling backwards onto his back. “I just had a heart attack. I’m seeing stars. I’m done for. If I don’t die here Robin’s going to kill me for sure, anyway.”
“Don’t worry,” she laughed. “I’ll protect you! I can’t let anybody hurt you now that I have exclusive access to your ears whenever I want them! But, uh, could you pass me that bowl? I’m starving!”
Yarne let out another moan. His life had just gotten a whole lot more complicated.
“I’m not feeding you,” he mumbled, rising.
“Aw…” Morgan moaned. “Pleeeeeease? I’m wounded, remember?”
The morning was growing late and beginning to fade into lunch when Lucina’s eyes finally fluttered open. The first thing that the Princess picked up on was that there was something different about the camp’s atmosphere that morning. For a moment she lay there, simply trying to pass it off on the fact she was only now waking and that change in perspective was what was causing the difference, but that wasn’t it. There was a sense of calm about the camp now; a lack of the sense of tension that had built up lately.
Everything had turned out okay. Better than okay; everything had gone from horribly wrong to perfect in the space of a single day. That was the atmosphere she was picking up on now. Everyone was relaxed now; everyone was calm now that the hostilities had officially ceased.
But that would only last as long as it took for them to get back to Ylisse; then it was back to preparing for the battle against Grima for the fate of the very future…
Lucina forced such thoughts from her mind, sitting up and stretching her arms above her head. All of that could wait. For now, she would enjoy the brief and fleeting peace that they had earned.
As she rose from her cot she noticed the healing staff still sitting propped up against her small table from the previous evening; once again she had stubbornly refused to hinder the other healers and Robin had been forced to do it himself. She had insisted that her wounds would be fine until morning, but the tactician wouldn’t hear of it, forcing her to sit there while he fumbled around with powers he still wasn’t accustomed to using. It had gone much smoother this time, Robin casting the spell on his first attempt and healing all of her injuries in a manner of minutes without needing to make physical contact, something Lucina was secretly slightly disappointed about. Aside from the incredible exhaustion she had felt, it was as if she hadn’t stepped foot onto the battlefield afterwards. There weren’t even any new scars. Truly he had a gift for anything arcane that he set his mind to.
Lucina let out a small sigh, smiling as she thought of Robin carrying her the entire way back to camp, before her eyes widened and she stopped moving.
Had she just been swooning?
No! Of course not! She was a Princess! Princesses didn’t swoon, no matter how perfect the man they loved was!
Lucina quickly pulled Severa’s spare blouse on before doing the same to her pants, forcefully trying to stop herself from blushing in embarrassment at her own thought processes and trying to find a distraction.
Gerome had returned with Robin; the quiet wyvern rider had quite a talent with a needle and thread, even if he insisted it was only a hobby, and he had been the one that had made her ‘Marth’ disguise in the first place. Now that she had grown accustomed to it she was considering requesting that he make her another.
She should also make an attempt to seek out her sister and cousin, too; it had been years since she had seen them both, and she had much to discuss with them. Deciding simply wait for lunch to eat, Lucina would find Cynthia first and discuss their current predicament. She had no doubt been given a tent of her own, being royalty, so she would be close by.
The Princess strapped Falchion to her hip and stepped out into the merry sunlight of the Shepherd’s camp, looking left and right and deciding to take the path that led closer to her parent’s tent.
After taking a few steps she heard a shriek and the object of her search, Cynthia, came barrelling out of one of the tents in the row ahead of her, gasping and breathing heavily with wide eyes, moving faster than Lucina had ever seen her sister move before.
“Cynthia!” she called, hand dropping to Falchion’s hilt as she broke into a run. “What happened back there!? Are you alright?”
The younger girl looked up with large, wet eyes full of terror before latching onto her sister.
“Lucinaaaaaa!” Cynthia cried.
“Breathe, little sister,” Lucina soothed, patting her on the back. “Calm down and tell me what happened. You have nothing to fear now that I’m here.”
“B-b-bug!” Cynthia managed to stammer, pointing back to her new tent. “A bug!”
“A bug?” Lucina repeated incredulously. “As in… an insect? All of that commotion over a bug?”
Cynthia vehemently shook her head as she stepped back from her sister, her pigtails flying back and forth.
“A huge freakish nightmare with gross hairy legs!” she insisted. “It’s horrible!”
Lucina let out a sigh. “You’re telling me that all that screaming and flailing was over an insect? I thought Risen were attacking. You could have set the camp into a panic.”
Cynthia looked about to respond before she froze: there was a loud buzzing coming from inside her tent, drawing closer.
The younger blue-haired girl let out a loud shriek, panicking and trying to hide behind Lucina.
“It’s back!” she cried. “And it can fly!? S-stay away! Don’t let it come near me!”
Lucina rolled her eyes, frowning as she looked over her shoulder. “Come now, we spent years camping outdoors in the future! I don’t see what all the fuss is-”
Lucina turned back to the tent, the words dying in her throat as she came face to face with the object of her sister’s terror and let out a small shriek of her own, eyes widening in surprise and taking a few steps back as the insect did a lazy circle in the air inches from her nose and disappeared back into the tent. It was indeed very large and intimidating…
“See!?” Cynthia shouted, still hiding behind her sister and looking over Lucina’s shoulder. “See!? It’s the stuff of nightmares! Now hurry up and kill it! Kill it with fire magic or something!”
“Oh no!” Lucina exclaimed, taking another step back. “I’m not going near that thing! It’s huge! Besides, I’m not a mage, I don’t know fire magic!”
She knew she was being irrational and silly at this point, and that it was only a bug, but… it was so big. Plus it was fun to bait her sister like this, something she hadn’t done since they were children.
“What!?” Cynthia cried, circling back around Lucina to glare at her face. “What happened to having nothing to fear now that you’re here!? How are you going to save the future if you can’t even smoosh one little bug!?”
Lucina couldn’t help but disagree with her sister; it was most assuredly not a ‘little’ bug.
“Those…” she said, clearing her throat and composing herself. “Those two things are not related in the slightest. And how do you plan on being the big hero if you’re scared of a bug?”
“I’d sooner die a craven than touch that horrid thing!” Cynthia persisted, latching her hands onto Lucina’s shoulders. “Look, you’re the older one! You do it! Father told you to protect your little sister, didn’t he?”
Lucina deflated. Cynthia had played her ultimate hand, one that she knew Lucina had no defence against.
“I… suppose he did,” she admitted hesitantly, steeling her resolve. “Alright. I’ll… do something about it.”
“I knew I could depend on you, Lucy!” Cynthia shouted, throwing her arms in the air and doing a little celebratory spin. “Three cheers for the once and future Exalt!”
“You’re a royal, too, you know,” Lucina grumbled as they inched carefully into the tent, Cynthia clutching Lucina’s shoulders and using her as a human shield. “It wouldn’t kill you to show a little more spine.”
The younger royal let out a gasp, pointing to one of the crates in the corner.
“There!” she whispered excitedly. “Now’s your chance! It just crawled behind that crate!”
“It’s too dark,” Lucina complained, squinting in the dim light. “I can’t see it…”
“Then you should light up Falchion!” Cynthia said matter-of-factly. “Then once you spot it, ker-STAB!”
Lucina stopped, straightening and turning to glare at her sister.
“Falchion isn’t some common pitchfork, Cynthia,” Lucina chided. “It is a blade of legend and is deserving of respect.”
“All right, all right, I’m sorry!” Cynthia whispered, holding her hands out in a placating fashion. “Sheesh, I was just-”
Cynthia let out another scream as the bug flew up from behind the crate, circling them and heading towards the tent’s entrance.
“It’s flying again! It’s flying!” Cynthia cried, ducking behind Lucina as they spun to watch its progress.
“As formidable a foe as it may be, I won’t allow it to set a single hairy leg on you!” Lucina promised, grinning and losing herself to the moment, stepping forward as the bug landed on the ground near the entrance.
“Go Lucina, go!” Cynthia cheered. “Get him!”
A shadow blocked out the light from the entrance, making both of the girls look up sheepishly. Standing there with his sword drawn was their father, Chrom, with a very serious scowl on his face.
“Really?” he said, looking back and forth between the girls and the insect in question and sheathing his sword. “Really? All that for one little bug?”
“Father?” Both girls said simultaneously, in matching fearful tones.
“Honestly, you two,” Chrom scolded, crossing his arms and bringing his heel down on the huge bug with a soft thud and crunch. “What were you two thinking!? Half the camp started panicking, thinking there were assassins on the loose!”
“Sorry,” Cynthia muttered, looking down.
“I’m sorry, father,” Lucina echoed, gaze not leaving her father’s irritated expression.
“Just see that it never happens again,” Chrom sighed, holding a hand to his temple. “You can both report for kitchen duty tonight to make up for it.”
With that, the Exalt turned and left, leaving the two girls looking sheepishly at each other before they burst into laughter.
“It figures he would be the one to get it,” Cynthia said once they’d calmed down. “Just like when we were kids. He’s unshakable.”
“True,” Lucina agreed, leaning back against the cluttered table sitting off to one side. “Although he was much less calm when it came to scolding us.”
“Don’t be down about it!” Cynthia giggled. “I actually had a lot of fun. I can’t remember the two of us ever getting in trouble like that before, it felt like… I don’t know, like we were a normal family for a second there.”
Lucina smiled a little, knowing exactly what her sister was talking about.
“I confess,” she said with another grin, “That it did have its moments.”
Robin took a long, shuddering gulp from his tea cup before setting it back down with a clatter and a sigh.
“And that’s what happened,” he muttered to the archer sitting across from him.
Virion nodded sagely, fingers steepled as he leaned back and closed his eyes. Then without warning he leaned forward and rapped Robin on the head with his knuckles.
“Ow! Hey!” the tactician shouted in surprise. “What…”
“Your intelligence really only extends as far as your tactics, doesn’t it?” Virion said with a theatrical sigh.
“Care to explain why when I come in here looking for advice you decide to hit me and call me an idiot?” Robin growled, rubbing his head.
“Because you were acting irrationally,” Virion said lazily, rolling his eyes.
“I think my reaction is perfectly justified, thank you,” Robin countered, crossing his arms.
“Robin,” the archer said slowly, leaning forward and grinning. “When I found you, you had just spent fifteen minutes running around the camp in a panic screaming about bunny-eared grand-children. I’d say you were being a little irrational.”
Virion had managed to calm Robin down long enough to sit him down in the tent that he shared with Cherche and force a tea cup into his hands. Admittedly, Robin may have overreacted slightly. But only slightly.
“Okay, maybe you’re right,” the tactician conceded with a sigh.
“Besides, Morgan’s an adult,” Virion said gently. “You will get your very own baby Morgan to raise and dote on, don’t you worry; but this one is already full grown. There is nothing you can do if she wishes to be with Yarne.”
“I disagree,” Robin muttered darkly. “In fact, I believe there’s only one recourse available to me here.”
“Do I even want to ask?” Virion muttered.
“I have to kill the Taguel,” Robin said, punching one fist into his open hand. “It’s the only way. Yarne has to die.”
“Now you are most definitely overreacting,” Virion drolled, rapping Robin on the head again.
“It’s rabbit stew on the menu tonight!” Robin cried, jumping to his feet and making to charge out the tent before Virion yanked him back down into a sitting position.
“Fine,” Robin relented, pouting as Virion cuffed him again. “Maybe Tharja can help me; a curse that’s irritating, but not debilitating. Would that be better?”
“Did you regress to childhood while you were dead?” the other man asked exasperatedly, shaking his head.
“I will not let this outrage stand!” Robin cried, jumping to his feet again.