The wind made by the Fell Dragon's wings gusted over the gathered forces. Gangrel, with a staff hidden under his cloak and his cherished Levin Sword in his grip, did not even spare their foe a glance. No, his eyes were on the tactician standing at their head. Chrom was at her side, but his gaze was like hers: lifted to the sky, towards Grima.
"Are you ready, Nisha?" the princeling asked, is tone grave.
"As ready as I will ever be Chrom," she replied, her voice strangely soft. "Let's finish this."
As soon as they landed on the Fell Dragon's back, the air became charged. And...wrong. There was something unnatural and bleak in the atmosphere around the attack force. Gangrel recognized it immediately: all of Grima's temples—especially the dragon's table—had the same aura. It was not comforting in the least.
The sensation intensified sharply as several Grimleal warriors who had not been there before materialized. And then spikes made of what looked like crystallized darkness erupted from the Dragon's back. It stabbed straight through the Mad King, and he couldn't help but cry out at the sudden agony. Even worse than the pain was the sense of utter violation that tore through him. Grima had just seen every particle of his being, every thought that had ever crossed his mind, read every memory and feeling there.
As the dark energy retreated, the entire company of Shepherds fell to their knees or hunched over, stunned by the display of power. Not a drop of blood shed, and the army was already defeated.
Over the groans and gasps of the Shepherds, Nisha alone seemed unaffected, still standing straight and strong, her cloak and ponytail both streaming in the constant wind. A terrible voice descended upon the ears of all present, dark and mocking.
"And so it ends, Nisha." It was Grima—it had to be: the tactician would never speak with such spite. "See how frail these human bonds of yours are? How short lived? How pointless? You have all thrown your lives away and the result is the same!"
"We're not dead yet!" Nisha hollered back, her voice filled with an uncharacteristic harshness.
"Detail, details," the Fell Dragon sighed as Gangrel tried to stand straight, still aching from the dark magic. "But yes, I suppose it's time I got all of you off my back, so to speak—permanently."
"No..." the moan slipped from the tactician. Grima smiled, baring his teeth. Or rather, using Nisha's face to make the expression...Bah! This was all so confusing!
"No, you don't want this do you? You do have a choice you know. It doesn't have to be this way. You can still save all your friends...Become one with me and we shall spare their lives. Refuse...and watch as I rend the flesh from their bones."
The words were poisonous. Gangrel watched his lover struggle, her shoulders caving as the weight of the choice—of all the lives in her hands.
"NOW!" Grima shrieked. "I will have your decision! Will you save these worms? Will you JOIN ME and become a GOD?"
Don't trust him, the Mad King thought. He's a liar. Don't give in to him.
"Do you think me a fool?" Nisha snapped. "You'll kill them anyway!"
The trickster felt a surge of pride run through his chest as the Fell Dragon's face lost its snarl and became blank and impassive.
"...well of course I would," he admitted truthfully. "I only thought you might want to leave your comrades with a heroic, selfless image."
The air became heavy with a supernatural power as a satisfied smile slid across Grima's lips.
"So be it then. Leave them with the final memory that you were their undoing!"
"Aaarrrrgh!" Nisha screamed as the weight of dark magic pressed down on her, a black vortex opening under her feet and swallowing her, shadows snaring her body like chains. And then there was nothing but a faint crack of light shining on one of the Dragon's enormous scales, which too faded from existence.
"Nisha!" Gangrel cried reflexively. He tried to run, tried to move at all, but the pain intensified and he fell to his knees with a groan. Sudden nausea hit him and Nisha's voice—thrumming with power—echoed in his head, forcing the Mad King to his knees with its intensity.
"Ah, my faithless King. Always heading the ceremony, never truly believing I could return."
"Get...out...of my head!" Gangrel hissed, slamming his fist against an immense scale. "Nisha!"
"I remember you," Grima purred, twisting that beloved voice into a demon's call. "I remember how you fed me during the wars. Your anger, your wrath, was quite delicious."
Memories flooded through Gangrel's mind: his first kill, his first battle, the executions of so many captive soldiers. More and more images kept coming, the trickster slicing through anyone in his path, regardless of race, gender, age, or innocence.
"You watered the earth with blood. That madness dwells within you still, slumbering under your frail 'reformation'. Perhaps I shall unleash you upon the world once I have broken you!"
Grima's darkness grew inside him, and Gangrel had to lock his jaws against a scream of rage and desperation. And then a voice cut through the air.
"Fight back! You have to keep fighting!"
It was Chrom. Gangrel didn't know if the Exalt was speaking to him or to the group as a whole, but the words seemed to drive back the Fell Dragon's presence, even if it was just a little bit.
"What's the point of fighting back? Your love is gone and she now belongs to me. Why don't you just give up?"
"Nisha fought you," he murmured. "That's reason enough for me."
"She does not fight me now. She has been conquered!"
"Well, she needs a little encouragement...then."
Gangrel forced himself to rise, though his legs shook under his own weight. He imagined Nisha, sprawled on the ground before him as she was before the Fell Dragon, if Grima's word could be trusted.
"One nip from a dragon and you're down?" he asked the illusion, unable to muster the effort to say anything gentler. "Get up you craven schoolgirl!"
Another wave of weariness hit him and the trickster dropped to a knee. Breathe, he reminded himself.
Nearby, something shattered. Surges of dark purple power blew into the slipstream and Gangrel forced his head up to see a familiar cloak reenter the world out of the same darkness that had taken her. A white light descended over the huddled army and all at once the pain was gone. The trickster rose to his feet along with the other Shepherds—their strength restored by the blasted Divine Dragon no doubt—and started forward slowly, as if in a trance.
"We have one goal," Nisha called to the forces behind her. "Kill Grima. If the Grimleal get in the way of that goal, strike them down. We can't afford mercy in this fight. You know the plan."
Soldiers dispersed into every direction as Gangrel drew even with Nisha. The tactician looked at him, her brow relaxing as she grinned weakly. But the attempt at comfort faded quickly.
"I need you to support Morgan," she ordered firmly.
His words were halted by the gentle touch of her hand on his cheek. He could see her dark eyes shining with unshed tears in her earnest gaze.
"Go to our son. I have other duties for now. Remind me when this is all over to get a little alone time with you."
Gangrel gently covered her hand with his own and nodded, a smirk curling up his lips. Then he slipped away, turning his sights to search for a certain redhead in a purple cloak. It didn't take him long to find his target: Morgan was already locked in battle with a Great Knight. As he watched, a huge fiery explosion engulfed the armored horse and its rider. The Grandmaster was so focused on his cooked opponent that he completely forgot to watch his back—and the sorcerer preparing to curse him.
"Look alive, boy!" the trickster called as a twitch of his Levin Sword incinerated the dark spellcaster. Morgan whirled around as his Father came to stand beside him. "My attention might waver and then your mother will never forgive me!"
"Thanks," the younger man replied, a tad embarrassed, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.
"Oh don't thank me yet. I might save your neck again, and gratitude gets so monotonous after a while."
"I don't know how to respond to that..."
"How about we go kill some Grimleal?" the Mad King suggested, grinning evilly. Morgan slowly began to smile as well, though less sinisterly. Oh well. There were a few dragon worshippers that needed to prepare the way for their "god" first.
This battle was endless. Wave after wave of Grimleal forces just kept coming. True, the Shepherds were tearing through Grima's army like they were paper, but the enemy soldiers just kept coming. Exhaustion was beginning to set in.
Morgan stabbed his silver sword into a berserker only to take a harsh counterstrike to the leg. As his son faltered, the Mad King darted forward and separated the man's head from his shoulders.
"Dastard," he remarked casually to the now cooling corpse. Taking out his healing staff, he knelt by the young grandmaster and began to heal the gash.
"I told you it was stupid to change your class last night," he said matter-of-factly to the boy. "You're out of practice in your swordplay."
"I've handled myself okay up to this point haven't I?" Morgan pointed out, smiling weakly though his face was pale from the pain and shock. Gangrel rolled his eyes.
"Still stupid. At least he didn't hit you in the optimism; I don't know if you could survive the blow."
The pair of redheads shared a short laugh before the trickster helped Morgan to his feet, the healing complete.
"Well kid, if you can keep up with your old man after that, I'll be impressed," the Mad King taunted, resting his Levin Sword against his shoulder. The grandmaster scoffed at the comment, sheathing his sword and trading it for a Mjolnir tome. And then a sudden, earsplitting cry rent the air. Everyone, even the Grimleal soldiers, immediately clapped their hands over their ears. Gangrel twisted around, looking for the source of the sound and saw Grima's human form collapsing to one knee, in obvious pain. Chrom was shouting something at Nisha, who stood before her imposter. The trickster caught the last part of the sentence as he lowered his hands.
"I'm going to finish it!"
About time, princeling, he though viciously. He glanced at his son, sheathing his sword.
"You might want to shield your ears," he suggested. "Just a hunch."
The Dragon's dying roar shook the sky and Gangrel felt the large scales beneath his feet tip towards the earth. The princeling had done it. The Mad King turned around and caught sight of Nisha's imposter fading into dark smoke as he searched for the real one. But when he found her, his blood ran cold. There, a few feet from where Grima had fallen, was his beloved tactician, dark wisps of smoke rising from her cloak.
Gangrel broke into a run. Nisha swayed a little as he came close, her legs failing to support her when he arrived at her side.
"Nisha," he whispered, falling to his knees and taking her into his arms. Already her body felt lighter, less substantial. In a panic, he pulled out the staff he had been assigned to bring only that morning. Gangrel poured all his magic through the instrument, ignoring the sudden dizziness and trembling in his muscles. The healing magic glowed green, but the darkness continued to rise from Nisha's cloak and skin. The staff's metal corroded black and the gem on top lost its luster, but he continued to push his energy, continuing the stream of magic. But he could not stop the stream of darkness that pulled away Nisha's form. When the jewel cracked and the entire staff fizzled out of existence. Gangrel stared down at his lover, a single word escaping him.
"I couldn't live with myself if I didn't," she replied softly, reaching her hand up and caressing his cheek.
"But you're dying."
Gangrel's voice broke on that sentence, the reality of what had happened striking home. Nisha was dying. Soon she would be gone entirely. Despair welled within his chest, and his vision became blurred around the edges.
"No, Gangrel," the tactician reprimanded him. "Don't cry; I need you to look after Morgan until I come back. Naga said if my bonds were strong enough, I could return to this world."
"Could," the Mad King repeated, "not will. You would risk death for a chance? Can't you see that I need you?!"
Nisha smiled painfully. Her voice was so soft he had to lean in to hear.
"That's why I had to do this."
She inhaled sharply, her back arching. She was forcing the words out, forcing herself to stay, to continue living—he could see it.
"Y-you and Morgan are-are my world. I'd do a-anything to keep you s-safe."
Gangrel did not reply; how could he? He was actively fighting back tears as he raised her head and touched his lips to hers. For the first time, he did not hold back, trying to convey all his feelings through that single inadequate gesture.
She kissed him back, her hand caressing his cheek. And then Gangrel felt his arms slide through empty air, Nisha's body vanishing from his grasp.
His eyes opened.
...she was gone.