Prologue - Reunited
Lucina flew out of the tear in time and burst straight into action. For reasons unknown, her Aunt Lissa stood alone pinned with her back against a boulder. She had nothing but a fragile staff in her hands to wield against the approaching risen.
This is stupid! This is stupid! This is really, really stupid! Lucina screamed at herself as she dashed forward. She raised Falchion and draped it across her back, bracing it against a shoulder.
Lucina ducked under the attacking risen’s arm. Her free hand slammed against the boulder behind Lissa for balance. And then with only an instant to spare came the ring of steel upon steel.
The contest of strength and dexterity continued. The risen fought to bring its ax down into flesh, but Lucina kept it away with the flat of her blade. She doubted her strength would last as long as the undead abomination’s, however.
Just as Lucina was about to yell at Lissa to move already, she noticed her aunt’s eyes shift to the side. She glanced the same way expecting danger only to see her father.
Lucina’s grip faltered. She’d known he would be alive here, but this was too soon.
And he was just standing there like an idiot!
“Help!” Lucina said far more sharply than she’d wanted. Great. My first word to this version of Father, and it’s to berate him. Not a good sign of things to come.
The risen turned its attention to Chrom and let up on the pressure of its attack.
Lucina smirked. Big mistake. She spun in place and brought her sword to bare upon her foe. In time with her father’s own attack, they tore the risen in two. It dissolved into a black mist within moments.
Now that’s more like it. With no other risen in the immediate area, Lucina allowed herself a moment to indulge in the glorious feeling of rightness.
Off in the distance but nearer than her resolve had strength for, Lucina noticed a burst of deadly orange light through the trees. She would recognise that magic anywhere. Only one person at this place in this time could conceivably wield it.
Lucina sheathed Falchion but tightened her grip on its hilt to still her nervous hand.
“Quite an entrance,” Chrom said. The shock of hearing his voice forced Lucina’s attention to return to her present company. “What’s your name?”
Lucina! said girl shouted within her own mind. She so desperately wanted to hear her named called with fatherly affection once more. Even gratitude given to a stranger she would take. Yet it would not be for the best. The more clues she gave, the more she would slip. The more she slipped, the less likely she would find the strength she needed.
Thankfully, a distraction arrived. Frederick rode in on horseback in full armor.
“Milord! Milady! Are you hurt?”
“Frederick!” Lissa cried in delight. A moment passed. Clearly worried, she asked, “Where’s Robin?”
With a sigh of relief, Lucina stepped into the shadows to observe for now. She needed a moment of peace to mentally prepare herself to face the trial to come.
“She will follow shortly. She’s cleaning the forest of these creatures.” Frederick looked both Lissa and Chrom up and down from head to toe and back again. “No one is injured, then? Thank the gods…”
“Thank the masked man who saved me!”
Lucina quickly and silently pulled her head back into the shadows before anyone could spot her.
“If it wasn’t for him, I’d be…” Lissa trailed off in confusion. “Hey, where did he go?”
Frederick said, “We can worry about him later after we put these…things…to the blade.”
A crackling bolt of thoron magic launched through the clearing within arm’s reach of Lucina’s face. The strangled cry of a risen followed. Her vision returned in slow blinks, and the ringing in her ears lifted.
“No need.” The soft musical lilt had returned to the familiar voice courtesy of Lucina's trip through time, but the otherworldliness underlying it remained as a faint echo of what it would one day become. “That was the last of them.”
As if a spell had lifted, Lucina trembled and took a slow, shuddering breath. That had been the very magic that had robbed her father of his life delivered with the same deadly aim and precision. Robin was clearly as powerful and accurate in her youth as she had been in the future.
No, that can't be. It's impossible. She must have grown even stronger as she aged. What a terrifying concept. Some small part of Lucina felt vindicated for idolizing Robin for half of her life. That woman was a monster in more ways than one.
Over Lissa’s cheering, Chrom said, “You have our thanks again for the assistance. These horrors were no easy opponents.”
“You’re welcome, but quite frankly, I enjoyed the opportunity to cut loose with some of my more destructive spells.”
“We could really use someone of your skill in the Shepherds. Have you given any further thought to our offer?”
“No, not yet.”
Frederick was frowning. Lucina knew without looking, and the tone of his voice only confirmed it. “For an amnesiac and someone so young, you know a great deal about magic.”
Lucina blinked. Amnesia? That’s…unexpected. But useful. It also didn't directly contradict anything she knew from the future, although it seemed extraordinarily odd that no one had ever mentioned it to her.
There's no way I could have caused this with my mere presence in this timeline…right? If she had, then what else had her trip through time affected?
Lucina shook her head. Thoughts for another day. It was a silly idea anyway.
As the other four continued their conversation, Lucina set about formulating her plan. She was a bad actress and at best an adequate liar. She knew that. She would have to act quickly and trade as few words as possible.
Once she was ready, Lucina took a deep breath to prepare herself. She let it out and then walked into the clearing, casual but alert, as if she’d just returned from searching the forest for more risen.
“Oh, there he is!” Lissa said, rushing forward to join Lucina. “I never got to thank you for before. So…thank you.” Somewhat awkwardly, she extended a hand. “You were very brave.”
Although unappreciative of the distraction, Lucina placed a kiss upon Lissa’s hand and said, “It was no trouble, Your Highness.”
Chrom approached next. “You saved my sister’s life. My name is Chrom.”
Lissa delivered a soft jab to Chrom’s stomach. “She recognised me, you doofus. She knows who you are.”
Feigning injury, Chrom wheezed, “Might I ask your name?”
Three… Two… The sound of soft, graceful footsteps ceased. Lucina carefully raised her gaze as she said, “You may call me…” She paused for effect. “Robin?”
“Robin?” Chrom asked. He glanced back at the woman in question. “How curious.”
Lucina shook her head. “No, that’s not – Robin, what are you doing here?”
“You know her?” Lissa and Chrom asked at the same time Robin said, “You know me?”
“Of course I do. You’re supposed to be investigating the risen further south.”
“The risen?” Robin echoed.
Frederick narrowed his brows in suspicion, of course, but Chrom merely asked, “Is that what these things are called?”
Lucina nodded. “Someone powerful is dabbling in necromancy. Lady Tiki sent us to investigate. She wants to know who's playing with the Fell Dragon’s power and why.”
All eyes but Robin’s widened at that claim. So long as her story was not examined too closely, Lucina could make this work. She’d spent enough time in the Voice of Naga’s company to bluff her way through this.
“How can we help?”
Lucina fought not to slap a hand to her face. Oh, yes. I’d forgotten. To put it succinctly, Chrom had been a naive, trusting, kind-hearted, lovable fool to the day he died. It came as no wonder that Robin had almost exclusively handled the politics necessary to bring about the man's vision for his reign.
“Milord,” Frederick said. “We needs must return to Ylisstol to report recent events.”
Sparing Chrom the necessity of having to make a hard decision, Robin said, “He’s right. With monsters roaming around and…Plegia, I think it was, trying to start a war, you should report to your ruler. I thank you for your company, but it appears fortune smiles upon me today. I have a lead to recovering my lost memories now.”
“Lost memories?” Lucina said, feigning ignorance.
With a nod, Robin said, “I’ll explain later.”
“Are you sure about this?” Chrom asked Robin. Perhaps he was not too naive, then, if he felt uncomfortable leaving a young woman alone in the hands of a strange – if helpful – young man.
“I can take care of myself,” Robin said.
Such an understatement, Lucina thought, remembering her close brush with a thoron bolt.
“Well, if you’re sure,” Chrom said.
While Lucina waited off to the side, the group of four traded goodbyes for some time with Lissa ultimately extracting a promise from Robin to come visit Ylisstol soon and ask for them at the palace. Robin took a moment to write a letter for Lissa to open later, for whatever reason.
Once it was down to just the two of them, Lucina said, “Lost memories?”
Robin shrugged. “I can remember one or two odd things, and obviously I still know how to cast magic, but everything else…” She raised a hand to her head and then drew it away, her fingers uncurling as she did. “Gone. If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to hear my life story.”
“Uh-huh…” That would be a little more complicated than you might expect. “Well, we have a long walk ahead of us. We should head south to see if you lost your memory before or after you finished your task.”
“Those shepherds found me near Southtown, if it helps.”
“Probably after, then,” Lucina said after a moment of pretended thought. “Still, we should make sure.”
“Very well. I have nothing better to do regardless. Lead on… You know, I never got your name.”
Lucina hesitated. She should lie. She really should. If her plan went wrong, the information should not be out there. The plan would be easier to execute behind a persona. She needed all the emotional distance she could create. She should lie.
Murdering one of your idols in the coldest and most pragmatic of blood was not supposed to be easy.
“A lovely name for a beautiful girl.”
That sounded…off somehow, but Lucina focused on the obvious. “You can tell?”
“Of course I can,” Robin said. “Unless you’re expecting a fight, you should let your hair down and take off that mask.”
She really shouldn’t.
Lucina pulled the pin from her hair and shook it until it fell in soft locks over her shoulders and down her back. The mask left her face and came to rest in a pocket.
Matricide was not supposed to be easy.
With a heartrending smile, Robin said, “Much better. Shall we head out, then?”
No words came to Lucina, and her lips refused to part regardless, so she merely nodded her assent. Together, they walked south.
“No way. You’re lying.”
“How dare you!” Lucina said in mock offense. “I’d never.”
“You expect me to believe I’m a princess?”
“No, you’re second in line to Plegia’s throne. There’s a difference. I believe the current king is your…third cousin twice removed, but the last war between Plegia and Ylisse destroyed most of the Plegian royal family. Beyond that, however, Plegian inheritance is…odd. The king still has closer relations, but you have ‘stronger blood’. You actually have a stronger claim to the throne than your father, but his will supersede yours for reasons I don’t understand well enough to explain.”
“Huh.” After a moment to absorb that, Robin asked, “So what are my parents like?”
“No offense, but your father is a monster that needs to die.”
Lucina felt like a monster herself right now. She’d not told a single lie, but she had carefully pruned her knowledge of Robin’s past for information that would both make Chrom mistrust her if shared and keep her from seeking out Validar. Just in case. Nonetheless, she continued.
“He’s the head priest of the Grimleal. Among other atrocities, they abduct innocents to use as sacrifices to the Fell Dragon, Grima.”
“Oh.” Rather awkwardly, Robin added, “Well, that sucks.”
“I can relate.” Not letting that topic linger, Lucina pressed on. “As for your mother, I actually don’t know much about her. I do know she ran away with you when you were young to protect you from your father, so I assume she’s a good person.”
“I’ll have to find her and meet her, then.”
The pair entered into clearing offering a view above the forest canopy ahead.
“It’s getting late,” Lucina commented as she eyed the sun sinking low on the horizon. “We should probably set up camp.”
“Sounds good. I happen to have a lot of delicious bear meat for the two of us.”
By the gods, I wish I’d packed my own rations. Why are both of my parents like this? Aunt Lissa never was. It was one thing to eat bear because you has nothing else; it was another thing entirely to enjoy it. Even so, Lucia plastered a smile onto her face. “Thank you. I’ll gather firewood for tonight, then.”
“Perfect! I’ll get started on our campfire.”
Setting aside the few personal items she had but didn’t need, Lucina left for further into the woods and set about her task. Although it kept her busy, her mind refused to lie idle.
I shouldn’t have talked to her. Not that I can stop now. She’ll get suspicious. Stupid, stupid girl. Why did you talk to her? You knew that was a bad idea. Next you're going to start making excuses again. You know what that got you last time.
Lucina was still berating herself when she returned to camp with a massive stack of burnable wood. As expected, a hearty helping of preserved bear meat awaited her alongside a roaring fire. As did a smiling, proud Robin, of course, because she just needed another reason to feel like a monster.
“So how is it?” Robin soon asked.
Lucina swallowed the tough, oddly flavored bear meat in her mouth and managed a weak smile. “As…good as my mother used to make.”
Robin hesitated a moment. Then seeming to decide against something, she asked, “High praise, I hope?”
“Only the highest, I assure you.”
As Robin scarfed down the rest of her meal – and had she always been such an unrefined eater? – she collapsed onto her back to look up at the stars. She shifted to scratch her rear, and despite herself, Lucina chuckled.
Living at court clearly did much for Mother's manners.
“What?” Robin asked defensively.
Lucina quirked an eyebrow in silent accusation.
“We’re in the middle of the woods, and it’s just us girls. Who cares?”
“A fair point,” Lucina admitted. “Still, you might be a queen someday. It wouldn’t hurt to maintain a little decorum at all times.” How very strange it felt to use the same words Robin had said to her so many years ago in the future.
“I’ll worry about that when I’m the queen.”
Lucina sighed despite her smile. Like mother, like daughter, I suppose. And that was worrying in more ways than one.
“Where are you from?”
“I was born and raised in Ylisstol. Since I left, though, I've never really had a place to call home.”
“And how did we meet?”
“Through a very laborious process.” Lucina mentally pat herself on the back for her rare success at wordplay. “I don't much remember or wish to speak of it.”
“Hmm… In that case…what…is your favorite color?”
Lucina swallowed the bear she'd been nursing in small enough bites to avoid her tongue. “My favorite color?”
“Well…” As a child it'd been blue, but it'd been years since she'd thought about such things. “Orange, I suppose. The color of a sunrise.”
“Hmm… Not that I have much experience with them, but I think I prefer sunsets. What's your favorite flower?”
“Daisies.” They'd grown all over the palace when Lucina was young. A private joke at her father’s expense, Robin had called them. The story of Chrom’s proposal had soon followed, how he'd used flowers instead of a ring. Those were better days.
Lucina noticed the knowing smile on Robin's face. “What?”
“Nothing. What are your parents like?”
Not wanting to touch that with so much as a ten foot pole, Lucina said, “What's with all the questions?”
“Well, you told me all about me. Now I want to know all about you again. I feel like it's been thousands of years since I last saw you.”
Lucina frowned. “Fine. But tomorrow. We should get some rest. If you're done eating, I'll take the first watch.”
Robin pouted in disappointment, but Lucina stood firm. “Bed.”
The pout changed into a more uncertain, hesitant look, but Robin ultimately agreed. “Fine, fine.” She pulled up the hood of her cloak and made herself comfortable on the ground. A little later, she added a quiet, “Goodnight, Lucina,” more whispered than said.
“Goodnight,” Lucina quietly echoed back. It felt really weird to be on the other side of that exchange – uncomfortable, even. She breathed in slowly and let the mounting tension flow away.
And then she waited.
When needed, Lucina rose to add another log to the fire or poke it with a stick to let more air in. Tending to the flame helped pass the time, but the night was too quiet. Without the constant threat of risen attacks, all she had was her day to reflect upon and her gruesome task to contemplate – gruesome, but necessary. It had to be done. It had to. Yet today had been one mistake after another.
How much of Robin was real? How much was the Fell Dragon? Had she ever cared about her daughter? Her husband? Where did the act end and the monster begin? She felt so real. Today had been a treasure stolen from the Fell Dragon's hoard which Lucina knew would never part from her heart. But she'd been burnt hard in the future and made far too many excuses following that foolish, sentimental thing. Besides, what was one life and one girl’s misery compared to the fate of the entire world?
No answer came. Robin’s breathing held the easy, even cadence of sleep.
Lucina rose. She silently drew Falchion. It was time. If she delayed any longer, she doubted she would have the strength to go through with it.
A deep breath.
This was what she'd come here to do. It was only Lucina's usual run of luck that it came so soon. She'd lost so many friends to get her here. The few she'd come back with had been scattered across time and space. Her world was all but dead. This one could still be saved.
It had to be done.
Lucina stood over Robin, one foot on each side of her, and positioned Falchion directly above her heart.
Without faltering, Lucina pressed her sword threateningly down onto Robin’s chest so that the tip just drew blood. She locked away her emotions deep inside and let the queen of a dead nation take her place. “Don’t move.” The command came cold and regal with more years of practice than anyone her age should have.
Robin’s eyes opened. “I knew you lied to us, but to jump straight to murder?”
“I didn’t lie to you. Everything I told you is true.”
Just do it. Don’t talk to her, you stupid girl.
“I know. I meant our initial encounter. Every word was a lie meant to separate me from the Shepherds.”
Lucina said nothing. Robin was right, after all.
“Would you at least tell me why I’m to die? I can only assume it’s personal.”
“You…” Despite every fiber of her being screaming at her to just get this over with and stay silent, Lucina said, “You killed my father and stole my mother from me.”
“‘Oh’?” Lucina repeated. “Is that it? Is that all you have to say? ‘Oh’?”
Robin shrugged slightly. “I don’t remember doing it, so I don’t believe an apology would be very sincere. I’m sorry it happened, though, for what it’s worth.”
“Do you know why I did it?”
“Why?” Why did the Fell Dragon do anything? “Because you could.”
“I feel like I’m missing some important context. How did I even end up in a position to hurt the Ylissean royal family?”
Lucina silently cursed. She never should have removed her mask. Robin had always, always been observant. She’d noticed the Mark of Naga on Lucina’s left eye. That meant she’d no doubt noticed the mark on the right eye as well.
“You’re the Avatar of Grima,” Lucina coldly replied. “My family’s penultimate enemy next to Grima himself. Your cursed blood allows Grima to exert his will upon this world.”
“And if you kill me, that stops, I imagine.” To Lucina’s nod, Robin added, “I see. Although, come to think of it, my amnesia might be a sign that he’s moved on to a new avatar. I might not have any memories to begin with.”
“Perhaps,” Lucina allowed. “Perhaps not. Perhaps he will return for you again. Perhaps you are Grima, or at least his consciousness in mortal form.”
“All possibilities, I admit. Do you intend to kill every potential avatar?”
A brief pause occurred as Lucina considered whether it would be safe to admit that. But then it was an obvious enough guess, so she nodded.
“Does that include yourself?”
Lucina flinched and closed her right eye in a vain attempt to hide the truth, yet she nodded all the same. “I will be the last to bear the curse. Once I’m gone, Grima’s only paths to power” – if he survived repeated immolation by his own cursed fire – “are…elaborate.”
“Wouldn’t your Exalt bloodline protect you and your descendants from Grima’s control? There is such a thing as being overly thorough.”
“I don’t wish to put that to the test. Besides, no one will miss me.”
“Were I alive at the time, I would.”
Lucina very carefully did not flinch.
“However, that would be a contradiction in terms and hence pointless to contemplate. But please tell me, where exactly did you come from? I’m very curious. The portal you arrived through had magic built into it that still has my head spinning even at this very moment. Some of it looked dedicated to temporal effects…”
“Shut up!” Lucina pushed down harder with Falchion, careful not to pierce too deeply before she was ready. A premature death would be a disaster.
Robin closed her eyes and let out a long, wheezing sigh. “I see. I’d wondered how we were related. Our bone structure is too similar for coincidence, all things considered.”
Lucina said nothing. If no one explicitly made the claim, they could keep pretending. She could keep pretending.
“This won’t cause a paradox, will it?”
Seeing nothing to lose from the admission, Lucina said, “Time travel doesn’t work that way. My future…such as it is…will never change. But this timeline’s will.”
A moment passed.
“Well, you'd best get on with it.”
A pale blue glow brought Lucina’s attention to her face, and she felt unacknowledged tears be wiped away from it. The light faded, but not the tremble in her hand.
Robin could use magic without a tome.
“That hurts.” Robin cringed and shrunk away from the shifting sword piercing her flesh. “Please make it quick, my little light.”
Lucina's knees shook in screaming protest. This Robin shouldn't have known that name! It wasn't fair! She forced her voice to steady itself through sheer force of will. “Any last requests?”
With only a couple days of memory, Robin visibly racked her brain for anything relevant. Eventually, she said, “Try to be happy.”
Lucina's gave a tight nod. She didn't trust herself to say anything but one solitary word.
Grima's cursed flame enveloped Falchion in black fire, casting the night into greater darkness.
Lucina steeled herself. She threw aside her last chance to turn back and plunged Falchion deep into Robin's chest in silence. Her cry of pain came weak and abrupt.
The flames made short work of her.
Nothing else remained, nothing but the numbness and the lie. There would be no happiness for Lucina; she deserved none.
“Why?” The question came out as a half-stifled sob.
Why did Robin quietly accept everything? Why did she go without a fight? Their last and final conversation had been a battle all of its own, yet she'd never once asked to live, never even questioned Lucina's word. Why submit to what she protested so strongly without a physical struggle? Why?
“Why, Mother?” Lucina's voice cracked. “Why?”
Falchion fell to the ground as heavily as Lucina collapsed to her knees. A shuddering breath escaped her as she fought not to break. Her clothes were coated in what remained of her mother, and her hands – she could barely see them, painted black as they were against the night. None of that could ever be washed away. Even should she turn back time once more, the stain would forever remain upon her very being.
Time passed. How much, Lucina knew not. Only the growing emptiness inside marked it's passage.
“A good plan, I admit.”
Lucina's head snapped up in disbelief. Before she could escape the shock, Falchion flew through the air into Robin's waiting hand. As soon as the blade made contact, she hissed in pain.
And then Robin tossed Falchion through a portal to who knew where.
“Slay Grima with his own power and kill him once and for all. Not bad. Given everything he did to you, I can at least understand where you're coming from. Fortunately for me, it didn't work.”
“You!” Lucina screamed in rage. She shot to her feet and withdrew her copy of Robin's personal tome. She might not be the greatest mage in the world, but neither was she a helpless novice.
Grima’s eyebrows rose. “You kept a memento of me?”
And those few words shattered what little self-control Lucina had left. She screamed the incantation for a dark spell and let the power of this timeline's Grima flow through her.
Grima casually raised a hand and countered the effects of the spell. “Control yourself, Lucina. One might think you wished to harm your mother.”
A fireball to the face was Lucina's only reply to that.
“No incantation?” Grima said as he sidestepped the fire, observing it carefully as it sailed past. “You've been practicing, I see. Yes, I'm very proud. But perhaps now I could have a word?”
“You are not my mother!” Lucina bellowed as she charged forward to grapple. Robin had never been a squishy mage, let alone Grima, but long range wasn't working.
A fist flew.
Grima knocked it away.
Lucina swept a leg out to knock Grima off his feet. The strike connected, but it did nothing. He just floated in place unaffected with a smug smirk.
Another fist. This one Grima caught in a terrifyingly tight grip.
“Personally, I wouldn't recommend getting into a fist fight with a dragon, let alone a goddess.”
“Be silent!” Lucina ordered as she unleashed a fireball at point blank range.
Grima's eyes widened. He released Lucina's hand and delivered a lightning fast kick that sent her flying.
Even so, Lucina finished her spell. The fireball exploded on contact in a burst of scorching heat, light, and smoke. Through the pain of Grima's last attack, she let out a triumphant cry as she rose to her feet, yet there was no time to delay. She prepared her tome once more and continued fire.
The first of Lucina's second volley struck true, but the second veered off at a right angle as if struck by a bat. The third followed, as did the fourth. The smoke and fire obscured her vision, but she knew Grima was responsible for the odd angles.
The fifth fireball unexpectedly missed everything and flew off into the forest. Before Lucina could contemplate that, a hand reached out from behind her and stole her tome.
“No! Give that back!”
But it was already gone. Probably to wherever Falchion had vanished.
“Sit,” Grima commanded.
Lucina threw a punch. Not that it did her any good. Grima caught it and squeezed hard enough to nearly break her fingers.
“Sit.” This time Lucina almost obeyed on instinct. Grima's expression twisted into the exact same disappointed frown and stare as after the celebration of her eighth birthday.
Regardless, Lucina had no choice in the matter. A spell soon pinned her to the ground. No amount of struggling would free her now.
It was over.
“Why?” Lucina asked. “Isn't one timeline enough for you?”
Grima ignored the question. “I confess I honestly don't know how to feel about your attempts at matricide. I’ve spent years – decades worth of sleepless nights trying to understand exactly what you were thinking, where we stood, and if I'd done something wrong to cause it. But now…
“On some level I’m proud of your resolve. I'm shocked you went through with it again. This destroyed you last time. I genuinely expected you to reconsider and grow from the experience without me having to trick or beat you down and shame you into listening to get through your father's stubbornness. I thought I could keep this…stain from your soul. Maybe I should have just pinned you to the ground and started taking. You might have listened. I don't know. I'm just…disappointed. In both of us. I thought I would handle this better, but I’m not. I thought… I don’t know. I thought I raised you better than to sacrifice likely innocents without first seeking alternatives.”
Lucina scoffed. In all that incoherent, rambling nonsense, she finally had something to respond to. “You're not my mother.” She would have spat in Grima’s face if she could, but with her luck it’d just pathetically dribble down her own.
“Oh, yes,” Grima said. “Let me disabuse you of that notion. I am the Fell Dragon, Robin. Your mother.”
Plants burned and trees crackled.
“Our timeline's Grima did, in fact, follow you back through time, but I'm not him. He attempted but failed to merge with my past self, resulting in the amnesia I acted out. When you killed my past self in her sleep, her half-formed bond with our Grima sent her consciousness crashing into mine, awakening me.
“The urge for my past self and I to join together was hard to resist, but she and I kept our existences separate and clung to each other for support. When your father ultimately struck our Grima down, he grew weak enough for me and her to supplant and destroy him. So satisfied, we finally allowed ourselves to merge and be at peace.
“Surprisingly, I survived. Then the next time some idiot managed to revive Grima, he got me instead. That didn't work out for him. I later leapt back through time, and now here I am.”
One blink, then two. It didn't help.
“You're grounded, by the way.”
The world had turned into clouds. That was the only explanation for the heavenly feeling surrounding Lucina. Everything was so soft – soft, and warm, and smooth, and just perfect.
Lucina cracked open her eyes to find herself in a large, luxurious bed. The material was like nothing she’d ever felt before. And she was also in the middle of a half-burnt forest. How disconcerting.
Even stranger, Robin sat on one side of the bed above the covers with a peaceful smile on her face and a strange glowing box in one hand. From how her eyes moved, it looked almost as though she were reading.
Then last night came crashing back to the forefront of Lucina's mind. Could it be? Everything in her life had turned to tragedy. Why would the gods suddenly decide to smile upon her?
A little voice whispered, Not the gods, just one single goddess.
It was too good to be true, and yet…
“Mo – Mother?”
Robin hummed in curiosity and turned to look at Lucina. “Oh, you're awake this time. Good morning.” She waved her hand, and the small box in it vanished.
“I… Good morning.”
“You can go back to sleep if you wish. We're not in any hurry.”
Lucina almost accepted the offer. She was dreaming, and she wanted to keep dreaming.
“Is it really you?”
With a careless shrug, Robin said, “Grima won in our timeline. If I were him, I would need a very contrived reason not to have simply killed you already and been done with it. If that's not enough, well, he knows everything I knew from our original timeline, so there's nothing I can say to reassure you. I can certainly verify I've been to this timeline's future, however.”
No, there was no need. Lucina believed everything. She cursed herself for being a damn fool like her father, but her heart had ahold of her now.
“Mother, I – I-I’m so sorry. I didn't mean to – to…”
Robin placed a hand over Lucina's. She coaxed it out of a fistful of blankets and intertwined their fingers.
“I know, Lucina. I know. I forgive you.”
And that broke the dam. Lucina flung herself into her mother's embrace for the first time in years. All strength fled her as she sobbed into her mother's familiar cloak. She felt a hand softly stroke through her hair, and another curled around her back.
“Shh,” Robin cooed. “Everything will be alright. We're together again. Mommy is a scary, evil dragon goddess now. She'll make everything better.”
Lucina giggled, a pale, wet, shuddering, yet musical thing. By Naga it felt good to laugh again.
Lucina next awoke when the sun was high overhead after having cried herself to sleep in her mother's arms. When she opened her eyes, she found that strange glowing box in Robin's hand once more, although this time her mother's other hand drew lazy paths through her hair.
Curiosity now dominating her thoughts, Lucina asked, “What are you doing?”
“Reading. The future had a thriving, wonderful market for fiction.”
And from the sound of it, no version of Grima had ever troubled anyone again. Lucina had a feeling she was going to like the picture of the future Robin would paint for her.
“That box is a book?”
“Not exactly,” Robin said. She flicked her wrist, and it was gone again. “And you don't get to play with my future tech yet. You're still grounded.”
Lucina pouted as best as she remembered how to.
Robin quirked an eyebrow.
“Fine,” Lucina sighed, conceding defeat. “How do you…” She made the flicking motion.
“Oh, in about five-hundred years, we learn how to fold space with magic for storage. It's a very useful trick I'll teach you later.”
Five-hundred years… She dreaded to ask, but Lucina had to know. “How long?”
“I was resurrected 2303 years from now. I slept through most of the wait in a sort of lethargic haze.”
“I'm sorry,” Lucina whispered.
“And I'm sorry for not being strong enough to fight off Grima's domination over my being.”
“That…seems unfair to have to apologise for.”
“Nonetheless, I failed you, your father, and everyone. I'm sorry I wasn't a goddess yet.”
Lucina laughed weakly. “You've grown a rather large ego, haven't you?”
“Guilty and not ashamed.”
Mother and daughter exchanged smiles.
“I missed this so much,” Lucina said. “I never knew if any of the time we spent together was…real.”
“Every moment. I spent years telling my past self all about you. It just about drove Grima mad.”
Lucina smothered a laugh at the absurd imagery that conjured in her mind.
“Well, madder,” Robin added. “That and gushing over your father and how good he was with his sword.”
“Mother!” Lucina wrinkled her nose in disgust. “I do not need to hear about what you and Father get up to behind closed doors.”
Robin giggled at Lucina's expense without a hint of shame on her face. “Oh, that reminds me.” She opened a portal. From it, she withdrew her spellbook and Falchion. The latter she handled gingerly with a blanket. “Here are these back.”
Lucina gleefully hugged Falchion to her chest, the last memento she had of her father. The spellbook she regarded with a questioning look. “That's yours.”
“I don't need it anymore. You'll outgrow it in a few years, too, but for now, make use of it.”
Nodding, Lucina happily reclaimed the tome for herself. Despite her past uncertainties regarding its previous owner, it had always served her well.
“Lucina,” Robin began. “About last night. I… It's been a long time since… It's no excuse, but I picked up a lot of…habits over the course of turning myself into a legitimate figure of worship. I'm not sure what I should have done, but I know I shouldn't have let you get as far as you did. I don't think I can apologize enough, but I'm sorry. If I ever go off on some sanctimonious test of character again no matter how I internally justify it, please bludgeon me with Falchion or something.”
“I…” Not sure what to say but wanting to avoid thinking about her varyingly successful attempts at matricide, Lucina simply said, “Alright.”
Although she looked skeptical of Lucina's agreement, Robin allowed it a pass. “By the way,” she said, “I played with your fell blood while you were sleeping. I couldn't break the link to either Grima, but your connection to me is by far the dominant one now.”
Surprise and relief rushed through Lucina in equal measure. “Thank you.” No words could truly express the gratitude she felt, but the look on Robin's face said she understood perfectly.
“I did have to strengthen our bond to do so, though, and also… Well, just be careful not to burn everything down. Borrowing my power will come much easier to you now.”
Curious, Lucina asked, “What was that also?”
“I won't be mad.” The gods certainly knew Lucina had no right to be.
After a moment longer, Robin asked, “What was your relationship with Naga like?”
“Naga?” Robin nodded, and Lucina bit her lip. “It's…complicated. She sent me back in time, which implies she trusts me quite a lot, but she's made no secret of her disapproval of some of my choices and her disdain for my…heritage.”
“Did you perform the Awakening?” Robin pressed.
“I did, but not with the complete Fire Emblem.”
Robin breathed out a sigh of relief and mumbled, “Sounds about right.”
“Why do you ask?”
“Naga has a strong aversion to interfering personally with mortal affairs, but she responds to direct attacks on herself. I was trying to figure out exactly how angry she is with me.”
Lucina stared dumbly at Robin.
“Did she not explain?”
When Lucina shook her head, Robin muttered something angrily under her breath before elaborating.
“A successful execution of the Awakening Rite would have bound you to Naga as Grima did to me. You merge your soul into hers and become a demigoddess. She's much nicer about it than Grima, however, and is unlikely to seal away your consciousnesses to use your body for her own purposes.”
“That's what the rite was supposed to do?” Lucina asked, aghast.
“How do you think I stole Grima's godhood? I crushed his consciousnesses when he fell down to my level and took full control over our shared soul.”
“I… I see…” Lucina weakly said. “So when you changed my fell blood…”
“I may have gotten into a struggle with Naga over your soul. You were more tightly bound than I expected, but as it turned out, not irreversibly so. Both Grimas joined the fight soon enough, too. I managed to let those three duke it out amongst themselves while I quietly used the… Well, you should still be able to wield Falchion – the connection isn't gone – but I ripped your soul away from Naga.”
Lucina sat stunned trying to decide whether this was bad or good news. Eventually, she decided it was simply news. She shook her head as another thought occurred to her.
“Does this mean the Grimas know you're here?”
“Oh, definitely. But with any luck, they'll have recognized me only as another Fell Dragon from even further into the future and not contest me again over your soul.”
Grima did seem the sort who would never believe he'd not only been defeated and killed but also taken over by a soul he'd subjugated. Speaking of whom, however…
“How worried should I be about our Grima running about unchecked?” Lucina asked.
“Not too much,” Robin said. “Time travel is exhausting. If he's anywhere near as tired as I am – and he must be, considering how he hid in the shadows last time – we won't have to worry about a divine rampage anytime soon. Unfortunately, the same is true of me, so I can't solve our problems with a snap of my fingers.”
Wouldn't that have been nice? “I'll settle for him being depowered for now. What happened to your past self?”
“I arrived in this time after Grima but before you. Time travel is a complex, imprecise process, unfortunately, and I didn’t want to risk entering a timeline without you by going back further. Grima attempted to merge with my past self but only managed to bind her and the part of him that was me together, resulting, strangely enough, in amnesia. I pulled my past self away from the Shepherds while they were in Southtown and laid out her options: merge, home, the Shepherds, or burn.”
Robin shrugged. “It worked out last time and would have spared me the discomfort of having to plot the death of…middle me, I guess, along with Grima. I might have another way to help her, but I’m unsure if it will work. Anyway, my youngest incarnation opted to return to your grandmother for now and rejoin the Shepherds later.”
“So there are three of you now. That could get confusing.”
“Just remember that I’m the smart, beautiful one, and we shouldn’t have a problem.”
Lucina chuckled. Yes, Robin most certainly had grown a large ego over her time as a goddess.
“I imagine you have a plan for us, Grandmaster.”
Robin smirked. “Indeed. I had as much time to plot as I wanted in the future. Our first move will be to bring peace to our continent.”
“Easier said than done,” Lucina said with an expectant smile.
“Yet easier than you might think. Care to guess how?”
Lucina gnawed on her lip as she ruminated over the matter. “Well…you have a legitimate claim to the Plegian throne. If you became their queen, that would solve that problem.”
“For a decade or two, perhaps, providing the usual suspects don’t cause trouble before then. That will take time, however, and I would prefer a more lasting unity. Plegia is actually second on my list to deal with.”
Lucina quirked her eyebrows.
“I did happen to once be the Queen of Ylisse, you know.”
And then it hit Lucina. Within reason, Regna Ferox followed whoever was strongest and led best. Ylisse had an unattached and provably receptive prince. Plegia had a mad king just waiting to be usurped.
“You intend to become queen, queen consort, and the ruling khan.”
It was bold. It was audacious. It was exactly the type of complete victory Robin would aim for.
“Mhm. I'm not yet sure how I feel about courting the younger version of your father. I might seek other means to rule the Halidom. I know a young lady much like myself who finds your father irresistible and might be open to sharing on occasion.”
Lucina's protesting, “Mother!” and nauseated expression went ignored.
“It might also be easier to install you as Queen of Plegia than for me to try to hold it alongside the khanship.”
Lucina wrinkled her nose at the thought.
“But regardless, I find myself with such a unique opportunity. How can I resist?”
Robin’s grin proved infectious. Despite her own, Lucina said, “This is never going to work.”
“Not with that kind of attitude, young lady.”
Lucina giggled at the faux scolding. No matter what happened, this was going to be fun.