Chapter Two - A Weighty Decision
After hours of begrudgingly probing Ylisstol Castle’s defenses, it was time to give up. Short of shattering the wards and having to fight an entire army – a losing prospect at this point in time, if even possible – there was no way to teleport inside. However demeaning and degrading it was, alternative means of entry would have to be employed.
The maple grove outside the castle was poorly guarded and easy to traverse without notice. Behind it, a small clearing separated the forest from the castle. The area was stomped flat from relentless use as a training ground. This late in the day, however, no one was present. Avoiding the gaze of the patrol atop the nearby bailey proved easy enough. There at the wall, a small cleft obscured behind a bush allowed easy and surreptitious entry to the castle to the small and agile.
Even with the infamous Frederick the Wary’s paranoia, it proved terribly easy to slip through the castle’s security. A few well placed spells dealt with the minor inconveniences that occurred and removed the threat of discovery from a guard’s absence being noted.
And then there was the treasure vault. It resided deep underground within the castle, a veritable fortress onto itself. Designed in a time when dragons ruled the world and the gods themselves walked the earth, breaking into it would prove an impossible task for even the greatest of thieves and most powerful of sorcerers. A mere lock pick would be of no use, and the most destructive spells would barely scratch the surface at best.
Of course, it opened as easily as an unlocked door for those who knew its secrets.
The treasure vault held three items of interest. Displayed proudly in the center of the chamber sat the Fire Emblem, the Shield of Seals, the Crest of Flames. The jewel Argent, a powerful magical focus designed to work with the emblem, was fixed in place near the top of the shield. Unfortunately – but not at all unexpectedly – the stand which should have held the Falchion lay bare. The sword would no doubt be with the prince.
With the vault locked once more, it would be weeks – months, perhaps – before anyone noticed the Fire Emblem and Argent had been stolen.
Lucina collapsed into a chair with an exhausted sigh after defending her title of Western Champion against yet another contender. Lon'qu was a known factor, his strength well tested and proven. Now that he was gone, it seemed everyone and their mother wanted a chance at the position. It would have been fun had anyone posed a challenge. This barely qualified as training.
Still, there were worse ways to idle away time, and while in the arena, Lucina was highly visible and easily accessible. Robin was out and about the city doing who knew what to the timeline while she fought during the day, so Owain should come to her eventually. Hopefully. She'd left instructions to allow him in without a fuss and could only hope he wouldn't make a fuss in the process. One never knew with him.
Out of the corner of her eye, Lucina noticed Basilio approach quite clearly full of good cheer. He had a pair of mugs in hand. Each contained some variety of alcohol, judging by the froth. After exchanging greetings, he handed one off to her.
“I have to admit,” Basilio began with his usual deep, jovial voice, “I thought you beating Lon'qu was a fluke at first, especially when I heard you were a woman, but you do damn good work. Of course I knew that after sparing with you on day one.”
“Thank you, and I’ll try not to take that as a slight upon my gender.”
Basilio let out a rumbling laugh. “None meant. I heard you challenged Lon’qu as a man. I assume you know of his issue with women.”
Lucina nodded. “I wanted a fair fight against a swordsman of his skill. Now that I have the title, though, the gloves have come off.”
“I saw. It’s rare to find someone so skilled in both swords and magic. Flavia could never find anyone to beat Lon’qu. Now whatever champion she scrounges up won’t stand a chance.” Basilio held up his mug and toasted, “To victory!”
Smiling, Lucina gently knocked her mug against Basilio’s and echoed the sentiment. “To victory.” After a long drink, she said, “I’ll do my best, but my fight won’t be easy.”
“Oh? Do you know what poor sap Flavia has lined up for the chopping block this time?”
Lucina shifted in place. “A…relative of mine, I believe.”
“Hmm? Prince Chrom, then, I take it.”
“You have a good eye,” Lucina said.
“Ha! A good eye, indeed!”
Lucina tilted her head to the side in question, not understanding the joke. Still, what she’d said was true. Most people needed to spend considerably more time in her company before they noticed either of her brands.
Eventually, Basilio settled down. “Ah… Good one, girl. No need to be shy about your heritage here, though. No one in Ferox cares if you’re a bastard so long as you can fight.”
Lucina felt her mug warm in her hands. She was getting entirely too good at drawing on her mother’s fire. She took a moment to calm herself then stated in no uncertain terms, “I am not a bastard.”
“Easy, girl. Didn’t mean anything by it. Win against the prince, and we’ll treat you like royalty either way.”
“I look forward to it, Khan Basilio.”
“Ha! Confidence! I like it. It’s still just Basilio, though. You Ylisseans are always so prim and proper.”
“I would retort that makes you uncivilized barbarians, but not only would that be improper, it would be grossly inappropriate as my mother desires your job.” No one could say Basilio had not had fair warning now, even if he only seemed all the more amused for it. “If you’re feeling the spirit of generosity, however, I don’t suppose I could prevail upon it for some Chon’sin tea? I could use the energy boost to get through the rest of today’s rabble.”
“I’ll put in a word for you with the kitchens downstairs. Gods know Lon’qu drank kegs doing the same.”
With that, the two said their goodbyes. Basilio mentioned on his way out that he was looking forward to meeting Lucina’s mother in or out of the arena. To be fair, Lucina looked forward to that, too. She had no doubt that Robin would win any fight between them in either arms or politics, but she was equally sure that it would be a spectacle worth watching.
Sometime later after she’d polished off the last of the drink Basilio had brought her, a servant arrived with a kettle, teapot, and cup. She thanked him for the prompt delivery and took the instruments for her own use, quickly pouring herself a cup.
Mmm… I haven’t had a hot drink since Mother last made tea for me.
Perfectly content, Lucina gazed out upon the arena floor. Without an official match, the space was open for people to train against each other. A few faces she recognised as challengers she’d already defeated. Half the rest were probably ones she had yet to deal with. Sadly, no one stuck out to her as particularly impressive to test herself against at first glance.
Lucina chuckled to herself. I suppose I am rather used to working with…colorful characters. Owain, Cynthia, and Noire sprang right to mind. Many of the Shepherds had been a little…off even before Grima’s resurrection, too. She frowned. Does being a total nutcase correlate with being strong? I’m not like that, am I?
Noticing that her supply of tea had grown cold during her idle musings, Lucina emptied the teapot and picked up the kettle. She held one hand beneath it and summoned a small black flame to bring it back to a boil.
Speaking of Owain, I wonder where he is. He’s usually not this patient. I hope he didn’t leave the city before speaking with me. That would be…unfortunate.
From the shadows behind a column, Owain watched over his exalt, cousin, and friend with a stunned expression. He knew Lucina had trained herself to call upon Grima's power with the intent to kill the dragon once and for all, but this?
Is she really using Grima's cursed fire to boil water?
The familiar but faint feeling of otherness flooded Owain's senses. Recognizing the sign of the Fell Dragon’s approach, he turned away and made himself scarce.
Twisting her head about from her seat, Lucina saw her mother wave and approach. Robin held one hand behind her back and had a bright smile on her face.
“Good afternoon, Mother.”
“Good afternoon. Do you know what day it is?”
Lucina frowned in thought. She'd never been terribly connected to the calendar before her trip through time. Even the seasons had possessed little impact on her old life. The Feroxi were out and about today, so it must not be a holiday. Eventually, she gave up. “I'm not sure. I don't think I ever asked.”
“It's the twentieth!”
That sounded familiar.
Lucina quirked her head to the side in question. Robin's smile faltered.
“Oh! I'm sorry. I'd forgotten.”
“That's not…” Robin sighed. “Nevermind. I have plans for us tonight, but I thought I'd drop off your present early.” From behind her back, she withdrew a box wrapped in a curiously colorful material. It was roughly the height and width of her head and as thick as a fire tome. An envelope was somehow attached to the top beside a fancy ribbon tied into a bow. “Happy birthday!”
Accepting the gift, Lucina said, “Thank you, but you really didn't have to–”
Robin held up a hand. “I will take every excuse to spoil you rotten as is my prerogative as your mother. I…” Her gaze drifted down to her feet. “I never stopped buying them. Birthday presents, I mean.”
Setting aside her gift, Lucina rose from her seat. She gave Robin a loving smile and then pulled her mother into a soft embrace.
Some unknowable time later, Robin sniffled as she pulled away. She dabbed at her eyes with her coat. “I'm sorry,” she mumbled. “I shouldn’t have–” She shook her head. More strongly, she continued, “Enjoy the rest of your day. Tonight we celebrate!”
“Join me for tea?” Lucina gestured to an open seat beside hers and the waiting tea set.
“No, sorry. I still have a few things to do today, and I shouldn't be around when you open your present.”
Lucina quirked an eyebrow. “Should I be concerned?”
“I'm not Lissa,” Robin said in her own defense with a roll of her eyes. “Anyway, I'll see you later.” And with that, she teleported away.
Lucina turned her attention to the gift she'd been given. She removed the letter from inside the envelope, curious as to what Robin had meant. Perhaps it would explain.
‘I had intended to present this to you in a year or two, but you're a responsible, intelligent adult despite how little – or perhaps how much – credit I can claim for that.’
Lucina sighed, long and deep. With how caught up she’d been with, well, everything over the last few weeks, she'd forgotten that Robin had her own issues to work through and needed help with. For now, though, Lucina continued to read.
‘My gift to you is that of choice. Whatever you want, I will make it happen. If you wish to bury this under a rock and never speak of it again, then I never shall. You won't hurt my feelings. I only ask that your decision be carefully considered.’
On that dramatic note, Lucina exchanged the letter for the box she'd been given with no small amount of trepidation. Whatever was contained within was a more weighty gift than she'd expected. She opened it slowly, trying to guess what it held.
It’s too small to be a weapon. Too important to be clothes. A tome, perhaps? Something from the future? Well, it must be something from the future. I don’t know where Mother would have found the time to–
Lucina froze. Five small boxes lined the bottom within. Above them resided the Ylissean nation treasure: the Fire Emblem.
“By Naga,” Lucina said, her voice barely a whisper.
Something was wrong with Lucina. Anyone who had ever spent a day in her company could see that. The oddities continually piled upon each other. Nevermind that she’d thrown good sense to the side and teamed up with the Fell Dragon; everyone who knew her knew how much that betrayal had hurt and how she silently struggled to find the strength to fulfill her destiny.
No, it was much worse than that. Lucina laughed at the occasional jest. She made jokes – or at least she tried to. Her awareness of her surroundings had plummeted. She was drunk, for Naga’s sake!
From several rooftops away, Owain trailed after Grima and Lucina. The latter had all but passed out from imbibing and hung clumsily off the Fell Dragon’s back. He silently followed them back to the house they’d apparently bought. Who knew where they’d found the necessary gold for that. Khan Basilio should have offered to let his champion stay at the castle. Maybe Lucina had been in the past for longer than expected?
Owain shook his head. Lucina looked no older than she should, and it was not all that important. From his vantage point, he waited until he saw Grima put Lucina to bed in some strange nightgown. With the benefit of days of observation, he had to admit the Fell Dragon played the part of a doting parent well. Indeed, he hardly blamed Lucina for indulging. Where she a craftier woman, Owain might have even suspected her of playing Grima’s own game against him.
A soft, haunting melody drifted from the house out into the quiet of the night. A lullaby, Owain realised. He stilled himself and strained his ears to listen more closely, but the words were nonsense. They had structure, certainly, but they were not native to Ylisse or Valm.
Owain yawned. Listening to that song was tiring. Too tiring. Sure, it was a lullaby, but – Owain's eyes widened. He jumped to his feet. There was magic in the air. The song was a spell!
With his sword drawn, Owain leapt forward to the next rooftop. Grima was taking advantage of Lucina's drunken state to ensorcel her!
Another rooftop cleared.
Who knew what mental traps Grima could place within Lucina’s mind?
It would be just like Grima to turn his greatest threat against everyone for his own amusement.
Owain leapt for Lucina’s half-open bedroom window. He curled up into a ball with his sword in front and tucked his head in beneath his arms. Through the air, he flew.
A second later than expected, Owain hit something. Dazed, he scrambled to his feet to find himself in the middle of the street. The cobblestone paving below betrayed his impact against it by the small drops of fresh blood upon it. He brought the wrist of his off hand up to find his nose bleeding – no surprise there.
What happened? Where am I?
As Owain regained his bearings, he heard a lock unlatching behind him.
“I realise you never learned how to knock, Owain, but I know you know how to use a door.”
Owain spun in place to face Grima, his sword at the ready. He briefly considered proceeding with his intended assault, but without the element of surprise, he knew the Fell Dragon would best him in combat even in such a weakened state. Retreat, however, was also not a viable option.
I only got away last time because Grima didn’t want to upset Lucina. Owain’s eye flicked up to where his Exalt lay asleep. I need to wake her up. Not that he expected that to be an easy task.
“What did you do to Her Grace?” Owain demanded, stalling for time.
Grima looked at Owain with a curious expression for a second. “Lissa never told me you were magically gifted.”
“Answer me, Villain!”
“Very well. Seid magic is an interesting branch of the arcane I picked up while in Tellius. Versatile and powerful in the right hands, although often slow. I’m not very good at it, but I possess enough skill to sing the Galdr of Slumber. Lehran composed it to comfort an aspect of the goddess Ashunera, but it works just as well to soothe my daughter’s nightmares. If you’re interested in learning–”
“I am not,” Owain growled.
Grima sighed. “The offer remains. I think the magic would suit you. Regardless, if you’re looking for a place to sleep away from the cold, come inside. Otherwise, go away and come back at a decent hour. I'm not in the mood to convince you I'm not Grima.”
“Don't bother pretending with–”
Grima waved his hand. Owain blinked. The next moment he found himself alone somewhere on the other side of Attleburg.
Lucina cringed as the morning’s light impacted against her eyelids. Gods but she had a splitting hangover, too. She could still remember last night, though, so there was that. Life could be worse. And she had had fun.
Conceding the fight for more sleep to the sun, Lucina trudged to the bathroom in her pajamas. She pushed a little magic into her fingers and snapped. The shower turned itself on for her. She shed her clothes and stepped into the water.
“Ah…” The perks of living with a spellcasting goddess from the Future. Now where did I leave the soap?
Indulgently long later – the only way Lucina could allow herself to describe it – Lucina found her way down to the kitchen and grabbed half a loaf of bread for breakfast.
“I thought I heard you come downstairs.”
Lucina swallowed her mouthful of bread. “Good morning, Mother.”
“Good morning, Lucina. How did you sleep?”
“Very well, as usual.” Which was strange, really, but not unwelcome. Nightmares used to plague her constantly, but Lucina had yet to have a single one since coming back in time. “You?”
“A little rough at first, but well enough.”
Lucina took another bite of bread and nodded. “Anything special planned today I should be wary of?”
A grinning Robin said, “Come on, admit you enjoyed last night.”
“I will say no such thing about your…carousing. Half of your embarrassing stories about the gods start with, ‘We met up for drinks,’ and end in some horrific disaster.”
“And you loved listening to every single one.”
Lucina found the wall behind Robin sightly to the left eminently fascinating as she said, “You've thoroughly broken my faith.”
“I prefer the word ‘improved’.”
“Bah!” After another mouthful of bread, Lucina noticed Robin still smiling at her. Despite herself, she smiled, too. Changing the topic, she asked, “I only have a few planned fights today and should be able to finish early if you're free.”
“Hmm… Well, I'm just tech rushing metallurgy techniques. I should be able to flee from the artisan district early if you want to spend the day together.”
Lucina nodded. She held up a finger and concentrated. With enough effort, mental tricks, and a perhaps clumsy application of magic, she managed to summon a small but bright light above it.
“Oh!” Robin grinned. “Very good work, my very little light.”
Ignoring her slight blush, Lucina said, “I got it to work yesterday morning. I was hoping for my next lesson.”
“And I shall happily accommodate that request!” Robin sniffed and wiped an imaginary tear from her eye. “My baby girl is finally embracing magic. Oh Chrom, if only you were here to witness my triumph. My life is complete now.”
Lucina rolled her eyes.
Juggling was an odd hobby to pick up as a princess and even more so as the Exalt. It was the art of the common street performer, someone relatable and simple. Lucina had always had to be a beacon of strength and surety. That had been the one constant of her life, and it had only grown worse and worse over time.
As a child, Lucina had technically sat in her father’s throne while he fought against Valm. Her only official responsibility had been to stamp final royal approval upon whatever the support system Robin had left in place put in front of her. Unofficially, she’d been encouraged to appear in public and ‘look regal and unworried’. And of course to make her mother proud, she had. After all, if the woman born one step away from being the Crown Princess of Plegia could make for such a great queen despite being raised as a commoner, Lucina could allow herself no less in her better circumstances.
As a teenager, everything had fallen apart. Lucina had suddenly needed to quickly learn to fill both her father’s and her mother’s roles, and the latter had come quite grudgingly. Politics and strategy were not her forte. Like her father, she excelled at the other aspects of leadership. She could move a crowd. She could rally an army to fight against overwhelming odds and win. She could sift through the mires of tragedy to inspire new hope. The actual ruling of the Halidom, however, especially when facing an existential threat, had proven difficult. In the end, it had all been a waste of time. Ylisstol had been reduced to ruins and the countryside ravaged with impunity. She’d never compared favorably against her mother.
As a young adult, what remained of humanity on Ylisse and Valm had looked to Lucina for guidance, and she had lied, and lied, and lied with false words of reassurance and fake smiles. The people had needed a hero-queen, a goddess descended amongst men to fight monsters and live to tell the tale, and she had answered. Lucina had ceased to exist even to her closest friends; the Exalt had stood against Grima even as the world had fallen apart around her.
Now after weeks of being genuinely treated like a person again, Lucina had decided to dredge up old diversions. Robin, of all people, had first introduced juggling to her as a magical exercise when she’d been almost younger than she could remember. No sane mage learned control by juggling fireballs, but no one would ever say that to Robin’s face. Apparently, her mother had taught her the same way.
Lucina smiled fondly at the memory. The practice had been worth it in the end despite how mad all the healing required had driven her aunt. She was more accurate with fire than Noire with a bow.
All that effort was supposed to culminate in the thoron spell, I imagine. Lucina let her Ignis balls splash and dissipate harmlessly against her legs and the floor. Deadly and precise. One shot, one kill.
Lucina leaned back on her hands to look up at the stars. They were brighter here in the past. She’d rarely seen them in the future, and even when they had peaked out from behind the endless gloom Grima covered the sky with, they had never sparkled quite as they had before.
That's one spell I don't believe I'll ever be comfortable casting. Too many bad memories…
Sighing, Lucina pushed the thought from her mind before she started examining Ignis too closely as well. She was supposed to be relaxing. She'd be traveling again soon, off to Arena Ferox to fight for the Western Khan's right to rule.
Lucina tossed up a ball of fell fire, a second, and a third, and let her troubles slip away. Ignis was nearly invisible at night. Even with her returning muscle memory, juggling it required constant focus and left little room for stray thoughts – little, but not none, unfortunately. Her choice of venue for her solitary performance could have been better.
The exposed ground far below called out to Lucina, reminding her of what she’d buried there. A momentary smile lit up her face at the thought of some random hired hand digging up the Fire Emblem, but that would be unlikely in the extreme. She’d checked. Attleburg Arena would not be hosting an event requiring construction anytime in the foreseeable future.
Lucina twisted her head to find Owain standing but steps away from her. A smile lit up her face. He’d finally come to see her. She’d begun to worry.
“What in Naga’s name are you doing?”
“Juggling.” With a quick twitch of her wrist, Lucina added another ball to the mix. Two loops later, she had the timing evened out amongst all four. “Do you remember when your mother screamed loud enough at mine to be heard across Ylisstol?”
“Yes…” Owain hesitantly admitted.
Lucina gestured with her head at her balls of fire.
Aghast, Owain said, “Grima taught you to wield his cursed fire that young?”
“What?” After a moment, Lucina remembered to mention the critical difference. “Oh, no, I was using regular fireballs and reached the expected result at first. Ignis only burns what I want it to.”
“I…really don’t know what to say to that.”
Lucina shrugged. Then with a swipe of her hand, she extinguished her fireballs, leaving her free to stand and turn to Owain. She shoved aside her own happiness at their reunion, and the Exalt spoke. “You’re late.”
“My apologies, Your Grace.” Owain said, easily falling into dramatics as he took a knee. “I was delayed trying to understand your situation and avoid the Fell Dragon. My last encounter with him did not end well.”
“No, I should say not. I acknowledge that was as much her fault as yours, however.”
“Not that one. I discovered Grima casting magic upon you as you slept. He halted my attempt to intervene.”
Lucina quirked an eyebrow. “When was this?”
“The night you were…indisposed.”
Drunk, Lucina mentally corrected.
“I can only presume this has been a persistent and serious problem, given your association with and defense of him.”
“Nonsense,” Lucina protested. She hesitated a moment as she recalled that she had, embarrassingly enough, swooned upon the revelation of Robin’s reclaimed personhood before truly speaking with her. But if her senses, logic, and memory were truly warped so far beyond recognition, she never would have been able to beat Lon’qu, so she pushed the concern aside. “I reconciled with Mother almost immediately after arriving in the past.”
“What? How?” Owain frowned. “How would Grima know where to wait for you? Or even to expect you? We didn’t know when or where we’d appear.”
“A lot has happened, Owain. We’re not in the timeline we expected to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mother split the timeline again coming back from…quite far into the future. There are three of her here. The youngest is her past self whose only crime is being a more suitable Fell Vessel than I am. The middle one is possessed by our Grima and…is probably quite obvious about that. The eldest is the one I’m with; she turned the tables on Grima and took him over in the timeline we expected to be in after our alternate selves sealed him away.”
Owain had a stunned expression on his face.
“I know it’s a lot to believe–”
“Please, Lucina, Cousin, Your Grace, whomever I need to speak to for you to see sense.” Owain grasped one of Lucina’s hands in both of his own. “You're smarter than this. Don't fall for Grima's sweet lies. Don't let him corrupt you with false smiles and insincere praise.”
Lucina sighed and sat down. “Please join me, Owain. I have a feeling we might be here for some time.”
And they were. Without revealing that she had actually gone through with her plan to burn her mother alive – or tried to, at least – Lucina told Owain everything that had happened since arriving in the past. She did leave out her birthday gift, however. She knew exactly what advice he would give her: head straight to Mount Prism.
“And so people have started to realise that I’m not worth challenging. I’ve been mostly working on my magic during the day since.”
Owain shook his head in disbelief. “Lucina, there are so many holes…”
“And I shall endeavor to fill them as best as I can. You have questions. Please ask.”
“You haven’t convinced me that Aunt Robin ever actually existed,” Owain said. “Every Grimleal record we found of her suggested that she held the spirit of Grima. If he could play the part of Robin before, he could easily do it again now.”
“True,” Lucina said. “For years, if I never actually believed that, then I at least found it easier to pretend I did. But none of the documents we read ever explicitly stated what it mean to bear the ‘Heart of Grima’, I believe is the term they used. I’m not an expert in souls, but I don’t believe it’s much different to the connection mine shares with Naga’s. I think we both agree I’m not her.”
“Perhaps, but that’s not an argument I would want to stake the world on.”
“Nor is the small uncertainty something I would wish to commit matricide over.” Owain opened his mouth to speak, but Lucina raised a hand and cut him off. “Even if you’re right, then that would still make Grima my mother. If he wants to be Robin again and once more act as a force for good in the world, I have no reason to object. A goddess can do far more good in life than justice can be served in her death.”
“Are you serious!”
Lucina replied sharp and crisp, “Of course I am.” The only people she had ever advocated executing were those whose continued existence posed a threat to what little remained of humanity as a whole. “Life is still precious, Owain, even if it’s more…in surplus at this point in time.”
“Well even if that’s true,” Owain said, his voice more than a little heated, “what about when he decides he doesn’t want to be ‘good’ anymore?”
Lucina quirked an eyebrow and gestured toward Falchion.
“That’s assuming he hasn’t stabbed you in the back.”
“He’s dead, too.”
“Then Naga will find someone else. Or Grima will eventually stumble upon the domain of a stronger, less passive god.”
Owain simmered for some time before asking his next question. “Suppose everything you’ve said is true. Why would Aunt Robin risk tampering with a timeline where we win? Grima would, but her?”
That was one of the few questions Lucina never wanted an answer to. She'd never explicitly posed it to Robin, and she doubted she ever would, because she already knew what response she’d receive. As petty as it was in the grand scheme of things, only one explanation truly made sense of why now instead of after Grima's defeat.
“Owain, this is…hard to speak of. Please allow me the comfort of brevity. My…other self was…not a happy woman. I had a glimpse of that, and Mother pulled me out of the darkness.”
Indeed, Lucina suspected that Robin's sole purpose for being here and giving up her life and all her friends from the future was to make her daughter happy. It was burdening, in a way, but for perhaps the first time since becoming the exalt of a dead nation, Lucina had selfishly and gladly seized what was given to her without hesitation.
Owain’s eyes widened in realization. He began, “Then you–” before Lucina interrupted.
“Please don't ask, Owain. Please. I don't want to talk about it.”
For perhaps a minute, Owain visibly floundered for words. Lucina could admit that she’d put him in a rather cruel position, although it’d not been her intention. Eventually, he asked, “If true, then what about when you’re gone and the Fell Dragon has no reason for restraint?”
Lucina blinked as the truth struck her. She knew now exactly why Robin had given her the Fire Emblem: demigoddesses tethered their soul to their patron god. Becoming one would render her as immortal as her mother.
“Lucina?” Owain said, pulling her from her revelation.
“Lucina?” Her expression said so much for her. Something about Owain’s question had resonated deep within her.
Without warning, Lucina rose to her feet. “Forgive me, Owain, but I need to return home.”
Owain reached out and grabbed Lucina’s arm. “Not without an explanation. For all I know, I triggered some programmed response in you to seek out your master.”
“Ah, yes, I suppose that would concern you.” As Lucina ceased pulling away from him, Owain released her. “Come with me. I need to dig something up, and you can help.”
“That…sounds a little ominous. If this hole becomes human-sized…”
Lucina hid a smile behind her hand, but her chuckle revealed her. “I promise it won’t be.”
Still wary, Owain followed Lucina into the depths of the arena to retrieve a pair of shovels. She then led him out onto the arena floor, where they unearthed a box approximately the size of a magic tome. He filled in the hole while she hugged the box to her chest with a beautiful smile he’d never seen from her.
More than curious, Owain asked, “What’s in that?”
“My birthday gift from Mother,” Lucina replied. She set the box down and opened it. “I’ve been struggling to decide what to do with it, but I now understand its purpose.”
Owain glanced inside the box and inhaled sharply.
“I fear this may create a rift between us for some time,” Lucina continued as she set about assembling the complete Fire Emblem, “but I know what I want now. You know where I live, and you’re welcome there anytime. I’ll see you later, Owain.”
Before Owain’s brain could reengage, Lucina ran off into the night and took the Fire Emblem with her. Scolding himself for letting her get away so easily, he chased after her. By the time he made it outside, however, she had already disappeared.
Muttering a swear under his breath, Owain sprinted for Lucina’s house. He would run straight into the Fell Dragon’s den if he must to save her from making the biggest mistake of her life.
Owain kicked down the door and broke the lock when he arrived. No light came from inside, but he searched the house anyway. He quickly peered into each room. He barely recognised half the strange things inside, and neither Lucina nor the Fell Dragon were among those he did.
Owain drew his sword and hacked a chair in half to vent. He had no idea where Lucina was now.
For all the good it did, Owain tossed his sword against the ground and pounded a table with his fists.
Our Exalt has fallen.
Finally, Lucina was about to have her long awaited rematch with her father! Granted, the other early Shepherds were also present, but she would deal with them quickly before indulging in a fair contest of skill. She trembled in excitement, although one or two of her opponents clearly thought she was scared to face them alone.
Lucina chuckled as Chrom insisted they would wait for her nonexistent allies to appear. He had a fair point about the legitimacy of the match being called into question without them, but as she had none, it mattered not. The only person she would consider calling in for aid would be her mother, but that would just be unfair.
“We need not wait for ghosts, Your Highness,” Lucina said, Falchion still at the ready. “Khan Basilio is well aware of and accepts my intent to fight alone.”
“Such arrogance,” Lucina heard Frederick mumble.
“Arrogance, Sir Frederick?”
Much to a giddy and impatient Lucina’s satisfaction, the man in question started in surprise at being heard. Having been encouraged to show off, she decided to to just that. She tapped into the seemingly bottomless well of power her bond with her mother put at her disposal. Ignis flared into life around her. The room darkened. Shadows flickered. With any luck, Grima would hear of this and assume she had been corrupted to his side.
“I am the wings of despair.” Six wings of Ignis formed behind Lucina – utterly useless, but terrifying.
“I am the breath of ruin.” Lucina let fell fire leak from her mouth in warning; unlike Valflame, the paltry imitation of the divine dragon Salamander’s fiery breath, she had full and direct access to her mother’s Expiration.
“I am daughter of the Fell Dragon, Robin, Lucina Lowell.” A hush fell over Lucina’s audience as she made the proclamation.
“If you have the arrogance to stand against me in open combat, mortals, then have at thee!”
In the front row of the stands overlooking the arena, Flavia said, “What! I cry foul! You can't have a fucking goddess as a champion.”
Basilio chuckled, although anyone who knew him would mark it as a sign of nervousness. “Nothing in the rules explicitly says I can't.”
Behind them, a new voice spoke up. “Demigoddess, actually.”
Basilio turned in time with Flavia to find a woman who bore a notable resemblance to Lucina.
“Also, she's perfectly defeatable without divine assistance by a sufficiently skilled team and thus, consequently, not against your regulations. If you'll excuse me, however, I need to reprimand my daughter before the match starts and she breaks someone.”
In stunned silence, Basilio watched the woman – Robin, if he heard correctly – teleport onto the arena floor right in front of his champion. She flicked Lucina on the forehead, drawing a very draconic growl from the girl.
Basilio, not tearing his eyes from the spectacle below, asked, “This is really happening, right?”
“If you mean the Fell Dragon scolding…her?” After a momentary pause, Flavia continued, “–daughter for falling into a ‘power high’ as they wrestle and claw at each other, then I think so.”
Nothing more could be said. Dragons would be dragons, Basilio supposed.
“So… Grima is female. How about that?”
“I think that's a different fell dragon,” Basilio countered. “My champion called her Robin.” And it occurred to him that he'd been told that she was after his throne. Maybe he should have taken that warning a little more seriously. But oh well. The daughter was a good girl. No doubt the mother was, too.
“Why is Lissa casually chatting with the goddess?”
Basilio noted that the small blonde girl on Flavia's team was Princess Lissa before answering. “Well, I know Lucina has ties to the royal family,” he said. “It stands to reason that her mother has more intimate ones.” If nothing else, this reassured him that his country was not under the threat of a bloody coup turning it into an oppressive theocracy. Deocracy?
A moment passed. “This is your fault, you oaf.”
“Ha! My fault I'm going to win again, you mean.”
Flavia clicked her tongue.
“I bet you a keg of that Valmese wine you've been hoarding that Lucina is Chrom’s half-sister.”
“You think that damned crusader slept with a fell dragon? Are you out of your mind?”
Basilio smirked. The ages matched perfectly. He was reasonably sure his champion was no older than she looked, too. “Scared of losing, woman?”
“As if, oaf. What are you wagering?”
Knowing that they be aiming for it regardless of the outcome of this bet, Basilio said, “I’ll naturalize those two.” That would prevent them from taking part in these competitions.
“Damn…” Flavia muttered. “You don't already know, do you?”
“That would be unsporting, so no.”
“Then deal.” A second passed. “Dammit!” Flavia pointed at Lucina. “There aren't more of her hanging around your miserable city, are there?”
Basilio laughed, deep and booming. “Not that I know of,” he said, “but I'll keep my fingers crossed.”