Fire Emblem Fan Fiction ❯ The Promise of Return ❯ Farewell ( Chapter 1 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
The Promise of Return
Chapter One: Farewell
With sad smiles dancing solemnly about their faces, the two looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Are we really doing this?”
“I think so.” A small, wet laugh.
“It took so long to find you this time. Who knows how long it will take the next time?”
“But this is different - we know when we'll be seeing each other.”
“Yes, but what if it doesn't work out? What if we never get to see one another again?”
Surrounded by a multitude of friends and allies, the two had never felt more alone as they raised clasped hands and looked into each other's eyes. Each saw the promise hidden beneath: I will see you again. Tears fought their way out despite their best efforts as they realized that keeping the promise was only partially in their own hands. War was a dangerous, fickle and malicious thing. It didn't care if you had ten kids to support or if you lived a miserly life alone. War didn't give even the slightest damn if the only family you had left was a lone sibling, didn't care if your death would crush their spirit and leave them a soulless shell, incapable of smiling ever again.
War was separating them once again. And it was almost more than they could bear to leave each other again.
They had fought for what seemed like ages, recruiting new mates and soldiers and managed to be victorious in every battle along their way. But they did have concern and love fighting on their side as well as the idea of once again being united. To separate willingly, they didn't think they could do it.
But in each other's eyes, they saw an underlying message, an ominous memo that chilled them to their very core: You Have to Do This.
So they would. And they would do their very best to succeed.
Eirika broke the hold and turned round to face her small, fresh, naïve and incredibly trustworthy army. They had numbered as many as eleven at one time but Eirika had sent her father's loyal right-hand men to stay with the Frelian kingdom. In addition, she had convinced a father and son duo to remain in a neighboring village, telling them repeatedly that war was a horrible thing to a family, it ate it up and spit out the meager remains. Lute, their knowledgeable mage had died along their way. Now, standing together, shoulder-to-shoulder, they were no more than six, not including Seth, the Silver Knight.
They had faced odd creatures, resurrected from the dead, had battled countless soldiers, had snuck into innumerous forts and had defeated memorable generals. And they were going to dive in and do it all over again.
And they were ready.
Eirika stepped up to each of them in turn to say her good-byes. She had formed such closeness with each of them that it tugged at her heart just to think about saying good-bye.
“Neimi,” she addressed the tiny archer with the short pink hair. The girl was already crying but was doing her best to stem the flow. She was not very successful. “I need you to keep fighting with the strength you've exhibited since I've known you. I know that you are capable of so much more than you think you actually are and you're going to prove it to the world. Hang in there.” They hugged - Neimi was too overwhelmed with emotion to respond properly - and Eirika took a sideways step.
“Colm,” she said, with feigned sternness. The roguish thief with the blue hair bowed low, a smirk creeping up on his face. Eirika laughed. “I need you to keep that spirit up. You'll need it. You are incredibly clever and incredibly kind-hearted, let everyone else see it.”
“Princess, you've seen right through me.” His smirked widened and he raised an eyebrow. “Did you like what you saw?”
The two shared a laugh, embraced (grudgingly on Colm's part) and the princess moved on.
The next woman possessed incredible beauty and kindness that was too great for words to ever express. “Natasha.” The princess' lip quivered as she fought back the streams of tears. “Natasha,” Eirika struggled, “you have shown me true bravery and goodness. Your prayers lift my soul to higher levels and your generosity and goodness amaze me to this day. You are a true angel.”
Natasha brushed back a bit of her blond hair and kissed the crying girl on the cheek. “Princess, your words mean the world to me. To be praised so highly by such a woman astounds me and I will treasure your kind words until the world ceases to revolve. Fare thee well, Princess Eirika.”
Eirika hugged the cleric so tightly that it stole away their breath. Tears flowed freely from the young women who had learned so much from one another.
Eirika brushed away her tears and smiled. “Joshua.” The red-haired swordsman grinned wickedly and bowed low, sweeping his arm around majestically. “I need you to make it through all of this, Joshua. Your sword knows no rival and I will not hear of it if you can't fulfill your debt to me. You owe me… now…. One thousand pieces of gold is it? I will not be cheated out of a single cent.”
Joshua winked as he leaned in to hug the princess. “Wouldn't hear of it, your highness.”
Artur, the monk, was next. He bowed humbly. “Princess.”
“Artur, promise me to always keep your faith and your love of all people. People like you give me hope that there may be a chance for peace yet. Never, ever change.” Artur was in the middle of bowing but the princess rushed him and caught him in a tight hug. Looking slightly flustered, the monk looked about urgently for some sort of rescue. None came. Colm, however, did do his fair share of snickering.
Before continuing to the last member of her army, the princess took a deep breath and wiped all the sadness from her eyes. Slowly, and with much difficulty, she reached out and took the knight's hands in hers.
“Seth,” she whispered, “you mean more to me than you could ever imagine. You've kept me safe from all harm, even at the risk of your own safety. You've taught me everything I know, how to be brave, how to show courage, how to fight for what you believe and mostly, how to keep faith when all odds are against you. Thank you so much.” There was another message in her eyes, something else the princess wanted the man to know but couldn't voice, not here, not in front of everyone.
She looked into his flaming red eyes and sought a response.
Finding it at long last, Eirika's heart wept with sorrow at what she was leaving behind.
The general's brave face crumbled under the gaze of the young woman. “Eirika - princess,” he said in barely a whisper. The princess leaned in, eager to catch his last words. “I…,” he fought to maintain his composure, “I… will see you again. You can count on it.”
At his words, the princess broke down completely and hugged the man tightly around the neck. Maintaining appearances, Seth merely hugged her with moderate enthusiasm. Everyone missed it as he smelled her hair and brushed the top of her head lightly with his lips.
They broke apart and once again gazed into each other's eyes. Neimi and Natasha couldn't help exchanging fleeting glances.
“Goodbye,” said Eirika.
“Farewell,” replied Seth.
Laughing wetly, Eirika turned to face the Frelian soldiers. “I think it's best we move out now, lest I break down completely.”
Everyone shared one last final laugh. With it, they remembered all the good times they had had, all the sorrow they had faced and all the signs of danger they had encountered. They would - whether they admitted it or not - cherish them forever.
With help from one of her Frelian soldiers, she hoisted herself onto the back of her escorts' horses. From atop her steed, she cast a look at the lot of them and smiled. “Get ready. My brother is a lot tougher than I ever was.”
Standing in the back, suffering from his personal struggle of emotions, the prince merely grimaced in response. While they had looked into each other's eyes, the twins had made a secret agreement to not say good-bye.
They waved at one another and the prince quickly turned his back on the somber procession of Eirika's troops. He didn't want his sister to see him tear up; she was crying enough as it was.
The troops Eirika had commanded for what seemed like years didn't know what to do; they merely looked at one another with saddened eyes and kicked at the dirt.
Remembering his new troops at the last second, Ephraim turned his head over his shoulder and gave them their first order. “Take this time to rest and we'll leave first thing in the morning.” He thought about that for a second longer then changed it a bit. “Strike that and make it first thing in the afternoon. I'm in no hurry to do battle right now.”
He entered his tent and fell asleep within seconds.
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It was several hours later and the scene had changed greatly. The steady wind had blown enough dirt to cover up the leaving trails of the princess and her Frelian escort, erasing the sad memory of her departure. Several steady fires crackled in the quiet nighttime, some with food roasting over them and several people seated nearby. The five foot soldiers of the Princess, for example, all were seated together, enjoying some roasted rabbit that Artur had prepared while discussing their new comrades.
“I really don't know what to think of them,” claimed Neimi. “They did seem nice enough, or at least the one with the ponytail did.” She giggled.
Colm shot her a sharp look before putting his two cents in. “Well, I don't think we can trust them. Did you see the look the green-haired one gave us? As though we were mere farmers armed with a bunch of shovels carrying about five minutes of experience between us. I don't like it one bit.”
“Aye,” chimed in Joshua as he wiped his sword slowly, “I don't trust him either. The other one looks fairly decent. May be able to swindle a few silver pieces off of him, you know, starting working on that debt of mine to the princess.”
“And me,” stated Natasha.
“And me,” giggled Neimi.
“And me,” growled Colm. He winked as he pointed his dagger pointedly.
Joshua rolled his eyes and scowled. “Yea, alright. Don't get so fussy. You'll all get your gold in time when I get my big fortune.”
Colm snorted. “Yea, ok. Will that be the same day Artur swears?”
The monk smiled at the comment and turned the spit a few times. “Well,” he said, to no one in particular, “it seems to me that the prince and princess have impeccable judgment when it comes to choosing who they trust so I doubt anyone working under Prince Ephraim will be so discriminatory. Look to the positive.”
Simultaneously, Colm and Joshua rolled their eyes. Artur was always advising his mates to look to the positive.
Natasha noticed the dwindling fire. “Perhaps we should save this rabbit for tomorrow and turn in. If we're all so worried about proving ourselves, we should get a good night's rest.”
“Aye,” replied Joshua while everyone else nodded and tried to stifle their yawns.
Overturning a large pot, Artur extinguished the fire, leaving nothing but the brilliant orbs of the night sky to cast dim light upon the group.
“To tomorrow?” asked Neimi.
“To tomorrow,” said everyone else in response.
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There was another fire present on the campsite but only one person tended to it and enjoyed its dangerous warmth. The silver knight, General Seth, watched the flickering flames until their shapes become distorted and he began to see odd images, images that frightened him to no end and struck out at his fragile heart, held together only by a promise.
In the midst of the fiery oranges and yellows, a black hole emerged and grew in size before separating into odd and contorted shapes. One was a girl armed with a single rapier; it was bent and her knees appeared to be giving out. The others were men, giant men armed with giant axes that no mortal man could bear. They chased the girl down and raised their mighty weapons in unison. The girl was going to die. Seth didn't want to continue watching but he couldn't help it. Invisible strings seemed to anchor his eyes to the scene and it wasn't until the last second that he managed to turn away and avoid seeing the girl get completely massacred.
His breath was coming out ragged and harsh and his hands ran relentlessly through his hair in an attempt to forget everything he was focusing on but it was proving impossible. He struck out at the fire and regretted it as he stamped the flaming dirt.
Two men watched this odd show of human emotion. Normally, the general seemed to always have everything under control, never seemed to let anything get to him not matter how sad or joyous or irritating. Nevertheless, here he was, doing nothing more than sitting down and he was letting his emotions get the best of him. It was almost a surreal experience.
Shaking his head in disbelief, Kyle said, “Do you know what I heard from the prince? General Seth actually faced off against an actual wyvern knight! Can you believe it? I doubt that even the king could've survived that.”
His companion let loose with a low whistle as he stroked his chin. “Yea, incredible. So what do you think is getting the great Seth down tonight?”
Kyle shrugged. “No clue.”
“Well,” said Forde, turning to his friend and grinning, “let's go find out.” And with that, he was off, his ponytail swishing behind him. Kyle, his eyes widened in disbelief, followed uncertainly and took a seat next to Forde and across from Seth.
The general didn't lift his head at sound of the cavaliers' arrival so Forde took it upon himself to address the man first.
“So, General, I was just talking with Kyle here and he mentioned something about facing off against a wyvern knight…is it true?”
The flaming red mane of hair flopped about as the paladin nodded his head. “It has been a difficult journey, still to become more difficult yet. I fear he will be surpassed in worthiness of opponent much too soon.”
Forde shook his head in disbelief. He was in awe. Still, there was something wrong… However, in no way was it in Forde's place to intrude. He merely let an uncomfortable silence drift upon the trio as he waited for the general to speak.
That lasted for quite some time. Kyle was about to get up and leave the man alone when Seth spoke unexpectedly.
“Gentlemen, if I could ask a question of you?”
“Of course,” replied Forde, genially. He set his tankard down and waited patiently.
The paladin took a moment to control his breathing. He still would not lift his head.
“I was curious… as to what you thought the… chances of all of us ever…ever seeing the princess again?”
Neither of the knights knew what to say. Kyle pointed a finger at Forde who slapped it away and pointed forcefully back at Kyle. “Your turn,” he mouthed. Sighing resignedly, Kyle did his best.
“Well, sir, I do think that she'll make it through this whole ordeal. She is a terrific fighter, having trained under the prince and even yourself and has a solid head on her shoulders. But… but if she didn't… we would all mourn of course… and the kingdom would cry for her loss… but… but I think it would - ah - spurn us on even further to win this thing. We'd fight that much harder.”
At this juncture, Seth's breathing grew incredibly ragged and harsh. It sounded as though he was suffering from a fatal wound.
“I - don't think - think that I - I - could continue on - if we were to lose her.”
Finally, with a heaviness that couldn't be read, Seth lifted his head, exposing his face. From his eyes came an incredible sense of anguish and sorrow that sent Kyle reeling.
“General,” began Kyle who looked completely nonplussed, but he was stopped short by Forde's raised hand.
“Seth,” he said in a kind voice and with sympathy emanating from his eyes, “you've fallen in love with her, haven't you?”
The exposure of his feelings, such raw and uninhibited feelings, broke the man down. His breathing was caught in his chest and he clutched at it, as though an ice-cold hand was squeezing his already fragile heart. With much difficulty, he nodded slowly.
Kyle was in disbelief. Seth, his idol, had allowed such trifling feelings to get the better of him. The man who was everyone's rock had finally been broken… and by mere love. It was, quite frankly, very disappointing.
However, Forde seemed to think nothing could be greater. His entire face lit up and there was a glimmer of joy in his eyes. He reached out gently and squeezed the man's shoulder, massaging it gently to ease his pain.
“Listen,” said Forde gently, “there's only one thing you can do now that you've fallen in love with the princess: fight with everything you have. You do everything in your power to see her again and that's the most anyone can ask of you. Besides, Kyle and I will do everything in our power to get you there, isn't that right, Kyle?”
“Huh?” said Kyle, “oh yes, sure, definitely.” He seemed to be a bit distracted.
“Right. So hang in there, yea?”
Seth nodded and ran a hand through his hair. “Yes, you're right, of course. I - must thank you, Forde, for - for helping me with… all of this. You've been very gracious.”
His eyes smiling brightly, Forde shook it off. “It's no problem.”
The paladin stood up and ran another hand through his hair. His manner instantly became gruff and he was starting to feel again like the man everyone knew him to be. “I must bid you goodnight gentlemen.”
Forde and Kyle stood up as well. The general shook his hands with Kyle first who quickly retreated to his seat once again. Forde, however, grasped Seth's hand tightly with both of his and as they looked at one another, Forde could see the immense gratitude billowing within the general.
He merely winked.
“To tomorrow, gentlemen.”
“Aye, night general.”
“Yea, good night.”
They watched him go. When he was out of ear shot, Forde turned eagerly to his friend and spoke, in a hushed whisper, “Isn't that amazing? He's fighting for the woman he loves. There's just something so poetic about it, isn't it?”
“Yea,” replied Kyle uncertainly. “It's great.” Forde didn't notice it, but it was obvious that Kyle saw his former idol in a very different light.