Fire Emblem Fan Fiction ❯ The Promise of Return ❯ A Time to Rejoice ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Disclaimer: I don't own Fire Emblem. It only wishes I did.
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Chapter Three: A Time to Celebrate
That night was full of celebration. Everyone was glad to have rescued Tana before any harm had befallen her and was overjoyed at their decisive victory. It boosted their confidence, gave them the courage they all needed, and hammered in the important fact even deeper: They were going to win this thing.
So tonight, they would rejoice.
Around their campfire, five soldiers raised their tankards and clanked them together cheerfully, not minding the spilt ale - or water in the case of Natasha and Artur - as it sizzled in the fire, sending up a small pillar of smoke that dissipated in the night sky. Up above, the luminous beings twinkled brightly, taking up their eternal patterns.
“That's supposed to be a bear, I think,” said Neimi softly, pointing up at a constellation just above them.
“Nah,” said Colm, squinting, “I think it's supposed to be some sort of fairy. You can make out the wings right there.”
“Oh, yea, you're right,” Neimi answered. “Can you believe how well we did today?” she asked, her eyes shining, “we beat them down so well!”
Natasha smiled at her as Joshua tipped his hat. “Aye, we did,” he said, “and I believe we have some things to settle, seeing as we're safe and sound, yea?”
Everyone else groaned. “Fine,” said Colm, a gleam in his eyes, “let's sort it all out.”
They drew their swords simultaneously, the wicked edges of their weapons gleaming dangerously in the firelight; Neimi trembled at the sight of them. Each had taken to cutting notches into the sword handles, one for each member of the foe they downed, completely.
Looking each other straight in the eye, they tossed over their swords, deftly catching the other's. Everyone was silent as the two swordsmen counted up the notches, their faces growing more serious as they numbers mounted ever higher.
At long last, Joshua looked up with a grin, “Twelve, sorry, mate, I think I've got you beat. How many?”
Scowling slightly, Colm said, “Hmm… One, five, ten…” He paused and pretended to count on his fingers, lingering on each one as he pressed it against his palm. Joshua's smile widened as the myrmidon's confidence grew. Colm lowered his head in apparent agony, running his hands through his hair.
“There, there, Colm,” cooed Neimi, gently laying a hand on his shoulder.
“It's alright, mate, better luck next time, y -”
“Eleven! Ha! Beat you! All that and I had to unlock the treasure chests!” He stood up and took a bow while Neimi and Natasha cheered and clapped their hands eagerly, laughing as they did so.
Joshua hung his head in embarrassment but eventually he grinned and cuffed Colm on the back of the head. “Yea, yea. Don't get so cocky, this is the last time this'll happen.” Feigning anger, he dropped a few gold coins into Colm's outstretched hand.
The thief jingled the money about, seemingly relishing the sound it made.
Artur cleared his throat. “As long as you two don't get carried away, I will support this good-natured fun. But be warned, I have seen great men fall in pursuit of one Lady Luck.” His stern look faltered under the looks his friends were giving him and they all laughed together.
“Excuse me, but do any of you happen to be up for a game of dice?” asked a strange voice to the group. They all turned to see Forde standing there, his hands jangling the mentioned dice. He looked uncertain but still put on a brave smile, eager to make new allies.
Colm and Joshua looked at one another, raising their eyebrows for a moment before smirking. “Sure,” Colm said.
“Have a seat,” offered Joshua, patting the seat next to him.
“Neimi and I will leave you to it,” said Natasha, standing up and brushing off her robes. The archer stood up as well and the two young women set off at a slow pace, linking arms as they chatted about various things.
“Excellent,” said Forde as he sat down and smoothed the dirt in front of him with his foot. “Shall we play for money?”
Colm gave a short laugh. “Of course.”
They began the game.
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“Come in,” called Ephraim. He was surprised to see Seth stick his head in through the tent flap. “General, what brings you here? Worried about tomorrow?”
The paladin looked uncertain and Ephraim noticed for the first time the seriousness about the man, the grave manner in which he behaved. He gestured to a stool.
“Is everything alright, Seth?”
Sighing loudly, as if he had been holding his breath, the man nodded slowly. “I just wanted to ask something of you… if I could.”
“Well, of course. You can trust me with anything, you know that.”
Seth gave a short, bitter laugh before shaking his head. He doubted the prince would like to know what was running through his head. “I do trust you, Ephraim. It's just that… what I'm thinking… may not be…” He trailed off, hanging his head, running a hand through his hair again.
“May not be what, Seth?” The prince leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “Are you certain everything is alright?”
The paladin suddenly sat up. “Yes, of course,” he said shakily. “I just was wondering if you thought it was the wisest decision to leave - to leave the princess without one of our number to guard her.” He finished and looked away, feeling incredibly guilty.
Ephraim's eyes narrowed and his curiosity was piqued. “Why do you ask?”
Seth hastily set things straight. “Oh, for no reasons on treachery, I assure you. I am just concerned about Princess Eirika's welfare. She is a fine fight, no doubt. And I am sure the Frelian troops are fully capable. But I must admit that I grew close to the young woman during our time spent together, and I see her - her as a younger sister - and would not want anything to harm her. I'm sure you - can understand my dilemma?” he asked, looking up and hoping the prince would not see through him.
The prince leaned back, a shrewd, calculating look on his face. “And that is all?”
“Yes, Ephraim. That is all. I promise.”
There was something about Seth's composure, so different from what Ephraim was used to. He wasn't sure what to do about this: should he press the issue or let it go for now and simply watch the man?
Seth watched him, realizing that his weak cover was quickly falling to pieces. He had to get out of there. “Sorry for bothering you with such a trifling problem. If you will excuse me, I will turn in for the night.” He stood up quickly, almost knocking the stool over in his efforts.
“Before you go, General,” said Ephraim, rising also. “I do not think we have anything to fear. I have seen my sister in combat and I have no reservations about sending her into battle. I also fully trust the Frelian troops. If this helps matters at all.”
“Yes, of course. Thank you.” He shook hands with Ephraim and then walked out of the tent. Outside, he took a moment to steady himself, breathing deeply and releasing a stream of hot air into the cool night. His steps away from the tent were controlled and even, almost confident, but it was all an act, all forced.
As he walked to his tent, Kyle saw the stiff gait of the paladin and again, felt a small pang of disappointment as he realized that this man, this great man, was being pulled down by his anchor-like feelings for the princess. He shook his head sadly and went to find Forde. They needed to train a bit.
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“So wait, explain the rules once more?” requested Forde, his brow scrunched up in confusion.
Colm sighed, exasperated. “How many times do we got to go through this?”
“Alright, alright,” said Forde, raising his hands. “Roll the dice.”
Joshua blew on them for good luck and said a little prayer, which made Artur cringe. Then the myrmidon rolled the dice, crossing his fingers in hope.
They bounced several times before coming to a stop. All three men bent down close, eager to see the precious combination the dice had made. Before -
“Yes!” cried Forde, slapping his knee in excitement. “That's… ten pieces of gold from each of you. Haha!” He stood up and took a bow; Artur clapped softly, greatly amused at the look on Joshua's face.
“Alright, alright,” snapped Colm, scowling and throwing the money on the ground. “Don't make a big fuss.”
“As opposed to you, yea? When you were receiving that rousing round of applause earlier?” came back Forde, a smirk on his face.
For a moment, Colm's hand rested on the hilt of his dagger and he looked menacing. Then he shook his head and smiled reluctantly. “Yea, ok. Fair enough. But don't get too excited. We'll have you're money soon enough.”
“Aye,” added Joshua, winking at Forde but keeping his face stern.
“Yea, well, we'll see about t -”
“Forde!” The men looked over to see who had interrupted them. It was Kyle and he didn't look very happy. On the contrary, he was livid.
“Excuse me, gentlemen. My colleague seems to a very giant thorn in his foot.” He bowed jokingly.
Colm and Joshua watched him go for a moment before sharing a look: they approved, it seemed.
Sighing resignedly, Forde brushed off his hands and approached his upset friend. Upon arrival, he bowed low. “Yes, mother?” he asked, looking up and grinning at Kyle. His good cheer, however, was cut shot by the look Kyle was giving him. “Lighten up, what did I do now?”
“Do you remember the Knightly Vows we took on our last day of training?” he asked sternly, crossing his arms.
“Yes, Kyle,” Forde replied, rolling his eyes.
“Do you remember the fifth vow?”
“Indeed, I do, mother. It said something about not indulging in hedonistic activities such as… as gambling. Alright, point taken. I'm sorry. Do you forgive me?” he asked, with mock concern on his face.
Kyle hit him on the arm. “Stop making fun. Of course, it's fine. You always do these sort of things and I always get you out of them. It's our way.”
For some reason, Forde seemed to brighten upon hearing this and catching Kyle off guard, he winked. Why, Kyle wasn't sure but he didn't care at the moment.
“Anyways, I think we should start training daily, in addition to the real battles and such. In order to make sure we're up to par with the rest of the troop. They really were something today, I have to admit.”
Forde seemed to be troubled but Kyle missed it. “Yea, you're right. So, should we start now?” he asked, drawing his sword and taking the proper stance.
Grinning broadly, Kyle drew his own and assumed the correct position as well. “Indeed, we should.” And with that, they locked blades and began to spar.
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“And what have you two been up to?” asked Colm as Neimi and Natasha returned to the fire.
The two girls looked at one another and shared a secret smile. “Nothing major,” said Neimi shrugging.
“Just talk,” put in Natasha.
“Right,” said Joshua skeptically, “You're not a very good liar, Natasha. But it's alright. We'll let it pass for now. I'm much too tired to pry a secret from women tonight.” He chortled at his own joke.
Colm nodded in agreement and even Artur inclined his head to indicate he shared the sentiment.
“To tomorrow?” asked Natasha.
“To tomorrow,” everyone else replied before Artur dumped his water on the fire unceremoniously, allowing a column of smoke to rise into the air.
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Ephraim, feeling extremely fatigued, was looking forward to turning into bed. But he had one more thing to take care of.
As he exited his tent, he crashed into someone: Tana.
“Ouch!” they both exclaimed. Tana rubbed her head and stepped back quickly while Ephraim struggled to his feet.
“Evening, Tana? Enjoy your sleep?”
The girl nodded eagerly. “Oh, yes. It needed it greatly. It was a complete nightmare, in that prison cell and forget about sleeping. I didn't trust those guards for a second.” She frowned upon recalling the memory but brushed past it quickly. “Were you going somewhere?”
“Yes. Actually, I was going to see you.”
“You were?” asked Tana, sounding very surprised.
Ephraim smiled and scratched the back of his head. “Yea, I wanted to see if you had settled in properly. I know this is different - very different, actually - from life in Frelia. It certainly was an adjustment for me when I didn't have a nice soft bed to go home to at night.” He chuckled softly.
“Yea, I know what you mean. But everything's been fine so far. I just feel… a bit left out. They're all so close and I didn't know anyone else except for Seth. So I tried talking to him but he seemed distracted…”
“Did you discover why he was acting that way?”
Tana shrugged and shook her head. “No clue. He said, `To tomorrow' and before I could ask what it meant, he was gone.”
“Strange,” said Ephraim, thinking again about his previous encounter with the knight. “I know how you feel though, I don't really know these people too well, but it's alright for me since I spend most of my time planning out strategies for battle.” He looked down and thought of what to say next. “But hang in there, yea? They're bound to be welcoming if you just give it a shot. And if not, my tent is always open.”
Tana's eyes lit up. “Do you really mean that?”
“Ephraim nodded. “Sure, it's not big deal.” The next moment, he was struggling to breathe as Tana embraced him tightly. Awkwardly, he patted her lightly on the back.
They broke apart. Ephraim yawned and Tana looked concerned. “Tired? Maybe you should turn in now. Lucky,” she said as Ephraim nodded eagerly, “I'll probably be up for hours. Fine time to take a nap,” she looked scornfully at her feet.
“Well,” said Ephraim, “maybe we could talk for a while, until you're feeling a bit tired, yea?”
“That sounds really nice. Let's go!” And she linked arms with him and steered themselves towards his tent.
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It was hours later and the two were wide-awake now and laughing a lot. They had spent the last two hours rehashing all their stories from their childhood, remembering things they had done, practical jokes they had pulled on one another, how they had teased Eirika about Lyon…
“It is ever so strange, that he would support his father in these actions, or to not warn of us of the impending attack. He was such a good friend to the two of you, wasn't he?” queried Tana, her voice barely above a whisper.
Ephraim sighed and leaned back. “I really don't know what's happened but I'm going to find out. I just hope something hasn't affect Lyon. Those experiments of his, always did frighten me a bit.” He ran a hand through his hair and he looked tired once again.
Tana noticed the weary lines and decided to leave the prince alone for now. She was feeling a bit sleepy as well. “I'm sure it's all alright, Ephraim. We'll find a way to solve all of this, or at least you will.” She smiled kindly as he yawned again. “Well, we better both get to bed. Goodnight, Prince Ephraim,” she said, smiling.
He managed a brief smile in return. It was a bit from their younger days. He bowed his head and responded, “Goodnight, Princess Tana.”