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Dragon Tending Sheep

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Corrin beamed, his face stretched wide in jubilation as he leaned over the railing of the ship. The coast was visible on the horizon, a thin line of golden brown that slowly grew larger and more substantial as the minutes ticked by. The sun here was brutally strong and sea birds squawked out in a piercing cacophony, but that hardly dampened the young manakete’s spirit.

The voyage by sea had certainly been interesting, hearing stories from the sailors on board the ship of distant lands and wild adventures had helped fill many hours. And as he learnt his way around the ship and started to help out more Corrin found the days beginning to fly by. Yet the ship began to feel stifling and he was glad for the chance to feel solid ground beneath his feet once again.

“Corrin, please be more careful or you’ll fall off the ship.” Corrin bounced away from the railing and back towards Lilith, whose face was caught somewhere between annoyed and amused.

“But Lilith, it’s amazing, that’s Plegia! A whole different country, on a whole other continent! I don’t want to miss it.” He claimed. His sister stared at him for a moment longer before sighing.

“Just be careful. I know you’re excited but Plegia is very different from Chon’sin. Father and Mikoto trusted us with coming here, and we need to act responsibly, okay? Besides you’ll have plenty of time to see the country, the caravan trip will take a good few days to reach the capital.” She lectured.

“Don’t worry Lilith, I won’t let Mother and Father down. We’ll get Mother’s book. But I can still be excited.” Lilith just fondly shook her head.

“Fine, go then. I’ll just have to fish you out if you fall in the ocean.” She quipped. With his big sister’s permission Corrin eagerly ran back to the edge of the ship to watch as the land gradually crept closer and closer, heart thundering in his chest and dragonstone pulsing in time.

“My very own adventure.” He whispered to himself.

--#--
The port town was lively in a way he’d never experienced before. There were probably more people swarming over the docks alone than there was in the whole of Koh’let village. Traders and sailors from Valm and Ferox and Ylisse haggled and shouted over each other in a vibrant collage of cultures and life.

As the boat pulled in to dock he pulled the cowl of his grey travelling cloak over his head, and when he looked to Lilith he noticed she had done the same. She kept insisting doing so was important to keep them safe. He wasn’t quite certain why this was the case but he knew better than to question Lilith. She’d probably just pull out the old “I’m two hundred years older and I know what’s best for you” argument. Even if he could feel his Haori getting damp with sweat under the multiple layers in the scorching heat. It’ll probably help with stopping sunburn if nothing else . He thought.

“It seems busier than the last time I was here” Lilith muttered to herself.

“You’ve been here before?” Corrin asked his sister with a tilt of his head. She started slightly at realizing he was listening to her.

“Oh, not for about twenty years. The port could have grown in that time I suppose, but even still it seems very lively today…” she trailed off, looking at the sea of people. Corrin too was lost for a moment before he turned to one of the soldiers unloading cargo from the ship. He tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention.

“Hey, Dan, is the port normally this busy?” He asked the sailor.

“Nah, not like this at least, probably because of Grima’s Night.” Corrin involuntarily shivered at the mention of the fell dragon but his curiosity was piqued. “It’s a big holiday. They say it’s something about Grima’s powers being the strongest at this time of the year, the Grimleal do some big festival where they talk to their dead loved ones.” The sailor gave an exaggerated shrug “Brings a lot of trade into the city with the banquets and offerings.”

“So they talk with the dead… do the dead talk back?” Corrin questioned. Once again Dan just gave a shrug.

“Who knows, guess Grimleal think they do.” With that he rearranged his hands holding the crate he was carrying and set off down the gangplank.

“Lilith, did you hear that, we could see a real Plegian festi-” Corrin stopped short at the look on his sister’s face, she looked a bizarre mix of concerned, scared and sick.

“Corrin, I think it’s best we avoid this festival. The Grimleal can be… dangerous at times.” She weakly explained, Corrin remained unconvinced.

“The caravan doesn’t leave until tomorrow you said, what can it hurt to check out a festival.” He reasoned, but Lilith remained tense.

“Corrin, could you please just…” She sighed heavily. “How about this, we can look about the town during the day, but we don’t go to the festival. It’s probably for the best anyhow, we’ll need to get up early for the caravan, so we need to get some sleep.” She gave a weak smile and Corrin, feeling a slight pang of guilt, decided not to force the issue any further.

“Sure, that’ll be fun still, I’m sure the town will be very different to Koh’let.” He gave a nod and Lilith seemed to untense a little.

“We’d best book an inn first though, with all the travelers they’ll probably be very full.”

--#--

Lilith was not wrong. It took the pair about two hours of wandering from inn to inn until they were finally able to secure a room at a run-down establishment at the edge of town. Corrin hardly minded though, seeing the port town was eye opening, the flowing clothes, the strange food, the sandstone houses. Everything looked so different to what he was used to back home in Chon’sin.

Although he didn’t appreciate the way that the heat from the ground boiled upwards through the soles of his soft shoes, sometimes leaving him hopping in place at the heat. The scorching sunlight forced the pair to stop for water fairly frequently. Whilst waiting in lines at wells he discreetly asked Lilith several times whether they could just transform to generate some water but was harshly shushed and told that transforming was only for emergencies.

After securing accomodations and depositing their belongings in their room Lilith agreed to go and explore more of the town. He quickly walked ahead of his sister through the back streets leading to the town square.

“Come on Lilith.” He called, looking over his shoulder. “I want to see the set up for the festival!” He excitedly continued. As he turned back forward he was knocked off balance unexpectedly as he slammed into a man walking in the other direction. With a yelp he fell backwards and heard a thump as the man did too.

“Oh, sorry, I really wasn’t watching where I was going.” He apologized as he stood up and offered the man a hand. The man for his part just looked at him wide eyed for a moment before quickly schooling his features back to a neutral state. The stranger then accepted his help up.

“You should be more careful in future young man, you could be hurt otherwise.” He remarked before swiftly heading down an alley.

“Corrin!” Lilith’s shout made him jump, she ran up to him panting slightly. Upon reaching him she hastily tugged the hood of his cloak over his head once more. It must have fallen off when I fell . He thought to himself.

“I told you to keep the hood on at all times.” His sister admonished.

“It’s not a big deal Lilith, I’m not about to get sunburned in a matter of minutes.” He said.

“Corrin, this isn’t about sunburn. Plegia can be dangerous, and there’s safety in anonymity. Just promise you won’t take it off again.” She pleaded, earnestly taking a hold of his hands.

“I, yes, sorry Lilith… I won’t let it fall again.” He apologized with a sheepish look.

Even though he wouldn’t get to see the festival Corrin certainly didn’t feel deprived. The town square was a bustling hub of preparation. The large open space was centered around a fountain and had been filled with winding makeshift tables. People were carrying huge pots of soups and stews, platters of meats and roasted vegetables, glazes glistening in the late afternoon sun. Meals were placed at the long tables that wound through the whole square. At many of the places people set down small personal objects: a pair of glasses, a book, a child’s doll. One of the people setting up explained that these were prized personal items of the deceased and that their presence would help to facilitate them crossing over and finding family amongst the crowds. Corrin suddenly felt discomforted by the doll sitting on a table nearby.

The market was also exciting and vibrant, quite likely even more crowded than the square. People swarmed all over shouting and haggling, many people in particular seemed to be busy at a stand selling incense. As the pair made their way through the market they were jostled many times but Corrin was careful to keep his hood over his head, despite several close calls. He and Lilith debated buying some new clothes at a particular stall but ended up not doing so as their travel budget was limited.

After a few hours of looking around Lilith suggested they head back to the inn as the sun was dipping low in the sky and it would soon be nightfall. Corrin reluctantly agreed and the two made their way back to their lodgings.

--#--

Corrin leaned through the window of their inn room. The desert’s night air dry and cool on his skin. Looking out he could see the lights from the town square painting the night sky a brighter hue. A general hubbub of noise drifted softly to their inn, the occasional voice raised in laughter or tears punctuating the cacophony. Lilith had long since gone to sleep in the adjacent room. The whole town must be there except us… At least I can hear it from here . Corrin thought, closing his eyes and focusing on listening.

“No stop, please!” Corrin’s eyes snapped open at the frantic cry. He looked down and saw two people struggling at the mouth of an alley across the way. A thuggish looking man was holding a knife to the neck of weedy man with unruly dark hair whose hands desperately clung to the knife, trying to shove it away. With a jerk and a twist the smaller man was thrown into the alley with the knife-wielding brute stalking in behind. The shouts only became more frantic.

Without hesitation Corrin ran out of the room and down the inn stairway, three steps at a time. As he exited the building the cold night air enveloped his body fully and he shivered slightly.

“Help! Someone, Anyone!” The voice granted him a heading and Corrin stormed into the alley, thinking of the dragonstone in his pocket. Surely this would qualify as enough of an emergency to merit its use.

He stopped short at what he saw entering the alley. The two men he’d seen struggling before were standing at the end of the alley side by side, the weedy man now holding a jagged looking sword. There were another three more people with them, all armed. Corrin noticed with a start that one of them was the man he bumped into earlier in the day.

“Alright now kid.” The weedy man said before pursing his lips in confusion, and squinting at Corrin. He felt decidedly uneasy being sized up under that gaze. “Is it kid? Can never tell with these dragons.” He gave a nonchalant shrug. “Just come along nice and easy, and save us some time, why don’t you?”

Corrin backed up only for his shoulders to hit a solid wall, he whirled around to be met with a grim faced woman fingering a blade. She gave him a smirk and he stepped away.

“Stay back, all of you, I don’t want to hurt you.” He forced his voice to stay even as best he could and shoved his hand into the pocket where his dragonstone was stored. His eyes flicked closed and he breathed deep, focusing on the gentle pulse of the stone, synchronizing with it as a roaring grew in his ears.

He was literally jerked out of focus by a strong hand gripping vicelike onto his arm, making him release his stone.

“Hey!” The indignant shout rose from his lips, a snarl edging it.

“That’s enough of that.” The weedy man said, approaching him, before shoving his hand into Corrin’s pocket and fishing out his dragonstone.

“No! I need that!” He cried in desperation, struggling in vain against the iron grip the goon had on his arms.

“Looks different to the girl’s.” The man said idly, holding up the blue, teardrop-shaped stone and examining it.

“W-what are you talking about?” Corrin’s voice shook they haven’t attacked Lilith have they? .

The weedy man looked to the man restraining Corrin.
“Shut him up. We need to move.” He commanded.

One of Corrin’s arms was released but before he could react to this a cloth was shoved over his nose and mouth. It was damp with something that smelled pungent and sweet. Corrin’s free hand scrabbled at the hand holding the cloth, and he kicked out with his feet wildly. Yet in a matter of seconds his movements slowed greatly. The whole world was going dark and with one last weak kick the young manakete fell into the blackness.

Chapter Text

Nowi was hungry. It wasn’t a new sensation or the worst one ever, but it was a constant nagging, and very uncomfortable. Hungry and bored, locked in a barred off section of a cave with only a persistent but far off dripping to pierce the silence. Even in a period of relative peace she couldn’t find any cheer. The sting in her palm reminded her that worse was yet to come.

With an exaggerated huff and a sigh she flopped onto her back, staring at the ceiling. She squinted one eye and tried to connect the shapes of the stalactites into pictures. the one on the left sort of looks like a pig . The thought of pig caused crisp bacon to dance through her mind and her stomach rumbled in protest. She turned onto her side, ruling the stalactite game as being dumb, tears prickling the corners of her eyes.

Her pointed ears twitched as she heard footsteps echoing through the cave. She sat up and faced the entrance of the cave, dashing a hand over her eyes to clear away the tears. She saw the leader of her captors; a rat faced, little, dark haired man called Ruberto.
“How’s my favourite manakete?” He asked with a toothy grin, arms spread wide.

“Go away you meanie! I hate you!” Nowi stuck out her tongue at the man after her statement. He just laughed at her.

“Careful spitfire, remember who decides if you get to eat.” He reminded her, Nowi just clenched her fists at her side.

“What do you even want you jerk?” She snapped at the man. Ruberto tutted and shook his head.

“Such animosity, and after I got a special gift for you.” He shook his head. “Oh well, an ungrateful recipient doesn’t mean I will take it back.”

Nowi felt distinctly uncomfortable at the mention of a ‘gift’, it’ll probably be a stupid hat they’ll make me wear whilst forcing me to do tricks or something . Ruberto snapped his fingers and gestured to someone outside her line of sight. One of his thugs trudged into the cave, something slung over his shoulder. With a start Nowi realized it was a person.

Ruberto withdrew a key and fiddled with the lock on the door to her prison.
“You were always complaining about being bored.” He mumbled as he fiddled with the lock. “So I went and got you a playmate.” He flashed her a nasty smile. “Wasn’t that generous of me?”

The door swung open and the thug threw the person into the cage, he landed with a thump and a whimper. The door was promptly shut and locked. Nowi kneeled beside her fellow prisoner whilst she heard Ruberto call that he’d let them get acquainted and exit the cave with a snicker.

The boy they’d thrown in was obviously another manakete, his pointed ears marking him as such. He had unruly and uneven hair that started aqua blue at the base and darkened to black near the tips. His clothes were weird though, he had some sort of over robe and loose fitting pants, with soft soled shoes on his feet. If he was a human Nowi would guess him to be somewhere in his teens, but human rules didn’t really hold for the dragonkin, so she’d ask him when he awoke. Judging by the way he was starting to stir it wouldn’t be long. Her excitement at meeting another dragon was at war with her sadness that this was how it happened.

“L-lilith…?” He asked softly, voice hoarse. The boy’s eyes slowly opened and he squinted around them. Pushing himself up shakily.

“Where am I?… Where’s Lilith? We can’t miss the caravan.” He shook his head, hair whipping back and forth. He looked at her with unfocused crimson eyes “Who, who are you?” he asked, head starting to loll. Noticing he’d likely fall over Nowi jumped in and leaned him against one of the stone walls.

“I’m Nowi, who are you… and who’s Lilith?” She inquired as she settled the other manakete against the wall.

“I’m Corrin, Lilith is my sister.” He blinked a few times and looked around the dank cave “What is this place?”

“It’s a prison for now, that those bullies put us in.” She answered quietly. Corrin stared at his lap for a few moments.

“I was trying to help that man…” He mumbled. “Reached for my dragonstone and…” as he said this he put a hand in his pocket, a few seconds later his eyes bulged and he started to dig through all of his pockets.
“No, no, no, no, no, where is it? Where is it? Where is it?” he stammered to himself, voice becoming increasingly panicked.

“Hey calm down.” Nowi commanded, he whirled to look at her, eyes wide and shining with panicked tears.

“No, you don’t understand! I NEED it, I need my stone, father said to-“ he cut himself off and stared at her fully. “You’re a manakete too?”

“Well, duh!” Nowi replied with a huff. “So I know how important a dragonstone is. Those guys have mine and they probably have yours too.”

“Why would they-” he sighed “right, a prison…” He took a few breaths “It’s okay, Lilith will notice I’m missing, and then she’ll come and break us out.” He said to himself.

Nowi rocked back and forth on her heels for a few moments. “Wow, your sister must really be something then, if she can take down all these guys.” She observed and Corrin nodded emphatically, bringing his knees in front of his chest and looping his arms around them.

“Yeah, she defended the village in case anyone attacked. I always asked to help her but Father would always say that I was too young, that I’d exhaust myself or get hurt.” He had a faraway look in his eye as he rambled about his family.

“Well, you don’t look too young to me, how old are you anyway?” Nowi probed, curiosity roused.

“Seventeen.” The other manakete answered. Nowi burst out laughing.

“Good… one… no, really?” She forced out between giggles. Corrin furrowed his brow in confusion at her response. He can’t be serious . “You’re… not joking?” Corrin gave a minute shake of his head in response. Nowi leaned back in shock.

“But you look older than me!” She exclaimed.

“Well, how old are you?”

“A thousand.” She made a so-so gesture “well, give or take a few decades.” This time Corrin leaned back in shock. Nowi glared at the boy. He’s barely even a baby. “What’s so shocking about that then?” she snapped and he flinched.

“You just don’t seem too, well… mature.” He weakly explained. Nowi jumped up and stamped her foot, Corrin smiled awkwardly and spread his hands in front of himself defensively.

“You’ve known me for like five minutes! I’ll have you know I’m super-duper mature… kids these days.” She ranted.

“I’m sorry…. I guess this whole situation has me a bit… confused.” He stared down at his feet, eyes tearing up. Darn it, now he’s making me feel bad .

“Hey Corrin, do you want some advice from a super smart and mature dragon?” He met her gaze and nodded shakily. “There’s no situation that can’t be improved by having a little fun! There’s not much space in here but I’m sure I can figure something out…” Nowi picked up a small stone and scraped it on the ground, it left a clear scar mark. “Perfect! Have you ever played naughts and crosses?” she asked.

Nowi managed to distract Corrin and herself from the gravity of the situation for a few hours playing various games but eventually the peaceful illusion was shattered by Ruberto entering the prison cave followed by a pair of thugs.

“Alright you two, time to go.” He casually commanded. Corrin jumped to his feet.

“You! You tricked me! Why did you bring me here?” He shouted. Ruberto pressed a hand over his eyes and tipped his head back in uproarious laughter.

“Oh kid, you’re killing me! ‘help! Someone! Anyone!’” he put on a high pitched voice as he said the last part of his statement, Nowi was unsure what he was referring to but judging by Corrin’s clenched jaw he clearly did. “Kid, I brought you here because you are valuable, and stupid enough to be easy to capture.”

The pair of thugs entered the prison one lifted Nowi to her feet, holding her by the arm. She knew the routine by this point and knew better than to struggle. Corrin clearly did not as she heard a clear smack as he was cuffed across the back of the head. She looked over and saw Ruberto leering down at him.

“Now kiddo, Nowi here knows the routine. It’s dinner time but we don’t encourage laziness here. So you need to earn your keep.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew a pair of objects, one a stone sphere that glowed with a green light, the other a teardrop shaped chiseled stone of brilliant aqua blue. “We like to have a bit of a show, normally we get Nowi to fly around, do some loop de loops, breathe some fire. Maybe do a bit of a dance. She’s a great little performer.” He gave her a cocky smirk and she glared back at him. “So now you get to join in the fun, but if you don’t entertain you don’t eat. Oh and don’t try to escape, we have a plenty of mages who’ll fill you with lightning before you can flap your way away.”

“I’m not a toy for you to use.” Corrin muttered. Ruberto just smiled at him.

“Kid, what’s your name?” Corrin started at this.

“Corrin.” He said slowly.

“Well, Corrin. I’m Ruberto, I own you. And you do what I say or you suffer. Got that?” He shoved Corrin’s dragonstone into his hand and forced it closed around it. He handed Nowi her own stone before ushering the pair out of the cave. “Alright boys, time for your dinnertime show!” a raucous round of ccheering rose up in response to his statement.

Nowi was surprised by how Corrin looked when he transformed. He was slimmer and more quadrupedal, almost like a deer, with sleek silver and navy blue scales, where she was green and yellow with smaller arms. His own wings were more straight edged compared to hers which looked almost to be composed of seaweed. He also could control and project water like she could fire. And after he was shocked a few times trying to run he reluctantly helped her put on a decent show, or at least one their captors appreciated.

Finally after about an hour and a half of embarrassing themselves for the pleasure of lowlifes Ruberto signaled a stop to the “show”. Both dragons shifted back to their human forms. Nowi noticed Corrin panting heavily after doing so. Their captor either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
“Ah, you both performed wonderfully, brought a tear to my eye. But… it seems you’ll have to wait for your food, we’ve got an important business client to go and meet.” Nowi shrank back at his declaration and he gave her a toothy beam.

--#--

The robed men met them out in the dunes as they always did. Nowi shivered as she caught sight of them, standing in an ominous line atop one of the sand dunes. She looked to her left seeing Corrin being led along, looking decidedly pale. The men wore dark hooded robes adorned all over with purple eye symbols, they were Grimleal. The bad kind.

Her and Corrin were dragged before the leader of the Grimleal who looked back and forth between them, eyes settling on Corrin.
“You found another one.” He stated. The man had a white cap over his head with another eye emblazoned on the front, and a heavy gold collar hung around his neck.

“Well he fell right into my lap. I figured with two we can increase your orders…” Ruberto offered.

“Wh-what orders? What are you talking about?” Corrin stammered, clearly as discomforted by the Grimleal as Nowi was. With a signal from Ruberto the other manakete received another smack to the back of his head, silencing him.

“And what about the quality then?” The Grimleal said, narrowing his eyes.

“Ah, you want a sample then?” Ruberto snapped his fingers and the goon holding Corrin forced his hand out, another of the man’s minions then proceeded forward with a knife and phial. A sharp slash elicited a cry of pain from Corrin and Nowi flinched involuntarily. A line of red opened in his hand and blood began to drip down, filling the small vessel. After about a minute Ruberto signaled a stop to the procedure. The bloodflow was stemmed with some linen, and the phial stoppered.

Nowi saw Corrin bring his injured hand close to his chest as Ruberto sauntered over to the Grimleal.
“Here you go Chalard, a phial of fresh dragon blood!” He presented it with a flourish to the robed man, who held it up to the moonlight inspecting the crimson fluid.

As one the mages began to chant, a large glyph depicting Grima’s six eyes appeared beneath them. Their words made Nowi’s skin crawl and her ears hurt, and it was a struggle to keep her eyes open against the magical sensory assault. The blood in the phial glowed bright purple then turned a pure black. Chalard then upended the phial and the contents soaked into the sand, from it a trio of strange figures rose. Their breath fogged black in the air, their eyes glowed with an unnatural red light and their skin looked as if it was sewn together. The Grimleal leader tutted.

“Less than half as effective as the girl’s.” He commented as the abominations stood before him, twitching. That’s what they want with our blood… to make monsters . Nowi darted her gaze over to Corrin who stood open mouthed and horrified at the sight of the creatures.

“We’ll pay a third for the boy’s blood.” Chalard declared.

“A third, you just said it was half as good!” Ruberto countered. He poked the stunned Corrin in the forehead. “Hey Corrin, why doesn’t your blood work as well for them?” Corrin pressed his lips together and turned his head away. “You are a real manakete aren’t you?” Corrin still kept his mouth closed, and looked away from his captor. Their talk about ages came back to Nowi and the answer leapt to her mind.

“He’s not fully manakete…” She whispered to herself. Unfortunately Ruberto perked his head up and looked at her, he began to advance on her with a dark look in his eye.

“What was that?” He asked lowly. Nowi stared up at him in defiance.

“I’m not telling you anything you big meanie!” She shouted at his face.

“I thought you were learning Nowi.” He pulled out a knife. “Seems you might need a remin-”

“Stop, please!” Corrin shouted. “She’s right, my father is a manakete, but my mother isn’t. That’s why my… blood, didn’t work as well.” He explained in a strained voice. Ruberto swiped a hand over his face in frustration.

“What a fine mess this is.” He looked over to Chalard. “Alright, the boy is less pure stock so we’ll charge forty percent for his blood, no lower!” After a moment the Grimleal nodded in agreement. Ruberto signaled to his men who advanced on the manaketes with a pair of fresh knives and bottles.

Nowi hissed to herself and stifled the tears as the cut on her hand was opened once again, and her blood steadily filled the small glass container.

“You’re sure I cannot persuade you to part with them?” Chalard inquired as the two bottles gradually filled.

“Ah, even for 200,000 we know better than to kill golden geese, you lot need to learn some patience.” Ruberto countered. Chalard bowed his head in acceptance.

“If you do change your mind we would be happy to take them off your hands.” Nowi felt perversely grateful that she was captured by Ruberto and not Chalard.

A few minutes later the transaction was complete and the gang dragged the two manaketes off back to their hideout.

--#--

“How much longer will we wait Chalard?” One of his subordinates asked him. Chalard kept his eyes focused on the group retreating across the dunes. Then looked down to the two bottles in his hands. Such power! .

“Not much longer, soon we shall have the sacrifices for Lord Grima.”

Chapter Text

Fires rose up all throughout the camp, painting swathes of the dawning sky a blazing crimson hue. Mercenaries and merchants fled to and fro from blasts of dark magic raining down upon them. Shambling monstrosities stalked through the flames and the chaos, cutting down anyone unwary enough to cross their paths. Gregor had been waiting for an opening, although he hadn’t counted on something of such a scale.

Gregor stalked through the camp, weaving between flaming tents and fleeing men and women. He heard a low moan from his right, just barely enough warning to bring his steel sword up to guard as an axe flew through the smoky air, clanging solidly against his blade. Gregor grimaced as the creature wielding the axe pushed him half a step backwards. The monster then shoved its face up to Gregor’s own, opening its fetid maw, and breathing the rancid stench of the grave into the mercenary’s face.

“Gregor is thinking.” The mercenary announced, as he reached down to his dirk. “That you should not be announcing your presence so loudly.” Quick as a striking snake Gregor unsheathed his dirk and plunged it into the creature’s eye.

The monster staggered back a few steps from the force of the blow, dirk still protruding from its eye like a macabre decoration. Not letting up in his assault Gregor swept his blade through a wide arc, which cleanly sliced through the monster’s neck, decapitating it. Before its head hit the ground it dissipated into the cloud of smoke with one last drawn out moan. Gregor bent to retrieve his dirk, he wiped the black blood off of it with a grimace before re-sheathing it and heading further into the camp.

“Now if Gregor was slimy merchant where would he… ah!” He exclaimed as he spied Ruberto heading into the cave that the camp was built around. “It will not be so easy for you.” He muttered to himself as he followed Ruberto into the darkness.

--#--

Eight days… It’d been eight days since Corrin had been imprisoned (and who knows how many days the thugs spent transporting him to their camp), every night he’d been forced to exhaust himself performing with his dragonstone, like a clown in the circus. Three times he had been forced to trek into the dunes afterwards to have his hand cut open and his blood drained for those men.

Eyes aglow red in the night, twitching movements and pallid flesh, like a crude marionette of a person, the monsters sent foreboding shivers down his spine.
They made those… things from me. How many people could one kill? How many had they killed already? . Corrin wrung his hands together, the right throbbing in pain. They never really got time to heal before the cuts were opened again.

“Corrin, do you hear that?” Nowi asked urgently. Unfolding from himself a little Corrin realized he could hear sounds coming from outside… screams and shouts, a trickle of smoke began to spill into the cave.

“Is something going on out there?” He whispered to Nowi. Her eyes were narrowed in concentration.

“Maybe, okay Corrin. This could be our chance, if anyone comes to get us we’ll slip past ‘em, and then we can run away in the confusion.” She announced.

“How are we going to get past them?” He asked, swallowing a lump in his throat.

“We’ll figure something out. Don’t worry, it’ll be just like a game of tag, and I never lose at tag!” She proclaimed with a smile. Corrin nodded jerkily, admiring how she could keep her calm in a situation like this.

A few minutes passed with the two sitting in tense silence, the smoke in the cave gradually growing thicker and the panicked sounds outside becoming louder. The air was beginning to sting his eyes and Corrin was starting to cough, he wondered to himself how long it would be until the smoke started to seriously hurt him Father did say we’re more frail than humans when not transformed .

Then Ruberto stumbled into the cave, coughing and hacking. Corrin and Nowi flinched back, but Corrin could feel the older manakete tensing beside him.

“You… Little… twerps, you’re coming… with me” Ruberto announced, between throaty coughs. The weasel of a man then produced the large key that unlocked the door to their prison.

“Gregor will be taking that.” A new voice declared. Three pairs of eyes swiveled to the bearer of said voice.

Corrin released a gasp, looming through the smoke was a terrifying man, huge and menacing, he had a rough face and hair that spiked out all over. There was a glint in his eye and he grinned widely.

“You can either be giving it to Gregor, or he will have to take it. Oh and the stones too.” The man Gregor, I guess announced, pointing to the key, as Corrin wondered over his strange way of speaking.

“Bloody, merc. I’m not letting you steal this goldmine!” Ruberto shrieked, dashing at the man with a knife held low. In the blink of an eye a blade sprouted from Ruberto’s back, and the man collapsed to the floor, quickly expiring.

“When he opens the door, I’ll give the signal and we run for it.” Nowi whispered into Corrin’s ear. He saw Gregor, pluck the key from Ruberto’s dead grasp then start searching the dead man’s body.

“Wh-what signal? We didn’t plan this!” He protested. Gregor straightened up, now holding two softly glowing stones in his left hand. He approached the cage door.

“Okay, little dragons, no need to be scared yes? Gregor is just going to be opening this door…” He turned the key and the barred door swung open noisily.

“Take this, Ker-chuck!” Nowi announced, pelting a stone at the man, which smacked solidly into his forehead. “Go!” She ordered Corrin and he found himself running. As he passed the tottering and dazed man he quickly snatched the dragonstones from his grasp, passing Nowi’s to her.

“Wait, slow down for Gregor!” A shout echoed behind the two as they burst into the camp. The sun’s early morning glare was smothered by a thick blanket of smoke hovering over the camp. All around people were fighting and scrambling and dying. Corrin froze at the sight of one of the monsters that the Grimleal had created stalking through the camp.

An insistent tug on his arm brought him back to himself.
“Hey, like tag, remember?” Nowi asked with a smile.

“Y-yeah.” He responded haltingly and the two began to run to escape the camp. Several voices called out to them, yelling at the pair to stop or making attempts to grab them as they fled. Fortunately Corrin and Nowi were able to avoid these clumsy attempts at capture and break out of the smoke filled air of the camp.

The two kept running for hours, adrenaline pushing them on. Eventually Corrin found himself tiring. His lungs burned as they tried to suck in the rapidly heating desert air, his throat felt dry and cracked, and his legs staggered and lost pace nearly sending him falling into the sand below them.
“Nowi… I think… we’re okay… to rest.” He gasped between heaving breaths.

The other manakete turned quickly to face him.
“Wow, you really look done in. You should probably never challenge me to tag, at least not until you build up your endurance a bit!” She teased with a smirk. Corrin gave her an exhausted smile in return.

Nowi stood on her toes and shaded her eyes with her hand, squinting into the distance.
“Aha! Over there, we can rest under that… thing. It’ll be a good chance to get some sand out of my shoes too.” She claimed, pointing towards some odd lumps sticking out of the desert sand. With no other options presenting themselves Corrin readily agreed.

--#--

The air in the structure was weird, they’d only been in its shade for a few minutes but once the comforting sensation of being out of the heat wore off Corrin started feeling distinctly discomforted. Glancing at Nowi he could see she was clearly antsy too. The air had an odd, almost oily feel to it that made his skin crawl and there was a sound that he could almost hear, tingling at the edge of awareness and causing his ears to twitch.

Corrin reached a hand forward and touched one of the odd stones they were sheltering beneath, it was oddly porous beneath his fingers and as he looked at the colour he felt an icy wash of shock.
“Bones. These are bones…” He mumbled. “Nowi, I think I’m okay, maybe we should move on, we might come across a town soon.”

“Sounds good. Anything to get away from this creepy place.” She replied with evident relief.

“Wee ones, why you not be waiting for Gregor!?” A voice indignantly shouted from a nearby dune. Corrin’s eyes widened as he took in the form of the same man who had tried to capture them earlier.

“He’s still following us?” He asked incredulously.

“No time for that, run!” Nowi commanded, grabbing Corrin’s arm and pulling him into a sprint.

As they set off running however one of Corrin’s feet twisted on a rock, sending him careening into Nowi. The pair then tumbled down, landing in an ungainly heap with Nowi sprawled over Corrin’s chest, both groaning in discomfort.

“Little dragons are needing to be more careful, or else they’ll be ending up with broken legs.” Gregor’s rough voice joked. Both manaketes flinched back at the fearsome man looming over them.

“GET AWAY YOU CREEP!” Nowi yelled at the man, clambering off of Corrin.

“I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to.” Corrin added, nervously clutching his dragonstone.

“Please, be keeping down with the voices and no doing the transforming! You give away position! Very bad!” Gregor hurriedly whispered, making shushing gestures with his hands.

“Oh please, you just don’t want anyone ‘stealing your prize’ you big creep. Well we won’t play along!” Nowi accused, pointing her finger at Gregor, Corrin nodded in support.

“Oy, you break Gregor’s heart! Why you treat like villain?” The man whined with an exaggerated pout.

“You there! Fiend! Keep your hands off of them!” All three swiveled at the new voice. Standing a few steps away was a man who looked like he’d stepped from a book of heroic legends. He had cobalt hair casually swept out of a handsome face and a navy blue and silver outfit. It was missing a sleeve which showed off a strange mark on his upper arm and he had a white cape that fluttered in the breeze.

Beside him was a stern looking brunette man astride a horse with armour plating as thick as his own. And a girl with bright blond pigtails wearing a yellow dress and holding a healing stave.

The bluenette pointed a sword at Gregor and there was an air about it that Corrin felt was both comforting and terrifying somehow.

“Who is fiend? … you mean Gregor?” Gregor asked with a scowl. “No, friend! You have idea wrong!” He claimed, holding his hands out placatingly.

“Yeah, right… Creep!” The girl in yellow said with a scowl.

Gregor sighed loudly. “This day has been nothing but insults and rocks to head. And all for doing good deed.” He muttered to himself, running a hand through his hair. “Listen, friend! Gregor only want to-“

“Gotcha now! You scamps will be coming with me.” One of the robed men from before shouted. Across a flat he stood, surrounded by his followers, all looking deeply menacing.

“Oy, is like bad stage play.” Gregor muttered, rubbing his forehead. “Okay! They is bad guys.” He gestured to the line of men, now approaching their position. “Trying to capture the wee ones here.” He pointed to Corrin and Nowi. “Gregor is trying to protect them, will you be helping him now!?” He finished in an exasperated grunt.

“Very well.” The cobalt haired man agreed still looking somewhat unconvinced. “Frederick, stay here with Gregor to protect those two, and make sure he doesn’t do anything untoward.” He commanded the armored man beside him. “I’ll speak with Robin and get the Shepherds ready for battle.”

“You’d best make haste then milord.” Frederick responded, trotting his horse unsteadily through the sand over to the mercenary and manaketes.

The horseman leaned over to look at Corrin and Nowi, his stern look softening for a moment.
“You’ve no more need to fear. The Shepherds will take care of this.” He wheeled his armoured steed to face the oncoming attackers. “You two had best just stay behind me.”

It would be the safe thing to do, leave the fighting to the professionals, but Corrin had a deep nagging sensation that couldn’t let him stand by.
“No. I… I want to help.” He said firmly. Frederick glanced over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow.

“I commend your spirit young man, but you are unarmed and unarmored, I cannot in good conscience allow you to fight.” He steadily declared. Then he turned once more to face the oncoming attackers, a billowing cloud of dust was being kicked into the desert air by the charging men and women.

Corrin took a firm grip on his dragonstone, feeling the stone throb in time with his heartbeat, its pace accelerating in time with each pulse of blood pounding in his ears. He felt a small hand rest on his shoulder and he jumped slightly. He turned to see Nowi bearing a somewhat forced smile.

“Hey no need to worry right? We’ve got this big knight and his friends on our side for now. At least they seem to want to stop those meanies.” Corrin gave a tight smile and a jerky nod in response.

The first few enemies fell upon the knight and mercenary with a fury. A pair of horsemen tried to level their lances at Frederick but with a clean sweep of his axe he knocked both weapons off course. The knight dug his heels into his steed which jumped forward with a sharp whinny. On a charge past his foes he swung his axe in a mighty arc, embedding it deeply in the chest of one of the horsemen. His body toppled from his steed, his weight managing to dislodge his corpse from the knight’s axe, the stench of his blood caused his horse to shriek and bolt off.

His compatriot drew a short sword and tried to make some cuts at Frederick. The knight precisely parried a few before one desperate slash broke through his guard. Corrin gasped in fear at the sight, yet the blade simply clanged and scraped noisily on the man’s armour. Frederick lifted his axe high, shining steel glinting in the sunlight.
“Pick a god and pray!” He shouted, before bringing the blade through the man’s opened guard, leaving another body in his wake.

A ringing clash of steel brought Corrin’s attention back to Gregor, who was exchanging blows with a myrmidon. The other swordsman was incredibly light and quick, yet each blow he returned with a swift parry. Looking at Gregor Corrin thought he seemed unhurried, all his blows and block were made with a seemingly languid style. The mercenary moved his sword with a casual flick. He blocked an overhead blow, before delivering a feint to the myrmidon’s right side. The myrmidon’s sword rose to guard, reacting too late to Gregor shifting his blow into a straight thrust to pierce the man’s neck. He jerked violently before collapsing in a heap as the mercenary withdrew his sword in a splash of blood.

Corrin found his breathing growing shallower as the iron heavy scent of blood assaulted his nose, and violence reigned around him. A roaring was growing in his ears slowly and he could feel erratic pulsing coming from his dragonstone as if it were caught in a violent whirlpool.

The four were forced to fall back as bursts of dark magic bloomed around them, fluxes distorting the air and the occasional blast of wind magic throwing up heaps of sands, which whipped and spiraled about.

The magical assault was short lived however as a pair of white shapes darted from the skies aiming at the sources of the spells.
“It seems Robin has initiated his battle plan.” Frederick murmured with an almost imperceptible relaxation in his stance.

Shading his eyes from the blaring sun Corrin squinted to make out the far away white blurs. He discerned them to be a pair of pegasi, each with a spear-wielding woman riding them. Seated behind one of the women (whose flowing red hair made her slightly easier to pick out) was a person in a dark coat with ivory hair who directed the occasional blast of thunder magic towards targets missed by the swooping dives of the riders themselves.

The fluidity and expertise of the airborne warriors was astounding, thoroughly engrossing Corrin until he found himself suddenly thrown off balance by a vice grip closing around his arm. He jerked back with a yelp and felt the cool edge of a knife caress his neck and draw a pinprick of blood.

“You come along quietly if you want to live now.” A voice whispered in his ear. Corrin’s panicked eyes darted to Frederick and Gregor who were both scowling darkly at whoever was holding him.

“No… I…” Corrin struggled to breathe normally as adrenaline flooded his system and the roaring in his ears grew in a bellowing crescendo.

He felt the knife scrape loudly against the scales of his neck, stinging only slightly as his body grew and threw back the man who had been holding him. He collapsed forward, forelimbs planting on the ground and let out a roar. He heard a gasp and some muttering, but cared little for it. He turned his body and began to stalk towards the man who had been holding a knife to his throat.

The human was backing away, an axe held defensively before himself, panic stricken eyes locked on Corrin as he moved forward. He would be crushed, they would be torn, they would all be destroyed.

Corrin’s jaw lowered and he sent a blast of water at the man, throwing him onto his back. Wasting no time he leapt upon his fallen attacker and pinned him beneath one of his forelegs. The man scrabbled uselessly in the wet sand, hands and feet kicking up small clouds. His movement was halted by Corrin’s claws being buried through his skull.

Not enough. More. MORE!

There was noise from behind and the dragon noticed two men fighting alongside another dragon nearby, with more humans battling a short way into the distance. With a running leap he took to the skies, gliding over the desert sands.

He plummeted to the ground amidst a small group of mages, they wore the dark eyes on their robes proudly. They were the ones who’d bled him.

He shrieked at the mages and one of them started to back off slightly, before being chastised by another. The humans began to chant something but he had little care for it, laying into them with swipes of tail and claw, leaving the sand beneath soaked with water and blood. Fighting the spell casters he felt a few painful impacts upon his hide, but it wasn’t until after the last fell that the pain truly hit him.

His legs buckled and he collapsed towards the ground.
More, more blood! It hurts too much. So tired. Crush and destroy! Can barely stand. Drown them all! No more… no more… The thoughts whirled through his jumbled head as he lay breathing heavily. The inaction eventually began to calm his mind and he felt his body shrinking until he was just a boy lying amongst mangled corpses.

The stench assaulted him and his stomach turned both at the smell of sun rotting offal and the joy he had taken in creating it.
“No wonder Lilith never let me help her…” he mumbled as he struggled to push himself into a seated position.

The bodies strewn about him were raked through or bent horribly, there was no chance of their deaths being quick or clean. It was cruel and disgusting, and it was an atrocity he’d committed.

His father had once said that inside a manakete slept a violent and vengeful beast. That if anger and primordial fear controlled them the beast would take over. He had claimed that once lost to the beast, to the dragon, that there was perhaps no coming back at all. Corrin felt even more sickened when he realized how close he was to having let that happen.

His whole body ached, but Corrin noticed two particular spots of pain, he could feel a bruning pain at his side and pulling back the wet sleeves of his haori and kimono he found a number of deep cuts on his left arm, their haphazard pattern suggesting wind magic as their cause.

He choked back a cry of pain as he struggled and failed to stand up. He needed to reach a healer or something of the sort.

“Hey Corrin!” He heard a childish voice shout and he felt distinctly relieved as he saw Nowi running towards him. Her eyes widened and her pace became tentative upon drawing close.

“Corrin… are you… okay?” She asked slowly. Eyes scanning the carnage behind him.

“I’m still me.” He answered softly, trying and failing to force a brave face for his friend.

“Why don’t we go, get away from here. Those guys, the shepherds, said they could help us, and they wanted to talk more.” She explained, fidgeting a little as she tried to keep her focus on Corrin.

“That. That sounds good… could you please help me get back? I can’t really stand up right now.” He sheepishly confessed.

Nowi transformed quickly, lifting Corrin atop her back. He clung to her neck as she flew them back towards where the battle started.

Chapter Text

Nowi made quick time, gliding easily over the heat rising from the dunes as they bounced back the scorching sun. Corrin Winced for Nowi’s sake, the burning heat was likely searing into her underbelly.

“I’m sorry you have to carry me like this.” He apologized from his perch atop the dragon’s back.

“Don’t worry about me, I’m way tougher than to let a little flight in the heat slow me down. Even with your extra weight.” Came Nowi’s reply, her voice distorted through her changed form.

With a slight adjustment to her wing angles the pair banked in a graceful turn, looking ahead Corrin could make out a huddled collection of blue tents and covered wagons settled around an oasis. Several small shapes moved around the campsite setting up a few more shelters.

Nowi began a steady descent towards the centre of the campsite. As they approached Corrin picked out a small group consisting of Gregor, the trio who had rescued him earlier and another man wearing a dark coat with a shock of white hair standing out, glinting in the sunlight.

As Nowi landed in the midst of the camp in a puff of sand there were several slight exclamations, one voice in particular declaring such a landing to be “most uncouth.”

The blue haired man, who seemed to be the leader gave them a smile and a nod as they landed, the man in the dark coat looked the pair up and down, rubbing his chin in thought.

“You found your friend then? Good.” The leader said to Nowi.

Corrin climbed off his friend’s back and found himself having to lean on her side for support, which became immensely more difficult when she shifted back into her humanoid form. The pair nearly teetered over until Gregor walked over and slung Corrin’s uninjured arm over his shoulder.

“Best to be letting Gregor help, Wee Ones.” He advised, Corrin gave him a weak smile.

“Sorry for not trusting you earlier.” Corrin apologized, Gregor simply laughed and waved his hand.

“Gregor cannot blame you, those men would making anyone be cautious. Besides you lead Gregor to generous new employers.” He gave a hearty laugh, which Corrin could feel reverberate through his body, he winced as it jostled his injuries.

“Pardon me, but I’m afraid you don’t look well.” The blue haired man interjected.

“Chrom, he’s covered in blood!” The girl with pigtails exclaimed. Corrin glanced to his sleeve, somewhat alarmed at how far the bloodstain had spread.

“Here, let me have a look.” The blonde girl approached Corrin and the staff she held glowed with a soothing light. Corrin peeled back his sleeve, flinching as the deep cuts were exposed to the open air. To her credit the girl simply furrowed her brow and set about healing his wounds, the cuts closing in a matter of seconds, and the burn he could feel on his side numbing in the ambient waves of healing magic. Although Corrin still felt a little light-headed from all the blood loss.

“Now then,” Chrom said, clearing his throat to gain the assembled group’s attention. “I must thank you two for your help against the Grimleal.” He gave a respectful nod in Nowi and Corrin’s direction. “You are welcome to stay with us here for the night, but afterwards I am afraid that we must move on.”

“But! But what about us! I WON’T go back on the auction block!” Corrin started slightly both at Nowi’s shout and at the sudden flickering out of the healing magic that had been working on his side.

“Wait. You’ve been sold? Like a… like a slave?!” The blond girl gaped at this news. Nowi gave her a sad nod.

“We were owned by men more despicable than you can imagine, they made us perform like animals whilst they demanded tricks!” Nowi claimed, shaking slightly.

“And they bled us for money…” Corrin added in a soft whisper. The blonde girl’s head swiveled back and forth between the two, horror and disbelief painted clearly on her face. Corrin noticed the men looked clearly concerned as well, with Gregor especially shifting uncomfortably and not meeting his gaze.

“What sort of scumbags buy and sell some kids!? Even if they CAN turn into dragons…” The girl asked almost to herself.

“They may look young, milady, but they may not truly be so. Manaketes live a very long time.” The knight interjected. The blond girl’s eyes widened.

“Really? how old are you?” She asked the pair, curiosity replacing her earlier shock.

“Oh, I dunno… a thousand… something? But look! No wrinkles!” Nowi joked, framing her face with her hands, as if to show off her youthfulness.

“And you?” She turned to Corrin with excitement. He awkwardly looked away.

“uuum, well, I’m not quite as old as Nowi is…” He trailed off weakly, and Nowi snickered beside him.

“You’re a baby.” She said with a smirk, Corrin blushed furiously. The blond girl looked very confused at the exchange.

“Well, the dragonkin are said to be more resilient than men.” Frederick claimed. “Milord Chrom, if they are willing they could be a great help to our cause.” He told the blue haired man.

“Perhaps, if you two don’t want to be left behind, we could allow you to join the shepherds. I’ll warn you though, we are likely to be in for some dangerous battles ahead.” Chrom told the pair of Manaketes.

“Sure, I’ll come, there’s no way I’ll be left behind.” Nowi chirped. Corrin shortly found a lot of attention focused on himself.

“Well, I’m not the strongest, but you people saved us, saved me. I want to do what I can to help you… But I need to find my sister, Lilith, we were travelling and got separated when those men captured me.” He explained.

“How about you stay with us for now, we can keep an eye out for your sister, it would be safer if you were not on your own.” Chrom suggested, Corrin could see the sense in his idea, especially considering what had led him to this situation.

“All right then. I’ll help however I can.” He gave the people a warm smile.

“Oh duh, Chrom you moron, you went and recruited them without even introducing yourself.” The blond girl piped up.

“It seems you’re right.” He replied with a chuckle. “I am Chrom, prince of Ylisse, the knight here is Frederick, the man in the coat is our tactician, Robin, and the girl who showed such good manners just now is my little sister Lissa.” Corrin’s crimson eyes widened at realizing the pedigree of these people, the royal family of Ylisse held sacred blood blessed by the Dragon King Naga. And his father had always said that Naga’s blessing is not bestowed lightly.

“Well, I’m Nowi, nice to meetcha.” The old manakete chipped in, seemingly uncaring of their rescuers’ stations.

“I’m Corrin.” He added, still feeling a little starstruck.

--#--

Corrin knelt in the cooling sands by a tub of water drawn from the oasis. The water in the tub gradually turning to a cloudy off-red as he scrubbed his grimy and bloody clothes clean once more. One of the sleeves of his borrowed shirt dipped in the water as he cleaned, forcing him to stop and roll back the ridiculously oversized sleeves.

In the distance he could hear the sounds of night-time preparations. The kitchen tent was in full swing and several small fires had flared up around the Shepherds’ camp, raucous conversation drifting on the still desert air. After the past few hours serving as a flurry of introductions to the rest of the militia he took his time to appreciate the relative evening calm his isolation granted him.

“Hey, what are you doing out here by yourself?” The sudden voice startled Corrin, causing him to slip forward and wet his arms in the washing water. With a muffled curse he hurriedly pulled them out, shaking dirty water onto the sands. Looking up her saw Princess Lissa standing nearby, holding a hand over her mouth as she giggled.

He quickly tried to stand, wondering whether what the protocol for meeting with the Royal family was.
“Oh, your highness, I’m sorry for that, I didn’t hear you approach.” He apologized bowing his head.

“Uurgh, you sound like Frederick.” Lissa replied with a loud groan.

“Oh, um, sorry I didn’t mean to upset you. Did I use the wrong title?” He wrung his hands and wondered if annoying the princess of the Halidom was enough to get him kicked out of the Shepherds.

“No, I just don’t like people being so stiff all the time, treating me like I’m all delicate or something.” She amended, and Corrin relaxed slightly. “So what are you doing out here by yourself?” She queried with a tilt of her head.

“Oh, I… well I wanted to get my clothes clean, get off all the blood.” and the reminders of captivity , Corrin added internally.

“So if you’re washing your clothes, then who do those belong to?” Lissa indicated towards the shirt and trousers so big that Corrin was practically swimming in them, whilst she clearly tried to hold in her laughter at his oversized apparel.

“Well, one of the shepherds, Vaike, I think his name was. Lent these to me.”

“Wait, Vaike has shirts!?” The princess exclaimed, eyes widening. Corrin recalled the man hadn’t been wearing any shirt when he was lent the clothes.

“I think he said something like: ‘The Vaike doesn’t need shirts, they just would get ripped by all my bulging muscles.’ I thought it was a joke.” He shrugged.

“Well I’ve never seen him wear any.” Lissa then approached the washing tub and peered into it before rolling back her sleeves, lifting out Corrin’s Kimono and inspecting the mostly clean garment. “Your clothes look pretty unusual, where did you get them?”

“Oh, I’m from Chon’sin so they’re pretty normal over there. My Sister and I came to Plegia looking for a special tome for Mother…” Corrin trailed off and he felt a sting of tears at the corner of his eyes as he thought of Lilith. He was in a foreign land, surrounded by strangers, and his only family was Naga-knows-where probably going mad looking for him.

“Oh no, I’m sorry, geez, I didn’t mean to make you cry like that.” Lissa hastily apologized, dropping the kimono back into the tub. Corrin tried to reassure her with a casual wave of his hand, but the effect was not very convincing.

“No, it’s not your fault, I’m just a little lost here… my first time away from home and things haven’t exactly gone to plan.” He tried to force evenness into his voice as he reassured Lissa.

“Don’t worry too much Corrin.” Lissa laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Chrom promised to keep an eye out for your sister, we’ll find her.”

“You’re right…” he wiped an oversized sleeve across his eyes and gave the princess a smile. “heh, behold the might of the Silent Dragon Tribe, crying at the first sign of homesickness.” He joked with a wry smile.

Lissa punched him gently on the arm. “Come on then crybaby. Why don’t you tell me about Chon’sin while you finish washing your clothes? I’ve never been to Valm.”

“Haha, it’s a deal.” As he told Lissa of his home in Koh’let village, of his family and the people there, the beautiful mountains often shrouded in morning mists, the long stretching fields and the soft spring rain he loved, he began to feel his heart warm, and the weight that had been pushing on him lighten, if only a little bit.

Chapter Text

Lilith crashed down heavily, knees groaning in protest at her hasty landing as several vultures squawked angrily and fluttered off. A great cloud of sand was kicked up as she transformed from her dragon form back to her human one.

Standing shakily, now on two legs, she surveyed the scene around her with halting, short breaths. Corpses were strewn around the destroyed camp haphazardly, withered in the sun as the buzzards returned to feast on wasting flesh once more. Blood long since dried was turning the golden sand a rusty brown.

With hasty strides she approached the nearest corpse, looking the body over she could find no insignia or declaration of allegiance on the woman’s tattered clothes. She checked a few more bodies around her landing zone, but found them all to be in much the same state.

She rose from her crouched position, took a deep breath and made her way further into the camp.

Her eyes darted back and forth, taking in carnage and burned canvass, constantly searching for, yet terrified of catching, a glimpse of aqua and black hair or red eyes, and thankfully finding none.

“Corrin… Corrin, are you here?” she called as she proceeded through the camp, shouting for her lost little brother every few steps. Her hands balled tightly in the fabric of her dress, she could feel a frantic thumping as the pulse from her dragonstone kept time with her heart.
“Corrin, if you’re here, come out! It’s me, Lilith!” She shouted once more, only to be met with dead silence.

It had taken weeks of searching to find this site. Tracking the progress of the caravan throughout the desert, following rumours of some merchants who had one of the dragonkin in their possession, wheedling and sometimes threatening information out of locals. It had led to this, a literal dead end.

Father’s words echoed in her head.

“Lilith, this journey is as much for your brother to see more of the world as it is to obtain Mikoto’s tome. I do not believe he will be satisfied with our little village forever… I know you’ll look out for him when I’m not there… just try to keep him from getting in over his head.“

Well, look how that had all turned out , she thought despairingly. After a single day in Plegia Corrin had gone missing. Kidnapped, and taken Naga knows where.

Lilith stopped to rub her eyes with the heels of her palms, heavy bags now adorned them and she felt more worn out than she had in years.
“Once I find him, I may take a cue from The Voice and nap for a few years.” She muttered.

Towards the back of the camp she noticed a cave, it seemed a more secure place to keep captives than anywhere else.

Lilith blinked rapidly as her eyes adjusted to the dark within the cave as she entered, once more her nose was assaulted by the stench of blood, but this time rot was mingled with the smell. She scrunched her nose as she glanced down, a body lay on the floor, not sun shriveled like those outside. It was a man with an almost rat-like face who wore a shocked expression even in death, a large bloody stain on his front highlighting where he had been run through. Numerous bugs were crawling over the corpse and Lilith quickly moved on, grimacing after seeing a centipede crawl out of the dead man’s nose.

At the back of the cave she noticed that a section had been barred off, creating a makeshift prison, the door was hanging wide open and Lilith quickly walked in. The cell was barren of any comforts. There were some bizarre scratches on the stone floor and it took Lilith a moment to realise they were games of naughts and crosses, dozens of them spread throughout the cell.

Examining the ground her eyes picked out a very different mark in the corner of the cell. A section of the ground was stained reddish-brown, she leaned down and sniffed the mark. Her keen nose picked out the scent of blood, but it wasn’t human like the dead man’s, there was a certain sharp tang which edged the smell. Dragon blood.

Lilith reared back, rage bubbling inside her. These people had imprisoned and hurt her little brother, a kid who knew nothing of the world. They were vile, worse than monsters. She almost wished they were still alive so that she could have personal vengeance.

She stormed out of the cave, stomping on the dead man’s chest as she went. Emerging into the baking desert heat she raised her dragonstone high. Swept up in anger the transformation came easily, and she landed forward onto all-fours. With a swing of her silver tail she smacked the cave wall, bringing down several large rocks and partially blocking the entryway. Then, taking a bounding leap, she crushed a half-burnt canvas shelter, and shattered the crates within. Swiveling her head, she noticed many more structures in the camp. Were she able to in dragon form, she would have smiled, there was plenty for her to work out her anger on, then she’d go find her brother.
--#--

“Oi, is one big mess.” Gregor grumbled, crossing his arms behind his head as he walked.

“What’s a big mess, Gregor?” Corrin tilted his head up at his taller comrade, squinting slightly in the harsh desert sunlight.

“This mission is mess. Rescuing the exalt is all to the good yes, but Gregor has lived through many wars. It will not be stopping there, mark Gregor’s words.” Gregor explained, shaking his head wearily.

“The exalt is Chrom and Lissa’s sister. They can’t just let her be killed by King Gangrel!” Corrin exclaimed. “Besides, by what I’ve heard of the exalt she’s a very kind and peaceful ruler, helping her is the right thing to do.” He continued passionately.

Gregor hummed to himself “Maybe… Maybe Gregor is just being cynical old man, but little dragon is still young yes? There is much for you to be learning of the world.” He ruffled Corrin’s hair and the young Manakete huffed a little.

“I’m not that young…” he mumbled.

“If you are asking Nowi, she will tell that you are little baby!” Gregor claimed then released a bellowing laugh, patting Corrin heartily on the back, despite his slight annoyance Corrin smiled at the gesture.

“Well, young or old, the right thing to do is still help innocent people, and it sounds like the exalt really needs our help.” Corrin declared.

“Bravo, bravo, a truly noble sentiment, young man.” Praised a smooth, accented voice.

Corrin jumped at the intrusion, now noticing Virion standing beside him, applauding happily with a slight smirk crooking his lips. There was something vaguely familiar about the shepherds’ “archest of archers” but Corrin had trouble placing it exactly. maybe it’s in the voice he mused.

“Virion, you startled me.” Corrin said whilst Gregor chuckled at his overreaction.

“Ah, forgive me, honored manakete.” Virion swept easily into a low bow without ever breaking step. “My natural grace of movement makes it difficult for many to hear my steps.” Corrin thought it peculiar that the man was so easily able to apologise and brag at the same time.

“Oh, you’re forgiven, I guess, it really wasn’t that big a problem.” Corrin replied, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly.

“Wonderful.” Virion rose in an elegant motion.

“Gregor noticed you approaching.” Gregor commented idly. Virion’s face scrunched for a moment before recovering.

“Well, you must be in possession of keener senses than many other men.” Virion said with an airy wave of a hand. “I thought it wise to come and witness the quality of our new members.”

“Gregor is not bothered by your judgement, so long as the prince is sticking with paying Gregor, he will be here to fight.” Gregor claimed. A shout from behind then caused the mercenary to turn and sigh “One of the wagons is getting stuck in the sand, Gregor will go and help push it out.”

“Oh, maybe I should help too.” Corrin reached into his pocket towards his dragonstone. Gregor stilled Corrin’s arm, placing a heavy hand on it, then shook his head at Corrin.

“It is best for you to not be exerting yourself. And a dragon would likely scare the horses, like snake in henhouse yes?” Gregor gave Corrin an encouraging smile before leaving the manakete, who felt thoroughly useless.

“Do not let it dishearten you so. There is no shame in learning some limits, even I have some.” Virion consoled Corrin.

“Right, right.” Corrin took another look at the silver haired archer beside him, who walked easily through the desert as unruffled as if on a morning stroll through the garden. There was definitely something familiar about him. “Virion, have we ever met before?”

“I was wondering if you would recall our previous encounter, Corrin. It was a little over a year ago, when I was searching all over Valm, for the fairest and loveliest of maidens, a true lady to stand beside me. I heard tell of a legendary prophetess in a mountain village, one who could divine anything, perhaps even the location of my heart’s desire.”

“You’re the dandy who asked Mother for love advice!” Corrin snapped his fingers at the remembrance. He then winced at himself realizing he could have put it better. “I mean, err… I do remember you coming to see Mother. What did she tell you?”

“After a great many readings she told me “Your destiny lies far to the east.” And so I crossed the ocean, and the desert, and upon arriving in Ylisse I was met with the sight of a radiant beauty like no other.” Virion explained, too absorbed in his own recollection to notice Corrin’s slip up.

“Oh, who was it?” Corrin leaned in, curious for the identity of this mystery beauty.

“The fair maiden, Sully.” Virion answered, an easy smile adorning his features.

Corrin did a double take, and turned towards the back of the train where he saw Sully forcefully shoving the stuck wagon back into motion alongside Gregor. There were many words to describe Sully: fierce, dedicated, confident, powerful… but he doubted ‘radiant beauty’ was a common choice, or one he thought Sully would particularly enjoy.

“I see… so are you and her…?” He trailed off.

“Alas, not yet, but I will prove to her the depth of my devotion yet, it is a rare woman who can resist my charms.” Virion boasted, casually flicking some of his long hair back behind his shoulder. “She will only be impressed by a true hero on the battlefield, so I must hone my skills further.”

“Well, maybe if you help her with the wagon she’ll appreciate it, it’ll show you’re a hero off the battlefield as well.” Corrin suggested.

“Hmm yes, I see the wisdom in your suggestion.” Virion made a show of rolling up his sleeves before jogging off towards the still stuck wagon and declaring his “superb skills” would assist the “divine angel” Sully.

Corrin chuckled to himself before looking up and spying Nowi lazily circling above the column. He envied her energy and wished he could fly up alongside her, his dragonstone pulsated excitedly before he tamped down on the idea with Gregor’s warnings.

They’d be in the Plegian capital in a few days and he needed to rest up before then. There’ll probably be battle, he thought. The idea made him feel a little queasy. If he closed his eyes he could still see results of his rampage in the previous battle.

I… killed people. Admittedly they weren’t good people, but even so, the memory didn’t sit well, sinking like a stone in the restless sea of his stomach. He regretted that it took getting to this point to see why Lilith and his Father had always kept him out of fighting.

He wondered if fighting and killing got easier. The other shepherds didn’t seem too weighed down by the earlier fighting, but perhaps they were just better at hiding it.

He pulled his dragonstone out of his pocket, and gazed into its crystalline depths, he could almost see roiling currents churning within its glassy heart.

“I almost hope it doesn’t get easier, it means I’m still me.”

Chapter Text

The screech of wyverns and the clash of steel on steel rent the air above Plegia castle. The battle to save the Exalt Emmeryn had begun, yet the exalt herself could do nothing but despair at the loss of life.

Corrin flapped desperately to dodge the vicious swing of a wyvern rider’s axe, then retaliated with a blast of charged water. The wyvern shrieked and flailed, rider barely holding on as they lost altitude. A swift strike from Cordelia’s lance knocked the rider from his mount, which flew off in a panic.

Corrin determinedly refused to look at where the body fell. It was a vicious clash, but he had no desire to relish in it.

“Blammo, take that you overgrown lizard” Nowi cheered as she annihilated an enemy with a searing jet of fire. Clearly taking a bit more joy in her rampage than Corrin did.

He had to take a moment to respect her willpower. Despite the seemingly childish joy she was taking at unleashing her draconic abilities she did not even waver in her control. Her voice and actions remained her own. Corrin found himself constantly struggling against the roaring in his head, trying to drown it out by humming an old song his father had taught him.

Fortunately for the young manakete the battle seemed to be dying down. The few wyvern riders that remained were falling back from Corrin, Nowi, Sumia and Cordelia’s defence. The scorching desert skies were growing calm and Corrin breathed a sigh of relief at the thought of soon being able to shift back after the fighting was done and the exalt rescued.

“Yeah, Nowi wins!” Nowi proclaimed before letting out a bellowing roar. “Come on Corrin, give it a try.” She encouraged jovially.

“I’m not sure if I should.” He replied dubiously. Unsure about giving in to such urges.

“C’mon, it’s a bunch of fun, letting loose a bit is good for you!” Nowi cajoled, the cheerful lilt in her voice exaggerated by her transformation.

“Well, I guess I could try.” Corrin opened his jaw wide and roared, mimicking the sound that had been echoing through his head the whole battle. Strangely enough, letting loose a bit of that rage seemed to quiet the thunderous cries that were drifting through his head a little. So he did it again, and again.

“Yeah, that’s it. But you’re still nowhere near as loud as me.” Nowi chirped, before adding her roars to his own.

The bellowing of the two dragons served to hasten the retreat of the enemy wyvern riders, who spurred their mounts onwards ever faster.

“That’s enough!” Cordelia commanded after a minute. Corrin looked to see her and Sumia calming their uneasy pegasi.

“Oh, sorry…” He hung his head and would have been blushing furiously in embarrassment were he capable of it in dragon form.

“It’s alright Corrin.” Sumia consoled “I’m sure that roaring like that is pretty fun. But we should get back to help the rest of the army now that we’ve taken care of the wyverns.”

“Indeed, we shouldn’t waste any more time here.” Cordelia agreed before taking her Pegasus in a tight, turning loop. However, with a sudden jerk on the reins and an annoyed whinny from her steed she came to stop. “Gods, no…”, she breathed in horror.

“Cordelia, what hap- oh… oh no.” Sumia’s voice dropped to barely a whisper. The four Shepherds had turned towards the castle courtyard just in time to see the Exalt Emmeryn slowly lean forward and topple from the dragon’s skull she had been perched atop.

After a split second of shocked hesitation all four swiftly sped towards the gold and green blur of the exalt as she plummeted. Sumia and Cordelia quickly pulled ahead of the manaketes, but even with their formidable speed Corrin could see they had no hope of reaching the exalt in time.

An anguished scream tore through the air a moment after the dull thump of the Exalt hitting the ground rang through the courtyard.

They had failed.

--#--

Lissa shook violently as she clamped her hands over her eyes.

“No, Emm, no.” She muttered to herself, she didn’t want to see what was happening, her sister was going to…

No, this has to be some ploy of Robin’s, there’s some tactical trick that this is all part of. She told herself, yet the princess found she couldn’t believe her own lies.

A thump and a crack sounded a little ways in the distance.

“Nooooo!” Lissa screamed, furiously shaking her head, pigtails whipping back and forth. She knew it was childish but she couldn’t look, she couldn’t see what had happened to her sister and kept her eyes screwed tightly shut.

Her eyelids couldn’t properly hold in the hot tears that she was shedding however, and she felt them make itchy tracks down her face as violent sobs rocked her whole body.

“Emm, Emm.” They’d come so far, and endured so much, to fail at the last hurdle was too much.

King Gangrel laughed maniacally and crowed proudly over the death of the Exalt whilst Chrom screamed at him in rage, threatening the Mad King’s life. Lissa just stayed crouched where she was, unable to move in her grief.

“Lissa.” Someone was tugging at her arm, she shrugged them off.

“Lissa my darling, we need to retreat, Basilio’s troops can only hold off these brutes so long.” Lissa blinked up at Marribelle, who was tugging insistently on her arm. A few strands of hair had slipped from her fairy curls and she was glancing around frequently, eyes wide.

“Maribelle, Emm, we need to.” Lissa choked on her own words and broke off with a sob.

Maribelle enveloped her in a hug that Lissa knew the other noblewoman would normally call a ‘breach of decorum’. Lissa cried messily onto Maribelle’s silken shawl, but Maribelle made no complaint, instead stroking a few fingers through Lissa’s hair.
“I am truly sorry, but we cannot stay here.” She whispered softly, as she helped Lissa to a standing position.

Maribelle led Lissa to her horse and the pair mounted up.

Lissa squeezed her friend tightly as they rode away, and kept her head bowed as she tried to stifle her sobs.

She’s really gone… Emmeryn’s gone

--#--

Raindrops drummed noisily upon the roof of the carriage as it groaned its way through the plegian canyon. Corrin wasn’t sure where Basilio had managed to gather a fleet of carriages from, or how he got them into Plegia. Yet he could hardly be ungrateful, after two long battles the strain of using his dragonstone had left a bone deep exhaustion, and a plethora of aching muscles. Even his stone’s normally strong pulse felt dull and muted.

“Rock.”

“Nope, guess again.

“Ravine.”

“Hah, not even close, are you even trying Gregor? Okay Gaius, your go.”

Corrin was leaned against the side of the carriage, body swaying in time with its bumpy movements. The guilt of failure still made his stomach uneasy, he could only imagine the pain Lissa and Chrom would be going through. If he lost someone in his own family he doubted he’d be able to hold up half so well as they had, able to continue fighting on the day of their sister’s death.

“Raspberry pie.”

“What? There’s no raspberry pie here!”

“Okay Corrin, your turn.” The manakete blinked as Nowi shook his arm.

“Oh, ummm, door.” He guessed at random.

“You’re worse than Gaius!” Nowi huffed, crossing her arms. “I know that you know the rules of eye-spy. I taught you them ages ago.”

On their second day imprisoned, there wasn’t much to look at in the cell, but it was better than focusing on the bloody gash on his palm.

“Sorry.” He mumbled, leaning against the carriage and staring out into the rain once more. Maybe if we’d been faster. he thought drearily.

“You doin’ okay there Scales?” It took Corrin a moment to realise he was being addressed.

“Scales?” He raised a brow at the thief.

Gaius swirled a lollipop around his mouth before withdrawing it with a loud popping sound. “It’s a nickname? Got a problem with it?”

“Oh, no, it’s fine. I was just confused.” Corrin murmured. “I’m fine, just a bit tired.” He lied, faking a smile.

“Is rude to be lying to your elders.” Gregor chastised, uconvinced by Corrin’s false front. “Let Gregor guess, Corrin is feeling guiltly and is blaming himself for death of Exalt, yes?”

Corrin pointedly did not answer, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

“Is not healthy to be doing that.” Gegor leaned back in his seat, and closed his eyes for a minute, drinking in the pitter patter on the roof. “Rain.”

“That’s it!” Nowi cheered, clapping her hands together.

“Wish it was raspberry pie.” Gaius muttered under his breath.

“How can you all be so okay after what’s happened?” Corrin blurted, completely bewildered at their nonchalance.

“Gregor knew job would be messy from start. Mess happened, now Gregor must deal with it.” The Mercenary gave a shrug as he explained.

“Yeah, you can’t just break down when a plan goes up the creek. Gotta dust yourself off and keep walking.” Gaius agreed.

“But how can you just sit there playing eye-spy?” Corrin asked.

“Well, that was the kid’s idea. What do you want us to do, sit around drowning in self-pity? Nope, not interested.” Gaius then bit down on the last of his lolly with a loud crunch, grinding the sweet between his teeth before flicking the used stick out the window.

“Why don’t you join in the game more Corrin?” Nowi suggested hopefully. “I’ll even let you pick the next word. Although, I bet I’ll get it in under three guesses!”

“I can’t. Not with everything that’s happened.” Corrin clenched his fists over his knees.

“I bet you’re sure helping out a bunch, acting like that. I bet your pity-party will win the war any minute now. It’ll probably make Blue and the Princess feel all better too.” Gaius drawled, pulling a cookie from a pocket and sniffing it experimentally.

“I-” Corrin stammered, taken aback.

“I get it, you’re sad.” Gaius took a bite of the cookie and continued in a calmer tone. “No one expected this. But weeping over the exalt like a bleeding heart won’t do anything. You wanna make things right? Then buck up and keep fighting.” He lectured, shaking the half eaten sweet in Corrin’s direction.

“Hey, you don’t have to act like such a meanie!” Nowi protested, shoving Gaius, but having little effect.

“No, Nowi.” Corrin interrupted, rubbing his sleeve across his eyes. “He’s right… thanks, Gaius, I needed to hear that.”

“Hah! Does Gregor’s old heart good to see young people growing like this.” The mercenary bellowed, giving Corrin a hearty slap on the back, and causing him to wince.

“Maybe not quite so rough Gregor… I wasn’t lying when I said I was tired.” Corrin rubbed his shoulder as it throbbed in response to Gregor’s slap. “So then Nowi, you said it was my turn to pick.”

“Yep, but you better not pick well if you want to win.” She advised with a cheeky grin.

“Okay, I spy with my little eye-”
--#--

The journey and battle through the ravine served to keep Lissa’s mind off of Emmeryn for a little while. Although it was barely a battle. The majority of the Plegian forces didn’t even engage and they all quickly fled after their general had been defeated.

Once ensconced in a carriage alongside Marribelle for the journey north to Ferox, Lissa felt her sobs bubbling up again. They sat in relative silence for half an hour before Maribelle finally spoke up.

“Lissa my dear, I… I take full responsibility for this dreadful affair.” Lissa was shocked at her friend’s declaration. Maribelle held herself proudly, chin tilted slightly upwards, but a slight quiver disturbed the hard line of her lips.

“No, Maribelle, this isn’t your fault, it’s not because of you that Emm... died.” Saying the truth caused another stab through Lissa’s chest, it made it real.

“I am afraid that is not true, my dear.” Maribelle said, shaking her head. “If it were not for my careless bungling into Plegian captivity, this war would not have begun, and those deplorable scoundrels would not have harmed your sister.” Maribelle’s composure was slipping and her shoulders began to shake as she spoke. “So if you are to blame anyone, please lay your ire upon me. I deserve it for bringing this about.”

“Marribelle, stop.” Lissa commanded, voice wavering. “I… I’m not going to blame you. You’re my friend, and I need you now. So stop it!”

“Lissa, I simply wanted to lift some of the burden of this from your shoulders.” Maribelle responded, she looked away for a moment and straightened out a crease in her blouse.

“Well then, just stay with me, that’s enough. I need my friends.” Lissa rubbed her eyes again as tears began to slip out once more.

“Very well, my treasure. Allow me to assist you with that.” Maribelle held out an embroidered handkerchief, which Lissa used to dry her eyes and blow her nose in an indelicate fashion.

“Thanks, Maribelle.” Lissa sobbed, holding out the soiled handkerchief to return it.

“You’d best keep hold of it darling, you… may have more need of it.” Maribelle stammered, a disgusted look flashing across her face at the item.

The carriage jolted sharply as a wheel got stuck momentarily in a ditch. The jerky movement caused Lissa’s grip to slip and the handkerchief fell to the floor with a wet slap. Maribelle shrieked a little and recoiled from the snotty cloth before catching herself. She quickly cleared her throat and deliberately straightened her posture, acting as if her previous outburst hadn’t happened.

Unable to help herself, Lissa started to laugh, voice hoarse from crying earlier and hurting the whole while.

“I hardly see what’s so humorous about all this.” Maribelle huffed, face reddening.

Lissa forced herself to stifle her giggling. “I really needed that, Maribelle.” She confessed, and Marribelle’s face softened.

“Have no fear, dear Lissa. Whatever you need, I shall provide. And should anyone try to bring you harm now, they will have to answer to the business end of my parasol.” Maribelle promised, and then mimed a jab with it.

Lissa was about to respond when a wave of weariness hit her, causing her to yawn loudly.

“Oh dear, you’d best rest now if you wish to avoid unsightly wrinkles. Today’s events surely have taken their toll.” Marribelle tutted.

“What, no, I’m fi-” again Lissa broke off with a yawn.

Maribelle took hold of Lissa’s hand “You need rest after all this.” She said more gently.

Lissa groaned before conceding and laying down across the upholstered cushions of the carriage. Yet try as she might, she couldn’t find sleep, as a memory of Emmeryn’s soft smile kept her awake.

Chapter Text

Castle Ferox was a veritable buzzing hive. Members of the Shepherds, the Yllissean and Feroxi armies were busy making new preparations for the battles to come. The renewed determination of Chrom and Robin had spread infectiously amongst the forces and even Corrin found his heart emboldened by it, which was why he was making his way to meet with the Yllissean prince.

“Oh, excuse me.” He mumbled as he sidled past Stahl, a stack of crates held in his hands and a pastry in his mouth.

“rfffs frrne” The cavalier garbled back as he continued down the hallway.

Chuckling to himself Corrin continued down the stone halls of castle Ferox, every few seconds having to weave around another soldier busily toting supplies or reviewing one list or another, or in the case of Miriel, simply too absorbed in reading to pay attention to the world around herself.

Although admittedly his soft shoes which barely made a sound along with his steps and slighter frame did make it more difficult to take notice of the young manakete.

After counting three halls to the left by the torchlight he reached the room he had been told was being leant to the captain of the Shepherds.

Corrin stood before the heavy dark wood door, a soft scribbling sound issued from within, but no conversation meaning that Chrom was likely alone. Making up his mind he knocked sharply upon the door.

“Come in.”

Corrin pushed the door into the office, the whole place was furbished with more furniture made from the same dark wood as the door. Desk, chairs, shelves, all looked similarly indestructible, still, with the Feroxi’s vigour Corrin reflected that furniture may have to be built to last well.

Chrom sat behind the desk, a small mountain of papers arrayed before him, he was gently massaging his temples as Corrin entered.

“Your highness, there was something I wanted to speak with you about, if you have time to talk.” Corrin ventured, hesitating at Chrom’s fatigued appearance.

“Please do Corrin. Anything to distract from this mountain of paperwork Robin seems intent to bury me under.” Chrom pushed his chair and stood, rolling his stiff shoulders.

“Thank you. That does look like an awful lot.” Corrin peered at the stacks upon the desk, various plans and lists and stratagems all written out in Robin’s spidery scrawl.

“You’re telling me.” Chrom ran a hand down his face and sighed. “I have no idea where Robin finds the time to put this all together, we’re a lot more successful since he joined, but I have to spend a lot more time behind a desk. At least Cordelia is managing to pull him away from work now and again.” Chrom huffed a laugh. “But enough about that damned paperwork” he shot a glare at the offending stack “what was it you wanted to speak about?”

“I want to join the Shepherds.” Corrin declared as confidently as he could, meeting Chrom’s gaze as firmly as he could.

“Pardon?” Chrom skeptically raised a brow.

“I- I want to join the Shepherds.” Corrin faltered, worried that he had been misheard.

“I heard Corrin. I just thought you were already a part of the Shepherds.” Chrom explained.

“Oh, well. I never officially joined, and I wanted to. After what happened with exalt Emmeryn, I wanted to make more of a difference… make sure I see this through.”

“Peace, Corrin” Chrom held up a hand for silence. “You’ve fought and bled beside me and the Shepherds for the good of Yllisse, that makes you a Shepherd in my book.”

Corrin found himself smiling broadly at the acceptance “Thank you, your highness. But shouldn’t there be some sort of official signing in or the li-mmmph”

Corrin was interrupted by Chrom putting a hand over his mouth “Please, don’t mention any official documentation. Frederick and Robin will hear somehow and then the mountain will grow.” The prince’s eyes looked frantically fearful. Corrin nodded sharply, aware that he was currently unable to voice his understanding.

Chrom stepped back looking somewhat relieved, he offered a hand to Corrin.
“Even if the official induction will have to wait, I’m happy to welcome you to the Shepherds, Corrin.”

Corrin happily took the prince’s hand and gave it a firm shake. “I’m with you, your Highness, I’ll do whatever I can to help you defeat Gangrel.”

Loud, repeated knocking burst through the office causing both bluenettes to startle. A moment later the door swung open to reveal Nowi practically bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“Here you are Corrin, I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Lucky Miriel saw you headed down here, ‘else I probably would have to spend years running all over.” Nowi spouted, Corrin was somewhat surprised Miriel had noticed him heading to Chrom’s office at all, he’d have to give the mage more credit for her powers of observation.

“Hello Nowi, sorry you had so much trouble finding me, was there something you needed my help with?” He offered, smiling fondly.

“Yep, something really important, come on, let’s goooo!” she grabbed his arm and began to drag him out of the room, she was surprisingly strong considering her size.

“Uh, I’m sorry Chro-Captain, I’ll be back just once we sort out this emergency.” Corrin excused himself as he stumbled out of Chrom’s study, blushing furiously at the chuckling that followed his exit.

Nowi dragged him down one large hallway after the next, keeping up her quick pace. He felt oddly reminded of their escape from their imprisonment, although this time there was no looming threat of being recaptured.

“Nowi, where are we going?” Corrin asked as the pair skidded around a corner, nearly running into a Feroxi guardsmen who Corrin shot an apologetic look at.

“I’ve set up a super special teambuilding exercise, and now that you’re officially a Shepherd you’re part of that team to be built!” Nowi chirped.

“Wait, how did you know I’m officially a she- were you eavesdropping?” Corrin sputtered, nearly tripping over his own feet.

“Well, maybe just a little…” Nowi admitted somewhat guiltily before brightening quickly. “But it’s all okay because it was nothing bad, and now we’re both in the Shepherds together, I would have found out anyway.”

Corrin shook his head.

“Well, what is this team building exercise that you’ve set up?” He honestly wouldn’t have pegged Nowi as the type to do such a thing.

“Nuh-uh, not telling, it’s a surprise and you’ll just have to wait until we get outside to find out.” She declared before continuing on her way. Any other questions Corrin levelled were just answered with a shake of the head or a “you’ll see” followed by an excited giggle. Despite this Corrin felt happy enough to be pulled along.

A few minutes later the pair emerged into a courtyard. Corrin was puffing slightly, his breaths forming little white clouds in the air. Fat, fluffy snowflakes gently fell from above building on the large mounds that already littered the area, and coated a tall, spindly tree in the corner of the yard. There was a soft and quiet beauty, strongly at odds with the rough and hurried preperations taking place inside the castle.

Looking around the courtyard Corrin noticed a number of the other Shepherds were gathered there. Marribelle stood by Lissa, talking amiably with Ricken who was gesticulating wildly as he recounted some story. Panne leaned against one wall, ears twitching occasionally as her eyes slowly scanned the courtyard. Miriel sat under an eave reading whilst Donnel peered over her shoulder. Sully, jogging laps of the yard, completed their number.

“Okay everyone, I got Corrin!” Nowi cheered loudly, directing everyone’s attention towards themselves. Corrin gave a wave and received a few friendly greetings in response.

“Would you care to elucidate as to why you chose to invite us all here?” Miriel queried, flicking her book’s page idly.

Nowi quickly hopped atop a mound of snow so she stood above all the other Shepherds and placed her hands firmly upon her hips.

“I have decided that today we will have…” Nowi paused to allow tension to build. “A snowball fight!”

A beat of silence followed her proclamation and the others looked amongst themselves.

“Well, that sounds real swell an’ all Nowi, but didn’ ya say we were gonna have some kinda exercise?” Donnel voiced hesitantly.

“This is an exercise, it teaches you all about working with a team, besides, everyone’s been so busy and caught up with preparing that no one’s taking any time to play. So I decided that’s what we needed.” Nowi declared firmly from her mound of authority.

“I think it’s a good idea.” Lissa agreed.

Corrin’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, In the two weeks since they’d arrived at Castle Ferox Lissa had made herself scarce, hardly appearing outside of her room. Corrin could hardly blame her, he knew that if he’d lost his own sister he’d be in no better state. A pang of guilt shot through him as he reflected that Lilith was probably feeling just as worried for him.

Yet despite Lissa’s earlier isolation, her eyes held a new determination and resolve that wasn’t there before.

“Nowi’s right, we can always learn to work better together. So how are we making teams, there’s nine of us?” Lissa continued.

“That’s what Maribelle’s here for.” Nowi answered. “I figured seeing as how she probably wouldn’t want to get all snowy, because she doesn’t like fun or something, she could be our referee.”

Maribelle huffed “Not wishing to soak oneself is not a sign of not caring for ‘fun’, but if an impartial judge is needed, I will of course offer my services.”

“Okay, miss referee, how’re we gonna make teams then?” Nowi chirped, hopping down from her mound.

Maribelle strutted over to the large tree in the yard’s corner, and reached up, primly plucking a number of sticks from its branches.

“Gather ‘round, all.” She commanded, and the other Shepherd’s obeyed with varying levels of enthusiasm.

Maribelle held out a gloved hand with eight sticks protruding from it. “Each of you picks one stick, the two longest are the team captains. The captains will take turns picking team members. Now, please all draw your stick.”

Corrin reached out and gently took the stick closest to himself, upon drawing it he noticed it was ridiculously short. Well, I guess I won’t be captain then he reflected.

“Hell yeah, I’m a captain.” Sully called loudly, brandishing her stick for all to see. It was undoubtedly the longest of the bunch.

“Me too.” Lissa added, holding a stick only marginally shorter than Sully’s.

“Well chosen, dear Lissa.” Maribelle congratulated warmly, causing Corrin to wonder if the noblewoman had truly played no role in Lissa gaining captaincy.

“Right. I pick first.” Sully announced, she put her hands on her hips and scrutinized the gathered Shepherds, her lips pursed. “Nowi, you’re with me.”

“Woohoo, I got picked first.” Nowi thrust a fist into the air in excitement as she skipped over to Sully’s side.

“Damn right. You started this, so you should know how to win it.”

“Hey, why do you get to pick first?” Lissa objected with a pout.

“My stick’s longer.”

Lissa gave a petulant huff, but couldn’t refute the point. She then latched on to Corrin’s arm, eliciting a startled yelp from the manakete.

“Fine, then I’ll take Corrin, so I have a dragon too.”

Corrin blushed, he wasn’t sure that being picked on the merit of being a dragon was quite enough to make up for the ridiculous advantage Nowi would grant her team in any game. The next few picks were rapid fire.

“Me next then, I’ll take Donnel.”

“Ricken, you’re on our team.”

“Panne, you’re with me.”

“Then I’ll… oh really?” Lissa sighed deeply “Miriel, it looks like you’re with us.”

“Hmm, I have been selected then? Splendid, perhaps this activity will grant me an opportunity to test my hypothesis relating to projectile arcs. Now, would the relative density of snow have a significant effect upon its rate of downwards acceleration?...” She looked off in the distance for a minute. “I will require detailed recounts from this activity, I strongly urge you all to commit it to memory.”

Comparing the two teams Corrin felt a distinct disadvantage was held by his group. Sully would be out for blood, Nowi had boundless energy and had never been known to lose a game, Donnel possessed a unique ingenuity and Panne was intimidating to say the least.

Maribelle ruled that each team would have fifteen minutes in which to construct a fort for shelter, with a sharp clap she signaled the start of the teams’ building time. The two groups rushed to either end of the courtyard, busily setting about building their base.

Corrin found himself actually surprised by how well their shelter came together. Lissa was effectively able to organize their small team, her buoyant spirit keeping everyone on track, even Miriel manage to put her book down and focus intently on the task of piling snow. Lissa seemed different to how she had been before, like she’d shed some old uncertainty.

The four managed to build a fairly impressive fort, although Miriel ruled its curvature as being sub-optimal in regards to deflection of projectiles. It’s lines were clean and smoothed, the snow having been firmly compacted by the hard work of their hands. Corrin smiled at their efficiently constructed little fort, reflecting that they might actually have a chance.

Until he glanced across the courtyard.

Panne, shifted into her beast form, was kicking showers of snow upon an already enormous mound, while Nowi shoved more up with powerful gusts whipped up by her wings. Sully’s team’s mound was about two metres high and appeared almost as thick as Castle Ferox’s walls. Corrin felt the blood drain from his face gazing upon their fortification.

“Alright everyone, this fort is looking great!” Lissa cheered.

“Uum Lissa.” Corrin tapped on her shoulder, getting the princess to spin around.

“What is it Cor- oh horse feathers.” Her voice dropped upon seeing the veritable snow fortress constructed by the other team.

“Well, should we ever need to construct fortification mid battle we now know who it would be most prudent to ask.” Miriel commented.

“We need more snow! Quick, Corrin transform and then-“

Two loud claps came from Maribelle.

“That concludes preparations time, you may begin on the count of three.”

Lissa, Ricken, Corrin and Miriel shared a bleak look.

“One.”

The group began to hastily scurry towards their comparatively meagre shelter.

“Two.”

Corrin dived, planting face first in the chilly snow, trying to shrink himself as much as possible before the slaughter.

“Three. Oh goodness!”

Corrin grunted loudly as something landed heavily on top of him. And a vicious whooshing sound filled the air.

Miriel yelped before toppling into the snow, letting up a puff of white. A thump and shout from the opposite side alerted Corrin to Ricken’s similar fate.

“Aw darn, sorry Corrin, just had to get out of the way.” Lissa apologized, rolling off of Corrin and leaning against the wall of their fortress, breathing heavily.

“It’s fine, I’m just glad they didn’t get all of us at once.” He chuckled as he pressed himself against the wall beside her. He glanced to either said, Ricken was groaning, half buried in the snow whilst Miriel waved her hat in a clear surrender, which was seemingly accepted after Sully pelted her once more for good measure.

Snowballs continued to whistle through the air above and around them, but fortunately for Corrin and Lissa their fort managed to hold strong. The assault died down after a few minutes, and a tense silence descended over the yard.

“I’m going to take a look, just a quick one. See what they’re up to.” Corrin ventured, Lissa looked uneasy but nodded her assent to the plan

With tentative movements he poked his head above the wall of the fort. He managed to get a brief glimpse of Nowi, Donnel and Sully perched atop their fort before a smack of freezing cold snow in his face sent him tumbling backwards.

Lissa started to laugh loudly with a few snorts as Corrin sputtered on the ground.

Corrin felt his face heat as he lay on the cold ground. He wondered how he hadn’t already melted a large hole in the ground cover by this point. He struggled to sit up, rubbing his hands against his numbed ears, and shaking the snow from his hair.
“Well, I don’t think we will be able to mount a counter-offense any time soon.” He admitted.

“No kidding huh, Nowi takes her games seriously.” Lissa agreed.

Corrin looked over at Lissa as he sat beside her, she wore a genuine smile, and Corrin had to admire the strength she was showing.
“How do you do it?” He asked quietly, immediately regretting voicing his question.

“How do I do what?” Lissa asked, a curious furrow in her brow.

“ah- nothing.” Corrin quickly corrected himself, looking away from the princess and beginning to pack a ball of snow between his hands.

“You’re asking about Em… aren’t you?” Corrin jumped a little at Lissa’s accusation.

“… yes.” He admitted, packing the ball more tightly, still not meeting her gaze.

“Well. I’m not going to be ashamed, I’m done crying.” She declared firmly. Corrin quickly faced her, her face was set in firm resolution, as if daring him to counter her decision.

“No, I wasn’t trying to say you should be ashamed. It’s… admirable. If I lost someone I loved, like you loved your sister. I don’t know if I could keep going on.” He squeezed the snowball in his hand a little too firmly, causing it to crumble in a spray of snow. It was a pain he knew he’d likely have to experience many times over.

“Oh, sorry. I just assumed you were calling me cold. Not princess-y” She scowled at the last word.

“I don’t think I could call you cold for this. I’d call you strong. You’re looking forward, even though what’s just happened pains you so much. Anyone who says that’s not right, or not princess-y has no right to judge you.” Corrin said.

“Thanks Corrin.” The two met eyes for a moment and Corrin smiled, feeling warm despite the freezing surrounds.

He looked away a moment later, realizing he was probably being rude.
“So, does our strong princess have a plan to get us out of this dire situation?” He asked, nervously rubbing the back of his neck.

“Oh yes she does.” A wicked grin flashed over Lissa’s face. “I’ve seen you control water when transformed, and snow is mostly water.”

Corrin quickly caught her meaning and gave a nod “I think I can manage… just stand back, I don’t want to accidentally hurt you.”

Corrin reached into his pocket and touched the glassy surface of his dragonstone. Leaning against the wall of the fort he began to take deep breaths as he heard Lissa shuffle backwards.

Without the rage and adrenaline of battle transforming could be trickier, but the odds of losing himself in such a way were practically non-existent, good practice. In and out, his breath synchronized with the roaring filling his ears, as he felt a whirlpool of strength build in his body until he reached a breaking point.

With a booming roar he shifted into his dragon form, a development largely unanticipated by their opponents judging by shocked looks. A hail of snowballs shortly assaulted him. He channeled his strength and slammed his forelegs into the ground. All at once the snowballs stopped moving, hanging in the air as if suspended by invisible strings. He flapped his wings and with a shout redirected all the projectiles back at Sully’s team, who found themselves quickly splattered with snow. Another flap and he forced the water in their fort to shift backwards, half burying his opponents in snow.

Judging his work to be complete, Corrin let go of his transformation and shrunk back to human size. He breathed heavily as he readjusted his balance to standing on two legs, and nearly toppled over as Lissa tackled him from behind in a hug.

“Haha, that was amazing.” She said, before turning to the other side of the courtyard as she separated from him. “Looks, like we win this time, Sully!” She jeered with a cheeky smirk.

Corrin followed her gaze to look at the other team, but rather than fuming in defeat, Sully simply pulled herself out of the snow alongside Nowi and Donnel. She crossed her arms across her chest and gave Lissa a smug look.
“Oh really?”

Corrin’s eyes widened as he realised their mistake.

“Man-spawn need to look upwards more often.” That was all the warning Corrin and Lissa received before a heap of snow was dumped on them from the sloping roof edging the courtyard.

Following her surprise attack Panne nimbly hopped down from the roof and regarded her now shivering opponents. “It was a noble effort, but the agility and stealth of the taguel are unma-“ her gloating was cut off as a snowball smacked her in the face.

Both teams turned, gobsmacked, to see who had thrown it. Kellam stood directly between both forts, waving his arms in the air.
“Oh good, you’ve finally seen me.”

“K-kellam, when d-d-did you get here?” Lissa chattered as she brushed snow off herself.

“I’ve been here the whole time… trying to get peoples’ attention.” He admitted, staring at his boots.

“Soooo, who wins then?” Nowi asked Maribelle.

“I must award the victory today to Kellam, for his admirable stealth skills. And for hitting the last untouched participant.” She declared after a short pause.

“Three cheers for Kellam!” Nowi shouted.

Corrin joined with the rest of the Shepherds in their congratulations. Despite his chattering teeth and tired body he didn’t have to force the enthusiasm at all.

Chapter Text

“Oi, do you not think this is wee bit of an overreactioning Corrin? Gregor may be old man but he can still be walking.” Gregor complained from atop Corrin’s back.

The manakete galloped through the forest, taloned feet kicking up clumps of sod and grass as he weaved between the trees. He’d nearly stumbled over roots several times but the warm drops of blood he felt falling against his scales kept spurring him on in his reckless sprint.

“No, you’re wounded Gregor… I’m taking you to Lissa.” He panted. If he was right about their position in the battle then she’d be the closest healer in line with Robin’s plan.

“Bah, is only little scratch, they be needing my blade and your breath on frontlines, how else will the prince be unseating Gangrel?” Gregor complained. Corrin knew there was some truth to his words, they could help against Gangrel’s guard but he believed that Robin, Sully, Stahl and Nowi would have no trouble cutting a path for Chrom to reach the Mad King.

“It’s not just a scratch, that axe cut deep. You can’t fight like that Gregor.” Corrin urged, jumping over a small brook.

“Gregor has been sellsword for many years. Have had to fight with far worse than this little booboo.” He scoffed.

“But you don’t have to fight with it now either, all the shepherds are here to back you up.” Corrin argued. He felt a small sense of satisfaction as Gregor merely grumbled something about presumptuous young people in response.

A minute more of dashing through the treeline brought the pair to a clearing which seemed to have avoided most of the fighting. The only sign of conflict being a smear of blood which Fredrick quickly wiped off his blade with a rag. He sat astride his horse beside Lissa, scanning the treeline as he cleaned his blade.

“Ah milady, it seems your talents are needed.” He declared nodding towards Gregor and Corrin.

“Right.” She agreed.

Corrin made his way slowly into the clearing, not wishing to jostle Gregor any more than he already had with his madcap dash through the woods. Gently he lowered himself to the ground, allowing Gregor to dismount so that Lissa could examine his wounds.

As Lissa got to work sealing the gash on Gregor’s stomach Corrin cautiously approached Frederick, untransforming as he went.

“Was there some fighting here?” He asked, indicating the knight’s once more immaculate sword. Frederick’s eyes flicked down towards the blade, and he frowned momentarily before quickly scrubbing a spot near the hilt with his cleaning rag.

“A Plegian assassin thought to attack our rear lines. Fortunately, I was able to deal with the threat effectively before he got close to the princess.” Frederick explained, as he cleaned. He gave the blade another glance and nodded to himself before sheathing it. “It is good that Robin had the foresight to place me here to protect her.”

Corrin had to agree. Had one of his soldiers captured Lissa, Gangrel would have an extremely powerful bargaining chip with which to manipulate Chrom. He’d already lost one sister, for the sake of the other he’d likely do almost anything.

“How goes things at the front?” Frederick queried.

Corrin drew in a breath to answer.

“They would be going much better if wee dragon wasn’t being a mother hen and taking Gregor away for a little scratch.”

Corrin sighed heavily “Gregor, it wasn’t safe for you to be there.” His back still felt wet from where Gregor had bled on him.

“Is war. Is not safe job.” He shrugged, “If Gregor wanted safe and reliable work he’d go become dairy farmer.”

“Hey hold still, or the wound won’t close properly.” Lissa ordered.

Corrin looked over to the princess, she was focusing intently. Her staff’s head shone brightly as the tip of her tongue protruded from her mouth. A few hairs had fallen from her pigtails and stirred listlessly in the faint breeze, and the lower half of her dress had a spattering of mud upon it. Corrin felt that the slight bit of disarray suited the princess, there was a charm to it.

“Corrin.” Frederick called.

Corrin jumped, startled, before blushing, realizing he had been staring at the princess. He turned back to Frederick, finding the knight giving him an unimpressed look.

“Ah, right… the front. The fighting’s calmed down a lot, only Gangrel and his direct guard remain, Chrom was leading the assault last I saw. I don’t think the Plegians will hold out much longer”

“Milord would want to finish off Gangrel himself. Although I do wish I was by his side.” Frederick shifted slightly on his steed and gazed off through the trees for a moment. From behind him Corrin could faintly hear the clashes of weapons on the wind, even this far away the sound made him shiver a little, his gut clenching as a violent pulsing came from his dragonstone.

“Oh, that’ll being enough, much thanks princess.”

“Hang on, I need to check to make sure it closed properly!”

“Gregor has being injured before, he knows it is good now. Besides Gregor be needed at front.” Gregor walked over to Corrin and Frederick, his shirt was still stained red but Corrin could no longer see a gaping wound poking through the fabric.

In a swift motion the mercenary hopped astride Frederick’s horse, sitting easily behind the knight, who spluttered in surprise.

“Oh be calming down there Frederick, Gregor needs to be getting back to the fight, and you are wanting to be with your prince. You can be leaving the princess with Corrin, the wee dragon will taking good care of her, yes?”

“Oh, yes. You don’t need to worry Frederick, I’ll make sure no one hurts Lissa while you’re gone.” Corrin hurriedly reassured the knight, who looked decidedly uneasy about the idea.

“I don’t believe this is a good id-“

“Enough with the waiting, we must get going!” Gregor declared, harshly kicking the horse’s flank, causing it to whinny and rear up. Frederick’s axe dropped to the dirt with a thud as the two rode off through the forest to the tune of Gregor’s booming laugh and the knight’s protests.

Corrin took a few steps forward and picked up the axe. He was surprised by the weight of it, the iron weapon heavy in his hands.

“I hope they won’t need this.” He muttered to himself, turning back to face Lissa.

The princess was looking away from him, her arms across her chest.

“Lissa are you okay?” Corrin asked, dropping the axe and holding out a hand towards the princess.

She turned to face him, her brows were furrowed in either frustration or sadness, Corrin wasn’t quite sure which.

“I don’t need you taking care of me.” She declared “I shouldn’t… I’m not that delicate.” She huffed in annoyance and crouched low to the ground, poking at it with a stick.

Corrin moved to her side, lowering himself to sit cross legged on the ground.
“I’m sorry.” He said quietly “I shouldn’t have inferred otherwise, I was just trying to make Frederick feel better.”

Lissa snorted “Frederick’s gonna worry no matter what, he wouldn’t let me do my tie shoelaces until I was eleven.” She groaned and flopped onto her back, staring at the sky. “I wanted to come here for Em’s sake. But I’ve had to stay back here the whole time. I wanna be there with Chrom and everyone else, but I guess Robin decided I was just too fragile for the front.” She sighed heavily.

“I don’t think you’re fragile Lissa. You’re a lot stronger than people give you credit for. You want to be out there. I joined the Shepherds but every time we’re in battle my insides get so knotted up about what could happen. What if I lose control? Hurt someone on our side?” Corrin shook his head “My heart won’t stop pounding, even when I transform my talons shake a little… you’re really brave.”

“Corrin… I-“

A piercing shriek cut through the air and the two quickly scrambled to their feet, Corrin clutched his dragonstone and Lissa held her staff before herself defensively, the pair looked up at the sky as a dark shape descended towards them.

The two split apart, diving to either side as a man astride a wyvern crashed through the canopy. Corrin couldn’t see his face but he got the distinct impression the man was sneering behind his visor. His Wyvern swung its head back and forth, nostrils flaring as it took in the scents of Lissa and Corrin, for a moment it locked eyes with Corrin and he swore he could see a spark of intelligence in its eyes.

His father had once told him that Wyverns were the descendants of air dragons who had degenerated, looking at the creature this close up Corrin could believe the story.

“Well, lucky me eh? Looks like I’ve found the princess, least you match the description. Now why don’t you come along quietly now, or else things will get difficult.” The rider declared towards Lissa, hefting an enormous hammer and giving it a few test swings.

Lissa slowly backed up, but with the bulk of a large tree directly behind her she did not have far to go, she still held her staff as a guard before herself.

Whilst the rider was distracted Corrin grasped his dragonstone tightly, and in a moment felt the change overcome himself. The more times he used it in battle the easier it seemed to be getting to shift.

He swiped at the Wyvern with his tail, causing the beast to back off in a fluttering hop, eliciting a string of violent cursing from its rider. The Plegian turned furiously to face Corrin.

“Where in blazes did you spring from!?” He shouted.

“Leave, now! Or I’ll have to hurt you.” Corrin’s voice echoed as he placed himself between the Plegian and Lissa.

“Oh, you’re one of them talking dragons then? Wonder how much your parts’ll sell for, course I’ll need to keep the head, it’ll look nice on my trophy wall!”

With that the wyvern rider spurred his mount into a lunge, swinging his hammer down violently towards Corrin. The Manakete managed to dodge backwards nimbly, letting the weapon crash into the turf.

With a roar Corrin slashed at the wyvern Rider, but the man’s reflexes were quick and he managed to catch the blow upon his thick pauldron. Corrin winced as his claws gouged into the thick metal. The man grunted with the force of the blow but kept his mount.

Panic struck Corrin as he tried to withdraw his claws and found them stuck tight in the man’s armour. Seeing his opportunity the wyvern rider struck back, his hammer landed on Corrin’s forearm with a crunch, dislodging it from his armour.

Corrin screamed as pain flooded through him. The paralyzing sensation warred with a screaming need to make the man pay How dare he harm me, HOW DARE HE.

Corrin heard Lissa call out to him from somewhere but between the pain in his arm and the roaring in his head it was difficult to make her out.

“There, not so tough, are you beastie?” The man cooed as his Wyvern advanced, Corrin growled at them simply making the man chuckle.

Out of the corner of his eye Corrin saw Lissa dragging something behind her, but he couldn’t quite put it together, his mind more occupied by his advancing foe.

He opened his maw and released a blast of magic water that caught the wyvern rider off guard, and startled his mount, causing to flail about wildly. The man yanked on the reins to try and bring his beast back under control, but it was a losing battle.

“Calm down, damn lizard! Would you-“ The man grunted as an axe was swung into his side. At first Corrin thought Frederick had returned, until he looked down.

Lissa was beside the wyvern, face red as her hands gripped tightly onto the shaft of an iron axe. With a shout she ripped it back out of the man’s side and stumbled backwards.

“The hell?” He gasped out before slumping in his saddle. The wyvern, thoroughly put off by Corrin’s attack and its rider’s blood spilled all over itself shrieked loudly before retreating to the skies. Its rider thumped to the ground unceremoniously, staring blankly upwards.

With the man’s death Corrin felt much of his rage subside and letting out a deep breath, he managed to shift back.

He hissed as his right arm viciously throbbed, objecting to his change in shape and tucked the broken appendage close to himself.

A moment later Lissa was beside him, holding her healing staff towards his arm. With its soothing glow he felt some of the pain ebb away.

“Dang, I don’t think I’ll be able to fully heal this, you’ll probably need a cast.” She muttered whilst healing him.

“Lissa… you saved my life there.”

“It’s nothing, you did the same for me.” She replied, giving Corrin a warm smile.

--#--

That night the entire army, Feroxi and Yllisean gathered to celebrate the defeat of Mad King Gangrel. Men and women sang and drank and feasted around raging bonfires.

It was a great relief to know that the war was over, Chrom had vanquished the Mad King personally and claimed victory for the Yliisean-Feroxi alliance. Corrin smiled at the scene as he drank from the tankard he held in his uninjured arm. He awkwardly shifted his right arm in its sling, it’d take some getting used to not having use of it until it healed fully.

The ale filled him with a pleasant warmth and lightness that set him at ease. He knew tomorrow the cleanup would begin, there’d be repatriations and treaty agreements, there’d be mourning for those who’d passed and a nation that’d have to clamber back onto its feet. But for one night he decided to not focus on worries and just enjoy the celebrations.

Corrin swayed and struggled to hold his balance as an arm was swung over his shoulder.
“Woah there, that looks nasty!” Vaike exclaimed, pointing to Corrin’s cast.

“Yeah, I guess, the battle wasn’t easy.” Corrin admitted, leaning slightly away from the decidedly strong smell of Vaike’s breath.

“But we won! Hell yeah, the Shepherd’s showed those Plegians a thing or two, you shoulda seen me out there Corrin. Teach was on fire!”

Judging by the burn mark he could see on Vaike’s arm he guessed that the statement wasn’t entirely metaphorical. The fighter’s endurance was truly impressive.

“Hey, hey Corrin, you see that over there, looks like the prince is trying to put the moves on the dancer girl.” Vaike grabbed Corrin’s chin and directed his gaze to where Chrom was sitting very close to Olivia trying to converse with the dancer whilst her cheeks turned pinker than her hair.

“Heh, looks like Teach’ll have to show the prince how flirting is really do- waaagh” Vaike wailed and Corrin staggered as the fighter was blasted from his shoulder.

“Get off of him!”

The atmosphere quickly changed, people all around the fire were scrambling to grab their weapons and point them at the intruder.

Stepping into the firelight was a beast at least ten feet tall. It was covered in silver and navy-blue scales. A rumbling growl came from its chest as it stalked forwards on clawed feet. Its wickedly horned head held low and threatening.

Despite the tense atmosphere Corrin’s face lit up at the sight.

“Lilith!”

Chapter Text

Step by step Lilith trudged onward. Her feat dragged as she crossed yet another battlefield. Every rumour she’d followed of a dragon in Plegia had led her across such sites. Unusually in this one there were several men and women collecting and burning the dead, she supposed the victors in this fight showed a little more consideration for the slain.

Several of these soldiers called out to her, trying to grab her attention, but she had to keep moving.

The first battlefield had made her stomach rise to her throat, and her dragonstone gave pulsing flutters as she searched the slain. By this point she no longer expected to find her brother amongst the dead. She was starting to believe she’d never find him at all. But then she pictured her father, and Mikoto… she couldn’t give up.

So she forced her weary body forward, even though her legs felt like they were half filled with sand.

“When was the last time I had a good night’s sleep?” she muttered to herself as she stumbled over a ditch.

She knew the answer, it was the last night her little brother had said goodnight to her.

There was a strange glowing light in the sky ahead of Lilith, the stars being drowned out by a warm orange shine, radiating from beyond the next rise. It took her muddled brain a minute to put together that it likely came from a fire.

“Travelers… maybe I can rest a while.” Corrin wasn’t here either and she was so tired.

Cresting the hill she saw a vast army encampment laid out before herself and she resisted the urge to sigh in annoyance. Travelling merchants might share news, they might share a sleeping mat and a warm meal. Armies rarely shared anything with a lone wanderer.

She gazed over the sprawling camp, wondering how many thousands of soldiers were stationed here. She supposed that this army must be the victors of the nearby battle, the banners were hard to pick out though, it’d been so long since she’d properly traveled Archanea that she doubted she could pick out whose standards they were anyway. All she could tell was that they weren’t Plegian, which she supposed meant approaching was safe enough.

Drawing closer she noticed a particularly lively looking group by a campfire at the edge of the camp. A few men and women in disparate garb were gathered together, she wondered what sort of army wouldn’t even enforce any kind of uniform, there was even one among them wearing Chon’Sin garb… with aqua and black hair.

Lilith rushed towards the group, her exhaustion forgotten as she prayed this wasn’t a desert mirage. She saw some shirtless thug grab her little brother, pulling him into a headlock. Rage crashed though her like a raging whirlpool and in a second she’d shed her human form and began galloping forward on four legs to save her little brother.

“Get off of him!” She screamed, blasting the thug with magically charged water, just enough to stun, she didn’t want to risk hurting corrin if she missed.

She burst into the firelight and immediately found half a dozen weapons pointed at her, she growled at those who would dare challenge her, head angled low and ready to strike.

“Lilith!” Corrin’s elated gasp managed to tear her focus away from her foes. Her baby brother sprinted up to her, taking a place between her and his kidnappers.

“Corrin, get behind me, I’ll get you out of here.” She commanded.

“Lilith it’s okay, I’m okay, these people aren’t-“ Lilith’s eyes caught on his right arm, held tight to his body in a sling.

“Who hurt you!?” She demanded, her inner dragon pushing forward more and more, demanding revenge for her injured family.

“No one here Lilith. It’s okay, they’re my friends. They won’t hurt you.” He turned to the people behind him. “Right everyone?” He gave a nod and one by one the soldiers put away their weapons.

This made no sense. These people had kidnapped Corrin, they’d used him like a tool and yet they were listening to him… standing down. Her rage was abating and her dragon growing more and more quiet as her confusion grew. She struggled to hold her draconic shape but exhaustion won out and she found herself shrinking back to her human form, and stumbling forward to be caught by her little brother. She would have chuckled at the irony of him carrying her after all this, but she couldn’t summon the energy to do so.

“Lilith… Lilith?” Corrin’s anxious voice drifted over the fog gradually filling her mind. “Gregor please help me lift her, I think she might be hurt and I-“

“Ah, wee dragon needn’t be worrying so much, he’ll be grey before he is four hundred at this rate.” After a few moments Lilith was lifted into a strong set of arms, she managed to grit her teeth in irritation at being carried like a child, but she couldn’t even force out any protest.

“It’s just… she’s my sister, and this is all my fault. I didn’t even find the book.” There was some book wasn’t there? She hadn’t thought about it in weeks.

“Hey don’t worry Corrin, we’ll help you look out for her, she’ll be just fine, I’ll roar at any bullies who try to get at her. ‘Sides, you can always ask Robin about books, he has stacks of them.”

“Thank you, Nowi.”

There was a swaying motion as whoever was carrying Lilith began walking, and a sense of soothing calm began to overtake her as a soft voice began singing beside her.

“You are the ocean’s grey waves, destined to seek life beyond the shore just out of reach.” Corrin, she vaguely realized, his voice was different to father’s, waves lapping at sand, not like Anankos’ deep ocean current.

“Destined to seek life beyond the shore, just out of reach.” She knew more words were to come, she’d sung them hundreds of times herself, but she didn’t hear them as she drifted off to sleep.

--#--

A gentle hissing was the next thing Lilith registered, it was rhythmic and repetitive, sounding every few seconds. She felt warm and comfortable despite a bone deep ache resounding through her body, a moment longer and she realised she was in a bed.

How did I get here? she took a moment to wonder. Her thoughts were filled with a fog which made everything seem hazy and muddled. She twitched her fingers a little, and took stock to make sure she could feel everything fine.

“Is Corrin’s sister finally making with the awakening?” The scraping sound stopped.

With some effort Lilith turned her head and blinked open her eyes, sleep still clung to the edges and made them feel a bit gummy. A rough looking man was casually sat on a stool beside her, a whetstone and blade held loosely in his hands.

“Corrin?” She mumbled, that’s right… Corrin is missing, she doesn’t have time to be sitting around, she needs to DO something. She tried to force herself to sit up, grunting at the effort.

“Oi, wait, stop with that!” The man chided, trying to push Lilith down “Your little brother is very worried of you. And if you go hurting yourself he’ll be yelling at Gregor until sheep come home, yes?”

“I… beg your pardon? Corrin’s here?” She let herself be pushed back down slowly, still she eyed the man warily.

“Yes, do you not remember the party crashing you did? You nearly blasted Vaike’s head off!” The man then threw his head back with a hearty laugh “He is wanting rematch, claiming it only because you were taking him by surprise, but Gregor knows better. After that, Corrin was helping to calm you down.”

“So… he is here?” She pressed.

“Yes, well not here now. He was wanting to stay with you all the time, but you were sleeping longer than he could be waking.” The man, Gregor, she supposed, explained.

“So… you’re what to him then?” She narrowed her eyes, they may be treating her with some kindness now, but chances were good this could be a trick to stop her from trying to escape.

“Gregor is good friend to wee dragon. Helped Corrin and friend Nowi out of very sticky situations. Nasty business with some dark mages.” Gregor scoffed “although Gregor received some rocks to head in the course of helping.” He absently rubbed his forehead as he elaborated.

“What? Dark mages!” She’d heard that some among the Grimleal had developed rituals based on dragon life force, she could only imagine what could have happened to her little brother at their hands.

“Ah, no need to be so worried, everyone is safe now, yes? Corrin would not be wanting you to worry when you’re so tired anyways.” Gregor tried to reassure her with a pat on her shoulder.

“Tell me what happened.” Lilith demanded, grabbing Gregor’s hand and holding his gaze. “I need to know.”

Gregor kept eye contact for a few seconds before sighing heavily, shoulders slumping.
“Corrin, was asking me not to tell, but Gregor knows you would just be trying to ask him if Gregor doesn’t share.” The man handed a waterskin to Lilith. “Drink this while Gregor talks, sleeping for a day causes much thirst.”

“A day.” She murmured to herself. She still felt so tired, her body was stretched past its limits and she was tempted to drift off again, she was beginning to see the sense in The Voice’s choice of lifestyle.

“Yes, so it is best to drink plenty for now.” He shook the waterskin at her.

Lilith nodded and took the waterskin in her shaky hands, sipping from it as Gregor recounted her brother’s capture, escape and everything since.

--#--

A few hours later Lilith was sat up in her cot, throat feeling far less sandy as she mulled over Gregor’s story and the sheer size of the mess her brother had managed to land himself in. Shortly after he’d finished recounting the story Lilith had asked the mercenary to fetch her brother. She fiddled with the hem of her blanket as she waited for him to arrive.

She heard his hurried footsteps outside her tent before she saw Corrin. She breathed in deep, ready to reprimand her little brother for his rashness in joining the Shepherds and for his foolishness in not listening to her warnings.

But when he poked his head through the flap the words caught in her throat. His hair was rumpled from sleep and his clothes were wrinkled and messy, his arm was held in a sling but it was her little brother, here and whole. Lilith released a breath and felt a weight lift from her as he rushed to her bedside and enveloped her in a one-armed hug with a cry of her name.

The siblings sat together hugging for a few minutes before Lilith managed to gather herself. She gripped Corrin by the shoulders and gently separated herself from his embrace.

She looked her little brother in the face, his eyes were glistening a little but his face remained upturned and content.

“Corrin.” Lilith sighed “did you even think about what you were doing?” She admonished, instantly his smile faltered, and he let out a sheepish laugh.

“Yeah, I guess I really should have kept the hood on.” He mumbled.

“Not just that Corrin, you… You went and joined a foreign armed force, you took part in a war that had nothing to do with you.” He started looking down at his arm, where it hung in its sling. “Did you think about what could happen?” She snapped, “I might have found your body on a battlefield, or worse you could have lost yourself, degenerated.” The word crawled off her tongue and she shuddered at the thought.

“I know…” He whispered, there was something in his tone, Lilith had never heard that same note of apprehension in her brother’s voice before.

“Corrin, you didn’t.” She breathed

“I almost did, during my first battle. I was so angry, it burned. My blood felt like a maelstrom and I just couldn’t think.” His hand was tightly scrunching a wad of Lilith’s blanket. She reached out and loosened his hold, entwining his hand with her own and giving it a firm squeeze.

“That’s why you shouldn’t have gotten involved Corrin. That’s what Father and I are trying to protect you from. But you don’t need to worry, I’m here now. We’ll go back to Koh’let and you won’t have to fret about this anymore.” She consoled him.

But he released her hand.

“No, I can’t. Lilith, I want to stay.”

“You? But why? Corrin, Gregor said you joined the Shepherds so you could find me again. I’m here, we can go home.”

“I know, but even still, I don’t want to leave them. I’ve made real friends here, Gregor and Nowi and Lissa.” He said wistfully. “Back in Koh’let everyone is so distant from our family, but with the Shepherds I feel like I’m part of something, like I’m accomplishing something important.” His eyes held a firmness Lilith had never seen in him before and she found herself wondering at how much he may have changed in a few months.

“Corrin, I know it can be hard. But what will father and Mikoto think? I can’t come back without you.” Corrin’s resolve flickered at the mention of his mother.

“I know they’ll understand” he said, half to himself, “Mother probably predicted all of this happening, it needed to happen I guess.” He shook his head softly “Besides, it’s not like we failed to get what we came here for.” He reached into a sack by the bed and pulled out a thick leather tome, which he obviously was having some trouble with one-handed. Lilith quickly pulled it from his grasp.

Placing it on her lap Lilith could clearly see the title. ‘Wardings and Warnings; notes on barriers by Casimir Septim’.

“It turns out Nowi was right, Robin had picked up a copy somewhere.”

“Corrin, I know you might think this is okay now but-“

“Please Lilith, I know you might not agree, but these people have become important to me. I want to keep helping them. I never really realised before just how powerful we are, it’s overwhelming and terrifying, but that strength has to exist for a purpose. I can’t be like our ancestors who wouldn’t stand up for humans. I can help them, and through that I can learn to understand what I am better, and how to control my strength.” Corrin turned his head towards the flap of her tent, staring wistfully, and Lilith felt knew then that she wouldn’t be able to bring him home. Even so, she had to try.

“And how can I know that these people won’t just try and use that strength for themselves? That you won’t become some sort of slave or tool to them? There’s a reason Chief Hydra chose to abstain from helping humans before.” She implored, and Corrin turned to face her again.

“You could stay, meet them. Maribelle said that you shouldn’t even considering hard travel until you regain your strength. Get to know the Shepherds, I’m sure you’ll get along.”

Corrin was looking at her with wide pleading eyes. She’d known him since he’d come into the world as a screaming babe and never once had she been able to resist that look.

“Fine, two weeks, and if I decide that you need to come home after that. You come home.” She conceded, and her little brother’s face lit up.

“Thank you Lilith! I promise you won’t regret this.”

Even though she wanted her brother to return home with her, part of Lilith couldn’t help but hope he’d be correct.

Chapter Text

Vaike was the first of the Shepherds to approach Lilith.

She’d largely remained reclusive after her conversation with Corrin, choosing to take the rest of the day to rest. Corrin had woken her the next day to show her the way to the mess for breakfast.

During their trip her brother happily rambled, pointing out various parts of the camp and the names of the other soldiers they passed. She really couldn’t remember that many people all at once, but she humored her little brother’s attempts to familiarize her with the army. Despite this, the other Shepherds largely avoided crossing their path, and generally gave the pair a wide berth and only looked at Lilith with furtive glances.

“Your comrades don’t seem very comfortable with me Corrin” she murmured so only her brother would hear.

“That’s, no Lilith, it’s just-“ he stammered lamely.

“It’s because of how I showed up isn’t it?” She asked. After a few moments Corrin’s head dipped in an embarrassed nod. “It’s alright Corrin, I did intrude on their celebrations in a pretty threatening way. I can’t hold it against them.”

“Maybe, but… just give them a chance, I’m sure they’ll get used to you soon. Everyone’s probably just a little nervous about this.” He pleaded, forcing a reassuring smile.

“Don’t worry Corrin, I can handle a little bit of fear.” She patted her brother on the back and kept walking, trying to ignore the nervous energy Corrin was practically radiating.

A few minutes later the pair entered the mess, a large tent filled with rows of wooden tables, members of the Yllissean and Feroxi army were mingling in the shared space, although the early hour meant the energy was largely subdued. Corrin begged off shortly after entering, claiming he wanted to find someone who he knew would be overjoyed to meet Lilith. She shooed her brother off on his errand before taking a spot at a largely empty table that was labeled with the crest of Yllisse.

Food was spread along the length of the table on platters, jugs held water or various juices and a large number of steaming teapots were spread evenly along the length of the table. Lilith supposed that the party from two days ago must be continuing to a degree for such an elaborate spread to be served. There were stacks of toast, piles of crunchy bacon, bowls filled with fluffy scrambled eggs or brightly coloured fruit and a wide selection of what seemed to be freshly baked pastries.

Lilith decided it would be wise to take advantage of the generously presented feast, she couldn’t remember the last time she ate well.

She was savouring the nostalgic taste of Yllisean tea and scrambled eggs when she was startled by a blond shirtless man sitting himself down next to her.

“So, you’re the dragon from the other day.” He said, with an intense look.

Lilith shuffled back, a little uncomfortable with his presence.

“I’m sorry, have we met? My memory of that day is a bit blurry.” She excused.

“What! You don’t remember me?” The man gaped at her, seemingly confused at the idea that he could ever be forgotten. “You blasted me with a sneak attack!”

The memory rushed back to Lilith of a strange man she thought was a barbarian threatening her brother, although on reflection she realised the action hadn’t been nearly as violent or threatening as her exhausted mind had made it out to be.

“Oh dear. I really am sorry, I wasn’t in a sound state of mind then, and I thought you were threatening Corrin. Please, accept my humble apologies.” She said, lowering her head in contrition.

“What? Naw, The Vaike doesn’t need any apologies, what I want is to go another round. Corrin never wants to spar but you seem like you could handle a lesson with teach.”

Lilith blinked. That was not the response she’d been expecting. Most people were a lot more indignant or fearful after having been attacked by a dragon, but this man seemed genuinely invigorated.

“I’m sorry Vaike but I can’t spar right now, I’ve really exhausted myself lately and I need a few days at least to recover.” She supplied, taking a sip of her tea.

“Aw, really? Ya sure?”
“I’m afraid so.” Lilith continued on with her breakfast, happy enough in the relative silence whilst Vaike sat beside her.

“I’ve got it!” He shouted suddenly, causing Lilith to flinch and nearly spill her drink. “If you can’t fight we’ll just have to have another contest to settle our rivalry.” Lilith wondered at what point she’d become the man’s rival.

“Okay… what exactly are you suggesting?” She cautiously probed.

“Look at all this food Stahl’s made.” Vaike gestured to the overflowing table. “It’s perfect for a contest that I know The Vaike will win at.” He smirked.

A smile crept onto Lilith’s face as she realised what the man was proposing. “I take it you’re suggesting some kind of eating contest.” She guessed.

“Yeah, you up for it?”

“Alright. The one who finishes the most full plates wins.” She suggested, deciding to keep the rules simple.

“Oh yeah, hope you’re ready to get schooled!” Vaike bragged as he began piling a plate high with bacon.

An hour later both Lilith and Vaike sat back groaning at the piles of plates stacked high before them.

“Well… that was a close one.” Lilith panted, genuinely impressed by the human’s tenacity. “But it looks like I win. Twelve plates to your eleven.” She burped after finishing her statement.

“Damn Lilith… where do you put all of that.” Vaike gestured weakly at the pile of plates before her.

“I’ve always had a big appetite.” She shrugged.

“Damn. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone take on Vaike like that before. Even me.”

Lilith started as she realised that she and Vaike weren’t alone, she hadn’t noticed the large group of Shepherds that had filled the table since the start of her contest. It was a woman in scarlet armour with messy red hair who was congratulating her.

“Well, he did want to settle our rivalry as he put it.”

The woman bellowed a laugh. “Hah! He gave you that crap, he must really like you. Normally the only one he obsesses over beating like that is Chrom!”

“Hey shut up Sully.” Vaike whined.

“Yeah, why don’t you make me, if you can get your fatass belly out of that chair and down to the training grounds.” Sully challenged.

The banter and noised continued to flow, and oddly enough Lilith found herself included in it all. She could only shake her head at how quickly the Shepherds seemed to warm up to people.
--#--
“Lilith, this is Nowi.” Corrin presented a girl who looked to be in her early teens to Lilith.

One look at her ears and Lilith knew for certain this was certainly not a girl in her early teens.

“Wowee, it’s so amazing to meet you. Corrin’s talked loads about how awesome you are.” Nowi grinned, bouncing up to Lilith.

Lilith took a half step back, surprised by the manakete’s exuberance “well, it’s uh, a pleasure to meet you too” she offered a hand to Nowi, who took it in both of hers and gave it an excited shake.

“Nowi is a good friend of mine, we met… well we met shortly before we joined the shepherds.” At Corrin’s words Lilith’s skin crawled causing her to feel distinctly uncomfortable as she was reminded of what her little brother had to go through.

As if reading her mind Nowi beamed at her once more “Don’t worry, I made sure to take good care of Corrin, it was super exciting to make a new dragon friend too. And now with you I’ll have made two new friends!”
Lilith looked Nowi over once more “Judging by how you look, I’m guessing you’re at least a few hundred years old”

“I’m over a thousand.” Nowi framed her face with her hands, grinning “and look, no wrinkles!” she giggled.

“Have you had many other dragon friends in that time?” Lilith did not know of many other manaketes, their kind was few and spread thin, with the number seeming to dwindle by the century if her father was to be believed.

“No… not really.” Nowi’s face fell “I kinda remember living with others, a long time ago. But it’s sorta fuzzy.” She then laughed to herself. “Maybe I am showing my age with how my memory is.” The mirth didn’t quite seem to reach her eyes.

Lilith wondered what her life would be like if she had to grow up without her father, or without her little brother. It was difficult and dangerous for a manakete to find their place in the world of humans. She could only imagine the sort of struggles that Nowi would have had to go through, and she couldn’t help but pity her for them.

So she smiled “Well, I’m certain we can be friends then, it is my pleasure to make the acquaintance of one of the divine dragons”

Nowi hopped up and down gleefully “Oh, this’ll be so much fun, we can race and have roaring contests, and smash down big trees, and play hide and seek, and tag, and hopscotch, but not naughts and crosses, I’ve gotten reeeeally sick of that game.”

Lilith looked over to her brother who was trying not to giggle. “She’s a bit of a handful.” He mouthed at her silently. She frowned back at him.

She supposed that another manakete finding a safe place amongst the shepherds gave her a measure of comfort.
--#--
Time and again Lilith felt kindness from the Shepherds.

She saw Miriel’s knowledge and curiosity as the scholar asked her questions about Chon’Sin culture and medicines, scribbling her answers down in a little red book.

She experienced more of Vaike’s tenacity and straightforward honesty both in conversation and on occasions where she agreed to spar with him.

She noticed Gregor’s subtle attentiveness to her brother, how he’d offer him a drink from him a warm blanket when they sat around a fire on a cold desert night.

She felt Sumia’s genuine kindness as the clumsy girl offered to tell her fortune to allay her fears. Before promptly tripping over her own feet (causing Lilith to wonder whose idea it was to seat her on a Pegasus).

And she was subject to Maribelle’s strict dedication to the wellbeing of the shepherd’s as the outspoken troubadour directed Lilith about how best to recover from her exhaustion.

But it wasn’t until seeing princess Lissa and her brother that she knew the choice she’d have to make.

She’d spoken briefly with the princess once or twice at meals or during the march but little beyond that.

Of an evening one day she happened by the camp kitchens where her brother and the princess were hard at work. Corrin was busying himself finely slicing vegetables, whilst the princess looked over his shoulders, asking questions about what he was doing. He often favoured her with a warm smile as he answered, then began to direct her, guiding her through the motions of finely slicing some beef in turn.

They went on cooking, eventually combining the meat and vegtables in a large pan, pouring in some sauce to cook them in Chon’Sin style. The smell of familiar food caused Lilith’s stomach to rumble, Mikoto had taught Corrin how to cook, and the scent brought her back to her recent home in Koh’let.

As they finished cooking the dish Corrin moved to start getting plates. As his back was turned the princess pulled a small flask with bright flame on it from her sleeves, and began to pour a heaping dollop of the red liquid within into the food, stirring it around and smiling broadly to herself.

When Corrin turned back he saw what the princess was doing, he gasped in horror and tried to stop Lissa from adding any more hot sauce, waving his hands frantically in protest. Lissa chuckled as she added in the last few drops from the bottle.

Corrin wilted at seeing her turn the dish into a prank. Lilith was about to step in to tell the princess off for her actions until something unexpected happened. Lissa, still grinning, moved closer to Corrin and said something Lilith couldn’t quite make out from where she stood by the entrance of the tent.

She did see her brother’s expression lift into a bemused smile though, when he lifted his head once more. And then how he laughed softly as Lissa tapped him on the tip of his nose.

She saw the look he gave the princes, and the affection it held, she wondered if he knew how he was looking at her. Almost certainly not, her little brother could be dense, it’d take him a while to figure something like this out.

Lilith realised he deserved the chance to do so. She knew she’d have to say goodbye. She sighed to herself and walked away from the tent, ready to feign surprise at the sabotaged food she’d have to eat for dinner. Then again, she always did enjoy some hot sauce.

Chapter Text

The waters of Port Ylisstol lapped soothingly at Corrin’s ankles as he dangled his feet into the crystal blue bay. The port itself was not a part of Ylisstol’s city but was rather about half a day’s travel from the landlocked capital. It served as primary port for oceanic trade and voyages for the Halidom. The port was bustling with activity, travellers moving to and fro and vendors hawking their goods to all-comers, based on the few ports Corrin had seen he guessed this was the normal state of things.

It was also where most long voyages from Ylisse to another nations departed from. Like the one that Lilith had departed on.

Corrin had watched it leave over an hour ago, having said his goodbyes to his sister, yet he still felt stuck, sitting upon the shore, wondering if he’d made the right choice. He had expected to feel heartache and misery at seeing Lilith leave, but instead he found himself stuck with a strange sort of indecision. Like a piece of driftwood bobbing on the ocean he felt aimless, unsure of how to direct his course.

“I hope you find what you’re searching for here.” She’d told him before she left. Lilith had smiled softly at him, a look he’d come to recognize she wore whenever there was something going on that she claimed he was ‘too young to understand’.

I’m being ridiculous, I’ll head back to the Shepherds in Ylisstol, there’ll be plenty to do there. he told himself. Yet he couldn’t quite get himself to stand up and leave. The boat that had disappeared over the horizon had taken the last stage of his life with it, and starting the next seemed frightening to the young manakete. He’d really made the decision to leave his home, and at this point it wasn’t something he could go back on anymore.

“Hmm, six point eight centimetres lower than yesterday.” A familiar voice chimed.

Corrin started at the statement and looked over his shoulder.

Miriel stood at the edge of the Harbour’s stone wall, her large hat shielding her from the heat of the sun. She was scribbling in a very large and clearly well loved book, if the fraying of its cover was anything to go by.

“Miriel? What are you doing out here.” Corrin questioned. He’d assumed that most of the Shepherds would stay within the capital when not on active duty.

Miriel didn’t answer him immediately, taking a few more seconds to write in her book before neatly folding it closed and tucking it under her arm. She looked down to where Corrin sat, and blinked as she adjusted her glasses.

“Oh, Corrin. This is an unexpected occurance, what is your aim in being here today?” She queried.

“Well, I asked you the same thing, but I guess you might have missed it with how intent you were on your writing.” He chuckled, indicating the book she had tucked away.

“This is a compendium of my experiments.” She explained, tapping the side of the book gently. “Currently I am conducting an investigation into the variability of tidal maxims and at which point in the day they occur.”

“So you’re recording the tides then?”

“Indeed.” She gave a curt nod. “Each day at exactly two hours past midday I have been recording the height of the waters here. I have noticed a gradual decline in the height which they reach.” She opened up her book and displayed a page on which a neatly curved graph was drawn.

“Well, the tide is falling.” Corrin frowned.

“Exactly, yet the precise moment at which its fall begins, and thereby the time at which its minimum and maximum heights are reached, changes from one day to the next.” Miriel explained.

“Oh.” Corrin answered feeling a little foolish. “I suppose I’m not that knowledgeable on the tides considering how far inland I’ve lived for most of my life.”

“No need to be ashamed. Willful ignorance is abominable, yet willingness to educate oneself can easily overcome incidental gaps in awareness. I would be more than happy to explain the details of my research should you be curious to learn.” Corrin was surprised, he’d thought Miriel to be somewhat aloof and standoffish, yet the mage was proving herself to be remarkably open.

“That sounds great, although I’ll admit I may have a lot of learning to do. For years I believed a fairytale from back home about an underwater giant’s breathing causing the tides.

Looking back he could almost feel the warmth of his blankets, and the softness of his mother’s hand stroking through his hair as she tried to lull him to sleep. For weeks after first seeing the ocean with his father he had pestered both his parents with questions about it. How deep was it? Was it really so blue up close? Could you drink from it like you could the ponds in the village?
Mikoto had mentioned the tides offhand to him one evening and he’d badgered her for an explanation. “My grandmother told me once when I was a little girl that there was an enormous man sleeping on the seabed. Taller than a mountain. He could breath water, just like a fish. Every time he breathed in he’d suck in so much water that the ocean would get shallower, and then when he breathed out it’d rise again.”

He’d asked his father if it was true, the Ocean Dragons would have to know a lot about the sea he thought. “I could live for another five thousand years, and I’d still not be as wise as your mother.” Anankos had answered, leading young Corrin to believe that the story must be true. It wasn’t until a few years later that he’d figured out that it was just a children’s story, he’d never been able to find out the truth about what caused the tides though.

“I guess that sounds a little silly to you though.” He said sheepishly, expecting some sort of incredulous response.

Miriel provided nothing of the sort. The mage had frozen on the spot and was muttering quietly to herself. After a few moments she sat herself upon the ground and pulled out a loose sheet of paper from the back of her book. With a steady hand she copied out the graph she’d shown Corrin earlier.

“Like a giant breathing…” She murmured. Then she proceeded to extend the graph onwards creating a rising and falling line. “Yes, a parabolic curve, that could be it.” She snapped her head up and locked eyes with Corrin. “I must give you my sincerest thanks. Your folk story has provided me with a working hypothesis, of course I must continue my experiment over the coming months to see if it holds true.”

“You’re welcome, I suppose.” Corrin answered, not quite following the mage’s logic.

“Ah, I must elucidate myself. My apologies. You see Corrin, just a breath follows a constant pattern of rise and fall so too do the tides, this is likely the origin of the story you recounted. I am supposing thereby that the timing of the tidal maxim must also follow a consistent pattern, doing so I have created a predictive model of the water levels for the immediate future.” Mirirel removed her glasses, and wiped them down with a small cleaning cloth. “It shall prove fascinating to test whether there is merit to the idea.

“I’m happy to have helped.” Corrin said, before staring back out at the sea, a wave crashed against the harbour wall, splashing his legs and shooting up salt spray. His feet were getting cold.

He wondered whether there was something to that, consistency. The tides and the ocean kept changing slowly, that water flowed but it remained the ocean all the same.

“Are you quite alright Corrin? you’ve been staring at the water for some minutes now.” Miriel commented, crouching down to scrutinise his face. “Does the ocean hold some special fascination for you?” She prodded.

Corrin chortled and shook his head, turning to look back at Miriel. “No, nothing like that. I’m just thinking.” He answered.

A look of understanding crossed over Miriel’s face, she smiled softly and adjusted her glasses. “I can empathise. It is far too easy to find oneself lost in thought, oftentimes I am accused of being careless, or ‘spacing out’ as some might put it. And shutting out the world around me.”

Corrin reddened at the statement. He himself had thought that about Miriel in the past, and he felt like it might have been an unfair assumption to make about the mage.

“I’m sorry, I guess I hadn’t really considered…” he trailed off.

“No. It is quite alright, perhaps it could be considered ironic, that in a quest to better humanity’s and my own understanding of the world, I oftentimes must shut out much of the world to focus.”

“Doesn’t it upset you though? When people think things like that?” Corrin asked, concerned.

Miriel shrugged. “I cannot truly say that those barbs have no impact on me. For what I might lose in opinions of others I more than make up for in the knowledge I obtain. That fills me with adequate satisfaction.”

Miriel turned to look over the crowds of people moving about the port. Sailors lifting cargo, travellers hopping on and off ships, children gathered around a puppet show laughing at a crude joke. “Some believe that chasing passions is wickedness. Yet they drive us to greater heights, truly extraordinary advances are not made by half hearted gestures.”

Chasing our passions… What am I chasing? Memories flashed through Corrin’s mind, playing games with Nowi as she kept his spirits up in captivity. Talking with Gregor during long marches. Fighting alongside the shepherds and finally putting his power to good use. Losing the snowball fight with everyone and cheering for Kellam. Cooking with Lissa and the exasperation he felt at her ruining the food. A smile crept across Corrin’s face, and he turned to look up at the sky as the sea breeze ruffled his hair.

Maybe that was all the answer he needed for now. His dragonstone pulsed with uncharacteristic warmth, a kind he hadn’t felt since leaving home.

Corrin pulled his feet from the water, shaking them off and watching as the droplets spread ripples on the ocean’s surface. No half-hearted gestures. I need to give the Shepherds my all.

He stood up, bare feet warming against the stone pathway of the harbour. “Thanks Miriel, I think I really learned something today.” He smiled.

Miriel’s brow furrowed “I am always pleased to educate.” She said slowly.

“Well, you’re certainly a good teacher.” Corrin beamed at the mage. The puzzled expression on her face lifted and she gave a serene nod.

“You have my gratitude for your compliments. If you wish it I would be happy to fully explain more of my research.” She scrutinised Corrin. “Indeed, perhaps you could even assist me in my investigations into the falling rate of objects. An assistant capable of flight would be most helpful.” She pursed her lips before muttering “Although I believe shall need to find a new test subject, Robin’s satchell is quite thoroughly destroyed.”

Corrin laughed. “I’d be happy to.”

Chapter Text

The note was simple.
“Emergency Strategy Meeting, 3rd floor eastern drawing room, 3pm.”

Corrin would have guessed the note to be from Robin judging from the contents, yet the looping rounded handwriting didn’t match the tactician’s precise lettering. Additionally a note slipped beneath the door was not normally Robin’s method of drawing the Shepherds together for a tactical meeting.

Corrin doubted it was any sort of trap, castle Ylisstoll was a secure location, especially now that the war with Plegia had been settled. His confusion sprouted the seeds of curiosity within him as he made his way through the palaces well lit corridors.

The sheer size of the palace still sometimes caused Corrin to get lost. It had only been a few months since he’d moved into the Shepherds’ barracks, and the castle was easily more than twice the size of Koh’Let by itself, not even accounting for the metropolis that surrounded it.

Thankfully this time he managed to find his way, yet even so he was given plenty of time to ponder the purpose of the note as he made his way to the appointed location.
Perhaps it was sent by Virion, he tends towards the dramatic. There’s a lot of things he’d probably decide required an ‘Emergency Strategy Meeting’. Or Ricken, if he was taking part in a mission, he’d no doubt want to get the strategy down to a fine point. Neither sat quite right with Corrin however, he couldn’t imagine either using a circumscript note to announce their intentions.

After a few minutes of walking he reached the drawing room. He’d not been to this part of the palace before. The third floor was mainly filled with the private apartments of the royal family, and rooms for visiting dignitaries and nobles. He’d received a few odd looks on his way up but members of the Shepherds were generally allowed to travel as they would within the palace.

He rapped his knuckles softly against the richly varnished door.
“Come in.” a refined voice called from within.

The drawing room radiated a sense of comfort and warmth. Mid-afternoon sunlight streamed gently through the tall windows on the western wall, bathing the room in soft light. A large plush rug covered the majority of the floor, it was slightly worn and there was a large wrinkle on one side. Upon it there were several long couches, one of which featured a large stain, and a low table sat between them. Bookshelves stood against the far wall, with several volumes sticking out oddly as if they’d been hastily replaced.

Upon one of the couches sat Maribelle, her posture impeccable as she sipped from a teacup with a floral pattern. Her eyes flicked to Corrin, and her brow wrinkled for a moment before regaining its immaculate composure.
“Corrin, I had not expected to see you here.” She commented.

“Were you not the one who invited me?” he questioned, making his way into the room, eventually taking a seat on the couch opposite the young noblewoman.

She sneered. “Of course not, it’d be dreadfully inappropriate for me to invite anyone into Lissa’s private drawing room.” She picked up the teapot and poured Corrin a cupful. “Please do have a cup.” She said, passing the teacup to Corrin.

He took a tentative sip at first, finding himself surprised. “It’s… fruity. Tea back home doesn’t taste much like this.” He commented.

“I would think not. By what I understand tea in Chon’Sin tends towards more subtle flavours. My dear Lissa prefers something far stronger, especially with citrus flavours.”

“Is Lissa the one who invited us here?” Corrin questioned. He glanced over his shoulder, half expecting the princess to jump out from behind a bookshelf screaming ‘surprise!’ to make him spill his tea.

“I believe so, however I can hardly fathom what this whole ‘Emergency Strategy Meeting’ nonsense entails. I am also most disappointed in her, being late for a meeting she herself called, it simply is not done.” She sniffed.

Corrin reached for a sugar cube to add to his tea, but was interrupted by a cough from Maribelle as his fingers touched the sugar. The noblewoman shot him a glare before her eyes darted to a pair of tongs beside the bowl. “Oh, I’m sorry.” Corrin muttered before using the tongs to drop a cube of sugar into his cup and stirring it through.

He took a sip from his cup, savouring the sweetness, when a loud bang caused him to jump and sputter.

“Let the meeting commence!” Announced Lissa as she dragged a reluctant Robin into the room.

“Really darling, you know better than to enter a room in such an inappropriate manner.” Maribelle chided.

“Oh whoops, sorry.” Lissa winced, looking towards Corrin as he sat coughing on his tea.

“It’s alright. I’m alright.” He wheezed, waving a hand as his coughs finally subsided.

Robin sat beside Corrin, giving him a firm pat on the back to help his breathing. As Robin’s hand touched his back though Corrin felt a strange cold shiver race over him, he couldn’t quite place what it was though. He guessed it must have been a side effect from choking on tea.

“Thanks.” He mumbled to the tactician.

“Any time.”

“Okay everyone.” Lissa announced, standing before the assembled group. “I called you all here today for the sake of my brother.” She planted her fists on her hips, standing proud.

Robin tensed beside Corrin. “Is Chrom alright? Did something happen to him.”

“Oh, he’s better than alright, my big brother is getting married!” She announced, grinning. A silence fell over the group. Maribelle stared into her teacup and Corrin blinked in surprise, he’d not heard anything of Chrom being engaged.

“Lissa. Are you sure? Last I spoke to Chrom he didn’t mention any engagement.” Robin voiced.

“Well he’s not really engaged yet. THAT is what this meeting is bout.” She crossed her arms. “A few days ago Chrom showed me the ring, and told me he’s going to propose to Olivia, but he says he’s waiting for the ‘right time’. We’re gonna make that right time happen.”

Maribelle remained oddly quiet, and took another sip of tea.

“Lissa are you sure we shouldn’t just let Chrom propose when he’s ready?” Corrin voiced.

“No way! I know my brother, he’ll be waiting months before he finds the right moment, maybe years, we gotta give him a little push.” Obviously the princess expected more enthusiasm as she huffed a second later “come on, this is important.”

“I understand this is important Lissa but… why did you choose us for this?” Robin asked.

“Well, you’re our tactician, and I’ve seen you reading those romance novels Sumia lent to you. Maribelle knows all about courtly love, and Corrin has gotta have some knowledge about romance in Chon’Sin.”

Corrin’s ears reddened, he hardly would consider himself an expert in romance, there wasn’t really anyone he’d been involved with back home.

“I still don’t know if this is a good idea.” Robin protested.

“Come on, think of it as a challenge to your tactical knowledge!” the princess dared, leaning over close to Robin. “How would you get a reluctant opponent to make their move?”

Robin leaned back, rubbing his chin. “hmmm, well. You’d need to cut off retreat, make sure there’s no way for them to back out. Then present a target to direct their attack.”

“That doesn’t make it sound very romantic.” Corrin interjected. Lissa shushed him.

“No, no. It’s great Robin, anything else that would help?”

“There are other factors to consider in a battle, weather, terrain, morale, any of them could influence the outcome or even if your opponent will act like you think they will.” The tactician listed off. “Ideally I’d say turning the terrain to your advantage is the most secure method to achieve victory.”

“What you are saying then is that location is key.” Maribelle interjected, finally speaking up. She normally moved precisely, yet her motions seemed particularly stiff as she walked to a bookshelf in the corner.

She reached up and retrieved a dusty tome from one of the upper shelves, giving it a quick wipe with her handkerchief before laying it upon the table.

“What’s that Maribelle?” Lissa asked, crouching before the table.

“It is a plan of the palace, from its construction. Really darling, you ought to familiarise yourself more with your own library.” Maribelle commented offhand, flicking through the pages of the book. Lissa pouted at the admonishment.

“Here we are.” Maribelle declared, pointing to a particular point in the gardens.

“Yes, that could work.” Robin hummed in agreement. “Corrin, how much water can you generate after you transform?” He queried.

“I’m not exactly sure, quite a lot, if I focus on it. Sometimes we used it to water the fields back home in particularly dry seasons.” It was part of what Anankos viewed as being his and his family’s duties towards the village.

Robin paused for a few seconds, thinking. Then he nodded to himself.

“Maribelle, would you be able to provide some mood music?”

“Anything to make Lissa happy.”

“I’ll make sure they both show up then. It’ll be easy.” Lissa declared, bouncing to her feet.

“Alright then. Looks like we have a plan.” Robin chuckled to himself. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to plan a battle quite like this one before, but I know the Shepherds won’t let me down.”

“Aye aye Robin!” Lissa saluted.
--#--

Maribelle kept her chin up, her chest ached but she wouldn’t let Lissa down. She’d not truly ever believed that Chrom would choose her, but there was a still a hope deep inside, not truly acknowledged until it was lost.

Even so, she was a woman of poise and nobility, not some irrational damsel from a five-gold-piece paperback. So she would accept her loss with dignity and grace.

She saw Lissa bounce into the amphitheatre below her, Chrom following at a more sedate pace, he gazed around the disused space slowly as he entered. Perched on rise above and behind the stage those below would not be able to see her against the glare of the setting sun.

As Olivia entered from the opposite side of the stage, she and Chrom both froze. Chrom began to turn to Lissa, but faster than he could react his sister yanked his cape over his head and retreated leaving the prince sputtering.

“Alright, Corrin, now’s the time.” Robin commanded.

“Right.” Came Corrin’s distorted reply, Maribelle couldn’t truly say when he’d transformed, she’d been distracted by her own thoughts.

Corrin slammed his talons into the ground, and a large sphere of water began to form above his head, a slow and vaguely musical hum issued from his chest as he focused on his task.

“You ready Maribelle?” Robin flicked his gaze to her

“As ever.” Maribelle replied, she brought her violin to rest against her chin, resting her bow gently upon its strings.

Robin muttered a chant to himself and held his hand aloft, razor sharp blades of wind spiralled from his hand, cutting into the water that Corrin conjured. With a violent splash the bubble burst, turbulent winds carrying the water high into the air, and it began to fall in a wide dome, sealing the amphitheatre off from the outside world with a curtain of rain. The Sunset shone upon the waters and cast vibrant rainbows against the downpour. Robin had more of a flair for the dramatic than he let on.

“Blech. Ptooey. I got water up my nose, you guys could have waited a little longer to set things up!” a sopping wet Lissa bemoaned as she clambered up to meet the other three, unfortunately for her Robin and Corrin were both too focused on their tasks to respond to her. “Huh, Maribelle, come on, you’ve gotta set up the music.” She urged.

“Of course, my treasure.” She muttered as she constructed the melody in her mind. Corrin’s low hum formed her base line, slow and forming a constant rise and fall. Robin’s chanting was her percussion, each sharply spoken syllable precise and constant.

Her melody was soft and lilting, soaring high and gently like a dove upon the winds. An ode to longed for love, found and lost, yet hopeful for a brighter future.

Olivia approached Chrom hesitantly, delicate dancer steps taking her to centre stage. Maribelle knew there was a strength beneath that though. She’d seen glimpses of Olivia the Lion from time to time, but she always dropped back to her shy self. Maribelle would have to help the girl with that at some point, Naga knows Ylisse didn’t need their queen to be retreating into herself every time a dignitary came to call.

Chrom looked around for the source of the music, but shortly gave up realizing he’d been outmatched. He squared his shoulders and a soft smile graced his face as he moved before Olivia to kneel before her.
--#--

From a tall tree a short distance away two more figures looked on.

“I didn’t know that Father was such a romantic.” One muttered, squinting at the scene going on, Olivia holding both hands over her mouth as her face went scarlet, tears of joy prickling the corners of her eyes.

“See Luci, I told you there was nothing to worry about, he might not have always shown it but deep down father is a true romantic, just like me.” The other joked.

“I’m afraid that’s just further cause for concern if it’s true.”

“Ouch, you didn’t have to cut me so deeply.”

“In all honesty we couldn’t be sure how the future might have been affected by our presence. It wasn’t impossible that Father could have ended up with someone else.”

“I hate to think what’d happen to us if that were the case.”

“Well, it looks like the future is secure in this one case.”

“And I have to say I’ve picked up a few new tricks to help attract a date. I doubt any gorgeous young man or woman would be able to reject me with some soul stirring musical backing. Maybe I should ask Brady for help when we finally find him- aah!”

One of the two fell to a ground with a thump as the other pushed them from the tree.

Chapter Text

“And then I shift my stance just so for the raging uppercut, my final blow to the dark overlord! SHINING CLAW OF THE IMMACULATE ONE!!!” Owain shouted, bringing his sword in a swift upwards cut.

“Phew, that ought to do it, the choreography is perfect.” He cheered to himself, bouncing on the balls of his feet, unable to hold still. “Those villains will never suspect the unstoppable blade of the avenging champion of wrathful fury that is Owain Dark!” He declared, striking a pose for his audience, one hand half covering his face, the other outstretched before himself.

“So, what do you think?” He asked, adjusting his yellow bandanna.

The frog Owain was performing for let out a flat ribbit and hopped off into the undergrowth. “Wise words my slimy comrade, the unrelenting march of time moves forward and no hero can forestall the moment of his dramatic realisation forever, I must make my way onwards!” He shouted before tearing off into the woods.

A talented necromancer once part of the Plegian army had been striking nearby hamlets for fresh materials for his experiments. With the raging accursed blood of heroes pumping through his veins Owain couldn’t leave such a foul miscreant to continue his rampage of baleful wizardry.

As he neared the treeline surrounding the village Owain prepared himself for his explosive reveal EXPLOSIVES that could work for next time! ), when a pulse from his side caused him to stagger.

“Hark! What could be the cause of this befuddling sensation?” He questioned to no one. He reached into his pocket, feeling for the source. His hand reached a smooth, cool surface and he felt it pulse again.

“What the- I- I mean, blast thee accursed stone, the time of reckoning has not yet come, my raging blood cannot compel me so strongly! Unless, perhaps…” He stroked his chin in thought “nay, such things are beyond possibility, even for one such as I. Now, onwards! My blade hungers and I cannot stay the bloodthirst of my swordhand, lest it turn upon the innocent.”

The village was already in a state of chaos when Owain emerged. The thatched roof of one of the cottages was ablaze and people were fleeing in a panic from a horde of risen stalking through the town. Further off the clash of weapons and more shouting could be heard. “Damnable stone, you almost caused me to miss my cue.” Owain muttered.

A boy screamed shrilly, backed into the wall of a house and pinned in on all sides by a trio of risen. One raised its axe to deliver a fatal blow. Faster than thought Owain intercepted the blow, his blade flickered, severing the head of the risen’s axe. The hairs on the back of owain’s neck prickled as he felt another approach him from behind. “MATTHEW’S SILENCING BACKSTAB” He shouted, thrusting his sword backwards, pulling it back to himself he heard the risen crumble behind him. Such creatures were no match for his finely-honed heroic techniques.

The risen he’d disarmed a moment ago dropped its headless axe and made a grab for Owain as the other lunged forward with its spear. With a slash a pivot and a slice Owain cut them both down in turn. “Hah, you stood no chance against my Valmese Double Lion Strike.” He gloated to their disintegrating form.

“Th-thanks mister.” The boy whimpered from behind Owain.

“Hah, I was doing only my fell duty as my implacable destiny bids. Worry not, hapless civilian, for the grim hero of legend, OWAIN DARK is here to save the day.” He told the boy, projecting his best approachably unapproachable aura.

“Well… um, thanks mister OWAIN DARK.” The boy shouted before scuttling off after the crowd of people who’d fled earlier.

“And so one innocent is saved by the might of our hero, but many more foes stand before him, nay an uncountable army, unconquerable for any who would face them. Any except Owain, who inspires all those around to greater heights of heroism and valour with his-“ another pulse reverberated through his very being, causing him to double over.

Owain clutched his sword tighter. “No, I say to you stone of tumultuous seas, such a thing cannot be.” He muttered.

And yet it was. As he rushed on heedless heels into the village a great sphere of water appeared to his left, saturating the burning house and extinguishing it with its deluge. Owain heard an uncannily familiar bellow, then as he turned a street he saw it. Huge and scaled in silver with wicked curving antlers, it pounced upon a risen with a litheness unexpected in such a large creature.

“Kan- uh, I mean, hold noble dragon, fear not, for the timeless scion of wrathful justice fights beside you!” No need to lay it on too thick, he didn’t know for certain who this was, he was pretty sure, and if so, first impressions mattered.

The dragon craned its neck and tilted its eyeless head in Owain’s direction. “I beg your pardon?”

That voice! Owain’s eyes misted up, he hadn’t heard that voice in years, not since grandfather… NO! No time for laments, now is the moment for action!. He struck his signature pose once more, covering up his watery eyes with his off hand, of course his sword hand could never casually be allowed so near his face, it practically had a mind of its own.

“You should leave, it’s not safe here. Don’t worry, the Shepherds will take care of the risen.” The dragon’s voice was gentle and protective despite its size and fearsome appearance. The same tone he’d used whenever he’d left Owain behind in Yllisstol, this time however Owain would stand beside his father.

“Hah, never! I will flee from no enemy, destiny’s chosen scion cannot flee from foes such as these, not when his will is set and committed to his course. Follow in the wake of my blade, and we shall overcome these dastardly fiends.”

Owain charged into a nearby pack of risen, his strikes lightning and his war cries thunder as the living storm that is Owain Dark descended upon his outmatched opponents.

Although he cried for him to stop initially Corrin soon joined Owain in the fight, and the swordsman truly came alive. It was like his childhood fantasies were coming true, he tried desperately to hold in his squeals of excitement, but he couldn’t stem the tide. He did however try to turn them into intimidating battle cries, but judging by the odd looks his father sent his way they may not have come off as such.

Talons and blade and blasts of water formed a harmonious dance of battle, seamless as Owain had always pictured it to be. Few fights could compare to this one.

Corrin bellowed as he swung his tail in a swift cut, its sharp end bisected the last risen before is could loose its arrow at Owain. A circle of ruin surrounded the two, made of over a dozen risen that they had felled together. The bodies slowly dispersed as father and son stood panting.

“Ha-ha! You have my gratitude noble dragon, the might of the Silent Dragons is truly a sight to behold, and that last move! What do you call it?” Owain eagerly questioned.

Corrin took a step back “You know about the silent dragon tribe… Who are you?” He questioned leaning down, and although no clear eyes were visible in his draconic form Owain could feel his gaze intently.

“Do you, do you not recognize me?” He whispered, his regular bravado was missing from his voice.

“No, I don’t think we’ve met before today.” Corrin laughed “I think I’d remember someone like you.” His ignorance stung Owain, but the swordsman tried to shrug it off.

“Ah, I see, it is merely not the time yet. Fear not mighty hero, for the sacred sweetness of knowledge will one day reveal all to you, even if this is not the moment.” Owain claimed hurriedly.

“But what are you talking-“

“Ho, over there more foes yet appear, and… my sword hand… hungers nyaaaargh! I must sate its ravenous thirst!” Owain cried, leading the way towards the centre of town. Of course he took a moment to congratulate himself for his smooth and impressive exit.

He arrived in the village square just in time to see a blue haired man striking down a sorcerer. With his ending the few risen still fighting in the square dropped to the ground like puppets whose strings had been cut. The scraping thump of talons behind him alerted Owain dimly to his father coming up behind him.

The blue haired man wiped his brow, flicking off the sweat glistening there, and as he raised his arm into full view Owain’s eyes bulged, the Mark of the Exalt stood out starkly against his skin.

“Un-uh Chrom!” he sputtered.

“You know Prince Chrom as well.” His father spoke from beside him. Owain turned and found crimson eyes peering curiously at him, he looked the exactly the same as Owain remembered, Corrin leaned closer still, brow furrowed as he searched Owain’s face for something. Oh no no no no no, Lucina said we had to wait for her go ahead before revealing ourselves, and clearly that hasn’t happened yet.

“nyaaah-uh I *ahem* I was merely admiring the uh, skill of his swordsmanship. Yes the skill of his technique, is… masterful, nay, visionary.” Owain lied none too smoothly, stepping back from his father’s intense gaze.

“Yeah, I suppose it is, although you were pretty impressive yourself, I don’t think there are even many in the Shepherds who are that fast.” Corrin complimented.

Owain emitted a high-pitched squeak as he fought desperately to stay calm, he’d clearly come off as impressive and he couldn’t be spoiling that!

“Are you okay? Your face is looking very… purple? Wait, you got hurt in that fight.” Corrin grabbed Owain’s arms and grimaced at a ragged gash on it. He hadn’t even noticed, injuries like that were common enough in the future, he could hardly be deterred by such a trifling scratch! “Hang on, we have a healer with us, Lissa! Can you come help this man please?” He called and Owain caught sight of his mother, her bright yellow dress and bouncing pigtails standing out clearly amongst the few Shepherds present.

He tried to move away from the unplanned family reunion but his father’s gentle grip on his shoulder held him still. “Don’t worry, I was a little intimidated by her at first too, she is a princess after all, but she’ll take good care of you.”

“What? Someone else hurt?” his mother asked as she came over. I really REALLY should leave.

“I-uh, No!” he shouted, hiding his arm behind his back and taking a step away from his mother who looked at him confusedly. “It is nothing, a mere trifle, please see to others first, a paragon of the blade such as I cannot allow such efforts to be used on myself.”

“Yeah, nope. You’re definitely not doing well, you even sound confused, I bet they got your head, lemme take a look.” His mother reached for his bandanna and he reeled back, if they saw his ears then it’d be impossible to explain his presence.

“No, no it wasn’t my head, my arm, that’s all that’s hurt, just the arm.” He stuck his injured forearm out for Lissa’s inspection. Thank Naga my sleeve covers the brand.

“There, that’s better, no need to be a baby about it. You remind me of Chrom when he’s trying to act all tough.” Owain firmly kept his mouth shut at that remark.

Lissa took hold of his arm and inspected it. Owain noticed that her left hand was bare. She and Father aren’t even married yet!

In a flash of light his injury sealed up and he was yanking his arm back towards himself, avoiding the confused gazes of his parents.

“Thank you for your vital aid, illustrious princess, but my darkly path leads elsewhere, beyond the stretches of foresight and onto battlefields anon. I must make my departure!” With that he fled as fast as his feet would carry him through the village and into the woods.

Finally far enough away from the town he leaned back against the trunk of a tree, sliding down against it, and sighing tiredly he sat himself on the ground. A frog hopped up onto his leg, looked up at him and croaked.

“You’re telling me, that was way too close.”

Chapter Text

Sumia hummed happily to herself as she walked away from the castle library. Her arms were heavily ladened with a dozen new romance novels and a few books on fortune telling. She’d seen them come in recently and hoped to be able to improve her own flower fortunes by reading from the works of some masters.

If that didn’t work out she’d have plenty of other good reading material anyway. She was off duty for the time being, many of the Shepherds had been taking a holiday, Chrom’s wedding was in just a few weeks and, as long as there was no emergency, they wouldn’t be heading out. Chrom still wanted to go out on patrol and it took a lot of wrangling from Frederick and Robin to keep him in the city to properly oversee the preperations.

Sumia sighed to herself dreamily. A royal wedding, such a charming and magical occasion. Perhaps she’d be lucky enough to meet her own prince charming there. She giggled at the prospect and looked down at one of her books ‘The Lady of the Plains and the Violet of the Sky’ the two women held each other in a tender embrace on the cover.

Not looking where she was going however Sumia soon found herself tripping over a wrinkle in the carpet. She took a moment to reflect on how the depressingly common this situation seemed to be as she screwed her eyes shut, bracing for impact.

An impact which didn’t come.

“Woah there.” Corrin yelped, barely managing to catch Sumia before she fell face first onto the ground. He still stumbled back a step and nearly toppled over, but the young manakete managed to keep his balance.

Finding herself being held in someone’s arms and not flat on the floor Sumia blinked in surprise. She craned her head up to meet Corrin’s concerned gaze and then blushed furiously at the situation, hurriedly standing up.

“Oh. Oh dear, I’m so sorry. Me and my clumsy feet…” she muttered as she bent down to begin picking up her books which had been scattered all over in her fall.

“Here, let me help.” Corrin said, crouching down himself to start gathering a few scattered volumes himself.

“It’s fine. You really don’t need to worry about it, I can pick up my books.”

“Don’t worry, it’s no real trouble and, oh.” Corrin cut himself off.

Sumia looked over towards the Manakete, he was crouched, holding a book in one hand and looking on it fondly. A soft smile spread over his face as he turned it over.

“Do you like that book Corrin?” Sumia asked, shuffling closer to get a closer look at what he was holding.

The cover was a deep red with golden lettering. ‘Perfecting Palmistry: Holding the Future in Your Hands’. Sumia hadn’t expected for Corrin to have an interest in a fortune telling book.

“It’s just familiar.” He said, tracing the lettering on the cover. “I remember when Mother was writing it a few years ago.” He chuckled softly “You know she couldn’t even start writing without her lucky brush, she said the words wouldn’t come out right otherwise.”

“Your mother wrote this!?” Sumia gasped.

“Mmmhmm.” Corrin nodded, he indicated the name on the front page ‘Prophetess Mikoto of Koh’Let’. “I think she was working on another book when I left home, something to do with cards I think.” He mumbled.

He passed the book back over to Sumia and stood up dusting himself off. “Anyway, I hope you enjoy your reading Sumia, please be more careful walking through the palace, I’d hate to see you get hurt.”

He started walking off down the hall away from Sumia and she hesitated for a moment before calling out “Corrin.”

“Hmm?” he whirled on his heel to face Sumia again.

“Your mother is a great fortune teller, I was wondering whether you’d be able to give me some tips on how to improve my own.” She requested, honestly she felt a little silly but Corrin might have some useful tips.

“Well I suppose I could try, I’m really not trained though.” He answered haltingly.

“Great, I know just the right place to practice, we can fly there easy enough. Come on.” She beckoned for Corrin to follow her. He was somewhat hesitant but easily enough followed Sumia’s lead through the castle and to the stables.

--#--

Flying on a Pegasus was terrifying. Corrin had flown plenty of times before but it had always been his own wings keeping him aloft, he controlled every turn, every flap. Each rise and fall was by his choice. When he’d had to ride upon Nowi’s back once before she’d been considerate in her motions and his injuries had given him a point of distraction. Riding on a beast was a different matter.

Sumia’s Pegasus was constantly rising and falling in a somewhat jerky motion beneath him as its wings flapped making his stomach flip and he clutched tighter to Sumia’s waist from where he sat behind her each time it did so. He really didn’t want to look down to see the specks of trees and houses far below. He was thankful that the knight herself was too polite to comment on his behaviour.

“Sumia.” He mumbled, and held back a gasp as the Pegasus did a small dive through a cloud. “How much further is it to that place you wanted to practice?” He asked, eventually composing himself.

 

“Oh, not much further. Sorry about this, I didn’t know you’d have such a hard time with flying.” She replied sheepishly. “I promise it’ll be worth it though, you’ll love this place.” She turned and gave Corrin a reassuring smile, he tried his best to return the gesture, but had to slap a hand over his mouth as a sudden lurch made him feel like his lunch would come back to haunt him.

Thankfully after a few more minutes of flying Corrin felt the wind whip through his hair a little faster as the Pegasus began its descent. Looking down he noticed that the ground was far closer than he’d anticipated and breather a small sigh of relief as they descended upon a plateau on a mountainside.

Sumia’s Pegasus landed with surprising grace upon the meadow, its hooves barely disturbing the vibrant grass underneath. Corrin hurriedly hopped off the beast, grateful to feel the solid ground beneath his feet. Sumia dismounted with a lot more composure afterwards and gave her mount a gentle stroke on its muzzle, whispering some soft words to it. The Pegasus whinnied softly and bumped its head against her shoulder affectionately before slowly walking off to leisurely graze at the grass.

Corrin took a moment to look around, they were just above the clouds, high up on the mountainside, but through gaps in the clouds below he could glimpse a town nestled in some woodlands at the foot of the mountain. Smoke gently curled from a few houses’ roofs, but Corrin couldn’t make out any people from this far away.

The meadow around him was overgrown with bright green grass and numerous different flowers in a riot of colours, red, blue, purple and orange waved in the breeze flowing over the mountain.

He found himself taken aback to a somewhat similar mountain near his home in Koh’Let, one he’d climbed with his father years ago. The faint memories of the story he heard that day stirred in the back of his mind and chilled him. He instinctually shoved his hand in his pocket and felt the reassuring strength of his dragonstone to compose himself.

He turned back to Sumia with a smile. “This place is beautiful; how did you find out about it?”

“Oh, the Shepherd’s did a mission for the people down in that village once, some of them told me about this place. You can hike up from the base but it’s a lot easier to get in by flying.” She explained.

“Okay, so how do your fortunes work then?”

Sumia sat on the grass amongst a smattering of flowers and patted the ground beside her to get Corrin to join her.

“I take a flower.” She explained, plucking a yellow daisy from the ground. “And then I ask it a question like… will it rain tomorrow? Then I pull its petals one by one and they tell me the answer.” She explained.

Corrin shuffled closer to look at the flower, this method of fortune telling seemed pretty different to what he’d seen his mother do. Reading a palm, or the meaning of cards, was full of nuance and subtlety. Yet as Corrin watched Sumia pluck the petals from the daisy he noticed that her fortune was designed to give a yes or no answer.

“Yes, no, yes, no.” Sumia finished, taking the last petal from the flower and dropping it back to the ground. “I know, it sounds a little silly, but I always like the reassurance that it gives me. I thought I’d look into some alternate methods to maybe try and learn to get better at doing my own readings.”

“I see what your getting at, your method certainly seems a lot easier than Mother’s does.” He said, picking up the plucked daisy stem and fiddling with it between his fingers. “Do your predictions often come true?”

“Well, they sometimes do, but when they’re bad I just have to work to undo them.” She said.

“Undo them? Most fortune tellers I’ve heard of say that their readings are always right.” His Mother certainly put a lot of stock in her own predictions, although she did admit she wasn’t always one hundred percent correct, the future was tricky to interpret, even for skilled oracles.

“Well, could you imagine if my reading said I was going to fall off my Pegasus mid battle!” Sumia exclaimed, horror on her face. Corrin wondered whether she’d made that very prediction before. “I couldn’t let that happen. I’m already so far behind everyone else in the Shepherds, falling on my face off my horse would be just like me. You saw how I tripped over my own feet this morning.” She explained glumly.

“You can’t use that as an example. You were reading books, anyone could have tripped in that situation. I bet Robin and Miriel have fallen over plenty of times.” He argued back, still Sumia looked down.

“I’ve never seen them trip.” She picked up another flower, pulling at its petals, asking it a silent question.

Corrin watched this go on for a few seconds before he remembered something his mother had once taught him.

“Sumia, you asked whether I’d be able to show you the sort of stuff that my Mother does. I think there’s a reading I could give you.” He said, the Pegasus knight instantly perked up a little, eyes lighting up as she met his gaze.

“Really? That would be wonderful. I’d love to see how they do things in Chon’Sin.”

“Okay, I need you to pass me your hand. Palm up.” Corrin requested.

Sumia held out her hand and Corrin took it in her own. Her own palm was far rougher than his, Sumia had spent countless days practicing with her lance and honing her skills on her Pegasus leaving her palms rough and calloused, despite how soft and sweet she might look she was a skilled fighter.

“Hmmm.” Corrin hummed as he ran his pointer finger over the lines of her palm, then tracing it across the joints of each finger.

“Your life line is long and pronounced, so you’ll live a long and happy life. No worry about falling in battle and letting anyone down.” He said, Sumia nodded seriously. “The spacing of your knuckles tells me that you’ll find success in any work you might undertake.” He continued, then he stopped and pointed at one particular spot in the muscle below her thumb. “Right here, this pulse point… yep it tells me that love is definitely in your future, probably right around the corner.” He finished happily.

Sumia grinned widely. “Really? Are you sure?”

Corrin nodded and Sumia bounced across to him, enveloping the manakete in an exuberant hug. He returned the gesture, patting her on the back.

When she pulled back Sumia’s smile faltered. “But Corrin, I thought you said your Mother hadn’t trained you.” She said.

“Well, not formally at least. But I guess I’ve picked up a thing or two from watching her.” He answered. It seemed to mollify Sumia as she went back to her own fortune telling with a brighter look on her face.

He’d picked up something important from her at least, it was one of his earliest memories.

--#--

“Mother, that reading you gave looked different. It was so fast.” Corrin said to his mother, looking up at her. Her last visitor had left with a spring in his step and a goofy grin on his face.

“Oh, you noticed? You’re getting so clever my little one.” She ran her hand softly through his hair and Corrin hummed happily. “Not everyone really needs a reading.” She explained.

“But if they don’t need a reading, then why do they come here?” He asked. Lots of grownups came by, a lot in funny clothes, and they asked his mother all sorts of questions.

“Some people have problems that can’t be solved with a reading, what they need isn’t to hear an exact prediction. All they need is some kind words and they can work out the rest themselves. Do you understand?”

“I… think I do?” He really found the idea a bit funny.

“Even if you don’t now, I’m sure you will one day.” She picked him up in her arms, he squealed happily as she did so. “Come on then, I think he was my last customer for the day, how about we go get some sweets?”

“Sweets? Yes please!” He readily agreed.

Even if he didn’t always understand what she meant he knew his Mother was always right about these sorts of things, he guessed it was just the way grownups were.