AN: To new readers, welcome! To old readers, welcome back and thank you for sticking with me so far! Almost one year ago I began writing Until The Day I Rise, a retelling of Fire Emblem Awakening in which Grima plays a major role as Robin's 'twin brother'. Although I had a plan for where I was taking it, I didn't finalize things until I was already more than a few chapters in. When I went to upload the latest chapter I took a moment to reread what I'd written, only to realize I'd completely neglected to set up many, many details in the early chapters that would become important later on.
My first thought was to edit the chapters themselves, but eventually I found myself rewriting large sections to the point where the edited chapters were completely different from the original. In the interest of keeping things simple I've decided to abandon the first incarnation of UTDIR and post a new, rewritten version. The original version will remain up for an indefinite amount of time, or at least until the rewrite catches up with it.
If anyone's interested in becoming a beta reader please let me know. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.
:: Prologue ::
The humans were moving again. They crept across the ruined city, weapons and supplies clutched tightly in white-knuckled hands. Whenever they reached one of the few buildings that were only partially destroyed they quickly ducked into its shelter and reorganized themselves, wiping off sweaty weapon hilts and taking tiny sips of water to keep up their strength as they glanced anxiously at the darkening sky.
A handful of years ago Ylisstol had been the jewel of the halidom, a sprawling metropolis that welcomed any and all into its arms. By the same token it had been one of the first to fall, the densely packed population proving an effective catalyst for the spread of Risen. Now all that remained of the once grand city was a charred debris field that spread for acres in all directions and, in the center of it all, the battered but still proud walls which surrounded the Exalt's Castle. Now more than ever it was a symbol for the few humans who still remained - a symbol of hope, a reminder of what they'd once had and a dream that one day the past would be restored. And so they moved, picked their way over the Risen-infested ruins of the city and hovered nervously at the castle gates until a sentry confirmed their humanity and let them in.
If he wanted he could put an end to all this. It wouldn't take much, not at all - without Naga's aid they stood no chance against him.
Or, perhaps, a more indirect route. There was no shortage of death within the castle, which was beginning to overflow with refugees even while more kept arriving. Starvation. Disease. Humanity's most ancient enemies were hard at work within those walls and although the corpses were burned almost before the heart even stopped all it would take was the smallest pulse of power, a tiny nudge...
He picked up a pebble and tossed it, watching it clatter across the ground. The humans froze; their weapons moved into defensive positions and the adults quickly closed ranks around the children. After a quick survey of the surrounding area the group began to move again, hurriedly picking their way through the debris. They were only a few yards away from the wall, but here the ground was clear of all obstructions and they were in clear sight of any patrolling Risen.
His body soared through the skies in the far horizon, laughed as he watched some survivors on Valm despair upon discovering their carefully hidden food cache destroyed by Risen, and perhaps that was what gave these humans the courage to suddenly sprint and pound on the gates until they opened.
It would be so easy...
"C'mon," Morgan hissed, trying not to sound too impatient as she watched her companion move into position at a leisurely pace. "Hurry up, they'll be here any minute."
"They've 'been here' for a while already," he said blandly. "If you paid attention to your troops you'd know that."
"I...what?" Morgan frowned and turned her attention inwards towards the power that Master Grima had granted her, the power that allowed her to raise and command Risen. Making contact with her troops at the other end of the mountain pass, she watched in horror as a whole flank was suddenly obliterated in seconds.
Quickly she sent commands to the nearest units, ordering them to fill in the gaps, then looked up with a scowl. "Is it just me or are they fighting a lot better today?"
"The princess managed to perform part of the Awakening, so there's that. They also think this is their last chance to 'save the world' and you of all people should know how humans act when pushed to their limit," her fellow sorcerer replied with a thin smile that was barely visible under his bleached bone mask. Dark eyes shot Morgan a brief glance that was somehow neutral and judgmental at the same time; unspoken was the fact that Morgan, despite her prestigious bloodline, was every bit as human as their enemies.
Morgan resolutely quashed the jealous feelings bubbling up in her head and pulled out her tome, running her fingers along the familiar etchings on the cover for luck.
"That won't make a difference," she muttered, not sure if she was talking about herself or her former friends. "They will still fail. We'll make sure of that."
Her companion didn't respond, having finally settled into position beside an outcropping of rock that shielded him from anyone approaching from the mountain pass. Morgan herself stood in plain sight, at the top of the crumbling steps that led to the ruins of an old stone gate; she pulled her cowl as low as she dared, its enchantment casting shadows to obscure her face, and waited for Naga's servants to arrive.
He knew her. Oh yes, he knew her. His vessel had witnessed the early stages of her life, her growth from the tiny infant in her mother's arms into the small child who often doodled in the margins of her notes when she thought her tutor wasn't looking. In the days immediately following his awakening he'd watched the humans turn towards the girl who struggled to wield a sword that was too big for her, watched as the years passed and she grew into the sword with a speed born of necessity. He'd watched her instinctively grow distant from the daughter of the man who was rumored to have betrayed her beloved father, unwittingly giving him his most loyal servant. He'd watched her rally her companions with her father's charisma but none of his optimism, watched her lunge towards the dead while she flinched away from the living.
And now he watched as she charged at his vessel's daughter, barely faltering as she made short work of any Risen in her path with quick stabs of her sword. Morgan didn't flinch, didn't move except to raise an arm and summon tendrils of living shadow that whipped at Lucina in an attempt to constrict her movements. The princess ducked one, slashed at another, jumped and spun with grace her father never had. Falchion's blade, imbued with the remnants of Naga's incomplete Awakening, sliced through Morgan's shadows with ease.
"Get out of my way!" Lucina's scream was punctuated by a roar from the half-breed, the child called Nah swooping down with spewing flames. Morgan managed to dodge Lucina's frenzied attack but faltered, glancing up at Nah with wide eyes -
The flames spluttered out and Nah cried in pain as she crashed into the mountain, held in midair within an orb of dark energy. His most treasured servant, the talented child he could almost call his own, raised his hands and began reciting a second, more devastating spell, only to cut off mid-chant and teleport away as a volley of arrows peppered the ground where he stood.
Meanwhile Lucina hadn't hesitated, pressing on with the grim determination that made her a legend among her kind. She wielded Falchion with her usual precision, now tempered by Naga's power and the knowledge that her goal was right in front of her; Morgan's magic was torn to pieces with powerful blows, Morgan herself forced steadily backwards until she was backed against the gate. Morgan ducked under a slash aimed at her head and scrambled for her sword but she'd always been better at magic; with only a few quick blows she was quickly disarmed, her cowl flying backwards and dispelling her enchantment.
At that moment the gate began to glow, brought to life by the remnants of Naga's tattered power. Morgan, still unbalanced, tumbled through with a yelp. Lucina hurried forward but then hesitated, looking back at her friends who were still struggling with the Risen on the path behind her.
He reached for the strands of Naga's power and took flight for the past.
Morgan ached all over.
This wasn't unusual; she pushed herself hard in her training sessions, determined to be the best she could be for Master Grima, and often challenged her fellow servant to competitions which she almost always lost. At least in their most recent duels it felt like she'd held out for longer than usual before collapsing, though that was probably wishful thinking.
What was unusual was the fact that she was laying on what felt like a stone floor as opposed to her comfortably sturdy mattress. She slowly opened her eyes, squinting up at a cracked ceiling, and looked around.
Immediately her gaze snapped to the only other person in the area, a pale boy sitting nearby, and with a gasp she struggled to sit up.
The boy could only be described as her 'twin'; his features were slightly more angular than hers and his hair was black instead of her pale pink, but otherwise looking at his face was like looking in a mirror. She wrenched her eyes away, frowning at the boy's Grimleal robes and what looked like the remains of a shattered bone mask lying a few feet away.
"Is that you?"
The boy, the nameless, masked sorcerer who'd served Master Grima as long or even longer than she had, gave her a small nod. "Hey, Morgan. How do you feel?"
"I...I'm fine," she managed, wincing as she pushed herself into a sitting position. The boy watched silently, offering neither help nor encouragement, and passed her a flask once she finally managed to prop herself against a pillar. She took a long drink, relishing the pleasantly cool water as she studied their surroundings.
"Where are we?"
"I'm not sure," he said, leaning back on his hands as he looked around. "We're almost certainly in the past - unless Naga messed up her spell, which I really wouldn't be surprised about since I'm pretty sure she managed to scatter everyone all over the place - but I don't know where."
"The past," Morgan murmured, trying and failing to suppress faint memories of the family she'd once had. "I fell through the gate, didn't I? But how...why are you here?"
"Master Grima sent me after you."
"Master!" Morgan jolted upright. "How is he? Is he alright? I let the princess reach the gate...and he sent you after me? I've caused a lot of trouble, haven't I..."
"Don't worry," the boy said with a small but genuine smile. Morgan stared; she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen someone smile like that. "We failed to hold the gate, it's true, but Master was able to follow the spell. He's with his vessel right now."
"O-oh...that's good," Morgan said weakly, looking down at her hands. Her companion looked like her twin; by extension he also looked like Grima's vessel, her father - in some ways more than Morgan herself did, since Robin had also been dark-haired. Her father had also smiled like that, small and secretive but ever so gentle, in the days before Grima's awakening.
If they were really in the past...
"Master left us some instructions," the boy continued. "Well, he left me some instructions but I think it won't hurt to share since they involve you too."
Morgan took a deep breath and looked up, carefully pushing down her emotions. "Yeah? What are they?"
The boy gave her a bright smile, though there was a slight edge to it. "The drug in your water should kick in any moment now. Once you're unconscious, I'm supposed to wipe your memory of everything except your father."
"What?" Morgan scrambled to her feet but stumbled and fell almost immediately, the world beginning to blur around her.
"I don't think I ever told you my name," the boy said conversationally as Morgan struggled to stay awake. "My name's Morgan, but since we'll be spending a lot of time together that might get confusing. What do you think about Marc?"
Morgan blacked out.