I've been thinking this one over for a while and I hope my seemingly endless pondering paid off.
This was a request from KoalaNoob. He contacted me back in October, and I'm just now getting to it. Sorry for the delay! To make up for it, I've decided to make this a multi-chapter fic. It won't be nearly as long as the others (except possibly my Athos & Nergal piece Ancient Scholars), but I will be putting a great deal of effort into it.
Chapter 1: The End of The Beginning
"Seth… take care of her," King Fado commanded his knight.
"On my life, I swear," the paladin responded and turned to Princess Eirika, "come, Your Highness."
"Father… I won't leave you!" Eirika pleaded.
"Eirika, we've received no word from Ephraim, so I know not if he still lives; I do not want to endanger my only other child. Go to Frelia; it will be safe for you there."
"Please, my daughter. For me."
"Al… alright. I swear I will return for you and free Renais. Let's go, Seth." The paladin nodded and led his lady liege and apprentice, Franz, down a secret passageway, at the end of which he had left two horses. Not long after they left, the mighty army of Grado breached the doors to the throne room and prepared to complete their mission.
When Seth, Franz and Eirika safely reached the exit, the paladin sent the cavalier ahead to inform Frelia of the situation, gave the princess a rapier, and motioned for her to get on his horse. Before she could, however, a squadron of Wyvern Knights led by a Wyvern Lord intercepted them.
"Quickly, Your Highness, get behind me!" Eirika complied and Seth drew his sword. The squadron landed right in front of the two, their leader smiling malevolently.
"Well, what do we have here? The Princess of Renais and her bodyguard! Surrender the wench, knight, and I may yet spare your life," the leader said.
"So be it. I am Valter, Moonstone of Grado; you are but a corpse who knows not that he is dead. Time for your enlightenment." With speed befitting an experienced Wyvern rider, the Moonstone drew his silver lance and rushed at Seth. The paladin wasn't able to completely dodge the strike, but he managed to turn just enough so that the spearhead went through his right shoulder, rather than through his heart. With unbelievable speed, strength and determination, he put his sword in his left hand, sliced through the spear, backed up, put the sword in his mouth, ripped the spearhead out of his torso and threw it like a javelin toward Valter's wyvern, hitting it between its eyes. As the Moonstone froze in shock, Seth hastily grabbed Eirika with his good arm and hoisted her onto his horse, pulling a muscle in the process. In spite of the pain, he held her tightly and sped away. Valter's knights prepared to give pursuit, but the Wyvern Lord motioned for them to stay.
"Let them run. I want to savor this kill," he smiled, got off his felled mount and hopped onto one of his subordinate's.
Seth and Eirika raced into the night toward the Frelian border, the former holding the latter as tightly as he could in spite of the intense pain he was feeling. When morning came, they felt that they were close enough to the border to stop and rest. The two got off the horse, and the princess helped her escort to a cliff he could lean against.
"Rest here. Let me tend to your wounds," Eirika said gently.
"No, Your Highness; I am trained to tolerate intense pain. You need your rest for the last leg of the journey. I will keep watch."
"Seth, you are in no condition to–"
"Hey! There they are! Kill them!" an axe-wielding Grado soldier, accompanied by two other axemen, approached the group, weapon drawn, intent on killing them. Seth slowly tried to get up, but Eirika put a hand on his shoulder and forced him back down.
"Seth, stay here… that's an order. My brother trained me well enough that I can take care of myself," the princess said confidently and drew her rapier. The first soldier charged her and attempted a vertical strike, but she managed to dodged it; when his axe hit the ground, the princess put a foot on top of it and thrusted her rapier toward his heart, ending his life. The second soldier tried swinging diagonally down; Eirika responded by spinning around him and stabbing him through the back. She exhaled, momentarily forgetting about the third soldier. Noticing her lack of attention, he went in for a quick strike. Eirika noticed it at the last second and raised her rapier to block it. The soldier then kicked her in the stomach, forcing her to the ground. He smiled, lifted his axe above his head and prepared to finish his enemy. Fortunately for Eirika, a steel sword flew past her and hit the soldier in the chest. The axeman fell backward, his life spent. The princess looked back to see Seth standing, albeit hunched over, wincing from the pain. He soon collapsed, breathing hoarsely.
"Seth!" Eirika screamed. She took vulneraries she found on the belts of her fallen foes and ran over to her knight as quickly as she could. She drank one to recover her own health, then took the rest over to Seth. She hastily worked his breast plate off and poured an entire container on his wounds, then held his head up and helped him drink another. The medicine mostly healed his wounds, but Valter damaged his lance arm so heavily that Eirika doubted he would ever fully recover. Even though Seth was no longer at risk of dying, he had lost a lot of blood and was exhausted, so the princess decided to let him rest for a time. She moved Seth under some trees for cover, called the horse over, commanded it to lie down, and put the paladin's head against it. She then sat next to him and rested her head on his. The two fell asleep and did not wake until rather late in the afternoon. When they did, they got back on their horse and continued onward toward Frelia.
Upon arriving safely on the other side of the border, Eirika and Seth decided to slow down and talk so their horse didn't get too exhausted.
"Seth… how fare you? Is your arm feeling any better?"
"I am fine, thanks to your care. My wound has closed, so it will not affect me in future confrontations."
"You say that, yet whenever you move your arm, pain is latent on your face."
"As I told you, Your Highness, I am trained to persevere through any amount of pain. My ability to fight has not been compromised."
"I still worry about you. You cannot endure the pain forever."
"With all due respect, Your Highness, you need to stop concerning yourself with my well-being and focus on your own. Worry will only impede your focus on the field."
"Yes… I suppose you are right. But please, just… don't overexert yourself. I cannot continue this quest without you."
"You think too highly of me, m'lady," Seth sighed and the two continued on their journey.
And that's chapter 1. Hope you enjoyed it!
Full production notes can be found on my blog, the link to which is on my profile page.