Northern Fortress Dungeons
In the dark pits of the Nohrian prison, the condemned man waited through the night. At least, he thought it was night. It had been so long since he had seen the sky, but even if he had, it still would have been difficult to tell. So oppressive was the dark that covered their land, the only way to tell the time was by the clocks; or, in his case, the meals.
The evening meal had come a few hours ago, so he knew it had to be night or very early morning. Yet he couldn't bring himself to sleep, or eat; he had been tossing on the straw for hours, but nothing settled his nerves. When he awoke, he would be a dead man. A man condemned.
It wasn't as if the man didn't deserve it; he was absolutely guilty of his crimes. He was a liar, a thief, a murderer. He knew all of this, but why should he be punished for his crimes when their rulers walked free for the same things? No, he wasn't being punished for any wicked deeds; he was being punished for being poor. Such was the world he'd been born in; the world of famine, disease, poverty, and decay that the rest of the world shunned and tried to pretend just didn't exist. The world of Nohr.
Suddenly, he heard the creaking of the cell door open. Had they come for him, or someone else? He could only wonder, as the artificial light of a torch descended down to their pits, held by a woman in shadowy armor, such that she blended with the dark around them. The only light that gleamed from her was what reflected off her sword. It was only when she walked to him, and stopped right in front of his cell, that he finally got a look at her face, as she smiled down on him.
Corrin, the princess of Nohr.
"Alright, you'll do." She said with a cocky grin
"Well, you're going to die tomorrow, right?" He hesitated, but nodded, "Then you'll be perfect."
She took a set of keys off her belt and unlocked his cell, leaving it open as she walked to the center of the cells, placing the torch on a mantle.
"There's some weapons on the staircase; pick whatever suits you."
He eyed her suspiciously, "What's this all about?"
"Well, I need to combat practice. Real practice; the training dummies know all my moves, and the guards hold back. I figured a guy who has nothing left to live for will give me a better fight than any of them."
"You want to use me as target practice?"
"Look at it this way; if you lose, you were going to die in a few hours anyway. If you win, you could have your way with my corpse before they send you off to the chopping block. I'd call that the best deal you're going to get down here." She grinned, "I mean, I know you're not afraid to hit a girl, given what they caught you for. But, if you're really so scared, I guess I could just put you back in the cell…"
He couldn't believe the nerve of these royals; if a commoner tried something like this, he would be tried and executed. He had to fight her now, just to give her a taste of reality. Perhaps he could even take her down alive, and show her that commoners could be just as brutal as any one of them. He gripped the axe tightly, imagining the pleasure of subjecting this royal to the pain that their pheasants had always known.
Corrin unsheathed her own sword, then frowned, "Hmm...actually, can you hold on for a moment?" Taking the keys in hand, she went to two other cells and released two others, "This should make things a bit more fair."
Both he and the others looked at her as if she were insane. He was partially convinced that she was. Willingly choosing to fight three condemned prisoners at once, it was as if she had a death wish. "Alright, now it's a party."
Surrounding her from all sides, the prisoners shared glances. They were all condemned, and rightfully so, but at least now they had a chance to have a royal punished for their crimes as well.
When the other two attacked, he hung back and watched for an opening. When she saw them coming, she had immediately leapt into action from what had seemed like a totally unprepared stance, cutting off the arm of one in a single motion. From there, she had pushed forward, and used the wounded one as a shield against the other's blow, his axe imbedding right in his own allies' neck. Corrin moved quicker than he could keep track of, even from a distance; the other prisoner parried and blocked, but from where he stood he could see her attacks as the feints they were, drawing her enemy into a state of desperation. Once he had tired from the rapid defense, she sent a single kick into his legs to knock him down, and decapitated him.
The prisoner could only stand in complete shock; two men dead in a matter of seconds, from a woman who looked no older than his daughter. He immediately dropped his axe, "Mercy!"
Corrin sighed, "Really? You'll happily butcher little girls, but cry at the sight of an actual opponent? Some man you are…" She pointed her sword at him, "Pick that back up and come at me! I called on you to fight, not kneel!"
He was frozen; if he did as she said, she'd kill him. If he didn't, she might kill him anyway. He only had a few precious hours left on earth, he wanted to cherish them...
"Princess Corrin!" They heard a shout from the top of the staircase, "What do you think you're doing in the cells?"
A large man in armor came stomping down the stairs, and Corrin immediately sheathed her sword, sighing like a teenager caught sneaking out of the house, "I was just getting a warm up in before Xander showed up…"
"Don't you realize how incredibly dangerous this is? You could have been killed by these scoundrels!"
"Fat chance of that…"
The metal man grabbed the prisoner by the throat and shoved him back into the cell, locking it tightly. "Come back with me, we're leaving."
The two of them climbed back up the staircase, taking the torch with them and restoring the dark to the prison.
"You know none of them could actually hurt me." Corrin pouted at Gunter's overbearingness. Honestly, with how long she had been training, she was probably ready for the actual army, if only father would let her out of the damn fortress.
"Your first mistake-"
"Is your last mistake, I know! God, you've only said it about twenty times this week..."
"And I'll keep saying it until you remember it," Gunter sighed, "If you really want to challenge yourself with prisoners, at least tell me, or Jakob, or one of your maids. That way we can watch, and make sure nothing happens."
"But they'll obviously hold back if they know there's someone there to take them out if they get too rough. I want it to be a real fight."
"Then at least tell us for the sake of our peace of mind. Do you know that Felicia nearly had a heart attack when she saw you had disappeared? She's been beside herself with worry over you, it took both Lilith and Flora to calm her down."
Corrin shuffled her feet, "I...guess I didn't think about that. Is she alright?"
"She'll be alright; but I want you to learn from this. A princess has more than herself to think about."
"Okay...I promise, I'll at least tell you next time...I suppose I should apologize to Felicia."
"I'm sure she would appreciate it."
As they passed through the door, one guard tipped his helmet to her.
"Good morning, Corrin."
After they had walked some distance away from him, Corrin whispered to Gunter, "Awfully familiar all of a sudden…" She said with discomfort
"I don't suppose you want to fight him, too?"
"No, I mean, he hasn't done anything wrong, exactly. It's just...I don't know, does it ever seem like I don't get a whole lot of respect for my station?"
Gunter looked at her sideways, "Perhaps. It is somewhat hard to get respect, when you've lain with half the guards here…"
Corrin groaned, "Please tell me we're not doing this lecture again…"
"It's not proper for a princess."
"It's my free time, I don't see why it matters what I do during it. Or who I do it with."
"Then perhaps you shouldn't complain that people don't respect your position, since you obviously don't respect it."
"Does it really have to be either/or? I can't be the only princess in the world that knows how to enjoy herself…"
She was interrupted when she saw a positively overjoyed Felicia running towards her with tears in her eyes, "Princess Corrin! I was so worried!" She hugged her so tightly that it knocked the air out of her chest, "I-I thought...something terrible might have happened…"
"I'm fine...I'm fine, Felicia, really…" She hugged the maid back, "Listen, I'm really sorry for putting you through that...but I'm fine now. It's okay…"
"I should hope you learned something from all this," Corrin looked at the rest of her cadre of servants, "We were all very concerned to find you not in bed this morning."
"I know, Jakob...look, I promise not to sneak off again without telling someone."
"We all appreciate that," said Flora, who took Felicia gently by the shoulder and tried to pry her away, "Come now, sister, dry your eyes. It's time we prepared breakfast."
Felicia reluctantly released her hold on Corrin, "Okay…sorry, I should get back to work…"
"You're fine, Fels." Corrin smiled, "I guess I could really use some food after the workout. And I'll definitely need the strength for Xander…"
"When is Prince Xander going to be arriving, do you know?" said Lilith
"His letter said he would be here in the morning, that's why I wanted such an early start." said Corrin
"Well, no time to waste then."
It wasn't the most delicious breakfast she'd eaten, but that was alright; after all, she had specifically requested that they prioritize nutrition over taste for this time. She wanted to have as much energy as possible. Corrin wasn't about to let her chance at freedom slip away because of some dumb shit like bad digestion.
"I made sure to cover the entire nutritional spectrum, as you requested," said Flora, ordinarily she would have given Felicia a chance to improve her cooking skills, but this was too important, "Is everything to your satisfaction?"
"It's fulfilling, that's for sure. Thank you, Flora." After finishing, Corrin left to give Felicia privacy while she cleared the table, knowing how nervous it made her to work with an audience.
When Gunter found her, she was watching the front gate eagerly from the walls; "Hey Gunter...what's the sun look like? I mean, I read about it in the books but...what's it look like?"
Gunter hmm'd, "It's somewhat hard to explain...it's like, a very large torche in the sky, except a somewhat brighter color. And certainly brighter, and warmer. More welcoming than our eternally dark sky. What brings this on?"
"I just got thinking...I think that's the first thing I want to see when I get out of here. A place with a bright sky, green grass, soothing wind..."
"You and every Norhian...but what you're talking about lies in Hoshido. Beyond our reach."
"I know...a few months ago, I managed to find a merchant that didn't recognize me, he told me how it's like for our people out there…nothing grows, there's poverty everywhere, and with father's draft it's becoming harder for families to find work..." She became uncharacteristically somber, "Tell me, is it all really true? Are the people suffering as much as he said?"
"I suppose I shouldn't have tried sheltering you from it. But it's true, the clouds that cover Nohr are indeed oppressive, and your father is a hard king for a hard kingdom. You were born richer than most, and that merchant was born richer than some."
"Gunter...when I get out of here," she turned to him, her face resuming the carefree smile that he remembered, "I'm going to fix all this. I'll take all of Nohr to the sun; if I can't, I'll just bring the sun here."
He couldn't help but smile in return, "As you say, Princess Corrin."
Fun Fact: At the very bottom of the ocean, it is impossible for any rays of light from the sun to reach them, and the pressure is too intense for most submersibles to survive. There is still a vibrant ecosystem where plant and fish life can exist without any need for sunlight. The more you know.