by Iris Amergin

Disclaimer: The Fire Emblem games and the characters in them are not mine, were never mine, and will never be mine (although if Cuan ever went up on eBay I'd buy him in a heartbeat).

Notes: This fic was written for a challenge on the temps_mort LiveJournal community; a time limit of 75 minutes was alloted to write something involving the theme of water. I did not, however, use the full 75 minutes to write this.

FFn appears to be eating my italics every time I try to upload, and I can't figure out why. Until I find some way of fixing this, I'm enclosing thoughts in ~these~, so you can tell the difference. =P

It was not the first time Ethlinn had stood by the sea, nor would it be the last. But there was something of a finality about standing on the coast near Madino; a certainty that frightened her.

They had shared their first kiss on the open beach, south of Chalphy, with nothing but the sea and the sands to bear witness. Perhaps it was foolish, the misguided delusions of a girl in love, but she had always felt safer around the water since then--more secure in her feelings, perhaps, although she had certainly never questioned their love since that moment. The rhythm of the waves. The rhythm of his heartbeat. It had felt simply and undeniably right.

But she could find no comfort in it now.

Cuan didn't look worried--but then, he never did. He had always been the confident one; she had never seen him really doubt anything since the day she met him.

~The curse of Gae Bolg? That's just a fairy tale, Ethlinn.~

He had dried her tears, and told her everything would be fine. She had smiled and said she was just being silly and dropped the subject. The waves had continued to pound against the shore.

She hadn't slept a wink that night.

She hadn't wanted to give him the Gae Bolg, but nor did she want to stand by and risk seeing him nearly killed a second time. The battle against Eltoshan had been brutal--had Lachesis not been able to stop her brother... Ethlinn shuddered. Cuan had nearly been killed by his best friend, nearly become the victim of cruel politics and a sword that sang for blood. Had the Gae Bolg been in his hands then, he'd have stood a chance. But once he took up the spear...

~The spear is cursed,~ Cuan's father had told her. ~Generations of Lenster royalty have passed it down, taking it up only to defend the kingdom and their people at the most critical of hours--at the price of violent, miserable death. I entrust it to you.~

~When the time comes, you will know what to do.~

The time had come--and passed. And her indecision had nearly brought about the same result. An interesting paradox, really. She gave him the spear and cursed him with the very thing she hoped to protect him from.

Not that Cuan saw it that way.

But then, Cuan, for all his military and political knowledge, had always been a doer rather than a thinker. He had studied as much as necessary to learn everything expected of a prince, but he always seemed more at home on the battlefield than with a book. He placed his trust in himself and those who fought with him; he had little faith in legends. Confidence--bordering on arrogance--seemed to run in the Noba blood, and on more than one occasion Ethlinn had found herself wondering with a mixture of amusement and horror whether Altenna would grow up to be just like her father--another Noba convinced that simple prowess in battle would be enough to escape the legacy of the Gae Bolg's bloody curse.

~Didn't it ever occur to you, Cuan? That if it were ever possible to escape the curse, someone would have managed it by now? That a simple fairy tale wouldn't leave so many bodies in its wake?~

She sighed and gazed out upon the sea. One night, long ago, they had taken the first step towards their life together with the waters as witness.

Last night, they had taken the first step to ending it.