A THOUSAND MILES

Fire Emblem is copyright Nintendo
and Intelligent Designs. This fic
is copyright ME. Take and die.

The first time he saw her was by accident. He'd slunk out of the palace, trusting that he'd be either unseen or some sympathetic servant would decide to spread the word that nobody had any idea where Lord Pent might be.

He just couldn't take it any more. There were ladies EVERYWHERE, declaiming or practicing or heaven only knew what, and soon he would have to chose one of them as his wife. He was grateful to his father, he really was. Heaven only knew that if left up to him, he would never marry -- or else his father could have picked a girl, and he could have gone through the marriage ceremony and two weeks later blinked vaguely at the girl and asked her who she was. (Pent was not, exactly, absent-minded. It just took a great deal to get his mind off his studies.)

He fled to the kitchen gardens, where at least there would be no ladies -- he hoped. He had a vague impression that ladies very rarely went into kitchen gardens, for some reason. Apparently they prefered flower gardens. Pent didn't have anything against flower gardens, of course, but he thought that vegetables and herbs smelt quite as nice. He had a book and there was two hours before dinner (where every single lady would be seated and staring at him).

After a while, though, he became aware of a steady thunk-thunk-thunk sound. He lifted his head and listened. It sounded like it was coming from the shooting gallery -- not the one for the palace guards, of course, the one in the gardens. It didn't sound like a lady practicing though -- it sounded like someone who knew what they were doing practicing.

Curiousity may or may not have killed cats, but it had been the death of many mages. Pent was no exception. He got up, put a marker in his book and went quietly toward the shooting gallery.

There was someone there-- not a lady, exactly, but a young girl steadily aiming and firing at the target. Pent looked at the target and barely stopped himself from saying something. (The second thing he had been taugh was 'never startle someone with a weapon'. The first thing was 'never get within melee distance of a fighter unless you're bloody sure you can take him out in one hit'.) There were no arrows buried in the outer circles of the target. All of them were solidly buried in the center circle.

Pent looked back at the girl. All he could really see whas her thick, gold braid of hair and her back -- but it was very beautiful hair.

He must have made a noise, because the girl turned around, a lightning fast movement that ended up an uncomfortably sharp-looking arrow aimed at him.

"Er," said Pent, trying to look harmless. "I beg your pardon. I heard you shooting and I--" Even at that distance he could see she was a pretty as her hair, with blue eyes exactly like some abomidable poetic cliche. Forget-me-nots, he decided. They were nearly the color of forget-me-nots.

"Oh!" said the girl, hastily lowering her bow. "I'm very sorry, did I disturb you?"

Yes, Pent almost said. I have all of those perfectly correct and wellbred ladies to chose a bride from, and you are the prettiest girl I've ever seen. I should be so lucky to have a Diana in with them. "No," he said. "I was admiring your form."

He had one second to realize what he had said, and wonder if he could get the earth to swallow him up, before the girl said, "Do you think it's any good?"

He thought it was very good, frankly. Lovely, even.

"I've been watching the archers here and I'm sure I've got errors in it, so I was trying to practice --"

Pent almost sagged in relief. "I didn't see any," he said, truthfully. "Of course, I'm not an expert on archery..."

"Are you a mage?" said the girl. She had a beautiful voice, soft and clear.

"Yes," he said.

"Do you-- do you know Lord Pent?"

"Um," said Pent.

"I was just wondering," said the girl, wistfully. "I mean -- I was brought here with the other ladies and I'm sure there was a mistake, because they can do everything and all I can do is shoot."

"I beg your pardon," said Pent, feeling lightheaded. "Do you mean -- I mean -- you're one of the ladies the Count gathered?"

"Doesn't that seem silly?" said the girl, unhappily.

"Not at all," said Pent, squashing a strong urge to pick her up and kiss her. Odd. Very. He would have to examine the emotion at some length -- after he got away from this pretty Diana whom some unknown but benevolent god had produced as one of the ladies he had to chose his bride from. And probably asked someone to pour a bucket of ice water over him.

"The others are all so pretty, though," said the girl, who was apparently unaware that she was far prettier than any of them. "And they know things, like how to curtsy and dance, and how to say the right things, and some of them are mages too, and --" she stopped, apparently sunk in gloom.

"Um," said Pent. "Forgive my rudeness, but why do you want to marry him? Lord Pent, I mean. Or, um, do you? At all?"

The girl looked at him like he had said something amazingly stupid and she didn't quite like to point it out. "Of course I want to marry him. The maids told me he's always forgetting to eat and sleep --"

Pent winced slightly, and promised himself a discussion with the maids.

"-- and they say sometimes he has to go out and fight when he traves and mages need someone to watch out for them," and, she finished, looking sad, "I just want to."

Pent briefly considered kissing her until she cheered up or was dazed enough not to notice the ruckus when he appeared in the palace dragging her by the hand and demanding a priest, and decided, regretfully, he had more control than that.

"Maybe I should go home now," said the girl.

"PLEASE don't -- er, I mean, your family must be very proud that you were chosen, and it would be a shame not to go through with it."

"I suppose," said the girl. "Um. Do - do you think I have a chance? Honestly, I mean."

"Yes," said Pent, very firmly.

"You're not just being kind?"

"From what I know of Lord Pent," he said, "I think he would be very disappointed if a girl gave up simply because, er, she didn't think she was enough of a proper lady to be worthy of him. I think he'd be very upset, actually." And then he would have to go after her anyway, he added mentally, so it wouldn't be worth the effort.

The girl considered this, her face solemn, and then she nodded. "I'll try," she said.

"Good," said Pent, smiling at her. Then he heard a distance cry of "Lord Peeeeennnnt!" and winced. "I'm afraid I must go," he said, backing away. "I'll look forward to seeing you again."

"Oh!" said the girl. "Wait, what's your name?"

But Pent had already fled.

--

"My skill is with the bow. My sweet lord, if you choose me, I will protect you to life's end."

"I have never met a girl whose heart was so clear, Louise."