A/N: And lo…I bring you my first work of SOLID ANGST! So, as I'm sure you're all wondering…why did I write this? Um, to answer honestly, I really don't know. It started as one of those whims of mine—yes, duck for cover—and then just sort of started evolving…and before I knew it I had a fic. A pointless fic. With a point. I think. Almost.
Anyways, I'll explain a little bit. Obviously this is from Eliwood's point of view, and takes place after the war against Nergal. Basically it's our favorite little pansy lord drowning in remorse and guilt because of…well, we'll get to that. There's this certain conversation that keeps playing in his head, you see. It is perhaps the strongest symbol of the moral of this story: "What if".
I leaned my forehead against the cool glass of the window and shut my eyes. As a lad I used to be afraid to even blink, let alone actually close my eyes, on a special day like this—I knew how gorgeous the world was, and I had always tried to drink it all in, unwilling to miss even a second of it. Even behind my closed eyelids I knew that the view outside was brilliantly beautiful—it always was at this time of year. The sky was an almost blindingly vibrant shade of blue, without a cloud in sight…the grass had turned gold as the summer began to wane…the air was warm, and the breeze cool…
I could hardly stand to look at it, now.
In Pherae, every year, we hold a grand harvest festival. Everyone in the land comes to eat, drink, and dance.
I opened my eyes then, unable to contain my curiosity. The people…my people…were they rejoicing today? I gazed through the window and out into the sunny courtyard. Citizens milled about, around clouds of smoke from cooking fires, and wheelbarrows full of vegetables…they walked around in the courtyard, beyond the castle walls, out in the surrounding grounds…and they looked happy. Their faces were hungry, but not with the hunger of people who have seen days of hardship, people living in a place of scarcity. Rather, their hunger was that of people who had been working hard all morning, in happy anticipation of sitting down to feast. I could not help but smile to see them all…they would certainly be in for a fun few days, full of food and entertainment. Most would begin to dance right as the sun set, and would not stop until after it had risen again.
My eyes wandered further until they spotted one person in particular. She was seated out on the front steps of the castle with her russet-red skirts pooling about her feet, and a cluster of maids and peasant girls around her. She spoke cheerfully to everyone, and accepted the flowers the young girls presented her with smiles of delight. As they looked on with flushed faces, she wove each flower into an elegant crown, and—taking her usual golden tiara from out of her purple tresses and handing it to the nearest servant—mounted the flower-crown upon her head instead. The people around her laughed good-naturedly, and I felt my smile widen.
The people of Pherae insisted that I was a wonderful ruler—honest, fair, wise, and kind. They told me that I had received such admirable traits from my father…and though I would never dispute that he was such a man, sometimes I could not help but think that a good deal of my traits I actually inherited from her: my regal mother. In earlier years she would have been among the merry people for hours more, dancing in the fields until daybreak…
You should come, too, Ninian. Everyone would be happy to see your dancing, I think. The one you showed me the other day was truly beautiful.
I wish language was not such a limited thing. I wish there had been another word, one stronger than "beautiful". Ninian…her dance was unable to be fit inside just one word. It was astounding, entrancing, captivating…it made me want to leap to my feet, to seize her and hold her close for all time, though she by nature was modest rather than seductive. I often found myself lost in daydreams of her, thinking of her crystalline ruby-red eyes, or her pale skin, or her long hair. Sometimes Hector would slap me on the back to make me snap out of it, demanding "what is wrong with you?", and then Lyndis would shoot me a knowing glance. But I could not help it—I was enchanted by Ninian. I cared for her more deeply than anyone I had ever known. It must have been what they call "love"…I had never felt such an emotion before, but instinctively I knew that was it.
I wanted to protect her. From what, I didn't know. Sure, there were logical answers—Nergal, bandits, Sain—but the real reason that I watched over her was because, inexplicably, I knew I could not bear to see her in pain…not in any way, or at any time.
Perhaps that was why it hurt so badly—it was such a bitter irony, some deity's cruel and twisted sense of humor, that led to the demise of our love. I had sworn to protect her from the world, just as I had sworn that I myself would never hurt her…and she was finally starting to trust me, in that timid way of hers. But then…Nergal had captured her, I had found Durandal, she had escaped in the form of a dragon…and by then I didn't think, I just acted. The sword moved by itself, yes, but…I had let it. Oh, if only I had known…
Well, I knew shortly after that, at any rate. The dragon had changed into Ninian. Amid Nergal's taunts I had rushed to her, cradling her broken body in my arms, her blood covering the both of us…I was probably insensible for hours afterward. I remember calling her name over and over as if it were an incantation that could erase my mistake, clasping her against my chest as if my racing heart could restart hers. My grief and shame that day—and for the days to come—were unbearable. Before I had been a noble, a warrior, a leader, a hero…and now I was naught but a murderer and a fool.
And because of me, Ninian would never dance again.
My mother, too, loves dancing, you know. She would be pleased. At festival time, she dances all night like a young maiden. My father always clucked his tongue and shook his head, but each year, he would dance with her until the dawn. Ah—
It still hurt to think about my father. I thought about him often, of course—he was still my inspiration, he always had been. Whenever I grew tired, hungry, ready to give up…I would think of him, of his strength, of his wisdom…and somehow that had always fortified me. My father was the best man I had every known, and these days it was the highest compliment for me when someone told me that I had grown to be like him—even if it was a compliment I did not deserve. He was a noble man in every sense of the word…he loved his family, his people, his country…he was always brimming with justice, with chivalry, with a deep understanding of the world around him…and such an admirable man had been one of the many to die at the hands of Nergal.
I still remember, so vividly…my father, too, had taken his last breath in my arms. I had been holding his hand, feeling the strength waning from his grasp, until he went limp forever. I had cried, then. It startled the army, I knew, to see me in such a state…after all, I had never been anything but optimistic around them before…but I could not help myself. The grief was too much to fight against—I didn't understand…what did Nergal have against my father? Against me? Why would he harm another person so? Why would he take a father from his family, why would he steal a soul, why would he kill such an honorable person…?
Forgive me. You...must think of my father often enough.
I looked back towards my mother again. She was alone now—all the little girls had run off to the cooking fires to see if they could snatch up something to eat—and as I watched, she twisted her hands together in her lap. My blood still burned with anger when I thought of what Nergal had put her through…in some aspects, she had suffered worse than anyone. She had never harmed a soul in her life, yet her husband was taken from her, and she was forced to stand by as I—her only child—went out and risked my neck for months at a time. She could not have followed me, or started her own campaign against Nergal, because that would have meant she had abandoned Pherae. I can't even imagine what she had been through…grief, helplessness, loneliness…it just wasn't fair that someone like my mother was doomed to live the rest of her life by herself.
Just last year, she had danced with the youngest subjects from dusk 'till dawn, so lively that hardly even my father could keep up. But now she had no partner…and for the first year in her life, the first of many years to come, she would quietly sit and watch the others celebrating.
I knew that I alone had the power to comfort her now—I, her only living family. And yet…I could hardly stand to be around myself. What help could I be, so trapped in my own head, in cheering my mother? I wished that my past would flee from my memory, if only for a moment, if only so that I might smile for her…being a mother, she would have no choice but to feel happy herself, if I was happy.
As I watched her, my mother lifted her head. She peered up at the immense window I was standing behind, as if she could see me past the reflections and glass…no, as if she could see my father past the reflections and glass…
Abruptly, I turned my face away. I was being silly, I knew…she couldn't possibly see me from the grounds, any more than she could possibly see my father in me. My father never murdered anyone…he was never too late to save anyone…he never…
Ninian, remember what I told you? My father's death was not your fault. You should not blame yourself, not at all.
So, who was to blame? I still wondered—the question spiraled endlessly though my head, especially as I tried to sleep at night, making drifting off nigh impossible. I remembered how Harken had not returned to Pherae for a month after my father was taken by Nergal, consumed by grief and haunted by failure. He certainly blamed himself, but it wasn't his fault. My mother, too, succumbed to her loneliness for a time, lamenting that if she had just pleaded a little longer, hugged him a little tighter, my father would have decided to stay home. But his death wasn't mother's fault, either. If anyone to blame, if was Nergal—the man who had started it all, the man who had kidnapped my father and held him prisoner and drained him of quintessence and weakened him so gravely…and yet…my father still had some fight left in him by the time I had found him. Perhaps, if I had only gotten there a day sooner…if I had only fought just a bit harder, just a bit faster…this all could have been avoided…
A voice called my name—I quickly whirled around to find my mother standing in the sunlit corridor behind me. Baffled and half-convinced she was still outside, I quickly glanced out the window to see that, indeed, there was no marquess' wife seated on the front steps. I turned back to face her, now that she had come looking for me—she must have seen me through the window, after all.
She asked me if I was alright.
Alright? Ah, what an amusing thought. Generally people who were alright were at peace. There was no peace within me. But of course…if my mother knew that…there would be no peace for her, either. So even if I wasn't strong enough to comfort her directly, to feed tales of hope and glory into her ears, I knew I had to be strong enough to at least assure her that I was not in despair.
Deceiving? What do you mean?
I put on a smile just for her…my typical warm smile, my façade, my mask. As long as I appeared happy, acted brave, she would never know that I was broken inside. Then, perhaps, she would not be broken either.
It did not work.
Her eyes filled with tears to see my futile attempt, the weak twitch of my lips. She tried to smile in return, and I was instantly able to see how pathetic I must have looked, my painted happiness reflected on her mouth.
Ninian? Ninian, don't cry. I don't know what has happened, but I do know I never want to see you so sad.
I turned away from her again, back towards the window, a silent dismissal. I was faintly aware of the soft rustle of her skirts as she walked away from me. She had already known what she came up to check…I felt bad that I had disappointed her so, by proving her right.
Ninian, too, had sometimes had that haunted quality about her face. She was always so sure that my troubles were her fault. I had lost the chance to make her believe otherwise, to prove to her the fact that was so clear to me. The calamity that had befallen my family wasn't because of deceit on her part…it was because of ignorance and foolish pride on mine. My life, my love, was shattered…
And I brought it upon myself.
In Pherae, every year, we hold a grand harvest festival…
In Pherae, every year, we hold…
In Pherae, every year…
A young marquess hides his face in his hands and weeps.
A/N: See? Complete and utterly pointless angst. But I had fun writing it. So HA. (Seriously, angsty Eliwood is so fun to write for…is it wrong of me to torture him so? xD) This fic was kind-of inspired by my own playthough of the game…I was really trying the get the EliwoodxNinian A support…but I wasn't paying attention. I got their B support, mistakenly thinking it was their A support, and then let them wander around to help other army members. Bad move, Kender—Ninian had to go back through the dragon's gate. Whoopsies!
So. I realize that quite a few elements of this fic are redundant…I kinda did that on purpose. I don't know why you would actually read it, but if you did get through this…would you please leave a review? It's fun to get feedback on different genres…thanks a bunch!