A/N: This story is set years after the events in Suikoden III.

Eternity and the Mirror

"People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face//But you are life and you are the veil//Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror//But you are eternity and you are the mirror." - Beauty XXV, Khalil Gibran

There are no shields upon her wall, not her swords, even – those she keeps in a metal stand against the door, where she can easily grip one before heading out (not that there are intruders or threats very often, anymore, but a knight captain knows how to be prepared). She puts trophies on an obscure shelf behind her desk, more out of wariness than modesty; plaques go on a ledge beneath that. She has refused to keep busts and sculptures from admiring artists, leaving them to Louis to take care of – hopefully they've ended up in a storage room of some kind, because she'd be too embarrassed if anyone else saw them.

She can't stand to ascend those pedestals they have built for her.

A rune is burden enough, and she doesn't want the people to fashion a goddess out of a knight. The jokes of Percival are one thing; the belief of a whole federation is another. There are no pearly wings to be found on the crimson fields of war, nothing glamorous about the rust that stains her swords. It is not providence and miracles that flow from her hand, but blood instead. She knows, of course, that it is blood shed for a cause, for the good of many – but its still nothing quite so pure as the hand that a goddessshould offer. There are no such things as angels of battle; harbingers of death would be a more apt term, but no soldier wants to be called that.

Instead, she hangs preserved butterflies around her room, framed and cased by glass: wings spread, antennae stiff, black beads of eyes unblinking. Anyone lucky enough to enter the Silver Maiden's room might find the decorations odd. It's certainly more feminine than anything else she possesses – the connection between beauty and forever isn't lost to any visitor, but whenever they comment ("Such pretty things, milady, but of course incomparable to yourself," or "Ah, beauty to last, such as yours,"), they end up wanting to swallow their words. The smile she gives is polite, but there is a slight twitch about her lips that begs to differ.

She does not display them for vanity – but who would care to know that, when her hair shines like silver and her lashes are so long, and her face is as flawless as a still river surface?

No, she isn't vain. She keeps a dresser, with a small oval mirror in front of it, right outside the bathing room. It stores a comb and a hairbrush, and a series of pins and bands, all to arrange her hair (a chambermaid helps her most of the time, if not Louis; she can't do the job half as well by herself); a small vial of perfume, for unavoidable formal engagements; a small glass case for her favorite (and only) pair of earrings; and a pot of pale powder (a gift from Salome, although she has hardly used it).

The butterflies are there because she finds them pretty, and not for any other reason, no matter what the castle ladies say. The wood is too bare without some sort of decoration, but she isn't fond of lace and tapestries, or silks and paintings. There is not enough space, and she does not believe in frivolous expenses. She has had most of these displays from her childhood. Sir Wyatt, before he left, liked to enjoy the outdoors with his daughter; butterflies were something she loved to see then, and although she hated them dying, she thought they might like themselves to be kept this way, beautiful and bright, rather than pale brown and crumbly. Her father bought her one in a frame for her fifth birthday.

The curls and frilly dresses she has outgrown, but the butterflies have stayed.

She is no paragon of beauty. She has no grace – it's probably easy for one to jest that she destroys more on the dance floor than on the battlefield, but of course no one has got so much nerve. She has no sweetness, not in her harsh commands or stern reprimands; not even in her normal speech, because she is always stiff and stilted. She has no easy tenderness to show, not when the masses expect her to be as sturdy as stone. She isn't very good with children, or conversing with other ladies, for that matter.

No matter what her father ever said, she knows she can't sing.

Why does beauty strike first? She doesn't know; it seems to crush everything else with an iron fist. Her face draws more attention than the armor she wears or the sword at her side; her name entails silly titles that herald nothing of her knightly achievements (how did they think she earned her shield, by smiling?). Almost everyone admires her without knowing anything of her real self – her flaws and her fears and the few things that can make her smile. Only three people have seen through the casing, keeping the knowledge of her reality like stolen jewels – one is a little girl who held the sight of the world, one is a man who speaks great truths beneath his lies, and one is her loyal adviser.

She has lost one of them already – lost her as soon as she had known her. Another she has not seen for years, although he sends her the occasional letter; they speak of funny things that he has observed or pondered, and the lack of affairs and importance in them makes her wish she could reply better than she does (she has no hand with flowery letters, either, preferring to send orders and itineraries instead). The third is always at her side, of course, always ready to guide, but by now his face is lined heavily, and she knows that sooner or later he will have to retire.

Time scrapes away at the world with its yellowed fingernails, and she's still the goddess, still the maiden, still both knight and queen atop a white horse, still a face encased in glass, preserved by some power beyond the mortal realm. She polishes her own swords when she can, and the suit of armor upon its stand at the side of the room; another bust arrive, one she dismisses, Louis' voice is deep as the oceans when he tells her he'll attend it to right away, milady.

And in time there are less reasons to fight, less reasons to swing a sword – less reasons for might.

It would do well, perhaps, to take care when attending balls, now; of course, there are complications, but it wouldn't hurt to find a nice man to call her husband for the time being, eh?

"Salome," She says, "That wouldn't be fair."

Not if it's the looks they are seeing – the pedestal she never dared climb.

He bows his head, and she sees gray springing from his scalp, and her eyes sting.

Chris Lightfellow never cared for beauty; it's eternity she sees when she looks in the mirror, and the butterflies, even in their glass cases, have started to dry into powder.

A/N: Thanks for reading. Comments would be greatly appreciated. :D I took many liberties with the Silver Maiden's story, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. I also hope everyone was able to tell who Chris' other two 'special people' were, but speculation is welcome.