Part five of a fanfiction by Velkyn Karma
Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, the Fire Emblem game series or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs solely to Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. The only thing here that's mine is the idea for the story, as well as the character Maeya.
"The more we know the better we forgive. Whoever feels deeply, feels for all who live."
-Madame de Stael
Reyson basked in the calm and the of the forest for several minutes, listening to the gentle murmur of the trees around him, before he finally turned on his heel to continue moving. He still felt tired, and leaned on the thick, supportive trunks around him as he moved, but his step was no longer heavy and quivering from fatigue. As long as he rested occasionally, he was sure he would be fine.
The light around him was beginning to dim, and the prince realized with a start that night was approaching. The battle had taken place in the early hours of the morning, meaning he had been absent from Ike's army for nearly a full day. They would be frantic, now. He needed to return to them as soon as possible.
That feat, he realized with satisfaction, while seemingly impossible just hours earlier, was now quite far within the realm of possibility. Now that he was no longer distracted by lancing pain, only the dull throb that had settled in the back of his consciousness, he could communicate with the forest and find his way back to his companions.
Communing with the trees was simple. He opened his mind to their melodies and listened, and sang softly back in the tongue of Serenes to ask his question. Their voices resonated and hummed about him, and the answer came whispering back within moments; the trees called him in the direction he needed, and he followed their voices, utterly trusting. The forests would never lie to him.
He walked for several hours at a slow pace, resting against the trees whenever his weariness overcame him, until he had built up the strength to continue. Reyson tried to avoid stopping whenever possible, for if he waited too long his limbs became stiff and unmanageable, an uncomfortable sensation. His wings, too, had stiffened from disuse, though he knew better than to try and move them at the moment. He certainly did not want to irritate his injuries further.
But stiffness was by far preferable to pain, and if that was the price he paid for his moments of rest he was satisfied. He no longer feared that he would be unable to continue if he stopped. Survival was well within his abilities.
Occasionally twinges of pain would return as he moved, especially in his right wing. A sharp jolt or reaching tap of a branch would send him cringing from bolts of pain that ran up his injured limbs. But he would apply a little of the healing ointment Maeya had given him, and his pain would fade away within moments, making his travels once again bearable.
He spent most of his time thinking of his unusual circumstances with the woman, and the more he thought, the more he realized that he truly did not understand the beorc. They were unreasonable, irrational beings, and no matter how he observed them, their actions never made any sense. Many beorc were violent, willing to slaughter entire races that differed from them just because they had different opinions or appearances. They were bloodthirsty and cruel, creating terrible weapons to kill the laguz and even each other—Reyson could simply not comprehend why the beorc would want to attack their own cousins, their own race.
And yet, even as he had begun to understand the savagery that was the human, other beorc had stepped forward to shatter his opinion utterly. Ike, who had defended his own Leanne from the barbaric fate of slavery, had stood up for himself and his cousins against his own countrymen, against even nobles. Tormod, the young beorc who had taken it upon himself to liberate all the laguz slaves, risking his life to protect a people that were not his own. Even the Begnion Apostle, who had knelt before him despite her highly coveted noble stature to beg for his forgiveness. None of them had acted in the way he had expected of their brutal people, and he had been forced to slowly rethink his opinion on the beorc.
And now Maeya, who had shattered his views on the beorc once again. Reyson had been so certain that, while some beorc could be trusted, others could never be classified as anything more than bloodthirsty savages. And Daein had taken the highest place on this list of vicious humans. They were responsible for all the pain and misery Reyson and his allies had suffered, and still did suffer. They were the ones who forced all this warfare upon the rest of the world. They were incapable of kindness, of understanding, of opening their narrow minds to the possibility of other possibilities.
Except, the heron realized quietly, tiredly, they were not incapable. Maeya had proved to him that not all Daeins were heartless and cruel, just as Ike had proved to him that not all beorc were to be distrusted and hated.
Reyson was not sure how to respond to this. He did not want to let go of his hatred quite yet. The murder of his beloved forest, the memory of all the pain and suffering that had been caused, would not leave him alone completely. He would never forget such things, would be incapable of forgetting. And deep within, he did not like the feeling that he had been wrong, and repeatedly; did not like the thought that perhaps it was he, and not the Daeins, who kept his mind narrow.
But he was beginning to understand now, slowly but surely, that the beorc could not all be classified by the actions of a simple few. For all their faults, they also possessed many strengths, and were as diverse and varied as each individual tree in the forests. They could not be labeled. And perhaps some of them, at least, could be forgiven.
He broke from his thoughts as the song of the trees around him rose, grew excitable. There was somebody coming, the trees whispered, and they believed it was an ally of his, but they were not entirely sure. Forewarned, Reyson became more alert, wary of a possible approaching enemy.
The orange cloak and burning torch stood out painfully bright among the trees even in the dark of night, and Reyson recognized Tormod within seconds of the young boy's movement into view. His heart rising at the sight of a friend and ally, the laguz began to move forward slowly, taking care to keep upright to the best of his ability.
He called out, and Tormod's head snapped around. Within seconds the young mage was running towards him, face breaking into his characteristic smirking grin, his torch held high. "Great prince of the heron! There you are!"
"Please call me Reyson," the heron responded immediately, but his expression broke into a grateful smile at the overly familiar title. It was good to be back within the safety of camp parameters once more.
"Reyson, right," the redhead responded absently. "We've been looking all over for you. Everyone is frantic! Are you hurt? You took quite a dive, there..." The mage glanced over Reyson quickly, and then turned to yell over his shoulder. "Hey, Sothe! He's over here, go let the others know!"
There was a soft movement in the darkness of the trees, and then a green-clad figure stepped into the torchlight, giving Reyson a momentarily curious look. The prince recognized the figure—he had seen the boy on the battlefield more than once, and knew the young thief was far more dangerous and agile than he first appeared. But before he could scrutinize further the boy had turned and vanished into the darkness, blending in as smoothly as another shadow to deliver his message.
Tormod turned back to the weary heron prince, raising his torch even higher to get a better look. "You look really beat up...ah! What happened to your wing?" He pointed in surprise at the bound right limb, staring in confusion at its odd angle.
"I will explain when we return to camp," Reyson answered tiredly. "I do not wish to tell the story more than once."
Tormod seemed to catch on to the exhaustion in his voice, because he nodded. "Right then. Just come this way, and Rhys'll have you fixed up nice and quick."
Reyson hardly remembered the journey back into the depths of the camp, and was only dimly aware that he had fallen asleep at some point. He seemed to vaguely recall being carried on someone's back, with another set of hands carefully holding his wings up to prevent further injury. And, as if from a far-away dream, he was barely able to remember figures hovering about him as he was laid down to rest on his stomach, and gentle hands running over his feathers, accompanied by the warm touch of healing. But then there was nothing more than a comfortable, friendly darkness that welcomed him into a soothing rest, and he knew little more.
When he woke next, it was to the bright mid-morning sunlight, filtering through a tent that he recognized as his own after a moment's inspection. Lifting himself into a sit, he flexed his wings tentatively and found them both completely healed, though his right wing remained a bit stiff. His shoulders, leg and arm felt perfectly fine as well, other than a bit of soreness, which he knew would pass with time. He really had made it back then, and none of this was a dream.
"Ah, good," came a voice from beside him, and Reyson turned his head to spot the priest, Rhys, sitting nearby. The young man smiled gently and nodded. "I thought you would be waking up soon. How do you feel?"
"Sore," Reyson answered truthfully, "but no pain."
"That's good to hear," the priest answered with another soft smile. "We've been terribly worried about you—some far more than others. Ulki and Janaff especially, but Ike has been very concerned too. It seems it's all worked out for the best, though."
"They'd probably like to talk to you, if you feel up to it. You came back in a very unusual state," Rhys added, looking a little perplexed. "You were injured, yet it looked like your wounds had already been tended to somehow. But it couldn't have been you—the angle of the bindings on the splint was all wrong, certainly." He gave Reyson a bewildered look.
"It's fine," the heron prince answered quickly. "Let them in, and I will explain."
The three arrived within record time, and it seemed all of them had been waiting for the heron to awaken. They managed to crush themselves, wings and all, into the space alongside Rhys with considerable difficulty and moderate levels of comfort. After they had arranged themselves and offered their relief and thankfulness for his safe return, Ulki spoke up.
"I apologize for being unable to rescue you, Prince Reyson," the hawk laguz said slowly, looking unusually distressed. "I should have spotted the second wyvern that attacked you. If I had stopped it, you would not have recoiled into the paths of the sniper arrows."
"I'm sorry, too," Janaff added, his usual smirk replaced with a more solemn look. "I should have stayed closer to you. Tibarn ordered us to protect you, and--"
"It is all right," Reyson answered simply, forestalling any further apologies. "You were in combat, according to your orders from both tactician and general." Here he nodded to Ike. "You did nothing wrong."
"Still, Prince Reyson," Ulki responded slowly, "You were greviously wounded in battle when you should have had protection. The fault--"
"Belongs to me alone," Reyson answered simply. "I am the one who ventured out from the protection of the back ranks into the sniper's range against orders, and thus I am the only one who may take any blame."
"Not completely, Reyson," Ike answered, speaking up for the first time. He looked tired, and his role as general was clearly wearing on him, but he spoke with confidence. "If you hadn't boosted the right flank with your chant, the lines would have broken, and we would have lost. Zihark's division held out long enough for us to regroup, gather reinforcements, and counterattack. Maybe you broke orders, but if you hadn't we'd all be dead."
The heron considered these words. "Then we won the battle?"
"Overwhelmingly," Ike answered with a slight grin. "The Daein wyvern riders didn't know what hit them."
"Then what happened to the wyvern chasing me after I..." he hesitated, could not quite finish the sentence.
Ulki spoke up once more. "I killed one of the wyvern that attacked you, as well as its human rider," he answered simply.
"Astrid managed to take the other wyvern down with a well-placed shot," Ike added. "I got to that sniper only seconds after he hit you, but that was enough to make sure he didn't get a fatal shot in. Still," he continued with a tired sigh, "we couldn't tell exactly where you went down. The forest seemed to swallow you up. As soon as the battle was finished and the wounded and dead were taken care of we sent out a search party for you. But of course, there were no results for hours until Tormod found you wandering." He shrugged.
"What happened to you while you were separated from us, Prince Reyson?" Janaff asked now, looking both concerned and curious. "Your injuries were terrible, but well cared for."
Reyson gathered his thoughts, and answered slowly, "I was...having an unexpected lesson, learning a little more about the beorc." Ike raised an eyebrow at the cryptic answer, and Janaff and Ulki both frowned slightly, unsure exactly how to interpret the statement. The reactions were more than enough to prompt him, and with a deep breath the heron prince launched into his story.
When he had finished, both Janaff and Ulki were shaking their heads in wonder. "Beorc are so unpredictable," the former muttered in bewilderment, looking exasperated. "How can they stand it?" Ulki nodded in grim agreement. Ike said nothing.
The three remained with him for another hour, talking quietly to the prince, who still felt a little too weary to walk around the encampment for the day. When at last they left, it was with spirits much uplifted. The guilt that both Ulki and Janaff had borne had since been eradicated, and they were content to know the prince in their care was no longer in danger.
But when Ike turned to leave, the prince called to him, halting the newly-appointed general at the tent's entrance. "Ike. I have a brief question for you."
The mercenary leader paused, turned to look back at the heron curiously. "What is it, Reyson?"
"Understanding the beorc..." The laguz paused, wondering how exactly to word his thoughts.
"It is not...quite so easy as I expected it to be. I thought the beorc would all be the same, but this does not appear to be the case, does it?"
Ike cocked his head quizzically. "Nobody is ever the same as another person, Reyson. Whether they're beorc or laguz."
"Then how can you tell if your actions are correct?" the prince asked, in a tone of sudden frustration. "If your enemies are not all bloodthirsty, and not all evil, how can you justify what you are doing? What any of us are doing?"
Ike considered, and then shrugged. "You can't, I guess. Not looking at a people as a whole, at any rate. You never can judge by whole groups...only by the strength and will of an individual person. Some people are cruel, and they need to be stopped. And some aren't...and they shouldn't be punished for it." He shrugged again. "But you never know until you get to know them."
"...I see." Reyson considered the words, compared them to his own experiences with the beorc, or even other laguz. The unusually wise advice seemed applicable in both cases. "Then there is much more to your race than I first thought."
Ike gave a small grin. "That just means you're starting to get to know us." He waved, and then passed through the tent flap into the encampment beyond without another word.
The heron prince nodded quietly in agreement. There was still much to the beorc that he did not understand, and in all likelihood, much of it was something that he probably never would. But he felt very suddenly open to new possibilities and understandings, and his eyes were opened to view even his enemies in a different light. They no longer consisted of an unnamed mass, but as individuals with potential, both good and bad. Some of them would remain bloodthirsty and cruel, but some of them would be kindly and sweet, and some simply the victims of misunderstanding.
And some of them, Reyson now knew...some of them might deserve forgiveness.
And there we have it! The end of this little piece of fiction. I hope you enjoyed it. In turn, it was fun for me to write this, because it felt a little more low-key and subtle than some of my previous work.
For those of you curious (and unable to guess), nelgetha is drow for 'forgiveness.' Oh ho ho, it has meaning! Congratulations to Chajiko and Kusabi Makabe, who both figured out the meaning on their own.
I'm quite intrigued with the general response to Maeya as a character. It seems you all enjoyed her quite a bit. And half of you seemed to think I planned on killing or hurting her! Too cruel, too cruel, really. Maybe she'll make a comeback one day, and maybe not.
As always, if you leave a review, kindly give it some substance! I want to hear everything—you reactions, what was good, what was bad, what can be improved, what you thought was done well. It helps. A lot. Thank you, and I hope you enjoyed!