Characters: Death, Seth, Eirika. Seth x Eirika.
Summary: The Silver Knight can fight his Lady's enemies, protect her from harm. But when Death comes for Eirika, he will do what he must.
Disclaimer: Fire Emblem is not mine. Neither is Death
A/N: The thank you list is just about the same as the dedication list, so – This is dedicated to Manna, Maruta, Qieru, Xir, Kender, Mako, wolfraven80, Jayden, Rein and all you FE fans out there.
The grass was black.
It looked like grass, and even swayed like what grass should if one ignored the fact that there was never any wind. And in the field of grass that was not quite grass, there was a black-robed figure sitting on a white horse. It was the only vibrant white in a world where everything was black, dull white, or shades of grey. The figure looked at the sand pouring down in an hourglass. A plaque at the base of it read 'EIRIKA'.
He did not quite approve of this particular practice he was about to embark upon. He had his own harvest to take care of. Unfortunately, the Powers That Be wished for him to go elsewhere, to make sure everything was in order there as well.
The hourglass was kept in the sleeve of the robe as the horse was made aware of his master's intent. He took a step forward, and both steed and rider disappeared in a blur.
"Rest early, Seth."
King Ephraim gave the knight's shoulder another squeeze, before leaving the room. Seth neither moved nor responded as he continued to sit by Eirika's bed. He knew that given the choice, the King would have stayed too. But he had a country to look after, and the healers had done all that they could.
Tonight would be the critical period.
If she could pull through tonight, the illness should clear up by the morning, if not…
He shook his head. She could not die! He still had so much to tell her, to share with her. He had wanted to wait for things to settle down a little more before asking for her hand in marriage. Regrets, fears, they all came to him in the solitude of the night.
Holding on to her hand, he prayed to the Everlasting more fervently than ever before.
Gods, give me some way to ease her pain, to save her, to keep her close. If she is to die this night, then trade my life for hers!
It took him a moment to adjust himself. This world was less vibrant. It was more orderly. A little more so, at least. Humans tended to mess up cosmic balance like a strand of hair in a well-cooked meal.
He looked at the door in front of him. A bony hand reached out towards the knob, then he stopped. There was no reason for him to use it, after all. The wooden door was made perhaps decades ago, and would last at most centuries to come. It was but a whisper in the wind compared to the Ultimate Reality, and truly, it was no more real to him than a dream to a human.
The figure in black robes walked through the door as if it did not exist.
It was a warm room, insofar if he could feel the warmth. Out came the hourglass again, and he grinned as the last remains of the sand dripped down to the bottom section. To be fair, with his facial condition, he could not do anything but grin. The figure slid it back into the arm of his robe, as his sword shimmered into existence in front of him.
Scythe was for everyone else. Royalty had the privilege of his sword.
He took one more look at the bed-ridden figure, and the man besides her, before he pulled the blade out of the ornate scabbard, its edge cutting through the very air itself without anyone noticing. Usually no one was supposed to, except for the dead, the wizards, or cats.
Advancing on the bed, he stopped in his tracks when the man turned and stared right at him.
Very rarely, a person who was supposed to continue living would see Death even if he or she was not a wizard or a cat. They usually had to be in a state of heightened awareness. Even if they did see him, they rarely perceived his true form. The human brain had the wonderful tendency to block out the unpleasantries of reality.
Having fought the Demon King and his minions, Seth's brain was a little more open than that. His oath to protect her from death as long as he lived bonded them in ways that only Death knew. It also explained how he came to notice the skeleton in black robes.
The Silver Knight did not expect to quite literally stare upon Death himself, however.
The skull set into a permanent grin, an infinite blue glowing from his eye sockets like the twilight, the impossibly dark robes. It had to be the Grim Reaper, Knight of the Eternal Dark, Death.
He spoke with a confidence he did not have, "I will not let you kill her."
The words that echoed in his head sounded like granite blocks landing on soft sand, each syllabus causing heavy yet muffled tremors within his brain. He was quite certain that the words did not reach his ears at all.
KILL HER? DO NOT MAKE ME LAUGH. The dark robed figure said. For a moment Seth thought it was scoffing, metaphorically, of course.
IT IS MY DUTY TO LOOK AFTER THE PASSING.
Seth drew his blade out without trembling. There was a deadly calm about him, like that in the eye of a storm. Fear, the deep-seated fear from before was still present, but at least he could now channel it in order to combat something. He could not fight illness. He could fight Death, however futile it might be.
"It is my duty to guard my Lady, even against you," he said steadily. If he was in any other situation, he would have given himself a mental pat on the back for such a disciplined display he did not feel.
Then, the glow from the eye sockets seemed to flicker out for a moment like a blink.
DUTY? WHAT DO YOU HUMANS KNOW OF DUTY? The skeleton grinned at him. THE NEED TO DO WHAT MUST BE DONE, EVEN WHEN YOU DESIRE NOT TO? THAT WHEN THE UNIVERSE ENDS AND ALL IS FORGOTTEN, DUTY REMAINS?
The words echoed within his brain for a while before Seth swallowed hard, and replied, "I know of Duty. It is why I stand now against you, against the supposed order of nature. She is my Lady, and I shall guard her with my life."
His grip upon his sword tightened. It was of course more than mere duty, but that was between him and Eirika.
The blade reserved for royalty disappeared, replaced by a scythe. Its blade was so thin that it appeared a translucent gray; its edge was so fine that sharpness did not define it, the blade defined what sharpness was.
Death swung the scythe once, the edge of the blade giving off a slight blue glow, almost like that coming from his eye sockets. It spoke of infinity, that very thing which the mortal mind could not grasp, could not handle, for how could a limited being understand something which was unlimited?
And yet, he spoke of duty with such conviction. Like the single shiny needle in a dull and irritating haystack.
THEN CLING ONTO YOUR DUTY IF YOU MUST. He said. AS I MUST TO MINE.
He was not surprised when the human's sword stopped his own scythe. When they believed, when they willed it enough, it granted the blade sufficient sharpness to stand against his own. It was something he observed in humans that often confused him. They could ignore the unpleasant bits in life when it suited them, but when they found the world not to their liking, they could stumble along and change it.
The scythe was pulled back, and Death advanced.
One of the problems that many people faced when coming up against an angry farmer was that scythes were unpredictable; the swings were often random and chaotic. How would one read the movement of the scythe when its wielder did not even know where it would be swung next?
The answer was simple, one did not. Not to mention, Death had the added benefit of being able to swing really, really quickly.
Seth idly noted that if he survived the night, he would never look at a scythe the same way again.
Death certainly had a very interesting technique, he thought as he barely warded off another blow. It was almost as if the scythe was being used to harvest from a farm. The Silver Knight ducked as the impossibly sharp edge missed his head and caught the burnt-out lamp at the wall.
It seemed to take the lamp a few moments to realize it was cut, and then the bottom half clattered to the ground as if someone reminded it that gravity existed.
Yes, never the same way again.
The air was the very definition of stillness as the two fought in the darkened room. Flashes of blue against flashes of silver as Seth tried to keep up with the tidal waves that were Death's swings.
There was no overriding fear now, strangely. Just a little resignation. It was curious how calm he could be when he accepted his own demise, and yet how panicky he was when he first learnt of Eirika's condition. He knew how it would play out, he was far too professional to deny his opponent's superiority in their deadly dance, and it was a matter of time before he no longer could keep up.
But he must try. It was beyond duty. It was in his very essence. The Silver Knight was not one to give up, not even against insurmountable odds, for this was so much more than simply duty.
Even as the human tried his inhuman best, Death was too effective, too relentless. He forced a block on Seth's side, and there was a brief opening. All too brief for any humans to capitalize upon, except that he was no human. A skeletal leg lashed out as it connected with his stomach like a bat upon a stuffed donkey, and the red-haired man staggered back. Before he could recover, another lightning quick tap with the ebony handle of the scythe sent the silver sword spinning away.
He took a step towards the bed, only to find the knight between them, his arms outstretched in an ultimately futile gesture.
YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW I REGRET DOING THIS. He finally said after a moment's consideration. The mortal was a kindred spirit, figuratively, in his own way. He pulled his weapon back, ready to swing it and-
"No, I do."
Death was shocked, metaphorically speaking. Then, he laughed - a deep, rumbling laugh, but laughter nevertheless. A mere mortal defying the natural order of things, standing up against the Harvester of Mankind, and doing so with duty as his shield, and something more. It was a peculiar emotion, exemplified by the numerous and repetitive fictional tragedies where couples tried incompetently to kill themselves, before finally succeeding after numerous attempts.
Yet every once in a while, even the great wheel needs something ungainly thrown onto its track to remind it that it was indeed traveling along a road; that occasionally even amongst the dullest carbon one could find the brightest diamond.
IN CHESS. He said. I CAN NEVER GRASP HOW THE HORSE-LIKE PIECE MOVES.
He withdrew another hourglass, turning it on its base as he tapped the plaque that read 'SETH'. The sands of life were flowing down slowly, with the majority of them still present in the top half. Seth's eyes widened at the sight, his mouth opening in a small 'o'.
He snapped his bony fingers, as an almost exhausted hourglass appeared in his other hand. Just before the last of the sand flowed down, the top half began to fill up out of nothing. The level of sand climbed and climbed, before it stopped at a similar height to the other hourglass. Death held them close, and tucked them away after being satisfied of their equivalence.
I TRUST THAT THE NEXT TIME I COME, YOU WILL HAVE NO COMPLAINTS. He grinned at the stunned knight, and disappeared in a flash of blue.
…And appeared back outside the room, where his horse had waited loyally. It was more fitting than blandly walking back out, he thought.
COME, BINKY, LET US GO HOME. The rider mounted his steed, and bid farewell to Magvel.
Seth stared at the spot where the grim reaper had been.
The only things that would indicate his sanity were his sword laying on the ground a few paces away, and the impossibly damaged wall lamp.
He rushed back to her side, and felt a profound sense of relief as her breathing became steadier, stronger. From the moonlight pouring into the room, he could see some color return to her skin.
Thank the Gods…
Closing his eyes and lowering his head, he let out a deep breath. She was safe. Usually, it would have been too early to tell, but with the earlier encounter…
The Silver Knight's head snapped up as he looked at the woman he loved, her eyes shining with wetness, her face graced with a shy smile. Before he could speak, Eirika had wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss that was far from chaste.
Thoughts of etiquette and social standings threatened to rush up until he told them to bugger off and returned her kiss. After what seemed like a million heart beats, he pulled away, both of them flustered.
"I… I saw you. I saw him," she said huskily. "I was standing by the bed, ready to be taken. And then you fought him. Oh, my darling Seth. So brave, so resolute."
The princess then took his right hand, placing a gentle kiss on the back of his palm, on the bruise where Death had hit him. "You went beyond the call of duty, my knight. Far beyond it…"
He shuddered slightly, the outpouring of emotions overwhelming him for a moment. He composed himself, and rested his forehead against her, his voice low and warm, "I almost lost you, my la- Eirika. I was almost too late…"
Her eyes caught his, and he could almost see a gleam in them. "Seth, you were punctual when it mattered." She took his other hand, clasping it tightly, lovingly.
At that moment, his decision was made for him.
"Stay with me?"
She looked a little confused, but nodded, "Of course."
He squeezed her hand gently, "Marry me?"
Her eyes blinked in surprise, before blinking again to clear away the tears. She returned the squeeze.