Title: Sing Me Something Soft
Day/Theme: 4/20 - I'd storm heaven for you, if I knew where it was
Series: FE6 (Mildly AU)
A/N: With lj user=52_flavours / 41 ) I want both of us to start singing like two / Traveling minstrels / About this extraordinary existence / We share
This one is mildly AU, but only in a slight timeline and canon difference. It started out as something entirely different, but I decided to write the background and splice it together instead of making it separate things in a sequence.. This might result with an uneven feel between parts as I meshed semicynicalplot + fluff piece into one.
This is basically just to stem my h00j craving for the pairing until I can sit down and actually spend some serious time with the Epic Canon Trilogy for these two. I actually even tried to be on time for once, but failed miserably, of course!
Percival had fallen into a stupor after the prince's death. They all had, most of all the king himself. King Mordred had aged a hundred years in a day, and his overpowering grief left him near senility. He fell into a world where his bright, golden child was still there, singing for them in his clear tenor voice.
But their prince had left them. A tragic accident, and he was gone. Just the day before he had been there with them, quiet and wise, the perfect politician. In the days that followed Percival became even more tacit. He had never been particularly ebullient, but now whenever he wasn't spoken to he would fall into deep silences. All too often his gaze would be caught on a far off golden reflection of sunlight on a window, or a tree leaf fluttering in the breeze.
Of course he would be so. Before his promotion he was Prince Mildain's personal bodyguard. They had been inseparable, and had grown up together. They were two entwined, and without his prince Percival felt as if some interior compass within himself had broken, and lost its magnetic force. The days became desultory, and stuck together until first day bled into the second and third day of the week.
Parties still went on as if their king wasn't dead and their country wasn't on the brink of breaking apart. Percival never attended these. They always left him unsettled and bitter. Besides, it always took a personal invitation from the prince to bring him to the courtyards and ballrooms. Percival was too taciturn, too expressionless and withdrawn to be of any use to giggling ladies. He couldn't tell a good tale, or joke about. His tales of his achievements were told in deadpan, dry ways that made even the most fascinating of story dull.
Without Prince Mildain's voice, the parities sounded tinny and false. The mere sight of them left his with nothing but bitter half-formed memories like graveyard dirt dug up exposing white bones, like a healing scar ripped open again.
Days stretched into weeks. Weeks stretched into months. Before he knew it, almost a year had passed. Percival did his duties as a knight and followed the orders of those betraying filth, Roartz and his cohort. Percival took orders as they were given. If he questioned them, then who knows when King Mordred's death would be hastened. It would be a final betrayal to Prince Mildain. And so whatever atrocious orders, whatever horrors he was told to inflict he would have to simply obey.
That was his life now. It was an half-life, all vivacity entombed with his prince.
Percival sat in the spacious stone barracks, his mind on nothing, his hands rested against the table. He was listless and dazed from the lack of sleep recently. Three hours was common, five was a blessing. Any more and he would wake with his prince's name on his lips.
The thick brown door opened. The hinges squeaked and the mass rumbled as Douglas came through. His thick brown beard was even scragglier than usual. There was thorns and brambles were caught within there, but Douglas did not seek to pull them free. He sunk into the chair beside Percival, his exhaustion a mirror of Percival's own. His battalion just had just returned from the fray, Douglas wiped the blood from his spear, and took his blood soaked gloves off.
"I'm getting too old for this kind of thing," he said, a deep rumble, so low as to be for himself only.
"The uprising has been stopped?" Percival said.
Douglas considered him. He sighed and nodded. "For now."
"I never thought it would come to this. Prince Mildain's death was the catalyst that made Etruia fall into ruin."
"You seem to be as distraught as the king himself," Douglas said. "But I suppose we all are..."
"We were close," Percival said shortly.
The past tense still didn't suit it. He wished to take back that statement, to amend it with we are close as if the prince had simply taken a holiday to the seashore for his health. As if he would be coming back to them any day now.
"Ah," Douglas said.
Percival laid his sheathed sword aside. Douglas let his spear fall to the ground, careless of any damage that
Douglas had never been so careless before, and seeing any of his soldiers doing such a thing would result in the harshest of tongue lashings and three day's punishment.
"I never thought it would come to this..."
Percival said nothing.
"I have a request... in the Western Isles there's been uprisings. I fear for the life of my daughter. Could you do that for me? To ease this father's worries? You might feel it something below you, routing bandits."
There was no use in asking for the king's order. He was lost in a time past. It was under Douglas' jurisdiction to assign a lower commander. Why he would ask Percival himself, and not a few lesser soldiers for a few mere mountain bandits and farmers with rakes and pitchforks was beyond him. But Percival knew that Douglas had his reasons. He hadn't kept his post for this long without picking up some wily tactics.
"You have been my friend and colleague for near twelve years now. Of course I will go."
"I am gladdened to hear this. Lalam's safety has worried me greatly in these past months."
Percival left in that morning. Douglas was deployed elsewhere, taking a spear to his own countrymen with a peasant's revolt. It was peasants or their king, and a knight's duty was to his king, even if the king had fallen away from himself.
Percival left out with a small battalion of his most loyal men. It took a week's travel to reach the isles, and another two days to find the town Douglas had listed. When he arrived, a skirmish was already underway.
There were brigands to the north, and a group of mercenaries, some cavaliers, and a few soldiers. It was nothing for a battalion, especially of their quality.
Had it been any other day, he would've cheered on his battalion with i"Remember, you fight for your prince!"/I
But what could he bolster them with now? A mourning, fallen king? The two-faced nobles who now ruled Etruria?
"Go on," Percival said. He had no morale left to give them.
But his men were loyal and well trained. And together they cut through the marauders, their spears soon slick with blood. Their sword and axe strokes barely even fazed him. Their lives were cut down, and cast aside like refuse beneath his silver lance. There was a surprising amount. He cut through them, like a scythe through wheat.
He was a soldier, and like any soldier he'd known death on intimate terms. Not merely as the general, giving orders from the back and leading his men, but as the foot soldier he'd been so long ago.
Percival heard a noise from an alley nearby, one bleak enough that he had almost missed it. An ambush perhaps, or—
He felt the impact of arrows and jerked his horse back in the opposite direction. An arrow to the back, one dangerously close to his neck. None were near fatal, though the wounds had accrued. A nick here, a slash there. At tiredness, a lack of reason assailed him
He finally found the archer and one brigrand, its axe poised to demolish the entrance to the house that lay at the end of the alley. Percival drew his sword and with four slices a bow and axe fell to the ground along with their deceased holders.
With that last foe slain, he slumped within the saddle. He reached around for the shaft of the arrow that had broken off within his back – a near unreachable place.
From the gate of the home he saw a girl emerge. She wore transparent pantaloons with her midriff bare, her hair pulled up into the style of twin buns favored by girls of the east. She had the look of an entertainer, perhaps a harlot, but not a mage to be wary of.
He meant to leave this place, to nod and leave th refugees to peace, to turn his horse from the alley when he heard a phrase, two words he'd used—
"Your majesty, we have to hurry–"
And then a certain slant of light, a change in the clouds and he saw it. Golden, ethereal reflections. A ghost, surely, or he had gone to join his prince upon the other side.
"Prince Mildain– "
Prince Mildain, or at least his specter regarded him.
"You came," his prince said. "It's been such a very long time..."
"You died, they buried you– " Percival began.
"So the story went," Prince Mildain said, his voice taking a soft, sad tinge. Percival had forgotten the timbre of his prince's voice, and the musical quality he had simply enunciating simple phrases.
"I will tell you everything later. Battlefields are no place for life stories, and you're injured."
"It's nothing serious," Percival said.
Prince Mildain clicked his tongue in disapproval, a matronly habit he'd always retained since his younger days.
"A minor wound can become infected and become major. You should know this."
"Some things are more important," Percival replied.
"Dismount," Prince Mildain said. His voice rose in timbre at the command. Percival reacted without thought, as an automatic response. No more than he thought about breathing, no more than he thought about the logistics of movement.
"Prince Mildain, there's reinforcements coming!" Said the girl, Lalam, he suspected.
"They won't get past Percival, not as long as he's well."
"Show me the wounds," Prince Mildain said.
Percival turned his back and knelt to the ground. He felt Prince Mildain's hands upon him, prying loose the armor enough to feel his shoulders. The touch was fluttery, and as fragile as butterfly wings. His touch shook some, not from nerves, but a seeming weakness that had sprung up in the time they had lost. It did not take long for those dextrous fingers to find the broken shaft and arrowhead that was so close to his neck. Percival didn't even groan as the fragments were pulled out of his flesh.
His prince smoothed some vulnerary over him and he felt the wounds begin to close.
When he turned to face Prince Mildain, the gaze upon him was as soft and as elegant as he remembered. He wanted to stroke that flawless cheek, to feel the softness of his prince's skin beneath him and prove once and for all that this was true.
But those thoughts did not belong on a battlefield.
"We can't carry all of us, take Lalam, I'll wait until you return," Prince Mildain said.
"No. Not a chance. You could get ambushed in the process," Percival replied. "I brought along with me a small battalion of trusted soldiers."
He looked back to the edge of the alley, and upon finding it empty, nodded and set the plan into action.
He boosted Lalm up to his steed, and grasped Prince Mildain's small hand within his own.
"I'll lead on foot. If we get ambushed, ride away," Percival said.
Prince Mildain's lips pursed, yet he did not vocally oppose this plan. With Percival's help, he joined Lalam upon the huge black horse and Percival lead them to the edge of the alley.
Before him was back into the fray. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Bloodied carcasses were cast about artless and grotesque in death. It wasn't all bandits, either. He recognized some of his own men among the fallen.
"Stay back," Percival said. He drew his sword.
When remembering this day, Percival could not recall how many he cut down that day, or the severity of the wounds he sustained. All he would remember was that his prince had been alive, and safe behind him.
As the sun began to set, blood soaked in the soil of the western isles.
It was only to his most trusted second-in command, Clark that he said his goodbyes to. The rest were licking their wounds in a encampment outside the limits. It was Clark who kept searching until he found his general. Percival was battered, wounded, and a trickle of blood fell down from his mouth. Clark too was injured. A deep slash marred his babyface. His curly blonde hair was matted with blood.
No one had been spared wounds.
"General Percival, you're alright–:" Clark said.
Percival gave a nod, which would have been curt if it hadn't been for the sheer extent of his exhaustion. No pleasantries were exchanged.
"How many did we lose?"
Clark's expression was solemn. "Ian was ambushed and didn't make it, Ewan, too... but they were the only ones. Rhictor broke his arm when his horse threw him and there's plenty of wounds..a local healer is attending to them right now."
"I have another task for you, Clark."
"Anything, General," Clark replied. "My life is yours."
He lead the girl to Clark's side. She bounced as she walked, the sound of bells following each footstep.
"Return her safely, even if it takes your life," Percival said. His voice was grave, and held the utmost seriousness. Clark nodded just as gravely.
It was then that Clark caught sight of the Prince, and his hazel eyes widened.
Percival cut him off.
"Tell Douglas that his daughter was safe. Tell him that I have done as he asked. And tell him that..'the golden prince has woken from his spell.'"
Percival took one last long glance at his prince before he turned back to Clark.
"I died this day," Percival said. "Remember that. Tell Douglas I've gone to the other side, to be with Prince Mildain."
Clark nodded, seeming slow in shock and sadness.
"I will, General..."
"Alright. The men are now under your command until you return to the capitol. I'm placing my trust in you, Clark."
"I will not let that trust down, General, sir," Clark said
"Fall out, then," Percival said.
"Yes, General," Clark said. "— And one more thing. Please– take care, General. Please come back to us with our Prince."
"I will," Percival said.
With that he cast aside his life and helped his prince up to ride with him. They would ride off as dead men into another place until their exiled souls could return back to the place of their birth.
They rode out into the night. Prince Mildain collapsed against him, too exhausted to even wait for camp.
It was a cold night. Percival could still smell of stench of death on his skin. He hadn't the time to cleanse himself before the flight. Something within his cringed at the thought of that death reeking scent rubbing of on his prince, as if it would defile him.
It was beyond mere weariness, beyond enervation. He had fallen into that half-life, the state where thoughts slowed and living was one gasp at a time. It was the weight of his prince that kept him balanced, kept him real.
He rode even as a gnawing pain began to burst out within him. He rode even despite his untreated wounds that became even more irritated by the
He rode until there were feathered traces of dawn at the edges of the skies. Then, then a village came into sight.
Within it, he found a base of resistance fighters. A woman who ran a brewery took them in. He could smell the aroma of hops and fermentation permeate them all day long.
Prince Mildain slept for three days and during that time Percival rarely left his side. He slept beside his prince on the floor beside the cot even when the offering of a more comfortable room of his own was made.
It was a deep dark scurrying whisper that assailed him and kept him here. He could not help but feel that if he stayed away from Prince Mildain for an instant, then he would fade like a mote of dust drifted back to the air.
When Prince Mildain awoke was when the winding tales began. Each told their half of the stories until every last secret was shared and the last of the pictograph between them was filled. They talked until words were superfluous. Prince Mildain laid his hand across Percival's. It was as soft as silken threads spun together to the finest of cloths.
And then it was for another kind of telling and for the story to continue in another venue. Not all stories required words. Epics had been told between the spaces of breaths, gasps, touches, kisses – all the incoherent words which fall to another understanding. With a clasp of their fingers, bodies meshing in together, they filled the spaces and the last unsaid things came alive and were breathed into the night.
They were back to where they had begun. Old friends, which they were, and separated lovers, which they also were. In the end, time had changed little of their bond.
Before morning came Prince Mildain disappeared again. In his place was a simple bard named Elphin. One with the same face and mannerisms as his prince, and yet one very changed by the harshness of the world about him.
They came into an inn before the day turned dark. They were an incongruous pair, a fragile bard and a horseman. No one questioned them as they stooped into the shelter, should they have asked twice they would've found a sword pressed to their throat.
There was no luxurious furnishing here. It held nothing of the pleasures of Etruria. These were the people who lived beyond the walls of the rich, the uncultured, the unskilled and unschooled peasants. It was grungy, and filled with the smudges dirt of soil-tending farmers.
Elphin chose a far side of the bar where he could fit in seamlessly. The cloak hid most of his golden waist-length curls, and in this light he looked little more than the weary traveler he was. To complete the Elphin had dirtied his face and pulled back his face to give the illusion of the common folk. Percival had cringed throughout the entire affair, as if Elphin were breaking priceless china.
Even with this mask, there was something off about them. Elphin had attempted to take on the common tongue, instead of the elegant Eturian accent, but still there was a trace of something off about him.
Percival too had taken on a black cloak over his dark armor. The effect with his black stallion was that of something dark and malevolent, the kind of creature that populates children's nightmares.
"You look like one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, like Death himself," Elphin said, bemused by this.
"Hmm," Percival replied.
They ordered a bit of mead and bread, with just enough coins to spare for a small bit of cheese. The cheese was almost moldy, and the bread was stale. The mead itself was sound, but Percival took the glass from his charge's hand before the third sip.
"You know how you react to fermented things," Percival said, his voice a warning.
"I don't. I never remember after the fact," Elpihn said.
To make a point, Percival drank it down, near in one gulp. This kind of crass behavior had no place within in Etruia, but here, it was commonplace.
"There's something I'd never see you do, Percival," Elphin said.
To further the insult to his class, he wiped the last traces of mead from his lips from the back of his mouth.
Elphin chuckled, and hid his laughter behind his delicate fingers. Those pristine hands now had the beginnings of callouses.
"You're really becoming quite common, Percival."
"We shall have to sing for our keep, Percival," Elphin said. He pulled his lyre out and tested a string. A tone resounded through the din of the inn.
"Won't you help me this time? I happen to think your baritone is lovely."
"It's unschooled and coarse compared to yours," Percival replied.
"Still, I need someone to help me in the duet. The one of two star-crossed lovers.... It always brings tears to the crowd's eyes."
"Alphine and Etrune," Percival said.
"Ah, of course you'd know it. Do you remember the words?" Elphin said.
"Some," Percival replied, low, but enough to be heard. He passed the dented mug back to the female bartender before refills could be made.
"It should be enough," Elphin said.
Elphin rose and whispered something to the innkeeper's wife. Strains of song refrained in Percival's mind. Without preamble, he started singing a fragment of the second verse
But you my love, I would cross death for. You, my lord, I would follow over the four corners of sky and Elibe. For you, everything, everything, everything...
Elphin had sung himself hoarse and played until his fingers bled. Percival had neither charisma nor strength of voice to offer more help other than the scant three duets. It had been long since these farmers and metalworkers ever saw a traveling bard, and the encores went late into the night.
Percival's hands were over his, the foul-smelling grease to soften the cracks and callouses that had begun to form there.
This was far from the rosewater lotions the prince had once kept by his bedside. A bit of kitchen grease bartered off of the cook was nothing even remotely comparable, but it would do.
"What did you have to trade for this?" Elphin said.
"Nothing much, just some menial labor. I lifted some barrels for the innkeeper's wife."
Elphin sighed. He leaned back. His voice had taken on a husky quality with strain.
"You keep doing this..."
"I want them to remain soft," Percival replied.
"It'd be better if they're calloused. Nothing gives away a noble like soft hands."
"Some things should remain soft."
Elphin didn't protest. He leaned back into and rested his head against his knight.
They stayed another night. A storm had come in during the night and the ships had stayed tethered to the docks, rocking with each wave. There was a different crowd, this night. Dockworkers and fishermen, and travelers kept by the storm.
They took to the same back tables they had before. It was a fuller crowd now, and while there was the blessing of anonymity, of many travelers just like them, there was also the chance that any bounty hunter or acquaintance could be hiding under another hood.
"Didja hear about those Etrurian scum? It's bad for them too, it seems. Betraying snakes..."
It was as if all the strength had gone out of Elphin. Percival shot them a cold glare, but the gossip continued.
"Didja hear? The king is nothin' but a puppet now. Ever since his only beloved son died, he's just been in a stupor. The nobles are runnin' amuck up there. I hear some of the higher ups are in bed with Bern."
Elphin rose, as calm as even and made his way to the rooms. He maneuvered through all the people and whispers rose up as he walked passed. He made his way through the benches to the hall. Ghostly whispers followed his path.
"They say that soon Etruia will join in with Bern officially. With that, all Lycia and Ostia are finished. Me, I don't wanna be ruled by some Dragon-licking Berner or Etrurian milksop. We should be our own country..."
Elphin leaned against the wall, bolstering the remains of his fragile reserves of strength.
"I'd suspected as much...but hearing it..." Elphin shook his head.
"Prin–" Percival caught himself, cleared his throat and started again. "Elphin..."
"We're both dead men in Etruria, buried in the ground..." Elphin said.
"I regret nothing. When I pledged my loyalty to you...there was never a chance that Etruria would overshadow that vow."
You are my country.
Percival took a few steps forward and scooped him up and carried him back to their room. Elphin made no notions of protesting, for he was beyond that.
He sighed, as weak as a child as Percival laid him out, and folded him into a fetal position. Legs bent, head cushioned on the sole pillow. It was nothing compared to the gigantic feather bed the prince had once slept on, but it was better than sleeping on the floor, if only marginally.
Percival climbed to the small, uneven cot with him. One arm draped across Elphin's chest.
"This will all end when you return to Etruia," Percival said. "Soon, we will meet Douglas again and rejoin forces. Cecelia would surely join up too–"
"Not yet... As much as I would love to go back immediately and tell my father, I would merely have to leave again. I am not sure he would be able to take such a loss yet again. Even if I had you by my side – and I know you would be – us alone cannot take Etruia back. Even with Cecelia and Douglas, I fear it would be like storming heaven with wooden sticks."
Percival didn't have to say the words, the loyalty lingered there, light and warm.
I would storm heaven for you if I knew where it was. I would lay my life down for you.
"I know..." Elphin said to the unsaid words. "And I am thankful."
They traveled two more days to the tip of the isles. It was chance that lead them to the path of the Lycian Alliance Army. All reports had listed them to be in the west, not north. Chance, mere chance.. Or perhaps it was the will of heaven, from God's fingers themselves.
They paced at the sides, and looked for familiar faces amongst the ranks.
Two knights flanked the leader's side as they approached. Not far behind was an archer with greenish hair and a female mage with long blue hair. The girl he recognized as Ostia's, but the boy must've been someone without a line. Some servant found along the way.
"Are you the Lycian Alliance Army?" Elphin said.
A young flame-haired captain, regarded him. Eliwood's son. He'd recognize that hair anywhere.
"Yes, we are."
"My name is Elphin, I am a bard and this is my traveling companion, Percival. Perhaps we may accompany you?"
Before he asked the question, Elphin knew he wouldn't be turned aside. That's just the type of person Roy was. With Eliwood for a father, he could be no different, truly.
And Elphin thought of it all, a test, a possible thread One could not be a politician without being some skill at manipulation. Roy was young, and without a guide. And yet, there was a charisma, a promise....
He could be the vanguard to free Etruria away from its bonds. History would remember him as a guide, not a manipulator. A mentor, not a user. Elphin was well-versed in such things. Any Etrurian would half to be if they didn't want a knife in their back.
But Elphin was fond of the Lycian commander. He would not steer him wrong. It was a an arrangement that was beneficial to both of them. Any future king must be adept at making situations turn to their advantage. Some called them manipulations, but any politician would know they were in truth nothing but survival.
That night Elphin entwined his fingers with Percival's. They were part of an army, another person's fate, but it was the same path that Etruia's freeing would take.
"We are on the road back to Etruia, Percival. It may take a long time, but it will lead us back home eventually."
Percival said nothing, but shifted against Elphin.
"It looks like we'll be storming heaven a lot sooner than it would seem. It seems peace won't be found until Bern is razed and King Zephiel is in the grave."
"So be it," Percival said.
"Indeed...so it will go," Elphin said.
They fell quiet until it was just breathing, just them.
"Will you sing for me?" Percival said.
Elphin tilted his head. "A request?"
"If your voice isn't too tired from the day's fighting."
"For you I would make an exception. What is it you wish to hear?"
"Something soft," Percival said.
"A lullaby?" Elphin queried. "I remember a few still..."
Percival nuzzled his face against Elphin's neck. He placed a kiss there.
"Choose your favorite," he said.
"Are you sure it's a song you're wanting?" Elphin laughed.
"Yes," Percival said.
"Hmmm, I think I know just the one," Elphin said.
Elphin touched a string, another, and another as he went through the song. It was a song no one had heard before, one of hope for a country that had fallen to ruins when their golden prince had fallen away. It hung in the air, a bright shining future to be plucked up and taken against his chest.