Title: The Value Of A King
Character/Pairing: Mildain, Percival.
Summary: Mildain had always had a penchant for chess.
Rating: PG at very most.
A/N: FE6 spoilers. Intended for "In encircled ground, devise stratagems." FE_drabble challenge but I didn't quite make it in time. For The Gauntlet, 33. the delicious pleasure in making the first move. It was supposed to be pure gen, but it comes off as kinda gay. I can't help it, Percival's devotion tends to blur the lines. It's likely the beginning of a Fuuin oneshot series with quite a bit of gen. Maybe.
Happy belated birthday, Myaru
Mildain had always had a penchant for chess. There was a sleek aesthetic to it, and the challenge was one thing he could succeed in. He could not joust or partake in swordfights with dulled edges, but he could sing and he could play chess. And that was the best he could manage without breaking some bone of his body he hadn't eve realized that he had. Being Prince, however, few ever truly dared to attempt to give a challenge. Children were raised with whisper of always let the prince win, if you wish to keep your standing and your head. Of course, such thoughts were archaic and Mildain would never even dream of entertaining such a thought (he may have joked at such a punishment for dull conversation at balls, but it was just that, a bit of witty repartee that he was known for.)
It was only Percival, and Douglas who ever gave him a fair game. (Klein played as well, but it was more a fact that he was never more than mediocre at the game than his throwing it to Mildain's favor) Douglas had been the one to teach him at first, and he had mercilessly beaten him again and again until Mildain had stayed in the library for days on end. He only took his meals there and barely slept while he poured over stratagems. Mildain always had a stubborn streak. It was as if his will alone would make up for his delicate, illness-prone, yet beautiful body he had been saddled with. He studied until he was able to wrest a victory from Douglas that first time, and yet it took a toll on his health.
During that time, Percival took to sitting in the library, close and silent while Mildain studied. He even took to Percival's bedside when Mildain faltered. Percival was Klein's distant cousin from his mother's side, and only faintly royal. It was peerage that made him royal, not blood. It had been Count Reglay who had sponsored him and entered him as a knight, and it was a position he took to as fish take to water. He embodied all the qualities of a proper knight in a way that came naturally. He was obedient, loyal to a fault, and already possessed of an stoicism that usually took years of bitterness to imbue within a person. The old joke was that Percival was born old. Some wondered if it was even true.
Percival had become acquainted to the prince via their common bond with Klein at a young age, and sworn his utmost loyalty before they had even reached their fifteenth year. The event happened during an illness, and happened in secret. To this day, no one knew the exact details that had caused him to make such a rash oath, to place his prince before his current king, or the gods themselves, and it could only be guessed at. Somehow Mildain's life had been at stake, but neither would ever divulge what had bound them together so completely. Luckily, King Mordred was an extremely indulgent sort, who in the wake of his wife's death, would do anything for the son whose resemblance was so much as to be a vision of his wife from the beyond the grave. He was amused, and even pleased that his son had a ever loyal shadow of to trail him. Enough that he overlooked what might be considered treason to other, less noble kings.
Mildain sighed, slight and soft as he made his move. He plucked up another piece to defend his king, who was turn by turn getting closer and closer to being assassinated. It didn't help that for all his loyalty, Percival would give his prince no quarter – not that Mildain would ever ask any.
"I can't help but think that kings are useless. In the sense of Chess, at least," he said.
Percival, usually silent, spoke up. "But without guidance of the king...without someone to live for and to believe in, where would the rest of the court be?"
"So he has the utmost importance as a figurehead? Charming," Mildain said. Mildain stroked the tip of the crown, and then he drew his finger over the checks of the board. When he had been drawn deep into thought, he took to such idle activities. Air pictures, wandering about with half-audible incoherent mutterings..all of these were symptoms that their prince was deep within his own world.
"Interesting that queens are the most useful piece on the board. Unlike their king, queens can do most anything."
With that, Mildain took a knight. He placed it beside the growing list of captures.
"Women are mysterious creatures. Just look as Countess Reglay."
Of course, this being Percival, he did not elaborate, though he need not to. Louise had charmed her way to the hearts of the most cold, snobbish nobles. All the rumors that she was some gold-digging harpy dispersed when Pent brought in his lovely bride. They reeked contentment, and a few minutes with them was all the proof to her sincerity that anyone ever needed.
"Yes, women are quite mysterious. Cecelia once said she'd gladly partake in a coup if my family was ever to be unseated from the throne."
History was prone to such ugly things. Even Mildain's own family was not the original royal family of Etruria; his had been a conquest of marriage, however. It just so happened that the Original Archibald family progenerator had been childless, and the nephew of his ailing beloved general's took the throne. It wasn't quite as bloody as the history of Bern, which had many bloody coups in its history
"We all would," Percival said .
Which they both knew meant I would.
The heat of the day was relentless. Percival pulled up Mildain's golden curled tresses and wrung out the cloth down the length of his neck. Mildain shuddered at the touch of cold dripping down his back.
"I brought ice," Percival said, "Forgive the length of time it took, the nearby towns hadn't such luxuries."
Mildain's cheeks were flushed with heat. Every summer he'd be drawn into ice baths and sit in the coolest shade down near the streams. Here, there was barely even lukewarm water to spare. Mildain had been doing the best of it, yet even the most oblivious persons could see that he was wilting.
Of course, this lack of resistance made it his least favorite season, even more so than the dull plains of snow that made up winter. The cell of the broken-down castle was better than the past days they'd spent in the compressed heat of the tents. Neither were like the luxury of the main castle, or the Northern estate near Illia that he visited in the summer. The room he took was barely suitable for the lowest level of servant, let alone a future king. This point seemed to trouble Percival far more than Mildain, who found a sort of humor in the situation. There was a errant sense of nervous indignation under the mask of Percival's calm. Someone who didn't know him as Mildain did might not have caught it, for Percival was beyond mere subtlety and into the range of no expression that was a blank page to those who did not recognize the alphabet.
"I am a commoner, one that should not be pampered," Mildain said, "
"I asked General Roy's mercy for you and he granted it. There was no room for me on this mission due to close quarters, thus I remain."
Mildain whetted his parched lips. "And that's the only reason?"
"... Perhaps Roy understands that kind of loyalty. His archer underling certainly does."
"Ah, Wolt. He's a good child. Almost reminds me of you when we first met. Always falling after your master..I daresay Klein was horribly jealous of the attention you diverted away. Countess Reglay was always close by to watch over Clarine and Klein as well. She was like a second mother to both of us."
Without a word in response, Percival brought out a playing board from his things.
He laid the board down over Mildain's lap. It was made of a flimsier kind of board than Mildain was used to, perhaps of the local Scrub Brush that was so prevalent in these parts. It lacked the fading, or the strength that a lord would have invested in.
"I came upon this while searching for goods in the cupboards. The previous owners must've left it here."
Mildain traced over the too smooth, too new board. Percival hadn't even taken the time to properly antique it. How clumsy.
"You're such a liar, Percival. These pieces are obvious far too new to be anything but bought from a craftsman."
"...I found them," Percival said. His face was stony, unreadable.
Mildain raised an eyebrow. "This tag says it was made last year in the Southern Illian region. In fact, I've bought from this maker before when I visited the estate in that area."
"....It isn't as if I have anything else to spend my wages upon."
Mildain laughed. His laughter was bright and melodic.
"You never change, Percival. How ever am I to deal with you?" He brushed his hand against Percival's cheek, despite it being to hot to do so. Percival leaned into the touch.
"Hopefully by returning home and staying safe," Percival said.
"I suppose I can manage that. With your help, that is."
"Anything you ask I will do to the utmost of my command. That was the promise I made then, and I make it yet again."
"I am glad to have your support."
Mildain wouldn't have it any other way.