Something Better Forgotten
By: Amber Michelle
This is still a rough draft, and here for critique/feedback if there's any to give, as I'm still not confident in my characterization and there are four installments after this that will benefit from reader response. If there's nothing to say, on the other hand, I'll just go on my merry way and write the rest of it - or not write it at all, depending on how I feel about the others. FE7 doesn't inspire me as much as FE6, but for some reason I felt the urge to write some friendship fic about Lyn and Florina. This is gen - I'm not theorizing pairings for either of them. Read whatever you want into it.
Inspired by Shirahime Sho, a oneshot Clamp manga.
Though Lyn had often been told Ilia was a land paved with ice, she'd never had the chance to see it herself, and tales of children running barefoot through the snow were simply that, tales, until she watched Florina walk along the ridge of a snow drift, light-footed with her javelin held outward to the side, as if she balanced on a rope-- no cloak, no trousers, bare arms. Her lavender hair drifted behind in her wake, fluttering waves and wispy curls. Her feet left faint marks, and Lyn felt heavy walking next to her, churning the snow in her wool-lined boots. There was no wind that day; ice clogged the river along the shore and around the rocks, the current slow and the smooth glide of the indigo surface broke, splashed, disturbed by chunks of ice. The tree branches bent over it, covered in snow. It slid and dripped to the ground with muffled thumps.
I see tracks over there, Florina said, pointing to a spot across the river where the trees leaned together and tangled. Their leaves were wet and dark, brown and black, dead. Is there a way we can get over? A bridge?
We usually swim, Lyn said. The sky was still gray, but the shore was bare and brown, matted with dead grass. Earlier the distant sun had shined like a jewel in the sky and left large patches of mud between drifts that sucked at the soles of their shoes. I've never seen the river freeze like this. It's never this cold.
Lyn had never seen snow like this. It might dust the plains and gather between the foothills, but it had never covered the ground in her short memory.
Florina giggled. Her hand was bare too when she lifted it to cover her mouth with her fingers. Her javelin slanted down, pointed to the earth. Someday I'll take you to meet my sisters. Then you'll know cold!
Did she want to know cold? This was enough. The earth was frozen beneath the mud, she could feel it. The cold seeped between the seams of Lyn's boots and chilled her toes. Her lips were already chapped, her knuckles bright red from exposure to the burning white of the shimmering snow, and her fingers were locked around the curve of her short bow. She thought of trying to cross the river, maybe taking the rocks across at the ford, imagined falling in. Her teeth chattered until she clenched them shut.
But if they're as adorable as you are, Lyn said after a stretch of a few seconds, her words clouding on the air in a fog, I won't notice the cold - especially if they startle like you do. Is Farina afraid of bees?
She laughed, and the cold hurt her teeth, coated the roof of her mouth. I'm joking, silly. Tell me what they're like. Which one is the oldest again?
Florina's hmph came out a rush of mist that became a halo around her face. Ilian bees aren't like the ones here at all.
Of course they weren't. Lyn poked fun at her, and they moved farther south instead of crossing, where the land rose at a slight incline and the river shore became steep and slanted, though still only a few steps deep. The trees thickened, and the tinkle of ice breaking joined the crush of their footsteps, the clatter of her arrows in their quiver, and the slide of the water against the mud walls. Her lips felt drawn tight, and she thought they might crack if she smiled again, so she let Florina shush her under the pretense of the hunt. Her friend was warm, would probably melt snow by touch; Lyn linked their arms together and hunched closer to her, loosening wings of hair from her ponytail so her ears would be covered, though it still left her neck cold.
If they made too much noise, Florina said, their hunt would be unsuccessful. Sound bounced off of the rocky ground in Ilia, and echoed between the mountain passes-- a whisper might alert one's prey, and she'd lost supper before by tripping, dropping her spear, and it wasn't like a family could survive on persimmons and a ration of oats all winter, no matter how good it tasted the first two or three weeks after harvest, and dried meat, well - when their grandmother was alive, she couldn't chew it, or the fruit either. The thrashing she gave me when I came home empty-handed... Lyn remembered her shudder, and the whitening of her lips. Ilia, she'd thought at the time, must be a harsh land indeed if it drove an old woman to raise her hand to such a sweet girl.
But who was she calling 'girl?' They were the same age. To this day the Lorca grandmothers called her dumpling, as if she were still toddling around in smocks and pulling horse tails.
But Lyn was fourteen, and her aim was good enough to feather a hare even if it did try to get away.
The trees grew closer together the farther south they walked, and the snow ankle deep, preserved by the shade of the branches reaching toward the shore. Over the water came a tonal call, a sound that reminded her of a flute, or a voice, call call call, and she saw Florina glance around, narrow her eyes, squint. Her hand tightened on the haft of her javelin, and Lyn let go of her arm, took the lead, and tried to sharpen her ear to follow the echo into the trees. The tip of the javelin twitched up in her peripheral vision, and she drew an arrow out of her quiver and shifted her hold on her bow, placing her feet carefully and slowly to make as little noise as possible, while Florina moved silently to her right.
It was a bird calling, a tall, white, long-necked bird with a red face. Snow crane, Florina murmured. I didn't know they migrated through here. Poor thing. Look--
The bird was stained with blood, or perhaps it was the snow; its wings were half-open, flapping against the powdery surface of a drift, the tips stained red. It keened over a shape Lyn knew was another bird only because the feathers stuck up at odd angles, and because snow didn't bleed and turn to slush at the sound of bird song, no matter how cutting. Her eyes were too cold and dry to summon tears. She raised her bow and aimed for the crane's pale breast, where the feathers looked soft and silky.
No, Lyn, wait--
Isn't it a mercy? She would have spoken more loudly, but her throat would only allow a whisper. Shouldn't I kill it?
Florina's fingers clenched into her coat sleeve.
The bowstring creaked, her hands so cold the string sparked cutting pain in her fingertips. It knows we're here. She moistened her lips, and they froze too, the skin cracking. Her target's eyes glinted in the dim snow-light, its beak opened and closed, its wings snapped. The cold started soaking through her shoes again to freeze her toes. If it wanted to escape its fate, it would fly away.
Lyn released. The bow twanged, the arrow struck; the keening tone stopped and red blotted the snow again.
Cranes mated for life; it would never find another. It would die, hunted by some other predator, or pierced by its own despair. Only humans fought their nature and strove to overcome instinct.
Florina never understood. They took it back to the tent, and she refused to eat any meat that came from the crane, refused to touch the broth, and when night came and they bedded down behind their screen, her tears soaked the shoulder of Lyn's nightgown.
I'm sorry, Lyn said softly.
Florina shook her head.
They never went hunting together again.