Title: What Cuts the Deepest
Game: Path of Radiance/Radiant Dawn
Word Count: 1358
Zelgius, Gawain, Elena, Ike, Mist, Micaiah, mentions of others
Angst. And angst. Because if Zelgius is involved (in a non-military capacity) there will be angst. And slight AU for a variation on the ending of Radiant Dawn.
Beta: forgotten-relic
Summary: Betrayal was nothing new to Zelgius, so why did it still hurt when he was left alone - again?
Author's Notes:
Written for the LJ comm fe_challenge. Prompt 002: Wounded. A continuation of sorts of "All The Things They'll Never Know."
Disclaimer: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn belong to Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. This story is a work of fiction written for entertainment purposes only.

The basic fact is that all sentient beings, particularly human beings want happiness and do not want pain and suffering.

– The Dalai Lama

He sat in the cold darkness of the armory, his armor off, leaning against the cold, stone walls. The only light came from the moon, streaming in like silver beams through the narrow windows. He sighed as he rubbed a hand over his face, his eyes burning from unshed tears.

The pain of betrayal was nothing new to him. Growing up he was ignored by any laguz he had the misfortune of coming across, and once the beorc saw the brand on his back they shunned him as well. He grew up fighting for survival, fighting was the only thing that he could ever do.

Entering the Daein army was really the only choice he had. He could hide behind his armor and his fighting skills. He wouldn't have to be friendly with his troop mates; he could just serve his time and then slip out quietly. From there he could be a hired sword, perhaps join up in Begnion or Crimea and serve in their militaries for a time.

He lifted his face to the moon, one single tear sliding down his cheek. He quickly wiped the offending tear away and cleared his throat. No, he would not let himself suffer again. They were just like everyone else. He had made the mistake of trusting them, and because of that it hurt more when they had left.

Gawain and Elena.

Gawain had walked in on him as he had been bathing in the middle of the night. The brand on his back couldn't be hidden or denied, and he had been prepared to kill himself to spare himself the humiliation he was certain that he would be forced to endure.

Instead the general had raised an eyebrow and sighed, "Well, that explains everything. Come with me, son."

He had shyly gone home with his general, where Gawain had explained to his new wife about the young man standing next to him. The entire time he had stood next to his general, his shoulders sagging and shame burning on his face. When Gawain finished, the blue haired woman was crying, crying for the poor, abused man who stood shamefaced in front of her. She hugged him and held him and cried for him.

For the first time he felt like he had friends and that he belonged. From then on, Gawain had taken him under his wing. It felt safe and comfortable, like he had come home.

"Zelgius, keep close to me. You actually stand a chance of learning the infamous Gawain style of fighting," the general would inform him with a rough clap on the shoulder. "You will be my protégé, the heir to the style who will carry it on for years and years and when people see you on the battlefield they will be terrified of the man who was trained by General Gawain, one of the Four Riders of Daein."

Zelgius had laughed and rolled his eyes, but there was something appealing about the general's offer. He took it to heart, and he grew more attached to the newlywed couple with each passing day. He ate dinner with them nearly every night, spent most of his free time helping them around their home, and before he realized, he had formed an attachment. One that could potentially cause a lot of problems for them all in the future.

Now, as the moon continued her journey across the darkened sky, Zelgius felt a fresh wave of pain and longing wash over him. Gawain and Elena were gone when everyone woke that morning. Their house had been hastily packed and they were gone, and by the looks of things, they were never returning.

They had left without saying goodbye.

Zelgius wasn't sure what hurt more, the fact that they had left in the first place, or that they hadn't said farewell. He had been so certain that he was like family to Gawain and Elena, their sudden departure created a void within him. Did they not trust him enough to tell him where they had gone, why they had fled? He had trusted them, and this was how they repaid him for that trust?

A strangled cry came from his throat, a sound that he tried to squelch as soon as he felt it rise. No. He was stronger than this. He would not succumb to the despair that he felt. This was no different than any time before.

He rose to his feet as he let out a cry like a wounded animal, a screech like a wounded hawk, like the beast whose blood ran through his veins. It echoed around him and into the night, the cry of someone who had lost everything that they had ever cared about in one fell swoop. The tears fell, hot and salty on to his cheeks, down his chest, some falling to the floor at his feet, a visual testament to the deep cutting emotional pain within him.

He turned and looked out the window, glaring at the pale orb in the sky, the only witness to his humiliation. He glared at it as he made his vow.

This world, this sick, twisted world would pay. It would pay for the persecution of the innocents. Branded, like him. The herons of the Serenes. Anyone else who had been labeled different or not the same.

He made his decision then. In one week's time he would seek out the heron Lehran. Together they would end this world and all of the pain within it. The goddess would begin anew, and the suffering would end.

-Years Later-

His emotional pain was gone. It was an odd sensation, as it had been his constant companion through out of his life. All that remained was the dull throbbing from his wounds as his life slowly leached out of him.

Zelgius turned his attention to Gawain and Elena's son, who remained crouched next to him. "They would be so proud of you," he whispered.

Ike's blue eyes, the same shape as Elena's but the same hue as Gawain's, widened slightly. "How can you be sure?"

"I once thought of them as my family. They brought me much happiness and joy for a short time," Zelgius answered honestly. He felt someone take his hand, and he mustered a small smile for Mist. "I was young and hurt. I didn't understand; I didn't try to understand. That was my error."

"Oh Zelgius," Mist sniffed softly. She reached up and gently brushed his bangs out of his eyes, much the way Elena had done decades before.

Micaiah, and he was certain it was Micaiah because her eyes were gold and not red, knelt down next to him and gently caressed his face. "To be hated because of what you are is a terrible thing. I remember wishing that I didn't have to hide, that I could live openly and freely, like everyone around me. I remember wishing for a new world. I know why you made the decisions you did. I think if I had been in your position, I would have made the same decisions."

"I'm sorry to have betrayed you, Maiden," he told her softly, his eyes locking with hers. "But I believe in your vision. I believe that if anyone can salvage this world, it is you. All of you."

He took a deep breath, aware of the eerie rattle from within his lungs. He closed his eyes and gave one last, sad smile. "At last I am at peace," he murmured, and with that the candle of his life was extinguished.

Micaiah quickly rose and found Sothe, tossing her arms around his neck and holding him tightly as she cried. Mist sniffled as she released Zelgius's hand, walking over to where Titania was, embracing the older woman and crying into her armored shoulder. Ike bowed his head in prayer, and then rose.

"We have to finish this," he said as he slung Ragnell over his shoulder. "For Zelgius, for all of the petrified people out there, for anyone who has ever suffered. For them, we will end this once and for all."

Reviews are love!!