Skies Over Bern
By: Manna


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Fire Emblem Contest
Challenge 002: "Wounds"

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Watercolors

Helpless people.

That was what they had been sent to rid the world of, to kill.

She should have seen it coming, she thought as a voice from her right interrupted her.

"What do we do, Commander?" Heath. He was a good kid—no, man. A good man. As stupid as wyvern feed, sometimes, but kindhearted. She didn't know if that was bad or not.

She didn't spare a glace for him or his precious wyvern. The tension in the sky was thick, and uncertainty hung around them like dense fog.

Hyperion's wings continued to keep his rider aloft, but even he could sense Heath's discomfort.

Of course Heath was hesitant.

These people were helpless.

"A rebellion," Isaac shouted from somewhere behind her. She let his insolence escape her judgment, just this once. "A rebellion! And a grand rebellion it is! Armed to the teeth, these village-folk are, can't you see?" He patted his wyvern's neck and sighed. "Armed to the damned teeth… Well, Vaida's Raiders were called in to deal justice, but what kind of justice can we possibly deliver when their only weapons are cornstalks and rusty garden hoes?"

"What mighty foes," Belminade chuckled.

"Commander Vaida?" It was Heath again.

She was looking down, and his words barely tickled her ears. Bern was not an especially wealthy land; King Desmond did nothing to better the lives of the peasants. She wondered, many a time, why he chose to ignore the fact that some of his country's best wyvern-riders came from common background.

"What is it, Boy?" she finally asked.

"I…" He paused as the wind caught his hair. "I don't…" Suddenly, he straightened in his saddle and held his shoulders level. There was pride in his voice when he spoke. "What are your orders, Commander?"

She was not one for being insightful, but she felt something as she looked down at the people below her. The men were gathering pitchforks and rakes and hoes, and the women were being shooed into buildings—barns and homes and sheds. She knew they thought that they would be safe there.

They wouldn't be.

Vaida's Raiders could swoop down and destroy the village in a matter of hours—perhaps only an hour, if the wyverns themselves were feeling up to the challenge of participating.

Umbriel could tear the roof off of a building in one fell swoop, sending shingles and logs raining down on the people who had, only moments before, felt so very safe. Wyverns were powerful creatures. They earned fear and respect the same way many aristocrats did—by intimidation.

Her mouth set itself in a grim line as she watched a young woman duck into a cellar.

Foolish wench, she thought. It wasn't safe there, either. Nowhere was safe. Nobody would be spared.

Not even the pink, wrinkled little child she held in her arms so securely.

Vaida knew she was right. She was, after all, speaking from experience.

As the cellar door closed, hiding the young woman from view, Vaida turned to Heath. "We can't quell an uprising that doesn't exist."

"I trust your judgment, Commander," Lachius finally piped up. "But if we don't follow our orders…"

"Don't tell me that you'd kill these people," Isaac said incredulously.

"They're less than a day behind us," Heath said firmly. "General Ritter and his men, I mean."

"Vaida's Raiders…hanged for treason." Belminade sighed.

Vaida smirked. "A fitting end," she said.

The air grew still as the group looked down and simply wondered. If they attacked, they would only be following orders, and who could fault them that? But could they forgive themselves for killing men and women and children—people who possessed no weapons, no armor, and no way of holding their own against trained wyvern riders?

The answer was unanimous.

"We can't do this," Heath said.

Isaac grinned, "Well, let's go, then."

"Go where?" Lachius looked doubtful.

"Away from here."

"We'll all be found and killed within a week," Vaida told them, her expression serious. "How do you expect to hide a flight of wyverns?"

"We can't leave them behind!"

"But if you take them, you will be found." She realized she had stopped speaking as a commander, and had instead taken on the role of a concerned peer. She knew she was right. Wyverns were large, cumbersome creatures whose forms could be seen miles away—a dark, angry smudge against the blue watercolor sky—and whose wings could be heard from the ground.

Horses sensed their coming and shied away from their masters. Rabbits and foxes dove into their burrows. The air grew silent and still as birds stopped singing.

They argued amongst themselves for a few minutes, but Vaida stopped them.

"Go," she said.

They stared.

"Are you deaf and dumb, you bunch of bloody moppets? I said go!"

"What about you, Commander?" Heath asked, concern in his voice. She had known him most of his life, and she could say with all honesty that he had turned out well. A fine, upstanding man.

But still as stupid as wyvern feed.

"Strength in numbers," Isaac told her. Vaida's Raiders hadn't dared to move from their positions behind her.

She snorted, "Don't make me laugh, fool boy. Strength in numbers? When the general and his men arrive and see that this bloody village is still standing, our numbers will mean nothing!"

"You intend to stay behind." Heath's words were soft, but everyone heard them.

"Come with us, Commander."

"Yes, come with us!"

"Who, then, will stay and protect these people?"

Immediately, the men of Vaida's Raiders lowered their eyes to the people below, who watched the hulking forms of the wyverns with fear in their eyes. They were terrified—no, beyond terrified. They knew that they did not stand a chance.

"General Ritter would never sully his own hands," Isaac said.

"Can you say that with certainty?"

Nobody could.

"Leave Bern. Do not come back."

"But—"

Her response was swift, and her face full of anger, "Leave Bern and do not come back!"

They obeyed, leaving only Heath by her side. She watched them head west. It was too obvious, she worried. But they were men, and men could take care of themselves. She had taught them many things, but had she taught them enough?

"Go, Heath," she said. "If you've got half a wit of sense about you, you will leave now."

"I will," he answered. "But…"

"I will be fine." She didn't dare look at him until she thought to say, "And you will be, too." Reassurance was rare to hear from her. She never had felt comfortable doing it. Oftentimes, it felt too much like lying.

He smiled. "Has anyone ever told you that you were beautiful?"

She glared at him. "What are you blathering about, now? Fool, you need to get—"

"Have they?" he prodded.

She hesitated. "Long ago," she finally answered, her words stiff.

His eyes softened. "You are," he told her sincerely. "You really are." Suddenly, he sat up straight in his saddle, the picture of youth and vigor. "Commander!" he said before giving her a crisp salute. "Take care of yourself! I will see you again."

With a kick and a sharp tug of the reins, Hyperion angled down and then north. The wind from his wyvern's wings tousled her hair, and she watched him go with the smallest bit of pride tingling in her veins.

He would be fine.

It wasn't long before the sun started to sink in the western sky. "Umbriel," she said quietly, "let's go." She turned them in the direction of an open meadow a few miles from the village.

She had planning to do.

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She had heard that when a person reached the end of their life, they knew it was their time. She hovered in the skies over the village of Bern before dawn, waiting for the general and his men—in a sense, death—to arrive.

She was ready, or as ready as she could ever feel. What was death, but an escape from life? It did not sound so terrible after all.

"My last lesson to you all as your commander," she murmured as she watched the first rays of light spread across the dewy grass below, "is to do what is right."

In the distance, there was the sound of the footsteps of a hundred men marching. She could see them, little specks that they were, several miles away. Umbriel let out an angry hiss.

"We will do what we can," she said to him.

As the sun hefted itself over the mountaintops in the east, Vaida send Umbriel into a dive from her position several miles above the earth. A glorious sight they made, she thought with some measure of satisfaction, as her wyvern came to a halt mere feet from the general's horse and spread his wings out before letting out a mighty roar. The sunlight streamed from behind, turning them both into angry black smudges against the pale blue sky.

Her calloused fingers ran over the familiar, smooth surface of her lance.

She was ready.

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Author Notes:


This is, strangely enough, begging to be turned into a chaptered piece. I'm not sure if I will do it or not, but I would like to. Isaac, Lachius, and Belminade are mentioned by Heath in his supports with Vaida. The general who orders the attack is not named, but for the sake of making sense, he has been named here.