Victory in Surrender
Fire Emblem Contest
Challenge 003: Yield
Those who followed the teachings of Saint Elimine were supposed to believe in the higher power that she, herself had followed long ago, during the years of the Scouring. Serra had every reason to keep a strong faith in God. He had been there for the heroes when they had needed Him, and He had been there for that little, tiny, ragtag army of idiots when they'd charged into battle against Nergal and a dragon and hadn't had a clue.
Mercy had swept through their ranks after that battle. Florina should not have lived, and the injuries sustained by other members of the party—Sain, Heath, Erk—ought to have, by all means, ended their lives before the sun rose in the sky again.
But they had lived, somehow, and Serra herself could not have been more grateful to see her friends, comrades—even people she didn't know except by name and face—walk out of that hellish place with their lives yet their own.
Years had passed since that day, and sometimes she wondered if the others dreamed of it as she still did. Too many nights forced her to watch Sain or Erk or Florina crumple to the ground, and no matter how hard she tried, they would die with their head on her lap and her tears on their face. If Oswin wondered at her tossing and turning, he said nothing. Oftentimes, she woke up in his arms, the wet material of his shirt testament to her distress.
There was no reason to worry, she told herself, year after year after year. Erk and Sain were still alive, though they lived far away, and Florina had become a beautiful marchioness of Ostia. Eventually, the dreams began to fade.
Florina's pregnancies were nightmares. The first two ended in miscarriage. Florina had been devastated; she'd cried for weeks. Serra took no chances with the third, and even though she was no midwife, she forced her friend to stay in bed for the entire nine months.
It wasn't Florina's size that caused complications. It was an old injury, one that ought to have taken her life years ago.
The former cleric of Saint Elimine sat at Florina's side and played card games with her, brought her food and drinks and read to her stories of mothers and babies and how it felt to look into your newborn's eyes, because this child would be born. Serra would make certain of it.
When the labor pains began, Hector demanded that Serra attend his wife. She could hear his boots clomping up and down the hall from inside the bedroom, but she soon turned her full attention to her brave little friend who was pushing with all her might.
"Take a deep breath," Serra murmured, brushing back damp lavender tendrils that dared to stick to the younger woman's beautiful face. "Okay? Good…"
Florina groaned, but managed a small smile. "I can do this for Lord Hector, can't I?" she asked, her breath ragged, her expression strained.
She wasted neither words nor time, "Of course you can."
The sharp cry of a newborn sent the castle into shouts of joy, and though they diminished slightly at the knowledge that the baby was a girl, and not an heir, the people were still proud of the battle their marchioness had won by simply delivering a baby.
Serra touched Hector's shoulder gently. "Hector," she said, ignoring the gasps of the people that wondered at her talking to him like a friend instead of her superior. "Hector, I must speak with you."
She led him to the bedroom where Florina was sleeping, and she placed the wrinkly pink newborn in Hector's arms.
"I knew it'd be a girl," was all he said as he held the child with a sort of awkwardness only a new father could display.
"She's very healthy," Serra told him quietly, her eyes sad as she glanced over at his wife. "But…"
His boots sounded oh-so hollow against the stone floor as he left.
With a sigh, Serra sank down to sit on the edge of Florina's bed. "He loves you more than he even realizes," she murmured, and pressed a kiss against her hair.
A week later, Serra came in to see her friend, and found her asleep, again. She had been terribly weak since delivering her baby, and her condition had done nothing but deteriorate over time.
"She held Lilina last night and drifted off with a smile on her face," Hector told her as he tucked his wife's hair behind her ear. He took a shuddering breath, and she detected a sense of resignation in his voice as he spoke, "I don't think she'll wake up again."
With one last, longing glance behind him, Hector left the room. He had duties he could not ignore, not even for his wife. Florina would understand. She always had.
Serra noticed that Florina's face still held a peaceful, quiet smile. Her throat suddenly felt tight.
She sat on the edge of the bed and held Florina's hand loosely in her own. "Oh God, Saint Elimine," she murmured as she looked outside at the bright summer day. "Please don't take her away from us." Considering the time that passed between each ragged, slow draw of breath, though…it wouldn't be long before the inevitable came to pass.
For one long, drawn-out moment, she held onto the hope that Florina would live. Mercy had, years ago, visited her friend and had spared her life. If prayer could bring it back again…
Silence was her only answer. Complete, utter, hopeless silence.
Pain seared through her lip as she bit down on it. "It's okay," she said, and touched the back of her fingers to Florina's warm cheek. "You can go to your other babies, now. Lilina has Hector…and—and me. I'll make sure he doesn't teach her to swing around an axe like a maniac."
Florina didn't respond; she merely laid there, still and quiet.
She sniffed, "All of that hard work I did to get you and Hector together, and you just go and die on me." Serra kissed Florina's hand and gave it one last squeeze. "I don't know what I'll do without you, but…but I suppose I'll manage. Somehow."
After much thought and far too much idea-juggling, this is what I decided on writing for the third FE Contest entry. I'll admit, it was kind of fun to write. There is one victory and one surrender in this one-shot. Feedback would be greatly appreciated!