True Aim
By: Manna


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Blood is not a big deal, not now, in the middle of battle. Neimi isn't even sure who it is they're fighting, anymore. Faces and uniforms and colors swirl together, and all she knows is that the people attacking her friends are the enemy. Those are the people that she needs to kill.

She swipes the back of her hand across her forehead, and it collects a bit of her sweat. She flicks it off to the side and shakily nocks another arrow.

She's almost out, she thinks. Almost out of arrows. And then what will she do, she wonders?

Her eyes flicker over to Colm, but he's doing fine. She smiles a bit at the sight of him; he's always been there for her, and she wants nothing more than to return the favor, someday.

She forces her eyes to look elsewhere.

General Seth, the Silver Knight of Renais, looks grand astride his horse, his sword gleaming in the noonday light, and his armor splattered with drops of blood that do not belong to him. But even the great man entrusted with Princess Eirika's safety cannot see the man charging up behind him, cannot hear the sound of the approaching hoof beats over those of his own horse.

Neimi breathes in. And out. Slowly, purposefully.

Princess Eirika sees the lance pointed at the heart of the man who helped her escape Renais alive. Her full lips part in shock and horror. She owes him her life, in a sense, and she'll never make it to him in time.

Neimi draws her bowstring back.

And she only lets go when she knows her aim is perfect.

It's not a squirrel she's killing, and she realizes that. She's not at home, hunting for food. She's at war hunting men, killing them, leaving children fatherless, and wives husbandless. The man slips beneath the hooves of his bay, his hands clutching at the arrow that pierces his side. A gruesome portrait is painted right in front of her as his skull is kicked and his horse trips and falls. The animal whinnies and gets to its feet, limping, confused. It doesn't understand why its rider isn't getting up.

She turns away.

Only two more arrows.

She reaches behind her and plucks one from her quiver before nocking it, waiting as her eyes scan the battlefield before her.

Prodigy or not, Lute looks terribly small cornered by several men. She knows other girl will later say she needed no help, but Neimi's not taking any chances; she'd rather hear Lute say it than risk Lute not being around to say it.

She raises her bow and takes a deep breath. In, then out. She pulls back and releases only when she's certain her aim is true.

One of the men crumples to the ground, her arrow lodged in the back of his neck.

One more arrow, she thinks grimly, but before she can reach for it, a sharp pain rips through her right arm as it's twisted behind her, and she feels dirt and rocks against her face as she's pushed to the ground. Tears spring to her eyes, unbidden, as they always do, and she struggles against the hold on her.

"Hold still, ya little bitch," a voice says from behind her. Her arm is wrenched further up her back, and she squirms to keep her shoulder from popping at the motion.

Tears stream down her face, turning the dirt into mud, but she doesn't dare make a sound. Where is Colm? she wonders, but she knows she can't expect him to come to her aid for every little thing. Sometimes, she has to fight for herself. She just hopes he's doing okay while her eyes aren't on his back.

She bites her lip and holds in a whimper as the person holding her down begins to bind her hands. She lets herself go limp, remembering how opossums convince people they are dead to get away. She doubts it will work in this case—if they're tying her up, they certainly won't leave her!—but maybe it will help. She prays that it will.

"Fainted, huh?" It's a new voice. The person tying her wrists pauses, loosening their grip on her.

It's her chance.

She twists onto her back as sharply as she can and kicks at her opponent, also attempting to shake off the rope that is looped around her wrists. She scrambles to her feet as the man—no more than a boy, really, she thinks—falls backward in shock. He hits his head on a rock and slumps, half of his body sliding toward the edge of the overhang she had positioned herself on. The drop isn't terribly far, but Neimi knows it could easily kill a person if they hit the rocks on the way down. She leans down to tug on his leg, and pulls him back just a few inches from the edge. She has no more time to waste on him, though, and turns toward her other opponent as she scoops up her forgotten bow.

The man standing in front of her is tall, and wide, and the sword in his hand is worn and dripping with blood. Horrified, the archer scampers backward. She isn't strong enough to stop him, and she certainly can't run away; he is blocking her only exit!

Fresh tears well up in her eyes and fall as she realizes…she might not be able to find a way out of this situation. She hopes Colm is okay.

The sword comes down toward her face in a wide arc, and all she can think to do is lift her arm to protect herself.

There is a loud fluttering of wings, a terrible pain in her right arm, and a sickening crunch. When she realizes she isn't dead, she opens one tear-filled eye to see Princess Tana disappearing into the distance; the broken form of the man had that been standing in front of her is lying at her feet.

She sniffs and hugs her bow to her with her left arm as she hurries to get away from the mess.

She can't see Colm anymore, and she wonders where he could possibly have gone.

She hardly realizes she's bleeding until she catches sight of him, the boy-turned-man who had held her hand through everything in life. Her eyes widen with shock and horror, and suddenly, she understands with every fiber of her being how Eirika must have felt only minutes earlier to see someone headed for General Seth with intent to kill.

Blood is not a big deal in the middle of battle, she reminds herself, and glances down at her wound. Princess Tana might have killed the man, but his sword had cut her arm deep as he had fallen. Her arm shakes as she forces her fingers behind her head to pull her last arrow from her quiver.

A million scenes flash before her eyes as she watches her childhood friend struggle against a man much bigger than himself.

Colm, being his know-it-all self.

Colm, helping her wash her hair after the neighbor brat had thrown horse manure at her to make her cry.

Colm, holding her hand, daring anyone to try something as walked her by the same kids that had bullied her as far back as she could remember.

Her arm will not hold the bow steady, no matter how many times she breathes in deeply. She steels her nerves and forces her right arm to pull back on the bowstring, not caring a bit that fresh, warm blood bubbles up and drips to the ground and on her clothes.

Tears stream down her face as she releases the arrow, and she doesn't wait to see if it hits its mark before she runs to him. He has to be okay—he just has to!

"Colm!" she shouts as she nears him. "Colm?"

She's so relieved to see him sit up from where he's been knocked to the ground that a fresh batch of tears—endless tears—rise again.

"You're okay," she sobs, dropping her bow as she tries to wipe her face on her sleeve. "I was so worried… I thought…"

"You…big crybaby," he scoffs half-heartedly as he scrambles to his feet. "Don't worry about me so much. I'm fine, see?"

"I-I'm sorry," she mumbles. "I tried not to c-cry, b-but I couldn't help it!"

He shakes his head. "Well, I did tell you that only I could make you cry…" His eyes widen as he takes her right hand in his and lifts her arm to inspect the damage. "Now look what you've gone and done. Neimi, you're a mess."

She realizes he's right. Her face is covered in scratches and mud, and her arm is dripping blood all over her clothes and itself. "I guess I am…"

"And you're all out of arrows…"

"Y-Yes… I just… I just used my last one."

"Then what are you doing out here on the battlefield, still? You're hurt!" He starts to lead her backward, toward the main camp, but she digs her heels into the dirt, and he stops to turn around. "What is it?" he asks, curiously. "You're not going to faint, are you?"

"M-Maybe…?" She sways a little on her feet, but takes a step toward him, stumbling as she tries to right her world again. "B-But I saw you needed me, and…" Her eyes go blank for a moment, but she shakes her head and slumps against him. "You needed me, Colm…"

"Yeah, yeah, just this once, though. It won't happen again!" For all the sternness in his voice, his eyes are soft, and he tilts her back to lift her into his arms as best he can manage. "I won't let you go around hurting yourself for my sake."

She closes her eyes. "I… I didn't let you down, did I?" she asks him.

"No," he says, picking up her arm to let it rest on her stomach. "You didn't let me down. You…actually did pretty good out there."

"Really? I'm glad..." She smiles.

"But don't let it go to your head," he says, but it's too late; she's already asleep.


…---…---…

Author Notes:

This was written for the fifth FE Contest writing challenge on Livejournal. I've never really written Colm or Neimi, so hopefully they turned out all right. I know the ending was lame…I'm not very good at ending things, period, and after struggling with it for a while, I just gave up and left it at what you see here. Thanks for reading! Feedback would be great.