If Words
By: Manna


…-…-…

"Do not fight today," he says, and he knows Haar understands his reasoning and hears everything that remains unspoken.

("Take care of yourself. Take care of Jill.")

Only one side will win. Only one.

And when all is said and done, he knows it will not be Daein.

…-…-…

The battlefield is littered with corpses. Crimea marches on Talrega.

Daein will lose this battle, but Shiharam knows he and his men are merely pawns in this ridiculous game. Pawns. Expendable. Foreigners.

"Ah, what a terrible miscalculation we made…"

Haar's words ring in his head as he shouts orders. His chest aches with the weight of his fate. His fate? He thinks. No, the fate of all of his men.

Eighteen years had turned out to mean absolutely nothing. He wonders what he could have done differently.

("Come on, Commander. We're tired of working for the senate. They're corrupted to the core.")

Is this truly their fate, to die fighting a battle they don't want to fight?

…-…-…

He remembers Haar's ruined eye. Nothing more than a child, then, the wound had festered and he'd needed medical treatment before the injury claimed his life. He hadn't known the kid, but he'd wanted to help, couldn't bear the thought of someone dying for a stupid reason.

He remembers the faces of dozens of men crowding around him, and the crying of his newborn daughter. "She looks like you."

And he remembers the sound of the wind against leathery wings, the cold night air, a baby held carefully in his arms.

His heart had pounded all that night. Is this the right thing? Is this our only choice?

Who else would take in a group of renegade knights? Who but Ashnard, who was rumored to take in anyone who possessed skill, regardless of their past?

He remembers that all those years ago, the king of Daein had seemed kind when cast in such a light.

…-…-…

Shiharam knows he could have surrendered before the battle even started. He can still defect. Crimea would probably appreciate his help.

But he can't do that.

A part of him wants to, but he won't.

There are too many people counting on him.

He sees the form of a familiar wyvern heading his way. Jill, he thinks, and he feels the weight of an infant in his arms, and a tiny hand clutching his index finger. He wonders how things could have come to this.

He turns his attention to the battle raging below him. His heart pounds.

Daein is losing. Before long, Crimea will rush into the fort and onto the roof before cutting him down, too. And it will all be over.

He sees eighteen years in a single moment, a swirl of color and sound and dreams. Haar becomes a man, laughs and tells him the only reason he's somebody at all is because of him. Jill glares at him, arms crossing her chest in a perfect mimicry of him, and tells him she'll be a knight, too, because it's what she wants. The faces of all of his soldiers as they fled Begnion together, nothing but trust in their eyes.

Haar doesn't need him anymore. He's a grown man who's had to hide his morality, who never really wanted anything more than some peace and quiet. Shiharam hopes he'll find it, now.

And Jill… She doesn't need him, either. She's thinking for herself, forming her own ideas and opinions based on experience, not on what she's been told. She has become a woman.

But the others—the others need him. They need him to stay loyal to Daein. They need him to fight until it's over. His men have wives and children, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers… Their families are in Daein, and if they betray their country, their families will pay the price for them.

They have followed him, loyal to the end.

Talrega, their home for the past eighteen years, is awash in blood and water; they cannot run, or they will lose what little is left. There is no choice for his men but to fight to the death in the mud that remains.

Shiharam refuses to abandon them, now.

…-…-…

She's beautiful.

And strong.

He sees the future in her eyes, and he wants to remind her that she doesn't need him, that she'll be just fine.

The wind on the roof is harsh. It cracks her hair like a whip.

He considers asking her to watch over Haar; he will survive this battle because he is not in it, and when it's over, they'll both be hurting. Perhaps they will find comfort in one another. Maybe, just maybe, he thinks, Jill can help Haar find the peace he's been looking for.

"Father…" Her voice is nothing more than a murmur.

He wishes that things were different. If words could fix everything, he'd wait patiently for her to find them.

But it's too late for things to change—eighteen years too late.

His daughter shouldn't have to see him die, and so he chases her away.

"We meet as enemies!" The rest of his words are lost to the wind.

Jill backs up one step, uncertain. "Father…" She bites her lip, but he sees understanding in her eyes that hasn't always been there.

She really is a woman, now, he thinks. His heart swells with pride.

He hefts his weapon.

"I…" she begins.

I love you, too, he thinks, and charges.

…-…-…

The end comes quickly, painfully.

An unwavering certainty settles over him. Peace.

In his last moments, he sees only Haar and Jill—the time he'd caught the two of them napping together, when Haar first began training her to be a knight, when…

(The day is hot and sticky, and so Shiharam is surprised to see his fourteen-year-old daughter wrestling with Haar out on the grass under the sun. The younger man manages to get her into a headlock. "Okay, okay! Now let me go!" Haar does so only after mussing her hair, and Jill glares at him from her spot on the ground as he stands up to brush off his clothes.

"Now what do you have to say?" he asks her, yawning, clearly not expecting an answer as he begins to walk off, passing her on her left side.

There is no hesitation; she sticks her foot out, effectively tripping him. "I win," she says seriously, but smiles when he manages to pick himself up again.)

He closes his eyes. "It's almost like I have two children," he remembers saying, once, and laughter from years gone by echoes in his ears.

They'll be fine.

He lets go.


…-…-…

If I could make days last forever,
If words could make wishes come true,
I'd save every day,
Like a treasure, and then,
Again, I would spend them with you.

(Time in a Bottle, by Jim Croce)

Author Notes:

Shiharam is amazing. He makes a very difficult decision—does he save himself, or save the families of all the men under his command? He makes the selfless choice. The sad truth is that most of the characters in the game probably don't see it at all. (In this way, he almost reminds me of Eagler from FE7.) More extensive notes are at SwayingtheFlame over on LJ.