The Bravest
By: Manna


…-…-…

Prompt: "Visiting Lycia once again."

"Lord Eliwood…"

The figure kneeling before him was nothing like the person he remembered. How many years had it been? Twenty? How time flew. "Lyndis," he said, standing; he considered telling her to call him just Eliwood, like the good old days, but stopped short of doing so. Did they really know one another anymore? "It is good to see you again," he said instead.

She lifted her head, and he noticed her face was lined with stress. Her hair, once long and soft, was streaked with grey and pulled back into a hasty braid. "I come seeking aid," she said, and he knew it took a lot for her to say it.

She'd always been so prideful.

He stopped himself from promising her any aid she desired—he was no longer the young, dashing man he had been, with his dragon-girl bride and a lack of foresight. "What do you need?" he asked carefully, for Lyndis could need any number of things, and he could only promise her so much.

She paused, and lowered her tired eyes to the red carpet. He wondered at it. But he didn't have to wonder long. She looked up at him, a bit of a spark back in her eyes. "Lord Eliwood," she said calmly, "I come seeking aid for my husband." The fire died. "He is not well."

"What sort of aid do you require?" Healers and medicine were in short supply because of the war. The war, he reminded himself, that his own son was out fighting.

She paused. "A bed, clean water, a little food." She looked him in the eyes and shook her head. "Sacae is lost, at least for now. We will take whatever you can spare."

Even if it is in the stables? The sour thought faded. Lyndis would take a corner of the stables if it was all he could do for her, he knew.

His throat suddenly felt choked. His son, gone to war, his beloved Ninian, dead ten years, now, and Hector…having fallen in battle… Oh, what a miserable world it was, he thought, wherein the prideful former lady of Caelin had to beg some assistance from an old, old friend and hope he had something to offer.

"I'll do anything I can," he promised her. He waved his hand at a servant, "Prepare a room. Make it as comfortable as you can."

As Lyndis got to her feet, he noticed the trouble she had—not so different from his own troubles, he realized—and he offered her something like a smile when she looked his way.

But it faded when he saw the tears in her eyes.

Something in him urged him toward her, but he pushed it away.

The days of their youth were long passed, and what she needed was not an embrace, however well meaning.

"Thank you," she said to him. "It means the world to—" and she hesitated, as though she wasn't sure how to phrase it, "—us."

…-…-…

Eliwood caught glimpses of Lyndis over the next few days, but most of the time she was alone. He thought he remembered tales of her leaving Sacae with Sir Kent, but he quickly disposed of that direction of thinking. Did it matter who she had married? The man was genuinely ill.

He decided that when his duties lightened, he would go to see them both.

…-…-…

The room he had given them was empty, but a servant directed him toward the gardens. The two of them were seated on the bench of a swing—one, he remembered, Ninian having loved.

Kent's bright hair had dulled, had turned mostly grey, but the way he sat made him recognizable. The two of them were talking, though perhaps Lyndis was doing the talking and Kent the listening.

He hung back to listen to the two of them for a bit, to watch and learn, as he'd been taught to do.

She told Kent of the deaths of some of their old friends, her voice calm and steady as she lifted back onto her toes and gently let the swing bench move. Her husband smiled as she mentioned their current seating arrangement being "like old times", and Eliwood found it to be the appropriate time to say hello.

"Lyndis," he said, approaching them. "Sir Kent."

"I am hardly a knight," Kent said.

But Lyndis smiled at him a little. "Hello, Lord Eliwood."

He wished she wouldn't call him that. If not for their greying hair and the lines on their faces, and other things, he might be fooled into believing they were all young again, staying in Pherae for a night after trekking through the Nabata desert. In a way, those days had been easier.

"Is everything all right?" he asked, and found his eyes drawn toward the harsh scarring that ran down the side of Kent's neck. He wondered if the blanket wrapped around his shoulders was hiding the worst of it.

"Everything is wonderful," she answered for the both of them, but frowned a little when she caught him staring. "Fire," she said plainly, and lifted her skirt to show him a similar scarring on her legs. "We hoped the battle would spare our homes, but it spread too fast. We tried, but could not stop it."

Kent touched her hand. "We escaped with our lives."

And Lyndis looked over at her husband as if sorrow suddenly clouded her soul. She squeezed his fingers, but turned back to Eliwood. "I heard about Lady Ninian," she said. "I'm so sorry."

"Lyn." Kent's voice was suddenly full of pain. "I apologize, Lord Eliwood," he said, "but I must lay down."

Lyndis moved to steady him, and only a moment later, when Kent's hand reached out for a curved wooden stick, did Eliwood realize that Kent's right leg would not support his full weight.

With his wife at his side, helping him, the two began to slowly move for the entryway back into the castle.

Belatedly, Eliwood murmured out an, "It's okay," but he wasn't sure what he was okaying. Was it Ninian's death or the leave of his former friend and her husband?

He turned away from the pathetic but beautiful sight. Part of him wished that he and Ninian had been given the chance to grow old together in such a way, to face hardships and see one another through them.

The rest of him was glad that Ninian had died ten years ago, because he didn't think he could handle watching her crumble the way Lyndis was watching Kent.

…-…-…

When he saw her next, over a week later, she was leaning against a pillar, breathing heavily and sweating despite the cooler early-summer weather. He didn't know what to make of it, except that she was not doing as well herself as she had—perhaps unintentionally—led others to believe.

"Are you all right?" he asked, but as he neared, he could see that she was far from all right. Her face was deathly pale.

Guilt crossed her expression in a flash before she covered it and smiled at him. "Lord Eliwood," she said. "I…"

"You are not well."

She hesitated. "There is nothing you can do." When a few minutes passed, her coloring began to return, and she mopped up the sweat on her brow with an old handkerchief.

"Are you certain?"

Her smile grew, and he wondered how much of it was forced. "The aid I requested was not for me, if you recall."

"I recall quite well. It was for Kent."

"It was." She nodded, and moved the handkerchief to her neck.

"How long has his leg been like that?"

She looked thoughtful. "He injured it taking me to Caelin from the plains," she finally answered, her voice certain. "It always gave him a bit of trouble after that, but…" Her lips curved downward. "Perhaps it is old age, but it began to cause him great pain. He tried not using it, but then it just stopped working right."

"A shame," Eliwood said.

"Yes. And then his back, his joints, his eyesight, and the fire…among other things."

"It must be difficult."

"It is never easy for a strong man to become weak." Lyndis looked sad for a moment, but composed herself and tilted her head before speaking again, "I will not die before him," she said.

Her choice of words did little to soothe his mind. "Then…?"

"Sooner or later, we all will. When Mother Earth chooses to take me into her embrace, I will gladly go…but she will not call me until I am ready."

She would not be ready until her husband passed. "How long?" He wasn't sure he wanted to know.

She pushed off from the pillar she was leaning against, and shrugged her shoulders—shoulders he didn't remember as being quite so thin before. "Two, three weeks," she guessed. "If that. He knows what is coming. It is inevitable. He fights it, and…I suppose if I were in his place, I would fight a little, too, to stay with him."

Her voice nearly broke, her accent thickening.

"Forgive me," she said. "It's hard."

He understood, and he told her so. He could remember Ninian, at the end, the skin of her face drawn tight with pain. She'd fought, too, for a time, and only let go when she could no longer hold on. It might have been easier if she'd not fought at all. The end result would have been the same.

"He holds on for you."

"I know."

But he knew from experience that knowing didn't make it any easier. She would still have to watch him fade away, until one morning, or afternoon, she touched his face to find it lifeless.

"What will you do afterward?" he asked her as she started to walk away.

Pausing, Lyndis smiled, but did not look at him. "I will take care of it," said she, her voice soft and gentle. "He is my husband, and I will take care of him. I will take care of everything."

…-…-…

Kent held on for another week and a handful of days before he passed away. Lyndis said it was in his sleep, but Eliwood knew it was anything but peaceful. His heart ached for her.

That morning, he went to the stables, where he'd heard she'd gone.

Her horse was standing still as she checked the travois attached to it to be sure it would not slip free.

Eliwood watched as she struggled to lay Kent's carefully wrapped body on the wooden frame. He did not offer to help, certain that she would refuse it.

When she finished, he approached her, saw the dullness in her eyes and the ache in her heart as if he could feel it himself. He had felt it, once, long ago.

She looked older, but he supposed the death of a loved one did that to a person. Before Ninian's death, he could have taken on the world, but after…

"Lyndis," he said.

"Lord Eliwood."

"Just Eliwood," he said, tears beginning to prick behind his eyes. He'd lost so much, but hadn't she lost more? Her parents, her people, her grandfather…and now her husband. Sometimes life was cruel.

She smiled, but it looked tired. "We were happy, Eliwood," she said. "I am sure you understand that."

He did. "Do you need anything?"

"The aid I requested was not for me. I wanted him to be comfortable until the end. If our gers had not been burned to the ground…I would not have come here." She hesitated, glanced back at the covered body of her husband, and then let her clear eyes rest on Eliwood. "But if I could ask something for myself?"

"Anything," he said, and he meant it.

"A spade," she said tiredly, "would be most helpful."

He wanted to question it. Did she really intend to drag Kent's body all the way back to Sacae, and then bury him? In her condition? Didn't she realize how sick she was? He could see her trembling.

But he remembered her comment about Mother Earth, and that when her time came, she would gladly go, and he wondered if she was hoping the time would be sooner rather than later.

Would she be digging a grave for two?

He reached out and took her hand, squeezing it gently. "Of course, Lyn. Help yourself to any spade you want."

"Thank you, Eliwood," she said, and wrapped her arms around him for a quick embrace. "For everything. It means a lot to me." He knew she meant it with every fiber of her being.

It saddened him to know that she was leaving and he would never see her again—not in this life. For a brief moment, he thought of offering to bury Kent in Pherae, but the idea did not last; Lyndis would not want to be separated from her husband's grave, and she would not want to be buried anywhere but Sacae.

She almost stumbled when she turned to walk away, but he caught her waist and held her steady until she regained her balance. Concerned, he studied her as she pulled out the worn handkerchief and wiped at her face. He caught a carefully embroidered letter K in the corner, and his eyes turned sad. "Lyndis…"

"Don't worry about me, Eliwood," she said. "I said I would take care of everything, and I will. I'll make it to Sacae."

…-…-…

A lone horse slowly made its way from Castle Pherae, and Eliwood watched from a small window on the third floor.

The morning sun beat down on the world as Lyn continued toward Sacae. She sat tall on the back of her horse, and the gentle breeze whipped her hair around behind her. For a moment, Eliwood saw her as she was twenty years ago—sharp-tongued and witty, brash, brave, beautiful and determined—but that moment faded, and he knew the Lyndis leaving Castle Pherae was older, wiser, perhaps afraid of a few more things, but still beautiful, still full of determination, still very much herself.

And she was braver than anyone he had ever known.

"Goodbye, Lyn," he murmured, and as he turned from the window, he wondered if the same could be said about him.


…-…-…

Author Notes:

For FE Fest on Livejournal.