It's hard to believe, but here I am, uploading the last chapter of the story. This story began the 22nd of May last year, and the final chapter goes up the 3rd of July this year.
Disclaimer: I only own OCs, of which there won't be many.
It had taken several months after the war's end, but it was finally time for an alliance of nations to be finalized.
The leaders of the nations that had comprised the now dispersed Archanean League were meeting again. Those who held the reins of the League now met as leaders of nations. They met to form an alliance that would bring the continent to the greatest unity its had since the days of Anri.
Marth didn't exactly want this to be a large, glamorous spectacle, but it was hard to downplay an event of this scale. The leaders of most of the continent's nations were meeting in one place, all to make and sign a peace treaty between them. What that meant for the continent… it was no surprise that many were enthusiastic about this, and wanted to make it an event to remember for all time. At the very least, no one was being announced with trumpets and dancers, nor were they being identified by some shrill page. Marth and Caeda had arrived first, but the other leaders of nations, and their armies of bodyguards, had collected in the area over the course of several days. Now Hardin, Nyna, Minerva, Mostyn, and the Aurelian King were all here as well. Wendell came as the representative of Khadein.
There was going to be little talk today. Discussion of trade and offerings of help with specific problems would likely wait until a few days later. Today would only see the formal declarations of peace treaties, what exactly that entailed for every nation would be negotiated later. The nations would, obviously, go out of their way to render aid, but, regrettably, Marth noted, there was a point where one nation might be forced to pull back the hand of friendship.
The nations might be allies, but they couldn't completely exhaust themselves in an effort to help an allied nation that couldn't handle its own problems. Marth could only hope that he would never be forced to withhold aid for a desperate ally to keep Altea stable.
The alliance would be finalized in a surprisingly humble looking fort. Albeit, one surrounded by a sea of soldiers. If a bandit was unlucky enough to come by at this moment, or an assassin foolishly tried to enter the fort, they would be cut down in a matter of heartbeats.
Despite the newfound peace, there was a rigidness to the soldiers. Careers, and lives, had been lost out of carelessness on pleasant, seemingly victorious days. The soldiers took to their patrols, ones devoid of any faults. Despite the proximity of the armies of various nations, some having very different values, there were no scuffles or flaring tempers. At the same time, the armies were clearly compartmentalized, and not even the Aurelian army and the Archanean army interacted with each other.
Cain felt almost… incomplete, not in formation with Abel. He had already not been with Frey for quite some time now, and now… most of Altea's other soldiers weren't good enough for him to be the partner of. Frustration gnawed at him at the loss of his former two comrades in arms. He could look at all these soldiers present, Altean or otherwise, and just see the imperfections and flaws in their stance, their gait, and the way they held their weapon. With the exception of those who had served in the Archanean League, this was a combined force that clearly banked more on quantity then quality.
He took solace in the fact that Marth was well protected enough, and Elice was safely back at the castle. With Dolhr snapped in half, there was nothing left to fear. Badly formed armies should have been the least of his worries, and Abel and Frey's absence should have been an insignificant cross to bear, and yet…
Cain just wanted to go back to the castle and train. This hot and muggy day did not suit him. It did not suit a person who had fought without complaint in even hotter weather.
"Don't tell me something is bothering you now, of all times." Cain blinked, with so many people around it took a moment for him to realize that the speaker was talking to him. He turned to the direction the voice came from. Sedgar looked calmly at the Altean knight. "This should be a happy time, Cain. We'll have a continent held together by the tightest unity since Anri's time, and under leaders we know we can trust." Sedgar looked toward the mass of soldiers all around him. Each one of them looked as if they'd be ready on their feet if another war started right now.
Sedgar shook his head. "I'm a warrior, and I am familiar with war. At the same time, I assure you that I've grown sick of it. This is everything any sane man would want."
"I know all that. I feel the same." Cain said after a moment, but there was a struck chord of reservation in his voice. "I just feel like I've lost my place. I lost a good friend, who's supposedly still alive, just missing, and another good friend who willingly left the Altean army. I feel like I don't know what to do in the aftermath of the war, and I've lost most of the people I can talk to."
The Aurelian knight's eyes looked searchingly into Cain's face, and he nodded. "I suppose I understand that. You wouldn't be the first soldier who felt like he had lost his place after a war. Sometimes they become… hindsight casualties, of the war they survived." Sedgar raised a hand to stroke his chin. "I'm content with this peace, even if it means my finer skills won't get as much chance to shine. If the warriors and soldiers don't have much to do… well, that's a good thing, isn't it?"
Cain shrugged. "Maybe. At this point I just want this day to be over."
Sedgar chuckled. "I can agree with that. Everything Archanea is involved in feels so stuffy. You wouldn't believe the ceremonies I now have to put up with every day. This, honestly, isn't so bad. You should have just seen how needless the celebration for Coyote's crowning had been." He craned his neck, not seeing any of the tossed flowers or ribbons that marked that shallow and empty spectacle. If it had been anyone besides Coyote or Coyote's brother, he and the rest of Wolfguard would have left in disgust. Hopefully, on the interior of the fort, things were going well, and without needless flourish.
Discussions went fast inside the building. The room was occupied only by the rulers, and the most trusted of vassals. Marth had Jagen standing beside him, while Hardin had Wolf, Mostyn had Ogma, and Minerva had Palla. Minerva had little role in the discussion, her mind was elsewhere, on her runaway sister, but she kept it to herself. Beyond nodding a few times at what others said to her, she had little part in the discussion.
Palla took the chance to look at Wolf, who wore a grim expression, his effective trademark. He clearly had little taste for these formal occasions, and yet these sort of ceremonies were likely commonplace in Archanea. Palla was honestly happy to see Wolf, though the Aurelian didn't even look at her. If this had been a more casual moment she might have entertained the thought of asking Wolf to walk with her for a time, but he'd likely dourly decline.
A slight bit of frustration creased Caeda's forehead. She was standing near her father, and Ogma, rather then by Marth. Thanks to the wonders of political necessity, she was a representative of the Talys royal family and had to stand right here. Regardless, the talk was mercifully already starting to wrap up. Caeda had paid it little attention, giving more focus to Marth, even he looked somewhat bored. Everything discussed must have been even more predictable to him then it was to Caeda.
A declaration of alliance was slowly penned. An oath of friendship, and a decree that the allies would band together in times of trouble. An oath that hopefully would not be made flexible by politics and intrigue. One by one, every leader left their signature, and a seal, on the declaration.
That would be the signal for what everyone believed would be a new golden age for the continent. Friendly faces exchanged gestures of agreement and satisfaction. Nations that in past times gave each other no trouble and a wide berth were now legally holding hands. It should end up being the peace the continent so desperately needed.
Hardin, as the new King of the holy nation of Archanea, began to speak.
"There was once a time that the leaders of nations meeting like this, to exchange such goodwill, would have been just a dream. I would have disregarded it as an illusion and delusion myself. Yet, here we are, coming out of a war to join together, to create what will be the closest thing to continent-wide peace we've ever known." He looked at those before him, allies he fought alongside of. People who, in times past, he would have never suspected he would fight alongside of. "It doesn't mean that what lies before us is an easy path. Many of our nations are still in the process of rebuilding, and the expectations people expect us to live up to are harsh and heavy. Expectations that perhaps no single person can meet by themselves."
He looked at Minerva, the only conquering war hero who was ruling by herself. She was already distraught over what she had lost in the war, and… though he was too tactful to say it, he could not see Minerva's rule going well. Not at all. He could only hope that she could weather what she had gone through and emerge as a successful Queen.
"May this alliance never be sundered. By neither treachery or ill pursuits. If we keep our integrity and never fall to corruption, we can create a peace that will continue to last. I hope to be able to count on you… and I hope I never fail in your eyes either."
Hardin brought his hands together. "To better times, with hands held tight."
The meeting of leaders ended. They departed, taking their armies with them. The goodwill exuded from the leaders, and their armies, was overwhelming. Conquering heroes were being hailed as saviors as they readied for the trip back to their nations.
Marth and Caeda returned to Castle Altea as the celebrations of the treaty ended at the fort. The celebrations began in Altea upon their return, and would likely be ongoing throughout the rest of the continent for some time to come. Caeda had a very jaded perception of it all, and while she placed much value in what the results of the treaty would be, she just felt… tired, right now.
In the King's private chambers, they were both sitting on Marth's bed, and Marth's hand was on her shoulder. She turned to him and smiled as softly as she could, then took the new King into her arms. Caeda would have wanted to be able to share the bed with him, but tradition dictated that she couldn't do that until they were married. It was a struggle to withhold a sigh at that, but she didn't fight Altea's traditions. Even now, their legal joining seemed far off, even after they had both confessed to each other. A passionate embrace, and a kiss, which Caeda began to lean in to give, seemed to be the greatest physical gesture of affection they could share right now.
It was a moment devoid of words. Caeda was certain that they weren't even necessary. Not even the best selected words, spoken from the heart or chosen carefully over several weeks, would match the simple feeling of this moment. There had been so many times she dreaded that Marth would be killed in the war. The war was over, and Marth was safe, and if she had it her way, he would never put himself in a dangerous position again. She ached for this moment to last, but even as she tightened her arms, she knew it wouldn't.
As the embrace ended, Caeda sighed and stood up. She turned to Marth and brushed a hand across his forehead. The day they would truly share a room was, hopefully, not as far off as it seemed to be. Caeda still hadn't… completely convinced Elice that she was the one for Marth, but Elice at least respected Marth's choice.
"Good night, Marth." Caeda whispered. She turned and left the room. The halls of Castle Altea were larger then those of Castle Talys. Her father would have said that it would mean that Castle Altea would feel colder and icier, but Caeda actually felt like these halls were warmer then the ones of her old home. Any place she lived in with Marth would feel warm…
Her room in the castle was what used to be Marth's room prior to the betrayal, which proved to be the catalyst for his rising to answer fate's call. The room looked like it hadn't been touched since that day, though it remained almost free of dust or collected dirt. Rapiers, likely once used by Marth, lined the walls, Caeda had no familiarity with such weapons, she was only familiar with lances. Her Wing Spear was also kept in Castle Altea now, but not in this room.
She looked at the bed, and felt a sense of dread. Throughout the war, she had been plagued by visions of Marth's death. Over and over, each a different scenario, and each almost happened, but some twist ended up saving Marth. With the war over, such visions should have ended, she dearly hoped that they would…
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she placed herself under the covers. She slowly closed her eyes…
Caeda inhaled quickly. At this point she knew it was a vision, but what lay before her was horrifying all the same. It was always the same. She wanted to know why she was cursed to see these things, even if seeing them allowed her to save and protect Marth.
This time, Marth was impaled on a lance. His corpse was hoisted into the air by a figure dressed in a regal red color. The clothing seemed… very Archanean. She focused on the face, wondering if she could identify it, perhaps it was some noble who thought that the death of Anri's bloodline was doing a favor for Archanea. Maybe someone who thought that the honor for slaying Medeus should have gone to a member of Archanea's nobility. She examined the face, beginning to recognize certain features… certain…
It was Hardin. There could be no mistaking that face. At the same time, he looked… warped, manic. His eyes were red, more red then blood, his skin seemed to be the wrong shade, almost ash in tone, it was as if Hardin had turned into a demon. Or she was looking at a demon that had assumed Hardin's form.
Behind Hardin were four figures, all female. Caeda was able to list them off, it was Lena, Maria, Nyna, and Elice. None of them seemed to care about Marth's death, not even Elice seemed to be bothered by her brother's death. Their eyes were cold and glazed, it was an unnatural and chilling sight.
As Hardin moved, Caeda noticed something, it seemed like his movements were not his own. Her eyes traced skyward, and she saw a hooded figure, Hardin's movements seemed to conform to this figure's movements. Caeda couldn't see anything about this figure, she couldn't see anything within the hood. All she could see… was two small lights shimmering from within the darkness, where the figure's face should have been.
The only other thing left to see was… something, behind the hooded figure. A figure as black as midnight with a vaguely draconic shape. She couldn't understand what she was seeing, all she knew was that this thing behind the hooded man was quite possibly the most frightening thing she had ever seen.
Caeda suddenly awoke, jumping up to a sitting position immediately. She breathed in, hard and slow. Her arms wrapped around her legs as she rocked herself. Suddenly, going back to sleep was an idea that unsettled her. As she sat there, fearing for Marth's safety, feeling her beating heart pining to burst out of her chest, she quietly told herself that Hardin would never strike Marth like that. Nor would Elice ever be so uncaring about her brother's death. Hardin… she could trust Hardin. What she had just seen was too illogical, too unlikely. Hardin would never fall prey to such manipulation, and Elice would never reach the point where her brother's death would have held no meaning to her.
This dream… it had to have been just that. A dream.
Hardin reclined on his throne. The Queen's throne to his left was vacant right now. Nyna had already retired to her private chambers for the night. Hardin closed his own eyes as if he was ready to fall to an irresistible slumber himself, but he remained very awake. His thoughts cycled through the recovery operation of Archanea. The nation was rebuilding quickly on all fronts, he reminded himself not to surrender to pride, but there could be no denying the fact that he had yet to make a single bad decision as King.
The King of the holy nation of Archanea, leading it to better times. Four soldiers he could trust with his life, and a Queen that he loved, and loved him back. He still had many duties, but at the same time, life had turned out well for him. He could only hope that it would continue like this…
"It will only continue… if you continue to be willingly spoon-fed lies." A voice answered his private thoughts. Hardin's eyes snapped open. He looked around, there were no guards in the throne room at the moment, and the only figure his eyes settled on was a hooded figure in a shadowed corner.
Hardin tensed, he held Gradivus, but he did not expect an attack. If this person was an assassin, he would have not so foolishly revealed himself. He was, then, a messenger. One who had apparently slipped into the castle by his own means.
"Lies?" Hardin asked. He did not like the word this man used, who he couldn't even see the face of. Hardin felt as though he was recognizing the general build of this man from somewhere, but could not determine who it could be.
"The holy King, come from a nation of horses and plains. He has become a great and trusted King in remarkably little time, and holds the hand of a Queen who loves him. Undoubtedly, he will see Archanea to a shining future." The man's voice dripped with… not sarcasm, but he was clearly belittling the tale of Hardin.
"Fool." The hooded figure raised his head slightly, revealing none of his face, but allowing Hardin to see eyes glowing in the blackness within. "All you are, is a man too blind and daft to see the chains the good Bishop has bound you in. You know nothing of what you have willingly accepted being a pawn in. However…"
A low chuckle.
The hooded figure took an item out of his robe. A sphere of fair size, and as black as the interior of the man's hood. "This is an item of no insignificant ability, King Hardin. It has the power to allow a man to seek justice on those who have wronged him, those who have manipulated him. I could give it freely to you, and its power will lead you to the truth."
Hardin looked at the sphere, which seemed like an empty husk to him, then laughed. "So you're a merchant. I've seen many useless trinkets be described as being able to bestow great power on their owner." He looked away. "If it was so powerful, you'd use it for yourself. I'm not in the mood for games, nor your attempts at accusing anyone I know of ill intentions. I will give you once chance to leave peacefully."
The hooded man seemed at a loss of words for a moment. Only for a moment. He pulled the sphere back into his robes, and chuckled again. "As you wish, Archanean King." He emphasized Hardin's title, but not in a respectful manner. He made the title sound… undignified, and empty. "Some people need to discover deception on their own, not be lead to the first traces of the puppeteer's strings by another. Know this, King Hardin, what another person says is true, may not always be the whole story." The man started to turn away, Hardin did not see the smirk within the blackness of the hood. "I'd suggest you begin looking at your wife. Hard. You might be surprised by what you find. And when you do, I shall make my offer again…"
Hardin looked away for a moment, not even considering what the man was saying. He suddenly turned his head back to demand the man identify himself, but he was already gone, seemingly vanished into air. Hardin's hands strained on the armrests of the throne, and he wondered what thoughts had been planted in his head.
It was an uncharitable thought, to think of Nyna as some willing practitioners of ill play… no, no, more then uncharitable, it was idiocy. That man had been a raving lunatic, desperate to sell a worthless trinket. That was the simple truth.
He expected to feel put at ease. Instead, he could not quell a strange churning in his gut…
And, we're done.
When I decided to change this from a novelization of FE11's prologue to a novelization of the entire game, I didn't quite grasp how big of a project I was undertaking. In the earlier days of the fic, I admit that I sometimes felt the temptation to drop the whole story, but I kept going on.
After this, I'm going back to one-shots. Origin of The Prince of Light has given me new... ammunition, for one-shots. Prior to writing this I never would have considered scenarios like Roshea having a crush on Linde, and the like. I'm certainly not going to be embarking on any big projects like this anytime soon.
I did have the intention of writing a FE12 novelization, and some things I wrote in this story were to be set ups for that. But I'm unlikely to write such a thing unless I can play the game myself, and seeing as hope for localization is virtually zero, and not being one to port or emulate, the chances of me novelizing FE12 are exeedingly low. A shame, I did have a MUxKatarina story arc already worked out. At least FE didn't go back to being Japan-only, with the announcement of FE13 being localized. A fact that did not satisfy me so much as... placate me. I've grown more enthusiastic for 13 then I expected I would.