Title: Practice Makes Perfect
Series: Tellius. Set between the gap of FE9 and FE10.
Author's note: fic_promptly: Fire Emblem 9/10, Elincia/Lucia, Elincia's still uneasy with the command expected of a Queen, so Lucia lets her practice with her.
Filled in honor of happybutter's birthday.
Elincia had tarried in her room for quite some time, though she had finished her dressing several minutes before. Today she had insisted on dressing by herself, and had regretted it upon finding that the style of the season required the sort of lacing ala corsetry that required another person to help. Thankfully, they were laced at the front this season But she had finished it by herself, though she wasn't sure if that meant she had proven herself strong, or simply a bumpkin at heart.
That's what they'd taken to calling her lately. The bumpkin queen. A certain duke had even taken something of a campaign against her, slandering her whenever possible. Said duke would be at this party, and she would be expected to be polite to him, even as he insulted her to her face.
All her lessons hadn't prepared her for such a cutthroat world. That was all she could think. She did not hear the first knock, but the second caught her ear. She murmured a come in and the door swung open. Lucia wore a strapless white dress, stripped down of ruffles and fripperies. Her hair was pulled into a simple bun. She would be the most beautiful girl in the entire ball, Elincia thought with pride. Without even trying, Lucia could wow anyone with her beauty.
"Milady," Lucia said. She did not curtsey, at least. Elincia turned towards her, hurt staining her features.
"Please don't call me that. Especially not now, and not from you," Elincia said.
"I'm sorry," Lucia said.
It wasn't Lucia's fault. Both she and Geoffrey had been reprimanded by members of their court for their forwardness, for their persisted equal footing to a queen. Elincia shook her head. "No, need for apologies," she said softly.
"You've heard the news, I take it," Lucia said.
"Yes..I know of it. Bastian has kept me well informed."
Perhaps she had been naive. During her ascension to the throne, her subjects, her people seemed so happy. Of course history was filled with nobles houses overturned, bloodshed and terror. She simply hadn't thought it would apply to her.
"Do they really disapprove of me this much?" Elincia said, her voice low. "Have I been that much of a failure?"
"You have made a few mistakes, as any new ruler would. But you have not made any mistakes which would have doomed us, and you have fought for your country, perhaps harder than any other monarch," Lucia said.
"Sometimes I think that Duke Renning would have been a far better monarch. There wouldn't have be the threat of revolution under his banner," She said.
And she could've remained a secret, her hours in a hidden villa in the country.
"You don't know that," Lucia said. "In all likelihood, our friend the duke would've been just as belligerent under his rule"
But he would've had experience. Perhaps he would've shut down this rebellious voices before they had a chance to turn into anything, or maybe, a voice deep inside said, they wouldn't be revolting at all.
"Elincia, my queen..."
Lucia stepped forward and took Elincia's gloved hands in her own. Elincia smiled, despite herself.
"If I may speak candidly," Lucia began.
"You always may around me, Lucia," Elincia said.
"If there was any lesson you could learn, it was that of firmness. You are innately strong, but you tend too much towards kindness when assertiveness is what these curs need."
You don't have to use kid gloves for it, Lucia. I need to be stronger, and I shall be. But tonight, there is a gathering to attend to, and I must pretend to like this duke," Elincia said.
She tried to force a smile and did not quite succeed. Around Lucia and Geoffrey, she had a habit of being more open than she intended.
"One more thing," Lucia said.
Elincia turned, green hair spilling over her shoulder as she did.
"Will you practice with me when this farce is over?" Lucia said.
"Swordplay?" Elincia said.
"No. Something quite different," Lucia said. "A game of queen and subject."
Elincia tilted her head. She didn't quite understand, nor did she had time to tarry any longer and tell Lucia to elaborate. But more than anything she trusted her. So she nodded.
"Later, then," she said. "For now there are things I–we–must attend."
They left out of her chambers without another word.
Politics was a delicate affair. Too many parties and she was decadent, too little and she was a bore. Bastian found these gatherings a veritable bounty of information—and not just gossip. She had a hard time focusing, even in this point where she needed to be on her toes, to quote Bastian.
She wanted to curl up under her covers and not see the cracks, the whispers, the possible traitors she would have to execute. Ludveck's allies were all around her, and looking into the sea of faces, she couldn't tell friend or foe.
For peace, for peace. Oh, what more would she have to sacrifice for a peaceful reign?
She was aware of Lucia, even from across the room. This game had not been elaborated on, and each were on other sides of the room. Lucia shone in her own simple elegance, her wit and strength just as alluring as her beauty.
She was just as aware of Geoffrey's distance. Ever since the rumors started up, they were never allowed a moment alone. It always made her furious under the surface of her composure, the mere gall to launch such torrid accusations at Geoffrey who would never besmirch anyone's honor, not even a serving girl's, let alone hers.
Lucia would always provide her service as a chaperone, as she would say with a wry smile.
She caught Lucia's gaze from across the room. They shared a smile. A cursory glance showed Bastian and Geoffrey talking at the far side of the room.
Knowing that they were there supporting her, it made her feel a little stronger.
The next day after her morning bathing and dressing, breakfast and the first meeting of the day, she met with Lucia in one of the inner chambers. A tapestry of the Zunama was behind her, only slightly faded despite its advanced age. Lucia stood before her. One hand was on her hip, and she had an expression much like she'd glimpsed when Bastian or other suitors had manage to thoroughly bore and annoy her.
After a few cursory greetings, Lucia began to tell her of the plans. She did not change her strange, hostile seeming stance.
"Speak to me as if I were the courtiers who have slandered and mocked you," Lucia said.
As much as tried to, Lucia couldn't separate the image of Lucia, her friend and confidant, and one of the nobles who ridiculed and now, even betrayed her. Even the sight of Lucia across the room would soothe and comfort her. She couldn't just pretend that Lucia had become her enemy. Even the thought made her break from character in this playacting farce.
"Lucia...I appreciate you taking such care and thinking of me, but I do not think I can do this," Elincia said.
Lucia took Elincia's hands in hers. Her voice became tender and gentle. "Don't worry. There's nothing you could do to offend me or ever make me think less of you."
Lucia trusted her implicitly, even in this. Elincia squared her shoulders. She made her expression cold and remote, imagined her skin and inner essence turning to marble. She thought of the people she had known, and their strengths: Ike's bluntness, how he had defended her in front of Sanaki; Soren's condescending sneer; Lucia's confidence, strength and grace; Bastian's wit; Geoffrey's unwavering determination in the face of danger. Slowly she began to form herself a mask of their features and strengths, until she looked more the part of a queen of Daein, staring out from a picture with fiery gaze and a sword tipped in blood held in her grip.
She took a deep breath and tried to find the steely determination, the fury within her. She imagined Ludveck before her, sneering and even fawning on Lucia as he was wont to do.
Suddenly, all anger seemed in reach.
"You forget your place, Duke. I am the sovereign queen, and will not tolerate such perfidious behavior. On your knees," she said. Lucia dropped as quickly as if she'd been cut with a sword. Inside she felt worried–had Lucia hurt herself with this fall? She held back, however.
Elincia lifted her chin. "It would be wise for you to change your course of action, unless you wish to lose your head Ludveck."
The last was said contemptuously, without his title, to illustrate the fact that his title, even his very life depending on her kindness–and he was quickly wearing her patience and kindness thin.
Lucia smiled. "There's the fire I knew you had in you."
"It's a good start," Elincia said.
That moment had been a mask of other people's strengths, and no matter how well she had worn it, the contemptuous turn of the mouth, the sharpness in her voice, none of this was hers.
But she would become this mask, with her own inflection of kindness and duty. She would be strong for her people, no matter how much it took.
"Thank you for this, Lucia," Elincia said. "I feel much better, now."
"It's no trouble," Lucia said. "Perhaps we should keep up the practice?"
"Yes, I think you're right," Elincia said.
Lucia rose, her boots clacking on the floor. She dusted off her knees, and looped her arms about Elincia's waist. "I like this side of you," she said, her voice growing softer, more sensual.
Elincia flushed despite herself. "Does this mean you want me to order you around all the time like some sergeant?"
"Not all the time," Lucia said. "But sometimes."
"I think I can do this sometimes," Elincia said.
She had a feeling she'd get a lot more practice these coming days. She also had a feeling she'd need every bit of practice she could manage for years to come.