Disclaimer: Neither Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones, the characters therein, nor anything else belong to me. I am in no way profiting from this story.
Tearful Archer of the Serpent Bow
Neimi hummed to herself as she wandered towards the supply caravan near the base of the mountain, blowing several strands of pink hair out of her purple eyes. She glanced up in time to see a quartet of Frelian pegasus knights fly overhead, probably reporting the most recent movements of Grado's Prince Lyon.
Once again, Neimi felt a stab of sympathy for Princess Eirika and Prince Ephraim. Though she had never dared to speak to them directly (Not only were they royalty, Prince Ephraim looked so intimidating!) she had heard that they had been good childhood friends with Prince Lyon. It must be so difficult for them to have to fight him, as hard as it would be for her to fight Colm. The mere thought of that made her shiver and pray that such a terrible event never came to pass.
She shook her head and rubbed her eyes, wiping away the tears that were threatening to form. Colm had promised to look after her; he would never turn on her. If he could see her, blubbering over an impossibility like that, he would probably tease her for it. Yes, she was being silly.
And it wasn't even really Prince Lyon anymore, was it? Neimi shuddered as the memory of that dark, unholy voice drifted through her mind. It had claimed to be the Demon King, the embodiment of evil. The skeletons and revenants that the army had fought were one thing, but to think that they might have to battle the lord of all demons… Even the knowledge that one of the legendary Sacred Stones was in the camp did little to sooth Neimi's fears.
Neimi shook her head and reminded herself why she was here. She just needed to pick up another quiver of arrows; that last battle with Grado remnants had exhausted her supply, and who knew what would happen when the army marched into the mountains. She might want to grab another set of bowstrings as well; her current one was starting to show signs of wear…
"Master Daniel," she called as she reached the supply cart. She waited for the quartermaster to respond, but was surprised when she got no answer. "Master Daniel?" she tried again, knocking. Still nothing. "Are you alright?" she asked, poking her head in to look around. It seemed that Daniel was out for the moment, as the cart was empty.
Neimi paused indecisively. One the one had, she could see what she needed, right there. It would be easy to just grab them and save Master Daniel the trouble. It wouldn't be stealing, since she was going to use them for the good of the army. But what if he got mad? Would he even notice if a few arrows and bowstrings disappeared? Probably, he kept such good records; he probably knew exactly how many arrows there were in his cart…
Finally deciding to wait inside, Neimi clambered into the cart and moved over to the archery equipment, reaching for a quiver. She'd just carry it over to the table to save time.
As she rose to her feet, holding the quiver and several bowstrings, she gasped, staring at a previously hidden corner of the supply cart.
Sitting alone on a stand was the single most beautiful bow Neimi had ever seen in her life. It looked to be made of highly polished ash, and the arms were covered in gorgeous swirls. There were also a pair of gold caps on the ends, which upon closer examination were shaped like snakeheads. Neimi couldn't tell what material was used to wrap the grip, but it looked much softer and smoother than the rough leather she was used to. This bow looked less like a weapon of war than a work of art, an absolute masterpiece.
As Neimi stared at the bow, everything else seemed unimportant. It didn't matter that Master Daniel would probably be back in a minute, it didn't matter that she had no idea where the bow had come from. Neimi needed to at least touch it.
Leaning the quiver against the shelf and placing the bowstrings on top, Neimi walked reverently towards to bow. As she got closer, she started noticing the fine detail that had been put into it. The snake's eyes were not simply carved, they were set with dozens of tiny rubies, which reflected the light, making it seem like the creature was alive. The carvings, which at first seemed to be random shapes, were actually coiled serpents, all wrapping around each other to form a solid arm.
Slowly, Neimi reached out a shaking hand and pressed a finger against the bow. A shudder passed through her, and Neimi realized that she could hear a slight hum from the bow, almost as if it was… happy…
Acting on instinct, Neimi gently ran her finger down the snake carving, marveling at the fact that the craftsman seemed to have made each scale distinct. This was no ordinary bow.
Before she realized what she was doing, Neimi had gently picked the bow up, carefully cradling it in two hands. A small, fearful part of her was screaming for her to put the bow back and get out of the cart before someone saw her touching it. Normally, this voice in her head was instantly heeded, but today, in this moment, Neimi brushed it aside like an annoying fly.
Neimi carefully stroked the bow's grip, reveling in the silky feel of it. Even though the bow had simply been sitting on a stand, it was as warm as if it had been sitting near a fire. It wasn't hot by any stretch of the imagination, but it had a comfortable warmth that went well with the thrumming that the bow emitted. Neimi felt slightly silly for thinking this, but it almost seemed like the bow was enjoying the attention she was giving it, almost like it was a happy kitten.
Reaching blindly behind her, Neimi pulled an arrow out of a quiver. One of the first things her grandfather had taught her was to never draw a bow if one did not have an arrow in it, since the archer would misjudged how far the bow could be bent. This lesson had been further drilled into her head after an accident when she broke her grandfather's bow doing exactly what he had warned her not to. Had Colm not come to her rescue and helped her repair it, Neimi knew she would have gotten in a lot of trouble.
She paused for a long moment as she set the notch of the arrow into the string. Somehow, it seemed that she was going to take an irreversible step by drawing the bow. Touching was one thing, but actually using…
Another gently hum from the bow eased her fears, and she slowly, carefully pulled the arrow back. She marveled at how light the draw was, even though by all logic it should have been huge, judging by how heavy the wood was. It seemed that the bow was enchanted somehow.
As she reached half draw, the humming intensified, and the snakes' eyes flashed. A glow started sweeping down the coils, passed through the grip, and entered the arrow, causing it to glow brightly for a moment. Neimi might have let the arrow go out of shock at this point if her training hadn't kicked in.
The arrow had changed as the light faded. The shaft, which had previously been a common, slightly rough color, had shifted to be the same glossy ash as the bow itself. The arrowhead was still glowing faintly, and now seemed to be made of silver rather than steel. Neimi had only seen this sort of glow once before: coming off from the new sword Princess Eirika had acquired after liberating Castle Renais. Even the fletching, which had been simple, unpainted feathers, were now blood red and silky. Neimi giggled slightly as she gazed at the arrow.
"Hey!" a voice shouted. "What do you think you're doing?"
Neimi squeaked, and again her archer's instinct was the only thing that kept her from releasing the arrow. She spun around to see a tall, severe looking man standing at the end of the aisle. He had gray-green hair that hung to the back of his neck, easily visible because of his sharp features. His teal long coat was stitched with gold, as was the purple bandolier he wore. Neimi noticed that he wore arm guards much like her own, and had a longbow over his shoulder and a quiver at his hip. It took her a moment to recognize him as Prince Innes of Frelia.
"I…Your…Eep…" Neimi stammered, easing the draw on the bow back as she blinked. Prince Innes stalked forward, his cool grey eyes flicking from Neimi's face to the bow in her had. "I'm… I'm so sorry!"
Prince Innes cut her off with a sharp look, holding out his hand commandingly. Nervously, Neimi held out the bow, placing it in the prince's outstretched hand.
'Oh, why didn't I listen to the little voice?' Neimi wailed in her mind as Prince Innes started studying his bow intently, probably looking for any damage her clumsiness might have cause. But it was only a matter of time before he turned his attention too her, and Neimi was terrified of what he was going to do… he looked so mad.
The prince drew an arrow of his own from his quiver and placed it in the bow. 'Is he going to hurt me?' she thought as he tested the bow. 'Is he going to have me flogged? Am I… Is he going to have me killed?' Tears started leaking from Neimi's eyes as she waited for her sentence to befall her. Why had she touched the bow? She should have known it was too important for her hands!
Prince Innes's arrow didn't change like hers had, and he seemed to be struggling slightly to draw it. He glanced at her again, pausing. "Stop crying," he snapped as he set the bow carefully on the shelf beside him and took her arrow, which Neimi had been clutching fearfully in her hands. He then proceeded to examine this as well, his brow furrowed.
Neimi tried to comply with the prince's order, but was too scared to prevent the tears from falling. What would Colm say? Would he try to help her? Probably, but what could he do? He was talented, but Neimi couldn't see how even he could get her out of this mess.
The prince drew Neimi's arrow in the bow, his eyes still narrowed slightly. He looked at her again and huffed. "I thought I told you to stop crying, girl."
"I'm sorry!" Neimi wailed, her emotions bursting under the prince's stern gaze. "I wasn't thinking! I just wanted to look at it! I didn't know… I… sniff…" She fell to her knees. "Please don't hurt me, your Highness! I'm so sorry! Please, I don't want to die!"
Prince Innes blinked several times at her outburst.
"Do you know what this is?" he asked, holding up the bow. Neimi shook her head, barely able to see through the tears still pouring down her cheeks. "This is Nidhogg the Serpent Bow, one of the Sacred Twins of Frelia."
"Nidhogg…" Neimi moaned, staring at the bow. She had touched the most sacred bow in Magvel! Who knows what damage she managed to do to it just by touching! She'd probably destroyed it completely in her stupidity. Any thoughts of escaping this left her mind; the only question now was how painful her execution would be. Maybe they would leave her to the monsters…
Prince Innes muttered something under his breath and pulled a cloth from a pocked. "Dry your eyes, girl," he said, holding it out to Neimi.
"What…" Neimi asked, staring at the prince, who sighed in frustration.
"Take the handkerchief. Use it to dry your eyes. Stop crying." He shook his head. "And get up while you're at it."
Slowly, Neimi reached out a shaking hand and took the cloth from the prince's hand, using her other arm to push herself up. She rubbed her eyes, sniffling slightly as she tried to force the tears to stop.
Prince Innes waited until she was done. "Now, explain what happened," he said imperiously.
"I…" Neimi hiccupped. "I was out of arrows from the last battle… so I came over to get some more. Master Daniel wasn't around, so I thought I'd get what I needed together so that when he came back… I'd be ready." She rubbed her eyes again under Prince Innes' unyielding gaze. "I… I saw the bow… I'm so sorry…"
"Stop apologizing and tell me what happened."
"O… okay…" Neimi whispered before taking a deep breath. "I saw the bow, and I… I wanted to touch it…" She waited for Prince Innes to start yelling at her, but he simply gestured for her to continue. "Well… I did… and it started humming…"
"Nidhogg started humming?" the prince asked, sounding interested.
"Yes," Neimi said. "I… I don't know what I was thinking after that… I picked… I picked Nidhogg up. Then… then I put the arrow in it…"
"And the arrow changed to be like this?" Prince Innes asked, holding up the arrow. Neimi nodded slowly. "Interesting…" the prince murmured. "And Nidhogg. Was it easy to draw? Hard?"
"It… its draw was less that it should have been…" Neimi said.
Prince Innes pursed his lips, seeming to think. "Hold this," he said suddenly, holding out Nidhogg.
"Wha…" Neimi gasped, staring at the prince.
"Take. Nidhogg," Prince Innes said firmly, causing Neimi to jump. Slowly, she reached out her hand, which was shaking like a leaf in a gale, to take Nidhogg in hand. The bow immediately started humming again. "Draw it," the prince continued, tossing her an arrow from his quiver, which she nearly dropped out of surprise.
"Okay…" Neimi whispered, trying to fit the arrow into the bow.
"Take a deep breath," Prince Innes said after a few attempts. "Close your eyes, center yourself." Neimi nodded, taking a few breaths. Finally, she was able to place the arrow properly. "Now draw Nidhogg."
As Neimi did, the bow flared again, and Neimi once more found herself holding a sacred arrow.
"Incredible," Prince Innes said, staring at the bow. "I had heard of Nidhogg's power, but have never seen it for myself." He turned his eyes back to Neimi. "You do know what this means, don't you?" he asked sharply.
"…I broke it…" Neimi whimpered, bracing herself.
"No," Prince Innes said. "No, this means Nidhogg has chosen you."
"Wait… Your Highness…" Neimi said. "How is that…"
"I don't know," Price Innes said. "It can't be a matter of age, I've drawn Nidhogg dozens of times and nothing like this has happened. Nor can it be solely because it senses the rising darkness or the proximity of the Sacred Stone, since I attempted to draw Nidhogg just this morning. And I doubt it's random chance…"
"But, your Highness, what do you mean, it's chosen me?" Neimi asked.
"The glowing arrow is not just for decoration," Prince Innes said impatiently. "That is the source of its sacred power against the forces of darkness. Without that, Nidhogg is simply another bow, a powerful one, certainly, but just a bow none-the-less." His eyes met her. "And what I mean by it choosing you is that only you can unlock its true power."
"So I didn't break it?" Neimi asked hopefully.
"Not at all," Prince Innes said. "In fact, without you it would have been almost useless in the coming days." He studied her. "What is your name?"
"I… I'm Neimi, your Highness," Neimi said, curtsying to the best of her ability.
"You're from Renais, yes?" Prince Innes said. "I remember first seeing you briefly with Princess Eirika's party."
"I am…" Neimi said.
"You wouldn't happen to know or know of Robert of the Bow, would you?" Prince Innes asked, sounding interested. Neimi thought for a long moment; the name was familiar, but she couldn't think from where. Finally, her memory clicked.
"I remember my grandfather talking about a student of his by that name, your Highness," she said. Prince Innes blinked.
"If that's true… your grandfather wouldn't be Single-Arrow Zethla, would it?"
"Yes… You know about him, your Highness?" she asked.
"Do I know him?" Prince Innes asked, sounding incredulous. "Every archer in Magvel worth their salt knows of Single-Arrow Zethla! He is quite possible the greatest archer since the hero Frelia herself!" He stared at Neimi. "Perhaps it is not so surprising that Nidhogg chose you, if he was your teacher."
"He was, your Highness," Neimi took a breath. "If you don't mind me asking… why did you ask about Robert of the Bow?"
"I was simply thinking," Prince Innes said. "I've seen you practicing, and your style reminded me of his, only better. I thought at first you might be his student, but it seems you share a master."
"Oh…" Neimi said. There was a long moment of silence before Neimi worked up the courage to speak again. "Um… So… you're not angry with me, your Highness?"
"Hm?" Prince Innes asked. "No, I'm not angry with you. I was simply surprised." He studied Neimi. "Why did you think I was angry?"
"Errrr…" Neimi said, her cheeks flushing. "Um… I…"
Prince Innes sighed in frustration. "Very well, I promise that I will not become angry, whatever your answer might be. Does that make you feel better?"
"Um… Well, your Highness, you… you're intimidating." Neimi said, the rest of her face turning beet red. Prince Innes blinked.
"What? I'm… intimidating?" he asked. "I was not trying to be…" He stared at Neimi, causing her to back off with a squeak.
"You did it again, your Highness!" she said.
"That… intimidates you?" Prince Innes asked, sounding confused. "If that is all it takes, how did you survive the monsters this army has fought?"
"I can shoot monsters, your Highness," Neimi said truthfully. The prince nodded slowly.
"I suppose feeling like you're able to defend yourself would help," he mused. "Well, no matter." He nodded towards the bow Neimi was still holding. "You should probably get some practice with Nidhogg, it behaves differently from most bows. My scouts just discovered where the Demon King is headed; we may be able to catch up tomorrow. There are monsters, however. Nidhogg will be invaluable, so it's wielder must be ready, that is to say, you."
"Tomorrow?" Neimi whispered, her previous fears about the coming battles rising again in her heart.
"Yes," Prince Innes said. "If the gods are with us, perhaps we can end this madness." He studied her. "Practice. That is the best way to overcome pre battle fears." He reached behind him with unerring accuracy and grabbed a quiver of arrows.
"I… yes, your Highness…" Neimi said, taking the arrows and bowing.
"You're a talented archer," Prince Innes said firmly. "Take comfort in that fact. Besides, my father will be wanting that back, so you're not allowed to die and lose it." Neimi smiles shyly and turned to leave. "Oh, one last thing," Prince Innes called. "That handkerchief you have…"
"Oh…" Neimi said, looking at the cloth. "I…"
"Keep it," Prince Innes continued. "You'll notice that there's a copy of the Frelian coat of arms on it, proving it's mine?" Neimi turned it over and found the stitching the prince had mentioned: a rearing pegasus crossed by a pair of lances. "If anyone gives you problems about using Nidhogg, show that to them and tell them to take it up with me."
"Thank you, your Highness," Neimi said, smiling. She quickly left the cart and darted towards the archery field. She would do as Prince Innes told her, but she couldn't wait until she saw Colm or Amelia and told them about this!
Princess Tana stared after the pink haired archer. Her brother had told her that he was heading to the supply caravan and would only be a minute, but since he had taken so long, she had decided to go check on him. She had been just about to enter when Neimi had jumped out and run off, looking nervous but oddly excited.
"Was that Nidhogg she was carrying?" the blue-haired girl asked herself, trying to get a glimpse of the bow. She was about to follow when her brother stepped out from the cart. "Innes, is everything alright?" she said.
"Yes, everything's fine, Tana," Innes said, glancing after Neimi himself. "You'll be glad that Nidhogg has found its proper wielder."
"Really?" Tana said. "That's good to know, though I must say I'm surprised that it's her. I mean, she's got talent, but I always thought she had self-confidence issues."
"She does, on both counts," Innes said. "That's why I sent her to get some practice before tomorrow."
"Well, it's good to know you didn't manage to trip over something and hurt yourself," Tana said teasingly. "That would just be embarrassing, and I don't think I would ever be able to let you live it down." Innes snorted dismissively as the siblings walked back towards the center of camp.
"Tana," Innes said suddenly. "May I ask you a question?"
"No, I'm not going home," Tana said. "I have just as much right…"
"That was not my question, Tana," Innes cut in.
"Oh, sorry," Tana said sheepishly. "In that case, yes, you can ask me."
"Good." Innes took a breath. "Am I intimidating?"
"Yes," Tana said without hesitation. She glanced at him. "You were being mean to Neimi, weren't you?"
"I was not!" Innes said hotly. "I didn't do anything!"
"You made her cry, right?" Tana said, tutting. "You do that a lot, don't you? Making young girls cry, I mean. There was that time with those pegasus squires…"
"We agreed never to speak of that again!" Innes hissed, causing Tana's warm laughter to ring throughout the camp.
AN: When I play Sacred Stones, Neimi almost always turns out to be the best archer, so I give her Nidhogg, but I often wondered what Innes would have to say about that. This is the result.
Please read and review!