Disclaimer : This piece of writing is the translation of "Hope", by Plume Sombre (you may read the original here : s/8475214/1/Esperance). I do not own Fire Emblem or its characters.
This oneshot takes place three years before the beginning of Sword of Seals, borrowing some elements from Blazing Sword's extended epilogue (that the game's European version lacks).
Also, please note that it is my first time translating from French to English, so if you see glaring errors, please point them out so that I can improve ! Thanks in advance !
Hector was happy. Nothing more, nothing less. Today, he was expecting a visit from his lifelong friend. They had met for the last time two years ago – fifteen years after the end of their travels – and he was eager to see Eliwood again, to chat like before. And perhaps to spar a little while ? They had grown older, but there was no law against trading blows to stay healthy.
Pacing around the castle in his wait for Eliwood, Hector looked through the window and saw his daughter in the garden. She was twelve years old. Time passed... Looking closer, Hector noticed the magic tome she had in her hands ; she was sitting under a tree and seemed studious. The sight made him smile : for years, almost since her birth, he had thought Lilina would become a Pegasus knight like her mother, as she looked very much like her – even though he had always said she looked more like him. Against all odds, she had developed a great affinity for magic and had immediately started to learn the basis. Her teacher, the Mage General Cecilia, even confirmed that she had a vast potential. How much Hector wished that Florina could see her accomplishments...
He was distracted from his thoughts by the knight calling him. Hector turned around to face him, and the knight announced that Lord Eliwood and Master Roy had arrived. Hector smiled happily as he went to greet his friend – and Pherae's heir.
Eliwood was standing before the castle's large gates, looking delighted, along with his son, who seemed a little more nervous. Hector raised an eyebrow, but he decided not to make a remark about it for the moment – there was no point in making things worse.
"Glad to see you again, Eliwood !" Hector exclaimed merrily.
"Same here, Hector", the Marquess of Pherae greeted him. "How are you ?"
Hector couldn't help but laugh at that.
"Well, you know me, I'm still a big guy", he said. "Please come in, we can't stay in front of the gates forever."
Eliwood smiled and nodded, and then followed Hector inside the mansion, his son walking besides him. It seemed to him that his friend hadn't changed much since last time, and that amused him a bit. No matter the number of years that passed, Hector would always remain the same, and that was reassuring, in a sense.
Hector led them to the parlour, where there would be more at ease. He had specifically asked that no one enter this room because the Marquess of Pherae would be there, and he wished to speak to him privately. It was out of the question to let this meeting be interrupted by aristocrats seeking Pherae's favours !
Hector invited Eliwood and Roy to sit down, while sitting himself. His guests took place, and the Ositian ruler couldn't help but notice how the young Lord had changed.
"Well, Roy, you're on your way to becoming a man !" he said. "You've grown much in two small years. Did you start taking the sword ?"
"Not yet, Lord Hector", Roy answered calmly.
"Actually, Hector, one of my main reasons for coming here was that I wanted Roy to stay in Ositia to study", declared Eliwood.
Hector stared at his friend. He wasn't expecting such a demand, but it was, in a way, logical : since Ositia was Lycia's most powerful territory, the heirs of almost every house came here to study – Hector, Eliwood and Erik of Lahus had once been comrades through this system. He smiled and put a hand on Roy's head ; the boy jumped at this unexpected gesture.
"Is that why you were nervous earlier ?" he laughed. "All right, Eliwood, I will gladly welcome your son."
"Thanks, Hector. Roy, do your best, I'm counting on you. I think I've seen Lilina in the garden, you can go play with her."
Roy nodded and left the room, after politely greeting Hector. The latter arched an eyebrow at Eliwood's behaviour, not expecting him to send his son so soon.
"I thought it would be a good thing for him to get to know Lilina better", the red-headed Marquess explained. "He looked very enthusiastic to see her when they last met, two years ago."
Something clicked in Hector's mind. He had a strange impression of déjà vu, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it... It wasn't said in the same manner, but he saw the implications of his friend's words, and even though this irritated him quite a bit, he had to admit that sooner or later, Roy and Lilina would get to know each other. But that didn't mean that he would consent to their union.
"Eliwood !" he exclaimed, snapping his fingers. "I'm a seer ! Do you remember that time, when I told you about the dream I had of me with a beard and a little girl on my shoulders ?"
The Marquess of Pherae nodded, vaguely remembering something similar. At the time, he had mocked the idea of this beard, but it had now become a reality : Hector even bore it proudly, and it did suit him rather well. Then, he realised it was nothing innocuous at all, and he stared at his friend with wide eyes.
"Yes, 'oh' !" Hector laughed. "And it's still true, I won't give up my daughter !"
Eliwood joined him in his laughter, amused by Hector's behaviour. Roy and Lilina barely knew each other ! They could indeed become closer than that, but for now, they were only children in apprenticeship. However, Eliwood imagined it well, that future Hector had dreamed so many years ago ; as incongruous as it might seem, he even hoped for it – whereas he had dreaded it before. This might raise agitation in other territories, claiming than two sovereigns from two different nations ought not to marry, but this would bring Ositia and Pherae even closer to each other.
Hector ran a hand through his beard, now lost in his thoughts. If his dream became reality, Lycia would then be led by Ositia and Pherae... It didn't sound that grim. Even more so with Roy at the helm of Pherae, since he looked so much like his father – even from seeing him as a small child, one could tell he had this gentle and idealistic air. In time, he would see. He chuckled.
"If I had a son, we could have seen which one of our children is the best."
"Of course, it would have been rather funny," Eliwood replied. "However, I'm sure your son would have decided to take the axe, like you did. Many even matches like ours would have followed."
Eliwood decided not to bring up their duel results, knowing that Hector was persuaded that they were even, while he was certain he had been victorious more often than not. Reminiscing about the two years during which Hector and him had accomplished so many things made him feel lighter. He could forget all his worries, remember the past, and simply be with his best friend. He tried to ignore the pain that suddenly took hold of his lungs. Quietly, he rubbed his torso, trying to dull it, without result. His throat was burning. He did not want to make Hector worry, and yielding to the pain wasn't the best idea...
"Oh, surely," Hector said.
But he noticed that something had changed in his friend's attitude ; Eliwood seemed a lot more tense and nervous, clutching his chest with one hand. Hector frowned.
"Eliwood, are you all right ?" he asked with a concerned tone.
The Marquess of Pherae nodded slowly, but he couldn't keep resisting the pain. He quickly covered his mouth with one hand and coughed, a loud and painful cough. He felt his lungs catching on fire, his palm becoming wetter, his head spinning... He heard Hector calling him, but he couldn't even answer him to say he was all right – despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. He felt as if his throat was pierced by dozens of lances, and he wished the cough would just stop right there, immediately, without any more suffering.
When it calmed down, Eliwood slowly put his hand down, closing it into a fist as he knew all too well what was inside. His head was hurting. Leaning back against his chair, he closed his eyes and put his other hand on his chest, still painful from this cough he would rather have avoided. Hector got up brusquely and gripped his friend's shoulder, being both angry and concerned.
"Tell me that what I've just seen is just passing", he choked out. "Tell me it's just a consequence of fatigue, tell me it's not true...
"Hector", Eliwood interrupted. "If I sent Roy here, it was also because of this."
He opened his hand again, and Hector swore loudly. Why hadn't he seen anything ? He should have noticed that his friend wasn't feeling well ! Eliwood let out a long sigh, and stared straight into Hector's eyes.
"I didn't want him to see me in that state. Anyway, he had to start learning the basics of combat, so I thought leaving him in Ositia would be the best solution while I recovered."
Hector lifted his head upon hearing that last sentence. Words came almost instantaneously to his lips.
"But you can not recover from this illness... !"
His parents, Uther, they had all succumbed to an illness... Hector did not know if Eliwood was suffering from the same, but he was afraid. Afraid of losing someone once again ; his best friend, almost his brother. There had been enough death and suffering as it was ! He sat back on his chair and covered his eyes with one hand, while the other had fallen on his knee. Would sorrow never cease ?
Eliwood looked at Hector, initially surprised, but his gaze softened when he saw his friend sitting. He knew that death by illness was what Hector dreaded the most ; he has lost his whole family this way, and Eliwood was thankful to Saint Elimine for not taking Florina the same way – though, of course, he wished she was not gone so soon. Had it been the case, he wouldn't have been able to guarantee anything about Hector's mental state after the shock. He looked at the ceiling, unsure of what to say.
"Honestly, I don't know", he whispered. "Healers say there's some hope, and they want me to submit to their treatments, but I can see doubt in their eyes."
Hector felt a chill run down his spine. No, no, no, Eliwood would not die. Still hiding his face behind his large hand, he said softly :
"Please, you're not going to die and leave me alone, are you ? You're the last person I have left..."
Eliwood smiled gently, turning back to his friend. He stood up and put a hand on Hector's shoulder, making him lift his head again. The Marquess of Ositia stifled a groan as he saw Eliwood's tired face, angry at himself for not having gotten the news earlier – who knows, maybe he could have gathered the best healers in the country to help his friend ? A futile and childish thought, but maybe, maybe, things would have been different, and the distress that was now gnawing at his insides would not have been so intense, so heavy.
"I'm not", Eliwood replied. "You have Lilina with you. She's your daughter, and one day, she will take your place as Ositia's leader. You have to cherish her."
"And who would I trust, in that corrupt Lycian Alliance ? I know something is not right ! Who else will I rely on when war breaks out ?"
Eliwood bit his lower lip. He had no answer to this. Lyndis had left Caelin ; the new Marquess of Santaruz was not as kind-hearted as Lord Helman ; Erik of Lahus had never liked Hector, and it went both ways ; the other territories did not have any particular relationship with Ositia... There might be Thria's Lord Orun, Hector's half-brother, but Thria did not have Pherae's might. Ositia and Pherae had always enjoyed a strong mutual solidarity, not to mention the friendship between their respective Marquesses. And with the recent rumours about Bern... Hector needed to be wary and ready for a disaster, even if others would interpret this as too-hasty decisions. Eliwood himself was fearing the worst, but he tried to persuade himself that this situation would resolve itself, that everything would be back in order before long. He hated this kind of situation, where every word carried immense weight... He took a deep breath.
"I won't die now, I promise", he declared. "And I'm not doomed yet, there's still hope for my recovery..."
Hector grunted – this time, he couldn't help it. Hope, yes. That was all they had left in this world. Hope. He sighed.
"All right, all right, I believe you. But you have to resist as long as you can !"
"Don't worry about that", Eliwood reassured him with a faint smile. "Moreover, you can count on Roy if you need Pherae's support."
"Roy, eh ?"
Pherae's heir. Eliwood already looked proud of himself, and confident in the future. Perhaps it was because of his late wife... Ninian sometimes had premonitions, most of them were weak, but some of them allowed her some certitudes about the events to come. She may have foreseen his son becoming a great leader, or something similar.
"Then, let's be hopeful", he said solemnly. "I won't worry about your health, and I'll trust your son. I'll take care of him during his stay in Ositia."
Eliwood nodded. Not everything was lost.
"Let's hope that the tensions between countries will appease, and that we'll be with our children for the longest time", he added. "For peace."
Those hopes seemed so real...