Chapter Fifty-Two: Invasion
"There is a diplomat from the Summer Isles here to see you, Your Grace." Phila said quietly. I turned to her, frowning.
"Send him in, then."
"At once." She bowed, turning to the door and leaving. Sighing, I prepared myself for yet another day of those who were technically Ylissian trustees accusing us of lacking the strength to protect them from bandits…and the Risen. Chrom had been doing his best, but with the arrival of his daughter he'd had to hand the command over to Robin, who despite his best efforts lacked my brother's charisma. We'd lost several allies due to these disputes, and even more trade agreements were severed. It had been far from a quiet year, but the Shepherds deserved the illusion of peace. They couldn't know how bad it got.
Someone's footsteps clicked on the marble floor and I turned, inclining my head. "Lord Diplomat, welcome to my-"
Impossible. The 'diplomat', a scrawny man who appeared to be twenty-five with ear-length red hair, grinned.
"Hey, Queenie." Xane said cheerfully. "I figured I'd check how everything was going on this end."
"…I'd just managed to convince myself that entire day was a hallucination." I groaned, slumping down into a chair. Xane shrugged and twirled his fingers, a bottle appearing in his hand.
"Want some? I conjured up some good stuff – once in a while you try the bad, just to remind yourself how good the good stuff is."
"I don't drink, thank you." I sighed. Well, here I am, talking to a god – an actual god, unlike Naga, if what I understood in that chamber was to be believed. Even if he wasn't a god, he's still one of the great heroes from the stories. Xane pouted slightly and conjured up a plush chair, settling in it with a comfortable sigh.
"Ah, well, your loss." He smiled, taking a swig. Did he forget about his blunder already? "So, how's things?"
"I'm sure you know quite well already." I said stiffly. If what he was saying was any judge, he is at least partly responsible for that monster who almost ruined my brother's wedding. Xane smiled tiredly.
"Between playing inter-dimensional taxi for Cameron against his will and keeping Grima's more dangerous priests in check, I've been fairly busy." He took another sip from the bottle. "The Pantheon has authorized me to take a more active role interacting with you and the other Outsider, Ja-"
"Jaclyn and Julian, yes." I nodded. "I'm a pacifist, not an idiot. I can tell the signs now that you have mentioned them."
"You're unusually testy." Xane grumbled, banishing the bottle and leaning forward. "Alright, Valm's going to invade Ferox in three days."
"Yeah, it gets better." He sighed. "Plegia's new king, Validar – have you met?"
"Once." I said stiffly. "He was a thoroughly unpleasant man, and far too faithful to the Grimleal for my liking."
"Yeah, well, that's because he's in charge of them." Xane shrugged again, leaning back and closing his eyes. "While Chrom leads your armies to go take down Walhart – which does need to be done, you can't worm out of it – Validar's going to be establishing a power base, with the end goal of restoring Grima to his physical form."
Nobody brings me good news anymore… "I see." I sighed, rubbing my forehead. "Is there anything else you can tell me?"
"I'm stretching the limits already." Xane sighed as well, scratching his chin. "You're going to need to send your entire army overseas…on Plegian ships, no less, so start playing nice with Validar…so you won't have anything to counter Validar's plans. You're bound to be his first target, neutralizing you while Chrom and your best fighters are out of the country would go a long way to making this easier."
"What would you have me do, then?" I despaired. "You make it sound as if no matter which way I turn, devastation lies for my people."
"It'll be like that for everyone if Validar manages to accomplish his goal." Xane said seriously. "I don't just mean everyone on this world, either – I mean everyone. Every universe, every planet, every timeline will burn under Grima's greed. The demon dragon is ferociously smart, and his ambition is boundless. Should he manage to ascend to true godhood…it would be a miracle if even a united Pantheon could stop him. Please, Emmeryn." Xane's eyes grew older – if it was just the stress or him using his shapeshifting, I couldn't tell – and his voice became pleading. "You're the one wild card we have left. Grima expects you to have died, during that assassination attempt or during your fall in Plegia. That's what happened to you in the times before this one."
I almost asked what he meant about 'times before this one', but he shook his head. "Thankfully, you won't be doing this alone. I've brought an advisor for you."
This cannot possibly lead to anything good. "I thought that people like you weren't allowed to interfere directly in mortal affairs?"
"I have agents." Xane grinned slightly, motioning to the shadows. Sighing, a silver-haired young man in teal garb walked out of them, rolling his shoulders. His right seemed more developed – an archer, perhaps? "Lady Emmeryn, I present Prince Innes of Frelia."
"Frelia sank beneath the oceans with the rest of Magvel two centuries ago during Grima's first rebellion." My eyes narrowed. "Taking the name of a hero of legend, despite 'Marth' and her actions in saving my life, will not grant you trust instantly."
"I told you she wouldn't bite." Innes grumbled, still scowling. It looked to be a permanent fixture on his face. Xane rolled his eyes.
"Prince Innes died one century before Grima's first rebellion." Xane smirked. "He isn't taking the name of a hero of legend – he is a hero of legend."
"Fortunately for you, I'm also a politician." Innes smirked cockily. "I'm not much of a fighter anymore, I left that to that fool Ephraim."
Xane rolled his eyes. "Play nice, you two."
"How is this possible?" I rose, glaring at him. If they could raise the dead…they could save millions of lives. They could save all lives. Was there no limit to the arrogance of these beings?
"People who do particularly…dramatic deeds become Einherjar, warriors in the afterlife." Xane sighed, motioning with his hand as some invisible force pushed me back into my throne. "We can't save everyone…but people who save themselves can help us if necessary."
"Iappear to have no choice but to accept his aid." I said quietly, still staring at him. "But know this, Xane – I do not trust you. I do not trust any of you. In fact, I am inclined to agree with what I could gather of Cameron's perspective."
Xane winced. "Even the part where we should die?"
"Nothing should be that powerful." I continued, staring at him coldly. "You waste your power arguing, rather than aiding those who could use it. Indeed, some of you actively work against those who require aid."
"Nothing's as simple as you think it is, Your Highness." Xane interrupted, balling his hands into fists. To his right, a vase exploded as the room grew darker. "There is no black and white, there are only shades of gray-"
"That doesn't mean it should always be that way!" I rose again, daring him to strike me one more time. The light in the room pulsed, and Innes grew increasingly uncomfortable. I could feel fear trickling into my heart, but it won't control me. I was willing to die to end one war, I will defend my beliefs to the end. No matter how soon that end might be.
Xane drew a few shaky breaths and calmed himself, fixing the vase he broke moments ago. "…I'm beginning to see why Paladine took interest in you." He said dryly. "Still, on that overly optimistic note, I must take my leave. Innes, remember your cover story?"
"Yes." Innes rolled his eyes. "I'm going to guess you're going to alter the memories of the guards so they don't get suspicious?"
Xane blinked. "Oh, right, they didn't see you come in. Yeah, I'll take care of that before I leave."
With that, Xane vanished in a swirl of red light, leaving me standing there with a dead man.
"…So, Prince Innes…"
"Yes, Your Highness?" Sarcasm dripped from every vowel in that sentence, even as he stood tall. I am beginning to dislike him.
"…ask Phila to find yourself some quarters, I'll integrate you into the court tomorrow." I sighed, rubbing my head. Innes bowed his head and left.
I need to spend some time with my family.
"Lady Emmeryn, I'm so sorry-" Cordelia babbled, picking up Lucina. "I-I didn't think she would…"
"No worries, Cordelia." I smiled, staring fondly at the child. "Perhaps I shouldn't braid my hair around my neck. She seems to enjoy climbing."
Cordelia sighed – an actual sigh, not that verbal one – and rocked the princess in her arms, staring at her fondly. "She just likes heights. She gave Chrom a heart attack one morning; she'd managed to climb onto the windowsill and was staring out. Thankfully the glass was shut…"
Oh dear. Yes, that does sound like something Chrom wouldn't react very well to. Barely a year old, and already exploring. "An adventurous little girl, isn't she?"
Cordelia nodded, sitting down as Lucina started to play with her hair again. "Yes, she is. So much like her father already…"
"I can see the resemblance." I smiled, remembering Chrom's younger years. "I'm sure she'll be just like him eventually, as long as you don't spoil her too much."
Cordelia giggled, hugging Lucina tighter. "We won't, I promise."
I stared at her, before Cordelia sighed and bowed her head. "…Frederick and Sumia have sworn to keep us in check."
Between her being a miniature Chrom – and therefor the subject of a vast amount of Cordelia's attention – and her father being…well, my brother, who doted on Lissa as a babe enough to give me an idea of what it would be like for him to have children, the child would need outside intervention to avoid becoming awful.
Lucina blinked at me, the sign in her eye gazing out clearly. It had only manifested a few days ago, I remember Cordelia being even brighter than normal that day, but this was the first time I'd seen it-
No. No, it wasn't. It was the second…Marth had the exact same one.
That's what happened the previous times…
"It's like she could see the future" Robin shrugged. "That's what she told us, anyway."
This has happened before. Dear gods, this has happened before. We've lost before. I must have died before.
"Are you alright, Lady Emmeryn?" Cordelia asked, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Should I call for a cleric?"
"I…am fine, Cordelia." I whispered. "Just being reminded of my own mortality, that's all."
Cordelia's concerned look faded as she returned to Lucina, smiling again. "It's about time for her to sleep. If you're looking for Chrom…"
"He'll be on the training fields." I completed, smiling back. "I know, he never leaves these days. Not now that he's got people to protect, anyway."
Cordelia flushed slightly, but at least she's not light-headed again. The maids spread a particularly bawdy rumour about her fainting towards the start of her wedding night, which was discouraged fairly rapidly.
Despite the fact that we all knew it was probably true. Cordelia's habits around my brother were fairly common knowledge. At least she hadn't heard about it – I think (and sincerely hope).
"Good day, Cordelia." I said quietly as I turned to leave. Oh my gods, this has happened before. I need...I need to talk to Innes.
That was not the reaction I was expecting. Prince Innes stood there, folding clothes into his new cupboard, and refusing to make eye contact. "I beg your pardon?"
"I'm not telling you anything." Innes shrugged. "I'm here to offer political help, not make everything easier. You want to get answers about the future, hunt down people from the future. A bunch of them were even here once, but you just let them leave."
There were? Wait…oh, Chrom's wedding. I…wonderful. Well, at least I know who to be on the lookout for in the future. "Thank you for the advice, Prince Innes." I inclined my head, taking great effort to keep the sarcasm out of my voice as much as physically possible. "Are your quarters to your liking?"
"Not the best I've ever had, but they will suffice, thank you." Innes grunted, unpacking what looked like an ornate bow and slotting it into the wardrobe alongside a shrouded lance. "I suppose I will see you tomorrow, your highness. I need to get some rest, it has been a long day."
"Of course." I said, retreating. "I shall see you in court, half an hour before the proceedings begin, then?"
Innes grunted in agreement as I shut the door. With a sigh, I turned and walked out of the tower and into the courtyard. As usual, it's filled with off-duty guards taking a brief rest period before Frederick or Phila ordered them to resume their duties. Unlike most of the time, they were all evacuating the courtyard as two bobbing figures dashed all around it. One of them was a griffon, the other was a young girl who had been press-ganged into the Pegasus knights once her abilities were discovered (as was the fact she had no money to pay for the healing she'd received after what Lucien did to her).
Long story short, Jaclyn was attempting to hug Julian's griffon. Julian's griffon objected to this.
In the strongest possible terms.
"Oh, come on!" Jaclyn whined, pouting slightly as she came to a stop. "Kylaaaar, don't you like hugs?"
"I'm going to assume that's a yes-" Jaclyn grinned, diving for him. Screeching, Kylar flapped his wings and took off, causing the Pegasus-knight-in-training to tackle the ground instead, before resting one foot on top of her, glaring.
It's astonishing how intelligent that creature is.
"Oh, so you just wanted to hug me instead!" Jaclyn said cheerfully from under his talons. "That's okay, I understand!"
I'm watching one of my royal guards hugging a griffon's foot. This…this is my life now. As if all the other stuff wasn't bizarre enough already…
Kylar, looking somewhat disturbed, removed his foot and instead trotted over to his master's napping form and sat down, glaring at Jaclyn, who dusted herself off and was about to make another dash most likely.
That was when the griffon gave me a stare that could only be described as pleading.
"Leave it alone, Jaclyn." I sighed, shaking my head. "He's had a long day."
Kylar nodded in agreement as the trainee span around, flushing. "Ah, your highness? How…how much of that did you see?"
"…the vast majority." I said after a moment's hesitation. Jaclyn's face dropped a little.
"…it is not my finest hour, I'll admit."
"If it makes you feel any better, Lucina tried to do something similar once." I admitted, remembering the one time – ONE time – Julian was made babysitter. Chrom had returned home to find Kylar running in circles screeching as Lucina held on to its head feathers, laughing. Julian was incapacitated by laughter of his own to stop it from happening, and Cordelia had a minor freakout over her daughter doing something that potentially dangerous. Not that Kylar would ever hurt the child, he just had something resembling a fear of small blue-haired children ever since that day. "With considerably more success than you."
"Out-hugged by a one-year-old. Amazing." Jaclyn sighed, shaking her head. "…fine, Kylar, I'm sorry."
"Skree." Kylar said, with the griffon equivalent of a shrug, closing his eyes. Well, that was a truly enlightening conversation.
I owe that bird my life. Well, him, Julian and Cameron, but honestly he did a rather large amount of the work. Jaclyn chuckled nervously, turning back to me.
"Is there something I can do for you, your highness?"
"…I was hoping you could take the place of one of the guards at dinner tonight." I admitted, just remembering what Phila had told me of yesterday. "She'd fallen ill fairly recently, and you know how Phila gets when there's not the correct number of…anything."
Jaclyn actually giggled at that. "Yes, that…shouldn't be a problem, thank you." She said, stumbling over some of the words. Oh, gods, she's still got that crush on Chrom hasn't she? I hope she doesn't turn into a second Cordelia…although he's married, so it shouldn't reach the heights of obsession that Cordelia had. At the very least, she doesn't seem to be very proud of her fascination with him.
With a sigh, I turned and walked away. "That will be all for now, thank you. Remember to wear your dress uniform…and bring some water, it can be quite warm in the hall."
Jaclyn's stammered acknowledgement followed me as I went back inside, where – to my complete lack of surprise – Robin and Chrom were arguing.
The two may be best of friends, but when it comes to some things they just could not get along. Robin's white hair had grown longer than before, and for some reason had ended up flat rather than ruffled like it used to be.
This hair was one of the things Chrom – and pretty much everyone else – objected to, but was not the current subject of their argument.
"I'm telling you, Chrom, I don't like this!" Robin growled. "We know I'm plegian, there's no other explanation, and for some REASON Validar looks familiar to me. Do you know where from?"
"The attempt on Emm's life, yes." Chrom sighed, bowing his head. "Robin, it HAS to be a coincidence. Not only was he carved up by…Lucien…" The word was spat with a rather large amount of hatred that, I'll admit, was a little disturbing coming from Chrom's mouth. Then again, he DID almost kill several good friends of his and forced at least one into hiding for the time being. The fact that he did so on his wedding night was just additional fuel for the fire. "…but you hit him right in the chest. You said it yourself – he didn't HAVE a chest anymore. Please don't give me the 'but he didn't have a heart to begin with' joke again, it wasn't funny when Julian said it, it won't be funny now."
"There's the part you're forgetting." Robin sighed. "Those assassins that Mal and the others brought back in…do you remember what happened to them?"
Chrom shuddered involuntarily. "It'll be hard to forget. I didn't know the grimleal had that kind of power…"
Oh, yes, that. I hadn't seen what happened first hand like Robin and my brother, but from what I can gather…the grimleal tattoos on their hands and tounge exploded with dark energy, like some kind of suicide spell, melting their hands and mouth – rendering them unable to provide information to their foes. So, we were left with a group of assassins that we could not get any information from, moaning with pain. Two had died from infections, but a third actually died during an escape attempt.
It was not the most pleasant experience of the guard's life, from what I heard.
"Regardless." I said, making Robin and Chrom both jolt up with surprise. "It is not our place to be looking for another conflict with Plegia already. With Ferox's power base suffering from the fluctuations caused by Flavia's death, we have also lost our strongest ally, despite Basilio's best interests. We should take this time to build up and establish diplomatic relations, rather than a war of extermination."
"That's what got us all into this mess in the first place." Robin chuckled darkly, glancing at a tapestry portraying the exalted line. "Your father was a lunatic."
"While that may be true, he was still an Exalt and deserves to be spoken of with at least some respect." I warned him, raising an eyebrow. "Am I clear?"
Robin winced as though I'd hit him, before he bowed his head in defeat. "…yes, my lady. Well, Chrom, I guess I might as well go and check over the personnel reports again. Apparently one of the latest recruitment drives were rather successful."
"If it was, it's thanks to your idea of sending shepherds on them." Chrom chuckled, shaking his friend's hand. "Donny himself probably racked up a few recruits every time they mention his story."
On that note, Robin drifted off, only to be stopped when I lifted a hand. "Yes, milady?"
"Robin…" I paused, allowing myself a small smile of mischief. "Get a haircut. That's a decree."
Robin groaned. "I like it long."
"You look like a mop." Chrom said bluntly. Robin shook his head in defeat, turning to the healer's chambers.
"Fine, I'll get it cut…none of you appreciate fashion."
"Nothing you do is fashion!" Chrom said incredulously. "You've worn the same outfit – or same basic outfit – for four years now!"
"I don't follow trends." Robin sniffed. "I set them."
With that, he closed the door, Chrom shaking from barely contained laughter.
"…setting trends…pft…" He grinned, rising to his feet. "Are you alright, Emm?"
"I am." I nodded, glancing out the window. The sun is still up, everyone is happy…and it's all going to come crashing down in three days. Naga…no, that prayer doesn't work anymore.
This is never going to catch on, but…may The Pantheon guide us.
A/N: I just realized that I never actually threw together a rough timeline for Asleep. Here it is, very quickly:
Year 0: Cameron Arrives
Year 0.5: First encounter with Lucien (Chapter 10)
Year 1.5: Final battle with Gangrel
Year 2.5: Second encounter with Lucien, Chrom and Cordelia's wedding
Year 3: Birth of Lucina
Year 4: Current
So 4 years have passed since the start of the story, the war with Plegia taking around one and a half years and the timeskip taking two. The valmese war, in universe, is going to take a long time.
Around another four years.
Because that continent is biiiiiiig.
Because of that, yes, several of the future children will have recurring cameos/supporting roles as their younger selves, having been born on campaign. So, yes, Lucina is accompanying them on campaign, because Cordelia is clingy like that
I also tried to fix the main complaint about the last Emmeryn chapter, which was that she felt too much like the (admittedly, much snarkier) other POV characters. Writing a chapter without internal snark was hard to pull off, but hopefully I did it.
Well, that's all the boring stuff out of the way, I'll see you next week with any luck.