A/N: This takes place between chapter 9 and 10.
It had all gone horribly wrong, yet she had never felt so elated in all of her life.
She was supposed to plant fake memories of her death in his mind. She wanted to desert the Shepherds as quickly as possible. Gangrel's armies were close, and she didn't want to be subject to one of Plegia's public executions should Chrom's cause be crushed under the mighty heel of her country. She also didn't want to be hunted down by the Ylisseans should they perform a miracle and beat Plegia's superior forces. In that case, she needed to have their tactician say she had died in the last battle to have them forget about her. Memory hexes were simple, but the first stage was risky, for it involved diving into the victim's very being. All too often she had found herself repulsed by those who she cursed. Never had she thought that she would fall in love with one of them.
What she found in him was a mystery to her. Perhaps he was kindred spirit or a powerful wizard. For all she knew, this Robin could be some simple bureaucrat from Ylisse that Prince Chrom kept around just to say that he had a tactician. The one thing she was certain of was that feelings that would normally take months or years to develop had rushed to her heart in just a few seconds. The sensation of being drowned on her own emotions was almost intoxicating in way. At the same time, the fact that she had let this happen made her feel pathetic. Every dark mage was taught of the dangers of allowing a victim to unconsciously influence the caster. She didn't know if she had been careless or this had been meant to be. Either way, this was an issue she was going to deal with one way or another.
"Tharja?" Her heart skipped a beat at hearing him say hay her name. She had locked eyes with him all this time; the tired, almost colorless eyes of man who had been served the cruelest defeat half a day ago. He cleared his throat. "Pardon me, if I'm being intrusive, but you need to answer these questions."
"Questions?" Tharja couldn't believe her daze had been so intense that she didn't notice he had spoken. Her mother would've scolded her – by placing a curse on her.
"Um… Yes," he answered.
It was then that she forced herself out of her state and concentrated on him and what was happening. For the first time since they met, she finally got a good look at the man sitting across from her. He was a downright mess. His face and dark hair still had sand. There were circles around his eyes. He looked pale and exhausted from battle. The odd attire he wore was torn and burned in some places. This was not the picture she had of Prince Chrom's right-hand man, nor of the man who had defeated many of Plegia's most renowned commanders. However, his neat and clean tent filled with books spoke well of the man. She thought that his appearance was due to the grave circumstances surrounding the Shepherds, rather than him actually looking like a man who lost an argument with a Manakete all of the time.
"I know this must be hard for you," he continued, "and on behalf of all of the Shepherds, I thank you for joining our cause despite your position in the Plegian army, but I need to gather this information for tactical purposes."
"Of course, my mind was just elsewhere." That elsewhere was your mind. The results were… unexpected.
"I heard this from Chrom, but I just want to make sure. Are you a dark mage?" He readied his pen to write something down in a blank piece of parchment.
"Yes," she nodded.
He began writing her information. Much to her displeasure, he broke eye contact as he wrote. "To what division were you assigned and what was your rank?"
"Imperial Guard and I didn't have a rank. All non-Grimleal dark mages are conscripted to fight for the Crown whenever the King pleases." Robin looked up. He was surprised at what he heard, and something told her that he wanted her to continue. "Plegia is the only place where a mage can learn dark magic. For generations, the kings and queens have held control of the study of this art and made it illegal to teach it without their consent. In a way, the Crown owns us by hoarding most of the knowledge we need."
"I see… Moving on. How long were you in service to King Gangrel?" She understood what he was actually asking. It wasn't a question about her loyalty – or lack of – to Plegia's Mad King, but of how experienced she was as a mage.
She smirked. "One week."
Robin scowled. "The battle in the courtyard had been your first?"
"Forgive me, but why would your superiors attach a rookie to the Imperial Guard?" Tharja did not like being called a novice. She had surpassed some of the most experienced sorcerers in Gangrel's pocket. The young dark mage could name several of her teachers that had called her the best of her generation.
Nonetheless, rather than boast her accomplishments like a fool, she thought it was best to tell him the truth. "My family is influential. They also thought the Imperial Guard would not see battle since no one anticipated you would reach the castle." She chuckled. "Father must be squirming right now. He hates being wrong."
"So you're inexperienced as a soldier, but for how long have you practiced dark magic?" He asked, almost sound interested despite the tired tone of his voice.
"Since infancy," she answered. "I casted my first spell when I learned to read at the age of two."
"How old are you?"
"That's really impressive," he praised. "I once read a few stories of plenty mages going mad after only two years of practicing dark magic. You've been doing it for fifteen and appear to be sane." Robin began to write a long paragraph regarding what they had just discussed. On her end, Tharja had been taken aback by his reaction. Most people called her parent monsters, not knowing that tutoring since childhood in the ancient ways of dark magic, instead of waiting, actually helped prevent mental and physical problems in the future.
"Do you have any other skills that could help us in or out of combat?" He queried after he finished writing.
"Do you know how to use another weapon? Can you cook? We could use another healer, if you've been trained to use staves." Robin stated.
Tharja shook her head. "None of the above. I do know how to…" She hesitated to continue that last sentence. Never had she been ashamed of any of her skills. Robin, however, was starting to make her feel self-conscious, and she feared he might disapprove of what she almost said.
"Yes?" With an eyebrow raised, he waited patiently for her to continue.
"I know how to hex: place curses on people," she answered with almost gritted teeth. Just a few minutes ago, she had tried to hex him.
"I'm not familiar on how that works. Could you explain to me how would that be useful to us?" He asked politely, obviously trying not to irk her.
She looked down, finding the ground beneath them to be terribly interesting. "Say you've captured an enemy general, and he has information that is vital to wining the war, but he is not cooperating with you. I could place a curse on him that would force him to speak the truth without resorting to torture."
"I don't think Chrom or I would approve of that, but thank you for your honesty. Who knows, it may be helpful." He said neutrally.
"There's more to it!" she exclaimed before he began writing again. A startle Robin almost spilled ink all over the parchment. "Without going into too many details: these curses can take many shapes. It all depends on the caster and victim. Sorcerers sometimes hex troops to boost their morale."
"Interesting… Tharja, would you mind telling me more of this in the future? I'm not feeling well at the moment, so I may not comprehend it all." His curiosity sounded sincere.
"I wouldn't mind," she answered, trying to fight a smile.
"That would be all for now, Tharja. If you have any questions, please let me know." He stood up and placed the parchment on top of a neat pile of documents he kept next to his bedroll. "Although Frederick handles new recruits better than I." He paused for a moment and then looked at her. "Under normal circumstances, Chrom would also welcome the idea of helping you settle in, but with the loss of…"
"I understand," she said quickly. It was obvious that the death of the Exalt was a painful subject for him to talk about, so she ended the conversation as quickly as she could.
"Well, goodnight then…"
"Goodnight," she said as she bolted out of his tent.
Once she was far away from him, Tharja exhaled as if she had been holding her breath for hours. The young mage had two options before her, and leaving wasn't one of them anymore, for Robin had full profile about her. She could quickly gather the materials she needed to curse herself into somehow altering these feelings she had for Robin, maybe even forget them. On the other hand, she could seek out why she felt this way about him. Observe him… understand what makes him tick… follow him around. She knew that if she picked the latter option, then the former would be impossible if too much time passed.
If I'm stuck with them… I might as well keep my fixation before Gangrel sends his dogs to kill us. She smirked wickedly. Part of her knew she was going to enjoy this.