Chapter 1: Between Blades
((Author's note: On a lark, I decided to pair up female Robin and Chrom during my first play through of Fire Emblem: Awakening. In hindsight, I really should've realized doing this would smack me with a new OTP, and a good amount of inspiration for fanfic. Hope you enjoy this first foray into the fandom.))
Falchion was a gleam of white and gold trimmed light, and the air whistled around the edges as the blade sheared through the smoke wrapped around him. The axe it clashed against was made of stronger stuff then wisps of dark air, though. The weapon gave a metallic screech as the steel edges scrapped together, but when Falchion broke free, the worst the axe had was a chunk taken out of its blade instead of being cleaved in two.
Where bandits got steel that good, Chrom didn't know. But he'd need to look into it, if this was a sign that outlaws were as well armed as Shepherds. Another clash, another chip cut out of the axe, and Chrom thought he was at least making the thug angry on how many notches he was taking out of the weapon. When the counter attack came, he was already jumping backwards and away from the arc of the blade. His boots scrapped at the floor, and his lungs burned as the impact shocked a breath thick with ash into him. His eyes stung as he blinked to clear them, and realized that he was standing alone; he'd rushed too far ahead. He couldn't feel anyone at his side or back, and the bandit was already charging forward-
Too fast, Chrom knew. This was going to be a sloppy parry at best, and his arm was already telling him exactly where it was going to get strained and cut up the worse. Tension raced up his muscles as he held raised the sword back up. Even his hair was starting to stand up on end, and when he breathed in he wasn't tasting smoke; the air had a strange, almost electric taste to it.
"CHROM, get down!" A voice snapped out right as he figured out what was happening. He couldn't hit the street stones fast enough as the air crackled and the bandit stopped stock still as something lanced over Chrom's shoulder and through the axe hand. Sparks flew off of the bandit, bright against the haze, and even pressed flat against the ground Chrom's hands stung as a few stray shots spat at him. When the spell ended, the attacker crumbled to the ground.
Robin was a blur of black cloak and purple trim. She didn't move like someone who had just woken up in a field as she snapped her hand out and sent another bolt arcing off her fingertips. She stood beside Chrom as he scrambled to his feet, keeping a bubble of space and lightning between them and the bandits. There was a ring of steel forming around them; Chrom thought that he could count five blades aimed at him and Robin, though with his feet under him he felt a lot more confident about being able to handle them.
"I was watching our flank one second," she explained as she drew close to him. "I thought you were beside me-"
"Saw someone making a dash for the houses." Chrom grunted in response as Falchion fell back into his grip. "Didn't want to see what happened if they were spotted and someone beat down the door." He could see Robin's eyes dart over the bandits and the splintered door behind, as she gave a slow nod. The wind shifted around them, making the smoke too thick to know if there were any faces in the windows watching them. But even with the city getting choked out and even the bandits becoming more hazy, Robin stood out clear against his side. Her hair was already tousled and matted with sweat as she looked around, her breath coming heavy. "I should've seen where you were, and how close he was," she was muttering to herself, and even though the words weren't meant for him, Chrom found himself replying. "We're not dead, and neither are the people in those buildings; don't worry about it." Robin gave him a surprised blink, but nodded as she shoved a few loose strands of hair out of her face and reached for her sword.
"...R-right." And with more confidence she added "So, does that answer your question about my spells?"
"That I should be standing back." Chrom replied, while Robin just rolled her eyes and stepped so they were shoulder to shoulder. She brought her sword up the same time as he did, as the mob threw themselves at the two.
She was no Frederick; Chrom knew that right as they plunged into the fight, shoulders bumping together as they tried to fight as a unit. It wasn't just dips in the street Chrom was stumbling over as he slashed at one fighter that drew too close; the new girl's steps didn't move the same as his, and his elbow bumped against hers as he spun out of one attack before delivering a counterstroke. He didn't bother with striking the steel that time; just brought Falchion down hard on the haft of the weapon...Which, he knew instantly from the way it splintered and parted like paper, wasn't the same quality as the steel.
Robin's shoulder brushed against his as she closed the gap and drove her sword in past the ruins of the weapon and into the bandit's gut. He fell with a gurgle, and Chrom accounted for a second thug as he tried to keep in close enough contact with Robin that their backs were covered. It was less working together and more of dancing around the other...But they managed, as another body and then another was laid out on the street. By the end of it Chrom was breathing just as hard as Robin, and his skin was also soaked through with sweat. But just sweat; no blood, and barely any bruises.
And he still had the energy to spin around when he heard hooves drumming towards them as a horse and rider galloped out of the smoke.
"Milord," Frederick drawled above him, and Chrom could just pick out that he was already cleaning the blade of his spear. "The brigands have turned tail; I managed to chase them to the outskirts of the town, but there was only a handful that tried to hold out...Which you appear to have taken care of."
"Y-yeah." Chrom steadied is breath as he stood up straighter, getting more air into his lungs. "Robin and I managed." Frederick was already casting a critical eye over Robin as he spoke. He could guess that Frederick was picking out how she and Chrom both looked ragged, and the bodies they'd accounted for.
"Seems...Messy at best."
Messy, but it had kept them from dying like the bandits around them. "Maybe, but it's a lot better then nothing."
There were some things Robin just knew; her name, the ideas of movement, where and how to strike and direct soldiers to an enemy's weak points, and the basics of tactics. They were things that came instantly to her mind. Then, there were things she didn't grasp immediately, but learned quickly. How fast each of the Shepherds could move, that it was good to keep different people close together.
And, as she was quickly committing to memory, that a trip to Ylissse's northern border would be anything but uneventful. And that these new enemies would harry them at every chance given. Overhead the sky was blazing red from the setting sun, making her grateful they were in thick forest for a change; it may have slowed down their movements, but the same was happening for the Risen, and the branches blocked out the worst of the low rays that could have slid into their eyes.
"...I'm not liking this." The groans were pressing in on her ears as more and more bodies pulled themselves up from the forest floor. They stood hulking in the shadow of the trees, swelling up in numbers and waiting to hit that mass that would push them into attack. "I'm not liking this at all." The tactician repeated while she struggled to come up with some sort of strategy.
"Look," Chrom's voice was low, as if he knew that one word spoken too loud would decide the enemy. "We've got to do something, instead of staying here like fat flightless ducks."
"I know," she whispered. "And I don't think we should count on any masked swordsmen dropping out of the sky this time."
Those hisses and groans from decaying throats left her grip on the sword as a knuckle white clutch. Her pulse was pounding, and Robin had a second to wonder if she was just imaging the back of her hand burning in time with the pain going through her fingers. Oddly enough the sensation was only on the right one...But she didn't have any longer to dwell on that, as another clump of Risen clawed and shuffled their way through the trees.
She shifted her steps again, glancing around to fully take in what they were facing. A fallen branch turned under her feet, straining and splintering as her weight came down on it. Her eyes picked out a score of Risen, maybe more, all shambling out from the underbrush. She needed time to think, plan some form of defense for their troop...When the stick snapped under her feet with a crackle that could have been a starting shot. The Risen lunged out from the trees with a guttural roar as Robin bit back a curse. How something that shambled that much could suddenly turn blindingly fast, she didn't know. But they were charging in quick, and too fast for her-
"ROBIN!" Chrom shouted into her panic, breaking through it. "Give the damn orders!" His voice was blunt, and for a change she was glad he wasn't treating her as a lady. (Even if the memory of the conversation made her wonder if there weren't any rocks under the foliage to store for later.)
"C-cavalry!" Her voice grew more steady as she shouted out a plan that was falling into her head. "Fan out and flank! Healers, mages and archers in the back! Swords and axes up front," She paused as she looked back at Chrom, still waiting for the last order from her. "Chrom, you're with me as the spear point for this attack!"
The second she said that, Chrom was already stepping next to her, Falchion held in front of them both and leveled at the nearest Risen. "Right." There was a hint of a smile pulling up at his lips as he listened to her...Though even with that light, confident smile, Robin noticed that he wasn't watching his left. She rolled her eyes and switched over there with a huff, already picking out that one of the Risen had lurched close to them. "To your side!" she barked out, while Chrom darted out of the path of a sword. She moved with him, shadowing his movements as Chrom's weaved away, before he rebalanced and ran the attacker through. His sword tore through torso and rotted leather armor with a barely a whisper, and Robin swore that the edges of the blade were glowing blue in the fading light.
And he'd switched from a light smile to a full on grin, Robin noticed with a jolt. "That's more like it; you're already acting like a seasoned Shepherd."
"It's not like I have a lot of choice!" Robin shot back as her sword licked out and parted a hand from a wrist. There wasn't any blood, just purple smoke that faded into the clouds overhead as it drifted up. "I wanted to plan before I got shoved into this-"
Another growl, and Chrom was ducking away from an attack from his right, while Robin caught a blur of motion on her own side. An axe about to smash into her side, and a sword trying to skewer Chrom...And that time they didn't bump together or stumble, as Robin flowed around his shoulder and her feet danced between his steps. As she darted towards the Risen attacking him, there wasn't any time to plan or think things through, just react and feel around whatever needed to be done. The leaves beneath their feet rustled while they traded places, and Robin drove her blade square through the Risen fighter's chest before she had the time to grasp what they'd just pulled off. Chrom did the same, before turning to give her an astonished look as the bodies dissolved.
"Not...That I'm complaining about this." Robin continued, glancing between their handiwork and Chrom. "This is better then laying around confused and doing nothing." That was all the time she had for speaking, before another warrior was rushing them. Their movements weren't as smooth this time, balance a little wobbly and strikes not as sure as before, but Robin could catch flickers of what they'd managed as they popped into synch one second long enough to deflect and turn a fatal thrust from one enemy, or striking down another. There was less worrying about where the other would be, less guessing on where to move next. And somehow it felt...Right to be fighting side by side.
'Better then laying in a field.' Robin reminded herself of her own words, although that didn't feel like the full answer. But by then, the sparks from where Chrom's sword was hitting steel pulled her attention away from those thoughts.
That glimmer of blue had grown to a brilliant flare, just like the first night the Risen had attacked. Watching it bite through armor and dead flesh alike, Robin could believe the stories overheard in the barracks about Falchion being carved from Naga's own fang. Her sword lacked the same brilliance or flawless edge, but it was light in her hands. Robin sent it whistling through the air, fast enough to match Chrom's speed and carve openings for him, or finish off whatever Falchion had sliced up. Together they were a whirl of steel that shredded through anything that tried to close with them.
Around her, Robin could pick out the sounds of other battles; Sully, Frederick and Stahl riding down the foot soldiers in a charge of pounding hooves, the controlled crackle and flare of Miriel's spells that precisely struck whatever was needed, and leaving Vaike to charge in howling as Virion's arrows hissed overhead.
Each time she had time to draw breath, Robin counted the dark figures clashing with the Shepherds. A sword swipe to cleave a head from shoulders, and looking up to see that there was just a handful left. Lightning sparked from her fingers, and that number dropped to five. Chrom mowed into the last as her count reached one, and he speared the enemy into the ground before looking up at her.
"...Wow." Chrom's eyes couldn't decide if they were going to rest on her, or the remains at their feet. Glancing between her sword and the smoke seemed like the best compromise.
"Problem solved?" Her own smile was shaky, which was mirrored by Chrom as he nodded.
The wind bit at his face, driving cold air and flakes of snow into his vision. Chrom squinted against it as he dashed across the stones that made up the floor of the Long Fort. The storm howled through the battlefield, and the force of it only grew now that they'd cut their way onto the second level of the wall and up into the frigid air. He could see the Feroxi commander, Raimi, shouting orders as the wind shifted and another gust of snow and wind whipped along the battlements.
The Shepherds around him faded into the snow flurry as they engaged opponents...Save for Robin. The dark cloak stood out against all the white, and she stuck close to him as they crashed into the last soldier standing between them and the goal of the battle. She missed the first window of attack, and Chrom gritted his teeth as he parried another blow-
Which was when Robin's eyes sharpened, and she struck the fighter across the helmet with the pommel of her sword. The sound of metal striking metal rang like a bell, and the warrior was laid out cold on the ground before Chrom had time to blink.
"Not bad," his words were almost swallowed up by the wind, but Robin heard him and gave a nod. "You pulled your strike, though?"
"Diplomacy," Robin answered. "Feroxi way or not, I don't think we're going to win any hearts or minds by killing their soldiers."
"Right...All the more important that we finish this quick." Her eyes followed his, to where the commander stood in her armor. Chrom threw himself off the floor in a dash, cutting through the space. He knew he was outpacing Robin, but couldn't convince his heart to slow down or his feet to slow their pace. He meant what he said about finishing the battle quickly. As Robin had reminded him, it wouldn't do much good for Ylisse or for Emmeryn if they bled the people they were trying to make an alliance with.
Which was why he kept the sword light in his hands as he closed with Raimi, still trying to be quick on his feet, and quicker then her in all that armor. One strike to knock the spear away from his heart. Another as he twisted sharp on the edge of his heel to bring himself back around for another cut while praying to Naga that he was fast enough and wouldn't be catching the knight's mailed gauntlet across his face. But when he lifted his head he was sure he saw a fist waiting to crash down on his head. It hung in the air for one second, when a crackling filled the air. It was almost out of habit that Chrom threw himself back as a bolt of magic slammed into the Feroxi knight. A second later he heard the rest of the lightning and thunder catch up to them, as the woman flew backwards and hit the ground with a clatter.
"...Checkmate." Robin was breathless behind him, and her words came out strained as she worked to get air back in her lungs. "Now just tell me she's still breathing, so we can open negotiations."
The groan from the downed warrior was as good an answer as any. Chrom nodded as he turned to glance at Robin. "Yeah...And thanks for the save."
"I might be getting used to this yet." Robin answered, showing an almost grin as they moved to stand over the downed opponent.
When she set the sword in front of him, Chrom gave it an uncomprehending blink. He didn't look any wiser when he saw her dressed for a fight, carefully wrapped in borrowed Feroxi training armor.
"Come on Chrom, up." She prompted him, before adding "Training. You need it as Flavia's champion, and I need it if I'm going to help you. I won't be able to do much in the arena if I only study books." He brightened up as she spoke, before giving a nod and saying "meet me at the training field."
It only took five minutes off stumbling around the castle's snow choked field for Robin to swiftly regret telling him to spar with her. He really didn't understand the concept of slowing down or breaks to catch her breath. By the time her sides were heaving, he didn't even look winded. The practice swords clacked together again as he advanced, and even with the dull edges Robin knew she'd be nursing bruises that evening. The sweat on her forehead constantly jumped between chokingly hot from her body heat, or freezing from the bite of the cold air winding through the training grounds.
"I take back what I said about needing something other then books." She panted out. "I'm just going to read about strategy from now on and shout advice to you from the back of the lines." That didn't make him let up completely, although he paused long enough to laugh and for Robin to pull back and get some breathing room.
"I don't believe that for a second, and neither do you." The pause didn't last long, and soon enough her arms were screaming at her as she swung her sword back up. "Come on!" Chrom shouted between strikes and as she kept scrambling backwards. "I know you've got a lot more stamina then this-" She dodged to the side as he thrust, and from the look in his eyes he hadn't expected that...Especially not when he hit a patch of snow covered ice and stumbled forward. Robin was already ducking out of the way when he fell past her eyesight...Though she heard the crash behind her.
When she turned it was to find Chrom was laying flat on his back, giving a shattered training dummy a bewildered look. His eyes were wide, like he couldn't quite understand why there were now just splinters littering the ground.
"Breaking things during training...You always do that," Robin sighed as she stared down at him.
"How do you know it's always?" She couldn't decide if Chrom's voice was sulky or teasing.
"I don't know, but I can make some pretty educated guesses. Given how you almost always put holes in things, I think it's a fair guess to say this happens a LOT."
"...Less then a moon with us, and you already know me all too well." She wanted to retort that since he had walked in on her in the bath, it only seemed fair that she was getting a good idea of him in return. But instead she replied with "come on," as she pulled him to his feet. "And just...Take things a little slower this time?" Once she asked that, he was right back to chuckling, and only laughed harder when she punched him in the arm.
"Who taught you how to fight like that?"
"My father!" The words were almost shrieked out beneath that mask in a way that made Robin flinch. Chrom could see her start and recoil a half step in the corner of his eye, and even he was surprised by how bitter they sounded. His opponent didn't offer any more words past that, just a constant clash of swords as the two blades danced and struck. It was also an equal fight and struggle to keep his eyes where they were supposed to be; the shoulders, the center of the body, instead of that sword. It could have been Falchion's twin; even after so many strikes, the length of the blade was unmarked and looked like it had been freshly drawn from the scabbard. Not a single nick on the surface, and it gleamed with wicked purpose in the arena torchlight.
'Don't look at the gods blasted sword!' He yelled at himself again, just in time to dance to the side and leave the sword cleaving through the air instead of his chest. Marth didn't give him time to breathe, driving forward and leaving him pressed to keep what he could of his footing. He didn't risk blinking with the speed of the strikes...And he couldn't pick out any intent or hint in the eyes behind that mask, another advantage Marth had over him. "Yield?" Marth growled out between clenched teeth, as Chrom deflected a blow that left his fingers stinging. He jerked his head back and forth in a no, telling his hands to stay steady for a second longer.
He didn't have to wait for long. The black and purple blur in the edges of his vision was familiar now, and a welcome sight as Robin slid in between the two. Her sword caught Marth's with a shower of sparks that left her blade with a new and deeply set notch, but Robin threw her weight forward to push their opponent back. The masked swordsmen flew backwards, feet skidding along the floor as he fought to regain his balance.
By the time he'd pulled himself upright, Chrom was already charging to meet him. Falchion was back to being feather light in his hands, hammering away at those defenses. Marth was meeting him each attack, but Chrom thought that there was a desperation to Marth's strikes now, as his breath came faster. Chrom still couldn't pick out anything behind the mask, but suspected his opponent was glancing back at Robin. His defenses felt more confused and divided, as he tried to defend from two points.
And right on cue, Robin was where she needed to be when those defenses faltered. She was a match for Marth's speed, stepping perfectly into the gap Chrom made as he shoved the mirrored blade towards the ground and pinned it against the floor stones long enough for her attack.
The bolt of thunder left spots in his eyes, but sheared in perfectly; Chrom could taste the electricity in the air, but felt none of it as he pulled back right in step with Robin. She paused long enough to rest a hand on his shoulder to rebalance herself; he'd long since learned that fast casting like that was disorienting for her, and took some of her weight.
They could afford a second to rebalance, since Marth lay stunned on the floor. And while the mask still shielded his face, Chrom could hear how his breath was coming out in a bewildered gasp. He thought he could hear "Incredible..." on the end of it. And for a second Chrom thought, 'Yes...She is' before he could think twice about the words.