((Author's notes: A story focusing on Robin, Lucina, and that one game scene that seems to make a lot of people misty eyed, myself included. As always I own nothing, and hope you enjoy reading.))
She needed this open air. With the sun on her face and the sea breeze filling her lungs, she was a long way from death. Robin tilted her head back to breathe in deep, letting the ambiance of the cliffs soak through her. The sunlight and sea breeze blowing up over the cliff tops was a tonic, after cutting their way out of Plegia's castle and troops.
...After what Validar had made her do. Robin winced as she closed off that memory, keeping her mind from falling into that spiral again. Instead she put her focus on the sunset, and those last warm rays of light bathing her face. Another candle mark and the sun would be behind the horizon, leaving her with just the surf in her ears and fading sensation of warmth. With that in mind, Robin was determined to take in everything while she could.
"Mother-?" A voice nudged its way through all those sensations, tugging her eyes open and her head around to look, even though she knew who was waiting for her. Lucina, her other Lucina, was only a few months old, barely enough to form words. Hearing that name spoken, no matter how many times her older daughter said it, sent an almost painful squeeze right into her heart. And yet it left Robin smiling with so much warmth it rivaled the air around her.
Her daughter cut a strong figure in the fading daylight. Standing like that, it was easy to see the traces of Lucina's father. Falchion hung at her side as she moved through the grass, one hand resting over it. She was swathed in a blue that was almost black, with all the orange soaking the landscape around them. And she stood tall next to Robin, though the strategist noticed that there was a strange tightness to her daughter's shoulders; something about them that left her worried.
And when she looked at Lucina's hands again, Robin had to wonder at the way she clutched at Falchion's hilt. The bits of skin that showed through her gloves looked white, almost as though she was afraid of what would happen if she let go. And there was still that pressure biting into her shoulders, more then just the armor and cape that she carried. Something was weighing her down, and Robin felt her smile vanish as she tried to puzzle out what.
The smile on her mother's face was a cut in Lucina's heart. It left her clinging to Falchion like a lifeline, reminding herself that this was what needed to be done...Even if this was her mother.
'This isn't the same mother,' Lucina tried telling herself. And instantly wanted to tear at her own mind for suggesting a thought like that, just to make things easier. Maybe the Robin at this time frame hadn't done any comforting or easing her hurts yet...
'Yet.' That was the word that kept echoing in her heart. Her father hadn't been murdered yet. Her mother hadn't been lost yet. Grima hadn't arrived to break the world. Yet.
As she watched her mother, Lucina knew that her pain was trying to edge in around her features. And Robin was already picking up on it, debating closing their gap in order to sooth whatever was hurting her.
"I...Beg pardon, but may I have a word?" She stalled her mother and herself for time. And found herself speaking, reminding herself of the path she'd placed herself on.
Her memories of Father and Mother were both faint. Less solid images, and more dream-like sensations. If she shut her eyes, she could remember warm hands and gentle voices. And since traveling through time, and truly seeing her parents with older eyes and a sharper mind, those images felt more solid than before. She had faces, however young, to match to those sensations. Maybe that was why she couldn't tear her eyes away from her mother, much as Lucina wanted to. She wanted to shut out the world, and the unfair situations that came with it, for at least a little while. Before she had to continue on her path.
'You promised to do anything to change the future.' Lucina reminded herself, as her mother turned her head back to the sun, eyes still resting on her.
'Anything.' She'd just never imagined that this would be asked of her.
Falchion had never felt so heavy at her side. It had always been a comforting presence to have close by; something that kept her tied to the present and to the earth. Even when she was tired, worn out from battle or a long march, its weight was more like a friendly hand on her shoulder.
It had never been a burden. Not until now.
"I understand. You love him...As do I." The coward in her didn't want to look at her mother's face. Lucina told herself again to be strong, and stared ahead into those warm eyes and smile as Robin spoke.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, amazed that Robin could hear her over the breeze. "I'm so sorry..." But it wouldn't change how many times she said that; she was still about to do something unforgivable.
'It's for the future.' When she pulled Falchion free of the scabbard, Lucina thought the weight of it would tear the sword free from her grip. It wasn't an extension of her arm any longer. With what she had to do, she didn't WANT the sword to be a part of her.
'Be steady. You can honor your mother by being as steadfast and unwavering as your parents.' She told herself. "But what I-" Her voice would also remain firm, Lucina ordered it. "What I'm about to do to you can't be forgiven."
Robin's eyes were wide as they stared at the blade, not able to process why Lucina had leveled it on her. "Stay where you are, Mother!" Her voice cracked as she ran over Robin's voice, before she could finish speaking Lucina's name. All while Falchion was a weight strapped between her fingers.
Lucina twirled her practice sword again, letting it spin through the air and between her fingers, just like how she'd seen Father twirl Falchion. Lucina squared her shoulders back, just the same way he had. Even her feet were spaced just right...But there was still something off about the maneuver. The motions weren't the same as his, not as smooth or had the right punch to them.
Maybe she just needed a blade with a REAL edge. Hers wouldn't stand in the ground when she drove it into the dirt, instead wobbling and falling over. Lucina frowned down at the sword when it clattered against the practice sands, before dusting the carved hilt off as she picked it up to try again.
"Training hard?" A soft voice fell over her ears, before a pair of hands brushed at her shoulders. Lucina almost dropped the sword as she whirled around to find her mother smiling down at her.
"Mom!" she squeaked out, her face lighting up with an open mouthed grin. "Yeah! I've been practicing really hard. I've almost got my sword spin to be just like Dad's. Look!" And she really did have it closer that time, as Lucina stepped back to go through the movements again. The motion felt a little better in her hands...Up until she tried to slam the sword into the ground, and jammed her toe with the wood instead. Maybe it was good she didn't have real steel after all, but she still set up a howl as her foot throbbed.
"Oh, Lucina..." A gloved pair of hands scooped her up as the practice sword slipped from her fingers and fell to the ground. "You're still too young to be trying any flourishes like that. Just work on mastering the basics." Her mother sounded like she wanted to be stern, but kept her arms wrapped tight around Lucina.
"But I want to learn everything you and Dad can do!" Lucina protested as her mother carried her off of the practice grounds. She paused once they reached a bench, setting her onto it. "Then I can help you an' Dad, and win the war for you!" And bring them both back for good, instead of these short visits from Valm. Her mother didn't answer right away, instead easing Lucina's shoe off and looking at the foot. Lucina could see her skin yellowing, promising that there would be a bruise soon enough.
"Lucina," Mother's breath came out in a sigh, tugging Lucina's eyes up to look at her. The look in Mother's eyes was a strange one...Like she was ready to cry, too. "You're already helping just by staying here, and staying safe." Her gloves traced back through Lucina's hair, smoothing it down before lifting her fingers to her lips. She kissed them, before touching her hand back to Lucina's foot. "Better now?" Her voice was hushed, and Lucina found herself nodding.
"Y-yeah. I mean, yes Mother." Lucina coached her voice into something more controlled, going for the refined words she'd heard in Court and drilled into her during etiquette. She could be a good and proper lady, just like her mother when she wanted to. (Even though a part of her just wanted to be a warrior king...But she decided not to share that.) When she spoke, something strange flickered across her mother's eyes, and Lucina could hear a murmur in her voice. "You're growing up quickly..." And a heaviness in her voice to match, before Mother shook her head, clearing whatever was on her mind.
As Mother tended to her foot, Lucina let her eyes wander. They traveled along the ramparts, looked at the grass that lined this section of the castle grounds...And caught on something, almost shoved into the far corner. It was a hole in the wall, where bricks had fallen free from the mortar. It left a frayed edge in an otherwise seamless wall. "What's that?" She forgot proper manners long enough to jab a finger at the hole, before pulling her hand back as etiquette caught up to her. But her mother still followed, pausing over the hole long enough for a smile to ghost across her lips.
"I never SAW what made that...But I heard from your father that's one of his mistakes. He smashed a hole in the stones right there." Lucina giggled as a finger poked her in the ribs to punctuate that. "So don't worry about learning all his moves right away. He made a mistake or two along the way, as well."
At Lucina's nod, her mother glanced down at her foot before scooping Lucina into her arms, hoisting her up so Lucina could clamber onto her back. She didn't have the exact right shoulders for a piggyback ride, at least compared to Father. But Lucina held on and grinned just as much, while Mother carried her back inside.
The lights were going low, leaving long shadows cast along a gold soaked ground. Strange how that sword seemed to cast the longest shadow of all, from how straight Lucina held it. The blade was perfectly flush with the rest of her arm, held in the precise way for a seamless killing blow.
What Robin still couldn't understand was why it was leveled at HER. Lucina's words roared around in her head, too chaotic for her to fully understand or grasp. That she was the cause of her husband's death, and every pained look she'd seen cross her daughter's face when she talked about the future. Robin's mind hummed in confusion as she watched the blade. The bottom of her stomach had long since fallen somewhere down into her boots.
As she listened, Robin saw how one side of Lucina's face was lit bright by the sun, the other bathed in shadow…Save for her eye. The brand of the exalt blazed in Lucina's left iris, shimmering in the tears her daughter tried and failed to fight down. None of them traveled over her face yet, though Robin could see how her throat was working to keep her breath steady.
"I...I know this is matricide...I know that." Her voice was so numb, an echo for the feeling spreading through Robin's limbs as her nightmares and memories of Plegia crashed back into daylight and her waking thoughts.
She could remember how those mental claws from Validar had dug deep into her head; she could barely think without their leave, and when they flexed, she was tugged along on a string. Dancing to their whim, no matter how much she struggled and mentally screamed at them to get out. It hadn't been anything like the confrontation on Carrion Hill. Chrom was right there, staring at her helplessly. She should have been able to break free thanks to his presence, just like before. She'd cried again and again for her body to listen to her, to let Chrom cut through whatever was holding her under control. "My grip is harder to break, so close." Validar had sneered in her thoughts. She couldn't even cry, her eyes refusing to listen to her.
Maybe she should have been struggling now. But her daughter, her Lucina, stood before her. And even if it meant death...Robin knew that she couldn't stand against her.
"My life is yours. It always has been." The words slipped onto her tongue, and Robin instantly knew they were the truth. Ever since she first held Lucina in her arms, felt her daughter taking her first breaths of life. Robin had promised that she would give everything she could to her daughter. To all of her family, as an image of Chrom and Lucina both wavered across her thoughts. In it, they smiled...A sharp contrast to the desperate, wide eyed girl standing in front of her and trying so hard to throttle her pain in order to do what she had to.
"D-don't say that, Mother! Don't!" Robin shook her head at her daughter's protest. "But it's the truth. If I must..." Then she would pay that price. "I would give my life for Chrom...And for you." A life without either of them wasn't one she wanted to consider. Or one where she was placed against them.
It would mean no longer having to face that nightmare of betraying Chrom, as well. Of becoming her father's slave and turning traitor on her family. Even now, his touch was still fresh in her mind. 'I couldn't fight against that.'
No more then she could challenge her own daughter, now that she knew what was weighing down on her.
It was strange, resting in a forest like the one she and the unaware shepherds found themselves in. Lucina had almost forgotten what a place without smoke tasted and smelled like, and she found herself inhaling deeply and treasuring that sweet, dewy taste to the air. With her mask off, she could blink the last of the smoke free from her eyes. She also kept her eyes wide open, taking everything in...And focusing on one pair of figures in particular.
'Still an observer.' Lucina watched her parents move through the trees, the shadows of leaves slowly tracing over them until they were nothing more then faint outlines in the predawn. They drew away from her and her spot in the tree branches, and Lucina told her legs to unknot and stay still. It was like standing against a current that wanted to do nothing more then sweep her after Chrom and Robin. It had been too long...Years had gone by without the sound of their voices. She wouldn't even have to speak to them again; just being able to listen would be enough.
'Your mother and father are dead, tiny one.' The words tried to find anchor in her thoughts, leaving Lucina's hands balling into fists. She pushed the sight of her parents standing together into her mind, reminding herself that Grima was wrong, at least where she was now. And she'd make sure that statement would never be true...Even if she had to accomplish this task on her own.
The others were out there, of course. They were scattered somewhere, she knew...And they were alive. They had to be.
'Just not where you are.' Loneliness bit at her, a cold sense of isolation that was worse then the night chill. Her hands went to the hilt of Falchion, and she pulled the sword free with a low sigh of metal running over scabbard that cut through all those doubtful, morose thoughts.
'I'll make things right,' Lucina promised again, staring at the blade. Even if she still couldn't have her mother and father by her side, she at least had Falchion. She could use her father's sword for them all.
The feel of the sword in her hand carried her on, through the Halidom to the border of Ferox and well into the coliseum. And when she reached there...
...When she reached there, she saw what Falchion was truly capable of, in seasoned hands.
Sparks flew from the blades as they clashed, matching the fierce light in her mother's eyes as Robin dove in, turned the blade, and shoved Lucina back. The roar of the crowd was dimmed, replaced by the ringing of steel and the stone scuffing underneath her feet as Lucina scrambled across the floor, fighting to keep her balance. And to keep her sword in the path of her father's. With each strike sweat beaded on her forehead, ran down her cheeks and stuck to where the mask met her skin. She gave a brief thanks for the mask, that it hid her face so neither Chrom or Robin could see the shock stretching her eyes open. Or the longing and almost-tears seeping into her eyes. They were both right there in front of her, fighting as a unit-
Against her. Lucina didn't know what felt more damning; the knowledge that she was the target of their swords, or the fact that she didn't care as long as it meant seeing them up close with her own eyes.
She started caring when a bolt of spell caught her across the chest, leaving all her nerves firing in pain as she fell slack towards the floor.
'Mother,' The word wanted to squeak out between her teeth as the bruises settled across her skin and the tiles dug into her back. 'Mother, it's me. Your daughter.' Lucina clacked her teeth around the words, biting at her tongue to keep it still.
Her heart strained against her chest as she looked up at the sword in her father's hands. Would death follow? For an instant as her thoughts reeled, she saw Falchion pointed at her chest, the perfect angle for a killing heart strike; she'd practiced such a thing often enough with her own sword. Her breath was drawn in through her teeth, and her father turned from Lucina, sword drawn away and sliding back into the scabbard at his side.
"Incredible..." She whispered, just barely audible over the roar of the crowd as they realized how the match had tipped towards the favor of a new Kahn. Somewhere above her, Basilio was likely cursing every factor he could...Yet she found herself unable to focus on any of that. Instead her eyes stayed on the two fighters as the drew away from her, turning their eyes up towards Flavia. Even after such a fight, they moved together with such ease.
If warriors like them could fall and fail, what chance did she have in changing fate?
'It's not over yet.' Lucina forced the thought in as a wedge between her heart and the despair trying to clutch at it. She slowly drew herself to her feet, moving towards the arena gates as the roar and attention was riveted on the victors. 'You can do this.' She whispered the thought again.
Even if it was with her parents left behind, and nursing her hurts by herself.
The night before they left for Regna Ferox was strangely calm. And Robin spent it almost entirely in her daughter's company. Chrom only nodded when she excused herself from their bedchamber. Robin knew that he kept an eye and ear on her through the doorway that connected their room to Lucina's...While her own focus was on their baby.
Her daughter was wrapped up snug in her bedclothes and blanket, warded against any chill brought in from the rain pattering against the window. An early spring shower had rolled in as the sun went down, and the capital was blanketed with heavy wet clouds and sheets of rain. Outside, the storm rained down on the capital in silvery curtains of water, leaving the castle windows blurred and rippling, while the Ylisse buildings beyond and the tiny lights in them were little more then shimmering dots of orange and yellow light.
It would be rough going tomorrow, Robin knew. Mud, puddles, and either fog, chill, or muggy air depending on how much the sun would be out. Not the best way to leave on their diplomatic call.
'Don't focus on what comes tomorrow.' She put a sharp note of command into the thought, pulling her gaze away from the window. The bundle in her arms gave a nervous peeping sound, drawing her eyes back to those curious eyes looking back up at her. 'You only have tonight with your daughter.'
"I'm sorry," Robin murmured as she lifted her child close, resting Lucina against her collarbone. "You shouldn't have your mother's attention pulled away from you. You deserve a lot more."
"Ah?" Lucina could only coo and squeak, not making her the best at conversation, but Robin drank in every sound as she cradled her daughter. And those blue eyes sometimes said enough, as they lit up when Robin looked at them. Her daughter also deserved a peaceful time to grow up in, instead of this...But she also deserved her parents both being there for her. If Robin couldn't provide that, then she could at least make sure Lucina would have them soon enough.
'And for tonight, she'll have me.' She had to make this evening count, both for her daughter and for herself. 'Something to hold onto while we're on the road. And smile over and share with Chrom when times are tough.'
Her Lucina tilted her head again, wiggling in her mother's arms and practically demanding her voice again. There was a discontented 'nnn' moving from her mouth, which Robin hurried to hush.
She moved from one end of the nursery to the other, rocking Lucina in her arms as a hum built in her chest and throat. The song was something she'd heard Chrom and the other shepherds whistling; not something she knew the words to, but it had a low, swinging melody. Almost melancholy but also soothing, and Lucina didn't seem to mind it...And in fact grew fusy when Robin finished, so she murmured it again. Maybe someday she'd pester Chrom for the words as well, to add them in...Or ask if this was even meant to be a lullaby.
But it was one of the few songs she knew, and that her daughter also enjoyed. If she had to sing it the entire night to keep Lucina happy, Robin gladly would.
Her voice, and the steady patter from the rain finally lulled her daughter into a half drowsing state. Robin risked pausing long enough to kiss the top of her head, sighing as she noted how late the hour must be. Mother and daughter both needed their rest, she knew. Her feet were soft on the floor as Robin padded back to the crib and laid her daughter back in the blankets.
"Rest now, dear." She whispered, touching her fingers to Lucina's hand as it poked out from between the blankets, before wrapping it back up. Her daughter's grip was already strong, and half asleep Lucina grasped at her finger while Robin tucked her in. "Rest," Robin repeated, shifting her hand so it fell over the top of Lucina's head. "I've got a peace to win for you. And a future to make for you as well."
She gave a prayer that she could keep herself and Chrom alive to see it with Lucina. 'Please, Naga. Bring us BOTH back to her; I want to see her smile again.'
Her daughter was in agony. Robin could see it in Lucina's face as she bit at her lip and kept her teeth closed tight around her breath. It didn't matter how much Robin tried to put on a soothing smile for her; the emotion couldn't get through to Lucina.
'Gods,' the thought skreeled in her mind and bit at her chest. 'Are you telling me that the last thing I'll see is how pained my daughter is?'
"Lucina," Robin whispered her name out again, her voice as gentle as she could make it...For all the good it did. Her daughter flinched from the name, still staring at Robin in disbelief.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Lucina choked out. "It may be for the good of the world...For everyone, but I-" Robin cut her off, shaking her head.
"I left Ylisse to secure your future. If this is what it takes to give you that, then..." Then she would hold onto her courage. And remember others who had come before her. Emmeryn had done as much for her family; she could do the same for her own daughter.
"You're...Going to accept this?" Lucina still couldn't chase that pained look from her face, even while astonishment and disbelief traced across her eyes and left her staring.
"You are my child. My daughter. And no matter who I am or what I do, I'll always be proud of you. And my life will always, always be yours. I could never go against you...I love you too much for that." Though Robin never imagined that she would be staring down Falchion, point first. The blade gleamed orange and red from the sunset, as smooth edged as ever. Looking at it and the daughter holding it, Robin could remember seeing how much Lucina had practiced. How much she was her father's daughter when it came to swordplay.
"I know you'll be quick." How could she doubt that? In Lucina's hands, it would be easy for the blade to pierce her heart in a clean death. And there were worse places to die, Robin thought in a strangely detached way, her thoughts feeling like they were thousands of miles away from that blade leveled at her heart. This wasn't some battle ravaged town or field; no smoke, no stink of blood and rot in the air. Even now the sunlight was still wrapped around her in a warm, almost comforting way.
As her daughter's eyes squinted against the glare, squeezing back tears, Robin felt her arms twitch. If only she could comfort her daughter in the same way. She wanted to hold her hands out and give Lucina a comforting hug...But there was still an arm's length of steel between them and pointed at her heart. Instead, Robin hoped her words would be enough.
"Lucina...My Lucina. Please keep living once this is done. Don't let this shadow you."
"No, Mother...!" Lucina's voice was growing strained.
'This is for Lucina and Chrom.' She wrapped herself in that thought again, to give herself courage and dignity to face the sword. 'If that's what must be done, then...'
"Then so be it." Robin whispered to herself, and then raised her words for Lucina's ears. "Now Lucina, do what you must."
"M-mother." That time, Lucina's voice was more sob then words. Those tears weren't just in the corners of her eyes any longer. They fell down her face as Lucina's breath came out in halting, rasping gulps for air.
Most of the landscape was still shadowed, the ground colors muted while the sky brightened from the rising sun. The night chill lingered in the air, and the battlefield around them still hid its scars from the dawn light.
And her daughter shivering into her shoulder made all of that completely inconsequential.
"Mother...I missed you so much. More then you'll ever know..." Her voice was so fragile and hushed, a stark contrast to how fierce she was in battle.
"And I'm more proud then I can ever put into words." Robin soothed Lucina with her words and her hands around her back. She didn't know if she could hug Lucina tight enough to squeeze those almost-sobs out of her, but Robin was prepared to try it.
Daylight crept over them unaware, and it wasn't until Robin glanced up that she realized there was still a world moving around them. And a war that wouldn't wait forever. It had been hard, one of the toughest things she'd ever done, to leave her daughter and husband behind to tell the Shepherds to mobilize.
'You're still fighting for your daughter.' Robin told herself again, letting that image of both versions of her daughter carry her on towards the camp.
If there was one thing she could take solace in, the presence of her daughter was something that filled up the hollow Validar had tried to carve into her chest. If he was truly her father, then none of his blood, his manner, or the unease he could root deep in her from just a look, had been passed on to Lucina.
"Robin- I mean, Mother...?" A hushed voice from behind her. And unlike the voice that had torn itself into her head, there was warmth blossoming through her from the words. Robin felt a smile creep over her lips as she turned to face Lucina. Her daughter stood as tall as before, the blue of her hair and eyes almost blending into the dawn sky.
"I, I know this is sudden, but...Would you have a place for me in the vanguard? I haven't been fighting alongside you for long- Well, scarcely at all. I know that. But I'd like-" Her eyes were more fragile looking then Robin ever wanted to see. Like they were afraid what she was seeing would break apart, and she'd be powerless to stop it.
"Lucina, I seem to remember how well you fought in the arena. I think Chrom might still have a scar or two from it." Lucina's cheeks didn't know whether to pale or blush over that, as Robin continued. "And I seem to recall how capable you were at fighting off assassins that night at the palace." Better than she'd fared against Validar, if Robin was honest. The events were two years in the past, and she could still feel that memory of how she'd frozen up under his haughty look as if it was only an hour ago. It had taken Chrom to snap her back into action and land a final strike with her magic, while he lead with the sword.
Not that Lucina needed to hear that. Robin tapped at her head to free up her thoughts, before glancing back at her daughter. "And even more recently, I saw how fast you can move and turn a blade when you need to. So yes, I'd say there's room for you in the vanguard..." Her daughter's face was already brightening, and when Robin added "Perhaps alongside myself and Chrom?" she thought Lucina might drift into the air from how much weight eased off her shoulders.
As it turned out, Robin didn't once regret her decision to take Lucina to the front with them. Her daughter must have learned swordsmanship from Chrom at one point; that was the only way to explain just how light on her feet she was. And it told Robin that her memories hadn't exaggerated how fluidly 'Marth' had moved during those few times she could watch the battle.
This was a better legacy than she could imagine; her daughter was a hero, without a doubt. She was bright, powerful, and a cutting image of something bold and brave. And she couldn't find a bigger contrast to that hazy and fogged image of her doppelganger and Validar.
Valm wasn't without its comforts, even in the middle of a war...Which was also fast turning into a rout, despite how the Shepherds bucked and strained against it. The Valmese army seemed intent on rolling on, ceaseless and unstoppable...Much like fate. Yet the Shepherds could still manage a few small amenities, even in the face of that. They made camp scattered around a ruin of a tower, one well away from any Valmese patrols or armies, and with enough ground to pitch the tents. And enough stones still standing in the tower for a few Shepherds to have solid walls around them.
And just then, Lucina needed walls to shut out the world. And hold back a future that was determined to crash in around her, no matter what she did. Her head bumped against the stone as she leaned against the wall. Fate hadn't changed for Basilio, anymore than it had for her aunt.
"Lucina...?" A gentle voice brushed against her ears a heartbeat before a hand traced over her head. Her mother smoothed her hair back into place as she spoke. "You're not dwelling on Basilio, are you? It wasn't-"
"Wasn't my fault?" Lucina cut her off, her voice snapping out between her teeth. "I tried to tell him...I tried to s-stop him from going out there." Her shoulders trembled as Lucina kept her eyes fixed ahead at the stone. She wasn't sure she could meet her mother's eyes. "Wh-why didn't he listen? Mother, why didn't you stop him-?"
"Because..." Robin's fingers had stopped moving and paused on her shoulder, though she hadn't drawn her hand away. Maybe her mother was gaining some strength from their connection, no matter how bitter Lucina was over it just then. "...Because I couldn't create a better plan."
"But you're-" Supposed to be the smartest woman in any kingdom. A brilliant tactician, and infallible. Lucina wanted to say all of that, but something in Robin's voice made her pause.
"When a situation is this harsh...This is what we must do, as leaders and advisors. We weigh lives and..." Was she imagining the strain in her mother's voice? "And we make the best judgment we can, and try to keep the loss as small as possible. Even if it's one life for another."
"But mother-! He,"
"He knew the risks, and accepted them. We all know that when we go into battle, Lucina; it might be our last fight. It certainly will be for some of the soldiers on the field. But we have to take the risk anyway, and hope that we can spare more people with our choices-"
Lucina thought she could hear more words under that, as Robin's grip on her tightened for one second before relaxing in the next. "So we can save the people we love." Robin's voice was quiet, just a breath between her lips, and Lucina knew those words weren't meant for her. Her mother might have not even meant for them to come out at all.
"I should have been able to do something." She repeated again, stubbornly as she wrenched herself out of Robin's grip. Lucina refused to meet Robin eye to eye, and as she pulled herself away she thought she could hear a sharp and almost hurt noise as her mother breathed in. "ONE of us should have been able to." She hated those words the second they were off her tongue, but there wasn't any taking them back.
"Lucina...Please don't shoulder this by yourself." Robin answered...And when her daughter said nothing, sighed as she walked away.
She didn't know how long she spent facing the wall. Candle marks, maybe...Easily enough for the moon to climb towards the top of the sky and shine sickle bright on the camp. Guilt kept her rooted in place, and a strange hope that she could avoid seeing anyone by the time she went outside. Somehow, looking at anyone's face would be enough to remind Lucina of her failure.
Despite that, she still paused as she moved through the tents, and stopped at her mother's. There was a flickering globe of light inside, painting the canvas orange and yellow from the candle burning away. It told her that her mother wasn't getting much in the way of sleep, either. Though whether it was from troubled thoughts or busy ones devoted to strategy, Lucina couldn't say.
A part of her wanted to walk in and find out for certain. The same part that still felt hurt from what happened, and was reaching out for something to steady her.
'Lucina, you're not a little girl anymore,' Her thoughts scolded and made her halt when she took a step towards her mother's tent. 'Going to your mother every time you bump or scuff your knee...That's not something you can do anymore.'
But gods, did she ever want to be able to do just that. The pull was back in her heart, wanting to send her back to her parents. But the memory of her argument with Robin did its best to drown that out. Lucina's best response was to growl at both the emotion and her memories, turning on her heel and putting her back to the tents. Instead of seeking out company, she stalked into the woods and drew Falchion from its scabbard.
By the time she was done, there were a few new fallen trees, and a good amount of butchery carried out on the remaining forest's branches and leaves. The ground under her feet had been turned to finely shredded and carved mulch, filling the air with a fresh scent that contrasted hard with the sour amounts of sweat pouring off her body.
...And even with that, the unease in her chest hadn't relaxed by much. It was only a fraction less biting then before. Enough to let fatigue sink into her arms and let Lucina focus on that instead.
Naga didn't hear her prayers for a steady sword hand and conviction.
Lucina told herself again how it would go. A clean death for her mother, driving her sword through her heart before she could blink or even breathe. Quick, painless for her parent.
...Ruthless and horrific for her. She could hear the mocking voice of her grandfather as he pulled Robin towards Chrom, leaving her a puppet. Just then, she felt more kinship towards that man than her parents, with what she was preparing to do.
'STOP.' She tried to root that in place of those thoughts. This was all because of her grandfather, and what he could drive Robin to do. Lucina standing aside and doing nothing would promise her father's death.
She just had to be strong, Lucina reminded herself. 'Be a monster like your grandfather,' the rest of her thoughts snapped at her. Be as brave as both of her parents. 'One of whom you're about to kill.'
Lucina looked at her mother's eyes again, and nearly broke. How her mother could have such a kind smile, she didn't know. And when she realized that this would be the last time she'd see that smile or hear her mother's voice...Something in her broke. Her heart screamed out like Falchion had been driven through IT instead. All while her face burned as her blood boiled with too many emotions to hold in.
For the second time, the world burned around Lucina as she fought. The heat pressed into her face and her lungs as Lucina fought to stay at the front of the forces. She wouldn't falter or fall behind, Lucina told herself again. And she repeated that as a mantra, along with the thought that no matter how bad the heat of this mountain was, it wasn't the same as the fall of Ylisse. There weren't any tears mixing with her sweat this time, and she could cut and slash right alongside her family.
Ahead, she could see the spinning, twisting form of her mother. Robin's cloak caught the updrafts and superheated air, billowing and swirling around her as she ducked and cut. Her fingertips crackled with power, the lightning in them taking on an almost orange glow thanks to the red hot color of the lava around them. A part of Lucina still wanted to question her mother, her choices, but the rest of her couldn't deny that this plan was working. As long as they stayed light on their feet, they were always one step ahead of any unstable ground...Which Lucina couldn't say was the same of the Valmese. Their armor weighed them down, made them slow, and even from the other end of the battlefield Lucina could hear the screams as the ground broke apart underfoot.
Some of them were still standing, however. And forming into ranks that advanced towards them, another wave to fight...And might well flank the Shepherds if something didn't meet them.
Her mother's words echoed in her ears; 'We take these risks, all of us, that it could be our last fight. It will be for some of the soldiers on the field.' With a thin howl of breath squeaking out between her lips, Lucina threw herself forward again to meet the first attacker. Her sword crashed against steel armor and shield, scarring the metal deep...But leaving the flesh underneath uncut. A second cut yielded the same result, and Lucina spared enough time to curse Walhart for however he'd gotten his hands on such high grade steel. She didn't get a chance to try a third strike, as the soldier was already rushing her. Lucina leapt backwards, twisting through the air as her cape fluttered around her, obscuring and confusing her form so her attacker's spear struck only air. She felt a surge of pride as she touched the ground, knowing she'd evaded the counter attack-
The ground underneath her feet groaned the second her boots touched against it. She could feel what was supposed to be solid rock turn to something like crumbling, wet sand, as a hissing filled her ears. A vent opened where her heel scrapped at the ground, and Lucina flinched as steam blasted into her face.
It scalded, enough that she couldn't bite back the scream as she lurched away from that painful heat. And into a mailed shoulder and fist that caught her across the chest and stomach. Her body lurched again, crashing against ground that bit with hot teeth into her clothing and skin as Lucina tried to blink and clear her eyes.
When she could see, what filled her vision was that same bulk of steel and lance. She couldn't see a face through the visor; just a sculpted, cruel looking steel helm and black space where the eyes should have been.
Maybe this would be her last battle as well. Lucina stared as the spear plunged towards her chest, heart pounding in her ears.
"FACE ME!" Her mother's voice snapped out in an echo of Lucina's battle cry, as the air around them came alive with a crackling noise. It somehow grew even hotter as the air spat and left the skin on her face and arms tingling. The red was leached out from the scenery, replaced with a yellow flash as thunder roared in Lucina's ears, drowning out her own frantic heartbeat. The Valmese soldier was rigid as the lightning bolt slammed into him, but somehow he still stood.
Until a sword pierced through his chest, and a shoulder slammed into his side and pushed him over the rocks. Robin didn't bother to pull her sword loose as he tumbled over and hit the river of melted rock with a screech and a sizzle. Lucina turned from the sight as her stomach pitched, and her limbs all shook. The spear was still laying across from her, starting to smolder from where it lay on the rocks. The metal, however, still had a cold glint that told Lucina it would have easily pierced her chest and heart.
"Lucina!" Robin's voice cut into her thoughts, as a hand moved between her eyes and the spear point. Lucina grasped it automatically, and Robin pulled her back onto her feet. Around them, the last of the Valmese were being routed, while ahead and vanishing into the heat haze, the main offense of Chrom and Say'ri were closing with the enemy's general. Robin only glanced at them however, her eyes on Lucina. "Are you alright?"
"Y-yes. Just a little scuffed up-" She heard a quiet prayer from her mother's mouth, before her arm's wrapped around Lucina and pulled her close. It took a moment of confused blinking to realize that Robin was worried about her. Was STILL looking after her, regardless of what Lucina had said to her earlier.
"Mother...?" The heat made the words weigh heavy in her mouth. "You're not upset about what I said-"
The air may have been superheated around them, and Robin's arms only added to that warmth, but she didn't want to break away from her mother's embrace.
"Oh, Lucina...You're my daughter. I could never stay mad at you. Or stand against you; we're a stronger family than that."
'Act. Act, damn you!' No matter how her thoughts screamed at her to do something, they couldn't push through the turmoil that was throwing the rest of her into disarray.
The future would be robbed of a great man if she didn't strike the blow. But-
'But if I kill her...If I kill my mother...' Then the future would also be bereft of a brilliant woman. She tried again to think of her father, of the armies he led, the nation he guided, and the scars his death would leave on the world. But even with that running through her mind, all Lucina saw was Robin.
'You have to do this.' Her voice tried to break through again. But it was drowned out as those memories came back in a rush. The battles, the long marches, the fleeting moments with her family in the castle...And in camp as well, as they gave her new memories to hold onto. They all burned bright in her mind, consuming the last of the conviction.
"I...I can't." Her words were getting strangled by the sobs building in her throat. But they still cracked out, and when she heard them, her grip failed her. Falchion slipped free of her hand, the blade digging into the ground as she fell to her knees beside it. With the ground pressing into her, Lucina shook in a way that made her wonder if this was her punishment for being ready to commit matricide; feeling like her heart was going to rip itself apart from the inside, and tear herself to shreds from shaking so much. She was ready to believe it, and that she deserved every bit of it.
"I can't do...Damn me, I can't do this!" She couldn't put the world before her mother. And she couldn't have the strength of the hero king after all. "I love you too much," she rasped out, not even capable of lifting her head up to look at Robin; her heart was already in pieces, and she knew catching a glimpse of her mother's face, whether it was relieved, gentle, or sad would shatter them further.
"I...I'm sorry Mother. I-I'm so sorry! Please forgive-" There was a hand on her head, smoothing her hair out the same way she remembered from so many years ago. Maybe it was supposed to reassure her. Instead Lucina felt herself break further.
"My poor girl..." And gods help her, what was she hearing in her mother's voice? She didn't dare look up at Robin's face, not sure what she would do if she saw her crying as well. "There's nothing to forgive."
Later, much later, once the moon climbed over the treetops, Robin found her daughter standing in a forest clearing. Falchion was drawn, but hung slack in her grip; if there had been any violence visited on the plant life, Lucina had long since worked it out. Her daughter was spent, head low and her shoulders slumped. Looking at her, there were only echoes of the daughter that talked about finding the perfect dress, or of quietly confiding her worries. They were dwarfed by the burden that still clung stubbornly to Lucina's shoulders.
When she saw that, Robin moved automatically to stand next to Lucina, before she could turn around. Long before Robin could think about what she was even doing. When she drew her arms around Lucina, her daughter's voice and reaction was little more then a whimper that twisted into a cry.
Lucina hadn't shed all her tears at the cliff side, from the way she wept. Robin held her daughter close as she cried, her body trembling as Lucina tried to draw an even breath. "It's alright," Robin murmured while Lucina shuddered and choked, burying her head in Robin's shoulder.
"H-how is it alright?" She coughed out between her sobs. "I...I tried to...What sort of daughter-"
"Lucina. I meant what I said before. There is nothing, NOTHING to forgive you for." Robin pressed her hands to Lucina's shoulders as she cradled her close. She wasn't quite like the child back in Ylisse, but little things like being grown, forming words, or holding a sword didn't matter just then. Just that her daughter hurt, and that as a mother she had to do something to help mend it. "You will always be my daughter...And I will always love you and be proud of you, no matter what."
Lucina sagged against her, and in that instant Robin felt like she was holding that same fragile little girl. There was a hum building in her chest as Lucina leaned against her; Robin let it flow out, recognizing the same notes as the lullaby from so long ago, during the night in Ylisse.
"I never did ask Chrom what the words were." Maybe it didn't matter, at least for the moment. She hummed the melody while her daughter rested against her shoulder, focused on the song so she wouldn't hit her own breaking point.
Robin traced her fingers along Lucina's bangs, smoothing them over and brushing them out of the way so she could look at her daughter's face again. She could see the glimmer of her eyes, an almost glowing bright blue in the faint moonlight.
"Remember your own words, Lucina." The thoughts floated into her mind and onto her tongue as Robin watched her. And with the last of that song fading out, she was glad she had something to say...And prayed that her daughter would listen. "The world itself will crumble and break before our bonds do. There's so much truth to that."
"I...I remember other words." Lucina was pulling away, lifting her head up even with the heaviness still so clear in her shoulders, while Robin could only blink in surprise from where Lucina was steering the conversation. "From before that. You told me...You said I shouldn't carry or shoulder this all by myself."
It was strange, after all of what had happened, to feel a smile drawing her lips upwards. But Lucina somehow managed to get Robin to do just that, and Robin nodded as she listened.
"I meant every word of it. Chrom, Morgan, myself, and you...We are a family, Lucina. And we're stronger together than we can be apart. Your father and I learned that, years ago." Maybe Lucina was still tired, but Robin could see that her words were sinking in past that weight on her back and face.
"Yes." As she spoke, Lucina's hand lifted as she tried to sheathe Falchion in a shaky, drained motion. "Here," Robin gave her hand to Lucina, resting her palm under Lucina's wrist so her daughter could lift and properly sheathe Falchion. When she was done, Lucina stayed by her mother's side. And when Robin stepped back towards the camp, matched her stride for stride, moving more easily then Robin had seen in a long time. With her eyes on her daughter, Robin found that she was also having an easier time holding herself upright.
"Perhaps I should tell you about it?" When Lucina followed, she didn't slouch as much as before, and met Robin's gaze more easily.
"I know some of it...But yes. I'd like to hear all of it from you." Her voice remained hushed, but the words came more easily as Lucina blinked away whatever was left of her tears.
"It started during the campaign against Plegia. Not the happiest beginning, but what came after was something better," the walk back to the camp was a slow one, but Robin found that she didn't mind that. It wasn't with heavy steps, and their conversation felt like it was a long way apart from any burdens either of them had to carry.