Block. Parry. Slash to the wrist. Pommel strike to the head.

The specifics briefly ran through Robin's mind as he cut down yet another Plegian in the hellhole known as the Midmire. The man fell to the ground, dark blood mixing with the rain and running in rivulets down his arm and into the mud where it mingled with that of his comrades who had fallen before him. He held up his hands in surrender, arms quivering. The Ylissean tactician put his blade at the man's throat, icy blue eyes staring down with a brutal conviction.

He looked deep into his antagonist's eyes, wide with fear as the dark-robed man prepared to finish what he'd started.

"P-please," the man pleaded, tears and sweat running down his face. "Please don't kill me. I never wanted to fight. None of us did, not even the general!" Robin's expression softened a moment, then hardened again.

No, he thought to himself. Harden your heart. This man would have shown no mercy if our roles were reversed.

But that was it. If their roles had been reversed, if he had been the one quivering in fear on the battlefield, he would have hoped for mercy. He would've pleaded, would've begged to be let go, to be saved from dying for a cause he'd never believed in.

He stared down at the Plegian at the end of his sword. The man's dirty, tangled hair was matted by the rain that soaked his soldier's tunic. His thin arms were held up in front of him, his right wrist cut and bloody.

"Please," he said again, voice shaking. "I have a wife, and a child! If I had not fought, Gangrel would have slaughtered them as an example." Fresh tears fell from his eyes and he sputtered before continuing, "Please, sir, have mercy!" Robin's blade shook slightly as he fought with himself.

He'll kill you when your back is turned.

He's a Plegian.

He deserves to die.

Think of what they did to Emmeryn.

Think of what they'll do to you.

To your friends.

To the Shepherds.

Robin's eyes narrowed and his hand steadied. He pressed the tip of his blade close to the man's throat, relishing the light of terror in his eyes. How satisfying it would be to see that light extinguished! But even as he steeled himself for that final thrust, for that release, a newer, stronger voice penetrated his thoughts.

Think of what you've done.

Think of how many you've killed.

How many of those men had families?

How many had been pressed into war by their mad king?

How many had wanted to flee, but had never had the chance to beg before your sword struck them down?

How many would have gladly left if given the chance, but the threat of harm to their loved ones stayed their feet?

What would you have done?

What if someone had threatened the Shepherds?

What if someone had threatened Chrom, or Lissa, or Frederick, or any of the others?

What if someone had threatened Cordelia?

Robin's face fell. The tip of his blade touched the mud, and the Plegian at his feet gulped.

"Go," the tactician murmured, his normally commanding voice barely audible amongst the rain and clash of steel.

"What?" the man asked, his eyes wide and unbelieving.

"Go!" Robin cried, gesturing with his arm. "Get away from here! Go to your family, and tell them not to fear. Tell them that Gangrel will fall. Go!"

"Th-thank you!" the man sputtered, clambering to his feet. He ran as hard as he could, not even bothering to pick up his lance. Robin watched him go through the heavy rain. He felt a weight being lifted from his chest, knowing that the man would live this day. But then a larger weight was pressed down. So many would not be able to say the same.

Robin looked around him. The Shepherds were sticking to his strategy, pushing straight to the commander who was quickly dispatched by Chrom. The men and women around him cheered, but Robin knew it was empty of any real joy. None of them felt any happiness when their enemy was killed. The fighting might have been exhilarating and even pleasurable at times, but when you took a step back and saw what victory had cost you, even the strongest was often brought to tears.

Around the tactician himself lay seven dead men: three axemen, three swordsmen, and a wyvern rider. They had been killed as humanely as possible, with one or two deadly blows, but the looks of fear on their faces tore him apart.

He lowered his cowl, hoping that covering his eyes would help, but the images were still there. He knew they'd never leave him. Every time he closed his eyes at night he would see their faces and know that they would never see another.

Casualties were a necessary evil in war, Robin knew. He knew that every dead Plegian meant one less threat to the Shepherds, and that helped a little. But what if there had been a way to avoid casualties altogether? What if Gangrel had never interfered and war had never erupted?

He was the tactician. It was his job to make sure the enemy was soundly beaten, to kill every foe before they could strike down an ally, a friend. Chrom understood that Robin hated the fighting, and on more than one occasion had offered to simply take him out of the battle altogether. But Robin always refused. Seeing their enemy like this made it harder, yes, but if he hadn't seen them, if he hadn't heard their cries of pain and pleading voices calling for mercy, he would've thought of them as nothing more than pieces on a chessboard. Not people, but meaningless pawns lost in the battle for victory.

And so he fought. He joined his brothers in arms on the front lines and met every threat with his blade. Because if he wasn't there, then they were nothing. Then war would just be a game to him, one that he would always win. That was what so often corrupted intelligent men like King Gangrel, and made them cruel conquerors and rulers. To them, it was simple: kill the enemy and don't let too many get killed. But if you lost one or two, who cared? They were just playthings after all, broken toys that were no longer useful.

Robin hated such men. Hated them with everything he was. And so he had resolved to always see what war really did, to never forget the pain and suffering it caused. He resolved never to flinch when his enemy was brutally defeated and he saw their mangled bodies, so that he would always remember that death was always waiting for the warrior, and if he wasn't at his best, then one of his comrades would be taken, not the enemy.

….

That was probably the heaviest thing I've ever written. I'd appreciate any and all criticism on how it was done and what I could do better. Anyway, thanks for reading!