Chapter 20 - Seven Devils
To say Chrom was confused would have been an understatement. At this point he felt there was nothing in his mind except a tangled web of falsehoods and questions; he simply had no idea how to react. For once in his life, he hadn't been able to read Robin. Before, he had been able to look at the way she was holding her head or the pose of her fingers, and could have told anyone exactly what she was thinking. He had learnt to read her, over months and years, and he was supposed to be fluent by now.
"I'm so, so sorry," she had whispered, and he hadn't understood. The wall he thought he had destroyed between them was up and strong as ever, and he felt it rising still in her eyes, in the way she had hardened her lips and pulled away from him. The wall had stretched, warped - become something taller and stronger than him as he stood, empty-handed and alone, in the cold morning light. And worst of all, it had come from Robin herself. It fed on the way her shoulders straightened and her hands clenched - she was pulling away, and he could see her contracting the effect he had on her in her heart and mind, urging herself to be rid of it.
She needed armour between the two of them, and he didn't know why. What was wrong, and why wouldn't she tell him? Why had she walked away from him, after he told her he was still in love with his wife, with her? How had twined hands and secret smiles gone so quickly to unreadable looks and cool glances?
Kissing her was always going to have been a foolish decision, but when she responded, it had felt for a moment like they were young recruits again, like in that shining second they were the commander and tactician first discovering that they could be so much more, all over again. Chrom knew that the past could not be repeated, but with such a tangible opportunity in his grasp, he didn't have a choice but to take it, to hold in his hands the brief belief that he could fall in love with her all over again.
It had been like that for the first few seconds. He had been happy, so unbelievable elated and joyful, when she had leaned into him and allowed him the small pleasures of holding her hand, twining his fingers in her hair and resting his cheek on hers. He had thought he was nearing the end; the end of the waiting for her to say his name the way she used to, the end of the having to hold back when he wanted just to go talk to her, to spend time with her.
But then she had pulled back, physically taking steps away from him. Her eyes had widened and she had lifted her hands to push him away, to push him, Chrom, her husband, away. She had almost stumbled, and though he reached out to stabilise her, the look on her face had stopped him.
"I need to go, Chrom," she had said quietly, and he saw a plan forming in her eyes. Always tactical, always looking to the next step. "I just need to find an answer." She had let go of his hand and held her own, as if burned, clenched to her collarbone.
And then she had left, boots moving silently away from him across the flattened grass. He didn't know how to react.
And now he was walking in the other direction, going to the only people who knew Robin as well as he did. He knocked gently on the door.
"Come in!"a voice called, and he leant his shoulder against the wood. Lucina looked up and closed the book on her lap, smiling up at her father. The young lady was tucked into an armchair, and Chrom's lips tilted as he noticed the blanket on her lap and the title of her tome - both belonged to her mother. Her Falchion rested in the corner of the cosy room, and Lucina's hair fell gracefully to her shoulders, unbrushed and a little ruffled. "Father?" Lucina asked, eyes crinkling, "what brings you here?"
Chrom looked to the ground, and Lucina quickly gestured to the chair opposite hers, seeing his hesitation. Chrom ran a hand through his hair, crossing his ankles as he sat down. "Borrowing a blanket from Robin?" he asked, wanting a normal conversation for the first time that day.
Lucina nodded, and ran her fingers over the worn stitches. "Lissa made it for her birthday a couple of years ago, right?"
"And almost ruined it in the process," Chrom replied. "I'm pretty sure Maribelle had to step in and salvage it."
Lucina chuckled softly, and stilled her fingers, moving them to place the book on the ground entirely. "Something has clearly happened, father. What is it?"
There was a moment of silence, and though it wasn't unfriendly, it contained more than it should have.
"I don't know what to do about your mother," he replied at last, "she seems to be close to me one moment, and then further away than ever the next." He described the morning, leaving out the more cringeworthy moments, of course - she was his daughter after all, and no child likes to hear about their parents being what they would call soppy.
After he had spoken, Lucina was quiet. Her eyes gazed into the distance for a few moments, and nothing about her moved except for her fingers, which played with a strand of hair, one that had escaped the rough bun she had put up whilst he was speaking.
"Give her space," she said eventually, "she still needs time." Chrom nodded, and she continued. "She surely has a plan of action, and if she's pulling away, it will only be temporary. She's just coping."
Chrom leaned back into his chair. Slowly, he inclined his head. He opened his mouth to speak, and was interrupted by a short rap on the door. Inigo stuck his head through the opening.
"Lucina!" he exclaimed, and then, "Oh- and Chrom's here too!" Lucina smiled at her husband, and Inigo came to perch on the arm of her seat. "You talking about Robin?" he said, voice surprisingly bright.
Lucina nodded, and Chrom asked how he could tell.
"Lucina looks even more serious than usual when it's Robin," he replied jokingly, leaning backwards and twining an arm around his wife. Chrom eyed them, happy that his daughter was obviously enjoying the attention, but watching Inigo cautiously.
"What would you suggest I do about her pulling away?" he asked, not unkindly.
Inigo's eyes flicked up and he looked at him as if it was obvious. "Do what you did five years ago," he said, "just make her fall in love with you again." He smiled, as if there was nothing clearer. "You did it once, so you can surely do it again."
While Chrom was talking with his daughter and son-in-law, Robin was moving quickly through the camp, her boots almost noiseless as she threaded between the tents. Her eyes narrowed more and more with every step she took as the air cleared her mind and sharpened her thoughts into a cohesive plan.
When she found the tent she wanted, she lifted the flap abruptly and walked in with no shadow of a doubt as to what she would find inside. From metres away she had heard Thierry talking, and it had taken her seconds to figure out who to. Her eyes went immediately to the man claiming to be her cousin and she didn't even spare a glance for the others as she spoke.
"Could you leave us, please, Frederick?" she said plainly, and the knight looked up at her from the map spread across the table. He looked at Robin carefully, and immediately saw the straightness of her spine and her clenched hands. He nodded silently. "Of course, my lady," he replied quietly, though not bitterly, and Robin smiled slightly despite herself.
Thierry echoed her smile, and crossed his hands in his lap. He sat behind the table, a large, ugly thing that remained as a barrier between the two of them. Frederick left, and Robin walked around the sides of the table, fingers tracing the crosses marked on the paper. "Places where the Grimleal are thought to be?" she asked, even though she already knew the answer. Thierry remained silent.
Finally, when the chills began running up her spine and the goosebumps formed on her arms, he spoke. "What would you have of me, cousin?" he raised his eyes and the folds of his cloak settled around his arms. Though she should've held the power in the room, he definitely looked more comfortable. "It must be quite something to make you pull rank like that."
Robin's lips tilted coldly. "Quite something, indeed," she answered, "I need to know why the Grimleal would be after me." Thierry said nothing, and she went on. "You said that Chrom had to destroy them, not only because of their wrongdoings, but also to stop them 'purifying' the bloodline again." Thierry inclined his head, gestured for her to continue.
"Let your chain of thought unravel, Queen," he said softly, and Robin almost flinched at the noun.
"Grima is gone," she said, of that she was sure. "So why would they try?" her voice trailed of slightly.
Thierry slowly placed each of his fingertips together and sank into the pillows behind him. "It's quite simple, Robin," he said, his voice slithering over her name, "I would've expected you to have figured it out by now." She narrowed her eyes at him.
"But no matter," he went on quickly, an edge of laughter in his voice. "They want you because they do not believe. All the hierophants, the ones actually close to Grima, have been killed - bar me and maybe two others. They don't believe Grima is dead, because they cannot feel that he is. They don't feel his abscence, because they never felt his prescence." His voice was sweet poison - clearly, he had no respect for these people.
"That's the only reason I came here, cousin; Grima is dead, so I have nothing left but you, and this godforsaken land you won for the world. I thought I should tell you who you are before I die," he chuckled, "probably at your husband's hands. He really doesn't like me, does he?" He leaned forward suddenly, leant his elbows on his knees and intertwined his fingers under his chin. His eyes glinted a hard silver in the light.
Robin stilled, and her hand went to one of the larger crosses on the map.
"So," she replied slowly, "what's your course of action?"
Thierry smiled, widely this time.
That afternoon, Chrom walked across the camp. Frederick had called him to a meeting - apparently Robin had formed a plan, and the others had seconded it. According to Lissa, who had been sent to collect him, Robin was determined the tactic would work, though Lissa herslef had been a little more than doubtful in her looks alone. In his sister's words, she was going to do this, 'with or without the permission of higher powers.'
He walked quickly. He was worried, and he had felt the tenseness of Lissa's eyes when she had brought him the message. He reached the clearing with the communal tent, cosily lit from the inside, and Robin emerged from the marquee. Her eyes briefly met his, and then dropped away. She brushed past him with barely a glance. Chrom swallowed.
When he heard the plan - barely minutes later - he understood her reaction.
"No way in hell," he swore a blue streak. "It's too dangerous."
A laugh sounded from the back of the gathering, and the Exalt's eyes went straight to Thierry. "It's too late, princeling," he said. "Your wife has made up her mind."
Hey guys, please drop a review if you have the time - it is much appreciated. On average only five or six out of over 200 views leave any feedback, so every little helps! Thank you very much for making it this far - Chapter 20 sounds like a good landmark, doesn't it? Take a cookie and a hug (^w^)
Question for the chapter; who is your least liked character in Fire Emblem: Awakening?