Chapter 21 - Lover to Lover
Chrom stood pacing angrily in the centre of the camp, uneasily clenching and unclenching his fists around the hilt of Falchion. Morgan took one look at his father's stormy face and knew exactly what to do. He weaved through the clumps of milling people as they watched their king in his frustration, many filling others in on the details they had missed. The Shepherds weren't ones for gossip, but when a royal spat occurred, it was deemed important enough to talk about.
Morgan overheard Maribelle whispering hurriedly to Lissa ("She said what?!") and Sully's decisive laughter ("Well, at least you can't contest that she has guts!"), mixed with the hushed murmurings of the other camp members. Almost everyone was here. It seemed his parents were terrible at keeping their domestics quiet.
He himself was uneasy. His stomach rolled nervously just at the thought of his mother's plan. It was far from the ideal he knew his father held dearly; that safety and rest would bring back Robin's memory, and though he trusted his mother and her skills as a tactician, this plan of hers had more than the usual amount of risk. He could certainly see why his father was worried. Still, it was going to be hard enough to convince him to stand down to Robin even without the added spice of her plan including Thierry.
He arrived at his father's side just as Chrom turned to start another set of paces, and the Prince jolted almost into his son as Morgan grabbed his sleeve resolutely and walked firmly away from the main clearing and put of public sight, saying only, "Come this way."
Chrom, more surprised than anything at his son's unusually serious demeanour, followed obediently, though his face didn't lose the frown.
As Lucina would've said to him, an Exalt should not lose his temper in public, though she would never have tried to instruct their father, what with the golden pedestal she had placed him on. Ducking into the nearest tent, Morgan pulled his father with him and pointed almost wearily to a chair. He was stressed enough that even his natural optimism was failing, and Morgan suddenly wished Nah could be the one to explain to Chrom, in her calm and measured way, what his next course of action would have to be. But he knew that when his wife had ushered him forward with a small smile and the comment that it was a matter for family only, she had been right. He pulled his knees up onto his chair, folding his arms around them in the way he only did when unsure. He lifted his head to look at his father and summoned a smile. He smiled at the denseness of his parents, and at how, already, Chrom was cooling rapidly, his face relaxing as he looked around their cosy surroundings. His father flicked a stray lock out of his line of sight and met his son's gaze. Slowly, he smiled back too, softly enough that Morgan knew it was his way of thanking him nonverbally.
"Sorry about that," the High Lord of Ylisse said sheepishly.
Morgan shook his head. "Always there to help," he replied, "we couldn't have you throwing a royal tantrum, could we?" He resisted the urge to stick out a tongue.
Chrom raised an eyebrow archly. "Mind your tone, young man, I still reserve the right to put you on the naughty step for time out." Morgan grinned, his spirits rising at his father's relatively good humour. Morgan had always been the best at making Chrom laugh after an argument, his mother had taught him well, after all.
Chrom paused and leaned back into his chair, exhaling slowly. "Right," he said, "make your case." He gestured with his hand.
"What are you talking about?" Morgan asked, knowing full well what his father meant. They both knew he was here to convince him to let Robin have her way.
Chrom rolled his eyes dramatically. "Fine, I'll start," he began. "Finish the sentence; I should let your mother walk into Grimleal camp because-"
Morgan shook his head again. "That's exactly why you don't understand her point," he interrupted. "You can't look far enough past your fear for her to actually hear out her plan."
Chrom paused, and Morgan was almost worried he'd offended his father as his face clouded with annoyance, but eventually the king just nodded and seemed to accept that his son had a right to be heard. Morgan could read his father well enough that he knew Chrom was fighting the urge to pull rank on Robin, something which was sure to end badly. Even when travelling as Shepherds a decade or so ago, Chrom has only ever pulled rank once, and had soon regretted it. Robin had a nasty way of being right, and hadn't taken to being ordered by the High King at all, especially when it resulted from Chrom falling prey to his personal feelings for her, as he had done previously. Ordering his tactician to stay at the capital, pregnant or not pregnant, was never going to be acceptable to Morgan's mother.
"Go on," Chrom said quietly, and Morgan guessed he was thinking of the exact same occurrence. He crossed his ankles as if preparing to listen to a speech or lecture. Morgan bit down a smile. After his mother, no one could read his open book of a father as well. Even Lucina came to him sometimes, to help gauge his reaction to certain monstrosities she had bought him to wear.
"At no point in her plan does mother intend to walk into a Grimleal camp," Morgan began, quickly preventing a protest from his father with a not unkind shake of the head. "It's simple, but should be effective. It doesn't even her to be too far away from the other Shepherds. With a longbow, Virion would probably be able to cover her, and we would only be a few steps behind him." He watched his father bite back the urge to say that one archer was not cover enough. "The only part that you really don't like about this plan is Thierry, but if anything goes amiss, Virion will, as I said, be able to shut him down quickly enough to get Robin away." He paused. "Any questions so far?" Chrom smiled, seeing their reversal of roles, but shook his head in answer.
"Right," his son said, beginning to feel more sure of himself. " So, about Thierry; he's going to walk up to each camp, supposedly lame and carrying Robin across his back. He'll yell out to the camp members to come help him as he's caught the heir, and, gods willing, they'll she her cloak and recognise her face. They'll come rushing out into the various traps we've laid out, and we should take then down." He dusted his hands with finality.
Chrom, who had been sitting with his head cocked to one side as he listened, raised his gaze to his son's. "And what if we get caught unawares and your mother is stranded?"
Morgan grinned. His father was intelligent, but nothing like the difficulty of facing his mother when she questioned his proposed plans. His questions were easy to parry in comparison.
"Again, simple but effective. Thierry is quite the dark mage, and by now Robin can spar well enough that they'll be able to get back to the healers in time to flee," Morgan's voice softened and he leaned forward to place a hand on his fathers forearm. It was a meaningless gesture in the light of keeping Robin safe, but it was comforting all the same. "She'll be alright, I promise," he said quietly. Chrom just bent his head, but eventually the muscles in his arm relaxed and Morgan knew he understood.
Finally, he replied. "I don't like it," he said, and Morgan's heart sank; maybe he couldn't read his father as well as he thought he could. "But I'll cope," his father continued after a pause.
Morgan sighed a small breath of relief as they both stood. They watched each other for a few moments, as if waiting for another outburst.
Morgan turned to go, intent on finding Frederick or his mother and finalising the details. No matter what he had just said, he did actually see exactly where his father was coming from. It wasn't a delicate plan, and there was a danger in trusting a man with such an unknown background. Part of him felt like Robin was doing this in spite of Chrom, some kind of defiant act to show that she wasn't at his beck and call. He knew that lately his mother had been very confused about his father, and though Morgan entertained the secret hope of all stranded children - that of a happy ever after - he knew not to speak it out loud.
"Morgan?" his father called him back, only a few steps behind him.
Morgan turned to answer, but was pulled into a hug by Chrom. Strong arms rested on his shoulders, and Morgan found his head nestled into Chrom shoulder. He stood, stunned for a moment. Affection from Chrom was not overly rare, but neither was it common.
All of a sudden, he wanted to tell Chrom how much he was wanted his parents back, and how much he wished they could get on. Morgan swallowed and buried his head in his father's cloak. Even as he felt like a little kid all over again, his father noticed how tall he was getting; his hair brushed the underside of Chrom's ear.
Finally, Chrom saw his son smile, and as he lifted his own arms to reciprocate, Chrom dimpled in return. Robin or no Robin, this was his son, and he was reminded that he needed to look out for him too, no matter how grown up he got.
Halfway across the camp, Lucina was also negotiating, but unlike Morgan, she faced an opponent she hardly knew. The man who had announced himself as Thierry was across the table from her, and from the moment she had walked in, Lucina had understood exactly why Chrom was put off by him. There was something unsettling in the way his gaze was so intent, the voice that spoke of volumes of derision and superiority - even the fashion of his teeth made his smile seem mocking.
He didn't seem to have the same aversion to her as a member of royalty, however. With Chrom, he had used the title of Exalt scathingly, and had utilised every opportunity in conversation to remind him of his own father's bloody legacy. Sitting opposite this man, Lucina could not help but be reminded of her unsettling heritage; a tyrant and a Grimleal high priest on each side of the family tree.
Thierry, in contrast, seemed at ease, as if he had been born in these very tents, and not found, unconscious and tear-streaked, half-dead in the snow. His teeth glinted even in the dullness of the little light streaming through the fabric roof, and his hands fiddled with the heavy ring on his left hand.
The negotiation itself had been a simple affair, one of exactly how the plan was going to pan out. It had essentially been Lucina's turn to threaten what would happen to him if he had an ulterior motive at play. As it drew to a close, however, Thierry had interrupted and caught her off guard.
"Everyone told me you looked like your father," he had said, "but you remind me more often of my cousin, maybe even your grandmother."
He seemed to have taken a liking to her, or at least as much of a liking as an enemy of the crown could give, and Lucina was torn between curiosity at the comparison and repulsion from crossing into more personal territory.
She had blinked, startled at the sudden change of topic. "How so?" she had replied cordially, after her pause, trying to stay decidedly neutral.
"The gaze, mainly, perhaps the tone of voice. Have you not noticed that you instruct rather than talk sometimes, similar to your mother?" His eyes never left her face, and Lucina resisted the urge to look away.
It was a sudden shift in the power play of the room, but she moved with it. Before, she had been implying how the army punished traitors and telling him what he had to do, but now, he held the upper hand. He held answers to questions everyone, including Robin, had about her past.
"That explains your comparison to my mother," she said quietly, itching to ask about her grandmother, "surprising, since normally no one looks past the colouring." She finished quickly, before she could give into temptation and show how much she wanted to delve into his knowledge.
He smiled, and she felt as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. Her mind drew a comparison of it's own - did her mother not look at her the exact same way when reading her? It was an ugly thought, and Lucina shook it off. Still, it was unnerving to be reminded that however much they distanced themselves from this new stranger, he was most likely their blood relative.
"Yes, but Robin inherited those traits from her own mother as well. Funny how certain things are passed along the bloodline, isn't it?" he looked at her slyly, and she felt all the implications as the daughter of Grima.
"Did she inherit anything else, then? She doesn't look much like Validar did, or at least not to me," she parried, keeping her tone as cool as possible.
Thierry nodded, and leant into the back of his chair, his sharp eyes watching her from inside the shadowy mass of hoods and cloaks. Though he claimed not to be a hierophant anymore, he certainly still dressed like one, only minus the jewellery.
"She had the same eyes exactly, did your grandmother, and the same tilt of the lips as well. And when your mother frowns, it feels like I'm being reprimanded by Evelyn all over again," he laughed, and in a moment something passed over his face, and he seemed far more human to Lucina then he ever had before.
"Evelyn?" she asked, " that was her name?"
Thierry nodded. "The finest dancer of the land in her time, before she married and became a lady."
He stopped and Lucina, expecting him to carry on, waited, only to be disappointed. "When she married Validar, you mean?" Lucian asked, trying to further the conversation, " when she became queen?"
Thierry laughed again. "Oh no, little princess," he said, and Lucina forgot to be repulsed as she waited for her answer, "she married the first time to a Lord of the Bishop Court. A handsome thing, and plenty rich too. She was lucky to find a Lord's son willing to marry a dancing girl."
Lucian frowned her confusion, and Thierry continued.
"They said that they were very much in love, or at least in fancy. But you're wondering how she came to be married to Validar, aren't you?" Lucina grudgingly nodded her assent, and Thierry cleared his throat, preparing for his explanation. Apparently, it was going to be a long one.
"You see," he began, "Validar had a sister - my own mother - who was as darkly beautiful and cunning as ever there was," he smiled, as if such things were high compliments to him, and Lucina felt that they probably were. "This young Lord had been someone she had her eye on, him being a golden-haired gentleman who had charmed her from their first meeting. They had known each other since she came out into the court at sixteen, and he had payed her special attention from the start. He had told her pretty things and whispered sweet promises in her ear as they danced in a garden of honeysuckle - there were even rumours of betrothal arranged between their parents. His shining blue eyes and deceiving smile had cloaked his shallow intentions, however, and she fell for him, only for him to go off chasing a petty peasant girl."
He paused, and Lucina had to consciously pull herself back from leaning forward. Any interest she was trying to hide was beyond apparent now. "And?" she asked, hating how eager she sounded.
Thierry waited a few beats, drawing out the expectation as every storyteller worth his salt does, before continuing.
"She came up with a plan, and threw a party for all the suitors to come court her. She swayed her hips and smoothed her skin so that every aristocrat flocked to the capital. It was the first time she went out in public without her veil - only in the presence of that one particular Lord had she ever shown her true face." He paused, and took in his audience. He lifted his hand to gesture as he spoke. "No one had ever known how beautiful she was, and now she was displaying her olive eyes and cherry lips for every artist in the world to paint. She quickly became the muse of many, and she invited two very important guests; her brother, the king-to-be, and the new wife of the young Lord.
"Now, she knew Validar, her brother, had been told that the one who would bear the child of Grima would bewitch him in one night by prophecy, and using this, she set up to ruin the Lord and his tart.
"She instructed the newly wed Evelyn that before the party began, she must dance one last time, by royal command. The young dancer, of course, refused blushingly, saying that now she was married, she could not. My mother, quick as a fox, saw her chance. She told her that the eve before the ball, she must dance before only herself and her handmaidens. The only man watching would be her husband, and then from the far away balcony. Smiling, the princess put her dark hands on the paleness of Evelyn's shoulders, and circled the girl-wife and told her that she should try to seduce her husband through dance alone - as a jest, of course. Evelyn, fooled by the laughing tone and friendly tilt of lips, agreed naively."
Thierry stopped, and Lucina shook herself out of the stupor she had fallen into. She cleared her throat, internally dying to now what happened. "Please," she stumbled out at last, "continue."
Thierry drank from the glass on the table, draining the cup before going on. "So it was set up, and as my mother was fanned by handmaidens in silks, Evelyn danced as never before, drug-like smoke curling around her in her scanty dress and bells. Svelte she was, sleek as a cat with a delicate feline skull. She moved with the vapours, seeming almost as if guided by them in her dancing.
"Only the man in the shadows was not her husband, but Validar, told to come to his sister's chambers as the moon rose, to talk over her coming birthday wish. And as the moonlight streamed over Evelyn's limbs, bathing her in angelic glory, he was indeed bewitched, or felt himself to be. One night was all it took, and he soon claimed her as his own. The fickle Lord was slain, his head given to the princess as her birthday gift, and the new child-Queen was crowned."
Hey guys, thanks for reading :3 if you can, please drop a quick review with some feedback, every little helps. A reviewer asked for some more Lucina and Morgan POV, so I actually ended up editing these to be through the children's eyes, I hope I did their expectation justice. I'm not sure how well I did on the story-telling thing, so feel free to critique :P In later chapters I plan on going a little more in depth on Evelyn.
Question of the chapter is which gender do you think is more fun to play Robin as? I know in this fic she's female, but I feel like playing MaMU might be fun as well, I just haven't got round to trying. If you were/are a male MU, who would you end up marrying?