So we have a GRAND TOTAL of 15 people who voted on the poll so far! The poll is STILL OPEN I repeat, STILL OPEN! Please vote! It's isn't gonna close for a while yet (and I mean a while), and if you want to wait a chapter or two to see how Lucina's interactions with the others play out, I get it. If you don't vote then I guess you don't really mind either way, which is cool. Yeah. So, enjoy!

/

Lucina had known the Conqueror's army was larger than any other she had heard of. Of course, that knowledge didn't prepare her for the sight their puny ragtag bunch of knights and mages faced at the gates of Walhart's fortress. The titanic oaken doors were wide open – in a mocking challenge, Lucina wagered.

Scores of fully armored generals, great knights, paladins, and bow knights stood at the ready, weapons drawn and leveled at the Shepherds. Other people probably would have turned tail and ran. However, there was no fear in anyone's face. Lucina gripped Falchion's hilt, waiting for the command to advance. She trained her eyes on the bow knights and snipers. Mother had ordered that all archers be taken out first, to lessen the threat to wyvern and pegasus riders.

"My sword hand hungers!" Owain muttered excitedly. He seemed uneasy, but eager for battle. All of Lucina's companions (who were present) were beside her; like old times.

Lucina said nothing – she was still awaiting orders.

Finally, the signal to attack was given. The Shepherds moved as one and threw themselves at the wall of enemy troops. Shouts of, "For Khan Basilio!" and, "You Valmese dogs!" were quickly drowned out by the clanking of metal as Walhart's army poised to strike.

Everything was a blur of glinting red plate armor and horses' bodies. Lucina was wary of getting her head caved in by a warhorse's hoof. She let her body react to incoming threats and let Falchion sink into any flesh that happened to cross its path.

It felt natural to have her friends beside her, even if they weren't all together yet. Cynthia and Gerome fought from the backs of their respective mounts on the ground, not taking to the air until all archers were dispatched. Owain was proving to be an able swordsman, exhibiting the swiftness and precision associated with his chosen fighting class. Kjelle was their shield, as she had taken to being called. Her armor was sturdy as she was strong. Arrows bounced off the hardened steel and glancing blows skidded off much to the surprise of the unfortunate opponent who had mistakenly assumed she would be an easy target.

What really unnerved Lucina was that Walhart himself was at the front doors to his palace; sitting on the largest warhorse she had ever seen. He seemed mildly amused – at least, from what she could see of his posture. The Conqueror was simply waiting, letting the Shepherds come to him…or die trying. She was so focused on their ultimate target she barely noticed the incoming spear headed for her chest.

"Lucina!" A large mass rammed into her before the weapon did.

"Oooff!" The air rushed from her lungs. Lucina rose quickly, dazed from the impact. Minerva and Gerome were above her, the latter glaring through his mask.

"You need to be more vigilant," Gerome said sternly before turning the wyvern around and going off on his own.

Lucina frowned, but there wasn't time to get riled up at Gerome. She kept fighting, putting all her strength into each slash and jab of Falchion. Sometimes, though, Falchion seemed to disobey her. When she aimed for someone's neck, she wound up hitting a shoulder – as if a force had yanked her hand to one side. It was very unusual indeed. Father never had trouble with Falchion…

"Ahh!" Cynthia cried out as bow knights swarmed her. Her pegasus reared up and kicked at the assailants. Cynthia stabbed her lance, skewering some people, but the others nocked their bows, aiming for both mount and rider.

Lucina was quick to act. She slammed herself into one of the knights' horses and hacked at any exposed flesh. She felt pain shoot through her body. Her priority was to disarm the enemy – even if she had to reach out with her blade to sever a bow arm.

By the time Cynthia had finished clearing away her attackers, the both of them were drenched with blood. Lucina wasn't sure if how much of it was hers. Looking at her left arm, there was red liquid dripping out from a deep cut onto the dirt, turning it to slick mud. Was that muscle she saw? She felt dizzy and it was getting increasingly hard to catch her breath. She vaguely recalled seeing one of the bow knights brandishing a sword, but she couldn't remember if she had been hurt.

"Lucina?" Cynthia called her name. Her tone worried Lucina. Was something wrong?

She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Lucina took to one knee; standing was too hard. Her body was getting cooler by the minute. As she was about to close her eyes, just for a rest, she saw that all the Shepherds were…glowing? Looking down, Lucina saw that she also seemed to be emitting a white light. The wounds all over her body began closing as if by magic. She felt flooded with energy – feeling returned to her extremities. Lucina found the strength to get back on her feet.

"Wow, I feel awesome!" Cynthia flexed her hands and grinned.

"It must have been Aunt Lissa," Lucina said to herself. Her aunt must have used a Fortify staff from somewhere in the midst of the fray. The Valmese, who had been pressing the Shepherds' fatigue, were beginning to rush into hasty maneuvers. Obviously, they had underestimated the willpower of the enemy – a fatal mistake, Mother once said a long time ago.

"I think that's my cue!" Cynthia exclaimed as she dug her heels into the sides of her mount and lifted off. All around the battlefield, winged animals and their riders took to the air. Those on the ground quickly closed the space vacated by the airborne units.

The fighting, it seemed, was endless. Wave after wave of Valmese soldiers kept attacking. Lucina couldn't lose her will – they didn't have to defeat every last man – she only needed cut a path to Walhart himself. Her parents were at the tip of the wedge formation they were in. She saw Mother and Father fighting as one unit; Father was a whirlwind of movement as he split armor with Falchion. Mother was only using magic at the moment; with a word to her husband to move out of the way, she loosed a massive bolt of lightning straight ahead, obliterating everything in her path. She kept the magical assault going for as long as she could, until the tome disintegrated in her hands. After that, Mother drew her own blade to help Father keep the space clear for the rest of the Shepherds.

A gigantic battle cry came from the rear. At first, the Shepherds tensed, afraid it was more enemy reinforcements. Green uniforms? No, the new mass of people weren't on Walhart's side. They were the dynast rebels; perhaps a hundred thousand in number! Naga be praised, Lucina thought. Now their enemy had another force to focus on.

It wouldn't be long until they reached the Conqueror.

/

Just as Lucina thought they had bested the Conqueror, he retreated into his great castle. She knew the gates were left open, to lure them in. She also knew that their mission was to defeat Walhart once and for all. There was no going back.

The throne room in Walhart's bastion was at least three times as large as the one at home, in Ylisse. Everything was red – the walls, the throne, even the marble floor was stained scarlet. Troops flooded in from the side corridors – enough to fill the spacious hall. Lucina truly couldn't feel any fatigue; the rush of battle was still buzzing in her body. From the looks of things, the rest of their little group felt the same way. She barely registered the new set of orders from her parents, spoken in code so the enemy would not understand it. It took a moment to decipher the new commands.

Lucina lost her bearings as the enemy closed in. All she knew was where she was and where she needed Falchion to go – if the ancient blade felt cooperative, that is.

At one point, she was back to back with Kjelle, a tight circle of Valmese generals surrounding them. It was comforting, for a lack of a better word, to have a friend at her back, fighting side by side. How a couple of children felled grown warriors, Lucina would merely need to explain the life she grew up with. War had always been a part of her life. Fighting was so deeply ingrained into her being that nothing would be able to change her. Gods, she couldn't walk the streets without Falchion at her hip. She yearned for peace, but all she would ever know was violence.

The light that had been spilling through the glass windows was suddenly blocked by a large, red mass. Lucina slowly looked up to see the Conqueror glaring down at her from the top of his warhorse. The horse must have been twenty-five hands high and heavily armored, its head high above her own. In Walhart's grasp was an axe that was proportional to the man wielding it. Already, the blade gleamed with blood. As intimidating as the Conqueror appeared, Lucina couldn't bring herself to feel fear. Any one human would never compare to Grima.

"Oh? Are you not afraid, insect?" The beastly man boomed. "Be honored that I deign to destroy you myself." He raised his weapon high. Lucina knew that she wouldn't be able to parry the blow; the man was much too big. The monster of a horse kicked, snapping her out of her hasty analysis. It was a distraction.

Lucina leapt into a roll, keeping her sword well away from her body as she completed her maneuver. She had expected Walhart to be slower – weighed down by the ridiculous amount of armor he wore and by his own weapon. That assumption, it became clear, was not correct. Walhart easily stopped his strike mid-swing and whirled his mount around. So he was a bit swifter than she'd expected. All she needed to do was dance out of his way and look for an opening. With a deep breath, Lucina jumped, grasping Falchion in both hands and flipped round and round to meet Walhart's axe with all of her weight behind the move. It was one of Father's favorites - an attack that could cleave a man in two.

The Conqueror only lifted his weapon to block her. "What is your power compared to mine?" he bellowed. "Enough of this child's play!" With what must have been a fraction of his strength, Walhart beat her back, sending her flying.

"Ack!" Someone grunted as Lucina slammed into him or her. "Gotcha." It was Father. He set her down. "Lucina, are you hurt?"

She needed a moment to catch her breath. "No,"

"Incoming!" Mother rushed over, sword gripped tightly in both hands. Her eyes were fixed on the steadily approaching Conqueror.

Nothing else needed to be said; the three of them jumped into action. Lucina was aware of her parents behind her, so she feigned a lunge at Walhart's left thigh. As he made to parry, she ducked out of the way. Mother attacked next – from the right. Her sword made a long gash in the Conqueror's armor, but drew no blood. Lucina marveled at her mother's strength for a brief moment.

"Your end has come!" Father growled as he brought Falchion down, only to meet Walhart's axe.

"Bah! Such empty words!" Said Walhart. "I say your end has come!" His horse reared and its head shot out to bite Father.

Mother acted like a loosed arrow, throwing herself at her husband and tackling him to the floor. Their armor made a harsh scraping noise as they were knocked away. Lucina needed to keep Walhart busy while her parents regained their balance. She weaved around the horse, making it angry so that it kept swerving to attack her.

With a frustrated grunt, Walhart jerked the reins to still his agitated mount. His seemingly pupil-less eyes fixed on Lucina. She met his glare evenly, hoping he saw the Brand in her left eye. He would not take a family member from her. From the outskirts of her vision, she saw the opening in her opponent's armor, courtesy of Mother. Carefully, she moved Falchion's tip from the middle line of her body, letting it hover over where she wished to strike.

Walhart moved first. Lucina leapt and evaded the huge axe - save for a few strands of hair - and prepared to plunge Falchion into flesh. The gap was certainly large enough.

As though some god was laughing at her, Lucina saw Falchion's blade move of its own accord, redirecting her strike. She tumbled over the monster of a horse – right into her mother's side. Lucina could feel Falchion part metal as if it were paper. She also felt her blade cut into something softer, if only for a second; a glancing blow.

"Mother!" Lucina scrambled to her feet. Pain shot through her body from her hard landing.

Mother was standing above her, weapon raised; blocking Walhart's axe from obliterating the both of them. Her arms were shaking. Walhart seemed intent on breaking through the silver sword and killing the both of them.

"I'm fine," Blood dripped from a cut of unknown depth. Lucina guessed it must have been shallow, since the thick liquid was not pouring out. She righted herself and aided her parent in supporting the weight of the axe. If she and Mother were here, Father must be…

"Haaaah!" Father sprang up from behind and rammed his sword into Walhart's back. A majority of the blade came out of the Conqueror's chest, stained dark red. For what seemed like an eternity, only the four of them seemed to exist. All other activity faded away and Lucina saw Walhart's mouth move, saying something only Father could hear.

Finally, finally, the Conqueror fell. There was a resonant, wet clang as his heavy body crumpled onto the floor. After that, all fighting stopped. The red army turned tail and fled; watching their "indomitable" leader face his mortality must have ripped their morale from them.

But Lucina didn't care about that.

She rushed to her mother's side. "I'm so sorry! Forgive me, Mother, it wasn't my intention to,"

Mother raised a gloved hand. "Think nothing of it. It happens, Lucina. You aren't used to working with us yet." Her mouth curved upwards, but Lucina knew her mother was too tired to smile all the way.

"Robin, Lucina, are you injured?" Father asked as he hobbled over after wiping Falchion on his cape. Was he hurt as well?

"I," Lucina started.

"It was a passing blow. I'll survive." Mother said simply, daring the both of them to question her. "Now, don't we have a victory to celebrate?"

/

Their celebration came a full week after the battle. They had traveled a short distance, to a small town where camp had been set up by their allies, and promptly collapsed. Fighting such a large army had taken its toll.

Lucina awoke one morning, her entire body screaming in agony. Lifting a finger was an impossible task. She felt like an anvil that was also on fire. Her aching, empty belly did her no favors.

After a good, long while, she mustered up the strength to turn her head to her right. A line of sleeping, comatose Shepherds greeted her weary eyes. All of them were bandaged up, still in the same torn, bloodied attire they'd fought in.

Cynthia was to her immediate right, with what must have been half a roll of bandages around her head. Lucina guessed Cynthia had taken a fall her body couldn't handle. Beside the Pegasus Knight was Owain, who looked equally hurt. His sleeves had been torn off, revealing the Brand on his right forearm. Across from Lucina lay her parents, sleeping side by side. Their wounds looked the nastiest – probably because they always insisted on being the vanguard for the Shepherds.

She tried calling out to them, but her words came out in a strangled moan. Footsteps scurried over from somewhere in the healing tent. There was a rustle of clothes and Aunt Lissa's face came into view. The War Cleric looked exhausted - no doubt because she had been watching over the entire army for gods know how long. Lucina's aunt was often kept out of the immediate thrall so that she could heal everyone without hindrance.

"She's up! Maribelle, Lucina's woken up!" Aunt Lissa called over her shoulder. Some muffled reply sounded from outside. A happy grin broke her grimy, tired countenance. "Hold on, don't say anything just yet." She whipped out a beaten Recovery staff and muttered some spells whilst waving it over Lucina.

Lucina felt her body tingling, like her muscles were being rejuvenated. She was still bone tired, but the pain was less intense. In fact, she felt like she might stand with only some difficulty.

"Is that better?"

"Yes, thank you." Lucina managed to say.

"Let's get you something to eat." Her aunt said excitedly. She bounded out of the tent - presumably to get food.

With a surge of willpower, Lucina propped herself up against her body's protests. Already, she was ready to sleep again. Aunt Lissa hurried back into the sick bed, an earthen bowl and wooden spoon in hand.

"Open wide!" Aunt Lissa chirped as she shoveled a glob of pale mush onto the utensil. Lucina's body reacted without opposition. The prospect of a meal was enough to encourage her to comply. Whatever the mysterious meal was, it was bland and cold and mushy. Lucina was immediately disappointed. She had hoped for some meat…

"Well? How is it?"

After a forceful swallow, Lucina replied, "I can't describe its flavor."

Aunt Lissa nodded approvingly. "It's rice porridge - a recipe Say'ri gave us. Apparently, it's supposed to be gentle on a patient's belly. Anything like that is bound to be tasteless or otherwise gross." Even though there was sympathy in her voice, Aunt Lissa kept the mush coming until the bowl was empty.

Now to address the big question. "How long have we been asleep?" Lucina inquired tentatively. It couldn't have been long…

"Five days," Aunt Lissa said shortly. "Maribelle and I have been watching over you all to make sure your wounds stay clean. We can't be cutting limbs off just yet." She made a face.

"My mother and father – are they,"

"Chrom and Robin will be fine. They need to stop risking their necks for everyone, though." Her aunt glanced at her brother and sister-in-law irritably yet fondly. "We can handle ourselves."

Lucina felt relief wash over her, but her mind wasn't at ease just yet. "And my friends?"

A heavy sigh. "Yes, they'll be alright too." Her eyes lingered on Owain for a moment. "Hey, don't underestimate a cleric's abilities. We may not be the strongest warriors, but our healing abilities are second to none. I don't get why you soldiers keep forgetting that."

"My apologies."

"You are definitely Robin's daughter." Aunt Lissa snickered to herself, probably about some joke between people in her generation. "But you should rest now. You're still recovering. I'd heal you all the way, but we're waiting for some supplies to arrive from our allies."

"I see."

"Are you well enough to stand?"

"Yes." Lucina inhaled and willed herself to stand. She clenched her jaw tight when pain raced through her legs, stomach, and back – everywhere. Nevertheless, her focus prevailed. After all, she had experienced such discomfort while wandering in the wasteland of her timeline of origin and trailing the fast-moving Shepherds when she had been under the guise of "Marth".

There was mild admiration in her aunt's eyes. "You are my brother and Robin's kid. Always pushing yourself past your limit." She made a tutting noise. "I don't want to rush you – you still need a lot of rest – but Maribelle and I could use another pair of hands."

When such a task was presented, Lucina couldn't refuse; she wanted to be of use to the army. However, she did not have such formal training in the healing arts. In order to be a good cleric or priest, one needed a certain amount of magical potential.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Oh, just help me clean and change bindings. It won't be long until everyone comes to."

For a whole day, Lucina got to experience the work of clerics. It was a hard position – dressing wounds was a delicate business, using magic drained energy, and the effort multiplied as the number of patients did. Each time Aunt Lissa went to a different person, Lucina would trail behind, carrying a basket of bandages and salves. She was sweating and limping from exerting her half-recovered body. Still, she heard that movement was a good therapy for muscle pain.

"Come on!" Her aunt would urge her.

"Coming," She would reply breathlessly.

/

When suppertime came around, Aunt Lissa and Lady Maribelle were the only other Shepherds who were conscious. Lucina sat impatiently at the big stew pot, her stomach demanding nourishment.

As the two women heaped bread and meat onto their dishes, Lucina sat with another bowl of porridge. Inwardly, she was throwing a fit – a childish thing to do…but the real food was in front of her and she couldn't have any. She dutifully ate her given meal without making a fuss; she was eating like a starved person.

Something smacked her head.

"Ouch!" Lucina winced. She saw that Lady Maribelle had struck her with a parasol.

"The heir to the Ylissean throne does not eat like a peasant!" The noblewoman said sharply. There wasn't a single crumb on her. "Gods help me – she's taken after her common-blooded mother."

"Chrom's not a neat eater either, you know." Aunt Lissa countered with a silly grin despite her weariness. Father did tend to dig into his food with a passion.

"Yes, I suppose you are right. But that sort of habit is only passed on in lesser bloodlines."

"I would rather you not speak of my mother that way," Lucina said suddenly. She hadn't meant to say it aloud! There was no taking her outburst back, but she found that she meant every word.

Lady Maribelle looked at her and laughed. "My good girl, I am fond of your mother, as everyone else in this haphazard army is. Do not misconstrue my words; after all, I am betrothed to the lowest echelon of poverty." That was true – Brady's father had been a lowly pig farmer who had lived in a village on the outskirts of Ylisse before joining the Shepherds. "What I mean to say is that I shall be training the tactlessness out of your infant self when we return home. The same will have to be done when I have a child."

Oh yes, that was certainly going to happen, Lucina thought. Although…Lady Maribelle did have a hand in Lucina's own upbringing in her world. Nearly every day, she would be instructed in the art of polite conversation and general "correct" social behavior for a princess such as herself. Neither Lucina nor Morgan had particularly cared for Lady Maribelle's strict lessons. Oddly enough, she did suspect all those lessons had affected her in some way or another.

"That is…nice?" Lucina muttered. She did not like thinking of the baby in the palace. As much as she wished for a bright, happy future, well…there would always be a speck of envy in her heart for the care the babe would receive, the love she would be showered with, and the brother she would get.

"You may thank me later." The aristocrat scoffed.

Lucina finished her supper quietly. Aunt Lissa and Lady Maribelle began speaking animatedly to each other about topics Lucina did not care to listen about.

"Alright, missy, time to sleep!" Her aunt took the bowl from her hands and set it aside. Lucina accepted the offered hand to help her up. Her body moaned in the way bodies did – with pins and needles and soreness.

Soon, Lucina was back in the sick bed, on a bedroll. Sleep came swiftly and she was taken to a world of nightmares.

/

She'd only been able to get a few hours of rest. Nightmares plagued her for the first time in ages. In her terrors, she had seen the faces of those she had slain, re-watched her brother's separation, and just as horribly, Mother dying by her hand.

And so, Lucina had spent a great portion of the night wide-awake, letting herself recover from the cold sweat and her furiously beating heart. She constantly reminded herself that her parents were safe and she was beginning to find her companions. They were all around her. Alive.

/

Dawn broke and many of the Shepherds began stirring. The two healers were a flurry of skirts and staffs. It wasn't long until everyone was up and eating rice porridge. Wretches sounded out as the unfamiliar concoction touched Ylissean, Plegian, and Feroxi tongues. The only exceptions to this trend were those in the army who hailed from Valm, and had once sampled the exotic dish. Lady Say'ri groggily voiced her approval of the preparation of her homeland's cuisine.

Lucina, though she had slept poorly, felt better than she had the previous day. She made light conversation with her friends, who had probably never dreamed of killing anything besides Risen. Cynthia was particularly upset.

"I never wanted to kill those people," She sniffed. "I didn't know they wouldn't give me time for my entrance flourishes. Robin was right – war with real people isn't a game."

"Cynthia, you're gonna need to harden up if you want to survive." Kjelle said bluntly. "It's either you or them."

There really wasn't much Lucina could add to that truth. She had needed some time to come to terms with the cruel fact that slaughter bred peace. Her Aunt Emmeryn was right that violence was not needed to keep the peace – it was needed to start it, and it would be "peace" as the victor sees it.

She left her companions alone; she had a feeling that telling them things they weren't ready to hear would only put stress on their healing bodies. Later, though, if they needed someone to confide in, Lucina would be there for them.

Instead, she went to her parents, who had been playfully feeding each other rice porridge.

"Good morning, Lucina." Father smiled widely as he aimed a spoonful of mush at Mother's mouth. A drop spilled onto the Grandmaster's bandaged torso.

"Chrom!" Mother rolled her eyes as she accepted the food. Her gaze focused on Lucina. "Hi, Lucina, how are you feeling?"

How was she feeling? "I should be asking you that question. I woke up yesterday." Lucina answered as she sat down. Her guilt had not faded, even though she was sure the wound she had inflicted on her mother had healed by now. Nevertheless, she had never – not even once – dreamed of harming either of her parents; accidentally or not. The trivial cut she had inflicted on her mother haunted Lucina. Would she wind up being her parents' downfall?

"I feel great." Mother replied brightly. There were shadows under her eyes. Had she experienced night terrors as well? It was something they both seemed to share…

"I'm so sorry, Mother." Lucina said for the umpteenth time. How could she have done something so careless? It could have cost the Shepherds their tactician…and Lucina another mother.

Mother sighed. "I told you – there is nothing you need to apologize for."

"Lucina, I saw what happened," Father started, "And I knew you should have hit Walhart squarely. Something was wrong – I can't put my finger on it, though."

Should she tell her parents about her predicament? What if they thought Falchion had chosen wrongly? Lucina loved the ancient sword dearly, no matter how rebellious it was against her. It was a memento of her father from her universe.

"Father, does Falchion ever, er, disobey you?" She asked nervously. It took all her willpower to look her parents in the eye.

"I don't know what you mean."

This would be difficult. "Sometimes I feel that it does not want to listen to me. It's silly – maybe I'm making up excuses for my shortcomings. Never mind." She said hurriedly. Out of the corner of her eye, Lucina saw her mother's mouth twitch downward.

"No, I think there must be a reason." Mother said slowly, "Chrom, do you think it's possible that because I,"

"No." Father's expression suddenly turned dark. "That's not the reason." Lucina felt uncomfortable at the new tension. What were they talking about?

"Then what do you propose is the cause?"

"Right now, there are two Falchions existing in one world. Don't you think that might affect Lucina's weapon?" He supplied. That was rational enough, Lucina thought. She never thought that introducing another Falchion to a world that was only supposed to have one might impact the alien twin.

Mother seemed to relax. "Well, you would know about that."

"Yes, that must be it." Lucina didn't suppress the relieved smile that spread across her face. She patted her blade's pommel. So it hadn't been her unworthiness to wield Naga's fang.

There was a strange silence hanging in the air until Lucina asked, "What are we going to do next?"

Father grinned. "I'd say it's time for a celebration."

/

Ironically enough, the festivities were noticeably muted because the collectively injured army was upset not over their wounds, but because of the dietary restrictions imposed upon them. Complaints clashed in the air; whines for meat and mead created a silly melody.

"We'll wait and have a proper celebration when we get home." Father announced at nightfall. Home. They were going home.

But it was at home where Mother and Father met their ends. It was being home that had sentenced the world to total annihilation.

/

For another month, they took a northern route back to the Valmese harbor from whence they came. Much to Lucina's great elation, they met another pair of her companions – Brady and Inigo. They had run into each other whilst healing those affected by the war or gallivanting about, respectively.

"Lucina! Ain't I glad ta' see ya!" Brady greeted her.

"Ah, you've blossomed nicely," Inigo added in his usual manner. Lucina saw her father turn his head. She laughed inwardly; Inigo was silly in that he could not keep his romantic jargon in check. He'd always been that way, as far as she could remember. It was good to see that her friends hadn't changed much.

"Thank you. You two have grown as well." It was true – both Inigo and Brady looked older, taller. Brady was now taller than Lucina herself, and she was the eldest of her companions! The one aspect about Brady that hadn't changed despite his growth was his small potbelly. It seemed like he had never learned to fight, even during the years they spent separated.

Tales were repeated and exchanged between reunited friends. It was a joyous sight when both boys introduced themselves to their parents. Soon, Lucina's worries were washed away by the encouraging trend of stumbling upon the others. Morale was higher than ever on the march to the sea.

/

Once again, Lucina's eyes were greeted by the great expanse of the sea. A mix of anxiety and giddiness danced under her skin. They were but a hair's breadth from completing the Fire Emblem; to keep it in reserve for when the Grimleal would attempt to resurrect their deity.

The Plegian-sponsored warships were still waiting for them in the harbor. What had changed, though, was the harbor town. People were bustling about, celebrating their freedom.

Lucina spent a good portion of the day aiding the army pack their provisions onto the vessels. Their new allies had been generous enough to give them all sorts of exotic goods to take back home. Surely this renewed friendly relationship would reinstate the healthy trade between continents.

"Lucina, since we aren't leaving until tomorrow morning, why don't you browse around?" Father suggested after activity had waned a bit. "It's not every day you get to browse in Valm, and I know you didn't find what you wanted in the sage's hamlet."

"I think I will."

Naturally, the other children jumped at the chance to explore.

"Ooh! Look at that sparkling tiara! That's totally heroic!" Cynthia pointed at a gaudy crown at one of the many stands on the street.

"Nay! This halberd bellows the haunting melody of war!" Owain exclaimed whilst trying to pick up the item he was enamored with. Although Kjelle did not get along well with any of the boys, seemed to take interest in looking for weapons with Lucina's cousin.

Gerome was quiet; he hadn't brought his wyvern along, so he did not even turn aside to whisper things to the beast. His silence was disrupted when Inigo slung their arms together and proclaimed that they were going to "woo some buttercups". Had Kjelle been within earshot, she would have likely pummeled Inigo into the pavement.

"Heya, I guess that leaves me 'n you, huh?" Brady scratched the back of his head sheepishly.

"Yeah," Lucina replied absently. She was set on finding a gift for both her parents…and maybe finding a blacksmith skilled enough to repair the rapier Ferrous had painstakingly forged for her.

"So, uh, what're ya looking for?"

"Nothing specific. A blacksmith – there's bound to be one here. I've got this special blade and it was damaged on the voyage here." She demonstrated her point by unsheathing her rapier with difficulty; it was rusted to its case.

They walked down one of the main streets, taking in the sight of a usual day in the harbor town. The smell of bread baking and fish roasting and laid out to dry, or even the stench of fresh fish in the sun was a unique blend.

"Look!" Brady pointed to one store whose doors were wide open. Sparks and smoke were flying from the entrance. Normally, it would be a cause for concern, though Lucina was used to the sight enough that she knew that she'd found what she was looking for.

The two of them raced for the shop; or rather, Lucina raced for the shop. Brady wheezed and lagged behind.

"I'll get there," He huffed frantically.

The blacksmith's forge was larger than Ferrous' back in Ylisse. She noticed, however, that there was the same level of organization in both work areas. Ferrous was blind; he needed his tools in a precise location in order to function. Was this smith blind as well?

"Can I help you?" A friendly, distinctly male voice asked. Lucina turned and saw a tall young man with dark hair and clear blue eyes wearing a thick leather apron. He didn't look threatening with his lanky build and soot-smeared body. His thick, hardened hands, however, told a different story altogether.

"Er, yes." Lucina removed her spare weapon from her belt. "I was hoping you could fix this."

The man took the rapier and tried to remove it from its sheath. He frowned. With a grunt of effort, he wrenched it free; something Lucina hadn't wanted to do herself for fear of damaging the blade further. She cringed when the metal made the all too familiar scraping sound of grinding against more metal.

"You aren't from around here…are you from Ylisse?" The blacksmith inquired as he studied the blade.

"Yes, actually." She replied, somewhat taken aback. The man didn't sound Valmese any more than she did.

"So am I! And I would know this work from any selection of weapons! This is my father's work. It seems a bit different, though. Huh, I thought he would never add to his style."

His father's work? Lucina felt the blood rush from her face. The man in front of her was Ferrous' son? And he could see, on top of that! She shifted her position so that the burning furnace was behind her – to make the shadows obscure her face. If the smith was from Ylisse, there was a good chance he would recognize the Brand in her left eye…and Falchion on her hip. It was one thing if she didn't have Falchion with her – all members of House Ylisse (Aunt Lissa excluded) had the Brand on them somewhere. At least she would have some cover with family ties to the royal house. But the presence of Naga's fang said something very, very different. It meant that its previous owner could no longer use it. If Ferrous' son was caught up with current events, then he would infer that Exalt Chrom must have died or otherwise! In addition, the baby Lucina back in the palace was much too young to wield a sword.

"Wait a moment. We haven't even introduced ourselves yet!" The smith laughed. "My name is Argent." He held a thickened hand out, which Lucina took and shook firmly.

"My name is,"

"Oi! Lucina, ya couldn't've waited another second?" Brady stumbled into the shop, bending down to catch his breath.

"Lucina. Nice to meet your acquaintance." Argent smiled broadly. "And I take it your friend here is not looking for a weapon?"

Brady scowled indignantly. "H-hey! Don't judge me just 'cause I don't got a lotta muscle!" He was always sensitive about his lack of fighting ability…

Argent shrugged. "I didn't mean anything by it. My little son is already thinking about being a man of the cloth. That leaves my line of work to my daughter."

"Oh. Uh, sorry 'bout that, then."

The smith's blue eyes focused on Lucina again. "What part of Ylisse are you from?" He inquired while feeling the sword's weight.

"Ylisstol." Brady answered proudly for the both of them. Well, there went a possible excuse.

"So am I! Tell me, Lucina, how did you hear about my father? Or does your family consult him regularly?"

"Well…my father does have a rapier similar to mine." She replied with as much conviction as possible. Lucina waited for Argent's eyes to flick back to the corroded rapier so she could adjust her cape to cover Falchion's pommel. For once, Gerome's meticulous eye for detail was coming in handy. Personally, Lucina had not wanted the cape because she thought it would hinder her movement, but she would not voice that opinion again if she was able to conceal the ancient blade from Argent.

Argent paused his examination for a moment. "Aha! I though you might be a lady of noble blood. Only lords would use these. Might I ask you which house you hail from? My father didn't include a family crest on your weapon. I thought that was odd."

"I was disowned." Lucina said in a surprisingly bitter tone. The memory of her sixteenth birthday had risen to the forefront of her mind, only for a moment.

Brady gasped. "You were what?" Oh, Naga. "What for?" Please, Brady, be silent, Lucina pleaded inwardly.

"I was disowned because I refused to marry someone I did not know." It was a very common tale, even in stories. Lucina knew she wouldn't have to explain much more with that excuse.

Argent frowned. "Ah. Yet you had the funds to purchase this from my father? You must have toiled for a long time."

Lucina waited a moment before answering. "Yes, you could say that." The conversation hung in the air uncomfortably.

The smith cleared his throat. "Right. I'm going to need some time to do the repairs. How long are you going to be in Valm for?"

"You see…we depart in the morning. I would have come sooner, but we were fighting." She said somewhat bashfully, like she was a child who hadn't done her chores.

"That's not a problem. I'll fix this and have it sent to you when I've finished. Here, write where I should deliver it while I put this somewhere safe." He handed her some parchment and an inkbottle and quill, which Lucina accepted with a good deal of hesitation. Again, she hadn't read much of anything nor written a word in a long while. What a fine noblewoman she made, Lucina thought dryly.

"What're ya waitin' for? Just jot down 'the Ylissean palace'. He'll get the message." Brady whispered. "I don't get why ya had to lie to him like that."

"I can't write my name and the palace together – he'll think it's for the baby." She said while carefully writing an address on the parchment. Her penmanship was no better than the time she had written Ferrous' letter for him.

Argent emerged from the back room. He took the parchment and glanced at the address. "This is my father's forge."

"It's much easier to find than where I am currently living there."

"I see. Well, since you've freed this region from the Conqueror, I'll fix the sword for free." He looked at the address again. "You don't have a sister, do you?"

Lucina didn't follow. "No."

"Ah. Never mind, then. I must be seeing things."

Something was different in the smith's gaze. Like he remembered something important, but could not pinpoint what it was. She wanted to get out of there.

"It's very generous of you to repair my weapon, thank you. We've got preparations to finish, so we must be going now." Lucina bowed and began backing away.

What was said next was barely audible. "Anything for someone who helped my father."

/

"What was that all about?" Brady demanded as they walked at a brisk pace away from Argent's forge.

"It's a long story. I didn't want to compromise the baby's identity."

"What baby? What're you blabbing about?"

Lucina reminded her friend that as she was the eldest of the lot, she was bound to come into the current world first. After that matter was settled, she continued searching for some sort of gift for her parents.

"Hey! There you are!" Kjelle came running over in her armor. She made it seem so easy. Owain and Cynthia weren't far behind.

"How?" Brady whimpered insecurely.

It was almost time to get back to camp, and Lucina still hadn't found anything for her family. Gerome and Inigo were missing, doing who knows what – well, they had an idea - that Inigo was trying to woo the local ladies while Gerome would likely remain his stoic self. Lucina hoped Gerome would offer some sort of cap on Inigo's romantic quips – he meant well, but it often got him into trouble.

"We could look for stuff while we look for those two," Cynthia suggested. Her eyes drifted to a booth not far away, with some ribbons laid out on a table.

"Meet back here when the bell strikes four." Lucina said. Everyone nodded and dispersed once more. This time, Lucina was left by herself. She didn't mind; she was used to being left by her friends. They still thought of her as their leader of sorts and as such kept her at arm's length. It hurt a little, but it drove Lucina to make everything right so that they would act normally around her.

She barely noticed where her feet carried her. Eventually, she came upon a stand with very small garments. There was a woman behind the table, taking care of an infant.

Baby clothes! Perfect!

Lucina glanced over the selection and her eyes fell upon a light blue nightgown fit for a young child. It even had a white silk bow on the hem. She could already imagine a little girl with short blue hair crawling and stumbling around in it. It was a bit awkward to visualize herself as a baby and buying clothes for said baby, but Lucina knew that she'd found a present that her parents would adore.

"I'll take this one," She said triumphantly and placed the appropriate amount of currency on the table.

Eventually, the group of friends came together and tracked down their excessively romantic and excessively impassive friends. Inigo had a few swollen, red marks on his cheeks. Gerome made some quietly derisive comments about their adventure. Everyone laughed. It was like time had stopped for a while and they were living their lives without the threat of violence.

/

Their last night in Valm was a jovial one. Food was eaten and stories between children and parents were exchanged.

Lucina sat between her parents and listened to tales of pranks and misunderstandings. When there was a break in the conversation, she brought out her little gift.

"I've found the perfect dress for you, Mother." She reported happily as she handed the parcel over.

"That's wonderful, thank you," There was a pause. "Lucina, this is for a child."

Father took the garment in his hands. "It's a nice color."

"I know you think about the Lucina back in Ylisstol. She is your real daughter, and I know you're too busy to get anything for her at the moment."

Both her parents tensed.

"We've been over this – you are just as much our child as the one in the palace." Father said. "You'll always have a place with us."

Mother nodded. "We love you, and nothing can ever change that. In fact, I know it's late, but we were thinking that we should have a coming of age ceremony for you." Her dark eyes were earnest with kindness.

"You'll be in line for the throne, just as you should be."

Lucina was overcome with love, with relief, with so many unexplainable emotions that she wanted to cry. Instead, she embraced them tightly, remembering the feeling of being loved by her family.

When they broke away, Lucina said, "I appreciate it, but I've been Exalt in my world. I've had my chance; let the Lucina of this world have hers." Even as she said it, Lucina knew in her heart that she would need to leave her parents permanently after the Fire Emblem business was over. Otherwise, she might become too attached and encroach on the affection meant for the infant Lucina.

"If that's what you want," Father said, "Far be it from me to deny it."

"It is." Lucina couldn't shed the lingering unworthiness she had been feeling ever since she had been Exalt.

"Well, we should all get some rest. It's a good thing we don't have night watching shifts today." Mother said cheerily. She could always find the brightest aspect of any given situation. "We're going home."

/

Camp was packed in the fastest time Lucina could ever remember. How strange it was that the Shepherds worked faster when the treat of mead and meat awaited them upon returning to Ylisse.

As they were preparing to shove off, there was a sudden commotion from the village as well as a large shadow passing over the lead ship. Powerful gusts of wind blew everyone's hair backward and made them plant their feet.

Shielding her eyes from the sun's glare, Lucina saw that it was a shining emerald dragon. It was larger than Lady Nowi's dragon form, and more than double the size of Nah's, but compared with Grima, this dragon was puny. Seeing as it didn't attack, Lucina safely assumed this new arrival meant well.

Lady Say'ri rushed forward. "Lady Tiki!"

What? Was the dragon before them Naga's Voice?

In a flash of brilliant, multicolored light, the dragon transformed into the manakete woman Lucina had seen at the Mila Tree. Lady Tiki alighted on the deck with inhuman grace.

"I've come to join you on your journey."

"Milady, forgive my shortness of speech, but we've defeated Walhart." Mother said apologetically.

Naga's daughter tilted her head, perplexed. "Yes…I know that. Yet I was told you struggles are not over." There was a ripple of chatter from the soldiers on board. Father silenced them with a raised hand.

"I know we still need to get Sable to complete the Fire Emblem." He said.

Lady Tiki shook her head. "And you must prevent Grima from awakening. Yes, the threat of the fell dragon is imminent." She looked over the crowd dreamily, not settling her gaze on any one person. How could she seem so peaceful while giving such distressing news?

Lucina shifted uncomfortably in place. She'd had a premonition that simply defeating Walhart earlier would not affect the ultimate resurrection of Grima. But they had slain the Conqueror in less than a year! Surely this offered them more time to get a plan together, to thwart Grima before it could take a breath of air again.

"It's settled, then." Father broke into a broad smile, walking over to Lady Tiki. "Welcome to the Shepherds." They gripped forearms, the manakete in a somewhat sleepy manner, and Lady Say'ri quickly stepped in to direct the other woman to her quarters below deck.

Someone tapped Lucina on the shoulder. She whipped around, right hand hovering over Falchion's pommel. It was her mother. Lucina relaxed at once, her face hot. Was she so on edge that she would spring at any who surprised her?

"What's wrong, Lucina?" Mother asked. Although, it wasn't a question anymore. "Does something awful happen next?"

"Yes. Though I think we have a chance now." She responded with shaky confidence. It was hard to say, really. The fact that Naga's Voice had deemed it right to join them now of all times was not a good sign.

Mother did not look convinced. Again, her expression demanded proof. "You can tell us anything. I imagine this is the point where your father and I march off to our doom." She said with a dry laugh.

How could she jest like that? Lucina was shocked. How could her parents entertain the notion of dying with such ease? Didn't they know that they had a family to take care of? That their children would be anxious messes with fear when they didn't return?

The look on her face must have conveyed her thoughts to her parents.

Father rumpled her hair. "Don't worry – we've got you with us now. And Naga's Voice, too. That's got to count for something." This might be true, but it offered Lucina little comfort.

"That may be, but," She started.

"But nothing. Our bonds are strong, love. Trust in your parents a bit! We aren't quite as old as you might remember us to be." Mother said in her usual blithe manner. That much was correct. The couple in front of Lucina was close to her own age. Barely over a decade must have separated them in years. Her parents were vibrant with youth. Perhaps they would have been in her time had the wars drained the life from them.

Lucina wanted to say more, but she had learned long ago that crushing hope in others only led to misery. She had to have faith in something; it was clear that any deities, if there were any, were deaf to her prayers. It was so easy to trust her parents – she always had! They were real, concrete beings in front of her eyes. Why, then, did so much trepidation fill her heart? Because they had failed before, whispered a voice in her mind. But there is always hope, sounded another, stronger voice. Hope had spurred leaders to act even in the direst situations and prevail. It may not have been what caused victory, but it was the motivation behind it. Looking at her parents now, Lucina could not help but to concede to herself that she was a source of hope to the Shepherds. She, and all the blunders in her world that brought her to the present, all of her companions, made up one beacon of hope. If they had faced the fell dragon and lived, then it was definitely possible to seal the beast again.

She met her parents' eyes squarely, as a leader might do to her equals. "I trust you."

Mother and Father glanced sidelong at one another and grinned. "We're glad you feel that way." They said together. It never failed to intrigue Lucina how her parents were so…alike despite their unique dispositions.

And they set sail for home.

/

So? Too choppy? Too rushed? Argh this was a hard one to write! Sorry I couldn't get this one out sooner, since there was winter break and all. I just got so wrapped up in my video games…Haha! Apologies for any grammatical errors, I wanted to get this out quickly. If there are any, I'll fix them when I get the chance. 'Till next time!