"Robin… Robin? ROBIN!"
Said tactician jumped, almost dropping the pulp novel she had been so enthralled with. "Wh- Geez, Chrom, don't sneak up on me like that."
"I'm not sneaking, you're just far too absorbed in- what IS that, anyways?"
The prince found his strategist's immediate and luminous blush highly suspicious. "What, this? Oh, it's nothing, really, I should just move on-"
He reached for the volume, almost grabbing it before she yanked back. "Don't- Robin, just let me- hey!"
Chrom had about half a second to realize how absurd he must look, grappling with a woman half his height over a cheap novel, before both toppled into the dust. This development seemed to agitate Robin even more, as she was hissing "Chrom, get off of me right now, you have no idea how bad this is g-"
"Are you alright, my lord?" The prince stifled an undignified yelp as Frederick lifted him by his cape, letting the tactician slip free. The knight, at least, seemed completely unperturbed.
"I'm fine, Frederick, thank you." In the act of brushing himself off, Chrom inadvertently caught the eye of a nearby village girl. She squeaked, blushed, and whispered something excitedly to her bevy of companions. The group of girls began giggling manically before looking at Chrom once more and finally rushing off. "... What was that all about?"
A shamefaced Robin offered him the book that had started this mess. "I… I might have an idea there..."
"What's this… 'Tales of the Shepherds'? That seems a bit odd, but-" he stuttered to a halt as Robin flipped a few pages, pointing out some key paragraphs. "This is… this-!"
"There are some worrying inaccuracies, indeed, my lord. I simply must search out this author and correct them."
Chrom choked. "Corr- Frederick, this book is full of, of, of sex the Shepherds are having! Er, not having, I mean… dear gods!"
"You realize you shouted those last two sentences in the middle of a busy street?"
The prince's face couldn't go any redder, but he did glance furtively at the assembled townsfolk, many of whom were either outright staring, or, perhaps even more embarrassingly, hiding blushing faces of their own. "...oh gods."
Robin grimaced. "The bookseller disappeared, but he mentioned beforehand how… extremely popular this volume is."
"On of eight, thus far."
Chrom buried his face in his hands.
"Okay, I think that's all of them."
Various Shepherds sprawled in the tent, exhausted. Robin stacked a final book on the groaning table and stepped back, frowning.
"That… that doesn't look like all that many," Stahl commented, still winded from his last retrieval. Kellam handed him a glass of water; the quiet knight had been worryingly adept at finding the novels.
"We likely missed several, I'm afraid." Robin waved a hand at the massive stacks. "At the very least, we've… locked these down, and gotten the publisher to stop producing them. No luck finding the author yet." It didn't help that Lucina had procured a full set of her own. That girl's parental obsession needed serious reining in.
"I still don' get what all's the fuss is over these lil books," Donnel commented. Ricken nodded, glancing at the pile with more than a little curiosity.
The tactician stepped between the younger fighters and the table. "Let's just say it's full of rumors that could be harmful in the long run, okay?" She did not want to deal with the boys getting into the smut, and, gods forbid, asking questions about it. She'd fielded enough of those today. No matter how thorough a tactician she was, Robin had never anticipated trying to deflect queries from the book's previous owners about her boss's princehood.
Vaike stalked into the tent, thudding another twenty volumes next to the table. "No kiddin'! The Vaike has never been so humiliated in his life, and it don't help that they got his size mmphhgph."
"Not now, Vaike," Robin sing-songed, pushing the muffled scrapper towards the tent opening. "Why don't you go help Frederick and Miriel? Now," she added, glaring into his eyes until he got the picture.
"Uh, yeah, sure, I was just headed that way!" The fighter all but fled.
Before either teen could start up again, Stahl remarked, "Donnel, aren't you on dinner duty tonight? And Ricken, you were just telling me about a great turnip recipe you found while studying. Maybe give Donnel a hand?"
"Aw, shoot, I plumb forgot! Better hurry so's nobody gets too hungry!"
"Sure, I can do that. Let's stop by the stores first, okay Donny?"
Robin waved the boys out before shooting the cavalier a relieved look. Grease on the wheels indeed.
"Now can we hear what this is all about?" Lon'qu seemed grumpier than usual. Robin had explained the task as 'stamina and speed training' and he'd been too nervous near her to ask specifics.
"Oh, you GOTTA read this." Sully grinned like a loon and tossed a first volume at the surprised swordsman, dodging Robin's grab.
"Sully! We're trying to get rid of this drivel, not spread it!" Behind the tactician, Lon'qu was sinking deeper into his seat with each line, face like a tomato and eyes huge. Gregor leaned over his shoulder and began to pick out lines with glee.
"A little late for that, then, 'cause Sumia already walked out with all eight volumes. Think she's gonna share with Cordelia."
"She what? Gods..." Robin palmed her face, full of dread. Sumia was notorious for leaving books lying around. She completely ignored Lon'qu's yelp - he must have gotten to page 54.
"Hey Bubbles, guess who loves you?"
The tactician turned with a grimace. "Really not the time, Gaius."
The thief grinned, striding into the tent with a confused Chrom in tow. "Oh, so I guess you don't care that I found the author?"
It was Chrom rather than Robin who seized the thief's lapels with desperation. "WHERE?"
Robin had never been so happy to be out of camp. Between Frederick and Miriel's debate on accuracy (both physical and technical), Virion's terrifying glee, and Tharja's increasingly dark mutterings, the small town had been a godsend. Relatively.
"At least they didn't protest, much." Robin avoided Chrom's gaze. "I mean, they were perfectly reasonable, especially after Gaius took over the negotiations." Neither were quite sure what the rogue had said (or done), only that the writer had come out of the side room looking quite pale. On the other hand, both were on the edge of threatening the man with violence themselves, so they didn't particularly care.
"Perfectly reasonable." Chrom deadpanned. Robin slowed down until she was out of his reach.
"Yeah, all they wanted was an autograph.. and a measurement for posterity." Gaius's grin was positively filthy as he elbowed the prince. Chrom whimpered a little.
"It could be worse..." the tactician trailed off, wondering how to finish that sentence. "At least we stopped Frederick before he had those woodcuts made?"
Robin jabbed the thief sharply in the kidneys.
"Don't think we convinced Specs not to publish that treatise, though."
The strategist buried her face in her hands.
"But we probably stopped Owain from continuing the series with all-new 'characters'..."
Robin wondered if it was possibly to die of shame, secondhand or no.
"Not even going to ask Sunshine what she was muttering about before we left. Something about Bubbles and Teach and 'all must die'-"
"Please shut up."
The thief eyed how Chrom's hand was vibrating an inch away from Falchion and wisely desisted.
The peace last until the three reached the town square, bustling to the cries of "GE-tchor 'Tales of the Shepherds', volume nine! GE-tchor 'Tales of the Shepherds' here! Limited-edition first eight volumes, signed by the Shepherds themselves!"