Chapter XXI: Ignus and Aether
There was a stillness in the air as the small boy practised with his tome. Movements fluid he tossed the ball of magic at his intended target. A woman with white hair stood watching him. Her eye narrowed, “Again Caleb,” She said sternly, “with more conviction! You'll keep missing your target if you allow yourself a moment of doubt as a mage!”
The boy frowned but did as he was asked...or at least he tried to. The white haired woman sighed as the boy missed his target again. She then picked up the tome beside her and blasted the target from where she was standing, “Focus on your target Caleb.” She said quietly, “Otherwise you're letting the enemy kill you where you stand.”
Caleb let out a sigh as he made places for everyone to sit. Hardly surprising that there was such urgency as this. He noticed that Yarne and Kjelle were the first to arrive and that they were confused. Alana had arrived with Noire and Gerome. The latter wasn't too fussed about what was going on but Noire looked decidedly scared about what was going on. Caleb presumed that there was a reason that Lucina had called the meeting but he didn't know why she called the meeting. As he looked at the faces of the rest of the Future Shepherds it was clear that some of them were in the same boat as Caleb himself. Inigo arrived with Nah at the helm and Caleb could see that Nah was as ever very annoyed about something. Caleb noticed that it was easily clear that Inigo seemed to be pleased with himself about something or other but right now there wasn't the time for that. By the time Lucina came back she came with the last few people, Owain, Severa, Brady and Cynthia. Caleb looked to his wife with a questioning look and Lucina sighed, “Someone didn't keep Severa's condition in house like I asked and now all of the Shepherds knows about it.” Lucina said to the group and Caleb raised an eyebrow in surprise. Inigo suddenly looked a little less happy and was staring at the ground while the rest of the group looked either horrified or furious in the case of Severa,
“So then there is someone here who needs to be punished?” Caleb said looking right at Inigo with a frown as the young man's reaction most certainly did not match up with someone who wasn't in trouble. In fact that reaction was one of guilt dare Caleb think it.
“Yes.” Lucina said calmly, “Though I don't know whom it might be I have a few ideas as to what is going on. If I should be as bold as to say it is a rather loud-mouthed individual who seems to create trouble wherever he goes...”
Everyone now glared at Inigo and the young mercenary shrunk at all of the accusing glares, “What?” He shot back suddenly, “I didn't have a choice!”
“You did.” Caleb said coldly as he put the pieces of the puzzle together and knew without a doubt who Lucina was assuming was the culprit and knowing at the same time that Inigo was the only candidate that filled Lucina's assumptions at all, “You know the rules Inigo. And you know the cost of disobeying Lucy's orders.”
“Well she's not the boss any more!” Inigo yelped at Caleb and Lucina frowned, clearly furious at such insubordination.
“Then we have our culprit.” Lucina spoke frostily at Inigo, “You're even worse than I thought. Get out.”
Inigo gaped and spluttered but Caleb was well aware that the boundaries had to be kept, “You heard her. Go Inigo. From this point on you are no longer one of us...” Caleb spoke automatically and Lucina gave him a nod of approval. It wasn't often that Caleb had to dish out a punishment but when he did Lucina often left it at whatever it was that Caleb had said. Granted Caleb didn't have to punish the others all that much and he tried to be fair about it when he did so more often than not there weren't any complaints about them. And this time was no different.
Nah rose and was the first to make sure Inigo was out of the tent before he could protest Caleb's decision. Lucina looked on expressionlessly as Inigo spluttered and whined all the way out of the tent. The young man's voice kept going despite the fact that Nah was taking him back to his own tent. Once he was out of ear shot Lucina sighed, “From here on out we are not saying a word of anything to Inigo. I'm sorry that you all had to witness this.”
“He did this to himself. We all know better than to do what he did.” Noire said clearly upset, “Besides why would you broadcast something so private to the public like that?”
Everyone in the room agreed with what Noire was saying.
Gerome spoke, “That gods' damn fool has signed his own death.”
“Yeah he is.” Cynthia said sadly, then she said in Plegian, “He should have listened to Lucy.”
“I don't like it any more than anyone else.” Lucina admitted, “However I feel this is for the best as we can not trust Inigo any more as this is the last time.”
“Don't worry Lucy,” Caleb said resting his hand on his wife's shoulder, “You did what you could.”
“Humph serves the bastard right.” Severa said, “How dare he say something I wanted to keep private publicly!”
Lucina sighed and then she said, “Yes, he has done the wrong thing not just by Severa but by all of us. And as hard as it is we can't allow him to continue his behaviour as it currently stands. We have to finish what we set out to do. Once we have done that then we'll work out fully what needs to be done about Inigo.”
Nah of course heard the entire conversation as she lead Inigo away. She sighed but said nothing as she could hear the pain in the other's voices. She did however tell Inigo that she would most certainly know it he so much as dared to break Lucina's orders another time.
Caleb lay on the bedroll after the meeting with the Future Shepherds. It was hard to think about what had happened. He couldn't help but wonder where he'd gone wrong with Inigo as the young man had always been the one who seemed to cause trouble in their group. If Inigo wasn't flirting with all of the women he could then he was arguing with Caleb on how he should be. Failing that Inigo was a good fighter, capable and certainly able to look after himself. Yet Caleb still couldn't put his finger on why Inigo had essentially revealed to absolutely all of the Shepherds that Severa was pregnant. What did Inigo stand to gain from such a thing as that? Caleb frowned and sighed inwardly. How could he have missed clearly important details thus far? He should have known that Inigo would have caused trouble like normal but perhaps...perhaps it was Caleb's assumption that Inigo was grown up a little. He sighed as Lucina sat beside him equally despondent about what they'd had to do. It hurt to have to basically kick Inigo out but they didn't have a choice. It was clear to Caleb that Inigo was not going to listen no matter what the tactician did and that Inigo was as immature as ever. Caleb would treat Inigo like the rest of the Shepherds but no longer would Inigo be considered one of the Future Shepherds. As soon as his mother was well enough Inigo was going to be her problem to deal with. In a way Caleb felt guilt about it but it was for the best he decided and that was a hard thing to do. The young tactician sighed inwardly as he thought about all the possible out comes of such things. Doubtless there would be some problems in the immediate fall out. Inigo would try to come back to the only thing he'd known most of his life and likely do anything to come back in the future; as such Caleb would have to be on his guard. Or Inigo might like being with the other Shepherds so much he'd not miss the Future ones. It was possible after all and if that were the case then Caleb would feel that the harshness of the punishment was fair enough. Although there was the added risk that Inigo would say who in the Shepherds should marry whom. Surely Inigo wouldn't be that stupid as to do that.
Later that night Caleb left the tent and moved towards the strategy tent. He was of course passed by a few of the Shepherds. Most looked at him curiously but others frowned at him. He was used to the occasional looks from others and ignored them as they were irrelevant to what he had to do. Caleb was focused on what he had to do.
So when Chrom came to speak with him Caleb was as ever working on strategy and creating a broad strategy to deal with their up coming battle knowing that the finer details were to be done later on. Chrom found that Caleb wasn't really in the mood to talk about what had happened, let alone that one of his friends was expecting a baby. From what Chrom heard it was meant to be kept private but of course all of the Shepherds knew thanks to Inigo. Chrom had never found someone so focused on their work as Caleb was being. The bluenette found it almost Robin-like in a way. Yet it wasn't in the same token. It felt almost natural to have Caleb sitting where he was quill moving over the page dabbing up ink on occasion then continuing to write away. Chrom sighed, “We need to talk Caleb.” He said getting the lad's attention,
“Yes, Chrom?” Caleb said finally looking up from his work, “I know we do...however there are slightly more pressing issues that need to be tended to.”
“Like?” Chrom asked wanting to see what the young man had to say.
“Like the fact that we have a battle less than a day now to worry about.” Caleb sighed, “Or let's not forget that half an entire battalion of soldiers that are injured or worse that we currently can't make use of. Or the slipping moral of said soldiers.”
“Well that is one thing to talk about...” Chrom said seriously, “But not what we actually need to talk about.”
“Then what?” Caleb said seriously,
“The last few days have been trying I know.” Chrom said and Caleb sighed heavily,
“Trying?” The tactician laughed hollowly, “Oh gods you don't know the half of it. This is hardly “trying” as you put it. No this is something that should be well within my scope to handle...but I can't deny that things are...strained between certain individuals.”
“Somehow I feel like it's eating at you Caleb.” Chrom replied and Caleb heaved another sigh,
“I suppose it is.” The tactician admitted, “I'll admit there is nothing that can be done about it now.”
“You say that like it's a bad thing.” Chrom noted and the tactician rose from his seat,
“In some ways it is.” Caleb admitted, “I still can't believe that there was someone willing to literally disobey what Lucy had requested. I honestly thought that our time was enough to make it clear that we should be working together and not apart like we have been at times...”
“Hmm...” Chrom looked thoughtful and Caleb continued,
“Perhaps I should have realised that it was going to be a problem to make certain that not everything was as troublesome as it is currently.”
“Really?” Chrom asked,
“Yeah.” Caleb sighed then he moved a couple of books off the table he absently flicked through them and let out a low scoff and placed them on in the chest where the tactical manuals his mother owned was stored. He muttered, “No wonder she got into trouble...those are the most unreliable books of her whole damn library.”
“Oh?” Chrom sounded surprised and Caleb had a look at the books in the chest,
“This war is not the same as the last one she was in...let alone the one before that. The required tactics are different.”
“Care to elaborate on that?” Chrom asked,
“I can think of three reasons why those wouldn't be much use. I know for a fact that those texts are dated when dealing with cavalry for a start. With the added con that they are and have been in use for the last fifty years to death in Valm.” Caleb spoke calmly, “Not very useful for us and doubtless the Valmese would expect the counter to it. Locking in a strategy is dangerous at best. If you have a strategy it's far better to be flexible and changing in the battle than being the same basic thing that an enemy can exploit. That's why Mother got injured. And that unfortunately is why so many others did as well.”
“And you didn't tell her this because?” Chrom asked,
“I couldn't tell her.” Caleb sighed, “Well that and she doesn't like changing her plans mid-battle like I do. We've got a different approach to tactics and while that can be a bad thing it can also lead to better ways of doing things if you can make the two mesh into one coherent unit. Spoiler alert it never does.”
“Please trust me Chrom. I know how my Mother thinks and I have a feeling that is something I have to work with.”
Chrom sighed. “Alright then, but promise me you won't push yourself too hard please Caleb.”
“Heh, you sound like Lucy when you say that!” Caleb laughed.
Caleb made his way back to his tent. He was alone for the time being and he was perfectly fine with it. As he looked up he sighed. He could see that there was going to be a tough fight ahead and he wanted to make certain that a certain individual wasn't in the area. Seeing that it had gone quiet he was able to make sure that he was mostly alone. With a sigh he pulled out a tome and proceeded to read its contents. He sighed as he came across a word that he didn't understand the meaning of. With little hesitation Caleb used a dictionary to figure it out on his own. He heard the tent flap move and a familiar voice sounded amused,
“Caleb aren't you supposed to have done enough study for the day?” Lucina asked him and Caleb sighed,
“Well I suppose I should but there were a couple of things that I needed to look into.” Caleb said absently, “And I had a feeling that there was something that I was missing.”
“Really?” Lucina said surprised,
“I don't know Lucy...it just feels like it is all.”
“And you're not as concerned as you might be because...?”
“It's just something minor Lucy.” Caleb replied with a subtle frown. Then his expression smoothed out, “How's Alana?”
“Sound asleep.” Lucina and Caleb smiled softly,
“Good then we can rest a little easier.”
“Why?” Lucina asked and Caleb put his tome down and hugged her, “Caleb?”
“So we can have some 'us' time.” He murmured into her embrace. Caleb didn't let go for a little while and Lucina found it comforting,
“We should probably wake up early tomorrow then,” Lucina suggested, “We haven't had a sparing match for a while and I think it might do us some good.”
“Agreed.” Caleb said relaxing in her arms content once more.
When Caleb woke it was to a feeling of slight tiredness. His eyes weren't going to open and the young tactician panicked briefly as it felt like his body was bound by something. His eyes snapped open and he saw Lucina curled up against his side. He frowned as he realised that her bare skin was against his own. It was nice but it made him wonder how they ended up like that. He'd not remembered making love to his wife after all. As far as Caleb remembered they had only embraced before resting. He then wondered if it was possible that he'd been asleep when they had. Or at the very least extremely tired or...perhaps they'd forgone getting into nightclothes? The latter did seem likely Caleb thought. Then he felt a slight grin hit his face. 'When in doubt,' Caleb thought, 'make it certain.'
He kissed his wife's forehead and Lucina shifted and held Caleb tightly. Then she woke. Caleb saw her frown and he almost wondered if he'd done the wrong thing, “Caleb...” Lucina suddenly pressed her head to his chest and he felt her grip tighten,
“Lucy, what's wrong?” Caleb asked gently,
“Nothing was wrong!” Lucina suddenly blurted out, “I..it was...”
“Lucy?” Caleb gently lifted her to see why she was suddenly seemly upset. She looked almost like there was something she was trying to tell him but it seemed that she wasn't entirely able to say it. Then she spoke,
“It was one of the best dreams I'd had in so long...and it ended so abruptly!”
“A dream?” Caleb asked softly, “You mean the one you had before?”
“Well...yes...” Lucina suddenly blushed and Caleb looked thoughtful but he couldn't help but smirk ever so slightly,
“Hmm...” The tactician tried to look suitably thoughtful but the smirk was getting ever more wider, “Well there are two options.” He noticed Lucina look at him with a raise eyebrow and he continued, “One, we do as we planned this morning and go spar or...”
“Or what Caleb?” Lucina asked as Caleb's smirk made her think that possibly she might get to have both her dream sorted and their training done. Caleb grinned without restraint,
“We pick up where this dream of yours left off and spar later.” The tactician suggested. Lucina smiled. “Option two it is then.” Caleb grinned and kissed her again.
Chrom sighed as he wondered why Caleb was not at his desk that particular morning and decided that he would find out what was going on. Alana was at present working with Laurent learning her magic. He asked the pair where Caleb and Lucina might have been but they didn't know. He then ran into Frederick who for all the world looked like he'd been thoroughly embarrassed. Chrom didn't know what had the knight so flustered but it seemed to be important. Chrom soon found out that Frederick did not want to say what it was that he'd heard but he was adamant that Chrom not go near Lucina and Caleb's tent for a while which made Chrom wonder what the knight meant by that. It was hardly fair to assume that they were in a lovers embrace but Chrom noted that Frederick seemed to think so. He sighed and wondered what in the world Caleb was thinking.
The afterglow of their lovemaking left Caleb feeling a little bit tired. He knew it was a risk but for once he didn't care. Sometimes it felt good to let the bones fall and not think about the consequences. It felt damn good to just instinct take over and reach the heights of pleasure that he so desperately wanted without having to think about the potential for his wife to end up with child. Even so Caleb knew that it was more likely that they were going to have to be careful in future as Lucina and he both regained strength and grew progressively stronger at the same time there was that slim chance that they could have a child. Hell Owain and Severa had proved it possible in a weakened state and there was no reason it wouldn't happen to Caleb and Lucina.
Caleb pulled his clothing on as Lucina hastened to get ready. They had decided to spar after lunch as they both knew it was pretty late. Caleb had just left the tent to see Chrom standing with his arms crossed, “Care to explain?” The bluenette asked with a serious expression on his face,
“Not needed,” Caleb said quickly, “We'll talk strategy later Chrom.” he caught Lucina's hand and pulled her over to the mess tent and Chrom felt his head shake. Could they be any more obvious he wondered? At least Alana seemed not to notice her parent's almost unbelievable drive. Chrom had to wonder if he and Maribelle were ever that bad. Then he felt a snort. No, they couldn't be that bad surely? Which lead Chrom to wonder that for quite some time after that thought crossed his mind.
Caleb made sure to go into the mess tent as quietly as possible with Lucina but it was clear that they were more visible than usual which Caleb had to admit wasn't always a good thing. He noticed the judgemental look from Frederick and he sighed inwardly. So much for being subtle about their little tryst. He then turned his attention to what they had available for lunch and got what he felt like eating. Lucina joined him and for the most part they didn't really talk. They didn't have to. Caleb was content for the time being and before long it was time for their sparing match. A match that if Caleb lost...well he'd have to do whatever Lucina wanted like normal. A draw meant that they would have to do what Alana wanted for the day and if he won which was extremely slim then Caleb could have a potentially unspoiled chance to have a date with his wife...not right then but at a time that he felt would suit. The idea was enough to drive the tactician to be his best.
Chrom was surprised when he found out that there was a pretty intense sparing match going on and he followed the gathering crowds to where the Shepherds had made training grounds up. Sure enough there was the tell tale sign of a match. Chrom frowned as he heard cheering and everyone seemed to want to see the action. Politely as he could Chrom managed to get in and see what was going on over the shorter form of Ricken who was furiously scribbling into a book. He was surprised to see who it was sparing against each other. He did not expect Caleb to try to match Lucina with a sword. He noticed that everyone was absolutely excited and he saw Caleb take a hefty blow to his midsection quite easily. Lucina frowning as Caleb pulled his ace. Chrom was surprised when Ignus suddenly activated making Miriel also start scribbling equally furiously. Chrom watched as Caleb made a solid move only for Lucina to activate Aether and ruin the movement that Caleb was trying to do...or at least that was what it seemed. Lucina didn't quite manage to actually hit Caleb and Chrom wondered what Caleb had done...then he realised that Caleb had predicted that Lucina was going to use Aether and dodged in the nick of time. “Checkmate!” Caleb called and Lucina realised too late the trap that Caleb was pulling. She tried to leap out of the way only to trip up and have Caleb's sword pointed at her, “Looks like I win this one Lucy.” Caleb said with a frown. He quickly put the sword in its sheath, “I didn't hurt you too badly did I?”
“No Caleb, I'm fine.” Lucina reassured her tactician and he quickly offered her a hand,
“Incredible!” Ricken declared, “That is the seventh time thus far that you've activated Ignus. The first time that its been sustained like this though.”
“Indeed it has been quite fascinating to see it active so frequently. Surely this must be because of your current training regimen.”
Caleb let out a weak laugh and as he pulled Lucina up to her feet. “Nope.” He said checking to make sure his wife was unharmed. Seeing that she was alright relieved Caleb, but he also knew that she'd fought pretty hard. He continued, “As I said before it is a Skill that requires a certain amount of skill to activate. I just so happen to be extremely lucky to be able to use it the amount of times that I have. It's not something that I can rely on. Nor should I rely on it. That would be dangerous.”
Chrom watched the rest of the Shepherds murmur and begin to disperse now that the show was essentially over. He cleared his throat and Caleb managed to get the hint. The tactician murmured something in Lucina's ear that sounded like “date” to Chrom but he couldn't tell what the tactician was saying. Caleb then turned to face the bluenette and said with a very serious tone, “I'm guessing you wanted to talk strategy now Chrom?”
“No.” The bluenette said pointedly and Caleb tilted his head,
“Odd because I assumed that was the agenda.”
“...” Chrom didn't realise how professional Caleb could be but that sure as hell was not what Chrom wanted to know. However there was a mischievous glint in Caleb's eyes that told Chrom that the boy was literally playing with him. Chrom let out a sigh, “Whatever you're thinking it had best be about your job and not what you were up to late this morning.” Chrom said sternly And Caleb smirked,
“Oh really?” The tactician spoke with a hint of sarcasm that made Chrom frown. “And here I was assuming that privacy was the norm...and that eavesdroppers know better than to speak of what they may or may not have heard.”
'Anger hidden in sarcasm,' Chrom thought, 'clever...I'm going to have to watch him then.' “Now, now,” Chrom said lightly, “You can't blame them for hearing things.”
“Ah, ah, ah. I'm not blaming them for hearing things...I never said I was. I just said they should know better than to speak of it is all.”
Chrom sighed, “Sometimes words aren't needed Caleb.”
“Could have fooled me,” Caleb's sarcasm was of the slightly different variety than before and Chrom realised that this was the point where it was a victory for now. However doubtless Caleb was letting him have that one. Chrom had a feeling that the young tactician would get more as time went on. Still Chrom understood what Caleb was annoyed about. He would have to remedy the situation before it got any further out of hand. With Caleb's help of course. Then Chrom sighed. He was going to have his hands full.
Caleb left the training grounds and focused on the next part of his day. Strategy. He had promised Chrom that he would do it and he was a man of his word. Besides he'd had enough fun sparing with Lucina and had found himself with a pleasing outcome. Sure it wasn't as good as he would have liked (he swore she was holding back) but it was still a victory. Which meant he could plan that date...and Caleb couldn't help but blush violently at the thought. He was most certainly looking forward to it.
“Is everything alright Caleb?” Chrom asked with a raise eyebrow. Caleb sighed wistfully,
“Of course Chrom.” The tactician said doing his best to keep a straight face, “I was just tossing some ideas around for a nice date with Lucy.” Chrom froze and Caleb kept his face as straight as possible knowing full well what he had just said. “Oh who am I kidding?” Caleb sighed, “We have a few options to take on Steiger but none of them are favourable at present.”
Chrom was surprised by the almost complete one eighty that Caleb pulled that he had very little to say, “Ok so what do you have?”
“Well so not that much. We could in theory make a surgical strike to the fort's heart and take out their commander to throw them into disorder. Simple but given that the Valmese expect such a strategy more than likely it would also be easily over turned by reinforcements. We could do hit and run tactics but that again would be too obvious.” Caleb said quietly, “Although a combination of the two may prove to be very useful. We could trick them into thinking we're attacking in one location by sending in a separate army to create a distraction to draw out most of their forces away from the fort. Then we have a second team go to the fort and take out the commander. It is a risky strategy true but it might just buy us some time to get their numbers down.”
“Is there any other problems that might come up?” Chrom asked the tactician and Caleb sighed,
“Yen'fey's army.” Caleb said. “From what I know there is considerable consequences should we get caught between two armies and that alone is why I am loathe to use this particular plan. We however do not have a choice. It is our only option at this point.”
“Then we'd best prepare the army then.”
“Chrom...could you...please send in Basilio, I have something I want to ask him.”
“Uh...sure Caleb.” He frowned and wondered why the young tactician wanted to speak with the Feroxi Khan but thought little of it. Instead he did as the young man asked of him. He then went about the army making sure that they were able to carry out the plan that Caleb had come up with.
With Basilio spoken with Caleb's over arching plan was good to go. He had told Basilio what had happened in their time and knew that the man would heed the warning. Even so Caleb knew that he could not tell anyone what the plan was. There was also the chance that Grima would have a contingency plan to prevent Caleb's tactics from working but the tactician had made his choice. His only disappointment was that he couldn't tell Lucina about what he'd planned. At least not yet. After all it required a little trickery and a whole lot of luck. Something that Caleb didn't particularly enjoy doing but given that it was needed...well Caleb wasn't going to argue with the Khan. Not when it was the kind of plan that required Validar to look like a fool once Basilio “died”.
So it was that Caleb stood on a new battlefield with Say'ri assuring him that the resistance were all in all going to assist. Caleb still didn't think that Say'ri was as smart as she thought she was. He could tell that there was trouble brewing...massive trouble. All Caleb could do was hope that they got the trap sprung his way. They could not afford to lose any more men this war...