In the Land of Eternal Dusk, more commonly known as the country of Nohr, sunny days were almost unheard of, to the point they were spoken of often as myth.
On such unprecedented days like these when the sun would happen to grace its light, if only briefly, on the darkened land, it would be only natural to spend it outside as long as as possible. To soak up as much sunlight there was to be had, for who could say when another day like this would come?
Such was how the twins, Kamui and Corrin, found themselves spending this mythical sunny day with their younger sister Elise; picking flowers in a meadow near their perpetual residence, the Northern Fortress, and trying to enjoy the transient light for as long as possible.
“Corrin! Kamui! Over here! I found some irises!”
Kamui exchanged an amused glance with Corrin and finished plucking the few azaleas he and his twin had barely begun to pick before Elise had moved on to the next flower patch. The already lively girl seemed positively energized by the bright day, spending no more than several moments at each patch of flowers, as if she were trying not to waste any second in exploring every inch of the meadow. He smiled as he watched her; Elise always made such an effort to make their outings fun, but he worried she would run out of energy at this rate, even with the energizing light. Adding the azaleas to their already overburdened flower baskets, Kamui and Corrin advanced to her position in the iris patch.
“Slow down, Elise! You’ll comb the entire meadow long before noon at this rate!” Corrin called, her arms struggling to hold her basket in a way the flowers wouldn’t fall out as she made her way to the pig tailed girl. Despite her exasperated words, Kamui could feel the glow of love blossoming in her as it did in him; they felt each others emotions seamlessly together through some unexplainable twin ability, but he was sure even without it he would know the warmth that she and all of their siblings would have in their eyes as they played with their precious little sister.
Some time passed this way, and then Elise had finally decided to take a break; Kamui and Corrin were sorting the various wild flowers they had gathered, while she made flower crowns with the tinier flowers that wouldn’t be suited for proper flower arrangements.
“Corrin, I’m done! Here’s yours!” Elise shouted as she placed a crown of pink flowers on Corrin’s head. “It looks so pretty on you!”
Corrin smiled. “Thanks Elise! Did you make one for yourself too?”
“Yep!” Elise chirped, pulling out a crown made of large golden flowers from her basket and setting it on her head. “I made ones for Xander, Camilla, and Leo too.” She pointed at the crowns made of ebony, violet, and azure flowers lying inside the basket. “I’m going to make yours now Kamui!” she said as she grabbed a handful of little white flowers and began weaving them together.
As he watched her for a while, Kamui remarked, “Hey Elise, where did you learn to make flower crowns so well? Did your mother teach you?”
Elise’s hands faltered in their labor.
“N-no. I learned on my own. Mother, she….she never had time to teach me something like this.” She frowned, fingers nervously resuming her work after a few moments.
The twins exchanged glances. Sensing he must have struck a nerve, Kamui hurriedly replied, “Well then you’re very accomplished in your hobby. Can you teach Corrin and I sometime how to do them?”
She smiled and nodded, but continued working uncharacteristically silently.
When they had finished packing up the the flowers, Corrin started, “We’d better start heading back. The sun is on its way down, and Gunter and the others will be worried if were not back before dark.” Kamui nodded, gathering up one of the heavier baskets. He started to turn back towards the way they came, but Elise had yet to move with them. She was staring at the flower field with a wistful expression, as if she wished she could stay longer.
“Elise,” Kamui stated, “Its time to go. We need to leave now if we want to make it back on time.”
Elise sighed, but she turned and made her way back towards them. She stopped a few feet away, a serious expression on her face.
“Kamui, Corrin….am I useless?”
The twins balked at the question, surprise and worry gripping them simultaneously.
“Of course not! Why would you even think that?!” Corrin exclaimed.
Elise looked down at her feet, tears stinging in her eyes.
“I don’t have any useful abilities or talents; I’m not strong like Xander, not beautiful like Camilla, and not smart like Leo. Nor do I have the ability to learn things fast and be charismatic to others like you and Kamui. I even get Arthur and Effie into trouble all the time with my mischief. I feel like….I’m just a burden to everyone. Definitely not worthy of all the love and attention you give me.”
“That’s not true Elise! You have useful talents of your own. You’re a fantastic healer. You know how to appeal to the good side of people. You are the sweetest and most compassionate person we know!” cried Corrin.
“She’s right, Elise,” agreed Kamui. “But even if you weren’t any of that, there’s one thing you always will be.” He approached her, arms coming to encircle her softly.
“You will always be our beloved little sister, the light in our lives. That’s more important than anything else. So you don’t have to worry about anything at all. You are loved. So just be yourself.”
“Y-you mean that? I’m really not a burden?”, Elise hiccuped, fighting back sobs.
Corrin approached and hugged her as well, entangling Elise between her and Kamui in the warmth of their embrace. “You are Elise,” said Corrin. “You are a Princess of Nohr. You are our little sister. And you are not a burden.”
Elise smiled, and wiped her tears away. “Thank you so much for telling me that.” She pulled away slightly to look at them. “Big Brother, Big Sister…I love you both so much!” she cried, tackling them both in another hug. They laughed as they fell backwards from the force of the tiny pig tailed girl, unintentionally scattering a few of the flower baskets left on the ground.
But on such a perfectly bright day in Nohr of all places, no one seemed to mind.
The rain was falling heavily, skies dark with black clouds. The wind howled with unchecked ferocity.
Days like these were more than common in Nohr.
Elise, her tiny child’s feet pattering on the smooth stone floor, tottered down the dark halls of Castle Krakenburg, a small bouquet of wild flowers in hand. Her dress was sopping wet, having been drenched by her foray out into the rain to look for suitable flowers. So few of them grew in the stony, barren capitol of Windmire.
Her mother had taken a drastic turn in her condition. The healers she had spied coming in and out of her room seemed less and less hopeful in their demeanor. Even her young and naive mind knew that there wasn’t much time.
She begged and pleaded Cassita, her nursemaid, for a way to help. All she could tell her though, was to give comfort and let the dying know that they were loved. For Elise, there was no better comfort than beautiful flowers. Surely with these wildflowers that she found sneaking outside the city walls, an uncommonly pretty sight for many in the capitol, she would perhaps finally move her mother’s heart.
She tiptoed as she drew closer to her mother’s room. The door was left slightly ajar, and soft candlelight flooded out from it. She crept towards it, and began to hear voices coming from inside. She peeked around the door. It was mother and father.
“…..so sorry it has come to this. Is there anything I can do to ease your pain?”
“So long as you stay by my side Garon, my love, I will be at ease.”
“Very well my dear. Shall I also call for Elise? I’m sure she would wish to see you.”
Elise smiled, preparing to walk through the doors and receive her mother’s love at last. Raising her flowers up, she started to take her first step—
“No. Do not allow her in here.”
She stopped, an icy cold dread washing over her, freezing her to the spot upon hearing the words from her mother’s lips.
“But my dear, she is our daughter! Surely she deserves to be here, at your side when you—-“
“I do not wish her here! She is a distraction and a drain on my energy; all she does is get into mischief all day and waste my time. She has no talents to speak of, nothing to compare with against the other royal children. All she does is take me away from my time with you! And you would call her here, to interrupt what could be my last moments with you?! Elise is nothing but a burden. She is not welcome here!”
Elise didn’t wait to hear anymore. Fighting tears and sobs, she ran away, nearly slipping on the trail of rain water she had dripped behind her. The wildflowers lay cold and forgotten on the floor just outside the room, where her mother took her final breaths.
The air in the green house was stifling, despite the cool fog blanketing the royal gardens in the early morning.
Elise wiped the sweat from her brow and continued cleaning the flower stems in her collection. After the flower picking spree from the other day with Corrin and Kamui, some of the wild flowers still needed proper treatment before they could properly be displayed. This included untangling weeds and other unflattering debris out of the petals and stems as well as snipping off leaves, dead or otherwise, for better presentation.
Across the work table sat her biggest sister, Camilla; the lavender haired woman was arranging the flowers into vases, occasionally adding a flower to her pile from Elise’s completed pile.
Elise gazed in wonder at the beautiful arrangement she was working on now; all the different colors and petal designs of the flowers flowed into one cohesive bouquet, reflecting the thoughtful harmony of the creator. She looked to said creator, marveling even more on her sister’s utter beauty. Sighing enviously, she couldn’t help but compare the flowers she handled in front of her to their respective appearances; the charming yet plain cuteness of a daisy to herself and the voluptuous and majestic loveliness of a rose to Camilla.
“I hear a sigh over there Elise. What seems to be the matter, love?”
Elise sheepishly raised her eyes to see Camilla glancing at her questioningly.
“Sorry Big Sis. It’s just…..how long will it be before I can be as beautiful and mature as you?”
Camilla smiled, continuing to fiddle about with a stray magnolia flower that wouldn’t quite stay where she wanted.
“Elise, dear, all good things will come in time. Have a little patience, apply yourself well to your pursuits, and I have no doubt that you will become an even finer lady than me,” she stated.
“But Camilla,” cried Elise, “I want to grow up now! There’s so many things I want to do, so many things I want to be, I can’t wait any longer!”
A mysterious glint entered Camilla’s eyes. “If you had your wish, you may come to regret it. There are many things you have yet to experience Elise, things that when you are old enough will make you wish you could return to the carefree days of your childhood. You should enjoy the time you have now to do the things you can at this age.”
She paused, adding an iris to her arrangement, smiling as she did so.
“Just as we care for the flowers we grow here, taking the necessary measures to promote their growth in the best way, so too should you grow naturally. Trying to force something become more than it is before the proper, natural time is….ill advised.” A shadow passed over Camilla’s face so quickly, then disappeared, that Elise felt like she had almost imagined it.
She sighed again, but grunted in agreement, pausing to run a finger through her one of her golden pigtails. She fingered the strands of lavender hair that spiraled through the rest.
“Fine, I get it Sis. I still hope that some of your beauty and maturity will rub off on me if I have even a shred of relation to you.”
Camilla laughed, “Whatever helps you along my dear. Either way, we should finish up with this soon. We still have to make and deliver the arrangements for the Northern Fortress; despite what many may think, Castle Krakenburg will not be the only place to be graced with our lovely creations. Corrin, Kamui and their retainers should be able to see the fruits of our labors, don’t you think?”
“Yup!” chirped Elise, sharing a smile mirrored in Camilla’s serene face. They returned to their projects with vigor, the uncomfortable heat far from their minds.
It was the twilight hour; the sun, what little could be seen of it in Nohr’s perpetually overcast skies, was setting over the horizon, dripping the land in a blood red color that gave the cloudy sky an eerie scarlet glow.
An even grislier scene was taking place in the otherwise innocuous looking royal gardens below. Splashes of blood stained the plants and torn clothing scattered the walk ways. The horrific trail led to the edge of the gardens, by a tree near the tool shed, where a small girl covered in gashes and bleeding heavily was pinned to the ground by a bigger and somewhat older girl whose lavender hair was also streaked with blood. Blood that was not her own.
Young Princess Camilla, who had just barely passed her ninth birthday, grimaced as she held the struggling girl beneath her, trying to get a better handle on the bloody hatchet that kept slipping from her grip. She would not fail. She would prove to her mother, to herself, that she was ready to fight for the mantle that she was told was her birthright.
The little girl, clawing at her throat where one of Camilla’s hands was wrapped around, managed to gasp a few words out every few moments.
Camilla tried her best to ignore the words.
She was told this would happen; that her rival would try to fool her with false pleas. That her enemy would try to appeal to her naive, soft heart. This was the test. Her mother had set it up all so flawlessly. The girl would be alone, the weapon would be provided, the assassin scapegoats ready to take her blame, and the alibis prepared. There was to be no mistakes. This was her mother’s birthday gift; the ability to take out one of her rivals with such ease while also pleasing her immensely. She would be loved. Even if only as a tool, she would be loved.
Camilla raised the hatchet high overhead, prepared to deliver the final blow. The girl, absolute terror flashing in her eyes, tried one last time.
Her hand wavered. Surely this couldn’t be right. What could this girl do to harm her, that she should be murdered in such a way? She had no desire to kill another. She really didn’t. All she wanted was love – to give and receive it.
But a dark voice whispered in her mind. It could’ve been her there, trapped in her place. Could she really be sure this girl wouldn’t have attempted the same if given the chance. No, it was best to end the problem before it became one. And if in doing so, she pleased her mother, what reason could she possibly have to hesitate?
Tears streaming down her face, she smiled serenely down at her half-sister. “I’m sorry. I really am. But you must die for me to be safe. For me to be loved.”
And with that, she let the hatchet fall.
The gentle blanket of night had fallen upon the land of Nohr.
In the highest tower of the Northern Fortress, Camilla sat brushing her younger sister Corrin’s long silver hair while her younger brother Kamui sat by the hearth, trying to finish reading a passage Leo had assigned for them to read as homework. Flora and Felicia had recently finished cleaning the room, and Jakob had just served the evening tea. It was an ordinary night for the twins, but Camilla enjoyed the simple pleasure of seeing them live out a fairly normal routine. For their living situation was anything but ordinary.
Corrin fidgeted in her seat.
“Camilla, don’t stop! Keep brushing! I need my hair silky smooth after that last training session with Xander messed it up.”
Camilla smiled and indulged Corrin a bit longer.
“Don’t fret my dear. In my hands, your hair will be soft and beautiful, as always. But I must say, I am curious; what is so important happening tomorrow that you must look your best? Is there a boy you fancy and intend to impress?”
Corrin blushed and shook her head, forgetting that Camilla was still brushing it out.
“Goodness, no! And even if I did, Sister, you’d be shrewd enough to figure it out without me having to tell you.”
Camilla thought for a moment, and then decided that it probably was true; Corrin had her secrets that even she didn’t know, but when it came to matters of the heart, well, she tended to wear her heart on her sleeve.
Corrin sighed and relaxed, allowing Camilla to continue undisturbed.
“No, I just don’t want to have any part of me lacking if I can help it. It’s enough that I have to deal with the fact that book learning doesn’t come as easily to me.”
Kamui let out a small snigger and Corrin shot her twin brother a glare. Camilla glanced curiously at the two.
“Would anyone care to enlighten me as to what the problem is?” she inquired.
Fighting back a smirk, Kamui remarked, “It’s just that Corrin is terrible when it comes to Leo’s study sessions. He’ll point out her every flaw with no mercy. Granted, I’m not perfect either, but its almost embarrassing how often she messes up in comparison, like that time when she said—-“
“Drop it Kamui! Don’t you dare say what happened or I’ll tell Camilla what happened the day you thought you could sneak attack Xander!” cried Corrin.
Camilla giggled watching her precious younger siblings bicker, and they both looked at her with exasperated expressions.
“All right you two. I don’t have to know then,” she relented. “Knowing his nature, I’d expect Leo to be hard on you, but only because he cares. His pride as your brother is also on the line, so any mistake on your part he considers his own. But even so Corrin, if he is being too pushy, just say the word.” A dangerous glint appeared in her eyes. “I’ll set him straight myself, so my precious little sister never has to feel uncomfortable again.”
For some reason, she could see the twins simultaneously grow very, very pale.
“N-no need to worry, Sister. I can handle the little jerk on my own,” Corrin stammered.
“We’ll see if that’s true tomorrow. I hope you studied the chapter he assigned,” smirked Kamui.
“And we’ll see if you can manage not to fall flat on your arse for once when Xander mops the floor with you!” hissed Corrin.
“That’s enough you two. My, you haven’t changed much since you were children. Since its time for bed now, shall I sing you both to sleep like I used to?” said Camilla in a clearly patronizing voice.
“Were fine!” Corrin and Kamui both exclaimed together.
“But it would be nice if you could tell us stories about those places you’ve seen, far beyond our walls,” suggested Kamui.
“Yes! Could you tell us about the crystal cavern again? I’d love to go see it one day!” marveled Corrin.
Camilla smiled wistfully. She couldn’t wait for them to be able to leave their captivity and see the world themselves, but at the same time she would miss these moments in the future when they left her care.
“Very well, my dearests. A quick story and then off to sleep with you both. Tomorrow will be a busy day.”
They all settled in for a storytelling session, and if only for a while, Camilla felt truly at peace.
Pain. Fear. Hunger. Confusion.
These were the only things that seemed to course through the connected consciousness of the two children locked in the deepest level of the Northern Fortress dungeons.
Ever since they were first thrown into their imprisonment, few things seemed to make sense for the twins. All they could remember was each other; Corrin, the elder twin, and Kamui, the younger twin. As well as a strange yet intimate empathy link the two shared. In many ways, they considered each other two halves of the same whole. What one felt, the other would feel instantaneously, whether or not their situation influenced such a feeling. The effect was stronger if they were in close proximity of each other. And in their current predicament, their negative feelings were twice as magnified, since they had to share the burden of each other’s emotions, in close quarters no less.
Other than the frequent instances when a wicked looking man would come to demand answers from them, torturing their minds with some dark magic when they could not give the answers he sought (which was often), they saw not another living soul.
And they soon began to despair of ever seeing the light of day again. That light, which, despite their muddled memories, shown through the confusion of their minds with the gentleness of a mother’s touch. It was the one desire they held together in their hearts; to feel that half forgotten feeling again. The feeling of love.
On some nights though, they could hear someone singing. In the darkness of the cell, they could see no one, and yet a soothing voice — a girl’s, it sounded like — would weave its way into their ears, easing the pain if only a little bit. Just the sound of another person’s voice that wasn’t threatening them with pain and death kept them from succumbing to their own inner demons in the dark of the night.
There had not been a single night since the start of their incarceration that the twins were truly able to sleep. And yet, with that soothing lullaby washing away all the pain and sadness, if only for a little while, Corrin and Kamui finally felt their eyes begin to close and lost themselves in the comforting escape of slumber.
Had they been awake, they may have noticed a tall, lavender haired girl making her way out of the dungeons with as little noise as possible.
Corrin sighed in frustration. She seemed to be doing it frequently today.
In general, she really did like the great library. Though studying was not her talent, she enjoyed reading as much as her twin brother. There were many afternoons she had spent with a good book in the comfort of the plush armchairs and the warm hearth, when Nohr’s generally dismal weather didn’t allow for any time outdoors.
Unfortunately though, it was where their mandatory study sessions were held, which were always a plague on her self esteem. As well as the favorite spot of a certain individual who seemed to love making her day go to hell.
“Unbelievable. Did you really think this set up will work? Do it again and do it right this time.”
Corrin glared at her ‘supposed’ younger brother. She termed him ‘supposed’ since even though he was younger by a year or two, he spoke with all the authority of their eldest brother, the Crown Prince Xander. And though she was loathe to admit it, he did indeed have that authority, since due to his incredible breadth of knowledge for his young age he was appointed as their studies tutor, just as Xander was their combat tutor.
“Come on, Leo. You know I’m just going to get it wrong again. You hate wasting time, so stop wasting it with me and either just give me the answer or move onto something I’m somewhat better at, like history or grammar,” asserted Corrin.
Leo gave her a hard stare. Because she couldn’t help being cheeky, she stared right back. At least she didn’t stick out her tongue, like she used to.
It wasnt like she truly disliked Leo at all; in fact, she really did enjoy his company. He was truly an insightful person beyond just his intelligence, and she valued his wisdom, both when she sought it and when he gave it unbidden. And despite his occasional stick-in-the-mud attitude, he was still fun to play around with in most instances; he would indulge her with witty banter when bored, one of the few things she was able to match him in.
But when it came to being her teacher, they just couldn’t seem to get along.
Leo sighed, bringing his palm up to his forehead. It was the fifth time this afternoon, by her count.
“As you well know, dear sister, being childish will get you nowhere. You know that I can’t simply skip tactics lessons; being a militaristic nation mainly for survival, Nohrian education emphasizes this and combat training the most. Even if I wanted to give up on your hopeless case, Father would never allow it. So if you ever want to truly be able to leave this fortress as a royal of Nohr, you’ll start studying more seriously.”
Corrin snorted, “Well at this point that’ll take a miracle! How am I supposed to be able to match your idea of what’s satisfactory? Let alone your idea of perfection? I might as well just give up.”
A pained expression passed his face.
“No, never perfection. That is something that is truly unattainable, by you or me.” He was so serious in his tone that she truly believed he meant it. But then, Corrin wondered, why did he always seem to push for perfection?
“But if you’d just get your head out of the clouds for more than a moment and focus on this like you do when practicing the sword, I’m sure you’d meet my level of satisfaction.” He gave her a small, yet encouraging smile, and Corrin dared to think that he was being sincere.
And she must have let it show unconciously on her face, for at least a moment.
Because then his smile turned into a self satisfied smirk and Leo chuckled, “But then again, I keep forgetting that I’d have to lower my standards for that to happen. And forgive me, sister, but I’m not in the habit of doing such a thing.”
Corrin seethed. “Why you little—-!”
“Um, hey Leo, could you come and check to see if I got this problem right?” Kamui broke in, hoping to momentarily quell the intense irritation coursing through him that he correctly guessed was from his twin sister’s ire. It was hard enough trying to study with them bantering constantly, and downright impossible when distracting emotions that weren’t his were interrupting his train of thought.
Leo gave Corrin a withering look and approached Kamui’s desk, taking his parchment and scrutinized it for a moment.
“Its not the most efficient answer – the battle would be longer and drain more resources than necessary – but your maneuvers would keep most if not all your troops alive, and therefore is essentially correct. Well done, brother.”
He gave Kamui an approving look, not bothering to look back at Corrin as he, rather loudly, stated, “At least one of these two isn’t a complete waste of time.”
Perhaps it was childish, but she couldn’t help sticking out her tongue after all.
Leo absolutely hated the word.
Because nothing, nothing he did was ever enough. It would never be enough. So long as he was human, so long as he was fallible, so long as he was a child, so long as he only sought the love of his mother, he would never attain the perfection she desired.
Would never be good enough for her.
“You foolish boy! You were completely outclassed! Is there anything you can do right?! The crown prince is beating you in every measure; swordsmanship, horsemanship, statesmanship, even something as simple as penmanship! You will never be able to compare at this rate! At this point you are becoming worse than useless, since your existence, without any successes, is doing nothing but painting me as a weak target for the other concubines to go after. You had best give me results soon, or you will face the consequences! You will either attain perfection for me, or you will be thrown away!”
And try he did. He put all his being into it; every ounce of his strength and will, he used in attempting to satisfy her desire. He worked himself to the bone, training with the sword by day until he collapsed, studying countless tomes by night until he was too tired to comprehend another word. He would have sacrificed his soul to attain the ability to overcome the crown prince, if that would’ve earned even a tiny hint of his mother’s acknowledgement.
But it was never enough. Would never be enough.
And so Leo began to learn. To truly learn the way reality worked. When the crown prince continued to best him, he turned to magic, the one thing that the crown prince hadn’t learned. When the assassins began targeting him and his mother offered no protection, he used his unparrelled wits to outsmart them and survive, sometimes barely so. And when his mother’s unsatiable greed finally led her to her demise, Leo coldly and quietly took no notice.
He simply continued on his own path. To find his own idea of perfection.
Xander’s study was a comforting place for Leo. Second only to the sanctuary that was the great library.
The quiet flickering of the hearth flame, the scent of ink and parchment, the measured sound of his brother’s quill scrawling across the reports he signed as the Crown Prince. Leo enjoyed the background ambiance of it all, and frequently chose to read there while waiting for Xander’s daily paperwork to be finished. From there, they would usually head to the twin’s evening sword practice.
Leo paused in his reading, noting a slightly different tempo of scribbling.
By the sound of it, Xander seemed incredibly rushed today.
“Brother, what seems to be troubling you? Your reports piling up too much?”
Xander sighed, taking a only a moment to stop and re-ink his quill.
“Its nothing. We’ve just had more reports than usual; bandit attacks seem to be becoming more frequent, unfortunately. A direct consequence of the lack of troops in the area; Father is becoming too engrossed in showing his strength to Hoshido. He keeps trying to entice them into border skirmishes. They’ve been minor so far, but I fear he is trying to provoke a war.”
Leo shrugged. “Well, so long as you are on the job, I think we’ll be in good hands. You’ve yet to show any weakness or make any mistakes as a Crown Prince so far. Truly a shining paragon of Nohrian greatness for all to see.” He hadn’t meant for it to come across as mocking as it sounded, but he couldn’t help it. He had been second best for too long.
Xander gave him a knowing stare, and remarked, “I wish you’d stop comparing yourself constantly Leo. Not just to me, but to everyone. Its not healthy.”
A wry smile formed on Leo’s face. “The day I stop doing that will be the day you stop sacrificing yourself on the altar of Father’s approval. Its simply in our nature and you know it. Our fatal flaws.”
“Perhaps so,” agreed Xander. “We know each others flaws rather well. Too well. But I still believe we can each rise above them. You know, I hope, that I rely upon you as heavily as my own strength. Despite what we’ve been through, please never forget that.”
“So long as you don’t forget the same, Brother,” promised Leo.
Xander nodded, the slightest hint of a smile on his face as he resumed signing reports.
Leo chuckled, “Its always the same with him.”
He returned to his book, an similar smile quirking at the edges of his lips.
There were few people who knew the terror of having a King such as Garon as their father better than Xander did.
From an early age, he knew how great his father’s strength and legacy truly was. And because of it, because of the great pressure it put on his shoulders as his heir, Xander was terrified.
As a young boy, he was woefully unprepared to handle the pressures of a crown prince. He was constantly afraid of failing, of bringing shame on his father’s name. No matter how much he applied himself to his training, he could never shake the feeling of ineptitude he carried deep inside. As if there was no meaning in his struggles to succeed; his father, great as he was, would never spare him a second glance.
Despite his fears, however, he never stopped trying. As useless as it seemed, he kept persevering, hoping that perhaps someday he would be worthy of being his father’s heir and deserving of his acknowledgement.
If only he had known that the father he was trying to be worthy of would never truly live to see his son succeed his legacy.
The Garon who had lived his life with honor would be dead before he could pass on the mantle of the King to the son he had always loved.
The sound of swords clashing rang out into the open night air.
Atop the battlements of the Northern Fortress, Xander clashed one on one against his younger siblings, each taking a turn against him every so often. Where lesser men may have needed a rest every few rounds, he hadn’t stopped since he had begun, unwaveringly meeting his brother and sister blow for blow without even a hint of fatigue.
His current opponent, Kamui, was putting up a valiant effort to keep up with him, but with every strike his movements grew weaker; Xander, not one to toy with his challengers, finished the fight in a series of powerful strikes that sent Kamui flying on his back, sword clattering to the ground a few feet away from him.
Xander pounded the end of his blade into the ground, watching as Kamui struggled to get to his feet.
“Your form needs much work, Kamui. Your movements are sloppy and your strikes don’t have nearly enough power behind them to put your opponent on the defensive. And your defensive stances are fragile; at only half power, my blows can still knock you off balance.”
Kamui, having gotten to his knees at least, wiped the small trickle of blood dripping down from the corner of his mouth.
“It’s not like I’m not trying Xander. It’s just…I’m not suited to being a swordsman. No matter how hard I try, I can’t pick it up as easily as you. What would you have me do, big brother?”
Xander shook his head. “I would have you continue until you succeed. No one just suddenly becomes proficient at what they do. I believe you have the potential to rise above your shortcomings; its the warrior’s sense I get from you when I see you fight. But you will never achieve that potential until you start putting your all into your training. Now, will you stand and fight once more?”
Kamui took another moment to fully stand, and then shook his head.
“No Xander, I think I’m done for today. But thank you for your words.”
Nodding in acknowledgment, Xander watched him walk to the edge of the ring, and then turned his attention to Corrin, who was already approaching with sword in hand.
They both entered a combative stance with no words exchanged. After a long moment, they both flew at each other, a flurry of strikes from both sides sending them into a dance of steel, neither one giving any ground.
Xander studied her form as they traded blows. She was improving, steadily and surely. Each time they crossed blades, she would pick up something new, whether it was learning a new technique, or recognizing his own stances and countering him appropriately.
The battle went on for several minutes, longer than what either were used to. This was the longest either of them had managed to last against him. Xander was excited to see how far she would go this time.
Kamui continued to look on, daring to believe that his sister may finally best Xander for the first time. Finally, after several more minutes of trading blows, Xander got the upper hand. He maneuvered her into a position where he knew she would end up having to yield. But she did something unexpected; just as he was flicking his sword to her neck, she managed to angle her sword at his neck in the same moment.
It was a tie.
Barely containing his excitement at her victory, Kamui exclaimed, “Amazing! That was the first time either of us were able to keep up with Xander! Congratulations Sister!”
Xander nodded his agreement, sheathing his sword and helping Corrin up from where she was defensively crouched on the ground moments before.
“Thank you, Brother,” she smiled over at Kamui. Turning back to Xander, she queried “So how did I do? I realize I still have a ways to go before I can truly best you.”
Xander replied, “While that may be true, you still carried yourself like a true warrior of Nohr today, Corrin. With some more training, I think you’ll be ready to finally venture out of this fortress with nothing to fear.” He turned to Kamui, who had walked closer towards them. “And you too are still on your own path to success. I think it won’t be much longer before you both can be free.”
The twins smiled, sharing encouraging smiles with each other, and Xander felt like he couldn’t be prouder. Having watched over them since they were young, he knew that he would one day have to let them go on their own paths, but fervently wished moments like these would never have to end.
There was pain, just as always, but now there was a difference.
Someone stood up for them.
Someone had cared enough to.
For the first time since their hell had began, someone good had entered their life.
Every time the wicked man would enter their cell now, there was someone there with him. They had no idea if he were friend or foe, but whatever he was, he wouldn’t allow the wicked man to torture them as much as he did before. The boy with the shining golden hair, who was rapidly approaching manhood, would argue with the wicked man outside the cell, sometimes for minutes on end; they couldn’t understand what was being said, but somehow they could tell that he was on their side.
However small a difference it made, as the pain was still ever present, it did renew their hope.
Hope for a future without pain.
The sky was lit with silver stars several nights later. Though Nohr was known for its harsh weather, certain nights like these, when the clouds would part even partially, were so spectacularly riddled with endless little stars that there was no match to the view in any other part of the world.
For Corrin and Kamui, nights like these were especially dear.
A private ball was being held at the Northern Fortress in honor of the royal twins, Princess Corrin and Prince Kamui, and attended only by their siblings and retainers. Though it was held under the pretense of giving the twins more social etiquette lessons, in reality it was to commemorate the day the twins were first released from their imprisonment, as well as they day they had all become a true family.
Upon entering the main hall, Corrin and Kamui smiled upon seeing all of their loved ones gathered together. Flora, Felicia, Jakob, Gunter….even Lilith had been invited to join in the small but cozy festivities. They all expressed their greetings, conversing and spending time with the twins as they waited for the rest of the Nohrian royals to arrive.
When they finally did, Elise launched herself into their arms, shouting, “It was me! It was all my idea! I hope you both enjoy it!”
“We will Elise. Thank you so much for putting this together,” smiled Kamui.
“And how are my precious little siblings on their special night?”
Camilla practically glided into the hall, sweeping all three of them into a gigantic hug.
“Oh dear brother, we’d best hurry. Camilla will outright suffocate them if we take too long,” Leo teased.
The twins had just barely managed to extricate themselves from Camilla’s death grip of a hug when the two princes appeared. All were dressed in stunning formal wear; it was the first time Corrin and Kamui had ever seen such attire, much less worn it.
“In honor of us all being a true family, tied with bonds stronger than blood, I hope you all enjoy this night,” expressed Xander, a light yet proud smile upon his face.
They all looked happily towards one another, until Elise chirped, “Alright guys! What’s a ball without dancing?! Let’s all dance together!”
The spirited girl then immediately grabbed poor Kamui’s hand and dragged him off to the center of the hall.
“W-wait Elise! I don’t know how to dance!” he cried.
“Don’t worry silly! I’ll teach you!”
“Ouch! Not my feet, please! And I don’t think arms are supposed to bend that way! Help!”
Corrin laughed as she saw her poor brother learn Elise’s style of dancing. She didn’t notice Leo at her side until he cleared his throat.
“I know we’ve had some recent quarrels, but I’d prefer to keep those in the library. Tonight, if you don’t mind, might you honor me with a dance, Corrin?”
Corrin blinked. Not that Leo wasn’t usually formal, but it was a very different take on their usual interactions.
“Sure, I’d be happy to. But just so you know, I can’t dance either.”
“Not a problem. Just steer clear of my feet and we’ll be fine.”
“…..Well, I’ll try at least,” Corrin chuckled.
Leo sighed and smiled, taking her hand and leading her out to the floor.
Xander and Camilla watched as their siblings danced with amused looks on their faces.
“What a lovely family we’ve come to put together, don’t you think Xander? Why, I almost feel like we’re the unwitting surrogate parents of these rambunctious children!”
“Yes, indeed Camilla. I only wish we could always remain this happy.”
Camilla glanced at his demeanor, noting the worry mixed with contentment, but chose not to think much of it.
“Come then Brother. Offer me a dance.”
Xander smiled and bowed, taking her hand in his.
“Of course Sister. Let’s go before Elise and Kamui destroy any more tables or knock anyone else over.”
They laughed and joined the rest of their family, dancing amidst the shadows of Dusk.
They were misfits.
Some were monsters.
Others were bastards.
Some were loners.
Others were forsaken.
But they were all beautiful.
And all they ever wished for was that mythical, legendary thing called love.
In the Land of Eternal Dusk, otherwise known as the the country of Nohr, six surviving children came together as a family, vowing to stay together and care for each other for as long as they could. No matter what happened, that was a truth that would never change.
For the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.