I do not own the Fire Emblem franchise.
Prologue: After the First War
Three years earlier...
"Well Ike...the war's over. Are you coming to Gallia like you said you would?"
Outside the walls of Melior, the capital of Crimea, a young beorc man with cobalt blue hair and piercing eyes watched his companion closely as she spoke to him. The young man was dressed in simple leather, well worn from travel and battle. A long sword hung from his belt, and over his shoulders was draped his crimson cape. The young man seemed to carry himself with a sense of assurance and readiness, and rested a hand on the handle of his sword. His name was Ike, the hero of Crimea, famed now for freeing the country from the clutches of the Mad King of Daein, Ashnard. He had done so with little more than a ragtag group of mercenaries to begin with, but Ike never thought of them as such. To him, they were his family, and they struggled long and hard to finally free their home country. Thinking back on these memories, he could hardly believe the war was over now. With that thought, he relaxed a bit, and smiled at his companion.
"I said I would, didn't I? I always keep my word, Lethe."
His companion gave a snort, smiling back. She was a laguz, one of the beast people. She was slender but strong, and possessed of a wild, feral beauty. Her hair was short and colored a bright orange, and het catlike eyes a bright shade of violet. She was dressed in green, her clothing fit snugly against her body. She wore a green collar affixed with small bells. Despite her relaxed posture leaning back against a tree, she was alert and at the ready. Her large cat ears twitched at any sudden noise, and her long orange tail swished gently against her leg. Her name was Lethe, a proud warrior of Gallia, and a representative to her fellow laguz in Crimea's restoration. It had been a symbol of the previous king of Crimea's attempts to forge a friendship with the kingdom of Gallia and the laguz in general. It was through long, hard work that years of discrimination between the beorc of Crimea and the beast tribe laguz in Gallia were beginning to fade. When Mad King Ashnard invaded Crimea, it had been Gallia that came to their aide.
Unfortunately, Lethe hadn't seen it that way. Lethe had long carried a hatred of beorc in her heart, having had her parents killed by beorc in a raid long ago, when she was still a child. Lethe had grown up bitter towards beorc, and loathed the idea of having anything to do with them. She considered all beorc to be evil, inferior creatures that would as soon stab someone in the back as look at him. When she had been chosen to be part of the liaison between Gallia and Crimea's princess Elincia, she burned with anger. She treated the beorc with nothing but contempt or even outright hostility. However, she saw Ike differently. When the little tactician Soren openly insulted her after having fought a battle terribly outnumbered, She ordered her subordinate Mordecai to attack. Mordecai struck a fearsome blow, only to blocked by Ike, who used his own exhausted body as a shield. That immediately confused Lethe, and from then on she kept a watchful eye on Ike.
That had been a year past. What she saw, observing Ike, was a side to beorc she otherwise would have never known. Ike was honorable and trustworthy, two words that never even entered the same breath with the words "human" or "beorc". He worked feverishly to gain the trust and friendship of his new laguz allies, and he treated them just like he would treat any member of his mercenary company. He was surprisingly understanding, and would sit and listen if any of them had a problem. What caught her somewhat off guard, was when Ike had asked her to train him in the laguz way of fighting. She immediately accepted however...and was left surprised. He fought with strength and tenacity like no other beorc she'd ever fought. He took to her rigorous training well, never complaining even when she injured him. In fact, she felt as though she were falling behind him. From training with him and learning about him, Lethe gained a respect for Ike that she thought she would never have with any beorc. She had asked him to come to Gallia, after all the fighting had stopped. He had accepted. It felt strange to think this way, particularly for a beorc's sake, but...she was looking forward to it, eagerly.
Coming out of her memories, Lethe regarded the young beorc closely.
"Hmm. Shouldn't you be inside with the other beorc, celebrating? You've just crowned a new ruler." She said simply. "The food ought to be good."
Ike responded with a wearied look. "I guess I should, but...I despise all of that high society nonsense," He chuckled. "I got sick of it when we were in Begnion. What about you? Like you said, the food's great. Ranulf is probably stuffing himself full."
Lethe gave an audible snort. "He's too casual for his own good. He's stronger than me and has more authority, but sometimes he acts almost...lazy, like you beorc. Maybe that's why he's in there stuffing his face. I love feasting on good food as much as any laguz, but you beorc talk too much when you eat. When I celebrate, a big meal and a good nap afterwards are enough for me."
Ike chuckled. "I guess that's true, I kind of feel the same way. But as for acting casual, you could be more like that yourself."
Lethe raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"Well, it's always good to relax," Ike explained. "And after the war we've been through, I think we deserve it. It's something that my father taught me, and Titania advised me on often." He paused as images of that time talking with his father flooded his memory. He turned to face Lethe, who watched him with curiosity. "Rest is as important as training. Or even fighting."
Lethe harumphed, interrupting him. "I know that!" she stated. "It's basics for any warrior - beorc or laguz, I assume. I've been a warrior for quite a while, I know how important rest is."
"I expected you to." Ike responded cooly. "But I suppose there's more to it than just resting your body."
"You mean resting your spirit?" Lethe replied. "I know about that, too. Bah! I'm beginning to wonder if you are as smart as you seem."
Ike chuckled. "Well, yes, I suppose resting your spirit, too. But I mean, I suppose...after all that we've been through this past year, we just need to sit back and just...think on everything that's happened. What have we gained? What have we...lost?"
Lethe blinked at the notable pause at the end of his question. Lethe knew that Ike's father had been killed in single combat with the Black Knight, Daein's most famous and feared general. It was something she and Ike both shared: They knew what it was like to lose a parent. For Ike, because he had never really known his mother, it was like losing both parents. While she knew that his father had been killed, Ike never spoke long about the night his father died. Ranulf had been a witness to it, but he kept oddly tight-lipped about it. Lethe had grown very curious about what had happened. Ike had been very driven, very determined to meet the Black Knight in single combat again, and he knew that, as long as the war continued, he would get a chance to avenge his father. Lethe flicked her tail nervously as she asked her question. This was a very personal matter, and Lethe was less than adept at dealing with these sorts of things.
"So Ike...can you tell me about when your father was killed?"
She saw Ike's lips tighten in a frown. He took a deep breath. Lethe turned her eyes away from him and looked into the sky.
"If you don't want to talk about it, that's fine-"
"No. I should tell you." Ike interrupted. "I've faced it, but I know I should have been more forthcoming about it. At least to you."
Lethe blinked at him, a bit confused. "Lethe, you were a great deal of help training me." Ike explained. "You taught me how to fight like a laguz. As my teacher, I think you should at least know why I asked." He breathed in and let out a long, clear sigh. "I will never, ever forget that night..."
The full moon shone bright above a dense sea of trees, illuminating even the shadows below in its pale, silvery glow. On a narrow path near a clearing, Ike ran as fast as he could, confused about why his father had dismissed him so suddenly.
"Father, what's going on?" He asked aloud, voicing his confusion. "Where are you?"
The clash of metal striking metal sounded all throughout the forest. Ike pushed himself further towards the sound. A battle cry roared out, and Ike came upon the source. In a large clearing, his father, Greil, wielding his massive battleaxe, had charged at his opponent, a large man covered head to toe in ebon armor trimmed brightly with silver. The Black Knight, as he was called, met Greil's blow with a high parry, and the two warriors tested their strength against each other. The Black Knight proved the stronger as he slowly pushed the large battleaxe with his own weapon, a large sword with a golden blade and ornate hilt. With a flick of his arm, the Black Knight pushed Greil away and loosened the axe from his grip. With a cry of his father's name, Ike ran into the clearing only to be stopped by Griel's order.
"Ike, STAY BACK!" he shouted, as Ike froze in place and took a nervous step back, his eyes going from his father to the Black Knight. The Black Knight seemed to take no notice of Ike's presence and remained focused soley on Greil.
"Here...use this blade." The Black Knight offered in his metallic voice, tossing the golden sword towards Greil. The sword stuck hard into the trunk of a fallen tree.
"What are you doing?" Greil asked, staring at the sword and then at his opponent.
"I've been waiting for this for a long time," the Black Knight mused as he drew out another sword from its scabbard. The sword was silver in color, and matched the design of the golden sword perfectly. "I would prefer it if you use your proper weapon, so that I might see you at your full strength...General Gawain, Rider of Daein!" As he spoke, the Black Knight swept his sword across the ground, then pointed it at Greil in a gesture of challenge. His crimson cape fluttered lightly in the wind.
"That was my name...once," Greil responded, rolling the fallen tree with his foot towards him, pulling out the golden sword. He tossed the sword away, and it landed in the dirt between himself and the Black Knight. "But I threw it away. The only weapon I need, is right...here." As he spoke, with a quick motion Greil had grabbed his battleaxe and readied it in a threatening stance.
The Black Knight lowered his sword. "Do you...want to die?" he asked simply.
A flicker of recognition swept across Greil's face. "Your voice," he said. "I remember you. Think you, can defeat me, the man who taught you how to fight? Hah. What a fool. Come on, boy! Come try me!"
With that, Greil charged into the Black Knight, striking blow after blow with his axe. The Black Knight parried high and low, taking a few slow steps back in his swordwork. Greil struck a hard blow from above, which the Black Knight expertly blocked...then quickly brought his blade back. He immediately charged forward in a deadly thrust, a killing blow exploiting the opening in Greil's defense. He pierced Greil's body completely, pushing nearly the entire length of his sword through his opponent's midsection. Greil's mouth opened in a silent cry as terrible pain registered on his face.
"Is that...all there is?" the Black Knight spoke, his words directed it seemed, to himself. "No charge? No...resistance?"
The Black Knight savagely pulled the blade from his opponent's chest. Horrified, Ike ran to catch his now dying father, and began to plead helplessly as he watch the color drain from his father's skin.
"It was after that, the Black Knight threatened death to both me, and my sister if Father didn't tell him where the Medallion is." Ike said, finishing his story. "Not long after...my father died, as I was carrying him back to the fort. I'd hoped that maybe, if I could get him into the fort...That Rhys or someone could save him." He sighed again. "I've only really told this story to two other people: my sister and Titania. I still remember it. Every word my father said, every chill of the breeze that night, and every threat the Black Knight made against me and Mist...it's all so vivid, as though it happened five minutes ago."
Lethe stared at him, speechless. She felt sympathetic for him, and for the little beorc girl, Mist. What could she say that would be of any real comfort to him or his sister? As always, she was ignorant of how beorc handled such matters. In that moment, her respect for Ike grew tenfold. Her training had been brutal and unforgiving, but he endured it. All for the one chance of meeting the Black Knight in battle again. She remembered that day in Nados Castle, when Ike and his sister vanished into a large room in the palace. The red tressed beorc, Titania, physially barred anyone else from interfering. She'd heard, with her sensitive ears, the terrible clash of metal on metal. Without warning, the castle began to crumble, and Ike, with his sister, had fled the battle. He told them then, that he had defeated the Black Knight. She looked into his eyes directly. The only thing she felt she could offer was praise to his father's valor, the laguz way of honoring a fallen warrior. Ike deserved that, at the very least.
"Your father," She began, "died the death of a true warrior. He died in battle against an enemy that I think he knew he couldn't beat." He watched as Ike began to stare at her with intensity. "Even knowing that he wasn't going to win, that he probably was going to die, he did not back down, and fought anyway. That is a death that deserves a very great amount of honor." She suddenly brought her arm up in a salute. "In Gallia, we pay great respect to those who die in such a way, beorc or laguz. I can't honor your father directly, but I salute you, Ike, for now."
Ike smiled deeply at her. "Lethe...thank you." he said warmly.
"It was nothing." She replied, a bit bashfully. She scratched the back of her ear.
"Maybe when I come to Gallia, I'll show you my father's grave." Ike beamed. Lethe nodded at him.
"I would...like that." she smiled back at him. An odd silence came between them that made Lethe uncomfortable. "So...when are you coming to Gallia?" She asked, breaking it.
"When things calm down in Crimea. Elincia's probably going to need me around for a while."
"I suppose-" She was cut off by another voice, hailing Ike. They turned to this new intruder, to discover that it was Ike's younger sister Mist. She waved at Lethe.
"There you are!" She puffed, a bit out of breath. "Titania and I have been looking for you, Ike! Princess...wait no...Queen Elincia wants you in the feast hall with her!"
"Ok, ok." Ike chuckled. He turned and reached a hand out to Lethe. "Come on, Lethe. Let's go."
Lethe stared at his hand, but didn't take it. "Why do you think I should come?"
"Because, Lethe..." He laughed. "The food is great."
With a chuckle of her own, Lethe walked forward and followed Ike back to the feast hall. "I will never understand beorc..." she whispered to herself.