A/N: So here it is, the long post-game fic I promised at the end of Invisible Princess. I already said I'll be working in explanations and expanding on things I found unsatisfactory, including MyCastle (thanks to Spiner909 for coming up with a neat theory and letting me use it, with some alterations) and basically covering post-war efforts. Kids aren't included because the Deeprealms is dumb and they deserve to grow up with their parents (that's not to say you won't see any kids, though, just no adult kids…).
This isn't going to update on a schedule like Invisible Princess did, mostly because I'm also going to be working on a fic about Garon at the same time—yes, that's happening, there was an overwhelming amount of clamor for it. However, I will try to update at least once every two weeks, and even if I don't, I completely intend to finish this. The only reasons I will stop updating are if something life-changing that requires my long-term attention happens, or I suddenly die.
Which would suck.
…so on that happy note, let's begin.
Disclaimer: I don't own Fire Emblem Fates. I didn't draw the cover of this fic either; that was taken from the official Revelation anthology manga (yes my OTP are on the cover of an official manga, if you know me you can imagine how that makes me feel).
When the flash of light dies out, Corrin braces himself for the next form. Masked dragon, unmasked dragon, that disturbing multiple-eyed orb—he's not sure what shape Anankos will take next. All he knows is that it will be every bit as exhausting to fight as the last, and he readies Omega Yato grimly, feet sliding back into a battle stance. But seconds tick by, and nothing new appears.
The remaining undead soldiers around them hiss, wobble in their spots, then promptly dissipate into water. Slowly, his army lowers their weapons, wary but hopeful. The sky overhead remains dark and the ground ruined, but the dragon god makes no appearance.
He'd started to think the battle would never end.
Gods, how long have they been fighting? All day, he thinks in tired astonishment. There was the battle with his mother, then with Sumeragi, then Gunter, and…two, three, maybe four fights with Anankos? He can't remember; they're all blending together in his head. His stiff fingers slowly loosen their grip on Omega Yato, the bones popping in protest. Corrin drives the tip of the sword into the ground, leaning on it as he starts gasping in air. His body is sore from all the wounds it had received, and his muscles ache horribly. He's so drained, physically and emotionally; he just wants to curl up and sleep for a month.
In all the stories, the heroes began cheering and celebrating as soon as the battle was won. In reality, these heroes stand around in vague disbelief and shock for a few minutes. Some stare where they'd last seen Anankos, as though expecting him to pop back up like he was going to surprise them. Some support themselves against their weapons or mounts, like Corrin is. Some just collapse on the spot, falling to the ground as the adrenaline leaves their systems.
Red eyes cast about the battlefield, looking for the ones most important to him. Xander and Ryoma, who had been in the thick of the fighting, are covered in blood but standing strong; Camilla and Hinoka are patting their mounts, whispering soft words of praise; Takumi is still training an arrow at the place he'd last seen Anankos, shaking slightly, while Leo has dropped his head against his horse's neck and closed his eyes. Elise and Sakura are starting to move about to attend the wounded. Where is—
There. He sags in relief when he sees Azura off to the side, forehead pressed against her blessed lance and eyes closed in prayer. He'd tried to keep track of her during the fight, but the shifting tide of battle had pushed him onto the front lines and her onto the back. Her dress is torn and bloodied, and purple bruises are blossoming across her arms and shoulders, but she's never looked more beautiful than she does then.
As he approaches her, he catches the soft words she's whispering. "Mother…Father…We finally did it."
"Azura," he rasps, and she turns, a small smile crossing her face at the sight of him. If he'd had the energy he would have kissed her, but as is he settles for returning her smile. "It's finally over."
"It is," she echoes, wonder and joy mixing in her eyes. "Thank you, Corrin. I'm so glad I met you, that we fought together to accomplish this."
"Me too." And with that, they fall silent, but the comfortable kind of silence, the one where you don't need words. The one where you just bask in the presence of the person beside you.
He gazes at her. He can't imagine living the life she has lived, not only rejected by every place she's been, but eternally in fear of that dragon. Living with the knowledge of what was coming, the fear that no one would believe her and that she wouldn't be able to stop it. He thinks she might be the bravest person he's known, just to have continued getting up every day with that hanging over her.
And she's still here. The war hadn't killed her as he'd feared it would, Anankos hadn't killed her, her song hadn't killed her. He wants to collapse in gratitude and cry thanks to the heavens that she's still here.
But this isn't the place for a breakdown. So instead, Corrin croaks out into empty air, "Lilith?"
The little dragon appears before him instantly, teleporting in with a bright flash of light. He's not quite sure how she always seems to know when someone is calling for her, or even when she's wordlessly needed; it's just a unique Lilith trait. She takes in the battlefield, absorbing the standing Hoshidan-Nohrian army and the absence of both Anankos and his undead with her large golden eyes.
"You killed him, then?" For some reason he can't discern, the joy in her voice is tempered with sadness.
"We did," he says, pushing the question of Lilith's mood out of his mind for later inquiry. As much as he'd like to make sure she's alright, he has the state and safety of his entire army to worry about right now. "Can you take us to the castle?"
"Of course, Lord Corrin."
The castle has no name. According to Lilith, it was constructed in the onset of the First War—which nation it belonged to has been lost to history—and was a vital chokepoint, on the edge of what was now the Bottomless Canyon. None had been able to breach it; time and again armies threw themselves against it, and time and again they were repelled. Eventually, one side called upon the Astral Dragon Moro to seal the castle, its defenders, and the entire area within 20 kilometers inside an alternate dimension. That dimension was the astral plane; the trapped defenders wasted away and the castle was lost forever. Even history forgot about it, eventually.
It's still "present", so to speak, in the physical world, but according to Lilith no one can enter. Walking towards it, one will eventually encounter the barrier separating it from this dimension and find themselves whisked several hundred feet away, dazed and confused as to how they got there. Similarly, it's impossible to leave the castle; walking towards the trees and mountains and ocean in the distance simply causes one to be teleported back to the center. The only way to travel to and from it is with the help of an Astral Dragon.
Corrin doesn't like going to the castle. Day and night occur, but time does not actually move; you can spend weeks there and emerge to find not a minute has passed in the real world. It's disorienting, leaves him and others nauseous and unsettled. And it's worthless as a hiding spot because the situation you're hiding from won't have changed at all when you leave—otherwise he would have hid out there when he'd first fled Hoshido and Nohr. The only thing it's good for is resting up after a long, arduous battle, free from threat, like this one.
Lilith teleports their entire army into the castle's grand hall effortlessly, a mass of sweaty bodies, animals, and weapons dropping a few inches to the ground. Immediately, Felicia, Jakob and Flora peel off to start taking care of everyone, despite their own exhaustion—Jakob heads to the kitchens to cook, Felicia goes off in search of bedding, and Flora begins collecting everyone's weapons and armor for cleaning. Corrin makes a mental note to give the three of them a raise later.
Slowly, people come alive. Mozu, Charlotte and Peri stagger off after Jakob to assist with food. Oboro, Hinata and Effie follow Felicia. Kaze, Saizo and Benny start helping Flora. The grand hall can't hold the thousands of soldiers with them, so most of the Nohrians and Hoshidans trickle out into the courtyard to set up camp there, leaving Corrin's private army of forty or so and some of the elite soldiers from the main army inside.
Those left in the hall set up a station for the wounded. Everyone with even a bit of healing expertise migrates towards it, staves and rods ready as they receive the injured. Those who can't move at all are carried over by their friends and made a priority. The charges on healing staves are precious and need to be preserved, so scarves, dresses, capes, and other loose pieces of clothing are ripped and tied around wounds that don't need magic. Potions are passed about, every last drop of precious healing liquid squeezed from the bottles. Corrin shakes himself out of his tired daze, noticing that Azura has disappeared, and looks over his injuries—his worst wounds are his ribs and hip. He'd dodged left when he should have gone right and gotten a club slammed into his side for his trouble, crushing both armor and bone. He's been having difficulty walking and breathing ever since, so he hobbles over and lets Orochi patch him up. He grimaces as the bones knit back together and the pressure on his side vanishes, leaving just phantom pain behind.
When that's done, Corrin peels off his armor and places it on the ground for Flora to collect. He's a bit more reluctant to part with Omega Yato, but he knows it needs to be looked over for damage. At the very least the bloodstains should be cleaned off. Stains left from the blood of a god, he thinks as he stares at them, a shiver of both reverence and fear passing through him. He'd always thought the gods were unkillable—what does it mean that this one wasn't?
Pushing such questions from his mind for later, he manages to leave Omega Yato behind, but keeps his dragonstone. Someone shoves a fresh set of clothes into his arms and shoes him off into an area to change, which he does. When he emerges he grabs and scarfs down a bowl of stew. Then he drops face-first onto a random bedroll, his freshly-healed side screaming in protest. His eyes close, then shoot open when he feels a warm body press against him, slender hands wrapping around his waist and long hair tickling his cheek.
"Azura?" he murmurs questioningly, peering over his shoulder to catch a glimpse of her. He's surprised by her boldness; she's hardly uncaring, but she usually reserves her affections for private moments. She's not a public person, especially not for something as bold as climbing into bed with him.
She's quiet, but he can feel her embarrassment rolling off her. "I'm tired and you're warm," she finally mumbles. "And I just…"
"Hey, it's okay," he says gently. He gets that need for reassurance after a battle, that need to know a person is still there, solid and real. That need to feel flesh under your hands and be certain that, for today at least, you didn't lose someone you loved. "I don't mind. I was just surprised." Gingerly, taking care for his side, he turns over to face her, cupping her cheek. "I'm glad you're still here."
The corners of her mouth turn upwards. "Me too."
Corrin closes his eyes as she starts to run her fingers through his hair. He's safe, he's in the arms of the woman he loves, and he's had a very, very long day. Sleep doesn't so much embrace him as it does grab him and yank him down.
When Corrin wakes in the morning, his brain is still sluggishly disconnecting from the jagged nightmare images of the fight, and he thinks for a terrifying moment that killing Anankos had been just a dream. But then he registers the mouthful of blue hair, the leg wedged between his, and the light puddle of drool on his shoulder, and relief shoots through him; Azura's presence here and now means the events of yesterday really had happened. The prince gently disentangles himself from his beloved, careful not to disturb her. He smiles when he sees how haphazardly she's sprawled out—he would never have pegged her for a messy sleeper. It's adorable.
Most of the army is waking, stirring and slowly preparing to follow routine, still shell-shocked from the fight before. His stomach grumbling, Corrin heads over to the kitchens to find Jakob there, stirring a pot of something delicious-smelling, as if he'd been there the whole night. Knowing him, he may have.
"Be sure to take a break," Corrin reminds him; the silver-haired man gives him an absent nod, an unconvincing promise, and a plate of bread and salted fish. Corrin wanders into the dining room and slumps into a chair, mechanically moving the food to his mouth. Outside, he can see the sun high in the sky, and hear the buzz of activity from the bulk of the forces outside—it looks like they slept through most of the morning. Or, well, what qualifies for morning here.
Gradually, his siblings appear in the entrance with their own breakfasts, joining him at the table. Azura is the last to arrive, her hair sticking up wildly every which way. She drops into the chair besides his, lacing their fingers together surreptitiously beneath the table. For a long time, they just eat.
"So what happens now?" Elise finally asks, a yawn cutting off the end of her sentence. Like all the healers she'd stayed up late and risen early to tend to her patients; she's clearly exhausted. The blonde sways in her chair, almost toppling over—Ryoma, who is seated next to her, reaches over and gently props her back up.
"I imagine we'll all go our separate ways," Takumi murmurs. He looks just as bad as Elise; there are dark circles under his eyes, and Corrin vaguely remembers being yanked awake in the middle of the night by the sounds of Takumi thrashing in his sleep. His poor brother always has terrible nightmares. "Try to make reparations to Nestra for that fight in Cyrkensia. Patch things up between our countries. You know, whatever happens after a war."
"How d-do we even start?" Sakura hesitantly asks. Like Elise, she hadn't gotten much sleep and is struggling to stay awake. "I-I don't know the first thing about after-war efforts…"
"None of us do," Leo reassures her. "We'll just have to do our best."
Ryoma turns to Corrin, concerned. "What are you two going to do, Corrin, Azura? You both have a claim for the Vallite throne, but with Valla destroyed—"
"Actually," Lilith hesitantly pipes up, having drifted over on her little crystal ball, "that's not strictly true, my lord."
Xander's eyes narrow, and he places his cup of coffee down sharply. "What do you mean?" Corrin muffles a snort—the memory of his Nohrian siblings' reactions, particularly Xander's, when they'd learned that Lilith the maid and Lilith the dragon were the same person never fails to make him chuckle, even at inopportune times.
"The land of Valla is destroyed, yes, but the people still live. Some, like Lady Arete, Lady Mikoto, and their children, escaped and sheltered in Hoshido or Nohr. But not everyone was so fortunate; those who couldn't escape and weren't killed were captured, taken as slaves."
"What use would Anankos have for slaves?" Hinoka asks, brow furrowed.
Lilith's gaze drops to the ground. "Fodder," she says sadly. "Training fodder for his soldiers, replacements for the ones he lost. Anankos was a sadist, too; sometimes he'd have them killed for entertainment when he was bored. He's dead now, but thousands of Vallites are still trapped there in their slave pens."
"We can't leave them there," Corrin says immediately. "We have to go back."
The rest of those gathered agree swiftly, though Camilla raises a valid concern. "What are we going to do with them, sweetie? This is an entire population of people we're talking about; we can't just drop them into Hoshido or Nohr and expect everything to be fine."
"So we don't," he says, the gears of his brain turning. "Azura and I are the heirs to Valla, right? We could…forge a new kingdom. A second Valla. Start anew."
She stiffens beside him and he blanches, wondering if he'd said something wrong. But she doesn't speak up as his elder brothers exchange thoughtful looks.
"Hoshido has plenty of land," Ryoma muses. "All of it good for crops and living. It wouldn't be a hassle to give some of it up to help refugees."
"I'd be willing to offer land as well," Xander nods. "It won't be easy, of course—we have to be coronated first, and I doubt the people living there will be happy to have a new monarch, nor sharing a country with former enemies…" He snorts. "But nothing in life is ever easy."
Corrin exhales. "I appreciate that, both of you." He'd been toying with an idea, about the Vallites and this castle, but it's a relief to have a back-up in case something goes wrong.
"Where will the Vallites stay in the meantime?" Hinoka queries.
"Here," Corrin states, and they blink in surprise.
"Corrin," Leo finally says, drily, "I don't know if you've noticed, but time stands still here. We can't exactly wait for Xander and Prince Ryoma to be crowned and for the negotiations to finish." He pauses. "Actually, how are we supposed to leave Valla at all? Lilith can only transport us back to where we came from, and the way through the canyon is closed."
He smiles. "I know. Don't worry, though, I spoke with Lilith and Azura ahead of time to ensure we had a way to leave. And we do, otherwise I would have told everyone that coming down into Valla meant staying forever. I'll explain everything later."
"Oh, not that again," Takumi gripes, and everyone laughs.
They spend the rest of the morning mapping out a plan. Lilith warns them that while Anankos's undead soldiers had all died with him, he still has a few human agents about. She doubts they'll stir up trouble—most had served him out of fear, not devotion—but there's no need for foolish risks. So they'll send a small scouting party back into Valla to find the slaves, large enough to be safe, but small enough to move quickly.
Xander and Ryoma are staying to control the main bulk of the armies-the Hoshidans and Nohrians have been getting along better, but nobody wants to take the chance that their behavior was only enforced by the presence of their crown princes. Camilla and Hinoka are staying as well to finish recovering from their injuries, but Leo and Takumi are in good enough shape to come along. Finally, Corrin gently tells his younger sisters to go back to bed and get some sleep, much to their gratitude.
Corrin heads into the main room searching for volunteers. Silas, Kaze, Mozu and Felicia all immediately step forward. He'd hoped Gunter would come as well, but the aged old knight just keeps his gaze low when Corrin address his soldiers, and disappointment thrums through the prince. Odin, Niles, Hinata and Oboro refuse to let their lieges go back into that dead land without them, so they demand to come as well, and with Corrin, Azura and Lilith that's a sizeable search party. They just need to find the Vallites—once they do, Lilith will be able to teleport everyone back to the castle. If they run into danger they can't handle beforehand, she can again snatch them back.
Lilith opens the portal. Corrin takes a deep breath and makes some last-minute checks, making sure that his armor is tightly fastened on him and that Omega Yato is secure in its sheath—he's glad the miniature saws whirring along its blade shut down when he wills it. It would be troublesome if they didn't, since he'd have to carry it unsheathed all the time. "Right. Back into Valla, then."
He just hopes they're prepared for what comes after. Not just the rescue, but after everything.