Here we go. Huge thanks to the people who are following and/or favoriting this story! And especially to the few who have left reviews! Here's hoping I can keep up the same level of quality from the last two chapters.

Roughly 1 hour prior to Idunn meeting Roy…

"Marcus! Sir Marcus!"

The start of Marcus's headache today began with Lowen dashing towards him, the normally laid-back man's face filled with an expression of panic and concern. His young son trailed behind him, looking equally frightened about something.

"What in Elimine's name is going on, Sir Lowen? You're behaving like a recruit right out of basic training!"

"T-the young lord! He's… he's disappeared!"

"WHAT?!" If Marcus hadn't been paying full attention beforehand, he sure was now. Marcus had just been speaking to a patrol of knights about to make their normal rounds, patrolling the villages surrounding Pherae's castle to make sure all was well, and all around the two men, the soldiers stopped what they were doing. Lowen had very quickly become the center of attention.

"I took Wolt and Roy out to the forest not a half hour ago. The Lord Eliwood and Lady Ninian asked me to be Roy's chaperone… apparently the boy has wanted to go exploring in the woods for quite some time… I figured it'd be a good time to introduce him to Wolt…"

"Get on with it, man! Roy! What has happened to him?!"

"I-I don't know! At least, I hope nothing happened to him! I had only just turned my back on him upon arriving at the forest, and when I looked back, he was gone! I think he must've wandered off into the woods…"

Marcus wanted to curse right now, but this was neither the time nor the place to do so. Roy was a kind boy, and the greatest treasure of his lord, but young boys were keen on adventuring and exploring the unknown, and often got into trouble. Marcus certainly knew he'd gotten into his share of trouble all those many years ago when he'd been a young lad…

But Roy had picked a very poor location to go 'adventuring.' Venturing off into the thick forests neighboring the castle town was a recipe for disaster. Best case, Roy was found within the hour with no more than scraped knees. Worst case…

Marcus didn't want to think about it. The forests were open to the nearby villages for a reason. Hunters found plentiful targets for game within, but just as there were many animals within that made wonderful targets for hunters, there were beasts lurking within that would've just as easily made a meal of a young boy.

Fortunately, this same line of thought was present on the dozen or so knights surrounding the duo, and it took barely five minutes before the group was armed and mounted on their horses. Lowen's son scampered off, moving deeper into the castle town, having been given the important job of notifying the marquess and marchioness that their son had wandered off into the woods, but would soon be brought back safely by the knights.

With urgency speeding the group along, it took less than ten minutes to reach the spot Lowen assured him he'd last seen Roy at.

Marcus frowned, trying not to let worry cloud his heart, or worse, his mind. There was a chance that Roy was safe inside the woods and hadn't run afoul of anything, but…

He hadn't remained the knight commander of Pherae for over 30 years by being complacent. It was his duty to consider all possible outcomes, good, bad, or terrible, and act on them all.

Dismounting their horses, which would've only slowed the party in the thickly wooded forest depths, the party of knights prepared to enter the woods in search of their lost liege.

(((((((((((((Present Time))))))))))))))

Marcus frowned as he continued his silent observation of his young liege's apparent savior.

Honestly… he couldn't get a read on her. And that alone was disconcerting to him. He'd been a knight of Pherae for over 30 years, and he'd seen many sights and met many people during his time as a loyal servant of Pherae.

Dark mages tended to have a certain aura to them. While Marcus knew that not all those who practiced elder magic were inherently evil, or slaves to a desire for more power… Well, the stereotypes surrounding dark magic existed for a reason. It was a shame more dark mages weren't like Canas, God rest his soul. Perhaps the study of elder magic would've been more publicly acceptable if more of its practitioners were like the late scholar, and not…

Well, the first dark mage that came to Marcus's mind was the cackling sorcerer of terrible might he'd faced alongside his liege 12 years ago. The world could do without men like that.

This line of thought brought Marcus back to his current predicament. On one hand, he felt wary about letting this strange woman get close to Roy, but on the other hand… Well, she'd been nothing but helpful so far, and if her words were true then all Pherae owed her a debt.

Unknown to her or Roy, Marcus had directed several of the knights from his patrol to venture deeper into the woods. The corpse of an animal as large as a bear should be easy to find, especially considering that one of the knights he'd dispatched was a veteran tracker. If the bear's corpse was found, then that was well and good; it meant that the woman- Idunn's words were true. If no evidence of such a struggle was found…

Well, Marcus wasn't quite sure what would happen then, but he knew that nothing good would happen. It would've meant that someone- either Idunn or Roy, hadn't been telling the truth about what had happened in the forest. It also wasn't the outcome he was hoping for. It may have been his job to monitor all threats to the royal family of Pherae, but he sincerely hoped that Idunn was nothing more than a (friendly) passing hedge witch. Roy certainly seemed fond of the strange young woman.

The pale woman was acting like she'd never been inside a town like Pherae before! While Roy was held in place firmly with one arm, the other held the reins of her horse. Idunn's head swiveled to and for, the woman practically goggling at the sights of the bustling town around the small party of riders.

What Marcus didn't realize was that Idunn truly never had been in a town like Pherae. Oh, she'd passed through plenty of towns and cities across Elibe as she'd journeyed at Zephiel's side during the war, but this truly was the first time she'd ever been in a foreign town during peacetime.

Having reached their destination, the gates to castle Pherae, the group dismounted their horses. As most of the squad returned to their duties, Marcus motioned for Idunn to follow him. Roy was nervously trailing along next to her. Marcus couldn't blame the young boy; he knew that once behind closed doors the boy was sure to get a well-deserved earful from his mother and father for his reckless actions.

"Follow me, miss. The Marquess and his wife will be happy to meet the savior of their son."

The pale woman looked nervous for just a moment, taking in a deep breath to calm her nerves, before nodding and following behind Marcus as the gates opened for them.

Idunn steadied herself, while Roy nervously ducked behind her robed form as the gates opened to reveal…

The marquess of Pherae and his wife. Idunn only vaguely recalled the marquess; whom in her memories had been a prematurely aged, sickly man who had been swiftly done in by Zephiel.

There was no sign of that man here. Instead, a redhaired man dressed in royal blue, full of vigor rushed forwards with an expression of concern on his face. The man knelt in front of his son, who nervously met his gaze.

"Roy! Roy?! I'm so glad you're okay! Lowen's son told us you had gotten lost in the forest… you have no idea how worried your mother and I were!"

"I-I'm sorry…"
As many young children experienced in their lives, sometimes things that seemed like good, or at least harmless ideas often ended up being anything but. Having only narrowly escaped a painful death thanks to Idunn, Roy had no doubt learned not to venture off alone.

Idunn watched the marquess embrace his son, unaware that a small smile had formed on her face. What had happened to this man in the future? The young man- Idunn was inept at guessing human ages but estimated him to be close to thirty years old, couldn't have been more different than the sickly, gaunt man occupying her memories.

Eliwood of Pherae was in the prime of his life. Though not a particularly tall or broad man, he carried himself with the air Idunn had seen in some of the rare few true elite of Zephiel's army. Veterans of warfare and masters of whatever battlefield they set foot on.

This was the true Marquess of Pherae; the man widely regarded as the greatest knight in all of Lycia.

"And you… I take it we have you to thank for Roy's safe return? Marcus, did she assist your knights in finding Roy?"

Oh, Idunn realized she'd been lost in thought and hadn't been aware that Eliwood had turned his focus to her now. On the other hand, Marcus had been paying much closer attention to the conversation Eliwood had been having with his son and answered quickly.

"I wish I could say that my knights or I contributed to Roy's rescue, Lord Eliwood… but this young woman is the young lord's sole benefactor in this incident." Eliwood's eyebrows raised, and though he didn't speak up it was clear he was waiting for an explanation from his trusted vassal.

"In truth, my knights and I arrived far too late to help Roy. You've no doubt already seen from the state of his attire that the little one had a harrowing experience in the woods…" Eliwood nodded, and apprehensive look on his face. Marcus grimaced, before continuing.

"As you well know, those woods are filled with beasts that local hunters go after for meat or fur… and young Roy had the misfortune of stumbling upon a bear during his brief adventure. I… I hate to even voice it aloud but were it not for Idunn here… Roy would be dead by now."

Eliwood's face paled dramatically in mere seconds, his arms tightening around his child as he held his son close.

"I… I don't know what to say…" Standing up still holding his son, the lord of Pherae looked Idunn in the eyes.
"Milady, I… there are no words that can express the gratitude in my heart. If anything happened to Roy… I do not believe I would ever recover from such a loss. All Pherae owes you for your actions today! Please, follow me. I… Ninian will not want to hear of the danger our son was in, but she will certainly be just as grateful to you as I am."

Ninian. The name was unfamiliar to Idunn, but then her knowledge of Lycia and its nobles had been limited to what little information Zephiel had seen fit to give her. All she'd known about the marchioness of Pherae in her past life was that the woman had passed away a number of years before Zephiel had begun his war to conquer all of Elibe.

The gates to castle Pherae closed behind them, and Idunn followed along behind the ruler of Pherae, his old retainer trailing behind her.

Inside the castle, Idunn was shocked at how… comfortable it felt. The castle of Bern had felt cold and lonely at the best of times, though that was likely because of the constant aura of distrust and enmity that had pervaded every inch of air within the castle. In contrast, castle Pherae felt… cozy. She didn't have another way of describing it, but if just felt so inviting, even to a stranger like her!

The small group comprised of three adults and one child walked through the castle until they came to a cloistered inner courtyard. It was a beautiful little clearing within the castle that looked like a professionally tended garden, with benches and chairs placed throughout.

On one such bench was an unusual looking young woman wearing a well-made but relatively humble white dress.

The mere sight of her sent a shock through Idunn's whole body, though none of her current companions noticed the tall woman stiffening in alarm. Neither did they see her eyes widening.

But Idunn didn't voice the cause for her alarm aloud, and dutifully approached the seated woman with her companions.

The marquess of Pherae's wife was a dragon. The marchioness of Pherae was a dragon! To the average person, Marchioness Ninian was indeed an unusual- but very beautiful woman. Pale-skinned, with odd red eyes and pale blue hair was a look seldom, if ever seen. She looked… hmm. Idunn wasn't much good at guessing the ages of humans, but Ninian appeared to be closer to twenty years than thirty years, unlike her husband. However, while she looked youthful… there was an air of poor health to her. The young woman's skin may have been naturally pale, but it looked far more pale than was healthy, and her eyes, once bright, held a dull, weary look to them.

Beyond the young woman's apparent poor health, Idunn's eyes- and more importantly, her senses… she detected much more. Dragonkin were inherently magical, though each tribe had their own strengths and weaknesses. More importantly… all dragonkin could recognize other dragonkin, like a sixth sense that humans didn't have. Idunn had never seen a dragon like Marchioness Ninian before, what with the only dragons she'd encountered in her time since being unsealed being Jahn… and the many war dragons she'd created.

Were Idunn a more emotional person, she would've screamed what was on her mind for all to hear.

"Ah… Miss? What's wrong? You look as if you've seen a ghost…"

Idunn realized that she'd lagged enough in greeting the marchioness that the room's attention was once again on her.

"…My apologies… You were… not as I was expecting you to look." Idunn responded, hoping the answer would not draw suspicion to herself.

Marquess Eliwood's wife had been a dragon?! How… What in the world was going on?!

Wait… that meant… Roy had dragon blood in him?! Idunn's mouth felt unusually dry at the realization. How… how had she never realized such a thing?

Stretching out her senses… Idunn confirmed her suspicions. Though faint, she could clearly feel the familiar resonance of dragonic blood from her young friend. It was diluted, but… the presence was unmistakable.

Roy was part dragon.

Fortunately for Idunn, no one in the room seemed to take offense at her words or her delay in responding to the Marchioness. Ninian laughed softly, a beautiful sound almost like the tinkling of a bell.

"Well… It's true. I suppose I don't look like most Lycians. In truth, I was born far away, in the snows of Ilia. But it warms my heart to know that the people of Pherae have supported my role as Lord Eliwood's wife for so long."

The armored knight interjected.

"It's true. The people have been nothing but supportive of Lady Ninian ever since she returned to Pherae with Eliwood a dozen years ago. She's the very jewel of the province!"

"Oh, you flatter me, Marcus…"

Roy had by now left his father's arms, and had walked over to sit on the bench next to his mother, who embraced him tenderly.

"Oh, Roy… you gave your father and I quite the fright, you know! What have I told you about wandering off on your own? What would we do if something ever happened to you?!"

"But you don't have to worry about anything, mama! Miss Idunn saved me from the bear before it could get me, and we're friends now, so everything ended well!"

"B-bear?" The marchioness sputtered, as if she was having trouble believing the words coming out of her son's mouth.

Marcus and Eliwood grimaced. The old veteran was about to speak up, before his liege laid a hand on his arm.

"Er… about that, my love. I know hearing such a shock will do your heart no good, but… our boy had a very unpleasant encounter with a bear during his 'adventure' in the forest, and according to him and Sir Marcus it's only thanks to Idunn here that he lived to return to us."

The pale woman went as white as a sheet, her eyes widening in horror while one hand flew to cover her mouth. Once again Roy found himself squeezed in the embrace of one of his parents, though the boy knew better not to struggle.

Ninian wavered in her seat, and Eliwood rushed up to grab her shoulders and support her.

"I… I… Oh, I'm alright, Eliwood…" Closing her eyes and breathing in a shaky breath, Ninian continued speaking.

"Oh, my child… I… if I lost you… my heart would…" Ninian trailed off, unable to finish her sentence. Roy snuggled deeper into her embrace, doing his best to embrace as much of his upset mother as he could.

This entire scene played out before Idunn's eyes, and she… felt very foolish for having even entertained for the briefest moment that the other woman- the other dragon was a threat. Twelve years she'd been in these lands according to Marcus, twelve years she'd lived peacefully alongside humans. Long enough to become a respected, well-known member of the Pherean court, and most importantly… to have a child with a human. Whether or not the Lord of Pherae knew his wife was a dragon was another matter, but Idunn could clearly tell that Ninian was not a threat to the people around her. Not someone who, like Jahn, would've jumped at the chance to enact 'revenge' upon mankind.

The marchioness was living proof that the ideals Idunn had briefly seen in that long-gone, long-burned village in the desert could be replicated elsewhere.

The marchioness seemed to calm down a bit, though her skin still maintained it's pallid hue. Her embrace of her son remained no less firm, and Roy looked a little embarrassed at being cradled by his mother in front of his newest friend.

"Oh… My lady, I… If there is anything at all my husband or I can do for you, we will make it happen! At the very least, we can provide food and shelter for you before you… return on your way… Roy, you say this nice woman saved your life? Do you know who she is?" Ninian murmured, and Idunn realized that the other woman was eying her up and down.

To Idunn's immense relief, Ninian either didn't realize just what Idunn was, or if she did, chose not to voice her concerns aloud. Was the marchioness's health so poor that she couldn't recognize another dragon even with Idunn standing in front of her? Well, regardless of the reason for Ninian's apparent incomprehension of Idunn's true identity, Idunn was thankful she hadn't been outed so soon after waking up to this new world.

She had no idea how the good people of Pherae would respond to the Demon Dragon walking among them, but she knew that it would be a disaster for all!

"That's right! Miss Idunn used her magic, Vwoosh! And in seconds, the big bear dropped to the ground, dead! It happened so quickly!" Roy stated, eyes shining with excitement as he waved his arms in the air, doing his best to mimic the spellcasting show he'd seen Idunn perform earlier.

"Seconds, you say? That's impressive, most veteran knights would hesitate to take on such a beast even with full plate armor," Eliwood remarked, though not with any suspicion or hostility behind his words.

"It is as he says. Roy was in danger, and I could not hesitate. If I waited, he may have been harmed." Idunn said. The other adults in the room looked pleased at her blunt words.

"Well, as my wife stated, if there is anything in our power to grant you, we will make it so. It's hardly worth saving the life of our son, but…"
Idunn spoke up, cutting the lord of Pherae off.

"No, that's… that's alright. I did not save him because I sought a reward. I saved him because he was in danger." This time, allof the adults were smiling.

"My lady, that's even more cause to reward you. Be it big or small, you've earned something from the Pherae."

Idunn's stomach chose that moment to loudly remind everyone present that the woman had not yet eaten anything this day. Despite the situation, Idunn found her cheeks heating up.

"Ah… then in that case… Do you have any food I could eat?"

Eliwood, Marcus, and Ninian stared at the woman like they weren't quite believing their ears, before Eliwood chuckled good-naturedly. To his side, Ninian brought a hand to her mouth to stifle the giggles, and even the old knight had to turn away to hide the smile on his face.

"Of course! Such a thing is trivial! Come, follow me! The dining hall might be empty at this hour, but the cooks in the kitchen will be glad to serve you." The marquess stated as he helped his wife up from the bench she'd been sitting on.

"Now Roy, we'll… be having words later, about you wandering off," The little boy made a face at his mother's words, but didn't protest.

"Now, your father is going to take Miss Idunn to get something to eat, so you should thank her before she goes."

"She can't go!"

"Roy?!" Ninian stepped back, alarmed at Roy's sudden shout.

"I-I mean… she just got here… and she doesn't want to go! She doesn't have to leave, does she? I told her she could come back to Pherae with me!"
Eliwood looked from his son to Idunn, as if gauging something.

"Roy, I'm sorry you were confused. It was never my attention to send Miss Idunn on her way after providing a meal for her. She can stay the night if she wants. But… did you truly ask her to come back with you?"

"Y-yeah… She looked so sad when I met her. She said she was all alone before she met me! I don't want her to be alone! If she stays at the castle, I can be her friend! And everyone in Pherae is really nice, so she'll have lots of friends in no time!"

Eliwood, Marcus, and Ninian stayed quiet for several moments, each one weighing that information in their own way. Finally, Eliwood spoke up again.

"My lady, do you… do you not have any place to go? I can't guess as to what you were doing in the forest near Pherae, but… wherever you came from, don't you have people waiting for you to return?"

That was a question that Idunn could easily answer.

"No one waits for my return. Roy's offer… it is the first time someone has ever asked to be my friend. Please, I… I do not want to leave Pherae."

Eliwood and Ninian exchanged a worried look, though not one directed at Idunn or Roy.

"Well, milady, I can't claim to know the situation you've been in, but it sounds like you've had a hard life up till now. You seem like a good woman, and more than that, we owe you for saving Roy's life. You're more than welcome to remain here if that's what you'd like."

The small flame of hope Roy's kind words had ignited back in the forest now grew into a stronger flame.

"Thank… thank you…" Though she didn't know it, the smile on Idunn's face was bright enough to illuminate the darkest of caverns!

"Roy, why don't you stay in the garden with your mother while Marcus and I take your new friend to the kitchens? You can talk to her more later."


Torn between her desire to stay with Roy or sating her now ravenous hunger, Idunn's need for sustenance won out. At least she'd see her new friend later. He was in safe hands.

Minutes later, Idunn, Marcus, and Eliwood were seated at a sturdy wooden table in the castle's kitchen. It was a very cozy place, though the ceiling was low, the room was warmed by several fires burning in the ovens, and well-lit by both candles and light filtering in through the windows.

The food before her was relatively humble, sliced fruit, dried meat, and a couple rolls of bread. In other words, something that had been thrown together in just a few minutes notice. And yet, even as she picked up one of the bread rolls, feeling the heat emanating from the soft, fluffy bread before biting into it…

It was incomparably better than anything she had eaten while at Zephiel's side. As if truly tasting something for the first time, Idunn was finally experiencing the simple pleasure of getting to experience a meal in good company.

If this was just a taste of what life at Pherae would be like… Idunn already knew that she'd be happier here than she'd ever been in Bern!

Author's notes

I'm taking some liberties on Ninian's physical age. Honestly, she probably wouldn't look any different than she would in FE7, considering how slowly dragons in the Fire Emblem series age. Sophia is another half-dragon from the Elibe duology, and she doesn't look a day older in FE6 despite there being 20 years between her role in FE6 and her cameo in FE7. Still, Ninian looks a few years older here (appearing around 21 or 22) mainly because I feel like this is a good way to represent how her lifespan has been shortened. In other words, she's aging prematurely and unnaturally due to remaining in Elibe, unlike her brother who is presumably alive and well in whatever world the Dragon's Gate lead to.

There's also no canon timeline (that I know of) for when Roy's mother dies in canon. This story (not counting the prologue) takes place 8 years prior to FE6, and… well, Ninian is still around, but she isn't doing too well.

Why didn't Ninian immediately sense that Idunn was a dragon? Uh… because that would've broken the story. Seriously though, there are a number of reasons/excuses for this. One argument is that Ninian's weakened to the point that her powers/dragonic magic are basically non-existent, and that she can't sense anything 'off' from Idunn. Another is that Ninian lacks that inherent ability due to being half-human rather than a pure dragon like Idunn or Jahn. Or maybe she suspects something, but her powers aren't strong enough to fully reveal just what she's sensing. There are other reasons, but these are the two most obvious to me. Take your pick or think of your own. Either way the result is the same; Idunn knows that Ninian is a dragon, but NOT vice-versa.

Is it a stretch that Idunn would be accepted to stay at castle Pherae so easily? Probably. But at the same time… most Fire Emblem games have some pretty wild recruitment methods. Letting the lady who just saved your kid's life stay at your castle is pretty tame compared to some of the ways people in the various games have been recruited. Also, again it would break the story if Idunn wasn't staying at castle Pherae.