It was an odd phenomenon. The transition from being simply a young man to fatherhood. It was an odd feeling. It was new, it was strange, it was foreign. That paternity was within his grasp sent chills down Lord Pharae's spine.
He strolled down a path. A path he knew so well. His face was pale, drawn, and haggard, a stark contrast to his pre-lord days when he had looked lively and young.
He had just come from one of those early morning meetings, where agenda, propositions, and decisions had drowned him. Despite the assembly's genteel appearance, Eliwood had sensed chaos warring in the meeting room, ensuing in a battle of words among the noble combatants.
"My lords, I propose we divide the funds according to...my plan will far more succeed than..."
"You sir, are a knave. How could you possibly think..."
"If you would put more energy into thinking rather than babbling nonsense..."
"Ha! An eloquent one you are! You rather enjoy the attention don't you? The incident wasn't enough?"
"Why you dog-eating..."
"My good lords, please, settle down."
Eliwood had suggested a break before all hell broke loose. While he usually handled the stress fairly well, his mind weighed heavily with thoughts of his unborn child.
He was frustrated. When he had learned of his wife's pregnancy, he was ecstatic. There was so much he wanted to teach his child, so much to show. And like any other excited parent-to-be, he was anxious for his child's birth.
But in an instant, he had woken from his dream.
Once he had fully understood his future role, he had become intensely aware of his predicament. It had frightened him more than the apex of a lance being pointed at his chest. And it still did.
He needed to get away. He needed to find a place that proffered tranquility.
And without much thought, he found his feet mechanically leading him to the garden.
He treaded on familiar territory, an open-air sanctuary of herbs, flowers, and shrubbery, his escape from the damning madness. His feet fell on a hard stony path, which weaved around his personal Eden. As he walked, he realized he was following a path of distant memories. He remembered as a child when his father had walked with him in this garden. He remembered how the sun had blazed its brightest, a fiery orange hue. Or how he had listened to the soothing baritone voice of his father, as he had spoken of timeless deeds which he had accomplished as a youth.
How Eliwood longed for those days.
No longer a lordling, Eliwood had been thrust into a whirlwind that swallowed him whole. Instead of the sweet smell of flowers and the softness of petals, he was met with the odor of suffocating cologne and the hardness of a dead wooden round table. Though he knew from the beginning of what was to come, he wasn't fully prepared for the role of Lord Pharae. It all happened so suddenly. No one knew or anticipated Lord Elbert's death, and when it had passed, everything ended and began for Lord Eliwood.
This new world he was forced to explore left him drained. It seemed that madness ran with him wherever he went. Nobles requiring his immediate response, complaints hovering around him, and reports rising in tides. It was all madness.
The light chirping of birds softly kissed his ear, and with a sudden start, he found that he stopped walking. He stood at the heart of the garden, and in its core was a white stone marble fountain. Memories swelled, while he moved forward, as if in a trance, and sat on the fountain's edge. He traced the smooth intricate design emblazoned on its boundary then rested his hand on the cool surface. The cooling sensation was like it always was. This was the place where he and his father had spent many long hours. It was their private world away from the chaotic one.
He needed this escape. He needed time to recompose himself. This Paradise gave him that time. It offered a safe haven when a brewing storm approached.
A light blue blur swept by, with an elegance of a dancer. Eliwood blinked for a moment, wondering if he saw an apparition. But then he smiled, while he watched Ninian float among the flowers, humming an ancient tune, perhaps one that her mother sang. She moved like a feather, caressing the earth as she passed. Grace danced with her footsteps even when her belly was swollen.
A hint of Lord Elbert flashed on Eliwood's face, when he regarded his wife lovingly. She returned his smile, flushing rosy cheeks when she saw her husband.
Suddenly, the beauty of the flowers faded when compared to Ninian. Though she carried the blood of a powerful and frightening race, her fragility blossomed in her beauty and gentleness. She looked at him with those caring eyes he cherished so much. Their bond of love was strong. Eliwood vowed, just as he did before several witnesses, only this time he did so silently, strengthening his commitment, that he would do all in his power to protect her and place her happiness before his own.
"Ah Ninian," his mother's voice rang. Ninian turned towards Eleanora, who smiled graciously at her daughter-in-law.
The words between the two women escaped Eliwood, so instead, he focused on his wife's womb, where his child grew within. A tightening in his chest constricted him. He knew he was going to love his child. He knew it without a doubt. But was he ready to become a father? He already struggled as Lord of Pharae. Could he handle being the father of his child?
Thoughts of his father assaulted him, and he remembered.
He always felt small around his father. Whenever they stood before the citizens, Lord Elbert's glorious presence would diminish his own, the shadow of Elbert. His father was tall, strong, brave, and respected. In his mind's eye, Eliwood could picture in a vivid display, the crowd, commoners and nobles gathered together before the castle. He could see them, hear them.
Loud joyous shouting. Eliwood heard the clamoring accolades, voices, proud and strong, roaring as the people cheered for their beloved lord. It was a festivity. Through his benevolence and grand leadership, Lord Elbert had garnered the people's respect.
There was no way Eliwood could return to the Pharaeans what they had lost. The one he had failed to save.
No. He shook his head, fiery locks brushing his forehead with the motion. "I can't blame myself for something that I couldn't control."
He shared his father's love for the people. He desired what was best for them, and as their lord and protector, he held that obligation. Lord Elbert fulfilled his duty. Could he, Elbert's son, do the same? And then, there was his own child. Could he even...?
Stone-cold stillness pervaded his body. His heart stopped beating. The air within him dissipated, and he can't breathe. He couldn't. Fear hollowed out his inside and left him with nothing.
A lone butterfly flew across his eyes. Its wings, a dazzling turquoise blue, flapped rhythmically as it fluttered towards the flower beds where it landed on a single flower. Eliwood didn't notice.
He sat there, a dead empty shell. Lifeless and fearful. Between risking his life in battle and failing as a parent, the latter terrified him down to the core.
"My Lord Eliwood?"
His head snapped up. "Huh?"
In front of him stood his wife, who smiled warmly. Her lithe figure blended well with nature. She seemed as one conceived in a bud, and as the delicate petals bloomed, she emerged a beautiful faerie. No, not even close. She possessed an ethereal beauty that set her apart from other beauties. She was a heavenly beauty, far from earth, untouchable by mortals.
She moved slowly and gracefully to his side as she sat on the fountain. In the same way he had done, she slid her fingers across the design, admiring them, committing the feeling to memory. She dipped two fingers in the water, creating a rippling effect when she lifted them.
"This is a beautiful fountain." She hadn't commented on it before. She and Eliwood usually talked over memories, both good and bad, and the future that lay before them. Sometimes, they would be so caught up in conversation, they would forget about everything else around them.
Eliwood gazed forward, a ghost of a smile on his face. "Indeed, it is."
The corners of her lips lifted fondly. She had a particular liking for this fountain. It was where she and her husband spent time alone on a beautiful day like this.
"You said you and your father would come here often?"
He barely chuckled, "Yes, Father and I spent so much time here. It would be on days such as this one. Most of the time we trained, but there were times when all we did was engage in conversation."
He raised his right leg and rested his head on his knee. "When we were in the castle, he would busy himself with his duties, and occasionally I would watch him. He never shirked his responsibilities, but he never forgot my mother and me. He made time for us," he paused, a wistful look in his eyes, "He was a great lord, husband, and father."
The poignant reminder of his insufficiency stilled him. Ninian looked forward. She knew his thoughts. The way he appeared after meetings and how he stared at her womb as she grew gave it away. It saddened her to see her husband like this. Suffering, but trying to stay strong.
Breaking the silence, she said, "He was a good man. He has done so much for me and especially for you and your mother. You know, you remind me of him."
"'I'm the image of Lord Elbert minus the mustache' as Hector likes to tell me."
She laughed. "Well, that's not what I meant exactly," she said as she calmed her laughter, "What I mean is you are like your father."
He turned, his eyes focused on her. "You think so?"
"Yes, I believe so," she said, facing him, "Your mother. Sometimes, she walks down the halls and she sees your father's ghost. It's as if she has stumbled upon the past, she says. He's talking and laughing with Marcus or another nobleman. But then she realizes that it's you who she sees."
She waited for a response, but he said nothing. Instead he watched her, his clouded eyes clearing, as he waited patiently. With the lack of response, she continued. "You work so hard, just as Lord Elbert did. To me, it is your father's kindness that I see in you."
She took his hands, her fingers caressing his skin. "When Lord Elbert died, I was torn that someone so wonderful, someone who lit up my dark world when Nils and I were imprisoned was gone. It broke me because I felt that I was the cause."
Before he responded, she lifted a finger to his lips. "But then I met you. You had that same gentleness. You were just as kind as your father. Eliwood, you are the light to my world! Because of you, I don't have to live in the shadows forever."
She could feel the emotions swelling, but she kept composure for both of them. He, on the other hand, looked as if he found lost treasure.
"Ninian," he started. Something inside him stirred. He felt as if warmth broke through a crack, filling him slowly.
"And not only me," she interrupted, "but also the Pharaens. You gave them hope again. When they could've been facing a stately crisis, you took your father's role and brought stability."
Her eyes were ablaze with determination, and Eliwood found himself drawn to her.
"Eliwood, don't you see? Your father hasn't really left. Though you are still my Lord Eliwood, you have so much of Lord Elbert in you. Which means, that by living, you have immortalized your father."
The ice shattered. Shards of fear clattered around his feet, and in its place warmth.
His eyes softened and he wrapped both his hands around hers. He loved how small they were in his grasp. He loved how sweet, gentle, loving and honest she was. He loved everything about her. He loved her.
"Ninian, you have no idea how much your words have touched me. You see for a while now, I've carried this burden. I felt that I wouldn't make a good father to our child, but now what you said..."
He couldn't finish. He was too overwhelmed. Ninian placed his hands on her womb and covered them with her own. "Eliwood, you need not be afraid of the future. These memories you have of your father will help guide you as you press on. Then as you continue living, you will be an example to our child. You will be his light someday."
She giggled, "Never mind, my lord."
A/N: So, please tell me what you think. I hope you enjoyed it, although I feel that it was kind of rushed.