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Ordered Chaos

Chapter Text

"You'll never catch me alive, Marth!"

In the Askr courtyard, Marth was chasing Chrom, who managed to outrun him despite the latter carrying a massive sack of presents. The crime Chrom was committing? Refusing to wear more than one sleeve at a time. Maria, the Order's summoner, had placed Marth in charge of ensuring that every Hero was appropriately warm for winter. During this chase, Marth and Chrom accidentally knocked over Ike, who was on his way to chop some more firewood.

"Sorry about that, Ike," Marth said, helping his fellow Smash competitor up off the ground. "You are wearing two sleeves, right?"

" Don't worry about it, Marth. And yes, I'm wearing two sleeves," Ike answered. In the few seconds it took for Marth to check on Ike, Chrom had already disappeared back into Castle Askr.

Chapter Text

Hector, a skyscraper of a man clad in blue armor, ran toward Takumi with a gleeful look on his face. This particular look, the "I have a fun idea!" look, was a look the tiny Hoshidan prince learned to fear.

"Hector? What are you doing?" Takumi asked. A spark lit up in Hector's eyes.

"I learned about this thing where a small archer or mage hops onto a taller person's shoulders and fires from there. You'll be perfect for the firing part of this!" Hector answered. Before Takumi could protest, he found himself lifted off the ground and placed on Hector's shoulders.

"Wait! Are you sure this will work?!? How will you fight?" Takumi asked worriedly.

"Don't worry. I've got Armads! I'll crush anyone that gets too close to our tower!" Hector declared before brandishing his axe and running up the tower to the top floor. Despite his initial misgivings, Takumi found himself enjoying this (the fact that he finally felt tall for once in his life helped). The arrangement worked tremendously, with Takumi shooting foes with his bow and Hector hacking at anyone who got too close with his axe, until Hector tripped over Sigurd's horse and found both himself and his partner crashing into Selena.

Later that day, Priscilla was in the infirmary tending to their wounds.

"It's a good thing Nino and Sakura came back and told me as soon as they could. Honestly, that was a reckless move you two did! You should be lucky they were somehow able to escape with you two," Priscilla lectured as she continued to raise her staff to their injuries.

"Speaking of reckless moves, could you return this book to Robin?" Hector asked, handing Priscilla a blue book.

"That's Robin's tactical manual! Serra! Could you take over for a bit while I return this to its rightful owner?" Priscilla called.

"Don't be gone too long! You know I don't like being worked too hard!" Serra called back.

Chapter Text

"Micaiah, right? You're not very easy to track down," Roy said once he found the leader of the Dawn Brigade in the library reading a book and petting her bird Yune.

"You're... you're Roy, right? Do you need anything?" Micaiah asked.

"Sakura needs to see you. She would have come herself, but she's very shy," Roy explained. The two made their way to the garden, where the Hoshidan princess was waiting.

"Oh! Y-you're new here?" Sakura asked. Micaiah looked curiously at Sakura's ears and tails.

"Are you a half-shifted Laguz?" Micaiah asked, staring intently at the ears. Sakura giggled at her curiosity.

"These ears and tails aren't real. They're part of a costume! Would you like to try the ears on?" Sakura offered, removing the kitty ear headband she wore under her normal one.

"I don't see why not," Micaiah answered, accepting the offer and sliding the headband onto her head. She subconsciously rubbed at the ears.

"Congratulations, Micaiah. You are now a full member of the Order of Heroes!" Roy cheered. Micaiah looked flustered. Yune flapped her wings as if to warn away potential attackers.

"Wait... everyone else here wore these ears as well?" Micaiah asked, carefully sliding the headband off.

"Well, yes. Can you blame them, though? These ears are very cute!" Sakura answered as she gently took the headband back and slid it under her normal headband once more. "I think even the Black Knight looked a lot less scary with the ears on." At the mention of the Black Knight, Micaiah's eyes lit up. So, he made it here, too...

"Thank you for helping me become a full fledged member of this order, but I need to go now," Micaiah said before carefully scooping Yune into her hands and leaving to search for her friend in jet black armor.

Chapter Text

Joshua was making his way to the armory to do his routine maintenance on his weapon Audhulma when he saw Fjorm making her way toward him.

"Ah! If it isn't my favorite ice princess!" Joshua said.

"You should come to the main hall. Someone set up another betting pool," Fjorm told him. A spark lit up in Joshua's eyes as a huge grin spread across his face.

"Lead the way," Joshua said. And so, the two made their way to the main hall, where the rest of the Order was already gathered. Anna waved at Joshua while jumping up.

"You made it! Maria and I set up a betting pool! Come closer and make your bet," Anna told him. Once Joshua made it through the crowd, he noticed the sign above the silver bowl where a large amount of golden coins lay inside. The sign read:

How long will it be until Arvis attempts to burn someone with blue hair?

Never: The Whole Pool

Within the month: 1,000:1

Within the next week: 500:1

Within the next few days: 250:1

Within the hour: 50:1

Joshua reached into his pouch and dropped a handful of gold coins into the betting pool.

"Lady Luck, don't fail me now, but I'm going with whatever wins me the entire pool," Joshua said. The Order's attention, however, was directed to a chase scene. Namely, Soren was chasing Arvis, who had mistaken Ike for Sigurd and was attempting to burn him.

"I will burn you as many times as is necessary to create a world free from discrimination!" Arvis shouted.

"Arvis, if I so much as see an ember on Ike, I will douse it and then end your life myself," Soren warned. Hector and the Black Knight looked at each other.

"Shall we intervene or will this... pursuit prove entertaining?" the Black Knight asked. However, Hector had already charged onto the scene. Ike, Soren, and Arvis, all wanting to avoid getting crushed by over 200 pounds of metal and muscle, ceased their chase and ran.

"Well... that was a bit too much for my tastes," Serra commented after Hector returned to Maria's side.

"Eh, just be glad lord Hector dealt with it before anyone got hurt," Matthew told Serra. "Now, let's see who won money, eh?"

Chapter Text

"Oh, Feh! I have a little surprise for you!" Maria called out to the Order's messenger, who looked sad as she sat on her perch. Behind the summoner, Oscar held a covered tray.

"Oh, that's very nice of you, but I can always wait until next year," Feh said sadly. At this, Maria patted the owl's head.

"Nonsense, Feh! You work so hard to make sure the Order of Heroes is always well informed. You deserve a reward. Oscar, lift the tray cover!" Maria said. Oscar lifted the tray cover to reveal a beautifully decorated cake with a single candle burning on it.

"Maria and I spent all day on this cake. Since it's your birthday, you get the first slice," Oscar told the owl. After Maria and Oscar wheeled the cake next to Feh's perch, the rest of the Order of Heroes popped out of their hiding places.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FEH!" the entire order, including Maria and Oscar, shouted. Alfonse and Sharena walked to Feh with very guilty looks on their faces.

"Feh, we're really sorry about your cake," Sharena said. "We should have let you have a slice."

"We take full responsibility for the cake," Alfonse added. Anna reached over to try to eat the cake, but a glare from Fjorm and a crack of the knuckles from Effie stopped the commander in her tracks.

"I don't blame you guys for the cake. Oscar's a really good cook!" Feh said before Maria put the party hat back on Feh's head.

"Here's to a long life for the best owl the Order had ever known," Maria said as Feh ate her cake.

Chapter Text

The morning after the cake debacle, Maria again visited Feh’s perch to find that she was sitting rather uncomfortably.

“What happened, girl?” Maria asked. Despite her current discomfort, Feh seemed happy.

“I have a huge present for you!” Feh exclaimed before flying off her perch and pulling a rope with her beak. A trapdoor in the ceiling opened, and many orbs spilled forth from the resulting hole. The two dodged the avalanche before it could crush them.

“Whoa! There has to be at least 50 orbs in that pile!” Maria exclaimed.

“They’re all yours! Consider it a thank you gift for everything you do for the Order of Heroes,” Feh told the summoner, who quickly pulled her hood over her head in an attempt to hide her face.

“Eh… thank you, Feh,” Maria managed to say before shoveling the large pile of orbs into a large white sack.

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“Argh!” Maria shouted after several failed summoning attempts. Seliph and Hector looked on in concern.

“Maria, don’t kick the stone again. You’re not made of tough enough stuff,” Hector warned. His warning, however, came too late as a pained cry followed a cracking noise.

“Where’s the infirmary?” Seliph asked as Hector scooped Maria up into his arms.

“Follow me, kid. You’ll need to meet the healers, anyway,” Hector said while the three were descending the stairs leading to the altar.

Chapter Text

“I scraped the orbs together… there’s a single blue orb on the altar… let’s pray to every deity that it’s Lyn!”

Maria followed the ritual that had become as familiar to her as breathing at this point. The ground smoked and glowed as she averted her eyes. When everything cleared up, she turned around to see Lyn standing at the altar in a dress suited for the Day of Devotion.

“Ha… ha… finally… you’re reunited with all your friends… they missed you a lot,” Maria said, her voice cracking more with each word said. Lyn looked at her in concern.

“Do you need water? Or perhaps you’re sleepy,” Lyn offered, clearly worried about her summoner.

“Don’t tell anyone I did this very late at night, Lyn,” Maria said.

“Okay, you’re definitely tired. Off to bed with you!” Lyn said as she slung Maria across her shoulder and made her way back to Castle Askr.

Chapter Text

One night, Maria was on a late night patrol when Delthea approached her in the main hall.

“Hello, Delthea! What brings you here?” Maria asked.

“ARGH! Ever since you put Chrom and Ephraim on the same team, it’s been endless bro talk!” Delthea began. “‘Hey, bro! How are you today, bro?’ ‘I’m doing bro-tastic, bro! Thanks for asking, bro!’ ‘You know, bro, you are so bro!’ ‘Bro!’ ‘Bro!’”

“We don’t talk like that!” Ephraim and Chrom yelled in unison.

“In all honesty, though, I’m glad you put Ephraim and I on a team together. Thanks, Maria,” Chrom said.

“No problem, Chrom. As for you, Delthea, I’ll pair you up with someone else. Would Mist be okay with you?” Maria offered.

“Finally! I thought I’d be stuck with Ephraim forever! Don’t get me wrong. He’s a nice guy and all, but I need to spend time with girls, too,” Delthea said, accepting Maria’s offer before leaving.

“Hmm… Ephraim?” Maria asked, beckoning the prince of Renais over.

“What is it, Maria?” Ephraim asked.

“You helped bring Lyon back from the brink of completely losing himself. I need you to keep an eye on him so that never happens again,” Maria told him. Ephraim nodded and walked away with a stronger sense of determination. He had already lost Lyon once, and he didn't want to endure the loss a second time.

Chapter Text

“Now… now I shall offer your soul to Lord Duma!” the possessed Celica yelled as she raised her sword high in the air. Takumi looked around frantically for the Fujin Yumi, desperate to fight back despite his injuries. He spotted the bow next to one of the statues. Takumi started staggering toward the statue, but he only made it halfway down the hallway to the statue before Celica caught up to him.

“I can’t give up… I won’t give up!” Takumi said, clutching just below his ribs as more blood spilled onto the floor. A set of armored footsteps sounded closer and closer as Celica slashed him with her sword twice more.

“I’ve had enough,” Hector said, swinging Armads toward Celica. The sight of Hector being a welcome relief, Takumi staggered his way toward him while Celica took the opportunity to flee.

“Remember… none can escape the might of Lord Duma,” Celica warned before leaving. Takumi leaned against Hector, breathing heavily.

“Hector… you made it,” Takumi said shortly before losing consciousness. Hector caught him before he could hit the floor and carefully lifted him into his arms.

“You crushed your inner demons… you did the best you could. We’re all proud of you,” Hector said as he left the Voting Gauntlet arena with an unconscious Takumi and made his way to the infirmary.

Chapter Text

“Never did I expect to see you in such a ridiculous outfit,” Grima said to Chrom, who was still wearing his Winter’s Envoy outfit despite it being very out of season.

“Morgan… Robin… Lucina… I’ll avenge you all!” Chrom said, glaring down at the fiend currently using Robin’s body as a puppet. He felt a dark, scorching cloud envelop him. When Chrom heard a breaking noise and metal clattering onto the ground, he realized it was now or rely on Ike.

“Soon… soon, you’ll join your family in Hell,” Grima said. Chrom lifted his trusty sack of gifts above his head and smacked him in the head five times with it, causing him to once again dissolve into a black dust. A little to the left, Lucina began to stir.

“Father? Is it over?” Lucina asked, picking up the pieces of her broken mask.

“It’s over for now, Lucina,” Chrom answered, flopping onto the ground from exhaustion. “Let’s wait for your sister and other father to wake up before getting out of here.”

Chapter Text

Anna had returned from the castle town’s Spring Festival to find Alfonse cowering behind one of the pillars in the main hall.

“Alfonse! Did Muspell attack Askr Castle?!?” Anna asked, trying to shake the young prince.

“No… It’s worse, Commander Anna,” Alfonse answered, clinging more tightly to the pillar.

“What could possibly be worse than our home base being under attack?” Anna shouted.

“It’s Maria… she has bunny fever,” Alfonse said. At this moment, four bunnies hopped past Alfonse and Anna, who picked one of the bunnies up and inspected it.

“How could something so profitable be so bad?” Anna asked.

“She’s trying to get all the heroes to dress up as bunnies,” Alfonse said. With a devious smirk, Anna grabbed her trusty snapshot tome.

“Where you see fear, I see enough gold to fill a swimming pool. Let’s see our wise summoner!” Anna told Alfonse, who gulped and reluctantly followed her.

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“Get back here, Lyon!” Maria shouted while chasing him down the hallway with a fuzzy pink headband with bunny ears on it. She herself has swapped her usual gold and white robes for a fuzzy yellow bunny ear headband and a white, green, and gold dress. “You’ll look even cuter as a bunny!”

“Maria, you know as well as I do that I'm not cute. I'll wear the bunny ears for you if you'd like, though,” Lyon said. While Maria was squealing with joy, Anna and Alfonse took care to remain hidden from the participants of this particular pursuit.

“Alfonse, why don’t you wear a bunny outfit?” Anna suggested.

“No thanks, Commander Anna. I’ve already seen myself in a bunny outfit and I look ridiculous,” Alfonse answered. “My deepest sympathies go out to the Heroes she’s roped into being a bunny with her.”

Chapter Text

"What's our peerless Summoner doing today?" Anna asked. Sharena started to giggle.

"Maria and Alfonse found the costume trunk! I thought father had it hidden away forever," Sharena answered. "I have to say, nothing escapes her notice." The two watched as Maria gave the male Robin a replica of Lucina's mask.

"Am I cool now?" Robin asked as he adjusted the mask resting on his face.

"I don't know, Robin. Your husband Chrom and younger daughter Morgan already think you're cool, but you'll have to ask your older daughter Lucina," Maria answered before digging into the trunk and pulling a golden domino mask out. She then made her way to the female Morgan.

"Now, Morgan, your father's already wearing a replica of your sister's mask, but I got you the next best thing," Maria explained before giving the mask to Morgan, who happily placed it on her face.

"Thank you so much, Maria! Luci and I will be the coolest sister team ever now!" Morgan cheered before running off to join her sister. Maria dug out a plush Feh and motioned for Ike to come to her.

"Need something, Maria?" Ike asked.

"Ike, can you lean down for a bit? I need to do something with your head but I'm too short," Maria explained. Ike was confused by this request but complied nonetheless. After he leaned down, he felt something soft being placed on his head. "There! She's a very good girl," Maria continued before grabbing a pair of bunny ears from the chest and walking toward Lyon.

"What's going on?" Lyon asked. Maria adjusted the yellow flowers on the bunny ears before gently placing them on his head.

"There you go. You look even cuter now," Maria said before leaving a very confused Lyon behind to process what just happened. With a golden Askr hairpin in hand, she carefully crept up behind Soren and slipped it into his hair.

"Is there a point to this or are you just being more childish than usual?" Soren asked.

"There is a point to this, Soren. You'll see," Maria answered before slipping away from the tactician/wind mage. With a seashell hairpin in hand, Maria quickly made her way to Lucius. "Why, hello there, Lucius. May I borrow you for a moment?"

"How may I help?" Lucius asked. His question was soon answered as Maria clipped the seashell into his long blond hair.

"Thank you for your time. You may now return to your normal activities," Maria said before pulling a snorkel out of her coat and making her way to Inigo, who was now glum because he lacked a mask like his friends Lucina, Gerome, and Morgan. "I think I have something that might cheer you up a little," she told him before placing the snorkel on his face. "Think of this as a mask with a purpose. You want to impress people in the summer, right?"

"Oh, yes! I can learn new dances from the sea life! Thank you so much!" Inigo exclaimed before happily running off. Maria returned to the now empty costume trunk and looked sadly at it.

"I wish I could find more accessories for you..." Maria said, patting the costume trunk.

Chapter Text

"Does this gauntlet honestly expect me to pick between you and Lyon?" Maria asked as she looked again at the bulletin with Sigurd, her new right-hand man.

"I, for one, would gladly take my revenge upon Arvis for betraying me," Sigurd said, further studying the bracket. Marth against Hardin, Sigurd against Arvis, Ephraim against Lyon, and Ike against Zelgius. "I only pray that I actually win against him this time."

"So do I, Sigurd... so do I," Maria said. Sigurd placed an understanding hand on her shoulder and leaned down.

"By the way... I'll understand no matter who you support. The decision is yours alone," Sigurd told Maria, who wrapped her arms tightly around him.

"You deserved so much better," Maria said as tears began to fall.

Chapter Text

Lyon gently pushed the armory door open and peeked in, hoping to see Ephraim inside. Once a glance confirmed that Ephraim was indeed in the armory, Lyon opened the door wider and stepped into the armory, taking care to keep his cape or bunny ears from getting snagged in the process.

"Ephraim? May I talk to you about something?" Lyon asked. Ephraim looked up at him and signaled for him to sit on a nearby crate.

"Lyon, you can talk to me about anything. I'm always willing to listen," Ephraim answered as he sat down on another nearby crate.

"It's... about the upcoming gauntlet," Lyon started, rubbing his bunny ears in an attempt to calm his worries. "We have to fight each other in the first round. Do you think we'll still be friends afterward?"

"If the Demon King himself couldn't break our friendship despite his best efforts, then a fun match wouldn't be able to, either," Ephraim said, wrapping an arm around Lyon's shoulders as carefully as possible. "Just promise you won't go easy on me, okay?"

"I won't, and I expect the same from you," Lyon answered, extending his hand for Ephraim to shake. To his surprise, however, the other prince instead wrapped a pinkie finger around his own.

"Lyon, no matter who wins or loses in our match, let's support each other through the rest of the tournament," Ephraim said shortly before suddenly embracing Lyon, who returned the hug.

Chapter Text

"And the winner of the Fated Battles Voting Gauntlet is... someone nobody expected to make it past the first round!" Matthew began. The crowd watched nervously, perhaps none more so than Ephraim and Eirika.

"Please let it be Lyon. Please let it be Lyon," Ephraim chanted even as he made his way down to the battlefield, with his twin sister Eirika following close behind. For once, she understood the reasoning behind her brother's shenanigans; he simply wanted to support their old friend.

"The winner is... Lyon, the Shadow Prince of Grado!" Matthew announced. Ephraim and Eirika quickly moved to either side of Lyon to support him once his knees gave out.

"It's finally over... no more fighting," Lyon said, his voice very clearly sounding exhausted.

"Lyon, you did it! You won!" Eirika cheered, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and laughing. Meanwhile, Ephraim wrapped an arm around Lyon's waist.

"Congratulations, Lyon! You really earned your victory," Ephraim added. "Hardin, Ike, and I were not very easy opponents."

"I only won because a lot of people believed in me, including you two. Thank you for supporting me despite everything," Lyon said.

"We're still your friends! Friends support each other no matter what," Eirika told him. "Just looking at you, I can tell you need a cleric just as badly as Hardin." At that statement, the last remains of Lyon's adrenaline drained away as he started feeling the long battle's effects.

"Let's get out of the arena," Ephraim suggested as the three made their way out of the Voting Gauntlet arena and to the infirmary.

Chapter Text

They were the first to spot the rift.

Raven and Lucius spotted the rift while patrolling Castle Askr. At first, the two had simply wanted to leave the rift alone, figuring someone like Soren or one of the Robins could look into it. However, they were curious about this rift, so they decided to investigate it themselves. Carefully, they crept closer to the rift, hoping it wasn't dangerous.

"Lucius, stay back! I don't want to lose you," Raven ordered, moving a bit closer to his partner. Even so, he cautiously peered into the rift...

"Lord Raym- I mean Raven? Are you sure you should be doing this?" Lucius asked. "How are you feeling? Do you require healing?"

"Power's surging through me, or rather, my potential for more power is rising. It's really hard to explain this feeling, even harder than it was to really explain my love for you," Raven answered before backing away from the rift. "This begs the question; do we try to seal this thing or exploit it?"

"If this rift can truly help someone gain access to more power, we would be fools to seal it immediately. After all, some other members of our group need this more than us," Lucius answered, much to Raven's surprise.

"You never stop surprising me, Lucius," Raven said. "I thought you'd be all for trying to seal this thing. Come to think of it, I was more surprised than necessary, given your history of putting others first."

"We should head back to the castle and let Maria know. She always knows what to do in these situations," Lucius suggested. And so, the two made their way back to Castle Askr to inform the summoner.

----------

"This is interesting... I never learned about anything quite like this," Maria said. Once Raven and Lucius had told Maria about the rift, she had them lead her to it. "In order to test it, I'll have to send the female Robin into it. You two will be on standby in case things get too hairy."

"And how exactly do we get her out?" Raven asked. Maria handed the mercenary a long rope.

"I'll need you to throw one end of this rope into the rift. Once you pull her out, Lucius can mend any injuries she may be suffering," Maria answered.

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"It's like the report Raven and Lucius gave you. I feel like I can take on anything!" the female Robin said cheerfully. "Thank you very much, Maria! I'll go tell some of the others." Before the female Robin could make her way back to Castle Askr, Maria stopped her.

"Hey, Robin? Can we agree to keep this a secret from King Gustav? I'm not sure how he'd react and I'd rather not take my chances," Maria requested.

"It's a promise, from one tactician to another," the female Robin said, shaking the summoner's hand. "And you can be sure that I'll expect the others to make that promise as well."

"Thank you, Robin. I need you to bring me everyone on this list," Maria said before handing the female Robin a scroll.

Chapter Text

"What's going on here?" Maria asked, realization dawning upon her. She was tied to a chair in the storage room. Nearby, Soren held a pair of orbs.

"Maria, I'm holding all the orbs this group currently possesses," Soren began before tossing the orbs to Sigurd. "Each time you accumulate five orbs, you run straight to the summoning stone, which usually results in one of the healers having to fix a broken foot. I can't lie to you, so I'll tell you this: your orb spending is out of control." Maria started lunging at Soren with the chair only for Ike to hold her back.

"Soren's right. He only told you that because he cares in his own way, so I'd appreciate it if you apologized to him and stopped trying to attack him," Ike calmly said. He then held up one finger while looking at Sigurd, who nodded in understanding and threw the orbs to Raven, who hid the orbs in his long coat.

"Now that you have the orbs, I suggest you run like Serra's confronting you with one of her romance novels," Sigurd told Raven, who darted away as if the crusader was actually the pink-haired cleric holding an overly sappy romance novel.

"Which way did Raven run off to? I need those orbs!" Maria asked as she struggled to free herself from the ropes binding her to the wooden chair. Before the chair tipped over, however, Lucius caught it and managed to sit it back upright with help from Ike.

"I cannot answer your question, for that would require me to break Raven's trust. Besides, this intervention was agreed upon by Alfonse, Sharena, and Anna," Lucius explained. Maria noticed her movements slowing to a crawl; belatedly, she realized that Lucius was casting Slow on her.

"Why do you betray me?" Maria asked, finding that the words came out at a normal pace despite Lucius having slowed the rest of her down. It was then that Alfonse, Sharena, and Anna entered the storage room.

"Thank you for helping keep Maria in place," Alfonse said to the four heroes in the storage room. "Raven should be hiding the orbs by now."

"We'll take care of the rest from here, guys," Sharena added.

Chapter Text

"Are Hector and Ephraim fighting again?" Maria asked, looking at the two men staring each other down intensely. Something was off about this scene, however; while Ephraim was tightly gripping Armads, Hector had a death grip on Siegmund.

 

"Oho, so we're using each other's preferred weapon types? Let's see how well you do with my friend Armads," Hector began, pointing the lance at Ephraim.

 

"I hope you can handle Siegmund well enough, friend," Ephraim replied before hefting the heavy axe. In an uncharacteristic flash, the two were charging at each other, weapons in hand. Ephraim blocked Hector's blow with Armads. Hector jabbed at Ephraim's left side. Ephraim tried to sidestep, but Armads was too heavy, and he felt a sharp pain in his side.

 

"Armads doesn't lead itself to evasion. You have to stand your ground with an axe," Hector explained before briefly planting Siegmund into the hard stone floor. Seeing an opening and fueled by adrenaline, Ephraim rushed toward Hector. He swung Armads toward Hector's stomach, knocking him down to the floor.

 

"With a lance, you can't afford to leave yourself open. It's a death-or-glory sort of weapon," Ephraim told Hector before lifting Armads over his head. Now fueled by the promise of a worthy opponent, Hector rose from the floor. Maria looked away from the sparring session/crash course in each other's weapons.

 

"I'm really glad Veronica's Brave form uses a staff," Maria said before turning back to the battle between Hector and Ephraim.

Chapter Text

Two days after learning that the trio of Muspell generals could be summoned after all, Maria persuaded Chrom to allow her to borrow his gift sack.

 

"Just return the bag when you're done," Chrom told her before handing her the sack.

 

"Thank you very much, Chrom. You'll have the bag back once I'm finished up at the summoning altar," Maria answered him as she started shoveling orbs into the massive white sack. With a bit of help from Ike, Maria managed to haul the now very heavy bag to the summoning altar.

 

"Before we start, do you have anyone in mind?" Ike asked. Maria would never admit it, but ever since coming across Helbindi's burned corpse at the temple where the Rite of Flames would have taken place if he hadn't intervened, all she could think about was how she had failed to keep him safe from Surtr in the end. Her orders in the battle against the cruel king were swift, without any of her usual uncertainties about whether she was making the correct tactical decisions. With help from Sigurd and Veronica's Brave counterpart, Alfonse and Fjorm were able to strike the tyrant down in the end. Now she had a chance to make things right with him...

 

...if any green orbs showed up, that is. Maria decided to just roll with it and summon from all five orbs present. After multiple summoning sessions where no green orbs showed up, Laegjarn and an Eirika wielding the Grado Sacred Twin weapon Glepnir looked on in concern.

 

"I pray she's all right," Eirika said. "I have to ask a healer to help her. She seems rather frazzled."

 

"I doubt even the finest staff user in Zenith could heal her. It's frightening in a way," Laegjarn told Eirika, having been briefly reminded of her father. Once she saw that Maria's current state of anguish was a result of regret as opposed to an insatiable lust for power, her worries subsided. After Maria had fallen on her knees, the borrowed gift sack empty and looking defeated, it was her former enemy (to use the term lightly. Laegjarn never seemed to actually hate the Order of Heroes.) who decided to console her first.

 

"As long as Laevatein's safe in this world, that's all I care about. How is the Laevatein in this world?" Laegjarn asked.

 

"She recently became queen of Muspell. She looked really lonely for the first time in her life, though," Maria answered. Laegjarn nodded appreciatively at the news that her younger sister, her reason for rising above her father's influence, was safe despite everything and starting to reconnect with her emotions.

 

"Then I have to thank you and Fjorm," Laegjarn replied, stepping aside so Ike could help her up. Eirika carefully lifted the now empty white bag before walking to the summoner's side.

 

"Maria," Eirika began. "I understand how you feel. We both failed to save someone in the end, but when I learned that Lyon's alive in this world, I knew I had a chance to apologize to him at last. You'll have your chance to apologize to Helbindi someday." Maria wanted to ask how Eirika knew about Helbindi before realizing her body language and chanting gave away more than she had wanted and someone as attentive and studious as Eirika, hell, even someone like Ephraim or Hector, could easily pick up on the cues. Eirika gave the empty bag back to Maria. "I believe you may want to return this to its owner." Defeated and orbless, Maria walked away from the summoning altar with Ike, Laegjarn, and Eirika.

Chapter Text

"Is everyone ready to make a wish to the shrine?" Laegjarn asked. she, Fjorm, Gunnthra, Hrid, and Laevatein were gathered at a shrine to make a wish for the new year. However, Hrid raised his hand as if to ask a question.


"Wait one minute, Princess Laegjarn!" Hrid exclaimed. "Ylgr's not here!"


"Oh, you don't have to worry about that, Hrid," Gunnthra told him. "I already left Ylgr with a babysitter from Muspell. Don't worry, he's actually great with children."


"My sympathies go out to wherever the two are staying," Laevatein simply said. "If your babysitter's who I think he is, the place will be in ruins before you return for your sister."


"I wish for eternal peace between our kingdoms," Fjorm said, kneeling down to the shrine. "May we never have to know the cruelty of war again."


"May we gather merely in friendship and peace forevermore," Laegjarn added.


"Peace between our countries... I like the sound of that," Hrid commented. "I believe I shall make that wish as well."


"Laevatein, what do you wish for?" Gunnthra gently asked. Laevatein lowered her head, unused to having her opinion asked for by anyone other than Laegjarn. And yet, there was the eldest princess of Nifl, showing such kindness to her.


"I suppose I should wish for peace as well. I think it would be nice," Laevatein answered.


"Let us wish for eternal peace between Nifl and Muspell!" Gunnthra said cheerfully. The five royals gathered at the shrine raised their hands.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


"Here's the last of the fireworks, Mr. Helbindi!" Ylgr said cheerfully as she dropped an armful of fireworks on the ground at his feet. He grabbed the sparklers from the pile before organizing the rest of the fireworks.


"You might want to step back a bit, kid. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near these when they blow," Helbindi told her before grabbing Byleistr from its resting spot leaning against a pillar. Ylgr stepped back a few feet as she watched Helbindi swing his axe down on the fuses, igniting them.


"I really hope we don't have to fight anymore. War's so boring," Ylgr remarked. She watched him ignite both the sparklers before handing one to her.


"Hold this for me, kid," Helbindi told Ylgr as the fireworks exploded in the sky. "It's like a mini firework or something. At least, that's what the summoner told me."


"It's like holding a spark in my hand..." Ylgr said in amazement. "I've never had so much fun at a New Year's festival before!" The fireworks continued exploding as the two laughed and chattered all the way back to the festival.

Chapter Text

"I must leave now. It was nice seeing Nino again," Jaffar simply said as he prepared to leave. Nino and Maria quickly caught up to him.


"Why do you have to go, Jaffar?" Nino asked. "I really want you to stay with me."


"As much as I'd like to stay with you as well, Crystal's returning to her Outrealm. I must depart before she returns," Jaffar answered before turning his attention to Maria. "You."


"Yes, Jaffar?" Maria asked, feeling a chill crawling up her back.


"If any harm befalls my ray of sunshine while I'm gone, your remains will have to be carefully pieced together before burial," Jaffar warned the summoner. "I hear horse hooves. Keep. Nino. Safe." Before Maria or Nino could ask any more questions, Jaffar had already disappeared.


"I miss Jaffar already," Nino said sadly.


"I know," Maria replied, placing a sympathetic hand on Nino's shoulder. "I hope we meet him again someday."

Chapter Text

"Marth, Roy, take me to the most dragon-filled place in the Nine Worlds," Julia pleaded to the pair before her. "I need to be strong like you two. Maria needs me." Marth and Roy glanced at each other, then back at Julia.


"I'm not sure why your vendetta shifted from Reinhardt to dragons, but we'll do your best to help you," Roy began.


"Reinhardt is no longer my arch enemy," Julia answered. "I realized I had my priorities all wrong. I should be helping you two fight Hel's dragons instead."


"The maps should be in the war room if my memory's correct. Follow us," Marth added as he led the three to the war room. Before opening the door, he pressed an ear against it.


"Is there already a meeting going on?" Julia asked. Marth stood back up and turned to face her and Roy.


"We should be glad Soren scheduled the strategy meeting for tomorrow," Marth answered. "For today, we'll look at the maps of the Nine Worlds and find a nice training spot for you. Roy and I will be on standby in case you need our help."


"I can never repay you two enough for your kindness. If either of you ever need my help, all you have to do is ask," Julia said as the three looked over the map sprawled out on the large table.


----------


"How are you feeling now, Julia?" Roy asked her as the three descended the mountain later that day.


"I feel... strange... powerful... like Naga herself is stronger than ever," Julia answered. Before her knees gave out, Marth and Roy stood to either side of her and caught her.


"We should head home. Maria's probably worried sick about us," Marth suggested.


"Thank you two so much once again," Julia added.


"Don't worry about it, Julia. Any time you need our help, just ask us and we'll do our best," Roy replied. "Hmm... it's getting quite late. We should call our horses, Marth."


"Let's just hope they can hear our whistles no matter where they are," Marth added as the two blew on their whistles. After a few minutes of waiting, two white horses galloped to the base of the mountain. "Julia, you'll ride with me. Let's get going!" And the three rode back to Castle Askr, avoiding Hel's soldiers along the way.

Chapter Text

Eliwood was shocked when he felt a soft cloth over his eyes. He tried to look around, but the cloth completely blocked his vision.


"Who did this? Why is my vision gone?" Eliwood asked in a panic as he felt two arms loop around his elbows. Within a few seconds, he felt himself being pulled along.


"Hey, Eli! Lyn and I just wanted-"


"Shut up, Hector!" Lyn countered. Despite the fact that Eliwood was essentially being kidnapped from his patrol route, the fact that his kidnappers were Hector and Lyn eased his mind somewhat. He still had one important question on his mind, however: where were they taking him, anyway? Surely, Hector and Lyn would never harm him or deliberately lead him into danger. After a few minutes of worrying, Eliwood felt himself coming to a sudden stop.


"Hector? Lyn? Can you please remove my blindfold now? Where are we, anyway?" Eliwood asked.


"Sure thing, pal. We're already at your destination, anyhow," Hector answered as he removed the blindfold from Eliwood. Eliwood blinked as he looked around at his new surroundings: red and blue streamers and balloons adorned the room, and across the ceiling was a banner that said "Congratulations, Eliwood!".


"Surely, this was intended for Marth," Eliwood stammered as he prepared to leave. "You two got the wrong man!"


"Hmm," Lyn said, looking at a list in her hand again. "Last time I checked this list, you got second place while Marth finished in third, so... Hector and I grabbed the right guy."


"WOOOOOOOO! ELIWOOD!" Hector cheered. "You're a Brave Hero just like Lyn and myself now!" He clapped a hand on Eliwood's shoulder. While the Pheraean was bemused by his two companions' celebrations, he appreciated all of their support nonetheless.

Chapter Text

Maria's Order of Heroes was peering into a swirling vortex, which led to her original Outrealm. The vortex was blue and translucent, which allowed them to see what was happening on the other side.


"Shh... she's at the second Altar of the Brave again! Let's see who she summons this time," Sigurd whispered. Being Maria's second-in-command and exuding a fatherly aura, everyone listened to him. On the other side of the vortex, Maria swiftly lifted the green orb and socketed it into the summoning stone.


"Ephraim, take up Garm and answer my call!" Maria shouted. As the ground around her glowed and smoked, she could indeed make out the silhouette of an Ephraim clad in heavy armor while carrying Garm and an equally heavy shield.


"I am Prince Ephraim of Renais... have we met before?" Ephraim asked as he moved to take his place next to Ike's Brave form.


"Indeed we have, although you used Siegmund instead of Garm," Maria answered. Ephraim nodded and hummed.


"I'm not surprised at all. Siegmund fit me like a well-tailored glove," Ephraim added. "I wanted to expand my options in a fight, so I convinced Duessel to start training me in axes."
----------
"Is that Garm in my hand?" the Ephraim observing the vortex asked.


"Considering I ended up with Gleipnir, you wielding Garm isn't much of a surprise," Eirika answered before giggling. She then noticed Maria guiding the two Brave Heroes to the barracks before clearing her throat as if to speak.
----------
"Yes, it's true. After two years, I found my way back to this Outrealm," Maria explained in an attempt to reassure her original Order of Heroes that she was merely lost and hadn't abandoned them. In the meantime, a Chrom wearing bunny ears had rescued Fjorm, Ninian had plucked Lyon and the fallen Takumi out of the Heroic Grail, Lachesis fought Eir and won, and Lon'qu did the same to Legendary Ike. "Much has changed since I fell into that portal. I'd like to think I learned much from tactical geniuses such as Robin and Soren. However, I can't abandon the other Outrealm, either."


"How do you plan on jumping between Outrealms?" Sophia asked. Maria simply pulled Breidablik out of her coat before continuing.


"Alfonse and Sharena taught me to create portals myself, while Veronica's teaching me how to close them," Maria answered. At the mention of Veronica, that Outrealm's Alfonse, Sharena, and Anna tensed up.


"Why would you take advice from Veronica? She's the reason we're at war right now!" Alfonse scolded.


"Because the Veronica I spoke to is from a different timeline from the Veronica we know," Maria countered.


"Regardless, she'll no doubt betray you the second it's convenient for her! That's the way of Embla!" Alfonse argued back.
----------
"Is the other me really that distrustful? I understand the merits of caution, especially when former enemies can be summoned, but not all Emblians are cruel and untrustworthy," the other Alfonse began. "I take it he never learned that Bruno and Zacharias are one and the same, or else he'd be more tolerant of some of Maria's odder choices."


"And how do you know this?" Anna asked.


"Because, Commander, the other Alfonse was me in the past," Alfonse answered. He noticed Maria handing a red orb with a musical note inside to the Ephraim wielding Garm before signaling the normal Takumi to grab his bow and follow them to the courtyard.
----------
"Takumi, I need to see how good your aim is. Ephraim here will throw the orb on the count of three," Maria told the prickly Hoshidan. "Your goal is to shoot the orb out of the air and shatter it." She them gave Ephraim and Takumi earmuffs before donning a pair herself.


"Wait... before he throws the orb, why are we wearing earmuffs?" Takumi asked.


"It's going to be very loud once the orb shatters," Maria answered. "One... Two... THREE!" As if on cue, Ephraim threw the orb into the air. Thinking quickly, Takumi nocked an arrow before firing it at the orb. As the orb shattered, a loud, somewhat discordant tune started playing.

Chapter Text

"Maria taught me something new today!" Roy exclaimed with glee as he approached Lilina, who was reading her Forblaze tome. Lilina quickly put the tome down, always eager to learn something new.


"All right, Roy! What is it?" Lilina asked eagerly. "Is it a way to ward off Hel if she ever comes for you?"


"Well..." Roy began. "It goes a little something like this: It's lit, fam! Dab, dab, dab! Dab, dab, dab, dab! Hashtag squad goals!" Lilina looked at Roy as if he had grown three extra heads.


"Uhh... I don't even know how to describe it," Lilina commented, tilting her head to the left in an attempt to make sense of Roy's oddity. "I can only assume it's something from Maria's world."

Chapter Text

"Ephraim! So the rumors are true... you have taken to using Garm in this Outrealm," Sigurd began, offering his hand for Ephraim to shake. Ephraim shook Sigurd's hand before nodding.


"I wanted to honor Lyon's memory and homeland, but I'm no good with magic like Eirika is. Luckily for me, Duessel was more than happy to let me use Garm," Ephraim replied. "I take it you are her right hand in the other Outrealm."


"You could say that," Sigurd answered. "And I assume you must be the right hand in this Outrealm?"


"That assumption would be correct, Sigurd," Ephraim continued before hefting Garm and a massive shield. "If it's okay with you, could we have a sparring match before you go back to your Outrealm?"


"Of course I'll spar with you a bit. A right hand can't afford to be lazy or out of practice, after all," Sigurd said, accepting Ephraim's request before raising Tyrfing into the air. "Just a fair warning before we begin, though. A well-forged blade can easily pierce through an axe's wide swings."


"Not to worry, my fellow right hand! This shield has taken quite a few blades for me!" Ephraim countered before slamming his shield into the ground. "Now, come at me with everything you've got!"

Chapter Text

Twas the first morning of April when Fae jumped on Maria's bed, awakening her.


"Maria! Maria!" Fae excitedly shouted. "We have some very big news! Come down to the main hall with me!"


"All right, little one," Maria said groggily, still half asleep yet allowing the tiny Divine Dragon to grab her hand and half-pull her. By the time Maria was fully awake, she found herself in a massive crowd in the main hall. Many Heroes were excitedly muttering about the news on the bulletin board.


Hector practically barreled into Maria as if he were an excited, seven foot tall puppy covered in heavy armor.


"They finally did it! See for yourself!" Hector exclaimed, practically dragging Maria through the crowd as if she were a ragdoll. Heroes quickly moved out of the way, not wanting to be flattened by the Ostian heir. Once the two reached the bulletin board, Hector finally released Maria from his grip. "Go on! Eirika's got the paper!"


"Here you go, Maria," Eirika said, handing a sheet of paper to Maria.


Maria started reading the sheet of paper.


"Today, something legendary joins the battle," Maria began, pacing back and forth in front of the bulletin board. "Feh, the Messenger Owl for the Order of Heroes, joins the battle... WHOA!"


"What's wrong, Maria?" Fae asked, having made her way to the front of the crowd.


"Fae, look at Feh's power! It's immense!" Maria answered as she watched the owl on the enchanted paper completely annihilate her foes. "And on top of that, she's also extremely fashionable! Aww... "Skills I Want When I'm 5 Stars"... that is just precious!"


"Do you think Feh herself created this sheet?" the male Morgan asked.


"Feh! Why didn't you tell me you wanted to fight? I would've had someone train you and everything," Maria continued. Her heart sank by the time she reached the fine print.


"There are no plans to make Feh available in any summoning events..." Maria said despondently.


Feh, who was watching the crowd from her perch, flew over to Maria.


"FEHpril Fools!" Feh shouted. "We really had you convinced there, huh, Maria?"


"I just wanted to cuddle you..." Maria said before making her way to the incredibly fluffy owl.


"You know, I'm open to cuddles from anyone. Just wait in a nice, orderly manner, okay?" Feh answered just before Maria hugged her.


Minutes passed before Sigurd spoke up.


"You know, Maria, it's for the best that it was just a simple April Fool's joke," Sigurd began. "After all, everyone here loves Feh, and it would cause mass heartbreak if anything bad happened to her."

Chapter Text

“Let's play a game,” a more sinister Delthea began. “We'll see who can kill everyone in this castle first.”

 

“Delthea, wait! I never agreed to such a game!” Maria called out after her. However, Delthea was already charging toward her first intended victim. Unfortunately for her, the would-be victim was Hector.

 

“Shouldn't you pick your battles more wisely, Delthea?” Hector asked.

 

“You would oppose Tatarrah… your punishment is death,” Delthea answered almost robotically, not even aware of the fact that Hector was not only preparing to toss Armads if she struck him but Takumi was nearby with a staff fragment in hand ready to heal any injuries. Nonetheless, she summoned a purple flaming skull from her tome.

----------

Later, Delthea awoke in the infirmary with a splitting headache.

 

“The aura's gone. Good,” Laevatein assessed.

 

“Ow… what happened?” Delthea asked. “It feels like I tried to pick a fight with Hector!”

 

“There's a funny story there…” Hector began.

 

“You kind of tried to kill us all,” Takumi continued. “Luckily for all of us, you went straight for Hector of all people.”

 

“Oh…” Delthea said.

 

“Just stay in here for a while and you should be as good as new,” Maria told her

Chapter Text

“Let me see here… I'm going to have to try to summon Pent so I can reunite Louise with her one true love…”

 

As Maria was making preparations for the upcoming Bridal Festival, she was surprised by the arrival of Fjorm, who was wearing a wedding dress, holding a staff, and leading a pegasus.

 

“I'll be taking part in the Bridal Festival this year,” Fjorm announced. This sparked worry in Maria; after all, Fjorm had given up a large portion of her soul during the war against Surtr.

 

“You look dazzling, Fjorm,” Maria began. “But aren't you worried about your health?”

 

“This is all the more reason for me to participate,” Fjorm answered. “I wish to secure a happy wedded future with Alfonse before I die. Don't worry, he and I already talked about this.”

 

“I wish you the best of luck then, Fjorm,” Maria said. “Just be careful not to push yourself too hard out there!”

Chapter Text

"I can't find Raven or Lucius anywhere!" Maria said.

 

"Have you checked the infirmary?" Ike asked.

 

"That was the first place I checked," Maria answered.

 

"Were they at the gates?" Nino asked.

 

"They weren't there, either," Maria answered.

 

"They weren't in the Training Tower, were they?" Eirika asked.

 

"No, they weren't. I scoured all ten stratums," Maria answered.

 

"Are you playing hide and seek?" Fae asked.

 

"In a way, yes. However, they didn't tell me before hiding," Maria explained. "You didn't see them, did you, Fae?"

 

"Uh-uh," Fae answered before getting distracted by Feh.

 

"They weren't in the sparring arena," Hector said.

 

"Nor were they in the coliseum," Ephraim added.

 

"They didn't go into the Voting Gauntlet arena, I know that much," Anna said.

 

"They weren't in the storage room or any of the castle towers," Julia said.

 

"I flew to the Aether Keep. They were nowhere to be seen there," Laegjarn added.

 

"Not even at the Resort?" Laevatein asked.

 

"I thoroughly checked there as well. There was no sign of either of them," Laegjarn answered.

 

"They do like to stick together, so wherever one is, the other will almost certainly be nearby," Priscilla explained. "In fact, I do believe they decided to spend a little time at the Bridal Festival after giving your gift to Lady Louise."

 

"Thank you for your help, Priscilla," Maria said. "If that's the case, the best course is to just wait for them to come back on their own."

Chapter Text

Legault cursed his luck. Of all the things that could possibly go wrong, this certainly had to be up there in the top three, maybe even the top two.

 

He was presently surrounded by various soldiers who meant to kill him. He had earlier been followed by a wyvern knight, but that was different. Unlike these soldiers, the knight had no discernible intent to harm, maim, and/or murder him.

 

“Looks like there's no way out of this without having to fight,” Legault began as he assessed the current situation. Ten of Hel's soldiers and only one of him… if only he had a mount or could fare better in a fair fight. He sighed before tossing a dagger at a wyvern rider holding an axe and preparing to attack another wyvern rider, that one holding a lance.

 

“Thank you for saving my life, Legault! I'll return the favor!” a familiar voice called down from atop his wyvern. Why was this voice so familiar and how did its owner know his name? Could he have been the mysterious rider who followed him earlier? Legault wanted to believe Heath had found his way to Askr somehow, but the little voice in his head doubted that was the case. As he prepared to toss another dagger, he ducked to avoid becoming the midflight snack of a well meaning wyvern.

 

“If you are who I think you are, I have some questions for you,” Legault said as the wyvern hovered next to him. It was then that he got a good look at the rider: wild green hair with a silver steak, indigo armor with Bern's insignia engraved on it, and prideful gray eyes… Heath did indeed make his way to Askr.

 

“If you wish to live, climb on Hyperion's back,” Heath ordered. Legault wanted to see little Nino again, and he was more than a little fond of his fellow fugitive; he gladly obeyed and got himself situated on Hyperion's back.

 

“To think, our first meeting consisted of you throwing javelins at me with murderous intent. Now you're saving me from biting off far more than I could chew,” Legault reminisced fondly. “By the way, why is it you came to Zenith in the first place?”

 

“When I heard from Fiora that you had disappeared, I scoured every corner of Elibe looking for you. Then I looked into eyewitness claims that you went through a mysterious gate in Ilia, so I went through this odd gate,” Heath explained. “Fugitives like us tend to attract trouble. We should stay together.”

 

“My, since when did you become so social?” Legault teasingly asked.

 

“And whose fault is that?” Heath countered.

 

“You handsome jerk…” Legault said in defeat.

----------

"Stay with us, Heath. Don't be a stranger," Maria said to him once everything calmed down for the most part.

 

"Are you sure? What would I be fighting for?" Heath questioned. "I need to know the answer to that question before I make my decision."

 

"You'll be fighting to save a lot of innocent people from the ravages of war," Maria answered. "Even if you're technically fighting under Askr's banner, it's a lot better than the alternative."

 

"All right. I'll stay," Heath answered. Maria shook his hand in response.

 

"Welcome to the Order of Heroes. Please, don't mind the shenanigans," Maria warmly stated.

Chapter Text

"Oh, hello there, Ylgr," Maria began as she bent down to Ylgr's eye level. "I'm very glad you could make it."

 

"I'm glad I could make it too," Ylgr replied. "Hríd got sick, so I had to ask Gunnthra to bring me here… well, another timeline's Gunnthra, anyway." She then noticed Helbindi, who was on patrol. "Hi!"

 

"Hey, kid," Helbindi responded as Ylgr ran to him. "You just visiting or sticking around?"

 

"I'm staying!" Ylgr declared. "Thanks for saving me and watching over me for New Year's and teaching me how to use an axe and being my friend even though our countries were at war at the time!"

 

"Hey, don't worry about it," Helbindi said. "Let's go play in the sand a bit before I show you around the castle."

Chapter Text

"Be forewarned," Thórr began to Ephraim, Lyon, Nino, and Fae. "Going into Røkkr territory is always risky. They cannot be brought down by a mere squad of four like your previous foes."

 

"Then we'll just have to weaken them until everyone else can safely bring them down!" Ephraim answered as purple clouds swirled in the sky and red lightning crackled. He then charged toward a shadowy figure resembling Barst, with the others following.

----------

"I'm scared!" Fae cried as she attempted to avoid the Røkkr's axe, its size dwarfing even Surtr's axe. Lyon gently lifted Fae, mindful of her injuries, and placed her down behind him. "Thanks, Lyon!"

 

"You should help Nino," Lyon began, fear edging into his voice. "I can feel Him reaching the surface."

 

"Looks like I rode here just in time," Ephraim announced as his horse slowed its pace. "Just leave him to us, okay, Fae? You look pretty hurt."

 

"I'm hurt, but I'll get better fast. I'm a Divine Dragon, you know," Fae answered. "Don't be scared, Nino! Fae's coming!"

 

"My former enemy…" Formotiis began, speaking through Lyon. "I only work with you for my own survival."

 

"Someday, I will find a way to purge you from Lyon without killing him," Ephraim countered. "I suppose we can truce for the time being."

----------

 "Worry no longer! The reinforcements have arrived!" Sigurd announced.

 

 "Oh, thank goodness," Nino said before leaning against a nearby tree. "We did good, right?"

 

 "You and the others just need to rest easy, Nino," Lucius assured her. "The rest of us can take care of things from here."

Chapter Text

"Maria's been killed!" Sigurd shouted. "What do we do now?"

 

"We have to make this stand for the people of Askr!" Robin commanded. "We're the only thing standing between them and complete annihilation!"

 

"Papa? You don't intend to go through with this, do you?" the masked Lucina asked fearfully.

 

"I'm sorry, Lucina," Robin apologized before opening his tome. "We need to buy Alfonse time to complete the Rite of the Heart."

 

"NO!" Ike shouted. In the span of a few seconds, a heavily armored swordsman had lumbered toward Ike with the intent to kill him. However, before the fatal blow could connect, Soren had intercepted the blade. He stared down the swordsman who robbed him of his other half with a hatred he usually reserved for the Black Knight. With a cry of rage, Ike charged toward the swordsman.

 

"This is our last stand," Marth began. "Maria and Soren were already killed, but we can't let their deaths be in vain!"

 

"I know this is scary," Eirika added. "But this threat is robbing everyone of a future. If we don't act now, we may never know peace again."

 

"We need to trust in each other now more than ever," Corrin finished. "Whatever grudges we may hold against one another need to be set aside for the greater good."

----------

Dead bodies and weapons littered the battlefield, and the stench of decay permeated the air.

 

"I apologize, but this is simply fascinating!" Canas exclaimed after spotting his own corpse, which was still impaled through the chest with a lance. "Other me, could you enlighten me as to what the afterlife is like?"

 

"Was this part of what Líf was trying to tell us?" Maria asked, holding a tattered, bloody leather journal close to her chest. "That not even you were safe in the end?"

 

"Then it's even more imperative that we find an alternate method of defeating Hel!" Anna declared. "The Rite of the Heart is already far too risky for us to even consider."

 

"The remains of Castle Askr look safe enough," Alfonse said. "Let's rest there while we contemplate our next move."

Chapter Text

"Oh, no," Florina sadly began as she looked at the bulletin board. She didn't even notice Serra standing beside her.

 

"Why, what's the matter, Florina? I'm aware that I'm super talkative, but I'll keep your secret, I promise," Serra asked. "After all, I'm a cleric, and we're some of the nicest people around."

 

"Well, you know how I'm the baby sister of Fiora and Farina? Well, Fiora's coming here in a few days," Florina explained. "I never managed to work up the nerve to attend a Summer Festival… I really wish I had Lyn's confidence. What if Fiora laughs at me?"

 

"It's okay, Florina," Nino spoke up. "I'm sure Fiora won't laugh at you."

 

"You know, you don't really have to wear a swimsuit if that's what's bothering you," Serra said.

 

"It's not just that," Florina countered. "The crowds scare me more. I've always wanted to go to the beach, but I guess I'm just too timid."

 

"Don't worry," Nino assured her. "I'll come with you so you don't have to be scared. You taught me how to ride a pegasus, so it's my turn to help you."

 

"Don't forget that we're friends!" Serra called out. "Won't it be great, the three of us together on the beach? And who knows, maybe Lyndis will join us!"

 

"Thank you so much," Florina said. "I'm still a bit worried about being teased, but it's always nice to be with friends."

Chapter Text

 "Marth, I… I don't know how to begin this," Roy began. Eliwood stood in the distance, gently nodding in encouragement. "Ever since we met in the second Super Smash Brothers tournament, I've always admired you." Roy gulped nervously, though whether he was more worried about Marth or the looming Tempest was difficult to tell.

 

 "It's all right, Roy," Marth said. He gently pulled a flower out of his bouquet and carefully tucked it behind Roy's ear. "The truth is, I'm actually pretty nervous, too. And I've always admired you as well." The two steadily closed the distance between one another. "That's why I have an extremely important question for you. Will you stay by my side as long as we're both here?"

 

 "I believe you already know the answer to that question," Roy answered as his nerves calmed down a bit. "The answer is yes. I will gladly stand by your side, come Hel, Røkkrs, or any Tempest Loki throws our way." The two closed the gap between each other and embraced. The embrace was interrupted by a sharpened seashell whizzing past Marth's head.

 

 "Let's deal with Ursula first," Marth said, hefting an axe yet again. Roy likewise unsheathed the Binding Blade, and the two charged toward the Blue Crow. 

Chapter Text

 "There," Maria said. "It's all in order now. The bookshelves, blackboard, and desks are all installed, the walls have been painted, and the carpet got changed out."

 

 "You know, it's really amazing that Feh was able to sleep through the renovations," Sharena remarked. As if on cue, Feh awakened with a yawn.

 

 "Ah… good morning," Feh greeted the two. "Whoa! The main hall sure looks different now!"

 

 "Long story short, I've been having trouble sleeping lately, so I decided to change the main hall a little," Maria explained, carefully tilting her head to avoid revealing the black rings around her eyes.

 

 "Oh, hi, Maria!" Nino greeted her. "Why is your head tilted all funny? Do you need to visit the infirmary?"

 

 "Class is in session!" Maria shouted. She grabbed a black officer's hat and tossed it into a gathering crowd of Heroes. "Discuss among yourselves who gets to be the teacher. I'm going to take a long-overdue nap."

Chapter Text

 "What's going on? Why is it taking longer than usual for Ephraim's team to recover this time?" Eirika asked, with Fae close behind her. "He, Lyon, and Nino would all be up and about by now!"

 

 "Come with me, Eirika," Maria said. "I'll explain everything on our way to the infirmary." Fae said nothing, but continued following closely behind the two.

 

 "Would you mind telling me what all this is about?" Eirika asked.

 

 "Askr was besieged by Røkkrs again," Maria explained. "Thórr and I tried to warn Ephraim and the others that they should be careful, but they simply charged ahead to the top of Twilight Plateau. I had to have the flyer team rescue them."

----------

 "Ephraim Fado Renais!" Eirika scolded. "What were you thinking, charging directly at the Røkkrs? They could have killed you!"

 

 "Heh… I'm hardly surprised," Ephraim said. His chest was wrapped in bandages, and he also had bandages over his left eye. "Hello there, Fae. Are you being good for Eirika?"

 

 "I'm being the bestest I can," Fae answered. "I hope we can all play together again soon."

 

 "Next time, just leave the Røkkr menace to my team," Eirika continued. "I refuse to lose my only remaining family and our mutual best friend regardless of how death works around here! I saw all of our corpses on that battlefield! What if our Maria were to get killed?"

 

 "Then we'll just have to- ow," Ephraim answered. His reply was interrupted by a sharp pain in his shoulders. Lucius quickly made his way to Ephraim's bedside.

 

 "Lucius! Would you mind telling me why they're taking longer than normal to recover this time? It wasn't like this last time they fought the Røkkr menace," Eirika requested.

 

 "I'll tell you something I overheard Thórr telling Maria," Lucius began. "The more someone fights Røkkrs, the less effective a staff becomes for them. Fae was only able to recover normally because of her divine dragon heritage."

 

 "But if they were to leave the Røkkrs to someone else for a while, a staff would work normally for them again, right?" Eirika asked.

 

 "Your assumption would be correct, Lady Eirika," Lucius answered before returning his attention to Ephraim.

Chapter Text

 Surtr awakened one morning to find the floor in his room littered with strange orbs. Cautiously, he crept through his room, hoping to avoid the orbs. However, he accidentally set one of the orbs off, and he found himself drenched in water.

 

 "I will burn whoever is responsible for this," Surtr growled. He opened the door leading to the rest of the castle… and a metal bucket filled with water fell upon his head, which not only soaked him further but obscured his vision. "Immature children… all will burn once I get this accursed bucket off my head." Little did Surtr realize that this was merely the beginning of another campaign where defeating him was the ultimate goal…

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 "Nyahaha!" Henry laughed. "The bucket and water balloons must've really made him angry!"

 

 "True, but once the bucket comes off his head, it's curtains for us," the male Morgan began. "Unless, of course, we can stop the rampage."

 

 "What if we were to dig a pit trap for Surtr to fall into? He never really seemed all that bright to me," the female Morgan suggested.

 

 "But Maria warned me that giving the shovels to either of you would lead to something bad," Katarina warned.

 

 "It's just Surtr," the female Morgan began. "Just between you and me, I don't think even Maria cares for him all that much or else the last time we did this would've been punished far worse than a few days on the bench."

 

 "Uh… if you really are okay with just a few days on the bench, I guess I can give you and your male self the shovels," Katarina said. "I really hope you're all careful. Surtr has quite the temper."

 

 "Maybe, but he can't stop us all!" Henry said. "After all, there's only one of him and several of us! Nyahaha!"

----------

 The campaign started by Henry and the Morgans snowballed.

 

 Ephraim and Eirika hid the Shock and Heavy traps within an area of the castle they knew Surtr would walk through.

 

 Hector replaced Sinmara with a well-crafted replica.

 

 Laegjarn and Laevatein gave Surtr a false can of rations. When he opened it, glitter burst into his face.

 

 Katarina and Nino hid Maria's phone in Surtr's room while it played "Never Gonna Give You Up" on loop.

 

 Takumi hid airhorns in strategic places around the castle that only Surtr could reach (He had to hop on Hector's shoulders for this task).

 

 Lyon filled Surtr's closet with noisy rubber chickens.

 

 Ylgr and Fjorm offered Surtr a caramel apple that turned out to actually be an onion.

 

 The Morgans dug holes behind the castle.

 

 Henry and Raven imitated each other's voices whenever Surtr was nearby.

 

 Helbindi simply tripped him.

 

 Heath found several different officer's hats and swapped from a smaller one to a larger one every so often.

 

 "Uh-oh!" Eirika shouted as Maria approached. Fortunately for the merry band of pranksters, she simply passed them on her way to the Colosseum.

 

 "I think I heard her laughing a little as she passed," Katarina said. The pranksters returned to their campaign.

Chapter Text

 "You have not seen Hector, Matthew, or Serra, have you?" Oswin asked a woman sitting at a table in Askr's castle town.

 

 "I do believe they reside in the castle these days. Are you a friend of theirs?" the woman answered.

 

 "I am Hector's retainer," Oswin explained. "In addition, they are but children. Someone needs to keep them safe."

 

 "Continue following the northern road until you reach the castle gates," the woman began. "If you are not here to attack the Order of Heroes, they will let you in. Their Summoner is very trusting."

 

 "I thank you for your aid, madam," Oswin said before making a small bow and continuing to follow the northern road.

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 "Ah, if it isn't my favorite ill-hearted old man!" Hector cheerfully said once he noticed Oswin approaching the gates. Hector was on gate guard duty that day.

 

 "Technically, I'm only an ill-hearted gentleman, seeing how I'm 30 years old and all," Oswin replied. "I see your faith in your martial abilities is as strong as ever. Where are Matthew and Serra?"

 

 "Maria sent them away on a scouting mission," Hector answered. "Serra's supposed to heal Matthew if things go south and-"

 

 "HEY! IS THIS WHO I THINK IT IS?" Serra shouted, much to Matthew's annoyance.

 

 "Serra, not… so… loud," Matthew growled. "I thought you were on a scouting mission, not a shouting contest. Besides, you could scare the old man off."

 

 "Gentleman," Oswin corrected.

 

 "So, I have a daughter from the future that's around my age," Hector began. "This world is really strange at first, but you get used to it."

 

 "I never imagined this would be the world on the other side of the miniature Dragon Gates," Oswin mused.

 

 "Let's head on inside," Matthew offered. "There's all kinds of people inside. You have lords, retainers, royalty, commoners, the whole lot, really." Oswin nodded; this would prove to be an interesting situation.

Chapter Text

 "You!" the female Byleth began as she approached Raven. "I understand you're angry. Let me help you rage more effectively."

 

 "This is my resting face," Raven explained. "Nobody got on my bad side today. Lucius and Priscilla are still safe. I've been angry for so long that it became normal for me at some point."

 

 "I see," Byleth said before humming. "You're already skilled in using your fury as both an axe and a shield. What if I told you there were more levels of this fury to tap into? What would theoretically push you to such a point?"

 

 "Someone would have to rekindle my desire for revenge," Raven answered. "The thought of my sister or the love of my life being brutally murdered in front of me would be enough to send me flying into a blind fury."

 

 "Now we have the scenario," Byleth began before unsheathing her sword. "Pretend I was the one who ended their lives while you were forced to watch." Almost immediately, she stepped to the side to avoid Raven and his axe.

 

 "You monster!" Raven yelled. He attempted to correct his course, but he slammed into a wall instead.

 

 "You're on the right track," Byleth calmly encouraged. "You need to get meaner and angrier if you want to tap into that extra layer of fury slumbering within you."

 

 "You knew they deserved a better fate!" Raven yelled, again charging toward Byleth with little regard for his own safety. "Why did you kill them in such a gruesome manner?!?"

 

 "That's it," Byleth said calmly. "Oh! I can see the faint figure of a dragon surrounding your axe. Could you also be weaponizing your wrath?"

 

 "I promise you, you haven't even begun to comprehend the extent of the rage within me," Raven growled. With a furious scream, he swung Basilikos into Byleth's stomach.

 

 "Oh, my," Lucius said as he stepped into the sparring arena. "Did I come at a bad time?"

 

 "No, you came at the right time, Lucius," Byleth answered. "I was simply teaching Raven here how to further weaponize his fury and wrath. Looks like I succeeded, though we both require healing before I return to my students." After Lucius healed both Byleth and Raven with his staff, Raven wordlessly wrapped him in a tight hug.

 

 "Don't ever get yourself killed," Raven said. "Even now, you keep me from drowning in rage and hatred."

 

 "I must leave before my students start a war with each other," Byleth said. She dusted herself off and left the sparring arena.

Chapter Text

"If it isn't my favorite wyvern knight," Legault cheerfully stated. "Let me tell you a little something about how death works around here."

 

 "You haven't finally decided to betray or kill me, have you?" Heath asked worriedly.

 

 "Don't you worry your pretty little head off," Legault assured him. "It would be in both of our best interests if I did neither of these things to you. Just think of what I'm about to tell you as a precaution should you fly into battle."

 

 "Go on," Heath said, slightly relaxing his guard but remaining tense.

 

 "Let's say I were to stab Surtr with my knife and somehow kill him," Legault began. "He would transform back into a green orb, and Maria could resummon him with all his memories intact. That's how it works for most of us around here."

 

 "What do you mean by most of us?" Heath asked.

 

 "Unfortunately, you and Oswin are exceptions to the rule. If you were to die here, that would be the end barring a miracle," Legault sadly continued. "If Maria were to be killed by some means or another, the spell protecting us would be undone, as this Outrealm demonstrated for us."

 

 "But as long as I'm careful, this shouldn't be a problem, right?" Heath questioned.

 

 "I believe you get the general idea now," Legault answered. "Heh."

 

 "What's funny?" Heath asked.

 

 "I never thought the day would come where I'm the more sturdy one between us, even if it is just on a technicality," Legault explained, wrapping an arm around Heath's shoulders.

 

 "You certainly are a strange man, Legault," Heath mused. "I suppose that's just my favorite thing about you."

Chapter Text

 Soren looked around in the main hall to make sure nobody saw him before approaching his target: Feh and her perch. He carefully crept around, ducking behind the desks as he did so. After Soren finally reached his target, he carefully wrapped his arms around the very fluffy owl and nuzzled her.

 

 "Soren! What a pleasant surprise cuddle," Feh said. At this, Soren released her.

 

 "Don't tell anyone I snuggled you just now, Feh. I have a reputation as a joyless, work-obsessed grouch whose only soft spot is for Ike to uphold," Soren replied.

 

 "I don't think you were alone," Feh pointed out. It was then that Soren noticed a decent-sized crowd nearby.

 

 "I told you you weren't so mean, Soren," Nino said. In that instant, Soren wished the castle floor would open up and swallow him.

Chapter Text

 "Everybody, there's going to be some changes to the Order!" Maria announced. She was wearing an officer's cap and black school uniform with black thigh-high socks.

 

 "Maria, are you staying up all night again?" Lyn asked.

 

 "That's irrelevant, Lyn," Maria countered. She placed a mug filled with coffee on her desk. "Starting today, you are to refer to me as Professor instead of Summoner. Also, I would like to place you all in three divisions themed after red, blue, and yellow, which will henceforth be referred to as the Crimson Owls, Azure Tigers, and Golden Antelopes."

 

 "I'd really like to know what's going on," Alfonse said shortly before Maria pulled him to her desk.

 

 "In addition, Alfonse, I would like you, Sharena, and Anna to fight in this formation from here on," Maria continued, pointing to the box art for Fire Emblem Three Houses.

 

 "How do you expect any of us to achieve Claude's position?" Alfonse asked. Maria placed a box filled with red, blue, and yellow ribbons on her desk before speaking again.

 

 "Use a flying mount," Maria answered. "I will now place everyone in one of three divisions. I'll try my best to keep friend groups and couples together."

Chapter Text

 As Elincia was making her way through Castle Askr, she noticed one of the hallways was blocked off. Confused, she turned to her fellow princess Eirika, who was standing nearby.

 

 "Pardon me, but why is that hallway blocked?" Elincia asked.

 

 "Oh, you must be new here," Eirika began. "You see, we're currently in the midst of a prank war against Surtr, and that hallway has Shock and Heavy traps strewn about. We're intending for him to walk down it and receive some nasty surprises. As for everyone else, they'll have to take a detour. You're new here, so I'll have Ephraim guide you to the detour. EPHRAIM!"

 

 "I'm guessing someone's new here and needs help finding the detour?" Ephraim asked. He was also standing next to the blocked off hallway. "Don't worry… Elincia, right?"

 

 "Yes, that's my name," Elincia answered as she started following Ephraim. "I assume Ike told you all he knew about Tellius?"

 

 "You would be right," Ephraim said. "Do you know why we've blocked off that hallway for everyone but Surtr?"

 

 "I do not. Please, enlighten me," Elincia replied.

 

 "It all started while we were at war with Muspell," Ephraim explained. "Surtr was the king of Muspell at the time, so ultimately, all the blame for the suffering that war caused can be laid at his feet. He didn't treat his countrymen or two daughters any better."

 

 "Oh, my… that sounds awful," Elincia remarked. "But why this… prank war, as I heard everyone calling it?"

 

 "Since Surtr got summoned here, we're not really allowed to kill him over and over again, so we're doing the next best thing we can: humiliating him. This is the result of almost a year of planning," Ephraim answered. The two came to a stop beside another hallway. "Here's the detour, Elincia. I hope you can get to where you need to go from here."

 

 "I thank you for your assistance," Elincia said, making a small curtsy. "Though I was never much of a prankster, I'll be rooting for the rest of you. This Surtr character sounds an awful lot like Ashnard of Daein."

Chapter Text

 Sigurd awakened one morning to find that Maria was nowhere in Castle Askr. He searched every nook and cranny he knew of, but she was nowhere to be seen. Worried, Sigurd ran to Hector, who handed him a scroll bound with a green ribbon.

 

 "So… Maria gave me this note to pass to you in case she ever disappeared on us," Hector explained. Sigurd gingerly undid the ribbon and started reading the scroll.

 

To my dearest Sigurd,

 

 I have entrusted this note to Hector. If he has given it to you, then I am unable to reach Castle Askr for one reason or another. In such an event, I need you to keep order in the Order of Heroes. Should Thórr seek out assistance in keeping the Røkkr menace, do not send Ephraim, Lyon, Nino, and Fae directly into the fray. I will not have anyone in this order turning into Røkkrs themselves while I'm gone. Other than that, just make sure everyone does what needs to be done from day to day until I return.

 

With love,

Maria

 

 "Something happened to Maria and I won't rest until we find her!" Sigurd announced. "I'll just have to call a meeting in the main hall. We need a lot of eyes in this search."

----------

 "Hel didn't capture her, did she?" Alfonse asked.

 

 "It's a possibility," Eir answered. "My mother grows desperate in her war against life itself. Maria being abducted and killed isn't a far-fetched possibility."

 

 "I fear that should we be attacked like in the alternate timeline, we would also be reduced to a field of corpses strangely unable to rot," Priscilla remarked. "Oh, Maria… please be alive, wherever you are!"

 

 "I saw Maria flashing into the third Altar of the Brave!" Micaiah announced. All eyes fell upon her… and noticed that her bird Yune was now an apparition of the chaos goddess. "She summoned from the green orb, and Yune is no longer the small orange bird you all saw perched upon my shoulder."

 

 "Let's hurry!" Takumi shouted. "If Maria popped up the way Micaiah described, she might be a ghost!"

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 "Something is very wrong with Breidablik," Maria explained to the Order of Heroes. "Until I can figure out why it can't keep me anchored here for very long, I will seem very ghostlike to you. Don't worry, I'm still alive. Please, just be careful." Maria suddenly vanished into thin air.

 

 "So, Maria is alive," Sigurd remarked. "Still, even everyone bound to Breidablik will have to be careful. As she said, something is very wrong with it and your lives cannot be guaranteed."

Chapter Text

 It was a peaceful day high atop the clouds in the Aether Keep. Ephraim and Lyon were among the many Heroes who visited the flying fortress.

 

 The two were in the resort part of the fortress, which had been modeled after a sunny beach villa, though they were far from the only visitors. Presently, Fiora had snuck up behind Michalis, poked him, and was putting on an innocent act. Takumi's eyes lit up for a brief second, but nobody thought anything of it.

 

 No, their attention was instead on a duet between Helbindi and Tiki. Though Tiki had certainly roped the ex-general into performing with her, the two had a good time nonetheless. After the two finished their duet, Takumi resumed his observation of Ephraim and Lyon, who were walking to the armory. Carefully and quietly, he crept behind Ephraim, taking care to avoid detection by either him or Lyon. As the two were deep in conversation, Takumi slowly approached and poked Ephraim's shoulder.

 

 "BOO!" Takumi shouted, startling the pair.

 

 "Takumi! You really startled me!" Ephraim said. However, Takumi had already left.

Chapter Text

 "It was me," Eirika began. "I talked Takumi into spooking Ephraim, figuring Lyon would get startled as well."

 

 "My, whatever would push you to do that?" Camilla asked. She and Eirika were currently backstage in the concert hall in the resort part of the Aether Keep.

 

 "I had to pay them back for the bunny cult," Eirika answered. "I needed someone Ephraim would never expect, and Takumi was the simplest to convince. I promised him he could borrow my brush, seeing as his brush's bristles snapped off." Camilla was deep in thought.

 

 "That confession is worth three headpats," Camilla stated before gently patting Eirika's head three times.

Chapter Text

 "Listen well," Sigurd began to a group of three consisting of Nino, Legault, and Heath. "I have received reports from Hríd himself saying that Maria was sighted in Nifl. I need the three of you to look into this possible Maria sighting and bring her back home. Everyone's worried about her."

 

 "You got it, Sigurd! We won't stop until we bring Maria back home!" Nino declared.

 

 "Your enthusiasm is nothing short of admirable, Nino," Sigurd said. "Good luck out there."

----------

 "Pardon me for asking, but what brings the three of you to Nifl?" Reinhardt asked.

 

 "A better question would be what brings you to Nifl?" Heath countered. "We're looking for Maria. I take it you must be this Reinhardt I heard so many horror stories about?"

 

 "I am indeed the Reinhardt you heard many tales about, though you will find that the campfire stories your group tells about me are slightly exaggerated," Reinhardt answered. "I would like to aid you in your search for Maria, if you would allow it."

 

 "As long as your presence makes this journey even a bit safer for the three of us, you are more than welcome to join us," Legault said.

 

 "I thank you for allowing me to join your search party," Reinhardt began. "Now, let's get going."

----------

 "Nifl, dragon of frost… I offer you this prayer and this sacred Winter Medallion," Maria began. She was kneeling before the very same icy altar where Fjorm offered up her life force in hopes of evening the odds against Surtr. "Mend Breidablik and restore the link between myself and Zenith!" A brilliant, icy blue light flooded the room as Maria felt more stable with each passing second. Once the light faded, Nino, Legault, Heath, and Reinhardt ran toward her.

 

 "Are you okay? Do you feel like you'll vanish again? Can we take Reinhardt back home with us?" Nino asked.

 

 "I'm fine. Sigurd sent you to find me, didn't he? I told him not to worry about me," Maria answered. "And yes, Reinhardt is coming back to Castle Askr with us. Luckily, now that Breidablik is fixed, going home will be the easy part." She opened a portal to Castle Askr, and the five stepped through it.

Chapter Text

 It was nearing autumn once more when the Performing Arts festival returned to Askr's castle city. The theme this time was ballroom dancing, a theme the Heroes within Castle Askr's walls were hard at work preparing for… well, most of them, anyway. The results were mixed.

 

 Nephenee kept time with a new bow that doubled as a fiddle. This assignment suited her just fine, for she was almost as shy as Florina.

 

 Speaking of Florina, she was practicing her steps with Lyn as her partner. Lyn seemed much happier ever since she started training her archery, while Florina looked much more confident than usual. However, their dance was interrupted by a loud crashing noise. At first, Lyn had thought that Helbindi or one of the children had crashed into something in the castle, but upon asking Maria, she realized that they were playing in the resort part of the Aether Keep the entire time.

 

 "Uh, yeah… I'm just not cut out for this type of thing," Hector began. "I always snuck off to the arena when Uther threw one of his parties."

 

 "You should just be glad Uther's not here," Oswin replied. "Otherwise, I'd have to tell on you. And somehow, Prince Takumi's dangling from the chandelier. How did you manage that?"

 

 "It happens," Takumi called from his hanging place on the chandelier. "Can someone get me down from here?"

 

 "No problem, little pineapple," Hector replied as he stacked tables, chairs, and even the piano on top of each other. Oswin gulped. This wasn't going to end well...

Chapter Text

 "Okay, Deirdre, here's the plan," Maria said to the newly summoned Deirdre. "I need you to hide behind this pillar. You can reveal yourself to Sigurd on my signal." Deirdre quickly hid behind the nearest pillar just before Sigurd entered the main hall.

 

 "Maria," Sigurd began. "I heard a rumour that Deirdre was summoned here not too long ago. Are they true?"

 

 "Funny you should ask, Sigurd," Maria began, waving her hand toward a pillar. Deirdre hesitantly emerged from behind the pillar. "She just… showed up when Breidablik was at its strongest for that particular focus."

 

 "That man… he seems so familiar, and yet… when I try to remember him, nothing comes up," Deirdre explained. "I'm sure that if I spend some time with him, I'll be able to remember him."

 

 "I must thank you for finally bringing Deirdre here," Sigurd said, hugging Maria. "You have no idea how much I appreciate your kindness!"

 

 "Please put me down so you and Deirdre can properly make up for lost time," Maria requested. Sigurd complied and happily showed Deirdre around the castle.

Chapter Text

 "Maria?" Lyon asked, his voice shaking as he observed the scene before him. The main hall was in ruins, and Maria was curled into a ball rocking back and forth.

 

 "It was supposed to be just a quick look," Maria muttered, unaware of Lyon's presence. "That monster killed poor Feh and broke her perch… not even cute, fluffy owls were spared from this senseless destruction."

 

 "Are you well? Do you need any food or drinks? Would you like some company? Or would you prefer to be left alone for a bit longer?" Lyon asked. Maria, having finally noticed him, turned around and grabbed both of his hands with an alarming speed and an unnerving grin on her face. Her pupils were like pinpricks, and the eyes themselves were bloodshot.

 

 "If we ever encounter her again," Maria began. "Kill Hel. Kill Hel. Kill Hel kill Hel kill Hel kill Hel kill Hel kill Hel KILL HEL!" Lyon gulped. He hoped this was just another nightmare, but the pain resulting from his hands being squeezed confirmed that this was, sadly, real.

 

 "Maria? We had the main hall of this Castle Askr blocked off. How did you reach it?" Anna asked. Lyon had wrapped Maria in the tattered remains of what was once a proud banner.

 

 "I'm sorry, Anna," Lyon began. "I take full responsibility for Maria being in the forbidden area. She had been curious as to what happened to the main hall, and I thought a quick peek wouldn't hurt anything."

 

 "Destruction... Kill Hel... Destroy Hel," Maria muttered as Anna and Lyon escorted her out of the ruins of the main hall.

Chapter Text

"You," Laevatein began, gaining the attention of a man in red armor. "Tell me who you are and what happened to your friend."

 

 "I'm Kent and that lout in green is Sain," Kent began as he dropped an injured Sain onto an empty bed in the infirmary.

 

 "Owwww…" Sain groaned. Laevatein wasted no time in raising her staff to his injuries. "Those funny looking Morphs really got me."

 

 "Those were no Morphs, as you called them just now," Laevatein replied. "You and your  friend had a run-in with Hel's soldiers. Had Kent not thought quickly enough, you would both have died and joined their ranks."

 

 "My eyes have truly fallen upon a beautiful angel on this day," Sain said as the healing magic from Laevatein's staff seeped into his body. However, Laegjarn almost immediately hovered over him menacingly.

 

 "I can't save you from her wrath," Kent commented before shuffling away.

 

 "You, at least, seem to have some intelligence," Laegjarn said as she slowly and menacingly approached Sain, her sword Níu in hand. "As for you, you will stop playing these games with my sister. Do I make myself clear?" Sain gulped.

 

 "Yep… crystal clear," Sain answered in a shaky voice. He escaped from Laegjarn at the first opportunity he saw only to run headfirst into Lyn. "Ah… Lady Lyndis! Fancy seeing you here."

 

 "Kent explained the situation to me," Lyn began. "We could really use all the help we can get against Hel. With each death, her ranks grow, and she seeks to extinguish all life in Zenith. Moreover, she manipulated another timeline's Alfonse and Veronica into serving her."

 

 "I'll gladly join up with your group, Lady Lyndis!" Sain agreed. "After all, I will not rest until all the ladies everywhere are safe!"

Chapter Text

 "So, you're saying that there's a Røkkr of me roaming the base of Twilight Plateau?" Ephraim asked Thórr.

 

 "That is correct," Thórr answered.

 

 "I would exercise caution if I were you," Seth warned. "You and your team narrowly avoided transforming into Røkkrs. I would hate to have to slay you with my own blade or deliver the bad news to Eirika."

 

 "If I pretend that Røkkr me is my self-doubt and guilt over my failure to save Lyon personified, I'll feel a whole lot better," Ephraim said as a plan formulated in his mind. As soon as he worked out the details in his mind, he charged toward the large shadow that took his shape.

 

 "Did Ephraim really just work out a method to prevent Røkkrfication even after prolonged battle against Røkkrs?" Thórr wondered. "I must observe."

 

 "I pray he did," Seth replied. "Despite his reckless nature, Prince Ephraim is actually a very intelligent man. If he would apply himself, he would be among the greatest rulers Renais ever had."

Chapter Text

 "Ah, Berkut," Reinhardt began, still being able to smell the electrical burn on Berkut. "I take it you pulled a Magvel Disaster so you could eliminate the possibility of facing Rinea in the finals?"

 

 "SHUT UP! DON'T YOU DARE COMPARE ME TO THOSE…" Berkut screamed before pointing a finger in Ephraim and Lyon's direction. "PEASANTS!"

 

 "Ah, but you do know why it is called a Magvel Disaster," Reinhardt calmly countered. "And furthermore, you do not deny pulling one." Berkut simply screamed some more.

 

 "Should we tell him?" Lyon asked.

 

 "Nah. It's funnier to let him think we're peasants," Ephraim replied. "Besides, I think it's a tremendous honor that our actions during the Fated Battles gauntlet gave rise to a popular expression around here."

Chapter Text

"We meet again, Maria," Líf began as a storm raged on all around both armies currently standing across from one another. "However, this will be our last meeting, for you and your entire Order will fall on this field, as my world's Order of Heroes did that fateful day."

 

"Say... his soldiers look really familiar," the female Morgan remarked. "In fact, I'd say they look completely identical to us, if we were risen from the dead in the same manner as Líf and Thrasir."

 

"Clever, little girl," Líf complimented. "After all, Hel would never allow perfectly good soldiers to go to waste. Heroes have already fought in wars before coming to Zenith, so they have more skill and experience than your average soldier."

 

"Would it not be more advantageous for us to not fight ourselves? After all, nobody knows our own strengths and weaknesses better than we do, and their knowledge would mirror ours," Soren questioned.

 

"If they were alive, your theory would be correct, little mage," Líf answered before shaking his head. "However, Hel's magic makes all grow stronger in death. Your Zenith was doomed as soon as Hel marked it for death. Accept it."

 

"No," Maria defiantly countered before pointing a staff with the same coloration as Breidablik at Líf. "I'm not going to lie down and die just because the queen of the dead shows up. You severely underestimate our will to live." Líf darkly chuckled before planting Sökkvabekkr into the cold, dead ground.

 

"Still you resist?" Líf asked before turning to his army. "Very well. We have no further delay. Kill them all."

 

Both armies charged toward each other as the storm continued raging.

 

Chapter Text

Several months ago...

 

"Lucius," Maria began as she approached him one night as he was reorganizing everything in the infirmary.

 

"Do you need anything?" Lucius asked.

 

"I need you to teach me how to use a staff," she clarified. "I would like to do more on the battlefield than simply bark orders at people."

 

"That certainly is an odd request, but I am glad you seek to walk a less bloody path to your destination," Lucius replied as he grabbed a spare staff. He then handed the spare staff to Maria. "Come with me. A healer's work is never done."


----------


"Maria!" Sain shouted. "I think I saw a spooky Alfonse marching toward the castle! He's got a whole army marching behind him!"

 

"The spooky Alfonse goes by Líf now," Maria replied. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Sain. We don't have a moment to lose. I need you to let everyone know so we can prepare for this battle."

 

"You got it, o vision of beauty!" Sain said before rushing off. Maria calmly lifted Breidablik, and the divine weapon transformed into a staff. She then walked into the main hall.


----------


"We're all going?" Myrrh asked. She was currently perched atop Ephraim's shoulders so she could see Maria.

 

"Yes, Myrrh," Maria answered. "Líf has a whole army behind him and is marching even as we speak."

 

"Where's Breidablik? Did something happen to it?" the younger Tiki asked. Maria waved her staff around.

 

"This is Breidablik," Maria answered. "It just turned into a staff so I can help you all fight Líf. We all need to get ready to fight him and his army."

Chapter Text

"Finally! We have you right where we want you!" Maria announced as she and the Order of Heroes cornered Líf in the ruined Castle Askr. "No more running away! You will tell us everything we want to know."

"Can your will to live truly save you?" Líf asked. "Death comes for everyone. Many have sought to evade it, but all have failed. What makes you think you can stop Hel?"

"Just like you, we want to save our Zenith," Alfonse began. "However, there is one thing I'd like to know. Why my world of all worlds?"

"I will not answer any questions. Even if I were to perish again, I would simply bring you back to Hel with me," Líf explained before pulling a red stone out of the inside of his large cloak.

"Someone get that away from him!" Maria ordered upon noticing the stone. Quickly, Helbindi tackled Líf in an effort to get the stone away from him. He simply responded by tossing the stone toward Feh's ruined perch. Once the stone bounced off of the perch's remains, Seth dove toward it and caught it. He then tossed the stone to Florina, who was hovering nearby with her pegasus. After catching the stone, she then flew away as quickly as she could. Florina gulped at the sight before her: Líf had stolen the female Morgan's pegasus and was currently hovering ever closer to the timid Pegasus Knight.

"HEY, JERKFACE!" the male Morgan yelled as he grabbed a decent sized stone and prepared to hurl it at Líf. "Give Malledus back to my female counterpart or she'll get Uncle Henry to toss his coffin at you! Trust me, that thing is really heavy." At the next moment, Líf ducked to avoid a swirl of dark magic being tossed at him courtesy of Henry.

"Aww, I wanted to see if my hexes could affect Hel's generals," Henry said disappointedly. Undeterred for long, he hefted the coffin he used to store candy and ghosts for the Harvest Festival. "But this next one should be hex-a powerful. Nyahahaha!"

"You should probably take Henry seriously. He's very scary, you know," Florina added as she used her free hand to point her lance at him.

"Toss me the stone, Florina. Your hand's burning," Fiora told her. Now that Florina noticed the burning pain in her left hand, she obeyed her oldest sister. However, Líf made no move to attack either sister, and indeed, he returned the female Morgan's pegasus to her only to be met with her tome smacking his head.

"Don't steal people's mounts again, stinky zombie!" the female Morgan sharply told him before hopping atop her pegasus. "Come on, boy me. Let's go help our parents fight the zombies." The two Morgans left the ruined castle on Malledus's back. Líf let out a sinister laugh as the now blazing red stone fell from Fiora's hand. In the span of a few seconds, the stone exploded, which sent the castle tumbling down to bury both Líf and the Order of Heroes.

"Oh, this is bad... what do we do now?" Florina asked.

"We look for Thörr and Loki," Fiora answered. "If my memory is correct, Loki should be in the nearby forest while Thörr is in the Hall of forms."

"We'll get everyone who stayed behind to fight the zombies as soon as possible," the male Morgan called out.

"Good idea, Morgan. Maria and the others will definitely appreciate it," Fiora told him before the three flying mounts took off in different directions: Florina's to the nearby forest, the Morgans' back to the field where the rest of the Order of Heroes were fighting their undead counterparts, and Fiora's to the Hall of Forms.

Chapter Text

Lyon was in the library of Castle Askr studying from various books that were scattered across the table he was currently seated at. As he studied from these books, he wrote the most relevant bits in a journal with a white cover. However, he was not prepared for Ephraim practically barreling into him.

 

"Lyon, come with me! I've got something very important to show you!" Ephraim exclaimed, oblivious to Canas shushing him. Lyon put all of the books he was studying from back on their original shelves before grabbing his journal and following Ephraim.

 

----------

 

"What is this?" Lyon asked once he spotted a blue hexagonal stone with a pair of yellow crystal wings embedded in it.

 

"This, my lovely, is a Duo Stone. I saw the older Hector and younger Lilina using one, so I went and asked Maria for one for us to use," Ephraim began as he lifted the stone. "With my lance and your magic, the two of us will be an unstoppable force!"

 

"Does Eirika know about this?" Lyon asked.

 

"I told her about this plan after I got our stone," Ephraim answered. "We should both touch the Duo Stone at the same time so we can use its power together." As both princes held the stone, the crystal wings on it started to glow. Once the glow faded, Ephraim noticed Lyon's journal. "What's that?"

 

"I've been studying a spell that should be very helpful for infantry and armored fighters," Lyon explained. "It should give them the energy to march for longer distances. As for this journal itself, it was a blank tome for light magic. I tried writing the incantations in the other four types of tomes, but they kind of exploded."

 

"You made books explode and you didn't even tell me?" Ephraim asked in mock disappointment before it gave way to laughter. "I'm only kidding. I know you didn't know they'd blow up on you. That certainly explains why your robe looks a bit singed." The two shared a quick kiss before snuggling together under the covers of the bed they shared.

 

----------

 

"Oh, no... in my excitement to test this spell out, I forgot to bring Naglfar with me," Lyon sadly said as the two approached the tomb where Hel and her soldiers first emerged to launch their attack on Askr. "I'm sorry, Ephraim. I know you promised we'd be unstoppable together."

 

"Don't worry about it, Lyon. Just stay close to me so I can protect you, okay?" Ephraim replied. "Besides, that book of yours can still be very helpful." A powerful gust of wind blew from the mouth of the tomb, and the two scrambled to grab onto a nearby grave to avoid getting blown away.

 

Chapter Text

 "Angrboðr, mother of the triad cataclysm... kill that which cannot be killed!" Veronica chanted. Maria felt a strange power surge into the black Breidablik.

 

 "Now, Maria! Loose the divine weapon upon Hel!" Alfonse ordered. Maria took aim at Hel, who was pinned to the wall courtesy of Ephraim's lance, and fired.

 

 "Even you couldn't escape the fate you claimed was inevitable for all living beings, Hel," Maria remarked.

 

 "Goodbye, mother..." Eir somberly added, much to Hel's shock.

 

 "My death... makes you sad?" Hel asked.

 

 "Yes," Eir answered shortly before Hel crumbled to dust. "After learning you did all those things to me and that you were not my birth mother, it should feel like a shroud of gloom was finally lifted, and yet..."

 

 "It's okay, Eir... it's all over," Sharena consoled Eir. "You can come back to Askr with us. We can do all those things we promised now!"

 

 "Sharena's right," Alfonse added. "We can go stargazing, pick flowers, curl up in front of the fireplace with a nice book..."

 

 "For now, let's get out of here," Anna commanded. "The land of the dead is no place for any of this!" Before Veronica joined the rest of the group responsible for slaying Hel, she took one last look at the throne room.

 

 "Still no sign of my brother," Veronica muttered. "This gives me hope that he's still alive out there somewhere, but..."

 

 "You coming, Veronica?" Maria called out.

 

 "Of course!" Veronica replied before scrambling to rejoin the group.

Chapter Text

 "With all due respect, Prince Ephraim, what are you doing up here?" Oswin asked when he spotted Ephraim on the castle rooftop.

 

 "I've always wanted to jump off a castle roof. I figured that with Hel's death at the hands of Maria and Veronica, I would be immortal," Ephraim answered.

 

 "But you already transform into an orb when you are mortally wounded," Oswin countered. "Is that not a form of immortality?"

 

 "I'm talking about the kind where you can't get killed in the first place," Ephraim answered as he sat on the roof's edge, his feet dangling over it. Oswin pinched the bridge of his nose; he and the Renais knight Seth really needed to bond over tea at some point.


----------


 "Oh, hi, Oswin," Takumi said when the Ostian knight returned to the rooftop the next day to find both him and Ephraim there.

 

 "I am surprised that the younger version of Lord Hector has not joined you two in your little rooftop escapades. I've had a few conversations with his older self and he's grown up quite a bit," Oswin answered. As if on cue, Hector jumped onto the rooftop from the eastern tower.

 

 "Sorry I'm late, best inter-realm friends. I'm not exactly a nimble man," Hector began as he stood up from his awkward landing. "I heard we may be actually immortal now? If that's the case, I don't need to worry about Armads's curse anymore!"

 

 "Ah, there he is," Oswin said. "I don't think Hel's death made things that simple. After all, she and Surtr both thought themselves immortal but fell in the end."


----------


 The day after that, Oswin made his way to the rooftop to find that the rest of the Order of Heroes had thrown a party up there.

 

 "There you are, Oswin!" Serra called out, waving to him. "I thought you'd never join us!"

 

 "Why throw a party up here?" Oswin asked.

 

 "It was Ephraim's idea," Sakura began. "He planned all this in a single night. We've been wanting to celebrate Hel's final defeat but couldn't figure out how." She then offered Oswin a handful of candy.

 

 "I suppose a bit of candy every now and again wouldn't hurt anything," Oswin commented before hesitantly accepting the handful from Sakura.

Chapter Text

 "What do you mean I wasn't invited to take part in this Voting Gauntlet?!?" an enraged Surtr asked as he read the bulletin board. "I'm far stronger than anyone else here!"

 

 "Listen, Surtr," Ike calmly began. "You might be strong, but you're also a bit of a sore loser. You burned the Voting Gauntlet arena down after you lost to Fjorm again. Raven could beat you in an arm-wrestling match. A three year old in an adorable kitty costume could make short work of you. You are easily defeated by the very force sustaining you and your kingdom. Once Sigurd pushes his pyrophobia to the side, he has no trouble cutting you down. As for why Helbindi and your daughters got invited back after losing to their opponents, they take defeat far more gracefully."

 

 "I will burn this castle to the ground," Surtr growled, tightening his grip on Sinmara and shaking his free fist.

 

 "Yeah, good luck with that," Ike replied before continuing on his way.

Chapter Text

 Maria found herself in a flowery meadow and was taking in the sights when a fairy- like young woman appeared in front of her, startling her.

 

 "Who are you?" Maria asked.

 

 "You'll find out more soon. For now, just know that I'm one of the ljósálfar," the young woman answered before giggling. She then flew behind Maria. "And you must be Maria, the Summoner responsible for defeating Surtr and Hel."

 

 "How do you know that about me?" Maria asked, having turned around to face the young woman again.

 

 "We ljósálfar deliver pleasant dreams to mortals while they slumber. It's only natural that we learn the names of the ones we're assigned at some point," the fairy-like woman answered. "I've been sent to deliver good dreams to you when you do sleep, so that's how I learned your name. I think it's only fair that you learn my name. Most mortals never even see the ljósálfar delivering their dreams to them, especially not adult mortals. My name's Peony! I'm so glad we can meet, and I'm sure you'll bring all your friends here soon."

 

 "Explain."

 

 "The dókkálfar deliver nightmares to mortals every night. For a long time, they respected the balance between dreams and nightmares, but here recently, they've been stopping us ljósálfar from delivering our dreams to mortals by attacking us and generally causing misery," Peony explained. "I know ljósálfar are generally invisible to adults, but that only applies in the mortal realms. It's only a matter of time before Queen Henriette asks you to look into this, so… I'll be seeing you and your friends very soon." Before Maria could ask again, Peony vanished in a brilliant light, leaving her alone in the field of flowers.

Chapter Text

 "Thórr? What's going on? Why is there a massive army marching toward Askr?" Maria asked.

 

 "Forgive me, Maria," Thórr simply said in response, bowing her head. "Alfadör has judged Askr unworthy of continued existence. I am to destroy it."

 

 "Does this also explain why Embla, Muspell, and Hel all attacked?" Alfonse asked Thórr. "Why do the gods hate Askr? What did we do to deserve this?!?"

 

 "Head to Midgard Keep, to the south. There, you will find the Midgard Shield. It should be able to withstand repeated blows from even my hammer," Thórr answered. "I tell you this because I wish to give your people a chance of survival."

 

 "And yet, you march upon us!" Anna yelled. She swung Noatun at Thórr only for her to step to the side and avoid the axe.

 

 "I do not relish this task, but Alfadör has given it to me, so I must carry it out," Thórr said. "I will give you some time to go to Midgard Keep and prepare yourselves." Before Anna and Alfonse could attack Thórr, she disappeared in a flash of lightning.

Chapter Text

 One clear, cold night, atop the eastern tower of Castle Askr, Nino was seated on a wooden stool. Her gaze was directed northward, at the brightest star in the sky.

 

 "Oh, Northern Star," Nino began. "I've been very good this year. I always helped out, I never took more than my fair share of things, I was nice to everyone... I have only one wish this year. I want Jaffar here. It just doesn't feel right without him."


 
 "Did I hear a sweet little girl make a wish to the Northern Star?" Chrom asked as he opened the door leading to the top of the tower. "Because I'll have you know that the Winter Envoys grant the wishes of good little boys and girls across the realms."

 

 "Don't worry, Nino," Ephraim added. "Chrom and I will do everything in our power to make sure your wish is granted. You can count on us!"

 

 "You two would really find Jaffar and convince him to come back? Thank you so much," Nino replied, sniffling from both the cold and their promise to her. "We should go back inside before we all catch colds."


----------


 As Jaffar was preparing to move his camp, he heard footsteps in the snow. Instinctively, he grabbed his daggers and glared at their source: Chrom and Ephraim, dressed as envoys of winter. 

 

 "You two better have an extremely good reason for coming here," Jaffar warned as he pointed a dagger at each of their throats.

 

 "It's Nino," Ephraim began. "She wants you back at Castle Askr, at least for the holidays. She really misses you, you know."

 

 "I have two questions: is my ray of sunshine doing well, and do I need to show anyone why they call me the Angel of Death?" Jaffar asked, still suspicious of the pair.

 

 "Nino's doing well enough, but as Ephraim said, she would be a lot happier if you were there with her. Everyone at the castle is treating her with kindness, so you don't need to worry about that," Chrom answered.

 

 "Nino is unhappy... because I'm not there with her?" Jaffar asked. He thought for several minutes, throwing a dagger at a nearby tree while doing so. Finally, he spoke up again after retrieving the dagger. "Do you have any spare outfits like yours? I wish to surprise her."


----------


 "Oh, you two came back! And do I see reindeer antlers behind you?" Nino exclaimed as Chrom and Ephraim returned from their trip into the snowy woods of Askr, loose snow trailing behind them. The two looked at each other before looking back at her.

 

 "Funny you should ask that question, Nino. We didn't catch an actual reindeer, but we were able to grant your wish this year," Ephraim answered as he and Chrom stepped to the sides to reveal Jaffar, who was garbed in a similar red outfit and wearing a headband with reindeer antlers.

 

 "Happy holidays, Nino," Jaffar said with the slighest hint of a smile moments before Nino tackled him in a hug.

 

 "Oh, thank you two so much! You have no idea just how much this means to me!" Nino shouted. As she pulled him into Castle Askr, Jaffar figured that it was all worth it in the end. His ray of sunshine was safe and happy, and he wanted to make sure she stayed that way.

Chapter Text

 "I'm gonna stay up all night so I can count down to the new year!" Fae announced.

 

 "Are you sure you can do this?" Sophia asked. "That... is a fairly long time to be staying up."

 

 "Don't worry! The nice people at the Winter Festival gave me all kinds of candy and other sweet things to keep me awake," Fae answered shortly before taking a bite out of a sugar cookie.

 

 "I'm glad you had fun, Fae. I'm not able to get out much, but I'm happy that you made many new friends who can give you the experiences you deserve," Sophia said before beginning to brew some tea for herself and Fae. "This countdown means so much to you. This tea I'm brewing should help keep us awake."

 

 "You'll join me, Sophia? Festivals really are the bestivals!" Fae cheered before hugging Sophia.


----------


 "I've had enough of this piece of filth!" Helbindi yelled as he swung his axe toward a pile of sticks constructed to resemble Surtr. Another pile of sticks was arranged in a way to resemble Hel. The Surtr effigy slowly went up in flames.

 

 "Ooh, ooh! Who are you gonna set on fire after Surtr and Hel get burned up?" Ylgr asked.

 

 "I would've also set up something for Veronica, but she's a brat and I don't hit brats even in effigy," Helbindi answered as he almost absentmindedly swung his axe toward the Hel effigy.

 

 "Can we set Bruno on fire? Because he's a jerk for never showing up anymore," Ylgr requested.

 

 "We ain't setting this Bruno guy on fire, either... even if he is a goddamn asshole," Helbindi replied.

 

 "Language, young man!" Ylgr shouted in the most authoritative voice an eight year old princess could muster.


----------


 Ninian walked into the main hall to find Sophia and Fae sound asleep and giggled.

 

 "The wait really tired them out," Ninian said to herself before briefly disappearing into Sophia's room. When she emerged again, she covered the two with a lavender blanket.

Chapter Text

 Alfonse was sitting in the field just outside Castle Askr one day when he heard a chant in the distance. Instinctively, he grabbed Folkvangr and turned around as the chant grew clearer.

 

 "Edgy! Edgy! Edgy!"

 

 Alfonse spotted a swarming mass in the distance. If it was a threat to Castle Askr, he was prepared to cut it down. As the mass grew clearer, however, he grew annoyed; it was only Sharena, Maria, and several of the Heroes chanting "Edgy!" over and over. Still, Alfonse was relieved that the swarming mass was just members of the Order of Heroes.

 

 "What do you people mean "Edgy"?" Alfonse asked.

 

 "We've always wanted to hear you doing an edgy impression," Maria explained.

 

 "Say something in an edgy voice!" Sharena added. Alfonse was confused by their request at first, but then he remembered their battles against Lif during Hel's attack on Zenith.

 

 "You... want me... to imitate... Lif?" Alfonse asked.

 

 "Yeah! Imitate him for us!" Maria answered. "He's edgy you, so you'll do a good job!" Alfonse sighed; there was no getting out of this, was there? He slowly took a deep breath.

 

 "Tremble before Sokkvabekkr, the blade of ruin!" Alfonse called out in a deeper, more gravelly voice. "I will stop at nothing to see my Askr restored to its former glory!"

 

 Unknown to everyone present, Lif was standing in the distance. He clenched his fist as he heard Alfonse imitate his voice. His inferior past self would pay...

Chapter Text

 "Armored units like us are supposed to be the toughest of the tough," Surtr began berating after Henry and Eliwood emerged from the woods looking far worse for wear.

 

 "But Surtr! The enemies have-" Eliwood began, but he had been cut off by the tyrant's sudden departure.

 

 "Nah, I think it'll be better if he learns the hard way. Surtr owies are always funny," Henry concluded.

 

 Surtr was surprised to find Florina's lance pointed at his scarred eye. Before he had time to lift Sinmara, Caeda swooped down from the sky on the opposite side Florina was on. It wasn't long before the older Hector emerged from one of the bushes while carrying his tiny daughter.

 

 "Do you really think you three can quench me?" Surtr asked.

 

 "You… you don't scare me anymore, you big bully!" Florina shouted.

 

 "I'll strike you down for the good of everyone," Caeda added.

 

 "That's not even all of us, you know," Hector finished as Ephraim, Lyon, and Micaiah all emerged from other nearby bushes. Surtr assessed his options. He could flee like a coward… or he could start fighting his way out. He had the power of Muspell's flames on his side, after all.

 

 "I apologize in advance for the beatdown you are about to endure, Mighty Surtr," Micaiah apologized before summoning a light to her left hand.

 

 "Lyon and I don't," Ephraim added. Shortly before the battle began, Surtr understood why Eliwood and Henry were having trouble taking the fort.

Chapter Text

"Block the door to the inn!" Ike ordered, panic in his voice. Beds, dressers, and even the plushies were shoved in front of the door leading to the inn.

The Order of Heroes was currently being chased by a bee. It was not a bee from Dokkalfarheim, but a completely ordinary bee. And yet, they were somehow at its mercy.

"What do we do if Maria deploys any of us or we just want to leave but that… monster's still out there?" Sigurd asked.

"I tried smashing that thing with the broad part of Armads," Hector recalled. "However, that dastard was too small and fast for me."

"But how would the plushies help?" Raven asked.

"Simple, Raven. Bees are demonic creatures that despise joy and laughter. Plushies bring joy to those who snuggle them, therefore, they would be helpful in warding away those vile beasts," Soren answered.

"What about the windows? A bee could still sneak in through the window," Takumi suggested.

"Damn it!" Ike cursed. "You bring up a point I didn't consider. Unfortunately, we used all the furniture in this inn just blocking the door and I'd rather nobody have to bodyblock the windows." A buzzing noise droned throughout the inn, and Ike and Takumi found themselves regretting opening their mouths. Everybody huddled closer together, keeping a wary eye in each direction as they did so.

"If we fall here, I just want all of you to know that I actually kind of like all the non-Ikes here," Soren said.

"Is anyone else here actually trained in the use of real staves?" Sigurd asked. "Because Lucius just got stung and his whole body's betraying him."

Raven smashed the bee with a cup in a moment of rage. The cup shattered on impact with the floor, but at least he had killed whatever hurt Lucius. He was mobbed in a group hug almost immediately afterward, much to his rapidly growing displeasure.

Chapter Text

"Nils? Are you well?" Ninian asked as her younger brother ran toward her with an unusual energy.

"The ritual felt strange yet pleasant… like a warm feeling spread from my chest all throughout my body," Nils answered before perking up even more than usual. "The air of Zenith has so much quintessence I could transform into a dragon if I really wanted to!" Ninian and Nils then hugged each other.

"I'm so glad you feel safe here," Ninian said. A troubled Peony flew through the window of the western tower where Ninian and Nils were.

"Sorry to interrupt you two, but we have trouble!" Peony explained. "Sharena can explain more!" Ninian and Nils looked at each other, briefly wondering what Peony had meant by 'Sharena can explain more' before making their way to the stables and hopping on the back of Ninian's pegasus.
----------
"We need to worry about both Triandra and Plumeria this time," Sharena began. "Alfonse and Anna have left me in charge for the very first time ever, so I need to make sure everyone makes it out okay!" Peony's attention, as well as that of Heath and Legault, was on a trail of black briars.

"There's no mistaking it… these are dokkalfar briars," Peony stated.

"Good work, you three! If we just follow this trail, we can find our culprits!" Sharena complimented.

"Be careful, everyone! Ninian and I have sensed tragedy along this trail," Nils warned.

"I'll go ahead and follow this trail from the sky," Heath told the others as he patted Hyperion's head. "If anything happens to me, I'll send Hyperion back here to warn you. Just listen for his roars and follow him."

"Be careful up there, Heath! I do love you, you know," Legault called to him.

"And I love you as well, Legault," Heath replied. The two briefly kissed each other before Heath climbed on Hyperion's back and flew in the direction of the briars.
----------
Lance clashed against thorns as Heath fought Plumeria in the sky. He had not been expecting her or her partner, but he was prepared to defend himself, his friends, and Askr all the same.

"Filthy mortals… why can you not discard your basest of desires?" Plumeria asked. Her rose glowed red, and another thorny vine shot out from it toward him.

Thinking quickly, Heath had Hyperion sharply dive toward the ground.

"Ha!" A voice that was not Plumeria's called out as thorny vines started wrapping themselves around Heath's body.

"Damn it!" Heath cursed. "Hyperion, fly back to Legault and the others and guide them here! I won't be of much help to anyone like this." Hyperion stared at him for a brief moment before letting out a roar of understanding and flying back toward the others.
----------

When Sharena and the others had followed Hyperion and caught up to Heath, he was entangled in a mass of thorny vines.

"My, my, my… how did this happen to you?" Legault asked, his hand already on the hilt of his dagger.

"They ambushed me… I tried to fight them, but I just fell into their trap," Heath answered, unable to lower his head in shame for fear of the thorns digging into his neck.

"Well, they're about to learn the hard way that nobody attacks my friends!" Sharena yelled as she tightened her grip on Fensalir. Peony joined her, Ninian and Nils kept a watchful eye all around, and Legault had started cutting at the vines in an attempt to free Heath.

"This makes twice now that you've gotten into trouble," Legault began. "First that mage just about freezes you to death and now those scary fairies have you all tangled up. I wonder what kind of trouble you got into in Elibe while you were looking for me."

"They're dark elves, not scary fairies!" Peony yelled back.

"Are you seeing the same thing?" Ninian asked Nils. "Are the thorns growing more vivid in color with each passing second?"

"He works dilligently to free him, but I fear that this was the misfortune we saw at the trail's beginning," Nils answered.

"It'll be okay, Heath… I got you," Legault said in an attempt to reassure both Heath and himself. "I promise I won't hold this or the mage against you." By the time he had finally managed to free him from the thorny vines, Legault could feel Heath fading away… into a shimmering blue orb.

"I thought Heath wasn't bound to Breidablik?" Ninian asked.

"Now I understand why Maria wanted him there as well," Nils answered. "She wanted to bind us both to Breidablik."

Even if Legault now knew (through the worst possible method) that Heath was finally safe in Zenith, he threw daggers at an approaching Triandra with a calm fury.

Chapter Text

The morning after Gullinkambi sounded, Legault awakened to find Heath merely asleep in the bed they shared. Absentmindedly, he wondered if everything that had happened after his demise was merely a pleasant dream that Peony was delivering him because she felt sorry for him. However, a quick pinch to his forearm confirmed that this was, happily, reality. Legault knew he needed to thank Maria for whatever magic she used to save him from death itself. With a new skip in his step and a plan forming in his head, he set out in search of the summoner.
----------
Heath awakened feeling strange; the last things he remembered before falling asleep were dying and being summoned back to life. As he looked around to gather his bearings, he noticed a note nearby. Curious and figuring it wouldn't make things worse on his muddled mind, he started reading the note.

I need you to meet me in the library. I have an important question for you, but I need to ask you in person.

Hoping the author of the note could help him figure out why Maria would bind him of all people to Breidablik, Heath made his way to the library.
----------
"I'm so glad you made it," Legault began as he jumped down from the top of a bookshelf he had been sitting on.

"So you're the one who wrote the note," Heath said. "I have a whole lot of questions about yesterday."

"Confused about your death and summoning? Don't worry, my pretty. I don't think even Maria knows everything about this whole summoning business, and she's been in it since the very beginning," Legault said in what he hoped was an assuring tone.

"How did you-?"

"Don't be surprised. You're very easy to read, and besides, I figured you would be confused about your first time being summoned. Back to your question, she told me that her weapon whispers names into her mind sometimes. It's no normal weapon, that's for sure," Legault explained. He then reached into his long cloak and pulled out a small black box.

"Would you mind telling me what's going on?" Heath asked. He was unaware of the presence of Nino and Maria.

"As morbid as it sounds, your death yesterday taught me a very important lesson," Legault began. "I truly do love you, even past all the teasing and innuendo. For me, it was just about love at first sight, even if you were trying to kill me at the time. It took a very long while for us to get to this point, and the road was very rough in the beginning, but I feel like I can ask you this question with complete confidence. Will you marry me, and stand by my side for as long as fate permits it?"

"Of course I will. Just promise me one thing."

"And that would be?"

"Never stop with the teasing and innuendo. You wouldn't be you without them," Heath answered. As if on cue, Maria and Nino stood up from the table they were sitting at.

"Yes! You're finally going to get married!" Nino quietly cheered, not wanting to disturb the other people in the library. "When's the wedding going to take place? Can I go ahead and call Heath uncle or do I have to wait until after you get married?"

"Easy there, little Nino. This is one of those things you need to take one day at a time," Legault explained.

Chapter Text

One morning, Maria awoke to find that she was missing a few bits. She looked around to notice that her surroundings had also lost some bits. Maria darted out of her room and looked around, and everyone only had eight bits.

"What is going on here?" Alfonse asked.

"It's risky, especially with the plague going around, but this is a question whose answer may lie outside the castle," Maria answered.

"This has some serious potential for mountains of gold!" Anna suddenly exclaimed. "I have got to talk to some other Annas about this and learn how to make a game! It could be a strategy game! Let's call it… Fire Emblem!"

However, Maria had already left Castle Askr and met up with Fehnix, the chief messenger of SOAR.

"What happened to the world? Why is it missing a lot of bits?" Maria asked.

"It's quite simple, Maria," Fehnix began. "When I was attempting to shoo away a dokkalfar who was attempting to give me a bad dream, I accidentally bumped into this most unusual orb. It had sucked all but eight bits out of Zenith, but I'm sure all will be normal again once I reassemble the orb."

"I think I could get used to this in the meantime. It's actually kind of cute," Maria said.

Chapter Text

 "Hello, little ones. How are you three this fine day?" Ephraim asked once he noticed the younger versions of the Whitewing sisters following him.

 

 "Your lancework is the neatest! Can you teach us, Mister? Pretty please?" Est requested.

 

 "But how will his lessons help? We fight from the sky, not the ground like he does," Catria told Est. Ephraim bent down so he was at Palla's eye level.

 

 "I don't see the harm in general lance lessons from this guy," Palla said to her sisters. "It should be helpful if we ever need to fight on foot."

 

 "You're quite right, Palla. In fact, I'm trying to be the best lance user ever, so I think we can both benefit from this," Ephraim replied. He then noticed that Palla was holding a blue Duo Stone. "I see you're a Duo Hero just like me and Lyon… well, you're more of a Trio Hero."

 

 "Yep! We're gonna be the bestest Pegasus Knights ever!" Est answered. The three sisters then followed Ephraim like baby ducks to the Training Tower.

----------

 "I am to assume that I'm Aunt Eirika now?" Eirika teasingly asked once she met up with Ephraim, who was still being followed by the Whitewing sisters.

 

 "They're so adorable! How could I say no to them without feeling less human afterward?" Ephraim replied.

 

 "I think it's very sweet of you to let them train under you despite your different ways of fighting," Eirika began. "I just heard Palla calling you Papa. It was very cute."

Chapter Text

 "Wait… since when were there two Takumis?" Maria asked when she saw that the general Thorr sent to attack Askr this time was a Takumi who had given in to his inner demons.

 

 "There's another me on the other side? Aw, geez," Takumi said, sounding exasperated as he climbed down the tower he was standing on with the Fujin Yumi. "Can we at least take him on? He smells kind of like dead people. And I guess he would eventually become a threat to Hoshido if he had his way." Soon afterward, a ballista rolled up to the rest of the Askr forces gathering at Midgard Keep.

 

 "Eat a Luncheon Lance, Thorr!" Ephraim shouted. The picnic flag was indeed loaded into the ballista and ready to be fired. However…

 

 "Ephraim! Lyon! What are you thinking?!? We can't just shoot Thorr right now no matter how convenient it may be!" Alfonse shouted.

 

 "My apologies, but I get the feeling that Askr would be a lot safer if we were to decapitate Thorr's army. It worked with Surtr and Hel," Lyon explained.

 

 "Your reasoning may have been true in the past, but Thorr is a different matter from them. Besides, I'm fairly certain Maria may still have feelings for her regardless of how strained the relationship is now," Alfonse countered.

 

 "You may be right about the feelings and strained relationship bits, Alfonse. However, as much as I would like to talk things out with her and us to go back to being on friendly terms with her, it's impossible at the moment," Maria said. "For now, we need to defend the gates. Ephraim, Lyon, you two can fire the Luncheon Lance when the time comes, but I need you on the defense until then."

Chapter Text

 Jaffar was glaring daggers at Micaiah, who had entered the room and noticed a small bird perched atop his head.

 

 "Oh, he's adorable!" Micaiah cooed, still oblivious to Jaffar.

 

 "He is not adorable. He perched atop my head and will not leave me be." Jaffar replied with as much emotion as he could muster. "Go with Micaiah. I'm sure she or one of the full-time healers would appreciate your company." Unfortunately for him, however, his new feathered friend would not budge, earning him a giggle from the Dawn Maiden.

----------

 Micaiah checked on Jaffar later that day to find that he was feeding the bird and petting it as gently as an emotionally dead man could.

 

 "I see Mark's grown on you," Micaiah commented.

 

 "He doesn't seem much like a Mark to me. I was thinking something more along the lines of Greg," Jaffar replied.

 

 "Aww, you've made a new friend! I can't wait to tell Nino. She'll be overjoyed to hear this!" Micaiah said. Jaffar again glared at her.

 

 "Tell anyone other than her about Greg and I'll hide your orb somewhere Maria will never find," Jaffar threatened. However, Micaiah was unfazed as she left to find Nino.

----------

 "Oh my gosh! Greg is adorable! Where'd you find him? Can I say hi to him?" Nino asked in a flurry when she saw Jaffar tucking the bird into a tiny nest bed.

 

 "Greg just landed atop my head and wouldn't leave me be," Jaffar began. "He was just about to go to bed for a nap, but I'm sure you can say hi to him. Greg, this is Nino. Nino, this is Greg."

 

 "Hi, Greg! I'm Nino! I hope you and Jaffar can be friends forever," Nino softly said to the tiny red bird, who chirped in reply. Jaffar managed a sincere smile at this.

Chapter Text

 As Sakura prepared to leave for this year's bridal festival, she approached the western tower, where her brother Takumi had locked himself away when he started hearing the strange voice again.

 

 "I'm leaving for the bridal festival this year," Sakura began. At this, Takumi poked his head out of the window. "How long will you still be up there?"

 

 "If everything I'm hearing is right, I've got just nine more days to go," Takumi answered. Sakura nodded.

 

 "Do you need me to bring anything back for you?" Sakura asked.

 

 "I heard from Micaiah that there would be Hoshidan desserts there this year. Could you bring some back for me?" Takumi requested.

 

 "Of course! I'll see what I can do," Sakura called back to him.

 

 "Thank you, Sakura," Takumi called to her.

 

 "I hope you can join the festival soon," Sakura said to him before leaving.

Chapter Text

  "Still too weak, mortals?" the Demon King Fomortiis asked mockingly. He had assumed a form more closely resembling Lyon, his former host. Said former host was currently giving him a glare that could wither crops.

 

 "Come to finish us off?" Lyon growled. The Demon King merely laughed in response.

 

 "Come now, Lyon. If I were truly here to finish you and your equally miserable friends off, I wouldn't have brought the rest of your little Order of Heroes with me," Fomortiis answered.

 

 "Do not worry, brave slayers of darkness! For I, L'Arachel, am destined to destroy any foul beings that would blight this land!" L'Arachel announced. She then turned her attention to the Røkkr that had assumed Lucina's form. "Begone, foul fiend! You have no place in this world!"

Chapter Text

 "Soren," Maria began, hand clenched around the small key leading to the Orb Vault, which was usually empty. "I leave this key with you."

 

 "Do you need me to get a staff user? Because this is nothing like your usual behavior," Soren remarked before accepting the key nonetheless. "Or perhaps you're not the real Maria but instead one of Freya's illusions."

 

 "Just keep me out of the vault until the Hoshidan part of the Performing Arts festival comes back to town," Maria countered before leaving a confused Soren behind. He contemplated running and getting Lucius or Rhys before ultimately deciding against it.

Chapter Text

 The waves crashed against the shore as two sisters clad in swimsuits watched the horizon from their pegasi. They were waiting for the middle member of their sisterly trio. As they waited, they spotted the younger versions of the Whitewing sisters playing in the summer waves. Takumi and Tiki were in the sky playing tag with a third person.

 

 Fiora, the older of the two waiting sisters, squinted as she focused her attention on the mysterious third player of tag. This player appeared to be a Pegasus Knight from the 3rd Division just like Farina, but the bright summer sun prevented her from confirming the identity of this knight for certain.

 

 "Did Farina come here?" Florina asked.

 

 "I'm having trouble finding out for sure, but she does appear to be from the 3rd Division like our sister," Fiora answered as she opened her parasol and returned her attention to the mystery knight. Florina donned a pair of sunglasses that Nino had gifted her and joined Fiora. Once she noticed the short blue hair, she wondered if the older Catria had decided to join in the summertime fun. She and Farina were extremely similar, after all. The three currently playing tag zoomed past the two sisters.

 

 "Should we go after them?" Florina asked.

 

 "I have a feeling that the mystery knight might be our sister. We should go after them so we can figure out if it's her or Catria," Fiora answered before taking off after Takumi, Tiki, and the Pegasus Knight, with Florina following closely behind.

 

 "Heads up! My sisters want to join us!" the Pegasus Knight called out.

 

 "I don't see why they can't play with us, Far-Far," Tiki said, oblivious to Takumi sneaking up on her.

 

 "The more people play with us, the funner this gets, Farina," Takumi added, gently tapping one of Tiki's wings. "By the way, you're it."

 

 "Did you hear Takumi call her Farina just now?" Florina asked Fiora.

 

 "This is definitely Farina," Fiora commented. "She is far more playful than Catria, and besides, she referred to the two of us as her sisters." The two darted away from Tiki, who was attempting to tag someone.

 

An hour later…

 

 "Phew… that was the most fun I've had since we helped Hector and the others save Elibe," Farina said. "It got lonely in Ostia without you two, you know."

 

 "Will you come back to Castle Askr with us? I really missed you, you know," Florina requested.

 

 "Normally, there would have to be some serious gold on the table for me to consider this," Farina began. "However, since both you and Fiora are here, I might need to talk to your leader and negotiate a deal, whoever they might be."

Chapter Text

 Loki was strolling through the part of the woods she called home when she was thinking of her favorite thing to think about: ways to cause mayhem in the Order of Heroes. Røkkrs were fun, but creating one required large amounts of negative energy, and besides, she wanted something more subtle.

 

 She briefly thought about the time she impersonated Princess Ylgr of Nifl and attempted to lead the Order of Heroes to their doom. The Order of Heroes, however, had since caught on to whenever she would transform into one of them and cause mischief.

 

 "Now there's an inkling of an idea," Loki thought. She wondered who she could transform into in order to cause maximum chaos in the order. Loki thought about many different Heroes, including Soren, Sigurd, and Hector. Ultimately, however, she made a decision that would cause even more chaos than impersonating a master strategist, a right hand, or a powerhouse.

 

 She made her way to where Maria was on patrol that day.

 

 She would impersonate the order's beloved summoner.

Chapter Text

 Lute was in the library collecting books that would aid her in her research when Canas approached her with a strange scroll in his hands.

 

 "Maria gave us a most unusual task," Canas said when Lute quizzically looked at the scroll. "Apparently, we are to go to Muspell and fight a hundred of its soldiers ourselves."

 

 "Ha! This should be child's play. After all, my magic is completely superior to anything Muspell can throw at me," Lute boasted. "Now, come, Canas. With me on the mission, you have nothing to fear."

 

-----

 

 As Laevatein rode through the land of her birth, she spied two purple figures lying on the ground. She rode closer, and then it hit her.

 

 What were Canas and Lute doing in Muspell? Nonetheless, she healed the pair with her staff.

 

 "Ugh… at least I made a new finding today," Lute groaned.

 

 "And that would be?" Canas asked.

 

 "Turns out two versus 100 may be a wee bit unfair, even if I'm one of the two," Lute answered.

 

 "But what brought you two to Muspell today in the first place?" Laevatein asked.

 

 "This morning, we got a most unusual order from Maria. We were to travel here and defeat 100 soldiers," Canas explained.

 

 "How unlike her," Laevatein commented. "She would never give such an order. Even one against ten is incredibly risky, and the ten ambushed the one."

 

 "This change in Maria's sensibilities is most unusual. Perhaps a study will be necessary," Lute stated.

 

 Off in the distance, atop a smoldering mountain, Loki smiled. Her guise as Maria was working perfectly. Her brow furrowed a bit when Laevatein intervened and saved Canas and Lute, but it didn't matter. She would have her mayhem one way or another.

Chapter Text

 Little did anyone know that the incident in Muspell with Canas and Lute was merely the first of a string of strange missions.

 

 "Is it just me or has Maria been acting strangely ever since she came back from patrol?" Alfonse asked.

 

 "I promise, Alfonse, it's not just you who's thinking that," Lucina answered. "Father was sent into the arena unarmed and alone. Maria would normally at least make sure everyone's armed and on a team first."

 

 "My candy's all gone!" Est sobbed. "There were these thieves where we were supposed to go, and… and they hurt both Palla AND Catria! AND they didn't even leave a piece for me!" the younger Lilina gave Est a pat on the head before offering her a lollipop.

 

 "Here's some of my candy. I can always get more candy, but I can't replace Father," Lilina told Est, who was hugging her while sobbing. An injured Hector then entered the room while carrying a silver orb.

 

 "He actually took Hel's scythe for me… the absolute madman. I was lucky to be able to escape with my life and his orb," Hector recounted.

 

 "Father… both of you are going to be okay, right?" Lilina asked as she waddled over to him, Est still clinging to her side.

 

 "I hope so, Lilina. From the looks of it, both you and little Est had scary encounters yourselves," Hector tried to reassure her even as he made a balancing act of keeping as much blood in him as possible and keeping Takumi's orb from getting lost until he could get resummoned.

 

 "It was very scary. The bigger you got hurt very badly in Embla, and both of Est's sisters got hurt by thieves," Lilina answered. "You should visit a healer yourself, Father. You're starting to look sick."

 

 "Thanks for the heads up, Lilina. I'll head over to the infirmary now," Hector said. He spotted Tiki and placed Takumi's orb in her hands. "Tiki, I'm leaving Takumi with you. Do you think you can keep him safe until he can come back?"

 

 "I hope I can keep Tak-Tak safe," Tiki replied. Hesitantly, she accepted the orb. Hector then trudged off to the infirmary.

Chapter Text

 The mayhem was no longer contained to just odd missions, especially since the Heroes caught on to the fact that the missions' only purpose was to get them maimed or killed.

 

 With a wave of her staff Thokk, Loki transformed Castle Askr itself into a place of true chaos.

 

 Ike was in the main hall when the banners came to life and attacked him. Almost instinctively, he grabbed Urvan and started fighting back.

 

 He swung his axe at a Golden Deer banner.

 

 The banner dodged the axe.

 

 Ike tossed Urvan at a Black Eagles banner. He then picked up Ragnell as his axe got lodged in the pillar, seemingly holding the banner in place.

 

 "I will not be bested by animated cloth!" Ike yelled.

 

 "Why are you fighting the banners?" Soren asked.

 

 "Be careful, Soren! These banners somehow came to life and started attacking me," Ike warned. Soren immediately joined in on the offense against the banners. Strange as Ike's tale sounded, he believed it all the same. After all, Ike would never lie to him.

 

-----

 

 "And that's how Soren and I almost got murdered by banners of all things," Ike explained to Lucius.

 

 "I'm very glad I caught my staff. I've been chasing it all morning," Lucius said as he raised his staff to Ike's bruises. "Why did the castle turn against us, though?"

 

 "That's what I'd like to know," Soren replied. "This realm is strange, but even I never expected this."

 

 "You know, I'm starting to think that the Maria that's been leading us for the past few days isn't really Maria," Veronica added.

 

 "What makes you say that, Veronica?" Ike asked.

 

 "Why would she turn a blind eye to Castle Askr trying to kill us all? Even she's not that oblivious, and besides, the castle would try to kill her as well," Veronica explained.

 

 "You're saying she could potentially be one of Freya's illusions?" Soren questioned. The conversation was interrupted by the sounds of a struggle. Lucius's staff had betrayed him again, and this time, it was attempting to impale him on itself. Raven was attempting to hold the staff back, but even he was visibly struggling.

 

 "Mia!" Raven shouted, getting her attention. "Get Ephraim, Hector, and Rudolf! Lucius and I can't subdue this thing alone!"

 

 "You got it, red-haired boss!" Mia said cheerfully before leaving to find everyone Raven had requested.

 

-----

 

 Loki leaned back in the chair she was seated in as a huge smile formed on her face. Until the real Maria was found, the castle and Heroes' weapons would continue to try to kill them. She could always resummon them to make them experience some more of the mayhem, after all.

Chapter Text

 Maria's appearance at the Altar of the Brave was certainly surprising. Even more surprisingly, however, she wasn't wearing a smirk. On top of that, she was accompanied by a Lysithea in a regal outfit.

 

 "Hello, everyone. I'm back! And I chose Lysithea to answer my call this time," Maria said.

 

 "Maria, we need your help making sense of this past week," Sigurd began. "Ever since you came back from patrol, we've been either sent on suicide missions or attacked by the castle itself. We tried to tell you all week, but you just didn't seem to care. Nobody here wanted to doubt you, but the seeds were planted all the same."

 

 "Wait… I haven't been at the castle at all since Loki approached me and cast that spell. Was I really asleep that long?" Maria asked.

 

 "I was wondering where Loki went. I haven't seen her ever since you went off on patrol," Rath stated. "I had assumed she had merely gone to Twilight Plateau to create more Røkkrs, not pretend to be you and try to kill everyone."

 

 "I'm starting to think the Festival of the Brave got cursed from the third one on," Maria stated.

 

 "Whatever led you to that conclusion?" Lysithea asked.

 

 "The first two festivals were fine, but during the third one, I kept disappearing and reappearing," Maria began. "And then this one, Loki put me under a sleeping spell and hid me in Embla. Freyr had to break the spell and escort me back here, or rather… his ghost had to do those things. What happened to him?" Peony simply lowered her head.

 

 "It was him or Zenith…" Alfonse added.

 

 "At least you ended up being okay in the end," Sharena said. "You even brought a new friend along, so there's a silver lining in this cloud after all!"

 

 "Back to the matter at hand, though, our castle's trying to kill us, and Breidablik is the only thing that can return it to normal," Anna cut in.

-----

 It took several minutes to return Castle Askr to normal and several hours to carefully explain the situation to the Order of Heroes.

 

 "It's a relief to feel safe in our home again," Ninian stated.

 

 "Now we have a new problem. Everyone's out for Loki's blood," Nils added. "Maria, is there any use in trying to prevent this storm on the horizon?" Maria stood still as if in thought.

 

 "I say let Loki feel the storm. She turned our home into an enemy and tried to kill everyone, all while wearing my face," Maria answered.

Chapter Text

 "Remember when you got stuck on the chandelier last year?" Sigurd asked Takumi. The two were investigating the ballroom the day before the festival to figure out the cause of Takumi getting stuck on the chandelier the year before.

 

 "I really don't know how it happened," Takumi replied. When he looked up, he saw Sigurd stuck on the chandelier. "How the heck did you end up there?"

 

 "I think I figured out how it happened," Sigurd called down. "There's a strange blue tile on the ballroom floor that warps people up here. It had to have been created by a prankster!"

 

 "But who would install a blue tile that warps you onto the chandelier and why?" Takumi questioned.

 

 "I don't know the identity of our prankster, but I'd really like to get down from here. I promised Deirdre I'd stay out of trouble," Sigurd replied. Takumi ran to the stables to get his kinshi Fujin; he remembered Hector had a difficult time getting him down when he was in the same situation. Sigurd sighed with relief when Takumi returned astride his kinshi.

 

 "Note to self: tell Alfonse to cover that tile so this doesn't happen again," Takumi noted as he and Sigurd flew down from the ceiling.