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Ultimate Reunion Parties

Chapter Text

In Which Kiran Hires Her Own Assassin

“Are we really taking our would-be assassin back to Askr? Hiring him?” Chrom said in a low voice, his eyes on the blue coat of the man walking alongside their tactition. Lloyd the White Wolf's gait was easy and genial now, a far cry from the brilliant dance that had nearly cost Nephenee her arm before she managed to exploit an opening in his defenses. In fact, Kiran was laughing at something he said, as if they hadn't met because he'd been commissioned to kill her. “Am I the only one who thinks this is a bad idea?”

Olwen snorted. “He was mislead by Veronica, if indirectly compared to the other heroes she has enslaved. And frankly, he's a less dodgy character than Valter, and so far we've survived his inclusion into the army.”

Chrom winced at the reminder of the mad wyvern rider. “I guess, but should that really be a selling point? 'You're not as bad as Valter?' For goodness sake, how is Kiran not at least a little miffed?”

“Perhaps because she knows something you don't,” Kiran responded, sing song, from the front of the lines. “For instance, that she can hear you.” The mounted exalt had the grace to look abashed. “For the record, I'm more offended at the fact that Veronica takes people from their world and enslaves them, then turns around and says that's what I've been doing. Little kids sometimes, I swear to God...this is why the required age for recruitment at my home is eighteen!”

Nephenee snorted, while Zelgius remained characteristically quiet. “Eighteen?” Chrom echoed, startled. “Isn't that a little late to start sword training?”

“Well, swords aren't the weapon of choice where I come from. Haven't been in a long time.” Kiran waved a hand. “People at home largely use guns and bombs, which could sort of be described as an up-rated crossbow and an Elfire tome anyone could use, respectively.” She shook her head. “Warfare in my world is ugly. The fewer children are exposed to it, the better.”

Olwen's brow furrowed slightly. Kiran didn't talk about her home much; aside from occasionally showing 'movies' to Nino, Lilina and the other younger Heroes, she remained very enigmatic on the subject, showing much more interest in their worlds and the geography of Askr and Embla. She was a very eager listener, and expressed a desire to learn to paint so she could capture the beauty of the lands described to her. Olwen was torn between offering to teach her, and avoiding giving her another thing to obsess over. She worked so much already...

“But seriously, a child in charge...doesn't she have a regent? Doesn't her mother have any power? Step mother? I don't remember, it's been so long since Alfonse told me about it...” Kiran started to ramble. “For that matter, I wonder where Prince Bruno disappeared to. The last time I heard his name, it was after we'd run into Valter...”

“Veronica said that her brother had disappeared in pursuit of his research into the family curse.” Lloyd said lazily. “Speaking of which, who is Valter?”

“A nuisance,” Kiran responded sourly. “He's a battle hungry maniac who's out of control because he once picked up a cursed lance that dialed all his worse traits up to eleven. I didn't so much recruit him as bring him under my control with a contract, because I couldn't figure out what else to do with him.” She threw her hands in the air. “Keeping him in the castle keeps him away from Embla, after all.”

Lloyd snorted, beautiful eyes narrowing slightly. Olwen averted her gaze from him, heat rising to her face. Her mental image of a hired killer had always been dirty street rats, desperate people that lords commissioned as disposable fodder for unpleasant tasks. Lloyd, however...oh, Naga. He was a creature to behold, so much that even being tired and worn after lying in wait for days couldn't detract from his charms. The way Kiran blushed when he kissed her hand upon being hired proclaimed her agreement on the sentiment. “Hm. If he ever becomes too troublesome, say the word and I'll deal with him.”

Kiran, the single most forgiving woman Chrom knew aside from his belated sister, bobbled her head. “I'll keep that in mind,” She responded with all seriousness. “He's more than competent, but he's a merciless fiend. Poor Sakura...I should have sent Priscilla in that party instead of her; I don't know what I was thinking.”

“You were working on two hours of sleep, the commander needed you at the border in half the time it took to get there, and Lady Priscilla wasn't in the room and therefore out of immediate contact.” Olwen recounted. “I don't believe Princess Sakura holds it against you.”

“The nightmares and the fact that she runs blindly out of the room whenever she hears his voice blame me,” Kiran corrected with a frown. “Stupid thing to do. Thank god I was at least intelligent enough to send Sigurd and Caeda along with them.”

Lloyd made a curious noise, and Kiran began to launch into a brief explanation of some of the heroes in the Order. Nephenee lengthened her stride somewhat so she was next to Chrom. “Don' worry too much, Your Highness,” she drawled. “Payment's all the same with our type, and learning about the lie convinced him to lay down his weapons. 'Sides, he's much more sedate than our last villainous pickup.”

“I appreciate your candor, Nephenee.” Chrom sighed. “The Shepards themselves have had a character or two of...questionable judgment. I suppose it's just my job to be somewhat paranoid.” Usually, he had Fredrick to be paranoid for him, but in the knight's absence he filled that void for Kiran to a certain degree.

The walk to the castle after that was fairly uneventful. Arriving, however, wasn't.

+_+_+_+_+

Nino closed The Golden Compass with a feeling of great accomplishment. After she'd succeeded in finishing the first Harry Potter book, and after they'd gone to the beach (she met Corrin there – another Corrin, who was so nice – so many people here were so nice!), Kiran had given her another book – a harder one – and offered to make a cake if she succeeded in finishing five chapters before the double patrol returned. And she'd managed it! Oh, it had taken so long, and her eyes were a bit strained, but she'd done it!

Putting the book on the shelf, Nino leapt off the beanbag chair in Kiran's room and scurried out of the house, locking the door behind her. [Kiran's house was so interesting; it made her wonder about the world her moth - friend came from]. Warm sunlight beat down on her as she looked up at the clear sky. It was beautiful here; it reminded her a little of Pheare.

Lilina yelled her name, waving enthusiastically from across the courtyard. Nino hurried over; not counting Jaffar, Lilina was her closest friend here. Lady Nanna was there too, a picnic basket in her arm; she smiled gently when Nino flopped down at the edge of the blanket. Nanna was lovely, so kind and understanding, though she would frown slightly whenever Leif was seen animatedly speaking to Kiran. Nino didn't quite understand why; Kiran was friends with practically everyone wasn't she?

Well, except Valter. But no one was friends with Valter.

“You're smiling so brightly, Nino! Have you made good progress on the book?” Lilina asked once they started on desert, offering her friend a brownie.

“I finished the three chapters!” Nino cheered. Nanna gasped and clapped for her as she tore into the treat. “I can't wait to tell Jaffar and Kiran! It was easier than I remembered, too.”

“It seems easier because you're learning,” Lilina said. “I had trouble when I was starting out too – it was like all the letters were scrambled. Sometimes I cried because Roy was learning so much faster than me...but I learned! Just like you are.”

“Scrambled?” Nino wondered.

Lilina opened her mouth to explain when there's a shout at the gate. The patrol was back. Nino smiled and stood up as the doors swung open...she had so much to brag about...

And then the first person stepped into the courtyard, and for a moment something in Nino's brain just stopped. The last time she had seen that blue coat, she had been begging not to loose the last of her family. The last time she'd seen that golden hair, it had been matted with blood from a rampage begun in grief-stricken madness. The last time she'd seen those eyes, they were loving and forgiving just before the light died from them, leaving them empty and glassy. The world tilted dangerously and noise suddenly seemed to come from far away. Was it a ghost? Was she dreaming? She'd seen him die, she'd SEEN it, how...

Kiran stepped through the gate next. Nino's eyes instinctively jumped to her. The brunette noticed her...then she smiled, and winked.

“Lloyd...” She'd meant to scream, really, but her throat was so tight she could hardly breathe. Her brother, her big brother, he was back, he came back to her... “Lloyd, Lloyd...!”

Lloyd was taking in the scenery; he jostled in surprise at Kiran's oh-so-discreet elbow to the ribs. He turned to complain to her, blinking when she pointed a finger. At that point Nino stumbled and then started to run.

“Nino?” Lloyd called out when he caught sight of her scrambling in his direction. Oh...oh...there was no anger. None. He just sounded surprised. “Nino, is that you?”

“Lloyd!” He knelt slightly and snatched her off the ground when she finally reached him, lifting her to his shoulder like when she was little. Nino buried her head in his neck and promptly burst into tears. “Lloyd, you were dead! You were dead, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry-”

“What? Nino, Nino please calm down, I'm not dead, I'm fine, I'm right here-” Lloyd soothed, rubbing her back as he set her back on her feet. He gathered her into a hug, her forehead resting against his chest. “Don't be sorry, please don't cry. I promise, whatever it is I'm not angry. How could I ever be angry at my best girl?”

Nino tried to ease her breathing, but being called that again prompted a fresh wave of sobs and she clung desperately to him, afraid he would disappear – melt away like a desert mirage. Lloyd, confused and concerned, gently lead her aside so Olwen and Chrom could take their horses to the stable. “Hey...don't cry, Nino...” He gently tousled her hair. “Shhh...I'm right here. See? Everything's alright...”

“Lloyd...” She sniffled, digging her fingers into his shoulders. “Lloyd, I love you, I love you so much big brother...”

“I know, little love, I know, I've never doubted you, I love you too...” Lloyd lifted his head when he heard the branches rustle. “Jaffar? You're both here? How in the hells did that happen?”

“Kiran called it luck.” Jaffar responded. A moment later, Nino felt his hand tracing gentle circles on his back. [Kiran had done that to him, once, when he was half asleep, recovering from a nasty wound. He'd never felt anything like it...it was gentle, soothing, yet different from Nino's touch.] “It's rare for her to summon two people from the exact same time and place back to back.”

“Well, it's good that Nino hasn't been here all alone.” Lloyd mused, though he gave Jaffar a curious look. “You've been taking care of her?”

“Yes. Among others.” Jaffar nodded fractionally in the direction of Lilina and Nanna. Both girls were in tears of joy for their friend, who had told them how Nergal destroyed her family.

Nino sniffed and looked up at Lloyd's face. The blonde smiled warmly at her. “You've been making new friends?” He said gently, brushing tears away from her cheeks. “How about you introduce me in a little?”

“O-Okay.” She managed to say, nestling into his chest so she could listen to his heart beat, strong and steady. “H-How did Kiran find you? The S-Summoning hill isn't far from here...”

“Kiran said I wasn't summoned directly; merely brought here due to so many portals being open.” Lloyd hummed as he thought about how to explain. “Though Embla did come across me first. Veronica spoke of the summoning process and bent a few facts,” he felt Nino flinch, “however Kiran has not held the misunderstanding against me, so here I am.”

Nino managed to smile then, a watery smile – but a real one. “Kiran's the b-best, isn't she?” She hiccuped. She was going to hug the older woman to death later. “S-She's been teaching me h-how to read, and she f-found you.”

“She has?” Surprised rippled through Lloyd, and he looked over at the brunette. She was watching them, smiling contently at the scene. Warm gratitude pooled quickly in his heart. A summoner, tactition and budding archer, she had a lot on her plate, yet still set aside time for things like that...Lloyd couldn't imagine she'd set aside being a royal tactition for working with the Black Fang, but he wondered if he can somehow tempt her away, help bring them back to their roots. A thought for another time.

“I'm so h-happy to see you...” Nino said in a small voice.

Lloyd kissed her forehead. “I'm glad to see you too.” He nudged her gently, setting her on her feet. “Now, who are those two girls?”

Nino smiled, rubbing at her eyes to rid the last of her tears. Then she latched on to his arm and lead him towards Lilina and Nanna, Jaffar following a few footsteps behind.

And, silent to all mortal ears, the wheel of fate twitched and turned a single cog backwards.

Chapter Text

Finn slid to the ground, his sword clinking as it hit the cold stone. His breath came out raggedly and his side ached. The portal they had just come through closed, granting a moment of respite, but he knew it wouldn't last. He'd been trapped in this eldtrich tower, fighting phantoms, for...how long, now? He'd lost any sense of time a while ago. His horse nickered softly; he reached up and stroked her nose comfortingly.

His partner – a red haired mercenary who spoke with an accent Finn had never recalled hearing in all his travels of Jugdral – let out an explosive sigh before leaning against the wall. “Well, that's another inch on a mile,” He pronounced grimly. “You still alive?”

“For now,” Finn responded, and things must be getting dire if Joshua was running low on wisecracks. “You took a hit earlier. How is it?”

The redhead winced as he touched his side. “I might be bleeding internally, but if lady luck smiles I'm just badly bruised.” Yet he still smiled when he turned to Finn. “I'd say, offhand, that we make a good team.”

Finn nodded in agreement, though he couldn't quite manage to return the gesture. The situation he was in made it difficult, especially since he wasn't predisposed to humor in the first place.

All he'd known was that he had been advising Leif on their next move, surrounded at the castle...then he had woken, trapped at the top of this tower, surrounded by phantoms of people he didn't recognize who all attacked him on sight. The leader at the end of every floor was always a man with the exact likeness of General Reinhardt, voice, mannerisms and all. All Finn had managed to get out of him after he defeated the first floor was that the tower was called The Tempest – a sacred location of Askr in which great rewards were offered to knights and princes who succeeded in mastering its challenges. Finn doubted it was truly the General he had encountered, but some sort of manifestation of the tower's magic. Which, despite his shouted interrogations, told him no more as he continued his desperate escape attempts.

By the time he'd descended to the eighteenth floor, he was getting overwhelmed. That was when Joshua had appeared, saving him from an errant ax wielder. Whatever had happened to Finn had abducted him from his home as well – though Finn couldn't recall ever learning of a land named Jehanna. Perhaps it was across the ocean? He hadn't had the chance to ask any in depth questions about it.

Taking a deep breath, Finn pushed himself back to his feet. Joshua's lip curved slightly and he unhitched himself from the wall, hand on the hilt of his sword. “Can you ride?” Finn asked, eyeing the mercenary's injury.

Joshua waved him off. “Yes, but I've never fought on horseback, and your mare doesn't recognize me. I'll manage for now.”

Finn hesitated, then nodded with increasing respect. Flippant he may be, but Joshua was made of steel.

+_+_+_+_+

Finn hadn't prayed to Naga since his lord and lady were murdered.

Oh, he hadn't completely lost his faith. He and his beloved Lachesis had taught Leif and Nanna the prayers and the stories, after all. But Naga had long been deaf to his pleas. His friends were massacred by a man who used them to become Emperor. His home was held by the enemy, ravaged by the evil of Loptyr. Quan and Ethlyn, who he'd sworn to protect with his life, had been massacred by their vassals. Princess Altena stolen away, her fate unknown to him despite his best efforts. His wife, half his reason to go on, had disappeared into the desert – as good as dead. His charge Leif spent many nights wracked with nightmares, plagued by guilt that Finn could not assuage despite his best efforts. His daughter struggled to remember her mother's face. And even now they struggled against the forces of the Empire and its dark god. Many times, he'd wondered what his people had done that Naga had forsaken them so.

When he prayed the previous night, asking Naga for guidance in this bizarre circumstance, he wasn't expecting anything.

“Sir Finn!”

He's thought he was hallucinating, initially, when a female voice called his name. For a moment he thought it was his Lachesis. However, the voice then followed it up with a flurry of commands; “Reinhardt, break the line! Raven, get rid of that lance wielder! Seliph, bait out the Phantom Dire Thunder! Soleil, cover Seliph!”; and he realized that he was being rescued. The sheer shock nearly knocked him over.

Finn swung his horse around to see General Reinhardt – and somehow he knew this was the man himself, not a morph of some sort – smite his two attackers with a gesture. And across the room; gods, was that Seliph?

He hadn't seen Lord Sigurd's son since he was an infant. He'd been forced to flee Leonstar with Leif not long after Lady Deirdre gave birth. The boy – no, the young man, he was at least as tall as Leif if not taller – had darted past a tree into the line of sight of the Thunder Phantom. Finn was about to cry a warning when a pink haired young woman gracefully stepped in, taking the thunder shock meant for Seliph; allowing the young prince to dart forward and ram his sword through the phantom, dispersing it.

“Soleil?” Seliph called in concern, turning back towards his companion. For a moment, Finn was awestruck – the years had dulled his memory of Lord Sigurd's voice, but listening to Seliph he could suddenly recall it with clarity. Strong and charismatic. “Soleil, are you alright?”

The pinkette leaned against the tree, clearly smarting, but she raised her head, grinned and shot him a thumbs up.

They weren't alone either. A young man who was dressed as a mercenary but had the posture of a lord hefted his axe and smashed it through a phantom Pegasus knight, sending horse and rider into the water where they dissolved. General Reinhardt, after scanning the horizon, dismounted and assisted a young woman off the back of his horse. She was a slender, young thing, with wavy brown hair that tumbled past her shoulders and light blue eyes with a hint of green – like an ocean in a storm. She wore the oddest clothes Finn had ever seen (he certainly doubted it was armor) and she was unarmed except for a strange looking relic that was strapped to her side.

Joshua gave an admiring whistle as she approached them; Finn shot him a mildly reproving look but didn't say anything.

“Sir Finn?” She asked, a note of hope in her voice. “You are Sir Finn of Leonster, right?”

“I answer to that name,” Finn said, and was surprised by the expression of pleased relief that crossed the stranger's face.

“Oh good, we reached you in time. I am Kiran, inter-dimensional refugee and current Summoner of Askr.” She turned towards Joshua. “I thought I felt a second person's presence when I got here – I'm becoming more and more in tune with the magic, but I wasn't certain. You are...” She closed her eyes. “Joshua?”

“That's right.” Joshua's smile was distinctly cat-like.

“You're hurt,” Kiran noted, her eyes dropping to his side. “Both of you.” Finn took a look at his hand, which had been pierced with a lance, and grimaced. “We'd best get out of here.”

“We've been trying to descend for some time now,” Finn started, though he paused when Kiran clapped twice and whistled sharply. Seliph, Soleil and the young lord – Raven, that's what she'd called him – all fell in from the defensive positions they'd been holding and came close. “yet we seem to have made no progress at all.”

Kiran grimaced. “It must be the magic of the Tempest Trial,” She said as she took out the relic she was holding. Finn noticed the designs on it were glowing brightly and humming with magic. “It was keeping you from leaving until its tasks were conquered. Prince Alfonse told me the basics.” She shook her head. “I'll explain in detail later.” She pointed the strange weapon straight in the air. “Tempest Gate!”

A ring of blue and white light surrounded them. Finn could hardly let out a startled cry before the room warped and vanished.

To Finn's astonishment, when he opened his eyes again and his vision cleared, they were standing on a grassy hill. When he turned around, he saw a massive tower surrounded by a lightning storm, the tip of it disappeared into the clouds. Kiran made a satisfied noise. “Too bad the magic can't take us directly back to the castle,” She said with a sigh. “It would make managing patrols so much easier.”

“What...” Finn managed, unable to quite articulate his question. Joshua was carefully prodding the ground with his foot, trying to discern if it were real.

Kiran raised the strange weapon slightly. “Askr's sacred weapon; Breidablik. It has the power to summon great heroes from other worlds. Such as you two.” She bowed to him. “It's an honor to meet you, Sir Finn. Leif and Nanna speak so highly of you.”

“Leif? Nanna?” Finn stuttered. His charge, his daughter, he hadn't failed them after all – they'd been plucked from their world by strange magic. “Oh, thank Naga they're safe. I – they were summoned here?”

“I summoned them, yes. I'm sorry if I caused you any concern.” Kiran straightened up. “Embla – another country with power over this sort of magic – has been enslaving the people they summoned, so sometimes I try and pre-empt their 'acquisitions'. Askr has been in a campaign against them ever since. I was summoned myself, by the original Commander. But I can explain more at the castle.” She smiled softly. “Lachesis will be grateful to see you safe and sound.”

It was like being punched in the stomach. He actually staggered back a step; Seliph caught him with a hand on the shoulder, ensuring he didn't outright collapse. “L-Lachesis? Y-You summoned my wife? She...she's alive? She's safe?”

His wife. He could see her, hold her...!

“Yes, to all of the above.” Kiran replied, bobbling her head in emphasis. “She's currently in the castle barracks, and serves in a healer's capacity. She wanted to join us in searching for you, but the Tempest Tower is more dangerous than most battlefields, and she is currently without her sword. Leif and Nanna were tied up with an incursion onto Askr soil; nothing they haven't faced before. I imagine they'll return to the castle shortly after we arrive.”

Perhaps because she could see that everything other than “Lachesis” “Leif” and “Nanna” was just static in his ears, she turned towards Reinhardt and said, “Where did we leave the other horses?”

“They're just over there, milday.” Reinhardt answered. Joshua gently nudged Finn and handed him the reigns of his horse; he managed a thankful nod before mounting up.

+_+_+_+_+_+

“Lord Sigurd is in the Order as well?”

Seliph's smile was radiant; in that moment he looked his age of nineteen. “Yes. I...I met him a week ago. I never thought I'd...it's wonderful, truly.” He hesitated, unsure how to put his feelings to words. “I...haven't seen my mother yet, though Kiran says that she's looking.”

“This happens more often then you'd think,” Soleil chirped. “I practically tripped over my dad a few hours after I was summoned. Can't say I was expecting that!”

Raven, who'd otherwise been very quiet, made a faint noise that almost sounded like agreement. Finn was fairly certain he was a lord incognito; he wondered what compelled the young man to keep such a secret when all Order members were safe alongside their own.

They were close, now. The Order's castle was minutes away. His heart was rattling in his chest.

Askr was beautiful; it looked much like Grannvelle had in its prime. They'd stopped in one village on their way back; the citizens had been warm and welcoming – several of them called Kiran 'altessa', which made her flush scarlet and stammer protests that went ignored. Finn hadn't asked what that word meant, but he guessed it was a term of respect and deference that the Summoner wasn't comfortable with. She told him that she was 'low born', comparing herself a village girl. Soleil had chirped that her world used 'democracy', so there were no kings or lords. The concept baffled Finn somewhat, but there would be time later to ask more about it.

The castle of the Order looked very elegant and very, very big. There were a number of heroes sparring outside the gates in the grassy fields...

Finn wondered why -he- was considered a Great Hero. He had been gone when his lord was murdered, gone when his friends were massacred, he'd been forced to flee with the infant leaf and abandon Leonster to occupation. What had he done to be worthy of such a title?

A flash of gold caught his eye as they drew nearer. A healer who had been overseeing a spar group had turned to see who was approaching, and now she was running towards them. Gold, and she wore a red cloak. For a moment he stayed, simply mesmerized, as she slowly came into focus crossing the distance between them.

Wordlessly Finn handed the reigns to Joshua and dismounted, stumbling towards her.

“Finn?” Lachesis cried, and his eyes burned at the sound of her voice. He'd forgotten how beautiful it was, the years dulling his recall despite how desperately he clung to her memory. “Finn, my darling, it is you!”

She crashed into his arms, heedless of his armor, sobbing with delight. He snatched her up, lifting her and spinning her in a circle. She laughed, burying her face in his neck. Finn stumbled and slowed, letting her feet touch the ground again. “Lachesis...” Her name came out as half a sob. He was trembling so fiercely he felt that she was the only one holding him up.

“I'd almost lost hope that you'd appear here.” Lachesis whispered, pulling back to look into his eyes. She held unshed tears of her own as she smiled. “I've agonized over it for months, and then all of a sudden the Tempest comes alive, and Lady Kiran said that you were trapped there. I've been worrying myself into a stupor for days, Lady Kiran instructed me to stay behind – the tower, I've heard so many horror stories from Prince Alfonse, and I'm babbling, are you hurt? I-mph!”

Finn tangled his fingers in her soft golden hair and kissed her hard on the lips. “I lost you in the desert,” he gasped when they parted. “I promised I'd keep you safe, and I lost you.”

Lachesis cupped his face in her hands. “I'm here,” she said, “I'm so sorry, my love. I'm here and I intend to stay.” She kissed him, her gentle fingers brushing across his cheeks. Finn tightened his grip further, because some part of him expected her to vanish like a mirage.

He was crying, he realized dimly. It had been years since he had permitted himself to weep.

“My poor, brave knight,” Lachesis whispered when they managed to pull apart for a moment. “You look exhausted, and you're covered in sweat and dirt. How long were you trapped in that terrible building?”

“To be frank, I'm not sure,” Finn managed to say, stroking her hair. “With the phantoms and morphs who hounded me, I had no way of tracking time.”

Lachesis hummed. “Well, I'll have to show you to the hot springs and get you cleaned up.” She ran a hand down his chest. “I'm so glad to see you...”

“Father?” “Finn?”

Lachesis let out a delighted chirp as Finn turned around to see Nanna and Leif running towards them; a pink haired girl with a blue tome stood a bit back, holding the reins to his daughter's horse. Both of them were unharmed and slightly tired looking thanks to a long march, not that it mattered when they saw him. Lachesis stepped aside so Nanna could tackle her father properly. Leif skidded to a halt, seemingly having considered going for a hug of his own but shyly backing out at the last second. The gesture surprised Finn, Leif had never been particularly open with his affection before. Though the look that his young charge cast in Kiran's direction – the young woman had been hovering a respectful distance away, hands clasped, watching with a smile – made him wonder...

“Have you grown?” He asked Nanna fondly, ruffling her hair. “I swear you're slightly taller than when I saw you last.”

Nanna smiled. “The Order of Heroes has made me stronger. I think I've learned a lot; maybe that's made me look taller.”

“It's good to see you, Finn.” Leif said happily. “Welcome to Askr!”

“I'm glad to see you too, Leif.”

+_+_+_+_+_+_

Lachesis snuggled into his side. Moonlight spilled through the window of the tower room he had been provided, illuminating the quilt covering his bed. Their bed. “I had thought you wouldn't have the energy,” She purred, nuzzling his neck.

Finn smiled softly. “You're alive,” He murmured. “Right now, I could fly.” He kissed her forehead. “I love you.”

“I love you too...” She placed her head on his chest. “May our fates be brighter now.”

Finn hesitated before quietly asking, “You will be here when I wake up?”

Her eyes flickered with both sadness and affection. “Yes, I will. I'm so sorry to have caused you such pain, my love. I swear, I will be with you always...whatever happens.”

Chapter Text

Kiran shivered, tugging at her scarf. “Ah, Nifl...I should have bundled up more,” She grumped, looking up at the sky. Flurries were drifting through the dead air as they travelled through the back roads of the snow kingdom. Ever since Surtr started deploying his daughters as scouts, she had decided it was best to sneak about as they tried to gain more information on him while they sought out Fjorm's sister. Nifl seemed eerily quiet; the only noises were their voices and the crunching of snow and ice pellets beneath their boots. The land of ice was beautiful, yet felt abandoned; if you knew where to look, there were signs of Surtr's invasion.

They were a larger group than usual – Seliph was walking on her right, Micaiah on her left, while Eirika, Ephraim and Lyn rode just behind them. Donnel kept glancing about anxiously, still somewhat overwhelmed by their encounter with Surter. Tailtiu, bless her, was pretty cheery in spite of that. The Kanas were playing about in the snow, giggling and pushing each other while Seliph and Micaiah watched them in amusement. [Eirika kept an eye on them too, but there was something wistful and a touch sad in her eyes that Kiran wasn't sure she dared ask about.] Their guide, Fjorm, walked just ahead of them.

“Are you alright, your lady-summonership?” Donnel asked, stuttering a bit from the cold. [She still had trouble getting him to use her name. Sharena, Alfonse and Anna treated her as if she was a Noble Lady, and thus she still intimidated him despite her efforts.]

“I'm fine,” She insisted with a yawn. “I do this every time winter rolls around – leave the house and find I'm not quite warm enough.”

“D-Do I need to get you another coat?” Fjorm offered slightly anxiously. The Ice Princess turned around and gestured vaguely in the direction of the deeper forest surrounding their pathway. “We're close to a village off the beaten path. We can go and get more supplies there.”

“You are looking a little off, Kiran.” Seliph noted in concern.

Kiran tried to do some mental math, ensure that they could afford a deviation. Technically they weren't on a strict time limit, but since they were travelling in a larger group than normal they ran a risk of going noticed. And unfortunately, they weren't any closer to finding Gunnthera – Kiran's dreams were their only guide, and as near as she could tell they still weren't anywhere close to the area. Then they picked up a little boy dragon and she'd given him one of her sweaters. Which she didn't regret, but she had hoped to avoid stopping for long.

“I'm not freezing,” Kiran replied with a slight shake of her head, “but it is getting later.” The sun was starting to dip in the skies. “Are we close, Fjorm?”

“N-Not quite. But we can reach it before the sun sets.”

“Then let's go.”

[She worried a good deal about Fjorm. It isn't that the princess hides her distress, but sometimes Kiran fears the other girl is trying not to react to all that's happened to her – like her mother burning to death. Kiran thinks about that, really thinks about it – thinks about how Seliph, choking on his breath, described the murder of his father – and wants to throw up. How is Fjorm sane after watching that?]

The Kanas, rambunctious little kids that they were, had spent most of the journey walking ahead of the group. Micaiah generally kept stride with them, but as they approach the village the kids scramble just ahead of her. The prophet started out of her gently amused smile when suddenly Kana – Corrin's daughter – screamed at the top of her lungs, followed almost instantly by her 'twin'. She rushed forward, though Ephraim ended up finding them first.

The end of the pathway that the Kanas had stumbled onto was covered in skeletons and corpses. However, these figures were not resting in peace.

One of them had grabbed Kana's ankle. When Ephiram sliced it off, the others started moving.

Luckily, they weren't very difficult to dispose of. Seliph's shaking, Fjorm's horrified sobs, Lyn's frantic cursing in her native tongue and Micaiah's rapid fire prayers to her patron goddess as they took out the last few skeletons were purely psychological reactions.

Kiran didn't blame them. She was having trouble breathing herself. Thankfully, her growing tactition's mindset allowed her to prioritize, and they made their way to the village.

[She has an inkling where this might have come from, because Eirika is pale as a ghost, Ephraim's hand is shaking on his lance, and the undead creatures were missing the dark aura characteristic of Grima's Risen or Anankos's Vallites. She desperately wants to be wrong, for their sake, but can anyone else make marionettes of the dead?]

+_+_+_+_+_+

Eirika nearly fainted.

Some small part of herself was ashamed of it. She was a princess, a Queen in all but name, and she nearly collapsed while the children were keeping their wits. Faintly she heard a still-frazzled Tailtiu speaking to her, asking if she was alright, and finally catching her when her knees wobbled and gave out. The world seemed distant and unstable.

The altercation with the undead had sent them to the village in a dead sprint, half expecting to see it ravaged. Fortunately, the small town was still standing, and in fact had suffered little to no damage at all. However, the villagers were all unnerved and insisted they couldn't leave until the sun came up, for their own sake. The zombies had been around for several weeks now, and the situation had been horrific enough that Surtr's men had decided it wasn't worth returning to sack the area. However, that...wasn't just because of the undead.

When Kiran asked what they knew about the zombies, the town head had described, one day, a sickly but gentle young man appearing on their doorstep. Though he wore a circlet and robes, on top of being very well spoken, he gave no noble title – only a name.

Lyon.

Initially, the headman explained, he'd thought Lyon was ill heir cast out for being mad – he frequently spoke to himself, was easily distressed, and showed no sign of recognizing the world maps they had shown him. Then Loki had appeared at their doorstep, only to instantly regret it when Lyon emerged and confronted her after her soldiers tried to drag off a few of the children. “There was a monster in his eyes,” the headman had told them, shuddering as he remembered. “He spoke with a dragon's voice, and the dead rose from their graves. The ground trembled when he cast dark magic...I had never seen a shaman so powerful... That horrid witch actually screamed and fled in terror, in the end.”

When the last had fled, Lyon had cried in pain, collapsing against a wall and clutching his head. A few moments later, he apologized sadly, and vanished – disappearing into an old fortress halfway up the mountain their village sat at the foot of. The last time they had dared check, he had barricaded himself inside – they said they could hear him speaking both exhausted and determined, his voice occasionally intermixed with that of an angry demonic entity – who induced terror simply by speaking. After that, more and more zombies began to appear...the village had been about to send a petition for help when they had arrived.

Just out of the corner of her eye, Eirika could see Kiran pacing and thinking, though she couldn't quite discern the other girl's expression. The Kanas were surrounding and leaning on Ephraim, who – true to form – was pretending to be *far* less distressed than he truly was. “Eirika?” Right. Tailtiu was here. Her friend... “Eirika, you can hear me right? You – you haven't passed out on me?”

She shook her head. “I'm fine.” She would not faint. She would...she would face this; as she did before. She couldn't simply lie down and hope it would go away...

Tailtiu appeared in her field of vision, expression incredulous. “Oh yeah? You don't look okay! You're whiter than the snow!” She shifted her hands so she was holding Eirika's face. “Look...we're going to figure something out, okay? Kiran's planning something. C'mon...don't just lie here.” She got up, and tugged insistently until Eirika forced her legs to move and did the same.

“Thank you, Tailitu.” The cheerful blue mage had been one of the first people she'd met after being summoned. She'd taken an immediate interest in Gelipner and had started talking her ear off until Eirika found herself discussing magic theory to a degree that she hadn't since...Lyon. Tailitu was instantly likable, and had quickly become a close friend...usually, Eirika could draw energy from her just by standing nearby.

Lyon...

She'd prayed to see him again. Ever since Kiran had explained how the summoning mechanic work – how it ignored linear time – she'd prayed that he would be called; had attended every summoning event in the thin, desperate hope that she'd see him. That he'd appear, so she could embrace him, kiss him, apologize for failing him as completely as she had. Tell him that she was caring for Grado in the wake of the earthquake he had seen, that had driven him to despair and desperation. And to apologize, for not being there when he'd needed her, needed them, the most...

...The long nights she'd spent awake, weeping for him, for her broken heart, afraid to sleep and visit the omnipresent nightmares that recalled his death.... She'd been unable to deliver his eulogy, breaking down into borderline hysterics when she remembered his dying words.

I've always loved you...

He'd directed those words at both of them...He had smiled, right before he went limp in Ephraim's arms. She hadn't choked out the words in time. Neither had her brother. She'd regretted nothing so fiercely in her life.

She couldn't quite pinpoint when she'd fallen in love with Lyon, though she knew when Ephraim had – she'd known long before he realized how he felt, which might have been amusing in another time and place. She had always admired Lyon – gentle yet stern when it was needed, a wielder of incredible magic, and wise far beyond his years. It seemed to her some days that she had always loved him, from the moment she met him. Yet she'd never quite gathered the courage to simply tell him as much; now she couldn't have figured out why, in the very worst situation Lyon would have let her down very gently, has he had done to a number of suitors.

How...how silly of her to not wonder why he'd rejected every other woman who had asked him. She had just been befuddled, and secretly grateful. Oh, if she had just gone to him and asked, she could have been there when Vigarde grew ill, when he began to have the visions. He wouldn't have suffered alone, he wouldn't have listened to Riev when the snake slithered into the court, offering him power to “save” everyone he loved.

And now she could see him again...the vessel of The Demon King. A tormented pawn of a vicious monster.

“This is weird.”

Kiran's loud, firm declaration startled Eirika out of the despairing spiral of her regrets. Her friend was staring intently at the mountain, her face bent with thought. “Why is the Demon King holding up in that palace, avoiding everyone?” She asked, seemingly speaking more to herself than anyone else. “Why would he protect a bunch of squishy humans from invaders instead of slaughtering everyone on both sides? He's never done anything like this before.”

She glanced at Ephraim for confirmation. The prince managed to nod, his distress mingling with bewilderment. Kiran began to pace slightly, now speaking more quietly to herself. Eirika had to strain to hear. “...was conscious, but he couldn't actually *do* anything...his physical body gave him power...different dimension, different time...maybe...” The summoner paused and then pulled something out of an inner coat pocket. It was a golden pendant with white crystals, and it was glowing with an unearthly light.

“What's that?” Ephraim asked, confused.

“It's a Light Blessing.” Kiran explained; her voice indicated her attention was divided. “A divine tear, said to have holy properties...Anna took three from a temple and gave them to me, said I might need them...” She smiled. “Alright. I have a plan.

She turned and faced them. “Lyn, can your horse handle the mountain path?”

“Of course.” The archer nodded. “Few of the paths in Sacae are forgiving. Rough terrain is not a problem.”

“Great. Man, I wish I'd asked Ninian to come, that would have made this easy...” Eirika knew perfectly well why Kiran hadn't brought the dragon dancer – she'd just been reunited with her son Roy and her beloved Eliwood. Kiran didn't want to interrupt that. “Okay, Kana A? Do you think you can confront someone like Anankos?”

“I can do anything!” The young girl responded fiercely. “We'll go and rescue him!”

“What about me?” The other Kana complained, missing Ephraim's flinch when his reflection mentioned 'rescue'.

“Someone will have to stay here and watch the village; likely there are more of the Demon King's minions about. I'm leaving you an important job, okay?” The boy immediately brightened at Kiran's words and nodded. “Donnel? Would you-?”

“Of course.” The farm boy assured before Kiran could even finish. He looked resolute, lacking his occasional nervousness and stutter. “No one will get past us.”

Kiran smiled. “Great. Micaiah, Seliph, Tailtiu, I hope you're prepared to do some hiking.” This was met by a chorus of agreement, though Eirika couldn't help but notice that Seliph seemed uneasy. Then Kiran turned to her. “Eirika, you stay with Kana and Donnel, watch the town.”

“But-!”

“If there are more terrors, I'd rather leave a magic user just in case. Try and get a message to base camp, ask if Priscilla and Lachesis can hurry over.” Kiran responded. Everything she wasn't saying was clear in her eyes. I'm leaving you here because I know that killing Lyon again would destroy you. I know why your wrist is scarred even if you didn't come out and tell me directly. I know you're willing to do this, but I will not put you through that again if I can help it. The only reason Ephraim is coming is because I would have to use a sleep staff on him to make leaving him possible, and the healers are at the previous camp. No amount of arguing will change my mind; I also speak sense and you know it.

Kiran hid steel under kindness and unending compassion. Eirika had always thought she was much like Lyon in that way. “Very well.”

“Ephraim?” Kiran asked, turning to look at him. “Are you with me?” It was a strange turn of phrase, something common to her home world. She wasn't asking for his alliance, she was asking if he was in control of his thoughts and emotions.

“Of course.” His response was calm and in control. Only his eyes spoke of his turmoil.

“Good. We're moving out!” Eirika doubted Kiran had missed it. She wondered what the Light Blessing was for, what the summoner was planning.

+ _ + _ + _ + _ +

“...”

Fomortiis's voice was gone.

Lyon lay very still; his body ached and breathing hurt; there was something warm, burning that lay against his chest, and Fomortiis's voice was gone. Or...perhaps there were whispers. A slithering at the very back of his mind. But the cacophony of noise, the sheer pressure of the king's presence...it was gone. His mind was quiet. His soul felt at peace.

What in the eight hells was going on?

This...shouldn't be possible. What had happened? Part of him wanted to open his eyes, but he was afraid to. He'd seen so much he'd been powerless to stop...

“Prince Lyon?” He...he knew that voice. The group of people who had come to confront him...their princess? The tactition. “You can open your eyes. It's safe.” He felt a hand touch his.

Slowly he blinked the world into focus. He half expected Fomortiis to surge back into the forefront of his consciousness, drown everything in darkness – but nothing happened. What. What was going on? He blinked again; the ceiling of the old castle coming into focus...and the young woman leaning over him. A woman in white, her ocean eyes concerned and – there was no other word for it. She looked downright triumphant.

“Erikia?” He wondered, leaning on one arm as he tried to sit up – and it hit him. He was moving his body. He had control again.

She shook her head slightly. “No, not quite. I'm Kiran. It's good to meet you, Lyon.”

“How?” It was the only word he could really manage. He had a thousand questions, and he was afraid that this was a dream. Kiran smiled enigmatically and lifted up a pendant he was fairly certain he'd never worn before. It...was the source of the warmth... “This is...”

“'Death has no hold on those Blessed by light.'” Kiran quoted; there was a small inscription on the circumference of the jewel that held those words. “Fitting that a Death God would be chained by something that preserves and restores life.” She smiled. “Welcome back.”

“I...” He was free of Fomortiis?

There was a loud clatter as something heavy was dropped unceremoniously to the floor. Lyon looked up and saw Ephraim standing a few feet away, staring wide eyed at him. The expression on his face...shock, wonder, hardly daring to hope...gods, it defied words. Lyon froze, torn between happiness and shame; Kiran's smile widened slightly and she rose to her feet, stepping aside and retreating to the other warriors, the closest being a boy with blue hair who's expression was a mix of emotion...

Ephraim stumbled, collapsed on his knees next to Lyon and seized him in a tight embrace, cradling him against his chest. Lyon gasped painfully, what little air he'd gained effectively knocked from his lungs; this was...wasn't he angry, how could he not hate him? Ephraim's grip softened slightly, mumbles of “I'm sorry” stuttered between muffled tears. Tears. Lyon could feel it, see it, yet it didn't quite make sense. Ephraim was crying...in front of his comrades? Ephraim never wept. He was never vulnerable.

“You're alive...” Ephraim sobbed. “You're alive...oh Lyon...”

“You're crying,” Lyon murmured, dumbfounded. Ephraim was crying, over him, in front of other people. What? “I...Ephraim...” Where should he even start? How could he apologize for his failure to keep the Demon King in his prison?

“I thought we'd never meet again...” Ephraim's fingers dug into his shoulders. “I...ah...I'm so sorry. I failed you...”

What?! “What are you...” That...that wasn't right. That was completely backwards! “That's...”

“You didn't know how much I admire you...” Ephraim pulled back a bit to look him in the eye, his teal gaze still bright with unshed tears. His regal features, which Lyon had always admired, had softened in a way he'd never really seen before. “I always thought you'd be a better king than me. That had nothing to do with my childish disinterest in the role; you were always shrewd when I was reckless, wise where I was careless...if it were safe to spar with magic, you would have beaten me half the time, at least. And...and you're brave, in a way I couldn't be. You weren't afraid to let people close to you...You weren't afraid to be gentle and kind. I loved that. I love it still.”

“E-Ephraim...”

“I was always a little afraid you'd loose patience with me,” Ephraim went on, almost desperately, oblivious to the attempted interruption. “I couldn't read people, I always rushed off on my own, and gods, I'm still as impulsive as I was when I first started learning the lance. I...I never thought...that you...” Gently he touched his forehead against Lyon's. “In the end, all my strength was useless. I wasn't there when you needed me. I...I couldn't save you from Fomortiis. I couldn't...and yet here you are...I-I'm...”

Trembling, Lyon raised his hand and brushed it across Ephraim's wet cheek. “I...” He felt like a complete fool, shame burning in his stomach as he remembered the feelings inferiority that had stalked him throughout his long standing affection for the Renais Prince. All along, he'd felt this way? “Don't cry, Ephraim...”

Ephraim smiled through his tears. “I can't help it...you're alive...”

“But...” He swallowed. “The invasion...the monsters...my fault...”

“Formotiis had been imprisoning souls and destroying life long before either of us,” Ephraim responded. “I cleaved Riev in half for bringing you those books, though it brought me little solace.” He gently pressed a kiss against Lyon's forehead, causing his breath to hitch. “Lyon...I love you...”

“Y...You...? A-ah...” Overwhelmed, Lyon closed his eyes as tears burned at their corners. “I...I...”

“I know.” The words were gentle, brushing against his lips. “I know.” Ephraim tilted his head and silenced any further stammering.

+ _ + _ + _ + _ + _

“They're back!”

Eirika was brought out of her thoughts by the relieved voice of the headsman. Standing up, she gently ruffled Kana's hair, waking him from his sleep. “Come. Kiran's back.” Kana beamed and ran for the door, waking up right away at the summoner's name. Smiling fondly, Eirika followed him out, a bit more sedately. It was sweet that Kana had latched on to the other girl so fast. And having a small child to make sad puppy eyes at her probably helped Leif convince her to take care of herself.

Lyn came in first, followed by Ephraim, who...wasn't alone. Who had Lyon with him. Eirika froze mid step when Ephraim dismounted and helped Lyon do the same. It wasn't a corpse her brother had brought back...it was...it was...When Lyon moved, the sunlight glanced off the Light Blessing Kiran had been holding earlier.

And Kiran was beaming like the cat who had caught the canary.

Eirika was moving again without any conscious thought. Ephraim noticed her, and warned Lyon just in time for her to crash into him.

“Ah! E-Eirika...” He wrapped his arms around her by instinct. And it was his voice, not the low pitched, demonic parody that Fomortiis had used.

“Lyon! Oh Lyon...ah gods, you're alive! How...how...” She buried her head in his shoulders. She was trembling. She could hardly breathe. And she'd never been so happy in her life.

“I...well...” Lyon stuttered, gently placing a hand at the back of her neck. “Eirika, I – it's the blessing, this world. It forced Fomortiis to sleep. I – mmph!” She cut off any further apologies with a kiss. The surprised chorus of 'whaaa?' from the two Kanas went duly ignored.

Kiran clasped her hands together. “There should be no more trouble for you here, sir.” She told the headsman. “If you do find trouble, send a letter ahead – we have plenty of forces. Though...” She smiled. “We have a new member to announce, so we'll be heading off.”

“Did you plan for that?” Micaiah wondered.

“No,” Kiran said, “but I knew if it were possible, I was going to make it happen.”

Chapter Text

Kiran yawned, gazing down at the box of summoning orbs without really seeing them. These things were troublesome, she had decided a while ago. Whenever the stores ran low, or the Tempest was silent, she and the Askr royals had to buy them from various merchants who always overcharged to a ridiculous degree. While the Order was well funded, there were other expenses to keep in mind, so her continued summoning attempts had been more spaced apart recently. It was rather maddening at times.

“Maybe I need to go to the blessed water gardens.” She muttered, pawing uselessly at first a red stone, then a green one. “Clear my head. Try and write something.”

“Or sleep,” Roy suggested. Kiran nearly jumped when his hands suddenly rested on her shoulders, gently massaging them. She murmured her thanks. Some small part of her resented the fact that they were equal heights. She was older, darn it, and she had greatly enjoyed being one of the tallest kids in her class when she was in grade school! “Sorry,” he chuckled, “but Leif asked me to join the conspiracy. You were up last night again.”

“Haha,” She grumped, a small smile tugging at her lips. “He's already enlisted Finn and Lachesis. That's why I didn't miss dinner.” Since she could feel Roy frowning at the back of her head, she finally picked up a stone – a blue one – and added a touch defensively, “I wasn't going to skip food entirely; I hadn't finished my reading!”

“I would have missed you at dinner,” Roy admitted, causing her to flush slightly. “You tell a lot of funny stories when you're relaxed and not trying to think about a dozen things at once.”

“Half the time I don't think they're funny until everyone starts laughing.” Kiran admitted. The blue stone pulsed warmly in her hands. “When I actively try to be funny, no one gets it.” She looked up at the sky and sighed. “Maybe Leif has a point. Maybe I need a weekend off. My brain's a mess.”

“The blessed gardens are beautiful,” Roy said wistfully. “I'd love to go back, so maybe I'll take you there with Leif and Seliph with the excuse of – what did you call it? Swimming therapy?”

“Yeah.” Kiran smiled fondly. “My parents helped me learn how to swim when I was very little. It was always a part of summer activities. And when I got older, I learned...well, swimming calmed me, put me in a good mood. I'll suggest it. Lord knows Leif needs to smile more.”

Kiran adored that the those three boys had hit it off. It was rare to find them apart, whether they were sparring, having a meal, or just chatting about any given thing. Corrin often joined them, an unofficial fourth member, whenever he wasn't preoccupied with his family. Leif found comfort and stability in it, Seliph was able to relax and forget the weight of his burdens, and Roy was basking in having close friends whom he didn't have to act somewhat aloof to due to rank or station.

“I'll have to tell him you said that.” There was a rather mischievous note in Roy's voice.

Frowning, Kiran turned to face him and asked, “Why?” Roy released her shoulder to raise his hands innocently; his smile gave him away though. “Oookay then,” she eyed him suspiciously, “Come on; you can stand by me while I find our newest Hero.”

They made their way up the hill side by side, to the Stonehenge-like summoning hill, the cool breeze growing in strength as they reached it. Kiran felt the hum of magic pulse through her and closed her eyes momentarily. The more she used magic, the more she came to 'feel' it – and god, wasn't that a strange thought, when her world had no magic to speak of? Magic was warm and coursed like a river current, ever present. She couldn't imagine going back to being unable to feel it.

Shaking her head to clear the thoughts away, Kiran raised the blue orb and secured it with a click. Roy nodded and took a few steps backwards, removing himself from the circle. Kiran momentarily turned to smile at him before refocusing and raised her hands.

The stone gleamed brightly. A rush of air swept past her bare ankles, and a pillar of white light descended from the sky. Though she had done this dozens of times now, Kiran still winced and raised a hand over her face to keep from going blind. A moment later, she lowered it and looked to see who had answered her call.

The last of the light and smoke faded...revealing a beautiful young woman with long, azure blue hair who wore an elegant white dress. Her skin was pale and slightly blue, and red eyes blinked a few times before focusing on Kiran, who couldn't help but be slightly dumbfounded – she had been told much about this person, after all.

“H-Hello,” The dragon girl said shyly. “I am Ninian – quite simply, a traveling performer, glad to put on a show. It's nothing much, really.”

“Hello,” Kiran repeated softly, her words muffling Roy's gasp of shock. “I am Kiran, the summoner. Welcome to Askr, Ninian.” She offered her hand, hoping her smile was welcoming.

“Thank you...” Ninian hesitated before taking it. She seemed surprised when the gesture wasn't abruptly retracted; Kiran resisted the urge to sigh sadly (and get angry a lot of faceless people) and hoped that she would become comfortable soon.

Ninian looked aside, shy, and her eyes alit upon Roy. “Oh! Eliwood?” She asked, her face lighting up. She ran over to him, coming to a stop a few feet away from him. “Oh, I'm so happy to see you...um...wait.” She blinked at him. “Y-you're...”

“Eliwood is my father,” Roy responded faintly. His mind was spinning...he had faint memories of her, gentle, cool fingers and a beautiful laugh...his father had portraits made of her, but none of them could speak. His mother had always been a faint and fading memory. Until suddenly...

“O-oh...” Ninian's expression faltered. “I...hadn't known...um...” Her hand went to her slightly swollen stomach.

“W-what do you mean? Mother...it's me! It's Roy!”

“Roy...? Eliwood said that if it was a boy, we should...oh!” The confusion left Ninian's eyes, replaced by shock. She gawked at him. “You're...oh...but how is that possible? I...I haven't given birth yet!”

“Summoning ignores linear time,” Kiran offered in explanation, walking over to them. Ninian and Roy both stared at her, and she smiled gently in turn. “You were called from different points in time; Eliwood told me you were early in your pregnancy when he arrived.”

“Ah...you've told me that at least twice,” Roy laughed weakly, running a hand through his hair. “Corrin's family comes from all over the place thanks to that.”

“O-Oh...” Ninian looked embarrassed. “I see.” She perked up then. “Eliwood is here too?”

“Yes. Though Hector hasn't arrived yet, Lyn has. I'll show you to the Order – would you prefer to avoid a general introduction and just meet people along the way?” Ninian nodded vigorously; Kiran smiled and bowed her head. “Understood. Right this way.”

+ _ + _ + _ + _ +

It was late in the day when they arrived back in the front gardens of the Order's headquarters. Nino, Lloyd, and Jaffar were sitting together near a flower bed, Nino seemingly reading aloud to them. Finn was helping Lachesis onto his horse for an evening ride, meanwhile Sigurd, Seliph and Leif were walking together and discussing something. Kiran waved at them as she headed into the building, leaving Roy and Ninian standing near an old weeping willow.

“It's beautiful here,” Ninian murmured.

“You haven't seen the hot springs yet,” Roy said, “or the gardens. You'll love it, mother.”

He wondered if she could see his turmoil. He was so young when she died. He had feared for a long time that he'd loose what little memory of her that he had. She was even more beautiful in person than she was in the portraits. She was unearthly, otherworldly; he dearly wanted to impress her somehow, and all the questions he'd always wanted to ask her seemed to have fled his mind.

Ninian seemed to sense this. She turned to him again and stared for a long moment, before giggling gently. “You look so much like your father,” She said in wonder. “Tall and handsome and noble...ah...” Tentatively, she touched the side of his face. “You...you have my face...” Her eyes diverted to a side. “You're so beautiful. I can hardly believe you're mine...”

“...Of course I am.” Roy made himself smile, though he felt it wobble slightly. “Ha...I froze a fountain once, when I was upset.”

She started. “You did?”

“Yeah. I...can't fully transform, but when I'm in trouble, power I inherited from you comes to my rescue.” He smiled. “It's saved my life, before.”

“That's...” Ninian smiled so brightly, it lit up the world around her. “I'm so glad I could protect you. I was afraid it, well...that my blood could cause you pain. I'm so glad...”

She hugged him, then. For a moment, Roy froze; then, tears burned at the corners of his eyes, and he hugged her back, carefully, for she was so fragile in his distant memory. He had dreamed of her after he died, many times, when he would race after her as she faded into mist. Usually, he could not reach her, but a few times he had, and attempted to embrace her. She had shattered in his arms, like splashing a puddle, leaving him alone. But Ninian remained solid in his arms, present and constant. It was a reprieve, and he felt joyful - as if an injury he hadn't paid mind do suddenly healed, and made him stronger.

"Father's here too," Roy said, "I saw him last in the training hall - I'll bring you to him!"

Ninian beamed. "Oh, that's lovely. You two have so much to tell me."

Chapter Text

“So that's Muspell...” Kiran lowered her binoculars and frowned at the barren, volcanic hell that lay in the distance. She forced herself not to grimace; an old joke from home jumping into her head. 'One does not simply walk into Mordor'. Thick smoke covered the sky of the kingdom of fire; the religious soul inside her screamed that she would be stepping into hell itself when she crossed that border. She shivered, despite the day's warmth. Grim determination threatened to give way to fear. “We're almost there.” Hopefully no one would suffocate from the fumes, or have to contend with lava coming too close during a battle, or even eruptions...And that was before she factored in the residents, Surtr's army, and the man himself...

A gentle hand rested on her shoulder. Kiran nearly jumped out of her skin, spinning around and meeting Kaze's concerned green eyes. “Indeed we are,” He said solemnly. “Take heart, Kiran.”

“Ah...thank you.” She managed a small smile. Kaze's serenity was infectious, and he always seemed to sense when she was loosing her equilibrium. “Ha...I wish Ares hadn't run himself into the ground at the previous Tempest. I wish Sigurd wasn't investigating the current Tempest. I'm missing two of my greatest cavaliers.”

“Ares would have come if you had let him,” Kaze noted, “however unwise that would have been.”

“I don't know what he was thinking,” Kiran muttered. “He'd sprained almost everything important, and even with the best healing some of the wounds he'd gained were still paining him. He needed rest; I can't believe I had to have Ishtar, Seliph and Leif all gang up on him to make him realize that.”

“He's a boy, that's why.” Lene deadpanned, wrapping her arms around Kiran's shoulders from behind. She grinned at the other girl's startled yelp. “Cheer up, okay? We can do this! Have we ever let you down?”

“No,” Kiran managed, once she'd caught her breath. “No, of course not...gah, Lene, don't freakin' do that! You startled a year off my life.”

“I think you're constant stressing removes more.” Lene responded, though she did let go, bouncing on her heels as Kiran and Kaze both turned to face her. “Really, it would just figure I'm on a team full of serious people.” She side-eyed Camus, who pretended not to notice, and Julia, who gave her a meek look.

“And Ares isn't serious?” Kiran could count on one hand the number of times she'd seen the Black Knight crack what might have been a smile. When Sigurd had met him and offered to tell him more about Eldigan, who was yet to have been summoned, Ares had been overwhelmed, and smiled sincerely...flustering every girl near his age who'd seen him.

“Hey! Ares smiles sometimes!” Lene defended. Then she frowned a bit, because Ares had smiled at Ishtar, his battle partner at the Tempest, when they had walked into his room at the Order's medical wing. Kiran had seen those two working together so well, she had to compare them to Reinhardt and Lyn the Brave, who had actually married a month ago in spite of their different birth worlds. Lene was pretty anxious by the implications of the comparison, though Kiran was pretty sure that Ishtar still held Prince Julius in her heart – for better or for worse.

Ishtar was also resting per Kiran's orders, though she'd taken fewer injuries than Ares (mostly thanks to him heroically protecting her, despite her protests). The brunette rather missed her company; they had bonded over their lack of certainty in life very quickly after the summoning.

“Of course,” Kiran responded mildly, smiling at Lene. “I think-”

The world warped. Kiran gasped as the magic around her rippled and **twisted**; her vision blurred under the weight and she would have fallen if Kaze hadn't grabbed and steadied her. The ground trembled and there was an audible crackling in the air. A portal was opening, a voice at the back of her mind noted. A Grand Hero was coming. The gravel pass of the mountain vanished, replaced by a grassy landscape, ancient trees and a massive dark castle. The air, which had been calm before, was now heavy with dread. Warily Kiran straightened up, blinking to see clearly again. Camus was speaking hurriedly to his horse, who had nearly thrown him upon sensing the magical upheaval. Lene was getting back to her feet, frantically asking what had just happened. And Julia...

Kiran looked about frantically, then pulled away from Kaze to sprint over to the fallen mage. Julia was trembling violently, staring in wide eyed horror at the castle towers. “Julia? Julia, hey, you need to get up...”

“Ah...that's...” Julia stumbled as Kiran tried to help her stand, not looking away from the castle. “That is...”

There was a flash of red light, and a mage warped down and appeared in front of them. Kiran's eyes widened into dinner plates; her mind flashing back to a conversation she'd had with Seliph months ago – lamenting that she hadn't had more advice for him regarding his half brother. Now she regretted that more than ever...for completely different reasons.

“Well...what do we have here?” Prince Julius, Scion of Darkness, grinned at them. His long red hair seemed to flicker like fire, due to the ambient magic surrounding him. Some suicidal part of Kiran's brain noted that he was a little shorter than her. [Gods, he was young, younger than Lyon]. Yet somehow, he exuded enough malice to unnerve Valter. “Little scurrying mice.”

“J...Julius...” Julia mumbled. She stumbled, nudging Kiran behind her as she picked up the Naga tome and took a defensive stance.

He laughed at this; the noise was sharp and jagged and echoed eerily. “What's this? My sweet, pathetic little sister grew a spine?” Camus drew even with Julia a moment later, Kaze melting out of the darkness. “Well, isn't this interesting...”

Kiran's eyes dropped to the book held under his arm; a pitch black tome that radiated a sickening purple aura. She blinked, and the form of a coiled obsidian dragon surrounded Julius, glaring malevolently at her; its tail was wrapped around the tome and seemed to come from inside it. Loptyr. Kiran's mind jumped back to something Julia had told her a while ago... “He was kind, and sensitive...and then Manfroy gave him that eerie black book...” ...Loptyr's presence was inside it...would that mean...? The Light Blessing she wore around her neck as a final defense was burning her.

Julius clapped his hands together. “It's time for you to join the fray, oh Twelve Deadlords! Playtime is over. We must crush our enemies!”

Kiran cursed when, in a flash, an assortment of corpselike armored warriors appeared alongside their demonic master. A mountain with a lance, a medic, a sword wielder and more...and they all had glowing red eyes. She could see mortal wounds on at least two of them. They were already dead. Her stomach lurched. More goddamn zombies! She'd had it up to **here** with zombies! This was not in the bloody contract!

“Your orders?” Camus asked, readying Gradivus. If the clearly undead soldiers unnerved him, he was not going to show it.

I have to get that tome away from him, Kiran realized grimly. Seal it shut. Oh, she did not like the plan her mind was reeling out. “R-right!”

+ _ + _ + _ + _ + _

“Camus, you really are one of the greats,” Kiran murmured in admiration, watching as the pride of Grust nimbly darted between two of the Deadlords, causing one to skewer the other, and finishing the survivor off while they were trying to get their bearings. Kaze had sniped the healers and was currently annoying the hell out of the general, who then fell to Julia. Lene kept them energized while defending herself whenever necessary. Considering they had yet to fight together outside of sparring matches, they were working with remarkable synergy. Only three of the Deadlords were left...

Kiran stepped out from the trees and into the grass, as if she were approaching Kaze to give new orders...when really, she was making herself more visible. Julius had been darting to and fro on the battlefield, staying out of Camus's range while harrying Kaze and Julia. All he had to do was see her, and...

Her internal magic screamed at her, and she dropped to the ground in an instant – just as Matthew had taught her. A bolt of black magic sailed over her, missing where her head had been moments before. Rolling over so she was braced on her knees and toes, Kiran looked up to see Julius/Loptyr standing in front of her.

Loptyr started to say something – to gloat, probably – but Kiran didn't hear it. She launched herself forward, slamming into him and knocking him over. Julius let out a strangled gasp, struggling to breath after hitting the grass. [Julia had told her he had some trouble breathing when he was young]. Kiran rolled off him, scanning for the tome – it had gone to the right, the pages spinning seemingly on their own. Grimacing, she stumbled, crossed the distance, and grabbed the cover to shut the tome.

It burned when she touched it. A sickening sensation, like drowning in mire, filled her head; followed by an awful screech. She ignored it all, slamming the book shut and yanking the blessing off her neck.

“What are you-” Julius started; his words broke off into a horrific scream when Kiran wrapped the blessing around the book and hooked it, binding the pages and sealing it closed. The blessing flared with white light; the book's aura dims, and when she blinks Kiran sees claws and wings retreat into the book. A shriek of disbelieving rage echoes in her ears, and then suddenly it all stops.

Kiran let out a shaky chuckle; letting go of the book and looking at her hands. Burns cover them, licking their way up her arms...they look like dragon scales...her vision blurred and darkened...

“Here, child,” An unexpected voice sounded. A flash of healing light flared over her, and the pain dimmed enough for her to stay conscious. Twisting around, Kiran found herself facing Wrys. “I had thought it a mistake to let you leave without a healer.”

“Ah...thank you, Wrys...” She shook her head. “When did you...?”

“I followed you after you left base camp,” Wrys responded simply. “Clearly, that was the right decision. Ah, that young man...” He walked towards Julius. Kiran followed cautiously, flinching when she put any weight on her hands, and blinked a few times in order to see the magic surrounding the young vessel.

Sure enough, Loptyr was gone.

“Lady Kiran!” “Kiran!” The last of the Deadlords had fallen, Kiran realized. Camus, Julia, Lene and Kaze all rushed over to her. Camus gave her a look of mild disbelief when he saw her burned hands; Kiran smiled weakly and tipped her head in the direction of the bound Loptyr tome. He nodded slightly, dismounting and retrieving the dark item. Julia knelt by her brother's side; he was motionless while a frowning Wrys examined him. Kaze and Lene regarded Kiran with raw concern.

“How is he?” She asked.

“He's unconscious,” Wrys began, “but he seems to be in a sort of magical shock. Likely due to suddenly loosing his link to that cursed tome. He'll be asleep for at least a day to recover.”

Julia hesitantly touched Julius's face, then sobbed and hugged her brother for the first time in years. Kiran patted her back, flinching when her hands protested, before asking, “Camus, can you take him? I think we need to change plans and head to the new base camp.”

“Understood.” Camus frowned at her. “You'll be able to walk?”

“Yes. It's not my feet that are burned,” Kiran tried to make it a joke, but the pulse of pain made her wince. “I'll manage.”

In the end, Wrys insisted on another heal pulse before he allowed Kiran to walk, Lene keeping to her side. Camus took Julius and mounted his horse again, while a slightly weepy Julia clung to her summoner, thanking her frequently. Kaze scouted and kept an eye out for trouble. Thankfully, they didn't run into any patrols and managed to reach the new base camp in decent time.

+ _ + _ + _ + _ + _

Seliph frowned as he looked at Kiran's hands. Leif was sitting next to him, looking equally upset. “Those are going to scar, then...” He shook his head and pinned her with a concerned look. “What do I have to tell you to make you be more careful?”

“I had to get the tome away from him,” Kiran responded, her eyes casting downward at the spiraling marks. “I am sorry.”

“Don't apologize to us,” Seliph murmured, though his eyes were dark. “I'm amazed the Loptyr tome left only burns...”

“I think it might be because I have no Holy Blood.” Kiran mused. She nearly flinched when she remembered the feeling of overpowering malice she'd experienced. “And perhaps Loptyr is a bit weaker here, like Formotiis.”

She was just glad she'd managed to make it to the infirmary before collapsing on a bed and basically passing out. Wrys said delayed shock was to blame. She had only slept six hours before awakening to find Leif and Seliph hovering nearby. Julius was still asleep in the bed next to her, where Julia was keeping vigil. He was breathing evenly and there was more color in his face than when they had arrived. Camus had ducked in to see her and said that they were a day's march from Muspell, and Alfonse's group had arrived safely. Lene also came in to check on her, and told her that the Loptyr tome was on its way to the Order castle, to be locked in the vaults.

“How did you know sealing the book would do anything?” Leif asked.

“I wasn't certain; but I noticed that Julius acted differently than Lyon, in that he kept a facsimile of his actual identity. That made me think that Loptyr wasn't inhabiting his body permanently, but through the tome that he always kept with him.” Kiran rubbed her eyes. “I also figured that since I can't fight, the tome wouldn't try and possess me.”

A soft groan interrupted any further conversation. Seliph's head snapped to the right as Julia murmured, “Brother?”

Julius was stirring, curling up a bit so he could press his forehead against his forearm. “Ah...head hurts...so much...” He blinked a few times and looked straight up at the red roof of the tent. “And I've wandered off...again...Ishtar'll be furious...” He sighed. “Who's there? And what do I owe you for picking me up?”

Julia hesitantly placed a hand on his. “Julius?”

He stilled at her voice for a heartbeat, before pushing himself into a sitting position so quickly he flinched. “J-Julia? Is that your voice?” Julius blinked his vision clear and stared at her, eyes wide in disbelief. “Are...are you Julia? You're really here – I'm – I'm not just seeing things again, am I?”

Julia shook her head, trembling. “No. I'm here. R-really.”

Julius kept staring for a moment, before cautiously raising a hand and brushing her hair away from her face. “You feel real,” He said softly. “I can hardly ever tell, anymore. Sometimes, I think you're there, but when I reach for you, you disappear, and I see things-” he balked and shook his head. “Awful things. But you are here, aren't you? I can feel you...” He smiled tearfully. “I can. Ah, you've been gone for so long, Julia!”

Julia's eyes welled up and she hugged him tightly. Julius coughed a bit before returning it, burying his head in her shoulder. He mumbled something that sounded like “please never leave again”; Kiran wasn't sure, and it hadn't been meant for her ears. Leif took this as a sign that he should leave, and ducked out of the tent. Seliph, meanwhile, hovered, unsure of what to do. Kiran gently lay a hand on his shoulder and smiled at him. “Just wait,” She said softly.

“I've missed you so much,” Julia sniffed.

“Yeah...me too...” Julius smiled brightly; then he released her and looked about anxiously. “Um...but Julia, where are we? How did I get here? I don't remember.”

“We're in Askr.” Julia said. “We were summoned here, with ancient magic. You don't remember anything?”

Julius frowned. “No. I...I can't go for very long without...things getting blurry. I've – it's always been there, but it's been getting really bad...and...didn't I have a tome?” He looked down at his side. “I could have sworn...”

“You did,” Kiran spoke up, “But it was cursed, and I believe it may be the root cause of your foggy memory. I've sent it to storage and asked for a replacement.”

“Oh...” His expression bent with uncertainty. “Is that right? Ha...I can't remember where I got it from.”

Julia looked upset – she remembered where it came from, after all – and settled for hugging Julius again. He laughed a bit and ruffled her hair. “I told you you'd grow up beautiful,” He told her. “You never believed me.”

She pouted at him, which he smiled through. Then he looked up to speak to Kiran when his eyes fell on Seliph. While they otherwise looked quite different, all three siblings had Deirdre's eyes, and the startled look that crossed Julius's face said it all.

“Seliph?” The word came out half a question, half a statement. Julius swung his legs over the side of his bed and stood up; Julia grabbed his shoulder in case he stumbled, though he didn't seem to notice. “Seliph of Chalphy?”

Seliph was fairly quick witted, and clever – especially on the battlefield. Yet all words and wisdom seemed to desert him; his only response was a silent nod.

Julius stared for a long second before blurting, “Your hair's longer than I thought.” He balked, and stuttered, “I mean...well...I thought you'd keep it short. Like Sir Sigurd.”

Seliph blinked in shock. “You...you know what my father looks like?”

Julius fidgeted and took Julia's hand in his own. “I went looking through my great grandfather's things once when I was little. There was a portrait of the older lords and their children there, including Sir Sigurd. I guess it must have been overlooked. I, I had heard some people whispering that my mother had a son before me when I was walking in town with Ishtar, and I...I wanted to know, but father wouldn't tell me anything, and mother just got confused when I asked. I hid it in my room, under the floorboards. After I'd studied it for a while, I tried to sneak out of the castle so I could look for you.” He looked sheepish. “I got caught.”

“Ha...” Seliph closed his suspiciously bright eyes momentarily, before opening them again and smiling. “You would have had to walk all the way to Issach. That wasn't a safe distance for a child.”

“Hey...” Julius hesitated, before his expression cleared. “I was eleven! It seemed like a great idea at the time.”

They both chuckled. Kiran watched for a moment before bowing out, leaving the explanations of what and where and why to Julia as she emerged back in camp. There was someone else who would want to hear about this, after all. He'd come in with Sharena, to keep away from the large number of people native to his world who had a bone to pick with him. He said he wanted to keep her peace, but she was beginning to wonder if the implications of the information he was picking up were making him uneasy...

It didn't take her long to find him. He was standing aside from Michalis and Narcian, the latter of whom was ranting about beauty while the former concentrated on not strangling the blonde wyvern rider. Valter was flying above, leaving for a scouting mission. He caught sight of her, she nodded and waved him over.

“Kiran,” Arvis greeted. His eyebrows raised sharply. “What in the world have you done to your hands?”

“Technically, it was Loptyr's fault.” She disputed. He stiffened. “The tome is locked up. Julius seems to be within his own mind now that he's separated from it, though he's missing what may be months or even years worth of memories from whenever Loptyr was in control. He, Julia and Seliph were talking animatedly when I left.” She smiled evenly. “I'm sure you'll want to see him, and he'll probably have questions.”

“Ha...subtle as ever. I won't interrupt them, never fear.” Arvis's expression was perfectly at ease; if Julius's potential questions concerned him, he showed no sign of it. When he spoke again, there was something...a little warm in his voice. “Thank you, for taking the risk of removing the Tome. Few others would have even considered trying to rescue a Loptyr Major.” He bowed slightly. “I am in your debt.”

“I'm glad I succeeded.” Kiran hesitantly returned the gesture before adding, “I'll take my leave, now. I should coordinate with Anna.”

She headed back to the center of the camp, her thoughts on the tome of Loptyr. Could she really bury it in a vault and hope that would be enough? Was there no permanent solution? What else could she do? For Julius and Lyon...what more could she do for them?

Chapter Text

“Summoning again...” Kiran hummed as she sifted through the orb box before removing a silver stone. “Remind me to tell Anna that she's a financial genius? I didn't think we'd be able to afford this many.”

Alfonse chuckled. “I will, though it might give her ideas.” Kiran balked a bit when she recalled some of the Commander's previous 'ideas'. The various trips to the beach, to a Valentines event, to a wedding pageant...just thinking about it left her a little frazzled, with the feeling that she'd invaded a cheerful event to please her crazy Commander. It genuinely surprised her how little the people who'd gone to enjoy themselves begrudged them for barging in the way they did! “I'm glad that we've gotten enough for a decent session. It seems that Muspell's forces are much larger than Father projected.”

“Yeah...” The memory of Surtr's appearance still made her shiver. Until they found some way to exploit his magic, he was functionally invincible. How was she supposed to counter that? What could she do? Shaking her head, she lifted the silver stone up slightly and began towards the summon stone. “Thanks again, Alfonse, for helping out with the maps yesterday.”

“It's the least I could do,” Alfonse responded seriously. “You do so much for the Order...and for me...and most of the time you don't take more than a 'thank you'. Let me and Sharena spoil you a bit, Kiran. You deserve it.”

“Ah...thank you.” Kiran blushed a bit and looked down at her feet. Giving herself a shake, she placed the stone in the center and stepped back, accessing the magic once again.

The stone gleamed like a diamond, and a rush of air swept past her ankles. Someone powerful was coming...Kiran squeezed her eyes shut against the blinding pillar of light, yet still found herself blinking stars out of her vision even after it faded. Why do I keep forgetting to bring my sunglasses? That would make this so much...easier...

Standing in front of her was a tall man with long silver hair, wearing a black travel cloak. A scar ran across one of his eyes, speaking of a near fatal conflict some time in his past. He wore at least one dagger at his hip, and his hand rested hidden in the cloak – he probably had another one concealed. The man regarded her with a sly smile, though Kiran could read uncertainty in his posture. “The name's Legault. Just a humble thief.”

Kiran gazed at him for a moment in surprise, then smiled warmly. The gesture seemed to startle the thief; a light flush colored his cheeks for a split second. “Hello, Legault. I'm Kiran, the summoner of Askr; standing behind me is Prince Alfonse. I welcome you to Zenith.” Deciding that further summoning could wait until the evening, she offered her hand. “Nino and Lloyd will be happy to see you.”

The flicker of shock in Legault's eyes confirmed that he had arrived from after the deaths of the Reed brothers. “How...?” He uttered, shaking his head. “Lloyd was...”

“Summoning ignores linear time,” Kiran said, “It's a little complicated, but my magic will take people not just from different worlds, but from different points in any given timeline. I can tell you more as I show you around the Order.”

The Hurricane gave her a look of utter curiosity, before taking her hand and shaking it. “Strange and stranger. If I wasn't worried your bodyguard might hit me, I'd definitely flirt.”

Even though Lloyd had warned her that Legault was a flirt, the words still startled a shy laugh out of Kiran, who'd never been called pretty to her face by someone other than her parents. Niles teased her, sure, but he rarely called her pretty. “He's not my bodyguard! I work for him!” Alfonse was chuckling, the traitor. “A-Anyway! This way, please! Nino was in the courtyard before I left...”

+ _ + _ + _ + _ + _

“-so Morgan and I were working together, and she's really funny, and she's been showing me how to better groom my pegasus! She and the other Morgan are so good at everything; they say they get it from their parents.” Nino rambled, grabbing onto Lloyd's arm on a whim. The physical contact reminded her that yes, he was here and safe. The longer she spent in Askr, getting stronger, the more she began to believe that maybe someday she'd be able to protect him.

Jaffar made a noncommittal noise; he'd spent some time with the young dark flier as well. Morgan wasn't deterred by his silence at all, and spent a lot of time chatting with him...or more accurately, chatting at him. Perhaps it was Kiran's influence, but Jaffar was a little more receptive to having energetic company, and didn't mind being paired up with the budding tactition for training or scouting.

Lloyd chuckled and ruffled her hair. “I'm glad you're getting along. Morgan's of a good sort; it's a little hard to believe she's a princess at times.”

“Nino!” Kiran's voice floated from the distance.

Nino instinctively turned towards her, spying the Summoner at the far end of the hallway. She had someone standing next to her; upon realizing she recognized him, Nino let out a small shriek of delight and took off, a laughing Lloyd following right behind her.

“Uncle Legault!” Nino slammed into the thief, causing him to stumble. Legault patted her on the head, only really half paying attention as he stared at Lloyd.

“What's the matter, Hurricane? You look like you've seen a ghost,” Lloyd gently kidded; his smile was soft and sympathetic.

Legault let out a strangled bark of laughter. “Ah...ha, ha. C'mon Lloyd. Leave being funny to me. You're not very good at it.” Nino looked up at him in concern; he made himself smile evenly at her. “Yes, hello Nino, nice to see you, and you Jaffar-” He paused. “Are-are you smiling, Jaffar?” He asked faintly.

“...Yes?” The Angel of Death hinged, unsure of what the older man was unnerved by.

Legault looked back at Lloyd. “Am I dead?” He asked. (his voice was not trembling. It wasn't.) “I must be. Someone killed Heath and I in our sleep and now I'm dead. I'm sure he'll appear around the corner any second to confirm this.”

“Eh?” Nino blinked at him. “Didn't Kiran tell you where and what happens here?”

“She did – it's just -” The thief shook his head, “All of this is crazy, you know.”

Lloyd reached out and put a hand on Legault's shoulder. The Hurricane trembled slightly. “It's a bit disorienting, yeah.” The blonde said. “I'm glad you were summoned directly here rather than landing in the countryside the way I did. Kiran's seemingly infinite patience for attacks on her person aside, it would be worse to have a run in with Muspell than Embla. Given how we've been seeing more and more of them...”

“I heard a little something about that...” Legault said, before giving his head a single shake. “Who else is here? Linus? Brendan? Ursula?”

Lloyd shook his head, Nino frowning when she remembered her father's absence. Jaffar said nothing, though Legault could see the Angel's posture was less stiff, less wary.

Kiran glanced down at her burn-scarred hands and shook her head slightly. “I'm glad the four of you are all in one place; I don't have to round you up.” She smiled faintly when the three immediately turned to face her, Legault following a moment later. “There is someone new in the countryside; if he's who I think he is given my vision, I think its best if the four of you go meet him.”

+ _ + _ + _ + _ + _

Nino was bouncing on her heels as they travelled through the grasslands east of Askr. She felt like she could fly away without wings. Uncle Legault was here! Maybe she should introduce him to Niles and Corrin? He had a lot in common with Niles; they'd probably get along really well. Oh, and she should definitely interrogate him about Heath; she'd see him teasing the wyvern rider before, but the fact that they had apparently run away together? Was it like how Amelia of Grado (one of her new friends!) would disappear to hang out with Zelgius, or was it even more secret, like how Roy would look at Julia when he thought no one was looking? That needed investigation!

“Hold up, Kiran.” Lloyd said suddenly, putting a hand on the summoner's shoulder.

The hooded girl started out of whatever train of thought she'd been chasing, blinking at him. “What is it?”

“We're not alone.” The White Wolf responded, gazing through narrowed eyes at the river. “Legault?”

“On it,” The thief said, darting ahead and disappearing up a tree. Kiran rolled her shoulders back and grimaced in anticipation; she was pretty sure she'd read the lines right, though she'd been wrong once before...though...

Legault jumped down and waved them over. Kiran smiled as she reached the riverbed and a tall axe wielding figure came into focus. Lloyd grinned and yelled, “Linus!”

“Lloyd?” The younger of the brothers called back, audibly surprised. “Is that you?”

“Linus!” Nino cried, running immediately for the bridge. Lloyd followed along behind slightly slower; Legault wandered over to Kiran, watching with awe as Nino crashed into Linus, hugging him for dear life. The Mad Dog looked pretty startled, but after a second he ruffled his little sister's hair and asked Lloyd what was going on.

“Are you alright?” Kiran asked gently.

Legault nodded slowly. “Y...Yeah. It's just...kind of like a dream, you know?”

“Yeah.”

Chapter Text

Early in the Career of Kiran the Magnificent...

[I am not going to collapse], Kiran thought stubbornly. The books in her arms felt more like bricks, and her head was pounding, but she refused to acknowledge it. [If Alfonse can work through the night, so can I]. Marth's worried stare felt like a tangible thing, and Lilina frowned in concern when she walked by. [I'll sleep later. Embla's ambush took me off guard. People could have died, could die again if I don't step up my game and match them. Why did the weapon choose me? I don't have any formal training, I...]

Her thought process was interrupted when the weight in her arms suddenly decreased drastically. Pausing, she blinked up at a white clad figure who had materialized out of the ether right in front of her. “I think the royal tactician can afford to have someone carry her books for her,” Sigurd said teasingly, hefting the four tomes he had snagged slightly. His almost omnipresent cheer dimmed a bit when he got a good look at her face. “Kiran, you look awful.”

She managed to force a smile, though she knew it looked weak. “There's not enough time in the day. Thank you.” She knew it was pointless trying to retrieve the books or wave him away; from almost the moment she had met him she had known the Heir of Chalphy couldn't not help someone he saw in distress. She might as well tell him to stop breathing.

Sigurd was one of the first Heroes she'd met – she'd called him not long after Roy, Nino and Jaffar. She'd quickly learned that he was incredibly capable, utterly devoted to his friends (which he made easily – his social-fu was kind of terrifying to behold), and wholeheartedly determined to make her smile as often as possible. It was like having a second father, sometimes. And that meant he worried. A lot. Kiran could count on him to bring her hot chocolate when she was drooping, insist she defer patrolling to him or Arden, or take on any number of menial tasks she would normally handle herself like inventory. She wasn't sure if she was embarrassed or pleased that he cared so much about a girl who'd technically abducted him from his world and timeline.

“You should rest.” Sigurd said as they made their way down one of the winding stone hallways to the barracks. “You haven't gone without sleep again, have you?”

“I slept,” She disputed. It had only been a few hours, but it cleared her head enough to make work possible. “I don't have much left to do – the last item on my list is summoning.” She muttered under her breath, “I really hate finding orbs.”

Sigurd chuckled softly. “You sound like Oifey,” He remarked quietly. She blinked at that, he smiled faintly and explained, “My little cousin pushes himself very hard when he feels he has something to prove. Everyone here trusts you, Kiran. Don't hurt yourself trying to keep something you aren't in any danger of loosing.”

“...Thank you.”

They reached Anna's desk and dropped off the books – the commander in chief wanted to review their finances before restocking the armory. They had a number of broken and damaged weapons that needed to be replaced; while personal weapons belonging to summoned heroes seemingly required little care and attention, practice tools and the rank-and-file required more support. Kiran let out a deep sigh – perhaps lying down for a while would be expedient, she thought a bit ruefully – and headed over to the orb box. Sigurd didn't give her a chance to attempt to lift the medium sized container, grinning cheerfully when she frowned at him, and gestured for her to lead the way.

As they left the castle and headed for the hill, Kiran wondered if she would get doubles again. While it had only happened a few times, she had summoned the same Hero from two different timelines before. Corrin – in one timeline born a boy who had remained in Nohr with his adoptive family, in another timeline born a girl who fled into Valla in her desperation to keep her loved ones from killing each other – was apparently a fairly sedate person across the board, thank god, because the resulting freakout had been fairly mild. Kamui – she suggested they call her by her original Vallite name to minimize confusion – had been more curious than anything once she got over her shock. Corrin was more unnerved, but he was still cautiously friendly towards his spear counterpart.

She rather hoped she didn't end up with dupes that often. The headaches and the emotions involved were a bit too volatile for her tastes; even by her new difficult-to-top standards.

Kiran smothered a yawn as they approached the foot of the summoning hill. Oh, her headache was just terrible. She really needed to ask Virion for some of his famous tea when she finished with this. Thank god the hill wasn't too steep.

“It's so quiet up here,” She remarked as she entered the stone circle. Sigurd put the box down at the edge of the rocks before stepping back. “Even the wind seems still. I wonder if it's because of the magic.”

“It might be,” Sigurd shrugged. “Prince Alphonse could tell you, I imagine.”

“Something to ask at some point,” Kiran murmured, taking a gem in both hands and walking to the center of the circle. “Now...let's see whom the dragon gods favor.” Sigurd's soft chuckle rang with the rough scrape of the stone fitting into the summon circle. Kiran stepped back, looked around a few times – it still boggled her mind that she could do this – and invoked her magic once again.

When the light faded, the first reveal was a tiny dragon with rose pink hair and endless enthusiasm. “Can Fae play with you?” “I'm busy at the moment. Though I believe Lord Sigurd is quite available, yes?” “Yay!” Sigurd, rather than being frazzled or even annoyed (Raven needs to lighten up, why not force him to take care of children?), laughed and swept the little-yet-not-little girl up in his arms, letting her 'fly' about the hill as Kiran chose her next stone.

She recognized her second champion off the cuff – he looked quite like his parents, after all. The young man looked her up and down and somehow guessed both her occupation and relative rank in the army. Perceptiveness was a strong trait in a strategist. “I'm Morgan. You're a tactition? May I have access to your notes?” “Certainly. Your mother is looking at them at this moment, unless I'm mistaken.” “Y-I can? R-Really? Thank you so much!”

Donnel stumbled through the gate next, and was more than a little bewildered by the implication that a 'country bumpkin' was a great hero. “You wouldn't be here if you weren't worthy. Magic perceives the truth inside people.” She half wished she'd picked something less corny to say, but the nervous smile he gave her made her less self-conscious.

Lucius bowed gracefully to her, staff in hand, and offered his healing services before she could get halfway through her 'pitch'. Sothe looked about severely, asked where Micaiah was, and strode off with little more than a respectful nod. Gwendolyn gave her a salute that rattled her over-sized armor and asked for a mission. Caeda teased her over her awstruck reaction to the sight of her pegasus. Slowly the orb case emptied out until she had one red stone remaining.

Looking down at the stone, Kiran took a deep breath. Introducing the new heroes always rattled her nerves a bit; she'd been quite shy around people ever since her preteen years. Largely she relied on adrenaline and necessity to direct soldiers on the battlefield, and surrounding herself with good help like Soren, Robin and Jagen. It was pretty overwhelming. She was lucky to have so much good help. Taking a breath, she placed the last stone and exerted her magic.

The flare of white light nearly made her double over in pain. [I have a limit of how many times I can do this in one day]. Kiran was blinking stars out of her eyes as her newest hero stepped forward, wearing a hesitant smile. She blamed her disorientation on her delayed reaction.

“Are you alright?” The young blue haired warrior asked, his familiar face bent with concern.

“Yes, sorry. It's been a long day.” She smiled back at him for a moment before the shock hit her. “Wait a moment...are you Seliph? Of Chalphy?”

He started. “I...yes, that's my name. How did you...?”

“Welcome to Zenith.” She said by way of a response. “Heroes are summoned here from different worlds and different streams of time. Your arrival was preceded by that of some others, so I know a bit about you by word of mouth.” Not a lie; Sigurd, when the topic of his infant son came up, would not shut up about what a wonderful little boy he was and how amazing it was to be a father. Speaking of which...!

“Out of time?” Seliph repeated, eyes widening. “How is that possible?”

“Magic,” She responded with a small grin. “Please, come this way, Prince Seliph. We'll get you situated.”

When the two of them reached the bottom of the hill, Sigurd was handing Fae over to Caeda, who seemed just as fascinated with the tiny dragon as he had been. Given that she had experience with a young Tiki, Kiran wasn't really surprised to see that, or the young Talys princess helping Fae up onto her pegasus for a quick fly about. Sigurd had his back to them in that moment, watching the pair take off; Kiran's heart skipped a few times and she called out, “Sigurd! This is the last of them!”

Sigurd turned around, smiling broadly. “We did well today, Kiran.” He said. “I have to say, it's hard to imagine Fae being several centuries my senior. Dragons are a true mystery!”

Seliph let out a strangled gasp, taking a step backwards not unlike he'd taken a rough hit in a sparring session. Kiran instinctively reached out to take his arm, steadying him. Sigurd, meanwhile, having just noticed the young man beside his charge, started in surprise. “I...hello?” He said with an edge of uncertainty. “You...look familiar...have we met?”

Kiran let slip a small giggle, internally chastised herself and said, “Of course you have, Sigurd. He was just much, much smaller when you last saw him, and he saw you. This is Seliph.”

Sigurd's expression immediately collapsed into shock, then into no small amount of awe as he stared at his now-adult son, looking him up and down as the revelation bounced about his skull. “Seliph?” He breathed. “But...but how? When I left my son just a short while ago...he could fit in my arms still...” He ran a hand through his hair. “I knew there were other worlds, other moments in time, but I hadn't...”

Seliph had clapped hand over his mouth, and Kiran could see tears sparking at the corners of his eyes despite his best efforts. “Father?” He choked out. “Is it really you?”

That seemed to break something inside Sigurd, who seemed as though he might cry himself. “Look at you;” He breathed, “you so big!” Then he darted forward and grabbed Seliph in a tight hug. “My son...my poor son,” He murmured. “Look at how you've grown.”

Seliph let out a thin, keening wail and buried his face in his father's shoulder, clinging to him as though he were no emotionally older than Fae. Kiran's heart wrenched as she watched, realizing that this was the first hug the young prince had gotten from his father that he was old enough to remember. He'd had to grow up without his parents, without a home, without anything she herself was fortunate enough to take for granted.

She paused for a moment, then walked off in Caeda's direction, leaving them to have this moment without interruption. As she walked, a thought struck her...could she find the rest of that family? Perhaps it was a fool's hope...but even then, at least Seliph could return to his time with real memories of his father.

+ _ + _ + _ + _ + _ + _ + _ + _ + _ +

As the months wore on, Kiran had become quite preoccupied. Leif's arrival to Askr had been the only other time she could really spare a thought to 'collecting' the tragic heroes of Jugdral; Sigurd had been ecstatic to meet his nephew, though the poor boy's own parents were nowhere in sight, he was hardly alone with Sigurd and Seliph both hovering around him. Finn had been quite happy to see Sigurd as well; he, Arden and Arya had spent significant time catching up between battles. Lachesis being there was a boon to the pocket of familial joy surrounding the tight knit group. Nanna, while she had more memories of her mother than Seliph had, was overjoyed to see her again.

Now if only I could find Deirdre, Diarmund, Quan, Ethlyn, Larcei and Ulster, Kiran thought ruefully. Ah, but her luck was never that good. She was wishing for the moon at that point.

Yet even as she tried to read the newest reports out of Muspell late one evening, her eyes kept darting over to the box of orbs that consisted of this week's collection. It's not that many. But...she forced herself to examine the map again. This was far from unassailable. She could spare a half hour to go up to the hill, even if it meant enduring another lecture about being careless and softhearted from Michalis, who was currently on watch.

She'd largely learned to tune him out.

Kiran slipped her shoes on, folding the papers closed before slipping out of the room and out the front door. The cool air of Askr swirled around her, tugging at her hair as she walked across the grassy fields. It was beautiful beyond words out here...she had to preserve that beauty, that peace. She likely wouldn't see anything like it anywhere else.

The hill felt like an easy scale compared to yesterday; the cool wind and the odd premonition made the climb easy. [I've been getting 'premonitions' more often], Kiran mused as she reached the stonehenge with the orb box resting against her hip. [And I'm feeling stronger, preforming to extents that I never had at home. Askr is changing me. I had been so afraid of being ushered into adulthood and what that meant...now I feel...serene?] Placing the box on the ground, she removed one of the green stones and walked up to the summoning stone, placing it in the groove.

Stepping back, she closed her eyes and raised her hands. 'Come forth, great hero.' The flare of light was worse in the evening, but she was braced for it. Blinking the light away, she looked upon her newest chosen one...

She was fairly tall for a young woman; her face was warm and youthful, not unlike Kiran herself. Her long silver hair lay freely around her shoulders, accented by her white and purple dress. She was Julia's spitting image...though perhaps that was backwards – that Julia was the living image of her mother, Deirdre of the Spirit Forest.

“I am Deirdre,” She introduced herself shyly, tugging at a strand of her hair in a way not dissimilar to her daughter. “My memories...I'm afraid I don't know any more. I'm sorry.”

“That's alright,” Kiran responded, injecting the same gentle tone she used with Nino, young Tiki, and Linde into her voice. “There is a lot of estoric magic that can inflict amnesia on the unfortunate. I've read about cases, though I've never seen one.”

“Truly?” The hopeful look on Deirdre's face was almost painful. “I...may I see the books?”

“Of course. In fact, I'll bring you to the library. I think I should be able to help you.” This was going to be an all-nighter. Oh well. “This way, Lady Deirdre.” Kiran offered her hand. Deirdre smiled tentatively and accepted it.

Kiran took pains to keep an eye out for Sigurd, Seliph, Julia and Arvis as she lead Deirdre through the labyrinth that was the Order of Heroes palace complex; fortunately, all of the relevant family were either asleep or sequestered in their rooms, allowing her to bring the amnesiac lady to the library with no excess drama. Then they were in for the long haul, turning Alphonse's massive book stock upside down for the old stories and magical healing history. Perhaps surprisingly for a young woman who'd spent most of her life in a secluded forest that probably didn't have much in the way of written word, Deirdre was an enthusiastic reader who's assistance greatly cut down on information Kiran had to keep track of. Unfortunately, they didn't manage to find the solution within one night, forcing Kiran to effectively hide her new acquisition in the library with Ninian and Serra for company while she dealt with the day's work.

Deirdre looked a little overwhelmed by the time she got back; Serra tended to have that effect on people. But she did look happy, and she and Ninian were fast friends.

“Well of course I can do this for you, darling,” Serra said late in the evening, when Kiran finaly hit upon the solution (and likely informed everyone within five miles of this with her jubilant shriek) “It's complex, of course, but perfectly within my capabilities. A lady should excel in all she studies, you see!”

“Good, thank you.” Kiran said, turning toward Deirdre. “This will likely feel very strange at best, my lady. Are you prepared?”

Deirdre bit her lip, a little anxiety in her eyes, but she raised her head and nodded. “I want...I want my memories back.” Ninian squeezed her hand reassuringly, earning a grateful smile in response. “Thank you, for working so hard for me. I promise I will do all I can for you for this.”

“No need,” Kiran reassured her. “It is my duty to help others.” She stepped out of the chalk circle she'd finished drawing on the floor. “Serra...let us begin.”

This was the most magic Kiran herself had ever used in one moment, even summoning. Deirdre let out a pained cry somewhere in the midst of their efforts; Ninian wrapped her in a hug and propped her up so she wouldn't collapse. Fortunately, when the black spell was dispersed (in the last moments, Kiran swore she saw the face of Loptyr. It went by too quickly for her to be certain.), Deirdre was still conscious, albiet leaning heavily on Ninian. Kiran felt a bit winded herself, but she new she'd succeeded seconds later.

“Lord Sigurd...” Her first husband's name slipped from her lips as Deirdre stared up at the ceiling. “L-Lord Sigurd...Seliph...”

Kiran knelt down. “Deirdre?” Ninian asked gently. “Deirdre, look at me.”

The young woman blinked a few times, focusing on her new friend. “Y-Yes...” The haze slowly left her eyes. “My...my son. I forgot...about my son...” She looked ready to tear up. “That man...I couldn't do anything. He took my memories.”

“He caught you by surprise. He'd been waiting a long time for capture you.” Gently Kiran brushed her hair aside. “There wasn't much you could have done.” She smiled. “Would you like to see Seliph? Sigurd? They're here.”

Tears pricked at the edges of her eyes. “Yes. Yes, please...please.”

+ _ + _ + _ + _ + _

“You're slow,” Princess Arya informed him, smacking his leg with her practice sword. Seliph suppressed a wince and doubled back, determined to impress the stately lady of Issach. His father was standing off to the side, chatting with Marth whenever he wasn't calling out encouragement to him and Leif – who was sparring with Joshua. “You're leaving yourself open after striking. Never drop your guard like that.”

Seliph nodded, bringing the sword up again. He'd heard a lot about Arya from Oifey, but words could never quite convey reality. She was an amazing woman, and it was clear where Shannan had gotten his swordsmanship from.

“Lord Sigurd!”

The pretty voice startled him; for a moment, he thought it was Julia. Then his father spun around like he'd been burned, staring wide-eyed at the other end of the hallway. Just as Seliph turned around, Sigurd was off like a shot, seizing a...a woman with long silver hair like Julia in a crushing embrace. A tall woman, a...woman he'd only ever seen paintings of.

He must have stood frozen for many long moments, because Arya tapped him on the shoulder, then gave him a strong, pointed push towards his father and mother. He stumbled over his feet, then scrambled across the small distance and stopping a foot away from the reunited couple.

Sigurd must have heard him, because he released Deirdre right away. “Deirdre, look. This is our son! This is our Seliph.”

Deirdre immediately pivoted to look at him. Seliph swallowed hard over the lump in his throat, which grew stronger at the look of wonder in her eyes. “My baby,” She murmured. “Of course you're my baby. How could I not recognize you?” She hesitantly reached out and caressed his face. “Look at how much you've grown...oh Seliph.” Tears peaked at the corners of her eyes. “I'm so, so sorry...”

Seliph couldn't formulate a response. He just threw himself into his mother's arms, hugging her as if she would disappear when he let go. Leif was hovering nearby, smiling and waving at Kiran, leaning on the doorway and looking quite pleased.

“Don't be sorry, mother,” He managed when he could finally speak. “Just...just be here, will you? Please stay here with us.”

“Mother!” Julia's shriek echoed down the hallway. Deirdre turned slightly and opened one arm so her daughter could join the group hug; Sigurd grabbed all three of them in a tight hug a moment afterwards. “Mother, you're here! You're here! Oh mother...”

Some scattered applause followed this moment from the other heroes in the room, watching from a respectful distance. Ninian was bouncing on her heels, Leif looked both happy and little envious, and Serra let out her noblewoman's laugh while saying that of course things turned out for the best.

Kiran just smiled, walking past them to talk with the heroes outside the Chalphy family. They deserved a day off.

She'd get the rest of her List on another day.