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Shepherding Men

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Chapter 5: Coronation


The day of Chrom’s coronation, a huge parade was to be held through the entire city of Ylisstal. Floats soared through the winding roadways while musicians, dancers, and acrobats filled the streets with color and excitement. The Shepherds, of course, were frantically busy, not only present and on duty for the coronation itself, but also for the parade. Robin was no exception to this. She was currently on assignment with Stahl at the coronation hall, guarding doors closest to the dais where the high-profile guests would be entering.


The coronation had been beautiful, steeped in tradition as the High Deacon extolled Chrom’s virtues and formally presented the people’s blessing. Chrom, as always, was gorgeous. His attire was more ornate than usual, pure white fabric colored with delicate creams and golds. His right arm was still bared to show the mark of the Exalt, and Falchion worn on his hip to symbolize his right to the throne.


As Chrom processed, his outfit caught the light in a way that nearly deified him. He was striking to watch, and if Robin hadn’t already known he was descended from royalty, she would have now. The awestruck look must have been apparently on her face, because when she broke from her trance to glance around the room, Stahl caught her eye with a knowing smile. She fought the flush that threatened to color her ears and swept her eyes across the room with perhaps more attention than usual. Unbidden, her mind wandered to earlier that day.


Before the coronation, Chrom had requested her presence in his study, and she’d been hesitant to go. Since she’d arrived at the castle, her interactions with Chrom had been brief and stilted, partly due to his own influx of duties, but also because of her own attempt to create some distance between them. Now that he was getting ready to be the Exalt, and marrying on top of that, he would be scrutinized more than ever. For them to be so close wouldn’t be appropriate.


That wasn’t to say her motivations were entirely selfless. She was still grappling with her feckless feelings for the prince, and the imposed distance was helping her cope. She understood that it was childish, but she had allowed herself this concession of weakness. But now that he was summoning her, she couldn’t pretend to ignore him. And a part of her, a traitorous part of her, was warmed that he was calling on her on such an important day. She tried to shove that part of her to the back of her mind, but it lingered.


She had been walking down the hallway where the royal offices were when a petite figure stepped out of one of the rooms. The figure met Robin’s eyes and looked a little shocked. Robin had to fight to keep from tensing up. “Oh, hi Sumia,” Robin greeted as she slowed to a stop, forcing what she hoped was a pleasant and definitely not nervous expression to her face.


Sumia shut the door she had come from, a wary smile appearing on her own face. “Hi Robin,” she meekly returned. She glanced Robin up and down, then looked down the hallway in the direction Robin was heading. “What has you coming down this way? Not too many people come visit us up here.” she asked pleasantly.


Robin fought the urge to fidget. There’s nothing wrong about what you’re doing, she thought to herself. Chrom asked you to visit, and you’re doing so. It’s not going to be at all suspicious that you’re visiting her fiance on the day of his coronation, all by yourself. Internally, she groaned. Outwardly, she shrugged. “Chrom asked to see me,” she explained simply.


A few different expressions flickered across Sumia’s face, concern and hesitancy prime among them. Robin felt her stomach knot. “I’m sure it’s nothing serious,” she allayed, but that didn’t seem to bring any comfort to the girl.


A moment of awkward silence passed between them, Sumia staring intermittently between the floor and down the hall towards Chrom’s office, Robin shifting from foot to foot. Eventually, Robin found her voice again. “Ah, I should get going. I’ll see you later.” She flashed a quick smile at the pegasus knight and continued walking towards the door near the end of the hallways, very aware of the eyes following her back.


When she finally reached the door, she knocked hesitantly. Seeing Sumia had frazzled her a bit and she had suddenly debated running away down the hall and pretending she’d never received her summons, but just as she was able to break for it, Chrom’s voice filtered through the door and beckoned her in. After a second of hesitation, she nodded to herself and entered the room.


Robin had only been in this room once before, when Chrom was first introducing her to the duties he hoped she would perform, and since then the wall of papers around his desk seemed to have only grown bigger. She saw Chrom slouched in his desk as he stared absently out the window. Robin’s brow quirked in concern. This wasn’t like Chrom at all. His eyes trailed over to hers and a small, tired smile flickered at the edge of his lips. “Robin, how have you been? I feel like it’s been forever since we’ve had a chance to talk, just the two of us.”


Robin fought the urge to shrug and carefully infiltrated the office, keeping a cautious distance that was still friendly. “It has been a while, hasn’t it?” she replied softly, with a wistfulness that she tried to temper. “I’ve been well. The Shepherds have been taking care of me these past few weeks while I get adjusted here.” She met his eyes and they widened just a bit at the sudden engagement. “...How are you handling everything?” she asked carefully.


Chrom let out a big sigh, seeming to sink even further into his chair. Robin’s mouth tightened at the sight, but she stayed silent. “To be honest…it’s a lot.” He wiped a hand down his face, the light in his eyes dimming. “I always knew being Exalt was a possibility, but never really considered it. We lived in peace for so long, and I was content to patrol the border with the Shepherds… I should have learned better. Paid more attention…”


“You couldn’t have known, Chrom,” Robin reasoned, though from the stubborn tick in his expression, he disagreed. She tried a different approach. “I know this isn’t what you wanted, but for what it’s worth, you’re doing a good job so far. The people in the city love you, and you already have the respect of the guard because you’ve fought with them.”


“The lords don't feel the same,” Chrom mumbled.


“The lords aren’t going to like anyone. They’re out for themselves,” she retorted.


Chrom let out another sigh, but she saw a bit of the weight leave his shoulders. “...I suppose you’re right,” he conceded.


Robin took another careful step forward and Chrom waved at the seat in front of her, inviting her to sit. She did with only slight trepidation. For a moment they sat in silence, with Chrom looking beyond his desk and Robin fighting the urge to fidget. She settled for lacing her fingers together.


Robin’s thoughts had begun to wander when she noticed Chrom’s chest rise as if he was readying himself to say something he had locked away for some time. She watched him steadily “Is it shameful to wish I could leave?” he started softly, gazing sightlessly out the window. “Leave and wander the continents, not having to worry about war or politics or social status. Just us and the Shepherds. Like it used to be.”


The statement lingered in the air between them, the weight of it a nearly physical thing. Eventually, Chrom’s eyes met hers, doubt and guilt clouding them.


Robin was hit with a wave of guilt herself. This was what she wanted. She wanted things to go back to the way they had been, too. But the way Chrom looked now wasn’t worth it. Had he spoken with anyone else about this? She imagined he would have, but given how hesitant he was to admit it, and that he was admitting it to her on the day of his coronation, she found herself wondering if maybe he hadn’t.


Robin blinked her thoughts away when Chrom’s expression took on a hint of concern. “I’m...not sure what you want me to say,” she admitted, mouth dry at the confession, “But I understand... I feel the same.” Her hands clenched in her lap. “But things are different now. We have different parts to play than we did before. In a few hours, you’ll be Exalt, and I’ll…” she paused a moment and chuckled humorlessly. “I guess I’ll still be trying to figure out where I fit in here.”


Chrom seemed mildly distressed at her self-deprecation and quickly straightened up in his chair, leaning over towards her. “Have people been making you feel unwelcome?” he asked earnestly.


Robin had to bite back a smile at the gesture. “Nothing more than expected, and frankly, I expected worse.” Chrom frowned at this, but didn’t move to interrupt. “The Shepherds have been good to me. Excellent, even. But sometimes I’m still struck by how unfamiliar this all is. I’m still adjusting.”


A different sort of guilt crossed over Chrom’s expression then, tinged with regret as opposed to shame. “I… haven’t taken the time to make you feel comfortable here, like I should have,” he lamented.


Robin’s throat tightened, but she waved it away. “You’ve been learning to run a kingdom. My anxieties are trivial in comparison,” she assured him. “You invited me here and vouched for me publicly. You’ve done more than enough. I don’t think I’ve had the chance to thank you for that.”


“You saved our lives, more than once,” Chrom defended. A secret smirk stole on his face as he met her gaze knowingly. “How many times did you have to talk me down from a frontal assault?”


Robin unconsciously smiled at the memories. “I think it was only three times. You learned not to ask after that.” Chrom chuckled softly to himself and suddenly the atmosphere was light between them again, like nothing had changed in the past month. Robin felt herself relaxing into her chair, a weight lifting off her that she’d hardly realized before that moment. Chrom must have noticed, because his grin widened a touch. They sat for a moment, letting the warmth of their companionship ease the tension from the room.


Chrom let out a relieved sigh. “I feel better than I have in weeks. You always were able to help me see things more clearly. Thank you, Robin.” His eyes met hers with such genuine thankfulness that Robin could hardly do anything except smile back and attempt to tamp down her heart, which felt like it was soaring. “I’m happy to -”


A quick flurry of knocks jolted them both in their seats, flustering the both of them as Frederick’s voice rumbled through the door, “My Lord, it’s time for you to prepare for the coronation.”


Unease traipsed back across Chrom’s face, and Robin instinctively reached across the table to grasp his hand. Chrom looked in surprise at her hand, then up to her. She smiled, and squeezed his hand in hers. “You’ve got this, Chrom. I believe in you.” A funny combination of emotions flitted across his face, but they settled on confident. He tightened his grip around hers before releasing her hand and standing from his chair. Robin quickly followed his example and made her way quickly to the door.

She opened the door to a very stern and confused Frederick, motioning him inside before bowing to Chrom and exiting the room, closing the door behind her. She immediately heard Frederick’s voice, low and hard, through the door, and made a hasty retreat. Chrom wasn’t the only one who had to prepare for the coronation. She needed to receive her orders from Sully.


By the time Robin’s thoughts returned to the present, Chrom was kneeling before the altar with the high priest of Naga murmuring over him. The rest of the room was reverently silent, all eyes locked on their future Exalt. When the priest finished, Chrom voiced a solemn, “I swear,” and the priest traversed across the dais, lifting an immaculate circlet from a plush stand and walking back over to the kneeling Prince. “Does anyone present have just cause to challenge the crowning of his Royal Prince as our Exalted leader?” the priest projected, gazing out amongst the crowd. The silence suddenly turned tense, people in the room shifting as they eyed each other, waiting with bated breath to hear if anyone would speak out against the future Exalt. After an excruciatingly long moment with no apparent dissenters, the priest resumed. “Let Naga’s Light cast itself over Exalt Chrom and bless his reign over Ylisse, from now until the end of days.” He placed the circlet around Chrom’s head and raised his hands up emphatically. “Stand now to receive your Exalt!”


There was a spark of excitement as the whole room rose to their feet, and those already on their feet stood straighter. Chrom slowly lifted his head and stood for the first time as Exalt of Ylisse. He turned to face his new subjects and the crowd broke into applause and said in unison, “Long live the Exalt!”


Chrom waited for the smattering of applause to die down before speaking. “People of Ylisse, I am honored by your faith. I know the past year has been difficult for many of us. I will work tirelessly to not only restore Ylisse, but forge a brighter future for it.” Here, Chrom seemed to hesitate, but continued before it was realized. “To that end, I am proud and delighted to announce my engagement to the new Exalted Consort, Lady Sumia Gardine.” Sumia, who had been sitting in the front row, stood at the announcement, garbed in dusky rose and silver. She smiled bashfully at the crowd and nodded demurely before gazing adoringly at Chrom. He smiled at her in return. “I hope you will all join us for our wedding celebration in the coming month.”


The applause this time was much livelier, with a few cheers chorusing through as well. A wolf-whistle shot through the crowd and made both Chrom and Sumia flush pink.


Robin clapped with the crowd next to Stahl, but her heart wobbled uncomfortably in her chest. A month, maybe a little more, and Chrom and Sumia would be married. It was sudden, but not entirely surprising. But they seemed… happy, and that was enough to put a wry smile on her face.


The priest said a few final words after which Chrom proceeded out with Sumia on his arm to fanfare from the choir. Shortly after, the crowd of nobles began to shuffle towards the exits, for which Stahl and Robin opened their doors to let the crowd spill into the streets to await the parade.


“Quite the ceremony, huh Robin?”


Robin felt her ears tinge pink as Stahl peered at her, a small, knowing smile quirking his mouth. She tamped it down. “It was much more solemn than I would have thought. But it’s also the first time I’ve heard the nobles so quiet.” They both chuckled a bit at that as they continued to sweep through the cathedral, making sure no one had lingered or left anything dangerous in the vicinity, per Frederick’s orders.


“It’s a little strange to think of us as now serving the Exalt,” Stahl mused. He checked behind a set of drapes as he thought aloud. “There wasn’t quite so much pressure when he was the royal prince, but now we’re actually a pretty big deal.”


Robin ducked down to check under the pews. “I have a feeling you all were always a big deal, you just didn’t know it.”


Stahl shrugged. “To some, maybe.” They searched the rest of the time in silence until they found themselves back by the doorway. They left the cathedral in tandem, walking towards the spot that would mark the beginning of the parade. Both were on the new Exalt’s security detail: Stahl riding beside Chrom and Sumia’s float on his horse, and Robin on the float behind them. They chatted a bit about the parade, Stahl recalling the parade that had taken place when Emmeryn had become Exalt and Robin asking endless questions about how the floats worked and how they were designed. Stahl couldn’t answer many of those questions for her, but he seemed to enjoy seeing where her mind went.


When they reached the point where they would part ways, Stahl reached a hand out and grasped her shoulder, drawing her curious attention once again to him. “Stahl?” she questioned.


The paladin shot her a wry smile. “Keep your chin up, Robin. You’ve come to mean a lot to us, and we want you to stick around, okay? Even if it’s… rough at times.” Robin felt a little bit shell-shocked from Stahl’s sudden comment, but managed to nod, albeit with a confused look. Stahl patted her shoulder and flashed her a brighter smile before making his way towards the city stables. Robin watched him go for a minute before shaking herself out of her thoughts and rushing to where the floats were being loaded.


The parade was a whirlwind of color and music. Were it not for her time on the battlefield, it would have been difficult for Robin to keep her mind on her task instead of taking in the wonderful atmosphere. A few times, she spared a glance toward the royal float where Chrom and Sumia waved to the townsfolk and was glad to feel a smile twitch onto her face when she did. It was getting easier.

Stahl caught her eyes every once in a while, shooting her winks and fun salutes. She chuckled and tried to return in kind, feeling silly, but it made securing the parade feel less… dreary. She would almost say she was having fun.


When the parade finished without a hitch, to the relief of all involved, Stahl walked with her in the rear guard, guiding his horse beside him. It was easy to talk with Stahl, she realized. His easygoing and straightforward attitude was relaxing, and his quirky humor kept her chuckling.


“You should help me cook tomorrow night,” he said nonchalantly during a comfortable silence. “Do you know how to cook?” he asked, almost as an afterthought, flashing a curious smile over at her.


Robin toyed with the hem of her sleeve. “I mean, Cordelia taught me how to make that stew so I didn’t muck up my cooking duties too badly, but other than that, not really,” she admitted.


Stahl seemed pleased at her admission. “Well, then I’ll teach you how to make something else tomorrow, from beginning to end. Any requests?”

Robin considered the question for a moment before finally deciding, “Surprise me.”

“Oh ho! I’ll make sure you don’t regret that decision,” he said with a laugh. “So come by after the first guard shift? I should be ready by then.”


She grinned up at him. “Can’t wait.”