"I know this may sound like a weird question. And… I guess it is… but hear me out. Do… do you think that you can call in a favor from one of your sisters or cousins? Or from a bunch of them? A free one?" asked Olivia quietly one day in late winter.
Anna did a double take. "I'm sorry, but what?"
Olivia smiled sadly. "It's almost time for the winter festival. Lucina and Inigo used to always get so excited for it, but… well, this will be the first one without their father. They… they're going to need something special this year."
Anna was quiet for a moment and stared at her "I'm sorry for your loss, but I can't exactly-"
"If you can't bring yourself to do it for them, do it for Anna Morgan. She's missing her father too." interjected Olivia, not letting Anna finish.
"…That was a low blow." said Anna, glaring at her. Her expression softened after a few moments and she rubbed her temples. "I guess I kinda owe you for living on your property, don't I? I suppose you asking for something in return is fair enough. Much as I hate to admit it."
"The castle is for anyone displaced, and Chrom and Robin were best friends. You don't owe us a thing." said Olivia, giving her a bittersweet smile.
Anna gave her an incredulous sidelong glance. "It's amazing. We've known each other how many years now? And you STILL haven't figured out how to speak my language. Do I really need to spell it out for you?"
"Spell what out?" asked Olivia.
Anna sighed "I may be human, and have a personal stake in this, but performing acts of charity goes completely against my family's code. Sure, I'm halfway convinced to do something nice, free of charge for the kids sake, but that doesn't mean that my family will feel the same way."
She shook her head and elaborated "Every Anna is trained from birth to take any opportunity to make a profit. My sisters and cousins… they'll just take this opportunity to charge me extra or get me indebted to them with a gigantic favor. Asking them for a handout is a terrible idea."
"But… but surely they should have some sympathy! If you say it's for your own daughter-"
"The goodwill that I have with my family is iffy as it is. The fact that I somehow gave birth to a daughter who looks different from the rest of the family, and worse, isn't named Anna, has turned me into something of a black sheep in the family. And don't give me 'but Anna's in her name', it doesn't work like that. Asking for a handout? I'll be a pariah!" exclaimed Anna, slamming her hand on the table. "Give me one. Just one good reason why I should risk isolating myself like that?"
"Mommy?" came a voice from the sidelines. Anna and Olivia whirled around. Lucina was standing there, her hands behind the backs of her little brother and Anna's own young daughter. "Inigo had a nightmare. He tried going to Morgan about it... but then he made her cry. I… I don't know what to do." she said, an utterly lost expression on her face.
Both women knelt down and let their little ones walk over to them. They immediately scooped them up and tried talking to them and calming them down… but they quickly started to ask about the whereabouts of "daddy". Morgan was especially steadfast in her requests for her father. They were at a loss about what to tell them.
When they finally put the kids back to bed, Olivia gave Anna a significant look. Anna's expression wavered, until finally she looked away and said. "Gods damn it. This better be worth it."
"So… what exactly are you asking for us to do?" said Anna #2.
Anna sighed. "The kids have been really weepy and depressed lately. I honestly can't blame them for it, but… I can't stand it anymore. They're kids, they are only supposed to be like that for a few hours or maybe a few days, not all the freaking time!"
She shifted uncomfortably, "Look, the winter festival is coming up, and Olivia begged me to do something nice for them. So I was thinking that you could help me set up a special winter festival… I don't know, something or other just for them. And maybe the other Shepherds kids."
Anna #3 crossed her arms and tapped her fingers against her arm. "Uh huh. Uh huh. That's understandable, but if we do go out of our way to set something up, how can you guarantee that it won't be trashed by a hoard of Risen? These are perilous times after all."
"Well… I was kinda thinking… we could use a small Outrealm to hold it? Or maybe a Deeprealm? That way we have less chance of trouble. At least from Risen."
"I see your train of thought, but that won't necessarily mean that there will be no trouble." commented Anna #2.
"Plus arranging such a thing wouldn't exactly be simple, would it? How much are you willing to pay for this, Anna?" asked Anna #3.
Anna sighed "Olivia was hoping it could be done simply as a favor-"
"A favor?!" exclaimed Anna #3. She immediately broke out laughing, and laughed until there were tears in her eyes. "That's a good one!"
Anna #2 snorted in amusement at Anna's statement, but she did react more maturely. "but you know better, don't you."
Anna gave Anna #3 a dirty look then explained to #2. "Yea, I figured that I'd have to pay some kinda steep price for it. Much as I hate to pay any kind of price… I'm at my wits end. My heart isn't made of stone you guys. I can't stand to see the kids like this any longer. I'll pay, just help me please! Just… could you give me a special discount? We're family." begged Anna.
Anna #2 looked at her for several long moments then said. "Alright, I'm not quite sure what we're going to do, or how we're going to pull it off, but I'll help you. There WILL be a charge for this, but I'm not going ask you to pay for the whole thing. We'll see how things go, but for now, I'll say… you pay at least half, and we'll cover the rest?"
"Yes! Thank You! I'll take that deal!" exclaimed Anna enthusiastically.
"Wait, we?" said Anna #3
"You're not getting out of helping, in fact, you know what? You're paying all the initial charges. Consider it your punishment for not taking a family crisis seriously." said Anna #2 sternly, grabbing her sister firmly by the arm.
"Me and my big mouth." moaned Anna #3.
"Have you been sleeping better Inigo?" asked Morgan
The boy shook his head "I'm not even sure. I think that I am, but I don't feel like it… or is it the other way around? Maybe I'm just getting used to dad not being around." he said. "I… I don't know if that makes sense."
Morgan smiled sadly "No, I get it. I've been feeling the same way. You're not being weird." Inigo stared at her for a few moments then nodded. "So, what do you think the surprise is going to be?" she said abruptly.
"Maybe our dads are coming back?" said Inigo hopefully.
"No, I don't think they would've been able to keep that a secret." said Lucina, joining in on the conversation. "Besides, there's… there's no coming back from where they've gone. No, it's going to be something else."
"What do you think it is, Lucy?" asked Inigo.
"…I'm not sure, all I know, is that we aren't the only kids who've been invited along. All the other children of the Shepherds have been invited too, so I suppose it's some kind of event." said Lucina.
"That's a pretty good guess, hon. Want to make a bet on it? I could use the gold." said Anna, entering the room. "Well, I guess it doesn't matter anyway, you'll find out fairly soon anyway. It's time to go."
Olivia entered the room "Did you ready your things like I asked you to?" she asked her children. They both nodded. "Alright, let's get going." she said, and she turned about and led the way.
The children were utterly amazed. What the Anna family had set up for them could be described as no less than an elaborate bazaar. In fact it was more akin to a mini carnival than a bazaar. To them, it seemed even grander than the annual festival that was usually held in Ylisstol. Whether it actually was up for debate, but the fact remained that whatever a kid could possibly have imagined wanting seemed to be present. The other remaining parents were arriving at around the same time with their children, and they all had equivalent reactions.
Just for one day, Lucina, Inigo, and Anna Morgan were able to forget that they were missing their fathers, and they were able to be what they were, young children. Their mothers had not seen them wear such bright smiles in a long time.
Anna Morgan enthusiastically grabbed her mother by the hand and dragged her around the place taking her from site to site. Even though Anna knew them all by heart since she helped prepare them, she didn't resist. Morgan had always been a daddy's girl, this felt like the first time that she had her full undivided attention. She wasn't about to spoil that.
They wandered the bazaar together for about two hours. When they separated, Morgan bounded off to go join Inigo.
Olivia crept up on her. "So…" she said.
"I'm still dreading the bill I'm going to get for all of this." stated Anna firmly.
"But…" said Olivia.
Anna sighed again. "But you were right, this was worth it. I guess Robin was right after all, some things are more valuable than gold. I'm still right in that it cost me gold to get it! Basically every good thing WILL cost you something. But… he had… some… semblance of a point." she conceded."
Throughout the rest of their lives, the children of the ruined future would remember this as one of the brightest days that they had ever experienced.