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The Dragon's Shadow

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Corrin bent over, winded. The last of the enemies had been defeated; she, Gunter, and Jakob had claimed the so-called “abandoned” fort. The whole mission was a disaster right from the start. Someone must have given King Garon the wrong information about the fort, because it certainly wasn’t abandoned—it had been crawling with Hoshidan soldiers! Then instead of following her order to retreat, the soldier her father had sent with her had brazenly attacked the first Hoshidan that approached, inciting the rest to retaliate. Luckily, she, Gunter, and Jakob had managed to not only survive, but beat back the Hoshidan force until they had control of the fortress. She couldn’t say the same for Hans; she’d lost sight of him after he charged a whole group of Hoshidan soldiers.

Corrin straightened, wiping the sweat from her brow as she continued to breathe heavily from her first real taste of combat. Just as she looked up, she saw a group of figures appear from the tree line not far away. Her breath caught in her throat—these must be Hoshidan reinforcements!

Her eyes locked with the man standing in the front of the group. He had a fearsome visage: a large, muscled body cloaked in dark red cloth with the lower half of his face obscured by a black mask. Across his right eye lay a brutal scar, but the gaze of his one remaining eye bore into hers with such intense malice that she felt her body stiffen in fear, and she was unable to move or look away. 

“You’re the commander of these troops?” he questioned. His voice wasn’t loud, yet somehow it carried over the blood-stained grass with perfect clarity.

“Pah! You’re just a little girl!”

Corrin’s fist clenched around the hilt of her sword. Taking a breath, she steeled herself so she wouldn’t sound as scared as she felt.

“Who are you?” She called back, trying to let her anger mask her uncertainty.

“My name is Saizo,” he answered darkly, shadows pooling in his eyes, “I’ve come to claim your life.”

Corrin saw the glint of steel as he pulled something from his sleeve. Realizing that she had to warn her friends quickly, she turned back to cry out, “Hey! We’re still under attack!”

“Die!” she heard the masked ninja shout.

She turned back around, knowing they would get to her before she could run back to Jakob and Gunter. Her eyes widened; the ninja named Saizo was already on top of her, weapon in hand to strike—so close, she could see clearly the jagged line of his scar and the blazing red fire that burned in his eye. With barely a second to react, Corrin drew her sword. Panic overwhelmed her in the heartbeat she realized that she wasn’t going to be fast enough to block his strike. She could only stare into his eye full of hatred as she anticipated the piercing pain that would end her life.

“I won’t allow it!”

Metal clanged off metal. The dark ninja cried out in surprise and leapt out of the way of Xander’s charging steed and swinging blade. Corrin nearly collapsed in relief to see her big brother sitting tall and fearsome in his saddle, facing down their enemies.

“What?!” the ninja growled, “You must be their real commander.”

Ignoring him, Xander turned his face to his sister.

“What’s going on here, Corrin?”

“Xander!” she cried, dizzy with relief, “How did you know we were in trouble?”

The flapping of wings and beat of hooves made Corrin turn to see the rest of her siblings approach: Camilla atop her Wyvern, Leo on his dark steed, and Elise on her light-footed pony. Corrin felt her heart swell in gratitude.

“Looks like we’ve arrived just in time,” Leo remarked, pushing his hair back with a knowing smirk, “You have the devil’s own luck, Sister.”  

“Are you alright?” Camilla fussed from her perch on the Wyvern’s back as it landed next to her, “I was so worried about you!”

“We’re all here for you Corrin!” Elise smiled cheerfully.

“Thanks, everyone,” Corrin fought back tears as she gazed at her siblings, but then remembered where they were, “Um, but…we are still under attack, so...”

“Who dares attack my precious Corrin?” Camilla’s voice was sickly sweet, but her murderous intent was clear on her face, “I’ll have their heads on a platter.”

“I’m not hurt, Camilla,” Corrin reassured, “Thanks to Xander.”

“But Darling,” her big sister cooed, shouldering her massive axe, “It’s the thought that counts.”

With that, her Wyvern’s wings beat at the air, and before Corrin could say a word, Camilla had charged the Hoshidan reinforcements. She watched in awe and horror as her big sister flew through their lines, slaughtering soldiers left and right with impassioned swings of her enormous weapon. Her heart pounded in the chest at the sight. 

“I never knew Camilla could be so…ruthless,” Corrin breathed.

Elise giggled, “That’s right! You’ve never seen her on the battlefield before!” She didn’t seem at all bothered by Camilla’s protective rampage.

“This is not going well,” the ninja’s gravelly voice rumbled.

Corrin had somehow forgotten about the man who’d just tried to take her life. She turned back to face him, now with Xander standing in front of her and Leo, Elise, and Camilla at her side, he didn’t seem nearly as frightening, though she knew now not to underestimate him.

Just then, another figure appeared behind him—a woman.

“Saizo! What’s wrong?” she questioned, crouching with her kunai drawn, “What’s our status?”

“I misjudged the situation,” Corrin heard him respond gruffly, “We’re outnumbered—do we have anyone else on the way?”

The female ninja nodded, “Affirmative. Lord Ryoma is right behind me.”

Corrin felt her blood run cold in her veins. The high prince of Hoshido was about to join the battle? She watched for Xander’s reaction, but his face revealed nothing. This was worse than a disaster!

The ninja Saizo chuckled darkly, “Ahh, well then… this battle is as good as won.”

Corrin gulped.

Xander turned slightly in his saddle so he could address the rest of them.

“It looks like they have more reinforcements coming.”

Leo gazed steadily back at his older brother, “Indeed…What should we do?”

“Well, Corrin is safe, and the fort’s condition has been evaluated,” Xander decided, “I see no reason to engage Hoshido further at this point.”

They all nodded their agreement, Corrin especially so. She just wanted this whole ordeal to be over before it could get any worse.

“Corrin, you take the lead with Gunter,” Xander ordered, reining his horse to turn, “We’ll follow close behind.”

“Will do,” Corrin nodded, “Thank you, Xander.”

With that she turned to sprint away, but before she could, her eyes were trapped in the glare of the Hoshidan ninja. She faltered for a moment, her feet once again cemented to the ground under the weight of the hatred that his eye spoke to her. A heartbeat passed, and she found the strength to tear herself away from his uncanny hold. She turned back to the bridge that led to home, seeing Gunter and Jakob already waiting for her, and sprinted towards them and away from the Hoshidans as fast as she could.

How could she have known then that she had been staring down the man who would one day be her husband?

How could he have known then that he almost succeeded in killing the person who would one day come to mean more to him than the entire world?