That was how he felt as the last fragments of his consciousness left him. He was falling into oblivion with no means of return – not those foolish Grimleal nor his imperfect vessel. He might have won in the future past, had seized the destruction of his archnemesis, but here…he will soon become a fairytale – a mere story told and altered to scare little humans to submission. Naga could celebrate all she wants or even that little princeling, but the last laugh is all his. A war is always paid in blood - the blood of one most precious to all of them. Their debt has been paid and there is no going back.
A gasp tore open his mouth and his hands blindly reached for something in the air. His eyes fluttered open as his chest heaved. His lungs felt like lead, as if he were drowning for too long. There was a rustle to his right and gentle footsteps approached him. A bowl was set down on the table beside him and a woman’s face peered at him.
“You’re finally awake…”
He blinked at her. His eyes adjusting to the blinding sunlight peeking through the sole window. The woman was at her late sixties, with greying hair tied in a bun and wearing a worn sundress that has seen better days. She hobbled to his bedside using a misshapen crutch and helped him sit. The bed squeaking beneath him as he followed her guidance.
The young man winced visibly as his sore limbs creaked in protest. She passed him a glass of water with a wizened hand and told him to drink which the man reluctantly followed. He eyed her as she pulled an old stool and settled next to the bed.
“My name is Lillian.” She said. Her voice gruff with old age. “A few men in town found you and a child washed up on the shores just south from here. Do you remember anything?” Her eyes searched his face with unmistakable acuity. “Your name…what is your name?”
“My name…” The young man murmured. My name is Grima. He wanted to say, but there was a throb in his head, as if a voice at the back of his mind was telling him not to. He frowned and the woman mistook it for confusion.
“That child called you Elpis.” Lillian told him. “And from the looks of it, both of you are not from around here.”
“Where is here?” He asked. His throat rough from disuse. How long is he gone? “Where am I?”
“Ylisse.” Lillian answered as she gently pried the glass off from his stiff fingers and placed in on the table. “Southernmost of the halidom. We don’t have many visitors on our shores, much less washed-up folks from sunken ships. I assume you’re from Valm, yes?”
No. He wanted to say, but he winced at the persistent throbbing in his head. “I do not remember.” He lied.
“Hmmm…” The old woman watched him quietly. “I heard the same thing before. The folks called it amnesia. They said that the late queen had it and never recovered.” She leaned her weight on her crutch and stood up with difficulty. “In any case, I suggest you still rest. I believe that much water in your chest doesn’t do any good to your head.”
She hobbled toward the door, pausing only to glance at him. “I will bring that child over next time. Perhaps, that will jog some sense in your memory.”
What child? He wanted to ask her, but the woman has turned her head and walked away. The door closing behind her with a loud CREAK!. He pushed the covers off and stood up from the rickety bed. His bare feet withdrawing briefly from the sudden feeling of the cold wooden floor. His joints creaking in protest as he stumbled toward the open window. He stiffened at the feel of sunlight, of the feel of warmth on his skin, and looked down on his palms in utter shock.
How could this be! He should have been dead! He could still remember every detail of that fateful battle. His accursed archnemesis has revealed to his vessel a way to end his very existence and that human – that Robin – has chosen it against the Exalt’s wishes. He could still feel the phantom pain of her power – their power – struck his heart and the life ebbing away from him as they both perished. He was certain that it was the end for both of them – a point of no return. Then, how?
Could it be that Naga has something to do with this? Her own way of tormenting and mocking him for his failure to truly secure his victory from the future past? He slammed his fists on the windowsill. That damned witch!
He froze. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he did not notice the door opened and someone has entered. He assumed that it would be that old crone again, but the voice was higher in pitch than he has heard from her. He turned around, only to go rigid on the spot. His throat tightening as a name spilled from his lips.
The child was no more than five years of age and barely the height of half the door. She was dressed in a long-sleeved white nightdress that was a size too big for her. Her long, snow-white hair was loose; the tips reaching down past her waist. Her big, onyx-eyes reflecting off the golden rays of the sun as she looked at him imploringly.
“El!” She ran toward him in her boots and wrapped her short arms around his waist. “You’re awake!”
He stared down at her. What abomination is this? His eyes looked…searched at this tiny creature that resembled his human vessel in her younger years. This must some sort of trickery! A plan concocted by that loathsome divine dragon to scorn him. He gritted his teeth and gripped the child’s arms. He pried her off him and forced her to look at him.
“You! How dare you!” He snarled, digging his nails on the child’s arms. “Do you think you could make a fool out of me so easily, Naga? Do not make me laugh!”
“E-El!” The child cried out as she tried to wriggle out of his grasp. “It hurts!”
“Silence!” He shouted angrily. “I will not fall for your illusions! Robin is gone! You are nothing but a-“ He gasped as his head throbbed. The pain becoming unbearable in each passing second. His hands fell away from the child as he staggered back, clutching his head. The world began swirl in a haze of colors and sounds and the last thing he heard was the child’s distressed voice calling his name before everything went black.
He is here again.
It has been a common occurrence for the royal retainer to find his liege within the confines of the Queen’s office after a day’s work – a habit the Exalt has developed since that fateful day more than three years ago. The massive room was the same as Frederick remembered – bookshelves filled with all kinds of books from tactics to politics, maps of different continents from different time periods plastered on the walls like flags, and a desk on the middle littered with scrolls and parchments that have gone unmoved since their last use. All of it remained the same even after more than three years since its owner disappeared from existence.
Frederick carefully climbed the wooden stairs leading to the upper floor of the room. The polished wood creaking under his heavy boots as he passed by the bookshelves. He is familiar to some of the books, having seen the tactician read them, but dared not spare even a glance. His goal is his liege, he reminded himself, not mourn for the past. He found who he was looking for sitting by a small table beside a window. His liege was looking at the abandoned chess board in front of him, no doubt that it was the setting of his last game with his queen. Chrom has grown thinner compared to his body mass months ago. His eyes were sunken, barely having any good sleep with the nightmares that have kept plaguing him. The sparkle in them dulled by the months of loneliness and despair.
“Milord.” Frederick approached when the man did not move a muscle to acknowledge him. He tipped his body forward in a polite bow. “Dinner is ready. Princess Lissa is waiting for you.”
“I’m not hungry.” Chrom’s voice was quiet and weak, barely a whisper. “Tell Lissa to not wait for me.”
“But, Milord! You ate little in the morning and barely touched your food this afternoon. You will fall ill at this rate!”
Chrom waved his concerns away. “I’m fine, Frederick…I really am. I just…” He trailed off. His eyes looking distant for a moment. “Has Lucina eaten yet?”
“Yes, Her Young Highness has already eaten dinner with Princess Lucina and Prince Morgan. Sumia and Cordelia are preparing her for bed as of this moment.”
“I see…” He turned toward the window - the view overlooking the courtyard of the palace. “Call for me once she’s ready for bed. I’ll tuck her in for the night.”
Frederick took a moment to study him, hoping to find a way to get through to him. “Milord-“
Chrom seemed to know what is going on his retainer’s mind. “I’m fine, Frederick.” He repeated what he answered him before, though his voice sounded hollow and tired. “I just want to be alone.”
Frederick wanted to say more but he knew that conversation ended right there. Even if he tried, his liege will simply echo the same words again and again. Resigning himself to the same fate for years, he bowed down and bid a quiet Good Night. His receding footsteps echoing in the massive room that has grown cold and dark without its owner.