Night-time Sparring

“Father… no, father… don’t… mother’s… nooooooooooo!!!” Lucina jerked upright in bed, arm out-stretched. The moonlight coming in through the windows made most of the room faintly visible. She was in her bedroom. Not in… the scene… in her dream. She had been dreaming. She pressed her palms against her face. Sweaty.

It was just a dream, right? She pulled on her shirt and exited the room. Going the short distance down the hallway to her parents’ room, she opened the door gently. With her eyes so adjusted to the dark, she could see them by just the light of the moon. They were both there. Breathing peacefully. She closed the door.

Everything was over. She had hoped the nightmares would stop. She sat on the bed when she came back to her own room. Wishing she could crawl into bed with her parents, but knowing she was too old for that now.

“Mother, father, I did it,” she whispered, to the ones she lost. Her parents were here, but they also weren’t her parents. Her parents had been… her mother had been taken, and then that… that thing had gone after her father. Lucina hadn’t seen it, but she had imagined it many times. She had heard from those who saw, and got away.

I know it’s matricide, she had told her mother. Believing it was the only way. But in the face of her mother’s understanding, she just couldn’t. Even though her mother carried… had carried Grima’s brand, would the Falchion have allowed Lucina to strike her down?

What am I on about? The Falcion’s just a sword, she thought to herself. It might hold a power, but it didn’t hold a will.

And now she was here. With parents barely older than herself. Aunt Lissa’s probably younger than me, she thought, and smiled. It was of course hard to say in the case of her mother. She had no memory of those things, and there was this… slightly timeless look to her. So she could be the same age as Chrom, or a bit older. She didn’t even remember her birthday, so she had picked the day Chrom first found her. Aunt Lissa had insisted they needed a day to celebrate.

Lucina realised she wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, so she got dressed. Maybe getting some exercise would help. She headed down to the practice yard. Beating the stuffing out of a dummy might tire her out enough. Or at least make her feel a little better.

As she got close she could hear the sounds of someone else already there and at it. She thought she recognised the voice. She stopped at the entrance and placed her hand on a column. Bathed in the torch-light a red-haired, twin-tailed woman wielding a wooden sword was assaulting a training dummy. Taking Cordelia’s weapon of choice into consideration, it was extra breath-taking how good Severa’s form was with a sword.

“Good morning, Severa,” Lucina said as she stepped out of the shadows, and the red-head whipped around, going straight into combat stance. She relaxed when she saw who it was.

“Oh, it’s just you, princess,” Severa said, and Lucina cringed a little.

“Do you have to call me that?” she asked, and headed over to the practice swords.

“That’s what you are. What else would I call you?” Severa said. She stuck the sword in the ground to lean on it as she yawned.

“You could just call me Lucina,” Lucina said. “Or would you prefer I start calling you ‘captain’?” She tested a couple of swords to find one she liked the balance of.

“Er…” Severa didn’t like the sound of that at all. “Good point, princess. Ah! Sorry.” She smiled awkwardly at Lucina. Lucina considered asking for a sparring match, but first she needed to get some stuff out of her system. The dummy was a better target for that. Severa resumed her stance against her own dummy.

“You couldn’t sleep either?” Lucina asked her as she started going through the motions against the target.

“Hmph, don’t be ridiculous,” Severa said. “I just want to always stay sharp, in case…” She left that sentence hanging, leading to an awkward silence. Lucina glanced at her. “Fine, yeah, I couldn’t sleep either.” She stabbed into the soft part of the dummy. “It’s hard to relax.”

“I think I know what you mean,” Lucina said. She always remembered those nightmares, clear as day. A slash to the side where a Risen would get crippled. The moves were like clockwork now.

“Especially when staying in the same place as-” Severa bit her tongue, remembering who she was talking to.

“As? As who?” Lucina asked, though she could guess what Severa meant. A stab below the throat, where it would be hard to dodge.

“As… as Rita,” Severa said sourly. The memories of their future were far from dead.

“You have a problem with my mother?” Lucina asked flatly. Doing her best to keep her composure.

“No,” Severa replied. “I do have a problem with the thing she’s going to turn into.”

“That’s over now.” Lucina’s blows were picking up speed.

“But what are you going to do if-” Severa started to ask.

“It’s not going to happen,” Lucina said, cutting her off.

“How do you know?” Severa asked pointedly.

“I don’t!” Lucina’s shout was accompanied by a crack, and half of her training sword flew off. She’d broken it with a mighty overhead strike at the head of the dummy. “Damn you, Severa… I don’t know…” She could feel a tear running down her cheek. “I’ve lost her twice now. I don’t want to think about a possible third.” Except the thought was never far away.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Severa said, a hint of shame in her voice. “I didn’t mean to…” Lucina went to pick up another sword.

“I was there too, Severa. I remember,” she said painfully. “So I understand your worries.” This one seemed good, and she took the new sword back towards the dummies. “But things are different now. She sacrificed herself for us. As… as far as she knew… that was it.” That was a sight she wasn’t likely to forget any time soon either.

“But she came back,” Severa said. She had lowered her sword. “I don’t like thinking like this either, but what if that was part of the plan all along? To make us think…” The worry in her voice was genuine, and Lucina found it hard to be angry. At least at Severa. The world in general was a different matter.

“The brand is gone now. Things have to be different this time,” Lucina said tiredly. She needed desperately to believe that.

“The brand?” Severa asked curiously. She wasn’t aware of the dragon-brands, or at least not their significance.

“Yeah… you know the mark on my father’s shoulder?” Lucina asked. “The one that’s like a drop in a strangely shaped chalice?” She used the sword to draw it in the sand on the ground. Severa thought it over, then nodded. She had seen that, now that Lucina pointed it out. “That’s not a tattoo, or a curious birthmark. It’s the brand of the exalt. Naga’s brand. I have it too, though I doubt you can see it in this light.”

“Oh right, I think Owain was going on about that at some point,” Severa said. “I figured it was just another of his fool stories.” Lucina smiled a little. Of course Owain would brag about it.

“No, it’s very real,” she said. “It marks us not just as being part of the exalt bloodline, but also that we can draw out the power of the Falchion. That we are linked to Naga.”

“So, what does that have to do with Rita?” Severa asked, scratching her head.

“Mother had one too,” Lucina said, then when she saw Severa’s mouth open, she quickly added: “No, not the exalt one. She had Grima’s brand.” They both shivered at the mention of the name. Lucina didn’t want to draw that one, but she didn’t have to. Understanding dawned upon Severa. “Maybe you saw it, on her hand? Well, it’s gone now.”

“Gone?” Severa sounded confused. “What does that mean?”

“I… I don’t know,” Lucina confessed. “But I have to believe that’s good news. That it means Grima is truly gone along with the fell brand.” She raised her sword against the dummy again. “It’s hope. Can you blame me for clinging to it?”

“I suppose not,” Severa said, and raised her sword again too. Then she had an idea. “Hey, how about sparring against each other for a bit?”

“I thought about it earlier,” Lucina admitted. “But I didn’t want to risk hurting you.” Severa felt really annoyed at that response.

“Well, aren’t you a cocky princess? Now I insist!” she said with the utmost confidence. “There’s no way you can overcome my perfect form. Not without your magic sword.”

“Oh really?” Lucina stepped around the dummy to face off against Severa. “We’ll see about that.” They stepped away from the dummies, and adopted ready stances.

“I’ll show you who’s the real swordmaster, princess.” She made a couple of quick hops to make sure of the balance of the sword.

“I told you to stop calling me that,” Lucina said as she lunged. Severa parried, and side-stepped.

“If you win, I’ll never do it again,” Severa said, and did a quick side-slash. Lucina blocked the blow, and attempted to throw Severa off-balance by pushing her weapon aside.

“That shouldn’t take long.” Lucina performed a jab, but Severa had little trouble dodging out of the way.

“In your dreams!” Severa turned her dodge into a pirouette, and went for Lucina’s flank, only to meet her sword again.

They fell quiet as they traded blows back and forth. First one to three hits, as usual.

Severa scored the first hit, getting under Lucina’s guard and hitting her leg. Lucina got the next two hits, against Severa’s side, then her non-sword arm. Severa got in a strike just below Lucina’s shoulder, but in the end it was Lucina who landed the final blow: A stab Severa wasn’t able to dodge in time, so it grazed against her ribs. While all the hits stung now, they’d probably feel the bruises even more so later.

“Hah!” Lucina exclaimed. She moved as if to sheathe the sword out of sheer habit, before she remembered what she was wielding.

“Eesh, you are ridiculously strong,” Severa said, fallen on her butt. Lucina offered her her hand.

“Good fight,” she said. “You nearly had me.” Severa looked up at her.

“I’ll get you next time, princess,” she grumbled, and accepted Lucina’s hand.

“You said you wouldn’t call me that anymore. Did you forget already?” Lucina said as she pulled Severa up.

“Ah right, sorry,” Severa said with a slight blush. “I’ll get you next time, Lucina…” Why is that so awkward to say now? she asked herself. “There, you happy?”

“Yes. Very,” Lucina replied with a smile that made Severa blush a little deeper. Severa had another idea.

“Hey, as a bonus, why don’t I take you shopping tomorrow?” she said, managing to regain her composure.

“Huh?” Lucina was confused.

“Come on. It’s much more fun with a friend,” Severa stated as if it was fact. “Plus with your fashion sense, I know you can use some help…” she added.

“What’s wrong with my fashion sense?” Lucina asked, slightly offended.

“Um… just about everything,” Severa replied honestly. She grinned at Lucina. “What do you say?” Lucina sighed, and thought it over for a moment.

“Sure, sounds like fun,” she finally said. “I look forward to it.” She smiled, then looked up at the brightening sky. “I guess it’s already tomorrow, in a sense. We should try to get some rest.” She went to put away the sword. Then also remembered to retrieve the one she broke.

“Yeah, probably a good idea,” Severa said. She was congratulating herself on the inside. She may not have won the fight, but this was a pretty good second prize. Something to be excited about. It probably wouldn’t help her get any more sleep, though.

~Wulf

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Posted on June 17, 2017, in Fiction, Storytime and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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