Published: Oct. 1, 2022.
Lachesis would not have this be a world where her brother perishes.
even in a game with canon incest, nordion sibs are still so incestuous. fe4! the incest gift that keeps on giving! getting to write them was a delight!!
title taken from drops by iamamiwhoami.
In his peripheral, as he urges his horse to turn and begin a trot, he sees his sister fumble with the Lands Sword. She leverages the naked blade between her hands and over her lap to fist at her horse's reins. A firm squeeze of his thighs urges his mount to accelerate, and soon, a fair distance shall separate him and Lachesis, one sufficient to have her think twice before pursuing him.
But, once more, she shouts his name: "Eldigan!"
The din of combat rises to swallow Lachesis' cry as he moves farther and farther away from her to cut through the battlefield back to Silvail. Eldigan permits himself the slightest, briefest moment to savor the final syllables spoken by his sister, to relish in knowing the last thing he shall hear her utter will be his name. So rarely does their harsh world forgive the indulgence of selfish desire without consequence looming. Here, in this barest sliver of time and in it alone, Eldigan unearths that which he buried deep, cherishes the love in his sister's desperate shouts, and smiles sardonically for his bitter fate. Consequence cannot concern him when he rides toward sacrifice. He only hopes that it yield a better world for the future Ares will have and Eldigan will not.
Because, yes, Eldigan is no naive fool. He knows that he marches to his own death, but that is a tragedy of duty that he can duly pay. Grahnye is well and safe beyond Agustria's borders, Ares' small hand grasped in hers when Eldigan bid his wife and son farewell. His dear sister raced to him on the fields of northern Agustria and pleaded with him to not battle his friend, to choose an alternative path to honor his vows.
She had it right. Trying to do something honorable is a better end than many others. Betrayal does not suit a knight.
Eldigan is at peace.
And, maybe in a another world he would have gone to face his fool of a king and attempt to have him see sense. Maybe in another world he would have mourned the fall of his country when the blade fell to cleave his head from body. Maybe in another world Lachesis would weep for him and swear to gut Chagall herself.
That is not this world.
A hand fists into the fabric of his jacket, and a hard weight jerks Eldigan back from his calm acceptance. Eldigan makes a quick turn back to gauge the situation and with a single glimpse confirms the scene for brazen absurdity: Lachesis all but spills out of her horse's saddle to keep a grasp on him. Neither horse delights in such close quarters, and Lachesis' beast begins to veer off to impose a more comfortable distance, guided by only instinct when it loses its master's direction. Lachesis' grip remains unyielding even as her horse moves away. Like this, she will end up dragged behind Eldigan or trampled under his mount's hooves.
It takes not even a second's thought for Eldigan to act. He reaches for Lachesis' outstretched arm and heaves her body toward him. In tandem, he propels himself off of his own mount, angling for momentum to collide her with him and prevent her from plunging to the dirt. He presses her to his chest, encircles her with his arms, and protects her best as he might when they make impact with the ground, rolling and bouncing until they come to a stop.
His chest heaves with the exertion, almost ridiculous feeling when he had just been riding a horse moments prior. A slow aching begins to spread across his body, concentrated notably on his supper right shoulder and back where he first made contact with the ground. He knows the ache will only worsen as the adrenaline is flushed from his system and bruises take root. Lachesis, curled atop him, lifts her head slightly, eyes peeking open. She appears somewhat startled by the series of events, but otherwise unharmed from what Eldigan can discern.
"Are you hurt?"
She raises her head further and then, after a moment to perhaps consider the state of her body, she speaks, "No…I don't think I am. Whatever sores or injuries I might have incurred, you took them for me, my brother."
He most certainly did. He grunts in vague agreement.
Eldigan fears at worse a broken limb that he cannot yet ascertain in his shocked state and static position, but he needs to rise soon. A fool's errand, but the sound of combat continues in the distance, his knights in opposition to Sigurd's forces, as an unrelenting reminder. Lachesis had him turn back to try once more at getting Chagall to back down, to call off his troops and meet Grannvale's representatives at the negotiating table.
Yes. Lachesis had requested that of him, crying as she begged him to end the fighting. He had been doing as she asked, and then--
"Lachesis," Eldigan says in a faintly hoarse voice. She still lies atop him. "Why did you pursue me?"
It is as foolish a question as his request will be to Chagall to cease hostilities. Because he knows the answer before he asks and even Lachesis makes a face down at him like he might be the stupidest man alive.
"You spoke to me like you were never returning!" Lachesis' lovely features contort in ire, fresh tears teeming in her eyes. She slaps a palm against his chest as if to demonstrate her fury; he groans as it presses his soon-to-be bruised back into the hard-packed earth. She gasps and snatches her hand back, but his clear pain, endured for her sake, does not diminish her anger. "You are a fool of fools if you believe I would have let you run off from me like that!"
He stares idly up at her. Her golden hair hangs down around her face in a silhouette, a halo directing him naturally to her upset expression. There is no escape from her scrutiny.
"I won't deny the likelihood of a poor outcome and my acceptance of it."
Once more, like she can't stop herself, she slaps a palm on his chest. "Eldigan! You are--"
Lachesis shakes off his hands laying limp on her back and rolls off her brother to sit beside his sprawled form. "You were going to die for no purpose, Eldigan!"
"Not for no purpose," he insists. He is aware of the continued combat around them, but he is stuck in a limbo of being unable to execute either his sister's desire or to slay his friend. "I doubt that His Majesty would acquiesce, but there was still a small chance he would see reason. I would rather perish in pursuit of that peace with my hands unstained by my friend's blood. You were right to push me."
"And yet it would still end with you dead!"
"I understood that."
"Then you cannot go."
"Then you will have me fight Sigurd."
"No!" Lachesis shakes her head furiously, like she can scarcely conceive of the two options she is forced to discuss with her brother. "No! You shouldn't fight for such a foolish king, and nor should you be put to death for that!"
"That is the fate of a knight--"
"Quiet!" Lachesis snaps. Her volume pitches low despite her fervor, a desperate whisper begging to be heard above the echo of battle. "I don't care! I don't care what your stupid code of ethics or honor says. I don't care what a knight should do when he's sworn to his king. I don't care about this stupid war! Eldigan, I won't have you leave me and die!"
Ideology will not satisfy Lachesis, and so Eldigan lies there bereft of a response. He lives as a knight, and he will die as a knight, no matter the limitations of its creed. Knighthood permits two paths: to follow his king's command and slay the invader Sigurd, or to challenge his king's command and accept any punishment his liege bestows. Lachesis rips through all pretense and elevates Eldigan's life above any intangible philosophy. In doing so, she ghosts the edges of the unspoken. Only he would truly notice, but it's unmistakable, the undercurrent flowing beneath her desperation. They've lived all these years without breaching the norms of siblings, and he wouldn't have them cross that line before he goes to his death, leaving his sister to bear the consequences.
Silence is an unknown on the battlefield. Screams resound with finality across the plains, and Sigurd's men breathe their last, pawns in a conflict instigated by uncaring fools that dragged them far from their homes to perish. Eldigan loves his country, and he holds dear his friendship with Sigurd, who is a good man despite the circumstances. Resignation numbs Eldigan as he slowly eases his upper body upright. (If Chagall executes him, then, well, at least he won't have to endure recovering from these bruises.)
Lachesis meets his gaze, and her face is a furious coalescence of despair and obstinance. "I won't have you leave me, Eldigan…"
More than Grahnye, more than perhaps even Ares, Lachesis makes Eldigan weak. They've been together since childhood, closeness undeterred by their different mothers or time spent apart. Always, whether it be mere weeks or the months away at Belhalla's military academy, Lachesis welcomed him home to Nordion with a smile, becoming as synonymous with his home as the castle itself. She coveted his presence without self-consciousness even after his marriage to Grahnye. She proudly declared that she would never wed as no man could match her brother, and though Eldigan should have rebuked her, encouraged her to keep an open mind and heart--he never did.
Now, his sister--his dear, dear sister who always envisioned a future with him there--weeps beside him on the sparse grass and dirt composing the battlefield that will decide their country's destiny. Eldigan should grit his teeth, bear the discomfort of standing, and limp to where his steed has circled back around. Lachesis will hate him for it, but if Eldigan loves Agustria, if Eldigan is an honorable man, if Eldigan cares for legacy, he will leave Lachesis and die as a knight.
Like always with Lachesis, Eldigan's inaction speaks volumes.
"What would you have me do?"
"Live!" She all but shouts it at him. "Don't fight a good man like Sigurd, and refuse to serve a poor joke of a king like Chagall!"
"Personal judgements aside, he is still our king--"
"A terrible one! An awful one who deserves to rot." Lachesis goes quiet before continuing in a softer voice, "You would be a good king, Eldigan. For all the reasons you would object to taking the throne, you would be a good king. The people love you, too, and you would be good to them, like you've always been to the folk in Nordion. This war…we wouldn't be here right now if you were king in place of Chagall."
Everything in him recoils at the proposition. Slowly, Eldigan eases himself upright, Lachesis' red-rimmed gaze intensely and unflinchingly focused on him.
"That is what you desire from me, Lachesis?"
"If it means you live, yes. Carrying out an oath to a corrupt king and killing your friend, or sacrificing yourself to talk sense at a madman, I hate both. They're as terrible as that bastard Chagall himself." She leans in toward him, keen and tantalizing. "Eldigan, wouldn't it be more just to Agustria to give her a better king? Wouldn't that be of greater honor to the people?"
She asks the impossible of him: to betray the code of ethics that has dictated his world view.
Lachesis takes one of his hands and holds it warm between her own before she raises it to press his palm against her cheek. "Eldigan. If for anyone or anything, please choose to live for me."
He should not be so weak, his foundation vulnerable to assaults of emotion, and yet--
--yet, a fracture runs through the beating heart of knighthood in his chest. Splitting, cracking, spreading, the vow sworn by his ancestor crumbles.
"No," Eldigan murmurs. With his free hand, he brushes aside her bangs and kisses her forehead. (One selfish decision unsettling another desire to rouse and clamor for release.) "Lachesis, I will not abandon you."
With Lachesis' aid, Eldigan staggers to his feet and calls his horse over. (Lachesis' vanished horse and wherever she flung the Lands Sword in her haste to pursue Eldigan can be resolved post-battle.) He mounts his steed, Lachesis' secures herself behind him, and they set off in the opposite direction of Silvail. Eldigan will call off his men and approach Sigurd as a friend to suggest an alternative peace for Grannvale and Agustria that shall not see the latter puppeted by the former. Arms snug around his waist, Lachesis sits behind him like a specter of indulgence, like she is triumphant bride into this unknown future.
She leans her cheek on his back, and he reaches a hand back to curl around her hip, ensuring she remains where she is.
If the Lord of Nordion will take the Agustrian throne, then it shall be at the behest of his chosen beloved.
Eldigan is at peace.