8th April 2017, 6:16 PM
Cursed Crown of Thorns [T, Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War]
He dreams for the first time since Altena left Thracia, almost four years ago. She goes looking for Arion seven years later.
Author’s Ideas: I love Genealogy to bits, but damn, does it leave some things unexplained. The entire reason this one-shot was created was because I decided to ask myself, “Why does only the Gaé Bolg have a ‘price’ for the user?”
If you didn’t know, the legend goes that the Gaé Bolg is the lance that controls both love and sorrow. Quan and Ethlyn’s deaths and the conflict that separates Arion and Altena are supposed to be because of the Gaé Bolg. The game says that the Gaé Bolg and the Gungnir are intertwined. Not by what, though, but I like to think it’s by blood and by legend. I started wondering why the Gungnir didn’t have a “price”, and this popped out.
Used this piece to work on my imagery writing - let me know if I did okay!
Warnings: Rated a strong T for insanity, macabre, and all the other fun stuff that comes with Genealogy.
Disclaimer: Do I look like I own Fire Emblem.
Cursed Crown of Thorns
“I’m dying,” Finn rasps, leaning his head against his bedframe.
Altena looks up from her hands, gripped tightly around a wooden bucket of water, and catches a panicked look in her brother’s eyes.
“Nonsense, Father,” Nanna scolds from her place beside the aging knight. “You’re being ridiculous.”
He lets out a breathy sigh, closing his eyes. Nanna pulls his blanket away from his chest, her hands lingering on her father’s bandaged chest before gently tugging at the white cloth. It falls from Finn’s wound, and Altena tries not to flinch when she sees the dried blood and swollen skin around the raw scratch scored across his chest.
Nanna pulls back, snatching the towel slung over her shoulder and dousing it in the water bucket Altena is holding, though she's careful not to let any water jump out and onto Altena.
Leif offers Nanna a Recover staff, and she takes it, gently brushing the damp towel against her father’s chest. Flecks of maroon blood dot the wet towel, but Nanna doesn't flinch until all the dried blood is stuck to her hand or the towel, and she can see the pink flesh and welling, fresh red blood along Finn’s wound.
Nanna lifts the Recover staff in front of her lips, watches it glow in response to the gaping stab wound. Slowly, Finn’s skin contorts and twists together in a fashion all too familiar to Leif and Nanna, yet a strange sight to Altena.
Suddenly, the staff dulls, its glow lost. Nanna stumbles backwards, and Leif barely catches her. Altena sets down the bucket in her hands and kneels beside her sister, who shakes and trembles.
“Shh. It's okay,” Leif whispers, and lets Nanna press her face against his shoulder. Altena sits back and watches the two, a burden of guilt and shame on her heart.
That night, Nanna comes to her room, her eyes red and cheeks wet.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Altena asks gently, guiding Nanna to the seat in front of the table in her powder room.
“I… Give me a moment,” Nanna whispers, folding her hands in her lap. Her gaze remains focused on the mirror in front of her, and Altena moves to clean up the cosmetics she left on the table that morning.
“Please, leave them there. I don’t want to impose on you.”
“Of course you aren’t,” Altena reassures, but listens to Nanna either way. “Are you ready to talk?”
“Yes.” Nanna clears her throat before looking up at Altena with moist eyes. “It’s about Father.”
“Finn? What’s wrong?”
“He’s dying, Lady Sister,” she sobs, clenching her hands into fists. “He’s dying, and there’s nothing I can do. I’m sorry… I know you wanted to talk to him more, learn from him more, but he- he’ll be gone soon.”
Altena places her hand on Nanna’s shoulder tentatively. “Nanna…”
Nanna wipes her eyes and gives Altena a tearful smile. “Oh… I’m being unreasonable, I forgot to tell you why I came here. Father said he wanted to see you. Will you go?”
“I’ll be fine,” the blonde reassures, and smiles at the brunette. “Go on, Lady Sister. I’ll be fine.”
Altena nods mutely, and leaves Nanna in her room.
Gently, she walks down the halls of Leonster castle, and despite her four years in the place that is supposed to be her home, she feels as though she has walked through them for the first time. The dark spirit of death lingers around the portraits of kings and queens that grace the walls, clinging to the smiling faces of King Calf and Princess Ethlyn. It follows her, down the hall and to the left, wreathed around the room of an old Duke Knight. She pulls the metal handle down, pushing the door open.
The room is stuffy, and there’s the gentle smell of Thracia, of Nanna and Leif, and of faint white roses, a smell so uniquely Finn’s that Altena finds herself tearing up.
He’s holding a pressed white rose in his hand, twirling it mindlessly between his thumb and his index finger when he looks up, and there's a bright and feverish look in his eyes.
“Finn…” Altena whispers, her hand over her lips.
“Princess Altena… you came,” he murmurs, giving her a kind smile. She trembles a bit at the sight of Finn, who looks like he’s on the brink of death.
“Of course. I only want to help you, Finn. You should know that already.”
“Then… will you accompany an old man in his final moments?” He asks.
Altena draws herself up, steeling herself before pulling a nearby chair next to Finn’s bed. “Gladly.”
“Are you… glad, that you came back?” Finn asks the question so tensely that Altena feels like he’s trying not to break a thin sheet of ice over a frozen lake.
“Yes,” she responds boldly, then pauses. “Yes, I’m glad. Sometimes… I miss old Thracia. Sometimes I miss Travant, sometimes I miss Arion, sometimes I just miss the townspeople. But when I think about what we would’ve done to achieve our goals… it makes me unhappy. And who am I to deny my birthright? I returned to Leonster to help, and that’s exactly what I did. And… one of my loved ones is here. At the very least, I have someone here to help me.”
“Yes… my brother.”
“Did he ever tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“The legend of the Gaé Bolg.”
“There is a legend?”
“Only the royal family is supposed to know… but Lord Quan confided in me, so that one day I might tell you if he were to pass away. I told Lord Leif a few moons ago… he did not react happily.”
“Is that why Nanna forced you two out of the castle and on a ride that night?”
“Yes. She always was too persistent for her own good. Just like her mother… but that is besides the point. Would you like to hear the tale?”
“Even after hearing of your own brother’s reaction?”
“Of course. It is my duty as a princess of Leonster, and the wielder of the Gaé Bolg. If I must endure knowledge that may break my heart, I will.”
Finn lets out a breathy chuckle. “You remind me so of your mother. Lady Ethlyn…”
“Finn, I’m- I’m sorry,” Altena bites her lip, gripping her tunic with her hands.
“What are you apologizing for?” He questions.
“I’m not sure… but I'm sorry.”
“It is not your fault, Lady Altena. Whatever you are apologizing for, it is not your fault.”
“Thank you, Finn. Please, go on.”
“Of course. The legend of the Gaé Bolg begins with the brother and sister Crusaders Noba and Dain, who shared a close sibling relationship. Their relationship caused them to jointly rule the Thracian Peninsula as one country that comprised of both the Manster District and Thracian Peninsula with no political clash whatsoever.”
“They ruled together for a while, did they not? What happened then?”
“At some point, Noba wed a knight who was a good friend of her brother's, and the two lived happily for a good while. However, Noba's husband and Dain later got into an argument, one that led to a dueling. In an attempt to break up the fight, Noba accidentally impaled her husband with the Gáe Bolg.”
“This was quickly followed by Noba committing suicide out of both grief and guilt, alongside Dain dying under mysterious circumstances. A series of unfortunate events occurring within the Leonster royal family then happened, which eventually caused Thracia to split into two distinct northern and southern districts. Eventually, the Gaé Bolg became known as the lance that separated lovers.”
Altena chokes, holding a hand over her mouth as she looks away from the old Duke Knight.
“Lady Altena? You don’t look very well.”
She lets her hand fall from her lips and into her lap. “You are saying that…”
“Oh… I’m so sorry, Lady Altena. You bear the weight of the lance that controls love and sorrow. No one but you can.”
“If Gaé Bolg visits tragedy upon its wielder, then…”
“Do not blame yourself. It was due to the unfortunate circumstances that you were born under that have pushed this burden on you so early. I did not want you to suffer… but I could not stop it.” He leans his head back, gripping his fingers around the pressed white rose in his hand. “I am sorry. I… was useless.”
She stumbles out of her chair, and then breaks for her room, her mind a hazy veil of lost emotions.
The next morning, she receives news that Finn has died. She doesn't know what to do.
~ / . / . / ~
He dreams for the first time since Altena left Thracia, almost four years ago.
He dreams about his country, the old and the new. He dreams about Thracian wyverns, with scaled wings and beaten bodies that lug themselves across the sky at a rider’s will. He dreams of Leonster flowers that cover the soil, of Thracian men who glance up at the sunlit skies as they hammer away at the hard dirt ground beneath them.
He dreams about burning villages in Isaach, snow on the mountains of Silesse, the great sea that parts Leonster and Grannvale, and the rocky mountains of Thracia, sights he had seen as an adult. The strange sensation of warping, and then he is walking the city streets of Tahra, and Linoan runs up to greet him, a gentle smile on her face, flashes of his teenage years. A twist, and then he is thrust to a time when his father brings back a small girl, a golden lance, and a silver lance covered in blood as he reassures the little girl, which he remembers witnessing as a child.
He dreams of his parents, of times when his mother still accompanied him, of times when they would both laugh if he sought for either of their attention. He dreams of his mother’s execution, of his eyes covered with his father’s rough hand, and when he looks again, his mother is gone, never to be seen without the blood leaking from her severed head.
He dreams of his father, struck down by a single arrow from the Holy Bow Yewfelle. His wound is bloody, his hair strewn from harsh bites of the wind. Travant’s eyes are blank, his mouth curled in an eternal state of condemnation, and his fingers are clenched around a spear that no longer exists to fight for his cause.
Arion dreams of killing, then, of striking men down with the great spear of Crusader Dain, the three-headed lance of silver slathered in blood. Whether it is guilty blood or innocent blood, he does not know. He has the feeling that he does not care.
First is his father, a man he has so loved and despised his entire life. His father is yelling at him, his harsh voice echoing in Arion’s ears. He’s thrust backwards with the butt of the Gungnir, and he lays winded as his father yells at him, challenges him. He remembers sparring with his father, of times when his father would strike him down and tell him to get up.
This time, he has a feeling this spar will end horribly.
And it does, for he dashes forward and rips the Gungnir from his father’s hands. For what reason, he does not know, and turns himself in to the bloodthirst that screams at him from within. With speed, power, and precision he’s never witnessed, a work of the Gungnir’s blessing, he tears the spear through his father’s chest. His father curses and sputters his son out, a brazen and aggressive look in his eyes and over his face as less words and more breaths spill from Travant’s mouth.
He pulls away then, Dain’s lance held tightly in his hand. Blood falls from his father’s wound as he lunges for his son, but he steps away. His father falls to the ground, twitching, and Arion brings the lance up. When his father stops moving, stop breathing, he lets Gungnir fall back down, and tears apart his father’s corpse, a raw look of lusty power and a seeking for blood walking through his eyes.
Next he kills Linoan, Dean, Eda, doesn’t stop until everyone who served under him is dead. His wyvern darts above houses and over cobblestone streets, yelling a bloodcurdling, war thirsty cry for death. Tahra, Alster, Manster, even the little village of Fiona. All are splattered with blood, and roads are littered with countless lives lost.
Soon, he’s killing the Crusaders he helped in the final Holy War. King Seliph, Queen Lana, King Leif, Queen Nanna, King Ares and Queen Lene. All lay bloodied and slaughtered beneath his wyvern’s claws. He picks the remains of King Ced off of his lance, watches Princess Julia cower and scream, and aims his lance for King Lester, who moves just a bit too slowly to avoid the fatal strike.
Lastly is Altena, Princess Altena, Lady Altena, his sister Altena, and the wind tears at his hair and cloak as it leans down and whispers maliciously in his ear, his Altena.
They sit atop their airborne mounts, riding beside each other like they used to when they were children. Altena is talking, her mouth moving, but Arion can barely hear her words over the rush and pound of blood in his ears, the bloodthirst welling up in his throat.
A roar escapes his wyvern, and it collides with the scream that rips from his throat. Before he can stop himself, he’s buried his lance deep into Altena, watches her lips fall open before she topples over. Her green wyvern dashes off into the sky, screeching and yelping, and Altena is left dangling in the sky. She struggles with every last bit of strength she has, but he can see that her life is slipping away, the light in her eyes is fading. She’s panting, hands wound so tightly around the Gungnir that her knuckles have gone white.
She stops moving heartbeats later and her arms fall limp. Her head lolls, and her long hair sweeps in front of her closing eyes. Her red lip rogue disappears behind a curtain of blood-spattered brown, and the golden crown around her head slips ever so slightly. He watches her, watches her die, bit by bit, until she’s just a weight on his lance, a weight that must be disposed of. He tilts his lance towards the outstretching sea beneath them, and Altena’s corpse slides off of the pronged end of Gungnir, falling and falling until all Arion knows about his sister is that she hit the sea with a loud splash, and that her blood is all over him.
He wakes up then, gasping and sucking in the warm Thracian air of summer. It’s dead silent, and he casts his gaze down at his hands. They tremble and rock violently, unable to hold still for more than a heartbeat.
The dreams he had seem ethereal, like a wisp of smoke above his head. He should know better than to believe them, but they haunt him, the promise of Gungnir’s curse in his ears.
“I am not insane,” he breathes, clenching his fists. “I am not.”
The silence of his castle greets his lies.
Long ago, his father had told him the price of the Gungnir. Four years ago, his father had fallen to the same fate. There was no choice but for the Prince of Old Thracia to believe, to believe in the price of the Gungnir - insanity.
“I suppose I am going insane,” Arion murmurs, and he drapes his arms around himself, content to shiver in the cold of the moonlight, blood crawling along his fingers and screams of his people echoing from the horizon.
He knows it’s all in his mind.
~ / . / . / ~
She goes looking for Arion seven years later.
Her brother gives her the pardon, and as she slips out of his room, she cannot help but feel as though Leif knew, somehow, that she would have taken to the skies once more to look for him.
She spends a majority of the day in towns and flying in the sky. She’ll stop at his favorite places and look in. Sometimes she’ll stop and say hello, or grab some goods, but most of the time, she leaves immediately after she finds out he isn’t there.
It’s only when the sun sets and the Leonster castle is on the horizon that she finds a clue - or rather, the whole thing.
Her eyes trail on a small speck of black in the distance, flying from the castle’s general direction.
“Who…?” Altena squints, directing her wyvern to fly lower and meet up with the other Wyvern Lord.
The enemy spots her, and suddenly their wyvern is tearing through the sky to meet her. It takes her a simple glance at his pose to notice their incentive: to kill her. The lance in their possession and murderous aura about them makes it clear.
“Don’t come closer!” Altena points the Gaé Bolg to the mysterious person, who pulls to a stop in front of her. “I am the Princess of Leonster, Princess Altena, and I will strike you down if need be!”
With a flap of the other’s wyvern wings, the enemy dashes forward, thrusting their lance at Altena. She parries with the Gaé Bolg, and barely catches a glimpse of the silver lance in their possession before the enemy makes another strike.
“Why…” she grunts as she blocks the blow, “do you have the Gungnir!?”
As always, her enemy remains silent, and makes to strike again. Altena pulls the reins of her wyvern to the side, and as the Wyvern Lord flies just past her, she drives the Gaé Bolg through the other wyvern. It lets out a tremendous cry, and sinks to the ground as Altena withdraws her lance.
She orders her wyvern to fly to the ground, and waits between the trees where the enemy wyvern has fallen. A flash of black in the corner of her eye alerts her, and she turns just in time to see the other wyvern rider slash out at her.
She jumps back, dismounting her wyvern. When it cries out, she orders it to sit down, and faces the other person.
“Who are you?” She whispers under her breath, as if she doesn’t want to accept the theory that has floated around her head for such a long time.
They jump forward, and Altena cries out, barely dodging the blow. She moves to strike, but they parry, a perfect parry that is strangely familiar to her.
They continue like this for a while, striking and parrying, lunging and dodging, hitting and missing, playing a game of cat and mouse, cat and mouse. Finally, she manages to avoid a blow that puts her directly in front of him, and takes the opportunity to stab the Gaé Bolg right into their chest.
The enemy Wyvern Lord screams then, and it’s a scream that Altena has heard before, a scream that shatters the mirror of lies that Altena has laid before herself, and sends the glass fragments of her mind flying across the ground.
“Arion!” She screams, letting go of the Gaé Bolg. He falls to the ground then, and she rushes forward, helping him sit up.
“Al… tena?” He rasps.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” She cries, feeling the familiar hotness of tears building up in her eyes.
“It’s fine…” He chuckles, reaching his shaky hands up to bring the helmet off of his head. It falls to the ground, and a bloodied Arion stares back up at her.
He doesn’t look healthy. There are heavy bags under his eyes, and they’re heavily bloodshot. His lips are bloody and cracked, with lines of blood falling from his mouth.
“Do not worry about me… for once, worry about yourself,” he coughs, and blood splatters across his armor and over the golden lance in his chest.
“I can’t worry about myself when you’re about to die because of me!”
“I see… then, I suppose it’s my fault… I’m sorry I attacked you.”
“Why? You know I can defend myself!”
“Altena…” He grasps her hand and glances up at her, his eyes serious for once. “I went insane… the Gungnir…” A violent cough shakes his body, and Altena flinches as the grass next to him becomes coated with crimson blood.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Her voice is almost a whimper, and she squeezes his hand tighter.
“You… were not yet ready… to face the reality…” He confesses, and anger bubbles up in Altena.
“How would you have known, Arion!? It’s not like… you… oh… I-”
“Did you forget? I… grew up with you. I… of all people would know…”
“I guess I did,” Altena murmurs, running a hand through her hair.
“You’ve… changed…” His voice is a gentle whisper of the wind, and he lets go of her hand.
“Arion, what- no! No, not now! Not when I’ve just found you… please, don’t leave!”
“I’m sorry… little sister… I loved you… to the… end…”
“I… I loved you too,” she sobs, and feels the warmth seeping away from his body, bit by bit, inch by inch. Only when his body feels like snow, blocked into the shape of a human, does she move. She jerks the Gaé Bolg from his chest, and doesn’t bother to look back as she saddles into her wyvern, riding off towards the castle of Leonster.
Nanna is pacing impatiently in front of the castle, and when Altena lands, she looks up, her eyes lighting up as Altena dismounts and beckons her over.
“Lady Sister, you’re back! You… there’s so much blood! What happened!?” Nanna cries, dashing forward. Altena shakes her head, hands the reins of her wyvern to her sister, and brushes past the blonde, rushing up the stairs and blinking the tears out of her eyes as she opens the door to her bedroom.
She shuts the door behind her, and sits on the floor of the balcony, her view obscured by the marble pillars of the railing. It not like she wants to see the great blue skies of New Thracia right now anyways.
She curls into herself deeper, pressing her legs against her chest and resting her face on her knees.
“Lady Altena!” Eda cries, and from the pounding sound of footsteps, it sounds like her retainer has found her.
“What is it?” She murmurs, not bothering to cast her eyes up.
“Lady Altena, there was a body found in the nearby forest,” Eda says, and she freezes as her friend continues. “King Leif says that it’s Prince Arion, as the corpse was in possession of the Gungnir.”
“Eda,” she looks up at the Dragon Knight bleakly, “he's dead… I killed him.”
“Lady Altena, I-” Eda cuts herself off, and simply sits beside the brunette, laying her hand tenderly over Altena’s.
They stay like that for countless ticks of the clock in her room, Altena too sorrowful to say anything, and Eda too frightened.
“Leave me be,” Altena speaks up suddenly. Her voice is icy, like frost on the edges of her hair in cold Thracian winters.
“With all due respect-”
“Leave me be!”
Altena’s voice echoes through her room, her room covered in torn papers and thrown books, in chaos lost to her control.
Eda blinks slowly, and then slips away from her mistress, gently closing the door behind her. A flash of worry is all the princess of Leonster sees in Eda’s eyes.
Altena cries then, her dignity lost and beauty crushed. She cries, and for once, the title of Crusader Noba’s descendant doesn't seem like a blessing. It seems like a cursed crown of thorns, a legend that tears her far from anything and everything she could love.
She cries for the first of many times that day, and nobody sees her smile afterwards.