Mar. 22nd, 2011 08:42 pm
asherien: (Default)
[personal profile] asherien
Title: Corruption
Genre: drama, angst
Fandom: Fire Emblem 7
Characters/pairings: Lucius, Raven, relies on A support between them so I suppose it might count as Lucius/Raven.
Summary/prompt: For FE_fest - prompt involved Raven trying to pass Lucius off as his wife. Turned into a mercenary mission and Raven-introspection.
Warnings: Violence.

"For the last time, no. You're going to get yourself killed. Just stay here."
It was hardly an unfamiliar refrain in their conversations, but as always, it did no good. Raven's companion did not look up as he hastily piled his supplies into a rucksack, the first glimmer of sunrise peering through the window and dancing through his fair hair. For all his dainty appearance, Lucius was hardly one to back down from an argument like this.
"Lord Raymond, I did not accompany you so that I could sit in the camp while you went off into battle. I'm not some helpless child, and I won't just sit here and be treated like one."

"If you're still going to insist on calling me lord, at least do as I say," Raven sighed. He'd learned the last time that shouting did little good – Lucius's tolerance for such things was infuriating – and that merely storming out would only cause him to tag along behind him. Every time, it ended in a spear just missing an outstretched arm, an ax just managing to cut through thick blue robes rather than pale flesh. It would be different if it were some tame objective – transporting goods, relaying messages, escorting merchants through mountains – but trying to drive a group of bandits out of a village? It was hardly safe work, and even the most blessed of men could not continue dodging death forever.

"I'd be remiss in my duty to House Cornwell if I let you go on your own." Lucius stood and stumbled as he slung the too-heavy satchel over his shoulder and moved to block the door with his body. "Haven't I proven myself capable of fighting, with everything we've been through?"

Raven still vividly recalled the dark bruises on Lucius's arms when he'd retrieved him from the cell in Caelin, the flash of black-red as a nomad's arrow buried itself in his leg on the Dread Isle, the stench of burning cloth and singed hair as he barely withstood the breath of the fire dragon. Survival was hardly proof enough.

"No," he answered curtly. "Now move, or I'll move you myself."
Lucius pressed his lips tightly together and finally stepped out of the way, only to scamper behind Raven once he was out the door. That much, Raven had expected. He picked up his pace, moving faster than he knew his friend could, and found another mercenary lounging outside. A wisp of a thing, barely old enough to shave, let alone fend off bandits. He was reminded, again, of times past, of a reedy archer with an overly loud voice, the sound of boisterous laughter cut off by the familiar crack of bone breaking under blade.

Better to be nagged about this for all eternity than have no one to nag at him at all. "Listen, kid," he said, his words smooth and quick, "how would you feel about taking care of my lovely wife over there, instead of going out today." He tipped his head in the direction of the approaching monk. The sun was half-up now, casting a dim golden glow over the camp, and, to Raven's delight, masking the few masculine features that could give his ruse away.

"Well. . . what about my wages?"

"I'll pay you half of mine until we get to Etruria. And. . . you can have my portion of meat for the next week." He looked as if he could use it, too, with those scrawny arms and slightly sunken eyes.

The boy's eyes lit up, especially at the second part, and Raven knew he had succeeded. "It's a deal," he heard, just as Lucius, breathless and flustered, finally caught up.
"Sweetheart," he cooed, barely managing to keep a straight face as the boy grabbed Lucius's shoulder. "What did I say about following me out here? Go on back. This kid'll keep you company." He made a note to get better with names.

"Sweet- what?" Confusion quickly gave way to quiet outrage, the barely perceptible narrowing of eyes and twitch of lips that said You're never going to hear the end of this. Raven knew the look all too well. The boy grabbed for Lucius' hand and started pulling him back toward the campsite, and Raven was met with one last withering look before he lost sight of his friend.

Maybe next time, you'll just stay back.

The estimate of "a handful of bandits" was hardly accurate. Raven had already seen three of the troupe's own men go down in the onslaught, and his own bound-up arm ached where an enemy's blade had sliced through the flesh.

Who hires a tiny band of mercenaries for this kind of work? he thought as he scanned the horizon for more enemies to dispose of. This was the sort of work a marquess was supposed to see to, wasn't it? His father would have seen to it, would have made sure every last bandit rued the day he attacked Cornwell's own. What a stupid word, corruption. Raven knew corruption when he saw it, and it was there in the harrowed faces of villagers peering through windows, the sound of blade crashing against blade in the streets, the stiff, tight cling of blood-soaked fabric to his skin.

His eyes narrowed as he caught sight of a few brigands slipping through an alleyway. What was there left in this place to take, anyway? The charms hung over doorways blessed by old priests, the half-empty stores of grain and seed, the horses in the paddocks with skin stretched tight over tired ribs? He remembered his mother trying to explain words he'd heard murmured from his father and his council about the people in the countryside.

Starving, she'd say, is when people have no food, and they are hungry all the time.

But don't people work for food? he'd ask. Shouldn't they just work harder?
He didn't want to think about where the coin to hire the troupe had come from or whether those bony horses might end up on a plate later in the winter as he charged ahead to thrust his sword into the hairy gut of another man, and withdrew it just as swiftly to let his victim fall away from his path.

Work harder.

He let out a roar as his blade whipped through the air to take out another enemy, oblivious to the cry of agony that followed his movement. Another came at him, faster now, and managed to graze his gut with the edge of a knife. He hissed and charged forward to counter, but the bandit slipped out of the blade's path and struck again.

Raven was on the ground before he even knew he'd been hit, gasping words that would have made his mother blush and his father shake his head. He had to get up. There was no one else to do what he needed to, no one to make sure Lucius didn't get himself killed, or that his sister's bastard of a husband didn't take advantage of her. He opened one eye and saw the enemy moving again. He couldn't get up fast enough, couldn't reach his blade –

He saw a flash, heard a scream, and then a soft thud next to him. Was this what dying was like? Blindness, coldness, the smell of burning flesh? He saw a hand, through the fading spots in his eyes, reaching out for him, and wondered for a moment if it was his mother's. And then he heard his name, with that irritating "Lord" in front, and knew better.
"How did you – "

"Sssh. Don't talk, you're hurt. I'll protect you, my lord." He might have been imagining it, but Raven swore he saw the faintest trace of a smirk, one that asked, who's the wife, now?

He took the hand without a word.

The gathering around the fire was quieter than it usually was that night; it always was when men were lost on the job. Over the quiet mumblings of the more experienced men, Raven heard the boy he'd trusted jabbering at another about how he'd have enough meat to get muscles like 'the big redhead', and how his nice wife was going to teach him letters so long as he let her fight. He barely noticed as Lucius pushed his own portion of salted beef onto his plate and sat next to him.

"You know," he said, after a few moments of staring into the fire, "I just didn't want – "

He was cut off by the boy plowing into his shoulder and slapping his back in a sad imitation of the camaraderie of the older men. "Hey, hey, I'll give you back half your meat if you teach me to fight! What do you say?"

Lucius looked on and answered his friend's unspoken words with only a smile and a shake of his head, before inching closer to the fire and turning his attention to his portion of dry biscuit and ale. Raven knew he needed to say no more.


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