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[personal profile] asherien
Title: Leonidas the Whatever
Genre: gen, family
Fandom: Fire Emblem 6/7
Characters/pairings: Erk, Pent/Louise, Klein, Clarine, mention of Canas.
Summary/prompt: Erk learns of things that books cannot contain. [profile] fe_exchange, gift fic for [personal profile] sarajayechan, Valentine's Day 2011.

"To say that dark and light magic are at all times diametrically opposed, despite the contradictory nature of their arbitrary monikers, is to simplify a matter than cannot be so easily put into words. While of course there are records of practicioners of dark magic whose deeds have brought shame to the ancient practice of shamans (see chapter fourteen, section three, on Leonidas the Mad and chapter eighteen, section nine on Garnephius the Shadowed for full indexes of mages believed to have dishonored the profession), the same is true of all forms of magical practice, even those tied to the divine. Indeed, it is not the nature of magical practice which causes what men deem "evil", but the intentions of the mage himself. . . ."

Erk had probably reread the paragraph fourteen times, but the words simply didn't seem to sink in. Perhaps it was the subject matter, or the fact that he'd never even heard of the author, but for once, he found himself. . . disinterested. He had promised he would read it over seven years previous, when a fellow scholar had pressed it into his hands at the end of the conflict with Nergal. "You are a fellow lover of knowledge, aren't you? And a student of Lord Pent! Please, accept this; I do not wish for the deeds of Nergal to taint any desire you have for knowledge of ancient magic." But it had sat, untouched, on his shelf, until Pent had come home from a trip with word that the awkward scholar and his wife were both dead.
Erk found his fingers trembling as they danced across the yellowed pages and thumbed back to the section regarding Leonidas the Mad – of whom he could recall nothing, save that he was, well, mad. "It was unexpected," he recalled Pent telling him, less for his own sake, he knew, than for his lord's own. "He was not much older than I am. He had a son, Erk, only a few years Klein's senior. I. . . what if I. . . ."

Erk knew well the silence that followed Pent's words, the struggle to find something, anything more to say, but he did not know how to soothe the shake in his hands or the distant stare on his face. Even now, as the sunlight crept through his dust-lined window and traced his shadow across the rug (imported from the Western Isles, he recalled Louise noting once), Erk could not find the words himself.

He found instead the words of the sad tale of Leonidas the Mad, but the attempt lasted only for a moment before something – someone? – latched onto his leg.
"Aha! I have you now, evil magician!"

He looked down and arched an eyebrow at the head of golden hair that had plowed into his thigh in a headbutt. "Ah. . . my lord Klein?" As odd as it felt to refer to a seven-year-old child as "my lord", it was a habit Erk could not break, despite all of Pent and Louise's efforts.

"Not Lord Klein – Sir Klein! Knight of Etruria! Defender of Prince Mildain! Prepare yourself!"

Erk barely noticed the way Klein struggled slightly to pronounce "Etruria", or the way "Mildain" sounded more like "Millain". He reluctantly pushed the tome to the back of the desk, along with thoughts of fatherless children and the sight of his tutor looking too pale, too shaken for someone so strong. He gave a slight shake of his head and noted quietly, "I. . . am not an evil magician." Unless that Garnephius fellow had rubbed off on him more than he'd expected after re-reading the chapter seven times. He rather hoped it wasn't the case.

"That's what they all say," Klein huffed, before scampering back and making a grand gesture with what appeared to be a stick. Erk could only be thankful that Klein's mother did not allow him to bring his bow into the house. "I have already rescued the prince, you fiend! Now, surrender! Or pay with your life!" Waving his "sword" like that, with playful ferocity in his eyes, Klein, more than ever, resembled his mother. For a moment, Erk wondered if Pent minded.

"Kleeeeeiiiiin," came a whine from the hallway, as Clarine shuffled after her older brother. "Why can't I be a princess? Princes are boys. And boys are ugly." Erk couldn't help but think that Clarine might change her opinion should she ever meet her prince.

The boy gave an exaggerated sigh and rolled his eyes, one thing, at least, he'd picked up from his father. "Clar-ine. Etruria doesn't have any princesses!"
"But I wanna be a princess!"

Klein opened his mouth to raise another objection, but fell silent at the appearance of a tall, trim figure in the doorway, bending down to scoop Clarine into its arms. "Clarine, darling, you will always be my princess."

Clarine let out a squeal of delight at her father's proclamation, and Erk managed to surpress a sigh of relief. In the fading sunlight, with his daughter in his arms, there was none of the terror Erk had spied on Pent's pale face, none of the slight quiver in his hands.

"Klein," Pent said, with the same quiet sternness he always used when he reminded Erk not to push himself too far. The reminders were still needed, for different reasons now, a fact that brought on more shame than perhaps it should. "How many times have you been told to stay out of the study?" It was a rule that had been established only after the fourth time Pent had come home to discover forts made from his books with Klein squatting within, "defending the castle", Erk recalled.

"But Father – "

"No but Father. You know better. Now. Take your sister and go put that stick away – outside." Pent bent down to place Clarine on the floor again. With a tiny sigh of protest – a habit from his mother – Klein grabbed her hand and walked out, leaving silence in his wake.

Erk's fingers crept back to the tome at the edge of the desk, ignorant of the slow approach of his mentor until, again, he spoke.

"Hardly your usual fare, is it?"

He looked up and again saw weariness in Pent's eyes, the faintest streaks of white hair standing out in the sunlight. "Ah. . . well. . . I've had it this long, I thought I should give it a try. . . ."

Whether it was a smirk or a smile that flickered across his mentor's face, Erk could not tell, but it was a smile that lingered in the words he heard next. "As trite as it may sound, if there is anything this has taught me," Pent began, before stopping for a moment to glance out the window, watching two blonde heads bobbing out into the fields around Castle Reglay, "it is that life is too short to waste on useless efforts. Elimine knows, if he came back today, he would not say 'I wish I had read more', would he?"

Erk said nothing. He could not imagine the words of a man he'd barely spoken with, but he supposed it was true. There wasn't a book that could capture the warmth that filtered through his window, or the light that caught in his mentor's hair and splayed across his dust-streaked desk.

"I think you know the answer to that." For just a moment, Pent's hand rested on Erk's shoulder, and this time, his smile was plain to see. "Keep that in mind. And. . . please, join us for dinner tonight, for a change."

As Pent turned to leave, Erk gave the tome one last passing glance. A simple scholar, an evil magician, a son, even, he could be, but he needed Leonidas the whatever-he-was for none of those things. He would do well enough on his own.


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