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27 December 2010 @ 10:46 pm
 
Request by: dsanti_queza
Game: FE8
Characters: Seth/Eirika
Animal: white bird
Prompt: love letters and snow
Also on ffnet here


Nest



The snow is always a surprise. One night there's nothing, perhaps a bit of frosting on the grass, and then in the morning everything is blanketed in soft white drifts. The world is suddenly still. It's like love. One day there's just an inkling of it and the next it's full upon you and your heart bows like tree branches beneath the snow. Or at least that's how it was for me– don't laugh!

The castle hallways have gotten draughty. I wish you were here to keep me warm. But since you can't be, keep yourself warm and keep yourself safe. My duties are enough to fill the daylight hours but at night your chair is empty at the dining hall table and my arms are empty when I go to bed. If I weren't needed here, if Ephraim weren't still in Grado, I would go you. I would fly to you like the bird that returns always to its nest.


Eirika recounted some of the daily goings on in Castle Renais, the business that had kept her occupied of late, the expected visit from Tana and Innes, and then, when she had written all she could think of to say, she signed and sealed the letter.

Before leaving her room, she paused to remove the woolen shawl around her shoulders and replace it with a thick coat, trimmed with ermine. She tucked the letter into her coat so she would have it ready. She expected the messenger later today, a pegasus rider who would carry it northeast, a slight detour before her return to Frelia. She would be informed of the rider's arrival but in the meantime, Eirika pulled the collar of her coat more tightly around her neck and headed up to parapets.

High up as she was, the wind whipped her hair around her face and the cold gnawed at her cheeks, but still she paused to look out over the battlements. The fields beyond the castle walls were like linen sheets, stretching out as far as the eye could see. The snow made Renais beautiful again, hiding the scars left by the war, the ravaged farmlands and burned villages. It was like a wedding veil, disguising flaws beneath a gauze of white.

Eirika drew in a deep a breath of the frigid air and then turned back to make her way to one of the circular towers. She knew she should simply be patient, but patience had never been one of her especial virtues anyway.

#


"Eirika!"

Lost in her thoughts, Eirika was startled to hear her name. She spun to find Tana, bundled in coat, cloak, hat, and mittens, racing down the corridor towards her, much to the apparent disapproval of her attendants. "Tana, I wasn't informed that you'd arrived yet," Eirika said, as Tana hugged her tightly.

"We just got here. They're just showing us to our rooms. Were you outside? Your hands are like ice!"

"I– yes, I was– I had something to see to. But how are you, Tana? Did you travel well?"

Tana took Eirika's arm and walked with her through the draughty hallway, beaming, her cheeks rosy from the cold. "It was fine. I was bundled head to toe and hardly felt the cold and Achaeus doesn't feel it at all. I think Innes had a worse time of it – you know how he feels about riding pegasi."

Eirika's lips twitched. "He's not afraid of heights, is he?"

With a laugh, Tana shook her head. "No, it's more to do with his not being the one holding the reins. He did hold on to me rather tightly, though." There was a twinkle in Tana's eye that made Eirika certain that her friend had made the flight perhaps a little less smooth than it might otherwise have been. She had seen Tana and Achaeus fly many times during the war and had always been quite happy to have her own two feet on the ground. "I brought Syrene with me. She wouldn't admit it, but I know she's anxious to see Sir Kyle again."

And with that Tana heaved a sigh. Eirika gave her hand a squeeze. "Ephraim is fine. I had news of him just two days ago. Things are beginning to stabilize in Grado. The help from Frelia will make a huge difference getting them through the winter months."

"I'll make sure you get all the help we can give. Innes may be in charge of negotiating, but father will listen to me as well. But still... I– I miss seeing him every day like I did during the war." She shook herself and turned to look at Eirika, her eyes shining. "Is it wrong to feel that way? The war was terrible but..."

"I know." After all, had it not been for the war she and Seth might never have... She gave herself a shake; some things were not worth dwelling on.

"I don't mean to complain. Really. I know it must be hard for you. And I haven't seen you since the wedding so you have to tell me everything." Tana was almost skipping down the hall now, dragging Eirika along with her. "And I do mean, everything," she added with a wink.

And though she'd been married since the summer, Eirika felt her cheeks flush.

#

It took all of Eirika's force of will to focus on the negotiations with Innes and not ask him for news of Seth. The situation in Grado, ravaged by war and by the subsequent earthquake, had been grim when winter had set in. Ephraim's troops were doing what they could to restore order but Renais, war-ravaged itself, was in no position to provide relief supplies and was forced to turn to Frelia and Rausten for help.

Innes straightened in his seat and nodded curtly. "I shall bring the proposal to my father, but as he's fully authorized me in this matter, his seal of approval is only a formality." His voice sounded hollow in the cavernous meeting hall, with only the two of them there. Eirika wondered if it was her imagination that Innes seemed thinner than when she'd last seen him.

"Thank you," she said. "We're grateful for the support of Frelia in this urgent matter."

"I can see the wisdom of aiding Grado. Better to help them rebuild and earn their gratitude rather than ignore their plight and be faced with a resentful population when they do finally recover."

"I'm glad we're in agreement."

For a minute there was silence and Eirika gave up the hope that Innes would volunteer the information she wanted. Innes respected Seth's military prowess, but she had never been entirely certain if he approved of the match. Sometimes she had the impression that he took a dim view of the princess of Renais marrying below her rank.

"Innes?"

"Yes?"

Though her fingers were cold, her palms, as she clutched her hands together, were slick with sweat. "Have you any news of the campaign in the east? The last report I had was some three weeks past."

They had won war, defeated the Demon King, and destroyed the Dark Stone. No more monsters would be born of Darkling Woods, but as for those already spawned... The creatures had begun trickling down through the eastern mountains in the fall, not the hoards they had battled during the war, but more than the local population could handle. Ephraim had ordered Seth to the Renais border to flush them out and destroy them. He had gone with a detachment of elite troops from the war and several mages, Artur and Lute among them.

Innes steepled his hands on the table and seemed to consider the matter for a moment. "One of my pegasus knights reported back not a week ago. They said that steady progress was being made. And..." He cleared his throat. "And General Seth is well."

She couldn't help it; she smiled ear to ear at the news. "Thank you, Innes. I'm so glad to hear that."

He nodded again, aloof as always, and rose. Eirika rose as well and reached for her coat as they would have to cross the courtyard. As she was pulling it on, her letter fluttered to the floor. Innes noted it and bent to retrieve it for her, but as he did something fell from his own coat. A packet of letters scattered themselves over the floor as they escaped the silk ribbon that had bound them together. Innes appeared suddenly flushed as he snatched at the letters.

Innes did not meet her eyes. "I'll return your letter to you in a moment," he said, sorting through them looking for the one that bore her wax seal.

His letters were all open, ones he'd received then rather than ones yet to be delivered. She glimpsed an elegant script on one of them before he gathered it up, and as the paper fluttered, a scent wafted to her nostrils. "Perfume?" Eirika blurted.

"I apologise for this mess," he mumbled, still searching for her letter amid his own.

Eirika's lips twitched. "Innes... Tana didn't tell me you were courting someone."

He froze, his mop of pale hair hiding his eyes. "She doesn't know."

"Oh. I– I didn't mean to–"

"No," he cut in. "You must understand, it's nothing untoward, it's only that our positions..." He paused and sighed, shoulders slumping so that for a moment he looked so little like himself, the aloof archer, striking always from afar, keeping everything – and everyone, she sometimes thought – at arm's length. "Complicate matters," he finished.

"I'm sorry. I had no idea."

He looked at her for a moment and then sighed. "You see, it's L'Arachel." Eirika's mouth opened and no sound came out. His expression shifted from abashment to amusement. "Yes, you see the difficulty."

Eirika took a deep breath. "L'Arachel hinted in her last letter to me that she had a beau, but I never thought..."

"It would be an advantageous alliance for both our nations if only we could resolve matters in a way that would suit us both. L'Arachel insists that we would have to settle in Rausten, though she's clearly mistaken. She's so often away from Rausten in any case, it's only natural that she ought to come to Frelia."

Eirika's lips twitched. "So you're having difficulty deciding... where to nest?"

"Essentially, yes." Finally, he found her letter and held it out to her. "Well, Eirika..." He looked abashed as he gripped his own packet of letters. "I would appreciate your discretion in this matter until we can sort things out properly."

"Of course, Innes."

"You see, though, I do understand," he said, his voice, softer than she had ever heard it. "I understand what it is to be far from one you love."

And without another word he tucked the letters back into his coat and gestured for her to precede him out the door.

#


Renais had many towers, most built to repel attackers, but the one towards which Eirika walked was not one of these. The higher section of the tower was spotted by small, arched openings, and even before she reached its doorway, she could hear the cooing of the inhabitants. She brushed snowflakes out of her hair before stepping inside, glad to escape the harsh caress of the wind.

The inside of the tower's walls were covered in brick in which were gaps at regular intervals. Most of these gaps were occupied by the dovecote's resident pigeons. The birds cooed contentedly in their nests, unaware that a dozen or so would likely end up on tonight's dinner table. She peered through the masses of grey feathers for several minutes and finally sighed.

"So this is where you keep disappearing to."

Eirika spun to find Tana standing in the doorway, her cheeks rosy with the cold. "Tana..."

Tana glanced up warily at the timber structure and the brickwork before taking a step into the dovecot. "I've been wondering all week what you've been up to. But this..." She raised an eyebrow.

"I'm... waiting for something."

"Oh?"

"A letter."

"The stables are down in the courtyard," Tana said with a laugh.

Eirika smiled and did her best to explain.

#


She could still count the weeks since their wedding. She was still unused to the notion that they could be alone together without having to worry; no sideways glances, no gossip – after all what could be more dull than a happily married couple?

Watching him gather the last of his things, Eirika found that she could not take her eyes off him. The strong line of his jaw, the set of his shoulders, the way his brow crinkled as he paused to search for a missing item; for the first time in her life she was free to gaze at him openly and the novelty of it hadn't yet worn off. Yet her insides were knotted. He packed away his shaving blade, his comb.

Seth set down his travel pack when he caught her watching. He crossed the room to take her hands in his and bring them to his lips. "There's no need to worry so. It's only a handful of revenants. We faced far worse during the war."

"Yes, but during the war I was by your side when you fought them. It will be like when Ephraim was missing and I had no way of knowing if he was safe, if he was alive."

He stroked her cheek, smiling down at her. "I'll be fine, my love." His fingers tangled themselves in her hair and a thrill tickled through her, making her forget her worry if only for a few moments.

"Grab your bag and come with me," she said, holding out her hand. He slung his pack over his shoulder and clasped her hand. Together they made their way down to the castle courtyard where an attendant was waiting for her with a bell-shaped object in hand, covered by a grey cloth. She relieved the attendant of his burden and thanked him. "I have something for you."

Looking puzzled, Seth took it from her. He raised an eyebrow in question and only when she nodded did he draw away the cloth to reveal a bird cage in which cooed a white bird. It peered at him for a moment with one black eye before tucking its head under its wing. "A pigeon?"

"A carrier pigeon. Its nest and its mate are here in the castle dovecote so it will always return here. Like you." He smiled and she went on before he could reply, her eyes dropping to the cage in his hands. "I know you won't be able to send messages except when one of Frelia's pegasus riders pass through. And I know you could be away a long while. So please... as soon as you're finished and are heading back here, send me a message."

"The very moment, Eirika," he promised and then leaned in to kiss her.

#


While Eirika was telling her tale to Tana, they had to move away from the doorway to let the pigeons' keeper do his work. He climbed the tall ladder and began gathering eggs, much to the vocal annoyance of the birds. There was much flapping of wings, and tufts of grey down drifted in the air like snow.

"I know it's silly," Eirika said, "but I like to check myself. I keep hoping..."

"It's not silly," Tana assured. And then, after glancing up, "Well maybe it's a little silly, but I do understand." She squeezed Eirika's hand even as she laughed.

She looked up at the towering rows of nesting birds and thought of Innes and L'Arachel, writing back and forth, debating over the best place to roost. For a moment she could almost see them as one of the pairs of pigeons, alternately pecking at each other and cooing. Eirika was not sure they'd appreciate the comparison, but it brought a smile to her lips, chapped as they were by the cold air. She would tend Renais, tend their home, and wait for Seth to return to the nest they'd made here.

In the chill wind of that afternoon, the birds were inclined to remain in the dovecote and there were few comings and goings. Eirika happened to glance up in time to see a pale silhouette glide in through one of the arched openings high overhead and then settle in a nook only a few feet off the ground. The keeper noted the new arrival and moved down to its nest. He reached in with both hands and caught the bird, and it was only then that she realized that it was white.

"Milady, I think this might be the one you've been waiting for," the keeper said, clutching the bird against his chest while he used his other hand to unfasten the tiny cylinder tied to its left leg. Eirika took it, and with shaking hands opened it and unrolled the message.

"Eirika?" Tana said, her heart racing as she searched her friend's features.

Eirika looked up, smiling. "It says, 'I'm coming home.'"

The End

 
 
 
Queza De Santidsanti_queza on December 28th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
Eeeee~ Is this mine!? <333

It's so absolutely divine! <333 I love it so, so much! AND, it reminded me why I used to want my own carrier pigeon~ <3 Okay, now I want one again! XDD

In any case, I really loooooooooove how you portrayed Eirika and Seth here. There may not have been much direct interaction between them, but it's still lovely as ever! <3 And, the way you inserted Innes and L'Arachel - giggles. XP I can't say I fancy them together, but then again, I have yet to decide who to pair each of them with, so it's all okay.

In any case, thank you for sharing this lovely piece! <3

P.S. I'll tell you if ever I get a pigeon. XDD Ahahaha!

Kihana
wolfraven80: FE:TSS S/E Morningwolfraven80 on January 14th, 2011 01:11 am (UTC)
In all honesty I never know what to do with Innes or L'Arachel most of the time but they do have a paired ending and it somehow seemed to fit the theme so I tossed it in there.

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thank you!
shining_valor: Awesomenessshining_valor on December 28th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
Very good job! I like it vewy much. ^_~
wolfraven80: FE:TSS - S/E weddingwolfraven80 on January 14th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)