A Burden Carried | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 1600 (3 to 13 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers and Non-Graphic Violence | Characters: Edelgard, Hubert and Hubert’s Father

“You knew the cost when you made the choice,” his father spoke flatly, with no more interest than if he were discussing the price of Noa fruit. Forcibly straightened hair hung close to his neck and disappeared behind a tall collar. He loomed over the two of them even after Hubert’s latest growth spurt. Slices of sunlight broke up their journey through the secluded tower stairway, seemingly reluctant to touch the repugnant excuse for a human being at the head of their procession.

Rupert von Vestra led him by the forearm to the uppermost floor. For once, he was compliant. Any fight Hubert put up now would only distress Lady Edelgard further.

In less than ten short years, the man before him would be a mangled corpse as he deserved and Emperor Ionius IX would carry out her coronation.

Whatever occurred in the meantime was nothing.

Despite her smaller stride, she kept pace with them as her voice echoed through the stairwell. Already, she had a commanding tone suitable of her leadership capacity.

“I’m the one who took the axe to it,” she insisted, and he could guess what she referred to. Some contraption of their unwanted guests, no doubt. Edelgard was no longer confined to the basement of the Enbarr palace, but she knew the general whereabouts of the devices that claimed the lives and sanity of her siblings. How could she be expected not to destroy them? “The punishment is mine to bear.”

“That was not the agreement,” Lord Vestra reminded her, shoving Hubert towards the heavy wooden door at the far side of the landing.

“Because I never agreed to this.” She made an excellent point in the awareness that it fell on deaf ears. Rupert had chosen ignorance and oppression at the Insurrection. He was not moved by his conscience to make the correct choice before the Hresvelgs perished due to his betrayal, and her argument would not sway him now.

Hubert gripped the pitted ring handle and twisted it to open the door in an overwrought routine. This was not his father’s preferred training chamber, although he’d seen it on several occasions. The devices and tools within were no mystery. As such, what was there to fear? His arm ached with an outline of the elder Vestra’s hand while Hubert led them into the room. Without another choice, Edelgard joined them.

The door sat open behind her. At this distance from the main castle, no one would hear what was to come. None but who was intended to witness this all along. Her hardened blue eyes rested on Hubert at last, and those bangs washed white by experimentation framed her knowing gaze.

“You were warned.” His father carried on in the indifference of a man who did not realize or acknowledge that his every act brought him only closer to an agonizing end. His gloved hand closed around the cane in complete ignorance of Hubert’s own machinations. Ones that would far exceed the treachery he crafted with the Prime Minister Ludwig.

“Those are not the same!” Edelgard attempted again to force him to reason, more willing than Hubert was to believe the capacity for that still existed in his predecessor.

“It’s quite alright, Lady Edelgard.” Hubert turned to her with a measured bow. Let Rupert see his resolve and integrity in service to the person he cared about. That would be all the warning he would get of a fate carefully crafted over the course of years. “You’ll find my father is entirely incapable of refraining from targeting those who are unable to defend themselves as of yet.”

The horror that compressed Hubert’s chest when he heard of Lady Edelgard being taken to Fhirdiad was a fraction of what his father would suffer. The ferocity with which he fought the soldiers sent to reclaim Hubert was a mere fragment of what would be brought to bear on this man. He who escorted no less than ten Hresvelg descendants to the grave and readied an early one for the sole survivor… He would know pain beyond description.

“I will add that insolence to your punishment.”

Savage delight took root in his chest so acutely that Hubert did almost grin. A caning was punishment from the uninventive and short-sighted. Oh, how Rupert would yearn for something so innocent. He straightened himself to stare through the fetid wretch he once called father.

“Such is your nature.”

As with all oppressors, he did not even attempt to meet Hubert where he might win. There would be no answer to his cutting mockery. A firm hand shoved him to his knees. He’d barely been there a moment before the first blow struck, signaled by a whipping sound as the thin cane came down.

“Stop! Stop this instant,” Edelgard ordered from where she stood. Good. If she used violence to stop Rupert, she would surely succeed. A fragile ego like his would interpret that as a slight, not the obvious evidence of his ineptitude it truly was.

He did not count. Knowing the quantity had a magnifying effect and, at his lowest, imbued false hope of a finite end to the cruelty. Hubert knew better than to anticipate a limit to what his father might do. He would not be foolish enough to be twice deceived by someone so contemptible. Distantly, the whipping sound blurred with the ringing in his ears. The shallow disassociation he mustered served him well. Hubert could hear his surroundings, in case Rupert revealed something valuable during the beating. The marks already forming under his shirt were far away, however. They did little more than tingle in his willfully removed state of mind.

And when the cane clattered to the stone table, full awareness rushed back to greet Hubert. Its claws dug into his back, raw and aching, but he could not afford to miss anything that may prove useful against Rupert and his inhuman allegiances. His head spun while he breathed through his nose to trick his body into remaining steady and sure. If he were reeling like he felt he was, the beating would have resumed for his display of weakness unfit for a royal guardian and agent of House Vestra.

“Clean up after your lady.” The command from Lord Vestra was cold and empty. Delivered by an imitation of a leader, one who was used to being obeyed by habit as opposed to merit. Furthermore, it was wholly useless. Every Vestra knew that when they were penalized on behalf of their sworn leader, they would also be tasked with restoring the chambers for its next use. Wipe up blood, remove stains, return tools to their proper place, and leave it perfect in every aspect—or risk returning for a repetition of the prior visit.

He was in no rush to respond. As the taut silence drew out, Hubert deigned to offer him yet another thinly veiled promise.

“You may count on it.”

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Holmes Institute: Legacy (Short Story)

Modern • Academy • Drama


Being one of the top students at Holmes Institute involves more responsibilities than Jasper Madero really wants. Luckily, she’s pretty clever and can slip out of those with only a little fuss. Her friends want to help smooth things over, and her school’s founder just wants her to live up to her potential. She gets that. She just really wishes she didn’t. 

Words: 1200 (2 to 10 minutes) | Content Notes: swearing | Patron-Only WIP | Also on Royal Road

Sneaking back home from Watson Hall was the first step to comfy clothes. Jasper would rather be in the era-inspired commons, flopped sideways on the carved sofa with her legs over the arm, than standing backstage in a suit. Getting stared at by an ocean of donors in their stuffy outfits with deep pockets—that Verity Holmes wanted a piece of—wasn’t Jasper’s idea of a top tier Friday night. And what did she need an award for anyway? To prove she was smart? That’s what the grades were for.

Jasper didn’t regret the decision once the bus dropped her off, and she didn’t by the time Darius got back with the other two best students either. The only thing she wished she’d done differently was bring the remote closer for when Netflix asked if she was still watching.

Min and Everitt came to find her first, which she figured gave her about 15 minutes before Miss Holmes stopped lecturing Darius by the door and marched into the living room to sort Jasper out. They stood in the open archway with their dumb starry glass trophies, plus one for her. Poor souls were still in their show gear to be paraded about. Never bothered them, though. Everitt thrived in his perpetual state of being dressed like an inclusivity model for Ralph Lauren, and Min barely needed a reason to make new clothes. Biggest differences were that he took out his ‘lucky bowtie’ for special events and she put her ethereally straight hair into a ponytail.

“So,” she deadpanned, “was it lit?”

“Miss Verity delivered an exceptional speech,” Everitt chose to describe how lit it wasn’t. Jasper just sighed. She couldn’t roll her eyes, or he’d mope for days when he took that personally. “And she awarded us with these.”

He presented her with a smoked glass trophy, aka an expensive rectangle with her name engraved on a silver plaque at the bottom. They changed the trophy style each year but kept it as pointless as ever.

“Huh.” Jasper pointed to the trash next to the redwood archway. “There.”

Everitt gasped, clutching the trophy against his sweater vest like she suggested throwing out a baby. “But you earned this! Take more pride in your intellect.”

Min held her hand out for it instead, and he recovered from his shock with a smile as he passed it off. They always made quite the duo from the first day they met at the academy. His curly hair failed to make her height over him less obvious. She had three piercings in each ear and two in one eyebrow while he had those academia rectangle glasses. And Everitt made more than enough chatter for both of them.

“I’ll put it on the reptile shelf,” Min informed Jasper. That’s what she called the collection of figures Jasper’d picked up over the years. Personal pets weren’t allowed at HI—just the community cat. Min tucked the trophy-baby in the crook of her arm with her own Smart Kid award and pulled her ponytail in front of her shoulder. “You should’ve stayed.”

“Waste two hours and then some so the donors can feel fuzzy warm?” Jasper sat up and gave them a forced smile. “Hard pass.”

“Miss Verity was upset.”

“Oh, goodness me,” she answered Everitt, holding a hand to her mouth in fake shock. “Vera, upset? Like her usual? Or—” She pulled out an exaggerated tight smile, nowhere near the PR-approved expression the newest Holmes descendent had on hand. The important part was Jasper got him to hide a snicker behind a hand. The worried pout look was getting old. “Okay, so that one. Don’t care either way.”

Didn’t need to be a genius detective to solve the mystery of whose grumpy footsteps were coming around the corner. The heels on hardwood signaled the approach of one irritated Verity Holmes, if her friends looking at her like she had a terminal diagnosis wasn’t hint enough. Jasper had just enough time to flop back on the couch before she manifested behind them.

She kept a careful neutrality when she glanced from Min to Everitt, stormy sea eyes searching for weakness. Even her hair was made to appeal to anyone with stylish waves ending in a harsh, even cut right at her jawline. Just add smokey cat eye makeup for your very own organic bitch.

“I need a moment with Miss Jasper.”

“But of course,” Everitt chimed, eyebrows still furrowed as he smiled and followed Min upstairs. She wondered for a second if Verity would care if the award took her place. Jasper didn’t want to be there then either. With her hands clasped in front of her ombre sweater, the school’s founder waited for her good students to be out of earshot.

“Every opportunity you have, and for every student in these walls,” Verity explained for the hundredth time, hoping it might stick, “is due to these donors. You have an obligation to—”

“Why did they give us money if they don’t want to? Why do they need to see us?”

“Because they want to see their charitable deed paying off, Jasper, and,” she cut off Jasper’s next reply, jabbing a manicured nail in her direction. “There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is compromising those donations because you want to sit around and do nothing.”

“What’s wrong,” Jasper corrected her, because someone had to, “is taking back donations because you didn’t get something from it! Donating is literally giving things away for nothing.” She shrugged and looked up at the vintage-style cream ceiling. “That’s the point.”

“Jasper!” Verity closed her eyes, taking a bracing breath and giving Jasper a precious window to stick her tongue out. “You have talent. You are smart, determined, and clever.” Having a seat on the light grey reading chair she usually occupied in the promotional material for the school, Vera leaned forward. “But none of that will make you exempt from doing things you don’t want to do or understand the purpose of.”

“What, like you living off the legacy of your dead great-great-whatever?” The way her jaw locked, Jasper realized she hit home with that. Too close, probably, but there was no stopping now. She grinned and rested her hands behind her head to get a better look at that ‘don’t you dare’ glower. “Bet you had job offers in the womb just because you had alleles in common with the great Sherlock Holmes.”

Vera stood, brushing invisible lint from her pencil skirt before folding her hands in front of her one last time.

Resting bitch pose. Although Jasper knew just what she did to deserve it, and she could bank on Darius pulling her aside before breakfast to talk about it.

“Report to Miss Hawthorne in the morning for your volunteer schedule.”

Jam Notes

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Braig from Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep

Steer Us Wrong Every Time | KH Fanfiction

Word count: 1500 (3 to 12 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Kingdom Hearts Spoilers | Characters: Braig, Dilan, Luxu

Kids weren’t supposed to sit on the fence, or so said all the bossy grown-ups at the orphanage. But Braig was 14, not a lame 5-year-old. So he swung his feet from the top of the stone fence, resting back on his hands. They were still scratched up from his last nasty fall, but that’s how he got to be so tough. Not everyone could be born built like a rock like Dilan.

“You’re going to be in trouble,” Dilan said from the ground, back turned to the fence as he kept an eye out. For the adults, probably. He wasn’t going to stop Braig or encourage him, but he’d dreamt of being a guard since they met as kids in the orphanage… So why not get a head start on his guarding skills by being lookout for his dumbass friend?

“Only if you tell,” Braig corrected him, turning to lie on his back. Perfect, fluffy white clouds drifted over Radiant Garden like they did on most days. What a beautiful paradise. He scoffed at his own thought, rolling his eyes. Yeah, right. If you had connections, anywhere was a paradise. But the little guys like wannabe guards and problem orphans? Nah, they had to work twice as hard to get half as much, and the hot shots took a cut on top of that most of the time anyway.

“Or if they look.” He glared over his shoulder and Braig answered that by sticking his tongue out. What a killjoy, with his common sense and logical talk.

“Whatever.” Braig sat up, planning his jump down to put poor, fragile Dilan at ease. That’s when he felt it. Suddenly, he got hit with this loneliness that usually crept up on him between 2am and 5am, but sharper. With an edge. Ambition, maybe? No, it was hungrier than that. Desperate, almost. He wasn’t a deep thinker when it came to hearts, but… He scrunched up his face, trying to track this weird feeling down.

“What is it?” His friend’s expression had softened to neutrality, a sure sign he was worried. Dilan practiced his resting bitch face, and when it dropped, that was when he meant business. Braig turned away from his friend, staring out ahead at the sun-kissed horizon painters dreamed of.

“Remember that book I told ya about?”

Just from the scoff he got, Braig could tell his RBF was back. “The one you weren’t supposed to read at the castle library trip you weren’t supposed to go on?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he rushed out, waving off the moral concerns he’d had enough of already. What he had to say was way better. “I think it’s got to do with hearts connected across a shared sky or whatever.”

“Someone out there?” He was surprised, sure, but he believed him—of course he did. Dilan always took Braig at his word when it really counted, the poor idiot. He looked down the path to town like he could see a heart waltzing up the lane. “From another world?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.” What were the next steps again? The book was wildly unhelpful. Just said to reach out or something, and he couldn’t believe he was really going to try this—but hey, what’d he have to lose? He took a breath and closed his eyes, chasing that thread of biting loneliness…

Coming to in a dark place where the only light was the stained-glass circle window under his feet. Not the safest structure, so it sure was lucky for him it wasn’t even real. Braig walked to the center, looking around for some reason to be here and hoping he didn’t fall off the fence in the real world for nothing. He lifted a foot and tilted his head to realize he saw Dilan’s face in the pattern of the glass. Beautiful bastard.

“I sensed you,” a voice echoed from above. Or below. Next to him? Braig whipped around, eyes peeled to see someone in the dark. But no, not a soul there but him. “In the dark, I found you.”

“Creepy,” Braig said, wondering where in the book it was gonna mention voices from nowhere. Maybe he’d’ve gotten there if that stingy Even guy didn’t yank it out of his hands and squawk at him about trespassing. “Who’re you?”

There was a pause before the reply, maybe some kind of darkness deal. Or maybe the voice was a jerk.

“Luxu,” the guy answered. “It was your heart that led me here. I was in danger, so… Thanks for the save.”

“Yeah.” Braig relaxed, and he could’ve sworn the light shining from the stained glass got warmer. Was this supposed to be his brainscape or something? He rolled his eyes at the idea. How lame.

“Mind if I take shelter here for a while?” Luxu sounded hopeful and familiar, like they’d been friends for ages. He really had to be desperate. “I have a mission to complete, and the danger hasn’t passed.”

“A mission?” Braig sneered, spinning on his heel to turn away from the voice—he thought. Hard to place a formless sound in the dark. “Look, I’m not signing up for anything ‘til I know what’s in the contract.”

The laugh from Luxu was quiet and not exactly… Bright. “Of course. I’d do the same.” The shadows shifted outside of what the platform’s light could reach, or maybe he imagined it did. Scary as hell either way. Braig tried to watch for it again and keep track of the motion. “My master needs help to see his mission through. Thousands of years ago, he trusted me to watch for the right time to finish the prophecy he foresaw.”

“But I was betrayed.” If he was spiteful about that, it didn’t sound like it. Cool as can be, like he was making small talk. Braig figured from there that Luxu ran into that particular snag more times than he could count. To him, all this was just a Tuesday. “And now I’m missing a key piece. After waiting so long, I would hate to disappoint my master.”

This master business was weird as hell. The only one he knew was Master Ansem—Ansem the Wise—and the Keybearers that carried the title around. Like it mattered to anyone without one of those special weapons. “So, you’re an apprentice? Man, your boss didn’t even give you a good title before he started pushing his work off on you?”

Silence carried on for a beat again. Maybe Luxu was slow in the head.

“This is my trial, actually. To prove myself. So. What do you say?”

Braig glanced over the stained glass again, curious to get a closer look and wondering what Luxu would even do in here. “What’s in it for me? This looks like a pretty important place, kinda fragile, and I’m not gunning for let some random guy in for free.”

There was that laugh again—it was light, but chilling all at once. He’d sooner bite his tongue off than say it, though.

“My master would like you. When his plan is complete, I’m sure he would be willing to pass a Keyblade on to you.”

Braig had to let that one sink in. He was quick on the uptake, usually, but this was something he didn’t even think they could do. Greedy Keyblade wielders kept the rules of their special, one-of-a-kind weapons close to their hearts.

“That even possible?”

“For one with a strong enough heart,” he explained patiently. “I found yours even in the abyss of darkness, so I’m confident you could. Having me here could be enough to tip the scales too. It wouldn’t be the first time,” he admitted. And Braig had to say, there was something fishy going on here. Luxu had to know the power of what he was putting on the table, but he wasn’t acting like it was a big deal to take seriously. Not like the somber, duty-driven Keyslingers back home.

But this practically fell in his lap. He had Luxu at a disadvantage too. Not like he could just hop into any heart, they had to reach out. Braig was his only option, and he wasn’t going to risk him. If Luxu tried anything funny, this wasn’t even his heart to call the shots in. One of the books in the castle would have to say something on evicting people from your heart if it came to that. What Braig knew for sure was that he’d never come across another chance like this. He could be nothing and nobody while Dilan lived it up as a guard someday, or he could be a Keybearer.

“Ah, what the hell, why not?” He shrugged, a smug grin on his face. “You think you can get something out of this shitshow to get your fancy title, go for it. Just remember I did you a favor.”

He got one last cold, joyless chuckle from Luxu. Had to give Braig a sinking feeling for the road.

“Thanks, Braig. I will.”

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