You Will Live Ch. 3: Rhea | Ferdibert FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2600 (6 to 21 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Ferdinand, Hubert, Caspar, Catherine, Rhea, Seteth, Flayn, and Byleth

Read the previous chapter.

The secret underground halls of Enbarr’s capital were more a home to Hubert than his own quarters, but he was unused to having company when he travelled them. Caspar and Ferdinand flanked him in a spear formation as Catherine stood a wary distance behind them—not so close as to be attacked, but not so far as to be separated. She summoned Seteth, Flayn, and the professor before they descended, and so they walked behind her as well. It was convenient for his goals to have so many witness his compliance with their wishes, but still unusual for Hubert regardless.

The narrow confines of the passage and worn floor muffled their footsteps, and the hiss of the professor’s fire spells lighting wall-mounted torches added a smoky tinge to the earthy scent permeating the tunnels. The air was tight with anticipation and words unsaid, but even Ferdinand and Caspar remained silent as they pressed on.

For the most part.

“Okay, well…” Caspar began, rolling his shoulders and keeping his voice down by his standards. Words meant only for the former Black Eagles, then. “Catherine definitely crossed a line.”

So he didn’t want his role model to hear he didn’t approve of her conduct earlier. Upon finding that the energy to sneer escaped him, Hubert left his expression flat and disinterested.

“She cannot hear you, Caspar. It means as little to her as it does to me.”

The potential double meaning struck him as a sudden plunge into icy water: she as in Catherine or Lady Edelgard? The wounded quietude that followed, with Caspar sulking to one side while Ferdinand gave him a warning look on the other, was worse than being yelled at, hated, or feared. Anything was preferable to this coddling sympathy like a blanket smothering him.

Worse, Hubert was all too aware that his mental state was alternating between precarious and detached without warning. Years had passed since he was away from Her Majesty for an extended period of time, and now it would be for the rest of his days—however long that proved to be. This was unmapped territory Hubert hoped to never acquaint himself with.

He stopped short by a dark area of the passage, and the nearest torch flared to life to reveal the recessed door he sought: humble, pitted, but effective. The iron across the wooden slats bore sigils that, if focused on for too long, would appear to shift. Resting a hand on them would reveal that they were as motionless as the door itself, but the illusion would remain.

“The archbishop,” he exhaled, feeling somewhat winded from the walk so soon after his near-death recovery, “is residing here.”

“Rhea!” Seteth brushed past him first with more urgency than malice, pulling the door open seconds after Hubert lowered the protective spells on it.

Catherine was on his heels, her expression set into a scowl as her eyes betrayed her worries. Next came Flayn, whose pace and gaze lingered by Hubert, wide with fear and sympathy in equal measure. For a non-human entity, she was remarkably emotional. Once she concluded her business staring at the prisoner, Flayn followed into the chambers that held Rhea.

Odd, how he had come to this cell as a warden for years and in one night, the opposite was true. Such was the power in the wicked tides of war, he supposed.

Next came the professor. Her expressiveness was always rather limited, but her unpredictable nature with something looming underneath had all but vanished. Her eyebrows drew together ever so slightly in the dark as she looked at him or perhaps through him. A firm hand on his shoulder carried with it a healing spell, and she left to Rhea’s side as well.

Hubert glared at the ground, enduring a sickening pitch to his stomach as the faith magic stitched together any reopened injuries. The residual soreness remained untouched, naturally. But why did mercy always tear into him worse than overt resentment? The floor certainly didn’t have the answers or anything to get him closer to the next steps for his orders. To move towards laying Her Majesty’s soul to rest, Hubert required an audience with King Dimitri.

“Hubert?” Ferdinand implored for an explanation to his stillness or grimace, maybe. It hardly mattered.

“They have who they came for.” Hubert gave him a fleeting glance, turning back the way they came with a hand to brace him against the wall. “I need a word with His Highness.”

“Hold on,” Caspar interrupted, putting an arm out in front of Hubert and standing his ground in the face of the withering look he earned for his efforts. “Shouldn’t you rest or something?”

“I will get my rest when I meet my end.” Were he in better condition, he may have pushed past Caspar to begin travelling back to the main levels of the Imperial castle. Instead, he stood between Ferdinand and Caspar with no means of forging ahead despite his limitations.

“There is no need to rush, Hubert.” Ferdinand’s hand against his upper back was an insult, as if he could not support himself on his own. Hubert’s own hand steadying him against the wall was beside the point. “You can have a short break here before we return to the great hall to avoid jeopardizing your recovery.”

“Hubert? Is that Hubert?” Rhea’s voice was thin and raspy with disuse—she had long since given up trying to provoke Hubert and passed the majority of his visits without a word—but still, he recognized her as she spoke from within her chambers.

He wanted nothing to do with her. Hubert had important matters to attend to for Her Majesty, and listening to this morally devoid, inhuman beast preach about his part in their path was not beneficial to his ends whatsoever. Worse, Hubert could not predict how he might react in this state of mind and he had to act carefully if he was going to secure the alliance necessary to see Her Majesty’s plan through.

“Hubert.” The quickening pulse of his heart, cornered and defensive, quelled somewhat at the sound of Byleth’s voice. Prodding, but not forceful, her tone was a reassurance that he may enter and know it would not be the callous slaughter it was almost guaranteed to be if Rhea faced him with solely her followers present.

He sighed through his nose, eyes falling shut as he gathered himself. Turning again and brushing Ferdinand’s hand from his path to the open doorway, Hubert answered. “It is.”

He stepped inside and lingered just past the entrance. The room was not the lavish palace she was no doubt used to and indeed, preferred, but it was hardly a prison cell. The bed had fresh linens and a patterned duvet to ward out the chill of the undercroft and give a semblance of hominess to the quarters.

Her Majesty’s orders, of course. While she resented Rhea’s brutal rule over Fódlan, Lady Edelgard had also spent an immeasurable time in a bleak, unfurnished cell as her siblings fell to death or madness from Crest experimentation. She could not bring herself to allow anyone else to suffer in such conditions.

And so, more decorations made their way into Rhea’s chambers. If she disliked them or plainly destroyed them, Hubert acquired others to replace them—even a specific landscape painting at request. When she asked that they be changed with the season, he honored that. There was a rotating selection of books as well, a modest vanity, and fresh flowers delivered every week.

These gestures did not make her comfortable in her imprisonment by any consideration, but Her Majesty at least did offer better living arrangements than she would have received if the roles were reversed.

“I see you have been weakened by the battle.” Her mouth in a thin line, Rhea attempted to pin him with a cold stare. Where that failed, she reached for statements of fact delivered as accusations. “You withheld food during my imprisonment. I was brought only one meal a day.”

The reactions to that were mixed, some turning their attention to him for denial and finding none, and others accepting this knowledge immediately for the purpose of deepening their rage with him.

At last, Rhea found success with a practiced look of remorseful sympathy one might see on the canvas of a novice painter: aesthetically correct, but barren of any true emotion. “What lies did that wicked girl feed you?”

He shuddered from the sheer offense of it all, that condescending question piercing him like a well-aimed cast of Fimbulvetr. Hubert heard the waver in his voice as if it were someone else’s. While rage contributed to it, that was not all, and he was not alone in his awareness of that.

“I swore my life to Lady Edelgard, and the loss of Her Majesty pains me beyond description. Knowing that as you must, you would slander her name and belittle her sacrifice on the very day of her death,” he returned her list of truthful allegations and cared not a whit if anyone present believed him. Hubert clenched his fists and did what he could to suppress the enraged trembling that threatened his stability.

“After such a blatant display of cruelty, who here can truly be called wicked?” He had said more than he should, but with no sense to stop himself, Hubert continued. “That you can even accuse her of deceit from your position of power within a false religion is further evidence that you are as monstrous as they come.”

Catherine came forward and shouted at Hubert as he apparently so wanted to hear. “You starved her—”

Think for once in your cursed life. We had to weaken her for our safety.” Here, Hubert was at ease. Let them argue and debate with him; he could volley back their criticisms for ages. “We couldn’t very well have the Immaculate One manifest in the undercroft.”

That got their attention. To her credit, Catherine only showed a brief lapse in blind faith before her dogma reasserted itself in a watchful frown. Flayn and Seteth’s shared concern behind Rhea’s back was far more telling and suggested that Hubert was correct to believe their confidence in Rhea had been badly shaken.

“Do you think for a moment that she would spare a thought to the innocents within our walls? The serving staff? Their children?” The frigid edge came back to Hubert’s voice, his trademark disdain taking hold of his expression on its own. He hadn’t expected to be soothed by its familiarity rather than thrilled at a point well made. “To defend them from her indifferent hostility, yes, I decided to ration Rhea’s meals. Consider what may have happened to her had we turned her over to our mutual enemy as they demanded.”

His resentment cooled to a logical contempt while the present supporters of the Church responded with varying degrees of offense—with Catherine as the most and Byleth as the least. Each piece acted as a balm to the internal unrest he’d suffered through so far. Better still, that outburst served as part of the plan, since his last sentence would get the more analytical among them considering the context.

“What enemy is this?” Byleth, focused as ever, spoke before the more irate of her peers could make fools of themselves.

“The threat that slithers in the dark.” Strange, how explanations asked for more of his attention when he was unable to gesture. He thought little of his habit of crossing his arms or putting his hand to his chin before being kept in cuffs. “Rhea will know them well from her kind’s history. This opponent resents their people and all who live above ground—but I will not say another word without His Highness. Even as the victors, you don’t have the luxury of forcing me to repeat myself.”

“You really think you get to make demands?” Catherine must have missed Rhea profoundly to be so eager to come to her defense at every chance. Jealous of the professor, perhaps? An interesting consideration to file away for later review.

“Alright, Catherine, cut it out.” Caspar, of all people, stepped between Hubert and Catherine. At that distance, his marked increase in height over the past five years was rather notable. “Hubert’s one of us.”

“Well said, Caspar!” With how Ferdinand replied, one might believe Caspar had made an especially keen observation rather than a mostly inaccurate statement. Hubert had been their classmate years ago, but few of them took the side of Lady Edelgard in the war against the Church of Seiros. Those that did, later left to join their enemy.

And yet, they came to his defense of their own will when the odds were against him worse than ever. Hubert could not help but wonder what Her Majesty would think of this display. Would she be moved by their unwavering faith in Hubert? Or would she be disappointed that a part of him, however small and vulnerable, wanted to believe in their fealty once again?

He knew the answer. She gave it to him with her last breaths for occasions such as this. It did not make trusting them any easier. As a poor substitute, Hubert permitted them to speak on his behalf.

“I sympathize with Rhea’s suffering, of course, but Hubert is an ally of ours.” Ferdinand paused to consider his claim, wisely making a minor addendum with as much certainty and sincerity as any other proclamation the would-be Prime Minister might make. “Formerly, that much is true. But this room is hardly designed for torment and neglect. I have faith that he would not resort to rationing unless he felt it was absolutely necessary just as he described. We should grant him an audience to make his case.”

Hubert’s attention fell once more to the floor at the unsolicited rush of pride at being held in such esteem, made even more treasured by its moderation. Ferdinand had taken the side of the enemy against Her Majesty, but that sentence alone assured Hubert that it was done with a heavy heart. That fact was supported by Ferdinand’s forced calm at the gates of Enbarr as well.

If he could understand Hubert’s perspective in this even now, then perhaps…

“Seriously, you’re going to defend this lapdog over—”

“Catherine, please.” Rhea interceded, her elegant arm extended to crush the argument before it began. “It is alright. As the victors, we can allow him the mercy his lost soul could not provide.”

Hubert scoffed, rolling his eyes at the heavy-handed distortion of his prior cutting remark. Having to contend with the endless drivel from Rhea rather than deposing her would be among the more difficult aspects of complying with Her Majesty’s hopes for Hubert’s future.

“Hearing the same report at once will keep us on the same page,” Byleth steered the conversation to more practical matters. “I’ll call a meeting in the war room.”

“Thank you, Professor.” Ferdinand expressed open relief, bowing politely as his noble bearing demanded.

And with that, Hubert was one step closer to securing revenge for Her Majesty against the Agarthans as recompense for failing to guarantee her victory against the Church. He would claw his way through to this tenuous alliance if he must, and there was no demand they could make that he would not meet personally (although they need not know that much before they even began negotiations). Hubert would not fail her twice.


Read on AO3.

Support your artists:

Become a patron | Buy me a Ko-Fi | Commission writing

 

You Will Live Ch. 2: Wonder | Ferdibert FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2920 (6 to 24 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Main Characters: Ferdinand, Hubert, and former Black Eagle students

Read the previous chapter.

The Kingdom and Alliance troops were celebrating their victory over the Empire. The somber work of collecting bodies and identifying them was likely left to Shamir and her agents while lackeys for the Church of Seiros searched for Rhea. Meanwhile, Hubert stood shackled in the great hall of the capital’s castle under the guard of Caspar and Ferdinand, waiting for anyone in power to remember he existed.

Until then, he removed himself from his grief. He could sense it behind the dam built up in his mind, bleak and roiling and vast. But Hubert would suffer endless torture before he gave the combined enemy armies the satisfaction of seeing him broken down in the castle where Her Majesty made her last stand. It was injury enough that several of the Black Eagles who turned on Lady Edelgard had witnessed the break in his armor.

To preoccupy him instead, Hubert had Her Majesty’s agenda to consider. The final step in her vision for Fódlan: to defeat Those Who Slither in the Dark once and for all. He would require substantially powerful allies to achieve that goal, though there were not many in the wake of such an extensive war. In fact, the only forces of that caliber were also his captors.

He examined the metal cuffs around his wrists, a thick chain dangling between them. Too short to be used for effective strangulation, and a sure sign that their distrust of him would be his greatest obstacle in joining with them against the final threat they weren’t even aware of.

But the fact that Ferdinand and Caspar were assigned to watch over him rather than someone impartial or even openly hostile suggested there was someone in a position of political clout who looked on him with compassion.

Whoever it was, they outranked Ferdinand as a general in the enemy forces, a fact that reduced the possibilities greatly. Perhaps subconsciously, Hubert’s gaze drifted to the very man beside him. Ferdinand stood watchful and resolute, but there was a tension in his posture that betrayed his mental state: he was thinking tirelessly on a matter that vexed him.

You and I both. A shame neither of us have someone to turn to.

Once, they may have turned to each other.

Hubert looked back to the cuffs with an especially foul grimace. His line of reasoning led him to believe his sympathizer was one of few people with enough power: Seteth, Byleth, Claude, or Dimitri. Seteth was a ridiculous prospect, considering that the Death Knight kidnapped Flayn on behalf of Those Who Slither in the Dark. That act guaranteed he would never view Hubert with any honest compassion.

Well-informed rumors had it that Byleth did believe the Flame Emperor about their lack of involvement in Remire Village and by indirect extension, the death of Jeralt, but that still only left her in neutral territory at best. Claude likely held moral quandaries with their methods combined with a healthy skepticism of Hubert that contributed to the restraints. But that perspective would certainly not have any role in allowing his former classmates who just saved his life to stand as his guards.

Lastly, there was Dimitri. Chivalrous Dimitri, who had become rather shrewd over his five years in exile, but remained a long-time friend of Edelgard’s in his sentiments (if nothing further). He had been forgotten in name alone as she treasured the dagger that he gifted to her and all it represented.

Dimitri’s meeting with her to discuss their options aside from warfare felt as removed as Hubert’s report to Her Majesty earlier that morning, but it did serve as confirmation that His Highness was the source of the perceived kindness extended to Hubert. If there was anyone he would speak to about the Agarthans, it had to be King Dimitri in order to improve his odds of successful negotiation. But in truth, His Highness’ most probable intentions in allowing Ferdinand and Caspar to guard their previous classmate was simply to provide some measure of comfort in an especially trying time.

Yet all three of them stood in a weighty silence. Even Caspar’s brow wrinkled with worry as he restlessly shifted weight from one leg to the other, crossing and uncrossing his arms without reason. It was almost as if thinking generated even more energy that forced Caspar to channel it into any motion whatsoever.

Hubert knew they were not responsible for Her Majesty’s death. She accepted that her chosen path could claim her life and made her peace with that before even first appearing as the Flame Emperor. In war, there were no murderers. If anyone was to blame, it would be the fool who swore to protect her with his life and failed.

Even so, standing beside two people he once considered friends, Hubert was completely without anything to say. He did not hate them or long to return to their time bickering in hallways or at the training grounds. Hubert felt nothing, in fact. He reached into the dark well of insidious disdain in his heart and came up empty. He would have settled for what they had previously referred to as his persistent nagging, but still, there was nothing.

In their absence, her voice rang clear with another final order for him as if the communication spell remained in an echo:

All I need from you now is to know that although I will fall here today, you will live your own life.

How? Hubert could not even muster a word to two people who knew him—well enough, he supposed. Better than most andamong the few who could claim to be anything of a friend to Hubert. The iron against his wrists faintly warmed from contact with his skin and grounded him in a manner that nothing else in the din of the great hall could.

Their new allies seemed to view them as invisible for standing beside Hubert. Every soldier and servant in the great hall moved past the three men as efficiently and indifferently as ants around a pebble. Supplies and the wounded had to be ferried into the castle before nightfall, beginning its repurposing into their fortress.

“So.”

Of course Caspar would yield first; it was in his nature to being completely unable to read the atmosphere. Pale blue eyes peered at him from the edge of his vision, his overthinking expression still very much the same despite having grown otherwise. Count Bergliez was a fearsome warrior that must be intimidating to be compared to, but Caspar was well on his way to standing on equal footing.

“I’m glad you made it, you know.”

“That would make one of us.” Hubert’s typical clipped delivery, dripping with venom, was apparently instinctive even as it came across somewhat hollow. He was not alone in noticing it lacked credibility, since Caspar appeared more concerned than offended. The conflicted, sorrowful gaze that had lingered on Petra and Shamir in his academy days now directed itself at Hubert. It made his skin crawl, forcing him to worry his fingers against his own palms in the hopes of ridding himself of the first sensation. To even consider Caspar might feel compelled to look after Hubert filled him with disgust at being so pitied.

Ferdinand’s sympathetic sigh failed to be a suitable diversion. His stern, tender look with those damned amber eyes threatened to crack the dam Hubert constructed. He must hold the despair back until he was alone, where no one could gain more emotional blackmail against him. Never mind that they had enough to go on already and never used it, not once; Hubert had to keep his guard up. That was a critical aspect of his sworn duty. “Hubert, you—”

“If you truly felt as much, would I be restrained?”

Whatever sentence he intended to say, it would end poorly for Hubert. Few could get under his skin and make him say more than he meant to like Ferdinand von Aegir. Better that he interrupted him and preserve what remained of his dignity.

“Hey,” Caspar stepped in, the ideal diversion where Ferdinand fell short. “If anybody saw you just standing around, they’d probably just attack you even with us here. You’re in no shape for that.”

Hubert chuckled, low and dark, and discovered he hit that familiar tone precisely. What else was there to say to that?

“The restraints will not be forever, Hubert.” Ferdinand appeared to have taken the hint or perhaps reconsidered his first remark to return to at another time. The latter was the far more probable of the two scenarios. He did try to look at Hubert directly, searching for—who knew what? But Hubert levelled his cold stare at a point somewhere beyond him as the noble continued. “I promise that we will sort this out properly once our forces are settled and the wounded have been treated.”

…And that pierced him as well as any blade. However quietly, Hubert’s next breath wavered. Easily dismissed as residual pain from the injury and that was the excuse Hubert chose to believe for himself as well. To complete the next task he assigned to himself in the name of Her Majesty, Hubert would need to deceive his own mind for as long as he was able.

Do not give me your promises and look at me with devotion, Ferdinand. I cannot bear it.

“Yes, I remember the fickle nature of your promises.” Still, Hubert could not draw on the full strength of his cutting words—he merely sounded exhausted to his own ears—but even a dull edge to his voice could land some damage and keep Ferdinand at a manageable distance. “They are easily broken when it serves you to do so.”

When Hubert became close to someone, he memorized the finer details about them. And so, when he grew closer to Ferdinand, he took great care to remember every important fact. His favorite tea. The name of his first beloved Aegir hound. The time of day he preferred to go on a leisurely ride on horseback. Which flowers he preferred over others. And of course, what every single expression written all over his face indicated for his state of mind. Because while Ferdinand did ever try to present a strong front, he had his vulnerabilities like anyone else.

He flinched back, a curled strand of hair falling forward with the motion, but the flicker of hurt feelings dissipated almost instantly into flaring, prideful indignance that turned those amber eyes into a fiery bronze. “I swore to serve the ideals that Edelgard said she would uphold, and when that was no longer the case—”

Too soon, the realization that he was bickering with Hubert while their Emperor lay cold in another room dawned on Ferdinand and like that, the fire was out. His shoulders dropped and he sighed once again.

And Hubert laughed, wordlessly urging him to finish the counterargument he had prepared.

“Are you pretending that holding back is another noble display of mercy?” That was closer to the right inflection, but still not quite. Hubert sneered down at Ferdinand regardless. Let this be like old times when he could provoke them with just a few short words, let Ferdinand hurt him in return, and it would make this so much easier to endure—or so he imagined. “First, you preserve my life so that I might have the privilege of living with Her Majesty’s death, and now you hope to conceal your obvious disdain for everything she stood for? I suppose it serves me right for expecting better of you, Ferdinand.”

“I understand you well, Hubert.” He kept calm, more certain now than when he first appeared on the battlefield. Hubert’s sneer fell to a heatless scowl that held more from habit than any true disdain. “And because I do, I will forgive what you have just said since I know you are only trying to keep me from coming to your aid now that you need it most. You never were one to accept support with any manner of ease, as you prefer to be in the role of providing rather than being cared for.”

Hubert scoffed and pried his attention away from the absurdity going on beside him. Naturally, Ferdinand continued undaunted while Caspar pretended badly with a half-stifled smirk not to notice Hubert’s discomfort. He, of course, could not know the reason as well Ferdinand claimed to.

‘When I see you at the monastery, studying with the others… It makes me wonder what kind of life you might’ve had without me.’

It was Edelgard’s idle thought, not his own, and from their first year at Garreg Mach. Hubert might pretend he had no notion as to why that memory came to him now, unbidden and fraught with conflicted sentiments, but he knew better than that. Attempting to deceive himself had been a fool’s errand. He was without her now and there were two former Black Eagle students with him at present. This was the foundation of the life she saw for Hubert that made her wonder what could have been.

“Truly, you ought to know better by now.” Ferdinand’s playful wit bled into his false chastising. “An exceptionally harsh critic once confirmed that my relentless optimism is my greatest attribute. Where others may become discouraged and abandon their path, I never yield. Ferdinand von Aegir is, indeed, unmatched in that particular quality.”

Assured pride practically radiated off Ferdinand as surely and powerfully as summer sunlight, all with him grinning and drawing himself up. Always so sure of his success on the grounds that he would never quit… But there was no time to form a response to Ferdinand quoting Hubert to himself, not when Catherine stormed over to their group and stopped short in front of Hubert. “Enough is enough. Where is Lady Rhea.”

He squared his shoulders, piercing her with an aloof smile. “I wondered when you would overcome your pride and seek my help.” Strategically, Hubert should seize this opportunity to prove that he can be trusted not to slight them, at least, and lead her to Rhea without delay. But while grief could be withheld, spite was another matter entirely. “She is here. Perhaps you simply aren’t looking hard enough. Would you like a hint?”

“You—” She scowled, closing the distance with a fist in his collar, yanking him down and pulling a sharp breath from him in the same motion. He endured worse pain than that in his initial resilience training as Her Majesty’s vassal. That reaction should be the last she saw from him.

“Enough,” Ferdinand implored, a firm hand on Catherine’s arm as the true warning that this was not a request but an order. “We are above resorting to aggression to have our way, Catherine.”

“I don’t have to.” She released his collar and shook off Ferdinand’s hand, stepping back. How unusual for a Knight of Seiros to pass down the chance to beat the defenseless… Her immediate aversion to using more force could have been due to Caspar’s presence, given how he so admired her. “Taunt us however you like, you sick bastard. Lady Rhea is alive, and we will find her.”

Ah. Another blow directly to the dam. To her, Hubert betrayed nothing of the sort. “I suppose with enough hours wasted, you will eventually have no choice but to succeed.” He trailed off into an exasperated sigh. “Truth be told, Rhea may not have that kind of time. Very well, I will show you the way.”

That had her attention and that of a few nearby soldiers for the Church as well. Traffic in the great hall had slowed marginally, but they were far from alone.

“You stay here. Tell me where I can find her.”

Hubert chuckled again, this time feeling it in his ribs more than he ought to. Evidently, Catherine didn’t need to beat him—merely shoving him would be enough to aggravate his recently healed wounds. “This isn’t a matter of turning in the correct direction at a conveniently placed statue. You are asking for a spoken guide to winding, secret passageways meant to mislead any who enter.”

“Caspar and I will accompany you, Catherine,” Ferdinand offered, moving his hand to rest on Hubert’s upper arm as if to guide him. Hubert glanced to his hand, then to Ferdinand, but he was fully a general at the moment and spared not even a glance to the prisoner. “Hubert will pose no threat.”

Ah, that was Hubert’s order. An easy one to follow considering he had to if he was to convince the victors of his reliability as an ally so soon after his defeat.

“Of course. I have no reason left to fight.” The tension returned at that remark more than Catherine’s mild display of force, and Hubert let it stand. Those who despised Hubert most, like the wielder of Thunderbrand, had to hear the literal words from his mouth that he would not harm them. One step further, he would help them. “More pressingly, I have valuable intel to secure the future of Fódlan. But first, we must attend to Rhea.”

Her scowl softened to hopeful skepticism, a narrowed glare that suggested she was turning over his phrase in her mind. Catherine was as intelligent as she was capable—she would eventually piece together that he was leveraging a treaty of sorts. ”…Fine.” She nodded down to the other end of the great hall where the main passage to the undercroft waited. “Let’s go.”


Read on AO3.

Support your artists:

Become a patron | Buy me a Ko-Fi | Commission writing