Before seeing the prince everything felt empty. An empty mind, only filled with the desires of his father Validar and Grima. Empty brown eyes with empty expressions. Like a cold marionette, he danced for each pulled string, at the mercy of whoever controlled him. Who to kill, what to study, where to lead an army. From birth, Robin was raised to be nothing more than the vessel of the fell dragon. His destiny nothing more than predetermined fate, exploited since infantile when a looming mark appeared on his hand. Three sets of harsh black winged eyes, connected by a curving line on each side that crossed each other in the shape of diamonds beneath.
The mark of Grima- he was his reincarnation. Yet he wasn’t sure how something so powerful still felt so hollow. The pieces of himself smothered and suffocated into nothing but a round stone found at the bottom of a river. Cold, smooth, and malleable.
Victory even felt empty. Small scale- large scale it didn’t matter. He could lead brigands into a village and watch the slaughter, the small hope that maybe he could inherit some of Grima’s ruthless bloodthirstiness- just to feel anything. Something at all. Yet watching the battles he created unfold- there was nothing, no empathy for the Ylisseans who were killed in the crossfire by wild leaders.
At least until the first time he saw him.
It was also consequently the first time he lost. Wrapped in a dark mages cloak he pulled the hood down further, his tome wrapped carefully in his arms. “Lissa, heal the villagers.” A voice so commanding it made him pause. It held more authority than he’d ever heard come from the Plegian King himself. Freezing, Robin felt his heartbeat rise, forcing him to stutter as he leaned back against the wall. Where was Garrick? Turning to peek over the side, brown eyes widened to see the small group. Had Ylisse finally begun to fight back?
A group of four stood before him with Garrick cornered and on his knees. The brigand’s fur-coated back was turned towards him. A tall man towering over him. Deep blue hair glinted in the sunlight, bringing out the same tone in his finely tailored trousers and shirt. With only one pauldron on his left shoulder his other arm surprisingly bare. Next to him, a tiny blond girl in yellow darted off, disappearing before he had the chance to look any deeper at her. Not that he cared, his focus had been entirely on this man.
His heart still beat in his chest, was it the loss? Or the man himself? He wasn’t sure, but the feeling stirred something in him- something Robin wasn’t sure even existed until now.
“Milord, we should end this quickly and bring in the other Shepard’s to help stabilize the village.” The knight on horseback offered distracting the blue-haired man, Milord? Robin froze as he watched him turn his attention to the brunette. A black symbol wrapped around his bicep. A tear-shaped surrounded by a U shape and almost like wings, mirroring the shape of his sword. He knew that symbol. It was the brand of the Exalt. This was royalty. Leaning back again Robin pulled his hood down further. He needed to leave before the Ylissean reinforcements appeared- and yet he wanted to stay and know more.
Refusing to let his inquisitiveness get the best of him he felt his feet leading him backward, Robin dug through his cowl, pulling his book free before m flipping his tome open to cast a spell. Purple magic wrapped around him in tendrils of ominous smoke, pulling him back to Plegia. Back to his father. Back to the emptiness.
Once his curiosity had been piqued it became insatiable. Who was the royal he had seen? What was a Shepard? What was his name? Why didn’t he want to fight him? He could see the uneasiness in every question he asked, every book Robin read was no longer enough, only bringing more questions bubbling up to his lips. What truly was Grima? Did he want to be a host for the dragon? Would it hurt? Would Robin cease to be?
“Have you forgotten your place?” His sister seemed to look at him with a dark condescending expression, Aversa had never liked him, and now that Validar seemed to be getting frustrated at Robin’s endless questions, it was only natural that she was monopolizing his attention.
“What is my place?” Another serious question, he knew he was to be Grima’s vessel, but was that all he was? Aversa rolled her eyes dramatically.
“To be quiet and do what your told.” She snapped at him, Robin blinked, he didn’t want to do that, yet he bit his tongue. Perhaps he needed to see the Prince again, perhaps it would help calm this information fever that had taken his sanity.
Tactfully Robin began planning large scale battles to draw out the Shepard’s. Targeting villages seemed to be the easiest as the Ylisseans always seemed to come running to save the innocent. Dressed in dark clothes he kept his profile low, waiting for the prince to show up. Each time he came with more people, yet the two around him remained the same. The blond child with pigtails named Lissa and the brown haired knight. Sometimes he brought a pegasus rider or other cavaliers but often he was only with the other two and that seemed to be more than enough to handle any challenge he threw at them.
His heart in his stomach, he felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment with each failure. Aversa took every opportunity to undermine him to their father in attempt to bring his favor to her. Raking his fingers through tufts of white hair he felt himself tug at it in frustration.
For the first time he was learning a harsh lesson about more than war and battle; Feeling everything and being unable to identify it was harder than feeling empty.
“Maybe if I kill him, I will return to normal.” The thought felt so natural as he paced the library, Aversa sat her legs crossed twisting a blond lock of hair on her finger, a cruel smile on her face. What was normal? Being hollow? Did he want that?
“Him? Oh?” Standing up she sauntered to him, pressing her hands on his shoulder in an almost affectionate matter. Robin looked up, now distracted from his internal barrage of questions. Giving her a weary look, he shifted his attention to her. It was hard to believe he was older than her with such drastic height differences.
“The prince. He has consistently beat all my battles.” He remedied his mistake, carefully choosing his words as Aversa moved to pat his head with false affection. This was the game they played, the sibling love hiding her one sided rivalry. As time went on Robin found himself wishing Validar would just dote on her as she wished.
“Maybe we need a bigger battle- a war.” She offered a wicked grin forming. “Grangel is mad enough, to entice a war especially if he thinks he can win.” Why was Aversa being so considerate.
“What is your endgame?” He asked her, Aversa paused petting his head with mild affection to pull him into a hug, her chest pushing against his face uncomfortably.
“You’re my big brother. If you can’t beat them, join them.” She simply shrugged. “Besides that, once Grima takes your body I’ll have Validar to myself.” There it was, her true intentions- well true enough.
Convincing the king to start a war was incredibly easy. Their minor efforts of invading bordering villages had built up enough tension between the countries that now if they launched an attack on the Exalt a war could start easily.
“- all we have to do is kidnap and kill one of the Ylissean royals.” Robin froze, his heart dropped from his chest to his stomach making him twist uncomfortably, his prince was a royal, would that mean he would target him? Opening his mouth to protest his words died off at the sight of a dirty lookfrom Validar. He couldn’t stop this idea, but maybe he could make sure it wasn’t his prince that would be the death start to the war.
“King Gangrel may I offer my son to you, he’s been trained expertly in battle strategies, and has single handedly been leading the small brigands into a fight. He could coordinate your battle as the Plegian Tactician.”
Robin froze as he looked to Validar and then to the king.
“Prove it then boy.” Robin looked down at his hands unable to speak, if he could control this battle he could ensure his prince was not the sacrifice for this war.
He needed this position.
“I will get you your war.” He promised his eyes narrowing with confidence.
“And if you do, I will get a royal tactician.”