Lucina had been prepared for surprises when she went back in time.
She had expected the ache deep inside her at seeing her father alive and well. She had expected to have to bite back her words every time her mother found another gap in her memories. She had even expected to have to fight back the urge to curl up and cry in her parents’ arms, every detail from the grim future she came from spilling from her lips.
What she hadn’t expected was meeting her aunt.
Not Lissa – she had known her, a bit, in the early, hazy memories from the Before, and Brady’s stories had painted a picture of the lively, vibrant person her younger aunt had been. No, she had forgotten about her other aunt, her father’s beloved Emm, Ylisse’s last Exalt and the ideal of peace she has always striven to emulate. Yet, here she is now, weathering the crisis with confidence and grace and every bit the Exalt Lucina always wished she could be.
But how long does she have before she’s gone once again?
Things are moving too quickly. Lucina has had to intervene too many times to warn her father – her father! – about the foes he would have no reason to know about at this point in time. Joining the tournament in Regna Ferox had been a split second decision and she had been on tenterhooks the entire time until Father won the fight for Flavia. She wishes Morgan were here – her brother is the best strategist she knows, second only to their mother, and she needs everything to go right here. She’d studied up on what she could find about Emmeryn’s assassination in her time, but the information had been frustratingly vague. That was the first link in the chain reaction that led to her future. She has to get it right. At the rate things are going, she’ll reach the palace at the time she calculated, but the assassination will have already happened.
In the gardens, much to her relief, she finds her father. Relief turns to horror after she notes that he’s unharmed. She’s overjoyed that he’s safe, of course, but in her time he was hurt during the attack on Emmeryn. Has she missed her chance?
No – not yet. There! Assassins, in the shadows behind Lissa. She forces down an inappropriate wave of relief. This is neither the time nor the place to get distracted. She draws Falchion and darts forward to strike. Her father quickly catches on and joins her in countering the attackers. The fight goes by quickly in a flurry of strikes by the twin Falchions. Two, four, six of the assassins go down, their weapons collected by a quick-footed Lissa. Lucina can’t believe how well this is going; she made it just in the nick of time, and Father wasn’t even hurt–
Her mask falls to the grass by her feet in pieces. Chrom’s Falchion darts into sight and dispatches the attacker, before the lucky strike can cause more damage. Lucina watches the fragments in the grass and thinks, dazed, that hopefully Gerome won’t be too upset at her for losing the mask.
“Are you okay?”
Chrom’s voice jolts her back into the present. Right – she has a job to do. Fortunately the dark keeps her face shrouded. As long as no one catches sight of her eye, she’s safe; she’s still Marth.
It’s easy to fall back into the rhythm of battle, trading blows with the dwindling number of attackers. Finally, she knocks the last one down and plants a boot on his shoulder to keep him from going for his discarded sword. She looks to Chrom, who’s winding down from the fight, and winces. It’s not over yet.
“We must find the Exalt. She is their primary target.”
Chrom freezes. “Em . Quick, she’s in her rooms.”
He runs off in that direction, and after directing a blow at the last would-be assassin to keep him down, Lucina hurries after him. She forcibly restrains her panic the entire run there. She saved her father – multiple times, even. She can still save her aunt, and prevent her entire bleak future from happening.
They arrive just in time; the assassins have just reached Emmeryn. Lucina runs to protect the Exalt, while Chrom runs directly to the assassins. He has the situation handled for a bit, dispatching attackers with the same brutal efficiency she’s become so familiar with. But it’s clear he’s been fighting for a while; his energy begins to flag and when one attacker gets too close for comfort, she leaps into the fray to help. Focused on the fight as she is, she misses the calculating look on Emmeryn’s face.
The aftermath gets settled quickly. Lissa takes Panne to the other Shepherds, Father convinces Emmeryn to move to the much more secure Eastern Palace, and Lucina plans her discrete escape. Emmeryn’s rooms are too secure to make this easy and she dithers for a moment too long.
“Pardon me, what did you say your name was?”
Lucina turns to face Emmeryn and bows. “Marth, Your Grace.” She pushes down the flare of panic at being addressed. Everything was fine; there was no way Emmeryn had guessed the truth. Right?
Emmeryn hums thoughtfully. “Could I trouble you for a moment of your time?”
Her aunt leads the way into her rooms, which are lit up much more brightly than the corridor outside. Once inside, she turns to face Lucina and looks her right in the eyes.
“How curious. The Hero King didn’t have a Brand, and as far as I’m aware, only Lissa, Chrom, and I currently possess one.”
Lucina panics. “I –”
Emmeryn continues over her with a slight smile. “You fight just like Chrom, you know.”
Silence. Lucina flails for an excuse, any excuse, but everything she thinks of hurts too much to consider saying. This is her family . After spending so much of her life with only Morgan and Brady to claim blood ties to, after all the rehearsed tales she’s had to tell to Lissa, to Mother, to Father, she can’t bring herself to tell Emmeryn anything but the truth.
So she does.
A summarized version, of course – her past contains horrors nobody should know of. She outlines the basics; all the current Shepherds died, the world collapsed in on itself, she and her friends traveled back in time to try to stop it. By the look in her eyes, Emmeryn is able to fill in the gaps herself.
Her aunt sighs softly. “I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that, my niece. What is your name?”
“A beautiful name.” She reaches out and places a hand on Lucina’s shoulder. “Lucina, daughter of Chrom, I’m so, so happy to meet you. I wish it was under better circumstances. My heart aches to know that you did not know me in your time, and knew your parents for so little time.”
Something breaks inside of Lucina and she falls into Emmeryn’s arms, sobbing. Her aunt hugs her tightly and smooths down her hair, whispering unintelligible words of comfort. It was like nothing Lucina had gotten since she lost her parents, and the knowledge only made her cry harder.
Ages later, after she’s drained the knot of emotions festering deep within her chest, she leans away from Emmeryn to wipe her face dry and smile weakly.
“I came back to save everyone,” Lucina vows, voice still unsteady. “I will do my utmost to save you as well.”
Emmeryn smiles sadly. “Sometimes you cannot change fate, dear one. I’m prepared to lay down my life for the sake of peace for the people of Ylisse. That includes you.” Tears begin to fall down Lucina’s cheeks again and Emmeryn gently wipes them away. “I know you wish to keep our family together — I do as well. If my death means preventing the future you come from, though, then I will walk to it gladly.”
Lucina shakes her head. “No, no . I can do it. I can save everyone. I know I can. Please, please promise me you’ll live. If not for my sake, then for Father’s.”
There is the faintest hint of sad acceptance still lingering in Emmeryn’s eyes, but she agrees to do her best regardless. It haunts Lucina, through the rest of the night as she slips away from the palace in search of a hidden place to rest. She is here for the sake of her family, whose existence is inexorably tied to her future. She cannot have one without the other; she will not even let herself consider what failure could mean. Everyone will live, in the name of peace.
In the name of peace, Emmeryn falls, the picture of serenity in her martyrdom. Lucina’s hopes for the future fall with her.