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a sheep in wolf's clothing

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The earliest thing she can recall is her mother, worried and unsure of herself, pressing a kiss to her forehead. Noire was sick, could-have-been-fatal-sick, for one of the first times and she remembers how poorly her mother had handled it. Even when her father said it would be best to keep a distance to prevent her from getting sick as well, Tharja had held Noire through all her bouts of coughing and vomiting, tried to use any magic or hex she could to keep Noire warm during her fevers. The flu had passed within the week, thanks in part to Libra's knowledge in the art of healing.

Her mother was tender hearted and gentle. Noire did not know this.

Shortly after this first bout of the flu at age seven, there is a skirmish in the next village over. Libra goes to investigate. He does not come home for dinner that day, but Tharja tells her to pay it no mind - "It's okay," she said, "daddy is probably just helping some people feel better. He'll be home soon, sweet pea."

While Noire sleeps that night, she leaves a protective hex on the door of her bedroom and steals away to find out what's happened to the town. Tharja comes back in tears, gathers her things, and aims to be back in Plegia with Noire by the next night.

Noire is eight years old and hates the desert. The sand always ends up making her skin itchy, it makes it hard for her to breathe sometimes. Her nana tells her that she'll get used to the desert eventually, but she doesn't want to stay long enough to get used to it. Noire misses her father and their little home in the Ylissean country side. Her mama says that they can't go back, but she will someday. Noire promises herself that once she's big and doesn't need her mama, she'll go back to her childhood home.

A year later, for her ninth birthday, Tharja gifts Noire a small parcel of candies and a bravery hex. "Use it when you're scared and need to be strong and brace," she had said, before returning to her room. Noire doesn't use the hex at first, and leaves the slip of paper hidden underneath her pillow for safe keeping. Nana says not to use it unless absolutely necessary, and presses a kiss to her forehead to gauge how high her temperature is. She's down with the flu again, even in such arid conditions.

She goes to town with nana in the mornings and buys fruits and grain for dinner. She works in the kitchen and cooks lunch for her nana and mama. She naps in the afternoons, sometimes sits by her mother's side while Tharja cooks up new hexes and potions. Her mama cooks dinner, they eat together, and sleep just after dusk. Her nana is almost right, Noire grows accustomed to the dry heat and the occasional sand storm. But the grains of sand still bring rough days of asthmatic relapses with them.

Tharja is called into battle after the exalt dies. She gives Noire her wedding band, in case something goes wrong (Naga knows how wrong things can go in war), and leaves her with her own mother. Syalla is strong and still sprightly. Tharja is confident that she'll return one day to see her baby all grown up, with her mother at her side.

Her last thought is of Noire, and how much she adores her child, as a silver spear is thrusted through her chest.

No one sends a foot soldier to bear the bad news. Syalla and Noire never learn of Tharja's death, and live life as they usually did - the market in the mornings, lunch at noon, naps in the afternoon, and dinner before dusk. Syalla is gifted in magic, as her own daughter was, but Noire has no capability for it. Instead, Noire builds her own bow and arrow out of branches and twine, and saves change from odd jobs to buy the bronze set from the armory in town.

In two years time, Noire finally has the money to buy a bow for herself, but spends the money on a staff she can't use and several vulnaries. Her nana is sick, unable to even go to the market, and Noire spends all she could have used to better herself in a futile attempt to save her grandmother. She dies, of course, and Noire buries her near a cluster of cacti. She packs a rucksack with some bread, a canteen of water, and her untouched hex.

The march to Ylisstol is a long one.

For two years, Noire trains. She steadies her arms, shoots up like a weed, and grows callouses all over her hands. Her proficiency with the bow grows as well, capable of using bigger bows, stronger bows, and hits most of her targets. She relies on her hex now, keeping it tucked safely in her pant pocket, always within reach.

When the time comes, she sets out with Kjelle and the others in search of Gules and Azure. Noire thinks, briefly, that they come upon her old home during their travels, but chalks this up to exhaustion. She's not sure she wants to go back to the past, but some of them do - Owain and Lucina are set on it, and Noire has always been more of a follower than a leader.

Naga dumps her out in rural Regna Ferox, smack in the middle of a slaver's ring. She's terrified, clinging to her yellowing slip of paper, when the Shepherds appear and slay her would-be captors. Her parents are newly married here, and she goes through the motions of her young childhood; Tharja makes hexes, Noire is hexed, and Libra heals her.

She's also thrown into a world so unfamiliar. She's able to purchase the finest bows, able to sleep six consecutive hours, able to eat a full meal. She almost cries when Lucina drags her to dinner the night they're reunited, in awe of the amount of food the Shepherds seem to have.

She finds her parents to be workaholics, surprisingly. Libra is almost always with Lissa and Maribelle in the healing tents, and Tharja is typically with the other mages, talking about who knows what. Sometimes she'll find them still awake in the early mornings, discussing their respective days with the other. For how often Libra badgers her and the other children to get more than six hours of sleep, he doesn't seem keen on listening to his own advice.

Of course, within a week of being in the past, Noire comes down with the flu. This time it's Brady's fault - he had likely passed it onto her during their hours spent in the healing tents. Her parents are by her side for almost all of her illness, fussing over her like two mother hens. It had surprised her, at first, but she supposed that maternal and paternal instinct still applied even when they hadn't had her yet. When her fever spikes, her mother presses a kiss to her forehead and holds her through her shivers.