Snippet #2786952

located in Fódlan, a part of Fire Emblem: Apotheosis, one of the many universes on RPG.

Fódlan

A continent divided into three different factions: The Adrestian Empire, The Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Leicester Alliance.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd
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I.Y. 1180 - Verdant Rain Moon - Tuesday the 12th
Derdriu - Late Evening - Clear
Sorcha Blaiddyd


Sorcha let the door close, leaning up against it for a moment and exhaling a heavy sigh.

It had taken some doing to convince Duke Gloucester that she really ought not to stay at his manor for the duration of her visit to Derdriu. Part of it was purely practical: if Mercer was really set on announcing their engagement to the Roundtable Conference she absolutely could not be staying unchaperoned at another man's estate, regardless of that man's intentions. Still, even the suggestion that she do so as Matteo's—he'd insisted she call him Matteo—fiancée was a bit... she pursed her lips. Surely it wouldn't have anything to do with that.

Princess she might be, but Sorcha understood that she was quite a plain girl, boyish and unfeminine and not the kind who could really pretty up, either. So she doubted he had any interest in anything untoward. But... sometimes it was appearances that mattered, and it would definitely have the appearance of impropriety.

Still. It was kind of nice to have someone pretend to be interested, even if she knew it wasn't real. Her eyes dropped to her hand. It was a little much, maybe, but he'd even given her a rose. A bright red one, the crimson of it a stark contrast where she held it in a pale hand. He'd trimmed the thorns off, too, which she supposed was a nice thought even if it was entirely unnecessary. And he had such a... well, a knightly way about him, and part of her couldn't help but respond to that. It was a romantic notion, and stupid, but he really did seem like a hero out of one of her favorite stories. How many times had she imagined herself a brave heroine, and wanted nothing more or less than a courageous, goodhearted partner with whom to have their own adventures?

“Stupid," she whispered softly.

Placing the rose on her bedside table, she crossed to her things, changing from her travel gear into a simple, loose white shirt and trousers she could easily fit into her boots. She wanted to go for some air, maybe get a feel for the city at night. She wasn't too worried about being recognized—if there were really stories about the Princess of Faerghus being as pretty as Matteo had said, she had little fear of identification. She hadn't even been noticed earlier, during the escort. For once, the propaganda her uncle's advisors spread about her would be to her advantage.

She tried to pin her hair, but as usual she couldn't get it quite right by herself, and so she put it up in a ponytail instead, almost surprised when she realized it nearly reached the small of her back. She should probably cut it; that might make it easier to deal with. Pausing to strap the knife Professor Cyril had gifted her for her birthday to her back, she checked that her bracelet was still intact, and her necklace was hidden under the shirt. That should be adequate; it wasn't like Derdriu was a crime-ridden city, and she knew how to look after herself.

Considering the rose for a moment, she hummed. It wouldn't hurt to pretend a little longer, right? She tucked it into the base of her ponytail and exited the room, padding down the stairs towards the foyer and the front door.

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, though, Mercer was standing in the foyer with another person. A man with hair to his shoulders, and a rich red hue, seemed to be smiling at something Mercer said. Sorcha could recognize him from earlier, when they'd arrived. He was part of the welcome who received Mercer, Duke Goneril. He glanced towards her, pale blue eyes locking with hers before he turned back to Mercer. He muttered something, bowed, and left. Mercer, however, glanced in Sorcha's direction. He grinned at her, but it didn't seem quite right on his face. It was as if it were a forced grin, but he waved in her direction.

“Hey, Sorcha," he greeted once she was closer to him. He glanced at her, as if he were inspecting her attire before he arched a brow. “Headed out?" he asked, tilting his head lightly in an inquisitive manner.

“Uh—yes." She swallowed, a touch uncomfortable for reasons she couldn't place. Maybe it was just the suddenness of everything that had happened. It wasn't every day a person found out they accidentally engaged themself in their childhood, least of all to someone they were only just beginning to get to know again as a friend.

It wasn't that she'd ever expected to have much choice in the matter. Just that she'd sort of thought that would be because her parents or uncle had chosen for her, not because of what basically amounted to a misunderstanding. It was... weird. Weird might be the right word.

“You, um. You don't seem to be really enjoying being home," she ventured, not really sure how else to express a concern that had been sitting with her since they'd started out for Derdriu two days ago. “Are you—is your grandfather all right?" She didn't know how ill the Duke was; Lady Judith hadn't seemed too worried, but the situation could easily have worsened in the time since she'd left to retrieve them.

Mercer smiled wrly at her. “He'll be fine. He's recovering well-enough that he should be able to return by the time the summit ends," he responded, rubbing the back of his neck as he rolled it out. “And I've never really enjoyed it here. Too many people trying to disinherit me, kill me, or just take things that they want because I've no right to it. I told you that I was just recently announced as Duke Riegan's heir. No one is taking that seriously, so why would I enjoy being in a place that doesn't want me around, right now?" His tone was rather flat when he spoke, as if he just didn't care about something.

“Honestly... that's only part of it. I'm not enjoying myself because a certain someone thinks he's going to be able to take the position of Leader of the Alliance. No chance in hell am I letting that happen, though. He's... he'd ruin everything," he stated a bit darkly. Even his eyes seemed to darken with the force of his words.

“But don't let me keep you. If you're going out, be careful and... don't stay out too late. Or if you'd like, I can tag along. Doesn't really matter," he shrugged his shoulders after that, and dropped them.

Some sensitive part of her was inclined to take offense at his apathy, both on behalf of the people of the city, and on her own. But... she knew him just well enough at this point to understand that maybe things weren't really as they seemed.

That made up her mind, somehow. Shaking her head, she darted forward to grab his wrist, and set about tugging him behind her. “Come on, then," she said, glancing back over her shoulder at him. “If it doesn't really matter, then you can come on my walk with me and show me your city. I want to see all the best parts so you better be a good tour guide." More than wanting to see those things for herself, though, she wanted him to see them.

Sorcha had found that sometimes she needed a reminder of why she tried at all in the first place. It was hard to believe that most of the nobility would ever really accept her, and part of her was almost always ready to give up, to abdicate and let her uncle the Regent become King in truth. He wasn't a terrible person, or anything, and though Faerghus was very much struggling in some ways, it was sort of the status quo for Faerghus to struggle. Sometimes the nobles even seemed to take a perverse kind of pride in it. In having fewer fancy things than Imperials or Alliance Dukes or whatever the case.

Of course, their 'hardship' was nothing compared to what their people went through, and that was what she did to remind herself. She went out into Fhirdiad, or the countryside if she could, dressed like an ordinary woman, and tried to immerse herself as much as she could in the lives of those she would one day rule. She couldn't truly know what it was like, but she could do her best, so that when the time came she would remember to ask them what they needed, instead of assuming she knew best. And those people were worth fighting for.

She knew Mercer had to know this in his heart. But maybe, like her, he could sometimes use a reminder.

He huffed lightly, something caught between a laugh and maybe something more akin to disbelief. “I can't promise I'll be a good tour guide, but I'll try my best. After you, Princess," he stated, walking towards the door and holding it open for her to walk through. Once they had exited, and made their way towards the city, Mercer seemed to relax a bit. “How's everything on your end?" he finally spoke, his eyes going towards the rose in her hair. It seemed he'd spotted it, earlier, but hadn't commented on it, yet.

She somehow, suddenly, wished it were not there, but it would have been strange to do anything with it now, so she simply pretended she didn't notice him noticing. “I'm fine," she said quietly, unsure if it was true exactly but not wanting to make a nuisance of herself. This had to be just as sudden and strange for him, really, and on top of all the things he had to deal with for the Conference... Sorcha was already second-guessing her decision to make him do this.

She sighed a little, looking around to take in the city a bit more. The mage-lights were soft, but there were enough of them to gently illuminate the path ahead. “I... suppose that's as much as I'll have to be dealing with Duke Gloucester," she added, pursing her lips. “Since the announcement will be soon and everything."

He raised a brow in her direction. “Have you made a decision on what you'd like to do, then?" he asked, brow still raised and head tilted slightly as if he were curious. “Do you want me to annul your engagement with Gloucester and say you're my intended, or..." his jaw seemed to clench tightly and he swallowed thickly. It was easy enough to see his throat working. “Do you want me to make your engagement with Gloucester official?"

“I told you I was going to respect whatever conclusion you came to, and this is the way I do it. What is it that you'd like to do, Sorcha? Or do you need more time to think it through? The conference is in two days, so there's still time to think about it. I just..." a pause, “want you to be sure."

Sorcha's lips thinned; she dropped her eyes to her feet for a bit. “It's not that simple, though, right?" she asked. “There's Almyra to consider, and what people would think of you..." Expelling a breath from her nose, she shook her head and lifted her eyes. They were approaching the water; she could see lights reflecting off the ocean, and hear a low susurrus that seemed to be the waves rolling onto the shore.

“What—what do you want to do, Mercer? That matters, too." She shook her head again. “I've always known that I wasn't going to choose who I married. And I've come to terms with the fact that whoever it is isn't going to want me." She snorted. That one had been difficult, but she'd managed it, eventually. “But—it seems like you have the chance to choose, you know? When I said I don't want pity, I meant that... but not just for my own sake. I also don't want you to make a decision this important just because you feel bad about something you couldn't have known about. So even if you don't want to do this, I'll be fine." She smiled, huffing quietly. “It'll just be what I always expected in the first place, you know?"

She couldn't pretend she was exactly happy about it; she had enough foolish notions of romance and love in her head that the idea of being married to someone who would not love her was... uncomfortable. But if in so doing she could give her friend a chance at being happy, well—that might be worth it.

“I'd want you," he spoke, his voice soft as if he hadn't meant to say it out loud. He shook his head, though. “And I told you it wasn't out of pity that I would do that. I don't care what they'd think of me, what Almyra would think because they don't care who I decide to marry. To Almyra, who I marry will always be someone they think is worthy because I thought they were worthy. And I told you our engagement would only be temporary, and last however long you wanted it to last. What I want..." he paused to glance at her, his eyes searching hers for something.

“What I want is for you to be happy no matter what you decide. You deserve that, Sorcha. And if you think Gloucester could provide that happiness for you, then who am I to stand in your way? But... if you don't think you would be happy, and that maybe I could help you find your happiness, well..." he didn't seem to need to continue his statement. He kept his gaze with hers, though, and never once broke it.

“I'd like to think our engagement would be the first step."

Sorcha wasn't honestly sure she heard anything beyond the first three words.

I'd want you.

Her heart lurched painfully in her chest; she actually raised a hand to the spot a moment later, pressing the heel of it into her sternum just above where the pendant rested, warm against her skin. She swallowed thickly. What—what kind of hypothetical was that? He'd want her? In what circumstances? In what way? The questions were dizzying, almost painful in a way she didn't understand. Because it was a hypothetical. I would..

Not I do.

The rest caught up with her eventually, though not before her face had heated. She ignored her own blush and cleared her throat, trying to regain her footing. “Do you think he could?" she asked, diverting their course towards an empty dock. She assumed, from the other boats moored nearby, that it was occasionally used for the same, but there were none on it now. It gave her a much better view of the water, and perhaps made the expression on her face a little harder to read.

She tugged the rose out of her hair. In the dim light, the red faded quickly, until it was mostly an indistinct dark grey. “He did his research, I suppose. Some of it, anyway. I don't know if he says things like that all the time, always acts like that, or if it was something he did because he found out I—" she scoffed, pulling a face at herself. “Found out I'm an idiot. But it wasn't a perfect farce. I recognize a wandering eye when I see one—he might have complimented me the most, but the way he was looking at Sen and Lady Lyanna... I can tell what he likes, and I'm not really it."

She smiled, the expression a tinge bitter. That hadn't been anything she didn't expect, which was why she knew how to look for it. “And I guess even the research was only skin deep. I kind of hate roses, actually. Lady Patricia had these rosebushes she really loved. They had to rip out my mother's lilies to plant them, and I fell into them trying to get out of my room one night. I got all scratched up—but at least the thorns taught me something." Trimming them off seemed a little condescending, somehow.

“Still... I think it might be the first time anyone's ever even tried to charm me. It felt kind of nice."

“No," Mercer spoke softly. “Gloucester would... forgive me for being blunt but I have to say this," he stated, wincing slightly as if to himself. “Gloucester wouldn't want you, or anyone for that matter. He doesn't value a person. He only sees an object, and even if he did his research on you, it's only because he wants to get you in bed as soon as possible so he can say he has you. That you belong to him, and to make your engagement to him, solid."

That was... hard to hear, and in some ways surprising, but Sorcha found that like so many things, she could bear it evenly. She supposed it was possible that there might be a certain status in... in bedding her, as it were. Her title had significance to some people; it wasn't entirely unreasonable to suppose it might extend to this arena also. And if what he saw when he looked at her was the title, she supposed even plainness didn't much matter.

She nodded slightly, in acknowledgment of and gratitude for his honesty, even he'd had to say something unpleasant to achieve it.

He pulled in a deep breath, a small smile pulling at his lips. “And what have I been doing this entire time? Making a fool of myself for you? Here I thought I was charming you. Guess I need to work a little harder," he stated, the somewhat familiar Mercer returning. He didn't seem so serious, in that moment, and smiled at her. “But I really guess I'm just trying to get to know Sorcha Blaiddyd, the young woman who doesn't believe in herself, but has a strong and just heart and wants the best for people." He huffed a little to himself.

Some part of her almost wished he weren't so clearly joking. On the other hand, she wasn't sure what she'd have done with herself if he'd tried to say it seriously. At least she knew where she stood with Mercer. He wasn't pretending anything for her, and there was a way in which that was a mercy. He respected her as a person, and... and if nothing else, she would treasure that, and happily return it in kind.

“Thank you, Mercer," she said, finding a soft smile for him. With a careless gesture, she tossed the flower into the ocean, to let the potential of it be carried far away by the waves. If the choice was between a fake love and a real friendship with someone who mattered, well... that was no choice at all.

“You know... I think you are. Getting to know me, I mean. But you should talk more about yourself, sometimes. I feel like we always talk about me, and that's no good." She tilted her head to the side. “Maybe you could start by showing me your favorite place in Derdriu?"

For the first time since they'd arrived, Mercer genuinely smiled. “Sure thing, Sor," he responded, his hand reaching out to lay on her shoulder before he dropped it. “We're actually at my favorite spot. The ocean was always one of my favorite places to be, especially during the summer time. It has a sort of gleam to it, the way it shines. It almost reminds me..." he paused, laughing a bit nervously, “the way your eyes shine when you're genuinely happy about something. Ah, but, um... yeah." He coughed into his hand and glanced away from her.

“I can show you a few other places in town? There's this one merchant who makes custom quivers. We can see if he's still there and maybe have him make one for you?"

She felt like her face was on fire, between the casual touch and the—the compliment? It sounded like a compliment to her. She looked away at the same time he did, setting a hand on her burning cheek and trying to get the flush under control.

The suggestion was a welcome one, and she nodded vigorously. “Oh, um. Yes. That would be really—really nice. I was thinking I might need a larger one. I seem to keep running out of arrows on missions, and..." She grimaced, knowing she probably sounded incredibly inane. “You think anyone would be open this late?"

“Yeah, the merchant is an old friend of mine. He's a bit on in years, now, and can't see very well, but he still retains the muscle memory to make quivers. He's one of the best in Derdriu, and possibly all of Fódlan. He made the one I currently use, and I seem to have more arrows to spare than you do on missions," he stated, grinning at her in the way that meant he was teasing her again.

She sniffed. “It's not my fault I fire faster than you, you know," she groused, heading back up towards the street. Truthfully, she was grateful for the opportunity to get back on even ground, so to speak. She didn't regret being vulnerable earlier, not at all. Mercer hadn't ridiculed her for it, or treated her badly, but that didn't make it easy, either.

This though—banter and ribbing each other. This was easy.

“Oh? Is that what you're calling it? Being a faster shot? And here I thought I was the fastest. I guess I'm just good at being more precise," he replied with a shrug of his shoulders. “I shouldn't be too surprised, though. You've always been a faster draw than I have. We'll just have to make it a contest, one day. Just to see who really is the faster one," he stated, grinning at her in that challenging manner he usually did.

Sorcha harrumphed, giving him a gentle whack in the arm. “Fine. But you have to pick something that isn't ridiculous for the wager."

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