Have Unhappy Endings
(Spoilers for Fire Emblem Engage, up to Chapter 11.) Céline tries to return to the battlefield, emboldened by Alear's words.
"Let's have a nice easy time cleaning up some trouble that's coming on the Brodian border," Alear had said. "Get you back into the swing of things without putting you in too much danger."
"It'll be fun, we'll be war buddies together!" Anna had said. "My axe and your book... We're a two-for-one special!"
"You'll do great out there, Céline," Alfred had said. "I'll look forward to all your stories about it when you get back!"
But so far, this skirmish was proving to be neither easy nor fun. Céline panicked as her dress was torn by an attempt to grab at her - her energy was definitely starting to get low. "I can't hold out like this much longer..." she called ahead, clutching the wounded area. "Someone, help me! Please!"
"Form up, everyone," Alear yelled. She glanced back at Céline. "Your vulnerary, Céline! Those are replaceable, you are not!"
Ahead, Diamant was pulling out his own. "Come, Céline, we'll do it together!"
Céline groped over her body, feeling around for it. Where is it? Where did I... Oh no... "I-I don't have one! I forgot to take one from the storeroom!" Panic was starting to enter her voice.
"Shit," Alear muttered under her breath. "Framme! Céline's hurt! Can you take care of her?"
"Not unless you can help me fly!" Framme yelled, ducking under a swing from one of the Corrupted monsters' swords and following up with a kidney punch and a kick to the head. "She's way too far away!"
"Hang in there, war buddy!" Anna called, landing on a spear that was being swung at her. "Gotcha~" She sprang forward, her axe cutting through the Corrupted like a hot knife through butter. "Don't worry! You protected me so I'm gonna protect you!"
"Alright. We'll cover her," Alear growled. "No one gets through. Not one. Lady Anna, I need you to be covering her too. Céline, stay back there!"
And for a tense minute of battle, it seemed like Céline was going to make it out after all. She even struck down one of the Corrupted menacing the Divine Dragon with a clap of Thunder.
But it wasn't to last. Céline screamed in terror as one of the Corrupted leapt over the front line, charging right at her.
The monstrosity tackled her. And though she desperately tried to remember her training... the knife found her ribs anyway.
Anna cried out in horror, rushing toward the fallen princess.
"Gh..." Céline coughed blood onto the monster's face. It didn't flinch, still writhing on top of her with a furious hunger until Alear beheaded it with a single swing and rushed to her side.
"Céline!" Alear cried, kneeling in the snow beside her. "Lady Anna, get back! Please, please tell me you're okay..."
The blood pooling underneath her said quite the opposite. Céline smiled distantly at Alear. "Now I know... what they felt..."
"You can save her, right?" Anna demanded, retreating as ordered. "You better save her!"
"I... I..." Alear dug in her pockets for her own vulnerary, pouring it over the wound. But it had little effect - it was too deep, she'd lost too much blood already. Alear knew this. And yet... and yet... Desperation drove her movements. "I didn't want this," Alear said, frantically cradling the princess. "I truly didn't want this! I'm so sorry, Céline..."
"Nn... tell Alfred I'm... sorry..." Céline's face was rapidly draining of color. "But at least... at least Chloé and Louis and I can be together again... I freely give my life for... the people of Firene... "
"And for you... my Divine One..." She gave a weary smile, brushing her fingers across Alear's face gently. "I don't... regret..."
Her hand fell to her side, her eyes unfocusing and her head lolling back. A final sigh escaped her lips. Princess Céline was dead.
Alear laid her down in the snow with careful reverence, getting to her feet. "Lady Anna, keep away from her. I don't want you to see her like this."
Anna had come closer again, her axe having tumbled onto the ground beside her, just gawking at the princess's body with her mouth hanging open in shock. "She's... really dead...?"
"Lady Anna!" Alear yelled, dragging the young merchant forward by her sweater. She hoisted the axe, shoving it into the girl's arms. "Eyes on the enemy! I will not have us lose anyone else! I will not allow it! Emblem, Engage!" The hazy image of Lucina merged with Alear's form, the Engaged Divine Dragon now spitting mad.
"Don't let them see you cry, Anna," Anna mumbled to herself, taking up her axe again and readying her stance. She channeled her sadness into fury and yelled it over the battlefield. "One time only deal! I'm offering free butt kickings for the first hundred customers to mess with me right now!"
Diamant's gaze lingered on the fallen princess a moment longer, his throat working as he swallowed down a deep sorrow. He would have time to grieve the loss of what was already looking to be a promising friendship later.
But only if he survived this fight. He turned toward the enemy, sword at the ready. "We will at least avenge her. Ready for your direction, Divine One."
Alfred rode hard, hoping against hope that the sick feeling he had gotten was wrong. That Céline still drew breath.
... but when he arrived, he was met with Alear, holding his sister's lifeless body in her arms.
"This... this can't be real," Alfred breathed. He took his sister in his arms. She felt so light, like her soul had contributed to her weight. Alear had gently closed her eyes, so she looked like she was sleeping but for the bloody gash in her midsection and the trail of blood down her cheek. "I-I can't... I can't have lost Céline..."
"I underestimated them, and I was the one who encouraged her to take up arms again," Alear said, bowing her head. "It was my job to make sure she had a vulnerary before she took the field. Alfred, this is my fault."
"No. No, it doesn't... it doesn't help to point fingers," Alfred said, unable to tear his gaze away from his sister's ashen face. "She was laughing and talking with me just last night... I could have been on the battlefield with her. I could have protected her. I could have taken her home safe. ... I will have to tell Mother that at the moment Céline died, I was... p-playing chess with Princess Ivy." The words felt poisonous, like they could kill all on their own.
"Alfred..." Alear touched the Firenese prince's face delicately, mirroring the gesture Céline had done for her. "She wanted you to know that she's sorry. And that she gave her life for the Firenese people."
"That is just like her..." Alfred laughed bitterly. "To apologize to me as she's dying. One might think that I was still the same sickly child she grew up with." He looked to Alear, tears in his eyes. "... I will have to go to Firene. I must tell Mother, though I do not know how I will find the strength to do it. A funeral service must be held. And... she will be buried in the family grave. I am sorry. Though I believe wholeheartedly in your cause, I will have to tend to these things before I can go any further with you."
"We'll all go," Alear murmured. "We all loved her."
Nearby, Framme tended to a badly shaken Anna - physically, at least. "She was really nice to me. The way she appeared out of nowhere and blew up that guy before he could grab me, she was like a hero from a fairytale. And she was such a good customer too... She was gonna help me set up a Firenese branch... But... she's dead now. I didn't save her..."
"I'm sorry, Lady Anna," Framme said, wiping Anna's eyes with the end of her braid and gently passing her staff over Anna's wounds. "I shouldn't have let her out of my sight, knowing she was rusty..."
"I was gonna protect her," Anna said in a small voice. "Like she did for me."
"Prince Alfred..." Diamant said, head bowed and hand to chest in a salute as he approached. "I am sorry. She was under my protection, and I failed her. I failed her, and I failed you."
"Stop," Alfred said, tears clouding his vision too much to see, his throat too much to speak clearly. "Stop apologizing. All of you. Knowing who to blame isn't going to change the fact that my sister is dead. We've lost people before. We'll move on just like we did then - together. But for now... I would be alone with her. Please."
"Let's give him some space," Alear urged the others in a soft voice. "Let me know when you're ready to return to the Somniel, Alfred," she murmured, a gentle sympathy in her eyes. "I'll come back for you after I've dropped the others off."
Light shone over the rest of the group as Alear began to take them away to the Somniel.
"Céline..." Alfred whispered. He fell to his knees, letting his sister lay on the ground again. "Why... Why now...? I thought we were safe... Getting out of the jaws of the dragon with all of our lives... And then..."
His shoulders shook with quiet sobs.