No Time for the Dead
My reasoning behind putting the notes for these two fics together should be obvious... Neither of them really stand all that well alone. "Midnight" in particular also depends on Sand and Moonlight, which is the next old fic I'll get around to posting eventually.
No Time for the Dead
"No Time for the Dead" was one of the first fics I wrote for this universe, back when I was starting to develop my ideas into a full blown fic-verse as opposed to just two vaguely related post-FE7/pre-FE6 fics (Days of Waiting and A Thousand Snows). I think it shows; it's obviously one of the most underdeveloped fics in the entire verse, more a compressed moment in time than an actual story. That said, it DOES do what I essentially set out to do with this fic, and that was to establish Serra as a character not to be underestimated. (Because really, she shouldn't be. She's one in a line of "feisty/"aggressive"/"snotty" healers in the FE franchise that started with May in FE2 -- though May was a mage -- and this is one of the FE archetypes that's particularly fun to poke at.)
I also wrote this fic to explore Oswin/Serra (or more accurately, it grew out of a sudden image or understanding I had of these two and their relationship). I'm not really a fan of either of Serra's other "canon" pairings (Erk/Serra, which I will discuss more below in the notes for "Midnight", and Matthew/Serra, which just has never seemed anything but awkward as a pairing to me). I'm normally not a huge fan of May/December pairings, especially when the two parties are not anywhere close to the same level of maturity, but I find something attractive or interesting about Oswin/Serra regardless... Mostly because Serra is utterly irrepressible and it's funny to play her off of no-nonsense Oswin (who actually I think has a very dry, understated sense of humor that shows up in some of his interactions with Matthew and Hector), but also because Oswin seems to be one of the few or only people she actually holds some semblance of genuine respect for. In the end I wish I could have elaborated more on the nature of their relationship and how it developed, but I was too lazy to and/or hadn't yet worked out most of the Ostian plot yet at that point (it'll be covered somewhat in the Hector/Florina fics anyway). I may still end up writing more for them though, because I'm not sure I've satisfied my itch for the pairing just yet.
Anyway, Serra. She's a vicious little minx out for her own benefit, on no one's side but her own (and her "own side" happens to be Ostia's, if only because she really did love Hector and Florina and Matthew and Oswin and everything they were fighting for, in her own fashion), and I love her. She does have her more fragile side, but that's something I think very, very few people are aware of at this point (and they are all dead). She's the kind of person who's strong because she has to be, because no one else is going to be, and she's just going to have to plow her way through everything on her own, and screw the world and whoever tries to come between her and her goals.
Oh yeah, and the battle at Araphen is a terrible, tragic thing (which is another thing I wish I could have elaborated on), but not for the same reasons most people think it is. I've seen at least two fics present it as Hector and the tactician fighting a losing battle once Bern unleashes the dragons -- but honestly I suspect the whole thing was a colossal failure on Hector's part to begin with. I've said elsewhere that although Hector was certainly an inspiring individual warrior, I don't think he made a good politician or even a good general. The "brute force" method only works in the arena... And Oswin was a decent adviser but even he had his blind spots; he's also more of a straightforward type than a schemer. (Uther was the schemer, and Oswin was there to talk some sense into him. :P Unfortunately the partnership doesn't quite work out the same way when it's Hector in the equation.) It's not clear in this fic (and if I rewrote it today, I'd probably include it), but Serra kind of realizes (though out of respect for Hector and Oswin, she won't openly admit it to herself) that the way the situation handled was just one fuck-up after another. Which is yet another reason she decides to take things into her own hands...
To basically copy and paste (with a considerable bit of editing) what I originally wrote on my journal --
"Midnight" is what happened when I decided to stick Erk, Priscilla, and Serra together in the same house for a few days and see what happened. (Most definitely NOT a love triangle.) The way I termed it originally was basically "Erk, Priscilla, and Serra being deceptively domestic", and there's really no better way to put it. That IS the story, right there. And yes, I get an inordinate amount of self-satisfaction from subverting/deconstructing this "triangle," because I see nothing romantic at all about the two pairings involved. (And personally think the fanon "rivalry" between Priscilla and Serra is a completely false construction -- if anything, any animosity between them would arise either from a professional sense or from sheer personality, and NOT due to jealousy over some dude. And even then they'd still be able to work together fairly reasonably if necessary, imo.)
That being said, it was kind of a rushed job because I didn't really care enough to tweak it, and it probably shows -- the intended climax is horrendous. And of all the fic I've written for this fandom, it stands least well alone -- it's very much reliant on The Deception of the Thrush (though not quite a sequel), and in terms of plot it's essentially a side story to Sand and Moonlight (it fills in one of the significant "missing episodes" that I had to cut out due to POV).
I also had a massively hard time titling at first, because everything I came up with seemed just really trite or cliched or too obvious. ("Masks" was a prime contender.) Still not totally satisfied with "Midnight", but it works with what I'm trying to get across, I think (though it could use more support in the body of the piece), and my subconscious is very good at fitting pieces together without my noticing so I totally lucked out in that I placed the coup on Midsummer's Eve in Sand and Moonlight. (Of course, I chose Midsummer for a reason when I was writing that fic too, but it's just nice when everything falls into place conveniently like that when you go back to minor details like this later on, when you're working on something completely different.)
There are definite worldbuilding holes though -- I'll admit I haven't given much thought to the details re: Erk's baronage and the layout of the city (or if his place is even in Aquileia or not). I don't really want to. It doesn't interest me, and with any luck this will be the last time I write about Erk in a way that necessitates that information. If it weren't for the fact that I love the FE6 Etrurians + Reglays so much and hence need to give a damn about the other Etrurian characters, I probably wouldn't even bother! But as it is, I even have a reasonable Erk backstory (i.e. pre-Reglay Erk) in mind that will probably never see the light of day because I don't find it interesting at all and it's totally irrelevant to any of the stories I'm planning. Though it does inform my characterization of him pretty heavily.
So yeah, speaking of Erk. Erk is not one of my favorite characters, I have to admit, so I'm probably a little unfair in my portrayal of him, especially to people who like him. I don't hate him, but eh, I find him only slightly more sympathetic than Raven, which isn't saying much. Though I find him awfully fun to write with his horrible social skills and selective intelligence.
This fic is, in a very shallow sense, about academia vs. "the real world", but that's not the main thing I was going for either. I think what's more important are the underlying reasons Erk has chosen to cloister himself away from the world. (Which is why I think it's necessary to read Deception first, to have at least that part of the context in mind.) And I think that's one of the key differences that sets him apart from say, Pent (who, though equally absorbed in his research and equally unimpressed by court machinations, was born a noble, and knows the "rules", so to speak, and still bothers to play his hand in politics every now and then when he sees fit. See: his activities during FE7 and his abrupt resignation in my fic-verse).
To give him credit, the Zephiel Erk remembers is still the kid they saved all those years ago, and King Mordred really HAS become useless; it simply just doesn't register that the new Zephiel might not exactly be the best ruler around until Priscilla mentions dragons. (But even then, it's such a distant memory that he finds it quite easy to just set it aside.) And he's kind of deliberately ignoring the Roartz/Arcard internal complications, obviously. He finds University* politics irritating enough already.
* As mentioned offhand in fic, the University is secular in my verse even though historically universities tended to be religious institutions. And yeah, Elimine's faith, of all of the various FE faiths/religions, is probably the most blatant analog to RL Catholicism, but I prefer tweaking with it a little since some of the core aspects are obviously very different and SHOULD have different consequences. (Existence of magic universities also very conveniently explains away the existence/nonexistence of Aircalibur in FE6 and 7 respectively. It's a minor plot point in A Thousand Snows as well.) I apologize for being utterly unable to come up with a convincing title for a thesis though...
As for Priscilla, she plays the games at court, and she's good at it. She doesn't trust Serra entirely in this fic, but she still holds some sentimental value in the memory of their shared past, so she's not quite as openly suspicious of her as she probably should have been. (That said, I should point out that she has in fact formed an alliance with the Church at this point, which I did try dropping a hint about. Too obvious? Not obvious enough? :P) The thing about Priscilla though is that Erk has never really seen her as a person in her own right, but more as an ideal, some sort of standard to reach and/or obtain. (To be fair, Priscilla hasn't really done much to remedy that either. As with Serra, she really only sees him in a nostalgic light. I don't think she fully realizes just how much she hurts him until his outburst.)
And Serra -- well, she has no use for sentimentality. She's got enough of a conscience that she'd rather not have to hurt her old comrades (permanently), but they certainly do not take priority over the new life and new goals she's made for herself since the days of Nergal. And the thing is, she and Erk really are awfully similar, when it comes down to it. (Which is actually why I can't really see them as a pairing. They're TOO alike in the ways that matter. I imagine married life for them would be hell, frankly.) Not so much similar in personality maybe, but in background and motivation, they are far more a part of each other's worlds than either of them will ever truly be a part of Priscilla's. Yes, class is a HUGE factor here, and one that I think can't be ignored (even though it often is unless people are playing with forbidden romances). It's why they can't stand each other, but also why there is that connection between them, regardless. (I do think Erk envied Serra's brash confidence -- if he'd had that same kind of confidence, maybe he might have stood a better chance with Priscilla, for instance, or at least that's what he thinks -- but at the same time I think Serra also envied his composure at one point in time... until she realized that it wasn't really true composure, but just as much of a mask as her own brashness was. And she figured that out YEARS before Erk figured out... anything.)
Ramble ramble ramble! I don't know, there's more I could say about this fic, but I feel like anything I could add at this point would just be saying TOO much.
Except for maybe: expect more Serra hijinks in the future.
Re: No Time for the Dead,
First, the title just. PFFF. It's so good. It's catchy, it's tragic, and it makes sense. What more could a person hope for in a title?
Serra is definitely a character to be reckoned with. I don't think people give her enough credit for the most part, but one thing you said here in your notes sums up Serra to a capital T, and I doubt I could have thought to put it this way, myself: "She's the kind of person who's strong because she has to be, because no one else is going to be, and she's just going to have to plow her way through everything on her own, and screw the world and whoever tries to come between her and her goals."
Yes. YES. That's Serra! I've always felt she was a strong personality, but more than that, a strong person, and in more than one way. While her physical strength probably leaves a lot to be desired, she's definitely a badass fighter and knows how to use her magic. But at the same time, Serra's been fighting her whole life in one sense of the word or another, and not because she wants to, but because she has to. There's definitely a fragile person hidden in there somewhere, and I think with age, she would better learn to hide that part of herself from people.
I think people tend to show Hector and the tactician fighting that battle at Araphen because the tactician say something to the effect of returning if he's needed. But TBH, if you were fighting a battle against Hector, wouldn't you go find the tactician that helped him years ago and either silence him or put him somewhere Hector and his spies couldn't reach? Yeah, I'd say so. Why risk losing?
I also agree about Hector. He's definitely not a strategist, and if he wanted things done HIS WAY, he would do them HIS WAY. But more than that, he wanted a warrior's death, and with Florina already gone, I can't see Hector being over-excited to stay alive a whole lot longer. The only thing probably moving him forward would be his daughter, and she's pretty much an adult, can take care of herself, and she has Roy. So what is he needed for? Hector's Brute Force method probably did not fail him terribly much in the past, and maybe he was hoping it would work just this one last time.
I would definitely like to see more elaboration on the pairing of Serra and Oswin. I'm sure the last bit in the 'fic, where she's talking about what "men would do", she means Oswin, and that part was actually really good and did say a whole helluva lot about the pairing, and about how they came about. Oswin's a great person, which people fail to realize, and he doesn't hate Serra, either. But then again, I see Serra maturing a lot by the end of the war. Nobody steps into a war with her attitude and comes out acting exactly the same, without any understanding at all. :P
The Serra/Priscilla rivarly is totally concocted, probably on the grounds that Serra isn't fond of women who are prettier than she is. And Prissy is definitely a beauty, probably one of the most beautiful in the party, more so, I'd say, than Ninian, but less so than Louise. (Louise = definitely the prettiest.) I'm not being biased, either. I love Lyndis, but I highly doubt she'd be favored when it came to beauty.
I would like to hear about your pre-Reglay Erk idea, if only for the sake of satisfying my curiosity. I must say that I find Erk really boring, more so than most people find Eliwood, and it might make me like him a little more. Maybe.
As far as Erk+Serra goes, I agree with you about a thousand percent. I can't see them working out at all. And Serra's confidence vs. Erk's mask. That's genius.
I'll comment on Midnight later, I think, if I have the time. ♥
I <3 Serra.
with age, she would better learn to hide that part of herself from people
Yeah, that's exactly what's going on with her in this verse. And she's proud of it too.
the tactician say something to the effect of returning if he's needed
Yah, and I can see the appeal of wanting to bring him back like that at least. But for one thing yeah, Mr. tactician's probably had this huge target painted on the back of his head for the 20 years since then (actually, if FE7's tactician endings are supposed to make any sense at all, we're supposed to believe that Etruria and Bern even went to war over him? UHH. Obviously it couldn't have been an open war though....)
But I honestly think even if the tactician did somehow survive and managed to head back to help out, that he would have come up with something smarter than Big Battle on the Border to settle everything in one blow. I don't, at least some sort of diversionary tactics, or something. I mean hello, that's what the tactician is there for, to be sneaky and good with strategy, not a secondary general or whatever... (But that's heading into the tactician rant. XD)
re: Hector, man, I love him, but I feel really sorry for him at the same time because I think Uther's death left him with a whole lot of responsibilities he just wasn't prepared for. At least Eliwood, as the only son and heir, had been primed for taking over probably since he was born... But Hector never expected that he'd have to take the throne, AND he's not only in charge of Ostia, but Lycia as a whole. So yeah, I figure he was imagining some sort of glorious last stand -- except not really a last stand, since he does have enough confidence in his own fighting abilities that he thinks he genuinely does stand a chance to at least get Bern to back off... but oops, that doesn't work out too well. It's not just Florina's loss, I'm thinking -- also Matthew, in this verse. Matt's loss was a crippling blow to their whole spy system. In particular I think Hector eventually became too absorbed in dealing with Bern and outside threats when he really should have been looking at various internal conflicts.
I see Serra maturing a lot by the end of the war. Nobody steps into a war with her attitude and comes out acting exactly the same, without any understanding at all. :P
Me too. It's one of my favorite parts about writing Serra -- trying to preserve her personality while tempering it with maturity and experience. It's fun. XD
re: Serra/Priscilla -- yeah actually that's true, and one of the things I often forget about. XD Come to think of it, Serra also has reason to resent her for being everything she wanted to be (more or less orphaned, yeah, but still of noble background and with kind, noble adopted parents). Still, I don't think Priscilla has any reason to see Serra as a rival. Which is where most Priscilla/Erk/Serra fanfic starts to fall apart for me...
pre-Reglay Erk.... He was a street orphan who had to fend for himself somehow, mostly through begging, maybe selling trinkets. He picked up on how to read/write from spying through the windows of some noble residence, watching tutoring sessions maybe or something. Dunno, haven't thought it out too much. He met Pent when he tried to steal a book on magic (he was curious/wanted the power to become recognized instead of just another street brat), and Pent decided to keep him when he realized the kid wasn't trying to sell the book but was genuinely interested/had potential. XD This comes mostly from the Erk/Nino supports and also his supports with Louise (in which he's apparently only been with them for three years!). Erk's a smart kid but all his supports kind of indicate that he was/is a bit of an overachiever, and imo it was both to compensate for his late start and to kind of "prove his worth"/show his gratitude to Pent for picking him up. Despite his intelligence, he's really had to work harder than other people his age to get to where he is, which is part of why he's so impressed by Nino's natural talent. Plus he's just soooo bad with people, I don't think he's had much chance to really interact with people comfortably on a more intimate basis; he really doesn't come across as having grown up in a normal family or even an orphanage.
(For the record Erk/Nino is my preferred Erk pairing, or at least would be if it weren't for the fact that Nino and Jaffar are kinda inseparable... it's the one potential romance of his where he comes across as really sweet and trying to genuinely make an effort for someone else. Someone other than Pent and Louise, anyway.)