“Eliwood, be honest with me,” Hector began, “Am… am I a bad father?” “Of course not!” Eliwood said, “You’re a great man!” “Well, of course I am,” Hector said, “But so was King Desmond. Some great men are terrible fathers. And I’m afraid that I’m one of them.” “Well, have you ever hired assassins to murder Lilina?” Eliwood asked. “What?” Hector asked, “Of course not!” “Well, at least you’re better than King Desmond, then,” Eliwood laughed. “Eliwood,” Hector said, “I’m being serious.” “Ah, forgive me,” Eliwood said, “It’s just… unlike you to have doubts.” “I have doubts all the time,” Hector said, “But everyone expects me to be strong. They need me to be. My friends, my people. So I can’t let them see my weakness.” “I know what you mean,” Eliwood said, “Sometimes, as Marquess, I worry I cannot live up to my subjects’ expectations of me. We’re only men, as imperfect as any creature on this Earth, yet we must be seen as something more than our fellow men. Something flawless. Something impossible.” “Hah,” Hector smirked, “You were always better with words than I. I was just going to say that it sucks.” “It does,” Eliwood agreed, “It sucks terribly.” Hector laughed.
“Well, since we’re being serious,” Eliwood said, “I’m glad that you trust me enough to confide in me. Know that I’m always here if you need my help, and that there’s no shame in asking for it.” “Yes, of course,” Hector said, “I know that, no matter how strong I am, I can’t take on the world myself. My brother taught me that. If only he’d realized it himself…” “I know you mourn his death anew with each day,” Eliwood said, “I feel the same way about my father. But nothing can come of worrying over your past.” “Guess I’ll just have to keep worrying over my future, then, huh?” Hector said. “You won’t end up like him,” Eliwood assured, firmly, “Your path has already diverged from his. Were Uther in your shoes, Armads’ warning would have fallen on deaf ears. He would have gladly accepted the power to protect those dear to him, even at the cost of his own life. But you didn’t.” “I was a selfish coward,” Hector said, “I just didn’t want to die. I had too much to live for.” “No, you were wise, for once in your life,” Eliwood said, “Sacrifice can be a selfish and cowardly act. For we feel no pain in death; it is the living who must suffer in our stead.” “My brother was no coward,” Hector growled. “My apologies,” Eliwood said, “I have the utmost respect for Lord Uther. He was strong, in body and spirit. But his strength, his need to carry the weight of the world on his own shoulders, is what killed him. It it is a fleeting victory to die protecting your loved ones, for you cannot protect them from the grave.” “So it’s better to live a weak man than die a strong man?” Hector asked. “No,” Eliwood said, “Your trust in your friends is not weakness. Just… a different kind of strength. Just like the two of us. We’re both strong, but in our own ways, right?” “Yeah, you’re right,” Hector said, “Thank you for the reassurance.”
“But even if it is in different ways,” Hector said, “I’m still stronger than you!” “Oh?” Eliwood said, “I think our dueling record would disagree.” “Those duels aren’t fair!” Hector said, “Your sword is much quicker than my axe, so I’m at a natural disadvantage! I’ve tried using a sword myself, but it’s just not as suited to my style.” “I think the problem is that a wielding a sword requires a style,” Eliwood chuckled, “You can’t just wildly swing it around.” “Well, with an axe, you can, and it works, damn it!” Hector shouted, “And I’m also at a disadvantage because I have to focus on restraining myself so I don’t accidentally kill you!” “I see,” Eliwood said, “And what about when I use a lance?” “Well, then you’re riding around on that blasted horse, and I can’t keep up!” Hector said, “It’s practically 2-on-1! But, despite all that, I still manage to win nearly as often as I lose. What’s the current score?” “53 wins, 50 losses, 12 draws, 115 total,” Eliwood said. “So I am winning!” Hector said. “No,” Eliwood said, “Those were my wins.” “And how can I be sure that you aren’t making those numbers up?” Hector asked, suspiciously. “Because I’m your most trusted friend?” Eliwood offered. “True,” Hector said, “We’re too good friends for that. That won’t stop me from kicking your ass next time, though!” “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Eliwood said.
“ANYWAY,” Hector said, “That isn’t what I came to you to talk about.” “I apologize for getting off-topic,” Eliwood said, “So, why are you worried? Is something the matter with Lilina?” “I don’t know if I’d say that,” Hector said, “It’s just, well… Roy is such a fine young man, isn’t he? He’s devoted to his studies and his training, he always does as he’s told, and he’s so very polite.” “Well, he’s more rambunctious than you think. I make sure he’s always on his best behavior when he’s visiting Uncle Hector,” Eliwood said, “Is Lilina negligent of her duties, disobedient, and rude? I can’t imagine where she’d get that from.” “What the Hell’s that supposed to mean, you craven son of a bitch?” Hector joked. “I was just saying that perhaps Lady Lyndis has been a bad influence on you and your daughter,” Eliwood said. Hector laughed heartily. “I’ve never heard a more ridiculous jape in all my life,” he said, “But there’s enough good from Lyn in her that she’s not rude. Not like me. Just… stubborn.” “So exactly like you, then?” Eliwood asked. “Yeah,” Hector said, “Too much like me, if I’m being honest. Every time she acts out, I can’t help but regret all the times I put my brother through the exact same thing.” “And how does she act out?” Eliwood asked, “She never struck me as anything other than a fine young lady.” “Well, she has no interest in learning to fight,” Hector said, “It’s a daily struggle to drag her from her studies to spar with her.” “So exactly the opposite of you, then?” Eliwood asked. “Yeah,” Hector said, laughing, “She’s bright, that girl. I tried helping her with her homework, once, but she ended up explaining it to me! I don’t know all that much about books, but even I can tell that she’s gifted. And I know that, as her father, I should be proud of her for that. But…” “But?”
“But she’s weak,” Hector said, somberly, “I know she’s just a child. When we were her age, we were also weak. But we fought, and trained, and got stronger. And she hasn’t. And I feel like, if I were a better parent, she would.” “I see,” Eliwood said, “How does Lady Lyndis feel about this?” “Huh?” Hector said, “Oh. I, uh… haven’t talked to her about it.” Eliwood playfully smacked the back of Hector’s head. “You dullard!” he said, “Lyn’s her mother, not to mention your wife. She’d know if you’re a good father much better than I would.” “You’re right, of course,” Hector said, “I… should go talk to her.” “Yes, you should,” Eliwood said, “And send her my regards. But before that… why is it important to you that Lilina is strong?” “What, are you saying my daughter should be weak?” Hector asked, defensively. “Nothing of the sort,” Eliwood said, “I’m just trying to consider your problem from a different perspective. Knowing you, the solution you have in mind is to make Lilina stronger, correct?” “Of course it is,” Hector said, “If the problem is that she isn’t strong enough, what other solution could there be?” “Well, the root problem could be in your need for her to be strong, or in how you define strength. If you force her to fight when she doesn’t want to, she’ll be unhappy; I am simply looking for a solution that avoids that,” Eliwood said. “I still don’t really get it,” Hector said, “But I guess that’s why I came to you for advice. Because you get things I don’t.” He took a deep breath and sighed.
“I really wish she didn’t have to be strong,” Hector said, “I wish I could protect her from ever having to know any suffering or hardship. Some say a life without pain is a life without meaning, but I’d give her a life like that in a heartbeat, no matter the cost. Those people haven’t seen the smile fade from my precious daughter’s face when she’s torn from her books. The excitement I see in her eyes… I think you’d recognize it. It looks exactly how I feel when I’m sparring with a worthy opponent. But I can’t protect that smile. I have to tear it from her face every day, because that is what my people expect of me. The people of Ostia will only respect a strong ruler, so I must have a strong heir. A weak Marquess will be challenged. It’s happened before; some have even been killed. And I can’t let that happen to my sweet Lilina.” “That is a tough situation,” Eliwood said, “I don’t suppose it would be easy to sway the minds of the people to accept a leader who values brains over brawn?” “If it’s possible, it’d take someone with far more brains than I,” Hector admitted, “And besides, that’s not all. I’m also worried about what Greybeard said.” “Athos’s last prophesy?” Eliwood asked. “Yeah,” Hector said, “He said an evil star would rise in Bern, and that all of Elibe would be consumed in war. We need Ostia to be as strong as possible for when that happens. It may fall to Lilina to fight that war in my stead.” “You’re right,” Eliwood said, “I pray this war never comes, but we must pass on our strength to our children, so that they can fight it, if they must.” “So then… what should I do about Lilina?” Hector asked. “It’s hard to say,” Eliwood said, “But I believe that Lilina is strong. She was raised by you and Lady Lyndis, after all. She may not be strong with axes or swords, like you or I, but strong in her own way.” “Strong in what way?” Hector asked, “Strong with books? A war cannot be won with just books.” “A war cannot be won with just axes, or just swords, either,” Eliwood said, “An effective army uses all weapons at its disposal. Each soldier has their own strengths and weaknesses, and by working together, they can defeat enemies that none of them individually would stand a chance against.” “That sounds like something Mark would say, on the rare occasions he’d speak,” Hector said, “And he’d be right. That is how he saved the world, after all. The power of friendship, more or less.” “More or less,” Eliwood agreed.
“I’m not gonna lie,” Hector said, “I’m still not sure I totally get it. But there’s one thing I know you’re right about. I have to believe in Lilina’s strength. She may be faced with challenges in her life, but I have faith that she’ll overcome them, even if it’s in a way I never would have imagined. So thank you, friend.” “You are most welcome,” Eliwood said, “And I’m sure you will get it, in time. After all, you have such a clever daughter to teach you.” “Hah!” Hector laughed, “You’re right. I’m sure she’ll get it through this thick skull of mine one of these days. But before then… I guess I shouldn’t put off talking to Lyn any longer.” “You probably shouldn’t,” Eliwood said, “And I should probably get back to Ninian’s side. She hates it when I’m away.” “I don’t know what that’s like,” Hector said, “Lyn probably celebrates every day she doesn’t have to put up with me!” “I’m sure she doesn’t,” Eliwood said, “She loves you, for some reason.” “Do you know what it is?” Hector asked, “I’d ask her myself, but I’m afraid she’d realize she’s out of my league. Then she’d have to move back to Sacae!” “I… huh?” Eliwood asked. “Well, as Marquess of Ostia, I’m kind of the leader of all of Lycia. So if she moved back to Sacae, she’d be outside of the Lycian League, which-” “Dear Gods,” Eliwood said, pinching the bridge of his nose, “With jokes that bad, you must be the greatest father in existence.” “Matthew would think it was funny!” Hector said.
“It was hilarious, m’lord,” Matthew said, startling them both. “Matthew? How long have you been eavesdropping?” Hector demanded, “Show yourself, you cur!” Matthew entered the room from the door. “As funny as it would be to pretend that I’ve been listening this whole time, m’lord, I actually just got here,” Matthew said, “The wife says you were meant to return from this meeting three hours ago, and would like a status report.” “I can’t help it if the meeting went long!” Hector said, angrily, “Everyone’s always talking so much at these meetings, and nothing ever gets done. And then I had to discuss some personal matters with Eliwood!” Matthew silently waved to Eliwood. “Understood, m’lord,” he said, “I shall take that exact tone with her.” “Don’t you dare,” Hector said, “I’m not angry at her. I’m just angry at… the government.” “Aren’t you the government, m’lord?” Matthew asked. “Oh, shut up,” Hector said, “Besides, I don’t need you to relay a message. I was just heading back.” “Is this true, m’lord?” “Of course it’s true!” Hector shouted, “Unlike you, I’m a man of integrity!” “I was speaking to him, m’lord,” Matthew said, pointing to Eliwood, “Although I guess he isn’t my lord. So how about it, y’lord?” “Hector speaks the truth,” Eliwood said, “We were just saying our goodbyes.” “Yes. I bid thee farewell,” Hector said to Eliwood, “And I bid THEE farewell,” he shouted, pointing to Matthew. “Another knee-slapper, m’lord,” Matthew said, “But this is no time for jests. I shall escort you back home. I am not to let you leave my sight.” “What, does Lyn not trust me?” Hector asked. “Oh, the Lady Lyndis trusts you with her life, m’lord,” Matthew said, “I’m the one who doesn’t trust you. And what must it say of you if someone as untrustworthy as me thinks you’re no good?” “That you’re a terrible judge of character!” Hector said. “Is that why I hold the Lady Lyndis in such high esteem?” Matthew asked. “Hey!” Hector growled, “You can poke fun at me all you want, but leave her out of it.” “Ah, I apologize, m’lord,” Matthew said, with something close to sincerity, “But I thank you for your permission to poke fun at you all I want.” Hector rolled his eyes. “You are impossible to deal with, you know that?” He said. “You know you love me, m’lord,” Matthew said. “Not as much as I hate the fact that I love you,” Hector said. “And I bid thee farewell,” Eliwood said. “Huh?” Hector said, “You’re still here?” “Yes, well, I didn’t want to leave without a proper goodbye,” Eliwood said, “And it’s rather difficult to interrupt when you are conversing so… spiritedly.” “Yeah, that’s a good word for it,” Matthew said, “Spiritedly. Anyway, take it easy, y’lord.” “You too, Matthew,” Eliwood said, “And Hector… I hope my advice helps.” “Me too, pal,” Hector said, “See you around.”
(To read the next chapter of Strength, click here)