Those were the words that the Ylissean people called their neighbors, the desert-dwelling magicians and mystics of Plegia. They were a fearsome, resilient people, masters of black magic and worshippers of the dragon god of destruction, Grima-- and so they were to be reviled for their culture of sacrifice and defilement.
It was feelings like this that spawned the brutal war between the two nations, leaving the Plegian populace devastated and fragmented while leadership dissolved. Ylisse suffered few losses in comparison, taking up territory on the borderlines while stealing plenty of magical secrets for their talented anima mages and clergy. Mercy was at a premium, afforded only to the organized.
And people wondered why she had such a cautious outlook, a swiftness towards violence, and a deep distrust of war and politics?
Left an orphan from the Ylissean-Plegian War, Tharja had always been gifted with magic, and soon learned to use it far beyond a mere hobby. Survival and stability were her only interests, whether that was ambushing travelers in the dead of night so she could steal their valuables, or selling her particularly malicious hexes to the highest bidder.
She learned how to channel all her fury into seething talons of darkness, how to steal life energy from humans and animals alike... and from their bones she stole their gold and their jewelry, wearing it with what little keepsakes she had left. Sometimes, she'd leave clean bones and glittering treasures for her god, but the functional and simple things were kept for herself.
This was her life for quite some time: ten years, in fact, until whispers of another war reared their head. Plegia's current leader was an unstable, reeling fool, acting on impulse rather than logic or morals, and was keen to pick a fight over old wounds.
She loathed fighting in the name of such a king, but obliged all the same. War meant the rare chance at looting and sacrificing human bodies as offerings-- a tradition permitted only during wartime, forbidden any other day. More scavenging, more stolen life energy to feast on, more practice for her spells.. why would she turn that chance down?
But only a few days in, and Tharja found herself utterly swayed by the other side. Ylisse's star tactician, a beautiful girl named Robin, was immediately unforgettable to Tharja... she moved with elegance and wielded magic with a masterful grace. Something about the tactician tugged at her soul, a something that couldn't be ignored.
On a whim, Tharja defected from Plegian troops so she could follow this enchanting young woman. She hadn't much of an idea why Robin shook her to her core, and yet-- chasing her, struggling to befriend her, it all felt so right.
Though she was treated with intense unease and weariness by the rest of the Ylissean army, Tharja cared little: she had a well-paying job, food, shelter, a source of stability in her whirlwind life. Every day, whether it was spent marching or on the battlefield, left her the time to hone her spells for further use, and to gently extend friendship to the girl that had stolen her heart.
All the while, she learned swiftly what was seen as obsessive or strange, and in answer softened her approach. She followed Robin like a shadow, watched over her a little too closely-- but this proved too forceful, and so she swiftly learned boundaries, lest she lose her chance otherwise.
Flowers, gentle words, a charming flair: these got her much farther than clinginess or little golden trinkets. It was surprisingly easy to become friends when you didn't try too hard.
This success only dredged up the warmth and adoration in her heart, and she was shocked by her own sorts of feelings! How horrible it was to be so tender, when she had been so cautious beforehand!
(But something deep inside her loved every moment of the kind attention.)
As they grew close by each passing month, Tharja couldn't help but wonder-- had Robin ever dabbled into dark magic? The tactician erred away, swept up by all the prejudices and uncertainties she had been taught, and perhaps that was a normal reaction.. but Tharja could only promise that it was far less frightening than it seemed.
Once you were fully in control of the forces you worked with, it was downright empowering to work with dark magic. The exchanges of life and death were not to be feared, but respected, and her god was a being of rebellion and change, but in an ambivalent way.
"Your intentions shape the forces at your hands. If you call Grima's name with a wish for change, but not mindless destruction, then you get what you put in."
"Is it really like that? I-- I grew up in Ylisse, so I... I was always taught otherwise.."
"They hate us, our religion, everything about us.
Of course they're going to lie to you."
It was all kept a secret, for the rest of the army would have had countless questions if they found their star tactician dabbling in black magic. Potential mistrust only heated up when Robin denied a marriage proposal from the army's crown prince, Chrom-- a rejection was a strange thing indeed when he was in an incredibly admirable position of power.
But neither Tharja nor Robin quite cared: they knew where their interests and loyalties lay, and Robin was too talented for the army to end up abandoning over such a thing.
Years passed, new challenges rose on the horizon, and when the army stirred back to action after provocation from the far west, there was a revitalization of these secret study sessions.
Unwilling to relinquish the clear talent that Robin possessed, Tharja instructed her carefully, making the blood sacrifice of a bird before calling out to powers above and beyond. She watched with an illuminated grin as those otherworldly powers called back, eagerly welcoming the tactician.
Soon Robin was casting dark magic with little trouble at all, taking to it like a swan to water... and amid all their practice, their bond grew deep.
A couple accidental words, and out came the heartfelt confession of love, only for it to be returned, and soon they were shamelessly stealing kisses from each other and sharing both time and living space together. Study, practice, romance, affection.. there wasn't much more that Tharja could exactly ask for.
(Sure, it was a little weird when their supposed children from the apocalyptic future decided to show up, but it made for chances at personal development.)
But all of that was forgetting a question she had held for some time..
"You know... a long time ago, I read of a Plegian bloodline that could call on the very soul of Grima.
A god in living form, if you would.."
"And? That's... a creepy thought."
"I'm starting to suspect a few things about that brand on your hand, and how easily you took to all of this."
As the army turned its gaze homeward, it just so happened that the new king of Plegia, an old sorcerer of devout faith, had stepped forward with a revelation. His child, the proper vessel to catch the soul of the fell dragon.. just so happened to be--
"... You mean you're the next in that bloodline?
Are you serious?"
It would explain a lot, wouldn't it? Her guesses were scarily accurate.
"That's what he said, at least. I'm... I... Tharja, what am I supposed to do? Now the whole army's going to treat me like I'm an abomination, and--"
"Your true friends wouldn't care. And, besides... I think you're a wonderful abomination. A sweet, beautiful one."
Tharja couldn't hide a gleeful smile at the thought. There had been avid discussion among the army on how to prevent the rise of Grima, how it would inevitably be the end of everything... but none of them seemed to be truly educated on the topic, were they?
It was all her fault that the idea had come about, sure, and she was ready to suffer the consequences if it all went wrong, and yet-- she and Robin both waited with enthusiasm for the war to ramp up further.
The Plegian king planned to sacrifice huge numbers of the populace in order to awaken an enraged, bloodthirsty Grima, a gigantic monster of a god to obey his every whim... but it'd be so much easier to run in and steal every second of it.
They came well-prepared for a fight, even with the twists and turns. Never leaving Robin's side, Tharja shook off the unhappiness of fighting her own people yet again, instead chasing the chance they sought. With fire and darkness at her call she slew the Plegian king who stubbornly stood in their way, and then she stood and watched.
Cloaked in light, Robin called out to the ether, and the ether howled back, granting her the red halos and magnificence of the fell god. From her head sprouted jagged horns, the six-eyed insignias spidering down her cheeks, and as she turned back to the world, she called out with two voices.
And yet, the tactician still smiled, untroubled, as thoughtful and tender a person as ever before. It didn't matter that she had decided to befriend and call out to a monstrous god of devastation, for iron will and gentle understanding made anything possible.
For Tharja, it was a truly glorious thing to watch your darling lover usurp the apocalypse.
Story, pet, profile & overlay by Marine.
Characters, artwork and original story are by Nintendo / Intelligent Systems.