What if Soren had joined a different band of mercenaries, and he and Ike first met on the battlefield? Partial AU of Path of Radiance, trying my best to keep in character. Spoilers from 2nd chapter onwards. Ike/Soren, but mostly dynamics. Nothing graphic.
You didn’t even see the sword hit you - just felt the pain searing through your shoulder. The swordsman attacks again before you have the chance to react. This time it’s your chest, and by Ashera, it’s absolute agony. You stumble backwards, clutching at the wound, cursing yourself for having such weak defence. Your head is growing light, and you’re aware of the high probability that you’ll die. You hold on the wound yet more tightly. You didn’t expect it to end this quickly. In all honesty, you hadn’t particularly expected it to end at all.
The swordsman is staring at you now. You can see the confusion in his eyes as he glances at the tome in your hand. And suddenly, he’s walking over to you, not running as he was when he attacked - though you can never be sure. Everything seems to have slowed down anyway. Perhaps he just wants to linger over the finishing blow. He seems the cocky type.
But instead you find him keeping a safe distance from you (just over a metre), still staring intently, his blue eyes framed by unruly strands of equally blue hair. “Why didn’t you attack me back?” He glances once more at the tome in your right hand. “You had an opening, and your weapon hasn’t run out.”
“Your speed greatly outranks my own. In the time it would have taken me to cast magic, you would have been able to execute another attack. Considering I would have died either way, it seemed illogical to waste a tome.”
He continues to stare at you for some time before responding. “You’re very...tactical.”
“On the battlefield, to be otherwise is a dangerous disadvantage.”
For some reason, your reply makes the swordsman laugh. “I guess, but of the two of us, you seem to be in the sorrier state.” He pauses. “You really don’t seem the army type. You’re a mercenary like us, right?”
You nod, not entirely sure of the reasoning behind his question.
“Well, wouldn’t you say it was pretty stupid to die for the losing side, when you won’t even get paid?”
“I agree that it seems somewhat illogical. However, there remains a high probability of me dying, regardless of its logical value or indeed lack thereof.” Around you, the sounds of battle are slowly fading away. It would seem that you have little time left. “Besides which, it would be yet more illogical to place my trust in someone who, mere moments ago, was attempting to kill me.” The pain in your chest is now so familiar that you scarcely recognise it. You attempt to remove your fingers to check the state of the wound, but your hand is stuck in the half-dried blood. You swallow the bile rising in your throat. The prospect of death brings irrational thoughts that you weren’t prepared for.
The swordsman holds out his hand to you. “Look around. Your army have lost the battle.” You risk turning away from him to view the corpses strewn around. The knight that had been your commander has fallen at the gate of the castle, and the only soldiers still standing belong on the side of the swordsman. “You have two choices. Either you can try and crawl back to the army base and make yourself an enemy of my troops, or you can take a risk and join us. You might make a decent tactician.” He glances down at your bloodstained clothing. “Once your wounds have been seen to, that is.”
You stare at him. He doesn’t seem confused anymore, just determined. His troops number about twenty soldiers, and you aren’t in any state for combat. The choice between betrayal and death is perfectly logical. You’re just a filthy sellsword anyway. Reaching up to grasp the hand of your new commander, it occurs to you that of all the possible outcomes that you considered for this battle, this one you definitely couldn’t have predicted.