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the smarting beauty of dawn

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It isn’t unusual that she finds herself wandering the dark forests of wherever her father has taken her, her dirty knees scraped by stray branches and thorns on the ground to be cleaned and sterilized. 

Byleth has never been afraid to roam the wilderness, alone, with only the blade Jeralt had forged for her eighth birthday.

There was nothing ever worth her fear. Not that she knew what it was like to be afraid. 

Not even now, when an otherworldly and ear-splitting sound of a crack splits the sky, so loud that Byleth feels drops of warm blood crawling out of her ears. 

Not even now, with a blinding lumination burns even to the back of her eyes and it burns, hurts  so bad but not a drop of fear is felt by Byleth’s body. 

Byleth finds herself on her back, cracks her eyes open with such difficulty. The burning sensation doesn’t cease nor do her eyes refocus.

It hurts, her mind chanted, it hurt but the tears don’t come. 

The light eventually dies down and some semblance of sight comes back to her, and she looks down on her hands to feel the sting of several cuts and the blood from her ears.

Then Byleth looks up, sees the form of a… girl? A small girl. Possibly her age. 

Except the girl’s body is the source of the blinding illumination. 

Her vision clearing confirms the sight and there is, indeed, a young girl - being? - crouched on the grass. Flames scatter in a circle around her, but it burns neither her nor Byleth. 

Byleth crawls towards the light, stays outside the circle when the girl lifts her head, her long and majestic hair a silver shining light that threatens to burn her eye again and Byleth expects a monster, one that her father’s stories told her, expects fear to take her and run-

The illuminated being had the face of a girl, not a monster. Her face, round, her eyes purple and Byleth doesn't know how to read what she sees of it. 

Byleth doesn’t know why the surprise doesn’t come when the wings sprout from the girl’s back, white, ruffled, damaged. 

The girl stands, rises on wobbly legs and Byleth witnesses the gashes that cover her skin. She stands, a little smaller than her own height, but her wings tower above them. The light that shines from her strikes a chord, deep within Byleth, and she doesn’t know what it is.

There is a foreign kind of dampness that stains her cheeks as she stares on, at this being, and Byleth doesn’t have to know what she is to know that she is divine and beyond her comprehension. 

The girl tilts her head in confusion, tries to speak, and when she does, it’s in a language Byleth doesn’t understand. Or languages. One syllable felt like a thousand words, echoing multitudes. 

Doing the same, Byleth wipes at her cheek, unable to speak in the girl’s divine presence, especially as she walks - no, treads, floats, her feet leaving the grass scorched. 

Byleth looks away from the illumination, unwilling to allow her eyes to burn again, but she stands her ground even as the girl kneels, touches Byleth’s wounded hands.

Another final flash of light, warm, no longer burning, and she sees the girl clearer now, more than ever. Her face is soft, spotless, they were roughly the same age. Her body, like the feathers of her wings, was mottled with wounds. 

“Who are you?” Byleth finds her voice. It is shaky, overwrought with fierce reverence. 

The girl wipes away the first stream of tears on Byleth’s cheeks. 

“My name is Morning Star,” she says, deep and echoing, her voice unfitting for a young girl. Byleth barely recognizes the thousands of voices speaking a dead language. From her body came the only light in the darkened forest. “I am the bringer of dawn and light.”

Then, she faints, falls forward into Byleth’s arms, the light dimming with her. 

Byleth follows, shortly after. 

In the morning, she wakes when Jeralt shakes her awake, relieved to have found her.

“Did you see a girl that fell?” She asks, rubbing the sleep from her eyes then notices wounds no longer mottled the palms of her hands. 

“Girl that fell? Not sure what you’re talking about, kid.” Jeralt replies, yet he looks around for good measure. “New friend?” 

Morning Star is nowhere to be found. 

Byleth shrugs, with no intention of speaking about it ever again. 

-

She sees her again, in a forest, twelve years later, and Byleth had shaken the progenitor god awake when she threw herself in front of her before the blade can touch them.

Byleth knows those eyes, that hair. Byleth knows that face. Byleth knows that voice. 

“Morning Star,” she says, quietly, when everyone else was out of earshot. She whispers it and the girl catches it as if she’d just yelled it at the skies. 

“Edelgard, actually,” she corrects. For some reason, it fits her perfectly. 

“Nice name.” 

Edelgard, the Morning Star, tilts her chin. “Thank you. I gave it to myself.” 

Byleth, as usual, opts not to ask questions.

-

She doesn’t ask questions, but when she chose Edelgard again and selected the Black Eagles, moments of respite had allowed the Morning Star to share more and more and more - in increments. 

“I fell from heaven,” Edelgard explains, one night, while they’re fishing when sleep eludes the two of them. The outline of her hands glow in the darkness, pass through the cloth of her gloves. “The morning after, I didn’t know anything except this overwhelming need to bring myself to Adrestia. When I arrived, they were waiting for me.” 

“You were a prophecy?” 

Edelgard shrugs. “I suppose.” 

She doesn’t ask questions, especially not during particularly difficult training sessions and close calls during missions, the purple of her eyes take over the whites of it. 

Byleth, ever attuned to Edelgard matched with the unforgettable experience of that night in the forest, knows that she’s barely holding it in. 

At training, she excuses her. In battle, she gives Edelgard respite or allows her to take the front or the back, away from everyone.

At the baths, she notices how Edelgard never bathes with everyone else but Byleth distinctly remembers the bloodless scars that mottled her body, all those years ago.

They’re little things, small things that Byleth notices about her, about her true nature that she seems to keep from everyone except Hubert but all the manifestations of her displeasure for Rhea. Her ambition. Her anger. Her duty. 

Byleth pulls a book from the library shelf on mythos, one that originated from Adrestia. She flips through the pages and stops in the middle.

Morning Star . Fallen from grace for hubris. Bringer of light, enlightenment. Bringer of dawn. 

The next section Byleth reads, her heart thumping madly in her chest. 

Bringer of chaos. Severer of ties to corrupt dragons. 

Salvation, destruction. 

-

In the Holy Tomb, the sword is turned against the Church, against Rhea.

An echoing inside Byleth feels like a taut string, and she knows that Edelgard is about to undergo metamorphosis, transform, change. There is violent anger in her, ugly and loud and bloody, and so Byleth stands in front of her, to protect her, to choose her again. 

It dissipates, almost completely, and disappears when Byleth turns to her and whispers.

“I’m with you, Morning Star,” she says, and it has always been true. It will always be true as long as the sun rises from the east. 

She was the bringer of dawn, the awaited one, the prophesied one to fall from grace and to rise from the ashes. 

Edelgard was the bringer of dawn and Byleth adored sunrises.

-

The eternal darkness was an abyss and Byleth, upon waking, realizes she craves the light. 

-

The first night she returns, Edelgard brings her to the forest nearest to the monastery grounds. She refuses to let go of Byleth’s hand, clutching it, and Byleth’s heart constricts at the thought that this ancient being had suffered so much while she was away. 

Here they were, around thirteen years after that fateful night of the fallen girl and the unburning grass. 

Light outlines her body then overtakes it, the expanse of her skin glowing the familiar blinding light that Byleth saw then.

It burns into her eyes but she lets it, and it burns into her and she lets it. 

When her wings take shape, sprouting from the unclothed part of her back, it towers over them. Unlike before, it is a pristine white, the same kind of silver her hair was. 

It burns into her eyes but it’s soothed by tears and the touch of Edelgard’s—Morning Star’s hands. 

The light dies down considerably, and Byleth looks up at Edelgard. Morning Star. Bringer of dawn and light. Her face is illuminated but it no longer burns her and she is so, so beautiful that Byleth, once more, cries. 

“I don’t know what I am,” she speaks, the same deep baritone of a thousand dead languages echoing her voice. “I don’t know if I am good or evil.” 

Byleth wipes at her eyes, leaning into her hand. “Does it matter?” 

Her purple eyes are illuminated in the darkness. “I suppose not. I know what I have to do.” 

It was the prophecy. Bringer of light. Bringer of dawn. 

Byleth touches her hand, with her, feels a healing power but the potency of destruction coming off of her in waves. Perhaps their first interaction all those years ago had let them have this connection.

 “Then do what you must.”

-

“When humanity stands strong and people reach out for each other,” Edelgard declares, her body starting to shine light. The wings on her back breaking its skin, a similar amount of blinding luminescence as her hair and every part of her body. “Then there is no need for gods.” 

Morning Star. Bringer of dawn and light. 

Fallen from grace for ambition , the books read, but Edelgard rises with her to strike down a false prophet playing God, and struck the root of injustice at its most vulnerable.

The Church crumbles and the bringer of dawn rises from the ashes. 

The world, in ashes, disappears from Byleth’s view and it’s all darkness until it isn’t, and she feels the warmth - no longer a blinding heat - emanating from the Morning Star as she embraces her so tightly. With every semblance of power she has, Byleth touches her, feels the tears leak at the corner of her eyes at the feel of Edelgard’s skin ablaze with uncreated light.

She isn’t going anywhere. Not anymore. 

-

The Black Eagles, much to Byleth’s surprise, don’t ask any questions and don’t ask Edelgard to explain. 

Years ago, Edelgard had fretted about her peers would find out. Treat her like a monster. Like a demon that she was often portrayed as in literature and other religious texts from other regions, especially ones written by followers of the Church of Seiros. 

The Black Eagles don’t ask her to explain, only saying, “it’s you,” with awe, with wonder. She was the prophecy they were all raised to know. Even Petra, who worships a different Goddess, knew of the coming of the lightbringer

“It’s you,” they tell her. Edelgard breathes a sigh of relief that only Byleth is a witness to. 

-

The ring that Jeralt gives her sits heavily in her pocket but once she’s found the courage, with much encouragement from Dorothea, Byleth gifts it to Edelgard at the goddess tower. 

For the first time in her life, she feels fear and uncertainty, - even if somewhat irrational - and while it is unpleasant, it is most definitely worth it because Edelgard says yes. 

She talks about being the light, and she was, in more ways than one. 

When Byleth slips the ring on her finger, the skin of her hand emits a warm light that is colored pink by the hue of the dawn, the canvas of the sky and the sun that rises to paint it.