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endless night

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For the first time in ten years, Dimitri’s mind is clear. There’s nothing left to think about, no more distractions, no more misgivings. All that’s left is to live in this very moment--for revenge, for justice, for the dead to finally rest.

The Tailtean Plains has always been a fateful battlefield, its fields soaked in history and blood alike. Today is no different. To the eastern woods, Lady Seiros and her zealots ambush Edelgard’s army, daring her to challenge the archbishop herself. To the north, the Kingdom of Faerghus waits upon their fortresses, where they will make their last stand. From the south, the Emperor advances towards her destiny, if there is such a thing.

It’s a battlefield with all the horrors that come with it. Dimitri always knew that good men and women would fight and die in his name, but his heart shattered like glass for them nonetheless. He would mourn, but now is not the time. He can’t do anything for them now except accept their sacrifice--and repay it.

This is the time to avenge the fallen, once and for all.

Kill her, his father says, his voice as clear as the day he died. Rip her head from her shoulders, and feed her wretched body to the crows.

When Edelgard draws close enough for them to speak, Dimitri ignores his father and gives her one last chance--one more than she deserves. “Must you continue to conquer? Continue to kill?”

“I will not stop,” Edelgard answers, as he always knew she would. “There is nothing I would not sacrifice to cut a path to Fodlan's new dawn!”

If there had ever been a chance for peace between them, it was all those years ago, when they were children learning to dance, fumbling and honest. Now, they are Emperor and King, and they had spilled too much blood to ever be washed clean.

Dimitri raises Areadbhar aloft. “Enough of this madness! This future of yours is built upon a foundation of corpses and tears!”

What are you waiting for? Glenn demands, ten years' worth of fury seething from every word. She’s a monster, as much as you are. Finish it.

No more talk. They are fighters both, and the time for fighting has finally come to pass.

Her axe swing goes wide, but Areadbhar strikes first and strikes true. That’s all that matters in the end: which one of them could land the first blow. Both of them are too strong for any bout to last beyond that.

No one survives Atrocity.

The lance sinks into Edelgard’s neck. Her axe clatters to the ground. She breathes--so softly, a sound that he would never forget--and she speaks her last words: “My teacher… Leave me behind…”

But it’s too late for her teacher to leave her behind. Instead, it’s Edelgard that will join the Professor, only a few steps behind into the eternal flames.

 

-

 

He hears the crackling sound of flames, the screaming of the dying, the unbearable silence of the dead--it’s not real. Dimitri knows it’s not real. He hears their voices, still pleading to be put to rest, for vengeance, for blood and justice.

But this is Tailtean, not Duscur. There are no flames here. He shouldn’t be feeling the heat of the fire, nor should he be hearing the screaming and suffering. He already killed Edelgard, what more do they need?

Chase them down, Dimitri hears from the undying dead. Scatter their flesh and rend their bones to dust. They’re all beasts--don’t let a single one escape.

He still hears them. He shouldn’t. It should be over. They should be gone now, he was so sure that once he had torn Edelgard’s head off her shoulders, that would be the end. His family and his friends that he lost would finally be able to pass on. He had been so sure. Not once in his life had he ever doubted that revenge would free them all.

He lowers his head, his hair falling into his face. With any luck, onlookers could assume that the King was simply mourning, a moment of silence as he surveys the wreckage. They don’t have to know how his pulse races, how his hands tremble under his gauntlets, how he still sees the fire and hears its fatal roar.

“Your Majesty--”

Dimitri startles out of his reverie. He flicks his spear to the ready--then lowers it as quickly as he can as a commander babbled apologies, her hands in the air, taking cautious steps back away from him.

“No, please. I’m the one that should apologize,” Dimitri says. He tries to smile as he did when he was younger to put people at ease, but the most he manages is a valiant effort. “Is something needed of me?”

“N-not precisely,” the commander stammers. Moving slowly, not unlike how one might handle a scared animal, she gestures towards the center of the plains, between the rivers. Where she goes, Dimitri follows.

She stops when they approached the bridge, but Dimitri keeps going. He’s already seen what she wants him to. Her guidance is no longer needed. He knows where to go, although he doesn’t know what to do.

In the distance, a swordsman cradles the body of a fallen paladin. That the figure is merely silhouette in the distance doesn’t matter. Dimitri knows him--as a friend, an enemy, and the only person from his childhood that’s managed to avoid an early death. It’s anyone’s guess whether that’s a miracle or a curse.

“...Felix,” Dimitri says when Felix doesn’t see him. When Felix looks up, responding to his own name, Dimitri’s fairly sure that he still doesn’t see him--he only sees a beast, a boar king.

Dimitri levels no accusations at him. He doesn’t have to, not while Felix holds Sylvain’s lifeless body in his arms. His sword lies discarded, and Sylvain’s wounds tell the rest of the story. The Lance of Ruin lies on the ground too, broken. There’s too much blood for it to be only Sylvain’s.

“I said I'd cut down anyone who stood in my way. Even my father.” Felix’s voice wavers and drops low, almost too low to hear. “Even my friends.”

Rip his heart out. He doesn’t need it anymore, his father commands him.

Dimitri waits until he hears Glenn speak. Look at him--he’s wounded. He’s dying, Glenn finally says, and he’s right. Put him down. It’d be a mercy.

“I see,” Dimitri replies. “That was all I needed to hear to finally work up the resolve to kill you.”

That’s what he says, but his spear arm falters. Areadbhar remains in his hand as he searches for the will to wield it again--and for all his searching, he finds nothing. He can’t go through with this. He’s already lost too many people. He’s said his prayers over Dedue, and now he will for Sylvain too. He’s already sent Ingrid’s body home to her father. He doesn’t have anyone left.

The dead tell him he needs to kill. They demand justice.

For the first time in his life, Dimitri tells them, No.

Felix is easily subdued. He doesn’t defend himself at all--that would require him to let go of Sylvain, to have a hand free to find his sword and wield it. Dimitri’s not even sure he could’ve defended himself. He’s so pale, his eyes unfocused, his skin terribly cold. He collapses like a broken doll into Dimitri's arms, unconscious.

He must’ve expected death. He might even have wanted it, and that--that breaks whatever is left of Dimitri’s heart.

 

-

 

Dimitri calls on his royal healers and physicians to attend to Felix. It’d be more proper to entrust him into House Fraldarius’ care, but Dimitri prefers to keep him close, inseparable like when they were young. In part, he misses Felix. Mostly, he’s plenty aware that Felix is a handful, and if anyone has to deal with the burden of caring for him, it’d better be Dimitri himself.

That being said, Dimitri handles none of the actual caretaking. He would if Felix would allow it. Instead, the healers threw Dimitri out of the room in a matter of minutes. He “agitated” their patient, apparently, which Dimitri understands is a polite way to say that his presence alone made Felix’s condition worse.

So he waits outside, impatient. Glenn keeps him company, equally impatient. Should just kill him. What do you even think is going to happen? That after the war, you two would kiss and make up?

“I… thought we could talk and sort out our differences.” It sounds silly when he says it aloud. He frowns. “I also thought you’d be gone.”

Lovestruck puppy, Glenn says with disgust. Why would I be gone?

“Because Edelgard is dead. I didn't turn her into paste, but I can't have my soldiers see me doing that.”

She’s just the beginning.

Dimitri doesn’t respond because Mercedes chooses that moment to appear. Glenn may as well not exist anymore, the only person that matters right now is Mercedes and what news she brings about Felix.

“How is he?” he asks. His voice cracks in the most embarrassing of ways, but he doesn’t care--he just wants an answer.

She smiles and sits down next to Dimitri, tired but cheerful. “He’ll be fine. His wounds aren't too serious and will heal nicely. It's the blood loss that’s serious, but it won’t be a problem with all those bishops swarming him now. It’s good that you brought him to us when you did.”

“...Do you think I could go see him?”

Her smile freezes, not awkwardly because she’s never awkward, but it doesn’t bode well.

“I wouldn’t advise it,” she says as gentle as can be. She’s using the same bedside manner as she would for the bereaved. “He doesn’t seem very happy with you, Dimitri. Wait for him to be a bit better since he’s not very coherent anyway. Right now, I think a visit from you would make his day quite a lot worse.”

“Right,” Dimitri says, and he does what he can to not look like a kicked dog.

He must’ve looked pathetic, because Meredes pats him on the shoulder. “It won’t be so bad to wait a few days, Dimitri. You just won a war, after all. I know peace seems much less troublesome than war, but trust me, I'm sure there’ll be plenty for you to do while we give Felix all the time and space he needs to heal up.”

Dimitri sighs, resigned to doing whatever work Faerghus required of him. Even as he sulks, Glenn walks towards Felix’s door.

“Where are you going?” Dimitri asks.

Mercedes gives him a little shrug. “Wherever you go? Wherever needs help, I think.”

To watch over my rabid dog of a brother since you insist on prolonging his suffering, Glenn answers. See you around, King.

 

-

 

It takes days before Dimitri’s army returns to Fhirdiad. They’re capable of moving much sooner than they do, but instead they wait for any and all stragglers, combing the battlefield for survivors from both sides. Dimitri for his part spends his time alone, hidden away. The Tailtean Plains still smells like cinders and sounds like fire to him, so he takes reports from Mercedes and otherwise avoids leaving his tent. He hates to be a distant king, but he would hate it more if his people knew he was a mad king.

When he at last admits that there are no more survivors to be found, only then does he turn his army back to Fhirdiad, towards home.

Lady Seiros meets him at the gates of Fhirdiad. She must’ve been waiting for him.

“Your Majesty,” she greets. Her voice somehow sounds like she’s in a cathedral, echoing up into the rafters above, except they’re not in a cathedral. “Victory is ours. Yet you look as if you bear an even heavier burden than before.”

Dimitri wonders if he looks so haggard that Seiros would comment on it. “Five years of war, and the Empire cut all the way to Tailtean,” he replies. It’s almost a lament, and it’s certainly a disgrace. “My country is in shambles, Lady Seiros, there’s hardly anything to celebrate.”

“I know that an incursion so deep into Faerghus makes victory bittersweet, but it is victory nonetheless--an end to bloodshed with revenge justly delivered. Evil must be destroyed, good king, and the only regret we should have is that we could not have done it sooner.”

He looks away, but then he nods--he’s not going to argue with the archbishop, especially when he essentially agrees. He changes the topic, asking, “Did you find your mother?”

“Yes.” She smiles. She looks like a wolf after its been well fed. “But she is still lost to me, nevertheless. I can only pray that her soul may rest once more.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you. I... have been told that you’ve lost those few loved ones that remained from your childhood.” She hesitates over her words, but she speaks with earnest empathy. He doesn’t know Seiros well, but he knows that the Holy Tomb is far too small to contain all her sorrows. “Know this, Your Majesty: I am sorry for your loss, and I thank you for all that you have sacrificed. Time cannot heal your grief--nothing can heal grief, it will strike you again and again--but time will give you the strength to move forward.”

It turns out he's not going to argue with the bishop, even if he disagrees. Instead, Dimitri replies with a small correction, “I have one friend left.”

“You speak of the Fraldarius boy.” She’s pleased by his surprise; word must travel fast, or at least it travels fast if you’re the archbishop. “Yes, your prisoner, I know of him. If he is still dear to you, then I pray you will find nothing but success rebuilding your friendship with him.”

Dimitri winces. Prisoner seems harsh, but he can’t argue against it. He tries to explain, “He’s only a prisoner because he tried to murder his way back to the Empire.”

Her gaze is withering with unspoken criticism. “For all my long life, I’ve never found the need to imprison my friends, Your Majesty. I am sorry to say this, but I fear he is only another loved one that you lost in this war.”

Then she relents, giving up her harsh truths. Seiros sighs and says, “Do not let my doubts deter you. We are at peace now, King. Now is the time for us to recover, for us to rebuild order from chaos, to usher in healing and a new future. If you wish to save his soul, then now is the time--perhaps it is even the only time.”

She's humoring him. They're all humoring him, the living and the dead. In the end, Dimitri doesn't mind. Every king in the history books had their own foolish endeavors. If Felix would be his, then there are more ignoble things to chase after than an old friend.

 

-

 

The only people that Dimitri allows to see Felix are a select few of House Fraldarius’ finest knights, those who hadn’t yet lost hope that their traitorous lord might return to them. And Glenn, if Glenn counts. He’d learned the hard way that Felix would lash out at anyone that came near, metaphorically and literally.

At first, Dimitri leaves Felix in the same room he’d had growing up in Fhirdiad, with a pair of guards watching at his door--particularly well armed attendants, he had imagined, people to fetch whatever he might need and keep pesky visitors away. By the first evening, he’d found the guards unconscious and concussed, Felix nowhere to be seen.

That’s why Felix’s new residence is a prison cell.

You,” Felix says when Dimitri entered, his hands bound behind his head. He regards Dimitri with unbridled loathing, but he tempers it with a dry smirk and a glint in his eye that looks a bit too much like the glint of cold steel. “You’re the last person I want to see.”

“Is there anyone that’d you’d actually like to see?” Dimitri asks, entirely too hopeful that there might be someone left that Felix doesn't hate.

“You mean among my father’s yes men? No. They’re all the same. If one more of them tells me I need to eat, I’ll roast them on a spit.”

He does need to eat though, Dimitri can't help but notice. Felix has always been slender, but Dimitri’s never seen him this thin or this pale, never this fragile. “They’re only worried about you, Felix, as am I.”

“You brought me to Fhirdiad in a cage. I’m also fucking chained here. I was better off without your worry.”

He’d be dead without Dimitri’s worry, and he’d be executed if the Fraldarius stalwarts ever lost hope of seeing the boy Felix had once been. He’s certain Felix knows this.

“The cage was because you kept trying to fight your way free despite your wounds. The chains are because you fractured Mercedes’ arm when she tried to heal you. If you weren’t so violent, Felix, I’d be happy to let you accompany me wherever.”

“If I’m going to have to deal with you all day, then I’d rather be here.” A pause and then he rolls his eyes--it should be vaguely hurtful, but instead it’s nostalgic. “And I didn’t hurt Mercedes. Be serious.”

He could just make his apologies and leave. Dimitri’s aware that’s still an option, and it's probably his best option. It’s certainly the only wise option.

Dimitri's not sure how it's come down to this, him wearing a crown, and Felix wearing chains. All he needs is for Felix to not attack everyone in sight--is that really so much to ask? He knows peace isn’t so simple to obtain, but surely the time for swords is over. The war is over; the war is won. Yet everywhere Dimitri turns, he can’t tell the difference between victory and defeat.

He tries one more time, yet another olive branch, the last for today but there’ll be more to come. “Is there anything I can do to make this--” Dimitri gestures, this, everything, anything, “--easier for you?”

“Huh. Maybe you could unchain me.”

Well, that’s a terrible idea. There’s really no way to examine that idea without it coming up inconceivably stupid under every facet. Maybe that’s why Dimitri goes through with it, because he’s incapable of making good decisions--that, or maybe he’s just terrible at telling Felix no.

Dimitri takes the key hanging on the door and undoes the cuffs around Felix’s wrists.

You’re an idiot, kid, Glenn says, appearing out of nowhere. It’s not a warning, it’s too late for warnings. He’s just adding insult to injury.

Not even a second passes, and Dimitri sees that Felix is just as fast as he remembered--maybe even faster. No wonder Sylvain died.

Dimitri takes a fist to his chest--no wonder Sylvain died, and Felix was barely out of his deathbed, Goddess--but he catches the second fist with careless ease. Dimitri slams his entire body weight into Felix, toppling both of them to the stone floor. Felix struggles against him, but it’s not much use. Dimitri has always been stronger, and he’s fighting fit.

“The chains are going to have to stay,” Dimitri says, their bodies pressed close. It's both comfortable and uncomfortable that Dimitri knows he holds Felix's life in his hands. It feels right, and once he realizes it feels right, he feels wrong.

Crush his bones, he hears.

Rend him limb from limb, he hears.

Glenn laughs, and he hears that too.

Felix flushes pink, and Dimitri does too. He slaps the cuffs back into the place, but he keeps his weight on Felix until he's sure that Felix is bound. He’s plenty aware that if Felix slips free from under him, half his castle is likely forfeit. He knows because he’s been there; he knows that what that unquenchable bloodlust is like.

The chains clink into place, and Dimitri steps away. They both need a moment to catch their breath.

Dimitri murmurs sorry, then he repeats it again louder, “Sorry.” Goddess, he feels like he’s eight-years-old again and just broke Felix’s favorite sword for the fourth time.

For a while, he doesn’t get a response--he’s not sure why he thought he might get one--but then Felix asks, inflectionless, “Why don’t you just kill me and be done with it?”

“You’re all I have left,” Dimitri says, for once an easy question with an easy answer.

Felix laughs, a hateful sound seeping with disgust. “I am literally the reason you have no childhood friends left. I’ve seen what you do to your enemies, boar king. You gore them open until their insides are on their outsides, and you revel in it.”

“I do--I did--but you’re forgiven. I’m not going to hurt you except to make sure you’re not hurting anyone else.” It’s difficult to even be in Felix’s company like this, like spending time with a wild animal instead of a person. “I’m not going to hurt you, Felix.”

“Sure,” Felix replies, not believing a word or not wanting to believe. “Get out of my sight, boar. I’ve nothing left to say to you.”