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The Craven Knight

Chapter Text

Felix remembered sitting in his father’s lap and listening to him telling the story of Elouan, who took no glory for himself and stayed behind to make sure no dangers befell his friends.

The Craven Knight, the people called him, yet no one was braver than Elouan when the fair princess was taken by a foul beast that took up residence in the old woods. Elouan had answered the call immediately. He didn’t tell his father and mother; he didn’t send for his friends. With his trusty sword, he braved the old woods without companions. With a simple fire spell to light his way, he faced the evil of the forest alone.

It was said that the mangled bodies of previous adventurers lay strewn across the forest. It was said that the Craven Knight shook with fear when he laid eyes on the beast and that he dropped his blade and ran when he looked into its evil eyes.

But Elouan did not give up. He had another sword forged for his hand and returned to the forest. He was afraid, but for his people he marched on; for his beloved Danica, he would slay the beast.

Hunters saw the Craven Knight make camp outside the monster’s territory. Adventurers saw him wander the woods and shadow the beast, studying its moves from afar. It was said that the monster grew so accustomed to Elouan’s presence that it paid him no heed—that he could certainly sneak up on the beast and kill it while it slept. But Elouan did no such thing. He kept shadowing the beast until the townsfolk, believing the Craven Knight was courting the evils of the forest, called for his blood. They prepared to burn down the forest the night Elouan made his choice.

Now that his Book of the Beast was written, he knew the monster’s weaknesses and strengths. From the day he saw the creature, Elouan knew what had to be done. After standing at the crossroads of destiny for so long, it was finally time to move.

The night before battle, he sharpened his blade and said his prayers. In the morn, when the beast left its den to hunt, Elouan barred the way. Without his helmet and visor he stood in the sunrise with his dark tresses loose in the breeze. Without his armour, Elouan challenged the beast.

With lightning reflexes, the knight dodged the beast’s feral assault. With swift feet and sweeping strides, Elouan danced around the monster, wearing it down with calculated cuts before dealing the final blow…

Chapter Text

Rodrigue Fraldarius’s military career culminated in the war against Sreng 1168, where he diverted from the main army and led a strategic retreat to defend the home front against enemy raids.

It is said that no matter where the enemy attacked, Rodrigue would be there defending—Fraldarius banners in the wind and his Aegis Shield in hand. It is said that no one shone brighter than the raven-haired duke when he rained white magic upon the battlefield and rallied his troops. And for his brilliant leadership and devotion to the people, King Lambert awarded him the name Faerghus’s Shield. At the end of the war, his subjects flocked to the streets to cheer for him in the victory parade.

And in 1186, when he died saving the life of the Lost Prince, his subjects would come to accompany him on his final journey when his remains were moved to the ancestral catacombs.

There was no award ceremony, no praises to be sung for Rodrigue’s death; no compensation to the family from the Crown, and no posthumous titles to be handed out. There was only silence as the duchy mourned the loss of its beloved ruler.

It is said that Felix Fraldarius’s expression was unreadable when Rodrigue’s testament was read, but the young duke became notably upset after receiving the will in his hand and he left the ceremony early.

Some say he mourned in secret alone. Others say he found comfort in the arms of his lifelong friend Dimitri—the Saviour King.

* * *

The moment his father’s death was announced, Felix Fraldarius was crushed by the weight of the world. The moment he opened the trunk assigned to him from the late Duke Fraldarius, Felix knew he could no longer run from his responsibilities. When he received his father’s books and sword, Felix knew he stood at the crossroads of destiny.

He’d searched in his uncle’s face for sage advice, but the man only offered him the sad look of grief. He’d looked to Sylvain and Ingrid, to Ashe and Leonie, and to Seteth and the Professor too. But they had been unhelpful all the same. Even the Boar—the cause of Felix’s grief and hesitation—couldn’t show him the path. For in the end, no one knew better what Felix Fraldarius wanted better than Felix himself.

The king is a foul beast; a bloodthirsty animal in disguise. The king is his beloved friend… a tortured soul who needed him more than ever and more than anyone else in this world.

He hates the king—the liar, the Boar. He loves the king—his dearest, most precious friend.

It took him weeks—an entire month, to solidify his decision. Back then, Felix didn’t know what the future might hold. Even now, with the Kingdom liberated and a united Fódlan on the table, Felix doesn’t know if he made the right choice.

Rodrigue Fraldarius has been laid to rest in the ancestral catacombs. Now the only thing remaining is for Felix to officially rise as his father’s successor.

And so he marches up on Twin Stars Hill, lined with birches at the bottom and adorned with standing stones on top—each representing one of the great noble houses that first joined Loog in the Faerghus Rebellion. The Fraldarius banner feels heavy in his hand, and the uphill slope feels steeper than ever before. But Felix marches on with the rest of House Fraldarius following behind him in a line: his uncle André, his cousin Jacques, and then everyone else.

The sun shines brightly in the autumn morn and only a few clouds streak the red-blushed sky. The air is cold, and the wind barely tugs at the banner in Felix’s hands.

“A good omen,” says the uncle. “A new bright dawn for House Fraldarius,” Uncle André proclaims. The old fox is no different from his dead brother when it comes to traditions: He places too much importance on the ceremonies that he might as well have become a priest.

Reaching the top of the hill where the standings stones forms a circle, Felix hands the flagpole to his cousin Jacques and then removes his doublet and shirts. He disrobes to his undergarments, shivering in the cold as he then kneels on the dewy grass in the middle of the circle of ancient stones. His uncle clears his throat and raises his voice in a speech.

Felix used to think he’d stand at the sidelines watching Glenn become the head of House Fraldarius. Yet, here he is, at the place where Loog was chosen the first King of Faerghus. Here Felix is, on his knees, swearing an oath to his ancestors and relatives to bring glory to House Fraldarius while Glenn was dead.

Felix gasps when his uncle cuts his hair-tie loose with an ornate knife—dramatically spilling Felix’s raven hair over his shoulders. Then, the uncle carefully cuts loose a lock and ignites the strands with a spell. He throws them up in the air, letting embers scatter to the wind as he finishes his speech. Cousin Jacques then brings forth the Fraldarius banner after having removed the flagpole, and wraps it around Felix’s shoulders and fastens it with a ceremonial pin. He looks down at Felix’s hair for a moment, and then takes the feathered beret off his head and places it on Felix’s—sparing his cousin the humiliation of showing everyone his embarrassing physical imperfections.

Uncle André signs to the members of House Fraldarius with a gesture and the current heads of the families approach Felix with wooden swords. They form a perimeter and circle around him, flourishing their weapons in a dance immemorial while reciting practiced lines. They each take a swing at Felix and strike him once, and then they stab the dirt and kneel, hailing him as leader for the very first time.

Felix stands and gestures to his cousins to rise, and as they return to the crowd Uncle André asks the ninth Duke Fraldarius to make a speech. But Felix’s lips are glued shut as he stands there with his hair waving in the wind, and for a moment all that sounds is the rustle of the trees and that one cousin who won’t stop coughing due to his bad cold. Then, Cousin Jacques laughs in discomfort and tells everyone Felix is sick and tired and still hasn’t properly recovered from the war. Felix sighs and picks up his doublet and shirts from the ground. He then lifts the banner over his head and throws it back to Cousin Jacques.

As the crowd begins dispersing, Felix dresses himself, shivering as he slips the cold shirts on his body. As he closes his doublet, Jacques then drapes a newly tailored cloak over his shoulders and hands him a silver brooch engraved with the Fraldarius Crest. Felix slowly closes his hand around the trinket and averts his eyes—it is identical to the one his father used to wear. Jacques notices his troubled expression and squeezes his right shoulder. Looking up, Felix also sees Uncle André nod to him with confidence.

The new Duke Fraldarius turns his head sideways and huffs, batting his cousin’s hand away as he secures the cloak around his shoulders with the pin. He begins leaving the hill, but stops in his pace when he suddenly spots the future king of Faerghus approaching with his sworn sword and shield in tow.

Dimitri stops and looks to Felix. He then gestures a silent command to Dedue and sends his vassal back downhill where presumably the rest of the retinue waits.

Felix inhales deeply, standing rigid as Dimitri approaches him alone. Uncle André and Cousin Jacques bow to the future king, but Felix stands; he stands as Dimitri’s tall shadow looms over Felix and blocks the warm sunrise. The raven-haired duke finally breaks the silence and asks:

“What are you doing here, Dimitri?”

The friend winces at the sound of his given name; even after months, he’s still not used to Felix using it and bites the inside of his cheeks to hold back a smile.

“Am I interrupting?” asks Dimitri.

“We’re done,” Felix says before his uncle or cousin can answer for him. “I don’t even remember why I agreed to this charade.”

“Hah, and here I was looking forward to the parade,” says Dimitri.

“Hmph. You know how I feel about those,” Felix replies, and the friend nods with a mild smile. Dimitri’s gaze then lingers on Felix’s new clothes, looking him up and down.

“Well, that’s a shame. You look quite dashing in your new gear.”

Felix chokes on his breath in one part embarrassment and three parts frustration.

“Save your nonsense,” he then says. “Why are you here? Don’t you have a coronation to prepare for?”

“You left the funeral yesterday quite abruptly. I was worried.”

Felix spontaneously lets out a ragged laugh and shakes his head in disbelief.

That’s the reason you dragged your feet all the way to this damn hill?”

The future king takes a few steps forward to stand next to Felix, close enough for their shoulders to touch but still facing the other direction. Dimitri looks up to the standing stones and lets out a sigh.

“I remember you being opposed to becoming a courtier,” he then says. “Is this really what you want, Felix?”

Someone’s got to make sure you don’t run this kingdom to the ground, boar,” Felix snarls without moving an inch. “Someone’s got to make sure you don’t lose your mind in the snake pit within the first day of your reign,” he then adds. “The Professor—the Archbishop—is too busy to babysit you now so that responsibility naturally falls back on me.”

Seeing Dimitri’s shadow move, Felix realizes a hand is sneaking up behind him. He quickly whirls around and away from Dimitri only to lose his hat in the process. Felix gasps and turns back to the monarch, seeing the friend staring at him in confusion while holding his hat by the tip of the feathers. Dimitri’s eyes grow tall and Felix’s hand flies up to cover the unflattering bald spot above his forehead. He curses under his breath and violently snatches the hat back for himself.

“So that’s why you…” Dimitri makes a sweeping gesture above his head to illustrate, “tie your hair in such an… impractical way?”

Felix refrains from answering the useless question as he covers his head with his cousin’s hat.

“When did it begin?” Dimitri asks. He clearly isn’t dropping the subject. “I didn’t know that hereditary trait runs in the family.”

“It doesn’t,” Felix says in annoyance. He sighs. “My hair—it has looked worse. It’ll grow back eventually. Hopefully at a quicker pace now that I don’t have to stress about the war or finding the Lost Prince.”

Dimitri opens and closes his mouth without uttering a word. Then, he says:

“I’ve caused you more pain than—”

“Don’t flatter yourself, boar,” Felix interjects before Dimitri could start a pity-party. “My own carelessness has nothing to do with you.” He then stares at Dimitri’s messy hair. “Visit a damn barber before your coronation or people will start calling you the Beggar King.”

Dimitri looks down towards the grass and lets out a low, mirthful laugh.

“Hah, and what would that make you?” Dimitri says. “I’d be lying if I were to say I’m not worried about the coronation. You know you’ll have to kneel at the ceremony? Are you okay with that, Felix?”

“I’m not above kneeling to my king, Dimitri,” Felix replies, briefly raising his hands above his shoulders.

Dimitri stares at him without words, and the conversation grinds to a halt.

“My father’s will predates Glenn’s death,” Felix then says, followed by a low ironic laugh. “He chose me over Glenn. Why? Because my damn Crest was stronger than my brother’s?”

“If your father cared about Crests he would’ve had you tested at birth, not wait for Glenn to foolishly risk your life with the Hero’s Relic,” Dimitri replies. “I cannot speak for Rodrigue,” he then says. “But, I want you to know that I’m glad he chose you, Felix. Even if Glenn was alive today, I wouldn’t have wanted it otherwise.”

The future king of Faerghus steps forward, hands folded behind his back as he paces towards the nearest menhir. The birds sing in the sunlit branches and swallows sail across the sky as Dimitri lays a hand on the ancient stone. Then, he whispers something for himself—or to his ghosts.

“Do you remember ten years ago?” Dimitri then says, looking over his shoulder and towards the young Duke Fraldarius with a wistful look. “When I lost everyone… I couldn’t imagine myself as king without you.”

“Hah. Understatement of the century,” Felix mutters, loud enough for his friend to hear.

“Yes,” Dimitri admits. “I was quite hopeless back then. But you stood me up. Because of you, I found the strength to get back up on my feet and fight on… even if for the wrong reasons.” When he sees Felix staring at him impatiently, he quickly gets to the point. “What I mean is… I’m glad to have you at my side, Felix. I couldn’t imagine myself on the throne without you back then.” He looks straight at Felix, briefly flashing his teeth in an awkward smile as the wind lifts his golden hair. “I still can’t.”

Felix shudders as the vision of a distant nightmare flashes before his eyes. He looks away while letting out a long, drawn out sigh, despite his heart hammering against his ribs. He clenches his fists and knits his eyebrows, keeping his gaze on the grass as his mind fights his body for domination. The future king of Faerghus then steps towards him, resting a warm hand on Felix’s nearest shoulder and letting it linger until the duke finally relaxes. As Dimitri passes and starts heading down the hill, Felix finally turns around.

“Make it worth my time, King,” he says to Dimitri’s back.

The friend doesn’t turn around, but quietly nods while leaving the hill.

Felix casts a long look up at the standing stones. Even though he can call Dimitri his friend again, there is a rift separating them. Perhaps this rift will forever exist—Felix knows very well that no matter his heart’s desire he and Dimitri can never go back to how they used to be. What they can do is to move forward and hope that something new could be forged from the remnants of their past.

He draws the second sword hanging from his belt—the blade he never uses—and stabs the grass, pushing the blade halfway down into the dirt. Then, he slides a hand into his pocket and retrieves from it an old black iron spur. Turning it in his hand, Felix wonders if he has completely failed to understand his own family after all. He hangs the spur on the crossguard of the sword and leaves both items there while rejoining his uncle and cousin at the bottom of the hill.

Mounting his horse, Felix looks back towards the hill one last time. A meek smile tugs up the corners of his lips and he sighs, feeling a weight lifting from his chest as he finally rides home to prepare for the inevitable coronation ceremony in Fhirdiad.

* * *

On King Dimitri’s coronation day, Felix Hugo Fraldarius knelt and pledged fealty to the Crown for all to see.

It is said that during the ceremony, instead of pressing his lips on the king’s signet ring, the raven-haired duke kissed a scar on the back of King Dimitri’s hand—a gesture that moved the Saviour King to the point of speechlessness. Stunned to silence, the king left the young Duke Fraldarius kneeling for so long that those attending the ceremony thought Felix Fraldarius had offended the king.

Chapter Text

When news of the royal family’s demise reached the Faerghus nobility, many lords and ladies left their castles to find out the truth.

Rodrigue Fraldarius was one of those lords. After a brief visit in Fhirdiad, the raven-haired duke rode westward with a handful of retainers to assess the demise of the royal family.

Once there, he would find Kingdom armies lining the horizon in preparation for war—the Western Kingdom nobles demanded justice for the regicide. Blinded by his fury and loyalty to his friend, Rodrigue Fraldarius initially wished to join the cause. But then a courier arrived at his tent with a message from Sir Gustave—King Lambert’s close friend and knight.

Per Gustave’s request, Rodrigue left the warcamp at night, riding out to a remote mining village. There, he was reunited with young Prince Dimitri—Gustave had found the prince alive and kept him hidden from the world. Rodrigue exhausted all his magic and power to heal the prince’s wounds, swearing to save Prince Dimitri even at the cost of his own life.

“It seems my faith was not misplaced,” said Gustave. “Rodrigue, you must take His Highness and leave Duscur. Do not reveal Prince Dimitri until you’re safe behind Fhirdiad’s walls.”

“What about you, Gustave?” asked Rodrigue.

“There is work yet to be done, Rodrigue,” replied the knight. “Many a snake wishes for His Highness’s demise and it is my duty to find the ones responsible for this bloodbath,” said Gustave before leaving the prince in Duke Fraldarius’s hands.

Rodrigue Fraldarius was usually completely removed from court intrigue, but even he knew a snake pit when he saw one. He was making preparations for the return to Fhirdiad when the invasion began at dawn.

An honourable man, Lord Rodrigue had expected the nobles at the head of the Kingdom armies to demand the masterminds of the massacre handed over. At most, he imagined some small skirmishes between armies if Duscur refused cooperation. He never imagined that the entire region would be razed to the ground—even the village that had given the young prince refuge wasn’t spared from the Kingdom’s wrath.

It is said that Duke Fraldarius had tried to stop the army approaching the village, but was ignored by the lords leading the assault. Mighty as he was when he had the late king’s favour, Lord Rodrigue was nothing more than a nuisance now. At the height of the Punishment of Duscur, his noble rank and titles meant nothing to the frenzied soldiers. He was powerless when the army burned the village to ash. And he was powerless when the young prince wandered out on the street, desperately trying to stop the massacre and was nearly killed while shielding a village boy from harm…

* * *

In summer 1176 the nobility of Faerghus declared war on Duscur in response to the regicide. After combining their military forces, they marched on Duscur and burnt every city, town and village in the Duscur peninsula to the ground and butchered all civilians in sight: men, women, children; everyone who couldn’t flee in time.

Prince Dimitri tried to stop the carnage on the streets, but was struck down by his own countrymen. Duke Rodrigue Fraldarius and the young prince narrowly escaped the battle with the help of a village boy, who was orphaned in the massacre.

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Thirteen year old Felix Fraldarius had rushed to the gates of Fhirdiad when he heard about his father’s return. Reunited with his friend, Prince Dimitri latched his arms around Felix’s chest and clung on tightly. He cried and wailed, telling Felix he was scared. He cried and wailed, crushing Felix in his embrace while begging Felix to not leave him all alone. Felix gasped and tore at the Prince’s coat with useless hands while suffocating in his dear friend’s arms. It took the efforts of both Lord Rodrigue and one of his retainers to pry Prince Dimitri away from the young duke.

No one in Castle Fhirdiad could handle the Prince. At day, Dimitri would cry and use violence against anyone who wasn’t Felix Fraldarius or Lord Rodrigue. At night, he would wreck his room, throwing everything he could get his hands on before retreating to the darkness under his bed. Even Grand Duke Rufus couldn’t approach his own nephew without suffering Dimitri’s wrath, and he begrudgingly asked that Felix stay in Castle Fhirdiad to care for the Prince. Lord Rodrigue had agreed without a second thought.

And so, after Glenn had been laid to rest, Felix came to spend the next months in Castle Fhirdiad carefully nursing Prince Dimitri back to health.

The Prince refused to do anything without Felix; Dimitri became so dependent on his friend that he would sneak out of his bedchambers and walk all the way to the other side of the castle in the middle of the night, climbing into Felix’s bed and demanding to be held. Felix didn’t know what to think of this complete role reversal—even Felix himself was never this pathetic. Yet, for the Prince, Felix had all the patience in the world; for his best friend, he’d do anything and more. He had lost his brother already—he didn’t want to lose Dimitri, too.

Despite the hole in his own heart following Glenn’s death, Felix convinced himself to shed no tears. He had lost his beloved brother, but Dimitri lost everything. He had to be strong, Lord Rodrigue had told him, if not for himself; for Dimitri. He had to be strong, Felix told himself, if not for himself; for his beloved friend.

For a long time, Felix felt that he and Dimitri were worlds apart. He wanted to know what Dimitri was afraid of, but the friend couldn’t tell him. He wanted to protect his friend, but Felix didn’t know who or what he had to fight. Seeing his friend suffer made Felix ill in his soul. And hearing courtiers and castle attendants spread rumours about the Prince made Felix’s blood boil in his veins.

Dimitri was not possessed—he was very, very hurt! Dimitri did not mistake Felix for Glenn—it was Felix’s name he chanted like a mantra whenever he was upset!

Felix could never correct the servants and courtiers without sounding self-important and rude, but it couldn’t be helped. The mere mention of Glenn would set Dimitri off—the brother must have died a particularly gruesome death. The Prince would latch onto Felix for dear life and keep chanting “No no no no no!” followed by the repeating of Felix’s given name. The young duke could swear one noble purposely called him Glenn for a cheap laugh at Dimitri’s expense—apologies poured out of his mouth, but the words did not match the face. Felix would’ve shoved his dagger into the dastard who called him the Prince’s little valet, if Dimitri’s well-being wasn’t more important to him than his own pride.

And where was Duke Fraldarius when all of this happened? He was always busy with something or someone else when Felix needed his father’s help, protection, and guidance. Lord Rodrigue, he poured all energy into investigating the Tragedy of Duscur and left Felix to fend for himself. In pursuit of the truth behind the regicide and the death of his elder son, he neglected his younger living child, who tripped and fell all over the place while helplessly trying to catch his father and brother’s shadow.

There was no Uncle André to ask for sage advice—the Grand Duke detested Felix and only kept him around because Dimitri desperately needed his friend. There was no Jean to ask for help—Castle Fhirdiad’s steward, Anton, was an old grouch who regarded Felix more as a servant than a young lord. There was no Sylvain to run to for protection and no Ingrid to cheer him up—the young margrave couldn’t leave his father’s castle due to illness, and Count Galatea wisely refused to send his prized daughter to Fhirdiad during political instability.

But even though Felix was fighting alone, he didn’t lose hope. Even if no one offered him a hand or even a glance, Felix held back his tears and got back up. Even if Lord Rodrigue didn’t look back to see if his son was getting hurt, Felix bravely fought on.

One day—Felix believed it—he would walk beside his father and brother and not behind them. Even if Dimitri was dragging him down, he would get back up. He would grow strong, Felix promised himself—strong like his father and strong like Glenn: strong enough to carry his brother’s burdens and strong enough to carry Dimitri, too! For Prince Dimitri was his—was Felix Fraldarius’s—dearest friend, and Felix would die faster than leaving him behind!

Yet, leaving the Prince was exactly what Felix would do… a decision he would later in life regard as his greatest mistake.

Chapter Text

As the days and weeks passed, Dimitri got accustomed to the company of others again, but had become paranoid and withdrawn. His paranoia affected his training too; nobody dared to spar with the Prince after seeing him lose himself in anger and break both weapons and props. Nobody except Felix, who loved his friend with all of his heart, but still worried that one day he might be the unfortunate training dummy that Dimitri shredded with his bare hands.

Lord Rodrigue would take some time off to see Dimitri and Felix perhaps once a week, taking the boys on long horse rides in the countryside. For all the wrong things Felix thought his father had done, he did one thing right: Dimitri seemed genuinely happy while being away from the castle. Yet, Felix couldn’t help but feel anger towards Duke Fraldarius: for even when Lord Rodrigue did something right he had to ruin it with something wrong. There were times Felix heard his father’s motives as clear as a bell: those dangerous questions he asked once in a while, trying to coax information out from Dimitri about what occurred during the massacre. Even though he was careful, Felix still feared that his dim-witted father would one day set Dimitri off and cause him to ride off a bridge or worse.

The Grand Duke wasted no time to have Dimitri start studying again, and Felix was naturally assigned to the Prince as his aide—effectively replacing Glenn. Dimitri always saw Felix when he looked at him, but he did call him the brother’s name once when he was focused on reading and not paying attention. Felix was complaining about how Lord Rodrigue was never around in the castle when Dimitri suddenly said:

“Glenn, can you get me the dictionary?”

Felix, not Glenn,” the young duke corrected him.

“Ah! Did I say—? I’m sorry, Felix! I didn’t mean—!”

“I know. Here’s your dictionary.”

Obviously, the Prince simply wasn’t used to having Felix as his aide instead of Glenn, but Felix couldn’t help but feel bad in his position regardless of Dimitri’s intent. He realized that even though he wasn’t much like his brother in terms of personality, he had set himself on the exact same path Glenn had walked before him: He was the prince’s aide, he was a squire, he helped his father and uncle in the duchy’s council, and his knighthood was as imminent as the dawn…

“Am I really becoming my brother?” Felix had unintentionally asked out aloud. In hindsight, he must have sounded awfully bitter when he said those words, for he remembered Dimitri immediately throwing his arms around his neck afterwards.

“You’re you,” said Dimitri. “You’re Felix Fraldarius.” As he spoke those words, Dimitri leant against Felix, forcing the young duke to take a step back and hold his friend to not trip. “You’re my protector; my best friend. I-I don’t see anyone else, Felix,” said the Prince with a quiver in his voice. “A-and if you ever doubt—or forget, I’ll remind you. I’ll remind you that you are Felix Fraldarius—my dearest, most precious friend!”

Did the Prince say those words in earnest, or were they just said to placate him? At the time, they had sounded too good to be true, and Felix only chose to believe them because he desperately wanted to. In hindsight, Felix realized Dimitri had meant every single word. In retrospect, he realized the Prince had been as scared of losing Felix as Felix was afraid of disappearing if not more so.

* * *

That night, the Prince had once again climbed onto his bed, and he gave Felix his complete trust; finally divulging what strange forces constantly chased him to Felix’s room. In the darkness, Dimitri laid out all his fears for his friend to see. Laying between the pillows and the duvet, the Prince tugged Felix’s sleeve and whispered:

“I hear him.”

“Who?” said Felix, half asleep. He turned to face Dimitri despite the darkness.

Glenn,” said the Prince with a quiver in his voice. “His ghost… He’s hurt and suffering. He wants me to kill—”

“Don’t be stupid, Dimitri,” Felix remembered himself say; words that he years later would come to deeply regret, “there are no ghosts.” He slipped a hand under and past Dimitri’s arm, cradling the Prince’s shoulder blade and motioning him to come closer. “You miss Glenn and you had a bad dream,” had Felix, in his infinite wisdom, said. “Besides, if Glenn wants to haunt someone… he’d haunt me for doing a bad job protecting you.”

Dimitri lay still for a moment, but as Felix began to lovingly caress his shoulder the Prince finally embraced him. Felix let out a faint sigh. As he tucked Dimitri away in his arms and ran gentle fingers  through the Prince’s soft, blond hair, Dimitri whispered to him a faint “Thank you,” to which Felix replied with an acknowledging “M-hm” as they drifted away to sleep.

In the next morning, Prince Dimitri would be gone from the room and Felix would find out from one of the maids that the Prince had risen early and headed out of the keep. Worried about his friend, Felix had hurried out, disregarding his lack of footwear and ignoring the stones and pebbles digging into his feet. He would follow the sounds of wood and metal breaking. Finally, he would find Dimitri in the training-yard swinging at a dummy with his lance.

And when the Prince saw Felix, he drew his lips up in a toothy grin, waving towards his beloved friend and saying:

“What took you so long, sleepy-head? Go eat breakfast and get changed so we can spar later!”

Dimitri would not mention any ghosts chasing him again.

Chapter Text

Lord Rodrigue had brought a Duscur village boy back to Castle Fhirdiad along with Prince Dimitri. Orphaned by the Tragedy, the boy had made himself home in the servant quarters and sworn his life to the Prince. Felix Fraldarius often saw him all by himself, since the other servants avoided him like a plague and Anton didn’t care for him beyond obligatory etiquette training. Felix only learnt his name after the young servant came to the Prince’s study offering herbal tea. Despite being about Felix’s age, he towered over the young duke and the Prince; he would’ve been quite menace-looking if his posture wasn’t hunched and his gaze downcast on the tea-set he balanced on a tray in his hands.

“Come in, then,” said Felix. He cleared the Prince’s desk a bit to let the servant put the tray down. “What’s your name?”

The tea set clattered as the servant adjusted his grip. He was newly trained in his duties, Felix could tell. He’d also overheard Anton giving him an earful for referring to Dimitri by his given name after hearing Felix call the Prince as such.

“Don’t tell me your name is actually ‘Boy’,” said Felix, lifting his right eyebrow.

“My name…” The tea stirred in the cup as the boy served it. “It is Dedue,” he said. “Sir Felix? Lord Felix?” he then added hesitantly, not even looking up once—he was definitely newly trained.

“Thanks, Dedue,” said Felix curtly.

He took the tea and pushed it towards Dimitri, who lifted the cup and blew on it a bit before drinking.

“Is it good?” asked Dedue, forgetting his manners as he stood hunched over the desk and staring at the Prince was a nervous look.

“It’s nice,” said the Prince. “I like it.”

“Ah! That’s great. I’ll bring you more tomorrow if you want, Your Highness.”

Felix then heard someone knock on the doorframe. Dedue heard it too and he quickly bounced away from the desk and backed off to the nearest corner where he stood and nervously wrung his hands.

“Calm down, rabbit,” said Felix as Cousin Jacques gestured to him to come outside. “My cousin won’t bite.”

Felix walked around the table to head out of the room. Passing the servant, he pointed to Dedue and then at the Prince.

“We’re heading back to the duchy in three days,” said Cousin Jacques once they were out of Dimitri’s earshot. “Grand Duke Rufus no longer wants us around.”

Felix looked back into the room where Dedue was collecting the tea set while the Prince was trying to chat—asking the servant if he was being treated well in the castle.

“Is Dimitri coming too?” said Felix.

“Uncle has asked for permission.”

Permission?” said Felix incredulously. “He’s practically Dima’s uncle!”

“King Lambert is dead, Felix. Prince Dimitri’s real uncle is in charge and the snakes whispering in his ear have it out for us and House Fraldarius.”

“But what about Dimitri? And me?”

“We are no longer needed, Felix.”

* * *

That evening, Felix Fraldarius was pushed down the staircase on the way to his bedroom. He luckily survived the tumble with only a few bruises, but he didn’t see the assailant who’d shoved him from behind. The Duscur servant boy, who was found in the same area at the time of the incident, was immediately seized and branded the culprit. A spy, they called him—a mole planted in the castle to finish the job of ending the Blaiddyd line.

Later that night, Lord Rodrigue would return from his errands and question his son, who said the servant boy couldn’t possibly have pushed him:

“I saw him on the other side of the hallway when it happened,” said Felix. “He was bringing out laundry from my room when I fell.”

Duke Fraldarius would then venture down to the castle dungeon and find the servant boy.

“I saw who pushed Lord Felix,” said Dedue when Lord Rodrigue set him free.

* * *

That night, Lord Rodrigue informed his son that they were leaving Fhirdiad tomorrow without the Prince. Felix’s heart shrivelled at the sound of his father’s non-negotiable order—he wouldn’t even get those three days to say goodbye to Dimitri. Usually, Felix would’ve whined and complained, but he couldn’t find the energy to argue with his father anymore. And Duke Fraldarius, he was gone as fast as he had arrived, sparing little thought for his son who needed his help, protection, guidance, and love.

Felix had locked his door and cried bitterly at his desk that night—for the first time in two months he’d allowed himself to be weak. It wasn’t the cause of his tears, but he had just survived the first attempt on his life—it was only fair for him to be scared and feel unsafe.

Even though only Glenn had died in Duscur, Felix felt that the Tragedy took his father, too. And soon, he would lose Dimitri as well…

Suddenly, a knock on the door seized Felix’s attention and he jumped up from his chair.

“Lord Felix,” said Dedue. “Are you in there? His Highness is looking for you.”

“It’s late,” replied Felix, furiously wiping his tears. “Tell him I’ll be there tomorrow.”

Felix!” shouted Dimitri. “Dedue says someone pushed you down the stairs! Is it true?

You brought him here?” said Felix, yelling as a wildfire was set loose in his gut. He stomped over to the door, put his hands on the wood and then leaned onto it with his weight. “He’s supposed to be sleeping in his room! In the east wing! Walk him back there, you idiot!”

“His Highness says he can’t sleep without you.”

Hearing that statement from someone who wasn’t Dimitri made Felix feel ill. He let out a frustrated growl, unlocked the door and then tore it open with such force that he startled Dimitri, who stumbled back into Dedue, who in turn spilt wax on the floor from his lit candlestick.

Upon seeing Felix, the Prince leapt inside the room and caught his friend in his arms. Felix looked past Dimitri’s shoulder and glared at the servant, who wore a content smile on his face as if bringing the Prince to him was a good thing.

“Lord Felix?” said Dedue, confused by Felix’s glare.

“Go back to work,” hissed Felix, lowering his voice to a cold whisper.

Dedue, flustered, quickly bowed and excused himself. He scurried off, and the echoes of his footsteps had barely died away when Felix pried the Prince away from the embrace.

“Go back to your room,” said Felix, his voice stiff and cold.

Dimitri’s big blue eyes caught the sight of Felix’s bloodshot ones and the Prince wilfully lowered his eyebrows and shook his head.

Felix inhaled deeply and then exhaled through his nose.

“I’m leaving Fhirdiad tomorrow,” said the young duke, turning his head away with a downcast look. “What are you going to do when I’m gone?” Felix then dejectedly asked the Prince. “Ask Anton or Dedue or your uncle to be your bed-mate?”

No, it has to be you! Felix, it has to be you…” said Dimitri with a shaky voice. Felix, y-you’re not leaving without me, right? I’m coming with you, right?”

Felix bit his lower lip and averted his eyes again. His silence alone was sufficient as an answer.

Dimitri’s face fell. The Prince lowered his head between quaking shoulders and then said:

“It’s because I’m weak and annoying, isn’t it? You’re only here because my uncle ordered you, right? Glenn died because of me so you must hate—”

Shut up,” said Felix, his chest rising and falling quickly as he stared at the Prince who stood there repeating the cruel things the damn courtiers said behind his back. No longer able to ignore the serrated blade that Dimitri had plunged into his heart, Felix closed and locked his door and then grasped Dimitri’s upper arms.

“Shut up,” he told the Prince, giving him a firm shake with his hands. “It’s not you, Dimitri; it’s your uncle. Your stupid uncle hates my father, and a bunch of nobles teamed up to kick us out of the Royal Court.”

“Don’t go,” said Dimitri, closing the remaining distance between them and wrapping possessive arms around Felix’s torso. “Please, don’t go, Felix,” whispered Dimitri. “I need you, Felix.”

Felix stood silent as his own treacherous eyes began to water.

In his heart, Felix Fraldarius knew what he wanted—he wanted to fight for and protect the Prince. He had always strived towards that goal, whether it was pursuing Glenn’s shadow or trying to please Lord Rodrigue. But that tumble down the stairs had been a rude awakening, and now he truly understood how powerless he was as a lion in this snake pit that was Dimitri’s golden cage.

“What do you want me to do?” asked Felix ruefully. “Defy your uncle so he can chop off my head?”

“I won’t let him hurt you!” said Dimitri. Felix could hear the familiar fierceness of Dimitri’s voice through the sadness as the Prince hugged him a bit too tightly again.

“I can’t lose you, Felix,” whispered Dimitri. He renewed his hold around Felix, repositioning his arms lower and Felix let out a small gasp as the Prince effortlessly lifted him and left his feet dangling above the floor. “I can’t lose you too, Felix, I can’t!” said Dimitri, helplessly pressing his face against Felix’s warm chest.

“Then get back up,” said Felix, hands gripping the back of Dimitri’s shirt as he was still being held up by the Prince. Frustrated by his own powerlessness, Felix poured out the rest of his feelings about their predicament. “There are people who want to use you and control you, Dima, because you’re the heir to the throne. And I’m too weak to protect you on my own…”

“I fought for you,” he continued. “I scolded the servants who gave you funny looks; I cursed down the nobles who tried to provoke you! I gave you my support; I gave you everything! But it’s not enough.” Warm tears clouded his vision, and his heart almost imploded at the admission of his own insignificance. “I’m just a glorified valet,” said Felix bitterly. “I can only do so much, and soon I won’t be able to do anything. But you’re the Prince of Faerghus, Dima! One day, you’ll be king. You can do so much, Dimitri, you can do anything! So please, get back up and fight…”

Dimitri didn’t react to his fiery speech immediately and remained silent with his face buried in Felix’s chest, but Felix did feel the Prince starting to loosen his hold around him. Slowly, the Prince set Felix down to his feet. Seeing Dimitri’s downcast look as he released him, Felix gripped his friend’s shoulders.

“Be strong, Dimitri,” he whispered. “For yourself—for me—for everyone who believes in you! I’ll do everything to get back to your side—I promise.”

Dimitri nodded, still silent for a while.

“I’ll go back to my room,” the Prince then said, crestfallen as he brushed Felix’s hands off his shoulders. His sorrowful tone did not escape Felix, who immediately said:

“Wait, stay for tonight, Dima.”

“Didn’t you want me to be strong?” asked the Prince glumly.

Felix reached out and seized Dimitri’s wrist.

“I’m scared,” said Felix with a lump in his throat—it wasn’t a complete lie even if it sounded like one. “I got pushed down the stairs today; keep me safe tonight, okay?”

The Prince lifted his gaze, giving Felix a hesitant look. Felix raised his free hand and closed it to a fist, shaking it with confidence. Dimitri gave him a meek smile and his cheeks gained a deep shade of pink. The Prince led the young duke to the bed, tucking Felix away in his arms and caressing raven locks with a lingering smile until they both had fallen asleep.

He’d find his way back to Dimitri, Felix had told himself that night. Through the way of knighthood or by other means, he’d find his way back to his dear friend.

For in his heart, Felix Fraldarius had always known what he wanted—he wanted to be with and protect Dimitri—his dearest, most precious friend.

* * *

The Prince was gone from his bed in the morning, and Felix wasn’t surprised considering what he’d told Dimitri last night.

But he was a little upset that Dimitri didn’t see him off at the gatehouse. Felix had looked towards the windows in the keep, wondering if his friend was somewhere watching him secretly. Felix had no idea when they’d see each other again after this, so he wanted to at least say goodbye, but it couldn’t be helped.

And so they were off, leaving the capital as the sun stood high above the horizon in the autumn wind. As they rode down the road eastward, Felix kept looking back towards Fhirdiad and the Blaiddyd banners waving above the watchtowers. And Felix promised himself he’d grow strong. Stronger than his father and stronger than Glenn: strong enough to brave that pit of snakes and strong enough to protect Dimitri the next time he returned to Fhirdiad. For he was Felix Fraldarius—Prince Dimitri’s dearest, most precious friend.

Aside from his cousin miscounting supplies, the journey was problem-free. Nearing Fraldarius’s border, they rested in a village in the outskirts of Blaiddyd territory. Felix was on stable duty when he solved the mystery: In the stables he discovered who’d been stealing food from the supplies: Prince Dimitri and Dedue had been hiding in the cart all along.

Felix was elated to see his friend escaping his cage, but Lord Rodrigue was less thrilled. Suddenly, the Prince was reported missing. Suddenly, Lord Rodrigue was accused of kidnapping the heir to the throne.

They stayed in that village, waiting for the Knights of Faerghus to catch up—there was no use running; House Fraldarius would never embrace high treason. Prince Dimitri was regretful for having gotten Felix and his father in trouble, but what was done was done. Whoever devised the plan to get him out of the Royal Court wasn’t going to let him go that easily anyway, said Lord Rodrigue.

When Dimitri had gone to sleep that night, Duke Fraldarius, Felix, and Dedue argued over who should take the blame.

“When the knights arrive, I want you to be quiet, Felix,” said Lord Rodrigue. “I will handle this.”

“Rufus already hates you, old man!” said Felix. “I should take the fall!”

“You’re my son and heir, Felix. I won’t have you throw your future away—”

“There is no need for you to put yourselves in danger,” said Dedue. “I helped His Highness escape. I should accept the punishment.”

“Do you want to die?” Felix yelled at the servant. “You’ll be executed, idiot! Who are you helping being dead? Just shut up and pretend Dimitri dragged you out here!”

Despite the argument, Prince Dimitri dealt with the situation himself the next day. At the village gate the Prince stood firm on his own, exerting his authority over the knights. In the radiance of the sunrise he said no one had kidnapped him. And when confronted with the rumours of rebels in the duchy, Dimitri said that was a boldfaced lie. Moreover, he hadn’t even left Blaiddyd territory!

“Can’t I leave the castle anymore?” said Prince Dimitri. “Am I a prisoner in my own home? Tell my uncle to come pick me up himself if he wants me back in the castle so badly. Otherwise, he can wait!”

Seeing the Prince’s fierce temper, the knights didn’t dare to take him away by force, but they stayed in the village with Lord Rodrigue, saying they couldn’t return without the Prince. Dimitri understood the gravity of a knight failing his oath, so he agreed to return within three days—but not before that.

The Prince’s display of courage made Felix regret ever doubting his friend and he unearthed a newfound admiration for Dimitri. The way Dimitri had asserted himself before the knights convinced Felix that his friend would be just fine—Prince Dimitri was strong; he wouldn’t fold to some dastardly nobles. Dimitri was strong, he’d always been stronger than Felix; physically and spiritually—and Felix admired him for that.

The day before they parted ways, Felix and the Prince took a leisure ride together through the rolling hills. Golden leaves whirled in the wind and the two friends laughed as they raced down the sunlit road. They didn’t stray too far from the village and Dimitri eventually reined in his horse at a hill with a lone oak tree. Under its big branches, the two friends rested and chatted while counting the remaining leaves. Felix promised he’d become a knight and find his way back to Dimitri’s side, and the Prince put his hand on Felix’s, promising to become a king worthy of Felix’s devotion.

“I know!” said Felix, his face lit up with a smile. “Let’s swear Loog and Kyphon’s oath! I’ll be your protector, Dimitri, and you’ll be my king—and we’ll be brothers forever!”

“What? No!” Dimitri immediately replied, withdrawing his hand. There was an edge to the Prince’s voice, as if he truly found the idea abhorrent.

“Why not?” asked Felix, his heart shrivelling by the second. He directed his gaze at the unsheathed sword in his hand, feeling stupid for not expecting the possibility of Dimitri saying no. “I thought you liked their stories,” said Felix. I thought you liked me, was what he truly wanted to say.

The Prince lowered his head and pursed his lips, averting his eyes in a strange expression. The red blush on his cheeks did not escape Felix, though the young duke didn’t mention it. The moment was awful enough; he didn’t want to say anything that might anger his friend.

“I don’t want us to be like them, okay?” said Dimitri finally, tripping over his words as he explained. “I want—I want us to be… different. I—I want…” Dimitri then took a deep breath and lifted his head. “I want our stories to be our own!” The Prince took Felix’s free hand, enveloping it with both of his own as he spoke: “Felix and Dimitri—not shadows of Loog and Kyphon.”

At the sound of those words, Felix looked at the blushing Prince with wonder. His heart swelled with joy and his hands trembled in relief and overwhelming happiness. To think that Dimitri thought so highly of him and their friendship!

“F-Felix and Dimitri,” he said on the verge of tears, unable to contain the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips. “Th-that sounds wonderful, Dima. D-do you really th-think people will write stories about us?”

“Yes!”

Dimitri then saw the sword in Felix’s hand and said:

“Oh, you’ve got your blade out!”

“I—”

“Let’s practice!” said Dimitri, unsheathing his own blade and stepping back to put proper space between them for swordplay.

Felix smiled to the Prince and wiped his tears.

And then, they sparred; blade against blade until one had disarmed the other, and then they wrestled until they tumbled downhill in each other’s arms, laughing all the while and laughing still when they reached the bottom of the hill.

“That was fun!” said Dimitri, flashing his teeth. He let go and rolled off Felix, lying down on the grass next to the friend. “Let’s do this again someday!”

“Yes!” said Felix, giving the Prince his biggest smile. “It’s nicer in summer when it’s warmer and the leaves are green.”

“Let’s make it a promise to come here again! How about the end of Garland Moon at midsummer? There’ll be celebrations and we can go to the fair together!”

“Yes!

Dimitri raised his right hand to shield his eyes from the sun peeking from behind the clouds, and then Felix saw it—a cut across the back of the Prince’s hand! A cut he must have retained when Felix swung his blade too close—having forgotten they were using real swords and not wooden ones.

“Oh, I didn’t even notice,” said Dimitri when Felix pointed out his wound. “Don’t worry, it’s just a scratch.”

“No, you’re bleeding!” said Felix. “Come on, let’s head back to the village so Father can heal you! You need to take care of yourself when I’m not here, Dima!”

After Dimitri rode back to Fhirdiad with the knights and Felix returned to the duchy with Lord Rodrigue, the political landscape would keep the two friends apart—Prince Dimitri would be occupied with his princely duties and learning how to be king, and the young Lord Felix would strive to earn his knighthood blade.

But on that day, when Felix lay next to his prince at the bottom of that hill, all his doubts and fears were put to rest. That day, Felix Fraldarius felt that as long as he and Dimitri had each other, there were no hardships they couldn’t overcome.

* * *

House Fraldarius fell from grace during the regency of Grand Duke Rufus, who suspected Duke Fraldarius and his sons had been part of a conspiracy behind the Tragedy of Duscur.

Fearing that Lord Rodrigue was trying to seize control of the kingdom using his friendship with the vulnerable prince, the Grand Duke had all members of House Fraldarius exiled from the Royal Court in the autumn 1176. But despite the enmity between the regent and the duke, House Fraldarius remained loyal to the Crown.

Whenever Felix Fraldarius visited the capital while running errands for the duchy, he would longingly approach the gates of Castle Fhirdiad, hoping to catch a glimpse of the prince. For despite the letters they continuously exchanged while separated, the young duke wished to see his beloved friend. But even though he was never given a chance to see Prince Dimitri, Felix Fraldarius would remember their promise and ride to that lone hill at the village of Ardghal on midsummer’s eve.

There, he would wait from sunrise to sundown, wait past midnight and until the next dawn… Here, Felix Fraldarius would wait for his dear friend who would never show.

Chapter Text

Two years after House Fraldarius’s exile from the Royal Court, Western Kingdom nobles made an attempt to assassinate the prince; and failing that, they rose in full scale revolt against the Crown.

House Fraldarius sent troops to aid the suppressing of the rebellion, and in a rainy autumn morning, Felix Fraldarius would fight his maiden battle in the backwaters of the Kingdom at Avalon Hill—just south of the Duscur peninsula. There, in an old forest, young Felix would abandon his prince and run. There, Felix Fraldarius would abandon knighthood for good.

* * *

Felix Fraldarius was many things, but a craven he was not; his father Rodrigue and his cousin Jacques would swear it a hundred times over if they had to. But in those woods, Felix encountered a monster—a beast so savage that it struck fear into even the bravest of hearts.

Felix remembered it all—from the beginning to the end; from meeting the commander to the battle itself. He vividly remembered it all—the wonderful dream that he couldn’t erase from his memory, and the nightmare that would haunt him for the rest of his days.

He remembered chatting with Cousin Jacques as they rode towards the war camp lined with Blaiddyd flags in the evening horizon. This was a significant battle for Felix, for he was fully learnt as a squire—at the age of fifteen, he was ready to become a knight just like Glenn—all he needed was a chance to prove his worth.

“Do well in this battle and I’ll put a good word in for the commander,” Jacques spoke encouraging words as they reported to duty, marching into the war camp with Fraldarius banners in the air.

There, the royal commander was rallying the troops: Prince Dimitri on a regal steed; gallant and brave, sword held aloft, and a rousing speech on his lips. His soft blond hair had been chopped off above his ears, framing a sharp face featuring intense pale blue eyes. A velvet cobalt coat with silver and black trimming snugly fitted his strong body—its high collar folded down to his neck where a blue cravat hung from his throat. Gauntlets covered his hands and greaves protected his legs; his azure boots were up to his thighs, leaving a small space where his tight breeches peeked from under his coat. Black were the lines of leather keeping the ceremonial spaulder on his left shoulder in place and black where the studded belt around his waist. And down his back cascaded an azure cape with a white-laced trim, waving like a Blaiddyd banner in the wind.

It was embarrassing to admit it, but Felix was spellbound by the Prince’s splendid visage. He almost couldn’t believe that was his best friend: gone was the girly boy; on that horse rode a handsome young man. It was embarrassing to admit it, but in Prince Dimitri’s presence, Felix felt insignificant and small.

The Prince was so beautiful and so strong; so confidant and so fierce in his rallying words. He inspired love and respect—like Lord Rodrigue in a march of triumph; like Lord Glenn in a good parade. The Prince, he was everything Glenn was and more; he was everything Felix wanted and wished to be…

When Prince Dimitri finished his speech and then looked Felix’s way, the young duke tightly gripped the reins of his own horse. The battalion parted and made way for the Prince who approached the Fraldarius troops.

“Jacques!” said Prince Dimitri. “You came! I knew House Fraldarius would send reinforcements.”

“Your Highness!” said Cousin Jacques. “I did not expect you to lead the troops yourself! House Fraldarius has never failed to answer a request from the Crown. We are at your command.”

“Settle your men in the camp, my friend. We will discuss plans for battle at the war-meeting later.”

Felix’s heart sank as the Prince lifted his hand in a welcoming gesture to show Cousin Jacques the way to where he could settle the soldiers. Felix’s heart broke when the Prince didn’t spare him—his best friend—a single word or another glance.

When Felix watered his horse in camp, he stared into the trough where his disoriented reflection was displayed in the water. Was it the long hair? Felix did purposely grow it out to differentiate himself from Glenn. Was it his clothes? His father had insisted that he dressed to impress, so he certainly didn’t look like his cousin’s squire. Were the golden embroidery and trims on his cyan coat too much? Were the azure greaves and bracers with gold linings and his fur-lined white cape so ostentatious that he was an eyesore to the Prince?

Or was it the simple fact that Dimitri had forgotten Felix’s face, or even forgotten Felix himself? It was petty, but Felix felt betrayed that Dimitri did not recognize him, and he felt ashamed for coveting the Prince’s attention. In hindsight, that noble figure didn’t look very much like his beloved Dima. That man, although beautiful, was a stranger with a foreign smile. Regardless, Felix would fight on: He had vowed to restore House Fraldarius’s honour, and he had vowed to become Prince Dimitri’s knight!

But before Felix could dwell on it for long, a gauntleted hand suddenly snatched him by the wrist. And then, in a blur, his arm was being tugged with such force that his feet started running lest he’d trip. He was dragged through the war camp, hearing a cheerful and melodic laughter that he recognized yet did not. Whilst tripping after his alleged kidnapper, Felix looked up to see golden hair and an azure cape flapping in the wind. And then, before he knew it, he was inside Prince Dimitri’s tent and standing in front of the Prince himself in all his splendour.

The Prince panted and caught his breath while still holding Felix’s wrist. He then repositioned his hands to hold Felix’s upper arms, and Felix could feel Prince Dimitri’s warmth despite the leather of the gauntlets. He looked up at the Prince’s face—he was significantly taller than Felix now. Prince Dimitri drew up the corners of his mouth and flashed his teeth in a smile—hearty and true—and he shook Felix lightly, quietly asking him to say something.

Felix! It’s me, Dimitri!” said the Prince finally. He pulled the young duke close for a quick hug, causing Felix’s heart to pause the moment Dimitri briefly lifted him off the ground and pressed their bodies together. “Don’t you recognize me?”

When Dimitri tore down his princely façade and addressed Felix with familiar eagerness and affection, Felix felt weak in his knees. When the Prince embraced him again in earnest; strong arms protectively enveloping his smaller frame, Felix’s heart swelled with joy and relief. For underneath all that grandeur was still Dimitri—his dearest, most precious friend.

Some would say what happened afterwards was embarrassing and weird. Some would say he was too young to understand the rush of emotions he felt that day. But no matter how embarrassing or pathetic it was in retrospect—Felix Fraldarius still recalled his first love with fondness. It was a memory that remained precious and sacred, despite how fate and time had tried to twist his feelings for it for worse.

He remembered taking Dimitri’s right hand, running his thumbs over the area where a scar lay hidden beneath metal and leather.

“You didn’t come,” said Felix, trying to sound stern and accusing, “last year or this…”

Dimitri looked at him with question and concern.

“To the hill at Ardghal Village. We promised to meet there at midsummer. Did you forget?”

The Prince averted his eyes and his face fell as the seconds passed. He slowly withdrew his hand from Felix and took the gauntlet off to gaze at the scar Felix had given him two years ago.

“I’m sorry,” whispered Dimitri, his voice so full of regret that it caused Felix’s heart to ache. The Prince then placed that exposed hand on Felix’s cheek. His lips parted as if to explain the breaking of the promise, but after a long pause, he simply apologized again. “I’ve failed you… again, Felix. I’m sorry.”

Felix remembered grasping the hand lingering on his face and softly kissing the middle of Dimitri’s palm. He remembered looking into pale blue eyes and meeting a gaze so gentle and beckoning that his breath was stolen away.

“Dima...” said Felix, averting his eyes as the Prince stepped close and curled his thumb to touch the soft lips that had just kissed his hand.

“Felix,” he heard Dimitri say, whispering his name in a voice so warm that it could melt glaciers. “You’re so beautiful, Felix.” That voice and those words, they took Felix’s soul captive, leaving the young duke helpless as the Prince leant close and kissed him full on the lips.

Felix remembered closing his eyes and sliding his arms around the Prince’s neck and raising himself to his toes. He remembered clinging on for dear life and grasping Dimitri’s golden hair at its roots while hungrily kissing the Prince back. And he remembered the blazing, overwhelming emotions that filled his heart to the brim with bliss.

Once breathless, they pulled away from the kiss. And standing in each others’ arms Felix had—despite his furious blushing—laughed at the sheer absurdity of the situation, as if to offer Dimitri or himself a dignified way out of the ridiculous scenario.

But Dimitri did not flee and merely brushed some stray hairs back behind Felix’s ears, his desire and earnestness crystal clear in his tender smile and the happy tears sliding down his cheeks.

“You’re real,” whispered the Prince. “This isn’t a dream—you’re real.”

Felix remembered baring his soul to Dimitri and offering him his heart. And he remembered the Prince happily accepting it and giving Felix his own in return.

“I’ve always loved you, Felix,” said Dimitri, holding Felix close as he spoke the words, etching them deeply into the young duke’s soul. “Ever since we were little… I’ve loved you, Felix.”

That night, in the arms of his prince, Felix’s doubts and fears were all put to rest. That night, with his beloved Dimitri in his arms, Felix Fraldarius felt everything in the world was right.

* * *

It was raining when the Battle of Avalon Hill took place. The rebels had deployed up on the hill but the Blaiddyd army had cut off their line of supplies for days.

Dimitri deployed the Fraldarius troops in the flanks of the army while commanding the centre himself. The Prince wasn’t content with shouting orders—he personally joined the fight with his lance in hand. As soon the warhorns sounded, he spearheaded the battalion himself, charging uphill under the cover of his battle clerics and archers.

The Prince drew first blood—with one clean swing of his lance he took out five soldiers, and like a relentless storm he effortlessly broke the enemy line, his feats dwarfing even the strongest of men! The rebel army fell apart shortly after the breakthrough; Blaiddyd troops poured into the gap and cut down enemy soldiers left and right. Soon, the enemy commander was dead and the rebel army was in full route; soldiers fleeing in disorientation and running for the woods.

Felix and his cousin commanded their troops to capture as many stragglers as possible. After the dust had settled, Felix wiped the blood and rain off his blade, sheathing it while starting to look for his prince. He expected Dimitri to put on his princely persona again to make a victory speech, but the Prince was nowhere found—neither Cousin Jacques nor Dimitri’s lieutenant had seen him after the initial charge.

The lieutenant ordered a search party to look for the Prince, asking for volunteers, but Felix had already run ahead into the woods.

“Dimitri!” Felix called for his prince. Cold raindrops fell from the grey sky and shattered against leaves and branches as he ran past the old oaks and pines. His heart was heavy and his chest too tight. His vision was blurred by the rain and the constant turning of his head.

Dimitri!” Felix screamed into the woods, wandering aimlessly while desperately begging the Goddess to give him a sign that Dimitri was still alive and well.

Suddenly, something snagged his foot and Felix looked down to find the body of Blaiddyd soldier at his feet. The man was dead; arrows protruded from his neck and his clothes and armour was soaked with blood and rain. Felix stopped and cleared his mind. He gazed around the area to find more bodies strewn in the moss—Blaiddyd men and rebels soldiers alike lay dead in the forest, their blood soaking the ground beneath.

And then he sprinted, heart beating loudly in his ears as he ran. He looked for Dimitri; he looked for that blond hair and azure cape, praying that his prince wasn’t dead on the ground. It didn’t take long until Felix tripped over something and fell, nearly planting his face in the earth.

It was Dimitri’s broken, bloodstained lance.

And then, Felix heard a scream echoing throughout the woods.

“Dimitri…” he gasped, standing up on his feet as quickly as possible. He drew his sword, running towards the direction from which the screech had come. As more screams echoed through the woods—none of the voices belonged to the Prince—and Felix readied his shield and sprinted as fast as his feet could carry him. How many enemies was Dimitri fighting at once? Five? Six? Ten? Felix could only pray that it wasn’t too late…

And then he saw it—in a small clearing in the old woods—the beast wearing Dimitri’s face, holding up a rebel soldier by the throat.

Felix stopped to observe the beast from a safe distance under the old trees.

“Dimitri?” he said, gripping his sword tightly and instinctively raising his shield up in defence, but the Prince did not hear him.

The beast laughed and then brutalized that helpless man that had fallen into its clutches, dropping a useless corpse to the moss: neck twisted around unnaturally and blood staining the earth.

Felix Fraldarius could never erase the memory of the look of those blue soul-piercing eyes. He could never forget the fresh blood splattered on the beast’s face and dripping from its claws—even the rain couldn’t wash all that red away. The beast tilted its head up in a toothy bloodcrazed grin, and Felix could never forget that evil smile, or those glistening fangs. And then the beast spoke, voice pitched like a lunatic at the height of madness, singing a cacophony of death-worship—a monster asking its undead masters for praise.

“Father, I did it... Did you see it? Father? Glenn? I’ve crushed them. I’ve killed them all! A-Aren’t you pleased?”

Felix’s once courageous heart stopped. Even the ardent flames in his soul couldn’t save it from freezing. Suddenly he was shaking like a leaf, his knees buckling under the weight of his own body and he staggered back, stepping on a limb detached from its owner. He gasped, and stepped away, stepping on another corpse on the moss. The evidence of the carnage poisoned the air; it made Felix threw up behind his shield.

And then Felix Fraldarius ran—he turned and ran, dropping his weapons along the way. He ran and never looked back. He ran and ran until his legs could no longer carry him and until he collapsed screaming and crying on the dirt. And there he’d lie, waiting for Glenn to come and carry him to the next realm. For Felix Fraldarius’s heart was dead, killed by the monster who took Dimitri—his prince, his beloved, and his dearest, most precious friend.

* * *

Prince Dimitri successfully crushed the Western Kingdom revolt in the Battle of Avalon Hill, and upon returning to Fhirdiad, the Crown offered Felix Fraldarius a knighthood for his bravery and efforts in the battle.

It is said that Prince Dimitri had proudly presented a knighthood blade to his dearest friend, but the young duke unceremoniously declined it and left the prince crestfallen with the parting words:

“I won’t serve a beast.”

Chapter Text

After declining his knighthood, Felix left the throne room without another word, leaving his cousin to deal with the aftermath in the Royal Court. He buried his dead heart and saddled his horse, riding back to the duchy and swearing to never return to Castle Fhirdiad as long as the beast lived.

He ignored the guards in the castle town who congratulated and praised him for his victory in the Battle of Avalon Hill. He did not announce his return to Castle Fraldarius to his father. He did not even notice Sylvain and Ingrid who’d specifically come to congratulate him on his knighthood. No, Felix Fraldarius left his horse in the courtyard and then stormed into the keep. He barricaded himself in his room, leaving his father and friends to later find out what happened in Fhirdiad from Cousin Jacques: That Felix had refused to kneel, declined his knighthood, insulted the Crown Prince of Faerghus, and stormed out of the throne room in a fit; that he’d shamed himself and House Fraldarius with his behaviour and that the ever so wise Grand Duke Rufus probably had banned him from visiting the royal castle—again.

Felix looked into his mirror and stared at the reflection. Then, he looked at his brother’s portrait hanging next to the mirror on the wall. On the surface, they had the same raven hair and very same looking faces, yet Felix didn’t see his brother in his own reflection. He pulled his hair-tie loose, letting raven tresses fall over his shoulders.

He furrowed his brow. Glenn looked stunning in ceremonial dress—like a mighty warrior right out of a chivalric tale. Even in his black battle gear, people flocked to him on the streets when he marched Fraldarius troops through the castle town to battle. They cheered when he raised his arm high and waved to the crowd. They screamed when he lifted his visor and flashed his confidant smile.

Felix didn’t know what he resembled dressed up like a peacock on parade. When people gathered to see Felix and his cousin off to Avalon people had looked at Felix with curiosity and hesitation—some even whispered and pointed at him with scorn. It took Felix all his willpower to muster the courage to wave with a stilted smile. In the back of his head he kept wondering if the people truly saw Duke Fraldarius’s heir or some random snobby noble who wished to play knight.

Felix loosened the straps of his blue ceremonial armour, shedding it all to the floor with a weary sigh. He unbuttoned his fancy coat and opened the clasps around his snow-white cape, throwing the clothes on the chair at his desk and then throwing himself on his bed. As he gazed out of the window and at the birds sailing across the clear midday sky, someone suddenly knocked on the door.

“My lord Felix,” said the castle steward.

Felix’s eyes grew tall and rigidly sat up in the bed.

“His Highness Prince Dimitri is in the great hall,” said Jean. “He came bearing many gifts. Do you not wish to see him?”

Felix held his breath for a moment. He then stood up and strode over to the window, gazing down towards the courtyard to find a royal entourage there: Knights in silver and black armour carried the azure banners of House Blaiddyd, and at the head of the entourage was the beast masquerading as Felix’s prince!

“My lord?” said Jean.

Felix withdrew from the window and flopped on his bed, gripping his soft pillow tightly as flames of rage scorched his soul. What was the point? What was the point of seeing him? That prince was a beast; a bloodthirsty animal in disguise!

“My lord Felix?”

“Go away!Felix shouted at the door. “I don’t want to see anyone today!”

“Understood, my lord.”

Felix let out a sigh of relief. He turned around and buried his face in his pillows, waiting for the hours to pass.

He remembered hearing Sylvain and Ingrid knocking on his door and asking him to come down for dinner. He remembered the beast knocking on his door and implored to be let in, but Felix covered his ears and refused to answer at all. Before the beast finally left Felix alone, the false prince had pushed a note under the door, but Felix had burnt it over the flame of a candle and never read it. What was the point? Dimitri was dead, replaced by that demon wearing the Prince’s face!

Felix gazed down to the courtyard from his window again, seeing Sylvain and Ingrid getting friendly with the beast—unaware of its nature as they treat it as if it was their old friend. They called the false prince by his given name and commented on his dashing good looks. They pointed back to the castle and said Felix was still sulking in his room. They sparred against each other in the courtyard and all received Lord Rodrigue’s praise. Felix felt snakes coil inside his stomach as he watched the scene unfold from his window up above. When he saw that beast flash its bloodstained fangs in a smile, he wanted to curse and scream down to the courtyard and tell the demon to stay the hell away from his family and friends!

Yet, when the Prince longingly looked up towards Felix’s window before leaving Castle Fraldarius, Felix couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret in his heart. For Felix Fraldarius knew that look; he’d worn it himself so many times in the past two years—when he’d looked towards the royal castle with only one wish in his heart.

Once the false prince had left, Felix finally unlocked his door and dragged his feet out of his bedroom, lazily putting his hair up in a low ponytail before heading downstairs to face his family and friends.

Sylvain, Ingrid, Duke Fraldarius and Jacques stood in the great hall next to a stack of fancily wrapped presents and gifts: Gold and silver—the monetary reward for House Fraldarius’s contribution in the civil war. Three swords; a fancy sabre with a golden hilt, a flame-bladed rapier, and the longsword Felix had rejected in Fhirdiad. And then, there was an obnoxiously large rose bouquet.

“If I didn’t know better I would’ve thought His Highness was trying to court our little Felix like some girl,” said Sylvain, a scathing comment that earned him a slap on the arm from Ingrid and caused Felix’s hairs to stand up on their ends.

Sylvain then took the flamberge and waved it around for attention, and Ingrid began scolding him for doing just that.

“Come on, Ingrid. Felix doesn’t mind!” Sylvain whined. He then looked up the staircase. “Do you, Felix?”

“It’s yours, Sylvain,” said Felix. He then looked to Ingrid. “You can have the other one, Ingrid.”

“What? No!” Ingrid protested. “His Highness had them especially forged for you, Felix!”

“Yeah, at least try them before you give them away,” said Sylvain with a raised eyebrow. “He said he wanted to give them to you on some hill?” Sylvain looked to Ingrid for confirmation, and she nodded in agreement. “Uh, this one was from last year, I think?” He raised the rapier and pointed at its waved blade. “And the other one was for this year.”

Felix inhaled and exhaled deeply. He then descended the stairs and walked over to the presents in sweeping strides.

“Felix, His Highness says you may ask him to finish the knighting ceremony whenever you’re ready to take the vows,” said Lord Rodrigue. The father picked up the longsword, laid it across his palms and presented it to Felix in the same fashion the beast had offered it in the throne room. With a soft smile, the father then added: “See how Dimitri cares about you, despite—Ah!

Felix wordlessly swiped the knighthood sword from his father’s hands and then dragged his feet over to the unlit fireplace, picking up the rose bouquet on the way as well. He tossed the flowers under the chimney and then hung up the sword on the metal stand that also held the fire poker and shovel. It wasn’t until he turned back to his family that he realized he’d unintentionally cut his father’s palm.

“Felix, what’s wrong with you?” said Ingrid. “Isn’t it enough that you threw a fit in the Royal Court? You have to do this again at home too?”

Shut up,” hissed Felix. “You weren’t even there.”

I was,” said Cousin Jacques, “and you certainly acted out of line. The Royal Court isn’t like home, Felix—Rufus could have imprisoned you for that stunt!”

“I—!”

Listen!” said Sylvain, giving both sides careful looks while cautiously raising his hands in peace, “I’m not taking any side here, but maybe we should listen to Felix’s story too?” As no one voiced any objections, Sylvain turned to Felix, who stubbornly crossed his arms over his chest and looked away.

“Felix, you always wanted to be a knight like Glenn, right?” said Sylvain. “So, why did you publicly insult Dimitri when he was trying to knight you?”

Felix pursed his lips, breathing heavily through flared nostrils as he let his gaze wander from Jacques and Ingrid’s judging looks and to Lord Rodrigue’s blank stare. And unable to contain his rage any longer, Felix shouted:

“He is a bloodthirsty beast! If you saw what I saw in Avalon you wouldn’t be so chatty with that—that monster!” He began wringing his hands as his vision began blurring with tears. “H-he tore that man from limb to limb! H-he—he decapitated—!”

Before he could continue, Lord Rodrigue had softly embraced his son, comfortingly stroking the back of Felix’s head as he shielded him from Sylvain and Ingrid’s view. Felix gasped, taken aback by his father’s actions—Duke Fraldarius had barely shown any affection to his son since the Tragedy of Duscur. In the arms of his own father, Felix felt a wave of relief wash over his mind and pacify his fears. Yet, the old man had to ruin it all with his sage words.

“Go back to training, you three,” said Lord Rodrigue. “Felix just returned from his first battle—the brutality of war must’ve taken a toll on his mind. Jean, brew some herbal tea for—”

And then Felix shoved his father away in revulsion, shooting Duke Fraldarius a gaze filled with hatred and contempt. He ran back upstairs, locking himself away in his room once more.

Yet, the father’s reaction sparked Felix’s suspicion that Duke Fraldarius knew more about the beast than he was letting on. In his solitude, Felix decided that the beast couldn’t possibly be his prince—that it couldn’t possibly be the Dimitri everyone knew and loved.

This had to be an impostor trying to usurp the throne! Possibly one of the Grand Duke’s bastards—that buffoon was a known womanizer and many young men and women had come to his doorstep claiming to be his illegitimate children and grandchildren—it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say he had at least one bastard with a Blaiddyd Crest! If there were enough snakes in the Royal Court to raise an army in the west in rebellion, there were certainly enough snakes to orchestrate a scheme to off the true heir and replace Dimitri with a puppet! No wonder the Grand Duke refused to let Felix into the castle—Felix would’ve known if his best friend had been replaced. And if this wasn’t Faerghus’s fair prince—then, where was Dima?

And so, Felix stalked into his father’s study at night when everyone else was asleep. So, he unearthed a secret his old man had kept from him ever since the Tragedy of Duscur took place—that when Sir Gustave arrived at the scene of the massacre, young Prince Dimitri had already slaughtered Glenn’s murderers with his bare hands.

Chapter Text

Felix Fraldarius never returned to Fhirdiad after abandoning his knighthood, spending most of his time learning how to govern the duchy from his uncle André. Many would later claim that Felix carried himself better than Glenn in court and council, despite also doling out derisive remarks to nobles and peasants alike. Unlike his brother, however, Felix Fraldarius did not participate in parades and official events. Few subjects outside the castle town knew his actual face. Yet, many a villager would speak of a snappy young noble with raven hair solving their problems with his bow and blade.

Although Felix’s relations with his cousins and subjects improved, his bond with his father continued to strain. And in the year 1180, after a heated argument with the duke concerning his reluctance to attend the Royal Court, he chose to enrol in the Officers Academy at Garreg Mach Monastery to escape his duties as Duke Fraldarius’s son and heir.

There, he would be reunited with Prince Dimitri, the friend he’d avoided for two long years.

* * *

On his first day in the Officers Academy—during the welcoming banquet, no less—Felix challenged the beast to a fight in the courtyard.

It began when the beast wearing Dimitri’s face waltzed into the dining hall, closely followed by Dedue—who, according to Sylvain, had identified a poison in the Prince’s meal and foiled the assassination attempt that sparked the Western Rebellion. With an artificial smile on his lips, the false prince chatted up students, who flocked to meet the mighty Crown Prince of Faerghus. Like it or not—he was royalty and that alone made him a celebrity.

The false prince filled out his academy outfit nicely and the blue house leader cape complimented his eyes. His hair however looked quite strange: it was still short, but unevenly cut and swept, as if he’d done it in haste without a mirror. And that smile, no matter how charming it appeared to others; Felix knew it was fake—as fake as the rest of his splendid façade.

One of the rich students offered the beast a glass, quickly filling it with liquor and introducing himself. The false prince gestured friendly and then suddenly snapped the stem of his wine glass between his fingers, creating a mess on the floor. The Heir to the Alliance laughed, seemingly making a snide remark on the beast’s expense and the Imperial Princess also chimed in with a joke that nobody thought was funny. It was such an awkward gathering, and Felix bit back a smirk as the beast, flustered, began apologizing profusely while his glorified servant helped the janitor pick up the broken glass. But then the false prince suddenly looked in Felix’s direction, his eyes lighting up with wonder.

“Felix!” exclaimed the beast, his voice bright and his smile radiant and full of hope.

Felix shuddered. That face; Felix thought he’d never have to see that expression again. He pretended not to have seen or heard the beast and quietly slinked out of the dining hall. He could hear the false prince excuse himself, apologizing to his peers as he clumsily withdrew himself from the crowd to follow Felix out to the courtyard.

“Felix!” said the beast, his hand grasping the young duke’s arm and turning him around to face him, only for Felix to forcefully bat his claw away. “Felix, don’t you recognize me?” said the false prince, flashing his teeth in a genuinely happy smile—a smile that once brought Felix joy and hope.

Now, Felix stood there white-knuckling his fists; it took him all his willpower to not immediately slug the beast in the face. It took him every ounce of self-control to not draw his sword and cut the monster’s throat in an instant. For in Felix’s mind’s eye a bloody beast stood in the crown prince’s place; fangs shining in the rain and claws stained with blood.

“Felix?” said the beast, politely gesturing towards himself. “It’s me, Dimi—”

“I know who you are,” said Felix, breathing out through his nose. Lowering his eyebrows, he forced himself to raise his gaze and look into blue deceitful eyes. Then, he drew his blade in one swift motion, pointing it at the beast’s throat.

“Your Highness!” said Dedue, but the false prince rigidly raised a hand and stopped his servant from approaching, his happy expression unchanged while holding Felix’s gaze.

“Let’s have a bout or two,” said Felix, lowering his sword. “Here. Now.

“Is that what you want?” said the beast, his lips a curved line. “Then, I’ll gladly oblige, Felix.” He unsheathed his sword, but Felix stared at him with contempt.

 “What are you doing?” said Felix. “I know you specialize in pole arms.”

The beast wearing the Prince’s face was taken aback and stupidly looked at the blade as if he hadn’t realized what weapon he’d drawn from his scabbard.

“Oh! Forgive me, Felix,” began the false prince. “I didn’t want to put you at disadvantage—”

“Don’t insult me,” hissed Felix. He flicked his wrist and flourished his sword, again pointing at the beast with the tip of the blade. “Get your lance so we can begin.”

The false prince hesitantly lifted an eyebrow and then extended a hand towards his servant. Dedue bowed his head like a proper servant and retreated into the dining hall to do his master’s bidding.

Felix didn’t know what to expect in the fight—they never sparred during the civil war, which meant they hadn’t clashed weapons in almost four years. Felix had avoided the beast like a plague—he’d abandoned his duties as Duke Fraldarius’s heir, refusing to stand representative in the Royal Court. And when the beast came to visit or worse—court him—Felix had fled the duchy and ridden all the way up north to Margrave Gautier’s castle, thinly veiling his arrival at the gates as a “surprise visit”. Thinking back, he must have looked like a coward to Sylvain, running away; thinking back, it was foolish to try avoiding the inevitable—the beast would be crowned king one day, and Felix was destined to kneel at his feet…

Dedue soon returned with a steel lance, handing it over to his liege and then stepping aside to sit on a nearby bench in front of the tall hedge. The beast rested his lance on his shoulder. He then reached behind his back and retrieved a buckler hanging from his belt.

“Felix,” he said, offering the young duke the small shield. “I expect the best from you, too.” His words were lined with fondness and he once again flashed his teeth in a smile.

Felix cringed, but he took the buckler regardless. They both turned around and separated, each moving several paces away before facing each other again.

The false prince brandished his lance—flourishing his weapon in a chain of twists and twirls. He extended a hand towards Felix, who raised his weapon and swiped it once in response before withdrawing it behind the buckler.

And then, the dance began. It was a dance immemorial of endless back and forth, each gauging the other’s moves and looking for the best way to approach the duel. Felix couldn’t help but notice the cocky smile on the false prince’s face.

“Come at me, beast,” said Felix.

“As you wish, Felix.”

In a flash, the beast charged, unsubtle movement betraying his incoming swing. He was fast, and Felix raised his shield just in time to catch the blow, his arm quaking as he shouldered the strike with the left side of his body and staggering back from the impact. Had this been a real fight, Felix would’ve been dead—had the false prince followed-up, Felix could’ve been skewered on his lance. But he didn’t follow-up, allowing Felix to retreat and raise his weapons again in a defensive stance.

Dammit! Felix cursed inwardly. He knew his opponent was powerful, but to actually face the beast’s strength was unnerving nonetheless. And knowing that the false prince wasn’t even using his full strength was frightening, to say the least. This wasn’t any spear fighter—it was a beast who could easily snap his neck with his bare hands—one wrong move and he could be dead.

The beast took a defensive positioning after claiming the centre of the arena. He gestured, curling his fingers towards himself with a playful, closed-lip smile.

Felix cursed under his breath as the dance continued, weighing his options of how to advance from his position.

“It’s a fight…” He then heard someone unquestionably female say. “Isn’t that Prince Dimitri, the Blue Lions house leader? Who is he fighting?”

“That is the young lord Felix,” informed Dedue, “the heir to House Fraldarius.”

“Blade against lance…” said someone else. “That looks like an uphill battle…”

“Hey, don’t underestimate my friend,” said Sylvain. “Felix’s got this.”

Felix finally charged, darting towards the beast at full speed. He dodged the initial thrusts and then smacked the pole with his shield while closing in with his blade! But Dimitri’s steady hands quickly regained control of the lance and bound their weapons, guiding Felix’s blade away from himself in the bind. Felix stepped aside, dodging a thrust to his shoulder and then retreating to dodge a low thrust towards his legs.

Dimitri advanced, aiming high and then low repeatedly and keeping Felix at a distance. Felix stubbornly pressed on and managed to get past the head of the lance, but before he could aim a cut or thrust, the Prince closed in and smacked him in the face with the butt of the lance, sending Felix stumbling back in disorientation. When he recovered his composure and lifted his head, Dimitri had him at spearpoint already.

There was a small applause coming from the audience, but Felix didn’t care to look. He brushed under his nose to find blood streaking the back of his hand. Despite that—and the loss—Felix found himself smiling towards his prince. He stood up and then retreated to one side of the courtyard, raising his sword and buckler again. And the Prince drew up the corners of his lips and flourished his lance in response.

Felix rushed him again, baiting Dimitri with a feint and then skilfully manoeuvring around his lance with his fast footwork. Dropping the buckler, he grabbed the shaft of the lance, pushing himself against it as he moved sideways and wrestled control of the pole, simultaneously cutting upwards with his sword and stopping at the pale skin of Dimitri’s neck.

Felix could hear applause again, but he kept his eyes on Dimitri.

“One more?” asked the Prince, starry-eyed and hopeful.

“One more,” replied Felix, withdrawing his blade with a mirthful smile. His heart raced as he picked up the buckler and put the appropriate distance between them again. He wiped his nose and then turned around to face Dimitri in a third bout, remembering the thrill of sparring with his dearest friend.

“It seems like we have quite an audience, Felix,” said Dimitri, brandishing his lance.

“Just like when we were nine,” Felix replied with a slight laugh, raising his sword and buckler. “I remember beating you back then.”

“That’s one defeat I won’t forget,” said the Prince. A fond smile was painted on his face, his lips a curved line and his eyes brimming with joy. “But we’ve grown since then, haven’t we?” Dimitri then bared his teeth and laughed softly—melodic and pure. And then, he was gone.

Felix’s heart was in his throat as the beast who’d slaughtered the soldiers in Avalon once again appeared; fangs glistening in the rain and a mad cackle erupting from its throat. He shuddered, hands clutching his sword as his heart no longer drummed with joy but in fear. He spat on the ground and focused on the fight as the dance began. Felix didn’t see his friend’s troubled look; he didn’t see Dimitri’s concerned eyes. His memory kept repeating the horrific scene in Avalon over and over, reminding him that this wasn’t Faerghus’s fair prince, but a beast wearing Dimitri’s face.

“Felix? Is something the matter?” said the false prince, prodding Felix with his lance and aiming at his shield rather than his body.

“Don’t mock me!” hissed Felix.

“What? No, Felix, I—”

“I’ve seen you charge headlong into battle and take down five men at once, you wild boar! Stop messing around and fight me!”

Felix threw the buckler on the ground and raised his blade with both hands, abandoning all discipline and grace as he leapt towards the beast in wild fury.

Felix!” the boar prince cried out, raising his lance and meeting Felix’s sword in a bind. The magics of two Crests flashed at once: Blaiddyd and Fraldarius clashed on the field, and Felix’s wrathful blade broke the boar prince’s lance while it shattered Felix’s sword!

Felix didn’t see where the pieces of the shattered weapons landed. He didn’t hear Sylvain call out: “Draw! It's a draw!” He swiftly grabbed the front of the false prince’s shirt with his free hand and raised the broken blade with the other—aiming for the jugular as the false prince caught his wrists.

The beast pressed down hard, so hard that Felix released his shirt and dropped the broken blade. His hold was so tight that Felix knew for certain his wrists would bruise; it was so tight that Felix thought his hands were going to fall off. Immobilized by fear, Felix couldn’t help but picturing what gruesome way he’d be killed—dismemberment, decapitation, or both.

Thankfully, faculty members of the monastery arrived and ended the fight. The Archbishop then proceeded to punish both of them for fighting outside the training grounds, sending them out to help the Knights of Seiros replenish the monastery’s supplies in one of the villages.

* * *

“I deny nothing, Felix,” said the boar prince, fully aware of his unspeakable act in Avalon when Felix confronted him later in the training grounds.

Why couldn’t he simply deny the atrocities or make up some excuse to justify his cruelty? Why couldn’t he give Felix a proper reason to hate him—for being a manipulative liar and snake?

“Well, then,” Felix told the beast. “I suppose the Dimitri I once knew died during that slaughter in Duscur, along with my brother.”

Dimitri, what happened to you there? Felix’s heart screamed as he narrowed his eyes at the Boar. Tell me you were possessed all along, please! Tell me you need my help!

“Perhaps you’re right,” said the beast, averting his eyes with a downcast look.

Felix clenched his fists, spitting fire at the Boar and ordering it to get out of his sight—it was the final answer Felix needed to leave the false prince and his blindly obedient subordinates.

Dimitri was dead; that creature was only a monster wearing the fair prince’s face. Perhaps if he repeated it enough, he’d eventually believe it one day; that Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd died in Duscur and that there was no prince for Felix to return to or save.

* * *

Felix couldn’t say his transfer to the Golden Deer was without regret; he lost all his sparring partners and ended up surrounded by lazy layabouts, which included Claude von Riegan himself—the heir to the Alliance took his duties almost as seriously as Sylvain did life, despite priding himself a master of schemes. Frankly, most of the yellow house annoyed Felix, although he did find a kindred spirit in Leonie, who saw Felix fight the boar prince to a draw in the courtyard. He found her craftiness and knowledge useful while she appreciated his skill and criticism. She was clearly the best sparring partner in the class—although it wasn’t exactly a compliment considering the lot they were working with.

Leaving the Blue Lions didn’t help Felix escape the Boar entirely either. The false prince frequented the training grounds as often as Felix did, and Felix could never bring himself to reject the Blue Lions professor’s request for assistance in the monthly missions. Hilda wouldn’t shut up about him being a lion in deer’s clothing since Felix never joined in whatever festivities they arranged and instead scurried off to train alone.

In his solitude, Felix gave himself completely to his training. Determined to leave his past behind, he abandoned his shield. While his foolish friends in the Blue Lions pursued their glorious deaths, Felix sought life. To live, he had to win. And to win, he had to become strong. Yet, ever since he discarded his shield his sword had only grown heavier. He went down the path of a warrior, but to what end? To surpass his brother? To become the greatest swordsman in all Fódlan? Felix didn’t know. A sword had accompanied him ever since he could remember. All his life, he’d chased his father and brother’s shadows—to become a knight as brilliant as Glenn and a star shining as brightly as Lord Rodrigue. Ever since he was born, he’d been tied to the Prince. For more than a decade, he and Dimitri shared clothing and a bed. They had laughed and cried together; they were inseparable friends.

Now when all those things had been swept away, Felix was left with nothing but his sword as companion. And the sword; the sword, he could trust. The sword was the only companion he needed. The sword could never deceive him or break his heart.

His avoidance of both old friends and new classmates eventually caught the eyes of Flayn, who talked him into chopping wood with his blade with flattery alone. This in turn brought Felix the attention of her older brother Seteth, the Archbishop’s advisor. Whether Seteth’s concern was genuine or rooted in worry about Flayn spending time with someone so spiteful and violent as Felix didn’t matter—what mattered were the words he imparted to Felix.

Seteth wasn’t wrong—Felix certainly didn’t dislike his friends in the blue house as people; it was their reverence towards knighthood and chivalry that he couldn’t stand. Chivalry glorified death to the point where the living had no place to complain about the wounds and scars it left behind. Ingrid, Sylvain, Dedue and even Ashe—all those fools would inevitably walk down the same wretched path of self-destruction—and Felix refused to fraternize with anyone who followed or pursued that nonsense.

Perhaps Seteth was right. Or perhaps the Archbishop’s advisor was simply as eccentric as he claimed to be. Regardless, the seeds of doubt had been sown. And whenever Felix quietly watched the Boar and his friends spar and laugh in the training grounds on Sundays, his mind would drift to Seteth’s words:

“As unwavering as your convictions may be, the others also feel strongly about their beliefs. If you hate all those whose beliefs are different from yours, you will hate everyone eventually. People with exactly the same beliefs as you simply do not exist.”

Yet, Felix stood by the path he’d chosen, resolute in divorcing his past. It was Flayn who shattered his resolve. Embarrassed by how she’d managed to sway him with mere flattery, he’d refused to put up with the menial work any further, saying a sword was a tool made for cutting down enemies—not for chopping wood or fruit!

And a warrior like himself, Felix thought, was meant to fight and slay enemies—not performing circus tricks.

“I understand why you balk at bloodshed,” he told Flayn, “but you must know that it has a purpose.”

“And what purpose might that be?” she asked the armour-piercing question.

And unable to give her—or even himself—a satisfying answer, Felix had stubbornly dodged the question, declaring he didn’t wish to debate. Yet, that night when he polished his blade in his room, he saw a stranger’s reflection on the flat of the sword.

That raven-haired youth was not Felix Fraldarius: that young swordsman was a coward who’d fled his responsibilities rather than facing his own fears—a piss poor imitation of the brave young man that Prince Dimitri adored and that Glenn held dear.

Felix tossed his sword on the floor and buried his face in his hands in frustration. Looking up, he saw the blade had landed under the desk and next to the old heater shield Glenn had gifted him shortly after Felix took his first step in knighthood as their cousin’s page.

Felix threw himself in his bed and pulled the blankets over his head, waiting for restless sleep to eventually find him.

* * *

The Boar hated Felix; he kept flaunting embarrassing childhood memories and exposing Felix’s weaknesses to the new teacher. The Prince loved Felix; he wished to mend the bridge he’d burnt and reminded Felix it wasn’t too late to rekindle their bond.

The beast hated Felix; he fought with the fervour of a berserk warrior and nearly broke Felix the way he broke his weapons and props. Prince Dimitri loved Felix Fraldarius; he cried in shock and horror at the sight of his folly mistake and he held his beloved friend in his arms until help arrived.

No matter how carefully Felix painted the world in darkness, the beast found a way to puncture his canvas and let a sliver of light in. Even when Felix adamantly told himself Dimitri died in Duscur, he still couldn’t stop seeing his beloved friend in the beast’s place whenever its face lit up at the sight of a new weapon or when they lost themselves in the heat of battle.

Day in and day out, Felix struggled with his own weakness, masking his fear as anger and his worry as hate. Week after week, he watched that creature wearing Dimitri’s face wandering the monastery at day, charming students and teachers alike with a fake smile. Month after month, the Boar kept Felix awake at night.

If Felix didn’t have the annoying habit of needing to empty his bladder in the middle of the night, he couldn’t have cared less about the Boar’s night terrors. But Felix’s bed was right next to the wall, so he couldn’t easily go back to sleep after visiting the latrine thanks to the Boar’s bemoaning cries. He reached his breaking point after Lord Rodrigue’s visit to Garreg Mach. Felix had tried to avoid the old man by hiding in his room, but of course the brilliant professor leading the Blue Lions pointed Duke Fraldarius to his direction. So there he was, Lord Rodrigue, standing in front of his scorned son, suddenly pretending to be a father after having neglected his parental duties for four long years. Wasn’t it enough that he knowingly and willingly put his own son inside a cage together with a bloodthirsty beast? Did he have to come here and show the entire world how little Felix meant to him, too?

And the boar prince, he had to moan and cry louder than ever that night. Without his usual patience, Felix threw off his blankets and made his way to the Boar’s den. Perhaps it was out of habit, but he didn’t knock and went straight for the door handle. To his surprise, the door opened and Felix walked into a room illuminated by candles moulded into drinking glasses on the desk and bedside table. He heard Dimitri sob and weep and suddenly, Felix was thirteen years old and back in Castle Fhirdiad again, carefully stepping into the Prince’s bedchambers in the silent night.

Dimitri sat under his desk, right next to the wall where Felix’s bed was located on the other side—so that’s why Felix heard him so clearly. His knees were pulled up towards his chest, his fingers were in his hair, and his shoulders shuddered while he mumbled for himself.

Felix’s memory repeated the event in his head: the first night after the Tragedy when Anton angrily dragged him out of bed, treating Felix as if he was a lowly servant and telling him he was needed in the prince’s bedchamber. He remembered Dimitri lying curled up under his bed while Grand Duke Rufus and half a dozen servants were discussing what measures to take if the Fraldarius boy also failed to coax the Prince out from his hiding place. And then Felix heard it—that terrible, terrible word being whispered—possessed.

“Hey,” said Felix, closing the door and slowly approaching the beast. “What are you playing?” He tried to sound harsh and stern, but the terrible memory made it difficult to keep up the charade.

“Please, be patient…” the Boar mumbled for himself. “I promise… I will bring you peace, Glenn…”

The name cut into Felix’s heart like a jagged knife.

“What are you on about?” he hissed at the boar prince, trying to keep his voice down despite anger scorching his soul. “What did you just call me, you deranged beast?” He grabbed the false prince’s wrists, tearing his hands out of his hair. The beast whined weakly as Felix forcefully dragged him out from under the desk and threw him on the floor. “Open your eyes! Are you so blinded by your nightmares you can’t even see what’s in front of you?”

The boar prince’s shoulders jumped to attention, but his head was still held low and his blond hair obscured his face. Slowly the wounded animal sat up and crawled towards Felix.

“Glenn…” the haggard prince then whispered. He reached out his hands, fumbling at Felix’s feet and finally wrapped his arms around Felix’s right leg. “Glenn, please,” said the boar prince, pressing his tear-stained cheek against Felix’s thigh. “D-don’t look at me like that… I promise you, I will bring you their heads—”

Felix’s heart froze and his hands balled up to fists. And before he knew it he’d backhanded the Boar in the head, shoving the beast away and darting out of the room. He returned to his own bedroom and barricaded the door with his weight. For a moment, he stood there with his heart hammering against his ribs. Then, he stepped over to his desk, grabbed the matches and lit the small candle there. Opening his drawer, he retrieved a small mirror and gazed at his own reflection.

They may have looked alike years ago, but what kind of idiot would even mistake him for being Glenn now? Glenn’s eyes were dark and stormy while Felix’s were bright like fire. The older brother always had short hair while Felix’s was so long he had to wind it up in a bun. Glenn’s eyebrows were thicker, his nose was longer, his jawline was sharper, his lips—

Felix clamped a hand over his mouth, his innards curling as the revelation struck like lightning in a calm summer night. He turned around and tore his door open, heading back to the corridor only to find Dimitri’s door locked. For a split second Felix raised his hand to knock. Then, a part of him argued this was a waste of effort: It was too late. The damage was already done. He turned away to leave, but then stopped in his pace.

Was his pride truly more important than his prince? Was his own ego truly worth Dimitri’s suffering? Then, what made him any different from his old man? What made Felix any different from the people who abandoned him in his time of need? He clenched his fists and turned back.

“Hey,” said Felix, knocking on the door and searching for an excuse to be let in. “I left my slipper inside,” he then said, realizing that he’d dropped it in haste when escaping the room. “My slipper—”

Finally, the door creaked open, but before Dimitri could throw his slipper out Felix quickly shoved his hand between the door and the frame. Dimitri panicked and slammed the door on his fingers, but Felix swallowed the pain and pressed on anyway.

The Prince scrambled back when Felix forced himself into the room. Felix continued to step forward, catching Dimitri and locking down his arms with a tight embrace. The Prince gasped in shock but soon melted in Felix’s arms and began to helplessly cry on his shoulder.

“Felix…” said Dimitri, a whisper as soft as a breeze. “You’re real…” he spoke small frail words unbefitting a prince of Faerghus. “Felix…”

Felix closed the door with his foot and then guided Dimitri to the small bed. He pulled Dimitri down to sit and then carefully lowered the Prince into the bed, covering him with the blanket in practiced, fluid motions; his warm hand gliding from the blanket and up to rest on the side of Dimitri’s head.

“Felix…” said the Prince, catching Felix’s hand. “Please. Stay.”

Felix nodded.

“Felix…”

Dimitri scooted to one side of the small bed and lifted the blanket in invitation. Felix opened his mouth to protest but then wordlessly closed it in fear of invoking his brother’s ghost. Wordlessly, he locked the door and then got into the small bed, letting Dimitri extend his blanket to him. Suddenly, they were children again, huddling together in a cold winter night; suddenly, they were fifteen years old again and in love, sharing a moment of peace before the battle in the morn. But then Dimitri put his arms around him, and Felix shuddered despite himself, beginning to shake uncontrollably in his prince’s loving embrace.

“Felix?” said Dimitri.

Felix pushed the Prince’s arms away and sat up, clamping a hand over his heart that beat like a drum in his chest.

“You’re afraid…” said Dimitri ruefully. “Of me…”

It sounded way worse coming out of Dimitri’s mouth, as those words probably cut deeper into the Prince than they did Felix. In the corner of his eye, he saw Dimitri instinctively trying to reach out for him and then pull back and bite his knuckles. That look didn’t suit the grown Crown Prince of Faerghus at all.

Felix clamped a hand over his lips. Taking a deep breath, he took the blanket and turned back to Dimitri, putting it around his shoulders and then wrapping it around him twice to immobilize his arms.

“Felix?” said the Prince with a worried look.

Felix put a hand on Dimitri’s shoulder and pushed him down on the mattress. Resting himself on the edge of the small bed, Felix put his arms around the Prince’s head, tucking Dimitri under his chin.

“Felix?” said the Prince. “What about you? Aren’t you cold?”

He kept his silence and kissed the top of Dimitri’s head, a tiny smile dawned on his lips as he ran bruised fingers through the golden locks—it was as soft as he remembered it. His smile vanished when he felt the slight bump he gave the Prince earlier. Felix imagined he’d normally be crying right now, but he had no more tears to shed.

The Prince and his friend; what happened to them? The Prince and his friend; they were so close that side by side, those unfamiliar with their appearances couldn’t tell who was the Prince and who was his beloved friend. What brought their lifelong bond to this state of ruin? To the point where one couldn’t look at the other’s smile and the other couldn’t stand the voice of the former; to the point where one couldn’t hold the other and the other couldn’t weep for the first. Felix couldn’t tell what he hated more: the repulsive beast that took Dimitri, or his own cowardly self for lacking the courage to fight it.

When the Prince had fallen asleep, Felix extracted himself from the bed and sat up, shuddering in the cold. Seeing Dimitri’s academy uniform at the foot of the bed, he picked it up and lazily draped it over his shoulders for warmth and then wandered aimlessly back and forth in the room, unable to sleep and too worried to leave.

He directed his gaze towards the desk, seeing the Prince’s books; Dimitri read a lot about statesmanship—that explained the “Prince Charming” persona. Felix grasped the handle of his drawer, but—to his surprise—it was locked. What could Dimitri be hiding there?

He looked towards his prince, who still slept peacefully in the bed. For a moment, Felix hesitated—what if the Boar woke up and caught him going through his stuff?

He clutched the drawer tightly and then drew a deep breath.

Be strong, Felix Fraldarius, he told himself, searching the pockets in Dimitri’s uniform and finding the key. Be strong for Dimitri, Felix told himself, unlocking the compartment in the desk with a click. He opened the drawer, revealing a bundle of opened letters inside. Felix recognized the broken wax seals—these letters came from various lords of the Kingdom. He picked up the letter at the top of the stack, which bore Duke Fraldarius’s personal seal.

* * *

Felix found the Boar in the training grounds the next morning. He’d trimmed and combed his hair; he almost looked like the Prince while practicing with his form teacher in the morn. At the end of the training session, he looked to Felix and gave him a sad, apologetic smile, faint and barely noticeable. Felix nodded to him and picked up his training sword, pointing it at the Boar. The beast nodded and they had a few bouts. Felix won every match, but during the fights he realized that the Boar was fighting more like a human and less like a beast: he anticipated Felix’s cuts and thrusts and blocked, evaded and parried attacks rather than relying on brute force to break his opponent’s stance.

After the sparring session, the boar prince mentioned having talked to his teacher about what happened in Avalon. The news took Felix by surprise, but he kept his emotions in check and merely raised a questioning eyebrow at the statement. Perhaps if the Boar continued to make reparations, Felix could allow himself to see this ray of hope: that perhaps, Dimitri didn’t die in Duscur after all and merely needed help to crawl out of that hole he’d fallen into.

That evening, Felix dusted and cleaned his own room, finding a copy of The Wayward Knight and the Woodland Mage among his swordsmanship treatises. It was one of Glenn’s favourite tales, but Felix couldn’t remember asking his uncle or cousin to send him this thing. Upon flipping the book open he found Ashe’s name inside the cover. Right, the foolish boy with knighthood dreams forced this thing upon him a few months ago. Come to think about it, Ashe valued his books quite a bit, so why hadn’t he asked for it back?

Felix headed downstairs to return the book, only for Dedue to inform him that Ashe was in the cathedral and had been spending a lot of time there since Lonato’s death.

Was Ashe still mourning? It wasn’t Felix’s place to judge but he felt a bit envious of the boy, as pathetic as it was—Ashe was lucky in that he was allowed to mourn the loss of his family at all. Still, he thought someone should check on that kid.

Felix found himself making his way to the cathedral and finding Ashe in the front row of the benches; hands clasped in prayer and the late Lord Lonato’s name on his lips. The crestfallen student was frustrated with his own powerlessness; Lord Lonato had kept him in the dark throughout his personal vendetta against the Church, and Ashe felt he didn’t understand his adoptive father’s feelings at all.

Felix wouldn’t consider himself Ashe’s friend—they were acquaintances at best. Yet, Ashe’s words struck a chord with Felix, who silently stood at his side and did what Felix Fraldarius did best: listening.

“Lonato always seemed like a knight out of a story,” said Ashe, looking at his feet. “I was so caught up in my ideals that I turned a blind eye to his sadness, his hatred… even when they were right in front of me.” He paused and then lifted his gaze to look at Felix. “I guess I’m pretty far from real knighthood, huh?”

“Perhaps,” replied Felix carefully. He paused to gaze upwards to the vault ceiling of the cathedral, thinking of the letters he discovered in Dimitri’s locked drawer. “Yet knowing someone well does not mean you know how they feel. Whether family or friend.”

Felix seated next to Ashe on the church bench, clasping his own hands above his lap. He wrung his hands, remembering how Dimitri had torn down his walls and begged Felix to keep him safe throughout the night.

“To know someone’s sorrow and turn blindly from it…” Felix continued, gazing towards the stained glass window behind the altar. “That is the act of a fool.” Then, as if he’d found the answer for a question he’d been searching for for years, he relaxed his hands and finally looked Ashe in the eyes. “But pursuing your ideals is not foolish,” said Felix. “I said to be moderate with your passions, not to abandon your ideals. It’s okay to be who you are.”

Suddenly, Felix was a child again, offering encouraging words to a friend who’d lost his fighting spirit. Suddenly, he was the younger of the Brothers Fraldarius again: a ray of hope complimenting Glenn’s brutal honesty.

Ashe gave him a meek smile.

“Thank you,” he said. “Hearing you say that means a lot.”

Felix returned Ashe’s book, briefly resting his hand on Ashe’s shoulder as he rose from the bench. He told Ashe he was just like the squire in that tale; he was only half a knight, but he was gregarious and bold.

“And he always does his best,” Felix then added with a faint smile. “Never stop being that half-knight, okay?”

“You got it,” said Ashe, his face lighting up as his old self surfaced from the waves of sorrow. “I’ll become the kind of knight only I can be!”

When they parted that evening, Felix felt a sense of pride he hadn’t felt for years.

That night, Felix pondered all the irrational decisions he’d made for the last few years and all the unnecessary suffering he’d inflicted upon himself and others. That night, he decided to take his own advice.

For from the beginning, Felix had known that something was very, very wrong with his prince. In his heart, he’d always known that his friend was very, very ill. But he’d turned a blind eye to all the signs and whatever darkness that had an iron grip on Dimitri was now Felix’s cross to bear.

* * *

He kept the boar prince company in the training grounds, studying and learning his fighting technique at day and carefully picking all his moves apart at night. He had his uncle send him all of Glenn’s swordsmanship treatises from home; he had Cousin Jacques send him his mother’s bow. Leonie taught him how to fight like a fox and he taught her the discipline and vigilance of a knight in return.

After collectively rescuing Flayn from the Death Knight and the Flame Emperor’s clutches, Felix’s request of returning to the Blue Lions was finally processed. Leonie followed him to the blue house too, saying she wished to be closer to and learn from Captain Jeralt’s child.

Sylvain and Ingrid, Mercedes and Annette, the Prince and his servant, and Ashe; they happily accepted Leonie and welcomed Felix back with open arms. All was forgiven. After so much misery and so many twists and turns, Felix was home again.

They resumed their training together every morning. They won the Battle of the Eagle and Lion together. After so much misery, things were looking up. After so much misery, Felix finally dared to grasp that sliver of hope that had been tempting him for so long. And that hope, Felix would hold onto it despite his fear for the Boar.

When Dimitri’s mask slipped during the flames of Remire Village, Felix was unquestionably alarmed. But instead of running away like a coward, he stayed and urged the Professor to keep an eye on the boar prince; he urged the Professor to cage the Boar if the need should arise.

Felix hated the Boar, but he loved and stood by his friend. Everyone was repulsed by the carnage in Remire and Felix himself didn’t spare any mercy for the villains responsible for Remire’s destruction. Had Dimitri’s violent outburst only been fuelled by his strong sense of justice and his overwhelming empathy for the helpless, Felix would’ve scolded him afterward and tried reasoning with him. However, this went beyond Dimitri’s questionable priority of punishing evildoers over saving innocents. No, the darkness that had an iron grip on the Prince was something much more sinister…

Revenge. The sole reason the Boar came to Garreg Mach was for revenge.

Hidden beneath the princely mask was a vengeful man who’d taken it upon himself to carry the burden of the Tragedy alone. Beneath that princely façade was a cruel killer determined to sate the wills of the dead. And Felix’s own father had been enabling Dimitri’s twisted fantasies and aiding him in his sick quest throughout the years!

Yet, Felix dared to hope.

The night before the annual ball, the class made a promise to meet up again five years later in the Millennium Festival. And during the ball, the boar prince put his mask on again and entertained every girl who dared to ask him for a dance—even though he detested the activity. Afterwards, he’d approached the banquet table, at which Felix and Ingrid sat eating, and brazenly asked Felix to join him on the dance floor.

“Are you serious?” said Felix, scoffing at the dumb idea when the Prince politely bowed and extended towards him his hand. Instead of giving Dimitri a proper answer, Felix handed him some chicken bones, inducing laughter from nearby students. Ingrid had glared at Felix, saying he didn’t have to insult the Prince.

“I’m done with these frivolities,” said Felix, wiping his hands with a tissue and then leaving the table. “I’m heading back to the dorm for sleep.”

Yet, as he turned and left the reception hall, he fleetingly grasped Dimitri’s wrist.

And the Prince, catching the message, excused himself from the ball as well, following Felix out to the chilly courtyard that was free from prying eyes. Felix drew the training sword from his belt and raised it, pointing it at Dimitri’s face. The Prince smiled faintly and he complied, unsheathing his own blade.

They had several bouts in the courtyard that calm winter evening, and Felix won all of them—Dimitri could barely keep up with his quick footwork, and Felix easily landed strikes on both his legs and arms, whirling away before the Boar could even retaliate. Had those been real fights—Dimitri would’ve been crippled and bloody. The Prince complained he was too sore and bruised to continue after the fifth match. He showered Felix with the usual meaningless praise, and as much Felix wanted to believe his own skill had vastly improved, in his heart he knew Dimitri simply lacked his usual enthusiasm for sparring this evening. Felix cast a look back into the building where the ball was still going; the warm light of the chandeliers illuminating part of the courtyard outside through the windows.

He sighed and took Dimitri’s left hand with his right, raising it and letting it slide into his palm—why was Dimitri wearing those gauntlets all the time? He let out a small laugh—he couldn’t believe he was going through with this ridiculous request—and then placed his other hand on the Prince’s back. He felt a tingle on his cheeks at the touch of Dimitri’s warm body against his frigid hand. And then he laughed again, louder, offering Dimitri an easy way out of the bizarre situation.

But the Prince did not laugh or run. He gently rested his free hand on the young duke’s shoulder, letting the Felix lead him into a silent waltz.

Felix kept his eyes on their feet crushing the winter frost and leaving evidence of their dance among the footprints that marked their duels before.

“Felix…” said Dimitri, his voice soft and warm; speaking Felix’s name like a hopeful prayer.

Felix nodded in acknowledgement. He tightened his grip around Dimitri’s hand, his heart ensnared by his prince’s voice. There were so many things he wished to say—to ask Dimitri. And yet, he bitterly kept his silence, unable to bring himself to talk to the Prince alone in fear of invoking Glenn’s ghost.

Finally, the sound of the reception hall’s door closing broke Felix free from the spell, and he stopped the dance and let go of Dimitri. Felix took a deep breath and raised his head. The dim lights from indoors barely illuminated the Prince’s face. Yet, Felix couldn’t bring himself to look into those pale blue eyes for long—fearing to find the soul piercing eyes of the monster instead of Dimitri’s loving look.

Dimitri gave him a sad smile and then bowed in gratitude. Felix’s lips curved upwards and he returned the same closed-lip smile. He reached out his hand and comfortingly brushed the side of Dimitri’s arm before leaving the courtyard and heading back to the dormitory.

That night, Felix made up his mind. That night, he decided he’d resume his duties as Duke Fraldarius’s son and heir once his time in the Officers Academy was at end. Until Dimitri ascended the throne and proved himself as a worthy king, Felix couldn’t let his guard down. And if the Boar was to ever step out of line, Felix would be there to bar the way.

His fear; he would overcome it. The monster; he would vanquish it. Prince Dimitri; he would save him. Felix was no knight—but he was a Fraldarius at heart. And if he was to die an early death, he would die as Felix Fraldarius and no one else.

* * *

Felix trusted the Professor; he thought they knew what they were doing. He thought the Professor could rein the boar prince in since they had Dimitri’s trust. And perhaps Felix was right up until Captain Jeralt was murdered in the abandoned chapel.

Leonie and the Professor both ended up engulfed by the same flames of vengeance that fuelled the Boar’s bloodlust. The Professor’s wretched mission of vengeance had awakened the demon inside Dimitri. Felix could tell from the Prince’s poor swordsplay that Dimitri wasn’t himself. He was breaking things again and had reverted to using brute force. Granted, Felix couldn’t truly fault him for forgoing all finesse as his strength was extremely effective, but he hated seeing Dimitri fight like a wild beast that lacked any concern for his own safety.

“Hurry up and cage the wild boar,” Felix told the Professor. “If he keeps progressing like this, he’s going to get himself killed.”

Dimitri survived Avalon because the enemies were demoralized and running away, but they weren’t dealing with starved soldiers here! Kronya and Solon were dead, but the Flame Emperor and the Death Knight remained. If the Boar lost his mind and tried challenging an army on his own or rushed blindly into a properly set up ambush in the woods, no one could save him.

For once, the Professor had wisely listened to Felix’s advice. They couldn’t literally lock the Boar up, but they agreed to exclude Dimitri from whatever mission the Church was handing them at the end of the month. Felix breathed out a sigh of relief. He’d thanked his teacher for everything they were doing to keep everyone safe.

There would be no more church missions though. Instead, the Flame Emperor would reveal her face in the Holy Tomb. And Felix and the Professor could do nothing but helplessly watch Dimitri transform into the bloodthirsty beast and spill the blood of Edelgard’s minions.

When they all fled back to the Kingdom after Edelgard and her uncle sacked Garreg Mach, Felix was convinced both he and Dimitri were cursed by fate.

For the world or what higher power that governed it was adamant in killing Dimitri’s soul and keeping Felix’s wishes unfulfilled.

* * *

In the beginning of spring 1181, the new Adrestian Emperor, Edelgard von Hresvelg, declared war on the Church of Seiros and assaulted the monastery at Garreg Mach. Archbishop Rhea led the defence of the monastery at the frontline but suddenly vanished amidst battle. As the Imperial army approached with overwhelming numbers, the Knights of Seiros had no choice but to surrender.

With the Church out of the equation, Emperor Edelgard proceeded to enact her plan of unifying the continent under the banner of Adrestia; launching her offensive on the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus and the Leicester Alliance.

The Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, still unstable after the Tragedy of Duscur, suffered the loss of its ruler while mounting its defences against the Adrestian Empire. At the height of the political crisis, Prince Dimitri was accused of murdering his estranged uncle, sparking a civil war in which the lords and ladies of the Kingdom were divided in two opposing factions: those who believed Prince Dimitri’s innocence and still supported his claim to the throne, and those who believed the Kingdom and the Blaiddyd dynasty had run its course.

Chapter Text

It was no secret that the entirety of House Fraldarius despised Rufus Blaiddyd, and Felix was no exception. That ingrate had done both Dimitri and House Fraldarius great violence in the aftermath of the Tragedy. Felix had all the reasons to wish for Rufus’s demise, but even that useless man didn’t deserve to be butchered by the damn Boar!

Not only had Dimitri slaughtered his own uncle, he’d tried—and failed—murdering his way out of the court of law, too. A fight had broken out in the courtroom between loyalists and other nobles, resulting in several deaths—including a couple of Fraldarius knights!

The fools, blindly obedient as they were, still believed in that nonsense called chivalry even when their liege had shown himself to be a reprehensible monster! Felix couldn’t believe what was happening right under his nose; his family and friends were staging an operation to rescue that creature!

As he sat alone in front of the fireplace in Castle Fraldarius’s great hall in the winter night, Felix questioned if he’d ever truly understood or even known Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd. Did the massacre in Duscur truly corrupt his soul? Or had Prince Dimitri always been a violent and bloodthirsty beast, merely held back by the fetters and trappings of royalty? Was the Prince that Felix Fraldarius loved even real? Or was it yet another mask the beast wore to deceive its prey?

“He didn’t do it, Felix,” said Ingrid.

Felix turned his head sideways to find her standing a couple of paces away with Sylvain, who’d also decided to throw his life away for the Boar.

“How do you know?” said Felix. “Were you there when Rufus died?”

Felix, ask your own heart! You know Dimitri better than anyone in the Kingdom—no, the entire world!

Do I, Ingrid?”

“You shared a bed for eleven years,” said Sylvain, raising his hands above his shoulders. “That’s got to count for something.”

“What part of you is broken beyond repair, Sylvain?” Felix stood up and glared at his friend, the fireplace a reflection of the ardent flames in his soul. “You saw the beast slaughtering Imperial soldiers in the Holy Tomb with your own two eyes! He’s a maniac enslaved by vengeance and there’re widespread rumours of Rufus being an original instigator of the damn Tragedy! How much arsenic did Miklan feed you—!”

FELIX!” Ingrid screeched, shooting daggers at him with her eyes.

Felix braced himself for the oncoming storm, but Sylvain placed his hands on Ingrid’s shoulders and soothingly rubbed them, whispering with a defeated tone:

“It’s all right, Ingrid. It’s all right.”

No, Sylvain! Felix knows—

“He wants to hurt me, Ingrid,” said Sylvain. “Of course that’s what he’d say.” He let out a faint chuckle, a weak attempt to mask his sadness. “I even have to commend him for his success. Come on, let’s go. The others are waiting…”

There was a moment of silence and Ingrid simply stared at Felix, her eyebrows knitted together and her teeth clenched behind her lips.

“If Prince Dimitri died in Duscur,” said Ingrid. “Then I guess Felix Fraldarius died in Avalon.”

Felix turned away, listening to his friends’ footsteps as they ascended the staircase and headed to his father’s study. He stared into the fireplace and added some more wood. Seeing that the fire-fork was missing, he grabbed the longsword hanging on the stand, using it to push the cloven logs further into the fire. The flames reflected upon the shiny steel when Felix suddenly saw an inscription on the blade. Had it always been there?

He raised the blade and turned the hilt horizontally. There was a name engraved near the guard:

 

DIMITRI

 

This wasn’t a knighthood blade. It was certainly shaped like one, but this inscription…

Felix’s mind wandered and he lowered the sword, his eyes fixed on the letters forming the name of his beloved friend and on his own reflection on the steel.

Suddenly, he was back in the throne room when Rufus generously awarded those who had helped House Blaiddyd in the civil war—with titles, riches and even land. The Grand Duke finally recognized House Fraldarius’s loyalty and devotion, restoring the noble house’s honour and prestige. In addition, he also rewarded Felix Fraldarius specifically with a royal knighthood—to be elevated from squire directly to Royal Guard was massive; not even Glenn made that kind of a leap in his career!

Yet, Felix stood there in the throne room clenching his fists in anger and disgust, his fiery eyes glaring at Prince Dimitri, who stood up from his chair next to Rufus while a servant carried forth a knighthood blade on a cushion.

Cousin Jacques had urged Felix to step forth to accept the reward, but Felix didn’t move. The Prince had smiled kindly and taken the knighthood blade, stepping down from the dais and approaching Felix. The rest of the court moved out of the way and whispers began to swirl in the throne room.

“Kneel,” whispered Jacques, stepping aside as the prince approached. “You’re supposed to kneel, Felix.”

Despite his cousin’s urging, Felix stood still, staring at the Prince with hateful eyes.

“Felix Fraldarius,” said Grand Duke Rufus. “I take it you’re familiar with the ceremony, so why aren’t you kneeling before your liege?”

Dimitri smiled tenderly and shook his head.

“No, Uncle,” he said. “Felix Fraldarius has been my closest friend since birth. He doesn’t need to kneel.”

Then, instead of tapping his shoulder with the sword, Dimitri placed the blade across his palms and presented it to Felix as a gift. He didn’t give a fancy speech or praise Felix’s skill and bravery. He didn’t even ask Felix to swear fealty to him. No, Prince Dimitri simply looked Felix Fraldarius in the eyes while speaking the following words:

“Be my knight, Felix.”

He spoke those words like a plea, a hopeful prayer. His gaze then fell down towards his feet, his lips a bashful smile and his face a lovely shade of red.

Dimitri’s words—that shy proposition, they echoed in Felix’s mind as he touched the inscription in the light of the flames. And for the first time in three years, tears blurred Felix’s vision and he shamelessly shed them, pressing the flat of the sword against his heart while whispering his beloved’s name.

* * *

André Fraldarius laid out his plan to his co-conspirators when the door to the study slammed open and Rodrigue’s errant son suddenly stepped in, fully clad in his battle gear.

“Felix?” said Rodrigue.

“What do you want?” said Ingrid.

Felix stepped towards the desk where Ingrid, Sylvain, and a dozen House Fraldarius members had convened, their weapons piled up on the desk. Felix drew his prized Sword of Zoltan and put it on top of the stack.

“I thought you said this was an insane idea,” said Sylvain, folding his arms over his chest. “So what caused this magical change of heart?”

Hmph,” said Felix, turning sideways in a swift motion, his small cape whipping his back in the movement. Lowering his hand he grasped the second sword strapped to his belt, unsheathing the longsword halfway to show the inscription.

“He owes me a knighthood.”

Ingrid and Sylvain looked to each other and their faces lit up with smiles.

“See, I told you!” said Sylvain. “Felix always finds his way back!”

* * *

In spring 1181, Prince Dimitri was accused of murdering his uncle Grand Duke Rufus and put on trial in Fhirdiad’s palace of justice.

When witnesses from the Battle of Avalon Hill and the Battle of Garreg Mach testified for the prince’s wanton bloodlust; Prince Dimitri became enraged and disrupted the order of the court. He instigated a fight that resulted in the deaths of several nobles and knights, but was ultimately apprehended by the court mage Cornelia Arnim, who’d quickly seized power in the wake of Rufus Blaiddyd’s death and installed herself as Faerghus’s new regent.

The court declared Prince Dimitri guilty of his uncle’s murder and sentenced him to death by beheading. The execution was meant to be a public event, but when a plot of rescuing the prince was suddenly discovered, Cornelia had Prince Dimitri put to death in the dungeon in fear of him escaping and returning at the head of an army.

Chapter Text

As the beast lay bloody and crippled on the ground, shrieking and trashing about, Elouan approached it with his blade in hand.

It was said that the knight shed tears of sorrow as he thrust his sword into the heart of the beast, which then transformed into the fair princess and died in the arms of her beloved knight…

No one knew for sure what happened to Elouan after Princess Danica’s death. Some said he ignited himself with his fire spell and clutched his beloved in his arms until they both burnt to ash. Others claimed to have seen him in the battlefields, charging fearlessly into battle like a maddened beast and fighting until the earth had drained his last drop of blood.