Each dream was different, but it may as well have been the same as the one before. With the sunrise came blades gripped by faceless owners, the marching of boots on the earth, and coin towards another meal. Dozens of rugged men and women found comfort amidst the ranks of those who they came to know as chosen family while keeping emotional distance, as they knew the end may be tomorrow. Days and nights seemed to blend together as the jagged timeline was difficult to piece together. During the moments she found herself among the strangers who felt all too familiar, her attention was fixed on a stony-eyed girl who lingered a step behind a man who she presumably held in high regard. The girl seemed to look through her—no, she looked through everyone—as she went about her daily motions. Her dreams would take her through days and weeks at a time, seemingly invisible to the small community who found themselves responsible while simultaneously wary of the girl who could be no older than a young teen. A cape swallowed her whole while a scabbard hung heavy against her hip. While she spoke infrequently, her gaze filled silence with the story of a child who grew up too soon under the weight of a sword.
Sometimes it felt that the girl knew she was there. She frequently maintained a distance, following silently like the ghost of an old friend who didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They never exchanged words or glances in her dream world, unsure whether it was an unspoken rule or in fear that her words would fall on deaf ears. It was not known when she would find herself in the young girl’s world or why; her continuous dreams felt as though she was invading the privacy of the fictional lives she had created in the depth of her mind. She felt omniscient yet not entirely present despite experiencing each job, kill, and loss as if she walked alongside them.
While the dreams left her weary, the routine she adopted in her wakefulness felt just as unnerving. She didn’t know how long she had been here, or how she arrived, though she seldom found solace in the darkness around her where time eternal seemed to stand still. Between glancing down into the blackness below and shifting in the stone seat beneath her, she pondered details she realized she could hazily remember about the mysterious child in her dreams yet could not recall for herself. She couldn’t help but feel that she was waiting. For what, she wasn’t sure. She occasionally hoped for company, a familiar face to appear in the unknown, other than the ones she saw when she closed her eyes. The girl occasionally visited her. She stood at the base of the jade-colored staircase, peering up with a question on her lips that may never be asked. Her sapphire hair was all that could be deciphered from the top of the stairs, yet it was all that was needed to warm the throne-dweller’s chest with familiarity. She could feel herself being studied when she realized the girl probably knew more about her than she did herself.
She presumed much time had passed—several years according to the events that she had pieced together through the mysterious girl in her dreams—when she began to grow impatient with her visitor. The girl—no, she was a woman now—still seemed to speak only when spoken to. She had grown taller, more confident, more commanding. It was evident that she took her work seriously through her hard demeanor and intimidating stance on the front line. Communication wasn’t her forte, yet her peers understood her intent clearly, particularly the straw-haired man she reported to who seemed to hold her in high regard as well.
The girl on the throne found herself in what seemed to be a small village the next time she met the blunette. Townsfolk offered their homes to the caravan on their arrival as an offer to pay the debt that had been accrued from years of on-and-off service. Mercenaries, she had learned they were. Sell swords, each and every one of them, including her frequent visitor. While they weren’t dulling their blades from earning their pay, she learned that the company frequented late night scenes. She supposed the comfort of liquor soothed more than the physical wounds they collected from their work and witnessed one too many visits that ended in adding another business to the list of taverns to never return to; however, the loyal band of brothers could never cross the people of Remire as it was their closest semblance to home. More often than not, the silent woman spent those evenings slowly sipping her golden beverage, staying to see her comrades safe return to their borrowed beds.
As the evening became dawn and the last of the crowd thanked the barkeep for treating them well, both the girl and the woman’s eyes grew heavy with sleep. They shuffled to a small home where she shared a room with the straw-haired man, who had been revealed to be her father. The invisible guest had been witness as he raised her from a young girl to the fearless soldier-for-rent she had become known for while simultaneously defending her from the cruel world around them. It was ironic how he was willing to teach his daughter how to defend herself against its ugliness while shielding her from the opportunities of teenage and young adult antics that had been stolen from her. Aside from the occasional friendly peer who had come and gone, either taken from her too soon or retired for a more stationary lifestyle, the woman kept her circle small. Despite having never shared a conversation, the dreamer had never experienced a deeper friendship than she did with her familiar stranger.
Her dreams would typically end when the woman’s began, yet tonight their minds led them to a land painted with dull wyvern-filled skies and foot soldiers dressing their armor in mud as they pursued their prey. Nameless and faceless pawns came for each other’s throats, used to pursue the political high ground that the merciless war had dedicated them to. The unknown troops exhausted their final breaths on their honor, dancing through the sea of bodies and steel until they joined their fellow men in the earth. In the distance, their commanders each intended to have the ring of their clashing sword be the last. The silent woman and curious girl watched, blind to each others’ presence, as the smaller of the two army’s leaders claimed her victory. Mint green hair caked with blood and dirt stuck to a porcelain forehead and tangled through a gold, winged headdress. Red decorated her white tunic while she sank her dagger into her enemy’s chest, relishing in his death and letting a chuckle escape from her curled lips. A look of relief crawled across her face as she realized she had won, transforming her hollow gaze into one she may have worn as a hopeful child. She looked down to the pair of blades that rested near the cooling body. The drizzle that had soaked the battlefield let up and the victor took her enemy’s ivory blade into her hands, pressing the flat into a tender embrace against her skin.
“He’s gone now, mother…” the warrior whispered, her voice trailing into silence as she turned her face to the bright sun that had just begun to rise.
When she awoke, she found a familiar face in the darkness. She had been greeted this way many times before, yet it was never following an encounter in neutral territory. From what she could remember, they had never shared a space that had not belonged to the other. She yawned, leaning forward and squinting at her visitor.
“I wonder how you got in here,” she whispered. She nearly startled herself at the sound of her own voice as it was not as she remembered. A hand came to her mouth as she came to realize it had been quite some time since she had last spoken aloud. She leaned on the arm of her worn stone seat, taking a moment to carefully examine the woman before her for the first time. Aside from a spray of sapphire and a glowing steel blue gaze, there wasn’t much to see as she sat high above her guest. “This is certainly not the first time we’ve met,” she continued, trying to encourage a response. Her observation was challenged by the stare she knew all too well.
Irritated but not surprised, she sat up straight. “It is most rude to interrupt a moment of repose”, she chided, louder than before. “Very rude indeed.” Squinting at the blue shape at the base of the staircase, she came to the realization that she could not remember her name to introduce herself. Throughout all of the moments they shared, whether the memory belonged to her or the figure in front of her, she still could not manage to recall much about herself or how she came to arrive at her throne consumed in the darkness. She longed to engage with her frequent and only visitor despite never having any words or information about herself to share. Resting a chin on her palm, she gestured towards the woman to ascend the steps she had never met herself. “I wish to have a look at you.”
The figure hesitated before coming forward, her heels echoing throughout the empty space they shared. The space between each click grew as her interviewee appeared on the platform before her. She looked up as her guest stood straight with her eyes forward, wearing the infamous expression that had brought her much acclaim. The woman appeared to be a few heads taller than herself, sporting a black tunic and cape that concealed her figure. A familiar gold talisman hung at her waist beside a dagger that nearly matched her eyes. Jagged hair fell across her shoulders and fell slightly over her eyes, barely concealing the dark armor that the faint green light that emitted from the pillars on either side of them. Haunting steel blue eyes met her own and she suddenly lost her words. Her eyes narrowed. “Who are you, anyway?”
There was a pause. Despite lasting only a moment, the two stood for eternity. Seeming to consider her response carefully, the interviewer heard the phantom of the darkness, the subject of her dreams, the ever-present apparition in her plane of existence speak for the first time.
“I’m a demon.”
Oh. She has a sense of humor.
For a moment, they could hear the demon’s pulse. Crossing her legs and leaning back into her throne, the younger girl choked on air before letting out a howl. “So you must be a mortal,” she managed between laughs. She couldn’t recall the last time she had laughed, much less this hard. “Then you must have a name of sort,” she managed, wiping a small tear from the corner of her eye. “Please, go on.”
She felt Byleth’s gaze intensify as she caught her breath, clearing her throat and composing herself once again. Not sure what else she would expect from someone she had known for years but only heard speak twice.
Struggling again to recall her name, the seated girl decided to buy herself time in hope of it coming to her as she spoke. “Huh. I shall not ever grow accustomed to the sound of human names.” She was met with the unmoving eyes she had only seen meet eyes other than her own. It was apparent that this would be a one-sided conversation, yet she was determined to learn about her new friend. “You must posses a day of birth as well.”
“I… don't know,” Byleth sighed. She broke her gaze with the green-haired host before her, looking at the cracked stone beneath her feet. The amnesiac perked up at the hint of emotion in Byleth’s voice. Was this embarrassment? Another joke? Strange.
“I don't know,” a stern voice repeated. It was deeper than anticipated, presumably matured by years of battle cries and the early death of her childhood.
Byleth looked up at the sound of silence, examining the face in front of her as she realized this was the first time she had looked at the girl on the throne. Billowing emerald hair fell on either side of her head dressed with gold beads and emblems from another time. Braided pink and white ribbons peaked out from beneath the green, resting on young shoulders The tassels on her temples sat flat above her pointed ears as a charm sat between the thin brows that framed striking green eyes. She was young.
Green eyes met blue. “Interesting,” the child muttered, mouth unmoving. A hum escaped her lips and she yawned. “It all seems so familiar,” gaze drifting as her once-stranger’s image began to blur. “I think it may be time for yet another nap.” Byleth’s face remained still as the blackness consumed her and the green-haired girl found herself in her new friend’s world once again.