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The Years Before

Chapter Text


Jeralt was a common enough name for mercenaries. Goddess knew that anywhere he went, there was always a little Jeralt or an older Jeralt running around the village. A Jeralt with a baby was a little bit rarer but not so rare it would raise questions. Jeralt mused as he bounced the baby gently on his knee.

“Can’t call you Baby forever,” he whispered to her. She stared at him. She always stared. Did babies stare that much?. The nursemaids Rhea hired told him it was normal for some babies not to cry at all but it just didn't feel right. Lethy would have known about all about babies. Lethy would have known how much babies should or shouldn't cry.

“Would you like to be named Jeraltia?” he asked. Baby turned her head slightly.

“You really don’t like that name,” he commented as he prodded the fire. He was undertaking a small mercenary job near the base of west of Oghma Mountains. He heard rumors that Rhea had spread her search towards Derdriu in the assumption he headed as far as possible outside of the continent. He ran his fingers through his hair, thankful that he dyed his hair black and that only those within the church had ever seen him without a helm.

He didn't trust Baby out of his sight. When he dropped by the small farms for fresh milk, he didn’t let anyone else hold Baby for too long. He didn't want them to feel her heart. They understood once he told them her mother had passed away and she was all he had left in the world. He gently patted her head. He wouldn't let her want for anything. He burped her and put her down on his knee, facing him. Lethy was so excited to have Baby. She insisted he learn everything on how to look after babies, from diaper changing to feeding... so he could help her get some rest. Lethy didn't like her full name - Lethesia.

“I won’t call you Lethesia. Calling you after the dead is too big of a burden,” he sighed. Baby stared at him with her big blue eyes. Her eyes were really rather big. When she was older, there would be people falling into them, just like how he fell into Lethy’s eyes when they first met. Not that he would let the wrong person meet her eyes that that. No. He would trust Baby to make the right decisions but still…. He was going to teach her how to be as good a fighter as he was and as faithful and clever as Lethesia was.

“Bylethsia. You were created by Lethesia” He said. He bit his lips. No. That would get them recognized.  Lethesia was rare nowadays. Lethe, Leth, Leths were common enough.

“We’ll call you… Byleth.” He said slowly. The baby stared more intensely at him and tilted her head.

“I’ll assume you like that name,” he chuckled. Byleth gave him a stare as though she was examining him. A smell wafted towards his nose and Byleth stared vacantly over his shoulder.

“Or not,” he sighed. He dug into one of his packs for a fresh linen nappy, “But it’s the name I’m giving you anyway.”

Chapter Text

There had been a bit of a march and then a minor skirmish. Bandits and thieves. The adults there laughed, all except for Felix's father. They were going to make a “man”, “lord”, “knight” of Dimitri.  Night fell and now, they were camped outside the borders of Galatea. When they were on the line, when they were on the march, when in skirmish, they were in the middle. Not too close up but not too far back. Just enough so Dimitri could prove himself.

As Sylvain sat next to Felix by the fire, he wondered -  who had that bright idea and who had the equally bright idea to bring Felix, Ingrid and himself along. He looked over at Felix, who was sharpening his sword. Felix glared at him so Sylvain picked up a a javelin to polish.

“Are you captured by my beauty?” he said sweetly at Felix. He put his finger to his lips and winked at Felix as the pit of his stomach sank.   Felix glared at him. Felix was always angry and determined  now. Felix scoffed and focused on his sword.  Dimitri and Dedue came out of Dimitri's tent, Dedue holding a number of weapons and shields that needed maintenance.  Dimitri sat next to Sylvain who grinned back at him.

"I am not much use in maintaining the weapons," said Dimitri a bit sadly, "I keep breaking them in half."

Sylvain laughed, "Don't worry your Highness, Dedue will do a good job for you." He smiled at Dedue who gave a formal bow back. Dedue sat at the tent's entrance industriously polishing up a shield. 

Sylvain leaned forward, "Hey Dedue, why don't you - "

Some adults passed by, industriously walking away from Dedue. They congratulated His Highness on various inane things - how he "performed", what a good "king" he would make.  Sylvain clenched his knuckles and kept out of the way as best he could. It felt sick - how they were playing... playing of all things! They were all here, if anyone wanted to, they could assassinate a few future leaders and the heir but he supposed they weren’t going to make their assassination that obvious. He wouldn’t put it past someone to just slaughter them all and blame it on Dedue.

Sylvain looked around for Ingrid and saw her coming back from the Pegasus camp. She walked the long way around, avoiding Dimitri and Dedue’s tent and sat next to Sylvain. She was weaponless. He handed her his javelin.

“Please help me polish this,” he asked her. She scoffed and took the javelin. He picked up a lance.

A scream pierced through the night.

Things always go wrong. He hated setting up camp. Bandits? Assassins? Assassin bandits?  Who knew? They ran at their camp. Ambush.

Men ran at them. He swung his lance to distance the enemy away from himself and Ingrid. Felix killed a man. Sword swing straight to the neck. Ingrid another. She used the javelin to puncture the stomach. Suddenly the bandits fled. Sylvain used his lance to give the three of them space and he looked behind.

There was Dimitri. Slaughtering. Killing. He killed one bandit and when his lance broke, grabbed the lance of a fleeing solider and speared another bandit right in the head.  Dimitri let out a manic laugh and punched a man in the face, crushing his skull with his fist.  Dedue was there, preventing anyone from approaching his lord with his axe and taking hits meant for Dimitri with his shield. A wary circle of bandits soon gave space for Dimitri who threw one of the javelins that had been by Sylvain's side to puncture a bandit in the chest.

Felix clutched his sword, his body tense as though to move forward. Sylvain yanked him by the collar.

“Come on,” he hissed, pulling Felix and Ingrid out of the way.

“You’re in charge of Felix and Ingrid,” said Rodriguez when they had first set off, “If anything happens, get them out of the camp. Ingrid knows the land and so do you. I’ll look after His Highness.”

“Dimitri,” muttered Ingrid.

“Dedue.” hissed Sylvain as he let go to put his lance on his back. Ingrid pulled a face which didn't last. Felix and Ingrid collapsed. Sylvain grabbed them by the arms, jerking them upright. Sylvain pulled them into the woods, thankful they were moving with him. They were at a disadvantage if they were caught in the open.  He kept them moving through the woods.  He didn’t know the land as well as Ingrid but he knew it pretty well. There was a hollow, a few well hidden trees. He used his lance to check for traps then pushed the two kids into the hollow. He stood guard over them. Their battle adrenaline would wear off soon. The same thing happened to him when they first made him fight bandits. They said he would be fine, just because he had a crest.

He wasn't.

There was a retch. Sylvain stepped to the side, narrowly missing the vomit. Felix wiped his mouth. Ingrid stared at her hands. Sylvain bit his lips together. He knelt and put his arms around the two. They clung to him. The smell of the burning forest. A promise to die together with Felix. The smell of blood and scorched flesh. A promise to protect Dimitri with Ingrid.

A promise to Glenn.

He hugged the two tighter and took a deep breath.

“We’ll sneak back when it’s clear,” he whispered, “but first, let’s clean up Felix. He stinks.”