“Do you remember anything about the last time we stood here, Dimitri?” Claude says. The two stand on the cliff overlooking Gronder Field, watching church soldiers prep the traditional battlefield of the Battle of Eagle and Lion. The sun rises behind them, giving the world a golden tint.
“…I vaguely recall.” Dimitri says. He turns to face the Hero of Unification, the lord who defeated the woman he swore to kill. “I am… sorry, for everything that transpired.”
“You’re a few years late on that!” Claude laughs. “I lose no sleep over it, do not fret.”
“I wish I could say the same” Dimitri says somberly, turning to the cliff face again.
“We all need a swift kick to the head sometime Dimitri. Maybe you’ll be the one to do it to me” Claude says.
“I believe Lysithea would have my head were I to touch a hair on yours.” Dimitri says.
“Goddess, that was almost a joke Dimitri!” Claude pats Dimitri on the back.
“If it was a joke, I would still not test my luck against it” Dimitri says.
“Probably for the best, to be honest” Claude says, looking over the cliff with Dimitri. The normally talkative lord leaves Dimitri to his thoughts, the King of Farghus’s mind wandering to the last time a battle was held on this field…
Lysithea holds the map open wide on the field table before her. Byleth stands over her shoulder, reviewing the same combat map as they wait for Claude to return from his scouting. Her eyes linger on the faded pencil marks on the map, small sketches and arrows for the first time Claude brought the map to Gronder Field. He tossed all those original plans, drawing new ones over them… but the marks remain, a sad reminder of when the three houses battled on this field as friends and enemies. Or whatever Dimitri thought they were anyway. Lysithea sighs.
The edges of the map start to flare up and both Lysithea and Byleth hold the map on the makeshift table. Other papers flutter about the small strategic camp the Alliance army had set up over the northern bridge of the battlefield. At least half the army had moved past this point, but there was no safe place across the bridge for the leadership to gather as of yet, and Claude wouldn’t risk Hubert’s long range magic abilities taking out multiple commanders at once. The winds signal the return of their commander in chief himself, Claude, landing his white wyvern nearby the camp. Hilda and Marianne approach from the corner they were resting and healing in as Claude joins the table.
“Edelgard’s as aggressive as ever, but it feels calculated” Claude says, not missing a beat as he begins marking enemy formations on the map. “There’s something she has planned she wants us to fall for. We can use that to delay her, she’ll stay dedicated to making that plan happen, even if we know how to subvert it.”
“We want to take her out asap though, don’t we Claude?” Hilda says. “Less casualties?”
“We do, but I’m not confident enough to say we can take the Imperial army head on without even larger losses. It’s the lesser of two evils, as one might say” Claude replies. His expression reminds Byleth of the first time they met; Claude’s smile isn’t making it to his eyes.
“Not to mention we have the raging lion to deal with in the southeast” Claude says dryly. “Still no clue as to what has his spear up his ass, but I’d rather not fight him if we can.” Marianne smiles. “We’d suffer heaver losses in a pincer assault, even if the two sides aren’t coordinated.” Marianne’s smile fades.
“You mean we don’t want to have to kill our friends unnecessarily, right Claude?” Hilda says with a jab to the side. Claude laughs, though his eyes don’t leave the map.
“Of course, of course! You know me so well Hilda” he chuckles. Lysithea frowns at his laughter. She knew better than to believe that’s what he meant. Claude was also pragmatic in the war room. But… Hilda means well. She does the same to Lysithea when she gets too utilitarian in her thinking, she reminds Lysithea that this a war between people, and every life matters. The funny part is, Lysithea doesn’t think Hilda knows she does it. Not for Claude, for herself, or even occasionally for the Professor. Claude finishes marking the formations on the map, and puts his pen down.
“Alright, here’s the plan. Chime in with any objections” he says, looking over his once class mates and Professor. They nod in reply. “Teach, we’ll need the Knights of Seiros and yourself on the western front. You’ll be dealing with advance charges from Edelgard, but I don’t expect her full force to deploy at you. If they do, retreat across the river. Edelgard’s main force is going to wait for her ‘trap’ to be sprung. My gut tells me it’s related to the ballista on the wooden tower. Lyssi, take a strike force, figure out what she has in mind, and try and trigger it harmlessly. Her advance on the ‘successful’ trap will weaken her stance in the backfield, letting Teach push through. Hilda, you, Marianne and I are going to sneak through the eastern woods and get the jump on the mad king, see if we can’t get him to unite against the common enemy. Worst case, we can direct his death march in the most useful direction for my planning” Claude takes a long breath. “Any questions?” No one replies and Claude sighs slightly.
“Excellent. I know I can rely on each of you, and everyone else. Adapt on the fly, and above all come back alive.” He says and the table nods. Byleth leaves first, heading towards battalion made up of the Knights, and Lysithea heads towards the rest of their classmates to gather her team.
“I know you have chances in mind Claude, what are the odds we get Dimitri to see reason?” Hilda asks.
“… Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to” he replies quietly. Hilda frowns, but picks up her axe and follows after him towards the eastern forest.
They hear the shouts of the Imperial troops long before they see them. They’d crossed the northern river and worked their way south, avoiding a few Imperial and Kingdom groups by staying low. Claude dismounted his wyvern for this mission, leaving “Robin” behind at the war tent. What made these shouts different from others was what they were shouting about.
“We’ve got him, we’ve got the boar prince!” They jeer. Claude and Hilda share a look and sprint through the forest, Marianne hot on their heels, coming up on a steep drop, probably 30 feet down. Below they can see Dimitri, surrounded by what must be a half a battalion of Imperial soldiers. It’s assuredly half of what it once was, given the bodies filling the clearing. Dimitri is clearly running on fumes, the size of Areadbhar the only thing keeping the crowd from swarming him.
“Claude, he doesn’t have long” Hilda says beside him. Scenarios run through the Alliance lord’s mind, watching as the troops close the circle around Dimitri. One steps a foot further than the rest and Dimitri launches himself at the solider, gutting him swiftly with Areadbhar. The once noble leader of the Blue Lions attacks any man in reach, savagely ripping limbs and heads from bodies and shouting all the while about taking Edelgard’s head.
“Claude!” Hilda pleads. Claude turns to her and nods. Hilda leaps off the cliff, sliding down and launching herself into combat. Freikugel glows in her hands as she rends opponents on her way to support Dimitri. Claude fires arrows from atop the cliff, covering Hilda from any flanking attacks and even Dimitri, when the man wasn’t moving too wildly for a clean shot at his opponents. No words are exchanged by Hilda and Dimitri, nor does Claude shout below. Hilda draws the attention of many of the imperial troops, giving Dimitri breathing room he desperately needed. The remaining Imperials are quickly decimated by the combined talents of the academy classmates and their Hero’s Relics.
Dimitri approaches the last man, who begins to plead for his life. Claude slides down after Hilda, giving Marianne a signal to stay hidden, into the clearing and watches as Dimitri drags Areadbhar through the man’s torso, smiling darkly as he screams. The solider twitches and breathes his last as Dimitri pants heavily over him, blood caking his armor and face. Claude steps up in front of Hilda with a pat on the shoulder.
“Long time no see Dimitri. We were hoping to run into you at the pre battle feast but” Claude starts, before he is cut off.
“So you’ve come to kill me too” Dimitri says with a heave. He turns to face Hilda and Claude with the same manic smile on his face.
“Calm down Dimitri!” Hilda from behind Claude.
“Yes, what good does us killing each other do? We have no quarrel with you or the Kingdom Dimitri” Claude adds. His grip tightens on his bow, much like the tension in his voice. He smiles, trying to mask it.
“If you do not wish for me to kill you, stand aside” Dimitri growls. I care not but for the head of that woman.” Hilda looks to Claude as the prince begins to make his way across the clearing towards them.
“I can’t do that Dimitri. You may only care for the Emperor’s head, but I have people I need to protect fighting out there. Your foolish orders are putting them in more danger than necessary. Call off your troops from mine, and we can crush Edelgard toge-“ Claude is cut off as Dimitri roars.
“Do not SPEAK her name before me!” He says, lifting his lance and rushing Claude. Claude leaps backward, fighting the reflex to draw an arrow and punish the attacker for overextending his attack.
“Dimitri, calm down!” Claude shouts. Dimitri’s only reply is a swipe of his lance that Claude ducks and a guttural roar.
“Claude!” Hilda shouts. She charges into the fray, taking a swing from Areadbhar on the shaft of Freikugel and giving Claude a chance to fall back. Dimitri continues to attack Hilda, telegraphing his attacks with his powerful swings. Hilda stands her ground, her own Hero’s Relic unmoving and unscarred by the lance Dimitri wields. There’s no pause in his berserker attacks, each hit clanging heavily between the axe and lance.
“Dimitri, please! We’re your friends!” Hilda shouts between clashes. She’s begun to give him ground, taking a step or two back with each swing. Dimitri chases with pounding footsteps. Dimitri’s only response to Hilda is roars and death threats. Claude watches Dimitri’s footwork, an arrow nocked in Failnaught. Dimitri is slowing, and fast. Wounds from the Imperial troops and earlier battles seem to be opening as he winces and his armor begins to bloody.
“Claude, do I…?!” Hilda shouts over her shoulder. Claude takes that moment to fire, launching an arrow into the ground between Dimitri and Hilda. Dimitri trips over the shaft of the arrow as he charges for Hilda again. Hilda takes the opening to bash Dimitri with the side of Freikugel. He rolls across the ground and before he can stand up Hilda swings Freikugel over his head. The spines of the Relic axe dig into the ground on either side of Dimitri’s neck, pinning him to the ground lest he cut his own neck on the legendary axe. Claude kicks away Areadbhar, but doesn’t nock another arrow as Dimitri snarls at the two.
“What the hell happened to you, Dimitri…” Claude says quietly. Claude and Hilda share a momentary look with one another before they hear a rustle in the leaves on the far side of the clearing. Claude whips an arrow into Failnaught and swings the bow up towards the sound as Hilda readies to pull Freikugel from the ground.
Familiar faces approach from the woods, all with weapons at the ready. The rest of the Blue Lion house steps into the clearing, taking in the scene. Dedue steps forward to charge the trio in the center of the clearing, but Felix puts a hand out in front of the retainer. The Blue Lions all stare, unsure of what to do. The tension is broken by, of all people, Dimitri.
“Kill them!” He spits out in a rage. Dedue makes to move again.
“Marianne!” Claude calls and the Deer’s healer comes down the embankment. “Tend to Dimitri, please. He’s bleeding from… Well, everywhere.” Claude asks. Marianne nods and kneels next to Dimitri. She begins to cast healing spells and the collective shoulders of the Blue Lions loosen slightly.
“This is a show of good will, though I’d hope it’s not needed between friends” Claude says to the group across the clearing. “We do not mean to harm Dimitri, in fact, we saved his life from the horde of Imperials who lay dead around us, before he attacked us.”
“… Then you’ll be releasing his highness?” Dedue says slowly.
“I have every intention to, but before that. I don’t pretend to know what troubles have faced the Kingdom in the last five years, but can one of you explain what the hell happened? Dimitri was a better melee combatant that me 5 years ago, and I could have easily defeated him just now. He’s a berserker, a madman, and I question how such loyal retainers as yourselves, who would go on a suicide mission to Gronder Field with him, let him become like this” Claude says cuttingly. He does not wear a smile. The Blue Lions are quiet and tension fills the air. Claude at the least, lowers his bow to ensure his questioning is not at arrow point.
“No one? Not a one of you? Felix, isn’t he now exactly what you called him every single day of the Academy? A wild boar? Shouldn’t you be gloating at correctly identifying that Dimitri was what, insane?” Claude says. Felix steps forward, his hand still on his sword in it’s scabbard.
“Dimitri is the last of the Blaiddyd line. He is the… rightful king to a Kingdom that needs him in the fact of total domination by a monster of a woman” Felix says.
“Never thought I’d hear Felix supporting Dimitri” Hilda says dryly.
“Indeed, he’s grown far more diplomatic in the years since we left the Academy” Claude adds. “Though it feels forced to me.” Felix growls before rolling his shoulders and scowling at the Alliance lord.
“Fine. He is very much the boar prince I always knew he was.” Felix says with all the attitude of his teenage self.
“He was pushed to this!” Ingrid says, stepping up beside Felix. She glares at the swordsman before continuing. “He was nearly executed by his own kingdom, between that and finding out Edelgard was involved with the Tragedy at Duscar…”
“We’ve done all we can to support him, truly we have” Ashe says, joining Ingrid. “While he may not hold a throne at the moment, we’ve served him as the best vassals and knights we can!”
“And I suppose it is a good vassal’s job to be the sword and shield of the King, even when that King wants to throw himself into the fire?” Claude shouts back. He can see Dedue’s face harden at that, not liking his mantra turned against him.
“It hurts us too!” Annette shouts, her voice emotional. Claude winces internally at that, and he continues in a more tempered tone.
“I heard plenty of your class discussions in school. Many times I heard Dimitri ask you to call him as a friend, and not as a Lord. I’m sure you’ve all done your part as his vassals, but what about as his friend? By the goddess, were I to act as Dimitri is, Hilda would backhand me with the side of her axe till I got it together! Marianne would dog me until I spilled what drove me to such lengths!” Claude yells. The Lions are silent, staring at Claude with wide eyes.
“Mercedes”. Claude says. The woman jumps in her skin. “Come help Marianne. Dimitri shouldn’t suffer these wounds any longer than he has to.” Mercedes blinks, processing before she steps up in front of the group. She looks back and Annette nods at her, and Mercedes jogs up to join Marianne in healing.
“You are defeated, all of you. I do not wish to fight you, but I will if you continue to advance towards the Empire and I absolutely will if you continue to attack the men and women under my command. Retreat from Gronder.” Claude says. He leaves no room for argument. “And for the sake of him, stop serving him and start supporting him. He clearly doesn’t need weapons, what he needs is someone to give a damn.” Claude finishes, turning on his heel. He looks down at Dimitri. The prince’s glare has not ceased.
“I hope we can be allies again on day Dimitri. Stand on the same ground without weapons drawn and reminisce about the good times. You have people who would throw themselves into a war for you, all because they believe in who you once were. Find that man again Dimitri.”
“That man is dead. Killed along with the rest of the innocents that woman has slaughtered” Dimitri spits at Claude. Claude sighs, then kicks Dimitri in the head. The prince is knocked out instantly. He then nods to Marianne and Hilda, and the two women follow him as they leave the clearing. The Blue Lions watch the members of the Deer house leave before moving towards their unconscious king.
“Is he alright Mercedes?” Dedue asks.
“Yes, Claude knocking him out… was probably necessary” she replies.
“Why is that?” Dedue says with narrowed eyes.
“Dimitri probably would have chased them. We certainly couldn’t retreat with him in a rage either”
“Are we… going to retreat?” Annette asks. The group is quiet at that point.
“…We should. Claude… He was right” Sylvain finally says.
“We should not act without the orders of his-“ Dedue is cut off.
“I can tell you what Dimitri’s orders are. ‘Kill every last one of them’. No matter what the situation is, his answer is to fly into a rage and kill, if only to annoy Edelgard’s regime.” Sylvain says. He steps forward. “Why are we letting him do this? To be good knights? I was never knighted to his service, and even if I was, I wouldn’t let Ingrid or Felix throw themselves onto enemy spears. Why should I follow his orders to let him do exactly that?”
“Because he is our King and-“ Dedue is again cut off.
“He’s our friend too!” Annette shouts. “This has been… the hardest few months of my life, watching Dimitri attempt to destroy himself for revenge. He was always a good man! He taught children how to defend themselves, he’s saved most of our lives multiple times, and he always liked my… liked my cooking!” Annette says, tears coming to her eyes. “Claude was right. We need to stop following his orders like rank and file and tell him the truth. That he’s gone mad with revenge and he’s going to get himself and everyone who loves him killed.”
“… I always knew he could be this way. But instead of challenging him to be better I goaded it out of him.” Felix says. He steps next to Annette, and she uses his cape to dry her tears.
“Can we… can we truly make that call though?” Ashe asks. “He is our King, after all…”
“He is the King of nothing right now.” Felix deadpans. “His Kingdom is almost entirely under Edelgard’s thumb. I own more territory than he.”
“That doesn’t take away his birthright!” Ingrid says.
“What makes him a King? Territory? No, and certainly not his crest” Sylvain says. “He is a King when he leads people, and Dimitri is no longer leading. He is simply rampaging and feels so inclined to allow us to follow.”
“Still…!” Both Ingrid and Ashe say.
“It’s not that we want to take away that he is our King” Sylvain says, giving a sad smile to the others. “I certainly don’t want the throne. But I do want Dimitri to live long enough to take it. If that means challenging his so called rule, I’ll do it.”
“As will I. It’s high time the boar prince returns to the mind of a prince.” Felix says.
“Me too. I can’t watch this happen anymore. I don’t want to attend anymore funerals” Annette says. She looks to Mercedes, and the healer nods in agreement.
“I…” Ingrid says, her hand clenched in a fist. She looks to Ashe, and the two converse in a look. The two always want to be knights like in the stories, and defying their Lord was hard for them to grasp.
“Maybe… there are other ways we can give our life to our liege” Ashe says finally. “I know what… I know where revenge leaves someone. This time, I want to protect the person I care about.”
“I… admit I can’t imagine how this makes sense. But I trust you all, with my life. And I agree… that following his commands is no better than giving him the sword to impale himself on. So I’ll follow your lead.” Ingrid says. She shares a look with Felix and Sylvain.
There’s a pause, in which none of the Blue Lions were brave enough to look towards Dedue. Dedue had truly dedicated his entire life to Dimitri. Dedue had to be told not to get himself killed for Dimitri frequently, because Dedue felt that was the best possible way to die. Denying Dimitri…
“…” Would be very hard for the man.
“… How you feeling big guy?” Sylvain finally asks. Dedue’s eyes are closed, and his hand rests on the hilt of his axe.
“I cannot agree with you all. His Highness’s orders are absolute in my world. I would happily lop my own head off, were he to ask.” The group tense, praying Dedue didn’t take the discussion as admission of treason. “However… I know, more than anyone, the people in this clearing care for his Highness’s wellbeing. I do not promise I will support you. But I know you act in his Highness’s best interest. So I will not stop you.” Dedue says and the collective group releases a breath.
“That, was scarier than Dimitri on a bad day” Sylvain laughs.
“Indeed!” Ashe chuckles. “Shall we do as Claude suggested then?”
“Yes, let us call back all forces and return the Kingdom. Hopefully we can get a good distance from the battlefield before his Highness awakens” Ingrid says, and the Blue Lions retreat from the battlefield.
Above on the cliff, Claude sighs in relief.
“They’re leaving, we won’t have to deal with the Kingdom forces anymore in this conflict.” He says.
“That’ll make things so much easier~” Hilda says lightly.
“And we won’t have to fight our friends” Marianne adds. Claude smiles at the two.
“Yes, it’s quite the lucky stroke. Let’s hope it holds up.” He says, following after the the two woman. He decides it’s not a good time to tell them if the Blue Lions weren’t going to retreat… Dimitri would have taken an arrow while he was out.
“Congratulations, students of all houses. You fought admirably, and did your predecessors proud. Especially our victors, the Blue Lion house!” Seteth announces. He stands before the crowded dining hall, three tables filled with members of the three houses. This was the first class to attend Garreg Mach since the war ended, and a promising class they turned out to be. At another set of tables in the back, members of the last class to attend sit, all of the Golden Deer and Blue Lions are in attendance. Claude is, of course, hamming up his applause and his housemates are doing much the same. Seteth can only hope he doesn’t influence the current Deer house. They’re much less… Well, Claude like.
“While the feast is being prepared for serving, I will give the stage to the last leader of the Blue Lion house, King of Farghus Dimitri von Blaiddyd! Students, keep in mind what an honor it is to have your Alumni here for this event and show them due respect.” There is a rolling affirmation of Seteth’s request and he motions Dimitri up to the stage. Dimitri stands, but hesitates.
“Go on, Dimitri” Sylvain says with a pop of an eyebrow. “Speech time.”
“I am so looking forward to this” Felix says with amusement, a mischievous spark in his eye. Annette slaps his shoulder with a grumble of ‘be supportive!’. Still, the words of the two give Dimitri comfort and he steps up the front of the room.
“Many of you in this room know me as a King. Some as the ‘mad prince’ during the war with the Adrestian Empire. Fewer… as Dimitri. When I was a student here, I met people from my own country, from others, enemies, friends, people from all social statuses. In my time here, I came to call them friends. At that time I was… quite lost, and alone in this world. The Tragedy of Duscar took my family and I had very little left. I lost myself in that loneliness for a long time.”
“What I never would have guessed is that the people I meet here at the Academy would become the family I lost. They put aside my title and later crown to stand beside me in a way no knight or vassal can. They stood beside me as family. My time in the Academy with them, and the bonds I formed with them, assuredly saved my life in the war.”
“So this is the lesson I give to you, as current students. The people sitting next to you, across from you. Even those in other houses, are all precious friends. Put aside rank and nation and bond with them. Should you have to enter a battlefield, it is not a Hero’s Relic or combat art that will save you. It is you allies, nay, it is your friends. And should you find yourself lost, no matter the reason… They will find you, and bring you home.” The room is quiet. Dimitri looks over the room, at the people he spoke of. At the smug Felix, and the crying Annette. At the winking Claude, the proud Dedue.
“… That said, congratulations Blue Lions! You have made the Kingdom proud today!” Dimitri calls, and the room bursts into applause. It wasn’t till dessert did someone tell Dimitri the applause was for his speech, not the Blue Lion’s victory.