"Today we are gathered, not simply to remember, but to look to the future." Dimitri cleared his throat, staring at the audience through his eye. "Do not think that this is the end. He would not want this to be the end. This is only the beginning. Claude has left a mark, a legacy, and it is our duty to follow in his beliefs. After all, he only longed for fairness."
The speech was prewritten. After all, a man so broken could never write something so eloquent, not while he was still grieving. Dimitri did, however, have a say on what went into it, and he wanted this speech to be the most impactful he'd ever give.
The war had ended years ago. Claude had flown off on his wyvern, promising to return. Dimitri didn't think he would ever see that man again.
Claude never was one to break promises, though. He returned, an entire Almyran escort at his side. "This is a formal visit," Dimitri remembers Claude stating boldly. "One king to another, here to negotiate some peace treaties." Of course Dimitri had to let him in.
"What did you do," Dimitri had asked once Claude was settled, "take over a nation? In a little over a year?"
The beautiful man before him had only laughed, said something like, "you could say that," with a sly wink. Dimitri couldn't remember. All he could remember was the way Claude seemed to glow golden in the spot of sunlight that fell on him, the way the light formed a soft halo on his hair, as though even the light knew it was touching something precious. Something that the goddess herself cherished.
"He was a light in the eternal dark, for all of us. He led the way for us to make peace, with ourselves and our foes. He led us through a world that deemed him a mistake, and he showed us that mistakes are the most perfect things of all."
Dimitri would miss him. It wasn't a question if he would, never. The star kept by his heart was reminder enough of that. Dimitri just hoped that the rest of them would miss him, too.
"So, Mitya, I've been thinking," Claude started, swirling his wine in his glass.
"You, thinking? Never a good thing for the rest of us," Dimitri said, wine drunk with laughter on his tongue.
Claude merely smirked. "Usually, I'd agree. This is, however, a matter of importance, and one that I believe could benifit the both of us."
"Oh? I'm listening."
"Ah, how sweet," Claude near sang. "I have a proposition." He unclasped a necklace from around his neck, drawing it out of his shirt and holding it in front of his face. The candlelight caught on the golden star at the end of it, making it seem to flicker as it twisted and twirled. "At night, when I feel alone, I like to look up to the stars. I'll look up at them, and I'll think, "there's no way we can be alone. And if we as humans can't be alone, then I can't be, either. There has to be someone else like me out there, someone else who needs me to show them how things should be done.
"Having the stars is nice. It helps, makes me feel not so alone, but… But I really think it might be nice to have a person. One person, who is my star."
Dimitri hummed. "That was a nice little speech. How long did you have it planned?"
Claude's hand caught the star on the necklace, killing the flickering glow. "Ever since I had this pendant made. The question was just, who would I recite it to? Dimitri, you're the person who I would like to be my star, and I can be yours." He held the necklace out to Dimitri, wearing the most honest and open expression Dimitri had ever seen on Claude. "What do you say?"
Dimitri didn't say anything. He took the necklace.
"Of course, the world saw him as- saw him as a-"
For the first time in the speech, Dimitri had to pause, to gather himself. He couldn't say this with ease, but… He owed it to Claude to say it.
"The world saw him as a stain, but with time, he proved to be the best of us all. He created the map that will lead us to acceptance, no matter how long acceptance will take. My husband never rested and never planned to, until his dream became reality. He never got the chance to see it, he never got the chance to rest. I plan to finish what he never could. I hope to lead our world to become one where no one, regardless of race, station, or birth, is discriminated against."
Claude died because of discrimination. His death was an act of hate. Someone, somewhere, had hated him and what he was doing enough to hire an assassin, who shot Claude through the heart.
Most wounds that would prove fatal in anyone else wouldn't kill Claude, because of his crest. Most. But a shot through the heart- that would kill anyone.
Dimitri was still searching for the person who did it, and the person who hired them.
"Above all, today is not about the death of someone great. Today is about continuing his dream. Thank you."
Dimitri walked off of the stage, his head bowed, and paused by the open casket. He reached up behind his neck, and he undid the clasp.
"I will always remember you, my star," he said, setting the necklace in the casket, and then he walked away. Away from the crowd, away from the past, and into the future. A future, he hoped, where Claude could look down at the earth from his place among the heavens and smile at seeing his only dream come true.