To Sleep, To Dream
A week passed. Ingrid arrived on her pegasus on the seventh day, Sylvain a day behind her on a wyvern. Claude and his wyvern corps had ranged afield of the main column, and yet there was no sign of Flayn. It was as if she had vanished.
As Dimitri had hoped, it was Ashe who picked up the trail. Annette was home with their baby, but he had taken his wyvern riders and performed a thorough search of Gaspard territory. A small group of twenty or so soldiers was spotted moving through the forest, off the main roads, headed for Garreg Mach.
Dark clouds blocked the sun, low and roiling. The air smelled like impending rain, and the hair stood up on Dimitri’s neck. His captains begged him to take shelter, but he refused. Flayn was reckless—he understood now why Seteth had always kept such close watch over her—and she would not take cover from the storm.
Light flashed, but it was not lightning. Dimitri’s head whipped toward the source, and he urged his mount into a gallop. A massive amount of magical power had just been unleashed.
It had to be Flayn.
Dimitri’s horse barreled between the trees. Areadbhar cleared away branches and brush as Dimitri swung it about. Rain pattered on his head and shoulders and hissed amongst the leaves all around him. Despite the noise, he heard a woman scream.
His horse slowed. The forest was too dense to ride through. Dimitri abandoned his mount. Running through a forest wasn’t easy, but his long legs helped him jump over logs, and the Relic sliced away everything in his path. As he neared, shouting reached his ears. He glanced up, but the canopy was too thick to see if Ashe, Claude, or one of the other sky riders was with him. The fliers always had problems in the rain, particularly Ingrid’s pegasus.
Dimitri burst into a clearing. Bodies littered the ground, and the ozone stench of magic hung in the air. Flayn stood surrounded by three guards, her bishop’s garb stained with mud, her hair in tangles. Her hands glowed golden with magic. Mages in strange costumes slowly advanced on her and her guards. Oily, iridescent power surrounded them.
Dimitri gave no battle cry as he darted forward and used Areadbhar to separate a mage’s head from his shoulders.
The other mages spun as Dimitri ran through another. Spells blasted from their hands, but Dimitri dodged and laid about with his weapon. His footing was poor on the rain-slick grass, and it wasn’t long before he stumbled. A golden spell destroyed the mage about to attack him, but there were still at least a dozen more. Dimitri slipped, mud splashing, and three mages hurried to end him.
Dimitri raised Areadbhar. Then an arrow sprouted from one of the mage’s throats. The woman slumped where she stood. A wyvern’s cry rang out, hidden in the low clouds. Claude.
Another arrow killed a mage, and another, giving Dimitri time to regain his feet. The other church soldiers were dead, and six of the enemy approached Flayn. Dimitri roared and swung Areadbhar as more arrows rained down.
And then it was over, only corpses left. The jangling of tack rang out as Dimitri’s soldiers filled the clearing, led by Ingrid and Sylvain on horses. A white wyvern landed nearby, and Claude slid to the ground, followed by Ashe. Dimitri ignored them all. He trod on the enemy dead as he put away Areadbhar and loomed over the small, crouched form of Flayn.
Rain beat upon her head as he glared at her. She glanced up at him from underneath her bangs, face pale and eyes rimmed with red. She flinched when their gazes met.
Something inside Dimitri broke. He fell to his knees in the mud before her, wiping away her tears with his gloved thumb.
“Why?” he whispered. “Why did you leave me?”
Flayn’s shoulders shook as she closed her eyes. Tears leaked from beneath her eyelids.
Dimitri removed his gloves and cupped her face with his hands. His fingers strayed under her hair, and sure enough, her ears were pointed. Everything Claude had said was true.
Flayn looked at the ground, expression filled with anguish.
“Did you not think I would love you anyway?” he said softly.
Flayn met his gaze, eyes wide.
Dimitri leaned forward and kissed her gently. Her nose was cold and wet from rain and tears, but he didn’t care.
“Come home, beloved,” he said when he pulled away.
Flayn nodded. Dimitri put his cloak around her shoulders and picked her up, cradling her like a child. Ingrid led his horse forward. Flayn was so petite he managed to mount without putting her down. Claude came over and handed up a spare cloak.
“I’m sorry,” Claude said. He met Flayn’s gaze. “I would never hurt you on purpose.”
Flayn nodded but remained silent.
“Thank you,” Dimitri said. “Your help was invaluable.”
Claude nodded and stepped back. “Meet you at Hrym?”
“Your forces would be most appreciated.”
“Feels like the least I can do.” Claude took in the sight of the dead mages, mouth set in a grim line.
Dimitri and Claude clasped hands, then Claude mounted and departed. Dimitri watched him go as Flayn shivered against him.
“I am going to find the nest of these serpents who have targeted you, and I will cut them to pieces and burn the remains,” Dimitri said to her. “You will have nothing to fear ever again.”
Flayn leaned against his chest and closed her eyes. “I tire of all the killing. Will it never end?”
Dimitri had no answer for her.
Instead, he beckoned Ashe forward. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. If I may ask you yet another favor…”
Ashe put his fist over his heart. “Anything for my king.”
“Fly to Garreg Mach. Let the Archbishop and Seteth know that my armies are headed to Hrym to destroy those who slither in the dark. The Knights of Seiros are welcome to join me. But once you fulfill that duty, I want you home with Annette, do you understand me?”
“I can come. I can fight—”
Dimitri smiled. “I do not question your bravery. You cannot afford to leave your territory in its fragile state, and I’ll not deprive your child of a father. Stay and watch and ensure peace remains.”
Ashe nodded and saluted.
Dimitri motioned the soldiers forward, and they all returned to camp.
Sylvain, of all people, prepared Dimitri’s meal that night. “I didn’t know you could cook,” Dimitri said as he took a portion of the spit-roasted pheasant.
“You think Ingrid would marry a man who didn’t know how to cook?” Sylvain said with a grin. “Besides, Dedue helped me polish my skills.”
Ingrid smiled. “A part of me always wished Dedue and Ashe would have opened an inn together. The food would have been world-renowned, I’m sure of it.”
“Indeed.” Dimitri took a bite and enjoyed the flavor that washed over his tongue. Without Flayn he might have never tasted anything again.
Speaking of Flayn…. She sat next to him on a camp stool, her plate in her lap. Dimitri sighed, cut a bite, and put it up to her lips. She took the food and chewed, but her gaze was far away.
Ingrid and Sylvain exchanged a look. Dimitri envied their closeness, how well-suited to one another they seemed. No matter the distance between them, their hearts always seemed joined. Would he ever have that with Flayn? He glanced at her. Not if there were still secrets between them.
Sylvain and Ingrid rushed through the rest of the meal and departed after tidying up. Dimitri and Flayn were finally left alone in the royal tent, although the clank of armor came through the oiled canvas walls from the guards patrolling outside.
“I am sorry,” Flayn said, voice so small and plaintive Dimitri almost missed it.
“Eat, then we will talk.”
Dimitri crouched in front of her and fed her bite after bite. She chewed mechanically, gaze distant, until her plate was clean. Dimitri piled the dishes and sat on the ground in front of her.
“Why did you try to hide the truth from me?” he asked softly.
Flayn turned her face to the side and squeezed her eyes shut.
“The long sleeping spells you spoke of.” Dimitri took a breath. “Has that happened to you before?”
Flayn nodded, the movement small. It ached to see her curled in on herself. Her usual cheerful effervescence was nowhere in sight.
Dimitri brushed the hair from her face and traced her jaw with his fingers. “I pray you do not fall into such a slumber for decades to come. But if it happens while I live, I will ensure our family never forgets about you. When you awake, I swear you will be remembered and beloved still.”
“Why?” Flayn blinked as fat tears rolled down her cheeks. “Why are you being so kind to me when I hid the truth from you and ran away like a coward?”
Dimitri smiled. “Because I love you. I want to live my life with you.”
He pulled the box out of his belt pouch and removed the ring inside. It had been his mother’s ring, one of the few things he had of hers. Discovering Flayn’s ring size had been difficult, but Mercedes had managed it.
“Will you still marry me?” he asked, holding out the ring.
Flayn’s lower lip quivered. “Yes, of course I will.”
Dimitri slid the ring onto Flayn’s trembling finger. A sob left her, and Dimitri pulled her into his lap. His arms came around Flayn as she wept. The fire burned low by the time she finally quieted.
Dimitri wiped her tears away with his thumbs. He kissed her cheeks, her eyes, her forehead, her nose.
“You are safe,” he murmured. “You are loved.”
Flayn’s eyes shone as she looked up at him. He kissed her lips. She leaned into the kiss. His fingers tangled in her hair as he brushed it aside and exposed her ear. A shudder ran through her as he traced its curve with his tongue and gently closed his teeth around the pointed tip. She made a small sound, and it lit a fire low in his belly.
Dimitri unfastened her cloak and let it slide to the ground as he undid the buttons of her collar. Flayn closed her eyes as he kissed her throat and collarbones. Rain began to patter on the roof of the tent, drowning out all sound but her breath in his ear. He ran his tongue down her throat, unbuttoning her dress as he went until his tongue dipped into her shallow navel. She shivered against him as he lay her down on the carpets next to the fire. He pulled the blanket from his cot and tucked it around her while he removed his armor and clothing.
When he slid under the blanket next to her, his skin encountered hers. Somehow, she had undressed without him noticing. He lost himself in kissing her, propped up on one elbow, until her fingers danced down his midline and brushed his manhood.
Dimitri took her hand and pinned it above her head. He settled between her legs, suckling her breasts as she gasped and writhed. Her wetness rubbed against his stomach.
“Please,” Flayn gasped.
Dimitri chuckled. “I should make you wait. It would only be fair after you worried me so.”
Flayn bit her lip and squeezed her eyes shut as he pressed his tip against her opening.
“But I cannot. I want you too much,” he murmured in her ear. He teased her mouth open and slid his tongue inside. She moaned around the kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck.
Her moan intensified as he slowly pushed inside her. He moved slowly until she quaked beneath him. His thighs spread her legs wider, and he picked up speed. Her breath came in short bursts, and she dug her fingers into his shoulder. Goddess, he loved the way she lost herself to her ecstasy. It only took moments before she shuddered and bucked beneath him. His own pleasure built. He lengthened his thrusts until his awareness narrowed down to the way she felt wrapped around him. A grunt left him as he finished, goosebumps covering him from head to toe. It was all he could do to keep from collapsing on top of her, but he didn’t want to crush her just when he’d gotten her back.
“Do you believe in my feelings now?” Dimitri asked.
Flayn nodded, put her hands on his cheeks, and pulled him in for a kiss.
Dimitri settled beside her, relaxing for the first time since she had disappeared. She was so easy to be around—no demands, no ulterior motives. As long as they were together, he felt at peace. She truly was a saint, after all.
“I am going to put a stop to those trying to hurt you,” he murmured as he pulled her into his arms. “You will never have to worry about them again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.”
“I understand they will not be deterred. As much as I dislike starting a battle, I see no way around it if I am going to keep you safe. Felix is leading the main column of troops across Galatea and Daphnel territories as we speak, heading for Hrym. If you wish to return to Fhirdiad…”
Flayn shook her head and pressed against him. “I want to remain with you.”
Dimitri kissed the top of her head and, between her body heat and the fire, soon dozed off. Her touch awoke him some time later. Her fingertips skated over his muscles, and they made love again. And yet again near morning. By the time dawn arrived, he was more tired than he’d anticipated but also far happier and relaxed. All was right with his world once more.
Now, all that remained was to make it a safer world for her.