To Sleep, To Dream
“Shambhala,” Dimitri said as he stood on the rise beneath building clouds. “It is underground?”
Claude nodded, his expression grim. The Almyran navy had transported soldiers up the Airmid River, support had come from the former Empire and Alliance, and Felix had arrived on time with the main column. Dimitri clenched his jaw. To think—these people were behind the torture of Edelgard, the Tragedy of Duscur, the death of Lord Lonato, and too many other incidents to count. Today, finally, there would be a reckoning.
“I discovered their leader’s alter ego was Lord Arundel—whom Felix killed when you saved Derdriu,” Claude said. “Maybe they’ll be disorganized without their commander, even if it has been almost two years.”
“We can always hope.” Dimitri unhooked the Relic and handed it to Claude. “Here, this is yours.”
Claude eyebrows rose, but he accepted Failnaught. “Thanks, but I don’t really want—”
“Then return it when the fight is over. We may need its added strength.”
Claude’s mouth flattened, and he nodded.
Dimitri hefted Areadbhar aloft. The troops behind him stilled. The wind whispered across the land, the birds and insects silent, as if the world was holding its breath.
“A good day for a bit of genocide,” Claude muttered to himself, brow furrowed.
Dimitri understood his point of view. Wiping out an entire people did not sit well with him. Neither did allowing his wife’s people to be wiped out. Better blood stain his soul than Flayn’s. His only worth lay in his ability to protect what he loved.
He brought down Areadbhar. Troops stormed past him into the fissure in the earth, Almyran and Fódlan alike. Felix’s soldiers came from one side, Sylvain’s from the other. Aegir and Gloucester jockeyed for the middle position.
As much as Dimitri wanted to lead the charge, the heads of the houses had convinced him to stay at the rear, with his future bride. He rode back and forth across the rear lines, restless, searching. The thick of it was where he belonged, exterminating his foes and inspiring his troops, not hanging back here, useless. His only consolation was Flayn at his side, although she was pale, her brow furrowed.
“All will be well,” Dimitri said, taking her hand.
Then the explosions started. The troops began to surge back the way they had come. Wyvern corps, heretofore useless, circled overhead. The ground shook beneath the horses’ hooves.
“What the hell is going on?” Dimitri demanded, but none of the remaining officers had an answer.
A white wyvern circled and landed nearby. Dimitri urged his horse to its side.
“Some sort of mechanical monsters are coming out of the fissure,” Claude said, sweat rolling down his temple. “Their metal skins can’t be pierced with steel. They collapsed the tunnels as they came. Seems like they’re willing to sacrifice themselves to take us out.”
Dimitri swore. His gut twisted, and his hand gripped the shaft of his weapon so hard his knuckles creaked. Sylvain, Felix, Ingrid…his friends. He should be with them down in the dark, stones raining down on his head. If anyone deserved to die, it was him, not them.
The first of the monsters appeared in Dimitri’s line of sight. The hulking creature lumbered along, immune to the javelins and arrows sent its way. The grinding of metal rang through the air as it moved on its own, step by laborious step. It swatted at the troops, and bodies flew through the air. Magic flickered among the soldiers. The spells slowed the monster’s advance, but they did not stop it.
A flash of red light drew Dimitri’s attention. A lance, a Relic. No, two—twin beacons as their bearers attacked the monster in tandem. The lances pierced the metal hull, and lightning sparked from a nearby magician. The creature stuttered to a stop, slumping over but not falling.
It appeared Relics worked on the monstrosities, but they only had so many. Crusher was far away with Annette, as was Thunderbrand and the Sword of the Creator. Thyrsus and the Aegis Shield were of limited utility against the monsters. Dimitri ground his teeth. He couldn’t leave it all up to Sylvain and Ingrid, especially not as three more of the mechanical horrors emerged.
“I must go,” Dimitri said to Flayn.
“Be careful.” She grabbed his hand and kissed the knuckles of his gauntlet. “I will go to the medical tents.”
Their eyes locked for a long moment. Dimitri tried to memorize the sight of her, in case it should be the last time. Then he spurred his mount down the slope.
Red arrows burst forth from Failnaught and caught the next metal monster. Dimitri had never been so glad to have returned a weapon before. To his surprise, another Relic appeared nearby. Was that Freikugel? Had Hilda come to fight alongside her husband? At least that evened the score a little.
As he rode into the fray, Areadbhar at the ready, he wondered what it would have been like to have Edelgard next to him, Aymr in hand. She should have lived to see the people who hurt her and her family wiped out. If only she had told him.
There were too many “if only” thoughts to contemplate, let alone in the heat of battle. Dimitri bellowed as he struck at the nearest metal monster. His Relic carved a groove in its side.
More mechanical creatures appeared from underground. The human troops were doing well against the Agarthan soldiers and mages, but the metal weapons were too much. Their Relics were too few. The lines began to falter. The light from the Lance of Ruin faded, and no matter how he scanned the battlefield, Dimitri was unable to find it again.
It soon became apparent that while they could wipe out the Agarthans, their own armies were doomed. Dimitri wiped the blood out of his face and charged. Failure meant the death of all he held dear. He would not fail.
Screams erupted around him, and he turned his gaze skyward. A bright light, like a falling star, plummeted toward them.
“Move, move,” Claude shouted, flying low over the troops.
Nearby Agarthans fell to their knees, arms outstretched, laughing maniacally. The Fódlan and Almyran troops ran. Dimitri held his ground. There was nowhere to run to.
A massive shape launched into the air from a nearby rise. A dragon? Dimitri whirled his horse as the dragon opened its jaws wide and unleased a beam brighter than the sun. It hit the falling star head-on. The resulting boom set Dimitri’s ears to ringing and his horse to panicking. By the time he calmed his mount, the dragon was nowhere to be seen.
However, a line of troops had appeared on the rise. In front was a figure dressed in white, the unmistakable glow of the Sword of the Creator held aloft. The Fódlan troops nearby whooped as the Church of Seiros swooped in, the new Archbishop at the fore. The Sword of the Creator lashed out. Thunderbrand pierced metal hides. Dimitri dove back into the battle, Relic slashing. The tide had turned, and the next thing he knew, the battle was over.
Dimitri put away Areadbhar. After the battle was always the worst, picking through corpses, looking for survivors. He dismounted and led his horse through the carnage, directing his troops to pile and burn the bodies of the Agarthans.
After a half hour of searching, he found his friends. Felix knelt on the ground, curled over his lap. As Dimitri drew nearer, he could hear Felix’s low chant of, “Live. Live. Live.”
Sylvain lay before Felix, his head resting in Felix’s lap. His armor was battered and covered with blood. His eyes were closed, his face still. Dorothea hunched over a limp Ingrid a few feet away, her magic glowing over the fallen warrior. Trails of tears cut through the dirt and blood on Dorothea’s cheeks.
Dimitri’s heart froze in his chest. “Are they alive?”
“Boar.” Felix looked up at Dimitri, his tear-soaked gaze broken. “They are, but not for much longer.”
Dimitri swallowed, knees turning to jelly. He planted the butt of Areadbhar in the dirt and leaned against it in order to stay upright.
“Where’s your horse?” Dimitri asked.
“Give them to me.”
“You have room for one,” Dorothea said, voice breaking. “I don’t have enough power for both of them.”
“Give them to me,” Dimitri repeated.
Dorothea sobbed. The disc of light in front of her hands wavered. Dimitri pulled her away from Ingrid and wrestled her onto his horse. Once she was seated, he hefted Ingrid up. “Go,” he said, and slapped his horse’s rump. Dorothea shouted something, but the horse was already away. He hoped she knew how to ride well enough to get Ingrid to the medical tents.
Next, he bent and pulled Sylvain upright. They were nearly of a height, and it was no easy feat to get Sylvain onto his shoulders. Felix barely helped.
“I am not going to give up on them,” Dimitri said through his teeth and began to carry Sylvain. Felix trailed behind. Dimitri recognized the shock and loss in his expression.
It only took a minute for Dimitri’s muscles to burn, and a few more for them to tremble. He would not give up. Not if he had to crawl with Sylvain draped over his back. Not if he had to drag him.
And then, a miracle. A pegasus circled and alit nearby. Flayn slid from the saddle and rushed over. Dimitri sank to his knees as Flayn eased Sylvain onto the churned, muddy ground. She said nothing as she cast a spell, and soon color returned to Sylvain’s face. The rattle disappeared from his breathing, and the lines between his eyes eased.
By the time she was finished, her hands shook. Dimitri covered them with his own. “Thank you,” he murmured.
“I am not done yet,” she replied. “When they said you had gone into battle…”
Dimitri put his hand behind her head and pulled her into a kiss.
“I will save our friends,” she said, breathless, and resumed healing Sylvain.