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Claude von Riegan

Fire Emblem
Posts
17
Age
24
Gender
Male
Pronouns
he/him
Species
Human
Height
5'9"
Alignment
Neutral Good
December 31, Y110 || @Edelgard von Hresvelg

The ball was meant as a grand finale to an already impressive festival, and so far, it had not disappointed. Claude sipped wine, careful to only get meager tastes, as he watched the people around him. Elegant figures whirled around the dance floor, faces and smiles blurring against a background of bright-colored fabrics that moved in time to the music. There was a distinct splendor to events like this, an ambiance of grandeur. Ultimately, this was a spoil of peaceful times. While Claude could appreciate that, he was otherwise occupied with what was, to him, a phantom of war.

It seemed Queen Edelgard was rarely given the gift of a break, at least during events like this. From a fair distance, Claude kept careful track as various ball-goers either gave her a wide berth and a smile or tried to approach for pleasantries. As jarring as the transition to this world was proving to be, there was a part of him that appreciated freedom from the shackles of responsibility that came along with leading the Alliance through a series of military campaigns. How long until that respite turned to boredom, he couldn’t quite say. But for now, he could at least keep things interesting – Claude saw his opportunity, set down his wine, and picked his way through the crowd towards a now-unoccupied Queen.

Wearing an affable smile, Claude approached her head-on. No tricks here, and she'd hopefully see her coming just as he could hopefully get a read on her as she did. “Your Majesty,” he greeted, dipping slightly into what might would pass for a half-bow. He’d done his best with what he had, but his ‘formal’ attire had been cobbled together from a combination of what he’d arrived in and what he could find on the fly. The blacks and golds were elegant enough for him to pass mostly unnoticed, but he felt distinctly under-dressed compared to the Queen. “Would it be too bold for a humble citizen to ask for a dance?” The offer made, he held out a hand.
 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
Posts
309
Location
Heavenfell
Age
24
Gender
Female
Pronouns
She/Her
Species
Human
Height
5'2"
Occupation
Queen of Heavenfell
Alignment
Chaotic Good
Relationship Status
Single
Profile
link
Why did she have to attend this ball? Edelgard kept up a neutral, polite facade as another near stranger came up to speak with her. Because she was technically the host, ugh. She had been far more at ease interacting with citizens around the festival, but in this more formal environment, she was just reminded of court politics. It all felt too fake. At least she had the choice of a red and gold tailored suit over an unwieldly gown. Dress pants were much easier to spend hours in than multiple layers of heavy fabric. The ornate knife sheathed at her hip was also a small comfort.

As soon as she noticed someone else approaching, her almost bored expression switched to genuine shock. Was that actually Claude, or a perfect look-alike? And where did he come from this time? Even without these answers, the idea of him actually being back was enough to earn him a genuine smile.

"Not at all, though I hesitate to call you humble." Without hesitation, she took his hand with her red gloved one. "What brought the elusive Duke Riegan to Heavenfell on this night, I wonder?" The small ensemble of musicians in the back of the ballroom struck up a new tune.
 
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Claude von Riegan

Fire Emblem
Posts
17
Age
24
Gender
Male
Pronouns
he/him
Species
Human
Height
5'9"
Alignment
Neutral Good
There was a part of Claude that enjoyed seeing Edelgard’s surprise – even as her expression shifted, he realized that he hadn’t seen her smile since their academy days. That had to be a positive sign, right? He couldn’t help but return his own grin.

To her credit, Edelgard hardly missed a beat. She hadn’t even paused to consider his offer. While that certainly seemed to save him some embarrassment, Claude wasn’t quite sure what to make of it all. “And yet you don’t hesitate to wound my fragile pride,” he noted as she took his hand, the hurt in his voice far too exaggerated. Her actual question was fair, but more complicated. “You should know it was the food that tempted me here, and so far it hasn’t disappointed.” He wasn’t quite ready to fess up that he’d traveled to Heavenfell immediately upon hearing her name, nor that he’d spent an embarrassing amount of time tiptoeing around actually approaching her.

Claude gently led her toward the space that was being used for dancing. A number of pairs had gathered, though Claude noted that he and Edelgard were given a respectful amount of space. Squaring up with the queen, Claude positioned his other arm to allow Edelgard to maneuver however she liked for the waltz that was beginning to take form from the musicians’ strings. “So can I expect these festivals to be regular events?” he asked. “This one was a great success, in my notably humble opinion. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when the beast of war doesn’t need to be fed, don't you think?”
 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
Posts
309
Location
Heavenfell
Age
24
Gender
Female
Pronouns
She/Her
Species
Human
Height
5'2"
Occupation
Queen of Heavenfell
Alignment
Chaotic Good
Relationship Status
Single
Profile
link
"I can't always let you have the upper hand." And she did miss their sharp verbal exchanges. His willingness to speak so frankly with her was valued. "Good to hear that my choice of catering is going over well with the guests. They're almost all local chefs." And she'd been especially picky with the dessert selection. Nothing was worse than a disappointing cake.

As much as Claude being...himself tempted her to try something a little more bold than a waltz, if only to make the party more bearable, Edelgard decided to not push his boundaries for now. A more traditional dance it was, then. Despite the height difference, she led him across the floor with practiced ease. Ballroom dancing was something that never left her, even after forgetting parts of her past. The steps and movements were ingrained now after years of study.

"This is a...test run. A celebration of the entire city's hard work. Something to encourage further progress. A summer party wouldn't be a terrible idea." She pursed her lips at his next words, though her leading never faltered. "This is what I fought so hard for, Claude. These moments, where the people no longer worry about their future being bleak and meaningless. Freedom from an oppressive society." She looked up at him, studying his expression. "Is that not similar to what you wanted?"
 
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Claude von Riegan

Fire Emblem
Posts
17
Age
24
Gender
Male
Pronouns
he/him
Species
Human
Height
5'9"
Alignment
Neutral Good
Despite the fact that he’d suggested a dance, the waltz had never been Claude’s strength and so he was more than happy to let Edelgard lead. Ballroom dance had not been a priority lesson for an emergency heir – his grandfather had decided that the proper name would overshadow whatever noble shortcomings Claude displayed. He was, however, somewhat skilled in the art of mimicry and light enough on his feet that he wouldn’t step on any toes. It certainly helped that his partner had the sure grace of a practiced warrior. To her credit, the words he batted her way did not seem to throw her off her rhythm.

Claude did not allow his mask to slip either. “The city certainly enjoyed itself.” Pleasantries he could manage with relative ease. “I’m assuming much of this was your own personal handiwork – it made a good first impression, in case you had any doubts.” An encore in the summer would likely be welcomed with open arms by the people. For his part, Claude would never spurn a celebration of this caliber. Despite his initial hesitance, Heavenfell’s welcome had defied expectations.

Her next words were... curious. Never had he and Edelgard spoken freely of ideals, though he’d had some notion of her goals, enough to know that they were not so irredeemably different from his own. That had still proven a useless sentiment in the end, their almost-understanding remaining just a hollow acknowledgment.

That coupled with what Dimitri had revealed to him earlier meant that her question actually gave him pause, his gaze flashing down to meet hers as his feet lagged behind. What did she know of him?

This was a test, almost certainly. She’d asked like she already knew the answer. And for all Claude knew, perhaps she did. “It is,” he confirmed, quiet, watching. “I noticed when I first arrived. This world draws people from places so different that they’re almost unimaginable. And yet there’s still harmony here.”

Claude looked away, considering his next words carefully as they continued to glide across the dance floor. “It seems I’m at a disadvantage,” he admitted. “You seem to know me. At least, more than I can claim to know you. That's strange, isn't it?”
 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
Posts
309
Location
Heavenfell
Age
24
Gender
Female
Pronouns
She/Her
Species
Human
Height
5'2"
Occupation
Queen of Heavenfell
Alignment
Chaotic Good
Relationship Status
Single
Profile
link
"And that is the inherent beauty of Pandora. There is no ancient tradition to fight against. Just the now and the unpredictable tomorrow. Constant change." If only things were so malleable in Fodlan... She answered him with a curt nod, reeling her enthusiasm back in. "Strange, but not uncommon here." Edelgard paused, and then her eyes held an almost playful look.

"You enjoy games of strategy, right Claude? How about I give you an opportunity to make us more equal?" The musicians wound down their song to flip through their music sheets. "The rules are very simple. You may ask any questions you want about myself, and I will answer them to the best of my ability, here and now, but only until the end of this next dance. After that, you must earn your information the hard way." The violinist struck up a tune again. "Contrary to what others may think, I don't like to lie to people I consider my friends. Does that sound like an acceptable deal?"
 
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Claude von Riegan

Fire Emblem
Posts
17
Age
24
Gender
Male
Pronouns
he/him
Species
Human
Height
5'9"
Alignment
Neutral Good
This was far more than whatever banter Claude had been expecting. As the music lulled and then stopped and their dance finished on still feet, Claude studied the woman who had once been a classmate, later an enemy. Her offer actually doubled as a confirmation of his suspicions: Edelgard knew more of him than what he would have otherwise assumed. There was something disconcerting in that. And yet at the same time this was a morbidly curious thing, an idea that would gnaw at his heels until he found some way to quiet it. What did she know? How did she know it? Why?

He wasn’t usually in the habit of questioning an advantage such as this, but he couldn’t quite believe that there wasn’t some catch. “I’m missing how this benefits you,” he said after a pause, shaking his head. There was no reason for her not to lie, and yet… somehow he thought he could trust what she was saying. Did Edelgard truly consider him a friend? “But very well – I’ll play.” Did that sound overeager? Oh well.

The musicians had picked up again, this time the sort of melody where the strings seemed to chase each other as the melody rose and fell. Exactly what to ask quickly became Claude’s conundrum – he had no shortage of questions, only a shortage of time. So perhaps something that had been at the back of his mind for some time, something he would never have a chance to ask her back in the world they’d once known. “I’ve wondered… you always intended to turn against those who slither in the dark, didn’t you? So why did you start working with them in the first place?” There was no judgment in Claude’s voice, only a quiet, insistent curiosity. Hubert’s letter had allowed Claude to draw many conclusions in the aftermath of Enbarr, but even questioning Rhea had not allowed him to glean further context on the why. Did Edelgard even know that Hubert wrote them that letter, that warning about Shambhala? She had to have known. “You did say any question.” This he punctuated with a wink.
 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
Posts
309
Location
Heavenfell
Age
24
Gender
Female
Pronouns
She/Her
Species
Human
Height
5'2"
Occupation
Queen of Heavenfell
Alignment
Chaotic Good
Relationship Status
Single
Profile
link
"I benefit by gaining the chance to speak to you more...directly. That's all I wanted." Even she grew tired of having to carefully curate what she revealed and how she said it. This was more efficient, in her eyes. None of this feigning politeness. Edelgard sighed at his first question, but answered with a small nod.

"I suppose I did say anything..." Claude truly did go for the throat when it was offered. "The Emperor does not hold all the power in Adrestia. It is split between Ministers and other prominent nobles alike, all vying to pull our country in different directions. Somewhat like your Alliance, but more subtle. By the time I inherited the Empire, I could not see a way to cleanly remove the darkest influences without risking my own goals and the lives of my citizens, so I compromised instead." She kept her throne and pretended to play nice with Thales to gain access to his military power, all while planning how to cut him out later. "In order to avoid civil war and levy our full might against the Church of Seiros, we formed a partnership. A temporary one to destroy a common foe."
 
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Claude von Riegan

Fire Emblem
Posts
17
Age
24
Gender
Male
Pronouns
he/him
Species
Human
Height
5'9"
Alignment
Neutral Good
Part of him had wondered if Edelgard would actually answer something so bold so immediately, but she hadn’t flinched or even attempted to deflect. She’d even been thorough, and Claude hung onto every word. “That was a gamble,” he commented after some consideration, looking thoughtful. “I did figure you’d been left with few options. I’m still not certain I would have done the same, but I do understand it.” And he did. But Claude still remembered the look in Lysithea’s eyes when she’d spoken of horrors they’d done to her. The look in Teach’s eyes when she visited Jeralt’s grave.

What would he have done if his enemies had encircled him so tightly? If they had been the only meaningful options? Claude’s grip on the Alliance had never been absolute, but it had been enough that there were still noble houses whose faith was still true. And even then, he’d always had a few allies he could call upon from beyond Fodlan. Edelgard had no such option. She’d picked the pragmatic choice, and she’d almost won. Were he truly in her position, would he have done differently? To achieve his own dreams, perhaps he would have done worse. It was a sobering thought.

The musicians played on. Claude nodded to himself, figuring that that was a satisfactory enough answer to his question for now. His eyes were bright when he returned his full focus to Edelgard. “Now I’m curious: why didn’t you ever say anything? I keep my fair share of secrets, we all do, but had you reached out with even some of the truth...” He trailed off, frowning. He’d puzzled over this frequently, wondering about the path that could have been, some alternative to the bloodshed that had come along with the war. He’d ordered his own men to their deaths, killed dozens by his own hand and hundreds more by strokes of his pen, and for what? Receiving that infernal letter at the end of it all had only served to make him ask: what if? “Did you truly believe we couldn’t have worked together?”
 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
Posts
309
Location
Heavenfell
Age
24
Gender
Female
Pronouns
She/Her
Species
Human
Height
5'2"
Occupation
Queen of Heavenfell
Alignment
Chaotic Good
Relationship Status
Single
Profile
link
"My attack plans required the element of surprise to work. If anything I said made it back to the archbishop, then my one chance to cleanly sever her influence would be in jeopardy." And even then, she'd nearly been cornered in the Holy Tomb. "How could I trust you to not hand me over to the Church for your own benefit? And..." Edelgard's eyes briefly went dark. "You were an unpredictable element. A new heir to the Alliance that appeared at such a convenient time. I saw you speaking to Solon and considered the idea that you were an agent wearing someone else's face." And Edelgard never intended to fall for that trick again. "I didn't want to risk letting one into my inner circle." She shook her head.

"And if I did ask for your help, would you have truly been willing to work towards the destruction of the noble class? At any cost?"
 
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Claude von Riegan

Fire Emblem
Posts
17
Age
24
Gender
Male
Pronouns
he/him
Species
Human
Height
5'9"
Alignment
Neutral Good
Her logic, the way she explained her reasoning, it was sensible. Given the context of what Edelgard had and had not known, she’d rightly played her cards close to her chest. When an enemy could wear any face, could he really blame her? And yet Claude could not help but feel disappointed. Tragedy, war, he felt so certain there was a way it could have been avoided, and yet the walls between them still stood tall. Perhaps it was inevitable. How could he have expected trust from others when he wasn’t able to give it himself? There had been no way to bridge that gap between them in those early days.

He’d been silent for a beat too long. “I suppose I can’t fault you for being shrewd. Even so, I still like to think there was a way,” he said with a smile that left much unsaid.

It wasn’t lost on him that she’d flipped the game a bit. Claude gave her question some thought, the music and the waltz only a distant concern. “Not any cost, no,” he answered, earnest. “I don’t disagree with your sentiments and I’ve always respected your conviction, but I would not sacrifice my own ambitions for someone else’s. And there are certain measures that even I would refuse to take.” All-out-war being one such snag – though he’d known war was almost an inevitability in Fodlan, Claude would not have supported the empire’s conquest, no matter how noble the intended purpose. Though somehow, almost accidentally, his resistance had resulted in a reversal of circumstance. The continent, in all its volatility, had been subdued by a single faction, peace and unity paid for in blood.

The song still played on, but it wouldn’t last forever. Claude wasn’t yet ready to give up their game. “Did we work together when I was here before?” he asked almost casually, his gaze discerning. Dimitri had revealed that his presence here was not novel, even if he did not remember what had happened before. He thought Edelgard knew more than she was saying on that front - and if she didn't, at least he'd know.
 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
Posts
309
Location
Heavenfell
Age
24
Gender
Female
Pronouns
She/Her
Species
Human
Height
5'2"
Occupation
Queen of Heavenfell
Alignment
Chaotic Good
Relationship Status
Single
Profile
link
"Don't we all wish that? But lasting peace is no small feat. It costs more than most can imagine paying." But she refused to compromise that goal. Enough had suffered already. It was good that Claude understood where his limits were. Honesty served rulers better that hypocrisy. "I can respect someone who does not relinquish their ambitions as soon as they turn painful." At his next question, she fought not to look too amused with him.

"The first time, Heavenfell was yours, and I worked under you for a while," Edelgard explained. "When you departed, I took control to prevent someone else from destroying your progress. That was...this past summer season."
 
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Claude von Riegan

Fire Emblem
Posts
17
Age
24
Gender
Male
Pronouns
he/him
Species
Human
Height
5'9"
Alignment
Neutral Good
This Claude hadn’t expected. For once that surprise was abundantly evident, his emerald eyes wide.Mine? He looked around the grand banquet hall as if seeing it for the first time – dressed up for festivities, there was an undeniable splendor to it. Had he really run this place the last time he was here? Perhaps it was silly to be so surprised at that revelation. He’d always intended to lead, and this was just a different setting. Even so, his arrival had been so recent and so disconcerting that it was hard to imagine he’d once built a life and a purpose in this place, especially considering he no longer remembered.

His gaze returned to Edelgard. So they had worked together, simply not in the capacity he had imagined. That was enough to explain her familiarity, it seemed. “I’m certain I should thank you for keeping that work alive, though I would hope you’ve done more than simply ‘preventing progress from being destroyed’,” he said, offering a weak smile. She seemed almost bemused at having arrived at this revelation. “I don’t remember any of it.” This admission was much softer, his voice tinged with regret.

Claude would not dwell on that here and now. “I believe your advantage makes more sense now, but one song is hardly enough for you to answer my questions on everything that happened when I was here last.” His grin was a promise that those questions would be asked later. “I’ll keep it brief for now: is there anything you wish for me to know now that I knew then? I know you still have your secrets, but I’ll accept something about Heavenfell, anything that might help me catch up.”
 

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