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Complete (M) Lingering Scars

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
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Content Warning


January 26th, Year 109
@Dimitri Blaiddyd @Claude von Riegan

The nightmares that followed her since the age of 13 never really stopped, though she was growing numb to them. They intensified and faded as the years went on, fluctuating with her general mood. The months leading up to becoming Emperor and the five years waiting for Byleth to return had been particularly rough patches. They followed her to Pandora as well, which made for a few awkward nights in a shared home.

Tonight's nightmare was... different. Edelgard was used to being a child again, restrained on a cold table as Thales and his plague masked mages cut her open, listening to the rats chattering in the shadows while she bit back screams. Screaming just made them stop to mock her, though they were very careful not to let her pass out from blood-loss until the day's procedure was done.

Sometimes she was back in the cell, chained to a wall and huddled next to whatever assortment of siblings she had left. They were usually asleep or crying or trying to cover up the incisions with their worn down clothes. Sometimes she got to watch one be dragged out into the torchlight, kicking and yelling against the guards all the way to the next round of tests.

This nightmare was silent. The dungeon hallway didn't echo with a patrolling soldier, and there was no clinking of shackles on hard stone or the muffled groans of someone half delirious from their "treatment". She was...herself. Sitting on the ground in a locked cell, but with her red dress and armor on. Even her crown and horns were back, secured in place by her hair. Her scars ached, but not as if they were fresh. This was off, and yet...she didn't have the mental energy to investigate further. Instead, she curled up on the ground and hugged her knees, focusing on her breathing. This would be over eventually. Thales would show up and they'd get back to their crest inplantment. This was just to lower her guard.

-------------------------

Dimitri and Claude would appear farther down the hall. The Enbarr dungeons were made of dark stone and old wood, the walls marked with torches and faded Adrestia tapestries that displayed the two headed eagle. Rats skittered across the floor, their eyes glowing an unnatural red. Water dripped slowly from somewhere on the ceiling, making a few shallow, dirty puddles. The cell doors stretched on until the hall made a sharp turn, and then possibly continued from there.
 
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Claude von Riegan

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Claude's dreams had been a bit more spicy since coming to Pandora. Before hand, they were typically just stress dreams. Classic instances of being in class and remembering a test the day of, that he hadn't studied for. Being in the middle of a certification exam he forgot existed. Nothing to do with war, just the pressures of it. And...maybe just before being pulled into Pandora, things had been a bit rougher. Way too much death for it to be anything else. After all, Claude had lost most of the people important to him before even the start of that final day.

In Pandora, his head liked to focus on that final day. That final fight. What exactly happened seemed to shift night to night buuuut the punchline was always the same. An axe was dropped and he woke up. The best part of those dreams is that he was never quite sure if it was real or not. Was he sent back from Pandora and this was it? Or was it in his head? Only waking up answered that question.

But on this particular night, Claude wasn't on his knees with the taste of blood on his tongue. Instead, he was...somewhere else. A...dungeon or something? He stood with his back against an ice-cold wall - narrowing his eyes to try to see through the dimly lit...everything.

"This isn't creepy or menacing at all," he mumbled to himself, as he began to walk forward.
 

Dimitri Blaiddyd

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Dimitri could not remember when nightmares became the expectation rather than the exception. Each night he braced himself for hours of restlessness followed by sleep haunted by wretched memories. It became a routine that he begrudgingly accepted, just as he had accepted the voices and their phantoms. He found nothing to do but to simply submit to his nightmare's clutches, to revisit the carnage of flames and death. In the nine years that had passed, it never changed. His step-mother disappearing into the labyrinth of smoke, the weight of Glenn's limp hand in his own, the finality in the way his father's corpse hit the ground.

Pandora had been... better when it came to the terrors that ailed him. It became easier to sleep through the night, his headaches began to lessen, the voices dimmed. But the nightmares always returned; perhaps not every night, or every other night, but they never failed to reappear and scratch open worn wounds.

The vision he awoke to within the dream was not that of a bloodied field but a darkened hallway. The few torches that illuminated the path revealed only rats and worn out tapestries. The ancient eagles were hauntingly familiar, though the location was not. And as far as he could tell, he was alone save for the rodents that raced underfoot.

The only choices were to either walk or to stay frozen in place; with nary a thought, he began to move forward down the hallway. He encountered more of the same in the shadowed halls for one minute. After two minutes had passed, he finally encountered another soul in the dungeon: "Claude?"

Never before had the man appeared in his dreams. Though it seemed as if tonight was a first for many things. "I didn't expect to see you here."
 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
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Edelgard winced as voices echoed down the hall to her cell, ones that didn't match with the rest of her surroundings. That wasn't Thales, or Duke Aegir or Marquis Vestra. Was this another deviation from the norm? What twist could this lead to? A new person directing the torture, maybe... She felt detatched from the situation by now, curious to see what was coming.

She stood up and took a few steps towards the iron bars that kept her trapped, something she'd never voluntarily done before. She was too stubborn to not fight the mages when they retrieved her even in what she knew was a nightmare. The chains she didn't realize were still attached to her ankles rattled across the stone without subtlety, and she paused to stare at them. Right, she wasn't going very far at this rate. The skin underneath the cuffs itched, a phantom reaction from when the real ones chafed and cut at her. Edelgard massaged her wrists as more of a habit than a way to fix anything, and looked out into the dim hallway again. Someone would show up soon.
 
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Claude von Riegan

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This dream definitely wasn't one of the typical ones - traumatic or not. Claude didn't really have any strong feelings about dungeons one way or another. He didn't like them, but they also weren't something tied to anything icky. But here he was. Wandering a dungeon. The fact he was even thinking through is this my normal dream was its own bag of cats. The concept of a dream while dreaming, wasn't normally something that came up until...after. Which made him wonder if it was a dream at all.

Then Dimitri showed up.

"Well, hey there, and welcome to the creepy stinky dungeon," he greeted, with a wave, "Any idea what's going on? Thought I was dreaming...which normally means the opposite of a dream. But you're here, so it could still go either way," he admitted with a shrug, still wandering down the hall as he spoke to Dimitri, "So either we've been kidnapped from our warm comfy beds, or things are getting really-really interesting," he switched to walking backwards while talking to Dimitri - feeling the weird urge to just keep going down this hall.
 

Dimitri Blaiddyd

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The man in his dream certainly acted like Claude. The fact that he was here, and that he was even lucid during a dream, was evidence that it wasn't. Even during his better nights, a nightmare never manifested in such a way. A dungeon lined with the flags of the Adrestian Empire never caused sleepless nights. Perhaps Enbarr's throne-room, but never such an ominous passage.

"You thought you were dreaming?" Yet another first in a series of odd occurrences. Dimitri's brows furrowed as he mulled over the statement, "I was under the impression that I was dreaming. With how this situation is unraveling, you are most likely correct. This is unlike any nightmare that I have experienced before, though I doubt that this is any sort of kidnapping situation." Why leave the both of them unshackled and free to wander as they please down this hallway?

"That said, it's possible that you or I can get hurt. It would be for the best if you turned back around." Sound device given that they were both without their weapons as well. Dream or not, many superstitions warned of the capability of death within a dream. A fate that, if the tales were to believe, translated to physical death. Even if this was nothing more than his troubled mind tormenting him with yet another nightmare, he may as well keep his bits about him.

The rattle of metal further down the hallway shook Dimitri from his thoughts; immediately, he shot a glance at Claude before breaking into a brisker pace. The hallway around the next corner widened out into a room, one segmented by cells. Then there was the last of the lords: "Edelgard?" There were immediate alarm bells as he spotted his half-sister, feet chained by manacles.

Silently, he stepped towards the metal bars and grabbed two. With a screech, he bent them without effort before stepping into the cell with her. "Step back, and I'll get that chain as well."
 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
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Of course it was Claude and Dimitri. How fitting, the voice in the back of her head remarked. It all made sense now. They were getting closer, and then they'd find her and get revenge. That was tonight's surprise. Edelgard looked up at Dimitri through the bars, his expression barely registering with her, and then she looked at the ground without a word. There wasn't anything to say. She flinched as the bars bend, and Dimitri was suddenly right there and a panic that she hadn't felt in a long while set in. She wasn't supposed to just leave the cell, that's not how it worked. Her breath quickened, and she shook her head.

"No, you can't- I need-" she stuttered, glancing back at the spot where her family usually was. It was too empty, but they were supposed to be there and Edelgard didn't deserve to leave if they never got the chance to.
 
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Claude von Riegan

Guest
"Sort of weird, right? I normally don't have the idle thought of haha weird dream, until after the dream part of over. Yet I've basically been thinking it nonstop since getting here," he continued walking backwards as Dimitri told him not to, "Fine, fine, your Kingliness. I'll walk like a normal person."

Even if he didn't like it, Dimitri was right. They honestly had no idea what was going on here - and how dangerous any of it was. Claude wasn't exactly the most durable person, so not getting hit from behind was probably a better call than not. Or - you know - tripping.

Which he almost did while turning back around.

Hopefully Dimitri didn't notice that.

The sound of metal on metal caused Claude's eyes to narrow against the dim lighting of the place; spotting a familiar person chained over yonder. He was quiet - for once - as Dimitri started bending solid metal - more distracted by the girl chained up, rather than his horrifying display of strength.

Okay, not horrifying.
It was hot.
But that wasn't the important thing here.

Claude watched Edelgard as she stared over next to her, telling them they couldn't jailbreak her.

"And...why's that exactly? Dimitri is better than a key," he hooked his thumb over at the guy, "You...have any idea what's going on? Why are you here? Why are we here?" right right, there was a key question he was stepping, "And...are you okay, Edie?"
 

Dimitri Blaiddyd

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The more they spent in this hallway, the more unnerved he became. It was startlingly clear that this was no normal dream or nightmare, but a part of him doubted that they were back in Fodlan. He suspected that they wouldn't be able to remember Pandora, firstly; secondly, he has never been in this part of the continent. If he had been returned home, wouldn't it be the site of where the vines had first kidnapped him?

His suspicion was confirmed when he found Edelgard trapped in the cell. If this was his own world, she would have long been dead by this point. A definite confirmation that they were still in Pandora, but where? They didn't have the weird phones anymore, nor could they contact anyone from here.

The first set of bars had bent without any resistance, and Dimitri was almost ready to break the chains when he was ordered not to. It felt wrong to leave them intact, but he reluctantly moved a step away. "Why do you not want me to? What is something the matter Edelgard?" Just like Claude, he had a multitude of questions as to what was going on. And why.

 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
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"...I belong in here, that's why." A sense of calm fell over her when Dimitri stopped himself. She was afraid of what would happen if she dared interrupt the nightmare's progress. "I'm supposed to be here, not you. I...can't leave them behind." She couldn't see her family, but they had to be here.

"Visitors..."

The sudden voice from behind Dimitri and Claude made Edelgard freeze in place. It sounded artificial in its deepness, though it was a familiar tone to her whenever she donned the red and white mask. There was no emotion to be heard though. It sounded empty.

The Flame Emperor stood a little taller than her, the suit of armor rusted from disuse but still whole. It made no move to attack, just watching the group from a few feet away. The mask's eye holes glowed an intense red.

"She's right, we do belong here. Forsaken by the surface. Caged and chained until we're called upon to kill and destroy."
 
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Claude von Riegan

Guest
Alright, he was already done with all of this. Edelgard self-hating enough she was just choosing to stay bound up. That was fun. The creepy and mysterious smells he was pretty sure were nothing good. The fact there was something sticky under his foot.

Yep, he wanted out.

"Visitors."

Claude froze, knowing that voice. Kind of weird, since Edelgard was the Flame Emperor. But alright. Just throw logic out the window in this funky fresh nightmare of doom. The memory of it was sort of messy for him. He - himself - had never really experienced the Flame Emperor in armor. The other Claude - baby Claude - he had very vivid memories of the Holy Tomb, and that suit of armor coming in and ruining the day.

Through everything, Claude had managed to separate Edelgard from his own execution. It was hard, took work, and all that - but he had sort of forced it. The woman in front of him hadn't been the one to raise the axe. That was a different version of her, and it straight-up wasn't fair to cast blame on her.

But this...thing. This monster. Red eyes glowing and voice that just didn't seem right.

That managed to embody everything about the war-time Edelgard that killed him.

Which was dumb. She wasn't even wearing that armor. She didn't even sound like it. But his own mind let loose in the confines of the nightmare, and chose to make that everything he personally wasn't cool with.

Great, just great.

Claude - despite every inch of his body telling him not to - took a step back away from the scary Flame Emperor. Hands slid into his pockets so people wouldn't notice just how much things were starting to slide in the opposite of his favor. Which felt selfish to even think, honestly. This was Edelgard's...something. Nightmare, or Pandora twisting something-something with her in the center. He was a side-character to this plot; his own reaction to this just a chance - not the purpose.

Still sucked.

"Sounds like a party, but nah - we're going to ignore you and save our friend. You, however, can go swallow an axe or something," he winked, before motioning at Edelgard, "Dimitri, do the thing, and let's gooooooo."
 

Dimitri Blaiddyd

Fire Emblem
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Self-hatred, guilt, the belief that punishment is well-deserved, it was all that Dimitri could recognize within himself. Edelgard sat before him a prisoner of her past, just as he once was... Perhaps still was given the voices that still quietly whispered in his ears. Did Edelgard need an extended hand to help her out of the same spiral? Byleth had once offered that same respite, and now it seemed that the opportunity for him to do the same for another has arrived.

But then a fourth voice cut through the temporary silence, freezing his blood colder than the winters of Faerghus. Like flint to straw, it sparked involuntary anger that rose up in his throat like bile. It had been years since the Flame Emperor's mask had crumpled beneath the heel of his boot, but he could recognize the voice anywhere. That monotone voice that promised death and destruction seemingly without a second thought.

It made no sense, really. His step-sister sat before him, shackled both metaphorically and physically. There was no feasible way that the person behind him could truly be the Flame Emperor. The tyrant's true face had been a shocking truth, but one that he accepted the moment he saw her within the suit of armor. The Flame Emperor was Edelgard, and there would never be escaping that fact. It was what initiated the beginning of his ruin, and that is not something that one simply forgets.

Yet when he turned to face it, there the Flame Emperor stood. It had rusted with age, though its eyes still glowed vividly in the dark dungeons. Like the eyes of a beast, though such a description better fit a "man" such as himself. If not for the decay of time, it perfectly resembled the monster that he had faced within the tomb.

It resembled the tyrant that the Edelgard of his world had turned into. This persona that she had crafted went beyond just a suit of armor. Trapped beneath the mask's gaze, he could think only of the monster that his step-sister had turned herself into for the sake of her ambition. A true monster whose grotesque appearance reflected it. Their haunting eyes were much of the same, and that fact ran his mind in a loop.

Claude's voice roused him from his thoughts, snapping him out of haunting memories. He glanced towards the man in question before looking back towards Edelgard. Yet he didn't move beyond that. The Flame Emperor was Edelgard, who was that beast from the throne-room, as Father was quick to whisper. Caged and chained until we're called upon to kill and destroy. The words echoed in their severity.

After another moment, he moved forwards. Scooping up the chains in his hands, they were like a mere toy in the way they snapped. "I have to agree with Claude that we don't have any time to linger," he mumbled as he offered a hand towards Edelgard.

 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
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"O-okay..." Edelgard felt somewhat disconnected from what was happening, but she took Dimitri's hand. Her grip was tense on his gauntlet as she tried to keep her breathing steady. It was right. That was what she was. She did kill and destroy, all for the sake of a world where people like her would not exist. There wasn't a place for her in Fodlan, even after her work as Emperor was done. That was the point of everything. Edelgard would become the monster needed to tear apart the corrupted system that held the people down. And yet she had begun to forget that part. She started wanting a future too. This was a harsh reminder. Why were they trying to help? Why did she attempt to be friends with them at all?

"You stand in the center of a graveyard, and still continue to avert your eyes from the truth." The Flame Emperor shook its head. "Do you think something born of so much death is worth pitying? Do you wish to save an axe forged with the blood of innocents?" Its eyes fell on her.

"You know you are tainted, and so you taint yourself further for the sake of those lost already. You continue on your path to prove their suffering wasn't in vain. Do you really think you can be saved, or can you no longer handle the weight of our ambitions?"

"I...don't know..." She squeezed Dimitri's hand harder and looked away.
 
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Claude von Riegan

Guest
Alright, so exactly none of them were handling this situation really that well. There was something completely lost and haunted in Dimitri's eye - even with him grabbing Edie. The Empress herself seemed to just take what Haunted Armor was saying at her; meaning it was things she already thought, most likely. Darkest feelings given a mouthpiece in some (some offense intended) ugly armor. So, they were all not doing great, all panicking to some extent, and all generally having a not stellar time.

It was tempting to just run, because that's what he always did when things got hard. It was bad enough his parents tried to force him to stand his ground and fight; yet the habit never really died. Then the one time he fought it, it cost him his life.

So that was fun.

"Gods, you are a chatty haunted thing, aren't 'cha?" he put himself between the Flame Emperor armor, and the other two. Yeah, maybe his hands were shaking in his pockets, but he was getting tired of this shit.

"She...is more than that," frustration coloring his voice for once, "Yeah, she started a war. Yeah, it cost a lot of people a lot of lives. But she believed in what she was doing, and stood by that. And this exact Edelgard," he hooked his thumb behind him, "Isn't just an axe. Isn't just...a tool or whatever. Your metaphors suck, by the way. If you - yes you - took one look at what she's done in Pandora, you could see that. She's a person worthy of our friendship, and our love. So…" he made a shooing motion with his hands at the armor, "Go away and go bang chains against some bars or something. We have a friend to save."
 

Dimitri Blaiddyd

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Despite himself, his gaze strayed towards the hateful armor that stood mere feet away. It was the epitome of what he hated in the academy: a ruthless figure who justified its actions with its end goals. Loss of life meant nothing to the Flame Emperor; death was merely the price to pave in its eyes. Even the mere sight of it stirred feelings of vitriol in his heart. He had "patched" things up with his sister, yet the sight before him was a reminder of the differences that would never be breached.

It was clear to him that the apparition was a voice to Edelgard's innermost thoughts. It voiced the way that she saw herself, as some mere weapon. He was a wretch and she was an axe. It seemed poetically fitting given their bloodied history. The voices in his head couldn't help but agree to the Flame Emperor's claims as they once again began to argue. Their demands, however, was something he could not agree to.

"I will never agree to her methods, but Edelgard's intentions have always been noble. I do not need to approve of her war or her actions to know that she does not belong in this cell." He stated with a steeled voice despite his wavering doubts. Dimitri squeezed Edelgard's hand in his before turning his back on the horrid armor. "Come, El, you need not stay here. This dungeon cannot hold you prisoner any longer. You won your war and you began your own path to fixing the cursed system that has kept Fodlan chained. There isn't any need to listen to its ravings."

 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
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Why were they standing in front of her? How could they say things like that? Edelgard didn't understand why they stood up for her, but maybe she didn't have to get it to believe their words. Maybe it was alright to just listen...

The Flame Emperor seemed to choke on its next words, and then the armor shuddered violently. Red light spilled out from in between the cracks as a myriad of different voices escaped it, none of them familiar to Claude or Dimitri. They spoke over each other sometimes, as if fighting to be heard first. The snippets if conversation seemed random and mundane, talking about tea time, or weapons training, or a play, or a particularly boring lesson with a tutor. Her family. Edelgard's breath hitched when recognition hit her, and she took a step forward.

"I...just wanted to make things better, since I couldn't save any of you," she said to the Flame Emperor. After a long pause, the armor collapsed to the floor, falling apart as if it'd been empty the whole time. The voices ceased. Edelgard took a steady breath and wiped her eye. "...I think it's gone."
 
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Claude von Riegan

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Yeah, he was getting pretty tired of this entire ordeal. It was stressful, dramatic, and honestly he would have preferred to be pretty much anywhere else at this point. The voices were confusing. Claude glancing away from the disembodied sounds as he looked over at Edie - waiting for some sort of clue or cue to tell him exactly how he should be feeling at this moment.

Couldn't...save any of them.

Her family?

Without a clear answer, the armor shook and fell apart by Claude's feet - causing him to take a step back and make a small disgusted noise.

Well, at least that mess was over.

"We did it gang! We defeated the shit-talking armor! That was...well, awful. Who wants to get ice cream?"

Claude honestly had no idea what was going on or where they were, but he stood by the concept of doing something very different now.
 

Dimitri Blaiddyd

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Dimitri froze as red light seeped out from the Flame Emperor's armor. A multitude of voices followed, clambering to be heard over each other despite the relative mundaneness that could be understood. In a way, it reminded him of the spirits that still whispered in his ear, but if only they decided to speak of such trivial things. It was confusing, to say the least, and after glancing at Claude's face, he seemed to feel the same way.

The only answer came after Edelgard stepped closer to the abomination. Save any of you. The sentiment was disgustingly similar, the same guilt that he felt towards being incapable of saving his family... They were more alike than either of them wished to speak of, haunted by similar ghosts. Dimitri could only pray that her's did not cling so physically as his did.

His response to Claude's response was a snort. Of course, he has taken to lighten the mood after such a disturbing experience. It was better than speaking of something that seemed so personal to someone like Edelgard. "We should find a way out of here now that it's gone."

 

Edelgard von Hresvelg

Fire Emblem
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Despite everything that had just happened, she managed to laugh. Dessert after facing the manifestation of her past suffering and loss of identity. Why not? "Alright then, we'll escape and then have ice cream"- Edelgard was cut off as the dungeon around them and everything else in it seemed to fade away, replaced with blinding white light. Was this good or bad? She was forced to close her eyes before she went blind, and she was suddenly gasping for breath....in the middle of the night, back in her own bed.

Edelgard sat up and looked around. Everything was normal. The dark form of her cat shifted, green eyes shining in the darkness. What exactly...was that? An elaborate dream after all? But it all felt too real at the time... She picked up the cat in an absentminded way and ran a hand down his back. A low purr accompanied her jumbled thoughts. Maybe it was best to leave her questions until morning.
 
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