East of the Sun, West of the Moon - theorangewitch - Fire Emblem: Fuukasetsugetsu (2023)

I. The lion

In Faerghus there is a fairy tale about a prince turned into an animal. It has various titles including The Enchanted Boar, The Lady and the Lion, and White-Bear-King-Valemon. However, most Faerghan children know it as "east of the sun and west of the moon".

Today's folklorists believe the story originated in its original form across the northern border in Sreng. White bears are common there and not so much in Faerghus, and some even believe that the prince in the story wasn't originally a prince at all, but a lovely, a Srengi spirit of winter. In Faerghus, perhaps due to a translation or localization error, Bear has sometimes become Eber, and later a lion, in the aftermath of Loog's rebellion.

The beginning of the story as told to four noble children in 1168 is thus:

Once upon a time there was a merchant from Arianrhod who had three beautiful daughters. He loved them all, but the youngest was secretly his favorite as she was gentle and kind to everyone who knew her. One day the merchant went to Fhirdiad on business. Before leaving, he asked each of his daughters what they might like about the capital. The eldest said jewelry, the middle said books, and the youngest asked for a sweet singing songbird, for it was winter and there were no birds to be found in her own garden.

Though the merchant in Fhirdiad acquired the jewelry and books easily enough, he could not find sweetly singing songbirds. Distraught at having to disappoint his youngest daughter, the merchant left Fhirdiad with a heavy heart.

Much to his delight and surprise, however, he stumbled across a strange and beautiful mansion on his way south. Although it was the dead of winter, the manor's gardens were in full bloom and the birds were singing in the trees.

Excited, the merchant dismounted and climbed a tree, catching one of the birds between his hands.

A voice from below startled him with delight: "How dare you rob me." The merchant looked down and saw a fearsome lion prowling around the base of the tree.

The merchant profusely apologized, explaining that he only wanted the bird as a gift for his beloved daughter.

The lion buzzed in confirmation. "Very good," he said. "If you'd like, I can offer you a trade. You may take the bird home, but in return you must bring me the first thing that will greet you when you return home.”

The merchant was concerned about this as his youngest was usually the first to greet him upon arrival, but he eventually agreed, thinking it might just be the family cat or dog.

Unfortunately it wasn't like that. As soon as he rode to the house, his youngest daughter burst out from inside and wrapped her arms around him.

He handed her the bird and sadly told her about the bargain he had made. "But you don't have to go if you don't want to," he said. "You should stay home where you're safe."

"Well, father, wasn't it you who told me that a merchant should always be honest in his dealings?" she rebuked. “I will go to this lion. I'm sure he's a sensible fellow, especially when he cares so much about songbirds.' And with that she packed her things and rode off to the mansion.

Although she was scared at first, her prediction came true. The lion was sensible and a gracious host. Besides, he was just a lion during the day and turned back into a handsome prince at night in the light of the winter moon.

"It's my curse," he told her. "The Serpent Queen of the South has enjoined upon me that I may be a lion by day and a man by night."

"Please," she said. "Let me light a candle so I can see you better."

"No. I don't even dare keep candles in the house. That's the other half of my curse. If even a single ray of candle touches me, I'll be turned into a dove and forced to fly around the world for seven years without to rest."

And the lady agreed that such a thing would be terrible, and was content to see their love only in the semidarkness. Because over time, she actually started to fall in love with him.

"But what did he look like?" Dimitri demanded of Rodrigue.

"That is the point!" said Ingrid. "She doesn't really know, and neither do we!"

Rosana Fraldarius had had this copy of the tale illustrated herself, and in it the prince looked very much like a young Rodrigue, dark-haired and smooth-skinned, with soft blue eyes. Dimitri and Ingrid and Sylvain loved Rosana's version. They stared at the book for hours before they could read. Ingrid copied the illustrations onto her own paper and the prince looked different each time.

But for Felix, the animal prince had only ever had one face.

4. Etheric Moon, 1181

Felix and Ingrid sat on the front steps of Ingrid's house in the Galatea area and specifically did not talk about the metaphorical boar in the room. It was a typical Galatean winter day, cold and damp, but not actively snowing. Ice clogged the mud that formed the ground around them, and a heavy gray blanket of cloud covered the sky. Ingrid buried her nose in her scarf and tucked her hands under her arms.

"You can't be seriously cold," Felix said. “Most winters aren't nearly as mild as this one. One year at Garreg Mach and you're ruined forever."

"I'm not ruined forever," she said. “You're just – you're hotter than me. And you're probably wearing more layers.”

She was probably right about that. The Galateas were absolutely underdressed. Sylvain was in the house shooting shit with Ingrid's brothers Espen and Kai. He was good at talking to brothers who weren't his own. Espen and Kai were about a decade older than Ingrid, separated from her by a series of miscarriages and stillbirths and dead infants. They were both very warm, boisterous, to the point that even Ingrid found them a little over the top at times. For his part, Felix almost always thought it was a bit much.

'How was the…' he struggled to remember the man's name, 'boy. The man. The admirer. From Leicester.” Even as the Empire was stretched to the limit and their future king was in prison for murder, Gunnar didn't let up.

Ingrid let out a mighty sigh, world-weary beyond her years. "He was fiiiiine. Thirty-two years old, but my father asked me to "just pretend to be older". So it could be worse. At least he was polite and not too boring to talk to.”

"But you will not marry him."

Ingrid giggled. "What do you think?"

Felix looked back at the front door, which was firmly shut against the winter air. "Do you think your brothers are trying to persuade Sylvain to do this?"

"I don't think it's them, me knows they are,” said Ingrid. 'They did that when Sylvain last visited, and the time before that. I think they know it's hopeless. It's easier with the wealthy citizens, since they don't have coats of arms or titles. We don't have anything that Sylvain and the Gautiers don't have. Except that you know. Me. As a human being."

"A very pragmatic observation." Ingrid tended to oscillate wildly between cold pragmatism and helpless idealism. It confused Felix and sometimes annoyed him.

"You don't grow up like me without understanding how these things work. Our soil is mostly clay so no crops grow - or anything else so we have no food or money so I have to marry rich so we have to use our shaky nobility and coat of arms to lure men in. It's just cause and effect.” She stopped and they were silent for a long moment. Felix preferred silence and Sylvain hated it. Ingrid lived in the middle, a bridge between the two. She could chat for hours with Sylvain or sit with Felix in companionable silence. "But," she continued, "if you want a slightly more emotional take on the situation, he doesn't see me that way. Never has, probably never will.”

Felix snorted, his breath condensing on the air in front of him. "I don't think he sees anyone this way. He won't marry until Matthias finally gets fed up with his bullshit and with the war being put on hold indefinitely."

Ingrid didn't answer, and when Felix looked over at her, she was hugging her legs, her chest pressed against her thighs, her face turned away from him.

"What." Was it something he said?

"That's not quite what I meant."

"All right. What did you mean then?" He was getting impatient. It didn't look like Ingrid, to get the point across.

"It's just that he doesn't see me as a girl. It's like – he's on the other end of the spectrum from my family. you only see me as a girl But to Sylvain I'm not a girl at all. I'm just Ingrid."

Felix couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You don't say you really want to be one of his conquests? For heaven's sake, Ingrid."

"Of course not!" exclaimed Ingrid indignantly. "But didn't you ever want to be desired? Don't actually answer that. Of course not. You all are, 'I'm Felix Fraldarius, I only care about swords and being an asshole and I've never wanted to connect with another human in my life.'"

"I don't sound like that," Felix hissed. Of course he wanted to be wanted first. Didn't everyone? Hadn't she seen him as a child, clinging to her and Sylvain and Glenn and—and—?

Ingrid sighed and fell backwards onto the mat behind her, arms outstretched. "It was never important to me before. I was happy to be simple one of the boys I guess. I liked being your friend, Dimitri and Sylvain's friend. But then I got to Garreg Mach and I watched girls like Dorothea and Mercedes and Hilda get all this attention - male attention, specifically, and I started to feel like, I don't know. Kind of missed.” She sat up and rested her elbow on her knee, resting her head on her hand and looked at Felix. "Make you Do you see me as a girl?” she asked, giving him a strange look.

"What are you even talking about?"

"That's a simple question."

"I mean you are a girl. It's not that I don't know you're a girl. I still don't know what you're asking me."

Instead of answering, she kissed him. If you could even call it that. It was more like they were banging their mouths together, lips tightly closed, Ingrid's nose cold against his. He didn't close his eyes, just in shock, but she did, her lashes pressed hard against her pale cheek. It felt like banging flint and steel together, except unlike flint and steel, there were no sparks. Everything was cold and hard and uncomfortable.

She pulled back almost as fast as she had leaned forward and put her hand between their mouths.

"A little warning would have been nice," Felix said, swallowing bile. He could feel his face contort - he wasn't sure how he felt. Surprise? Disgust? Fear? Frustration? Longing?

"Sorry, sorry," Ingrid said, withdrawing her hand and turning away again and folding herself over again, her face scarlet with shame. "It won't happen again."

"It shouldn't be," Felix said, leaning back. "That was awful."

"I know," Ingrid sighed. "It's just that I had never kissed anyone before. Not even Glenn. He said I was too young to kiss. So just me. I wanted to see."

"So you kissed his brother."


"It doesn't matter," Felix said, waving his hand. "Just don't do it again. And warn the next guy you try.”

Although her body was still turned away from his, she looked at him. "Hey Felix, you have you ever kissed someone?"

"Is that a trick question or...?"

She rolled her eyes. "I meant just before."

"Tell me who in the universe might I have kissed before."

But she was too smart for that. She knew him too well; He had been her friend for too long. "It's not a 'no'. So who was it? Wait, wait, let me guess.” She stood up abruptly and hopped on the balls of her feet, making a horrible smacking noise on the muddy ground. Felix sighed, but Ingrid grinned wildly and it was nice to see her smile. "It should have been at Garreg Mach's since I was the only girl you knew growing up. ok ok Ah. Annett! You seemed to like her."

"No. I'm afraid the feeling wasn't mutual."

"So you war sweet on her?”

"Not exactly. I found her..." He paused, searching for the right word. But I think I accidentally embarrassed her a few times and she didn't care."

Ingrid swayed back and forth. "Okay, um. Leonie? I've seen you two train together a lot."

"Completely platonic. I'm not sure I'm her type."

Ingrid thought for a long time. "Dorothea," she finally said.

The only answer Felix got was a short, sharp "Ha!".

"What's so funny? I know for a fact that she was looking for a wealthy husband. And no one would blame you. She's beautiful and everyone loved her."

"I didn't kiss Dorothea."

And then Ingrid got this very sad, distant look in her eyes, one that Felix didn't often see on her. "We were friends," she said. "She was very nice to me. It was as if she wanted to protect me. Protect me in a way I couldn't protect myself.” Another pause. "Do you know that she attacked me once?"

This information went through Felix like lightning. He sat up straight. "You was?"

"At least I think she did. I was not sure. I'm still not sure. I turned them down anyway. I just couldn't. Not me.” Ingrid stopped. "I couldn't say yes."

"I didn't even know that she..." Felix began and trailed off. "I mean, all I knew was that she was looking for a husband."

Ingrid laughed. "Then you should have been more careful. It was common knowledge among the girls. But I think - I spoke with you. Dorothea's relationships with women generally did not last. It was like. They couldn't hold out, you know?"

Felix sighed and leaned on his hands again. "Because she had to find a husband." It had been Dorothea annoying, like a heavily perfumed horsefly - and so wrong too, with masks upon masks upon masks. Felix had thought her worse than Sylvain in that respect.

But she was no worse than Felix himself, it seemed.

"Yes." Ingrid said nothing and stared at the floor. "Bernadetta?"

Felix smiled. "No. She was scared of me. Could barely look at me without screaming and running away."

"All right, I give up. Who was it?"

"Hey, I never said I'd tell you who it was if you couldn't guess. If you can't find out, you have to accept not knowing."


Felix shrugged, smiled, and then chuckled. "I'm sorry, Ingrid." And he was sorry. Very sorry. He didn't like not being able to say anything to her. She wasn't like Sylvain; She wasn't a liar. She made it easy to be honest with her. But he couldn't share that.

She would never guess. Your parameters were way off the mark. His first and only kiss hadn't been with Garreg Mach or with a girl. He had been thirteen. It had happened a few weeks before the tragedy, but he couldn't remember exactly how much time had passed between the two events. He had seen a kiss between his parents and then decided he wanted to share it with the person he adored most in the whole world. Sometimes when he was alone, when it was cold and dark outside, he could still feel their lips meet. It had been awkward and untrained, but so gentle. So soft.

"What do we do when he dies?" Ingrid asked very suddenly, breaking her unspoken vow not to talk about the boar. A light snow had begun to fall, its crystals stuck to the wool of Felix's gambeson. "If they execute him?"

"They will not execute him. He is the king. They can't."

"He's not king yet. And they arrested him. He will appear in court next week.”

"He will be acquitted."

"I just think we need to prepare for the worst."

"He won't die, Ingrid," Felix hissed. He had told the boar that he would eventually be killed - and said the same to anyone who would listen. But now that the possibility was actually on the table, just around the corner? His mind refused to think about it, let alone acknowledge it out loud.

Ingrid scoffed. "And you call me the idealist. You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were - you know what? never mind I'm cold. I'm going in." And then she went into the house, slamming the door behind her, leaving Felix alone staring at the barren land beyond.

II. The Pigeon

The next part of the story goes like this: the lady and the lion wanted to get married, and the lady invited her family to join her for the wedding. The merchant, her father, was with them. She had written to him frequently since she had left home, and in his letters to her he had often expressed concern for her love.

"How do you know for sure that he's a handsome man and not hideous? Also at night? How do you know he's even human?” he would ask.

The lady assured her father that she was perfectly safe with him and was content never to see her lover's face fully, but her father continued to have his doubts.

The evening before the wedding, the merchant decided to see for himself what the prince looked like. He sneaked into the couple's room while they were sleeping and lit a candle there. Then he saw that the prince was indeed very handsome, young and perfectly human. But just as the lion had warned the lady, as soon as the candlelight fell on the prince's face, the prince turned into a dove.

That part had always made Ingrid angry. "First he sells his daughter to a lion, and then he has her fiancé turned into a bird?" she had exclaimed. "He can't do anything right! If only he had listened to her..."

Felix had hit her on the head with the palm of his hand. "Silence! I want to hear the rest!"

The lady woke up startled to find her father with a candle and her fiancé with a dove. The dove said: "Now I have to fly around the world for seven years. For every seventh step you take, I leave a feather so you can follow me wherever I go. At the end of the seven years we can be together again.”

"What if I lose sight of you?" asked the lady.

"Then we'll meet again at the castle, which is east of the sun and west of the moon."

And so the lady embarked, and followed her pigeon wherever he went.

At the end of the seven years she reached the northern edge of the kingdom. It was a terrible winter and she lost sight of her feathers in the snow. For a time she was lost, only to see her dove fly over the North Sea.

She called out to him, but he couldn't hear or see her through the blizzard. And then his curse lifted, or at least changed, and he transformed again.

When she went to Garreg Mach, Rosana had given Ingrid her illustrated edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon. "I would have given it to you and Glenn on your anniversary," she said, "but you can have it now." Ingrid read it in her room at night or in the library during the day and showed the illustrations to Ashe and Annette.

The prince, modeled after Rodrigue, looked a bit like Glenn, but the lady didn't look like Ingrid at all. She had Rosana's straight dark hair and warm amber eyes. Still, it was one of Ingrid's most prized possessions, and she thought maybe one day she could do something like that for the ones she loved. She could illustrate her own version of the fairy tale - any fairy tale, really - where she looked like the princess. Regardless, her drawing skills left a lot to be desired. It would be a labor of love and that would be enough.

16. Etheric Moon, 1183

Getting permission from her father to go to Fhirdiad was such a relief that Ingrid nearly burst into tears as she mounted her beloved Pegasus Weahltheow. It was early in the morning and she had a long flight ahead of her.

Since Dimitri's death, she had asked to go to Fhirdiad many, many times. It wasn't fair. There were things she could do besides languish at home—fight the Imperials, smuggle supplies to Fhirdiad and Arianrhod, help refugees escape—but her father wouldn't let her.

"Espen and Kai are in Fhirdiad!" she had said.

"Aspen and Kai are not the future of our house," Gunnar had answered firmly and evenly.

"What, so they're expendable? However, without the kingdom, our house has no future. All we can do is help people now.”

But Gunnar had not been swayed by Ingrid's words, and he had not relented until he received a letter from Sylvain asking for Ingrid's presence.

"We need your help now more than ever," his letter said.

Gunnar had been blown away, and Ingrid had packed a bag, slept for six hours and left almost as soon as she woke up.

She tricked Weahltheow into landing in the woods outside the Ice Bear Inn, north of Fhirdiad. Sylvain had told her to meet him there as the landlady was a supporter of the kingdom and he, Felix and some others had used it as a base of operations. It was late afternoon, and the time of year meant that the sun was sinking rapidly to the horizon.

As she led Weahltheow toward the stables of the inn, she saw a man silhouetted against the sunset with hair the color of wildfire. She let go of Weahltheow's reins and leaped at him. "Sylvan!"

His face lit up as she got closer. "Ingrid!" Pulling her into a huge hug, he picked her up and rolled her over before setting her down again.

"How are you?"

"Could be worse!" he said grinning. "Let me help you take Weahltheow away." He took the Pegasus by the reins and led it to the stable. "I'm glad I caught you. I just got back from town. I was just sorting Chiffon.” Chiffon was Sylvain's mare, taken from Garreg Mach.

"How is she doing?"


"And my brothers?"

Espen brought some refugees south to Charon. He left yesterday. Kai is in town with Felix.”

Inside the barn it was warmer than outside, the winter winds were kept out by walls and straw. Ingrid greeted Chiffon and stroked her velvety nose with a gloved hand. She counted herself lucky that it hadn't snowed on the way here. Flying through a blizzard was something she'd done once and never wanted to do again.

"And how is Felix?" asked Ingrid. "I heard he cut off all his hair." Espen had written to her about it.

"He did. I watched him do it. We were in Fraldarius helping them bolster their defenses and we saw Rodrigue."

"Oh boy."

"'Oh boy' is correct. Rodrigue gave Felix a look and said, 'Gosh, you look so much like him these days.'"

Ingrid buried her face in her palms. "You'd think he'd learn not to say things like that to Felix's face."

Sylvain snorted. "You think. Anyway, Felix stormed off and when I found him he was in his room in the manor house in front of a mirror stabbing his ponytail with a dagger.”

"A dagger?"

"Yes. It's looking a little better now, but he had to wear a hat there for a couple of weeks. He's lucky it's winter."

Ingrid took a bucket and went outside to the well to fill it. In the soft light of the setting sun and the glow of the torches that lined the stable, she saw her own face in the water in the bucket. Her hair fell out of its braided bun and her cheeks were flushed from windburn. She turned to bring Wealhtheow the water and said to Sylvain, "You know, I've been thinking about cutting my hair."

"Oh yeah? Just don't use a dagger for that."

"I never would."

"Are you sure? Because am I or am I not talking to the girl who bit right through chicken bones to get to the marrow..."

"Sylvain," she warned him.

"--and rubbed pine needles on himself instead of perfume--"


"—and turned her school uniform inside out so she can wear it more often before washing it?"


Sylvain gave her his slight, carefree grin. She was angry. "I'm just saying you're not exactly the epitome of etiquette."

She pulled her dagger from her belt and lunged at him, using her smaller size to crawl over his back and shoulders. "I'll take this dagger with me your Hair if you don't shut up!"

"Stop stop!" he cried, trying to shake her off. "Keep that off my face! My beautiful face!”

He finally managed to shake her and she fell onto her back with a soft thud in the hay uff. “Maybe Felix and I aren't the problem; maybe you're just vain."

"I never disputed that. I can't spell 'Sylvain' without it," he said with a wink. He sat down next to her on the floor, his legs crossed. "I think that's the part where I admit to you that my motives for asking you here were a bit selfish."

Ingrid sat up grinning. "For real?" She said. "I thought they were quite egotistical. I thought you just wanted to see me."

"I did! But it's not Only that. I mean, of course I know how skilled you are, and we really do could use your help, but..."


“But I saw Gilbert last week. He stopped by the tavern just to see me. Well, do you see any of us, but I was the one who was there, what with Felix in town and you at home..."

"Go on. What did he say?"

Sylvain swallowed hard. "He said he was trying to recover Dimitri's body. He thought it would be good for the morale of the kingdom - to give him a proper burial."

"I thought they cremated him."

"The official story is that they buried him in an unmarked grave on the Tailtean Plains. But Gilbert says he took some men and searched the whole thing. There was nothing to be seen of him or any fresh corpses. Well obviously it's a big area so they might have missed something. Or Cornelia lied and she cremated him after all, or they buried him somewhere else. Or…"

"Or they never killed him," breathed Ingrid. She couldn't believe it. She wanted, desperate, Then what. But.

"That's what Gilbert thinks. And then, just yesterday, we received a message from Arianrhod. Things are a little less dire there than here as there haven't been as many active leadership changes, but there seems to be some kind of beast lurking down the Magdred Way. In the fog."

"A beast?"

"Yes, besides rumors it only killed Imperials. Soldiers and civilians alike, but it hasn't touched anyone from the Kingdom or even the Alliance.”

Ingrid drew her knees to her chest, her head spinning. "Does Felix know?"

"Not yet. And I'm – hesitant to tell him. That's one of the reasons I asked you here. It's just that he's been fine? Lately? Kind of? Sort of okay like that everyone is, considering the circumstances. He's responsible for smuggling resources into town and distributing them to people who don't want to leave. And he is. He's doing a good job. He's focused. I don't want him due send incomplete information back into the spiral.”

Ingrid nodded. In Sylvain's place, she probably would have made the same choice. Felix was volatile in a way that she and Sylvain weren't, especially when it came to Dimitri. "So what should I do?" she asked. "Bring the news for you?"

"Not exactly. I don't think we should tell him anything until we're not sure. I just needed a second pair of eyes, a second brain for this one. And if we again leave Fhirdiad at the end, I want you with us.”

And wasn't that a romantic idea? The three search the continent together for Dimitri. In search of their lost beast prince. Then they were silent, and Ingrid knew Sylvain hated silence, so she said, "And what about you?"

"Was above mich?"

"How have you been? You told me about everyone else."

Sylvain shifted uncomfortably, going from cross-legged to sitting, mimicking Ingrid's position. "I'm doing well."

She yawned and stretched, her limbs still stiff from her escape. "Come on, you gotta give me more than that. Do I have to clean up your mess?” she teased. "Any angry fathers of poor but grateful refugee girls I have to watch out for?"



"I've been busy! There's a war on in case you haven't noticed. I haven't bedded anyone in... my goodness. I'm not sure how long."

Ingrid was from the unique position that allowed her to actually know this Sylvain bedding someone was a much rarer occurrence than most people thought. Kissing and dating, sure, but instances of real sex were rare. Ingrid figured that was because Sylvain would explode into dust if he got someone pregnant, but she hadn't asked him that theory and didn't want to do it.

"I'm capable of taking things seriously, you know," he said.

"I appreciate that," she said. "How was it? Not being your incorrigible flirty self?”

"Easier than I thought. It's like I said. I was busy. I'm concentrated. This is important."

But I was lonely left unsaid. She had also been lonely, stuck at home with her parents and seeing her friends only through their letters. Mercedes wrote to her every week, and her correspondence was a light in the darkness. Ingrid had heard much less about Sylvain and Felix.

Sylvain was sitting very close to her, she suddenly realized as she looked up to meet his gaze. He had very warm, beautiful brown eyes. He leaned forward slowly, hesitantly, and when she didn't pull away, he pressed his lips to hers.

Sylvain was a good kisser and Ingrid now knew why girls kept pouncing on him despite all the red flags. His lips were cracked, but soft and warm, and he cupped his hand around her neck, playing with the flying strands of hair there. In fact, it should have been everything she'd ever wanted - the kiss she'd tried to get from Felix and Glenn. The kiss she had waited for almost twenty-one long, stupid, pointless years.

But all she could think was oh no, oh no, oh no She couldn't even bring herself to close her eyes, let alone kiss him back. She didn't know how. A frozen panic welled up inside her, threatening to break out from behind her teeth in a flurry of snow.

Sylvain noticed and withdrew. "Is something wrong?"

"I don't know," she said, trying very hard not to cry.

Sylvain took a deep breath, his eyes flapping shut. "Okay."

"That's not what I wanted." But what tat She would like to? She didn't know either. Did she want him like she had wanted Glenn? Or didn't she want him, like she hadn't really wanted Glenn, not really?

"In that case, I misjudged the situation and I'm sorry." He backed away, giving her space.

She got up abruptly and left the stables, brushing the straw from her trousers and wiping away her tears. Tears could be very dangerous in Faerghan winter; they could freeze your eyes. But kisses were also dangerous — they could seal your lips to someone else's. She wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered as she gazed up at the night sky. It was a clear evening and the stars shone, a milky river through the black. She silently thanked the goddess for the good weather, even though she knew it could change at any moment. Snowdrifts piled up against the walls of the stables and ice clung to the bark of the trees.

Sylvain had a fantasy. Really for both him and Glenn. Glenn - Felix said this a lot, and he was probably right, unfortunately - death had sanded all his rough edges away. She formed him from a boy she knew into her perfect prince. With Sylvain, it was the idea that with enough care and effort and time and attention, Ingrid could sand down his rough edges as well. I've been his friend for too long She thought.

"Do you want to go in?" asked Sylvain from behind her. “Ah, saints, you must be starving. I forgot to ask when you last ate.”

"I had a few rations in the air."

"It's not rations Groceries, Ingrid. You should know that better than anyone.” He took her arm. “They make a good stew here. Not as good as Ashe or Dedue, but still good.”

III. The Dragon

On the cliffs below, the woman saw her dove. He had transformed again, this time into a large white dragon. And then from the sea rose a snake as big as the dragon and covered with smooth black scales. This was the serpent queen of the south who had cursed the prince all those years ago.

The lady climbed down the cliffs to reach him, while he and the snake were engaged in a fierce battle on the beach, throwing huge waves of salt water all over everything. But when the lady reached him, it was too late. The serpent had locked its jaws around the dragon's neck and was pulling it out to sea and under the waves.

Lost and abandoned, the lady didn't know where to go from here. She remembered her lover telling her to go to the castle that was east of the sun and west of the moon, but she didn't know where that was. Sadly, she called upon the east wind that brought back the warmth and sunlight of spring. "East wind," she cried, "you who have blown across the continent, do you know where the castle is - the castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon?"

And the east wind answered: "No, I do not. But maybe you should ask my brother the west wind, because he has seen more of the continent than I have. And as an apology for my ignorance, I will give you this gift.” The east wind handed her a golden box, glowing in the warm light of spring. "I pray that in your need you will open it."

So the lady called to the west wind that brought the gentle rain of summer: "West wind, do you know where lies the castle that is east of the sun and west of the moon?"

And the west wind answered, "No, I don't know. But you should ask my brother the North Wind, because he has seen more of the continent than I have. And as an apology for my ignorance, I offer you this gift. I pray that you will open it in time of need.” And the west wind presented her with a smooth, bright egg.

Finally, the lady asked for help from the north wind that brought down the raging blizzards from the ice caps in winter. "Brilliant north wind! I ask you to tell me where I can find the castle that is east of the sun and west of the moon so that I can be reunited with my love!”

The North Wind giggled in his howling, raspy voice and said, "I can do better than that, boy - I can carry you there myself. It's due south of here, far for a human to walk, but not far at all for people like me."

And so he picked her up and carried her to the castle entrance. Around the castle lay the village and from the villagers the lady learned that the castle was home to the snake queen of the south and that she had returned from her last journey with a dragon in tow.

The lady knew at once that this was her prince, but the castle gates were tightly closed to all commoners, so at a loss she opened the chest the east wind had given her. Inside was a beautiful golden dress, the color of spring light.

With that she approached the gates and was received there by the serpent queen. "What a fine fabric, what an elegant embroidery," said the Serpent Queen upon seeing the lady and her dress. "Tell me how much will it cost you to break up with this?"

"No money at all, Majesty," said the lady. "I only heard about your return with a kite. If you take me to him, I'll give you my dress."

The Serpent Queen reluctantly agreed and led her into the courtyard of the palace where the dragon slept, chained to a huge tree. The lady shook her love again and again, but he did not wake from his sleep. Once again at a loss, the lady cracked open the egg given her by the west wind and poured its silvery contents into the dragon's mouth. He swallowed and immediately awoke and reverted to his human form.

"My love," he said as he opened his eyes, "you came for me. And you broke my curse. I am now free to be human forever.”

Immediately, the Serpent Queen reappeared, wielding a sword. "I should never have let you in here!" She cried.

"North Wind!" cried the lady one last time. "I beg you, carry me and my love from this place!" And the north wind picked up the lady and the prince, early dragon, early dove, early lion, and brought them back home, where they lived happily ever after days lived.

That ending had always felt unsatisfying to Sylvain, although he could seldom say why. Perhaps it had to do with the series of animal transformations the prince had undergone. How long has he been a lion? He was a dove for seven years. Which form did he prefer? Did it even feel right for him to be human again after being an animal for so long?

Sylvain had never really cared what the prince looked like as a man. Ingrid, Felix and Dimitri were a bit fixated on it as kids, but Sylvain didn't care. Sylvain mostly just cared about how Sylvain looked like. Did he smell good? Were his clothes clean? Was his room? Did the prince have servants in his mansion? Did he do all his cleaning at night when he was human? If yes, when did he sleep? Did he have any clothes left when he got home, or were they all moth-eaten and dusty? Was Sylvain pretty? Was he charming? Would anyone care if someday a witch turned them into a lion?

23. Etheric Moon, 1185

Six months in the wilderness of Faerghan. Chased rumors for six months, searched unsuccessfully. Everything had been fine in the beginning during Garland Moon. Felix was still mad at Sylvain and Ingrid for denying him the possibility of Dimitri's survival for so long, and it was raining all the time, but at least it was warm and their energy and spirits were high. But they were worn out. It was freezing now. It had snowed every day for the past week. Sylvain couldn't remember what dry clothes felt like.

They were on their way south to Garreg Mach after checking back in with Gilbert in Fhirdiad. "Perhaps, if His Highness lives, he will meet us there," Gilbert had said. He'd run off to Dominic to get his daughter.

Sylvain didn't care about Gilbert. He didn't care about his grumpy demeanor, his hand wringing and his guilty conscience. He didn't particularly care about the way he had let down Annette and Dimitri, even though both had needed him. He had run away because he was what, grieving? They had all mourned after the tragedy. Gilbert was nothing special.

Gilbert, more than anyone else, needed Dimitri to be alive. He needed that balm on his soul. But Sylvain also needed Dimitri alive. So did Ingrid and Felix. Especially Felix. So they chased after the slightest glimmer of hope that he was out there, that he was the beast on the Magdred Way, that he was the one roaming the Leicester border, that it wasn't a mindless monster but their wayward friend. That he would be with Garreg Mach and everything could be okay.

They didn't talk much about it, the three of them. They primarily focused on surviving and evading Imperial patrols. Especially to survive when winter came. The question, "What will we do if we find him?" never came up.

Ingrid was on Wealhtheow while Sylvain and Felix shared the back of the much sturdier chiffon. Wealhtheow hasn't left the ground at all; it was far too snowy to fly. She kept her wings folded close to her body to protect herself and her rider from the cold.

The snow stopped as the sun went down and darkness settled over the land. Felix had clung to Sylvain's shoulders and then his waist, and Sylvain appreciated the warmth at his back. Sylvain was getting pretty hot himself, but Felix had the metabolism of a greyhound and radiated warmth like a chimney.

"We should find a place to camp for the night," said Ingrid.

For the past six months, and to a lesser extent the past five years, Ingrid had slowly but surely been teaching Sylvain and Felix how to starve. Sylvain hadn't known before that hunger was something you could teach him. In the end it seemed somehow natural to him. At least more natural than with Felix. Sylvain had an awareness of his body that Felix didn't have. Felix was graceful and controlled in battle, but when it came to his thoughts and actions outside of combat, he was clumsier than a three-legged horse. He forgot to eat or ate too much. He fell asleep randomly or not at all. He said exactly what was on his mind as soon as it came to mind. His room was often a mess. He had accidentally backhanded Sylvain many times throughout her life simply by turning around.

However, Sylvain was always aware of what he was eating, even before he had to ration himself. Growing up, he knew when skipping dinner could prevent him from seeing Miklan and when it could cause him to risk punishment from his parents. He used to hide snacks under his mattress in his room. Even once he got to Garreg Mach's, he could look at each dish that was put in front of him and figure out how much energy it would give him - when he needed to eat next and how much. He could tell when he had gained weight and when he had lost weight. His body was always one hundred percent under his control. Ingrid had practice when it came to hunger, but Sylvain had instinct.

Felix pitched the tent, Ingrid took Wealhtheow into the awning to (hopefully) gather dry twigs for a fire, and Sylvain went to look for water.

He found a frozen creek a few tens of meters from their campsite and used the Lance of Ruin's butt to break through the ice. He took a quiet, self-satisfied pleasure in using the lance for such mundane tasks. It was better than killing people with it.

He tried to check his reflection in the water, but it was too dark to see properly. That was probably for the best. He was sure he looked terrible. Thinning hair, loss of muscle mass and body fat, hollow eyes. It was better not to know exactly what a toll these months had taken on him.

Ingrid landed back down from the trees with a bundle of twigs and branches. "They're green," she said, "but otherwise they're dry."

They cleared the snow and piled rocks together to make a fire pit, then set to work drying the soil within. In the end they had a mediocre fire to boil water and heat their bread rations and warm their hands and feet. They ate in silence before cramming into the tent to get some sleep.

Snapping his fingers, Sylvain cast a fire spell and released it again and again to heat the tent as best he could. It was a losing battle, but it was better than starting the night in a freezing tent.

Their bedding consisted of a variety of furs and blankets, some brought from home, others captured on their journey. These were their most prized items, and it would mean dire consequences for them if they got wet. Luckily their tent was highly waterproof, which was reinforced as often as possible.

Ingrid slept in the middle because she stored the least body heat. Felix was relatively shy of touch, but even he deigned to cuddle under the circumstances. Despite the cold, Sylvain almost fell asleep as soon as he was covered, exhaustion taking hold and pulling him down. Some time later he woke up - maybe several hours - to find the campfire outside being lit again.

Sylvain undid the ties that held the tent flaps shut, stuck his head out and saw Felix sitting in front of the fire, staring off into the distance. "Can't you sleep?" asked Sylvain. He spoke softly so as not to wake Ingrid. She was the heaviest sleeper of the three, but still.

Felix shook his head.

Sylvain reached behind her and snatched a blanket from its nest before exiting the tent, sitting next to Felix and wrapping the blanket around both of their shoulders. The warmth of the fire was a great relief, and the wind had died down. Everything was perfectly still except for the crackle of the flame.

"How long until Garreg Mach?" asks Sylvain.

"Maybe drive another day, day and a half, depending on the weather," Felix replied.

"That's a relief," Sylvain said, although it wasn't, not really. "What do we do when nobody's there?" There had been rumors of bandits plaguing the monastery that it was now little more than a crumbling ruin. He wasn't sure he could bear to see it like this.

"Then we'll turn around and go back home." It hadn't been officially decided, let alone discussed, but if Dimitri wasn't with Garreg Mach then he wasn't anywhere. After that, it would be time to give up. They all knew. They would fight the Imperials for as long as they and their families could keep their territories clear, but even that would only delay the inevitable.

Sylvain's stomach sank and threatened to fall out through the soles of his feet. He didn't speak anymore.

It was Felix who finally broke the silence. He turned to Sylvain, his amber eyes glowing orange in the firelight. "Did you sleep with your armor on?" he asked.

"It's annoying to take off," said Sylvain.

"It seems like sleeping late is annoying too."

“I have taken off my pauldrons and gauntlets; I am not an animal."

"At least let me get your breastplate—breastplate."

"It's one-piece, made up of just interlocking panels for flexibility."

"I don't care," Felix said, already fishing in the cracks of Sylvain's armor, trying to pry each piece from every other. He snorted and pulled back, then used his teeth to pull off his gloves before re-entering with greater dexterity.

"Don't freeze yourself," Sylvain warned.

"We're right on fire. I'll be fine."

"You're going to have a much harder time holding a sword with less than ten fingers."

Frostbite was part of everyday life in Faerghus. He, Felix and Ingrid had all gotten it at least once, and Sylvain was missing his two smallest toes on his left foot after getting it from a leak in his boot. Ingrid had lost the tip of her little finger to it the year before, during a siege of the territories of Gautier and Fraldarius. In the end they held off the Imperials, but many people starved to death or died of cold or disease.

Felix smiled but didn't look up and continued to unclip Sylvain's breastplate until it fell off him with a clink of metal. Sylvain winced at the sound. They waited in silence for a long moment, but there was no sign of Ingrid waking up.

Sylvain pulled the blanket back around both of their shoulders. "Any reason why you couldn't sleep?" he asked.

Felix sighed. "I just think too much."

"Oh me?"

"Like what we do when one of us dies."

Oh. Sylvain hadn't expected that. Felix didn't tend to dwell on his misery or worry too much about the future. With him it was always pure denial. He lived exclusively in the present. "Hey, you don't have to worry about me dying. We promised to die together, remember? And Ingrid will probably be better off without us.”

"Right. And what about Ingrid? What if she dies?"

The question hit Sylvain like an icy fist. What would can you do without them? Her strength was unmatched. Flexible like Sylvain and honest like Felix, she was far more resilient than either. She had kept the three of them together for the past five years and without her, without her and Dimitri and Glenn, their little group down to two, Sylvain couldn't see how they couldn't fall apart. "You and I just don't have to let this happen," he said.

"Right. Easier said than done." Felix paused before saying, "I could run away if she dies. But then I could run away no matter what.”

"Run away? Where to?"

"Not sure. It doesn't matter. But you could come with me."

Sylvain pointed to himself. "Me?"

"Yes. What else are you doing? If we can't find the boar, the war will be over. The kingdom will be finished. And after that you won't want to go home."

"No, I..." Sylvain was not sure he didn't want to go home. Sure, his childhood home was full of bad memories, and he didn't care if he saw either of his parents again, but he might be able to do something good there, even if the Empire were to take over. The kingdom hadn't been perfect, even at its peak. But that didn't mean it wasn't like running away with Felix in addition tempting, especially when the worst came to the worst and Ingrid died. "Maybe I want to live somewhere really warm for once in my life," he mused. “I heard that there are places in Dagda that are pleasant all year round. It never gets too hot and it never gets too cold. What do you think you will do if you leave?"

"Like I did. I haven't heard of any place in the world without a war. There's always a use for a wandering blade or two. We could be partners.”

"How, mercenary partner?"

"Sure. But we could also be partners in misery."

"Do you think we will be unhappy?" asked Sylvain.

"You think we habit be?"

And on that point Sylvain had to concede to him. Felix's cynicism often annoyed everyone who knew him, but at least he believed everything he said. And he was wrong more often than not, at least when he wasn't acting like an asshole. "Very well," Sylvain said, holding out his hand for Felix to shake. "Partners in misery."

But Felix didn't shake his hand. Instead, he grabbed Sylvain's face and just stared at him for a long moment.

"Like what you see?" Sylvain quipped, shifting uncomfortably.

"You looked better," Felix said, but before Sylvain could reply, Yes, well, you too Felix pulled him forward and down into a burning kiss.

and oh, his mouth was just so warm.

Sylvain had considered kissing Felix before, though not often and with no real desire to pursue it. It had been more of a thoughtful wonder, especially after he had kissed Ingrid and been dismissed out of hand. But Sylvain had dismissed it as an impossibility - not worth bothering with. Felix finally had all of his Dimitri-shaped hangers, and Sylvain didn't touch that with a ten-foot spear.

But Sylvain was only human. He wouldn't push his friend away when he needed comfort - which he clearly did. Both did.

Felix was not gut Kissers per se, but he was a hungry one. His kisses were white-hot, bright, all teeth. He kissed like he was trying to eat Sylvain, or at least trying to bite his mouth. He also almost managed to get to his knees, bend over Sylvain and tilt his head back, tangled his bare fingers in Sylvain's hair.

Sylvain finally managed to scrape together the change needed to kiss Felix back all the way, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him closer so they were chest to chest, meeting him where he was.

Ingrid had once asked Sylvain why he was doing what he was doing, since the women he was flirting with didn't really matter to him on any level. "Why not just leave good enough alone?" she had asked. "I mean, you're just now like Women. Why don't you just ignore them since you're so convinced they don't really like you either?"

Laughing, he waved her off. "Of course I like women," he had said. It was a lie, of course. What he hadn't told her was the purgatory in which he had imprisoned himself. Sure, he didn't really like women, but what he liked that he couldn't do without was the awesome, magical, indescribable feeling of be wanted. It was a reflection of that feeling he got from the girls around him, but it's never been as close to him as possible. His family didn't fucking want him. His friends hardly tolerated him, and most days he didn't even want himself.

But Felix kissed him like he was starving and Sylvain was the only food for miles, especially after asking if he wanted run away with him... the feeling was exhilarating. He tightened his arms around Felix and didn't want to let go, even as they both came upstairs for air, Felix's nose pressed into Sylvain's neck. He wanted to crawl into Felix's chest, wear his scarred skin, nestle in the scarlet heat between his lungs. That's what Sylvain always wanted, not just from Felix, not just from Ingrid, but from everyone he's ever kissed. Nobody gave it to him. Nobody ever gave him a body to call home.

When they finally broke apart, Sylvain was flushed and sweaty, and he watched in rapt rapture as Felix slipped silently into the tent. His chest hurt. It cost him everything to get up and follow Felix back to bed. It cost him everything he had and more not to kiss him again when he got there. He didn't want me either he thought, not really. I'm only his friend for so long. Too long. That was his last thought before sleep overwhelmed him again.

The next day they continued their march south. The weather had finally changed, the clouds were clearing with no promise of more snow. As the sun went down, Garreg Mach came into view. It was a very imposing building. Sylvain's eyes watered at the sight, or perhaps it was the reflection of the sun in the snow that was causing it. The moon rose in the east.

"If we set up camp now and then leave early, we can make it to the monastery by sunrise tomorrow," said Ingrid.

But Sylvain hardly listened. "Look, Felix, Ingrid," he said.

"What," said Felix.

"The castle." Sylvain pointed to it. "It is east of the sun and west of the moon."

Felix frowned, and Ingrid didn't smile either. "Huh," she said in surprise. "That's the way it is."


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tuan Roob DDS

Last Updated: 09/09/2023

Views: 5945

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tuan Roob DDS

Birthday: 1999-11-20

Address: Suite 592 642 Pfannerstill Island, South Keila, LA 74970-3076

Phone: +9617721773649

Job: Marketing Producer

Hobby: Skydiving, Flag Football, Knitting, Running, Lego building, Hunting, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Tuan Roob DDS, I am a friendly, good, energetic, faithful, fantastic, gentle, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.