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Drumming Song

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With Rhea as weak as she is, Byleth is surprised that Seteth elected to leave her side for even a moment. He was diligent in looking after her, allowing no one but himself and Flayn by her side for so long. Then, suddenly, he all but begged Byleth to take over for him while he and Flayn searched for something. He never properly explained. Byleth isn’t certain he knew exactly what it is he was looking for, or maybe it was that he wasn’t sure what he was going to find. 

They take a few battalions with them, a few former-students even volunteering to go, but it’s a small party. Seteth says he doesn’t know when they’ll return and Byleth promises to take care of his sister, his real sister, in his absence. Perhaps not in the way he intended, the first thing she does is open her windows and doors. Rhea smiles when the sun’s warmth hits her, though, so it cannot be that terrible of a decision. 

Catherine and Cyril both weep when they see her, both from joy that she is alive and sadness that she is so frail. She gathers Cyril into her arms as if he were the same small boy from five years ago, eagerly asking him about his studies. Even some former students visit, with Mercedes especially building a strong bond with the former archbishop. It makes Byleth happy, remembering the times that Rhea expressed her deep loneliness. Especially after five years in captivity, to have people seeking her out, to comfort her, to bring her flowers and tea and other trinkets, must be such a relief (now, if only they knew she preferred cold drinks!). 

For an entire moon, Seteth and Flayn do not return. Rhea asks often about them, even some of the soldiers as well. Byleth doesn’t have answers. All she can say is that they will return when they are meant to, with the grace of the goddess. Garegg Mach being the central church, most people take that answer. Some don’t. Byleth doesn’t blame them. How could she? The answer makes her quite anxious as well. 

Finally, Flayn returns. She is with Petra, on the back of the Brigid girl’s wyvern. Her grin spans from ear to ear, which Byleth hopes means their mission was a success. 

“An astounding success!” she proclaims later. They are in Rhea’s room, and it is only the three of them with some tea and light snacks. “Father sent me ahead with Petra to tell you all! We must prepare two rooms for them at once!”

Rhea sets her teacup down and smiles softly. “It has been so long since I have seen them... Flayn, where on Earth did you manage to find them?”

“Well, it was certainly not easy!” Flayn munches on a scone before continuing. “Uncle Indech was in Lake Teutates! And Uncle Macuil was all the way in Sreng! It is a good thing Sylvain was with us.”

Byleth’s eyebrows draw together. “Wait a moment. You and Seteth were looking for the other... but I thought they had died?”

“Oh, no,” Rhea says softly. “We had all faked our deaths, to move on.” She fiddles with her fingers for a few moments. “I suppose it is possible they could have perished since, but... I am glad that they had not.”

“It would have been awful. We should not dwell on such terrible what-ifs! Professor, will you help me prepare their rooms? They should be in here in only a few days!”

Who better to prepare a room for a saint than a saint? Flayn does most of the work, while Byleth just does whatever the girl instructs of her. While the monastery has certainly seen better days, they are able to spare a little expense to make certain that Indech and Macuil will be comfortable. Flayn insists that they have to make an impression, as the men haven’t been in their human forms for over a thousand years. Byleth tries hard not to think too carefully about that; she doesn’t quite think her mind is capable of understanding what that means. 

When they come back, they are absolutely haggard. Seteth is the same as she remembers from a moon ago, if a bit worn from the road. They all are, after an entire moon. The two saints, though, are something else. They stick out like sore thumbs, neither of them wearing any armor at all. They’ve got weapons, though it seems they hadn’t needed to use them. The clothes they wear are pristine as if brand new, though rather plain. Seteth must have made haste to dress them in whatever he could find. It’s their hair, that truly gives them away. That unhuman green that Byleth has come to associate with the Nabateans, whoever they are. One of the men has a deeper shade, like Seteth’s, and the other’s is lighter, like Flayn’s or Rhea’s.

Byleth is meant to unofficially meet them here. Later, privately, she’ll officially meet them. Real names and everything. No more lies, Rhea promised, only the truth from now on. 

She steps forward, Flayn at her side, and gives a shallow bow. “Welcome back, Seteth.” She gives a slight smile to her former students in the little camp as well. “Everyone.”

Some of them try to wave to her as Seteth steps forward, the two saints following behind him. “Byleth. I’ve recruited these men as members of Garegg Mach Monestary’s staff.”

It’s a terribly flimsy excuse. Seteth will have to explain himself sooner or later, to the others. He would not simply up and run to recruit faculty, not with Rhea in such a state. For now, they seem content to wait. They will not stay so for long. 

Byleth nods. “I trust your judgment.” She turns to the man with the deeper shade of green hair, and Byleth notices he has it weaved into a long braid. “Your name?”

“Coatl,” he says. 

A man of few words. Byleth can respect that. She turns to the other, meeting his eyes, and suddenly forgets entirely what it is she wishes to say. Her head is filled with noise, some sort of awful drumming. His cheeks dust pink and Byleth is suddenly acutely aware that she is staring at him. 

“And yours?”

“Horos,” he says, awfully and terribly softly. “Thank you, for taking my brother and me in.”

Beside him, Coatl sneers, but Byleth is still staring at Horos. She tries not to be quite as intimidating, though she knows it’s rather hard to tell with her. It’s something she’s still working on, with Dorothea as her guide. 

She turns her gaze to Coatl and prays no one notices her favoritism. “Thank you for coming to us in our time of need.”

The drumming noise follows her long into dinner.