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Drumming Song

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When Byleth had made her miraculous return to Garreg Mach, the first thing she and Seteth had done was route out some bandits. Her students and the Knights of Seiros miraculously returned, their second order of business was to make sure the old dorms and living quarters were in an acceptable state. After that, the facilities. With Linhardt’s ample donation, stolen from his father, they were able to hire various craftsmen to return to the monastery and return the plumbing to working order. They were also able to pay them off, hopefully ensuring they wouldn’t tattle off to the empire that they were there. 

Of course, that was months ago. The empire has since been toppled. Poor Edelgard’s head cleaved from her shoulders. Byleth wonders if things could have been different. If only she had known that their true goals were so similar, peace for Fódlan and all her people... But it’s far too late now. 

Regardless, Byleth finds her way to the sauna, hoping for a few moments of respite. Seteth has once more taken over watching Rhea, leaving Byleth alone to consider his proposal of her becoming queen of a united Fódlan. For someone raised as a commoner, it’s a daunting thought, but not the only one bothering her. 

Coatl and Horos, Macuil and Indech, have agreed to stay for a full moon before potentially leaving once more. Whether it’s to entertain Rhea in her last weeks of life or to accompany her while she makes her recovery. While the purpose of their visit is expressly for Rhea, she herself has expressed a desire for them to interact with the others in the monastery. Coatl, of course, was greatly opposed to this and has chosen to spend anytime away from Rhea locked up in his own room or in a hidden corner in the library. The only other person he would go out of his way for was Flayn, but no one was particularly surprised by this. Horos, meanwhile, spent much of his time shrowded in mystery. He could often be spotted sharing a meal with Seteth or Flayn or both of them. Byleth would sometimes join if she wasn’t already eating with someone, but he rarely spoke up or continued the conversation. Besides his brief appearances at the dining hall and he was by Rhea’s side, his whereabouts were a mystery. 

So both of the brothers are proving to be daunting tasks as well. In addition to that, Byleth also isn’t expecting a certain someone who brings drumming into her mind to be in the sauna late at night. She strips bare and grabs a fresh towel before heading in. She doesn’t even notice another person is in the sauna until she sees the movement of them trying to hide under the water. 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she says. “I didn’t see you there.”

She doesn’t even recognize that it’s Horos until he peaks his head back up, his eyes looking away from her and to the side. “It’s alright. I’ve been here a while. I’ll go.”

Byleth settles into the water, sitting on the rock letting out a satisfied hum. “You don’t have to go, you seem quite comfortable. I do not mind.” Traveling most of her early life with a mercenary group taught her that personal boundaries are a luxury. She’s grown to live without them, for the most part. “Unless it bothers you...”

He shakes his head, finally meeting her eyes. “No. I had just noticed, when I was traveling with the humans before, they avoided being bare around one another.”

Byleth shakes her head. “I’m not like other humans.”

Horos’s lips twitch into a smirk. “I’ve noticed that, yes. You smell... sweeter. Not like them at all.”

She hadn’t expected that response at all and cocks her head to the side. “What do you mean, sweeter?”

He merely shakes his head and looks away from her again. “Please, pay it no mind. It simply means... nothing at all.”

It certainly can’t mean nothing at all, Byleth thinks, for him to have brought it up. Best not to push it, if he’s already receding back into his shell. They sit in silence together instead, enjoying the steam of the sauna and the quiet of the night. Byleth can’t help but wonder if she smells sweeter, whatever that is, to the other Nabateans as well. 

When next she looks to Horos, he has significantly relaxed, draping his arms over the edge of the sauna. His eyes are closed and his head leaned back as well, as if he were asleep. So, Byleth doesn’t feel particularly bad about examining him in a less than innocent manner. To say that Horos is anything but well built would be an insult. One would be better off describing him as sculpted, as though he were born from a marble statue. Perhaps he was. No one has bothered to tell Byleth how the Nabateans came to be. He doesn’t even carry scars on him, something Byleth has noticed on Seteth and Rhea as well. Do Nabateans not scar as easily? It’s certainly not that their skin does not cut; Byleth has seen Seteth take many unfortunate wounds. Perhaps they have a different sort of healing factor. Speaking of cut, though, Indech does seem to have one imperfection.

“What happened to your arm?” Across his bicep is a deep, clean cut. Red, and probably angry from being in the hot water. “You shouldn’t have that in the water, you know.”

He hums at her. “I forget. In this form, being in the water doesn’t heal me as well as in my other form.” He pokes at it a little bit, but no new blood spills. It must already be healing well. “I’m working on a sica. The spine was warped, and so I tried to beat it straight. The blade slipped out of my hand and cut my arm. I’m lucky it didn’t cut my face.” He gives her a wolfish grin that stutters the drumming for a moment but, ah, she hadn’t even realized it was there! 

She chooses to ignore it and instead wades closes to him. “Allow me,” she says. She places a hand over the cut and spreads what little faith magic she has over it. “What’s a sica?”

He looks down at her hand, watching the magic for a moment before answering. “It’s an old Nabatean sword. It’s curved towards the top.” He pulls his other arm up, mimicking the shape of the blade by bending at his wrist. “The curve allowed its user to reach behind enemy shields to attack. Or to disarm weapons on a front swing before going in for the kill on a backswing.”

He mimics the movement, pulling an imaginary weapon towards him before slashing an imaginary enemy. Once his invisible foe is defeated, he returns his hand to the water. By then, his cut is finished healing. Byleth does not remove her hands from his arm. 

He smiles softly and turns his face towards her. It’s the happiest she’s seen him, his eyes light up like stars, his cheeks dusted a soft red from the warmth of the sauna. He looks at ease. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve been at a forge. It feels good. To be making Nabatean weapons, especially. I’ve been practicing by making knives, not wanting to waste steel. But this sica... it feels like home, in a weird sort of way. Once I get back into the swing of things... I can really start back up to where I was.”

Byleth cocks her head to the side. With where she’s positioned it basically has her resting her head on Horos’s arm. It’s not an uncomfortable position. “You smithed before?”

He nods and repositions himself so he can face her much easier. She notices, perhaps a touch too eagerly, that he keeps his arm positioned so that she is able to stay where she is, with her head nearly laying on him. “When I was younger. Before... before everything. I smithed weapons, mostly. But also ceremonial weapons, with hidden and finely carved detail, with dull edges not meant for war. Armor and accessories, too. Headpieces, girdles. I made my own helmet, you know? It was one of my first pieces.” He beams his bright smile, showing off his sharp canines. 

Byleth can’t help but give him a smile in return. Though it’s her version of the same intensity, it’s much more subdued. It’s simply how she is. “That’s very impressive. I’ve seen your armor illustrated. It’s very striking.”

Horos pulls his bottom lip between his teeth, and Byleth is reminded of a young Sylvain, attempting to flirt with a girl he’s particularly interested in. “I’ve also made jewelry. I made much of my mother’s jewelry.”

She blinks, a bit taken aback by that admission. She recalls the image of Sothis in her mind, adorned with a gorgeous golden headpiece and various matching accessories. All of those, made by Horos? “Really?”

He nods, suddenly sheepish. “Yes. I traveled with Ci-- er, Seteth, when I was younger. We were often away from home, so I wanted to send her things. At first, I would buy her things and send them back. As I started to learn metallurgy and jewelry making, I found that she much more enjoyed things that I had made.”

Byleth nods. “That makes sense. You must be talented.”

He shrugs. “I was, once. Now....” He flexes his hand, the one to the arm that Byleth is all but lying on. “Now it’s been centuries since I’ve forged or smithed anything. I would have never been so foolish as to lose my grip and slice my arm open, before.”

Perhaps unconsciously, perhaps on purpose, Byleth gently squeezes his arm. “It’s alright to make mistakes. You’re out of practice. It’s alright.”

He tips his head towards her, ever so slightly. Just as he opens his mouth, the door to the sauna opens, and the chattering voices of Annette, Lysithea, and Mercedes break Byleth and Horos’s sweet silence. 

“Professor!” Mercedes says. She quickly covers herself with a towel upon noticing Horos, who has sunk back into the water. The other girls, already covered by their towels, pull them up higher. “I’m so sorry, we didn’t realize you were in here.”

“It’s alright,” Byleth says. She stands from the water and taps on Horos’s shoulder. “We’ve both been in here a while. We should get going before the steam gets to our heads.”

The girls leave the room for a moment, allow Horos a moment to become decent. Though, Byleth would certainly be an idiot to not notice Mercedes peeking behind the door a moment longer than necessary. That girl, for as pious as she acts... Well, she’s cute. 

Byleth and Horos part with a simple goodnight, and the drumming in her head does not stop under she calms herself with breathing exercises before bed. 

 


 

Flayn invites them all to family tea again, which shouldn’t be at all surprising. Byleth supposes she is just a little surprised that she’s considered family. Perhaps, after all that they’ve been through together, this strange gaggle of the last Nabateans is the closest thing Byleth has to a family. 

“I have had a most wonderful idea,” she says, once the last cup is poured. 

Coatl and Horos are utterly enraptured and eagerly await for her to continue. Rhea simply smiles, and Seteth hides his own smile behind his teacup. Do they already know what she’s thought up? How rude that she would share with them first, though perhaps she wanted their opinions. 

“Well... Uncle Macuil, Uncle Indech, I know you’ve had trouble... with the humans. Making friends with them. I thought, to encourage friendship, we could plan a wedding!”

She claps her hands together and gives a wide grin. Coatl sneers and Horos just seems terribly confused.

“A wedding?” Horos mumbles. His eyes flicker across the table, for a moment Byleth wonders if they land on herself, but they return to Flayn. “Who... is getting married?”

“Dorothea and Petra!” Flayn lays her hands across the table, on top of Coatl’s. “Uncle, you used to officiate women’s weddings all the time, did you not?”

Coatl sighs, “I did. Before the humans betrayed our kin.”

Flayn gives his hands a squeeze. “Dorothea and Petra have fought by our side. Well, not that they were necessarily aware of who we were, but... Oh, Uncle, please! It would make them so happy!”

His eyebrows pinch together, and Byleth wonders if perhaps there are limits to even Flayn’s powers. “Surely there is someone much more suitable to officiate their wedding.”

She shakes her head. “Your alias is that of an acolyte of Macuil! Not to mention that you are Macuil himself. It would be such an honor for them!”

Byleth wonders if Dorothea and Petra even have much of a say in this matter. She does recall them becoming engaged, but only behind closed doors. Saving it until the war ended, until they were all safe and sound. Well, with the Agarthans gone, this is probably as safe and sound as they may be. Perhaps a wedding is what they need. It would be a royal wedding, too. They’ll have to plan accordingly. 

Poor Coatl didn’t even have the opportunity to try his tea before this was sprung on him. He simply sighs, tapping his fingers against the table, and sighs once more. “Alright. If they have no one else in mind that they would prefer, I will officiate the ceremony.”

Flayn claps happily. “It is settled then, I shall let them know in the morning--”

“What shall I do?” Horos says softly. 

Flayn’s smile drops, ever so slightly, into confusion. “Uncle? What do you mean?”

He picks at his fingernails. Byleth notices that Rhea’s and Seteth’s smiles have both vanished, and neither of them looks toward Horos now. “Macuil will officiate. I’m certain Seiros and Cichol will have their rolls as well. Even Ms. Byleth. I would like to contribute, if I may.”

Flayn scrambles for some sort of purchase. “Of course you may, Uncle, I simply had not thought--”

Byleth thinks back to their moment in the sauna. He’s been smithing, lately. Getting back into metalworking, forging, crafting. The joy that had sparked in his eyes as he had talked about that sica he’d made, as he described what he used to make. He said he used to make jewelry for their mother, didn’t he?

“You could make their wedding rings,” she says. “You used to make fine jewelry, right?”

He blushes as if surprised she’d remember it. The conversation was only a night or so ago. “Yes. It’s been many years. I would need some time to practice again. If they would even want me to make them.”

“I think that’s a lovely idea,” Rhea says. “We’ll make sure you have plenty of time, Indech. Planning a wedding takes time, after all.”

Seteth nods and offers his poor brother a smile. “I concur. It’s since been replaced, but you designed Seiros’s original headpiece, didn’t you?”

Horos chuckles at that, and that damned drumming returned once more to taunt Byleth. By now she has a sinking feeling on what it is, but there’s certainly no time at all for it. Not when they have a wedding to plan for, and not when Horos may not even stay after his promised one moon. 

“So it is settled then,” Flayn’s says, with her earlier enthusiasm returned. “They will be so excited! I cannot wait to tell them!”