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The Emperor and the Goddess

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One beautiful summer morning, Edelgard von Hresvelg, princess of the Adrestian Empire, was awoken by a visitor to her chambers in Enbarr. As her vision came into focus, she was greeted by the sight of Volkhard von Arundel, a typical warm smile stretched across his kind face. The princess hopped up excitedly, tiredness forgotten, ready to greet her beloved uncle.

“Lord Arundel-” she began, but he interrupted with feigned offense.

“How often have I told you, my dear-please call me Uncle Volkhard.” El beamed up at him, palpable adoration on her face. This was far from the first time this comfortable ritual had played out between the two of them, and it would not be the last.

“Why are you here, Uncle?” she questioned eagerly. He sat down next to her on the plush bed, pushing her extensive collection of stuffed animals-many gifts from him-aside.

“Would seeing my favorite niece not be reason enough?” he grinned, pulling the young girl in for a warm hug. Though Uncle Volkhard was often busy with his many political responsibilities, he always made time when in Enbarr to spend a free day with his niece. El could count on being spoiled by him, a fact that her siblings were immensely jealous of.

“I have a special place for us to visit today,” he said as he held her hand. “I’ve talked to your father about this, and he agrees that my idea would be a fine outing for the two of us.” He smirked. “Especially since I heard it will be someone’s birthday next month...”

El began to chatter excitedly. “I know! And Father is having a party! There will be a dance and I love dancing so, so, m-”

“Well,” he raised his hand up, momentarily stopping the torrent of details rushing from her lips. “If you get ready, we will head out very soon.” That was all the encouragement needed, and she sprang out of the bed, hugging her uncle one last time for good measure.

 


 

As the carriage clacked over the ancient cobblestones of Enbarr, El attempted to wheedle more information out of Uncle Volkhard. Every possible tactic in her arsenal was used, until El decided to simply pester him into revealing the truth. "Are we going to the marketplace? Or the opera? Or-“

He raised his hand in mock solemnness. “I am sworn to secrecy, my dear.”

She looked at him sadly, with eyes downcast and shoulders slumped, knowing that this always caused him to break. “Are you giving me the look?” he said with great amusement. The princess nodded and began to giggle, lilac eyes sparkling.

He sighed and leaned toward her-as always, making El feel she was the most important person in the world. “Well, I have heard you have been asking many questions about your Crest and about the Goddess after weekly services.”

She nodded with excitement. Though El did not completely understand what it meant, her father had told her that she possessed a Crest of Seiros, a blessing from the Goddess of Fódlan.

Many of her other siblings, like Agnes and Otto, did not have a Crest, and knowing that the Goddess blessed her, especially, gave the young royal a funny, warm feeling in her chest whenever she thought about it. She was very grateful to the Goddess, wherever or whoever She was, and the princess always made sure to sing as loudly as she could at services to thank Her for this gift.

Uncle Volkhard gave Edelgard a paternal smile. “I am taking you to the Church of Saint Seiros in Enbarr, where you can see and learn more about both the Goddess, and how much She cares for you.” The noble clasped his young charge’s hand firmly, dispelling any lingering concerns in the young girl’s mind. “And perhaps afterwards,” he slyly declared. “We can stop at that confection shop you are so very fond of.” The promise of sweets was all it took for El to unleash a torrent of gratitude on her uncle. He laughed as he rustled her chestnut-brown hair. “Seeing the smile on your face is all the thanks I require, El.”

When El stepped out of the carriage, her uncle was conversing with an amiable-looking older woman in snow-white ceremonial robes. The woman, sensing the child’s nervousness, smiled reassuringly. Though she was of advanced age, her playful eyes belied this initial impression. She was old, but she was not old. She bent a knee to the princess and smiled serenely. “It is an honor whenever a descendent of Wilhelm blesses our cathedral.”

As the priestess lowered her head, El looked up in wonderment at the ancient towers that extended into the sky-blue heavens themselves. The stained glass shimmered in the gleaming afternoon sun, and El knew she had never seen anything so beautiful in her entire life. Finally, she managed to force words out of her awe-struck lips. “Is this where the Goddess lives?”

The two adults softly laughed at this comment, though El was unsure why. Uncle Volkhard turned to the woman, “I was hoping you could show her some of the paintings and artifacts. She loves history and so-“ He gestured significantly.

The older woman nodded, and bowed with clear respect. “For the man who has been so generous with his tithes and support, it is the very least I can do!” She turned to El again, and extended her hand. The princess took it, and it was warm and soft.

“Come with me, my lady.”

 


 

The day passed like a dream, as the princess gazed upon beautiful frescos and listened to choirs practicing hymns that made her heart swell. She was enraptured by sculptures of the namesake of her Crest, Seiros, a figure both terrifying and beautiful.

El learned so much. How the Goddess had blessed the people of the world with the gift of Crests, power that allowed for the strong to protect the weak. How wicked men abused the Goddess’ gift, and began to wage war, blighting the land. And how one of the Goddess’ children and the Emperor of Adrestia united to liberate the land of Fódlan from strife and create a world where all could be free.

It was the best story the young girl had ever heard. She could not wait to tell Hubert.

“And you,” the priestess turned at the end of their journey. “Have been gifted a Crest from the Goddess herself, a living mark of the bond between the Adrestian Empire and the Church of Seiros.” El did not know what to say in response. The priestess smiled for a moment before continuing, eyes filled with fervor. “My child, remember this.”

She leaned down and placed both her arms on the girl’s shoulders. “Always remember the teachings of the Church of Seiros-the Goddess loves and protects all that is beautiful in this world.” The princess nodded politely, not fully understanding.

The guide explained further, intuitively sensing her guest’s confusion. “My dear, if you ever need anything, just pray to the Goddess, and she will be there with you. She will not ignore a child of the family that defended her so long ago.”

El gave the priestess the most determined look a seven-year-old face could muster. “I promise. I’ll pray to the Goddess every night!”

The older woman looked on her charge with visible fondness and bowed her head. “That is all I, or the Goddess, ask of you, my lady.”

As El exited the cathedral, her uncle was there, waiting. “Did you have a fine time?” he said, eyes twinkling.

“Oh yes! I learned that the Goddess loves me and gave me a gift, and She’ll always be my friend,” El exclaimed breathlessly. “And I’m going to talk to Her every day!” she concluded, aflame with the passion of a true believer.

Volkhard smiled and nodded. “I am sure you will, my dear. If I know anything about my little El, it’s that once she sets her mind on something, she always follows through.” He took her hand and led her toward the waiting carriage. El looked back briefly, stealing one last look at the gleaming spires where her friend, the Goddess, lived.

And El kept the promise she made, even as she was taken from her home in Enbarr, far from her father, Hubert, and her siblings. Every night, she sat in her bed in a cold and strange place and thanked the Goddess for the blessings she had been given-her uncle, her family, and her new friend Dimitri, who was kind and nice, even if he was clumsy and didn’t know how to dance or drink tea properly.

Although the princess was lonely sometimes, telling the Goddess about her day always made her feel less alone. El knew that the Goddess was always there, listening and protecting her, no matter what happened.

She always would be.