Chapter 4 – Hecatomb Corpse
When Isabelle opens her eyes, all she sees around her is darkness alongside the creeping feel of cold air. There is not a single thing she can make out except for her own body. She can feel the ground under her feet but she doesn’t see what she is standing on.
She hears the inhalation of breath before the voice of a woman speaks through the void.
“You are stuck in the heart of Fraldarius and Blaiddyd: Aegis. You must be careful.”
“You are the Hecatomb Corpse. You carry with you the sacrifices of the dead.”
“Hecatomb corpse? What are you saying? Show yourself!”
“You must know your duty, Isabelle. You are the only way to end the Agarthans.”
Isabelle grips her head when she feels a sudden migraine, leaning forward at the pain. She sees a flash of red before her body jerks forward until she is bought face to face with another woman.
In her mind’s eyes, she sees blood and the form of a woman holding an axe.
“I am Edelgard von Hresvelg.” She states. Though she stands in front of Isabelle, her voice still surrounds the void as before.
“No this…” She stops, eyes wide as she begins recalling what all happened before she got here.
Her and Emilia had been planning to get breakfast together. Out of nowhere, a mage showed up demanding Isabelle to follow them. When she and Emilia tried to leave, all she saw was a flash off magic before Emilia fell to the ground and then Isabelle blacked out. She could not remember anything from that moment to now. Was this the moment her father had warned her about?
“You are not dead.”
Isabelle looks back at Edelgard, recalling some of the stories Felix had told her. A woman clad in red, leading an army down a path she believed was righteous. A bloody path to forage a future.
“There is no way that you should be alive. Father said he watched you die. That you—”
“I will say it again, you are what makes the Hecatomb Corpse and you are the heart of the Aegis shield. All those who have died in the name of Fraldarius and Blaiddyd rest upon your shoulders. All those whom your blood have killed, shall too become a part of your cursed tomb.”
“So you’re saying, because my father—because Dimitri took you down, I now carry your spirit within me?”
“The Agarthans have mastered something so powerful; it can bring immense harm to all life. Your birth was only just the beginning. They have been planning to make you the heartbeat of this corpse. Your crest holds the greatest shield in all humankind. Nothing can break through the barrier built by a Fraldarius. The added strength of the Blaiddyd blood provides you with the ability to fight back. You are the ultimate weapon.”
“This still doesn’t make sense. What are the Agarthans trying to do? Can't you tell me that much?”
“I may be with you in spirit; however I am still dead. I can do nothing more than be a voice. I am here when you call but my soul will die when you relinquish control.”
Suddenly, Edelgard’s voice became deaf to her ears. Images flash through her mind. Scenes that she should not be able to recall. The scenes that flash through her mind appear sporadic and unknown.
That is until they begin to align with the stories she has been told from Felix.
“The mages are retreating! So, they weren’t Imperial troops after all…”
“Stop yammering. We must advance, boar!”
The death of Edelgard, the end to the war. Flashes of her two fathers. Felix stands at Dimitri’s back with the Aegis shield as people surround them all around. Felix is always there. Her father had always protected him.
“Fine. I’ll help you…in my father’s stead. But in return you must win. You know that, don’t you Dimitri?”
“I do. And I swear on my father’s lance that we will prevail.”
“I’m not immune to emotion, you know. Far from it. I haven’t gone a day without questioning why my father and brother had to die, while I survived. I’ll bear this pain until the day I die, but I refuse to wallow in it.”
Rodrigue—her grandfather’s death. Isabelle can see him lying in Dimitri’s arms. Felix is standing at a distance. She can usually read his face but there’s nothing there. Nothing on her father’s face aside from withdrawal from everything around him. Nothing but the crushing sound of a heart being thrown away.
“We tracked the boar for five years. I thought he was dead. In the state he’s in, he might as well be.”
“I have been dead. More or less.”
What happened to Dimitri—
“The report… Dimitri is to be executed for the murder of his uncle, Rufus Blaiddyd.”
“Tell me that it is not true. He wouldn’t do something like that!”
“Felix. You need to calm down.”
“Calm down? That’s funny coming from the man who forgets he even has a blood son! Why aren’t you running to go find him?”
“Please stop. I don’t want to see anything anymore!” Isabelle screams to the void, hands over her ears. But it all keeps coming to her. Blood. Bodies. War. Insanity. Loneliness.
“Stop showing me this.” She gasps to no one.
“That was our first battle. I remember it vividly… I suppose the Dimitri I once knew died during that slaughter in Duscur along with my brother.”
An academy? Her father… Felix looks to be around her age at this time. Dimitri looks very different but somehow something is lurking there. What is it? No... she just saw it, didn’t she? She was seeing memories in reverse. These memories were too much to keep up with. She could hardly breathe now. How much pain did her fathers have to go through with each other. Were these really moments that happened?
“You’re not my Dimitri anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“You look… You’re scaring me.”
“Don’t touch me. Stay away from me you… you… just get rid of that look in your eyes!”
Suddenly, Rodrigue pops back up standing near Felix. They stand at a grave, with only two others with them.
“Glenn... He died like a true knight.”
Was she feeling anger? Why was she suddenly angry?
Before Isabelle could think further on that, the feeling of anger leaves her and the overwhelming feeling of warmth takes over instead. Suddenly she stands in the second village she remembers growing up in. Felix is there, combing and braiding her hair as her younger self babbles on about random things from her chair.
“Papa, does father not love me?” A young Isabelle suddenly asks. Felix has stopped combing her hair, a frown forming on his face as he moves to around to sit in front of her.
“Of course he does. Why would you think he doesn’t?”
“Because you said he wouldn’t come see us anymore. And that it would be dangerous for us.”
“I meant that it would be unsafe for all of us, including Dimitri. He would never harm you, Isabelle. Never. He loves you. I can promise you that much.”
“But… Why can’t he visit? Or know where we are?”
Felix looks to be piecing his words together carefully, like he wanted to avoid setting off a bomb, “Dimitri and I needed some time apart. That meant taking you with me.”
“So you don’t want to see him?”
“Not right now.” Isabelle can hear Felix’s voice crack a bit. Her younger self is oblivious to it.
“Does that mean you don’t love father anymore?”
Stunned by her question, Felix doesn’t speak for a moment. It takes hearing the little sniffles out of her to pull him out of whatever trance he fell into,
“There is not a day I have gone where I don’t think about Dimitri. I still care about him and love him.”
“It would hurt me to lose the both of you. I can’t lose anyone else.” Felix says. Before young Isabelle can say much else, Felix stands up to finish her hair. Isabelle can see the slight shake of his hands as he finishes her hair. Young Isabelle sits quietly, something of a thoughtful and worried look on her face.
“Done. Do you want to go outside while I prepare food?”
Felix smiles at her, but of course the little girl can’t see how broken it is, “Make sure you come back before it gets too dark.”
“Yes, Papa!” Isabelle giggles before jumping out of her seat and heading straight for the door, stopping to put her shoes on before leaving out.
Isabelle looks back to where Felix is now sitting in the chair her younger self had been in. His hands are over his face and his breathing seems to shudder. It takes Isabelle a moment to see the tears coming down Felix’s face as he just sits there silently.
“You’re crying. I’ve never seen you cry before.”
“What parent cries in front of their child? Mine sure didn’t.”
As soon as Isabelle shoots her hand out to reach for Felix, everything falls to blackness and Edelgard appears in front of her again. “What was… what was that?”
"As your crest reacts with the Aegis shield and your father’s blood. It will trigger his memories within your own. If you activate your Blaiddyd crest, you will inevitably see Dimitri’s memories as well."
“I knew there was a lot that my fathers went through but I hadn’t realized…”
Isabelle; Do not let those triggered memories take you down a path you do not belong.
“How can I stop this? Isn’t there a way to get out of here?” She ignores Edelgard’s words.
Not with the way you are acting. You will fall further into the darkness never to return.
“Why are you helping me? Why are you asking me to take down the Agarthans? What is the point in all of this?
“Do you not hear them?” Edelgard’s voice comes back even louder, as though she was ready to command an army,
“All of the people who love and care for you are out there fighting in order to get you back. They are risking their lives in the hopes to pull you out from the clutches of the Agarthans. You need to wake up. You are meant to live. You are meant to be here. To lead Fodlan, Isabelle.”
“I can’t possibly do that.” Isabelle looks up at Edelgard.
"It's unfortunate, but you have no choice in the matter."
Felix and Dimitri continue to try fighting off the mages. Isabelle had not moved and she was no longer aimlessly throwing spears of light. Though the Aegis shield’s glow was getting steadily brighter, the crests of Blaiddyd and Fraldarius beaming from it.
It was a struggle for them, knowing that they couldn’t do anything. Isabelle had to reach outside of herself first. The fate of her life, and theirs, was ultimately up to her.
“Felix, behind you!” Felix turned, his sword coming into contact with an axe aimed at his shoulder. He sees the gremory behind the attacker too late and ends up taking the blunt of a ragnarok spell.
She is still in the void. She can see nothing around her and Edelgard is long gone. How long would the Agarthans have her sealed like this?
“Felix!” She hears her father’s shouting and stands up in shock. Her instincts suddenly become filled with worry. Dimitri sounded shocked and fearful.
Something happened to Felix. She needs to wake up. She can’t let them die.
Isabelle tries to use some spells but with only the darkness around her, what can she hit? She cannot escape from this void this way. Her physical body is asleep and trapped inside the aegis heart of the hegemon.
“Panicking will only strengthen the heart of aegis. It will only continue to shield you away if the stones detect any fear from within.”
Isabelle jumps at the sudden voice. She looks around her for the source, but the darkness renders that effort pointless. The voice was too deep to be Edelgard’s. Could those mages have placed someone else’s heart within the shield as well?
“Who is it this time?”
“I would have preferred staying at rest however it is a great privilege to get to meet you.
This time, Isabelle doesn’t feel the strange pull she had with Edelgard. Instead, a tiny blue light appears in the darkness. It grows until it forms into the shape of a person.
Isabelle can practically feel every bone in her body freeze. Edelgard had been one thing but… The man stands in front of her now renders her completely speechless and immovable.
“I get the sense that you are aware of who I am.”
Isabelle releases somewhere between scoff and huff, “How could I not, it is quite easy to see. You look exactly like my father.”
“You shouldn’t tell Felix that. I don’t think he would agree.” Rodrigue says with a small smile, “Though you may need to keep this entire exchange to yourself.”
“Are you really…” She leaves the question hanging in the air.
“My remains were taken from my grave and used in the crest experiment for the tomb. However, I cannot say how the Agarthans were able to do so. I am certainly not alive, though my spirit has been revived through magic.”
“What are these experiments supposed to achieve? Desecrating graves? How much more are they going to do?”
“Their fate is all in your hands, Isabelle. You have enough power to wipe away the rest of the Agarthans. The first act to doing so however, is to get rid of any fear or hesitation. If you pick up a sword, you must be willing to swing it. Are you up to that?”
“What must I do?”
“You will need that sword.” Rodrigue points over to where a soft yellow light glows. Where it glows, the light swiftly changes into the form of a silver sword with a teal and gold hilt. Isabelle recognizes it instantly, moving towards it. She can feel Rodrigue following her closely.
“This sword looks exactly like the one Erza gave me. Father and I thought we lost it a long time ago.”
“Think of this sword as somewhat of a relic. Created specifically for those bearing a Blaiddyd or Fraldarius crest. With that, you can gather enough magic energy and use it to force through the Aegis heart.”
“Magic energy.” She frowns as she looks at Rodrigue, “I do not know how to use magic let alone channel the energy for it.”
“You will see it’s easier for you than you think. I will also help you by giving the rest of my energy.” Rodrigue says as he reaches for the hilt of the sword and holds it out to hand to Isabelle, “Do you remember what I said before? That you have to be willing to swing.”
Isabelle furrows her brows at him, “Are you about to ask me to swing at you with this?”
“Keep in mind I am no longer alive. My spirit would just transfer into the sword. As I said previously, think of this sword as a relic. But instead of bones, it is made of spirits instead.”
Rodrigue steps back, “Remember. Don’t hesitate.”
“I hope you know. Asking the granddaughter that you only just met to swing a sword at you is just about the craziest thing to ever be done.”
“Circumstances can create causes for many things, whether we think there is sense in it or not. --We shouldn’t continue wasting time. The longer we stand, the stronger the Aegis is soon to become.”
Isabelle nods, eyeing the sword in her hand before pointing it out toward Rodrigue, “I am… glad to have met you. But I wish it were way different.”
“I have the same thought.” Rodrigue replies. Isabelle lifts the sword just as Rodrigue begins to fade back into the blue light from before. As she swings into the light, it curls around the sword for a second before disappearing. After a few seconds, the sword glows a bit and Isabelle can feel the vibration of magic.
She looks at the blade of the sword, noticing the mark of Fraldarius engraving itself onto it.
The migraine she’s felt before suddenly comes back but this time not as painful. Through blurring vision, she can see something else engraving itself onto the sword before an array of images fill her mind.
She can see the faint image of a tall man with blond hair. If not for her seeing Rodrigue standing almost as tall near him, she would have thought it was Dimitri. Given the way the man dresses and styles his hair is indication enough that it’s not her father but Dimitri’s father instead.
“They say that when someone close to you dies, a part of you dies along with them. That you no longer feel whole.” Rodrigue says.
“Oh? Is this your way of saying you’d be crushed if I died, my friend?” Lambert answers back with a laugh.
“I wouldn’t be getting too flattered, Lambert.” Rodrigue throws a glance towards him, “You’d probably haunt me with your death. There’d always be a piece of you with me somehow.”
“You always have a funny way with words, Rodrigue. But I suppose your entire family is that way.”
The memory fades and Isabelle brings herself back to the present moment. She looks back to the sword and smiles as she sees the finished engraving of the Blaiddyd crest glowing just as intensely as the Fraldarius crest,
“Thank you to you both.”
She stands and holds the sword in front of her with closed eyes. With the sword vibrating with magic, Isabelle channels her own and quietly waits, putting her instincts first.
“Isabelle!” She hears two voices shout and turns in that direction. She sees the flicker of red and gold and without any hesitation, brings down her sword.
Felix had been able to recover from the unexpected magic, however it continued to leave him slightly disoriented and sensitive to any magic energy. They continue fighting off more and more Agarthans but there would always be a group to respawn. Every time they’d get even slightly closer to Isabelle, there would suddenly be more Agarthans.
When he hears Isabelle’s hecatomb form yell out again, he sees a sudden flicker in the ground and the magic pulses in his skin intensely. A weak spot.
Closing his eyes, Felix focuses his magic on syncing with energy around him. Within a second, he finds a point in the ground. The flicker continues as Felix closes his eyes and focuses his magic on finding the target. Within seconds finds the mark and jabs his sword right into the ground, casting a thoron spell. Just as he does so, Dimitri comes behind to grab his hand, placing his own energy in and making the spell stronger.
“Pull back!” They can hear Hapi in the distance. Suddenly a blast of energy blast upward at the hecatomb form, a startling scream in the air. Felix notices the Agarthans they’d been fighting were turning into ash and disappearing. Just as the Agarthans fall, the hecatomb falls down off its feet, the thorns breaking off and separating.
Felix and Dimitri watches with harbored breaths as the hecatomb corpse disappears into thin air. When Isabelle’s body becomes clear, both of them charge forward as she falls into the grass.
Dimitri gathers her into his arms, “Isabelle!”
Isabelle grunts, barely able to open her eyes all of the way, but she looks weakly between them, “Am I... out? Is this another…”
“You’re safe now, Isabelle.” Dimitri says, “It’s over. It's all over.”
Isabelle smiles weakly and closes her eyes. “…Everything is over. We can finally be happy."
A Tranquil Ending
Queen Celia Blaiddyd-Fraldarius of Fodlan took to the throne only five years after reclaiming her title as the Princess of Fodlan. Succeeding her father, Queen Celia went on to continue the peaceful rule her father had left for the nation.
Though Emilia Molinaro is appointed by the queen herself to be her advisor and representative Duke (Duke Molinaro of Duscur), the lands of Fraldarius remain under debate as Queen Celia waits to make a final decision on who she will give the land to.
Already under Queen Celia, relations with Duscur, Brigid, Sreng, and Almyra have strengthened greatly and trade routes have been highly successful for all countries.
Most notably, Queen Celia has found and approved an ethical way for couples unable to bear children to still have a child of their own blood. With the help of approved mages, Queen Celia aided in the production for the safe production of children. These tests took four years to successfully bring into production. Using such a method in a way to harm another person is deemed criminal.
“Queen Celia! It has been quite some time since you have come to the Fraldarius estate!”
“Oh come now, I don’t mind if you call me Isabelle. No need to be formal when you are close to my fathers. They are home aren’t they?” Isabelle asked.
“Of course! Should I call on them for you?”
“No thank you. I want to surprise them.” Isabelle says before giving the woman a farewell and making her way into the home.
“Big sister!” Isabelle sees a flash of black hair fly her way.
“Is that Amber-Egitte I hear?” Isabelle grins, pretending to look around, “I don’t see her though. I wonder where she is.”
“You’re mean!” Amber pulls at her dress as Isabelle looks down at her little sister with a laugh.
“Not my fault you’re a baby.”
“I’m five! I’m not a baby.” Amber pouts. Isabelle snorts as she ruffles Amber’s hair.
Isabelle looks up when she hears a pair of feet come in their direction, “Amber, I said you had to eat before playing—Isabelle?” Felix pauses in the hallway, blinking at her in surprise, “I didn’t know you were coming.”
“I wanted to surprise you and father.” Isabelle says as she picks up Amber, “Where’s Glen?”
“Sleeping, fortunately.” Felix sighs tiredly as he looks at Amber, “This one wants to play outside every second she gets the chance.”
Isabelle snorts, “You guys were the ones who wanted twins.”
“Isabelle, it’s rare to see you here. We usually have to come visit you instead.” Isabelle turns around to Dimitri, just walking into the door.
“Surprise?” She laughs as Dimitri pulls her into a tight hug.
“You’re staying long enough for dinner, I presume.” Dimitri says, “You should have a meal with your family. Especially since your little brother and sister don’t see you often.”
“Sure. That was already my plan when I got here.”
“Good. We have missed you.”