Interlude: Concealment

Jeritza groaned as he rose to his feet, awakened by the sound of shuffling leaves and cawing birds – a pair of falcons, by the sound of it. A dense forest felt like the best place to hide after a night of hunting. The mask that he donned when the Death Knight took over had been split into pieces, lying by his feet. He thought to discard his armor or his horse’s helmet, but anyone brave enough to venture into the uncharted caverns surrounding Abyss would find them and trace them back to him in due time.

After wrapping up the cape that he had used as a blanket, he considered his options. Sneaking back into Garreg Mach was out of the question. The Church of Seiros was his enemy, and had been ever since he snatched Flayn away as she returned from the market to buy food and writing supplies for herself and Seteth. Byleth, the wielder of the Sword of the Creator and one of the church’s most powerful soldiers, had granted him mercy – mercy he knew that the Knights of Seiros would not show if he so much as breathed in the direction of the monastery. Jeritza would not allow them to pass judgment on him. He only saw Byleth worthy of doing the deed.

Hiding out in Remire was also risky. Some of the villagers knew the Death Knight’s face, if not the man himself. The last thing he needed now was more blood on his hands, for he would be compelled to fight back if anyone attacked him.

He could venture further north into Faerghus – he was already on the southern end of the former Gaspard territory, if he recalled correctly – but given its close ties with the church, he feared he wouldn’t last long before someone there found him out.

Further east of Faerghus was Leicester, a land where few knew Jeritza’s name and fewer still knew of the Death Knight. If he were to go there, he planned to stay as far to the north as possible. The mighty Airmid River separated the Leicester Alliance to the north from the eastern Adrestian Empire to the south, and along the river’s south bank was the domain of House Hrym. Although he had taken up the name Jeritza von Hrym upon his adoption into the family after his bloody departure from House Bartels, he held very little affection for the place and did not intend to return home.

That only left him with the familiar confines of Enbarr. Adrestia’s capital city was large enough even for those who had lived there for decades to occasionally lose their way, and that also meant no shortage of hiding places for him or those who preferred to operate outside the law.

That would be where he would resume his hunt until it came time to cross blades with Byleth again.

After gathering his weapon and what little supplies he had, Jeritza mounted his horse and began riding. Magdred’s notoriously foggy skies were nowhere to be seen at this time of year, so he knew he had to move quickly. He estimated that he had made it halfway out of the forest when his journey was interrupted by a flash of black, white, and red light.

In an instant, a broad-shouldered figure in black armor appeared from the light to obstruct his path, slamming an ornate pavise shield into the ground in front of them. The shield had an elaborate flame pattern painted on it, and the mysterious guardian’s masked helmet bore a splash of reddish-orange paint, also in the shape of a flame.

Do not go any further, Jeritza von Hrym.

The figure, whom Jeritza recognized as the Flame Emperor, spoke flatly and stood still as a boulder. Just as he sounded when he spoke through the mask of the Death Knight, the Flame Emperor’s voice sounded like three people speaking at once.

“What do you want?” asked Jeritza. “Have you come to kill me?”

Your identity has been compromised,” said the Flame Emperor. “The professor knows who you are behind the mask, and it is possible that the archbishop also knows by now.

“Then…the mission is a failure?”

Not a failure…but a setback that we can overcome.” The Flame Emperor relaxed their shield stance, still maintaining their position on the road Jeritza had been using as his escape route. “Perhaps the error was mine for leaving you in his company. If I had known what he was planning in Remire, I would not have agreed to it. But what is done is done. A mask that has been broken is not easily replaced.

Jeritza waited for a moment to see what the Flame Emperor would do next, only speaking up again when it was apparent they were not going to go anywhere. “There is one other thing…”

Go on.

“What should we do about the girl who escaped from their clutches?”

You must speak of the scion of the Ochs household. Few have tried to escape from them and lived to tell the tale, much less thrive in their old environment. You were fortunate to have discovered the girl before they could enact whatever plans they had for her. At present, she is not a threat to us, but we must ensure that neither she nor the professor gets too close to the church.

A memory flashed in Jeritza’s head – a memory of him standing over the corpse of a dark mage and the body of a familiar-looking girl with red hair, the latter lying face-down in the dirt with blood splashed on whatever rags her abductors saw fit to put on her. She was alive, but barely so. The mage had been pursuing her for some time until he met a well-deserved death at the end of the Scythe of Sariel, an exotic weapon made of the same rare metals used to create Jeritza’s Death Knight armor. If she remained where she was, more mages would come after her…and him for using a weapon of their design against them. He held no real affinity for the girl – Monica, the other students called her – but he had already made up his mind not to allow the dark mages to do with her what they did with Flayn, even if it meant he and Monica would cross blades long after she had made a full recovery.

“I tire of this boring charade,” said Jeritza. “How much longer must we allow those flies to circle around us?”

I am aware of your concerns,” the Flame Emperor replied, “but we must not act hastily. We do not have the strength to dispose of them now. Our long-term objective is to dismantle the foundation the church has built for Fódlan. And for that, we require support, regardless of its source.

“I do not care about the fate of the church. I am only interested in fighting strong opponents.”

You will find plenty of strong warriors in the church’s ranks. I will rely on your talents again when that time comes.


The Flame Emperor stepped aside to allow Jeritza to pass. His armor normally gave him the ability to warp short distances to catch his enemies by surprise, but without his helmet intact, he didn’t know how reliable it would be. A few moments after he rode out of the forest, a mage in a black and red cloak teleported in, landing a few feet from the trail of hoof prints left behind by Jeritza’s horse.

“I got some news for ya,” he said.

This news had better be worthwhile,” the Flame Emperor warned.

The mage steeled his nerves and smiled, even though he could not tell if the Flame Emperor would smile back at him. “Oh, I think you’ll like this quite a lot. Our—that is to say, your—men succeeded in their little ‘scavenger hunt’ in Ailell. We lost a few soldiers when those academy brats came calling, but we managed to scare ‘em off long enough to pick up some scrap from the site for analysis.”

And what did your analysis uncover?

The mage pulled out several pieces of dark metal from his pocket, most of them heavily corroded and damaged by heat and the ravages of time. “It turns out that these are bits and pieces of some old weapon. A really old one.”

Those must be the remnants of the so-called ‘javelins of light’ that scoured the once-vibrant Ailell Forest. The goddess’ punishment for the hubris of mankind.

“Well, whatever they are, they sure as hell don’t look like magic,” said the mage, peering up and down at the Flame Emperor as he held one of the fragments up to eye level. “In fact, this piece kinda reminds me of some of the stuff from your armor, boss.”

Very intriguing. To think that a weapon not forged by the goddess is capable of devastation on such a scale…

“Do you think we could copy something like this? If we had a weapon on that level in our hands, no one in Faerghus, Leicester, Adrestia, or the church would ever dare mess with us!”

The Flame Emperor held out their free hand, hoping to calm down their eager disciple. “That will not be necessary,” they said. “Such unfocused destruction lies well beyond the scope of our mission. However, I will allow you to continue studying the fragments you and your soldiers have collected for now, but you must not let our enemies know that we know of their methods.

“Enemies? But I thought—”

That is not your concern.

The mage quickly fell silent and curled up the fist that held the scrap metal he recovered from the Valley of Torment. He struggled to swallow a lump in his throat, fearing that anything else he said would result in his corpse being the next one to be found on the road.

If there is nothing further to discuss, then you are dismissed.

The mage sighed in resignation and teleported out of the forest just as quickly as he appeared. With no one else around to receive orders, the Flame Emperor surveyed the area to ensure no spies or assassins were around to catch them off-guard.

The blood of a child of the goddess… Mutated villagers and demonic beasts ravaging villages… Just what are you playing at, Solon?

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