Hours into their night on the town, Nanamo and Momolk approached the doors of the Quicksand, their bellies full of an assortment of desserts, pastries and finger-foods that would have put the Bismarck's finest to shame; out of the corner of her eye, Momolk could see Papashan chatting casually with several on-duty Sultansworn - far enough away that once might easily forget his presence, if they wanted to.

"D'we want t'be goin' here at this hour?" Momolk asked, tapping Nanamo on the shoulder. "I means - aye, I ken you'll want Momodi's finest baked goods at the moment, but…" She trailed off as a small crowd of rowdy adventurers scrambled out of the tavern's main doors, screaming as one of the Quicksand's lalafellin waitresses laid into the group with a heavy baking pan.

"Damn you all, get! And when you do return - Miss Momodi expects payment for the cups you've broken, you gutter-sucking shites, or next time it'll be a knife, not a pan, you hear?" the waitress screeched, spitting at the fleeing group before storming back inside.

Momolk looked at the adventurers - who were now roaring with laughter as they took off to their next destination - and back at Nanamo, who shrugged vaguely.

"Rowdy and loud, perhaps, but at the very least I can rely on the capable staff who serve Miss Momodi to keep the atmosphere at a level of safe, regulated chaos," Nanamo snorted. "Come now - if there was a single place within this city which would seat anyone once, this would be it. I will not be turned away by the threat of raucous cheer and some drunken merrymakers."

Noticing that Nanamo was beginning to walk towards the Quicksand's side entryway, Papashan promptly scurried over to join the two, a wide grin plastered across his face. "Ahh, Lady Lilira - to brave the depths of the Quicksand after midnight's passing - that, milady, requires fortitude."

"Enough, steward," Nanamo replied, smirking. "I did not ask for your opinion."

"Ah, but of course, Lady Lilira. Now then - if the Lady Molkoh wishes to partake in the Quicksand, I bid you follow me," Papashan said in a royally-affected tone as he opened the door to the tavern. The moment the doors were slightly pushed inwards, the low roar of chatter, cheering and music which could be heard from outside exploded into a wave of noise; the Quicksand was packed with customers of every sort, and while it was hardly packed to bursting there was certainly no shortage of crowds - indeed, the central bar was nearly impossible to see behind the throng of customers crowding around it. Papashan escorted both Momolk and Nanamo towards a small table in the very far corner of the bar upon which several dish-bins were stacked; a redheaded hyuran waitresses who was filling tankards from behind the main bartop near said table caught sight of Papashan, winked, and proceeded to yell something towards the kitchens. Moments later, another waitress promptly cleared the table, wiped it down, and fetched three chairs from behind the counter, leaving it clear and available.

"Not the quietest seat in Ul'dah," Papashan noted as they sat down, "but not quite as loud as the rest of the tavern, in any case. Is it not wonderful, Lady Molkoh, to have a place where you are a regular? Where," -Papashan paused as the redheaded waitress returned with a tankard of beer and a bowl of fried crickets- "you might find a kindly woman like Miss Ingvill here, who always has a man's favourite drink and snack at the ready?"

"Yer a flatterer, old man," Ingvill laughed, "and yer still paying for the foods. Big stationmaster like yourself, maybe you can be buyin' the staff a round this fine night, eh?"

"Oh, absolutely not - my coinpurse seems a tad empty this time. But I suppose I can be pressured-"

"-ah, do not worry about Ser Stationmaster," Nanamo interjected with a wave of her hand. "I will have the usual - double, as this order will cover both myself and my friend here - and do say hello for me to the fine folk in the back, Miss Ingvill."

"'Course, Lady Lilira," Ingvill replied, curtseying ever-so-slightly. "And you - aren't you the dragon-lady's sister?" she added, grinning at Momolk.

"Aye, though she won't be likin' that nickname," Momolk replied with a raised eyebrow. "I know she'll be comin' here plenty - she talks 'bout me?"

"Yup. Don't you mind the dragon-talk - she likes it, from the right folk. And she'll talk plenty - big genius of a sister, makes big money, sells fine soap, got burned by the moon and just got right back up. Thinks the world of ya, Baatsy does."

"Baats - pfft," Momolk sniggered. "Now there's a name she'll be lovin' when I pulls it out later."

Invgill shrugged and grinned. "Well - piss her off, I'll be hearin' about it sooner than you might think. Be back with yer vittles - just a moment."

True to her word, Invgill reappeared in under a minute with a tray of pastries and two steaming mugs of tea; for some time, the trio simply ate their snacks and chatted about matters casual.

"As you can see," Nanamo eventually noted with a wave of her finger, "Ser Stationmaster here is well known to the waitstaff at the Quicksand; there was no cause to worry, for of all the tavern's customers it is he who is most beloved." She leaned forward conspiratorially, grinning as Papashan grumbled something under this breath and stuffed a handful of fried crickets into his mouth. "Indeed, it is said that in days past, a certain member of the Sultansworn would come here with his assistants on a daily basis, rather than grace the presence of the palace canteen. For a while, I am told, such actions were the source of a great many whispers about the man's uncouth nature."

"Well, Miss Momodi don't seem t'be no stranger t'uncouth natures," Momolk replied, sniggering. "Y'knows my stories - an' I'll jus' be one person, too. Can't always-"

"-OI, THAT'S THE LAST OF MY SONGS," a woman shouted in a thick Gridanian accent - loud enough to silence, or at least quiet the crowds hanging around the bar. "Break my head open, I'm out! Nothing's left in my repertoire - requests it is, and gil's the way to my heart!" The roar of requests - mostly, if not entirely for rowdy drinking songs of Ul'dah'n and Lominsan origin - eventually stopped moments later when the Gridanian woman - a tall, brown-haired miqo'te clad in a leather coat and worn trousers, Momolk saw as the woman leapt atop her stool, lute in hand. "Sixty gil! SIXTY GIL! Once, twice, DONE! From her dragonship - OI, SHUT IT, who knows the roll-chariot song? Lominsans? Sailors?" A wave of hands accompanied by cheers rang out, and the woman stamped a beat into her stool as she grinned. "COME ON, THEN! ROLL THE TWELVE-DAMNED CHARIOT!"

Momolk's expression went blank for a moment as she realized the reference-

-and she, too, leapt atop her seat, grinning madly at Nanamo and Papashan's bewildered expressions.

Oh, we'd be alright if the wind was in our sails
We'd be alright if the wind was in our sails
We'd be alright if the wind was in our sails
And we'll all hang on behind!

Oh, a drop of Merlwyb's blood wouldn't do us any harm,
Oh, a drop of Merlwyb's blood wouldn't do us any harm,
Oh, a drop of Merlwyb's blood wouldn't do us any harm,
An' we'll all hang on behind!

So we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
An' we'll roll the golden chariot along!
So we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
An' we'll all hang on behind!

Oh, a fine Garlean prize wouldn't do us any harm,
Oh, a fine Garlean prize wouldn't do us any harm,
Oh, a fine Garlean prize wouldn't do us any harm,
An' we'll all hang on behind!

Oh, a a few dead fishbacks wouldn't do us any harm,
Oh, a a few dead fishbacks wouldn't do us any harm,
Oh, a a few dead fishbacks wouldn't do us any harm,
An' we'll all hang on behind!

So we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
An' we'll roll the golden chariot along!
So we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
An' we'll all hang on behind!

"WELL THIS ISN'T LIMSA, YOU IDIOTS," the woman shouted, still keeping the tune going. "ONE MORE FOR THE SULTANA AND ANOTHER FOR GIVIN' THE SYNDICATE THE BOOT!" Another roar of approval rang out from the crowd - and as Momolk joined the song in earnest, so too did nearly the entire tavern - as Nanamo looked on, a mix of trepidation, horror and anticipation flashed in her eyes.

Oh, a drop of Nanamo's blood wouldn't do us any harm,
Oh, a drop of Nanamo's blood wouldn't do us any harm,
Oh, a drop of Nanamo's blood wouldn't do us any harm,
An' we'll all hang on behind!

Oh, a foot in 'rito's arse wouldn't do us any harm
Oh, a foot in 'rito's arse wouldn't do us any harm
Oh, a foot in 'rito's arse wouldn't do us any harm
An' we'll all hang on behind!

So we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
An' we'll roll the golden chariot along!
So we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
An' we'll all hang on behind!

As the song ended, someone from the crowd hurled a bulging coinpurse towards the bard, who was readying to catch it as she talked to someone closer to her; it was mere moments from sailing into outstretched hand when two people leapt into the air at the same time in an attempt to catch it. Neither did; rather, the two people hit each other, sending the coinpurse slamming into the bard's head as the two plummeted into the ground, each other, their stools and those around them.

"BRADDY, YOU BIG CUNT, THE FUCK WERE THAT FOR?" screeched an all-too-familiar voice; Momolk's cheer instantly vanished and she scrambled off her chair, ready to leap into the fray, stopped only as Papashan grabbed onto her sleeve.

"Let go, that'll be my twelve-forsaken sister - she'll be pullin' a knife any moment now," Momolk hissed, swatting at Papashan's arm.

"WELL I WAS BEING HELPFUL, BAATS, NOT MY FAULT YE CAN'T JUMP FER SHITE," a man shouted back; there was a moment of silence even as Momolk desperately pushed her way through the crowds in an attempt to stop the fight that would no doubt be starting at any moment-

-and she stopped as she managed to breach the crowd of adventurers.

The man Baatar had slammed into - a taller, muscled hyuran man dressed in ripped trousers and a sleeveless coat that looked as if it had seen better centuries - extended a hand, helping Baatar to her feet; both had fairly large bruises on their faces from where they'd fallen, and the two grinned at one another.

"How's I t'be jumpin' proper-like when y'hasn't showed me yet?" Baatar shouted, grinning wildly; "Braddy" punched her lightly in the shoulder before dramatically raising his hands to the ceiling.

"Our drinks! You've gone an' spilled them! Now how's the plan for us t'be seein' who can be drinkin' Momodi's finest grains?"

"Nobody is laying a single finger on my private stash," Momodi shouted, leaning over the bartop with an exasperated look on her face while she prodded at the bard in an attempt to get her off the stool. "Nobody! The two've you still haven't paid for the madness that ensued the last time you convinced me to break open that crate! Twelve take you, Bradley, you haven't even paid your tab from yesterday!"

"Aww, c'mon - Mihkih," Bradley shouted, clapping the bard - who was rubbing her face as she picked up the coinpurse from the floor - on the back, "help a man out, will you? I'm bereft of coin, and I see you've made yourself a fine profit-"

"-sod off, Braddy, I was considering it 'til you managed to smash my face in with gil, of all things - Serene? If you'd please," Mihkih groaned, turning to a bemused ponytailed Roegadyn woman at her side, "I'd like a round of curatives for myself - and withheld for these two fools, if you please."

Serene Thunder leveled a deadpan stare until the bard squirmed. "It does not," she said steadily, "please me in the slightest. One day -one day, Nald and Thal preserve my sanity! - I will only have to heal the life-threatening injuries you imbeciles sustain while fighting diremites and bandits, instead of - oh, just get over here, Mihkih."

"Aww, come on, then, Serene, yer just gonna leave Braddy'n'meself t'sit here all sore-like?" Baatar grumbled.

"Yes, actually," Serene replied flatly as she began healing Mihkih. "That is precisely my plan. Simply be glad that Lyngdorn is otherwise occupied tonight; I am sure he would have been more than happy to beat you - both of you - senseless for your idiocy."

"Piss," Bradely snorted, rubbing at the massive bruise around his eyes. "Baatar - you've more gil, right?"

"Aye, I does," Baatar replied. "More'n'uff fer drinks, drinks, a potion 'twixt the two've's, and more drink. Momodi! Get th'stick outta y'arse-"

"-if you think that insulting me is going to get you in my good graces-"

"-Twelve take me - Baatarsaikhan, get over here," Momolk snapped, darting into the centre of the crowd.

"Wha - Momolk? Oi, OI, look, this'll be m'sister!" Baatar exclaimed, attempting to lift Momolk up with shaky hands; Momolk kicked her in the shins, and sighed, rubbing her forehead. "Fuck! What'll that be for?"

"Yer makin' me look bad in front've company," Momolk hissed, jerking on Baatar's pant leg - a sign for Baatar to kneel down so that Momolk could whisper in her ear. "Lilira's here!"

"Who?" Baatar muttered, scratching her head. "Oh. OH! Shite, the Sul-"

"-Twelve, really? Keep yer mouth shut - apologies, friends, I'll be stealin' me shitepot've a sister fer a moment," Momolk said, rolling her eyes.

"Ah, come back when you're ready to drink with us, not punch holes in my lovely face," Bradley laughed, returning to his group.

Nanamo and Papashan watched, both amused and confused in equal measure, as Momolk dragged Baatar by the pants to their seat; Baatar looked at the two seated lalafell, grinned sheepishly and bowed slightly.

"Ehe, uh, pleased t'be makin' yer aquan-tin-ces, Lady Lilira an' - well I doesn't know you yet, Ser…"

"My name is unimportant - I am a mere master of the rails beyond town," Papashan replied, chuckling.

"Well I can't jus' be callin' you 'Ser Minecart," can I?" Baatar asked; Papashan laughed, and shrugged.

"It is a good as name as any," Papashan replied with a smirk. "I quite like the sound of it, to be honest!"

"So you are the, ah, infamous Baatarsaikhan of Kha," Lilira said, smiling serenely. "It is good to finally have a face to put to the name, after all this time. Your sister speaks at length of you - and, though you may doubt it, most of her tales speak well to your character."

"Uh...m'apologies, milady, but I can't really be believin' that," Baatar snorted.

"It is the truth," Nanamo replied, gazing up at Baatarsaikhan; the auri woman averted her eyes as her tail tapped her leg unsteadily. "I have no cause to lie to you, Baatarsaikhan. Your...carousing aside, Momolk has mostly kind words for your bravery and tenacity."

"Well I'spose I should be thankful," Baatar replied, meeting Nanamo's eyes briefly before turning to Momolk. "But...uh...right. Actually now that I thinks it, I were waitin' here t'be seein' if you were fine? Uh…" She paused, sparing a glance at Papashan.

"-it is alright, Baatarsaikhan. Ser - ahem - Minecart," Nanamo continued, failing to keep her composure, "is in my trust. And yes - your sister did indeed come to see me. We discussed matters - whether she wishes to disclose them to you is up to her, naturally - and, well, I should feel that Momolk can best explain her feelings."

"Prolly shouldn't be doin' the thing here, then," Baatar sighed. "I can be waitin' for y'outside?"

"It is quite alright, Baatarsaikhan - it is far, far, far past the time when I should be asleep, resting for the coming sun's work, and in any case I doubt I could eat a single pastry more. Momolk - think well of my words, and know that I will always be available if you have need of me," Nanamo explained as she and Papashan stood up.

Together, the group of four walked out into the cool evening breeze, stopping not far from Ul'dah's aetheryte plaza; Papashan and Nanamo both turned to face Baatar and Momolk.

"Thank you for coming to me in your time of need, Momolk - perhaps it sounds odd to you, but for you to speak with me, to voice your concerns to me - it means a great deal," Nanamo said in a tone that Momolk couldn't quite place.

"And thank you for allowing me to accompany the two of you on your...night on the town," Papashan added, smiling. "If that is all - we will be going. Perhaps we shall see you again soon, if the Twelve smile upon us."

With that, the two set off at a brisk pace towards a nearby side street, disappearing from view; Baatar and Momolk returned to the benches outside the Quicksand, seating themselves in silent contemplation for a moment.

"Y'know, y'don't has t'be sayin' anythin'," Baatar muttered. "I, uh, I don't quite ken why you were mad 'bout Xomni, but, well…" She trailed off, gesturing vaguely towards nothing in particular. "I can be tryin' t'understand."

"It weren't nothin' so complicated, sister. Promise. I don't - it weren't like I didn't ask you 'cause I don't think y'can b'understandin' the thing," Momolk explained, patting Baatar's leg.


"Aye. Promise. I were just...upset, real upset, an' I thinks we deal with anger real different-like," Momolk continued. "So I didn't want t'be askin' ye, 'cause I know y'might not be agreein' with me right away, and, well, when I left I weren't lookin' for people t'be talkin' to - I were lookin' for people t'be agreein' wi' me. I think. Kanna - I mean, she'll be close t'family now that we've fought together, aye, but - well, it won't be my place t'be draggin' her into things."

"So y'went t'see the Sultana," Baatar added, nodding slowly. "Dunno how you can be talkin' t'her and not pissin yersel, but that'll be me, I 'spose. An' - if y'don't mind - what'll she say t'you?"

Momolk smiled. "Well-"



Nanamo ul Namo, seventeenth in the Ul Line and the Sultana of Ul'dah, leaned back in her throne as the evening's last petitioner left the audience chambers with the viziers of the Commerce and Engineering in tow, leaving her alone with only Raubahn Aldynn, her loyal Flame General, and a mountain of papers to sign.

"Well, your Majesty - that is the last of your evening's work," Raubahn sighed, towering over her and her throne as he stood at his full Highlander hyuran height. "If it pleases you, I would escort you - and these papers - to your study before retiring this evening."

"That suits me well, Raubahn," Nanamo agreed, rubbing at her eyes. "Let us rid ourselves of this place, then." With practiced ease, Raubahn knelt and scooped the lalafellin Sultana up onto his shoulder, waiting for her to secure herself before he stood up once more, taking the various contracts and documents which littered the main conference table with him as he left the room. Pausing a moment at the exit to the waiting room for petitioners, he glanced over at Nanamo, who was visibly re-composing herself.

"One last show to put on," Raubahn chuckled.

"A pity," Nanamo said, sighing. "I would think it lovely - just once - to screech at those still sitting to leave me be for the evening."

Raubahn snorted. "As much as I would give to see that, I would recommend against such an...amusing course of action, your Majesty."

"Oh, permit me the momentary delight of my imagination at work," Nanamo scoffed. "I would sooner eat out of a chamberpot than allow the Syndicate such ammunition to work with. I am ready - open the door, if you will."

Raubahn nodded and did as he was told, throwing the doors to the lobby open and marching out; a handful of would-be petitioners and merchantmen were seated in the lobby, and they all got to their feet to bow - including, Nanamo realized with invisible concern, Momolk Molkoh - who, in spite of the placid smile she was bearing, was very clearly making an effort to maintain her composure, which was concerning for a variety of reasons.

"The Sultana will address those present," Raubahn boomed.

"My good sirs and madams, I will no longer be taking petitioners. Please return tomorrow, and I shall gladly meet with you. Thank you, and good evening," Nanamo said, locking eyes with Momolk for the briefest of moments. "Come now, Raubahn - I would be brought to my study."

"Of course, your Majesty."

Once they'd left the petitioner's room and were firmly in the Sultana's own territory - her private wing of the palace - Nanamo pat Raubahn on the shoulder and motioned for him to stop.

"That was the Molkoh woman, was it not?" Raubahn asked, his voice low as he kept watch for any would-be eavesdroppers.

"Indeed. A friend to the Royalists, and a friend to me - so to see her here, at this time of the evening with something causing her distress - I find myself worried," Nanamo muttered. "Once I am in my study, send for Papashan at once - I would prefer this matter remain discreet."

"I understand - Miss Molkoh will remain unseen until she is at your doorstep. You have my word," Raubahn answered, resuming his march towards Nanamo's quarters. "I presume I'll find him in the servants' quarters?"

"I would think so. How many people an ex-Sultansworn fools with his play at being a mere servant, I do not know," Nanamo said, chuckling, "but I appreciate his attempts at subterfuge, in any case."

Raubahn shrugged - though only slightly, as to avoid jostling Nanamo. "I think you might find surprise at how few people recognize him these days, your Majesty - and, even if he were known by many, I would prefer to entrust your safety to a capable man such as himself during your plentiful, 'unsupervised' excursions into the city and beyond."

"I know nothing of what you speak of, Flame General," Nanamo replied flatly. "The Sultana would not stoop to anything so vulgar."

"Of course, your Majesty. My apologies for insinuating otherwise," Raubahn replied, laughing all the while. In short order he'd arrived at Nanamo's quarters, and waited for Nanamo to remove a set of keys from her robes before unlocking the door and carrying her into the massive, opulent room beyond; he deposited her on the ground, left the stack of papers on the study's central desk, and bowed slightly. "I presume you'd prefer to be left alone until further notice?"

"Indeed, Raubahn," Nanamo affirmed, setting her crown on a small pedestal next to the main desk and marching out of view into her bedroom. "I will call for my handmaidens if I require their assistance - for now, I desire privacy. Few are those amongst my handmaidens whose presence I would tolerate when Miss Molkoh makes her entrance - and I am certain that in particular Misses Itu and Camair would appreciate some time to rest." She re-emerged a few moments later, dressed in a simpler, comfier set of robes - though Raubahn thought even these to be far from anything that could be considered 'casual' - and smiled brightly. "That will be all for the evening, Raubahn. I shall see you tomorrow."

Raubahn bowed slightly, smiling all the while. "Of course, your Majesty. I'll send for Papashan, and take my leave. Good evening."

Nanamo watched him go, sighed, and climbed into her seat at the study's main desk; within minutes she was well into her pile of documents, reading and signing them at a furious pace. Even so, when there was another knock at the door - three quick taps, followed by five harder raps - a sizeable stack of papers remained, and she pushed them aside with a weary sigh. "Come in," she shouted.

The door swung open to reveal two lalafell - Momolk, and and a man carrying a corked jug whose white hair and spectacles well disguised his true age. The man nodded and grinned at Nanamo, ushering Momolk into the room and closing the door behind them as they entered; he set the jug down on the study's small dining table and stepped back towards the door. "Your Majesty," the man said in a smooth, deep voice, "your friend here arrived unseen and unheard. I shall make myself comfortable somewhere unseen - when you wish to leave, Lady Molkoh, you need but ask. Her Majesty will know how to contact me."

"Of course. Thank you," Nanamo replied, a warm smile on her face. "As usual, your service and person are greatly appreciated."

"I know, miss," the man said with a smirk. "I could say the same - but you know my feelings on these matters." With a theatrical bow, the man vanished; Nanamo got out of her seat and walked over to the dining table, fetching two goblets from a small chest underneath the table.

"Momolk," Nanamo said, gesturing at the seat opposite hers. "Please - have a seat."

Momolk - whose cool composure seemed to be barely holding now - clambered up onto the seat and looked at Nanamo blankly.

"Now - clearly you would not be here with such a look upon your face if something grave had not happened," Nanamo said slowly, pouring a hefty amount of wine into each cup and placing one within Momolk's reach. "Take as much time as you need; for an ally - and more importantly, a friend - like you, I will gladly sit a-"

"-yer talkin' like the Sultana," Momolk interjected suddenly, staring into her cup with a forlorn look. "Can I be talkin' t'Lilira?"

"I - ah - of course," Nanamo said, blinking in surprise. "I - I will - my apologies. I had not expected to - hrm." Clearing her throat and sighing deeply, she began once more. "I am sorry, Momolk. It has been a long day - the sort of day which called for, nay, demanded the presence of Sultana Nanamo ul Namo. Let me attempt this once more - Momolk," Lilira replied, "what is the matter? Is everything alright?"

"I - I dunno," Momolk sighed, nearly draining her cup before falling silent once more.

"I imagine this has nothing to do with your soap business," Lilira offered hesitantly.

"No, it don't," Momolk replied, tears starting to stream down her face. "I - I think I made a real fuckup - a real big pisspot've a shitestorm - oh, gods," she managed in between sobs. "Oh, gods-"

"-hush, hush, it is alright - I am here - breathe, Momolk," Nanamo whispered, sprinting from her seat to Momolk's side and holding the sobbing woman by the arm. "It is alright. Everything will be well - take a moment, take a moment."

"I - I - fuck! All this time - stupid - gods take him - take me - damn it all!" Momolk sputtered, dashing her cup across the table. Her tears and her anguish turned into something fouler for several moments; eventually, though, with great effort Momolk's breathing began to calm, and after what seemed to both like an age she laid her head into the table, eyes closed.

"There. There - you see - you are alright," Nanamo soothed. "Speak, if it pleases you."

"I - I thought I asked t'be talkin' to Lilira," Momolk managed through heaving breaths.

"I am not merely Lilira, Momolk, nor am I solely Her Majesty the Sultana - both are but mere parts of the woman who is, simply, Nanamo. So - let us be truthful with one another - what is the matter?" Nanamo asked. "What brings you to the palace at this time of the night with tears in your eyes and sorrow weighing upon you?"

"It's - it's - I've spoke've Xomni before, aye?" Momolk muttered.

Nanamo nodded, slowly relinquishing her hold on Momolk's arm, though she remained by her side. "Yes - you have, at length. Has something befallen him?"

"He's safe, if that'll be yer meaning," Momolk replied, shaking her head sadly. "It's jus' - I says he were a queer sort of fellow, right?"

"You mentioned he seemed to be the sort of man who was more at home with his arrays and tomes than with people, yes," Nanamo noted carefully. "But you mention that he is safe - you worry for his...personal affairs?"

"Aye. He'll - fuck's sake, y'know, he's got barely a friend far as I ken't - hells, even when we were sailin' he never were that close t'nobody, and now - now this eve he does himself a proper date with a woman who'll be thinkin' alike, and now he's gone'n convinced hisself that romance aren't worth't, that 'less he's got no work before'm there'll be nothin' t'find in havin' a partner in life-"

"-and, ah, you worry that you've encouraged this...closing off of his life? That you've failed to stop your brother from retreating further into his own world?" Nanamo offered. "You believe this evening's affairs are a tipping point - not even the prospect of romance with a woman who might as well be his mirror can stir him?"

"Aye, that'll be the gist've't," Momolk grumbled. "Y'know - I weren't thinkin' this were a problem, not 'til lately - I figures since we were rats scurryin' 'round Limsa's gutters, well, he were born a lil' unlike the rests of us - fine, I thought t'meself. But - I mean - I done some reflectin', all serious-like lately - some real soul-searchin' - I think I'll've been encouragin' this sorta behaviour for as long as I can remember. I told him - there'll be no trouble in just bein' alone, or just wantin' t'be associatin' with books and nothin' else, that if people're hard t'be understandin' arcanima's a fine replacement. Well - well it isn't so, damn it, and - and the worst've't, it'll be this woman he did the date with - it's - listenin' to the two've'm, it'll be like hearin' two Xomni's convince hisself that feelin' things aren't worth a single gil." Momolk grabbed at her overturned goblet, scowled at the tiny amount of wine left in it and drank what she could before leaning back in her chair and staring blankly at the ceiling.

"Faulting yourself for your brother's actions strikes me as being wholly unreasonable," Nanamo replied quietly. "Does your brother think differently than you or I? Perhaps, though you know him better than I, and I can hardly be considered an impartial judge on matters of how one should feel about things like romance. Regardless - your brother is only twenty and three winters old, Momolk. You, him, me - we are all young, with a great deal of time and life ahead of us."

"Aye, fine," Momolk admitted after a long silence, "but even so - it aren't like we're children, Nanamo. How many folk d'y'know who've changed their ways after twenty straight years've feelin' one way?"

"A few," Nanamo said with a shrug and a smile. "Not many - but it certainly is not an impossibility."

"I just- I just feels like I done Xomni a big disservice, y'know, bein' his sister - his big sister a' tha' - aren't it my job t'be lookin' out for 'im? Always were that way. Hells, used t'be he wouldn't even be answerin' questions 'less I told 'im how t'be doin' it," Momolk muttered. "Could've been, maybe I let 'im go too much, y'know."

"There is a difference between trying to inform your brother as to what is the right course of action, and making decisions for him, Momolk. Keeping in mind, of course, that I have never had the pleasure of meeting Xomni'to in person, I do believe that you may wish to consider that, well, his priorities and your own may simply be different."

Momolk looked up at Nanamo, a scowl stretching across her face. "What, y'think Xomni's jus' fine all on his lonesome forever? Priorities - bollocks, more like."

"I do recall noting that I might not be the best person to ask when speaking on matters romantic or emotional," Nanamo replied with a small smile. "Certainly you are aware that my life and my work leaves little time for...pleasantries. I should believe that Lilira was - is - proof of that, though, then again, this is the first time we have met - as Momolk and Nanamo, that is. In any case - have you spoken to Xomni'to about this? And in plain terms - without misdirection, without tiptoeing around the issue at hand?"

"I - no," Momolk admitted with a frown. "I didn't think this were a problem 'till recently, so…" She trailed off, sighing as she planted her face into the table. "Thought you'd have answers for me, y'know, bein' the Sultana, an' I s'pose y'do. Just - I dunno."

"Well, keeping in mind my biases - and those possessed by my companions, colleagues and circle of advisors - you should know that there is certainly no shortage of eligible but otherwise uninterested unwed amongst Ul'dah's elite," Nanamo pointed out with a small smile. "They seem content, though whether said persons feel as such because they are ill-equipped to deal with the emotional baggage a partnership might bring, or because they lack the base interest - it would not be my place to say, if I knew. But as you yourself freely admit, you have not raised the issue with Xomni'to, and I would wager that he is the sort of person who can see nuance in his arrays and miss a mountain which sits before him, if you understand my meaning."

There was a long silence; Momolk eventually grumbled something incoherent and tapped her emptied cup on the table.

"You understand the way of things - certainly. I myself know that to know a thing, and to truly feel it to be so are two different things. I have no immediate relationships that I might call similar to the one you and your brother share," Nanamo continued as she returned to her seat, "but when I say that I understand, at least in spirit, what you are currently experiencing, you should know that it is not merely an attempt to placate or soothe you. In the same vein - you should also know that the same applies when I say that your brother will not always be the person you wish him to be, nor will he always act with the sorts of sensibilities you might think obvious. But he is, and will be, above all else, alright. If Xomni'to even slightly resembles your tales of him, and if he possesses but an onze of your character, I think you have no cause to truly worry."

"When you puts it like so," Momolk muttered as Nanamo plucked her cup out of her grasp and refilled it, "it'll make m'out t'be the fool here, don't it - botherin' the bleedin' Sultana oe'er-"

"-be silent, Momolk," Nanamo snapped, her icy tone more chiding and disapproving than anything Idertuuya had ever managed. "Yes - you are indeed speaking to me at a moment when, theoretically, I ought to be handling that pile of papers on the desk to my side. Even so, I will not suffer you to sit here and make yourself out to be the villain of this story. Kith and kin, deep down, form the formation of all that it is truly important - the bond between parent and child, the bond between a Sultana and her subjects, the bond between a nation and its citizenry; these are all, at heart, the same thing." She paused, gazing and Momolk for a long moment with a searching look - before, nearly a minute later, her expression softened into a warm smile. "Or, as Lady Lilira might express it - Momolk, you are not some mere merchantwoman. You are a...a dear friend, and let it be said I have precious few of those - and friends do not apologize for relying upon one another. Understood?"

Momolk sighed as Nanamo handed over a refilled cup of wine, taking a small sip before clearing her throat and rubbing her bleary eyes. "Aye, aye. I ken. An' though I don't feel that yer totally right 'bout Xomni, you raise reasons a'plenty t'not be cryin' m'eyes out at the thought of'im. So...thank you, Nanamo. Thank you."

"You are most welcome." Finally taking a drink from her own cup, Nanamo leaned back slightly in her chair and stared at the ceiling thoughtfully. "All this speak of family and the like - I am no stranger to imagining what it must be like, to be in any position but mine. Ah," she said, nodding to herself, "but indeed am I the Sultana, and the hour grows late - not late enough, I think, that I cannot afford to engage in a brief, but much-needed break from a full day's work. I hope, Momolk, that you are otherwise unoccupied this evening?"

"Ah...aye, I am," Momolk replied, finally smiling once more. "Y'have plans, then?"

"Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, Momolk. I will note that, speaking generally, the two of us have remained confined to the Quicksand and a handful of pâtisseries with respect to our outings. If you would have me included in matters familial - I think it would serve as a welcome change of pace and a chance to return the favour, if you were to follow along with myself and Papashan on one of my more regular excursions into the city of Ul'dah," Nanamo explained.

"Papashan - that'll be the gentleman what escorted me t'you this eve?" Momolk asked, leaning forward as she recalled the mustachioed "steward" who had served as her guide not long ago. "I figures the two've ye know'd one another from the way y'talked, and Papashan got me through th'whole palace unseen quick-like." She paused, flashing a mischievous grin at Nanamo. "I didn't know there'd be so many little side-ways 'n tunnels what snake 'round the palace."

Nanamo shrugged slightly, smirking. "This is an old palace, and Ul'dah is an old city - this place abounds with secrets, Momolk, even if it looks the part of a regal, well-polished jewel. Regarding Papashan, well - I am certain you were not fooled by his acting."

"Aye, I weren't - he holds hisself like a fine steward, all proper an' th'like," Momolk noted carefully, "but y'can see't in th'eyes. He'll, how's to put't...he check's 'is corners as 'e rounds'em, he don't walk through doors 'til he's sure' bout what's next, an 'e rests his hands like e's used t'havin' a - well not a cutlass, yer not sailors, but it'll be a little thing I's seen - even without weapon, some've th'ol' sailors I'd traveled with, they'd rest their hands all queer-like."

Nanamo began chuckling, holding back her giggling with evident difficulty. "Oh, oh dear. I suppose for a man of his history and...status, I should find his act commendable all the same. In any case - Papashan once served in the Sultansworn, then stepped down from his, ah, rather highly-placed position to be my bodyguard when I took to the throne. And now? He is a stationmaster who oversees the railway station just outside the city limits. And nothing more. On an entirely unrelated note, however, those who associate with our mutual friend Lady Lilira have at times seen an older, white-haired man sporting a well-groomed mustache in her company. The man's identity, alas, is a mystery that shall never be solved."

"Family, then," Momolk said after a moment's pause.

"Not by blood, but you of all people know that such things are utterly unimportant," Nanamo affirmed with an approving nod. "Now then - if you wish to refresh yourself," she continued, pointing at a small, ornate door just beyond the enormous bedroom which lay behind the combination study-dining room they were sitting in, "you are welcome to make use of my bathing room. I, personally, shall be changing into more casual attire for our little excursion - if you will excuse me, I have no desire to wear clothes of the royal sort for any longer."


"Well, after that, Lili - Nanamo, aye, an' Papashan, we did ourselves a fine night on th'town, saw some nice places, ate well - then we was off t'the Quicksand, and we mets you," Momolk finished.

"Oh. Well that weren't so bad - I mean I don't like thinkin' that you'n Xomni' don't get one another, aye, and I really don't like thinkin' 'bout you all torn up neither. But...iunno, I'll be with Lilira on'is'n, y'know. Xomni's...fine. Queer, sure. Not always thinkin' right, aye, that too. But he'll have you'n'me, an' Idree, an' Terbish, an' even K'lyhia, for whatever fuckin' shite she'll be worth too, if y'ave t'ask me. He's 'is own man - an' a man can be doin' whatever he likes. Jus' means you'n'I'll have t'be steerin' him right, or summat. Easy as piss."

"I thinks I'll always be worryin' 'bout him. It'll be a funny thing, y'know?"


Momolk shrugged, sighing once more. "I worries about him finding hisself a partner, more'n'I worries about him bein' shot or stabbed or the like."

Baatar snorted, pulling Momolk into a sideways hug. "Nothin' queer 'bout such - him, he'll be summonin' dragons 'n blowin' up mountains, or somesuch shite, 'fore he'll be understandin' proper romance at th'moment. But likes mum says, we'll not be livin' thirty winters yet - plenty'a time t'be makin' a handsome, rugged man outta bookie-boy."

Momolk sighed, and shut her eyes for a moment. "I hope yer right."

"'Course I'm right. I'm always right, 'cept when I's dead fuckin' wrong, but then again there 'aint nothin' wrong wi' the world I's not been able t'fix with you, Xomni, Kanna and me axe. So I won't be worryin' 'bout this," Baatar replied, grinning down at Momolk. "There'll be big, nasty fuckin' things in th'world - Garleans, fishbacks, Garleans, Sharlayans, Garleans - y'gets th'idea, I'm sure. Worryin' 'bout fa-"


"Aww, piss, Nhaama take me, I'm not missin' this shite," Baatar sputtered, jumping to her feet. "Come on! Come on, sis, when's th'las' 'time we got wrecked t'gether?"

"I don't recall't," Momolk groaned.

"But you'll come, aye?" Baatar pressed, eyes shining. "It'll be fun 'til next sunup, maybe more!"

"Piss. I'd better be comin'," Momolk grumbled as she clambered down from the bench and followed Baatar - who was skipping with joy towards the doorway. "Someone'll have t'be draggin' yer arse home."




Ul'dah'n Light Party added to Friends List.


Baatarsaikhan Kha
Race: Au Ra, Xaela
Age: 23
Class: Marauder, Level 16

Xomni'to Molkoh
Race: Miqo'te, Keeper of The Moon
Age: 23
Class: Arcanist, Level 17

Momolk Molkoh
Race: Lalafell, Dunesfolk
Age: 23
Class: Arcanist, Level 17

Kanna Minamoto
Race: Au Ra, Raen
Age: 21
Class: Ronin, Level 21


Lyngdorn Ahldthubrysyn
Race: Roegadyn, Sea Wolf
Age: 26
Class: Gladiator, Level 19

Bradley Norwood (Muroxxas)
Race: Hyur, Midlander
Age: 22
Class: Pugilist, Level 16

Mihkih Khamun (pon_katt)
Race: Miqo'te, Keeper of The Moon
Age: 21
Class: Archer, Level 17

Serene Thunder (MiragePrismatic)
Race: Roegadyn, Hellsguard
Age: 24
Class: Conjurer, Level 19