Breath of Air

Authored by SwordSinger/Nariel Narbeleth

Date: Jan 11 2005 (in progress date)

Summary: Several scenes done in Raven/1st person. Centered mainly on his relationship with Lucius. Non-yaoi.

Rated PG for mild language, emotional situations (not of the romantic sort) and for Tactician references ;) The Tactician is indeed me, and I felt the need to mention her in passing, but I kept it to minimum. :) Besides, what's a fanfic without a Mary Sue or at the very least a mild self-insertion:)

I had not seen Lucius in several years when I stumbled upon him that day in the an inn in Lycia. I had stopped there for the night and had overheard a dreamy-voiced maid talking about the incredibly beautiful-faced monk who had come to them the day before. I accosted her later and demanded details; she told me about the blond monk who had come in out of the night, looking as if he'd just lived through hell and asked very courteously if they had any room for him before he had collapsed in the entry hall.

He had been hurt, it turned out, so they had called in the local healer to have the monk taken care of and he was resting upstairs now, she told me, and I could see him if my lordship wished.

My lordship did wish, and I went upstairs.

It was indeed Lucius—I'd had no doubts, certainly, from her description of him, but it was still remarkable to see that face again, especially in such an un-looked for situation.

He stirred when I entered but did not wake until I laid the back of my hand across his forehead to check his temperature; the stillness and palor of his face alarmed me.

His eyes focused on me and stayed on my face for a long moment of confusion before I saw a sudden spark of comprehension in his clouded blue eyes.

"L-Lord Raymond!" He would have sat up, but I put a firm hand on his chest and held him down. He winced.

"Sorry," I said, withdrawing my hand. "Where are you hurt?"

He grimaced.

"I was careless, Lord Raymond. I allowed a swordsman to get too close to me."

"Where?"

"Only my shoulder, my lord."

He was trying hard to downplay it so I wouldn't worry—when I worry I get a sharp tongue and Lucius knew this all too well.

I pulled the counterpane down, revealing the startling fact that Lucius was bare from the waist up. I used to wonder if his robes were permanently attached to his skin, so seldom was he ever wearing anything different—I assumed in this case the physician must have ordered him to leave the bandages open to the air or Lucius' strict sense of modesty would never have allowed it.

He was quiet under my hands as I examined the wound carefully and adjusted the bandages; his eyes hooded and his brow furrowed as if in pain or deep thought.

"How in the hells did you end up here?"

He let his eyes droop shut.

"It is a long story, my Lord Raymond..."

I didn't want to press him, but...

"I'm listening," I said, settling myself in a chair by the bed. Lucius sighed almost inaudibly and eyed me from beneath his half-closed lids. Deciding I was in earnest, he began to speak.

"And this Lyndis just left you wounded to fend for yourself?" I said angrily before he could finish his tale.

"Quite to the contrary," Lucius said, his voice a little hoarse. "It was I who left them. The Lady Lyndis was unaware of the gravity of my injury—as was I, my Lord." he smiled ruefully and shifted painfully beneath the counterpane. "I simply told her that I no longer had the strength to travel with her; the last thing she needed was a companion she had to worry about."

"Caelin, you said?" I furrowed my brow. "Lord Hausen is dying, is he not? I didn't know he had an heir."

Lucius shook his head.

"The Lady Lyndis had no idea of her heritage no more than a month ago. If it were not for the faithfulness of Lord Hausen's knights Lyndis would have lived and died in Sacae without ever knowing of her birthright." His bright eyes clouded momentarily. "Caelin also would have fallen into evil hands, and its people would have suffered much."

"It's not your responsibility," I replied gruffly. Lucius always tried to take the weight of the world on his own frail shoulders.

"Of course it is," he said, lightly reproving. "it's everyone's responsibility. All that is necessary—"

I gave a rueful snort of laughter and waved a hand. "I know the platitudes, Lucius. We did have the same teacher, remember?"

He smiled faintly, turning his head on the pillow. I decided I should let him rest. I stood abruptly, kicking the chair back and scrutinizing my fallen friend once again.

"Are you going to be all right, Lucius?" I am not an emotional person as a rule, but I was truly concerned about Lucius. He was like a brother to me—the only family I had left, really. Even She wasn't even really my sister anymore...

Lucius gave me a penetrating glance, and I knew he was carefully considering his words.

"This will not be the death of me, if that is what you mean." he said lightly, after a moment. We both knew the qualifying words were hanging there in the air, though no-one dared speak them; this may not kill him, but he may well not live much longer.

The mysterious weakness that plagued Lucius was a source of constant worry for me, and as a result, I fear, I became withdrawn and short-tempered. Lucius was used to this, but I couldn't think it did him any good. It seemed unfair to me that someone so pure as Lucius should have to suffer as he did—you'd think that the Saint he so faithfully served might make things a little easier for him but...well, Lucius explained it to me once. It made no sense. Something about his pain giving him greater understanding and strength in the long run and allowing him to help more people because he knew the pain in their souls.

I'll never understand religion.

Whether or not he received all the strength he was supposed to be given at some point in the future didn't matter to me one bit—what mattered was the fact that he was weak and ill and I almost didn't dare ask him to travel the remainder of my road with me. I couldn't leave him here, though, so I was in a quandary. To tell the truth, a shameful part of me wanted him along because I was tired of being lonely, whether he was in poor health or no, but that was the childish part of me that I was slowly learning to suppress as the years of my true adulthood loomed ever closer.

He had fallen into a doze as I stood staring down at him, his hands moving restlessly on the counterpane as he slipped into some dream. I pulled the coverlet up over him and left the room, careful not to disturb his uneasy sleep.

The fighting never seems to end.

Eliwood led us to the Dragon's Gate and found, instead of a triumphant ending to his young quest, a tragedy that must have matured his heart by years. There we were, months later and back where we began and ended all at once. We fought on; the threat to Elibe being as great as it was in the days of the heroes—but we were no heroes. At least, I was not. I considered my companions: great men and women like Lord Pent and lady Louise, Marcus, Renault and even the slippery Legault. These indeed could be considered hero material, but I was no more than chaff in the wind when it came down to this. Lucius was also different—his stock was not of our time or our world, I was convinced. He was a throwback to the bloodlines of the gods, dropped mysteriously into an orphanage in Cornwell. He seemed to shine; as if his pain had refined his flesh into fine crystal and the light of his spirit couldn't be held within. He was a clear vessel, ready to the hand of the god...and yet, he hadn't the strength to wield the power that might be granted to him.

He fell ill again soon after we met Renault and I thought I really might lose him that time—I haunted the healers' tent for a fortnight until he was stronger, avoiding the eyes of my companions and allowing myself to drift in my own dark thoughts. I even gave little thought to the revenge that was ever-fading in my mind.

Ever since I had lost my family I has sought to become as strong and unafraid as I could, and yet there was much that I still lacked. There was always that fear that what little remained to me would be wrenched from my grasp.

To tell the truth, I was terrified for Lucius. Terrified that if I let him out of my sight a moment I would find him bleeding to death in a ditch somewhere, the victim of his own kindly intentions; or worse, that he would slip away from life as the sickness in his soul ate slowly away at his body. I was powerless to put a stop to anything of the kind, and being helpless was not something I was sympathetic to—or so I liked to believe.

Most of all, it was my own revenge that I was afraid of. The thought of it made me sick, even as it drove me on. Had I actually been given the opportunity to take Hector of Ostia's life, I don't know if I could have. He was a man of honour and I knew in my heart of hearts that neither he nor his house could have had anything to do with the destruction of house Cornwell. This relieved me and at the same time shamed me. I was glad, not that he hadn't been a guilty party, but that the time of my revenge had once again been moved to some far-off and indefinable moment in my future. I had a duty to do by my family—and yet as I fought and refined my skills in preparation of that duty, I found that the idea of being someone's last sight grew more and more repulsive to the side of me that harboured the doubt of Ostia's blame.

Lucius made a dogged recovery as we slowly made our way to what we all hoped was the final confrontation.

"You aren't fighting," I told him flatly, crossing my arms. We were in the Healers' tent. Lucius was being examined by Priscilla one last time before he was released to his own lodgings.

"That," he replied serenely, "is a matter for Tywyn to decide. I shall do as she bids me."

"Like hell you will," I snorted. "You're still sick."

Lucius shook his head, smiling a little sadly. "Lord Raymond, if I was to choose inaction every time I was ill I should never accomplish anything. One learns to live with what one must."

He was right, of course. I hate it when he's right. I knew Tywyn would want him to fight; she knew little of his illness and she was a shrewd tactical commander when it came to ranging the magical defenses and offenses. Her skill in planning workable strategies with actual hand-to-hand combat was a little rougher and I knew she would play heavily to her advantages here. We couldn't risk losing. If we did, it meant not only our lives, but our world and our futures as well.

I wouldn't have been in Tywyn's shoes for anything.

I scowled at Lucius, and he gave me a faint answering smile, knowing that he had met me head on and won another match.

"Do you as you please," I said bitterly, turning towards the tent flap. "You'll get yourself killed, you know."

"L-Lord Raymond—!"

I stalked out. He could follow me if he pleased, but I hoped he wouldn't.

It was over. Dragon's Gate lay silent and dark once again, the ancient magic of the those awesome creatures having once again returned to its long slumber. The only movement to be seen was in our camp in front of the massive structure; no one had wanted to sleep inside of it so despite the cold we had pitched our tents outside. We were all a little in shock, I think. Well, perhaps more than a little. Things like this really seem to bring out peoples' real personalities. I was irritable and had to make a conscious effort not to snap at everyone who came within ten feet of me. Guy was thrusting at the air with his sword, working through his combinations with a blank expression on his face: a million miles away. Canas sat with his nose buried in one of his books, Erk was holding an apparently intense conversation with my sister, Tywyn was crying weakly into Kent's iron-clad shoulder and Pent and Louise walked silently hand in hand through the camp, at a loss for what to do. Many had been wounded, but Serra and a couple of the others had finally kicked everyone out of the medical tent, claiming that we were all in the way. We probably were. Sain, Wil, the Fang assassin Jaffar, Fiora--even lord Hector was confined to his bed. We had lost some friends too; Hawkeye would never return to his desert home, Lowen would never become a full knight, and Captain Fargus was down one good man. There was no one among us who didn't feel both cursed and blessed by the outcome of this sorrowful war.

I, however, felt luckier than most. I'm not so terrible of a person that I didn't feel a little bit guilty for my good fortune, but one takes what one can. Priscilla was not only alive but completely unscathed, and Lucius had also lived. He was lying senseless on a bed with Serra fussing over him, a nasty knock on his skull and a narrow sword wound across his ribs. Nothing he couldn't live through. I stared up at the sky as the stars emerged from the fog. The cold wind was driving the mist away in great tattered streamers; shadows of the the fiery breath of the dragons beneath the vaulted blackness of the sky.

We had saved this world; certainly not the thing half of us set out to do, I think. Funny how things like this come at you out of nowhere, drawing the best out of people who might have otherwise thrown their lives away.

Ten years later

My feet always lead me back here.

Araphen—a Lycian dukey like all the others, full of busy people rushing along completely oblivious to the heroes living in their midst. I don't know why Lucius had come here instead of staying in Pharae, Ostia or Caelin—he would have been welcome any of those places and there would have plenty of people willing to help with his charitable endeavors. I think though that he felt this was something he needed to do—a gift from his own hands to children who were as he had been. Lucius' childhood after his parents death had not been pleasant and he wanted nothing more than to make sure no one else was treated as badly as he was. Funny, most people who're mistreated when they're younger turn out to be the mistreaters in the end.

I have been here more times than I can count; a grey stone building with a patched roof on the outskirts of the Araphean capitol, boiling over with enthusiastic and patched children. I really don't know how Lucius handles them all, but I've seen him gently marshal them into a bright-eyed, well-mannered line as they prepare for a foray into the town. He is father, brother, uncle and friend to every one of them and I can't help but wonder how one human can be spread so thin and yet still be so rich.

I have never actually been inside. I come and watch and make sure that there's nothing seriously wrong and then I'm off on my travels again. I have far too much wanderlust to stick around a place like this. It gives me a little bit of peace though, to watch this quiet life that Lucius has chosen. He never really was happy while we were on the road; I guess he yearned for a real home, a stable place he could return to when his feet couldn't go any farther. Truth be told I've actually avoided even talking to Lucius on my periodic visits. I'd even deluded myself into believing that he didn't know I was there, but I should have known better. As I turned to leave once again, the setting sun splashing red light over the dull grey of the street, I caught sight of a face at the window. I glanced over and met Lucius' amused gaze. I crooked my mouth in the expression that was the closest I ever came to a smile and he raised his hand in silent farewell.

Someday, maybe, I'll actually go there and stay for a while—it might be nice to stay in one place for more than a few days—and maybe I can even figure out what it is that Lucius sees in all those little hellions. For now though, my sword and my feet pull me back into the wild, and I'll have to wait a little longer to find my own peace.