Forbidden. Oh, how the word tasted bitter on her lips. The sour feel of it smarted her eyes, and she bit her lip, drawing blood, as if that would destroy the effect it had on her. Guilt racked her body, and her attempts to sway her thoughts were meek and mild. Her mind kept reverting back to her childhood teachings.

Lucia could ignore the prejudice against laguz; that much she knew was wrong. She had always considered herself pious and stout in her religion. Having read the sacred scriptures many times, she knew there was not a single passage in it giving a reason for the animosity between the two races.

Of course, that was not bothering her. It was an offense much greater than that.

Thy Laguz children and thy Beorc children shall not engage in a holy union, for it is unfit. The people of the animals shall stick their own, as the people of the land shall stick their own.
-The Rjaskin, Book of Clans, Chapter 18, Line 3

Lucia had met Janaff during the war, and they had become good friend during the time they fought side-by-side. When Lucia finally took Janaff up on that dinner-date—no chaperone— their time of friendship passed into a romantic…fling, if you will. Both knew that their distance and loyalties (and race, though it was unspoken) would keep them from having a real relationship, yet both held certain affections for the other.

Still, they both knew that one, small kiss held something special. Perhaps, that was why they pursued a short romance. They both thought that they would move on in time, find another person, and live a happy life, with no regrets hiding in the past. They both truly believed that their feelings for one another would fade with the years.

Oh, how they were both so very wrong.

The union between a man and woman shalt not be a thing to be taken lightly. When a man and woman, their souls entwined, join together and love each other, only they can complete their spiritual partner. Neither sword nor axe nor lance nor magic can break the bonds of devotion.
-The Rjaskin, Book of Tenets, Chapter 3, Line 17

After the initial return of the hawks to Phoenicis, Lucia had been able to distract herself in a matter of weeks. Her workload had increased, as the struggles to resurrect Crimea to its former glory were long and hard. Lucia was in charge of training the new recruits with Geoffrey, as well as taking care of a number of political positions, left unfilled by nobles killed in Daein's slaughter.

Two years, after Tibarn first departed, he returned for a political visit. As far as Lucia was aware of, he was checking on the stability of the country, as well as coming to propose in person new routes along the sea that would ensure safer passage for beorcs, (as there were still some renegade birds attacking sailors.)

Ulki was there. It was only natural for Janaff to be there as well, and so, Lucia was not surprised when she first saw him in the corridor. At first greeting, they had agreed to remain friends. Even though neither of them had moved on as they once thought they would, they did not want prior feelings to involve them even further in a relationship that would hurt them again after his departure.

It all seemed so easy, at first. Despite the fact that Lucia had still sustained her emotions towards him after all this time, she did not show it in her conversations between the two. Soon, she began to suspect the same was happening with him, and they grew to avoid each other completely at times.

She was not quite sure why she would feel so strongly towards him. There had been many boys before Janaff that she had fancied, and he was not the first to kiss her. It confused her. Lucia always tried her best to appear calm and collected, but now, she found it hard to remain cool in his presence. When he entered the room, she would quickly dismiss herself. Perhaps, their eyes would meet as she exited; perhaps, there would be understanding in his eyes, accompanied by longing. More often, the latter was left in a solitary ache. Lucia could only guess what her eyes expressed, but she hoped that they did not show the grievance she felt inside.

Those who disobey Ashera shall be smote with all her power for all of eternity. In the realm of the living, they shall be scorned; in the realm of the dead, they shall burn. One must regain the affections of the Lady Spirit and cleanse their mistake before they fall to the realms beyond that of their control.
-The Rjaskin, Book of Tenets, Chapter 2, Line 4

One night, Janaff had cornered her. He confronted her about their relationship, and they both admitted they could never continue ignoring the existence of the other. Even if they were hurt, they both knew that it would be impossible for them to move on to other people so simply, just like that.

Happiness was too a simple word to describe Lucia's feelings at that moment. Part of it was relief, part of it joy, part of it anxiety. While Janaff was away, she fretted about someone discovering their forbidden relationship, but it seemed when it was just the two of them, all those thoughts melted away. She relished the time she had with him, for she knew their days were numbered before his departure.

Janaff left Crimea with a small kiss and a good-bye. Lucia did not cry, because she knew it was coming, and it would be foolish to weep when she had realized the consequences all along. Still, the passing came in sorrow. Once again, however, she busied herself until the thoughts of Janaff only came at night, before she was lulled off to sleep.

In the darkness, only Ashera carries the light; thou shalt not douse the flame of life.

- The Rjaskin, Canticle 124

Contradictions…contradictions…that are what it seemed like. Though it truth, it meant her problem could not be solved. The relationship between her and Janaff was forbidden (once again, there was that wretched word!). It had been a year since that night when they met with their emotions, and it had been a month since Tibarn left from his latest visit. Janaff had been there, and now Janaff was gone. Somehow, that all seemed to add to her dire situation.

With a deep, shuddering breath, Lucia wiped away her tears. She stood from the edge of her bed, where she had sat crying, and approached her vanity, with the tarnished mirror staring back at her with the image of a noticeably distraught woman.

Dipping her hands into the water basin, she splashed her face until the red cheeks faded and the tears washed off. She then reached for her comb and tore through her hair, until it reached an acceptable state. No one could know about her misery, for then the questions would come.

Lucia stared at her forlorn reflection, her eyes still pink. Even with laguz/beorc interaction considerably improved, prejudice still remained and a romantic relationship between Janaff and her was still taboo. If only it were different, then her situation would be lessened. Perhaps, then, it would constitute as only a scandal.

Forcing herself to push open her chamber door, she was able to catch a maid rushing by. The young woman smiled at Lucia and gave a small curtsy.

"Tell me, would you know of a way to send a letter quickly and secretly?" she asked the maid, though she did not expect a positive answer. The servant looked confused for a moment before she responded.

"No, milady, but I am sure Lord Geoffrey—"

"I don't want even my brother to know," Lucia said firmly.

"Oh," the maid searched for an answer. "Well, perhaps my cousin knows…"

"Please find a way and report back to me, Miss—"

"Sara."

"Sara. Thank you." The maid scurried down the hall, slightly befuddled by the strange request. Lucia hoped that she was not of the gossiping type and that her secret would remain safe.

And when a beorc and a laguz have defiled the sacred word and engaged in a union, not holy but profane, they shall produce a beast. Their child shall bear the mark of a fiend, branded forever for all to see and to despise.
- The Rjaskin, Book of Clans, Chapter 18, Line5

Lucia tried her best to stifle another sob. It was not the burden of a conflict of heart and religion that pained her so.

For within her womb, she carried the mark of the Branded.

--------

Author's Note: Wow, that turned out a little different than planned, but I like it. Well, at least there is a Janaff/Lucia finally on the site, even if it is angsty. I guess I'll consider an early birthday present to myself. Review, people! Tell me how you like it (or hate it, though if you do hate, be intelligent and back it up.) And I'm not sure if there is an official holy text for the game, so I made one up. Don't kill me if I'm wrong. Ciao!