Fall into Ecstacy

Prologue: Part 1

By Kaasan Faerlyte B.

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy XII or its characters.

It was just another nondescript cave among many that we had discovered during our travels. This was a routine inspection: find the mark, dispose of the mark, and depart. Necessity had made competent fighters of us all, but no matter how strong you are, no one is invincible; disasters will happen.

This disaster happened.

We were crossing an underground canyon by way of a stone bridge flanked on either side by empty abyss. I still wasn't used to being one step away from bottomless chasms, but I managed. The trick was keeping your eye on your feet. We had almost reached the other side when it happened, and I was last in line.

Ironic that I would come to find out first hand that it was, in fact, not a bottomless chasm, to the relief of everyone involved. Or at least, the two of us that were involved. The others would've assumed us dead.

Basch was the unfortunate who came with me – not voluntarily of course, but everything happened too fast for rational thought. He had been nearest to me when the quake struck. What we hadn't bargained for was a portion of the path collapsing while we were on it.

I heard shouting from the far side of the bridge as my footing gave way and I remember reaching out at nothing. Basch's frame blocked the view – he had turned back for me. I gasped his name in alarm, but it was too late. His hand caught my wrist moments before the rest of the bridge crumbled and the chasm swallowed us together.

So here we were.

The fall was very long. I could hardly breath for the pressure pushing underneath me, but the terror was even more paralyzing - I'd remember that feeling for years to come and it would always make me shiver. Basch still had a hold of me when a wayward rock glanced off his temple.

It almost robbed me of my senses. I was brought reeling back to reality instead as Basch's grip went slack and a gap formed between us; he was going to fall away from me. I reached out instinctively and grabbed a handful of his collar. The chant of a spell tumbled off the tip of my tongue without conscious thought.

Feathery tendrils enwrapped us in a slow descending float and we became weightless. The air rushing up from below slackened and the pressure eased from my chest enough to permit several deep breaths and a second spell. I was not a moment too soon for the protective barrier took affect seconds before we hit the water.

In retrospect we were extremely fortunate that it was water and not stone that awaited us at the bottom, but hitting it was like the sting of a thousand needles. We had plunged in well over our heads into an inky blackness that was all consuming. The effects of float bobbed us straight to the surface like a cork. I wouldn't have been able to save Basch had it not been for that as he was still unconscious when I began paddling for land.

And there was land, but only the faintest outline. All manners of odd creatures and rare crystal formations thrived down in the dark places of the earth, both good and bad. Here light crystals protruded from the cavern walls in colors ranging from violet to green and yellow. Other things of mysterious origin gave off light in much smaller capacities. I clenched my teeth against the cold as it seeped into my bones and threw all my energy at getting us both to land.

When I finally did touch bottom I sank ankle deep into sand, which seemed an odd occurrence so far beneath the surface. I collapsed onto my elbows in it, dropping Basch beside me, thankfully face up. I was surprised, but then, I wasn't very familiar with deep caverns like this. Was it normal for there to be sand? There was plenty of sand above ground and sink holes were very common. It was possible that it leaked in from the surface.

Dragging Basch from out of the water proved more difficult than I anticipated. His clothes were waterlogged, he was tall, and he was built of lean muscle that simply wouldn't cooperate. The water helped until there was no longer enough of it to float him, and then it was huffing, wriggling and writhing against his mass to drag him onto the beach.

What a mess. I was not overly fond of sand - it had a tenacious tendency to cling to anything and everything moist.

With one last determined cry I dug my heels in and pushed for all that I was worth. After about three feet of leg grinding I collapsed with an exhausted groan. At least Basch was free of the water now, I noted with some relief as I lay on my side panting. It was then that I noticed the blood trickling down the side of his face from a deep gash above his right eye.

I sat up abruptly and gently plied his hair back from the wound, grimacing. The water had cleansed it some, but it still bled heavily. I verified his pulse and that he was still breathing, and made a quick cursory check for any other injuries. All things considering, he seemed to be alright.

I bit my lip and removed my inventory backpack. We had a ready supply of rations, a wide variety of items (I was the designated healer), and a rudimentary med-kit for emergencies. Most of everything was sealed away in waterproof containers too. There was a roll of gauze and some pressure bandages which I set aside for use when I was finished casting cure.

My magic was heavily depleted, but I was able to give Basch a good solid dose of magic healing. The rest I finished up with regular bandaging. For the most part the wound was sealed after the spell so it was more of a precaution to prevent infection rather than to stop any bleeding.

When I finished my fingers were almost numb and my teeth were chattering. Looking down at Basch, his face pale, I could only imagine how much more worse for wear he must be. Finding and keeping warmth was now my top priority. We wouldn't last the night without it, as wet and cold as we were.

I removed Basch's inventory pack and dug out a wet blanket. It was made of wool and freezing to the touch, but it was better than nothing. I wrapped it securely around and underneath him, and used my own blanket as a temporary pillow for him. Then I stood and collected my things for a short excursion away from the lake.

My bow had not survived the fall unfortunately so I was unarmed, but there were no other options left; it was either stay and die or risk death in seeking out survival. I had to find something for burning and hope that a weapon would turn up along the way. To stay here idle would be the death of us both.

My eyes strayed back to where Basch lay and I felt a lump form in my throat. If you'd just wake up, this wouldn't be so hard, I thought bitterly. But he wouldn't and if I didn't get my butt in gear, he might never and that was the last thing that I wanted.

I set up a beacon light using a back up torch, just incase I had trouble finding my way back. Then I lit my own torch and prepared to depart.

"I'll be back." I said emphatically and marched onward.

There was only a single tunnel leading away from the beach and it was surprisingly easy going. It wasn't small by any means either. Light crystals were sparse and widely placed along the tunnel walls, making vision limited, but they seemed to follow a planned design, as if put here deliberately. Where might it lead?

At the first forks I took a right, being right handed and it seeming like a good idea. I was beginning to feel the first waves of exhaustion. My legs were tired, I was cold, and I was miserable with hopelessness, but as more time passed warmth entered my extremities and I felt marginally better. It was really kind of fascinating down here.

There were no gaping caverns or broken paths as far as I'd gone. Everything was neat and orderly, as if someone had intentionally carved the passage out of stone. It slowly dawned on me that I was not actually imagining things when I pictured a city here; there were chunks of mortar brick, shattered pottery, and broken steel scattered along the path. This had been a city!

Or the outskirts of one. To confirm this the next bend revealed an actual building, or rather a doorway carved directly into the wall. I peaked inside and discovered a large circular room scattered with dusty wooden stools, three wooden bed frames, a circular stone table with leg room carved out, an almost empty weapon rack, and a book case.

I licked my lips and stepped inside. Something crunched beneath my feet and I jumped back, startled. Bones. Rat bones.

I made a face and stepped around the carcass. Why were there always rats? It wasn't that I minded them particularly, but it didn't matter where or when – there always seemed to be rats. I suppose I even had a soft spot for them when it came down to it, seeing as Vaan had been killing them for sport for years.

Spider-webs draped nearly everything in the room, but they were old and unoccupied. Much of this place seemed rather dead. It brought shivers to my skin. Dead places often contained the dead themselves and they were rarely at rest.

There was a short sword in the weapon rack. It was badly rusted, but anything was better than nothing. There was also a hatchet lying on the floor. I think it was in better shape than the sword, which was good because I was going to need it to dismember some furniture.

I killed two birds with one stone. The stools I disassembled with the hatchet, as well as one of the beds, which was about all that I could handle for one load. I fastened a harness out of my pack and some old rope I found lying in one corner, and packed it full of wood. Then I began the return trip, a sword in one hand and a hatchet in the other.

On the way back I ran into one live rat who was all but scared to death to come across me and turned tail without so much as a second glance I wasn't sure whether to be relieved or concerned. What was there down here to imbue terror of that intensity in a rat? I hope I didn't have to find out.

Nothing very eventful happened after that aside from nearly getting lost. It didn't take me long to catch my error and back track, but it was somewhat unsettling. What I didn't expect was how natural wandering alone had become. The apprehensiveness I'd felt initially had dissipated as I explored.

Everything was as I had left it upon return. Basch hadn't woken up and his skin felt cooler to the touch than before, to my dismay. A quick fire spell would remedy that though. I set out four pieces of timber and ignited them with a word. It was the most wonderful sensation to feel real warmth again.

I shuffled back to Basch's side then. Everything seemed fine and the gash on his head was healing normally, but something wasn't right. He should have come to by now I was sure. I decided to remove the blanket I'd wrapped around him earlier as it was only keeping him wet.

I sighed inwardly and sagged to the ground again, brooding. Cold air trickled down my back and I shivered involuntarily. I glanced sideways at Basch's relaxed form on the ground, wondering idly what was going through his mind. What did a man like him dream? Maybe I'd ask him sometime.

The fire warmed my face and front, but it was slow in thawing beneath the surface. I placed the back of my hand against Bashc's cheek, still cool and more pale than usual. He was not in an ideal position to reap the benefits of the fire either.

"Come on." I knelt beside him, slipping my arms under his armpits, and heaved his upper body into my lap. I crossed my legs and braced him there in front of the fire, combining our heat. It was burning well now, but it would take a while to drive away the chill. "You could wake up you know." I suggested.

He did not.

Fear poked its icy fingers at my heart menacingly as time passed. I began to notice things amidst the quietness of the cavern – sounds. There was nothing distinctly sinister about them, but they were not particularly friendly either. I was not keen on being alone down here and the thought of Basch - the insuperable and unwavering - dying was simply incomprehensible.

I sang quietly to drive away the lonely silence. Basch already felt much warmer than before and I remained hopeful for his recovery, but he still did not wake and the sounds in the distance did not cease. If anything they drew closer.

Maybe if I pretended there was nothing there the cavern would let us be. Yeah right. But pretending provided a momentary peace.

My mind wandered as I sat there. I thought about things to pass the time – silly things, and some not so silly things. Where did viera children come from anyway? Were there viera men? Or, what if we never got out of here? What if we were attacked before Basch woke up and I was killed? I didn't want to die.

What if Basch never wakes up?

My throat tightened relfexively. "You're not going to die on me, Basch." I told him sternly, daring him to suggest otherwise. He remained motionless in my lap.

As the fire gradually reduced to glowing embers, the truth dawned on me that Basch might not wake up for many days. It was no longer a matter of wait a few hours and head out like I had hoped. I would have to make preparations for an extended stay.

We had the provisions for at least a week, but that didn't account for the trip out. Vaan and I were the designated pack mules in the group – something about seniority rights if I recall, so I carried the majority of our food stuffs. I wasn't complaining now.

I sighed and carefully laid Basch out on the ground again, propping a pillow I "found" tucked away in my belongings under his head. Then I retrieved one of the food packages and helped myself to some dried meat and dates. It nullified some of my anxiety, but then I felt thirsty. And we had no fresh water source.

"Damn." I cursed quietly. My canteen had two swallows left, which I devoured. Basch's had a little. I gingerly poured some into his mouth and saved the rest for rationing, just in case.

I would still have to find some. As a precaution I cast a barrier over my rudimentary camp site and fueled the fire before leaving. There was no telling what was down here and I was not about to find out the hard way. The spell would wear off eventually, but I was hoping that I wouldn't be gone long. Hopefully there was a stream emptying into the lake somewhere nearby or across the way.

I retrieved the short sword I'd carried back from the ruins and hung the hatchet at my waist. Then I set off, following the edge of the lake around. The sandy beach did not extend far, giving way quickly to moss and slime laden stone. The going was precarious and not especially accommodating. It hugged the wall of the cavern tightly, affording scarcely three feet of somewhat level surface to walk on before dropping abruptly into the water, and it was not shallow.

In places the path tilted so steeply that I had to cling to the wall like a spider. I still fell in twice, saved only by a last ditch effort to grasp the sharp stone as the lake attempted to swallow me. My hands ached and stung where the stone had cut or bruised.

The trail eventually widened out on the other side of the lake and there was another beach. Light crystals flickered more brightly here than where Basch and I were camped. There was a path leading up and away from the beach, well-lit by a yellow crystals as far as I could see. I was tempted to explore it, but water was a more pressing matter and I turned away. Not five steps later I heard the faint, but sweet burble of a brook and I broke into a jog across the sand.

The stream emerging from the crack in the wall and emptying into the lake wasn't large, but it was plenty big enough for me and two canteens. I dropped down on my stomach and drank it thirstily. Water had never tasted so deliciously sweet as right then.

When I had my fill and the canteens were full, I immediately set out back for camp the way I'd come. I was not ready to explore the other route around as I wasn't sure it was passable, but I knew this way was.

The trip back was less eventful, which was fine by me. I had just set foot on the first stretch of sand when the familiar clatter of bones and armor drew my attention sharply. I stopped short and lifted my sword – it felt heavy and awkward in my hands. I was not well-versed in sword play.

A tingle crept up my spine and spread all the way into my toes as I picked out distinct footsteps. I peered through the growing darkness and caught a glimpse of the pale, sharp outline of a skeleton warrior as it approached the fire of our camp. He had set a course straight for Basch, war spear in hand.

My blood went cold and I let out a furious battle cry to draw the creature's attention. It turned right as I was preparing to charge, and promptly altered its course.

As I ran to engage him it occurred to me that I really had no idea what I was doing. The skeleton leveled its spear at the last moment and I lifted my sword to parry it as I ran passed. A metallic clang resonated through the cavern as steel met steel.

I spun deftly around to face him and was met by the descending shaft of his spear. It missed by inches and I awkwardly lifted my sword to defend the follow up blow. My grip on the sword was impeded by the sweat between my fingers and the force of his strikes rattled my bones. I scarcely had time to breath let alone respond.

Of all the foes to have to face, why the undead? I hated the undead.

The skeleton wielded its rusty spear with precision and grace that was simply unfair for something so despicable – holding my sword before me was all I could do to fend him off. He was backing me into a corner and there was nothing I could do.

I didn't see where I was going and therefore wasn't prepared when my boot caught on a rise of stone. I hit the ground with an panicked gasp as my sword slipped from my fingers. The skeleton warrior pounced with a swift thrust at my chest. I acted on impulse and grabbed for the shaft as it descended. I was only mildly successful in deflecting it. An intense agony exploded from where the spear point had sunk into my right shoulder. Then there was a frigid numbness and I cried out through tears of pain.

My legs flailed violently and I snuck a lucky blow into the un-dead warrior's right leg, dislocating it at the knee. The skeleton crumpled, releasing the weapon's shaft, and I bit down on my lip to pull it free. I must have screamed loud enough that the stars themselves heard me - my head was nothing but white stars and paralyzing pain. I tossed the spear aside, grinding my teeth as the warrior rose up from the ground again. I tore the hatchet free of its frail binding and swung with all my might at the undead soldier's chest.

The skeleton warrior staggered back from the blow, but he was not banished, and he began working a spell. I counter casted and experience beat him to the punch. Holy shattered what was left of him into a million splinters of bone. I ducked instinctively and covered my head beneath a showering of shards.

When the last piece had fallen I lifted my head with a ragged breath and peered out through blurry eyes at what remained of what had nearly been my death.

"Why didn't I just do that to begin with?" I muttered. My good hand lifted to the wound in my right shoulder and my teeth clenched as I swayed dizzily towards the ground. I felt myself falling rapidly out of consciousness as the cure spell left my lips.

Everything went dark.

The lights were off when I awoke. It occurred to me amidst my daze that there were no lights in caverns, therefore nothing to be turned off, so why should I be thinking that the lights were turned off? Yet, some part of my brain seemed to register that it was darker than before, like all the lights had gone out. There had been light enough to navigate the tunnels before and now there was scarcely enough to see five paces in front of me.

I sat up and was launched into a fit of coughing. My throat felt raw and my skin clammy. I inhaled deeply, discovered that to be painful, and tried to examine my surroundings. It proved more difficult than I expected – every turn of my head seemed to bring with it a dizzy, throbbing ache.

The crystals were dull and subdued. Maybe there were sun tunnels that lit them in the day and went out at night, or maybe I was suffering from a feverish hallucination. There were stories about sun tunnels, but few people ever had the opportunity to explore that theory as no one had recently been buried this far beneath the surface.

I crawled shakily across the ground. There was something I was supposed to remember...someone was with me. It hit me suddenly and with the force of light speed; Basch. I faltered and crashed to the ground in a panic. I tried to call out his name and didn't recognize the rasp of my own voice.

This was bad, I realized suddenly. Something had caught and the healing spell had not fended it off. I reached for my wound reflexively. To my pleasant surprise it seemed to be mending beautifully – the spell had not missed that anyway, which didn't explain why I felt so ill.

Whatever the cause, it stood to reason that if I was sick then Basch might be as well, never mind that the spear could have been poisoned. I had to locate him and make sure he was still ok. If something had happened to him...I'd never make it out by myself.

Basch was not that far away it turned out. Once I was on my feet I found him immediately despite the fact that the fire had all but burned out. I knelt beside him and checked his pulse again – still there, but noticeably weaker.

I went to my stock pile of wood and started building another fire. There was enough there for a day or two, but not much more than that. How long though? How long before I passed out again and didn't wake up?

When the flames were leaping high into the darkness of the cavern I crawled back to Basch's side and placed a hand on his forehead. I sucked in sharply; his temperature was considerably hotter than it should be. The wound appeared fine, but he was running a high fever.

Just like me.

I bit my lip as I sat back on my heels and tried to think. Clearly it was foolish to believe that fate would actually afford us a break for once. This was no time to start feeling sorry for myself, but I was at a loss and facing not only Basch' death, but possibly my own as well.

My pack was full of medicinal potions and remedies, I had almost every white magic spell known to the world at my disposal. Something had to work!

I tried everything under the sun and crossed my fingers. Then I rolled out my damp blanket and laid down to wait. It had been a long day and it was only getting longer as the night progressed, if it was indeed night at all. I tried not to close my eyes for fear that sleep take me forever. I concentrated on studying Basch's face and refused myself to look away.

My mind wandered in and out of a daze where reality and fantasy merged. I went from shivering uncontrollably with chills, to watching and fussing over the knight, and back to shivering. The fire continued to blaze, but it didn't help. I kept hearing sounds, seeing shadows, and I couldn't shake the disturbing feeling that we were dying.

Eventually I couldn't stand it anymore and gave up on trying to relax. I added more wood to the fire whenever it began to shrink and continued monitoring Basch's condition. I'd taken my blanket and tucked in under his neck earlier because the pillow wasn't doing the trick. He had broken into a terrible sweat not long after and I spent the next eternity trying desperately to fight death from his body. I healed us both countless times, which while it did seem to help, it only served to prolong the inevitable.

I really had no idea of how much time had passed until I noticed the crystals glowing more prominently again. An entire night had gone by and neither Basch or myself had improved. I was for the most part the same, but his condition had worsened. Try as I might, I could do nothing to stop it.

Feeling the seeds of panic begin to sprout, I began talking nonsense to the air.

"...Vaan tried to fly off the roof once..." I trailed off, laughing and coughing myself to the edge of hysteria. "He was lucky that a street vender was passing by with a cart full of tomatoes–broke his fall."

"–and then mom and dad died...nothing was quite the same after that." My mind wandered aimlessly from memory to memory, "Vaan's the only family I have left now..."

I sighed inwardly and cast a sidelong glance at Basch's pale, grimacing face. "What about you, Basch?" I wrung my hands nervously as I carefully chose my next words. For some reason, even though he couldn't hear me, I was afraid to say it the wrong way. "Have you...have you always been alone? I mean...have you not been married?" I only choked slightly on the last part, but it was enough to launch me into another coughing fit. My sinuses were getting worse.

I bit my lip and hugged my blanket to myself. "What about Ashe?" I cleared my throat roughly, "I guess that wouldn't be proper," I smiled to myself sadly, "but I think it's romantic."

An awkward silence lapsed during which I had this horrifying feeling that he'd heard and understood every word I said.

"Oh what am I saying?" I exasperated and shivered. "We're both just going to die here anyway...aren't we?"

Yes, we were both going to die here. I had exhausted the last of my resources. "I'm sorry." I muttered and swayed uneasily. "I'm sorry for...failing...you." I laid down in the sand, trying not to sleep, but wanting it more than anything.

Dreadful thoughts began to pervade my mind and everything became fuzzy and unfocused. By midday, or what I could only guess was midday, Basch was shaking and secreting mucous from his nose and mouth, and I was not far behind. I cast every spell of healing I had, but it was no longer having any affect.

Holding my breath was all I could do to stay what little was in my stomach down while I repeatedly washed the filth from Basch's face to keep his airway open. I talked as much as I could, or until my throat was raw. Either that or I tried to sing – anything to keep the awful silence of death at bay. I had this irrational thought that if I did we couldn't, wouldn't, die.

The lights slowly dimmed with the fall of night again. I lay despondently and stroked Basch's hair in idle resignation, whispering old melodies of comfort, while a stream of tears cascaded down my cheek and tickled the inside of my ear. I had trouble staying focused for an extended period of time now. My mind seemed to lapse into a sort of delirium whenever I tried. Oddball things would just pop into my mind unbidden.

Basch was a handsome man, more so even than Balthier, to me at least. The difference was that Basch had only ever treated me with respect and consideration. With him you were an equal no matter who you were.

But that was silly talk. Every young girl had a crush on someone like Basch in their life. It wasn't something you took seriously or thought for a moment to act upon, but it was the first step in developing a guide to the ideal knight in shining armor – the man to which all others were compared. A girl would have to be the biggest fool not to appreciate the chivalry of one such as Basch.

I started to hum a song that my mom used to sing for me. She had only sung it a few timeswhen I was sick and until now I'd forgotten about it entirely. Why or how it came to mind I don't know, but it was very persistent. It was an old medicine man's hymn.

"...my lady, my lady, fetch me dragon root. Under shady stone, sand, and wood, it clings. Thou must seek in dark places its tender glow. I beg thee, fetch me dragon root for my sick heart."

"–for the fabled dragon root cures all ills of body and spirit."

I stopped short. Tender glow in dark places...dragon root. That was a real herb! But they were exceedingly rare, or rather extinct. As the song indicated they were said to grow in dark, cavernous places, such as this. I doubted that anyone had been down here in a while. What was true above was not necessarily so for down here. It might have survived down here unbeknownst to surface dwellers.

I hastily wiped my eyes and gave Basch's hand a squeeze, "Hold on a little longer, ok?" I croaked.

It was a long shot at best and I really had no idea what I was doing, but I got weakly to my feet and started a haphazard search for it. It was supposed to glow in the dark. Well, there were a lot of things glowing down here, but none of them were herbs. Although...I stopped, nearly falling in the process, and glanced to my left: moss.

I hadn't been paying very close attention to the vegetation since falling down here, but it was definitely mossy looking. Moss was moss as far as my limited knowledge was concerned, but this moss glowed and this was the only time I could remember having come across anything like it.

What had I to lose?

A closer examination of the fluffy vegetation revealed the source of the glow to be dozens of tiny blue flowers. The moss itself was a deep, sea green color. I hesitated only for a moment before carefully removing it, roots and all, from its perch on the cavern wall. Then I stumbled back to camp, which it turned out was only a hundred or so paces away though it felt like a mile.

Now I just had to figure out how to use it. I glanced down at Basch. He was still alive, which was about as much as I could hope for, but I hadn't been gone for more than a minute or two so his condition shouldn't have changed. Mine, however, I could not say the same for. The brief excursion had evidently took a lot out of me and that was just the opportunity that sickness needed to sink its talons deeper. My head started to feel light and fuzzy.

I struggled with a tin cup as I filled it with water and positioned it in the fire. Then I began the tedious process of extracting the plant's roots from the flowers. The roots were tiny and as red as saffron and easily lost in the folds of my clothing. I still had close to a handful of it when I was finished and the water had just begun to steam. My plan was to steep it like a tea. It was the best I could do, considering the circumstances and the fact that I had only a lullaby to go by.

My hands fumbled with the cup as it was hot as fire when I touched it. I recoiled with a curse and snatched the first thing within reach to retrieved it with, Basch's handkerchief. It was soiled with dirt, sweat, and other substances best left unmentioned.

Once set aside from the fire and allowed to cool I added the root to the water and stirred it in. Time was excruciatingly slow as I waited, watching the fiery red tendrils shrivel and seep into the water. Something awful to the taste came up my throat unbidden and I gagged. I spit it out, cringing in disgust. The same substance had been draining from Basch's mouth and nose earlier that day.

The rapid pace at which my nose and mouth filled with the mucus was horrifying. I was having trouble breathing as I steeped the last of the dragon root in the hot water. My eyes began to water and I started coughing purposely to get it out. How Basch had not suffocated I don't know, but I was on the verge of it myself and I was not at the disadvantage of being unconscious.

When I had steeped the root for all its worth I brought the cup to my lips and took a healthy swig. It burned as it passed down my throat with a bitter, sharp taste that I almost couldn't keep down. I could feel it eat through the blockage in my throat though and relief was immediately forthcoming.

I scrambled to Basch's side. With one hand behind his neck to gently prop his head and the other holding the broth of dragon root, I gingerly poured a few drops into his slightly parted mouth. My unsteady hands sloshed a good portion of it onto his beard, but most of it hit the mark. I waited a few moments before giving him more, just to make sure that it wasn't coming back up and that it was actually making it down his throat as opposed to down his chin.

I managed to empty over half of the cup's contents and the rest I gave to myself. Basch was keeping it all down it looked like, to my relief. That was a good sign anyway. I was keeping it down too and though it may have just been wishful thinking, I thought I felt a change. Maybe it would work.

It was a far cry from dragging either of us from death's row however. I had no way of knowing, on the off chance that any of this had the potential to work, of how long it would take for the root to take full effect, and deep down I feared that this was just a fool's gamble.

There was nothing to do but wait either way and I was too exhausted and sick to care anymore. I fed the fire with the last pieces of timber and laid down again. With all of my energy spent, I closed my eyes and surrendered to sleep, not entirely certain of whether I would wake again.

Author's Note: So I started this out thinking of writing it as a Penelo/Balthier, and than I had a revelation and thought, why not Penelo/Basch? I'm not one to go for those types of pairings generally due to the large age gap, but taking into the account that I think Square-Enix is full of garbage when they try to tell me that Basch is 36, and that people will be people regardless of age, I believe it is a workable scenario if played out right. This is part one of two in a prologue that will be the foundation for the relationshp which I plan to build upon in a story set after the events of the game.

Of all the character interactions through out the game, I liked those between Penelo and Basch best. I didn't view them as romantic by any means, but they were friendly and cute, and just cool. That kind of thing is what I perceive to be the beginnings of a close friendship, and perhaps more. Yay for fanfiction and making those dreams come true! I hope you enjoyed it.