The first time she heard his voice she disliked it. She heard the sound of Archadia in it, a pompous lilt that meant to subdue her people.
"Such an upstanding member of the insurgence," he had scoffed with a shrug of his shoulders. From the very start he would prove to be a challenge. But as they traveled, she slowly discovered the man behind the arrogant accent.
She grew to secretly adore the witty utterances that came from him. A teasing banter that kept spirits high in a journey fraught with danger and roadblocks at every turn. A voice like a rich honey, she longed for the syllables to pour from his mouth, filling her ears with their warmth.
"Princess." Never before had the word sounded so intoxicating, and she had spent her entire life hearing it directed at her. But from his lips it was something else. Initially she perceived an undercurrent of disdain in the way he said it. As they journeyed together, it stood as a reminder of her mission, of what lay ahead for her to reclaim.
"How soon do we leave?" Though she didn't know it then, he was leading her to a place he had fought desperately to abandon. He had even changed his name to erase Archades, to cut his ties to the past. Everything about him was shrouded in mystery. The accent of an Empire he now sought to destroy. The accent of a father who would have had him wield a blade against Dalmasca. But he ran.
"Don't give your heart to a stone." The sincerity of his plea that day continued to play over in her head. He believed she would be strong enough, the conviction in his voice urging her forward. His voice was a pillar of strength all this time, and she needed him to fight alongside her.
Their voyage back from the cataract was silent, the sacrifice of Reddas hanging over them all. The following day would see them assault Vayne's colossal vessel in the skies over her city. One final rest in Balfonheim before success or death. She shivered at the thought of never hearing his voice again.
The party stayed at the manse that night, solemnly remembering the loss of their pirate companion. As they dispersed to seek the comforts of sleep in a real bed for the first time in ages, she had to hear it again. She wanted to hear his voice directed to her and her alone. Selfish maybe, but she had things to say.
She caught him as he was ascending the stairs. "Could we speak for a moment?"
He had pegged her as some sort of aristocrat the moment he heard that affected tone in her voice. The petulance of a lone woman outnumbered by a group of soldiers thanked her rescuers by saying she would "accept such help as I find, though it be from thieves."
But a Princess? Even he hadn't gone that far in his initial assessments of the young Resistance member, but as he found himself following her to the ends of the world, he wished his mind had put it all together sooner.
A woman with a voice that quaked with strength. Even he had to admit that there was a remarkable feistiness in the sound of her every word. Each utterance was a challenge to him, and he delighted in these sorts of games.
"Then steal me. Is that so much to ask?" That night in Bhujerba had intrigued him, and he allowed her brazen demands in the cockpit of his airship to spark his curiosity. What other reason could he have for fighting at her side all this time? A woman who would be stolen by a pirate to reclaim her throne. A woman who would not sit and bide her time, but instead choose to act. The conviction and courage in every word was enough to win his allegiance. And perhaps something more.
But when he had expressed his worry for her, she had gone on the defensive. He had never seen her vulnerable, and though he wanted to warn her about the blasted nethicite, for the first time she sounded her age. And it made him realize how much she needed his help. Well, all their help actually. Wouldn't do to think anything else beyond that.
"I pray you're right," she had said, the uncertainty clouding her eyes. A voice that he knew would command thousands someday was praying for his assurances. The choice had been made at the lighthouse, and all that lay ahead was a power-hungry man in a magical floating construct.
This night he heard a peaceful sound in her voice that her melancholy nature had rarely expressed before. He nodded and followed her out onto the balcony, and they stood together overlooking the port. The sound of waves crashing against the shore filled his ears, the Balfonheim night calm despite the potential apocalypse to follow.
It almost made him laugh how the bustling city could go on with its smuggling and its drinking when in hours there would be desperate fighting in the west. He supposed it explained his own affinity for the port town. In his flight, he sought freedom, a place away from the warring and the nethicite and the social burdens. A place that would simply just live.
After a few moments, her voice again entered his ears, soft as silk brushing against his earlobes. There was the same determination and spirit, but he did not hear the Princess speaking. He discovered that he was hearing her for the first time.
"I know tomorrow will be the end, although I cannot say what that end will be. But I wanted to take this moment to thank you. For everything you've done. I could never have gotten this far without your help." The words flowed like cool water, and all he wanted was to let himself drown. He'd die a happy man.