As always, thanks to my reviewers!! This is the last chapter, and Fran's going to have to try and find a way to save Basch!!
Basch got to his feet, grasping his sword as though his wounded arm no longer hindered him. Fran took a cautionary step back, dropping into a fighting stance, though she equipped no weapon, hoping that she would not need it.
Basch gave a raspy breath, a shadow of his former self, blinking with eyes that were hollow and soulless. He lunged, sweeping his sword. Fran leapt backwards, drawing her axe. Basch struck again, and she rose the axe to block his attack, but the sheer force he exerted knocked it from her hand and sent it flying into a cluster of rocks.
Fran exhaled calmly; panicking would get her nowhere. Apart from her bow, which she did not plan to use against him unless the situation became dire she was weapon less. Even if she parted him and his weapon, she could not subdue his inhuman strength. How was she meant to fight an impossibly strong foe, without weapons when she did not wish to harm him? Fran clutched a hand to her chest, summoning as much energy as she could muster to perform the disable magick. She flung out a hand, the dancing lights flocking about Basch.
He charged, and Fran ducked aside. He must be immune to it. She tried to immobilise him, but to no avail. The mist seemed to have cast a curse on him, similar to berserk and confuse combined, only much more powerful. Fran regretted turning down the offer of an Esper, when the other party members all had one. Now she couldn't take him to Eruyt village, she couldn't risk it.
As Basch ran at her again, Fran leapt aside, sweeping her foot across the snowy ground, knocking him off his feet. As Basch fell, she twisted his wrist sharply, forcing him to drop his sword. She cast it into some rocks, where it lay hidden. That should level the playing field a little more.
Before Fran had even resumed a fighting stance, Basch tore at her, tackling the Viera. She was flung backwards into the ground, the icy snow making her delicate ears sear with pain. He leapt onto her, pinning her down, and raising a fist to strike her.
"Basch!" Fran cried. What if she couldn't return his sanity before he killed her?
She snapped her knee up into his crotch and the possessed man sprang off, snarling at her. Seeing no alternative, Fran sprinted towards another passage between the cliffs. She could hear Basch tearing after her.
Spotting a gathering of Yeti's and other fiends, Fran headed straight for them, kicking gracefully off a rock, and diving into a flip. The fiends only momentarily paid her heed, as they were more interested in Basch as he charged towards them like a madman. She was slightly concerned that he may not be able to fight them empty-handed, but this worry was soon squashed as he smashed a wolf's face into a nearby rock.
Fran scanned the vicinity, her mind racing. She couldn't run forever. She'd have to lose him, and then go to Eruyt. She glimpsed a familiar figure looming in the shadows of a cave, orb-like ruby eyes fixed on Basch's annihilation of Paramina Rifa's fiend population.
Fran sprinted over stealthily, ducking to the cave.
"Mjrn!" She murmured, embracing her younger sister. "Where are the others?"
"They set up camp not far from here and I volunteered myself to find firewood with Balthier...who then gave the privilege to Vaan. He went the opposite way."
Mjrn glanced fearfully at Basch as he finished off the last Yeti with his bare hands.
"What is wrong with him?" She asked.
Fran explained briefly about the mist, his cut and how she thought it was linked to the Viera tale. Mjrn's eyes lit up with recognition.
"Why have you not yet used the Esmae?" Mjrn asked.
"I know not where it is," Fran confessed, "I can no longer ask the wood for aid."
The Esmae was a powerful amulet that was hidden by the Viera, and was renowned for it's ability to apparently absorb mist. Perhaps it could do that for Basch.
Mjrn closed her eyes, tilting her head skyward. She breathed softly, her short hair flowing about her face. Fran knew the wood's voice would be gradually fading from her ears.
"It is in the Feywood," Mjrn replied, "where there is a twisted tree right in the middle and it's leaves are always orange. Press would hands on the green engraving and concentrate. If your intention is pure, you will be granted the Esmae."
"Thank you so much," Fran told her sister, "I cannot apologise enough for dragging you into this."
"Don't apologise sister, it is my decision."
"Quickly, I will lead him into the Feywood, you head back to the others, but do not tell them of this, there is no need to worry them."
Mjrn nodded, trusting that her sister knew best. The two Viera exited the cave, spying Basch. He made a sharp turn, staring directly at them. He charged at Mjrn. She evaded his attack, drawing her bow doubtfully.
"Don't shoot," Fran called, "just escape, I will distract him."
Basch pounced on Mjrn. He tried to hit her, but she ducked, swinging a powerful leg into his chest. Basch staggered backwards, and the Viera fled. Fran scooped rock, throwing it at him. The small stone struck the back of his head. His eyes flashed maliciously as he focused on her.
Fran detested seeing him like this. It pained her to treat an ally as a foe. The curse contorted his handsome face into a gruesome mask. Fran hurtled away from him, twigs and earth slipping under her feet as she ran. The snow crunched loudly, slowing her escape. She tried desperately to gather her bearings. The sound of the manic Basch raged in her sharp ears.
There it was! The opening to the Feywood! A melted patch of snow, covered wsith leaves and earth showed the path to her. She even caught sight of a few branches. Fran sprinted into the Feywood.
Low hanging boughs obstructed her path, and she had to slow down to weave between them. Basch smashed through them like a machine.
She would have to lose him momentarily so that she could get the Esmae. Luckily, Fran knew the wood far better than he did. She ducked between trees, whilst Basch just mowed straight past her. She soon heard him engaging in battle with a fiend, judging from the howls.
Fran scanned every tree she came across, checking for the engraving that Mjrn had mentioned. She spotted something. A tree with branches that twisted like knots, and golden autumnal leaves that contrasted the vast greenery.
She felt for the engraving. It was an unusual design, and not of anything specific. She pressed a palm onto it, concentrating on Basch, first as the demonic being that currently took his form, and then as the brave, loyal knight whom he truly was. She hoped it would still work, despite her being an outcast. Fran blinked, removing her hand from the tree. The Esmae, a silver amulet with a glimmering stone inset hovered before her. The stone reflected all the lights that danced upon it, melting into different colours.
She heard a cry.
Fran grasped the amulet, glancing as Basch readied himself to charge. She held out the beautiful stone, directing it at him.
He yelled, lunging forward as the gap closed between them. A burst of light exploded from the Esmae, swirling towards Basch. He writhed, shielding his face with his arms. The wound on his arm began to heal, tiny fibres sewing up the cut. Fran thought it was going to kill him.
As the lights faded back into the stone, an echoing wail met Fran's ears. She cringed, and it ended abruptly. Basch collapsed.
Fran darted over to her fallen ally, the Esmae turning to vapour from her hand. Presumably it had gone back to the tree.
His face was cold, not like before. She felt for his pulse. It beat strongly, bringing joy to the Viera. He must just be unconscious.
She cast arise to revive him, already seeing the colour rush back into his face. He sighed, his eyes flickering open, that blue colour which she had so sorely missed. He too seemed reassured by the sight of a friendly face.
"I'm so sorry." Basch murmured, laying a hand on her arm. "I had no control over my actions."
The contact still made her skin tingle with a soothing warmth. It gave her much comfort, like when he had shielded her from the mist.
"You have nothing to be sorry for," Fran replied, "it was not your fault."
"Then I must thank you," Basch said earnestly as he sat up. "You saved my life."
"It is I who should thank you."
Basch gave her a puzzled look.
"If you had not shielded me from the mist, then I would have been the one possessed, or maybe both of us. I doubt then that you could have found Mjrn, or accessed the Esmae. Thank you for your bravery."
Basch smiled modestly, before a look of shock passed into his face.
"Of course, your sister!" He exclaimed. "I must apologise to her also."
"Do not fret, Mjrn will understand," Fran smiled. "She is wiser than I give her credit for."
Fran led him safely out of the Feywood, along a high grassy embankment so hat they would not cross any fiends. Once out of the wood, she retraced her steps to where she thought their weapons were.
Basch pointed to a strange glint amongst some rocks. He darted forwards, appearing to have recovered much of his strength. He lifted his sword, running his fingers along the blade. Fran slung her axe back into her belt. She took a small amount of meat and fruit from her pack, handing it to Basch. She had solely fruit, as she disliked meat. It seemed to replenish the strength she had spent on their recent endeavours.
"Wait, I recognise that rock." Fran mused, gesturing to a lone boulder.
"How? They look so similar."Said Basch, following her gaze.
"Look carefully." She advised. "Remember? Vaan commented on how it looked like a Giza Rabbit, just before Penelo pushed him into a pile of wolf droppings."
Basch laughed fondly at the memory.
"Yes," he smiled, the expression softening his features. "Do you know where to go from here?"
Fran nodded. She almost didn't want to rejoin the others, she was enjoying Basch's company. Balthier should perhaps even worry about being replaced. She had never really thought about how similar Basch was to herself. Usually, Fran looked to herself for protection, but when that mist struck, she was glad to have someone to aid her.
"I think I can see Lady Ashe and Balthier,"Basch said, snatching hr from her thoughts.
Fran squinted, identifying the pair as they chatted near the back of the party. She was glad to see Ashe and Balthier talking so amicably. The young woman seemed truly relaxed and happy. He too seemed to genuinely enjoy the company that he was holding, and had not produced the usual transparent act he used to lure vapid young women to his bed. For so long, Fran had heard of Balthier's flings, and yet he never seemed satisfied. She knew him well, and it was clear to her that Ashe may just be the one to coax him into settling down.
If hey did, Fran would travel alone. Vaan and Penelo may join her, but it would not be the same. If only Basch were not so dedicated to his role, perhaps he would care to join her. The again, Fran had a great respect for his devotion. Their their time together had developed her friendship with him, which she hoped would continue to flourish once they rejoined the party.
They sprinted towards their friends, receiving warm welcomes from the party members. Balthier gave her a pat on the back, which Fran raised her eyebrow at. She wondered if after all these years, she was still a little intimidated by her.
"Good to see you in one piece," he grinned. "Have you been taking good care of Basch?"
"Of course, and I see you haven't led the party into any danger."
"You say that as though you are surprised," he smirked.
"We did spot something strange though" Ashe commented, casting the mountains a wary glance, as though hordes of fiends would wash over them at any minute.
"Yes, this cloud of mist tried to attack us." Larsa added. "But we fled."
"It was too powerful to fight." Penelo explained.
The eight of them set off at a comfortable pace as the entrance to the refugee camp came into view. Mjrn grinned at her sister.
"You're lucky you didn't have to fight it," Said Vaan, smiling at the newly returned pair.
Fran and Basch exchanged a knowing smile. It would remain their secret, and hopefully, the foundation of a new friendship.
So there you have it!! My very first Fran/Basch!! I'm so proud I finally finished it. I'll leave it your imaginations of where they go from there. Tell me what you think anyway!!!