My bar isn't anything special. It sits in a decent location, near the sphere pool, and gets a lot of traffic after Blitzball games. I keep the inside clean and the tables wiped down, and mostly my walls feature signed posters of past tournament winning teams. There are some losers on the walls too, but I don't mind.

Remarkably, the flood waters from the last attack by Sin didn't touch my bar. Have I mentioned its name? When I started it here, in this tiny room in Luca, the sense of failure was overwhelming. Nearby bar owners scoffed at me, saying that my place was just "a drop in the ocean".

So my bar is just simply called The Drop.

Mostly we get people here looking to watch the games on the sphere screens. People like coming here because we have food aside from the usual rounds of alcohol, and the food is usually very good. I see to it myself – personally. I have several recipes for thick soup – the sort that feels great in the stomachs of travelers and keeps the regulars coming back. Sometimes, travelers heading to Bevelle will stop here seeking lodging – I had some moderate success last year and purchased the apartments right above my bar and converted them into rented rooms. Since then, that's been a staple of business here at The Drop, even to the point that Rin and his Travel Agencies have tried to subsidize me.

This week, however, I have suffered from very interesting visitors. I say "suffer" without meaning it – the men were very pleasant and well-behaved, and not bad to look at if I must say so myself.

Hey – even a bar owner can be romantic.

Luca is a good place to hide. There are a lot of people here, and few of them really care about politics or religion. There are endless alleyways and apartments and, if there's a commotion, it's usually always attributed to the Blitzers getting out of hand.

Needless to say, Luca doesn't see many soldiers. We get Al Bhed of every kind, the yokels from Besaid Island, Ronso and Guado alike, and we even see Maesters of Yevon coming through (usually to preside over games) – but rarely do we get soldiers.

That was why my first visitor unnerved me.


It was hard not to notice his entrance. At first, I thought the thunk-scrape sound was my dishwasher making a ruckus, or even one of the sphere screens malfunctioning again.

It turned out that the sound was coming from a man.

The Drop was not terribly crowded this afternoon. The Blitz game wasn't on until later that night, and people were mostly out and about attending the Temple or working or doing whatever it was that the people of Luca did on random weekday afternoons. I was tending the bar myself – I usually do in the afternoons, since it's hard to find someone who will pay attention if they're not getting heavy tips.

He walked over and sat down in the corner of the bar, against the wall. He carried a metal cane with him, bent almost in a square at the top. As I walked over, I noticed that it wasn't just a limp or a broken leg that he had – it was both a prosthetic arm and leg.

I'm an astute woman, and I know my gossip of Spira. I had heard of this man – Nooj, the Undying. When I said before that we didn't get many soldiers, I wasn't lying; however, word of this particular man had spread even beyond the ranks of the Crusaders.

But he didn't look like he particularly wanted to be recognized.

"Can I help you?" I asked, my hands busy with drying a freshly washed glass that would hold whatever drink he ordered.

He stared at me for a second, his eyes focusing over the rim of his glasses. He looked dazed. "Yes," he finally said. "Whatever's on draft."

I had several 'whatevers' on draft that particular day, but I chose the one with the most frequent orders. It was a stout, an import from Bikanel that I usually lied about and said it came from Guadosalam – my own private joke. I had an Al Bhed friend who, despite the usual misgivings for the race, freely traded her own beer to Spirans. I was one of her contacts. However, people would usually never order anything that was touched by Al Bhed hands, even if it was quite possibly the best selling item in The Drop.

I put his glass on a coaster in front of my visitor, and he nodded. I went back to my business – looking through the catalogue for a new sphere monitor. I needed something cheap since my secondary screen was on the fritz again.

"Bartender," said my patron – Nooj the Undying. "This is Al Bhed stout."

He said it too loudly. Another patron turned and looked. "You must be mistaken sir," I replied quickly, flashing a smile. "We don't buy anything Al Bhed here."

The look he gave me said that he didn't stand for liars. I departed my catalogue and went to stand before him so we could talk more privately. "It is Al Bhed," I said under my voice. "But if they knew, it would never be bought. It's a favorite around here."

He nodded. "I can't…" He stopped, seeming to think. It looked like a painful memory. "I can't drink this. Please replace it."

Nooj the Undying? Afraid of the Al Bhed? How could he have even known? "No problem sir," I said, taking his glass and replacing it with a simple Macalania lager that was a Spira-wide favorite. "You must have an impeccable palate."

"I recognized it," he replied. "I… have had it before."

Nhadala hadn't said that she traded very freely with many other Spirans, and least of all to the military. This man was a Crusader through and through – I could tell just by looking at him, nevermind the stories I'd heard – so it baffled me how he could have come across this beer.

"It's quite rare," I said, trying to get the information out of him. "I didn't think it could be found many places outside of—"

"I… spent time on Bikanel," he said, cutting me off. I noticed that he paused frequently in his speech, as if he was deliberating how he would say things.

"Ah," I said, though I didn't understand. "A friend to the Al Bhed?"

"No," he said sharply. "A training mission on their island."

That still didn't explain how he'd gotten ahold of Nhadala's stout. "With the Crusaders?"

"Something like that."

I nodded. What else could I say? I felt like I was prying into the man's life when he wanted absolutely nothing to do with me except for the beer I served. So I went back to looking at my catalogue, ready if my patrons needed me.

I refilled his glass three times before he said anything other than an order to me. "Many Al Bhed come through here?"

"A few," I replied. "Mostly the blitzers and their followers."

He nodded. "Ever any of them with one eye?"

Ah, so Nooj the Undying had an Al Bhed friend – or perhaps it was an enemy. I searched my memory of patrons, one that wasn't always so reliable, and came up empty. "It's hard to tell. They all usually wear goggles."

He shook his head. "This one doesn't. He wears an eyepatch. Swaggering fellow, always talks too much and too loud. Very manipulative."

I had to laugh. "I think that describes most of my clientele these days." I watched him carefully as he stared at the beer – he was still drinking the Macalanian lager. "If I see him, should I tell him I saw you?"

He seemed to consider my question, but when he next spoke, he didn't answer. "Do you know where the Crusaders outpost is in Luca?"

I could feel my shoulders drop. More military talk – I didn't like the military, but I couldn't ignore the horror of what had happened recently. "You didn't hear?"

"Hear what?"

"About Operation Mi'ihen?" He appeared to not know. I hated being the bearer of bad news, but it happened in this business. "The Crusaders teamed up with the Al Bhed to build a gigantic machina to topple Sin. It… well, it backfired. Their ranks were absolutely decimated."

I usually enjoy watching the play of emotions on a person's face, but not this time. I could see that the news hit him hard. Finally, he asked a simple question: "Survivors?"

Not having the answer, I shrugged. "I don't know. There couldn't have been many."

I watched his machina hand clench on the edge of the bar… I worried for a moment that the edging of my bartop would snap off. "Are there any left?"

"You could check at the local lodge," I suggested. "I really… don't know. Not many Crusaders in this bar."

He nodded, putting down his now-empty glass of beer. "Thank you," he said, producing several too many gil and placing them next to the glass. "Don't tell him."

I counted the money. "Don't tell who?"

"The one-eyed Al Bhed. Keep your mouth shut."

The change in his tone was unnerving. It was like I was speaking to an entirely different person, but I was smart enough to make the connection. Take a little extra money, and in return, don't tell anyone that Nooj the Undying was here. I could handle that.


Three days later, a Yevon entourage entered my bar -- Maester Seymour, in town for a visit and a Blitzball game, followed by his usual cohorts. He had been here before, claiming to enjoy the "local cuisine", and since I treated him nicely, he came back. It was always a good idea to be in the good graces of the Maesters.

They stayed just long enough to have some light drinks – yes, Maesters drink, but only if their wine has been appropriately blessed beforehand – and enjoy the so-called "local cuisine". A priest talked to me about the history of my bar – a story I was proud to tell – and then they left for their lodgings.

However, they left someone behind. He could not have held a rank much higher than Acolyte, judging by his age and the fact that he was not permitted to partake of the blessed wine with the Maester and the priests. I had watched him throughout the evening, sitting off to the side of the group, just listening and occasionally nodding. He had a sweet smile and a gentle demeanor, and he ate his soup slowly as if savoring every bite. I was amazed at how he could eat something with the high-necked robe he was wearing, but he seemed rather adept at it.

Mostly, I wondered what race he was. His complexion featured two of the most extreme ends of Spiran tone – dark brown skin with pure white hair. This combination was not often seen – those with white or silver hair usually had light skin, and darker skinned Spirans usually had black hair – and so his very appearance made me interested. I longed to ask him where he was from, but he seemed too deeply involved with the clergy present for me to be comfortable.

When the Maester left, he paused briefly to hold a private conversation with the young acolyte. The boy looked almost frightened, but nodded and then turned to come to the bar with me instead of following the rest of his cohorts outside.

He sat down in a barstool and put his forehead in his palms. Half of his face disappeared in that collar of his.

I knew I shouldn't, since it was busy and I had other patrons to care for, but Jima was covering well for an amateur and I decided to slough off a little. Being the owner gives me that privilege, I suppose.

The most dangerous question in all of Spira is: How are you? It can provoke an automatic response, or get someone started on their life story. When I ask it, the latter usually happens.

"Cred cred cred cred cred," the young man was saying to himself when I chose to ask the Dangerous Question. The fact that an Acolyte of Yevon was cursing in Al Bhed under his breath was disturbing enough as it was, and I really shouldn't have delved any deeper.

"How are you?" I asked in not much more than a whisper.

He looked up at me. His eyes betrayed him as he said, "It has just been a long day."

I smiled knowingly. "Mmhmm, and that's why you're cursing over there?"

It was amazing how, up close like this, I could see redness rising to his dark cheeks. "A really long day?" he tried. The tone he used didn't fit him, like he was borrowing it from someone but had no idea what to do with it.

The second most dangerous question in all of Spira is Do you want to talk about it?

When I asked, he said "No," but proceeded to talk about it anyway. It was probably the alcohol – the same Al Bhed stout that Nooj the Undying had rejected three days before.

"I hate Yevon," the young man said, "I hate it with every fiber of my being. They're liars, betrayers, hypocrites—"

"Young man," I said, trying not to talk down to him. "You'd best not say that too loud in here."

He shook his head. "I know, but I'm tired," he said, like it was an automated response.

I looked around, checking out the clientele. I wasn't sure if anyone in here was dangerous, but they all looked to be regulars, or at least highly interested in the Blitz review show on the sphere. I took the opportunity to refill the boy's glass with the stout that he had been drinking. It matched his skin color, I noticed peripherally. "Listen," I said, leaning over the bar to talk to him. "I don't say anything to anybody, even those who ask. Why are you with Yevon if you hate it so much?"

"I don't have anything else," he said to me. "I thought I had friends, but… I was shot by one of them, and abandoned by another, and I think the last and the dearest is dead."

This sounded like a tale of woe that could certainly get me in trouble. "Do you want to stay here? I can get you a room, we have a vacancy." It was the best thing I could offer this poor Acolyte who seemed so lost. I remembered going through something similar myself, years ago – around the time I met Nhadala, I realized.

"I think… I just need quiet for a while," he replied. "But I can't stay the night. I'm… needed."

I could hear the loathing in his voice. "No problem. I doubt we'll have any renters tonight, anyway. You can just take some time to yourself… I'll get you the key and show you up."

It didn't take me long to grab the key off the hook, leaving the duplicate behind, and get a towel from underneath the bar. Each room had a sink for washing up, and a towel was usually needed. I handed him the towel and led him through the door next to the bar. Up a flight and a half of stairs and down the hallway, and I showed the young Spiran man to the available room in the corner. It was a tiny room with one small window, but it had a bed and a sink and that was all most people needed.

It was all the young man needed, it seemed. "What's your name?" I asked, just for recordkeeping purposes.

He looked at me steadily. It seemed like he was judging whether he could trust me. Finally, I couldn't take his stare any longer, and I amended, "You don't need to tell me. I'll call you—"


I smiled. It was a nice name. I always like the three-syllable Spiran names. They were different. "Baralai, then. When you're finished, just come downstairs." I didn't care what he was doing in that room, as long as it was clean when he left.

It was hardly an hour before another patron approached me, asking for a room to rent for the night. I told him that I thought I had a vacancy, but I would have to check. The only room that was vacant, I knew, was the one Baralai was still occupying.

I knew I had to get him. Business came before charity, after all.

I grabbed the duplicate key from the board behind the counter and headed upstairs to the room in the corner. I knocked on the door.

No answer.

I knocked again.

Still no answer.

"Baralai," I said quietly into the doorjamb. "This room is being rented."

I couldn't hear anything from the other side. I sighed. I hated opening the door on people, but the truth was that I was also somewhat worried about the Acolyte on the other side. I pretended like I didn't care what he was doing in there, but I really did.

Maybe it was because he was so cute.

I inserted the key into the lock and turned. The door creaked open – I reminded myself to oil the hinges. "Baralai," I called again, stepping inside. I had to prepare myself for the worst. I'd seen people drunk and drowning in their own vomit, although I wasn't sure that Baralai was that drunk yet.

I took more steps into the room, looking around. Where could he be hiding?

Seeing him lying face down on the bed prompted me to think the worst – even worse then a drunk drowning in his own vomit. This feeling was only intensified by the bloody bandages on his back.

He had taken off his robe, and all the various undergarments that Yevonites must wear, and was lying shirtless on the bed. Bandages, once white, now were a sickening shade of red just over his left shoulder blade. Had he shot himself? How could he shoot himself in the back? How would I not have heard it? Why would an Acolyte be carrying forbidden machina anyway?

I went to him. How could I not? A moment later, I thought better of it, and closed the door behind me. "Baralai," I said, putting my hand on his non-bloody shoulder. "Baralai, wake up, it's the bartender, come on."

"Just a few more minutes," he mumbled sleepily. "A few more minutes of peace."

"Your wound is bleeding," I informed him.

"I know," he replied sleepily. "It never stops."

"Probably because no one has ever cleaned it. Aren't you a healing bunch? Can't even clean your own wound? Come on." I grabbed his towel – completely folded, unused – and went to the sink. I wetted the corner of the towel and went back to him. Carefully, I peeled back the bandages, surprised that he was allowing me to do this.

It was definitely a bullet wound. "Is this where you were shot by your friend?"

"I thought he was my friend," Baralai said into the mattress.

"Why did he shoot you?" I pressed the wet towel to the wound, bringing it back bloody and dirty.

"I don't know," Baralai confessed. "Probably because I knew too much about something I shouldn't."

"An Al Bhed?" I asked, because only Al Bhed carried machina that could make a wound like this.

There was silence as I wetted another part of the towel and continued cleaning the wound. I couldn't believe I was doing this for this boy who seemed to be a total stranger. "No," Baralai replied finally. "But he shot the Al Bhed too."

I remembered him mentioning that he had been abandoned by one friend, shot by another, and the last was dead. I assumed that the Al Bhed that he mentioned was the dead one, and therefore – did I remember correctly? Had this Yevonite said that an Al Bhed was his dearest friend?

"I'm sorry for the loss of your friend," I said. It was a silly thing to say, but I had to say something. I didn't like silence that much.

"Me too," he replied. "He was… was…" A sob choked his words.

"It's okay," I said, patting his white hair that had so intrigued me earlier. "I'll turn down the renter. You can stay here."

Baralai shook his head. "No," he said, pushing himself up off the bed. "No. I have to go. My position… I have to go."

"Why go if you hate it?" I asked, pulling the bandage back over his newly cleaned wound. "Why put yourself through this?"

He turned and looked at me as I finished tucking in the end of the bandage. "To change it."

I could only watch as he pulled on his robe and turned to leave. I picked up the bloody and dirty towel, wondering vaguely why he didn't just heal his own wound, and stood to go downstairs.

He was a fast walker. He was near the door when I caught up to him. I took him by the arm, needing to say to him the thing I'd wanted to say all night.

"Good luck."


Two nights later, I was still moping, obsessed with the young Yevonite's visit to The Drop. His story had been incomplete and I wanted to know the rest. It was like a novel of fiction – I wanted to just be able to turn the pages and find out the ending.

I had a feeling that this ending would be years in the making.

I wasn't quite paying attention, staring half-heartedly at my brand new sphere monitor, when one of the most remarkable characters to ever enter The Drop appeared before my eyes.

"Yo, bartender," he said, waving his hands in front of my face. "You Al Bhed friendly or what?"

I stared at him. He wasn't wearing goggles, an oddity for Al Bhed in Luca – and this gave me a clear look at the infamous swirled green Al Bhed eyes.

Or eye, rather. He only had one. The other was covered up with a black leather eyepatch, studded with some sort of steel contraptions.

"Yes," I finally said, still staring at that exotic eye. "Very Al Bhed friendly."

He grinned. "Excellent. Get me something."

"Any preference?" I asked. I suddenly realized that, somewhere in the course of this conversation, a sexual innuendo had occurred.

"Whatever you like best," he replied, sitting down on the barstool right in front of me. "Surprise me."

I knew he'd appreciate Nhadala's stout, so I filled up a glass and set it down in front of him. He took one look at it, then one drink of it, and nodded. "This is Nhadala's brew," he said to me.

"Certainly," I replied. "Only the best for my clientele."

"You do business with my people," he replied. "I like that in a bartender." The glass was half-empty before I knew it.

"Like I said, I only want the best for my clientele," I said to him, leaning against the bar. "And this is the best, and the best-seller too."

"The Al Bhed are like that," he said, leaning forward to whisper to me. "Always the best, at everything."

"Everything?" I asked.

He grinned, showing his teeth. They were impossibly white, perfectly shaped, like he was a character out of a fantasy. Perhaps he was.

"You must get a lot of business here," he said simply, "if you can afford to serve this."

"Not that much," I replied. "I do what I can."

"You get shipments often?"

"When I need them. Got one coming in tonight."

His single eye turned down toward the bar. "Does Nhadala come?"

"Sometimes," I replied, wondering at his reason for questioning. "Are you looking for her?"

"More like a ride," he answered. "If she's on that boat, this might be my last night out here."

I nodded. "Thanks for spending it here."

That grin spread across his face, infecting me. "Well," he said, after downing the rest of his beer. "Care to make it special, bartender?"

"The place is yours," I informed him. "The crowd always sucks on nights like this."

"You got music?"

"Not really, just whatever you can get on the spheres."

He shook his head. "What's a bar without music? Is that a broken sphere monitor over there?"

I turned and looked behind me. "Yes. It malfunctioned earlier this week, and I just got my new one in today."

"Let me see it," he said, hopping over the bar without receiving permission. How could I deny him anything? He could just smile at me and I'd be hopeless again. Before I could say anything to him, he already had the front of the monitor dismantled and was fiddling around in the insides.

I watched him at work. He looked like he was wholly involved, entirely absorbed in the workings of the sphere monitor. After what seemed like only a few instants, I heard a strange sound coming from the sides of the sphere. It was a staticky sound, followed by some pops and whistles, and eventually evolved into what sounded oddly like… popular music?

My jaw was probably several inches lower than it should have been. My one-eyed Al Bhed patron turned around and looked at me like the coeurl that swallowed the chocobo.

A dancing tune was playing on the sphere-monitor-turned-radio, and my patron offered me his hand. "Care to dance, pyndahtan?"

I had no idea what he had just called me, but whatever it was, it sounded like heaven coming from his mouth. I had always had a weak spot for good looking young men, but good looking young foreign men were particularly dangerous to my sensibilities. "I'm not much of a dancer," I foolishly admitted to him.

He shrugged. "Doesn't matter. You are when you're with me." He made an eye gesture which must have been a wink, which would have seemed ridiculous on any other one-eyed man but him.

I couldn't help grinning – he was a charmer, indeed. "Well, if you're going to be like that—"

I hardly had the chance to finish when he took my hand and pulled me toward him. I was against his body before I could even breathe; I could feel the shoulder armor he was wearing pressing against my chest. Why was he wearing armor? I couldn't begin to guess, nor did I want to. A good looking young man appeared to be making a move on me, and how could I think about anything else?

I was surprised that I was moving with him, like he was guiding my body, dancing together there in the middle of my bar. It was scandalous of me to be dancing with this young man in public, but somehow I didn't care.

I should have cared, but I didn't. He was smiling at me, his eye was glinting in the low light of the bar, and I was lost. It was as if he owned me, making me entirely his, moving my body like it was his own.

I'm not sure how long we danced, but the jingling of a bell indicated that patrons were coming inside. They were a large group and I had to take care of them – after all, it was my job to do just that. I had to make a living, even if life inside those arms seemed so delectable for a few moments.

I pulled myself away from him and took the orders of my patrons and brought them their beers. Distancing myself from my Al Bhed visitor helped me clear my head – I wouldn't let him drag me away again, no matter how much I secretly wanted him to.

He sat there, drinking Nhadala's stout and watching the people of the bar, sitting in the same place as—

And it was then that I remembered a visitor from earlier in the week.

He wears an eyepatch. Swaggering fellow, always talks too much and too loud. Very manipulative. Nooj the Undying had said that to me, when he was asking about my Al Bhed clientele. Here he was, the one-eyed Al Bhed with the eyepatch, the one who talks too much and manipulated me into dancing with him…

I had asked Nooj if I should mention that I'd seen him… he said to keep my mouth shut, but there he was, the one-eyed man that Nooj the Undying was looking for. I debated with myself – should I mention it to him? Should I say anything at all? I was a bartender – I was supposed to keep secrets, not share them. But was this really a secret?

Nooj had been looking for the Crusaders – maybe there was a way to feel out the situation.

I went over to my Al Bhed friend and leaned on the bar before him as I refilled his drink. "You a military man?" I asked simply.

He looked up at me warily. "Why?"

I gestured slightly to his shoulders and the armor he was wearing. "I've never really seen anyone wear something like that around."

He snickered quietly. "No. It's… not military wear."

I noted his hesitation. If he wasn't a Crusader, how did Nooj know him? I relied on what Nooj had said about him – that he talked too much. "Something against the military, then?"

He shook his head. "Used to be. Not anymore. They don't like the Al Bhed in the Crusaders."

"Then who were you with before?"

He looked up at me, and I could see that he was getting hazy. I figured that he was on his fifth beer, which was about the time that young men started opening up.

"A small group," he said noncommittally. "Elite, sorta."

I figured that it made sense, now, that Nooj the Undying was involved with something like that – especially since he hadn't been with the Crusaders. "So you're an elite soldier, then?"

"Would've been, had everyone not tried to shoot us."

More tales of shooting. Suddenly, my mind flipped back to the young Acolyte, Baralai, and his wound in his back. His friend had been shot – an Al Bhed friend. He thought he was dead.

Nooj the Undying, bitter about something horrible, had been here, talking about another military operation which wasn't quite the Crusaders. Were these three connected?

Was Nooj the friend that had abandoned Baralai? Or… was he the friend who had shot him?

Maybe I couldn't tell this Al Bhed about Nooj the Undying, but I knew now that he was Baralai's dearest friend. Perhaps I could do something right.

"I had another young man in here a couple of days ago," I said simply, "who also had been shot at. He had a nasty wound in his back."

The Al Bhed looked up. He was apparently interested even though he was trying to act like he wasn't, which meant that I had been right in my quick assumptions. "Really?" he asked, his voice betraying his interest.

"Mmhmm," I replied simply, wiping off the bar with my towel. "Cute young man, I can't imagine anyone would want to shoot him. He was with Yevon though, so maybe there's the answer right there."

The Al Bhed stared down into his half-empty beer, which I quickly refilled for him. "Who was he?" he asked after a long moment of watching the amber liquid froth in his glass.

"Dark skin, white hair," I said, "I think he said his name was Baralai."

"Lai?" The Al Bhed's expression changed entirely – whatever was there before had been replaced by utter joy in hearing that simple name.

"You know him?" I had to ask.

"Yeah," he replied. "Uh. From that military thing. Listen, if you see him again, will you tell him I'm alive?"

"I sure will," I replied. "Who should I say sent the message."

He was already standing up, leaving the rest of his beer behind. "Gippal," he said, which was presumably his name. "And tell him I went to Bikanel."

"With Nhadala and my shipment?"

Gippal grinned at me. "Something like that."


I never forgot those three men who walked into my bar. A little more than a year later, I remembered their faces and their names and easily recognized each of them as they came to power in their separate factions. First, it was Nooj the Undying and the Youth League, made up of reformed Crusaders. Perhaps it was my directions to their headquarters that got him there.

Next, it was Gippal, whose image I saw when Nhadala came for a visit to tell me all about the new Machine Faction of the Al Bhed. He was their leader, and she called him a jackass – which I couldn't wholly disagree with. She said that he had taken over the temple of Djose – perhaps, I thought, because he had talked to his friend in Yevon.

And Baralai, the young acolyte, ascended to be Praetor of New Yevon. I had my own misgivings about Yevon, but having seen the boy and his anger in full force in my own bar, I knew that he was setting about doing exactly what he told me – he was changing the face of Yevon. Even if I had only met him once, I still felt a sense of relief that he had gotten through his difficult situation and risen to the top.

The day of their big speech, I chose not to attend the ceremony but instead to watch it on my sphere monitor. I listened to them talk, happy with the way that my patrons were changing the face of Spira.

Whether or not I had anything to do with it was debatable, but I did notice the recognition on their faces when they walked into The Drop – together – that evening.

"Hey, pyndahtan!" said Gippal, shaking my hands as I met them at the door.

"Greetings Gippal," I said to him. Then I looked at Nooj the Undying, standing behind him. "Meyvn Nooj." I bowed my head. And, finally, "Praetor Baralai," to the young man who had grown up so much since the last time I'd seen him.

"How about a round for us?" said Nooj as he sat down at the table in the middle of the bar.

"On the house," I offered.

Baralai looked up at me, having sat down next to Nooj himself. He looked tired but happy. "Thank you," he said to me, but stopped. "I'm sorry, I don't think I know your name…"

I smiled. "You can call me RyRy."