Author's Note: This story is undergoing a revision. I've had more people interested in this story and I must admt its been a long time since I've updated a new chapter. I'm currently writing Bound right now and it got me thinking more. The timing for the events is a little off. so I'm going through all my chapters to correct it.
Do enjoy this story anyhow if you're new to it. If you've read before...hope the new changes make more sense.
Fran had noticed the strange behaviour and symptoms; the paleness, the nausea and lack of energy. Now as she watched her at the other end of the table, Fran knew that this was not like her at all. She had to say something.
She put down her fork and gently used the napkin to dab at her mouth, before she cleared her throat. The conversation from the others ceased immediately, which Fran offered a silent thanks.
The tour of Ivalice had been successful and the trip through Giza had the men talking, especially about the battles they had had experienced. As usual, the men bragged about their fighting skills and were talking in far too much detail which was inappropriate discussion for the dinner table.
"Is something wrong with the food?" asked Balthier, after he swallowed a rather large mouthful of wine. Fran shook her head. The wild Saurion was very tender and one of the best pieces of steaks she had tasted, but she had to say something. She put down her knife and fork and cleared her throat to gain their attention.
The expressions on the faces of the others around the dinner table showed surprise. She wasn't one for conversing.
"I think the Queen might need a Healer." she said plainly.
"What?" Ashe looked up from her plate. It seemed she was paler than usual.
"You are not yourself."
Ashelia shook her head and offered the Viera a small weak smile.
"I'm fine. Honest." The Queen began to poke at the mostly untouched food on her plate.
"You don't look that well." said Larsa, who then called for one of the servants to come over. Ashe scowled at the young twelve year old and gave the servant just an equal menacing glare. The servant backed away quickly.
"I am fine!"
Fran noticed that Penelo was clutching her own napkin tightly to her mouth. Her eyes were closed and her cheeks were flushing as she struggled to contain her mirth. The Viera didn't think that anything was funny.
"Fran is right, Ashelia." said Balthier, "We should get a Healer in."
"I said I'm fine!" Ashe snapped rather harshly. "I'm just…not that hungry."
"It wasn't anything we said was it?" asked Vaan, who hadn't a clue he had some Mayla sauce smeared across his cheek. "I know we were a little bit graphic in the…"
"I'm okay!" Ashe sighed, wishing she hadn't snapped so harshly. "Let's just not talk about that…"
"I'm sorry, but I cannot let this go." Fran was adamant. She knew. In all her fifty years in the company of Humes, she knew what Ashe was suffering from. "I have seen such cases before."
There was the sniggering again. Penelo was trying her best to stop laughing, but instead she started to choke. Dutifully, Basch gave her a couple of whacks on the back. She still couldn't stop laughing, which perplexed all the men round the table.
In fact, they were quite concerned as to why she was even laughing. They had all noticed Ashe's change and were worried for her wellbeing.
"If you do not do something now," said Fran. "This situation could become serious."
"It could?" Ashe replied sarcastically and folding her arms across her chest. "Do you think so?"
"It could even become life threatening."
Penelo was now in hysterics which made the males more than baffled. Penelo wouldn't be laughing at such a serious situation would she? Fran couldn't understand why she was being so light about this matter. She sighed and clasped her long Viera claws together. This was not going to be easy to say.
"You have the Varra syndrome. Haven't you?"
The entire dining room was in uproar. Chairs were thrown back and the four men crowded round the Queen. They were all speaking at once, in varied frantic tones, but none of them could tell that they were only making Ashe's frustrations even worse.
"You know you could have confided in me."
"You should get a healer! Varra syndrome is deadly!"
"Why didn't you tell us?"
"How are you feeling? What stage is the Varra in?"
Fran rose from her chair and strode over to Balthier's side. She rested a gentle hand on his shoulder but her red eyes gazed down at Ashe with the deepest sympathies.
"I know some Viera medicine that could help with any pain you're in."
"I don't have Varra syndrome, Fran." Ashe tried to back away from them all. She pushed back her chair and with her arms wrapped around her waist she walked over to the window.
She needed air. The nausea was getting worse. She pushed open one side of the window and took deep breaths of the early morning air. It helped a little, but the continual rants of her friends weren't helping the new headache she was suffering with.
A strong hand touched against her shoulder, but she shrugged it away.
"Ashelia…Fran knows about these things." Basch spoke softly behind her. "She's rarely wrong."
"Well she's wrong now!" Ashe spat.
"No." Fran shook her head. "I'm not wrong. It is vital that a Healer sees you and give you…"
"I do not have Varra syndrome!" The Queen spun round, she was fuming. "I'm pregnant!"
The silence was instant. The silence was very awkward. Ashe felt even worse as all of her friends, with the exception of Penelo, stared at her with shocked expressions. This was not how she wanted this to happen. In fact, she hadn't wanted to tell them at all.
The silence lingered on. It infuriated her, but that wasn't as bad as when Basch backed away from her. There was fear in his eyes.
"Well, I can tell that the lot of you are a right bunch of idiots!"
Everyone turned to Penelo, as she strained across the table to get the bottle of wine. She poured herself another glass and drank several small sips.
"How could you not know? How could you not see the signs?"
"Well…I don't know anything about…" Larsa's voice trailed off and he shrugged his shoulders.
The others were speechless. Ashe hated it all. More than anything, she wished they would all just leave, or that her feet would move and she could storm out herself.
The fact that she was pregnant and unmarried was bad enough, but to endure such looks from those closest to her. Were they judging her? What were they thinking as they all stood so speechless looking at her? What was He thinking?
Fran approached her. Only the Viera's eyes were still sympathetic, she was genuinely concerned as her long claws scooped up Ashe's shaking hand. She cupped it between both of her own palms.
"This…pregnant." Fran said softly. "Is it lethal?"
Ashe's mouth dropped open. Had she just heard that right? Did Fran really just say what she said?
"Erm…no…no it's not….not normally."
"Do you still need medicine?"
Ashe tore her hand away from Fran's hold and tried to make sense of what this creature was thinking. She wasn't suffering from any kind of illness, she didn't need any medicine.
"Fran…" Balthier cleared his throat. "The Queen is not sick. She's going to have a baby. It's good news."
The Viera's nose crinkled as she frowned in confusion.
"Baby? You mean the little Hume things I've seen?"
Penelo and Vaan snorted with laughter. Larsa just cupped his hand over his mouth to hide his own smirking, but Ashe was not in the least bit amused. She did not need this situation belittled by some Viera's lack of understanding. She had to go, to leave and be by herself.
"The little Hume things?" Balthier sighed. "Fran, we talked about this. They're called children."
"Oh enough! Just stop it all of you!" Ashe cried and fled the dining hall. The huge ornate doors slammed shut behind her. This silence was just as uncomfortable as before.
"Erm…if Ashe is pregnant…" Vaan piqued up as he finally noticed the Mayla sauce on his face and started to wipe it off. "Then…who?….when?….who the hell is the father?"
Penelo shoved him and he collided hard into the table.
"That is for her to tell us, when she's ready!"
Fran looked from Vaan and Penelo and then to Balthier, her mind so confused, so chaotic. None of this made any sense to her.
During her fifty years away from the Wood, Fran had pretty much kept her distance from Humes. Only a select few, Balthier being one, had truly earned her friendship and respect, but never had she expressed any interest in the littlest of their race. She had seen them, running round the streets of the cities, screeching and wailing, laughing and doing those annoying childish things that irritated her. When any of them approached her, Fran had always felt uneasy and the instinct to flee from their presence was a strong desire.
She didn't even consider about where the little baby children came from, because as far as the Viera were concerned, life came from the earth. It returned there in death.
"I am…confused." said Fran. "This pregnant."
"Pregnancy." correct Larsa.
"What do the little Humes babes have to do with Ashelia?"
"Erm…." Larsa's cheeks flushed. He looked extremely embarrassed, but instead of explaining anything to her, he patted Balthier on the back. "He'll explain it to you."
The Sky pirate sighed and sent the young Emperor a "Thanks very much" sarcastic grimace.
"Fran…where do Viera come from?"
"The earth of the Wood. We all come from there."
"And you are fully grown?"
"So you do grow…you mature."
Balthier wasn't exactly comfortable with this conversation as he began to play with his shirt cuffs with fearful tugs. He never even talked about this subject with his "partner" when he realised Viera weren't anything like Humes in those departments. He wish he didn't have to…but it was too late. Fran had enquired.
"Well, Humes grow too. Only we don't come from the earth."
"They don't?" Fran's head tilted to the side. "How is that possible?"
The three youngest in the room were really in hysterics as Balthier's next task was the inevitable and the most complicated of all.
The only one not laughing was the hunched man leaning on the window sill.
"Where do you think children come from?" asked Balthier as he tried to keep a straight face.
Fran was mystified, but then when she saw Penelo rubbing her belly, her beautiful face scrunched up in horror.
"You mean that they come from…?"
"You've been around for so many years, Fran!" laughed Penelo as she clapped her hands. "You seriously don't know about babies?"
"They grow…inside of you?"
"Of course." said Balthier, who felt so relieved that he didn't have to explain any further. Or so he thought.
Fran's hands rubbed against her slim stomach and every expression on her face, blink of an eye or twitch of an ear, made her shake her head. She was not accepting any of it, and why should she? It was a different race, a separate species completely, why should their ways be like hers? But it was impossible. So Fran asked the one question Balthier didn't want to hear.
"How do they get there?"
The three others were far gone now. The laughing had gone beyond, the mirth and heartious bellows rang throughout the hall, but it was only the sounding of the heavy doors slamming that brought back the terrible silence.