Author's Notes: Hello everyone! I'm back with another fic, it has been a while hasn't it? Things have been pretty busy for me but lately I've been itching to try something again, so here I am. I made some new and awesome friends and their fics have inspired me to write a Final Fantasy XII fanfic, so let's hope I can keep this baby going despite my hectic agenda.
Writing the first chapter has been really challenging for me since the setting is completely different than the style of my Ice Age fanfic, and like that fic, this will be a learning process for me. So if you see any horrible mistakes I don't mind correction, but please just because we're in an online community doesn't mean we should be rude about it either.
Summary: Like my last fanfic, this is based off a Role-playing game, though there will be ideas inspired by other fics and I shall gladly give credit. This story takes place after the game's ending so if you haven't beaten it I advise you to go no further! Ashe, and the others slowly get used to the idea of peace while facing new challenges with politics and personal feelings, and eventually discover hidden research left by a "madman" that speaks of ancient scions and a resurrection.
Focuses on Basch/Ashe, Balthier/Fran, and Vaan/Penelo with a few FC's later on and appearances by other characters in the game.
Chapter's Theme Song: Inspired by Earisu's idea of suggesting music, I'll put this up when I find a song(s) that fits my chapters. For chapter one it is "Bonds of Sea and Fire" from the Xenogears OST (which also belongs to Square, how about that! :D)
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy XII belongs to Square Enix
"Ivalice – a Year after the Events leading up to Vayne's Defeat. Dalmasca is Restored, and Rozzaria and Archadia finally know Peace with one another. The Coronation for Ashelia B'nargain Dalmasca is soon approaching, and the Future Queen waits with baited breath.
However, it is not for Her own Crowning she waits for, but for the Arrival of old friends that the Event will bring. Every leader needs a Council, a loyal Circle of Friends. Unorthodox as they are, they have proven their mettle to the entire World."
- Marquis Halim Ondore IV
The soon-to-be Queen of Dalmasca stood in a balcony of the palace, overlooking Rabanastre. It was a warm day like always; the sun shone high as airships came and went, flying past the castle. It was a peaceful day, but the thoughts of Ashelia were anything but. Ashe slightly frowned as she eyed the giant tower of Bahamut in the distance. One year, she thought. How could one year feel like an eternity when two away from Rabanastre, her home, her kingdom, only felt like days? Why did one year kill her when the struggle to regain Dalmasca took every ounce of her very being to the limit?
"Don't worry, you'll make it." she could hear Vaan's voice echo in her mind. "You've got good friends."
Friends who were not here. Friends who were scattered across Ivalice. Though scattered might have been too strong a word to use, the Princess did not see any of them since the day they parted. Reflexively, one hand reached for the ring on her other, the index finger and thumb tracing around it. She found herself doing this often when going into deep thought. Ashe found it soothing.
She began to recall Vayne's defeat and the fall of the Bahamut. The group met up with the Marquis on the Garland. The shouts from the soldiers were thunderous, as they had a right to be. Peace was finally upon them all. When Larsa contacted Zargabaath they also heard the raucous laughter in the background. It seemed Archadia wasn't as bloodthirsty as the Princess made her self believe, the young boy was proof of that. After things had been settled with Larsa and the Archadian fleet, the group returned to Rabanastre. It was time to reveal her self to her people, reclaim her throne and her birth right, with her friends behind her.
The day of the announcement had taken place in the Grand Courtyard of the Royal Palace. The same place, two years ago, where Rasler had led the entire Dalmascan Fleet into battle. Standing there overwhelmed her, and Ashe struggled to keep her composure. Before her were the people of Rabanastre, many with expressions of utter shock and disbelief, others with tears staining their faces. Part of her wanted to run down to them, into the crowds, and somehow take them all into her arms. I'm Home. She would say. I am finally Home.
It was Marquis Ondore who led the announcement. Also there were the two leaders, Larsa Ferrinas Solidor, and Al-Cid Magrace to vouch for him, Ashe and her companions. None said a word till the Lady Ashe finally stepped up to speak her part, and they cheered loudly before she even spoke. It was noon when the announcement began, but when Ashe finished the tale of the events that took place, the sun was hanging low. She noticed how her people did not leave; if they tired they did not care. They stayed for their princess.
Everything had been explained; Vayne's plan on the night of the Treaty-signing, her announced death, Basch's "betrayal", and the quest for Nethecite. It was all brought to light and she could feel the burden lifted not from her own shoulders but it seemed Marquis and Basch felt it too. Ashe couldn't describe the joy she felt when she announced to Rabanastre that the Captain was innocent, and the reaction he received from them. There was clapping and jubilant shouts knowing a beloved Son of Dalmasca did not betray their homeland. Larsa also came forward, and apologized for his brother's actions. Ashe noticed how he seemed apprehensive; expecting a lashing out from the crowds, but there was none. To her surprise, Basch announced he would be going with Larsa to Archades to further the cause of peace in Ivalice. The people nodded and cheered.
That was when things changed for Ashe.
The Princess withdrew from her thoughts, though she still fiddled with the ring around her finger. Her mind now fell on the Knight who followed her to Hell and back. He was gone now, in Archadia, serving the young Emperor. The day when he announced that he would go with Larsa, everyone cheered, even Vaan and Penelo. During that moment Ashe felt something in her, some part of her wanted to scream out "No! You can't leave!" You can't leave me. However, one look at Larsa stayed any impulses she had. Deep down she knew that this fledgling leader needed someone like Basch to aid him, as he aided her.
She came to realize his absence pained her the most and scolded herself; not because she acknowledged it, but because it took her this long to. Ashe never thanked him at all, even during his service before the Empire took over Dalmasca. With shame, she noted she treated him worse during their journey (or to her it felt that way). She avoided speaking to him for the longest time, and when they did it was curt and to the point. Gone were the casual, friendly conversations she had with him when she was a child. He was a soldier at her disposal, and nothing more.
He was her protector and friend, and the Knight had proven his loyalty countless times. Nothing could sway his belief it seemed, not prison, not the shame, not even the hatred of the people and herself. Ashe felt humbled in his presence, there was such greatness even a king (or queen) had to bow to it.
Again she withdrew from her thoughts, along with her hand from her ring. She knew in a couple of days her coronation would commence, and that meant reuniting with her friends. Penelo's recent letter mentioned she and Vaan would be visiting Balthier and Fran, and she already received word from Larsa. Ashe was nervous in becoming Queen despite fighting to regain the throne, but she wanted to savor the events to come. Her friends would arrive, and her confidence in the future along with them.
"It was good to see them again." A blonde youth spoke, walking with his hands tucked behind his head. "I'm glad they're still alive."
Beside him a blonde girl donning braids skipped happily, agreeing with what her companion just said. Vaan and Penelo walked out of the entrance of the Aerodome and headed into the main hub of Rabanastre. They weaved through the busy crowds, no doubt everyone was preparing for the ceremony that was to come in a few days as they were. The two teenagers left a couple of days before to find a particular Sky Pirate and his Viera companion and invite them to join the celebrations.
"I never had a doubt." Penelo smiled. Vaan nodded this time and dropped his hands to his sides. He stopped for a moment to ponder.
"They were probably living it up while we all worried, and took care of the Strahl for them."
Penelo smiled. "Look at it this way, Vaan, and least you got to keep the Strahl for a while."
"True, true," He started off again, his pace slow as a group of Bangaa hogged the streets arguing about their wares. "Our ship is going to need a lot of work if we're going to compete with them."
"Maybe you should talk with Montblanc and see if there are any new hunts, especially if you want the money for those kinds of upgrades." Penelo managed her way through the Bangaa and other merchants, eluding Vaan.
"Hey, wait up!" he called, trying to squeeze through. He saw her stop and turn around to look back.
"C'mon Vaan!" she called, "There's still so much to do! Plus, I got you a surprise!"
With a grunt, Vaan squeezed out of the group of Bangaa merchants, only to be shoved by a Seeq as he passed by. He regained his balance and stood in front of Penelo, rubbing his head unsure if he heard what he thought he heard.
"A surprise?" he asked.
"Yep." The girl smiled and slipped her hands around his arm and pulled him onward towards Migelo's Sundries.
Migelo's shop was always busy and with Ashe's coronation in a few days it was alive with an incredible energy and excitement from customers and merchants alike. The old bangaa had the children and the other shop keepers working non-stop, tending to things such as deliveries, stocking their wares, and keeping things orderly in the tiny shop when things got too crowded. When Vaan and Penelo entered the store they were almost run down by Kytes who rushed out.
"Opps! Sorry Vaan, Penelo!" he cried as he dashed out. Both of them watched him as he ran down the streets and looked at each other, shrugging.
Penelo weaved her way through the store nimbly as ever while Vaan struggled to keep pace with her, bumping into every single person there. They reached the back area and the boy watched curiously as Penelo rummaged through a pile of wares. He heard her muttering to herself before giving a happy shout. When she turned, she held a beautiful silken shirt and Vaan's eyes widened.
"Is that for me?" he asked. Penelo nodded eagerly then walked up to him putting the shirt up against his frame.
"It looks like a perfect fit." she said, "but how about you try it on?"
The boy was still amazed as his fingers traced along the fabric. He blinked when he touched Penelo's hand where she was holding it. "Uh, yeah alright."
It only took a few minutes for Vaan to change in one of the store rooms. Penelo waited eagerly, sitting on top of one of Migelo's crates. She hopped off and turned to Vaan as he stepped out with the tunic shirt on, wearing it underneath his vest.
"It looks great on you." The girl smiled, "Its formal enough for the fete, yet pirate enough for you."
"You really think so?" His ego swelled up a bit as he adjusted the collar to flare out a bit more. "Thanks Penelo, this is great. Where did you get this anyway?"
"In Bhujerba. I've been saving up for it ever since I saw it during the time we went and made that delivery for the Marquis." Penelo was proud of herself for buying it without the aid of Migelo or the others. She wanted this to be special, but then she noticed the solemn look Vaan had. "Vaan, what's wrong?"
"I don't have anything to give to you." He said sadly. Penelo smiled sweetly, touched by his rare display of kindness. Normally he would have run off like a child, and she expected such behavior from him and even prepared beforehand.
"That's okay," she said, "I already have an outfit!"
This brightened Vaan's mood quite a bit, and the guilt he had vanished. He went back to strutting around and even posed in a pirate-like fashion. "What do you think?"
Penelo nodded her approval. "Looking good Vaan! This time around you won't have to sneak into the fete."
"I don't know, it was more fun that way." He put a hand to his chin, thinking. Penelo came up to him and shoved him playfully. "Ahh! I'm kidding!"
"Ah isn't this a sweet sight?" Vaan and Penelo turned as they were greeted by an old blue bangaa. He walked up to them, patting them both on the backs. "Two old friends drop by to visit, and spending gil on expensive things – my favorite kind of visit!"
Penelo laughed and moved in for a hug. "Migelo!"
"Penelo, my dear." The old bangaa returned the hug. Vaan just rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.
"Hey Migelo." He nodded.
"Vaan, I should bop you both for all the worry you put me through flying off here and there. Not to mention the trouble I have now that you both are gone. Do you have any idea how much work goes into catering a fete?"
Vaan made a face. "Hasn't Kytes been helping you?"
"Yes, but he is only one boy, and still a young one at that. Preparations have been difficult but the business has been heavenly."
"We'd be glad to help you with the fete, Migelo." Penelo said, ignoring Vaan's gesture that he didn't want to.
The bangaa's mood lifted and he bobbed his head. "Well then, since you are volunteering there are two jobs that I could use experienced hands with."
"What is it?" Vaan sighed, not trying very hard to hide the disapproving tone in his voice. Whether he noticed or not, Migelo ignored it.
"I need someone to inspect the main buffet for the celebration, see to it there is enough food and check its quality. The other task concerns the caravan and their chocobos, it seems there was an accident down by one of the main gates. Someone needs to shovel up the mess before the fete."
"I'll handle the food!" Penelo quickly volunteered.
"Thank you, Penelo." Migelo smiled. Vaan just stared at her in disbelief, feeling somewhat betrayed, but before he could object to anything Migelo placed something in his hand. "Here you go, Vaan."
It was a shovel.
"Be sure to take off that shirt, wouldn't want to ruin it, would you? Oh, and remember to bathe after you're done, Vaan." His friend teased as she left he store. All the young sky-pirate-to-be could do was hang his head in defeat.
It was a leisurely flight, something Balthier was not quite used to. Being a sky pirate always meant someone was ready to shoot at your back, or front or where ever it is that guaranteed incapacitation. Ever since Ashe was announced ruler of Dalmasca, Balthier and Fran haven't encountered any trouble concerning head hunters. Did she remove the bounty off his head? He was doubtful, but nothing else could explain the lack of hunters especially when there were so many out there who were as persistent as Ba'Gamnan, if not more so.
The young man shifted his glance towards his Viera companion, willing to exchange his current thoughts for another topic. Fran's gaze was fixed on the Strahl's engine and glossair meters but she was aware his eyes were on her.
"We'll be arriving in the Dalmasca region soon." She spoke. Balthier feigned casualness and leaned back in his seat, with the Strahl's controls in auto-pilot.
"Good to hear." He averted his eyes away from his partner and turned towards the windows, watching the clouds skim past their ship. "It is hard to believe all that has happened in the passing year."
Fran nodded. "Friendship with a Queen was not expected, or the events that have lead up to this."
"Quite true. Though I am still having difficulty justifying this trip, there doesn't seem to be any profit in it for us at all."
"No, but seeing old friends and attending a royal fete without the threat of bounty hunters is well enough." Fran's response surprised Balthier a bit. He sat up in his chair and smirked slightly at her.
"Why Fran, I didn't know you were so sentimental." He teased, but she did not say or do anything. Balthier was used to this and continued. "In that case I suppose we have no choice but to make an appearance."
"Would you prefer Imperials and the Ifrit breathing down our necks again?"
"Is that a trick question?"
He caught her stealing a slight glance in his direction, and didn't try very hard hiding his smirk. She still did not react, but he detected slight trace of amusement in her voice. "You Hume's are odd creatures, but perhaps it is just you."
"It's possible." Balthier leaned back in his chair again. "You are right of course; there is no reason not to make the best of this. Besides, with all those dignitaries and men of power, there might be a chance for some lucrative opportunities. It might also be a good chance to make sure that annoying bounty on our heads is fully cleared."
The Viera said nothing. It was the closest thing to a yes she would ever hear him say concerning their companions. Fran was used to this and continued to monitor the Strahl's stats.
The sound of airship engines thrummed in Larsa's ears. He stood in his office area, with the tile floors and the beautiful waters cascading down from the arc formations of the building. It was his favorite place despite it being an area of work. He stood for a time watching the ships fly by, coming and going. The young Emperor could faintly hear the bustle of the city's people below and he smiled. Things were going well in Archadia, and soon he would be seeing old friends. Larsa could not be happier.
He caught another sound, faint at first but then growing. It was the sound of boots on the tile, and the clanking of metal – armor. It was Basch. Turning, he saw the Knight entering in the area, clad in full Judge armor and helmet. He bowed to Larsa who nodded in return; he knew why he was here and smiled all the more.
"Lord Larsa, your transport to Dalmasca is ready." Basch stated his voice sounding deeper than it was due to the helmet.
"Excellent, thank you Basch." He went to the table and picked up a piece of paper. It was the recent letter Penelo had sent. The boy wanted to keep it with him so he could read it whenever he wished. He turned back to face Basch. "Shall we then?"
"By your leave."
Both Emperor and Knight strode down the pristine halls of the Solidor residence, sun streaming through its large window panes, spilling across the hallways giving them a stunning brilliance. Already Larsa was reading through his letter, skillfully turning down the halls when needed, barely having to look ahead for where to go. Behind, Basch kept in step with the young Emperor, under his helmet he smiled as he watched Larsa stare at Penelo's letter with innocent fascination. This only reminded him of who Larsa truly was – a child.
Basch was now the guardian of Larsa, as was the promise he made to his brother, Noah, but it never turned into a simple task of watching the little Emperor. Over the year he and Larsa had become good friends. The boy called on him the most out of all his guards and councilors and most of the time it was to talk and share in the news of Penelo's letters. Despite being so young he was well educated and eager to learn more about what needed to be done as ruler. He was compassionate and always asking Basch for advice and though the Knight had no experience in ruling, he served those who had such a task and went by what he knew. Basch was beginning to see why Noah had such faith in this boy. Larsa had promise to be a great ruler, and the Knight vowed he would not let the child's hopes and dreams be snuffed out by the cruelties Life will no doubtlessly bring.
Despite the amazing progress of Archadia's Emperor, there was a strange feeling Basch had. Although he did not regret leaving Rabanastre to help Larsa's cause for peace, there was a certain sadness he bore since his departure. There were times when he simply assumed it to be something akin to home-sickness, but he knew better. Other times Basch felt the ache to keen to bear it made him fear what the cause of it might be, for he felt himself to low to even harbor such thoughts.
He missed Ashelia.
Ever since Penelo mentioned in her letter of the possibility that Ashe missed him, Basch's thoughts were always in a tangle. Did she really think of him? Was his presence needed? Were these simply thoughts of duty or something more? No, he would stop himself, it was improper to even go that far. He was bound by Royal Protocol and his duty, training himself to never think of her in such a manner. It had been difficult. The years had changed Ashe more than it did for him. She was no longer the gangly awkward child years go, now time has fashioned her into a true beauty. What once was boyish bravado became genuine courage, and her rough habits were sculpted into fine skill. Lady Ashe had grown, and not all her changes were physical.
"Basch, you have been quiet as of late." Larsa's words jostled the Knight out of his thoughts.
"Forgive me, Lord Larsa." was all he could think to say, "I do not mean to let my mind wander."
He didn't mean to confess that he was lost in thought but the Emperor didn't seem to mind at all. Basch noted he had put his letter away and was now looking ahead, his expression mirroring the melancholy feeling Basch had.
"I miss them too." He said. "This will be a good trip."
"Indeed it shall, so we best not delay our departure." The Knight replied. Larsa nodded and quickened his pace to the docking area where their airship awaited them.