A/N: Wouldn't it just figure this is almost the longest part? Gah!
No one ever knew. I never told a soul.
And so no one came to me to tell me when he didn't return.
And I had no one to cry to when Van and Hitomi came back…without him.
Hitomi told Millerna, Allen, and I about how brave Folken had been, how he had killed Dornkirk, and by some strange trick of fate, the tip of his sword had broken and ricocheted back to him, piercing his heart.
She spoke with tears in her eyes, Van's hand on her shoulder, and her arm across her chest, her fingers twined with his there.
Millerna and Allen simply looked down, speechless. I held Van's gaze, and willed my lip not to tremble, my eyes not to give me away. I think he suspected something, though perhaps not even he knew what.
Van left Hitomi with Millerna when he went back to retrieve his brother's body. He was going to take him back to Fanelia – back to where his family was.
And eventually, things started to go back to normal – if ever there was a normal to go back to.
Allen took leave of the Caeli while he got his sister settled at the estate, Millerna threw herself into the work that Dryden had left behind, and spoke little of him. My father did not improve overmuch, but neither did he get worse. Millerna feared he would never leave that bed, and I just hoped he would hang on a little bit longer. I wasn't ready for more death.
And it was months before I let anyone in again.
# # # # #
"I'm going to Fanelia."
"Why?" Millerna had given up the dresses, and simply went around in blouses and short pants – a wardrobe my father was vehemently against, but had stopped arguing about long ago.
"I…I have some unfinished business."
She cocked an eyebrow at me. "With Van?"
"I'll be gone for two weeks, Millerna, no more than that."
"How are you getting there?"
"There are ships leaving the harbor every day. I'll find passage on one of them."
"You should…Allen has the Crusade."
"Millerna, the Crusade is not at the beck and call of the House of Aston," I frowned.
"Allen would take you," she said softly.
I didn't want to know how she came to that conclusion.
"Two weeks," I said, and turned and left the room. My bags were packed, I merely had to find a ship that was stopping in Fanelia and get them to take me along.
I enlisted a page to carry my bag to the harbor. I was straightening the veil on my hat when he came into my room.
I turned. "Allen."
"Eries. Your sister. Millerna. She said you were going to Fanelia."
"Without an escort, Princess?"
"I'll be fine, Allen."
The page was waiting in the hallway. Allen turned and left, and I thought our conversation was over. Instead, he returned, my bag in his hand.
"What are you doing?"
"I'll take you. On the Crusade."
"Allen, it's not a state affair. It's personal business. I can take a merchant vessel."
"Princess, we're friends, right? Let me take you."
We had been working on repairing our relationship, yes, but I wasn't sure if we were friends yet. I certainly wasn't ready to tell him why I was going to Fanelia.
I had visited Celena often, at Allen's request, and found comfort in her silence. I sat with her for hours at a time, while Allen was away, and she seemed to revel in just lying on her stomach in the grass, watching the butterflies and bugs jump around. She stuck her nose in flowers, and was surprised when she sneezed.
Sometimes she would ask me questions, like where Allen had gone, and why was the sky blue. My answers to the former always satisfied her, but my gradually more creative answers to the latter still seemed to leave her wanting.
"Allen, I know you have better things to do than play ferry captain."
He smiled. "Maybe I don't. Maybe it doesn't matter."
I relented, and he carried my bag out to the leviship docks.
Gaddes tugged his forelock at me. "Princess."
"Ready to go, Boss?"
"Set sail, Gaddes."
And Gaddes disappeared into the bowels of the ship. Allen led me to a cabin, and opened the door for me, following me in with my bag. He set it on the bed. I turned to look at him, and wondered what he was waiting for.
"Will this do, Princess?"
I smiled. "Of course, Allen. I really appreciate this, you know. You didn't have to do this."
He waved me off. "Nonsense." He rocked back on his heels once, and then took a deep breath. "Okay, well, if you need anything, Princess, just call."
He turned to leave.
"Eries, Allen. You can call me Eries."
# # # # #
Van greeted me warmly when I arrived, though he seemed surprised.
"Princess Eries, I…wasn't expecting you."
I nodded once. "King Van, I will be here for but a short time. I have just a quick stop to make."
"Of course, Princess. Make yourself at home." He stared at the flowers in my hands. "Anything…I can help you with?"
I nodded. "Your brother…"
He looked confused for a moment, before a sad smile played across his lips. "Of course, Princess."
He led me to the woods behind the castle, to a small cemetery, where his mother and father…and his brother lay.
"I'll leave you alone, then," he said softly.
"Thank you, Van."
He just nodded, and went back the way we'd come.
I sat back on my knees, the flowers laid across my lap. A soft breeze brushed my face, and I closed my eyes to it. I could almost hear his whistle on the wind, the same sad song…always the same song.
I didn't blame him – it had simply been a matter of getting away to be able to come here to see him. I told him of the rebuilding going on everywhere in Gaea – that we were at peace. Never once did I say that I missed him.
I leaned forward to lay the bundle of pink flowers on his grave.
"One who will never be forgotten."
I did not turn and face the Caeli Knight, simply nodded.
"I misjudged him."
"We all did."
"You never did. You always stood up for him. I should have known."
"That you were in love with him."
I wanted to try and deny it, but I was suddenly too tired to worry about what anyone else thought. I closed my eyes and hung my head.
"Eries, I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry that I pushed you away. I could have been there for you, I could have been there to listen." He knelt in the grass beside me, and put his hand on my shoulder. I put my hand on top of his, thankful for his presence.
"What's done is done, Allen. I'll waste no more time regretting the past."
"What are you doing now?"
"Now…now I'm honoring the past." I reached out with my other hand and fingered the petals. "One who will never be forgotten."
Allen's arm slid around my shoulder, and I leaned into him. He held me there, at the grave of Folken Fanel, and my heart was at peace.
A/N: Well? To say that this is a different story than I intended to write would be an understatement. But I feel that the characterization is much better than what I had originally planned. I hope that this is an ending that at least most people are happy with - I know I could never make everyone happy.
A big thanks to all my reviewers - you kept me writing when I got stuck. Even though this story just flew onto the page, there were still a couple of hiccups.
Long live the memory of Folken Fanel.