Author's Note:

Hi. I have some more news. Turns out I have to move back to England this week so I thought I'd upload another chapter before the long road trip back home! Also I've been writing another Fanfiction that I've been playing with and was wondering if anyone would be interested in it. It's so totally not original as it involves Basch getting stuck in to Earth and trying to get back with the help of Edie and Kaiser. So if you're interested I will be uploading the first chapter shortly!

Thanks for all your reviews they really make me want to write more, well that and I'm just dying to write the Mount Bur-Omisace scenes I've got planned with Al-Cid and the Gran Kilitias! :)

Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy XII. I do own Edie, my OC.

Chapter XXXIII: Just keep following the heartlines on your hand.

I push out an irritable sigh and rolled onto my back. The hot, sticky jungle air was making it impossible to sleep in the tent. After attempting to snatch at sleep once more and failing, I pulled myself up and glanced over at Basch. He seemed sound asleep. I left the tent. Penelo was due another dose of eye drops. Our make-shift campsite was silent and still. Past the dwindling flicker of the camp fire were the silhouettes of Balthier and Fran as they stood watch. With the vial of eye drops in hand, I ducked into Penelo and Larsa's tent. In the dim I made out the two figures asleep atop their sleeping bags. As quietly as I could I woke her.

"Hey Penelo. Time for some more eye drops." I whispered to her.

"Okay." She mumbled sleepily.

"How are you feeling?" I asked, preparing the dose.

"My eyes no longer sting."

Good, that meant the potion was definitely working. With the soft glow of the dying fire illuminating the tent's confines, I bowed over her and carefully applied the eye drops to each of her injured eyes.

"My shift starts soon so Vaan will give you your next dose."

"Alright. Good night." She sounded exhausted but that was probably due to her body fighting off the poison that was robbing her burnt out eyes of sight.

"'Night. Try and get some sleep." I squeezed her hand before crawling out of the tent and into the muggy night air once more.

I stretched in a half-hearted attempt to rouse my sluggish limbs before searching for a water flask. Taking generous, greedy gulps of the cool water seemed to waken my worn out mind somewhat. As I was securing the cap on the flask, Basch exited our tent. He stooped to snatch up his axe before strolling to the edge of camp where the sky-pirates were. I guess it was our turn to stand watch. I bent to pick up my spear and medic bag before following.

"How fairs Penelo?" His voice grazed the silence that we had been shrouded in for countless long minutes.

"I think she's improving. Hopefully by tomorrow her sight may return." I absentmindedly twirled the charm that hung from my spear. The striking red fur swirled back and forth in an entrancing dance.

"You do well at potion brewing. Twice others have been cured by your skill."

"All I did was follow Fran's written instructions." I shrugged off his praise.

"It takes more than merely following another's words. This skill, perhaps you learnt it before you lost your memory."

"Maybe." Another shrug. It was highly unlikely seems as there was nothing wrong with my ability to recall my past and the fact I wasn't of this place. "Maybe I'm just a fast learner."

"You are at that." He agreed amiably. Another pause gripped the air, the chorus of the jungle wildlife continued on in an endless feral harmony. "Your memory, do you sort after it?" I wasn't sure which surprised me the most his sudden talkative spurt or the actual question he posed. I proceeded cautiously. I had come too far to be caught out now.

"Of course, it's hard not remembering anything about myself other than the fact I have a dog called Kaiser." I still was pondering just why he had asked such a thing. Then again, if I had had a past like his maybe I wouldn't want to remember such things.

"You truly do not recall anything? Not even your family, your homeland?"

"Nope. None of it. I don't even know where I had come from when I woke in the dessert. Vaan's convinced I'm Rozarrian but I'm not so sure."

Lies upon lies, it was any wonder I had managed to keep such a collection of fakery in order. I could feel the guilt stir in my stomach but I quickly calmed it. What use would it be to confess the truth at this moment in time? If anything it would make matters worse.

"You are an interesting mix of certain ethnicities that much is apparent." He commented, his eyes meandering over my form. I felt a little uneasy under his gaze.

"Really? So what do you think I am?" I turned my head to regard him. After a long moment more of his eyes flitting over my face he spoke.

"Your pallor and dark hair suggests Rozarrian though your accent implies you are of Archadian decent." So I was a mongrel of the two nations at war, if only he knew his speculation was so very far from the truth. "Your build conveys that though you are slight you haven't been shaped by hard graft yet your speech isn't that of an aristocrat. It would seem contradictions are a common ground with you." He mused.

I was a little unnerved that he had even given the subject of my nationality and class such thought. I quickly decided to swerve the conversation away from myself before he noticed any stray ends in my lies.

"What about you? Your accent isn't a Dalmascan one so what does that make you?"

"I hail from a land lost." His head drooped slightly as his eyes fell to look upon the axe held loosely in his hands. I noticed a small section of his hair flop forward.


"Lost to the war, lost to the Empire. Landis."

The name rang a bell. It was the country he had mention when we had been discussing the war with Vossler atop one of the rusting rigs in the Sandsea. No wonder I had never seen Landis on our map if it had been devoured by the Empire.

"What I don't understand is how you and your brother are on opposite sides of this war."

"I am blameworthy for that." There was a heavy pause as he seemed to be recalling the events that had led to such a peculiar outcome. I remained quiet, sure that if he wished for me to know just why he would speak. "When our war with the Empire was at its peak I did choose to flee. My father had been slain in battle and my mother was bedridden with sickness, I had hoped I would be able to bring back my homeland from the Empire's clutches by training as solider in Rabnastre's royal army. Dalmasca and Landis were allies and I was sure Dalmasca would come to my land's aid. Though during my time in Dalmasca I did learn that Landis had fallen. My brother had thought my want to leave foolish, cowardly. He remained behind saying he would nay abandon neither our mother nor our land. With Landis under the Empire's rule he must have pledge his alliance with them and joined their ranks."

"So that's how he became a Judge. Does that mean what he did to you, that was his revenge?"

"It was my punishment for leaving him so." He distantly stated, his eyes still to his axe.

"But you're his brother- his twin- how could he do something so awful? Even if you should have been punished he had no right to dirty your name like that."

"He merely sort to strip me of all I had wrought in my time away from him."

"Good job he kind of failed." I muttered. True his name had been tarnished but at least the princess trusted him once more. I glanced over at him. "You do know you might have to face him again."

"That I do." Though he had attempted to hide it, I heard the grimness in his voice.

Sympathy simmered in me. He hadn't had an easy time these last couple of years and it seemed things weren't going to get any easier for him anytime soon. Despite his hardships he was determined to do good. I couldn't help but think that not everyone could manage such a feat. Without thinking, my hand reached forward and swept back the stray strands of hair back behind his ear. He stiffened and I realised I had once again unintentionally overstepped the boundary between our friendship and awkward grounds. I quickly withdrew my hand mumbling an apology. My fingers had brushed against that long jagged scar. I had often wondered just how he'd obtained it though I never had dared to ask him, it seemed too personal.

Morning came and Basch remained laid on his back as the fogginess of sleep slowly seeped from him. The dim light of dawn penetrated the canvas of the tent (or perhaps it was the firelight -Ashe and Vaan must have stoked the fire during their shift) and he allowed his eyes to adjust to it. The air was clammy and thick. It surprised him how he had managed to sleep well enough in the uncomfortable atmosphere. He turned his head to look over at Edie to find she was still asleep. She was sprawled out on top of her bedroll, on her side, facing him. Her hair was pushed back over her shoulders, her face soft and relaxed in slumber. Her chest rose and fell in a tranquil rhythm. As his eyes unhurriedly traced her form he suddenly realised that her nightgown had hitched up on one side revealing her thighs and underwear.

He directed his attention back to the tent's ceiling once more, feeling his heart flutter to a faster tempo. He inwardly griped. It was as if the gods were testing him, gauging his loyalty to his duties and oaths, to his sovereign. He hadn't a clue where this rush of feelings had come from. Sure she was attractive but he hadn't been attracted to her when they had first met, so why now?

The urge to glance at her once more rose in him. He reluctantly allowed his eyes to flit over her again. She was slim, with lean limbs and tight curves. The time spent training and hiking had toned up her legs. His eyes followed the line of her legs until they were upon her hips where the material of her nightgown had bunched, taking the time to pause when they met her underwear. It had been a long time since he had last seen such a garment and though they were of a simple design in black with a delicate lace trim edging them, he found alluring. They were a reminder of the pleasures he had once practiced with the fairer sex. Want niggled at him. The overwhelming urge to touch her swelled in him though his hands remained stubbornly at his sides.

He glanced away from her hips, chiding himself for even thinking of such a thing. It was bad enough it was a recurring theme in his dreams let alone have it plague him while he was wakeful and able to direct his thoughts elsewhere. His eyes fell on her face. Shame seized him hard. How could he think such things about his fellow traveller, his friend? She would undoubtedly be disgusted if she had caught him staring at her or if she knew of his impure thoughts. It would cause that delicate pink blush to decorate her cheeks if she woke to find herself exposed to him in such a way. He wanted to smooth down the material of her nightgown so it masked her hips but he knew his touch might wake her, and then the situation would be even more of a disaster. He noticed her blanket heaped at her feet. She had probably flung it off in her sleep due to the horrid temperature. He recalled she had slept badly, the sound of her tossing and turning and her mumbling (in what he assumed was Rozarrian) he had heard throughout the night. He sat up and took hold of the thin blanket. He carefully draped it over her to conceal her before leaving the tent.

After the usual ritual of breakfast and coffee we packed up and set off once more. Penelo's sight had recovered, much to my relief. We marched quickly, attempting to make up the time we had lost yesterday. There were no breaks to allow our tired limbs rest instead the water flasks were passed round repeatedly. Towards midday we came across an extraordinary entity in the jungle. Before us was a huge glowing glyph. Its eerie hues of blue and green radiated a soft light and energy rippled through it as if it were water. Ever the curious, Vaan approached it, his jaw slack in awe. Fran paused at his side.

"What is it?"

"The jungle denies us our passage." Fran's eyes didn't stray from the strange magickal barrier.

"What have we done?" Ashe asked.

"We? No." She turned and paced away from our little group. "I."

I peered over my shoulder and watched as she strutted past the others, towards Balthier.

"What's that mean?" Vaan was never one to figure out a mystery without a generous amount of help. From what I had read about the Viera I knew that they lived somewhere in the jungle. I had thought it odd that Fran hadn't mentioned such a thing to us, which gave me the impression that perhaps they parted on sour terms. "How we supposed to get through that?" Fran paid no heed to Vaan's questioning.

"Making an appearance?" Balthier said, keeping pace with her.

"I am."

"C'mon, I'm talkin' over here!" Vaan pestered not happy that his queries weren't being met with answers. He followed them. Our feet also moved as we trailed behind the two sky-pirates.

"I thought you'd left for good." I heard him enquire through Vaan's irritating onslaught of pointless questions.

"Our choices are few." She admitted grimly. They walked along and away from the barrier and descended a short flight of rickety, wooden stairs to a lower walkway.

"Fran? Balthier?" Vaan was quick on their heels his inquisitiveness quickly evaporating into annoyance.

"You'd think he'd take the hint." I snorted watching him huff testily but still shadowing them. Penelo giggled.

"This is as much for you as it is me." Fran said.

"Oh?" Balthier stopped midway in his descent, his puzzled tone caused her to turn and look up at him.

"You are ill at ease. The nethicite troubles you?" She cocked her head slightly as she regarded her partner. He answered her only with an uneasy silence. "You've let your eyes betray your heart." She stated before walking off towards the edge of the walkway.

"Right." Muttered Balthier. It was the first time I had seen him so striped of his usual articulate tongue. He continued to follow her.

Fran stopped near the edge of the walkway. Beyond it stretched a dark chiasm dropping unknown depths. She began to perform an elegant motion with her pointed finger, the tip of it radiating a green glow. She swirled it around and concentrated as she summoned the magick. By this time, Vaan was hovering behind her.

"What are you doing?"

Fran outstretched her hand and lightly clicked her fingers. Once the spell had been cast she turned to him.

"Soon you will learn."

In that moment a brilliant light stretched out from the end of the walkway revealing a path of luscious green grass. As quickly as it came, the light faded leaving behind an almost translucent path. It was a hidden walkway.

"Whoa." Vaan breathed, his eyes wide as he took in the strange passageway.

"We go to seek aid of the Viera who dwell ahead." She finally informed him.

By this time we had all caught up with them. Penelo moved to Vaan's side.

"I'll bet they'll be glad to see you after so long." She smiled.

Fran's fine face remained in its impassive mask though I noted her shoulders stiffened slightly.

"I am unwelcome. An unsought guest in their wood." With that she walked on, her heeled shoes soundless on the barely there grass path. We followed.

The pathway snaked slowly upward, curving around mammoth trees. The hike was hard due to the increasing steepness of the slope but Fran continued on at the head of out group. She was probably apprehensive of being among her own kind once more, though with her there was never a hint or giveaway as to what she was feeling. Finally, we were in the jungle's lush canopy and the sunlight shone through the clouds of leaves in a scattering of shards. The path passed through the trunk of one of the trees. The tree's trunk was so wide and thick that it was almost like passing through a small tunnel.

One the other side, wooden walkways weaved around the trees. There were sophisticatedly crafted and looked as if they were actually a part of the grand trees' structure. The sunlight here had less foliage to shine through and so the sun's warmth and light was welcoming. The Mist moved in a dreamy dance, swirling around the tree branches and glistening on the green leaves like dew. It was beautiful, I couldn't imagine why Fran would leave such a heaven. She stopped at the mouth of the village, which was marked by a majestic, wooden arch.

"In the village ahead you will find her: Mjrn. Bring her to me. She will know why you call her."

"You're not coming?" Vaan asked. Fran merely placed a hand to her cocked hip and narrowed her eyes slightly at the boy before her. He quickly became uncomfortable under her stare. "Um, okay then. Let's go find Mjrn!" He quickly turned on his heel.

We left her at the village's entrance and walked along the wide wooden walkways. The air up here wasn't as humid though there was a haze that hung over the trees. As we passed through the village many Viera paused to observe us. I was getting the feeling that we weren't welcome here.

"Hey, do you know where I can find Mjrn?" Vaan asked a gawping Viera who wore armour similar to Fran's though it was a silver shade. She narrowed her eyes as if offended by Vaan's cheery tone.

"You will find her at the village's heart. Seek her swiftly the Wood does not welcome the likes of your kind." She stated thinly before flicking her ear and turning her back to us.

We continued on and soon came to the centre of the little collection of wooden dwellings. Here there were many Viera who chatted, performed chores or merely sat enjoying the hazy sunlight. Upon us entering the area they all stopped and watched us. The tranquil feel of the air suddenly became laced with threat. I noticed many of the Viera had weapons. Our group stopped before one of the wooden houses. A small number of the Viera drifted forward, their eyes taking in our forms and faces. It was probably the first time they had seen Humes. I was beginning to grow anxious under their stares. Vaan stepped forward.

"Hey, Mjrn lives here doesn't she? We're here to see her." He addressed the group that gathered before us. They answered us in silence, merely continuing to watch us intently. Growing exasperated with the Viera's lack of hospitality Vaan heave a sigh.

"You will leave at once." A heavily accented voice said. I glanced over in its direction to see another Viera exiting the wooden hut. She approached us. She was clearly a leader or elder of some sort that much was apparent from the way she moved with her shoulders back, head held high. As she came nearer I saw a flash of resemblance to Fran across her features. I wondered if she was a relative. Perhaps this was Mjrn. "It is not allowed for Humes to walk on these grounds."

Vaan took a step forward almost as if to prove to her that he could do as he pleased.

"We'll go as soon as we've seen Mjrn." He told her in a tight tone. It was clear he was growing tired of the Viera's unwelcoming attitude.

"If you can find her." The Viera crossed her arms and continued to stare down at him.

"We're not leaving until you let us see her."

"Hmph!" She turned her head away from him in a sharp jerk causing her white hair to flutter around her face. It was as if she was repulsed by his presence and could no longer stand it. She wasn't going to help us.

"Fine then." Vaan turned back to us "We'll look for her ourselves."

As we began to step away the Viera made a noise of interest. The reason for this was marching towards the village centre in confident strides (seriously, Fran wouldn't look at all out of place on a fashion show runway.)

"I have heard the voice of the Wood. She says Mjrn is not in the village. Jote, where has she gone?" She drew near the head Viera. Now that they were together the resemblance between them was blatantly obvious, they were sisters.

"Why do you ask? The Wood tells us where she has gone Or... can you not hear her?" Fran's eyes dropped to the floor. "You cannot. Your ears are dull from hearing their harsh speech, I think. Viera who abandon the Wood are Viera no longer. Mjrn too has left her embrace." There was a hint of sadness in her voice when she spoke the last words, or perhaps it was disappointment.

"And you forsake them in return?" Balthier coolly asked. He too had sensed Fran's upset and was quick to defend her.

"It is the will of the village. Viera must live always with the Wood. So is the Green Word and so is our law."

"We'll let you worry about keeping your laws. Just do us a favour and stay out of our way. We'll find her ourselves." Vaan's tone was still tetchy.

Jote cast her eyes down to the floor and closed them before the Mist around her swirled with more intensity. A breeze whirled around her, picking up fallen leaves and causing them to playfully sail on its currents. She extended her arms and her brow furrowed slightly in concentration as if she were listening to something. I heard nothing, only the breath of the soft wind as it rustled through the foliage. After a moment the gush died down, the leaves lazily fluttering to the ground the once more. Jote slowly lowered her arms.

"Our sister has left the Wood and gone west." She opened her eyes. I noticed a dreamy sheen to them. "She wonders warrens among men who hide themselves in clothes of cold iron. Thus to me the Wood has spoken." With her bit in Mjrn's search completed, she turned to walk away from us and Fran spoke up,

"The Viera may begin life as part of the Wood, but it is not the only end that we may choose."

Jote paused.

"The same words I heard 50 years ago." She continued on and entered the dwelling without a single glance back at her supposedly wayward sibling.

With no reason for us to linger unwanted for any longer, we moved out of the village. Our every step was watched by the eyes of the Viera. Their stares ranged from curious to frightened. At the village's entry, Balthier who was keeping in stride with Fran up at the head of our group, stopped and turn. Fran too halted.

"Not bad, Vaan. Didn't think we'd get any information out of that one." He praised sincerely. I had though he was void of sincerity altogether and was pleasantly surprised when I noticed his words lack a twang of sarcasm. Vaan looked simply ecstatic at the verbal pat on the back his role model gave him. "So then, what was she saying about men in a warren?" He pondered.

"The Henne Magicite Mines- maybe that's what she meant." Offered Larsa. "They lie in Bancour, south of the Ozmone Plains. The entire region is a colony of the Archadian Empire. There would be soldiers."

As usual he knew plenty of facts on our upcoming destination. He seemed very knowledgeable about all these Magicite mines and their prospects that it made me I wondered if it was a part of his curriculum or if he pursued it as a past time. Why would he need to or want to know such information at such a young age? It seemed odd.

"Is that a problem?" The sky-pirate asked nonchalantly. Obviously he wouldn't have cared if the youngster in front of him protested in taking on Archadia's finest footmen. Talk about ego. "Let's go." He turned and set off.

I was about to put my own feet into motion when Vaan's enquiring tone rung out.


"Yes?" She turned smoothly, he ponytail swishing around her in a graceful curve.

Vaan hesitated.

"I was wondering- what Jote said, you know?" All eyes were on him as it was clear he'd need to elaborate. "About how you said the same thing 50 years ago?"

"Your point?" She cocked her head somewhat.

He brought a pointed finger to his chin and absentmindedly tapped at it as if to indicate his pondering.

"Er.. How old were you again?"

I sucked in a breath, either he was very brave or very stupid- I would have happily put my money on the latter. There was a dark pause as Fran continued to silently gaze at him with narrow eyes. She sharply spun on her heel and stalked off.

"Nice, Vaan!" Balthier muttered in an exasperated tone before quickly pacing off after his miffed partner.

Vaan remain rooted to the spot clueless as to what had just occurred. I half expected him to blink harshly in disbelief as no doubt in his eyes the question posed had been a sensible one. We strolled past him. Ashe scoffed as she passed him, Basch who was at her side, remained silent.

"Surprisingly rude." Larsa commented as he overtook the older boy.

"Try to grow up, please." Penelo pleaded as she strolled along by him.

He still looked utterly confused by everyone's negative reactions. I stopped at his side and decided to put him out of his misery.

"There are some things you should never ask a woman, Vaan. And if you were wondering, that was one of them." I tried to keep the laughter from gracing my voice but failed miserably.

I walked off chuckling, leaving him to catch-up both physically and in train of thought.

After the long descent back to the heart of the jungle, we set off to wander back through the way we'd come, in the direction of the Ozmone Plains. The walkways were littered with threats and I spent a lot of our travels healing injuries or curing those who had befallen ailments caused by those pesky Malboros.

Towards the end of the day I was shattered. The Mist had robbed me of all my magickal energy due to me constantly having to use curative magicks seems as our potions stock was beginning to run low. There hadn't been a tradesman to barter with since we had left Jahara and the jungle's onslaught was taking toll on our supply. Despite my weak state I plodded on, Ashe wouldn't want to stop for another couple of hours yet.

I sighed and dragged a hand over my forehead, pushing back some strands that had stuck to the slick skin. My head was throbbing dully. Suffering from being drained of magickal energy was much like enduring a hangover. Although I was determined to keep trekking I found myself lagging behind, which wasn't a safe thing to do in my current surroundings. I tugged half-heartedly at the strap of my supply pack in hope to shift it into a more comfortable position. With my attention elsewhere, my slow feet stumbled over a thick, raised vine. I tumbled to the dirty jungle floor. Hearing my fall, Penelo turned to look over her shoulder.

"Edie?" She quickly closed the space between us with nimble footsteps and folded to her knees.

"I'm fine." I brushed off her concern. "Just a little tired is all."

She aided me rise to my feet. My legs suddenly felt very unsteady. Perhaps I didn't just trip.

"You look exhausted. Why don't you take a potion or something?"

"We only have one left." I mumbled. My tongue felt heavy and slow.

"It will do her no good." Fran stated. We both turned to look at her and I noticed my little fall had caused the rest of our group to stop a short distance away. Fran approached us. "An Ether." I guess she probably could tell I had been bled dry of magickal energy due to the Mist flowing around me.

"We don't have any. What about that tea? The one I had to brew when you were ill."

"This be different. Maddened by the Mist was I, you suffer since you did wholly exceed your magickal energy stores." She explained.

"So what do we do?" Penelo asked, a tinge of worry seizing her voice.

"She needs rest."

"We cannot!" Ashe insisted. "There is but a few hours of daylight left, though they may be short we must use this time to proceed further. Fran, we do search for Mjrn, we cannot halt at every hurdle."

"She's right." I shrugged. Poor Ashe, I could tell this little side-quest of locating the missing Viera was costing her valuable time. We did have a war looming over our heads after all. "Besides it's only a couple of more hours. I'm sure I can do it." Despite my words I swayed somewhat in attempt to try and keep myself upright. Penelo's hands steadied me.

"You can barely stand, let alone walk." Balthier said strolling towards me. He stopped a short distance away. I willed myself to stop wobbling though my tired body didn't heed my instructions. "If you insist on being so stubborn, you can prove to us you are actually of able body. Come stand at my side." With the way I was currently feeling he might as well have asked me to journey across the vast stretch of Ivalice. Determined I wasn't going to slow down the princess for the umpteenth time I pushed my shoulders back, held my head high, shrugged off Penelo's hands and hobbled over the small space between us to stand at his side. Once I had finally made it to my goal I fired him a self-satisfied smirk. My delight was short lived as I suddenly felt like my legs were going to give way. Balthier seemed to sense this and snaked an arm around the small of my back to support me. I gripped his shoulder to steady myself. "I thought as much." Now he was the one wearing the arrogant smile.

"I am fine." I spoke each word singly to him to be adamant just how a-okay I was.

"We have not the time for the likes of your bickering!" Ashe hissed. She shapely turned to the knight at her side and with a flick of her hand ordered, "Basch, bear her."

"What a splendid suggestion, Princess!" Balthier was clearly amused by Ashe's creativeness and Basch's attempt to keep the shock from marking his face.

I wanted to elbow the damn sky-pirate in the ribs but I daren't move my hand form clutching his shoulder.

"Majesty, there are still many threats in the jungle. I am needed to cut you a path."

"The jungle's threats are now few and we have many a sword to rid them." She lowered her voice to him and said, "I ask you do this for me so that we can be free of their nonsense and continue on, time is upon us."

"As you wish." He nodded and walked over to us so that he came to stop before me and my leaning post. "How do you sort to be carried?" He asked me.

I quickly thought about it. There was not a chance in hell he was going to carry me slung over his shoulder like I was sack of potatoes, or gather me up in his arms like I was his bride or some damsel in distress.

"On your back." I insisted, quickly remembering my manners I added, "Please."

He gave a nod, turned his back to me and knelt on one knee. With Balthier's help I went to over him. I was more than sure the sky-pirate's assistance was merely so he could enjoy our joint discomfort up close. He swiftly disrobed me of my bags and spear, handing the medic bag to Penelo and bearing the others before once again steadying me. I bent slightly to stable myself and gripped Basch's shoulders with both hands. "Okay." I mumbled, a sign I was ready to be lifted.

He slowly and smoothly rose from his stooped position, carefully seizing my legs with each of his hands as he did so. Once I was swept up and held against his broad back we set off once more.

I had to admit I was thankful I didn't have to endure more hiking and foe slaying. I hoped the knight didn't mind too much that I was stopping him from performing his duties to his princess. He remained silent as we journeyed on and I decided not to pester him by talking to him. With nothing really to concern myself with the full force of my weakness gripped me hard. I felt so drained. Many a time I attempted to keep my mind from seeking sleep though the pull of my fatigue proved too hard to fight and I slumped further against Basch's back.

Basch felt her sag against him. Her arms limply slung around his neck and he could feel her cheek resting against his shoulder. Being drained of magickal energy wasn't a common occurrence in battle, usually it were only those who weren't watchful enough of their own capacity often paid the price of this exhaustion. He knew full well that Edie wasn't a novice when it came to her magickal abilities and pondered just how this had occurred. The rest of their group hadn't noticed just how little of curative supplies the medic pack now held. Perhaps she hadn't voiced this in order not to worry them and merely made up with it with her spells. She was the only member of the group who knew a wide range of these types of magicks due to her position as medic. No doubt she had felt herself becoming weaker but also didn't wish to make this apparent due to the fact that they only had to continue on for a short time more. It would seem her usual determination had been the cause of her downfall this time.

He plodded on pondering about this seems as it distracted him from the feel of her body being pressed up against his back. After a short while he had to pause to hitch her up his back once more so that she wouldn't fall. His grip of the back of her knees shifted slightly upwards, which caused the material of her dress to slip back a fraction. His hands now had a firm hold of the tops of her bare thighs. He kept his features stony straight, attempting not to notice how smooth her skin felt under his fingers. The women of the group did keep shaving razors amongst their wash things. He guessed Edie must have groomed herself the night before, when she had been bathing in the stream. He quickly shut off his train of though and focused on the road ahead.

Ashe finally agreed to stop and make camp a full three hours after dark. They had travelled a good distance and by tomorrow the green plains would be a short trek away. Penelo quickly rolled out a sleeping bag and helped him lay Edie down on it. She was still deep in sleep and probably wouldn't wake until morning.

Once the chores of setting up camp had been completed, Basch added another cut of wood to the fire. Penelo, who'd been constructing the tents, approached him as he was dusting off his hands.

"Would you help me move her into the tent?"

He agreed and rose from his stooped position. She was stretched out on the sleeping bag, lying on her side as she usually did. He carefully swept her up and held her against him before moving the short distance to the small row of tents. Penelo pulled aside the tent's door and he ducked into its confines. The sleeping bag was already laid out and he lowered her onto its fur-lined length. As he went to move away from her he noted that her hair was masking part of her face. His fingers lightly swept the section back. They grazed her cheek as he did so. A sudden urge to brush his lips against the soft skin surged in him and he hesitated for a moment. He was knelt close to her all he would have to do was bow down and press his lips to her cheek. He blinked as if wiping the thought from his mind. No, he wouldn't be so underhand to steal kisses from sleeping women, besides Penelo was probably still at the tent's entrance. He quelled the disappointment that rose in him by tenderly tracing her cheek once more before exiting the tent.

Whilst he sat eating his evening meal, his attention to the cheerful chatter of his fellow travellers seeped away as he thought over the action he had nearly allowed himself to do. It was worrying. For many long years he had bared his celibacy well and had little regrets about his upholding his oaths so rigidly. So why was it lately he was even entertaining the notion of being with a woman? The other worrying matter was the woman in question was someone he was travelling with. She was his friend, his student, her being his lover was simply out of the question. Now wasn't the time for such a relationship to blossom, there was a war lurking and his sovereign needed not only his sword arm but his devotion. He wouldn't allow Ashe to endure her daunting task solely.

I woke to find myself in one of the tents. It was hard to tell whether it was day or night thanks to gloomy jungle. I glanced to my side to find the other bedroll unoccupied. The sound of morning chatter curled in through the canvas. I stretched and clambered out of the tent. I was feeling much better thanks to my lengthy rest though my body was still a little sluggish.

"You're finally awake!" Penelo greeted cheerfully, handing me a bowl brimming with porridge. "How are you feeling?"

"Much better." I accepted my breakfast with a thankful nod.

"Well Fran says it will be best for us to share medic duties so it doesn't happen again." I knew by 'us' she was implying her and myself seems as Penelo was the only one who knew nearly as much curative spells as I do.

As we were packing up, Larsa hovered at my side.

"Edie, a word if I may."

"Sure. What's up?" I paused in rolling the tent's canvas to peer up at him. He was stood straight with his hands behind his back. No doubt he'd also been schooled in keeping good posture.

"I did share a tent with you last night. I know you're struggling to remember anything about your past but I did notice you were speaking Rozarrian in your sleep." I tried to act surprised to this news though it only made me uneasy that the astute Larsa was knowledgeable that I could speak a different language, a language he could speak well himself.

"Really?" I raised my eyebrows in shock. "Well, what was I saying?"

"I do believe you were dreaming of someone, a loved one perhaps, you were calling out to them and asking them not to leave you." I had a pretty good idea who that had been. Jorge.

"Oh." I sounded thoughtful as if attempting to recall the dream.

"If you like I could converse with you in Rozarrian, perhaps it will jog your memory."

"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, Larsa." I praised though dread gripped me hard. I knew full well I would have no problem understanding anything that came from his mouth and acting confused was going to be a challenge.

"Perfecto! Pues mi voy a ayudarte con la tienda de campaña. (Perfect! Well, I'll help you with the tent)" He said bowing down to help me roll up the tent canvas. I noticed Balthier had placed his attention upon us seems as Larsa was now speaking to me only in Spanish. He knew full well I could speak the language and curiosity had once more swelled within him.

"Porque estás hablando en Rozarrian a Edie, Larsa? A la mejor ella no ti entiendes. (Why are you speaking to Edie in Rozarrian, Larsa? Maybe she won't understand you.)" He cocked an eyebrow at the young boy before him.

"Es que a noche ella fue hablando Rozarrian en sus sueños, mi he pensado hablando en este idioma va a ayudarla recuperar de su memoria.(It's just that last night she was speaking Rozarrian in her sleep, I though speaking in this language would help her regain her memory.)" Larsa answered earnestly.

"Entiendes algo, Edie? (Do you understand anything, Edie?)" Balthier asked me.

I kept the blank look gripped on my face and hoped I was convincing.

"What?" I blinked.

"Nevermind, mayhap you'll remember in time." Balthier smirked. I wanted so badly to punch him.

We reached the Ozmone Plains by midday and I was thankful to be breathing in the fresh, dry air rather than the humid smog that chocked the jungle. As we headed in the direction of the mines we came across two soldiers who were taking shelter in the shade of a craggy mountain, with them stood two large chocobos. As we neared them I noticed one of them looked in a bad way. He was unconscious. When the other soldier saw us he quickly stood up and spoke.

"Please travellers do you have a potion you can spare, my friend is in a bad way."

I looked him over. The armour he wore indicated that they were Archadians. We only had one potion left so I hesitated and glanced over at Ashe. Would she being willing to help the enemy?

"We have but one left. What's the worth of your friend's life?" Balthier asked. No surprise he was yet again after compensation.

"Balthier!" Ashe gasped angrily, taken aback by his malice. She turned to the soldiers, her eyes quickly scanning the injured one. "Though it be our last one you are in more need of it than ourselves."

She turned to look at me and gave a nod. I delved my hand into the medic kit and plucked out the potion before stepping forward and handing it to the man in armour.

"Thank you. My friend's life is saved. We are in your debt sirs. We fled here from the Hennes Mines. We were attacked you see...It was all we could do to make it this far. We'll rest here until my friend's wounds have had a chance to heal. If you like, we could lend you the use of our chocobos until then. There's a lot of terrain around here that can't be accessed without a chocobo."

"We will be in need of one to reach the mines, will we not?" Larsa asked him.

"Yes, travelling to them on foot can be treacherous and lengthy. You are going to the mines? I bade that you reconsider, there is a terrible menace in that place."

Oh great, of course there was some lurking threat ready to rip us to shreds the moment we step foot in the mines! Why was it we could never catch a break?

"Danger or no we must venture there." Larsa told him.

So the soldier happily gave us his chocobos and once again prayed that we faired safely.

Ashe gracefully mounted the chocobo with ease and even sat neatly on it side-saddle style. Basch took the hold of the leather reins and led the bird on. The second chocobo was weighted down with the likes of the three children. Luckily it was well built and bared them with no difficulty. The rest of us decided to travel on foot the rest of the way.

The soldier had been truthful when he had mentioned the track to the mines wasn't an easy walk. It snaked off up a steep slope in a narrow track that weaved in between snags of rock. We halted at its foot.

"Looks like we'll have to take it in turns to ride these chocobos up there." Penelo suggested, tugging on the reins to stop her bird.

"We shall travel two to a bird. The road looks harsh and we don't want to tire the chocobos." Ashe agreed.

Fran hopped on with her and Vaan got shoved off his chocobo. They left us to wait for one of the riders to return to ferry us up the mount. It took well over an hour before Penelo and Ashe returned. She picked up Vaan and Balthier opted to go before the knight. I felt sorry for Ashe having to put up with the likes of him on the long trek back. So as it seemed to be a growing premise that Basch and I were kept being shoved together I decided not to be bothered by his company. I rose from perching on a rock and stretched my stiff limbs.

"How are you fairing, Edie?" He glanced up from sharpening the blade of his axe. He often made good use of wasted time by attending to the weapons or consulting the map unlike me who would merely sit and daydream of returning home.

"Good, thanks." I smiled. I still felt a little lethargic but it was nothing I couldn't deal with.

"Why did you not voice your feeling weak?"

"I really didn't feel that bad and then suddenly I could barely walk." I shrugged.

"Summoning the Mist too often can be bad for the body. You should have told us that supplies were wearing thin. It could have ended badly." He said seriously. Wait a minute, is he telling me off?

"Are you telling me off, Basch?" I attempted to keep the amusement from marking my face. He clearly caught it and frowned, lowering his axe to his lap. "You're not my mentor anymore you know." I said reminded him light-heartedly.

"Though that may be I am still a friend."

The smile that I'd been fighting back graced my lips. It was nice to know he saw me as a friend.

"Okay then, it won't happen again. I promise." I vowed.

Seemingly pleased by this, he returned his concentration back to amending his weapon.

When the two chocobos came back I noticed Vaan had now replaced Penelo. No doubt Vaan had been itching to ride the bird solo, after all anything Penelo could do Vaan tries to do better but ends up failing miserably.

"Vaan are you sure you know what you're doing?" I asked mounting the chocobo.

"Of course!" He insisted.

I suddenly felt nervous. I glanced across at Ashe and Basch. I wonder if either of them was willing to trade places. Vaan cracked the reins and sharply kicked his heels into the chocobo's flanks and the bird squawked loudly before racing off at a stupendously fast pace. I clung onto his little metallic waistcoat that so hard I thought I'd rip it from his back.

"Vaan! Slow down!" I yelped. My butt left the saddle when the great bird leapt over a fallen tree.

"I dunno how to!" He shouted back over the whip of the wind.

I suddenly felt fear grip me hard.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Seriously, I only know how to ride one of these things, not stop them!"

Oh crap! I was going to kill Penelo for letting him go through with this. Luckily, Ashe seemed to have sensed that all wasn't right with our steed. She tore past us handling her chocobo with skill. No doubt the she had been schooled from an early age on a pure breds. She yanked hard on her reins and stopped her chocobo before our own, sideways on. Not wanting to collide with its kin our bird hastily jerked to a stop, inches from crashing into the other chocobo. The harsh stop caused me to slam into Vaan's back, nearly toppling him from his seat.

"Phew, that was close, huh?" He grinned nervously, a hand scratching the back of his head. Before I could even stop myself, my hand quickly darted out and clipped him around the head. "Hey!"

"Serves you right! You could have killed us!" I growled.

He turned to scowl at me and an equally sour look gripped my own face. Our impending argument was cut short by Ashe's words.

"You cannot handle that bird, Vaan, step down. Basch, trade places with him." She ordered.

Vaan grumbled something in displeasure under his breath and slid down from the bird. Basch quickly took his place and we set off again. Finally able to relax atop the chocobo, I happily watched the scenery of the plains drift by as we travelled at a steadier pace.