Final Fantasy XII in its entirety © Square Enix

When the royal city Nabudis and her king fell to the juggernaut that was the Archadian Empire pushing her borders westward, which catapulted Prince Rasler into a king without a kingdom in one apocalyptic explosion of Mist, Daina Praeities was not there.

Ten years earlier, on a soft, gray morning, she snuck into her parents' room while they slept. She sought her father's sword, a length of damascus steel and mythril longer than she was and which she was expressly forbidden to touch. She tiptoed with her prize to the backyard, drew it, and tried to swing it. Her childish strength was no match for the blade. Without her quite knowing how, the sword's point tangled with her skirt and the edge opened a long gash in her thigh. Her shrieks brought her mother.

"Abyssal Celebrant!" her mother gasped when she saw the blood. "Daina!"

Her mother's scream overpowered Daina's. Roused by their fuss, her father made his slow, calm way into the yard. He leaned against a cottonwood shedding snow-like flurries, one callused hand rubbing his unshaven jaw. Behind the house, the early morning sunlight strengthened until the last stars of night vanished from the sky.

Daina's mother hustled her inside. She applied potion to Daina's leg, removing all existence of the wound, and then helped her change her dress. Daina, her fright forgotten, left her mother tsking over the ripped skirt, dashed back outside, and hefted the sword once more.

"Daina, what under the sun do you think you're doing?" shouted her mother, angry now.

"Slaying wyrms!" Daina responded with a grunt. In Ivalice, the Mist that enabled magickal abilities in the sapient races had also affected the wildlife. Plants, overcome by aggression, pulled up their roots and walked the land. Beasts everywhere were monstrous, often larger than full-grown humes, even tall ones like Daina's father. The oldest of the beasts, the wyrms, were the most fearsome. Centuries past, magi had bound the wyrms by affixing inscribed collars around the wyrms' necks. Should the magicks in the collars ever fade, the wyrms would be set free, and all of Ivalice would suffer. Daina had decided that it was her duty to make sure that this never happened.

The sword overbalanced her and she dropped it, catching herself on her hands and knees. The velvety lawn stained her palms and skirt grassy green. The sword's point buried itself in the dirt. She tugged on the handle, but it was no use; she couldn't budge it. Two hot tears of frustration rolled down her cheeks.

Her father's indulgent laughter boomed across the yard, startling a few white doves from their roosts under the eaves. "If she isn't afraid of the blade, there'll be no stopping her, Lizzy," he said to his exasperated wife. He wound an arm around her waist and kissed her temple. "She'll just have to learn how to use it."

Lizzy sighed and turned out of his embrace. "A wyrmslayer! It's those stories you tell her before bed, Bertrand. Of what use is a sword to our daughter?"

"It can teach her honor and how to keep her word. It can teach her to know her own mind," he said. "Finding her calling is not the worst thing in the world for a child. I ask instead, of what use is our daughter to Nabradia?"

With that, he joined Daina. He braced her chubby wrists, raising the tip of the sword out of the dirt. "Like this, little one. Think of it as an extension of your arm. Do not fight it. Let the blade be your teacher."

It didn't stop there. Daina's father took her to Verdpale Palace and enrolled her in lessons reserved for squires and the sons of knights.

The boys were older than she, most bigger, and they watched her from a safe, amused distance, not sure what to do with this lily-haired girl-child in their midst. "Whoever heard of a lady knight?" they teased.

"No one," was Daina's stout answer. "I'm first."

She found masters wherever she went, whether it was the ornery chocobo that allowed no one but her near it in the stables, or the chores she was set at the end of her lessons, or her fellow knights-in-training. Any kind word was heeded and taken to heart, every slight returned twofold. She made friends. She gloried in her rivals. As her skill grew, so did her reputation, until even Prince Rasler Heios Nabradia and his retainers came to the practices to watch her.

Her mother submitted more or less gracefully to her strange upbringing. All was not lost in Lizzy's eyes. In spite of Daina's increasing collection of scars and trousers, her voice seemed to come from Faram, the Scion of Light himself. Daina spent almost as much time singing as she did in the ring. She sang for her mother to cheer her.

Daina's childhood was not a peaceful time for the tiny kingdom of Nabradia. Prince Rasler was engaged to marry Princess Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca, of the slightly larger kingdom of Dalmasca in the southwest, to unite their lands. Daina had seen for herself how much the two rulers-to-be loved each other. Their obvious affection was a sign of hope in troubled times.

"From empire to empire the unrest grows," Lord Rasler once commented in her hearing. "In the east, Archades looms ever avaricious. Emperor Gramis and the sons of Solidor fix their eyes upon us. On our western flank, Rozarria does the same. War is coming."

"Perhaps the Lady Ashe would like a lady guard," Sir Bertrand suggested. "A lady protector could serve her better than her Knights of the Order."

"Perhaps you are right," Prince Rasler agreed mildly, smiling as if at a private joke. He stood magnificently in his white and gold armor, the sun striking his platinum hair. Daina glowed with pride.

So it was done. Daina knelt before her king and was granted her knighthood. When Rasler wed Ashelia, Daina Praeities bid farewell to her parents and took her place at Lady Ashe's left hand, to be her shield and her sword. She wore a feminine version of the Dalmascan knight's uniform in white and green, her long, white-blonde hair plaited down her back and her katana belted around her waist. Like her male counterparts, Daina kept her counsel to herself, spoke only when spoken to, and remained in the shadows, ever watchful.

She loved the Dalmascan royal city of Rabanastre at first sight, with its dry desert heat and booming bazaar. Although, at night, she did miss the refreshing greenery of her childhood home, the Nabradian royal city of Nabudis. And then, like a primrose plucked from the vine, Nabudis was gone forever.

Within weeks of the wedding, Archadian troops moved into Nabudis on their way to meet the supposed encroaching Rozarrian forces. Archadia slaughtered every last soul in the royal city, including Lord Rasler's father, King Nazewell.

To hold the invading empire at the Nabradia-Dalmasca border, Lord Rasler went with Dalmasca's Order of Knights to defend the fortress in Nalbina Town. There the young king fell, and Nabradia's royal line ended with the shot of a single arrow.

In Rabanastre, Lady Ashe publicly mourned her husband. Daina privately mourned the loss of her home, her family, and her kings. The city of Nabudis, she learned, became a dead land of concentrated Mist, transformed into a necrohol swarming with unholy monsters, a place not fit for any hume to wander.

The world of Ivalice was changing. Daina had not been set completely adrift, however. She had a place, she had a duty. She watched over her princess and swore new vows. She would protect Lady Ashe, as she could not protect Lord Rasler. She would honor his wish that she serve his beloved bride with her life.

Her honor and her vows were all she had left.

A/N: Hello, Dear Readers! Welcome to the Before the Zodiac Age version of ASftP. Wow, it feels like a lifetime ago that I first wrote this story! I'm not sure why I removed all of my original author's notes (I truly wish I hadn't), but I'm going to leave it be after this. Mostly, I just wanted to say welcome. Thank you for clicking on my story. It's been edited, and a couple of chapters have been added somewhere in the middle. I hope you enjoy it!

I am Forever Yours,