The man sat up straighter in his chair, removing his hands from his forehead. He responded to the small girl without looking at her, "It's past midnight, Dearest. Why are you still awake at this hour?"
"I had a bad dream... I tried to go back to sleep, but I can't..."
They were in a dark room; the only source of light was that of a single candle on top of the desk the young girl's father was sitting at. In the dim lighting of the room all that could be seen was the silhouette of a man sitting at his desk holding an important-looking letter in his hands, and the young girl's small hand, clutching the frame of the doorway. The girl herself remained in the shadows.
"Yes, Dearest?" The man sounded stressed.
"Can I stay with you for a while?"
The man sighed, "Alright, but only if you promise to go back to bed shortly."
She stepped out of the shadows engulfing her and into the dim candlelight, approaching her father. Her deep green eyes reflected fear, and yet happiness at the thought of spending time with her father, who spent a lot of time away from the family. Her usually tidy, short, dark red hair was now messy due to the fact she had just gotten out of bed.
She was oblivious to the tenseness in the air surrounding her father; oblivious to the fact that her father was only ever this tense when something serious was happening.
With every step the little girl took toward the man she adored more than anyone else, the room seemed to fade.
Alex woke with a start. Someone was calling her name.
"Miss Alexandra? Please wake up."
A maid was knocking on the door of the girl named Alex's room.
The girl sat bolt upright in her bed, startled by the noise. She rubbed her eyes before stretching her arms and yawning loudly.
She looked out her window through half-closed eyelids and noticed that it was still pretty early in the morning, far earlier than she was used to waking up. Although she was a bit annoyed about being woken up so early, the view was pretty, she was amazed that she normally managed to sleep through the noise the birds outside were making.
"What's going on?" she asked groggily, wanting to know what possible reason her parents had to have her woken up so early. It had to be six in the morning! Alex didn't usually get up until at least nine.
"Master Luke has returned from his absence. His Grace has asked me to inform you. He would like to see you in the audience hall in the castle as soon as possible."
"The audience hall?" Alex asked, still not fully awake, "Why? I'm not supposed to leave the manor."
"I'm merely relaying what His Grace said to me," the maid replied, she didn't sound like she was having a good day.
"Al-alright," Alex said, stifling another yawn, "Thank you, you're dismissed."
She heard the click-clacking of the maid's heels fading away, telling Alex that she had left. The girl groaned and fell backwards on her bed, her head hitting her soft pillow once again. She closed her eyes and pulled her blanket back over her head, attempting to fall asleep again. She had still not fully registered in her tired state what the maid had just told her.
It took a few moments for it to finally sink in, and once it did, she shot out of her bed, blankets flying through the air along with the nightgown that she had pulled off and tossed to the side in a rush.
She hurriedly brushed her messy shoulder-length, dark red hair that was layered in a fashion that it almost covered her right eye, and then pulled on her black pants and light violet shirt with a high neckline that slanted at the bottom. One of its sleeves was down to her elbow, and the other ended at her shoulder. She threw on her blue belt over the shirt and buttoned it up at her side, and then slipped her feet into her simple, button-up black boots and headed out the door, pulling on her deep violet gloves that buttoned up at her elbows as she went.
Her cousin, Princess Natalia, and her father didn't think her clothes were ideal for the image of the royal family, but no matter how many times they had told her she should go back to wearing the old frilly dresses, Alex preferred these clothes. They were more comfortable than the dresses she had worn until the age of fourteen, and they were definitely more ideal for day-to-day life. There was still the occasion where she would still wear a dress or at least a long skirt with a blouse when they were expecting important guests, but Alex didn't like anything too frivolous, and preferred to be comfortable rather than praised for pretty clothes by people she didn't know or care about.
She was thankful her mother stopped her father from forcing dresses on her when she was obviously uncomfortable wearing them after she had discovered just how comfortable regular clothes were. Her father still demanded that she at least wore something elegant when guests were around, and considering Alex was able to get away with wearing casual clothes any other time, she didn't argue.
She was nineteen years old ,and could never remember the first four years of her life. She didn't care too much about the loss of memories, since most people didn't have many clear memories of that time in their life anyway, but it was the cause of the memory loss that had her curious about it.
She was told it was because she had somehow managed to get out of the manor, and had been physically and mentally traumatized by some men at that age, simply because they didn't agree with what her father was doing in Hod. The doctor the Duke had hired for her had explained that her memory was lost due to the trauma.
Quite frankly, the whole thing sounded a bit strange to her, and more like an excuse than the truth. Her suspicions had been strengthened whenever the Duke had told her to drop it and refused to speak about it whenever she brought it up, but she had shrugged it off. It was only the first four years of her life anyway; it wasn't like they could be that important. Not like her brother, who lost all his memories at the age of ten. And he hadn't been able to even remember his name, or how to walk, or speak, or anything that was considered common knowledge, whereas Alex had. She'd gotten off easy compared to him.
Nevertheless, the incidents leading to their memory losses, particularly Luke's, had resulted in a strict confinement inside the manor.
The manor had been peaceful since Luke disappeared over a month ago...to an extent. Their parents and the maids were all panicking, and their mother, who was already sickly, had grown even more frail. But Alex's lifestyle was suddenly so peaceful it was boring. Mostly because Guy, her only real friend inside the manor other than Luke and Natalia, left to go looking for him. At least Natalia had been visiting her for the time they had been gone, but those visits tended to be more dreaded than anything else, seeing as all Natalia could talk about was how worried about Luke she was - and when she wasn't talking about that, she was talking about her upcoming marriage to him. Alex spent most of those conversations zoning out and watching Pere tend to the gardens outside instead. She enjoyed looking at the flowers, they brought her peace.
More than once she had considered asking him if he could teach her how to tend to the flowers, but she knew her father would probably disown her or something if she did, so she settled for watching him do the gardening instead. She was already pushing her luck with her father with the casual clothes and the sword training, which he had also been against for a long time.
She hadn't even been able to train in a long while either, since Commandant Grants was away looking for Luke as well, so she really had nothing to do. The whole time Luke was gone she had pondered how he had literally disappeared with the woman who had attempted to kill the Commandant. He had even told them later when her parents were asking for answers that her name was Tear, and that she was his sister.
This only worried Alex more about her brother's safety.
If the woman was about to kill her own brother, who was to say she wouldn't kill Luke? Shortly after they got their information, Guy was sent to go find Luke. Alex had really missed them, even though Luke was sometimes a pain in the ass. The weeks passed and she had begun to worry that something might have happened to them.
She picked up her pace as she left the manor and headed to the castle; two White Knights close behind her for protection, just in case somebody decided to attack her during the two-minute walk from the manor to the castle. She entered the castle and walked quickly up the stairs, the guards outside the audience hall letting her by without questioning her.
As she approached the door of the audience hall, she started to hear familiar voices.
"It has already been decided that he will be taking Guy with him."
"I already said I don't care who comes as long as Master Van is with me," came the voice of her brother, "Can I please leave now? I'm bored..."
Alex wondered what they were talking about, she and Luke hadn't been allowed to leave the manor for years, why would they suddenly allow him to leave Baticul now?
When she finally opened the door, she was greeted by both familiar and unfamiliar faces. She saw her father, her uncle, Luke, Guy, Natalia, the woman she recognized as Tear, as well as a feminine looking boy with green hair, a young girl with pigtails and a doll hanging from her back, a tall, middle-aged military man with long hair, glasses, and intimidating red eyes, and most strangely, what she recognized as an aqua-blue cheagle floating beside Luke, an over-sized ring around its belly.
"Alexandra," said her father as he noticed her enter the room, "You're finally here. I'm sure you heard that Luke has returned?"
"Well, yeah..." she replied, raising an eyebrow at her father, "From the maid you sent to inform me."
Her father dismissed this remark and continued with what he was saying.
"There is trouble in a mining town in Malkuth by the name of Akzeriuth. We are sending your brother and Guy as well as these others to remedy the issue. We thought you should know about it before they left, and you will not be going with them."
"So..." she started, wondering why her father would even bother to tell her if she wasn't allowed to go, "You called me in here to tell me that my only friends in this place are leaving and I can't go with them?"
"I preferred you hear it ahead of time, so you would not hear it from them and bug me about accompanying them later on."
Before Alex could reply, Natalia started up.
"I agree with Alex. I really think it would be a good idea if she and I went along as representatives as well!"
"We've discussed this, Natalia," King Ingobert sighed, "The two of you will be staying in Baticul."
Natalia turned her head away from her father; she did not look impressed with his words. After a while the frown on her face turned into a small smirk, something that would rarely ever show up on Princess Natalia's face.
Alex and Luke appeared to have been a bit of a bad influence on her.
The group started to discuss plans on how they would get to Akzeriuth, Alex not really paying attention to any of it; the information was useless to her. She was wondering all the while why she was still even there. During the conversation, Alex picked up the names of the people she hadn't met before: Fon Master Ion, his guardian Anise, and Colonel Jade Curtiss.
After the plans were set, they all headed to the manor. Natalia joined them, saying that she wanted to speak with Luke, as well as make sure their mother was alright. Ion had insisted that he, Anise, and Jade go along as well, as he wanted to see the manor where Luke grew up with his own eyes.
"Thank you for escorting my brother back to Baticul," Alex said as they made their way to the manor, she felt the need to say something to end the occasional stares the others gave her and Natalia. They weren't a part of their group, they were probably confused about their sudden presence.
"It's the least I could do for causing the trouble in the first place," Tear stated.
"Yes, don't mention it," the colonel said, pushing his glasses up his nose, "It was certainly a...memorable experience."
"I don't doubt that," Alex laughed as she looked back at her brother, who was currently in the middle of an argument with Natalia while Anise, who had her arms wrapped around Luke's midsection, watched and glared openly at the princess.
"Luke!" Natalia was shouting, gaining everyone's attention, "Please tell that girl that we are engaged!"
"It's not like I want her clinging to me like this!"
The two continued to shout at each other, while Anise, whose arms were still wrapped around Luke, smirked at Natalia and looked thoroughly like she was enjoying the display.
"What kind of attitude is that?!" Natalia demanded, after Luke muttered a comment about how he may have been better off outside of Baticul without any nagging, "Do you have any idea how worried I was?"
Guy jumped in to try and save Luke from being yelled at any further, "Luke's probably just embarrassed, Your Highness."
Natalia glared at him, "You have some explaining to do as well, Guy! Did I not tell you to inform me before you joined the search for Luke? Why did you leave without speaking to me?"
Guy scratched the back of his head, "Well, you know servants like me can't get into the castle..."
"He asked me to tell you for him," Alex chimed in, before Natalia could bite Guy's head off instead. Her comment was completely ignored.
Natalia advanced toward Guy, who backed away immediately in a classic display of his well-known female phobia. "Why are you backing away?"
"You know why!" Guy replied, and Alex had to resist the urge to point out how obvious the answer to Natalia's question was.
"Once Luke and I are married, you will become my servant as well," Natalia said simple, crossing her arms, "Get over it."
"To be fair, Your Highness," Guy started, shaking as Natalia continued to advance on him, "I am Alex's servant, too, and I'm able to serve her without her coming too close to me..."
"You're so strange," Natalia shook her head, "Look how pathetic you are, cowering like that because of a girl, I don't know what the maids see in you."
Alex sighed, "Anyway, I haven't formally introduced myself to you yet," she made a polite bow, "I'm Alexandra fon Fabre, Luke's older sister. But please, just call me Alex."
"Strange," Jade remarked, "You've grown up in the same environment as Luke, yet you seem...I'll settle with the word 'normal'."
"Luke changed after his memory loss. We tried to raise him into more or less how he had been before...but he was never the same, probably because he's not allowed to leave the manor and he's very limited with everything compared to before the kidnapping," Alex admitted, "We hope his memories will come back soon, before he comes of age."
Jade nodded, and did not make a response.
"At any rate," the Fon Master spoke, holding out his hand for Alex to shake, "I'm Fon Master Ion, he's Colonel Jade Curtiss, this is Tear, and the young girl attached to your brother right now is my guardian, Anise. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"The pleasure is mine, Fon Master."
"Please, just Ion will do."
"I actually have a couple questions about how Luke was raised," Tear asked, "Since the kidnapping I mean. He seemed very sheltered while we were traveling, and it at a first appearance it doesn't seem you were raised the same way."
"We were both confined to the manor after the kidnapping, Luke's just had more on his plate, with his memory loss and all. I could focus more on my studies, and lessons on etiquette," she shuddered at the memories of those stupid lessons, they basically just taught her not to show guests like these her true colors, "While Luke had to spend more time on things like remembering how to walk and speak our language."
"I am right here, you know!"
Natalia clapped her hands together, getting everyone's attention before turning to Luke, "Oh, that's right! I forgot to ask, did you hear what happened to Van?"
Luke and Tear both looked more interested than they had since their return.
"What?" Luke asked, "What about Master Van?!"
"Our father's suspect Van of being behind your disappearance," Natalia explained, and this was news to Alex as well. Last she heard, they were just suspecting Tear.
"Tell me what's gonna happen to Master Van!"
"Van will likely be arrested as soon as he reaches Baticul," Jade explained, "Worst case, I presume he will be executed."
"That can't happen!" Luke shouted, "Master Van's innocent."
"The Commandant's in danger?" Anise asked, turning to Ion, who nodded at her.
"Yes, we must issue a formal protest from Daath at once!"
"Natalia!" Luke grabbed the princess by her shoulders, "You have to talk to Uncle and tell him Master Van wasn't involved! You've got to save him!"
Natalia sighed, "All right. I can't turn down a request from you, Luke." She removed his hands from her shoulders and held them, "But in return, I want you to hurry up and remember that promise you made to me."
Luke groaned and pulled his hands away from her, "I already told you, I don't remember proposing to you as a kid!"
"Yes, I know that. But how romantic would it be if the first thing you remembered was your proposal to me?"
Natalia sighed, "Yes, all right. I'll go speak to Father."
She bid them farewell (though she was mostly just speaking to Luke) and returned to the castle while the others continued to the manor.
Once they arrived in the manor and Jade, Ion, and Anise all made their leave, Guy suggested to Tear that she apologize to Suzanne for Luke's disappearance, as she had become more ill since his disappearance. Tear seemed sincere in her feelings of guilt and regret for getting Luke dragged into the mess, and decided Guy was right.
Tear, Luke, and the cheagle (who had introduced itself to Alex as Mieu, which had shocked her because she hadn't known that the ring around its belly allowed it to speak the human language) left so Tear could go apologize, leaving Guy and Alex alone. Alex was quite surprised by how kind Tear seemed, she was completely different from what she had seen over a month earlier, though she did still seem slightly cold toward Luke at times. Not that Alex could blame her for being irritated by him.
"Sorry about leaving you behind again," said Guy, scratching the back of his head and smiling nervously.
Alex raised an eyebrow at him, "Why would you be sorry? It's not your fault."
"I guess not," he said, relaxing, "I just sort of feel guilty about leaving you alone again... I can only imagine how bored you must have been here by yourself."
"You have no idea…" Alex sighed, thinking about the many Luke-based conversations with Natalia she had endured.
"You're not planning on sneaking out are you?" Guy asked suddenly, looking a bit more serious.
A mischievous smile spread across her face, "I didn't plan to..." she placed a finger on her chin, "But you know..."
"Don't even think about it!" Guy said, his eyes narrowed.
"I'm not being serious!" she laughed, "I promise."
Guy relaxed again, not knowing she was actually considering it. But how would she get out of the manor unnoticed?
"Shouldn't you be getting ready?" Alex asked, looking up at him; she was about a head shorter than Guy. When he nodded, she added, "I don't know if I'll be up in time to see you off tomorrow; Father probably won't want me up so I won't be tempted to go with you…so I guess I'll see you later."
She opened her arms for a hug then laughed at the look of terror on his face as he instantly backed away ten feet.
"I'm joking!" she smiled, lowering her arms, "I know well enough that you're afraid of women."
"Then stop doing that!" he yelled from across the room, still scared.
Later that night, Alex woke to the sound of her door closing. She jumped right out of her bed, grabbing her sword off of her bedside table, ready to give the intruder a piece of her mind when the person spoke. Alex recognized the voice immediately and relaxed.
"You wish to go to Akzeriuth as well, do you not?"
Alex smiled, unseen by Natalia in the darkness of her room, and got ready to hear whatever plan the princess had in mind.
A/N: I do not own Tales of the Abyss.