Title: Eruyt Village; or, How old are you, again?
Story: Bad Bromance
Author's Note: I wanted to include this in the original story, but I didn't have the time to put it in. But, just for funzies, here's what could have been in the story. More Snow/Ashe moments, and Snow being...well, Snow. xD
"An alliance between Dalmasca and the Empire?"
Basch and Ashe were walking side by side, Snow walking a short distance behind them, while the others led the way into the Golmore Jungle. The princess had been informing her knight about the possible treaty between Dalmasca and Archadia, the only way to stop the coming war between empires.
"Reason tells me t'is the only course," she answered, looking down at her feet as she walked. "We must avoid war with the Empire at all cost. Yet I fear I could not bear the same. Had I but the strength—"
"A shame perhaps for you and I," Basch interrupted. "But for Dalmasca it is hope!"
"And you can just accept this, can you?"
He nodded. "After Vayne's ruse I had abandoned hope for honor...yet I never did forget my knightly vows. If I could protect but one person from war's horror, then I would bear any shame. I would bear it proudly. I could not defend my home. What is shame to me?"
"My people hate the Empire. They will not accept this."
"There is hope." He looked toward Vaan, Penelo, and Larsa walking ahead of the group, smiling and laughing at something the young thief had said. "Hope for a future where we can join hands as brothers."
Basch left the princess' side, and Snow took that as a sign for his turn to talk with her. They hadn't talked much since their discussion the night before, and, to be honest, he was almost trying to avoid her. She seemed to have an idea about Ragnarok, after hearing Vossler mention it moments before he died. Snow didn't want to think about what would happen if she found out the real truth...
He walked over to her, and Ashe smiled when she met his gaze. Again, he thought of Serah when her saw her smile. "Still worried about what's to come?" he asked, falling in step with her.
"Everyone wonders about their fate," she answered. "I am no different."
"I don't like thinking about those kind of things. Heroes never die, you know. So, we're guaranteed to live until the end of this trip."
"Do you really believe that?"
He grinned. "I don't see why not. If there's just one person out there who thinks every thing's gonna be all right in the end, then we'll get through this."
"I hope you're right, Snow."
When they entered the Golmore Jungle, Fran seemed to be a tad bit on edge. Balthier seemed agitated more than usual, too, but Snow figured he was just in one of his 'moods'. But when they arrived at a gate blocking their path, he understood why the two sky pirates were anxious.
Ashe stood in front of the gate with a puzzled look in her eyes. "I do not understand," she stated, touching a finger to her chin. "What is it?"
"The jungle denies us our passage," Fran answered, turning away from the barrier.
"What have we done?"
"We?" She shook her head as she walked back the way they came. "No. I."
While Vaan attempted to get their attention, Snow followed Balthier and Fran down the walkway. The others gave them confused looks, and for once, Snow didn't have anything to say. "Making an appearance?" Balthier asked his partner, walking at her side.
He almost smirked. "I thought you'd left for good."
"Our choices are few," she told him, keeping her eyes forward as she walked down the stairs. "This is as much for you as it is for me." Balthier stopped walking halfway down the steps, making Snow almost walk right into him. Fran turned around once she stood a few feet below them and smiled gently. "You are ill at ease," she stated. "The nethicite troubles you? Or, perhaps it is your past? You've let your eyes betray your heart, my partner."
They shared a silent conversation after that, something that Snow didn't really know. Balthier sighed heavily and followed her, standing at her side while she waved a finger around. There was energy emulating from it, and she summoned an unknown magickal force. Vaan, having chased after the three, briskly walked over to them.
"What are you doing?" he asked, naive as always.
"Soon you will learn," Fran said, glancing in his direction when she lowered her arm. A path appeared before them, opening the way to a place no one but Fran knew. At least, until she spoke again. "We go to seek the aid of the viera who dwell ahead."
"I bet they'll be glad to see you after so long," Penelo said, walking up beside her fellow orphan. Ashe and Basch stood at the top of the stairs, watching the others below.
Fran shook her head. "I am unwelcome. An unsought guest in their wood. In the village ahead you will find her: Mjrn. Bring her to me. She will know why you call her."
Snow led the group into the village of the viera, though Balthier would often have to grab his arm and drag him along. Seeing so many viera at once proved to be overwhelming for the blond, despite his dedication to his wife back in the other world. Vaan was having just as much trouble, and it seemed that only Balthier and Basch were able to keep themselves calm around the viera. As for Larsa—well, he was far too young to understand.
They found a group of viera near the end of the village, but when Vaan tried to talk to them, they only stared. Snow stepped forward. "Mjrn lives here, doesn't she?" he asked. "We're here to see her."
A noble-looking viera walked out from the group, and Snow almost mistook her for Fran. They had the same determined glint in their eyes. "You will leave at once," she stated. "It is not allowed for humes to walk on these grounds."
"We'll go as soon as we've seen Mjrn."
"If you can find her."
What was that supposed to mean? "We're not leaving until you let us see her." The viera looked away from him, silent, and Snow rolled his eyes. "Fine, then. We'll go find her ourselves."
When he turned away, ready to leave, Fran waltzed right past him and to the group of viera. Balthier didn't seem surprised that his partner had made an appearance after all, smirking when she went past him. "I've heard the voice of the Wood. She says Mjrn is not in the village. Jote. Where has she gone?"
"Why do you ask?" Jote folded her arms across her chest. "The Wood tells us where she has gone. Or, can you not hear Her?" The younger viera cast her eyes downward. "You cannot. Your ears are dull from hearing their harsh speech, I think. Viera who have abandoned the Wood are viera no longer. Mjrn, too, has left Her embrace."
"And you forsake them in turn?" Balthier asked.
"It is the will of the village. Viera must live always with the Wood. So is the Green Word, and so is our law."
Snow clapped a hand on Balthier's shoulder, knowing all to well that he would be frustrated with those who argued with his partner. "Then we'll let you worry about keeping your laws. Just do us a favor and stay out of our way. We'll find Mjrn ourselves, and bring her back. All right?"
A wind arose from under Jote as she raised her arms, a bright light shining from above. Snow thought she was summoning an unknown force to strike them down and kill them, but then he remembered that all he had to do was tell Balthier to kill it for them. He looked at the sky pirate, who, as if he knew what Snow was thinking, smacked him upside the head.
"Our sister has left the Wood and gone west," Jote announced. "She wanders warrens among men who hide themselves in clothes of cold iron. Thus to me the Wood spoken."
Fran faced her elder sister. "The viera may begin as part of the Wood, but it is not the only end that we may choose."
"The same words I heard fifty years ago. You have not changed, my sister."
"Not bad, Ice," Balthier said as the group headed back into the Golmore Jungle. "Didn't think we'd get any information out of that one. So then, what was she saying about men in a warren?"
"The Henne Magicite Mines—maybe that's what she meant," Larsa answered. "The lie in Bancour, south of the Ozmone Plain. The entire region is a colony of the Archadian Empire. There would be soldiers."
The sky pirate smiled twistedly, his white teeth gleaming. "Is that a problem."
Vaan looked between them, then started walking onward. "Let's move."
Snow, however, had something on his mind and felt the need to figure something out. He looked up from where he stood behind Balthier and Fran. "Fran!"
She turned around, silver eyebrows raised. "Yes?"
"I was wondering—what Jote said. Something about how you said the same thing fifty years ago?"
He crossed his arms, resting a finger on his chin. "How old are you, exactly?"
There was a pause of silence, and suddenly Snow wished that he hadn't said a word. Fran turned around and sauntered away, and with a heavy sigh, Balthier followed. Ashe, tutting as usual, walked away with Basch at her side. Larsa muttered under his breath, "Surprisingly rude," as he followed them, and when Penelo moved past him, she rolled her eyes.
"I'm starting to wonder how old you are, Snow."
As for the man in question—his shoulders slumped as he followed the rest of the group, feeling more out of place than ever before.