It's hard to believe a year has passed so quickly. Rabanastre is finally back to the way it was; like when my parents were still alive. You wouldn't believe how much the city has grown and flourished…there are bazaars from corner to corner, trade is better than ever, and of course hunting marks is incredibly popular to help keep the roads safe – I remember how much you just loved to do all of that with Vaan, hm? Lowtown has cleared out and is mostly used for storage, now. Even the secret passageways we used to take as children to the lower levels of the castle have been completely blocked off and guarded, thanks to Vaan's big mouth (Ashe never forgot when they first met in the sewer!). When I think about Lowtown and all that's happened, I think about how we've lost so much…but I also think it's important to put the past behind us and keep our eyes on the road ahead.
As you know, Ashe's coronation is next month. Have you spoken to her lately? She grows farther and farther away from us…but I guess that's how it has to be. She is queen now, after all. I am looking forward to seeing you at the ceremony. How is Basch? I know he went with you in Archades, to "further the cause of peace in Ivalice" – but still, I hope he comes back to Rabanastre – and Ashe – soon. She has to keep up appearances now, so she would never say it, but…I think she misses him.
Oh! I haven't told you the most important part! Vaan and I have been taking care of the Strahl, but it was stolen! We had just finished on having her tuned up, too! Actually, stolen might not be the right word. If her owner wants her back, there's not much we can do about it, is there? You wouldn't believe what happened – we both walked into the hangar one morning and it was just gone! None of the moogles were even there, and we thought something strange was going on, but then we saw a note – from Balthier! Vaan and I were ecstatic – apparently he and Fran are completely fine and they've been travelling around Ivalice for some time – I'm almost angry that they didn't let us know about it sooner! I can't say I'm surprised, though – this is Balthier we're talking about, and he always has to make everything so dramatic. There's still plenty of time before the coronation, so Vaan's going to pay the two of them a visit. You should see him! He can hardly wait. I'll be going too, of course. Every good sky pirate needs a partner, right? I'll tell you all about it when I see you at the ceremony. I will be able to see you, won't I?
Anyway, I hope this letter finds you in good health and things in Archades are running smoothly. Don't be too serious, remember to laugh and have fun, and when you're having a bad day, just remember those angry tomatoes!
Larsa chuckled at the last sentence.
Horrid little vegetables.
"You called, my lord?"
Larsa looked up from the letter and grinned. Gabranth removed his helmet and looked down on the young lord quizzically. Without a word, Larsa stood up from his seat and handed Gabranth the letter, then slowly walked to the veranda to watch over the city patiently, hands behind his back. He waited a few moments before looking over his shoulder to steal a glance at the Judge's expression.
As always, Judge Gabranth gave nothing away, but Larsa could see his jaws tense, and his eyes had stopped moving. He was studying one sentence. Suppressing a grin, Larsa looked back towards the skyline and slowly rocked on his heels.
After a long pause, the soft clink of armor grew closer until Judge Gabranth stood alongside his lord quietly.
"I am glad that Fran and Balthier are both well," Larsa stated nonchalantly.
"Aye," the Judge agreed. "Although, I never did believe that harm had befallen them."
"As Penelo said…Balthier always preferred a dramatic entrance. Or…in this case, an exit."
Larsa smiled. "So he has."
"Vaan and Penelo plan to attend the coronation ceremony, then?"
Larsa nodded. "They do." He glanced up at Gabranth. "Would you like to see them?"
The Judge kept his gaze out towards the horizon. Wherever the Lord Emperor went, Judge Gabranth followed, so it was an unspoken assumption that he would already be going to the coronation ceremony. Socializing with friends, however, was not to be expected as part of the political agenda – and most definitely not something a Judge would be seen doing – so Gabranth answered carefully, "I would do whatever is in your best interests, my Lord. I understand that diplomacy comes first, especially at a time like this. If you must remain in the company of the Margraces of Rozarria, the Marquis of Bhujerba, and the Queen of Dalmasca, then I should imagine it would be hard to plan an audience with others - "
"Mingle with the commoners, you mean?"
Gabranth looked down at Larsa and cleared his throat. "No, of course not, my Lord. That is not my meaning. Your Lordship forgets that I am descended from common blood."
"No, I do not forget. I also do not forget my friends. I agree that it is important to meet with the Lords of Rozarria, as it is with the Marquis and the Lady Queen, but it is equally important that I meet with the ones responsible for saving my life."
Gabranth looked down. "Of course, my Lord."
There was a pause. Larsa turned to face him. "Basch?"
The Judge glanced at him.
"Diplomacy aside, I'm asking you if you would like to see our old friends again. Please…tell me plainly."
Basch's jaw worked. "I would…very much so, Lord Larsa."
Larsa grinned. "Good! As do I. I'll write to Penelo at once and tell her of our arrangements," he rounded the table, sat back down, and dipped a quill in some ink to start a fresh letter. As he started to write, he thought out loud, "Surely it would be easy to pick those two out of a crowd, coronation ceremony or no."
Basch slightly smiled at that. "I do not doubt that, my Lord."
"We'll find a way to see them without causing a stir. I do not think the Lady Ashe would object to our having them over as guests at some point…?"
The sound of her name made the Judge look up towards the horizon again and stand completely still. "I know not, my Lord. If she keeps the B'nargin royal custom, she may be very busy at present. She is, after all, rebuilding her country."
"Yes," Larsa nibbled at the quill in thought, "but it's such a big castle, and surely she can accommodate two more people."
Basch glanced back at Larsa with an amused eyebrow raised. "Indeed."
"After all, they aided in preventing the destruction of Dalmasca…nay, Ivalice - " Larsa stopped in mid-thought and grabbed a new sheet of parchment, addressing it to the Princess of Dalmasca. "While I think on it, I shall suggest an awards ceremony once the Lady Ashe's coronation has concluded. Vaan and Penelo, after all, should be commended for their bravery and sacrifice that put an end to the brink of world war. It's only fitting, don't you think?"
"Of course, my Lord."
"Fran and Baltheir would be invited, obviously, as honorable members - "
Basch chuckled, then checked himself and cleared his throat. Larsa glanced up at him.
"As much as I believe Fran and Balthier would love the attention," the Judge replied in a sober tone, "I'm not as certain they would grace the politicians of Ivalice with their presence at an awards ceremony."
Larsa pursed his lips, looking thoughtful. "Hm. Perhaps you're right. We must keep the invitation open regardless. I shall discuss the details with the Queen when the time comes." He eyed Basch. "You will be ready to travel with me to Rabanastre when the time comes, of course?"
Basch gave Larsa a solemn nod. "I will, my Lord."
"Good. I very much look forward to our journey. It will be here before we know it. How goes our progress elsewhere?"
Basch picked up his helmet from the table and tucked it under his elbow. "Smoothly, my Lord. I am in the process of selecting new members for Your Excellency's Magistrate. I should have an elite group within days, at your disposal. You are to make the final selections when all is ready."
"Very well. Carry on with your duties, Judge Gabranth. I shall call for you again soon."
The Judge bowed silently, put his helmet back on, and turned to leave the room.
Larsa watched him go, sighed, and glanced at the empty parchment.
He misses her sorely.
Dipping the quill in some ink, he began to write.
I am glad to have received your letter and that you are well. I am sure that you can imagine as events in Dalmasca are much busied due to the Lady Ashe's coronation, they are in Archades as well. I am currently in the process of selecting members of a reformed Senate with the help of Basch – now Judge Magister Gabranth –and I must honestly declare that without his aid, I would most certainly be in over my head (that is, of course, a personal confession only meant to be between us!). I would understand that Lady Ashe must miss his companionship. He has been one of the most important factors for shaping Archadia's new future; I can only imagine what he has done for Her Grace. He has not said as much, but I believe that he sorely yearns to be back in Rabanastre. Thus, I bade him to accompany me when I attend the Lady's coronation. Hopefully this will cheer her disposition. I look forward to seeing you there. It will lift Gabranth's spirits as well, I trust.
I must admit that after the many adventures we have been through, sitting here in the manor is monotonous in comparison. I long to travel once again and I would very much enjoy seeing you and Vaan (if he is available, of course). I am not surprised to hear that he travels the skies…pray do not tell him this, but I grow nervous to think of him behind the helm of an aircraft! I am sure of his skill, however, and if he's as good as you say he is, then I should like to take a ride with you both to some far-off, exotic destination (sans the pillaging).
Speaking of pillaging, I simply cannot believe that Balthier and Fran are alive after all! After the beautiful lament that the Lady Ashe held in Rabanastre for the both of them, they would insult her by coming back from the dead and nicking an airship! I jest, of course – I chuckled when I read your letter. Balthier would have his entrance no other way, I expect. I've even heard rumors that some of Rabanastre's priceless palace treasure has gone "missing," but I'm positive the Lady Ashe has all of it accounted for. Now that I am thinking on it, it is high time that they come and visit Archadia, as I'm sure they'll be demanding a reward for helping remove two of the most tyrannical men our government has ever seen in history. I am looking forward to seeing them.
I hope this letter finds you in good health and in good spirits, and I look forward to seeing you once again in Rabanastre. If it is not too much trouble, I would very much like a chance to tour the city with you. And, if I may be so bold, leave the Judge Gabranth behind in the castle where he would be of much more use to someone else – guarding the Queen, perhaps?
Larsa Ferrinas Solidor