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GPoFF – 2

Taking in a deep breath of this old Rabanastran air, a tentative smile crossed onto my countenance. This was my home now as it had been once. At some point I knew I was going to have to find myself a place to live, a job and some means of earning a living. But for the moment I was content enough to leave those thoughts on the ship. As much as I missed Etan and what we could have had, he was gone. The man I barely knew was dead and I had only the memories we share of our brief courtship and honeymoon to remember him by.

And yet my thoughts weren’t on Hjan and the possibility he might come and try to take me back, nor even on Etan. The moment I stepped off the ship and onto that open area around the Westgate, I could think of nothing but how free I felt. How magnificent this place was, and how giant everything must have seemed to me as a young girl.. It didn’t take long for me to start hearing talk of some kind of banquet that was to be held within the week for Consul Vayne Carudas Solidor. Of course the name was well known to me, as it had to have been to anyone (and everyone) in Archadia. Our system was to have been a democratic one, and yet his family had ruled continuously for four generations, making many in my small circle of friends very anxious. After all his two elder brothers had both died in quick succession and now here he was, Consul and no doubt poised to be the next emperor. So the word was, anyway.

Such facts made ME rather uneasy, too. I was a widowed woman with not so many rights now. At least in Archades anyway. Nevertheless, drawing in a deep breath I glanced around. It was a bright, warm, sunny summer morning. The first thing I could not help but notice, was that there were guards and soldiers at the gate itself, near the exit to the Westersand, and outside of the Aerodrome. How odd. Then there were the creatures milling through the area: seeqs, chocobos and their moogle, and other Hume’s wandering around to name a few. Overall a very chaotic cacophony of sounds and activity. Each so different and unique, each eyeing me as I and the other passengers emerged from the Aerodrome..

I was curious at first why the gates were being so guarded. Were they so all the time? Perhaps it was the norm now. It had, after all, been many years since last I was here. Since my father fled from his sorrow and decided to try his luck in Archadia. I loved my father dearly, but as I grew older, it felt as though the only stroke of luck he had was having me for a daughter (not to sound pompous, of course). I grew up into what many said was a beautiful, exotic-looking young woman. Which is perhaps how I managed to attract the attention of Etans family. Such a wife for their son would no doubt breed fine, strong sons.

After ten minutes or so of eavesdropping, I heard, the gates were closed for the time being save on special party business. Not an encouraging find. With a quiet sigh, I wandered over to the pen where the chocobo’s were being kept and brushed my fingertips down one of their necks until the saddle stopped me.. They were cute beasts. I had never been given the opportunity to ride one, and seeing how the price the Moogle wanted for one was ridiculously high, it didn’t look like I would get the chance to either..

My shoulders rose and fell with a quiet sigh. How I was actually going to get IN to Rabanastre now? I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) sleep in these streets. Left to plot my way inside, I leaned upon the fence beams and glanced over.. And that was when I saw him. The sky pirate Balthier and his Viera friend, lingering in the corners; taking refuge in the shadows. He was doing a little better blending in than the Viera was. But how could a Viera truly go unnoticed? She was very pretty, and her ears were quite tall. Were all Viera that tall or that pretty, I wondered.

I hadn’t realized I was staring until I shifted my eyes ever so slightly and met his own. I couldn’t tell what color they were from this distance, but the fierceness of his gaze send shivers through me. Then, by some signal the Viera wandered off to talk with a seeq and the pirate pushed himself off the wall with a foot and started stalking towards me. Drawing a sharp breath I straightened my posture and swallowed hard. My eyes on the Chocobo pawing at the earth beneath its taloned feet.

“You should try and be a little more discreet if you’re going to stare.” came that suave male voice.

“Forgive me.. I hadn’t realized I was staring. It was your Viera friend who caught my attention first. I’ve only seen a handful in my lifetime.” While I hadn’t looked over yet, I could have sworn I head this man laugh ever so gently.

“Yes.. she can attract quite the bit of attention. And she prefers to be called Fran, just so you’re aware.”

“Well then, I’ll strive to remember that then. I would hate to rub a Viera the wrong way about such matters as a name.” I returned, and finally turned my head to glance upon him.

Now that he was up close I could see he was a very handsome man indeed. He stood about six feet tall or so in my guess. Although at the moment one couldn’t quite tell since he was haunched over, leaning on the chocobo pen as I had been. His eyes were a soft blue and very striking. His face was handsome, cheekbones high. His hair was short, spikey but slicked back; undoubtedly a warm, light shade of brown with side burns that traveled down the side of his face and seemed to end curving in and leading ones gaze to that mouth. At least three earrings adorned each ear, and he had several rings or hands on his fingers.

If that wasn’t lovely enough, His attire just screamed expensive. A blue vest with lavish gold embroidery over it in a rather unique pattern lay over a long sleeved white white with raised collar and dare I say frilly cuffs? His pants looked to be some kind of black leather, form hugging and with a kind of design in it as well, although I couldn’t make it out yet without looking even more like a shameless harlot. I could tell he had at least one, maybe two belts on around his waist, but each had a small pouch attached to it. Shin guards and sandals that slightly curved up and which laced in the back completed his look. And I must say, favored him very well.

“And what should I call you? ‘The man with the viera friend’?” I inquired, unable to keep a soft smile off my face. One that was matched on his face by a gentle smirk.

“Balthier.” he stated simply. Then stood up and leaned on the pen with his hands now. “And you? I know I haven’t seen your face before. I would have remembered.”

“Is that so?” I mused coyly, a piece of my long wavy red hair tumbling from its pin to frame a side of my face. I didn’t care to move it yet. “My name is Lyph.”

“No last name?” He mused.

“None that’s needed at the present.”

“So, Lyph. What brings you to Rabanastre?” he asked, those light blue eyes grazed over my frame, causing a shiver to race down my spine.

“The desire to see my old home before it is swallowed by the Empire. I’m a widow of a year plus. I’m free, curious about the world. Why not come to see what remains of Dalmasca and Rabanastre especially?” Forcing my eyes back to the chocobos. “Although.. it does not seem as if they’re going to let me inside, nor much of anyone yet.”

“Oh, there’s a way inside. You’ve just got to know the means.” Balthier returned in that calm, suave voice of his.

“Really? Where?” I asked, looking around.

“Through Lowtown.” he answered and stood up, gesturing to a metal door. I would never have noticed it if it wasn’t pointed out.

“It’s not locked?” I asked, finally pinning my hair back up.

“Oh, it may very well be. But there’s ways to remedy that.” he smirked and started for that door with me in tow. Somehow he knew, or at least bet that my curiosity would not let me sit where I was.

“And what of your viera– What of Fran? Shouldn’t you bring her with?”

“She’ll find her way down. She always does.” he smirked and after briefly fiddling with the door and pulled it open. For some reason I didn’t hesitate going down the stairs with this man, into a dark, dreary place I had never been. With no objections I followed him down into Lowtown. Ready to learn whatever this pirate had to teach me. There were worse friends to have, of course.

– – – – – – –

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