Summary. This is a final Fantasy twelve AU, in which Rasler lives, that explores how him not dying affects the plotline and characters.
Warning. Err, there's a violence, character deaths later on, and implied sex.
Author's notes. Well I thought up of the premise over the summer and did most of the outline while on vacation. It turned into an idea for roleplay, but the plot bunny hit so bad, I tried to do it for Nanowrimo. I reached 4.5 K, failing horribly. I then decided to continue with the story, and work at my own pace. Which I'm doing right now. So, I don't have a beta reader yet, so please critique, and send me your feedback. I'd love to hear from you guys.
Hope and Devotion
Ashe sighed. The seamstress her family had hired to sew her wedding gown had insisted that she needed another "final fitting." This must have been the third time this week, and the tenth since the gown had arrived at the palace. The seamstress was now taking in a few fractions of a centimeter along her hips, where the fabric did not cling "properly" to her hips. Ashe herself had hardly noticed any change since the second fitting, but complied when she had noticed something off in her gown. It was quite tiresome really; her ladies-in-waiting were becoming quite annoyed with the dress situation as well. Her makeup, hair, and jewelry were all done. All that was left were these final touches to the gown.
The clock and cathedral both struck twelve, by now Ashe was supposed to be in the carriage standing next to her husband-to-be, but alas, she was still stuck in her bedchamber until they was done with her work. She looked around the room; her servants in their best dress awkwardly quiet as if they wanted to speak up but were too afraid to say anything. The seamstress that was commissioned for the dress was a genius, her designs being among the most unique and fashionable in all of Dalmasca, but the woman's temper was to be feared. Ashe and Illyana, her closest servant, were among the first to learn this about her. When they were reviewing possible dress designs, the two had agreed that a long train, preferably one that could be buttoned up during the reception, would be best, but the seamstress had insisted on a short train, and claimed that they were ruining her art, as she called it, and proceeded to storm out of the palace. Eventually the whole thing was settled, but now her servants were afraid of disturbing the seamstress while she worked.
Finally, the last stitch was in place, and all knots tied. With a silent bow, the seamstress had left the chamber. Ashe did a quick visual check in the mirror. The dress was the same, and all her everything else was perfect and ready for the world to see.
"Are you ready, my lady?" Illyana was the first to speak. "And don't worry, everyone else has been notified of the delay."
"Yes, I am." Ashe said.
"Are you sure? You do know it's only once he shall see you like this," she said.
"Yes, I am," she replied. There had been much preparation for her wedding day; everything, from the steps up to the carriage she was to ride with her husband to the kiss they would share on the altar, were practiced. Yet she was still nervous about the whole ordeal. She was to commit herself to a man in the hope that the alliance between their two countries would solidify, preventing invasion from outside forces, and strengthening the two branches of Raithwall's bloodline. After this, she was now duty-bound to both Dalmasca and Nabradia, a full member of both courts and yet she wielded little power in both. She was the youngest of nine, although only four had made it to adulthood; and Rasler, he was the second in line for the throne. Thus they both had little power and influence over the court. She was to bear him children and rule by his side, if he were ever to wear the crown.
"Very well then."
Ashe stepped off the stool she stood on, and straightened out her dress so that it fell nicely onto the floor, showing off the draped design. And with that she left her chambers for the last time; after this she was to move to a new chamber with Rasler, and the two would begin their lives together as a married couple. Although their marriage was arranged for political purposes, it was a happy union nonetheless. She had known him for most of her childhood, and they were formally betrothed upon her twelfth birthday. During those five years, they had exchanged visits and letters, and she grew quite fond of him and his company. Their parents considered this as a sign that their union would not only bring long lasting peace, but also bring happiness to their children. And if the prince and princess were happy, the attempts to usurp the throne would be kept to a minimum.
Ashe's heels clicked against the intricately tiled floors of the royal palace. Her servant trailed behind her checking the train of her dress, as it trailed behind her elegantly. The palace was quiet today. Most of the servants were either busy cleaning or preparing for tonight's feast, and the rest had been given leave to see the wedding. This was in contrast to the sheer chaos that the palace was thrown into last week; everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong, and communication was at a complete moratorium between all those who lived and worked inside its walls. Among some of the other smaller crises of the past week, the music that was to be played during the wedding was not to be found, the delivery of the rest of Rasler's belongings nearly lost, and the wrong wedding rings had come in.
She walked past the elaborately decorated walls, with tile murals, grand tapestries, portraits of past members of the royal family, and the gilded molding that framed the palace walls. It was all familiar to her, and yet alien at the same time, perhaps because she was no longer the little girl who ran through the halls chasing after her brothers, while their tutors attempted to find them for their lessons. She took the last steps of her childhood, and stepped into adulthood.
She finally reached the entrance of the palace. Outside most of the court was waiting for her arrival, and not just the Dalmascan court; Rasler's family had managed to slip out of their war-torn country to see their son marry. With a practiced stride, she made her way to the carriage for the wedding procession. By now her servants has left her side and joined the rest of the crowd. The attention was focused on her, every slight movement she made was under scrutiny. She could not show the slightest hint of nervousness, or the crowds would notice her apprehension. She caught a glance of Rasler, who was waiting for her; he turned his attention to her and offered his hand to help her up. She set foot on the carriage, and reached out for his hand as he helped her climb on. While helping her up, he tilted his head, and whispered, "You look stunning today." His hand, warm and damp from the desert heat, held hers, while his thumb skimmed over her knuckles, a gesture that he used when he sensed her nervousness, or when he himself was nervous.
She smiled. "Thank you, and you look quite dashing yourself," she replied, leaning over closer to him. He wore his most formal armor polished to a brilliant shine in the midday desert sun.
"Nervous?" he asked. Ashe was quite grateful that he had mastered the art of discrete conversation during public events, although they would have to stop once the parade began.
"Yes, a little," she took her place on the float, standing beside her husband-to-be.
"This whole ordeal shall be over in less than twelve hours, should everything go as planned." And with that the carriage moved, and the procession began. They were to pass through the main streets of Rabanstre, so that everyone could see them, before reaching the cathedral for the ceremony. She glanced around the front of the palace before heading off. Their families had already left for the cathedral, and would be waiting for them to arrive. The crowds had gathered outside in hopes of catching a glimpse of her and Rasler on the way to their wedding. She waved and gave them all a polite smile as they cheered and shouted words of luck to them. The rest of the ride was spent in silence, but it was neither awkward nor tense. It was more of an understanding that nothing needed to be said. Occasionally they would exchange quick glances and smiles.
The carriage came to halt when they arrived at the cathedral, which was surrounded by onlookers who had the luck to be near the cathedral. He stepped off first and waited for her, offering his hand in assistance. She held it and stepped onto the ground, her gown trailing behind her. "Shall we begin?" he asked, still holding on to her hand.
Ashe gave a small nod. The carved heavy wooden doors of the cathedral swung open, and the wedding march began to play. Inside the high ceiling was painted with scenes from myths and legends, most pertaining to Dalmasca in some way or another. In the pews sat members of the royal court. Their families were seated separately, in their own section.
And thus they began to walk down the aisle, hand in hand. The march was timed, and had been practiced until they could almost do it in their sleep. The wedding itself was mostly a performance, in hopes that it would bring some hope to both of their peoples in these troubled times. War was imminent, and their marriage would hopefully boost the morale of both their nations, heralding news of a strong alliance. By some stroke of luck the two were fond of each other, but even if she did not like him, she would still go through with it all. Thus was the life of royalty, always playing your part for the sake of everyone else. Your people counted on you to do your duties, and to play your role. If this was not done, order would descend into chaos. Her happiness was irrelevant to the fate of nations, but it was nonetheless taken as a sign that the alliance was meant to last.
With the last practiced step, they both reached the altar. It was grandly decorated, and the sun filtered through the windows, making the gilt trim shine. Ashe faced her husband-to-be, and thus the ceremony began.
The priest started his speech about how their union was one of great personal sacrifice for the sake of their nations, but they would stay committed to each other, they would eventually find happiness, and that their affections for each other would grow with time. This was a common attitude towards marriage, or at least it was far as those who lived among the royal court knew. Most were given little choice in who they married, and if they did have such freedom, they were to choose carefully, for the wrong choice has disastrous results. He went on for a bit, saying that they were to learn to love and appreciate each other.
Ashe and Rasler began to recite their vows to each other. They were simple traditional vows that emphasized commitment and devotion between spouses. She was glad that she had committed them to memory, so there was no worry that she would forget what she was going to repeat. She recited the words with sincerity, and with the hope that he would do the same. Only time would tell how he really felt, but for now she could see the sincerity in his eyes as he recited his part.
And they were declared as man and wife, in front of the royal court. Then Rasler pulled her into an embrace, and kissed her chastely. Together, they turned to face their families and the world as a married couple, smiling serenely.