Chapter 1: For All the World
Timeline- eighteen years before the present. Thosinund is 8 years old here, which makes her brothers 16 (Kroemsath) and 14 (Wheidoen).
POV: their mother, Mhaslona.
Midmorning in the smithy. Mhaslona is just about to get back to work when a triple set of footsteps comes running through the door behind her: the billets are back from their expedition.
“Ma!” Thosi is bouncing on her toes. “I got ‘em!”
“And nearly fell down the crags doin’ it,” Kroemsath interjects.
“Yeah, cause we caught you.” This from Wheidoen, with crossed arms.
Thosi crosses hers right back. “I was fine, it wasn’t even that high.”
“Doesn’t have to be that high to get a busted head.”
“Your head is busted anyway.” She elbows him.
“Ma, how are we supposed to look after her if she goes haring off every time we turn our backs?” Kroem appeals.
“Oh, you both shut up! I was supposed to go get these! Anyway, here,” and Thosi holds up a triumphant fistful of flowers.
Mhas dusts her hands on her apron and takes the haphazard bouquet, dangling roots and all. “That’s a good bunch! Well done. Your pa’ll love these.”
“I found the vase,” Doen says, handing it over.
“And I had a good-size dodo egg, but it broke.” Kroem sighs.
“That’s all right, Kroem. Run and fetch another. We can still get that omelette cooked in time.”
“Well now, what’s all this?” says Haldkhan as he steps into the kitchen. “Tablecloth out, flowers on top… Looks like company.”
“Happy nameday, Pa!” Thosi runs and hugs him, with her brothers not far behind (though Kroem declines to run; he thinks it childish of late).
“Nameday? I’m too old for namedays! Must be someone else you’re thinking of.”
“Pa-a!” Thosi protests, laughing. “It is too yours!”
“Can’t be.” He drops Mhas a wink. “I gave all mine up years ago. Met a fine lass and promised her I wouldn’t age another day.”
“That so? Then I guess this,” Mhas pours the sauce over Kroem’s finished omelette, “will have to be for the rest of us to share. Somehow.”
“Somehow,” he agrees. Face all solemn, just as if he were serious.
Thosi clasps her hands. “Aw Pa, stop kidding. Kroem picked out the best egg for you-” (Mhas can see her oldest straighten just a bit at this.)
“And your only daughter nearly broke her skull gettin’ you these.” Doen gestures at the cliff roses, their long tendrils spilling down from the vase.
Haldkhan’s eyes widen. “Great guns, girl! You didn’t go and do a thing like that!”
“Yeah I did! I had to, cause they’re your favorite.” Thosi puffs out her chest.
“So they are. And my favorite lunch to go with ‘em, and my own fine lass besides… I ‘spose it must be my nameday after all.”
His smile is out in force now as the family takes their seats, as he squeezes Mhas’s hand under the table. She wouldn’t trade this moment for aught else in the world.
Chapter 2: Sticks and Stones
Timeline- nine years before the present; Thosinund is seventeen.
Minding the cart in the village market, Thosi felt herself being watched. She followed the sensation to a spot not ten fulms away, where a couple of midlanders with a sketchy air stood. And grinned, when they realized she’d noticed them.
It wasn’t the first time she’d turned heads in public. She’d been all of seven fulms high since she was fifteen. But now, under these strangers’ gaze, she started to feel self-conscious in a way she hadn’t before. She switched to watching them out of the corner of her eye, hoping they’d go away. Yet they stayed, and stayed…
Oh thank Aldyk. "Hey Ma." Thosi spoke a little louder than normal. Just to make it clear that this leather-aproned lady with the powerful arms was a parent, someone who’d protect her. Someone no sensible person would want to cross.
From the corner of her eye she noted the watchers finally, oh-so-casually moving on… but on a path perhaps designed to enter earshot range. So she could just hear what one of the men said to the other, before they vanished into the crowd.
"Thosi?” Mhaslona saw the wound in her daughter’s expression, ever so fleeting. “What is it, sweetheart?”
“Nothing,” Thosi hastily replied. The damage, however, was done.
On the one hand, of course she was pissed at the pox-ridden spawn of a mangy dodo hen. He should have stood his ground if he wanted to talk like that; if he were any kind of honorable, he would have. But no such luck.
That remark- with a capital R, as she’d begun to think of it; Remark- clung to her for days, worse than burrs in her stockings or muck on her shoes. It shouldn’t have mattered; she didn’t want it to matter. He was a stranger. His opinion counted for nothing in the grand scheme of things, and yet. Was that what folk saw when they looked at her?
About the fifth night she spent out in the fields, staring in frustration at the stars, her pa came and found her.
“Well now,” Haldkhan began. “Something bothering you, I take it.”
“Yeah,” Thosi mumbled.
“Something you could maybe tell your old pa, if you’d a mind to.” He spoke casually, but she knew he was waiting. They sat in the quiet dark for a minute or two.
Thosi took a breath. “Pa… Do you think I’m too big?”
“Course not,” her pa said easily, without missing a beat or raising his voice. “You’re exactly right-sized. Someone been telling you different?”
“No. Well, not really telling me. Just something a man said in the market last time we were out. In passing, like.”
Haldkhan blew out a breath. “Sounds like he didn’t want to own up to saying it. Though I don’t remember hearing anything of this from your ma…”
Thosi flopped down onto her back, arms under her head. “That’s cause she didn’t hear him. Only I did.”
“That bad, was it?”
“He said… he said I’d ‘break a man’s leg just by sitting on his knee.’” She scowled at the sky. “Like he’d know. I bet his knees are so weak a kitten could break them. I bet he couldn’t pay a lady to sit on his lap, whatever size she might be. I bet…” But she couldn’t think of anything else, and besides, something was in her eye; she sat back up and scrubbed at it, to no avail.
“Who wants to sit on anyone’s lap,” she whispered, and screwed her eyes shut to stop them leaking.
She felt her pa reach out, then, and wrap an arm around her shoulders.
“Thosi, my girl,” Haldkhan said. “You know people like that aren’t worth spitting on if they happen to catch fire. And you know you don’t need to go taking swings at every fool who starts running their mouth ahead of their sense. But I want you to know one more thing.”
“Yeah?” she choked, around the lump in her throat.
“You are enough. Just as you are. No shite-talking featherhead can ever change that.” Beat. “Course, if they try hard enough, seems to me they could probably do with a boot in the right direction.”
Thosi gave a watery laugh, in spite of herself. “Thanks, Pa.”
Chapter 3: Assumptions
Timeline- four years before present; specifically references the quest 'Coming to Terms' in patch 2.4. Occurs a little way prior to 'With A Smile.'
This is what it is to be a Scion: you get your mission, complete it, and immediately get another one. Or maybe that’s just what it is to be Thosinund. Some days it bothers her, but today, well… today she gets to go to Camp Dragonhead. Alphinaud is apologizing for not giving her time to catch her breath from the rescue mission she has just completed, but little does he know—this is rather a reward.
It’s a diplomatic affair; they are to meet with an Ishgardian ambassador, for reasons even Alphinaud doesn’t know. The man has specifically requested to meet Thosinund, though. As she is sure she will be required to nod once or twice at most, and get to sit down for most of the time, she has no problem with this.
Besides. Camp Dragonhead. They get to go there.
As the mission briefing continues, Thosinund’s mind wanders ahead—for Dragonhead means but one thing to her, and that thing means a great deal. With his blue-violet eyes… and his glad smile…
“Let us depart, Thosinund,” Alphinaud says, and she snaps to attention. “Our old friend Lord Haurchefant is waiting.”
The mere mention of his name has her heart jumping into her throat. Silly of her, she knows, but there it is. A good thing Alphinaud doesn’t notice her private agitation; he is still talking.
“Since our quest to recover the Enterprise, I understand you have further ingratiated yourself with the man. Excellent work. His fondness may prove useful to our cause.”
Thosinund is following after him on autopilot, when certain of the boy’s words suddenly sink in.
Ingratiated. Excellent work. Fondness… Useful.
…Wait, what? What is he implying?
They have saddled their birds and gotten several minutes into the Hall of the Seven Echoes before Thosinund trusts herself enough to speak.
“Hey, um. Alphinaud.”
“You… want to explain what you meant earlier?”
He has the nerve to sound puzzled. “Meant by what?”
“Saying that I’d done well to ‘ingratiate’ myself with Lord Haurchefant.” She is trying to keep her tone mild.
“Oh, I… did I not make that clear at the time? I thought I had.”
“No,” Thosinund tells him, this close to gritting her teeth. “You didn’t. Because it sounded to me like you thought I would form a friendship just to get something out of it.”
She wheels Agatsyng round into the other bird's path, pulls him to a stop, and looks Alphinaud dead in the eye. “Look, I don’t usually say this, but for shame, Alphinaud. I thought you knew me better than that. My friends are not some kind of—favor field, that I’m waiting to harvest. Especially not Lord Haurchefant, whether he’s fond of me or no.”
For several seconds, Alphinaud only blinks up at her. She cannot tell what he is thinking.
“…It seems I have made incorrect assumptions, and thereby given offense,” he says at last. “I do beg your pardon.”
“Good.” With a squeeze of her knees, she and Agatsyng are off once more. The wind is cold, the record has been set right, and they have a meeting to attend.
Chapter 4: Un/Spoken
The path that leads to a certain snowy night.
POV: Haurchefant; third-person limited.
Haurchefant didn’t know what sort of person he had expected. But whatever sort it was, the woman who strode into Camp Dragonhead that day was something else again. The door rattled, footsteps stopped before him, and he accordingly looked up… and up, and up… into the brightest turquoise eyes he had ever seen.
Those eyes were what registered first, if one was inclined to understatement. More accurately, they were what first struck him to the heart. Honest eyes, and solemn. He had the sense that she was taking his measure without saying a word.
What he wanted to say: who are you?
What he said: “Ah, the unmistakable swagger of a well-traveled adventurer…”
Her name was Thosinund. She came bearing news of his best friend’s peril, and in search of a lost airship. Well might she look solemn, with such missions as these.
Yet she was not inflexible- when he asked if she might duel some of the trainee knights, she could have refused. But she simply nodded, then proceeded to knock them all on their collective arses with speed and style… enough to dazzle them out of any possible upset. Or mayhap it was only Haurchefant who felt dazzled?
What he wanted to say: Halone help me, you are incredible.
What he said: “Splendid performance, Thosinund!”
The whole camp was abuzz over her. Buzzed louder by the day, in fact. She found what was lost. She fetched what was sought. She had keen eyes, closed lips, and a kind heart: all three of which she used to free Francel from the charge of heresy, just as he had hoped she might.
It was, perhaps, only natural that Haurchefant should feel his heart bending toward Thosinund as a flower toward the sun.
But he was not a fool. He knew she could not stay. Those who chose the adventuring life were not wont to linger anywhere for long, and woe betide any who would try to make them.
What he wanted to say: Please, stay a while longer. I cannot tell when I shall see you again.
What he said: “I wish you well in your journeys, Thosinund. May Halone guide you.”
It was not only the Fury who guided her, clearly. All of the Twelve must have taken interest. She toppled castrums, felled primals, and became a legend almost overnight. But whenever Haurchefant heard of Thosinund Haldkhanwyn, he saw that solemn-eyed stranger enter the hall… saw her smile of farewell as she left to pursue her airship.
He could hardly do less than order supplies for her Scions’ frontier effort in Mor Dhona. And though he was vexed by the heretics’ thwarting the shipment, it meant one good thing… he got to see her.
He was rather less pleased when she calmly set about penetrating Iceheart’s lair, alone. Could she not have waited? Could she not have sought the help he so longed to give?
But of course she could not.
What he wanted to say: Sweet mercy, do not do that to me again. I could not bear it if you were injured when I might have prevented it.
What he said: “But you are here now, and that is what truly matters.”
Was it fate or chance that brought the snowstorm down? Who could say… who indeed could care. Haurchefant could only think that, if it had to happen today, at least it meant he could shelter Thosinund for the duration.
So they sat by the fire in the intercessory, playing games. Taking turns telling each other of their pasts, of their present. The firelight glowed on her hair, and her voice sounded warmer still, and Haurchefant could have sat with her til the end of time in this way. Simply enjoying her presence.
Was it fate or chance that she should never have been kissed? That she should invite him to give her her very first?
All Haurchefant knew was that, if the Fury had marked him for this singular honor, he could not do aught but accept it with grace.
What he wanted to say: I have longed for this moment.
What he said: exactly that.
Chapter 5: Spring
Ah yes, time for the Teen rating to kick in- now that the relationship is well underway.
POV: Haurchefant, third-person present tense.
He lives for these moments.
He kneels before her, his goddess, his queen- clad in an open shirt and not much else. Malms upon malms of her tower over him. Sculpted, corded with muscle from top to toe… the sight alone makes him tremble.
He steadies himself with his hands on her hips. Runs them down the steep length of her thighs, reveling in the texture. Grey as iron, nearly as firm, and yet how warm and yielding to his touch… Steel wrapped in silk! he will tell her, later. For now he cannot manage speech. He presses his lips to the side of her knee and she jumps, just a little. He kisses the other knee too, just to hear the sharp hiss of air through her teeth.
She whispers his name. A plea.
So he begins to move, ilm by ilm, kissing his way up her glorious legs. His hands roam all the while, caressing, stroking. Squeezing occasionally. She has scars even here, slashing dark across her skin. Long ones, short ones, ragged edges framing smoother centers. His fierce goddess. Queen of the battlefield. The Fury herself made flesh.
But he has never heard the Fury speak, let alone whisper. Or gasp, or whimper, or make low needy sounds in her throat. The higher he moves, the warmer she grows; when his hands are on her hips once more, his lips trailing kisses over the tops of her thighs, he swears she is giving off more radiant heat than the fire in the hearth.
She can no longer stand. She seems overwhelmed. She totters backward til she finds the bed and sinks down upon it, shaking. He follows, not bothering to rise from the floor, unable to tear his gaze from her.
“May I?” he breathes.
She does not sound to be in the mood for any further teasing.
Haurchefant coaxes her forward, seating her at the edge of the mattress. She is already opening to him, canting her hips upward in her need. He has to stop her, but only long enough to pull her smalls down out of the way; then he returns to the sweet spot they had so lately concealed.
She is not just the goddess but the mountain, with a sacred spring held at its secret heart. Only the bravest dare attempt the climb. Only her chosen will make it to the center. Only those the goddess favors are allowed to taste those blessed waters.
And tonight she favors him.
He dips his head, and parts his lips, and drinks his fill.
Chapter 6: The Thought
Double POV? Double POV. First half is Thosinund, second half Haurchefant.
In a corner of the Sapphire Avenue Exchange, already sweltering in the late morning heat, Thosinund perches on a stool in a stall curtained from the market’s eyes and tries her hardest to be still.
She’s dressed far differently than usual, in a gown whose off-the-shoulder neckline and long billowy sleeves conceal the famously sculpted arms (though not the old stretch scars that peek above the cloth). The sweep of the skirt likewise hides most of her legs; beneath, cotton tights and plain brown shoes finish the job. Her jewelry stowed, her weapons hidden- this is as close to ordinary as she has been in years.
Mayhap this is the problem, then. It’s been far too long since she felt anything like ordinary. Without the usual weight of her armor, under the gaze of a stranger, she finds herself on edge.
“Madam,” the artist says, after several mutually frustrating minutes. “Why have you come to me today? For whom is this portrait intended?”
“It… it’s a gift,” Thosi says. “For…” Come on, she scolds herself. Pretend you’re just a girl back home. “For my man.” (And how the back of her neck tingles, to say those words aloud.)
“Hm. Madam, if we are to get anywhere, I cannot have you fidgeting like a sprog in a sanctum. Look past me, forget me—and think on him.”
“Right,” she mumbles, and lets her mind wander. To her dear, wonderful and silly as he is. The way his voice warms when he talks to her. The way even the roughest spots on his hands feel impossibly smooth…
“Done,” the artist announces. “If you will step this way, madam?”
Thosi takes a breath. Slides off the stool. Goes to see what the past few minutes have wrought.
“It’s perfect,” she says, with a great rush of relief. “Twenty gil, did you say?”
“Gil per minute, so… twenty-five.”
She gives the man thirty, takes the portrait and slips gratefully free of the tent. Thinks: He’ll love this.
There is some old saying about setting free what one loves, about how a love that is meant to be will always return. Even if that return most often comes in the form of irregular letters, often accompanied by odds and ends (tiny shells, dried flowers, interestingly colored rocks), well- it counts, does it not? Such is the cost of loving one who comes and goes as the winds take her.
He is not the only one who loves her, of course. In a way, large parts of the world have taken her to their bosom. When heroes rise, multitudes love them sight unseen. It is not, of course, the same. But it counts anyway, for what it is worth.
They make of her what they will, out of what little they know. They tell stories, sing songs- some even hazard depictions of her to accompany the tales. Wildly varying, all inaccurate: rivers of impractically flowing locks, eyes that literally shoot flames. Often the proportions of eyes vs. nose are reversed; that is, the nose significantly smaller than real life and the eyes far larger. She does not take offense at these, often finding amusement in them where he cannot.
Foolish of him to be bothered by them. Yet he is. Can there not be one decent likeness of his love?
Today, a new letter on his desk. Full of talk about her day, jokes she heard, things of that sort. And in the envelope behind it- a bit of canvas no bigger than his palm, in its own smaller wrapping.
There she is, real as life. Her eyes sear him, her smile touches, even in the form of truly tiny brushstrokes. The gleam of light upon her hair, the streaks of darkness below her shoulders…! It is the best kind of sorcery, he is certain.
He tucks the portrait back into its envelope, stands from his desk. He knows exactly where to place it.
Bells later, he will whisper “Goodnight, love,” as he drifts to sleep.
Chapter 7: Selfish
This being the universe in which Thosi is the Warrior of Light, eventually the time for a certain Banquet must come... and now it has.
Haurchefant has often wished that his love could stay with him- that it was this camp to which she returned after her days of derring-do. That it was not merely her portrait but the woman herself to whom he woke up each morning, beside whom he fell asleep each night.
A foolish, selfish dream which has now come partially true… in a way he would never have wished, not in a thousand years.
She has been smeared, slandered. Framed for murder and forced to flee for her very life, while all but two of her friends have been lost–perhaps forever–in the flight. Though she does her best not to show it, Haurchefant can see she is suffering: it shows in the stiffness of her shoulders, in the forced bravado of her stride.
This is the price of being a leader. Of being a hero. Even in the direst circumstances, you must stand tall.
It is perhaps for this reason that she makes her daily rounds, leaving the fortress at least once per day and refusing to come back empty-handed. If there is a stick of firewood or a cut of game to be had within twenty malms, she will have it. Cold be damned. Wind be damned. Does she think to earn not only her keep, but Tataru’s and Alphinaud’s as well? She is certainly doing the work of three people.
Even now, she tries to give what she can. To take her own pain and turn it to some measure of joy. ‘Twould be hardhearted indeed to forbid this.
And when at night she slips into his room, when she holds him close as though he is the last safe thing in the world… he will be damned if he will deny her that comfort, either. There are far worse ways of dealing with grief.
It is a bittersweet day when word comes at long last from Ishgard. The Horde has been beaten back, for the time being… and more importantly, Haurchefant’s petition to his father has been answered. House Fortemps will take on three new wards.
The greater part of him is ecstatic that Thosinund will finally get to see the city he has longed to show her, that she and her Scions will be ensconced in his own family home. That they will be this much farther from the reach of those schemers in Ul’dah. These are good things, and both accomplished at one stroke to boot.
Only that night, in the silence of his room, does he let the lesser part of him come to the fore. The part that shivers under the covers, missing how much better it was with her there.
Foolish of him, and selfish, to be so dissatisfied. Has he not achieved a long cherished dream and kept her safe besides? What more could he wish than that?
(This is what more: the weight of her beside him. The scent of her skin. Her steady breathing in the dark.)
Well, he is only mortal, after all.
Chapter 8: Promise
We're into Heavensward here- just after the rescue of the youngest Fortemps from the Vundu.
The airships between Camp Cloudtop and Ishgard are little bigger than coaches back on land, with about as little privacy, and cold enough to make even Thosinund shiver. Fortunately, Emmanellain is too busy monologuing- ostensibly to Honoroit, but mostly to the air- to pay much attention to anything or anyone but himself.
Meaning that Thosinund and Haurchefant can safely sit together, if not very far away from the other two, and have a moment somewhat to themselves.
“First of all, love, I am grateful,” she tells him, under the rush of the wind. “For your help, and that you’re safe.”
“But of course! I could hardly miss the chance to fight by your side.” Haurchefant beams.
“Or to be dramatic- did you truly need to wait til the last moment before jumping to join us on the deck?”
He spreads his hands. “I was ensuring that our large, feathered friends did not think to do the same, so… yes.”
She shakes her head, though she cannot help a little smile. “You dreadful man, I thought you would fall! You nearly stopped my heart.”
Haurchefant gives a quick glance to his sibling, whose ranting continues apace. Then he takes Thosinund’s hand.
“Indeed?” he says, so only she can hear. “You stop mine whenever I lay eyes upon you, love… I was wondering how I should return the favor.”
He brushes a kiss over her knuckles. Squeezes her fingers, before letting go. But she knows that kiss for the promise it is.
Chapter 9: Pillow Talk
Thosi thought she'd heard all Haurchefant's terms of endearment. Until now.
The first time Thosi hears it, she’s on the very edge of sleep.
Deep in her doze, she is still aware of a few things: the glow of the lantern on the nightstand, shining even through her closed eyelids; the soft sound of Haurchefant’s breathing. The shift of his weight at her back as he reaches up and over to bring the lantern close enough to blow it out, then put it back down. This done, he rolls back into his place and settles down again, draping his arm over her hip. Just as Thosi is drifting off properly she hears him whisper- “Ah, my Cozinund.”
She doesn’t quite recall this the next day, or the day after. But one evening she arrives to Dragonhead to find her dear asleep at his desk- his very nearly clear desk, which in itself is something like a miracle. It is as if he intended to do moons’ worth of work in a single day of concentrated effort. Such diligence has surely earned a proper rest, which is doubtless why no one has disturbed their slumbering commander… but then again, he can’t spend all night like this. He’ll feel it in the morning.
So Thosi shakes his shoulder, wakes him just enough so he’ll know who it is trying to pull him to his feet. “Come on,” she murmurs. “Come on, love, let’s get you to bed.”
It is not easy getting her semi-conscious dear to walk. Still, she waits to carry him til they are out of sight of the others, for dignity’s sake.
As she’s tugging off his sollerets, having laid him out on the bed, Haurchefant stirs and mumbles. Something that sounds like, “How forward, my dear!”
Thosi smiles to herself and keeps going. Gauntlets, main mail, undershirt all come off; nightshirt goes on.
He mumbles again. “Eager, aren’t you…But…I decline- my Cozinund… never f’rgive me.”
“…Your who?” Thosi says, after a moment.
Haurchefant only snuggles down into the pillow. “Mm… Cozinund.”
A very flustered Thosi retreats from the room.
She takes several minutes longer to get to sleep that night, wondering when he ever thought of that. Wondering why she’s only learning of it now. Usually he likes to make her laugh with such things. Has she finally found the one thing even her mad Haurchefant considers too personal to reveal?
Another morning. So early that the light is barely blue, rather like his hair. Thosi has learned to keep these knightly hours; she slides her feet out of bed as her love is already dressing.
“Time and tide, rushing on without us.” He sighs. “I cannot help wishing they would linger.” So you could stay, his fond glance adds.
“I know,” she yawns. She pads over to kiss his temple, then starts hunting about for her leggings.
“Alas,” he says, through the mail sliding over his head, “the very sun prepares to leave us. She who might make all the camp a balmy summer’s day, simply by remaining within it…”
“Ah, so that’s why you want me; my presence has the power to singlehandedly overcome your permanent winter.”
“She admits it!”
“And to keep you all from frostbite…”
“Yes! Oh, say you will, dearest.”
“That you might remain perpetually—cozy?”
Haurchefant draws a breath to reply, only to go into a sudden coughing fit. When he recovers, his face is decidedly flushed.
“Er… in a manner of speaking,” he says, at last.
Thosinund grins and leaves it at that.
Chapter 10: Pupil
In which we jump back in time a bit to just after 'With A Smile,' and I write from Haurchefant's perspective once more.
There is a significant possibility, Haurchefant thinks, that he may be dreaming right now. That he has fallen asleep before the intercessory fire, and that Thosinund- warm, lovely, splendid Thosinund- will turn out to be a blanket and pillow at any moment.
But if this is a dream, he will happily sleep through all the rest of this storm. His lips are tingling from their kisses, and her arms are wrapped around his back, and he is positively giddy. “My dear,” he tells her, “you are a natural.”
Thosinund’s eyes sparkle with her smile. “That’s as may be, but a little study never hurt anyone. What’s the next lesson, then?”
Her neck looks most inviting, framed within her collar. He pulls one flap aside. “Oh… here, I should think. Shall we proceed?”
When she nods, he moves in and demonstrates his meaning- from the simple placement of lips, to the flicker of tongue, to the gentle pressure of teeth. (She is delicious, but Haurchefant takes care not to leave marks all the same.) Each new variation meets with increasingly lovely reception; he never knew she could make such tiny sounds before. Well, comparatively tiny. Even her whispers have husk and heft.
He works round her throat, front to side to as near the back as he can get without leaving his seat in her lap, then draws away again. It is her turn now. He tips his head back invitingly.
Instead of going for his neck, though, Thosinund frowns faintly. “Ah… Haurchefant, your mail is not exactly…”
He blinks. He should have thought of that. “You’re quite right, I do apologize. One moment.” Slipping off her lap, he sits back on his heels and wriggles free of the offending garment, depositing it in a heap under the desk. That done, he eagerly resumes his place. “There, now we can carry on.”
Still she does not take her turn, does not move so much as an ilm toward his neck. She simply gazes at him. Her face is alight with many things- wonder, awe, affection. The longer she looks, the more heat floods to Haurchefant’s cheeks. He is just about to ask her if she is all right, when she speaks.
“You’re beautiful,” she breathes, and only then does she dip her head to put his teachings into practice.
The collarbone area does not go quite as well; Thosinund cannot help giggling at the merest touch of his lips there. However, once she’s over the tickle, her expression changes- her eyes a little narrowed, her mouth tilted to one side.
“You can’t really reach much else,” she muses. “Not as things are, anyway.”
“True,” he agrees. “But we need not go any further just now, if you do not wish it.”
She lets that hang there for a few seconds. One hand withdraws from his back to toy with the laces that run from her collar to her waist, to run lightly over the pleats at the bottom of her shirt. Then he tears his eyes away from the hypnotic progress of her fingers to look her in the face once more, and her gaze is frankly scorching.
“I—that is, it seems… rather an acceleration of the curriculum?”
Thosinund pulls him a little closer, the better to stare him down. “Oh,” she purrs, “I think I can handle it.”
She didn’t mean it like that! Haurchefant silently scolds his trousers, which are markedly tighter all of a sudden. “By all means, then,” he replies aloud, a touch breathless. “Er…”
She takes his hand, kisses the knuckles, then guides it under that same pleated hem. Turns out the laces tie on the inside. They each find an end and, together, undo the knot. At which point (perhaps inspired by his example) Thosinund pulls back long enough to divest herself of the garment altogether, so that they now sit in equal states of undress. She seems to have forgotten to be the least bit abashed by this.
And oh, the sight goes through and through him. The span of her shoulders, the range of her arms. The map of scars crisscrossing her skin, dark lines and splotches bespeaking dangers overcome and battles survived… It is Haurchefant’s turn to stare dumbstruck.
“What is it?” she asks, and the note of unease in her voice brings him out of his trance.
Fool! he berates himself. Making a lover feel self-conscious! For shame. “Forgive me,” he says aloud. “I thought for a moment I had ascended to the seventh heaven.”
“Oh,” she says, in a rush of relief, and he gathers her close once more- to crown each shoulder with a kiss, to run his hands tremulously over her biceps. She shivers, gasping as he traces her scars with his fingers and lips, and his whole body rejoices to hear it; he is careful, however, to avoid even the edge of her camise. Mustn’t rush these things. No matter how quick a study she is, he still mustn’t rush—
—except that of a sudden, she’s taken his wrist in one trembling hand, and placed his palm directly over her breast before he can so much as draw breath to ask if she is sure.
Gift upon gift, o generous Fury!—Haurchefant will not squander this one either. He molds his hand to the firm swell, sweeping his thumb appreciatively over its slope; he caresses, slowly, then faster as he feels a telltale nub rising to his ministrations. She releases his wrist in order to fumble with a bit of metal between the breast he’s enjoying and its opposite number- ah, it’s a clasp, now undone, and he slips eagerly in beneath the loosened fabric. She jumps when his thumb finds her nipple, with a moan in the back of her throat that makes his head spin.
“I’m all right,” she pants, “I’m all right, don’t stop—hnng,” for he’s taken her at her word and rubbed his thumb in a quick circle round her pebbled areola.
He devotes himself to this lesson for some time, deliberate, diligent. He makes careful note of everything: her hitched breaths, her low encouraging hums, her high impatient complaints if he hesitates for even a fraction of a second. The full-body inhale that results when, still toying gently with the first breast, he pushes the camise out of the way and closes his lips over the opposite beautifully stiff peak.
“Haah,” her breath comes out in a hiss, followed by “yes,” and Haurchefant snakes his other arm round her waist to pull her closer as he sets to with his tongue- fluttering it over her skin, swirling it round within the ‘o’ of his mouth. His pants are tighter than ever but he ignores them; it’s about Thosinund right now, about her breath going shallow, about her heart beating so hard he can feel it rocking her from stem to stern. He alternates between using his fingers and his mouth, the one always replacing the other as he endeavors to give each side equal parts of his fullest attention. If he does this right—
—and suddenly Thosinund is arching in his arms, shuddering as he holds her fast, gasping: “Haurchefant, Haurchefant, I—oh—!!”
Did she just…? Haurchefant hardly dares to finish the thought. It might jinx the whole thing. He waits for her to come down again, quieting in the firelight, drifting back to earth.
When she seems to have steadied herself, he speaks. “Well, my dear—how was that?”
Thosinund looks at him, her eyes brighter than he’s ever seen them. Nearly glowing, in fact. “It… it was…” She pauses. Frowns. Then- “Splendid,” she breathes, grinning, and pulls him into a kiss that underscores her words. A kiss, in fact, that begs for more.
Far be it from him to deny such a willing pupil.
I know, I know an actual camise looks nothing like the Roegadyn version of the "hempen camise." But 'smallclothes' didn't seem to fit and 'breastcloth' didn't either. And that's your Random Vocabulary Explanation for this chapter.
Chapter 11: Invitation
Timeline: seven years before present; Thosi is nineteen.
This chapter was written for day 10 of the 2019 FFXIV Writing Challenge.
In the corner of the tavern, Thosinund takes a swig from her tankard and thinks piss-off thoughts.
The road so far has been a long trudge, since she set out before first light. Helpfully, the weather has held good. She hopes it continues thus by the time she gets to Aleport; then the boat ride to Thanalan will be all the faster. Pa is probably right—children of his don’t get seasick. And a nice few bells on the water, with a breeze that isn’t full of dust or dung or what have you… yes, that sounds wonderful.
Honestly, though, just at the moment things have gone a bit further downhill. She hadn’t thought of what it would be like to wait for the morning in an unfamiliar inn, full of rowdy strangers. To wait for a bunk, for that matter. If one doesn’t open up she’ll have to make do with the loft in the stable—which will be entirely too much like being home, she fears, and then she’ll start feeling the guilt again.
(Will her note really be enough? Will Ma and Pa understand? She knows her brothers likely won’t, but it serves them right; they’ve been insufferable enough since she started beating them in contests of strength five years past. She’s done being dismissed as “just the baby,” “just our sister.” She’s doing the right thing, going to Ul’dah to properly learn the way of the sword… She is. She must be.)
For now she sits at her corner table, with her heavy tankard and her nerves crackling. She shouldn’t be so twitchy, should she? After all, she’s not the type on whom folk think they can prey. She’s seven fulms of nearly solid muscle, a lifetime of heavy chores and wrestling her brothers showing in her corded arms alone. As long as she keeps her mouth shut, she ought to be fine; if she speaks she will surely stutter or stammer, and all her posturing will be for naught. No one needs to know that all she’s drinking is cider.
She’s got her eyes trained on the doorway to the stairs, waiting for someone to come and announce a fresh bed, when the voice speaks into her ear.
“Pardon me,” it murmurs.
Thosi nearly falls out of her chair. Craning herself in the opposite direction, she turns to see the speaker: a Highlander girl whose friendly smile is belied by her dark, urgent eyes.
“You’re pardoned,” she says, as gruffly as she can manage given her startle. “You lose something back here? I’ll get up, if you need—”
“Oh no, silly,” the girl cuts in, with a hard wink. “I just wondered if you could do me a favor. Also if I could sit down.” She pulls out the stool on Thosi’s left and deposits herself anyway, oh so casually.
“Favor?” Thosi repeats, bewildered. “What favor?”
“Keep your voice down,” the girl hisses, leaning closer. “There’s a man over there who’s been staring at me for two and a half bells now. Moving closer, slowly, across the room. I shudder to think what’ll happen if he catches up, but I have to get home. So would you very kindly escort me?”
Wary lest she be shushed again, Thosi resorts to raising her eyebrows in what she hopes is a questioning manner.
“I’m not asking you to throw him out the window or anything,” the girl answers (clearly the eyebrows have succeeded). “Just to get me to my own door. It’s not far. And I can let you stay the night, if you like, so you can save what you would have spent here. Please?”
Thosi can see him now, the watcher. A bulky Hyur fellow with a piercing look in his eye. The drink he has consumed (to go by the stain on his shirt) has done nothing to deter his focus by a jot, as far as she can tell. If he notices Thosi’s presence, he has chosen to ignore it; his single-minded, unwavering gaze is on the girl alone.
A second or so of that sight and Thosi has made up her mind. “I don’t know about staying the night,” she says as quietly as she can manage. “But I’ll help you. What’s your name?”
“Edelgard,” the girl breathes, in what seems to be great relief.
“Well then, Edelgard.” Thosi grins. “What a surprise to meet my long-lost cousin. Where have you been all this time?”
They make a slight show of cheery conversation for a minute or two. Thosi keeps tabs on the watcher’s movements. “It’s awfully close to midnight,” she observes.
Edelgard glances out the window at the dark, with an excellent imitation of surprise. “Goodness, you’re right! Listen, cousin, you shouldn’t be staying out here when I’ve a perfectly decent spare room. Come on.”
“If you insist.” Thosi scrapes her stool back and unfolds herself to her proper height- which, going by her face, seems to genuinely astonish Edelgard.
They make it halfway to the door, arm in arm, before Thosi registers a punch at her back.
“If she’s your cousin,” slurs a rough voice, “I’m a dodo’s uncle.”
Thosinund turns slowly around, keeping herself between Edelgard and the swaying Hyur. “Foster cousin,” she says coolly. “Not that we make such a fuss about the difference. Can I help you, sir?”
“Yeah,” the man snarls. “You can get outta my way. I’ve gotta talk to m’girl.”
“Your girl?” Thosinund repeats.
“I’m not his girl,” Edelgard snaps.
Thosi nods. “Didn’t think so. And even if she was,” directing her words back to the man, “it doesn’t seem like she wants to talk to you. So we’ll just be off, then.”
“No y’wont!” the man snaps back, trying to reach around Thosi. “Who’re you, anyway- y’ve got no right to get in the middle of this!”
Thosinund bends her knees, gets half into a wrestling stance. “Maybe I don’t have a right. But unlike you, I’ve an invitation.”
The man gives a frustrated shout and rushes her. Unfortunate for him, the way he puts his head down makes a perfect opening; Thosi sidesteps and catches him in a headlock. His fists flail, his legs make some kind of effort at kicking, but all he manages to do is end up dangling an ilm or two off the ground as Thosi stands up, holding him by the waist with her other arm so he doesn’t choke.
“Now,” Thosi says cheerfully. “Are you going to stop bothering my cousin, here, or do we have to take this outside?”
I've re-done the calculations, and Thosi's actually 7'2", but she tends to round it down because a measly two ilms doesn't make such a great difference.
Not pictured: The Watcher gurgling for Thosi to "Get off, you swivin' harpy!" as she carried him outside.
Chapter 12: Without Saying
Some things really shouldn't. Go without saying, that is.
Timeline: -that part- in Heavensward. Absent of actual dates for any of these things, Thosi is somewhere around 23 or 24.
Written for day 9 of FFxivWrite 2019.
“The people need Ser Aymeric—more than ever—and we may be his only hope! There is no greater calling for a knight than to save the life of his fellow man. I swear to you, on the sigil of our house, that I shall do this and make you proud.”
So says Haurchefant with eyes ablaze, his shoulders back, his body drawn up to his full height. Though his father protests, none of the group assembled in the manor were ever in doubt: from the moment Lucia declared her intention to rescue Ser Aymeric from his self-appointed mission, followed by Estinien’s declaration of support, it was inevitable that Haurchefant should leap to offer his aid.
And it is at that very instant that Thosinund feels the last of her uncertainty fall away.
The realization hits her like a thunderbolt: she loves him deeply, truly, sincerely. From the crown of her head to the soles of her shoes. It rocks her where she stands, an earthquake from the inside out, and she nearly blurts out the words right then and there.
But she catches herself. No, no, she cannot pull him aside now. There are plans to be made, allies to be gathered, and time is of the essence if they are to ensure that Ser Aymeric lives to regret his adventure. Later—when they have won or lost the day—she can confess the newfound truth of her heart.
It is rather odd, she supposes, when one thinks about it. They’ve been calling each other “love” for so long. She has almost forgotten the first time he ever said it- was it their first night together? Their fourth? She does remember him clapping a hand over his mouth after the fact, face and ears tinting red, so sure he had overstepped his bounds. She remembers how earnestly she insisted that it was fine, that she did not mind in the least, and how she pleaded with him not to be embarrassed. But he was not convinced until their next meeting, when she greeted him with a murmured “hello, love,” and watched his eyes light up like gods-honest fireworks.
Still she has tried to keep her head- she has ever been warned of the dangers of losing it. She has seen too many starry-eyed youths fall over head and ears in love with the first person to speak to them sweetly, the first person to take them to bed, only to be left lonely and cold the next day. The longer she knows him, the more certain she becomes that Haurchefant has a heart truer than anyone on this star… but still she is cautious. She will take her time, will wait to say those three fateful words until she can speak them clear-eyed and sincere. Whatever else happens, Haurchefant deserves that.
The Heavens’ Ward wastes no time on subterfuge. With barely a whiff of the Scions’ stirrings, they send Ser Charibert to nip the entire rescue in the bud. He makes his entrance to the Forgotten Knight by blasting the Mongrel’s lookout down the stairs, knowing full well there is no possible answer but to give him the fight he is asking for.
Hilda shoots like a woman possessed; Alphinaud casts with cool assurance. Thosinund is full of fire of her own, bashing and slashing with shield and sword, but Charibert has a great deal of company who bring formidable battle magicks to bear. The skirmish is clearly intended to stall them as long as possible. It might have better succeeded if not for Haurchefant, charging to the Scions’ aid once again with cries of “Stop this, all of you! It is madness!”
And with his help, the tide finally turns: Charibert at last ceases his toying and makes his exit. Thosi’s heart swells yet more, soars still higher. This is the man she has chosen. This is the man she loves. Let all of Ishgard sputter and squawk; she has made up her mind. The instant they can be truly alone, without life and death hanging over their heads, she will pull him to her and tell him so—and woe betide who- or whatever stands in their way.
Now they stand in the smoking Brume as Lucia lays out their plan in urgent tones. Hilda and her “pups” will spread word of another heretic attack, drawing the High Houses’ attention outside the city. Thosi and her fellow adventurers will burst into the Vault, there to fight their way to the highest levels and bring the Heavens’ Ward hurrying to the archbishop’s defense. Meanwhile, Lucia, Alphinaud, Estinien and Haurchefant will descend to the Vault’s prison corridors and free Ser Aymeric from his cell. Simple, swift, and hopefully effective.
“With allies such as these, we cannot fail!” Haurchefant declares, daring a glance directly into Thosinund’s eyes, and his face is positively aglow.
They all move off in their separate directions, and Thosi leads her group with assurance like never before. To the Pillars! To the Vault! To a bloodbath, aye, but a victorious one. And then, when the time comes, to her Haurchefant’s arms.
There is no time, in the end.
She should have thought. She should have guessed. Of course Haurchefant—her fearless, noble, “romantic reckless fool” of an Haurchefant—would leap at the chance to chase down the Archbishop on the airship landing. When he looks at her with the question clear in his eye, she nods without a second thought. With him? Yes. To the ends of the earth.
And then the flash—the cry—the crack…
There is no time, in the end. And she has no voice. It will haunt her for years to come: the fact that in the last moments of her Haurchefant’s life she can only kneel with tears in her eyes, with his hand between hers, and her throat sealed shut by a knot of tears and words unshed.
There is no time, and she has no voice, and her first love goes to his grave all unknowing that he is, in truth, her love.
Realized after I'd written this that he called her "love" the night of their first kiss, but they were both a bit distracted at the time, so. Well. It didn't quite register til later, I suppose.
Also, if the last section sounds even a little familiar, it's because I wrote 'A.H.' with Thosi in mind. The part about our throat just closing at the crucial moment remains my headcanon.
Chapter 13: Nonexistent
Timeline (spoiler): at some point after Emmanellain takes Haurchi's old post at Camp Dragonhead.
“Where did you get this.”
It isn’t a question. Aside from the answer being obvious, Thosinund is too stunned to make the end of her sentence so much as glance upward. She stares into her own eyes, rendered as pinpricks of turquoise in her tiny painted face.
“But these are not right,” Haurchefant says in puzzlement, looking over a selection of truly terribly rendered ‘Warriors of Light.’
“I know,” she responds, grinning. “Aren’t they brilliant? Nobody would ever recognize me based off one of these.”
His frown deepens. “True. And yet…”
She nudges him with her shoulder. “And yet?”
“I fear I cannot like them, even as a source of amusement. None of them show how beautiful you are.”
“Fair point,” she concedes, after she has finished kissing him for saying so. “But that just means you’re the lucky stiff who gets the exclusive.”
“…offense, Mistress Haldkhanwyn,” Honoroit is saying, hesitantly. “Master Emmanellain thought it best we return it to you, but if he was wrong to think so, I am sure we could find a place to keep it safe from prying eyes.” He pauses. “Mistress Haldkhanwyn?”
Thosi can barely hear him. She has eyes for naught but the miniature, this palm-sized masterwork made what seems a lifetime ago. The girl rendered in those myriad little paintstrokes, who is she? Look at her sitting there, lost in a dream. Filled with love from the roots of her hair to the tips of her fingers. Thinking she had all the time in the world.
‘My dear, dearest Cozi-
What a marvelous surprise you have sent me this time! I confess I am neglecting a stack or seven of other papers to tell you this right away; I could hardly do otherwise. I am delighted, my darling, to see you so perfectly before me—if, Fury forbid, my memory ever starts to desert me, one look at this and I shall summon back every instant. I cannot thank you enough.
If this missive seems untimely rushed, it is only because I need you to read it as soon as mortally possible. And, better, to reply in person! Then I shall give you
a thousand embraces—ten thousand kisses—from
The words bubble up in her mind as though she had read them yesterday. Thosinund shakes herself out of her daze. Honoroit has trailed into silence, looking as though he has almost decided to retreat from the room.
“Don’t put it away,” she says, tearing her eyes from the painting’s at last. “I’ll keep it after all. Thank you, Honoroit.”
He bows, with evident relief. “As you say, Mistress Haldkhanwyn.”
As Honoroit exits, Thosi crosses to her pack. Fishing out her handkerchief from one of the side pockets, she folds it round the miniature til it’s nothing but a vague oblong within the fabric, then slips it into an inside pocket near the top. It will be protected, even if she doesn’t look at it again.
The girl on the canvas does not protest this treatment. Does not argue as she is packed away. And why should she? After all… she no longer exists.
Chapter 14: Heedless
Timeline: the present. Thosinund is 26 and on the First.
Slight spoilers for Shadowbringers business, specifically the sidequest "A Hairy Request" in Il Mheg.
Thosinund hefts the sack over her good shoulder and swears for the umpteenth time. All this for a pair of buggering psammead legs. “Just two,” the little creature had wheedled, clasping its tiny hands. “That’s all! And you can carry them back in this. Please?”
The thing is dead, all right, but it packed a hell of a sting. Just before she’d driven her greatsword through its thorax, wham, down had come a blow and pierced straight through the leather of her sleeve. She’d tried to pick out the pieces before dabbing on a bit of healing potion, but the bollocking mist—it makes the light so hazy that it’s damn near useless. Like her wounded arm. Gods damn it.
The other problem with the mist is that she’s lucky if she can see a dozen fulms in any direction. She has no idea where the pixie village has gone. She wouldn’t be surprised if they’d magicked it a malm further off, just for a laugh. Bloody pixies with their bloody chores and their bloody blasted bullshite games.
“'Bring me a pair of psammead legs!‘” she mimics, through clenched teeth. “Bring me an ice pack, you little green toothpick.”
Whoever made this potion hadn’t accounted for faerieland venom. The sting site throbs with every step she takes, as if it has a life of its own. They had better cure this when she gets back—instantly. On the spot. Presto.
There—a blue glow, in the distance. The aetheryte. “About time,” Thosi growls. She quickens her step, setting her jaw against the throb in her arm. Just a little farther, and she’ll be all right. Just a little farther. Hup two three four, dump this thing down at their door—
And the ground is gone, gone, she’s walked off some edge—
Something slams into her chest like the fist of Titan. The world whites out, and takes Thosi with it.
When she wakes, the forest has gone.
In its place are white walls detailed in warm wood; below her, the ground has lost even the hint of fallen needles or flower petals. It feels like- oh. A bed. A bed? But whose? And why- where is…
A creaking sound. Thosi turns her head as the door of the room opens, as someone comes in.
She feels the blood drain from her face.
“No,” she croaks. “No, this isn’t happening. You’re dead.”
The figure freezes, staring down at her. Below a ragged fringe, blue-violet eyes widen on either side of an arched nose. The clothes are odd- black, flowing things quite unlike aught she has ever seen him wear. But that face… that face…
“Thosinund,” says the apparition, taking an uncertain step towards her.
“No!” Thosi gasps, and her heart is beating fit to burst, her whole body is on fire. “You’re dead, you’re gone, you’re in Halone’s frozen bloody halls.”
She has to keep saying it, or she’ll forget. Forget that this man in his strange garments is not, cannot be here. Bloody venom, making her see things- yes. That’s it. The venom.
“Thosinund,” says that dear voice, sounding exactly like a million memories. “'Tis only I-”
She shakes her head, ignoring the resultant flare of pain. “It is not,” she moans, “it’s not, go away. Please. Please…”
Stay, her heart wails, heedless of the danger. Stay. Hold me. Never leave me again.
The figure retreats as slowly as it came, but not far; it stops just outside the doorway. There are snatches of a conversation, sotto voce.
“She doth not know…”
'Doth not.’ Urianger is here? That’s right, they came to this godsdamned place to see him, and now he’s here. Maybe he’ll know what to do. She settles back, dizzy, to wait.
The creak of the door. She looks—but shuts her eyes again at the sight of that face.
“It’s not time for you yet,” she whispers, feeling hot tears well up beneath her lids. “It’s not time, Haurchefant. Go away.”
“I will,” says the impossible voice, as footsteps slowly approach the bed. “I will go away, but not til th- til you have taken this.”
She shakes her head, a tiny, tiny motion. “I know about that. Ghost food, ghost drink. Food of the dead. I’ve got to live, it’s not time yet.”
“I know th- you do,” he says, closer still. “I would not take you now. I bring that which will make you well.”
Oh, blast it. She opens her eyes, blinks the tears away. “Will it make the fire stop?”
He nods, and gods damn it, he seems so real. His eyes are tender, his expression serious but kind. “Yes, beloved.”
“That’s new,” she mumbles. “You used to just say 'love.'”
He nods again. “So I did. Now please, love, take this for me?”
She lets him help her raise her head, lets him tip the cup to her lips. The liquid inside is blessedly cool; she drains the lot in moments. Her body burns yet, but she can feel the potion spreading to find the flames, to drown them where they lie.
“It’s not time yet,” she reminds him.
“Indeed it is not.”
She gazes at him, desperately, as though she can devour him with her eyes. “But don’t go… til I’m asleep. All right?”
He places a hand on his heart. “You have my word.”
“Good.” The pillow is soft under her cheek. Her lids are starting to feel heavier, but she refuses to blink too long. Even though the fires are going out, one by one.
Hallucinogenic venom is the worst, we all agree.