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Times Such As These

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Aurrane de Vroix set her bow and quiver gently atop her weathered leather armour she had sloppily strewn on the floor of her room, one of the guest chambers amid Manor Fortemps. She stared blankly at the plush bedclothes. She felt infinite emotions flowing through her, but at the same time she was almost numb.

Her awareness of the time passed was vague due to exhaustion. She couldn’t recall how long she and the other Scions had waited for passage into Ishgard after the events of the Ul’dahn Revolution and everything leading up to it, but they were finally here. The trio of Scions, Aurrane and her comrades, Alphinaud Leveilleur and Tataru Taru, were finally able the breathe, even if only for a moment.

Lord Haurchefant Greystone was to thank for their sanctuary. He was the first to trust in them, offering the trio asylum within his fort of Camp Dragonhead, promising them future access into Ishgard after consultation with his father, Count Edmont de Fortemps. When Aurrane thought about the moment she had walked the Steps of Faith into the reserved city of Ishgard, a wave of solemnity pulsed over her. The city was cold and grey, pieces of broken pillars scattered the streets. A well-dressed manservant had been waiting for their arrival, beckoning the Scions to follow him to the Fortemps manor. Upon arrival, the head of the house, Count Edmont de Fortemps, quickly exchanged formalities and insisted that for as long as they desired, the manor shall be a home to the Scions. She couldn’t speak for the others, but she would forever feel indebted to the House Fortemps for their hospitality.

Aurrane slowly stepped towards the bed, unable to remember the last time she was able to rest in anything more comfortable than an inn room cot. She pulled off the rest of her extra layers, leaving a white undershirt and tights. The cold draft of her room sent a shiver over her body now that her skin was bare. She stood, embracing the cold for a few moments, just breathing, until she succumbed to the warmth, comfort and luxury of her bed in the manor.

The next morning, Aurrane was woken by the sound of soft knocking at her door.

“Hmm,” she hummed as an invitation to enter.

A lavender-haired Lallafellin poked her head inside and smiled.

“Good morning, Aurrane! I trust you slept well?”

“Tataru,” Aurrane smiled at her guest, “Quite.”

Tataru pranced to Aurrane’s bedside. “Count Edmont had a special breakfast prepared for us this morning. Alphinaud and the Counts sons will he heading down shortly.”

Aurrane nodded and Tataru left to get dressed.

During breakfast, Alphinaud and Tataru decided they wished to explore Ishgard, and Aurrane happily agreed. Count Edmont eagerly set them up with one of the house servants as their guide to the city. They began their tour at the most northern landmark, the Hoplon. They learned of the Vault, wherein Thordan VII, Archbishop of the Ishgardian Orthodox Church, the ruler of Ishgard resides. Their next stop was the marketplace, the Jeweled Crozier, where they met with Mistress Elaisse, master of the Ishgardian markets. Then on towards the Forgotten Knight, the city’s central tavern. The group listened intently to their guides tales, Alphinaud taking special note of the history surrounding them.

Inside the Forgotten Knight, Tataru insists to stay behind to see what information she can learn from the locals. Aurrane and Alphinaud return to Fortemps Manor, welcomed by the count, who was eager to hear their thoughts on his city.

• • •

The next day after breakfast, Aurrane retired to her room and picked up her layers of cloth and leather to prepare to step outside into snowfall. She knew the calm of these past days wouldn’t last but she wanted to embrace it while she could. After lacing her boots and pulling on her gloves, she quietly slipped out of the manor, hoping to go unnoticed.

Stepping outside, Aurrane pulled her overcoat tighter and shoved her hands in her pockets. The air was frigid and dry, and the fresh snow crunched softly under her steps. For hours she just walked the city, impervious to the cold. Something tugged inside of her. Something about the streets, the sky, made her feel almost like she was home.

As the sun begun to fade, Aurrane realized the others back at the manor might start to worry. She lifted her hood and surveyed her surroundings. The streets were quieter now, as citizens headed home to family. She spun around on her heels, suddenly unaware of which way to go. She realized yesterday’s tour wasn’t of the city’s entirety, and each building and pathway started to look the same as nighttime approached. She pulled herself forward, trying to find a landmark she remembered amidst the snowfall. She heard a door close across the way, some men stumbling over the snow coated stairs.

“Ah, The Forgotten Knight.” Aurrane muttered, changing her path towards the light of the tavern.

She stepped inside, being sure to kick the snow off her boots. She leaned over the railing, looking down to the main floor before quickly heading down the stairs towards the counter. The air was warmer here and the atmosphere was light, the fireplace cracking and lanterns glowing. The few people still here were smiling, laughing within their groups.

The man behind the counter smiled. “Good evening, my lady! Welcome to The Forgotten Knight! A place for travellers and locals alike to partake of food and drink. And you, I presume, are a traveler, yes?”

Aurrane nodded. “Indeed, sir. I seem to have lost my way whilst wondering your city...”

“Ah, you are not alone, my friend. Have a seat, first ale’s on the house. Any requests?”

“Whichever you recommend.” Aurrane shrugged her coat off and slung it over her chair.

She looked around at the few occupied tables. In a darker corner, sat a group of rowdy Ishgardian commoners, merchants celebrating the end of another work day. Near the fireplace, a group of well dressed men, affluent knights. She turned back to the counter at the sound of a glass hitting the counter.

“Ah, people have a habit of sticking with their own, and Ishgardians are no different. Either way, we cater to their tastes as best we can. By the way, name’s Gibrillont. This is my tavern, I dispense drinks and advice, whatever ye might require.”

“Aurrane. I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you,

With a warm smile, she picked up her mug and took a swig. After finishing it, she stood up to look around, feeling a little more relaxed. Gibrillont handed her another, which she gladly accepted. She brought it with her as she walked near the fireplace, the posters on the wall grabbing her attention. She held her glass with both hands while she took a sip. Taking a step to the side to read more, she bumped into somebody standing up from their table and squeaked. It was the Lord Commander of the Temple Knights, Aymeric de Borel.

“Oh! Apologies, my–”

“No, the fault is mine, my lady.”

She looked up at the tall, dark haired Elezen, her face flushing.

“Ah, Ser–“

He cut her off once more, “Miss Aurrane, Warrior of Light. Pray, forgive me.”

She stared down into her drink as she felt several pairs of eyes drift towards her at the use of her title. Ser Aymeric de Borel towered over her, unfazed by their interaction. He put his hand on her shoulder and she finally looked up at him.

“Truly, all is fine.” He insisted.

“Ser Aymeric, I apologize. I suppose I’m not as aware of my surroundings as I should be.”

“I insist, worry not.”

Aurrane nodded, giving in. She took a few more quick sips of her drink. She had only met with Ser Aymeric a few times, in meetings with the Eorzean alliance, and more recently in Ul’dah before the celebration went south. She didn’t expect to see him here, at the run-down tavern. As if reading her mind, he began to speak.

“I found a moment between my duties to take a break. I assume you the same.”

“Ah, yes. I was walking and seemed to have found my way here,” she nodded, “Just warming up before finding my way home.”
Aymeric turned to his comrades and bade them a quick farewell before looking back at Aurrane, “I must make my way back as well. Allow me to walk you. You are residing at the Manor Fortemps, yes?”

She nodded, and rushed to grab her overcoat. Before turning back to Aymeric she bid farewell and thanks to Gibrillont, placing some coins on the counter before him. Together in silence, the two Elezens walked up the stairs to exit the tavern. Aymeric opened the door before her and beckoned her to go first.

“I thank you, Lord Commander for your kindness, but you need not walk me home.” Aurrane spoke softly, turning to look up at the man by her side.

“I insist, it is no trouble at all. I would be walking the same path besides.”

The duo walked slowly through the snow. Secretly, Aurrane was relieved to have a guide home. Their conversation was light, small talk about Ishgard, it’s people, and the weather. Their journey wasn’t long, and Aurrane soon found herself in front of the familiar manor.

She turned to Aymeric and bowed softly, “My thanks, Ser Aymeric.”

“The pleasure is mine, my lady.” Aymeric nodded, and gave Aurrane a warm smile. “Rest well.”

Aurrane offered him one last smile before turning to enter the manor. Inside, she greeted the servants and wished them a good evening before she headed to her chamber. She quickly unlaced her boots and over clothes, eager to feel the warmth of her bed again.

Chapter Text

The lull between obligations quickly came to an end for the Scions. Between Falcon’s Nest and Camp Cloudtop, their achievements only continued to grow. However, their most recent celebrations at Fortemps Manor were cut short due to an unjust accusation of heresy against Alphinaud and Tataru.

“I believe your comrades are innocent, Aurrane. I also believe this is but an attempt at ambush against my House. You see, there is always conflict between the high houses here...” Count Edmont trailed off in thought, “My only advice would be to consult the Lord Commander. You should find him at the Congregation.”

Aurrane nodded and rushed out of the manor. She ran to the lower part of the city, now more familiar with its streets. She burst into the Congregation of Our Knights Most Heavenly without a word, and into the Lord Commander’s office. The guard waiting outside the doorway shouted at her, for her presence was unannounced.

“Miss! You can’t go–“ the guards grip on her arm slipped, “Lord Commander. My apologies, I will escort her out.”

Aymeric looked up from his desk, chin resting on one hand, confused at the sudden commotion before him. He furrowed his brow and held his other hand up to halt the guard.
“Calm, my friend. The Warrior of Light is always welcome here.”

The guard faltered, and backed away from Aurrane. He looked between both, muttering.

“My apologies, my Lord.”

The door shut gently behind the guard. Aurrane tried to slow her breath, to calm down.
“Is aught amiss, Aurrane?” Aymeric leaned back in his seat and looked at her with a concerned expression.

Her voice was shaking, “Alphinaud, Tataru, th–they...” her face grew hot.

In only a few stride movements, Aymeric was by her side, motioning for her to sit. He knelt beside her, his hand lay gently on her shoulder. She twitched at his warmth, as she didn’t bother to grab her coat before she ran outside into the snow.

“Tell me,” his soft gaze calmed her down just enough to speak.

After a deep breath, she spoke, “Alphinaud and Tataru have been accused and taken away by a knight of the Heavens’ Ward. Count Edmont said you could help,”

“Hm...” Aymeric’s eyes moved to the floor, “I am on your side, but, I’m afraid... I’m afraid the knights of the Heavens’ Ward only answer to the Archbishop. However, don’t feel your journey here was for naught. Should your friends engage in a trial of combat against their accusers and prevail, the Fury Herself will grant innocence.”

“A trial of combat... but, Tataru, Tataru can’t fight...” Aurrane shuddered.

“Worry not, Tataru may claim the right to name a champion in her place.” Aymeric ran his hand down her arm before standing up, “I advise you to prepare, I can think of none more qualified to challenge a Heavens’ Ward Knight than you, Warrior of Light.”

Aurrane stood from her chair, watching Aymeric as he smoothed out the folds in his coat.
“I will send notice to Lord Haurchefant. Speak to him at the Supreme Sacred Tribunal when you are ready to begin.”

“Thank you... thank you, Ser Aymeric.” Aurrane’s body moved instinctively to embrace the Lord Commander.

He was taken aback at the gesture. “Oh– I’m sorry, Ser, my apologies!”

“Worry not, Aurrane. I wish you luck.”

At his wave, Aurrane nodded and started her quick trek back to Fortemps Manor for her gear. Once she closed her bed room door, she immediately stripped out of her casual attire and into an ensemble more fitting for battle. She picked her bow and quiver off the chair, counting her arrows before tossing the quiver over her shoulder. Tightening her ponytail, she strode off to the Tribunal.

• • •

Alphinaud and Aurrane fell to their knees, breathless.

“We did it... we did it.” Alphinaud exclaimed between breaths.

Across the room, the two knights who accused the Scions of heresy lay, defeated. Aurrane stood after a moments rest, holding her bow to the ceiling and shouted in victory. Alphinaud followed suit almost instantly, his codex glowing. Looking around the room, Aurrane locked eyes with Lord Haurchefant and smiled, waving her bow. Out of her sight, a few fulms behind Haurchefant, stood Aymeric, donned in a black and silver hooded overcoat instead of his usual royal blue. He smiled at the Scions’ victory, and turned to leave before anyone noticed his presence.

Back at the Fortemps Manor, Lord Haurchefant waited excitedly for the Scions to return. He left the Tribunal shortly after the victory, to prepare a gift to commemorate today. He twirled the small name tag in his hands. He was so focused on the shining metal he didn’t notice Aurrane step into the common room.

“Lord Haurchefant!”

“Aurrane, I beg, just call me Haurchefant,” he smiled at the Warrior, as they stepped together for a tight embrace, “Your performance was formidable, as always.”

“Haurchefant,” they separated, but held each other’s forearms, “Thank you. Thank you for all you’ve done, all you continue to do. Always.”

“Do not thank me yet, Aurrane,” he grinned and held out a fist to her.

She held her hand underneath his and he dropped the name tag in her palm. She tilted her head in question, examining it.

“What is this? A tag? Whatever for?”

“This belongs to Grim Grim. The youngest of our family flock of chocobos. He’s finally passed his training, and he’s ready to explore the skies.” Aurrane’s eyes widened as Haurchefant spoke, “We all have our own already, and Grim is a bit small in stature anyhow. I thought he would be perfect for you.”

“You can’t be serious!” Aurrane gripped his arms again, grinning.

His hands found their way back on her arms, slowing moving up to her neck, trembling, and finally his palms rested on her cheeks, his fingers in the loose tendrils of hair fallen from her ponytail. Her face flushed under his touched, surprised. Haurchefant began to lean in closer to her, moving ever so slowly.

Aurrane followed his lead and slowly raised her hands to his shoulders, still clutching the tag in one palm. Her heart pounded at the contact, from the surprise and the wave of nervousness that suddenly swept over her.

“Haurchefant...” she mumbled.

He was so close to her, their lips grazed over each other when she spoke. A second after their initial contact, he pressed their lips together fully, pulling her closer with his hands. She did the same, moving her hands from his shoulders to clasp her arms around her neck. After a few moments, they separated, and just looked into each other’s eyes.

“That was...” he started.

“...bizarre...” Aurrane finished, and both of them burst into a light-hearted laughter.
“Indeed. I will not utter an untruth, I have thought of doing that for some time now...” Haurchefant scratched his head and gave Aurrane an awkward smile, “I am unsure what this has accomplished. My apologies.”

“I think I speak for both of us when I say we might be better just as comrades. Hells, you’re one of my best, Haurchefant.”

“I agree. I suppose I have just always been... curious. Alas, I feel contentment now, no longer will I worry about what it would be like,”

Aurrane chuckled at the thought. Of course, Lord Haurchefant was charming, personable and beautiful, but she was too committed to her duties as the Warrior of Light to entertain the thought of taking a lover. Her mind raced for moment, thinking about them, together. Most definitely they would look good, together, almost like they were made for each other. Both Elezens, slender and tall, Aurrane standing about a head shorter than he. Both pale skinned, proud, but light hearted demeanours. Amidst her thoughts, she admitted that she loved him, but it wasn’t romantically. Truly, along with the Scions, he was someone she came to be able to trust with anything, everything.

“Aurrane?” his voice brought her back to the common room.

“Apologies, it seems I got lost in thought.” she smiled.

“Pray, forgive me.”

Aurrane nodded and assured him naught was amiss, before she remembered his gift.

“Can we see Grim?”

“Let’s.” Haurchefant grinned and grabbed her hand, and they walked together to the house stables.

Upon arrival, they heard the stirring of the chocobos awakening to greet their guests. As the two of them moved towards the gate, the chocobos did the same.

“This one,” Haurchefant held his hand out to the smallest of the black feathered birds.

“He’s precious! He’s mine?”

Haurchefant nodded and Aurrane clipped the tag around the chocobos’ neck. She gave him a gentle pat on the head.

“Hi, Grim Grim.” Aurrane spoke quietly to the bird, who shook his feathers in response.

“You’ll need to practice a few times to get to know each other before taking him out, but I have no worry.”

“Thank you, Haurchefant. Again.”

They gave the birds a few more strokes before bidding them good night and turning back to the manor. They walked side by side, talking about nothing, how it usually was between them. Aurrane was glad their platonic feelings were mutual, but she began to think about how long it had been since she had seen someone romantically. It had been before she met the Scions.

Quickly, she shrugged it off. She had gone this long alone, perfectly fine, so she told herself she’d be fine until the right time, or person, comes along. She shrugged off the thoughts, and found herself back at the manor with Haurchefant.

“Good night, Aurrane. Rest well.” Haurchefant waved, and the two went their separate ways for the night.

Chapter Text

Shortly after Haurchefant presented Grim Grim to her, Aurrane and Alphinaud agreed they must get back to work. This time, on a task that as of late, would determine the future of the place she had come to call home. After over a thousand years, it was finally time to end the war between the Holy See of Ishgard and the draconian Dravanian Horde.

Aurrane and Alphinaud spent months travelling by chocobo, airship, aether, and foot. Along the way, by recommendation of Ser Aymeric, they enlisted the help of the Azure Dragoon, an Elezen man by the name of Estinien Wyrmblood. He and each Azure Dragoon before him wielded the Eye of the great wyrm Nidhogg, which allowed them to harness the power of dragons. Fueled by vengeance, he joined the to Scions on their quest to bring down the great wyrm.

• • •

Aurrane and Alphinaud stepped into the office of the Lord Commander, greeting him and the armoured man who stood with him.

“Master Levellieur, Lady de Vroix, welcome.” Aymeric motioned for the duo to sit, “this won’t be long, I assure you. I have summoned the Azure Dragoon here to aid you in your travels.”

Aymeric began by introducing Estinien. He explained they were old friends, working closely together within the Ishgardian military since the Dravanian attack on the city that took Estinien’s family from him, and recounted the history and purpose of the Azure Dragoon.

“Defeating the great wyrm will be no simple feat, but with the Warrior of Light and the Azure Dragoon working together, I have faith we will succeed.” Alphinaud nodded, gladly accepting Estinien’s help.

“My faith is with you also.” Aymeric nodded, his gaze lingering on Aurrane for a moment too long.

Estinien rolled his eyes under the shadow of his helmet. After knowing the Lord Commander for most of his life, he had come to be able to suspect what he was thinking.

The two Scions took their leave, leaving Aymeric and Estinien alone.

Turning to Estinien, Aymeric spoke flatly, “I trust no harm will come to the Warrior of Light in your presence, Estinien.”

“Forget not, Lord Commander, I came here for reasons of my own. My only duty is to execute the great wyrm, Nidhogg.” Estinien sneered.

Aymeric sighed, standing from his chair to face his comrade. He opened his mouth to speak, but Estinien cut him off.

“If you want to protect the girl, do it yourself.” He turned, leaving the office annoyed.

• • •

Between destinations, the trio often found themselves setting up camp for rest.

Aurrane tossed the bodies of two small animals next to the fire place, “I’ve done my part. Whoever deals with this, I’d prefer my arrows back in one piece.”

She stepped to her tent, gently tossing her bow and quiver on the ground inside.

“This is all you caught? I recall you saying you were skilled with your bow.” Estinien stared at Aurrane’s catch, straight faced and clearly unimpressed, “I could eat both of these alone.”

“Find your own fare, then.”

“Gladly.” Estinien strode to his tent and grabbed his lance, heading for the trees.

“I suppose it’s just me and you tonight, Alphinaud.”

“Perfectly fine by me.” Alphinaud smiled, and to Aurrane’s surprise, began to prepare the fresh meat for cooking.

“I mustn’t lie, never have I took you as someone who would skin an animal for dinner.”

“Ah, Aurrane. We all must learn to survive outside of a lavish manor eventually,” he chuckled, “Though I must admit, this is not my preferred duty...”

Aurrane chuckled and nudged the fire, “I respect that.”

The two continued to talk while preparing their modest feast, eventually skewering the meat over the fire to cook. Estinien came back soon after, an animal big enough the feed the three of them hanging off his lance.

“Don’t worry about a hunt tomorrow, de Vroix. I suspect this will suffice.”

Tilting his lance down, the animal slid off the end and hit the ground with a soft thud. Aurrane sighed, spinning her skewered meat over the fire.

“Worry not, Aurrane. I’m very much pleased with what we have.” Alphinaud spoke quietly to her.

Aurrane nodded and offered him a small smile.

Estinien was never saint-like in his actions, particularly less so when he waited days between doses of somnus, his ‘sin of choice’ as he called it once. Aurrane pried the truth from him after she went to his tent late one night for a favour and noticed his manner strange. When he indulged, the patronizing tone of his voice dissipated, and changed to something almost respectful.

Estinien walked to his tent, leaving his game by the fire. Aurrane flinched at the sound of his lance hitting the ground. Her bow and arrows were her life, the reason she was here, and she made sure to always treat them gently outside of combat in hopes of keeping them stable for as long as possible. Estinien seemed completely the opposite, often tossing pieces of his gear anywhere in his tent. Aurrane found this quality fascinating in a way, because it was so unlike her or any of her comrades.

After finishing their meal and throwing the remnants to the fire, Alphinaud opted for an early night and retreated to his tent. Aurrane stayed sitting by the fire for a moment, noticing Estinien’s hunt was still lifeless across from her. She thought for a moment before getting up. On the other side of the camp, rustling came from Estinien’s tent. Aurrane brushed off her clothes and decided to head over.

“Are you going to eat, Estinien?” She raised the drape to find him fumbling something in his hands.

He glared up at her, choosing to ignore her. As he continued his task, she focused on his hands, his fingers carefully rolling a small paper around a ground substance.

“Is that–”

Estinien sealed the end of the paper onto itself, “Yes.”

Without speaking, Aurrane stepped into the small tent and sat down, crossing her legs. He wore no armour, just an old linen shirt that was missing some buttons and casual trousers. His silvery hair was tied loosely at his neck. He stared as she took her seat across from him, making no signal for her to leave, instead he repositioned himself and grabbed his lantern. With one hand he carefully removed the class housing, revealing the flame to light one end of the rolled paper. She had only seen him do this once before, on one of their first nights of their journey.

The end burned and he quickly brought it to his lips, closing his eyes and breathing it in deeply. He held it, unmoving for a moment. Aurrane stared, motionless as the smoke disappear around them.

“What is it like?” Aurrane spoke quietly.

At the sound of her voice, Estinien’s eyes flickered up to her, the corners of his mouth raising ever so slightly. His hand turned to her, offering. Her mind raced, unsure of what to do.

“Estinien... I’ve never...” her gaze shifted to the ground, embarrassed.

“You’ll be fine. Just breathe.” he put it to his lips again, breathing in the smoke effortlessly.

He offered again as he exhaled, but this time Aurrane accepted. Her heart raced as she raised the roll to her mouth. She looked up at Estinien to find him watching her, studying her. His eyes traced her body until they found hers. She gazed at him for a moment, then took her breath. Feeling the heat of smoke at the back of her throat her brow furrowed. It seemed to warm her whole body instantly. Passing it back to Estinien, she held the smoke in her lungs until she couldn’t any longer. They were drowning, she fought not to cough so not to embarrass herself, but she couldn’t take the scratching heat burning at the back of her throat for long. Estinien took another hit while she tried to compose herself.

It took a few moments, but Aurrane eventually gained control of her lungs again. Once her breathing was normal, Estinien offered once more.

Shaking her head, she frowned and pushed his hand away, “it hurts.”

“Don’t breathe in so much, don’t hold it in.”

Reluctantly, she tried again, following his advice.

“See? Not so bad.” Estinien smiled lightly, the gesture surprising Aurrane.

The two took turns breathing in the smoke, until there was nothing but a stub left. Estinien moved to toss it outside, ending up closer to Aurrane when he sat back down.

“How often do you do this?”

Estinien began his reply with a shrug, “Whenever I need to.”

Before she could ask why, he interjected. “We all have our vices, de Vroix.”

Time slowed as the somnus took over. She felt like she was floating in slow motion. Her limbs felt numb, her insides empty. She stretched out her hands, then curled them into fists repeatedly.

“What is it like?” Estinien turned Auranne’s question back onto her.

“I feel...” Aurrane leaned back, closed her eyes and tilted her head all the way back, “numb, but warm. It feels as though I’m running in place, but I’m also floating in the ocean...”

“Good.” Estinien smiled slyly, and grabbed her arm as he stood, “Come with me.”

Without hesitation, Aurrane followed him to the campfire that still burned. She reclaimed her seat from before, but inched closer to the fire. She leaned in slightly and stared at the flame as it danced.

“Simple things have never been so fascinating...”

“Mm.” He agreed, picking up his game and readied it for the fire.

She watched as he skinned and chunked the meat. His movements were sharp and jagged. The pale, calloused skin of his hands moving confidently, unlike Alphinaud’s.

Aurrane’s attention moved back to the fire. Without thought, she leaned closer and placed her hand above the highest flame, inching it slowly closer. She felt the flame kiss her palm, but it didn’t burn. She tilted her head, confused but unworried.

“De Vroix, stop!” Estinien hit her hand away from the flame. “What in the seven hells?”

She stared down at her palm, unfazed. She knew there was a burn and it would scar, but she didn’t care.

“I don’t know. I just... wanted to see if I could feel it.” Her gazed stayed locked to her palm.

Estinien frowned as he saw the redness growing on Aurrane’s palm, Amyeric’s request regarding her safety echoing in his mind. He shook off the memory and continued tending to his meal, while Aurrane’s focus shifted from his hands to her own.

“Sometimes you will feel nothing all, or everything at once. Be more careful.”

He skewered small pieces and seared them quickly before feasting. He cleaned his hands and tossed the remaining bits of meat to the fire.

“Are you faring alright still?” Estinien moved to sit beside Aurrane.

She nodded. They stared in silence at the fire for a moment before Estinien stood, brushing her arm when he moved. He began to walk back to his tent.

“Estinien.” He stopped. “Stay a moment.”

Obliging her request, he sat down beside her again, closer this time still. He turned to face her, watching her move through every breath. He didn’t know what to expect when he offered her the somnus, but he was relieved she was handling it well enough.

Kicking out the remnants of the fire, he motioned for Aurrane to follow him back to his tent. Inside they sat, illuminated by the struggling flame of his lantern. Aurrane sat on her knees, and Estinien kneeled before her. Suddenly her heart pounded as he rested a hand on her thigh for balance.

“Do you wish to feel euphoria?” Estinien cooed, raising her chin with his free hand.

“Yes... I wish.”

His hand moved to rest on the slope of her neck, “Sin with me.”

Chapter Text

“Sin with me.”

Aurrane’s eyes widened, and her heart skipped in surprise. Their eyes locked for a moment, unmoving. She could see the fire burning behind them. Without warning, she gripped his shirt and pulled him on top of her. Their lips met, his hands scaling her sides while Aurrane kept her grip tight on his shirt.

“I pray you feel everything this night.” Estinien whispered provocatively before running his teeth over her ear.

A quiet sound of pleasure escaped her lips, satisfying Estinien. Her hands did not falter as she unbuttoned the rest of his shirt and slid it down his shoulders. In the same movement, she dug her nails lightly down his arms, feeling the curves of his muscles as she went down. In turn, Estinien pushed his hips between her legs and smirked as another sound escaped her.

Estinien pulled her shirt over her head, and moved a hand over her chin, coaxing his thumb into her mouth. Before she got much done, he opted to switch out for two fingers. Aurrane made sure to keep her eyes on his while she moved her tongue slowly over them. When he started to pull away, she resisted by sucking, still keeping her gazed locked.

His hand moved slowly, so slowly down her torso. She writhed under each touch that felt amplified from the somnus. In response, she began to move her hands lower against his hip bones, digging her nails deeper the lower she went, desperate to make him groan. Still he remained silent. While she focused on her own task, she didn’t realize how far his hand went until she felt pressure between her thighs. Realizing, she gasped. His hands were still above the layers of her clothes, but she desired them closer.

With a quick movement, they were under her layers, and at the contact she couldn’t help the sound she made.

“Shh... you wouldn’t want your friend to know, would you?”

Aurrane’s face reddened. In an effort to hide it, she used an arm to bring him closer so their lips met again. As she kissed him, something primal awakened inside her, filling her with adrenaline. She slowed her movements, portraying passion through her lips, until he slowed to meet her speed. Her lips pulled away, and she rested his forehead against his and stared at him, eyes filled with lust. Quickly she crashed her lips against his again, her movements growing rougher, until she finished by taking his bottom lip in her teeth, pulling it until it slipped from her grip. A low growl escaped him, and Aurrane smirked, satisfied.

In response Estinien pressed his hand against her harder, slowly sliding up, then down. Aurrane moaned and her back arched. Pleased at her reaction, he forced two fingers inside her, itching to see her try to restrain herself. He knew how somnus intensified his own senses, but the thought of how she must be feeling thrilled him.

“E-Estinien...” Aurrane’s head fell back, and she moved her hips against him.

He curled inside her, then slid his lips down her body. He started at her lips, to her chin, her neck, chest, stomach. Every few inches he used his teeth to leave a mark on her body until he reached the line of her linen pants. Removing his fingers from inside her, she hummed in her protest. Without raising his body, Estinien pulled both layers of clothes from her lower body, revealing pale skin, untouched by the sun. His mouth continued travelling her body, never getting close enough despite her own efforts.

When he eventually brought his face back up to hers, Aurrane seized the opportunity to remove the remainder of Estinien’s clothes from his lower body. She tilted her body a little to grip him while his fingers found their way back inside her. Her hand moved up and down slowly, the tightness of her grip changing with each motion.

A low, gruff moan came from Estinien at her touch. His fingers curved inside her, moving in and out quickly. Both could feel the other becoming more aroused at every movement. Aurrane leaned forward to bit his lip again, then his neck and finally pausing at his ear. Her breathe was heavy, her voice low.

“Damnit, Estinien, ravish me.”

Without a word his hand left her body, moved to his own and guided himself to her. Teasing her, he pressed himself against her without entering.

“Estinien...” Aurrane said his name between her teeth, still close to his ear.

The sound of his name said so hungrily pushed him over the edge, and he couldn’t deny his desire any longer. He pressed himself inside her, slowly. The initial contact caused both to moan in sync.

It seemed like Aurrane’s entire body was white hot. She brought her hips up, taking more of him while she scratched her nails up and down his body. Estinien began to move faster, gradually increasing his speed. Their bodies moved in sync around each other. Each time he pushed deeper, it became harder for him to hold back, especially with the looks and sounds coming from Aurrane.

“Fury...” He slowed, taking a minute to catch his breath.

While he focused on his breathing, she pushed him off her and onto the ground. He groaned in pleasure as she slid on top of him. Her hips moved up and down, side to side. On each downward movement, she grinded against him, giving her pleasure in another area. When he noticed, he brought his hand to the side of her face thumb grazing her lips until she ran her tongue over it, then took it in her mouth. Her tongue swirled around his thumb, and she scraped her teeth against it as he took it back.

He pressed his thumb against her while she continued on top of him. He began to rub her up and down and in circles, which made Aurrane tilt her head back and she moaned, loudly.

“Ah, that’s it... keep going, my warrior.” His voice was low and hungry, which only aroused Aurrane further.

Without removing himself from her, he flipped them over so Aurrane was under him again. His thrusts became harder. He watched as her hand moved to touch herself. She moved fast, her legs beginning to shake.

“Estinien, I need–I,”

He cut her off with a deep thrust, causing her to moan again, “Release.”

Aurrane’s fingers picked up speed, as Estinien did inside her. She writhed under him, unable to contain the sounds escaping her now. She released around him, her whole body shaking. He felt her pulse around him, and the added slickness that had come from her pleasure.

He continued to pound inside of her, each time making her moan. As he grew closer, his deep moans couldn’t be contained anymore. With a few more deep and fast thrusts he couldn’t hold himself back any longer. He pulled out and guided his release onto her body with a groan.

Estinien held his position above her, trying to catch his breath. Aurrane laid still, with her head back trying to do the same. After a moment Estinien moved to his pack at the corner of the tent and pulled out a cloth and a corked carafe of water. He took a swig before pouring some on the cloth.

“This will be cold.” The tone of his voice was softer now.

Even with his warning, Aurrane flinched at the stark coldness of the cloth. Gently, he cleaned her body of his release with care. Aurrane could only stare at him. His face seemed softer, his movements airy, so unlike his usual self. He turned away from her to tend to his own body, but she continued to stare. His body was angular and firm. His job as Dragoon required strong shoulders and she could see the efforts of his labour as she traced the edges of his muscles with her eyes.

Grabbing her pants and the nearest shirt, she quickly covered her body for warmth. Estinien grabbed his own small clothes, taking his spot next to her.

“You’re different like this.” Aurrane ran her hand down his arm, feeling his muscles and scars.

“As are you.” Estinien smirked.

Her face reddened. “I... you–”

“I like it.”

Chapter Text

Aurrane and Estinien continued their secret rendezvous every couple days since their first night together. They indulged in somnus, and also in each other. On the night before their passage into the holy resting place of the dragons, Sohm Al, the two met up after dark as usual.

Laying in the darkness under the cover of Estinien’s tent, Aurrane watched while he breathed in the last of the somnus. He took his place beside her, propped up on one elbow, his other hand moving to her body. Gently, he raised her shirt and began to trace shapes around the faded scars on her torso.

“Estinien... I’m so tired.” Aurrane’s voice was quiet.

“Mm... as am I.” His touch remained soft.

“Would it be alright if we didn’t...” Her eyes flickered to his.

“Of course.”

Instead, they spoke. Aurrane led the conversation, speaking about her past in Gridania. Estinien watched her speak while he listened.

“For all this time we’ve been spending together... I know nothing about you.”

“Good.”

Aurrane scowled before punching his arm, “You shouldn’t be so proud of being an ass all the time, you know. It is not a favourable quality.”

“Most of my qualities are not favourable.”

Aurrane rolled her eyes, “Oh, shut up.”

They spent the rest of the night together, sometimes talking, sometimes in silence. It didn’t take long for them to succumb to sleep though, and Aurrane knew she should retreat to her own tent. Her body was so exhausted, and frankly, she liked having the warmth of Estinien’s body near her. She fought with herself about getting up, but she just couldn’t. She only hoped she woke before Alphinaud, so she could return to her own tent without suspicion.

• • •

Aurrane sank hastily into an empty chair at the Manor Fortemps dining room table. Count Edmont had arranged for a full meal to welcome her and Alphinaud home from their never ending quest to find the great wyrm, Nidhogg. However, it had seemed the end of their journey was finally within sight.

“Welcome back, comrades.” Count Edmont motioned them to the table as his sons walked in.

“Aurrane, Alphinaud. I’m glad to see you both unharmed!” Haurchefant sprung to hug them one at a time.

Over dinner, Alphinaud recounted their journey thus far, Aurrane nodding along.

“So it’s almost over. I can’t believe it.” Haurchefant was quiet.

Count Edmont cleared his throat, “I pray you have time to rest afterwards. You certainly deserve it.”

Though Aurrane was grateful for dinner, she was most excited to lay in her plush bed at the manor. Only one more task was keeping her from it, and then she was free to rest. After cleaning her plate, she headed to her room to grab an overcoat for her trek to the Congregation. The Lord Commander had sent a request to her, Alphinaud and Estinien to meet with him.

When the two Scions arrived, they were greeted warmly by Aymeric. Estinien stood nearby, unmoving in his armour.

“Thank you for coming, Scions. I am eager to hear about your travels.”

Alphinaud recounted the story once more.

• • •

“And now, we are here. Our next task is to find a way into Nidhogg’s lair, the Aery.” Alphinaud’s eyes shot to Aurrane, and he raised a brow. “I believe that has been everything of note to this point, unless, that is, you have anything to add, Aurrane.”

Her eyes widened and she quickly shook her head, “Oh no, not at all.”

She looked over at Estinien and silently cursed him for wearing his helmet. She couldn’t help but wonder if knew that Alphinaud knew about them.

“Very well. As always, my friends, your strength is commendable,” Aymeric turned to Aurrane, “I won’t keep you, pray, get some rest. Should you need anything, I am happy to assist.”

“My thanks, Lord Commander.” Alphinaud stood, smoothing his clothes.

“Yes, thank you, for everything, Aymeric.”

The two Scions turned out of Aymeric’s office, leaving just him and Estinien.

“My Lord.” Estinien nodded before turning to leave.

“Estinien.” He halted at Aymeric’s voice, “What happened to her?”

His head turned against his shoulder before stepping outside the office, “Apologies, my lord, I know not what you mean.”

Chapter Text

“Full proud am I to have earned this victory by your side, Warrior.” Estinien’s hand rested on her shoulder, his breath heavy as he now wielded both eyes of the great wyrm.

She turned and hugged him with all the strength she had left. “It’s finally done.”

“Let us find our way back. We shall memorialize our victory at once.”

• • •

Their arrival into Ishgard was quiet, in the early hours of the morning. Together, they retired to an inn room at the Forgotten Night.

“I have been saving something for this night.”

Estinien pulled something out of his pack, a rolled paper, similar to the others they previously shared, but this one was dyed a dark blue. Aurrane’s head tilted, unsure.

“There’s milkweed in this one.” Aurrane’s eyes widened at his statement.

“Milkweed? Estinien, that’s poisonous.” Her voice shook.

“It’s only added to... enhance. Trust me, there is not enough to harm.” Estinien sat on the bed. “I have one more without, should you prefer.”

“No... it’s okay.” Aurrane sat down beside him on the bed and rested her hand on his thigh. “I want to.”

As always, Estinien started. She watched him, the way his lips moved, and then his chest as he inhaled. He tilted it towards her, and she took it hesitantly. Soon after her first hit, she could feel the difference. She felt the familiar numbing of the somnus, but this time it was paired with a surge of energy.

“Have you tried this before?” Aurrane turned to Estinien, watching him breathe in the smoke.

He shook his head, exhaling.

“I figured you might wish to partake, so I kept it.”

She took her turn, smiling while she inhaled the smoke. Her lungs had grown accustomed to the heat, allowing her to hold the smoke longer. Holding her breath, she could feel the drugs flowing through her veins. Something new inside her erupted.

“You are incredible.” As she exhaled, Aurrane’s thoughts came out loud.

“Hardly.” Estinien took another drag.

“No.” She stood up and faced him, using his knees to support her as she bent down, her eyes level with his.

Aurrane’s heart raced, and a malevolent laugh escaped her lips.

“You... you’ve made an utter mess of me, Ser Estinien Wyrmblood.” She performed a short bow as she spoke his name, before rising and tilting Estinien’s face upwards to meet her gaze. “Countless primals have fallen under the shot of my bow. I am the Defender of Eorzea, the Warrior of Light.

Estinien’s eyes were focused on Aurrane as she danced around the room. She circled the perimeter once in long strides, before performing a twirl and sinking to her knees before him. She leaned forward, stretching her arms straight and resting her forehead on the floor. His brow furrowed in question to her performance.

“And yet, here I am before you. Helpless. Captivated. Afraid,” She raised herself to meet his gaze. “With a single word from those lips, you could have anything from me.”

“Pray... do not think of me so highly, de Vroix. I... I am just a man.” Estinien’s hands reached to hold her face, but she denied him.

Aurrane grabbed his wrists, and in an unexpected movement she pinned him down to the bed. “Pray, do not tell me how to feel.”

Estinien sighed, and with little effort, flipped Aurrane and pinned her down by her wrists. “Do not waste your feelings on me, Warrior. Bound inside me is a rage I cannot fight, and I will not have you here when it surfaces.”

Aurrane laid still under his grip, fighting back tears. “You need not fight alone, Estinien.”

“I will not let you leave your heart here, while a man better than I yearns for it.” Estinien let go of her wrists roughly, and grabbed his things.

“Estinien... I beg of you, don’t leave.” Aurrane couldn’t stop the tears once they started.

Without looking back, he left the inn room, the door slamming shut behind him. Aurrane sat unmoving on the bed, crying in silence. As the sun began to rise, she laid down and clutched her pillow, and finally allowed sleep to overtake her.

Chapter Text

When Aurrane finally woke up, she was alone. Part of her expected it, but another part prayed last night was a dream, or maybe a hallucination from the milkweed. She took a deep breath and clutched her pillow tightly. She laid like that for a while, staring at the wall, attempting to find the strength to get up.

Once she finally rose from the bed, Aurrane peered out the window of her inn room. She guessed the time was around midday. She turned back around, and quickly gathered her things. She pulled on her boots and over coat, and fumbled the rest of her belongings in her arms. It wasn’t important that she looked like erupted from the sewers, she just wanted to go home. Stepping outside the Forgotten Knight, she felt the eyes of the people around her on her back. She kept her hood up and her gaze low to avoid them.

Aurrane slipped quietly into the Fortemps Manor, and hurried to run a bath. In another room, Alphinaud heard the water running in Aurrane’s room and went to see her.

He knocked on her door softly before speaking, “Aurrane?”

She quickly turned off the water and answered the door.

“Alphinaud.” She smiled as he entered. “How are you?”

“I am well. I came to see how you are,” Worry took over his face. “I know... I know you were not here in your chambers last night.”

“I slept at the inn.” Aurrane was quiet, keeping her eyes on the floor.

“You need not explain, but I know there is something you hide from me.” Alphinaud put his hand on her arm. “Pray remember you can talk to me, always.”

She nodded. “Please don’t worry about me, Alphinaud. I just need some time alone.”
“I should let you tend to your bath, then.” He gripped her hands tightly before standing. “Good night, Aurrane.”

Aurrane closed the door behind Alphinaud and headed back to the bathroom. Facing the mirror, she realized she hadn’t seen her own reflection for a long time. Looking at herself now, she almost couldn’t recognize herself. Her face was sallow, her eyes were dull and dark. Her clothes hung a little looser over her body.

Humming a soft melody, she turned the water on again, letting the tub fill before stepping into the warm water.

• • •

Nearly a fortnight had passed since Aurrane had returned to the Fortemps Manor, most of which she spent hidden in her chambers. There had been no word from Estinien, and while his absence burned her heart, the sudden lack of somnus caused her body to ache. She could tell her accuracy with her bow was lacking when she attempted to hunt, the music she played felt unnatural. She felt as though her insides were broken and bruised.

She often found herself drowning in her bed sheets in her free time, unwilling, unable to move. Her friends tried to convince her to join them for a meal at the table, but she often denied. However, Tataru always made sure to bring a plate to her bedside, trying her best to cheer up the Warrior of Light. She would speak of her day, the people she met at the Forgotten Knight, or her latest sewing project. Aurrane was usually able to smile at the chipper Lallafellin, her kindness always able to warm her for a moment.

Alphinaud would come by and reassure her that he was always here, always close by if she needed anything at all. He was the only one who knew about her “relationship” with Estinien, but Aurrane never told him about the drugs. He often sat by her bedside on her darker days, trying to distract her from herself.

Alphinaud knocked softly before entering, alerting Aurrane to his presence. By now, she could tell whose steps were going by, and how each of her comrades knocked. This time, she opted to sit up in her bed, instead of staying buried in her sheets.

 

Aurrane greeted him as he entered, welcomed also by the midday sun lighting the room.

He handed her a large mug, a fragrant herbal tea filled to the brim. “How are you doing today, my friend?”

“I’m alright. The same.” Aurrane stated bluntly, frowning.

“Well, I would say that is better than feeling worse.” Alphinaud’s reply was genuine, “In time, things will be better.”

“In time...” she hummed, “Time, how much more must I waste, decaying in these sheets?”

Alphinaud furrowed his brow. Aurrane took a sip from her mug before continuing.

“It’s not– I don’t...” she sighed, “I don’t want to feel this... darkness anymore, Alphinaud. Everything hurts, I’m tired of counsels, I’m tired of fighting.”

As she trailed off, he knelt closer to her beside and took hold of her hands, “I know it’s hard. I know I haven’t seen half of what you have, but you can conquer this. You need not fight alone, Aurrane. You are the bravest warrior I’ve met, and I place my hope in your strength, should you not.”

“Alphinaud, I–“ Aurrane felt heat in her face, tears in her eyes.

“You need not explain yourself.”

The pair sat in silence for a moment, Aurrane sipping her tea slowly before setting on the bedside table. “Alphinaud... there is actually something I must explain, something I must confess, but you mustn’t tell a soul.”

“Anything, Aurrane. You have my word.” Alphinaud gripped her hands tightly.

“It is true, my heart has been aching since Estinien went away. If that was my only stress, I believe I would be more or less fine, but... I cannot eat and my body aches for a different reason.” Aurrane took her hands from him and turned away, ashamed at what she was about to admit. “My body craves... I crave somnus. Estinien was always... he always had some when we were together.”

Alphinaud was shocked, but he remained silent.

“I have not touched it since he’s been gone, and I feel the need for it more than I can bear.”

“I see.” Alphinaud appeared to be deep in thought. “I had no idea you were suffering like this.”

“I hope you do not think differently of me.”

“No, never. I am grateful you have confided in me. I will do everything in my power to help you, Aurrane.” His smile was reassuring. “Well, I am at least glad to hear that there is more to your pain then a man alone.”

Aurrane chuckled, following along with his comment. “Alas, what kind of hero would I be if a mere man kept me down?”

The two laughed together for a short moment before Alphinaud’s hand found its way to her shoulder. “Tell me what I can do to help you, my friend.”

“There is one thing... I have this thought about a melody that plays in my head.” She shifted. “I dream of playing it aloud, but... the manor does not have a piano.”

“If the Warrior of Light desires a piano, then a piano she will receive.” Alphinaud stood, and performed a bow.

Aurrane laughed at his display, thankful for his visit. Shortly after, he left her chambers to allow her to rest.

The idea to play the song in her head was sudden. She thought about the familiar feel of cold ivory beneath her fingertips and the smooth melody in her mind played over and over again. Being the Warrior of Light didn’t leave much room to pursue many hobbies. As such, it had been a long time since she had a chance to play an instrument besides her flute or small harp she usually carried on her person.

Sinking back into her bed, her eyes felt heavy. Before effortlessly giving way to sleep, she decided that should she wake before dinner was served, she would join the others at the table.

Aurrane clutched her pillow, and drifted asleep to the lullaby in her mind.

Chapter Text

She grabbed her harp, and headed outside to play her song. The air was cold as it usually was, but the sun shone bright around her. Although her body still begged to remain in bed, she was trying her best to deny its request. The sun on her skin felt good, warming her fingers enough to play a few short melodies before she realized she had company.

“Alphinaud, Haurchefant, good morning.” Aurrane set her harp down beside her and stood to greet her comrades.

“Greetings, my lady. You look well today.” Haurchefant smiled at Aurrane.

“You do. I trust you must be feeling a bit better today.” Alphinaud nodded in agreement with Haurchefant.

“I am, a little. Thank you.” She turned to her harp. “I’ve been trying to work on that song, but it just doesn’t feel right yet.”

Alphinaud opened his mouth to speak, but Haurchefant quickly interjected, “Ah, that reminds me. I hear you are seeking a piano to play, yes? There was once a grand piano in the lobby here,” Haurchefant gestured to the manor behind him, “but as we grew older we became less interested in the musical arts...”

Alphinaud chuckled. “I am not surprised that you much preferred to practice with swords.”

“It is true. However, I may be able to help in your search.” Aurrane’s head tilted in question, “I know someone who may be able to help, I will send a note as soon as I write it with your request.”

“Haurchefant, thank you.”

“Do not worry, Aurrane. I’m sure I am not alone when I say I wish to see you happy once again.”

She looked to the ground, embarrassed. She knew everyone at the manor knew that she hadn’t been her usual self, but she liked pretending it wasn’t obvious. Still only Alphinaud knew about Estinien and the drugs. To everyone else, the Warrior of Light was just exhausted from her duties.

With a parting remark, the two turned back towards the manor, leaving Aurrane alone with her harp again. She picked it up and tried to recite the song she dreamed of playing once more, never quite getting it perfect.

• • •

A few days past and Aurrane found herself laying back in her bed after breakfast. She shuffled around restlessly until there was an unfamiliar knock at her door. Quickly she stood, straightened her clothes and opened the door. On the other side, stood one of the servants of the manor.

“Lady de Vroix. My apologies, I pray I did not interrupt anything. The Lord Commander has requested you at the Congregation. Once you are ready, I will escort you.”

“Oh, of course. I just need a moment, thank you.”

The servant nodded and Aurrane retreated back into her room to change. She grabbed her coat and joined her escort outside. They walked in silence to the Congregation.

“Thank you, you are very kind, sir, but I believe I can handle it from here.” Once they arrived, Aurrane nodded to the servant, allowing him to take his leave.

Stepping inside, she looked around the old foyer. Only a few people sat around the table, talking quietly to themselves. She turned to the Lord Commander’s main office, noticing the same guard from her last visit was on duty. She walked towards him, and began to announce herself until he performed a small bow and spoke, interrupting her.

“Lady de Vroix, Warrior of Light. The Lord Commander has been expecting you.” The guard hastily opened the door and beckoned her inside.

“My lady, please, come in. Have a seat, if you wish.” Her eyes flew to Aymeric as he spoke.

He stood on the other side of the room, adjusting a painting on the wall before turning to face Aurrane. She noticed the pile of paperwork strewn across one end of his desk, the other end bare, save for a small ink pot and a wax stamp. As he took his seat on the other side of his desk, she followed his actions and pulled her seat a bit closer before sitting. He quickly neatened the papers, apologizing for his disorganization.

He continued, “I hope you are well.”

“Ah, yes... more or less.” Her reply didn’t seem to cause concern, which led Auranne to believe that perhaps Aymeric knew about her recent state. “Lord Aymeric, what did you wish to speak about?”

He took a breath before speaking. “My lady, I am... aware of your recent afflictions,” Aurrane’s expression changed to confusion, “Prior to his leaving, Estinien came to me. I know not of what happened between the two you, but it was clear it was not his wish to leave so... abruptly.”

Aurrane stared silently at her knees.

“I pray you are not hurting because of this. Should it help, he did leave something here for you,” Aymeric opened a drawer in his desk, pulled a small bag out and set it in front of Aurrane. “He said not what it contains.”

She picked up the bag, hoping to feel what was inside but it’s contents were wrapped.

“Thank you, Ser Aymeric.” Aurrane pushed her chair back to stand. “If that is all...”

She stood, fastening her coat and placing the bag in her pocket. Aymeric stood also, moving to the other side of the desk where Aurrane had sat. She gave him a short bow before turning to leave.

Moving her chair to the side, he leaned against his desk and crossed his arms. “There is one more thing, Aurrane. Your comrades tell me you seek a piano. I know of one you would be welcome to play, but only under one condition.” Aurrane looked at him with confusion once more, “I wish to hear your song.”

“My song?”

Aymeric chuckled at Aurrane’s shocked expression. “Indeed. Lord Haurchefant tells me you are unhappy with the sound of your song when played on your harp.” He relaxed his stature, “Though, should you be uncomfortable sharing, I will not mention it again.”

“No, Ser, it’s not that...” Aurrane shifted her stance, and searched for the right words, “I must be sure I can play it without fault before I promise any performances.”

“As you wish.” Aymeric nodded with a smile, “Pray, come find me when you are ready to rehearse.”

“Of course, Ser Aymeric.” Aurrane repeated her bow and proceeded to take her leave.

Stepping outside of the Congregation, she pulled on her hood and shoved her hands in her pockets. She clutched Estinien’s gift and hummed her song as she walked home to the manor Fortemps.