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Compass Pointing Back Home

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This mission promises blood. Wyrm or man, only time will tell. Aymeric squeezes through the squirming knot of his fellow Temple Knights rallying around their commander and goes in search of his wayward friend. Estinien is in their tent, clasping on his armor methodically with a hard look in his eyes. His skill with the lance has not gone unnoticed, and there’s talk that he will be inducted into the dragoon unit soon. 

 

If he survives this mission.

 

Nidhogg’s brood grows restless in the highlands of Coerthas, and their unit has been sent out to quell some of the larger wyrms in the desperate hope of delaying a full-scale attack on Ishgard proper. As Aymeric drops the tent flap and steps inside the shelter properly, Estinien turns to him. For a moment, no words pass between them.

 

All around them, the muffled sound of activity rushes past, a backdrop to the rustling of armor as they finish dressing.

 

“Estinien?”

 

His companion turns to him, a question in his gaze.

 

“Do be safe.”

 

“You know as well as I do that I have no choice on if I return or not.”

 

Aymeric closes the space between them in one stride and firmly grasps Estinien’s shoulders, looking him dead in the eye.

 

“Mayhaps not, but you do have a choice to try.”

 

They stand in silence for a moment more before Estinien inclines his head.

 

“I will endeavor to return whole, as should you.”

 

“Promise me.”

 

“Aymeric…”

 

Crystal blue eyes shimmer briefly and Estinien caves, wrapping his gauntleted hand around Aymeric’s wrist.

 

“I promise. I will return to Ishgard whole.”

 

Aymeric exhales slowly and nods, shoulders slumping.

 

“Thank you for humoring me, my friend. Fight well, that we may live to see the morrow.”

 

“Aim true, Ser Aymeric. You have saved my life before and I doubt not your ability to do so again.”

 

*

 

The battle is over, hard-won as it was. Aymeric has left his perch on top of the cliffs and searches now for Estinien, casting about through the throng of knights seeking shelter closer to their encampment.

 

Hours pass with no sign of Estinien, and Aymeric’s blood runs cold. Though his body is not among the fallen, there are still more to recover from the thick of the fighting. He forces his way into the recovery crew, eyes scanning for his companion. Almost all the bodies have been gathered by the time he finally catches sight of familiar snowy hair. Aymeric breaks off from the group and hurries over, dropping to his knees at Estinien’s side. Blood seeps into his mail trousers and his breath comes short as he rolls Estinien over.

 

A groan of pain and the growing fear in his heart eases as he calls out for the rest of the crew. They trundle over with a cart, and Aymeric accompanies Estinien back to camp, watching carefully as he winces with every bump they roll over. His eyes flicker open occasionally and settle on Aymeric before closing and his breathing is strong, comforting Aymeric’s frantic worry.

 

As Estinien is whisked away into the chirurgeons’ tent back at the encampment, his eyes slit open once more and he’s able to quirk his lips up at Aymeric, conveying all that he cannot say yet, the words ringing in his mind as if Estinien had said them aloud.

 

I promised, did I not?

 

*

 

The infirmary is quiet as Aymeric strides through, making no secret of his presence. Lucia waits back at the Congregation to escort him to the ceremony, but had allowed him this brief respite with a knowing smile. Just as he had anticipated, Estinien is sitting on the edge of his sickbed and lacing up his boots. Aymeric leans against the frame of the door to watch, an amused smile tilting his lips up.

 

His partner only looks at him when his laces are done up, snowy hair spilling about his shoulders.

 

“I suppose you mean to stop me from leaving?”

 

Aymeric snorts and comes to sit next to him heavily.

 

“Nay, I know better than most that it would be a futile endeavor. I merely wish to secure from you a promise.”

 

Estinien turns to him, elbows propped up on his knees, and smiles.

 

“A promise to return home whole, I presume?”

 

The Lord Commander laughs.

 

“Aye. You have the right of it.”

 

The dragoon stands and holds his hand out, pulling Aymeric to his feet. Estinien presses a hand over his heart and stares directly into Aymeric’s eyes, voice solemn but his eyes twinkling with mirth.

 

“I solemnly swear I shall do my utmost to return to you and to Ishgard when I feel I have found myself once more and quelled the darkness in my heart. Know that though I wander, I am but a summons away from your side should you truly need me. Go, walk in the light, and bring Ishgard into a new dawn that will have no need of dragonslayers and Azure Dragoons, and live to tell the tale when I return.”

 

Aymeric laughs and mirrors his partner, his hand over his own heart, mind churning with the echoes of similar promises made years ago, a tradition of sorts that he had demanded each time they were deployed into the field of battle.

 

“I do solemnly swear to do right by our home and keep her peace until you return.”

 

He drops his hand and closes the distance, wrapping his arms around Estinien in a tight embrace, voice lowering.

 

“Return to me whole, that is all I ask.”

 

Estinien does not fight the hold, letting his forehead drop to Aymeric’s shoulder, arms still down at his side. His voice is hoarse, layered with emotion, when he finally speaks, barely audible despite how close they stand.

 

“I will. I promise.”