Categories > Games > Final Fantasy XII


by Laylah 1 review

Pre-game. Ashe and Vossler trade gifts.

Category: Final Fantasy XII - Rating: G - Genres: Drama, Romance - Published: 2007-02-25 - Updated: 2007-02-25 - 1071 words - Complete


He hears the footsteps coming down the stairs behind him before he hears the princess's voice. "Captain Azelas!" she calls, which means she has more self-restraint than usual, or perhaps she's just already been scolded this morning for being overly familiar.

Vossler turns back, and the rest of his troop halts with him. "My lady?" he says.

Princess Ashe's hair is coming loose from its ribbons, and her cheeks are flushed. "Are you -- I heard you leave within the hour," she says.

"We do," he nods. His regular assignment is to be Captain of Her Majesty's Guard, but in times like these, when the Archadian Empire seems restless in its skin and Rozarria little better, an experienced knight can hardly expect to spend all his time in the comfort of the palace. "I am sorry for the inconvenience, my lady. We will endeavor to return as quickly as possible." That shouldn't be too difficult; from the reports, it sounds as though they'll be dealing with nothing more troublesome than an infestation of bandits in the caverns under the Westersand.

"Good," she says, and she's a far cry from the little girl who demanded to be carried around on his shoulders ten years ago, or stomped around her chambers terrorizing her lady's maids as the Fearful Dragon Ashe. She's grown into a young lady, and it almost seems, at times, to make her hesitant. "I -- I feel safer when you're here, Captain."

Vossler smiles, and bows to her. "I am honored by your faith," he says.

"I have -- I've brought you something," she says, "to take with you when you go."

"Thank you," Vossler says. "You are kind, to think of me."

And then she holds it out -- a collar of plain, soft leather, its buckle made of polished brass. Even the most innocent of interpretations would be improper, and from the sounds of shifting and muttering behind him, he doubts that all the interpretations will be innocent.

"You don't like it?" the princess says. "It -- the shopkeeper assured me it would, it would keep you safe," she falters. "It has talismans worked into it, here," and she turns it so that he can see the little sigils of jade, tucked inside the band. "To help you avoid attack."

She sounds so hesitant, so worried, he barely knows what to say. "I am -- I am grateful," he says. "Your Highness does me honor. Forgive me for my discourtesy."

"There's nothing to forgive," the princess says. Vossler is acutely aware of their audience. She seems not to be, though, as she steps closer with an awkward little smile. "Will you wear it, then?"

"Of course," Vossler says. He even has the training to be able to activate the magicks in it, so that the jade collar will do its work.

Princess Ashe smiles, and without further hesitation reaches up, to wrap the collar around his neck and buckle it. The hidden stones are cool against Vossler's skin, and her fingers are soft, and the sun overhead suddenly far too hot. He closes his eyes.

"Thank you," Vossler says, when Ashe steps back. For such a small scrap of leather, it feels shockingly heavy. His men will never let him live this down. "I am certain it will serve me well."

She's already heard that the expedition has returned, and that there were no losses among the knights; Risa, who had cleaning duty in her rooms today, is an incorrigible gossip. Still, Ashe doesn't really relax until she can hear the clink of armor and the heavy tread of Vossler's footsteps in the hall. She stays seated by the window, looking at her book but not really reading, until he actually steps through the doorway to her sitting room.

Only then does she let herself put her book down and look up. "Vossler," she says warmly, and then catches herself. "Captain Azelas."

"Princess," he says, and bows, the friendly sort of abbreviated bow he saves for private settings, instead of the stiff one he gives her in court.

"I'm glad you're safe," Ashe says. "Did it help?"

Vossler's hand goes to his throat; he's still wearing the jade collar, and she feels oddly warm inside, despite how ridiculous that is. "It did," he says. "Thank you."

"I'm glad," Ashe says. "I mean -- not that I don't think you could take care of yourself, because of course you can. I know it's silly of me to worry about you."

"Not at all," Vossler answers. "It speaks well of the kindness of your heart."

And that, well, that makes her feel warmer, which is silly, because this is just Vossler, who's looked after her since she was small, since before either of them had to remember to be formal and bow and address the other by title. She should be saving this sort of feeling for someone like Rasler Heios Nabradia, whom she met in person recently after exchanging several pleasant letters, and whom she's likely to marry. Vossler is probably twice her age and familiar as her own family, and -- and strong and handsome, yes, but aren't plenty of men?

"I brought you something back," he says.

Ashe feels herself blush. "You didn't have to," she protests, but she's glad all the same.

"You showed such thoughtfulness, in choosing something for me," he says. "I thought it only fair to return the favor."

The bracelet he gives her is plain of material, but ornate in its make; it's a solid band of steel, etched around the outside with spell-script. The metal is warm in her hands, as though he's been carrying it, rather than keeping it in a pouch. "Thank you," she says. "Is it -- it looks as though it's worked to a purpose."

Vossler nods. "I do hope you never need it. But should you find yourself in a dangerous situation, it will help you to be aware of your surroundings -- to recognize traps before you stumble into them, and to gauge the strength of an enemy without engaging it in battle."

Ashe smiles. "A gift to keep me out of trouble?" she says.

Vossler ducks his head. "It is my job, my lady."

"Thank you," Ashe says. She feels too young to be a lady yet, but she tells herself that for the warmth in his voice, she doesn't mind. The bangle fits snugly against her wrist. "I am glad of it."
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