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reputation out for ruin

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The reason she trips is two-fold. 


One, the ceremony is boring

Two, the Astrals-damned heels. She knew she shouldn’t have worn them, everyone said so. But they were her mother’s, and on today of all days, Luna desperately wants something of her mother there with her on the stage. 

But in hindsight, perhaps she should have just borrowed a brooch. 

She’s standing there, smiling politely, forgetting half of what comes before the very simple oath she has to take to ascend as Oracle when she feels someone prod her gently on the side. It’s Ravus. 

“You have to greet the Imperial Chancellor,” he says, under his breath. 

Lunafreya blinks, settles her eyes on a man who’s just come up on stage; tall, with improbably purple hair and way too many coats for the nice, temperate Tenebraen spring day. He is watching her with eyes that gleam gold, and she doesn’t like him at all. It’s either the mismatched patterns of his many scarves, or the lacy collar decades out of fashion, or the look he’s giving her like she’s some imposter not worth her title. 

Luna walks over and holds her hand out – and because she’s been too bored to really look at the stage, or notice where things like wires or speakers are – the edge of her heel catches and she goes sprawling…right toward the Chancellor of Niflheim, with his smirk and his hat and his gleaming amber eyes. 

Later, she’ll watch the television and see herself do it – fall forward, her hands outstretched like she intends to bless him. Violently. The world is upended, there is only place she can grab to steady herself and it’s his face.

It all happens so fast. Her hands settle on his skin and he makes a sound, a hissing noise the likes of which she’s never heard a human make before in her fourteen years of life. A feeling overtakes her, like she’s just plunged her hands into an oil slick that is full of poisoned needles, and it rushes over her until she can barely catch her breath. She can see the color of her magic, the same bright gold as the Chancellor’s eyes, and then whatever that dirty, awful, wrong thing was, now it is changing into something pure and clean like spring water. 

It flows out her and back into him, a conduit. The whole thing takes less than six seconds. 

“You stupid girl,” the man hisses, and his face is, for a moment, not that of a man at all. “What have you done?” 

But even before the last word escapes his mouth his voice is changing, and his eyes – they’re still that same brilliant gold but there’s something different about him, now. His hands come up and steady her, and he blinks a few times in rapid succession – and then he starts to laugh. 

The sky, previously a beautiful clear blue, begins to rapidly fill with clouds. There’s thunder, and then a downpour so severe that people start shrieking. If she wasn’t in the middle of this, Luna might have started to laugh at the way all the dignitaries book it off stage as if chased by demons. 

She is left alone on the stage with the chancellor, her hands still pressed against his face. He puts his hands on her arms and says something in a language she doesn’t know, then another that sounds vaguely familiar, and finally in slightly accented Standard, “Oh, well, now, that’s unexpected.”

One small misstep, and Lunafreya Nox Fleuret has just changed the fate of the world. 

***
As the sudden spring storm fades into a drizzle, they go for a walk. 

“I should like to tell you a story,” says Chancellor Izunia. 

“It might be very hard to believe.” He pauses, then holds out an arm to her. It is a gesture that looks half-forgotten, as if he’s not sure he should be offering at all. 

Luna smiles at him and takes his arm without hesitation, feels something happy and warm rush over her when she touches him. 
“Try me,” she says, thinking about Gentiana, Umbra, and a book in which she passes notes back and forth to a prince.

The story takes quite a while to tell, but they walk until the sun begins to set and then sit on a stone bench by the lake, one of her mother’s favorite places to heal. 

“So,” she says, at length, when he finishes his tale. “You took the Scourge into yourself and were cast aside by your own brother?” 

He nods.

“And I – healed you? On accident?” She makes a face. “Is that even possible?” 

“Apparently,” he says. 

“Oh.” She thinks about it. “Are you quite angry with me?” It has never occurred to her that maybe she is in danger from him. His magic, cleansed now of the taint, is a twin of her own. 

“For a moment or two, perhaps.” He sighs. “It was a very good plan. Very thorough. Dramatic. I have a bit of a flair for such things, if you would believe that.”

She would, and she does. “Well. What shall you do, now?” 

Ardyn stares out at the lake, dappled by the fading sunlight. 

“What does one do, Lady Lunafreya, when one’s millennia-old plan for revenge is suddenly and irrevocably derailed by a slip of a girl who trips over a wire?” 

She smiles, undaunted, and bumps his shoulder with her own. “I suppose, if one was a healer…then one heals.” Her smile fades as she looks at him, notices the similarities in Ardyn’s strong jaw to the man who sits now upon the Lucian throne. “And if I were you, I would definitely ask for an apology from my descendant.” 

His eyebrows raise to his hairline. “An apology?” 
She nods. “My mother, she always said that sometimes there are wounds no magic can heal. Only words from those who caused them. It is not possible to speak with the man who cast you aside, but you are whole again, and maybe now your line can be, too.” 

“You’re very wise for fourteen,” he says, and puts his hat on her head. 

She adjusts the brim and tips her head back. Her heart feels light, relieved of a burden she hadn’t been aware she was carrying. “I read a lot of books.” 

***

A week later, Lunafreya sees the coverage about some sort of shake-up in the Empire. 

She doesn’t understand a lot of the talk, given how isolated Tenebrae has been from the rest of Eos. But there’s a lot of discussion about the military and decommissioning soldiers, and the return of independent nation status to Tenebrae.

When her brother returns, he will be a Prince instead of a soldier, and that is a fine thing indeed. 

Of the Imperial Chancellor there is no official statement, but Luna receives a message in the book from Noctis that says, 

So I have an uncle? And he is so weird, Luna. Like. So weird. 

Luna is delighted

****

A little more than a year later, Niflheim delivers formal terms of surrender to Lucis. 

Luna, Ravus and Maria watch as the wall in Insomnia finally comes down. Standing next to King Regis is Noctis, looking healthy and strong. 

Next to him stands Ardyn Izunia, a hand on Noctis’s shoulder. There are speeches – why are there always speeches, and why must they be so long? – but Luna hardly pays attention. Instead, she watches as Ardyn leans down to tell his nephew something. Whatever it is, it’s making Noctis fight back a laugh. 

By the end of the speeches, Noctis is wearing Ardyn’s hat. 

***

There is no need for them to use the book anymore, but they do because it’s special and sweet, and no one has magic like it anywhere in the world. 

Noctis sends her notes and pictures, and occasionally, Ardyn sends her something in the book, too. He writes bits of old riddles and even dirty limericks in old Tenebraen, old Solheim, and modern Standard with his signature flamboyant twist. 

***

Noctis sends her a picture of himself, sixteen and just growing into his looks, behind the wheel of a car. It’s an older model, a shocking burgundy color, with a white stripe down the middle. A convertible. Noctis is grinning, looking young and cocky and happy. 

Check it out! Uncle Ardyn is teaching me how to drive. Dad says if I don’t wreck his car, maybe he’ll let me take the Regalia for a spin. 

***
Luna and Noctis’s engagement is announced when Luna is twenty-two and Noctis is eighteen. She travels to Insomnia for the party, and they stand next to each other and accept well-wishes even though the wedding isn’t for three more years, and they don't really know anyone saying congratulations

The party would be very boring, but Ardyn is there and he keeps them amused with stories about the nobles of House Caelum, past and present. He sneaks Prompto into the party, hidden under the skirting on a drink cart, so that Luna can finally thank Prompto in person for rescuing Pryna. 

At one point Ardyn sidles up to them and says, “Here,” and hands Noctis a pair of car keys. “Go on and be teenagers in love. I’ll cause a distraction.” 

He does, and it involves a countess, the champagne fountain, and Prompto’s camera. 

They rush out giggling and find Ardyn’s car, ready and waiting. 

Noctis kisses her in the front seat for the first time, shy and sweet, with the moon a bright light in an unguarded sky.

***

A year later, they discover how roomy the backseat of Ardyn’s car really is. 

***

A year after that, they discover it's roomy enough for three. 

***
Luna is up at dawn on her wedding day, nervous and full of too many small details that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things but that a lot of people think matter very much. 

She’s taking a moment for some tea in the royal garden when she looks up to see Ardyn standing before her, dressed in the same thing he was wearing at last night’s party for family and close friends. Clearly on his way back to his rooms, then. 

She raises her eyebrows at him. 

He grins back. “Oh, shush. As if you have any room to talk.” He sprawls across from her on a chair that looks too dainty to support his broad frame. He winks. “I heard the most salacious rumor that you and your dear fiancé have seduced your own photographer.” 

Luna sips her tea and gives him the queenly look she’s been practicing. “Wedding photography is very expensive, Uncle Ardyn. One does what one must for a reasonable discount.” 

Ardyn laughs. “I am due a great many discounts from every vendor in Insomnia, if that is the case.” 

She does not doubt that. He’s something of a scandal, this mysterious Lucis Caelum relative who could charm a spiracorn’s horn off its head. He writes books about his ancestors and calls them fiction, and he’s the reason Noctis grew up strong and healthy from his injury and Regis no longer walks with a limp. 

“And are you happy, then, with the choices you made?” she asks, studying him. “To come here and be Noctis's dear uncle, instead of the instrument of his ruin?” 

He studies her for a long time. “I dream, sometimes. Of black death and shadows, of this city and its throne crumbled into ruin. But they come less and less of late, and I suppose I shall be happy to spend eternity embarrassing a succession of descendants at parties. Astrals know I have plenty of ammunition. Present company most definitely included." 

She laughs and gets to her feet, then crosses to his chair and leans down to hug him. “I, for one, am glad that I have known you as a friend and an uncle. I imagine you would have been a terrifying adversary indeed.” 

He tips his head back and smiles, pats her on the arm. “Oh, my dear. I would have been absolutely dreadful. You wouldn’t have had a chance.” 

She kisses him on the cheek and goes to her room, steeling herself for the madness of the day to come; a royal wedding, a coronation, a wedding night spent with Noctis and Prompto in the privacy of the royal chambers. 

There’s a box in her room, on her bed. Plain white, tied with an elaborate gold bow. She grins and opens it, to find a pair of white boots nestled inside. They are the same as any Crownsguard would wear, save the color – instead of Lucis Caelum black, they are white as snow lined with fur in a bright, Sylleblossom blue. 

The note inside reads we wouldn’t want any missteps today, would we? 

Despite the horrified objection of the wedding planner, Luna wears them beneath her dress when she marries her prince, when she is crowned as future queen, and later -- in the privacy of her marriage bed, posing salaciously with her new husband and with Prompto snapping pictures, they are all she wears. 

And maybe, just maybe, a wide-brimmed black hat.