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Mightier than a Sword

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When the news that the Scions of the Seventh Dawn are wanted by the Crystal Braves and the Brass Blades for murder reaches them their first reaction is one of disbelief.
Their second is fully exemplified by Cece after dragging one of the sketchier looking Blades into a dark alley to be interrogated at gunpoint.

“What in the seven hells?!” Cece yells as she shoves her handgonne in the Brass Blade’s face. “SHE’S ACCUSED OF WHAT?!”

“Cee please,” Malena places a placating hand on the Lalafell’s shoulder though her eyes are hard and angry as she looks at the terrified man. It's not the man's fault that he's given them some of the worst news they've had since the whole 'Bahamut was imprisoned within Dalamud and the second moon just exploded' at Carteneau.

“Mal’s got a point,” Loetstymm says, eyes just as fierce as the conjurer’s. “We’re no help to them if we all get arrested. String him up and split. We’re leaving.” he snaps as he storms out of the alley not checking to see if the others are following his instructions.

It’s not the first time his crew has had to beat a hasty exit from a town. Though not for something as huge as regicide.

It’s not exactly a secret that the one they call the eikon slayer is a part of their small adventurer company, and from there it’s not hard to say that the Quills are associated with the Scions of the Seventh Dawn to some extent.

Loetstymm curses colourfully under his breath as he makes his way through the streets of Ul’dah. Most make way for the armoured Roegadyn as he heads towards the Quicksand, and those that don’t are promptly shoved aside. Angry protests are promptly beaten off with a pointed glare from a rust-haired Lalafell with a very large gun, and a glance at the large axe on the very large green Sea Wolf's back.
Disgruntled adventurer parties were not ones to cross in Ul'dah.

The lass had said she was invited to a tea party with the Sultana before the summit. What in the seven hells happened?

Irrelevant. Not the issue at this time.

Where would the Scions go? They can’t stay in Ul’dah for sure. Horizon was probably being raided and the Rising Stones were likely not the wisest place to head but what else could they do? T’Chev would have a much better idea, but the bastard had disappeared a bell or two ago. The jackass had said he was looking into something about the Crystal Braves.

“Randal,” Loetstymm breathes out harshly as he activates the free company linkpearl. “Randal you bastard, I need you to get Sela and...”

“Cap’n please. Do you have any idea how long it took me to-”

“Shut up and listen to me Randal!” he snaps at the likely drunk paladin angrily. “The Scions have been accused of murder and all of Ul’dah is after their heads.”
That seems to sober the man up instantly. “Get Sela, get the girl and get out?”

“We don’t know where she is,” he sighs. “She’s ditched the linkpearl. Head to the Rising Stones, we’ll regroup and-”

“Mor Dhona’s out, the Braves are in on this,” a familiar drawl interjects over the aether connection.

“T’chev you furry bastard where the hell have you been?!” Loetstymm snarls angrily.

“The General’s been taken into custody by the Crystal Braves and Teledji’s dead. I don’t know the exact details but the other city states are pretty much out of the question.” the Mi’qote states, not answering the question at all, which was frankly just typical of him. “Moxi has taken off with what’s left of the Scions.”

“What do you mean what’s left?!” Cece all but screeches.

“Shit’s gone sideways, alright?” T’Chev snaps angrily and he sounds like his nerves are just as frayed as Loetstymm’s own. “What’s the name of that cute Ishgardian knight that’s mooning after Mox?”

“Lord Haurchefant?” supplies Randal.

“Send word to him - Ishgard owes Moxi and us for that Steps of Faith job. Just don’t let him hide her in his chambers even if he suggests it,” T’chev adds in jokingly, but he sounds almost as nervous as he did at Carteneau.
Loetstymm figures it’s a sound enough plan. Not the worst one they’ve ever had, in fact it sounds like one of the better ones.

“Anyone who’s got the stamina, port to Dragonhead and I don’t care how but get their attention.” he sends out company wide as he pushes into the Quicksand rooms they had booked for the night. Randal and Sela are thankfully present and all packed up.

“Not all of us can just up and disappear to Ishgard Cap’n. Looks downright suspicious. If the Scions ‘ave cleared out, they’ll probably go after us.” Cece points out her voice angry and Loetstymm can almost feel the heat of her glare.

“Ishgard has just started opening up to adventurers. They’re the ones putting out the profitable jobs,” Randal muses. “Could work as an excuse.”

“Well my appetite for Ul’dahn jobs has officially become non-existent,” Sela declares firmly, glaring pointedly in Loetstymm’s direction. He wants to rebuke her for insubordination and to emphasize that it is not his fault that Ul’dah’s population is made up of Dunesfolk - they founded the bleeding place.

“You’ve never liked Ul’dah, Aliapoh,” Malena’s voice huffs out in a laugh over linkpearl.

“Cece head back to the company house. Make it incredibly awkward for anyone who wants to look for our friend there.” Loetstwynn says as he puzzles out the logistics of the Quills relocation to Ishgard. They can’t completely abandon their presence in the rest of Eorzea. They’re well known enough that their disappearance would be noted and deemed suspicious.

He wonders if he’s got enough standing in the Maelstrom to get Merlwyb to write them some bullshite license or some bogus diplomacy mission to keep their youngest member safe. T’chev probably had enough standing with the Rogues’ Guild that he’d be able to get something official-like or close enough to excuse their entry into Coerthas. Malena could probably bullshit her way through. With the Dragonsong war and all, Ishgard had to be hurting for healers of any sort.

“Ishgard? Why would we want to go there?! The Blades don’t have jurisdiction in La Noscea,” Sela remarks. “And surely the Admiral knows that Moxi is-”

“Blades don’t but the Braves will,” T’chev’s voice crackles in over the linkpearl, weak and tired. “Our little lizard’s out of the city, as is Leveilleur.”
This is not good. The Mi’qote sounds exhausted and that is never a good sign amongst Loetstymm’s crew. One thing the Quills have over the rest of the competition - besides the whole untemperable eikon slayer amongst them - was that the rest of the crew was not only incredibly good looking, skilled and hardy, but that they were also untemperable.

“T’chev where in the seven hells are you?” he demands angrily as he pulls his pack onto his shoulders as Randal and Sela prepare to teleport.

“I’m fine Greenie,” the rogue tries brushing him off, but Loetstymm is not to be deterred. His friend has most definitely been over using the Echo. Out of all of the Quills T’chev had the strongest Echo amongst those of them that weren’t the Warrior of Light. His manifestation allowed him the almost preternatural combat ability that Moxi had and the ability to see through the eyes of other beings with the Echo. Well that second part was a theory - T’chev mostly ended up seeing things through Moxi’s eyes in real time.
“No you lying bastard, you are not fine. Where. Are. You.” he growls as he switches channels to one just between him and his First Mate.

His oldest friend is silent on the linkpearl for a long moment before exhaling heavily.

“They’re gone. All of them,” T’chev says quietly. “They stayed back to let her escape the city.”

Seven hells...

“Most of the others are safe, but Paplymo, Yda, Thancred, Y’shtola and the Antecedent. They’re…”

“Where are you, Chev?” Loetstymm repeats himself, trying to keep his voice calm and steady. There are some days he regrets the day he was nominated Captain of the Quills - but it’s days like this that he remembers why it was him that was chosen. He’s not the oldest or most experienced, but he is the most level-headed out of them all, the one who stood steady when the world quite literally was crashing down around their ears.

It’s days like this that he remembers why he was nominated and why he really, really really regrets accepting the nomination.

“Llymlaen’s tits,” he curses as he throws a sack of coin at the aetheryte attendant as he storms through Mor Dhona. What few crowds there are disperse at the sight of a big angry Roegadyn man stomping his way through the plaza. He spots a few of the Crystal Braves eying him warily, though he notes that they seem supremely uncomfortable, what with the harsh glares they’re receiving from the Doman refugees and the other adventurer inhabitants of Mor Dhona. The Rising Stones is likely abandoned, and based off of the angry mutterings, the Scions who had resided there had made their escapes.
Loetstymm exchanges a quick glance with one of the Domans who simply nods and jerks his head towards the crystal craters outside of town.

“He couldn’t have picked a better spot?” he grumbles to himself, as he brings the Maelstrom company chocobo whistle to his lips. A great big green-feathered chocobo comes rushing from somewhere by the Rising Stone’s chocobo stables and nearly bowls him over.
“Twelve damn it,” he laughs. “Of course it’d be you,” as he pulls a bunch of gysahl greens and shoves it in his chocobo’s face.

Twenty minutes and an axe buried in a very unfortunate Crystal Brave’s skull later, Loetstymm has T’chev Tia thrown over his chocobo and the two of them are making the long trek up to Camp Dragonhead.

“You the one who got the folks in Mor Dhona all riled up at the Braves?” he asks the blonde Mi’qote.
T’chev snorts dismissively at that. “Didn’t need to. The moment they started rushing about calling for our little lizard’s head the Domans damn near ran them all out of town. Bought those still in the Stones time to make a break for it.”

“And you played bait so that the civvies wouldn’t get hurt.”

“Cactpot, Captain!” the Seeker laughs briefly, grinning widely before it turns into a groan and grimace of pain.

“Idiot.” Loetstymm snorts.

“You hear from Mox?” T’chev asks after a long moment as he pulls a thick blanket around himself from the pack as the weather takes a turn for the positively frosty as they approach Coerthas.

“She made it to Camp Dragonhead,” Loetstymm says. “Randal says she’s surprisingly okay. Which really, doesn’t say much of anything.”

“Alphinaud’s there. She’s got to be all dependable and shit,” T’chev sighs. “Who else went north?”

“Sela, Randal and Mally. Cece’s watching the house,” he adds with a chuckle.

That bit of news sends T’chev into hysterics that quite nearly send him toppling off of the chocobo. The Lalafell was not exactly happy with that order, but she’d follow it and follow it damn well.
Any Braves trying to get near the house would be met with a very angry woman with a gun and a mouth that could make even the most hardened sailor blush.

The next few minutes are spent with Loetstymm desperately casting physick and forcing healing potions into Eorzea’s second worst patient alive. Loetstymm ends up having to tie the idiot to the chocobo as he turns what would normally be a day's journey into four hours.

Loetstymm and T’chev are met at the gates of Camp Dragonhead by a frantic Malena who’s been fidgeting with her staff so much that she looks like she’s near ready to snap it in half.

“YOU!” The moment she lays eyes on T’chev’s sorry state she’s a blur in action, bodily hauling the Mi’qote off of Loetstymm’s chocobo and is carrying him like a sack of potatoes over her shoulder towards the camp’s infirmary. “By the spirits what were you thinking?” Loetstymm can hear her chiding the company rogue, who’s making exaggerated exclamations of pain and suffering, trying to downplay the extent of his injuries. Malena is having none of it and it’s not long before the two of them are out of sight.

“So how bad was it?” Randal has sidled up next to him looking worn and haggard. His vibrant red hair a stark contrast to how pale he looks.
Loetstymm gives him the rundown of the situation. Two of their number are pretty much banned from Mor Dhona, what with Loetstymm having buried an axe in one of the Crystal Braves’ skulls and T’chev having done something to have warranted the way they had been trying to kill him. Their activities would have to be limited to Coerthas for the foreseeable future.

“Wait what the hell did he do?”

“Who knows. Anyway, where’s our little lizard?”

He wasn’t sure what to expect of the young Xaela woman when he found her. He knows her mostly as the tiny quiet, scaled girl who barely spoke that T’chev introduced to him one day.
Moxi is what he called the dark-scaled horned girl. Was a ship navigator on some foreign vessel, looking for a new start in Limsa. Quiet is what he remembers of her back then. Delicate and soft spoken. Her small, thin Auri frame added a sense of fragility to her and the arcanist tome at her hip suggested a bookish nature. As he grew to knew her and her freakishly large aether reserves and combat aptitude for near any and every weapon she laid hands on, Loetstymm found her to be a gentle soul as she focused primarily on healing.
Finding her cursing profusely while smashing a training dummy into splinters with a sword was - unsettling to say the least.

“Captain!” she stops what she’s doing and turns to face him, the sword being held behind her back as if she was trying to hide it. She pauses for a moment as if realizing that what she was doing was stupid and simply held the sword at her side.

“I’d ask if you were alright,” Loetstymm starts off as he steps forward to look at her handiwork. “But I think we both know the answer to that question.” The training dummy has definitely seen better days, he glances over to the side and notes the other destroyed mannequins and sighs.
“I’ve got a rough idea of what happened from T’chev,” he says as he picks up one of the splinters and inspects it. Could work as kindling he supposes. “And Cece has gotten some more information from the Admiral. But I want to hear it from you.”

The story comes out in halting stammers at first, and then it’s a flood of words and angry snarls. For a moment Loetstymm can almost agree with Sela Aliapoh’s vehement hatred of Ul’dahn Lalafells - well Lalafells in general - but had the Bull of Ala Mhigo not dealt with the man himself, Loetstymm would love to introduce the belated Teledji Adeledji to the sharp side of his axe. Maybe if he gets the chance Lord Lolorito could be introduced to the business end of Bravura.
He listens in silence, letting Moxi get the words out. It’s more he’s ever heard her talk in the time he’s known her, but he lets her talk and he just listens.
When she’s done he claps her on the shoulder, and points at the mess she’s made out of the training mannequins.

“Well first things first, if you’re going to use a sword like an axe, I suggest you get a bigger one,” he says calmly. “Second, clean this mess up.”

“What?” the Warrior of Light blurts out incredulously.

“You make a mess you clean it up,” he continues. “It’s only common sense. You’ve made a right mess of Lord Greystone’s courtyard.”

“I don’t think Haurchefant will-” she starts.

“Which brings me to the third thing on the list,” he plows on, blithely ignoring the Xaela girl’s protests. “Both of our Mi’qote crew members have explicitly stated that you are not to be alone with the lord of Camp Dragonhead. Sela would like you to know that you are to inform her the second he gets handsy, and T’chev wants me to tell you that he has called ‘dibs’.”

“It’s not like that at all!” the Xaela girl screeches, her face flushing scarlet in embarrassment. Which frankly, is a much better look for her than the one of dark murder she had worn while narrating the events of the summit.
Loetstymm fixes her with a stern look, which she meets with her own indignant one. The two of them stare at eachother for a moment before Loetstymm puts one of his hands on the much smaller Auri woman’s head. He doesn’t say that everything will be alright. There’s no guarantee that it will all work out and Loetstymm has never believed in empty platitudes and false reassurances.
He ruffles her hair before pointing at the stack of slowly dampening wood.

“I gave you a job to do, adventurer,” he says sternly. The look she gives him is one that needs to be preserved in a painting for all eternity and he successfully manages to keep himself from collapsing into unrestrained laughter.

“Aye aye, Captain.” she grits out from behind her teeth before stomping over towards the pile of wood and sets to work.

Chapter Text

Ishgard was not a place that Malena Strongfist thought she’d ever end up visiting. Ishgard was known for few things, and chief among them was that it was easily summed up in the word ‘inhospitable’. Wildwood Elezens had always had a bit of a reputation for being a stuck-up lot, a reputation that seemed well deserved when Malena had first arrived in Gridania - but she had been told by others that the Gridanians had nothing on their Ishgardian cousins.


Ishgardian inhospitality was an art form according to a Limsan pirate Captain who did not care to divulge how exactly he knew of it. The climate change since the Calamity had helped even more so in propagating the stereotype of the icy cold, holier than thou Ishgardian.

The closed border and fanaticism helped in keeping the tourists away.


The dragons did an even better job of it.


“Remind me why we’re here?” Malena asks as she flings an Aero spell at the oncoming aevis and summoning a jet of water to blast the creature away before ducking behind Roland and his very sturdy armour.


“Lalafells,” Sela spits as she peeks out from behind their paladin to cast a large fire spell at three aevis before sliding back out of sight.


“No, more specifically I mean,” she clarifies as she throws a regenerative spell at Roland.


Malena’s been trying for the past few minutes to put together the sequence of events that has them here at the Observatorium, hiding behind a rapidly breaking wall and a paladin, lobbing spells at an oncoming horde of aevis. She remembers something about important documents needed in Dragonhead. She recalls Lord Haurchefant’s assistant mentioning something about work and odd jobs that needed to be done out and about the Coerthan highlands. The Ixal were acting up and they did kind of owe House Fortemps some favours, so the Captain and T’chev who had been going stir-crazy decided to go off towards Xelphatol to take a gander about the place.


It didn’t make sense for a large group to go off as a scouting party, so the three of them went off to deal with other small jobs. Moxi stayed back in Camp Dragonhead, not allowed to participate in any of these small excursions - she needed to sort out her head, especially after last night’s episode when she’d slapped a goblet of wine out of Roland’s hands.
The captain had the Warrior of Light - slayer of primals, saviour of Eorzea, Garlean bane - sitting in a corner sewing jackets and coats for the camp in the main hall under Lord Haurchefant’s enthusiastic supervision.


“Haha, it sounds like we got conned into leaving Moxi alone with Ser Haurchefant,” Randal laughs good naturedly as he swats an aevis’ lunge aside and promptly behead the creature.


Their red-headed paladin didn’t seem to notice the way Sela tensed up at those words, but he did notice enough in the shift of the aether around them to drop to the ground as the Mi’qote thaumaturge let loose with a Flare spell, incinerating the aevis in front of them. Malena had managed to duck behind their crumbling wall and shield herself from some of the debris.


“What.” the Mi’qote woman says softly. The look on Sela Aliapoh’s face is the one she usually reserves for the Coco brothers whenever business brings them to the Ossuary.
“We’re heading back to Dragonhead. Right now.”


“Uhhh,” Randal vocalizes succinctly gesturing towards the still rather sizable group of aevis charging at them.


“They can deal with them,” Sela snaps waving an arm in the direction of the thoroughly thrashed knights of House Fortemps and Haillenarte.
Randal and Malena exchange glances with each other. Sela’s protectiveness of the younger Au Ra girl was sweet - usually.


However, since entering Camp Dragonhead and seeing the way the Silver Fuller fawned over their youngest company member, a mostly violent protective streak had appeared. It wasn’t that Ser Haurchefant Greystone was a man of ill repute. Far from it. He seemed a decent sort - reasonable, and their little lizard trusted him. Then again Moxi did have a distressingly low bar for what she considered ‘a decent sort’ - she had trusted that snake Laurentius after all.


Malena understood that the Auri girl reminded Sela of her younger sisters, cousins and other relatives of her overly large family. After what had happened in Ul’dah all of them were feeling a bit protective of the eikon slayer - which was funny and sweet in its own way - but it wouldn’t do for the Quills to alienate their host simply because Sela was….Sela.


Randal had that dumb look on his face that he got whenever he was confronted with a problem he did not know how to solve.
“It takes more than an hour to get to to Camp Dragonhead from here.” is what comes out of his mouth, which if he had left it at that things would probably have been fine. Aliapoh could be redirected and they’d get the job done and return after a quick meal.


But Randal being his idiotic self blathered on.


“If his lordship was even the sort to do something, an hour is more than enough time to-”


Predictably about an hour and a little bit later, the three of them are bursting through the gates of Camp Dragonhead. Malena has Randal tossed over the side of a chocobo, casting the occasional cure spell his way to deal with the slightly burnt smell that’s coming off of him. The man was blessed by the Twelve when it came to surviving any and all fire-related disasters - from the fires of Ifrit’s inferno to Sela throwing fireballs at him in a fit of pique.


Sela makes a beeline straight to the main building where they’d left Kahkol angrily patching coats, pushing past the Captain without so much as a word. Captain Fhrubryt watches her go, takes one look at Randal’s sorry state and sighs.

“Job’s done Captain,” she informs the Sea Wolf who simply looks at her and nods tiredly.


The man looks positively dreadful and it takes a lot of self control to not start throwing curative spells at him - though not even a benediction would fix those bags under his eyes.


“Is everything all right?” she asks.


Captain Loetstymm Fhrubryt simply shrugs at that.
“Lord Greystone’s managed to secure our little lizard passage into Ishgard proper.”


That was good news. The sooner Moxi was not within reach of the Crystal Braves and the Monetarists the better - but then why did the Captain look so tired?


“It’s the rest of us that’s the issue. Apparently that one,” he says jerking his chin at their slightly singed paladin. “Is persona non grata in Ishgard proper.”


Malena sighed heavily. Great. Randal’s many storied past coming to haunt them again.


“I did think they were staring an awful lot at us on the Steps of Faith, but I thought it was because of Moxi,” Malena admits as she rubs her brow trying to remember more.


“Aye, but desperate times call for desperate measures - and apparently House Dzemael is willing to overlook only so much. The Alliance's word means nothing to the High Houses of Ishgard.”


Malena’s brow rises at that. What in the seven hells had he done?


Randal Hooper had been part of the Quills long before Captain Fhrubryt had ever approached her at Quarrymill. From what she knew of the man he had been an adventurer for quite some time - a free paladin he called himself - and had been since before the Calamity. T’chev had mentioned that Hooper had been at Carteneau with them, but hadn’t joined up into the Quills until just a little bit after. Since joining the Quills Malena has learned a few key things about the man.


The man is an incorrigible flirt and serial womanizer. She had initially thought of him as dashing, until the first time T’chev brought her along to help drag Randal out of an Ul’dahn brothel. He is also incredibly resilient, capable of taking injuries that would cripple most, which given the number of drunken brawls, and fights he got into, he gave Moxi a run for her money in recovery speed.


He is also a man full of secrets - all of the Quills were.


Everyone had a past, everyone had their own story and the Captain did not care. If you pulled your weight and were true to the crew, he’d have your back.


“Head to Limsa tonight Randal,” the Captain instructs the semi-conscious paladin. “Take Sela with you. Meet up with Ceceli and have her port here. I need the two of you to keep an eye on things there.”


“Aliapoh won’t like it,” Hooper groans as he pushes himself off from the chocobo’s back rubbing his head.


“Captain’s orders. We need information - you and Aliapoh spent the least amount of time at the Rising Stones and with the Braves.”


Randal looks at the Captain for a long moment before nodding firmly. “ You do know Sela is going to murder me, right?” he adds on in an undertone.

“You’ll live,” Loetstymm Fhrubryt shrugs, before tossing the other man a sizeable coin purse. “And I distinctly remember her telling you to keep your hands off her sister.”


Malena decides instantly that this was a conversation that she did not need to hear about and makes her way to the main building.
The stone keep hasn’t burst into flames and she can’t hear any screaming. Good signs all of them. So either Sela was quickly restrained or nothing had happened. 


She comes into Lord Greystone’s office to find Moxi dutifully mending coats as she had been instructed, with the Ishgardian knight seated at his desk speaking most animatedly with T’chev Tia, who had made himself quite at home right on top of the man’s desk.
Sela was crouched next to the Xaela girl asking questions in a soft voice, and the growing look of irritation and the tinge of colour rising in the girl’s cheeks made it clear what sorts of questions Sela was asking.


Well clearly Sela had nothing to worry about, what with their company rogue doing his best to seduce the Lord of Camp Dragonhead - their little lizard’s virtue was perfectly safe.

Chapter Text

It has been oddly quiet for the past few weeks. The Crystal Braves are keeping their distance, and the only news they’ve been getting back in La Noscea is mostly good news - besides the whole ‘Alphinaud and Tataru got themselves accused of heresy’ business and the new Quill recruit - Mitsu.

Mitsu is apparently not his actual name as he frequently and loudly protests over the linkpearl whenever it is brought up. His proper name is Mitsutake Yumishi and he’s a wandering minstrel from Doma, and if one listened to T’Chev Tia, perfection incarnate.

Randal wonders exactly how many screws are missing in Mitsu’s head if they had found him in Ishgard of all places. Considering the treatment of the Auri in Ishgard it was a miracle that Moxi was being treated so well - though anyone stupid enough to try and accuse the Warrior of Light of heresy in Haurchefant’s presence would learn a very painful lesson - those who were stupid enough to try and kill her would learn a very fatal one.

The free company house in the Mists is not a large building by any means, though it is as good a home as any. It’s not exactly spacious given the sheer volume of equipment, supplies and gear they have as a group, but it is comfortably furnished. Just a little messy.

He steps into the company meeting room where Ceceli is sitting reading the latest edition of the Mythril Eye, two steaming cups of tea on the table alongside a light breakfast.
“Morning Cece,” he greets her as he sets down the day’s requests and mail on the table.
“Morning Randal,” the Lalafell says. “Any news from the Captain?”
“Some. We’ll be able to relocate somewhat to Ishgard in the next little bit. Cap’n says Moxi got House Fortemps to let me in.”

He would pay good gil to see the look on Gibert de Dzemael’s face at Randal Hooper walking into Foundation- more gil in fact to be able to smash the pompous bastard’s nose in again.
Cece makes a non-committal noise at that as she sips at her tea.
They sit in an amiable silence as Randal sorts the mail and Cece drinks her tea.

“Anything from Ishgard?” Cece asks, her tone deceptively light as she looks over her newspaper.

“Not particularly,” he says as he brings a teacup to his lips, perusing the stack of hunting bills that he picked up this morning.

“Well, I heard the most fascinating story about our Warrior of Light,” Cece remarks.

“Oh. What was she doing?” Undoubtedly saving small children and smiting primals more likely than not.
This one looked promising, a rogue paissa in the Sea of Clouds - he wonders if Malena would be amenable to accompanying him for that one once he was allowed to set foot in Abalathia again.

“Screaming at a Maelstrom officer and threatening to butcher a merchant, are you sure nothing has happened in Ishgard?” Cece asks, her crimson eyes flashing dangerously.

Randal feels distinctly like he’s about to step into some sort of trap, as he smoothly places the cup back on the table without taking a sip.
“Uhhhhhh…” is the intelligent word that comes out of his mouth. Their little lizard had been acting - not oddly, but rather less restrained. Angrier for sure - more vocal. Where she would simply glare heatedly with clenched fists and a held tongue, she was decidedly more likely to spit in someone’s face.

T’Chev had said she was a spitfire when he had introduced the girl to the rest of them. Randal had not seen any evidence of that whatsoever in his entire acquaintance with her. The most he’d get out of her was a stoic nod, occasionally a timid yes or no, and an odd furtive glance. Spitfire was not the word he would have used to describe her.

She had put down the arcanist tomes and picked up a two-handed claymore, donned plate armour and apparently could throw down with the best of them. Beating the ever living tar out of two of the Heavensward as Tataru’s Champion, cemented the fact that their little lizard was a very talented fighter. And apparently had a mouth on her.

Moxi was a little frayed at the edges some would say - stressed, was what the Captain had said. A hair's breadth away from snapping and killing whoever annoys her, was what Malena had told him.
Part of it was probably having horns and scales in a city state that had been known to butcher Auri refugees for fear of them being heretics, part of it was the Brume and the injustice that permeates throughout all of Ishgard and part of it was probably the whole Ul’Dah business.

The look Cece gives him is like seventeen knives to the gut.

“Randal.”

“She’s coping,” is what he decides to say. “T’Chev says she barely sleeps. If she’s not running around Ishgard trying to solve their problems and the Dragonsong War, she’s porting across all of Eorzea on her own doing Twelve knows what - threatening to butcher merchants apparently. Captain tried ordering her to rest - it didn’t go well.”

They had apparently tried locking her in a room in Lord Fortemps manor and Malena had even tried throwing a sleeping spell at her - that had worked for all of thirty seconds before some dumb soldier, a messenger from some other High House and a moogle had come barging in demanding to speak with the Warrior of Light.
Cece sighs.

“That doesn’t sound like she’s coping well at all.”

Well of course she wasn’t. What their little lizard girl needed was a six-month vacation at Costa Del Sol without a linkpearl and no access to an aethernet.

“The merchant was apparently quite a piece of work, but she…” Cece sighed. “Per the Maelstrom officer she said things that were rather disturbing.”

Now that sent a shiver down Randal’s spine. Malena had mentioned that Kahkol had started becoming more vocal, which wasn’t a bad thing given that before all of this the girl barely spoke more than three words a month - but the Quill’s conjurer had said that their little lizard seemed to occasionally talk to herself.

“Like what exactly?” he asked a pit of dread forming in his stomach.

“She may or may not have said she should have left all of Limsa to be destroyed by Leviathan.”

A somber silence filled the meeting room.

“That’s very much not like her at all,” Randal eventually manages to say breaking the silence.

“No. It’s not.”

Chapter Text

The Quills are an absolutely delightful group, Mitsutake Yumishi marvels as he watches the adventurer party move about the Forgotten Knight. He’s only known them for little more than a week, but they have certainly made an impression.
The wandering minstrel had thought his substantial luck had run out when two drunk Temple Knights decided to take offense to his scaled and horned existence. Most in the bar had turned a blind eye, the angry armoured Xaela by the fireplace had been restrained by the young girl he was shielding with his much bigger bulk as the accusations of heresy and words like dragon spawn were being spat out.
Mitsutake had been fairly certain he was going to be dragged from the Inn and summarily executed and dumped in the Brume, when his very unlikely saviour swanned into the bar.

Well the young Xaela girl had not so much swanned in as swiftly introduced her armoured fist to one Temple Knight’s face.

When the Temple Knights protested the interference, they found themselves being the ones literally booted into the Brume.

Not one to ever turn down a show, Mitsutake had followed as he watched the diminutive Xaela girl beat the two much larger knights down.

The noise of course brought attention, which was when the Quills spilled out of the woodwork.
A blond Mi’qote materialized from the shadows like a shinobi to restrain the girl, while a very large Sea Wolf came out barking for the girl to stand down, while a Hyur conjurer moved forward to tend to the wounded knights.
It promptly came out that Mitsutake’s saviour was one of their adventurer company - who happened to be the Warrior of Light - slayer of gods and Garleans - and late for a meeting with Ser Aymeric, Lord Commander of the Temple Knights.
That had turned his tormentors an astonishing shade of white and they promptly beat a hasty retreat from the frigid alley.

A round of drinks on Mitsutake’s coin and the next thing he knew he was a member of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn.
Well, more specifically an affiliate - the Roegadyn, Captain Fhrubryt stressed, which is how Mitsutake gets the best story he’s had in years. The Quills have been the greatest thing that’s happened to him in years, as the Mi’qote scoundrel put it eloquently: ‘Weird shit happens to us’.
The Captain and the First Mate had been pirates - Not pirates! We were totally pirates Cap - that through a mind-boggling series of events ended up at Carteneau, and through an even more confusing happenstance survived the Calamity. T’Chev had promised to tell him the story, which he was very much looking forward to.
The other crew members included a free paladin with the epithet of ‘The Red’ who was apparently banned from Ishgard following a disagreement he had with House Dzemael, an Ala Mhigan refugee conjurer who Mitsutake suspected was nobility of some sort, an Ul’dahn rival pirate turned friend and a moderately insane thaumaturge.
He had yet to meet Randal, Ceceli and Sela as they were apparently keeping an eye on things in La Noscea. And now he was sitting at a table with a song come to life.

“So,” he says to the Warrior of Light who is mostly just pushing her food around on her plate. He does not blame her, Ishgardian cuisine does not quite suit his own palate. The food at the Forgotten Knight is good, but Mitsutake thinks that he would in fact kill a man for dango.

“Moxi isn’t your real name, is it?” he remarks. It is something that was picking at his curiosity the moment he heard the Warrior of Light’s surname. A Kahkol so far away from the Steppe - and not a refugee from what he had heard from T’Chev.

“It’s what I’m called.” the girl answers warily.

“But it’s a nickname.” he says. “T’Chev told me you sailed from Doma.”

“Hingashi - Moxi is what the crews called me. It’s as good a name as any,” the Xaela girl corrects firmly and Mitsutake decides to drop the subject of her name.

“I sailed from Hingashi myself,” Mitsutake says conversationally. “But I’ve travelled over most of Othard. I met a Kahkol in Reunion.”
The girl’s eyes flicked at him momentarily before angrily stabbing a fork into her food and putting it in her mouth.
She did not want to talk about the Steppe it seemed. Or much at all it seemed.

“Huh, so what on earth possessed you to come to Ishgard of all places?” Malena Strongfist asks as she set her tray of food down at their table.

“Well that’s actually a bit of a funny story,” Mitsutake grins, picking a little at the scales on his face. “A sailor spoke of a Dragonsong - a song that has been sung for over a thousand years.”
And like a single-minded fool he had booked passage to Eorzea and made his way to Ishgard. Looking back on his trip, it was somewhat of a miracle that he had not died.

“Neglected to mention that it was a War, did he? Typical sailor.” Malena laughed.

"Oh no, he most likely did mention it - I might have missed him saying it though," Mitsutake laughs a little at himself.

“There is a song,” T’Chev smirks, sliding right in next to Mitsutake - despite there being a good chunk of table being free. “Ain’t that right Mox?”

The Xaela girl nodded. “Not sure if it’s dragons or the Gnath, but there’s music in the Dravanian Forelands near the Spine.”

“It’s probably both,” T’Chev says, throwing an arm around Mitsutake’s shoulders. “The prettier sounding one is the dragons. The buzzing is the bugmen.”

Eorzea’s Champion simply shrugs before pushing her unfinished food towards the Mi’qote.

“T’Chev’s got a better ear for this sort of thing, have him take you out to Tailfeather - I wouldn’t go past the Whilom though. The Gnath control that area.” the Xaela girl says disinterestedly before rising from the table.

The other free company members watch her concernedly.
“Ship meeting at seventh bell Adventurer,” T’Chev says. “I know you think the Captain was joking about late-comers swabbing decks, but I can tell you that Greenie’s damn serious about it.”

That brought a dry smirk to the Warrior of Light’s face. “He’d need a ship for that.”

“He’d find one, just for you. You know that.”

The Xaela girl puts her greatsword across her back as she walks away, a lazy wave farewell as she set out into the frigid streets of Ishgard.
T’Chev and Malena both let out huge sighs.
“That could’ve gone worse,” Malena groans. “Do you know where she’s going?”

The blond Mi’qote sighs, picking up the girl’s abandoned fork and plate and promptly begins shoveling the half-eaten food into his face.

Mitsutake has noticed that the Quills are rather protective of the Xaela girl. He had asked the Captain why they all worried so much about the Champion of Eorzea. She was a superlative warrior - to which the Captain had answered that it wasn’t her body they were worried about - but her heart. The events that had led to their visit to Ishgard were not fully known to the general public - but it had not been the best of circumstances that had brought them to Abalathia. The whole crew was tight-lipped about the exact circumstances, but it was understood that no one tried to take Moxi’s sword from her and she was free to do what she wished.

“I’m not a mind-reader Mal.” he says between mouthfuls. “And you know it don’t work like that. It’s not exactly something I can control. She’s probably headed to House Fortemps or Dragonhead. Haurchefant was called back to the fort. There's talk that Svara was spotted at the Steel Vigil.”
Mitsutake hears the words but has no idea what any of them might mean.
“So Mitsu,” the rogue says, turning to face him, a toothy grin spreading across his face. “How about I help you find that song of yours?”

-

Loetstymm’s not sure how he ended up in this situation. Well actually he does know exactly how and why he’s in this situation but the whole affair has a degree of confusion hanging over it.

Loetstymm’s not sure if he’s regretting bringing Mitsu aboard, it was safer for the Auri man with them. Their association with House Fortemps offered a degree of protection that the Raen bard didn’t have on his own - and the man was a crack shot with a bow and had an arm that could fling javelins harder than a dragoon. He could carry his weight and wasn’t too squeamish about dead bodies. Truth be told he was a great addition to the team.

It wasn’t the man’s fault that he happened to be exactly Chev’s type.

He was happy that his oldest friend had found love - or lust - again. It was a good thing that Chev was moving on, he reminded himself. Loetstymm could not recall a time in recent history since the Calamity that he’d heard Chev gush that much about a man’s ass. Oh he’d talked a bit about Lord Haurchefant’s, but that was more to get Moxi to blush and stammer than a true interest.

He’d just forgotten how much of an idiot his best friend was when he was in love.

For some unfathomable reason, T’Chev and Mitsu had grabbed a pair of chocobos and took off towards Tailfeather on an adventure as Mitsu had decided to call it. Loetstymm could hear the ear waggle over the linkpearl and had to finish off his tankard before he could even begin thinking about how he was going to get the two of them back safely.
Mitsu had called in somewhat of a panic three hours ago that they had been walking along the Whilom River - discussing something about a song and then the Mi’qote had grabbed his head and promptly dropped like a rock into the river. The Auri man had dove after him and the next thing he knew he’s carrying an unconscious man over his shoulder through the Smoldering Wastes and trying to hide from Gnath firedrones at the same time.

The bard could not exactly teleport back to Tailfeather much less Foundation with Chev lost in an Echo daze, and so Loetstymm as Captain of the Quills needed to escort them back. Somehow.

“This Mitsu is a bit of an idiot, isn’t he?” a familiar voice remarks with a laugh.

Loetstymm looks up from his seat, as Randal and Ceceli blink into existence from the aetheryte.

“He fits right in, then,” Randal answers, grinning down at Cece.
“When T’Chev said he was going to help Mitsu find his song, I didn’t think he actually meant ‘wander about the Dravanian wilderness’.” Malena grumbles angrily, her hands gripping her staff twisting it much like how Loetstymm imagines her wringing T’Chev’s neck.

“What did you think he meant?” Cece asks a grin growing on her face, to which Malena blushes.

“Never mind that,” the Hyur woman huffs. “Whereto Captain?”

Loetstymm unfurls the map of the Forelands he’d gotten from one of the chocobokeep’s and motioned towards the south-western quadrant.

“Mitsu said he and Chev are in Gnath territory, which per the hunters is pretty much all of this. Now, we don’t know how far down the Whilom they went, so there’s a lot of ground to cover. The good folk here at Tailfeather are lending us some chocobos while we search for our wayward companions.” Loetstymm gestures to Chev’s chocobo that is pawing at the dirt angrily. “Cece you’re taking old Skittles here down the east side. Randal, you and Mal are going to check out the ruins near the Vath’s position. I'm going to edge along the dragon territory, in case they ended up on the other side."

“Why me Cap? Randal’s about T’Chev’s height, why do I have to deal with His Featheriness?” Cece demands, gesturing angrily at their First Mate’s prize chocobo.

“You’re the only one the feathery bastard is scared enough of to listen to.” Loetstymm says firmly.

With anyone who was not a tanned, blond Seeker of the Sun rogue named T’Chev Tia, Skittles the Chocobo was voidsent in feathery form. His heart as black as its plumage, the bird was a right pain in the ass to deal with. Skittles was the scion of a long line of bad-tempered Ishgardian black chocobos that had been gifted to the Maelstrom once upon a time, and was the nightmare of many a chocobokeep.
Ceceli Celi had a strange relationship with the chocobo. The bird often went out of its way to try and annoy the Lalafell, who responded in kind.
The former Sanguine Siren was blessed with the Echo - her particular manifestation of its powers of language had extended towards even animals, which led to angry arguments in the chocobo stables consisting of Cece hurling insults at the cantankerous bird as it squawked back its own - allegedly.

His tone brooking no arguments, Loetstymm handed out maps and a stack of sparklers and glamour prisms. The Gnath apparently used smoke to ward off the dragons in their territory which occasionally made visibility poor.
“Red for trouble, and use the blue if you find them. And use the damn mission channel,” he informs his crew firmly, with a pointed look at Randal.

“That was one time!” the paladin protests, to which both Cece, Malena and even Skittles stare at him.
Loetstymm merely raises an eyebrow, to which the paladin promptly presses his linkpearl.

“Aye aye Captain,” he sighs.

Chapter Text

“No.”

“Sela.”

“I said: No.” The dusky skinned Keeper of the Moon levels a baleful glare in Malena’s direction.

“I don’t see you volunteering for this.” Sela remarks darkly. Of course Malena wanted nothing to do with this job. Their Gridanian Conjurer hated Little Ala Mhigo, absolutely refused to set foot in the damn place. And if Malena could turn down jobs that involved Ala Mhigo, Sela had the same right to refuse jobs that disagreed with her.

“Sela, you’re being ridiculous,” Malena says. “It’s a straightforward enough job. It doesn’t even involve the Ossuary!”

Sela feels all the hair on her body rise at that. Did Malena solely think that the only issues she had was with Ossuary? Or that it took part in Thanalan?

The linkpearl crackles to life and the voice of the Captain comes over the aether.

Sela, Mal. What in the seven hells is taking so long?!” Sela winces a little at the Captain’s tone.

“Everything’s fine Captain,” Malena answers him calmly, shooting Sela a look.

Fine. FINE you say?!” And now both women are wincing. The Captain is livid. “Need I remind you that the Amalj’aa are summoning a swivin’ PRIMAL?! I don’t give a damn about your issues with the Twelve-damned Ala Mhigans or your stupid prejudices. If I don’t hear that Ifrit is dust in half an hour -"

The Captain hasn’t gotten to what his exact threat would be, when a tired voice comes on over the linkpearl.

What’s this about Ifrit?” Moxi’s voice comes in over the linkpearl, hoarse and scratchy.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Go back to sleep,” Sela orders the girl firmly, which the stubborn Xaela girl ignores.

I can be there in - mmf!” The Xaela girl’s voice is cut off abruptly.

That was Chev,” The Captain explains before Sela can say anything. “Mitsu’s taken her linkpearl. Get. To. Work.

The esteemed Warrior of Light was laid up in bed with a particularly nasty cold. It was her just reward for running about the Coerthan wilderness without a proper coat - and whatever it was that had happened at Whitebrim had tuckered the girl right out. Of course the world didn’t wait on the Warrior of Light, and the Amalj’aa certainly did not.

A small crystal caravan on its way to Ala Mhigo had been attacked by mysterious forces, the merchants taken prisoner and now Ifrit was apparently being summoned. Again.
The Immortal Flames had formally requested aid from Echo-blessed adventurers to deal with the primal threat. The Captain had had put their Free Company name down years ago as a contact for primals, and of course they were called.

They had always had a decent reputation as an adventurer group, had been even before the Calamity - they were almost a household name in La Noscea, and the Captain was well known as a reliable sort to the Adventurer’s Guild and Baderon. Since Moxi joined, they were one of the most sought-after adventurer groups when it came to dealing with primal situations.

Malena and Sela both trade identical looks of resignation.

If it would let Moxi get another hour of rest and keep her out of Thanalan, Sela supposed she could stomach rescuing a caravan of greedy Lalafell merchants. The silly girl would insist on saving every single one of the ungrateful, scheming miniature bastards. Sela had thought she would have learned that one could never trust a Lalafell after Ul’dah - but Moxi had always been a little naive.

“I suppose we’d best get to it,” Malena remarks tiredly, as she prepares to teleport.
Sela nods, as she readies her own teleport spell.

This had better be worth it.

-0-

Loetstymm actually cannot blame Mally and Sela for the way this has turned out. Of course the merchants had lied about the contents of their caravan. There were rules to large crystal shipments travelling across Eorzea - guards cost gil you know. So of course the caravan was eighty-five percent illegal.

Cece looks right set to shoot the shifty Hellsguard in the kneecaps to drop his face within spitting level and Loetstymm has half a mind to let her.

An Immortal Flames officer screams about how this man’s cost-cutting efforts has practically doomed all of Thanalan.

“Where’s the Warrior of Light?” the Hellsguard has the gall to demand, and Loetstymm has to bodily put himself between Cece and the man. “Send word to her and she can deal with it. She’s defeated the Lord of the Inferno before!”

“The Warrior of Light is one girl.” High Commander Swift storms over from where he has emerged from his office to put the fear of the Twelve into the merchant. “And she’s not here.” he practically snarls before turning to Loetstymm.

And given her behaviour over the past few weeks, more likely to behead the merchant than Ifrit, Loetstymm keeps that particular thought to himself.

“My apologies Captain, I have it that two of yours are at the scene.”

Loetstymm nods. He’d gotten a panicked, highly distorted transmission of outrage that there were a hell of a lot more crates than they had been told and the fiery bastard had just split himself into four.

Help.

That had him leaving T’Chev in charge of the Ishgard situation, grabbing Ceceli and heading straight to Ul’dah and the Immortal Flames and then as soon as they were done here it was straight to the Bowl of Embers. “The two of us are going to be heading into the Bowl soon. Aliapoh reports that they managed to get three of the caravaners out.”

“The other four?” Swift asks though from his expression he already knows the answer. Loetstymm shakes his head, when a gunshot goes off and the merchant is on his knees and screaming.

“Cece!”

“Thal’s balls! You shot me!”

Ceceli Celi is shaking with anger as she has her handgonne pointed at the Hellsguard merchant’s head.

“If my friends are dead or as good as, you’re going to have a hell of a lot more to cry about you fuckin’ bastard.”

Loetstymm grabs Cece and bodily lifts her away from the merchant and trades a look with Commander Swift who nods him away.
“You know him?” he asks her in a low voice, as he sets her on his shoulder as they leave the very uncomfortable stares of the Flames.

“Defiant Weasel.”

“What?”

“His name!” she hisses. Right. Hellsguard and their weird-ass names.

“His reputation is slightly better than shit, which is pretty good for Ul’dah. But shit is shit, and it all stinks. I know some of them lot who work for him.” she says quietly.

Loetstymm nods once. Right. If Cece’s friends were those who had been tempered, the weasel would be dealt with. But first there was a primal they needed to kill.

-0-

The Bowl is much like Loetstymm remembers it the first time. It is uncomfortably warm. Moreso as he’s parrying away the highly-illegal crystal powered Ifrit’s jaws with the flat of his axe, and rushing forward to slide between the beast’s legs to escape the rapidly heating ground beneath his feet.

He brings his axe up to block a furious swipe of the primal’s claws, as Ifrit spins about, knocking Loetstymm back towards the centre of their arena.

“He’s going to spew Cap!” Malena calls out helpfully, as she books it towards the edge of the flames, away from the rest of them.

Normally he would rather have the group’s conjurer a little closer, to ensure he was still in range of her healing arts, but Ifrit had spat something onto her that caused waves of heat to pulse off of Malena that could knock the rest of them off of their feet. Malena was fine with the help of the elementals and her regenerative spells, and she was working on dispelling whatever sort of hex it was, but getting knocked off your feet every so often was not helpful when it came to dodging a primal’s attacks, so she was keeping her distance from the other three.

He thinks they've got the fiery bastard on his last legs - given that he's almost out of his usual tricks. They managed to break the nails, and dispel his stupid afterimages or clones or whatever in the seven hells those fiery abominations were.

Just a little more.

Loetstymm lunges to his feet and swings Bravura up right into Ifrit’s leathery neck, forcing the primal’s jaws away from him , as Sela drops a pillar of ice onto the Lord of the Inferno’s back. He’s got Bravura wedged in deeply into the delicate underside of the monster’s neck.

Just one more good swing and they've got him.
The pillar shatters sending frigid shards scattering into the air that reflect light prettily and wait a minute -

“MOVE IT OR LOSE IT FHRUBRYT!” he hears Cece yell, and he lets go of Bravura, and jumps back as a beam of light ricochets through the shards, piercing through the primal’s leathery hide.
Clever move, he grins as Ifrit roars in pain. An explosion from Cece's wildfire skill on the creature’s left leg staggers the primal.

Not one to leave a chance to kick a monster while it was down untaken, Loetstymm charges forward and rams his considerable bulk towards Bravura, grabbing the handle and tugging as he goes vaulting over the primal’s head.
He hears more than sees the tearing and ripping of flesh as he thinks he just beheaded the Lord of the Inferno.

Pushing himself to his feet, Loetstymm wipes the sweat from his brow and turns to the rapidly disappearing corpse.

“Huh. It worked.” he says, as Malena approaches, her staff glowing and he feels each and every cut and burn he sustained during the battle heal.

Cece tosses Malena an ether vial, which the conjurer promptly downs.

“You get Ifrit’s snot off?” Sela asks from the opposite end of the circle of fire.

“Yes. It dissipated once his head fell off.”

There’s a slight shift in the air as Sela materializes next to Loetstymm.

“Good. Don’t much fancy getting knocked into Miss Popoto over there again.”

Loetstymm brings a hand up for silence before Cece and Sela can get into another of their shouting matches in the middle of Amalj’aa territory.

“Right. Cece and Sela, report to Commander Swift that the job’s done. Mally and I will get the survivors home.”
Loetstymm finds himself on the receiving end of two identical glares of indignant rage. Both women have opened their mouths to give him a piece of their minds.

“There’s a Weasel that needs taking care of, and you’re actually a member of the Flames Sela. You have paperwork.” he reminds the two.

“Oh.”

Chapter Text

“So let me get this straight,” Randal states as he looks about the threadbare inn room at the three other men.

“You want me to get myself kicked out of Ishgard - again?” 

“Well ideally no,” T’Chev says nonchalantly. “If all goes as planned they’ll never know it was us.”

Randal levels a stern look in the rogue’s direction. 

“If it doesn’t, which given how our plans tend to go, I’m the one they’ll be pushing down Witchdrop.” 

“You’d live.”

An awkward silence settles in the room as no one has anything more to say. T’Chev has outlined the job and made his point, Randal has stated his objections. They are effectively at an impasse. It’s a little disturbing how blasé his party is about the whole thing. Mitsu is  excused for being new and clearly confused about what is going on - but the Captain’s entire demeanour is a little worrying.

Randal is not sure if Fhrubryt is agreeing with T’Chev or if he’s just beyond fed up at this point and could not care less about how ridiculous their lives have become.

“You’re the only one who can get in there unnoticed.” The Captain says, gesturing at his large, green, Roegadyn self. Mitsu wouldn’t be able to take a step into the Cathedral without having all eyes on him being near seven fulms tall with his white scales and horns and T’Chev…. well Ishgard wasn’t exactly home to many Miqo’te, they’d be pegged as the culprits in record time.

“It’s not the kind of job I enjoy taking on, but staying in Ishgard ain’t cheap.” The Captain sighs. 

“Bullshite Greenie,” Randal shoots back. “You love these sorts of things.”

“They’re paying real good money for it,” the Roegadyn shrugs. “Which we need.”

Randal knows a lost battle when he sees it. There’s no getting around this.

“How did we even get this job in the first place?” he groans to himself as he wonders how exactly he is going to get that much pink paint into the Cathedral.

“I’m sixty-percent sure we’re just a distraction for something,” T’Chev throws out, which Mitsu noticeably perks up at. “Either that or it really is just  a petty grudge.”

“You didn’t get us mixed up in High House politics did you?” Randal demands - though given what the job is asking of them it seems extremely likely.

As petty as dumping paint on some noble lord might be, doing it in the middle of a church was most definitely a message someone was trying to send.

T’Chev and the Captain trade looks which is extremely worrying.

“Maybe?” Loetstymm Fhrubryt shrugs.

“If it makes you feel better, we got the job from Corentiaux?” T’Chev offers.

Lord Haurchefant’s subordinate? 

“The target in question is a Dzemael cousin Gilbert or something who talked shit about-”

“Why didn’t you lead with that?” Randal exclaims, all prior misgivings gone out the window. If this involved Gibert de Dzemael, Randal would booby trap every door in the Cathedral. “When do we start?”

 

-0-

“We find ourselves here, under the watchful gaze  of Halone - “

Randal cannot say he isn’t surprised it has managed to come to this. Gibert de Dzemael is glaring murder at him from across the spiked fences, his hair still flecked with colibri pink paint.

The unamused look the Captain is burning into the back of his skull him tells him all he needs to know about how much Loetstymm disapproves of Randal having stayed back those extra few moments to gloat that had gotten him promptly arrested. Artoirel de Fortemps is also extremely put out that yet another associate of House Fortemps has been put on trial - and with no Warrior of Light to save him. 

Moxi was pretty peeved with what T’Chev had communicated to her - but she was busy breaking General Raubahn out of prison, so Randal would have to bloody well save himself. 

Randal took some offense to her words - he was more than capable of championing himself. He had broken Gibert’s nose on his own once before and could very well do it again! 

“Randal Hooper, you stand accused of heresy and -”

“I beg your pardon?” Randal interrupts the speaker. “Heresy? I dumped three buckets of paint on an old acquaintance of mine. How does one go from pink paint to consorting with dragons?!”

He can hear the sound of Loetstymm slamming his palm to his forehead, and his exasperated sigh.

The Elezen speaker stares at Randal, who figures since he’s already put his foot in it as usual, he might as well go all in.

“If this is the standard for detective work in Ishgard, it’s no wonder no one noticed that a heretic had replaced one of your inquisitors and had you lot chucking three dozen innocents down Witchdrop. Anyway, if it’s heresy I’m accused of and you Ishgardians are just waiting for an excuse to watch someone bleed, let’s skip all of the formalities and I’ll fix Dzemael’s nose for you all again. I’ll take one trial by combat to prove my innocence of being a heretic.” he informs the somewhat stunned audience.

“It’s probably what dear old Gibbers wants anyway.”

“You sure he’s not drunk Captain?” he hears T’Chev ask in the world’s loudest stage whisper in the ensuing silence. “That’s the most coherent argument I’ve heard from him in years .”

“Shut up Chev.” 

The Ishgardian speaker seems a little stunned for a moment, before turning to Dzemael who’s turned positively pink in anger - or it could be the paint - who gives a terse nod and is going for his spear.

Randal has his sword and shield promptly placed into his hands and is unceremoniously shoved forward into the rapidly forming arena.

He gives his blade a quick twirl before looking over at Gibert de Dzemael. The Elezen is of course a good deal taller than Randal, and it looks like the dastard had managed to put on a good deal of muscle. He held that spear like he actually knew how to use it - a significant change since their last ‘duel’. 

Well it has been a good long while since he’s seen the man - he might actually very well have become a soldier in these ten...fifteen or so years.

Randal promptly retracts that thought on  Dzemael when the idiot charges straight for him, and he neatly sidesteps the thrust and bashes the man’s face in with his shield.

To the man’s credit he doesn’t go down immediately, but he lost the advantage of his weapon the moment he stepped into Randal’s space, and receives a swift kick in the loins which sends him sprawling. It didn’t do as much damage as Randal would have liked, but it did put Gibert’s head within easy reach.

The elezen has little chance to move before Randal’s sword is at his throat.

“Really Dzemael?” Randal sighs. “After fifteen years you would think you’d have learnt how to wield a spear.”

“Why you…” the lordling begins to snarl, but the two of them are promptly separated. 

Randal barely listens as the speaker drones on about how Randal has proven his innocence in the eyes of the Fury and so on. 

It is when Randal and the rest of the Quills are sitting in the Inn regaling Moxi with the tale that the girl brings up that Gibert de Dzemael is - per Emmanalien de Fortemps - one of the pre-eminent spearmen of the Holy See.

“You’ve apparently upped the view on adventurers in Ishgard,” a traveller from Gridania informs them. “My friends tell me that they’re starting to get some real jobs for the free companies.”

“If Gibbers is the best they’ve got no wonder they’re losing the Dragonsong War…”Randal mutters unkindly to himself.

T’Chev side eyes him at that.

“You do know that your old pal only has his rank because of his name. And to be perfectly honest that duel was simply unfair.”

Randal stares in confusion as Mitsu nods his agreement.

“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed Randal, but you’re ungodly quick. Not as quick as  Moxi but you can move in that armour of yours.” the Auri man tells him, patting his arm gently.

“Well I should very well hope so. If you can’t move you’re dead against any primal.” Randal says indignantly. “And it is a fool’s game to compare oneself to our Warrior of Light in terms of martial prowess.”

Said Warrior of Light was currently half a table away speaking in hushed tones with the giant Auri man in dark armour in the corner with the young Elezen girl he was always with.

“Speaking of our Warrior of Light, who exactly is she getting herself involved with?” he asks T’Chev, who simply shrugs. 

“Sid? He’s alright. It’s nothing Sela need get worked up over. Our little lizard’s only got eyes for one tall silver-haired man.”

“They look alike.” Randal notes, firmly avoiding the topic of the Warrior of Light’s romantic interests. He’d been set on fire enough times to not want to be involved.

 The dark-coloured scales and horns, silver-hair, on a completely superficial level the two Xaela did look somewhat alike. Their little lizard however was nowhere near as pale of complexion as this Sid fellow, but siblings did not always resemble one another. Sela was proof enough of that. 

“They’re not related,” Mitsu says confidently before adding. “Probably.”

“What do you mean probably ?” Randal hisses.

“The Kahkol are a tribe of orphans. Few if any of them are blood related. Some are born into the tribe, but most are wanderers or refugees of a sort. Sidurgu has mentioned that he’s grown up here in Ishgard. One of his parents may have been a Kahkol.” Mitsu explains. T’Chev looks intrigued and starts asking questions which leads to the Raen bard giving an impromptu lecture on the various tribes and customs of the Azim Steppe - which Randal has absolutely no interest.

Randal stands up from the table hoping to leave the two men alone and retire to their rooms and retire for the night when the Captain coming down from the stairs motions for him to stay. He’s got a pack and a letter in his hands and Randal has a vague idea of what this is going to be.

“Let me guess, back to La Noscea with me Cap’n?” he sighs, to which Loetstymm shakes his head, as he glances about the room.

“Yes! Big job. Good pay,” he says brightly. “You’ll need to leave as soon as possible to meet the client.” Loetstymm’s big grin is clearly forced and the way he scanned the room before speaks volumes as to what’s going on. T’Chev continues to ask Mitsu multiple questions about the Azim Steppe but Randal notices the glint in his eye and the way his posture has shifted.

Oh he’s in deep shite isn’t he. 

Moxi hasn’t missed the Captain’s particular tone of voice, nor had she missed the shift in T’Chev’s demeanour. A questioning eyebrow goes up as she glances over at them, to which Loetstymm gives her a slight shake of the head.

“Here’s the package, and instructions. You’d best be getting yourself back to the Maelstrom.” the Captain informs him shoving what he was carrying into Randal’s arms. The envelope has the words Tailfeather and then an arrow pointing towards the word Idyllshire.

“Aye aye Captain,” Randal grins back as he heads towards the door. 

Guess he was banished from Ishgard again.

 

Chapter Text

If one were to ask Alphinaud Leveilleur what he thought about the Warrior of Light’s Free Company, the word he would use to describe it would be - eccentric.

Oh they were a competent bunch, hailing mostly from La Noscea and many of them blessed with the Echo, the Quills were a small but competent band of adventurers but they were an odd group.

The other city-states simply owed their eccentricity towards their rougher origins - Limsa was a city-state of pirates after all - the Limsa Lominsans disavowed themselves of any responsibility for their quirks.

Alphinaud’s first encounter with the Quills was - putting it rather lightly - traumatic. He had been cornered in Mor Dhona by a dusky-skinned Keeper of the Moon with piercing green eyes who demanded that he stop dragging her friend into danger and was on the verge of threatening him at knife point, when she had promptly been tackled by a blonde Miqo’te and practically tossed to a very large green-skinned Roegadyn who rushed off carrying the woman over his shoulder like a sack of popotoes, shouting apologies, while the woman threatened to burn them all alive.

The blonde Miqo’te had promptly patted him on the head, called him by name and then promptly vanished into thin air. 

When he brought up this strange happening with the others at the Rising Stones, the Warrior of Light’s face took on an interesting look - halfway torn between annoyance and mirth. 

“I’ll talk to Sela.” she had huffed out before explaining. “That’s the adventurer crew I worked with when I started out. The Roegadyn is Captain Fhrubryt, T’chev is the First Mate and Sela…is Sela. They’re good people.”

Chatting with the other Scions in the Rising Stones, Alphinaud is met with much surprise that he had not met the Quills as they were a moderately famous group to any self-respecting Limsa Lominsan - and that the Scions had worked with them on occasion. 

The story went that Loetstymm Fhrubryt took up the adventuring life after the definitely-not-a-pirate ship he had sailed with got itself blown up by Garleans. The Sea Wolf had always been big for his age, big for his race even, incredibly charismatic and deadly with an axe, so it didn’t take long for him to pull together a motley pirate-adventurer crew of the weird and probably insane.

T’chev Tia was a noted oddball of the Rogue’s guild. A downright wizard with knives, a knack for knowing things he shouldn’t, a competent sailor and a reputation for being the easiest man in Limsa - provided that you fit his criteria of being male, taller than him and had an accent. There were also rumours of him being La Noscea’s best assassin, but he laughed those rumours off. A good assassin’s kills are unfortunate accidents, he had laughed brightly.

Ceceli Celi was a Sanguine Siren who was known to have full blown profanity ridden conversations with assorted animals and had a particular hatred for birds. How exactly Fhrubryt and T’chev had gotten her to leave the Sirens and join up with them was apparently a mystery, but the Lalafell was a known crack-shot who had an unfortunate habit of blowing her cover firing upon avian wildlife over perceived insults.

The three ex-pirates had then promptly ran nearly every would-be adventurer arcanist in Limsa through the gauntlet in trying to find a company healer. There was a list in the Drowned Wench that Baderon kept of the healers that refused to have anything to do with the Quills.

Oh they did have Malena Strongfist of Gridania who was willing to work with them, but the conjurer refused to participate in any and all jobs that had to do with Southern Thanalan. As the Ala Mhigan woman had put it - she was deathly allergic to Ala Mhigans.

It wasn’t until Moxi Kahkol had wandered off a boat after the Calamity into Limsa and ended up joining them that they got a semi-regular healer. Prior to her arrival, most stories involving the Quills involved daring escapes and creative and inappropriate use of potions and elixirs. 

Nights out in the Dravanian wilderness are cold, but with Ysayle’s stew and Moxi’s seemingly never ending supply of blankets that she and Ysayle keep piling onto him, much to Estinien’s amusement, Alphinaud is finding that he is almost uncomfortably warm. 

The Auri woman has ever been a woman of few words, but with some prompting from Ysayle about the life of an adventurer, she speaks of the Quills and their early misadventures throughout La Noscea. The small jobs before she was famous.

“So the damn kid is just outside of my spell range, and I tell the Captain that there’s no guarantee that the spell won’t cut out right over the chasm if I try to pull’im from the edge.” The limbal rings reflecting the fire light make her silver-blue eyes positively glow as she narrates the story, setting the scene with a pile of small stones and a crude map sketched into the dirt.

“Cap Fhrubryt’s a smart fellow, but he’s damn reckless. He asks me to confirm exactly how many yalms from the edge the kid would need to be, and he gives T’chev this look.” she sighs almost exasperatedly as Ysayle hangs onto her every word. “Crazy bastard jumps onto the Captain’s shoulders and the Captain just throws him across the canyon to the other side!”

“How wide was this canyon again?” Ysayle asks.

“More than 30 yalms at least. Cap threw T’chev little more than half that distance,” she says as she moves the small stones over her makeshift map. “Now T’chev has some strange tricks that I’m not wholly familiar with, it’s similar to a thaumaturge’s aetherial manipulation but it doesn’t really use aether - not the point. Anyway he uses one of those tricks to bridge the rest of the way, and now he’s just picking the kid up. He then shouts ‘think fast Kahkol!’ at me and then jumps off the cliff.”

“What?!”

The Warrior of Light nods with a light chuckle. 

“That was my reaction. Cece was screaming at Cap, I was screaming at T’chev, the kid was screaming. I caught them and pulled them to safety, but it was a near thing. Cap had me practice catching things with aether for weeks after that.” she sighed. “They all took turns throwing stuff at my head, or jumping off the upper levels of Limsa. Baderon got the Admiral to make them stop.”

Having met Captain Fhrubryt during their stay at Camp Dragonhead and Ishgard proper, Alphinaud blanches at the thought of the bulky, heavily armoured Roegadyn plummeting towards him from above and understands why the head of the Adventurer guild would want them to refrain from such training exercises. 

“Your adventurer friends seem like a lively group.”

The Warrior of Light ducks her head as a small smile spreads across her face.

“They are. It was just the four of us at first, with Malena coming along more often than not. Then we met Sela when dealing with the Red Belly Hive in Gridania, and Cap pulled Randal out of a ditch near Buscarron’s Druthers. He was a free paladin at Carteneau apparently and T’chev and Ceceli recognized him.” 

Estinien’s interest is drawn at that.

“Randal Hooper?” the Azure Dragoon asks questioningly.

A small nod from both Scions, to which Estinien smiles thinly.

“The man’s name is well known to the small folk of Ishgard.”

“For breaking Gibert de Dzemael’s nose, or at least that’s what he says got him pushed down Witchdrop the first time.” Moxi states, to which Ysayle and Alphinaud turn to stare at her. 

“Hm.” is all Estinien says, which in Estinien speak probably means that there is far more to the story than that. Alphinaud expects Moxi to ask for further elaboration, but she doesn’t. It occurs to him that perhaps she already knows the whole story. She does have the Echo and has decided not to elaborate. 

A pleasant silence falls over their small group as the campfire crackles in the centre.

“Right. I’ll take first watch.” The Warrior of Light announces. “Rest up. I’m quite sure there’ll be all sorts of lovely creatures trying to eat us tomorrow.” She says before pulling yet another blanket out of her pack and throwing it at Estinien.

Chapter Text

Mitsutake is a stranger in Eorzea. He was born in a brothel and grew up in a wide variety of taverns throughout Kugane. He likes to think of himself as a worldly man. A man who has travelled amongst some of the stranger Xaela tribes and through the rough underbelly of Othard. He has seen a great many strange traditions and rituals but he is not quite sure what exactly he is looking at.

“Why are you all naked?!” he manages to get out in what is absolutely not a hysterical screech.

“We’re not naked .” Sela states, gesturing at herself, while Mitsutake keeps his eyes firmly fixed to the sky. 

It’s a sunny day, not a cloud in sight.

What were they all doing? Randal is whittling away with a small knife while Sela is repairing the chocobo saddle bags. Malena appears to be enchanting jewelery and Moxi is knitting a sweater. These actions were almost exceedingly normal, but apparently the Quills did not operate normally , for they were all sitting on the docks of Limsa Lominsa in extremely worrying states of undress. The most decent was the Warrior of Light and that was because she hadn’t taken that feather hair pin off.

“You’re in your smallclothes. That’s not even a swimsuit.” Mitsutake is actually surprised that the overprotective Keeper hasn’t taken a blanket and thrown it over the Warrior of Light.

“It’s tradition,” T’chev drawls from where he’s sitting - in his smallclothes - next to the Captain who grunts in assent, focused on his fishing line. Mitsutake is seeing more of his free company than he had ever wanted to.

“If you’re not comfortable stripping down to your skivvies,” Ceceli calls from where she’s frying a fish on a small cook top - in her underwear. “I think Wawalago has a spare subligar somewhere?”

Mitsutake pointedly ignores the way T’chev’s ears prick up at that and instead turns towards the Captain and hopes the man will have answer for him.

“Tradition?”

“Yup.” is all the answer Loetstymm Fhrubryt gives him. 

T’chev laughs brightly as he stands up. Mitsutake takes a step back from the handsome blonde Miqo’te, because the man is practically naked and he doesn’t want to embarrass himself. Bastard knew he was good looking and had to be doing this on purpose.

“Good luck getting anything out of the Cap when he’s fishing. Anyway this ain’t a Limsan tradition or anything. It’s an adventurer one - sort of.” the rogue says as he stretches. 

“What.”

Mitsutake has met quite a few adventurers in his years on this star. He has never, ever heard of a tradition wherein adventurer’s did their crafting naked.

Randal looks over from where he’s putting the final touches on the dagger handle he’s been carving. 

“Moxi started it.”

Mitsutake turns to stare - briefly- at the Warrior of Light whose expression has not so much as twitched as she continues to knit. 

“This isn’t a Xaela tradition.” he states firmly. Nevermind that the desert wanderer tribe of the Torgud didn’t wear clothes at all.

“It’s a Quill tradition.” Ceceli corrects. “Now who’s hungry?”

Chapter Text

Baldric is beginning to regret ever having decided to try and expand his business.

He had heard that these Quills were an adventurer group of good repute. They were willing to do near any job, their rates were reasonable and they always delivered. 

He wonders if his compeers amongst the Jeweled Crozier had grossly exaggerated those claims.

He’d been introduced to the members who would be assisting him by the gargantuan Sea Wolf Roegadyn that was addressed as Captain. T’chev Tia was a handsome blonde Miqo’te who was somehow not frozen despite being practically shirtless. His more sensibly dressed companions were an incredibly tall Raen named Mitsu and a rather intimidating looking Highlander conjurer called Mally. 

The journey had started off normally, the adventurers had brought along two of their own chocobos to assist in carrying Baldric’s wares to Idyllshire.

It soon became apparent that only one of the adventurer’s chocobos was suitable for assisting in carrying his wares. The chocobo the Miqo’te affectionately called Skittles was voidsent in feathery form. Baldric had been somewhat impressed initially at the sight of a pure-bred Ishgardian black chocobo in an Limsan adventurer company’s possession, but it soon became abundantly clear that the creature had probably been foisted off onto them as soon as it was evident that the bird was obviously evil.

That the Miqo’te could even ride the damn thing was a bloody miracle - that his wares had managed to survive travelling with these Quills was another.

The traditional merchant route towards the Dravanian Hinterlands involved a long and arduous trek past the Dusk Vigil to the Dravanian Forelands, a day or two’s time to recuperate and restock on supplies at Tailfeather before a treacherous journey through dragon territory to the Hinterlands. All in all a good solid two or three weeks of travel.

He had outlined his proposed route to the three adventurers who promptly noted that there was a way into the Hinterlands through the Red Rim. A much shorter route one ‘little lizard’ had told them about. Baldric had stated yes, technically there was but it was an arduous climb and flying through was not really recommended given the mountainous terrain and high winds. One would need a top of the line airship to make that journey. The proposed route, while long, was one that was tried and true for success.

The three adventurers had all traded looks, before looking towards the Miqo’te who was apparently the leader.

Which was what brought Baldric to his present situation. Trussed up like a godsdamned turkey on the back of a black-feathered voidsent, as these adventurers secured the rest of his goods to his own and their other chocobo.

“Pity we couldn’t borrow Dex,” Mally the muscular conjurer sighs as she effortlessly lifts a crate of Baldric’s ironworks onto the large green-feathered chocobo’s back. “She’s such a good bird.”

Skittles turns its baleful gaze towards the conjurer.

He is a good bird,” that awful Miqo’te corrects, as he offers his bird a handful of greens. “After that whole Thanalan business, good luck separating him from Kahkol. Besides, Skittles is the best bird. Aren’t you boy?” the man coos at the cursed creature which kwehs happily in response. The other two adventurers remain pointedly silent. Baldric correctly assumes that they have been on the receiving end of that hell-bird’s pecks and kicks.

“Alright. That’s the last of the goods. So how are we doing this?” the Raen asks, as he wipes some sweat from his forehead.

“Simple,” T’chev Tia answers. “We’re going to climb up there and take that shortcut she told us about. I’ll bring our client with me on Skittles and you two bring up the wares. We’ll be in the Hinterlands in two or three days. We’ll use Randal’s old camps through the mountains and we’ll be in Idyllshire within the week. Nice and easy.”

“Right. So what’s going to go wrong?”

“Probably weather. I’ll gladly warm you up if you get cold at night Mitsu.” the scantily clad Miqo’te bluntly propositions the other man.

The conjurer makes a disgusted face while the Raen, simply shakes his head.

“If anything, you’ll be the cold one. Sela would pitch a fit if she saw how you’re dressed.” Mitsu sighs. The Miqo’te has just the slightest pout as either the Raen has clearly not reacted in the way he  was aiming for or was deliberately ignoring it.

“It’ll be either the climb or yetis,” Mally interrupts looking extremely uncomfortable. “We’re losing daylight boys, let’s get moving.”


 

It ends up not being climb, the weather or yetis that ends up nearly killing them all.

Baldric had been pleasantly surprised at the Quills - tying him up and throwing him over a voidsent chocobo notwithstanding - but they had been good on their word about getting into the Hinterlands within a week. They had even untied him and let him get off that blasted black chocobo. His wares weren’t even damaged! They were exceptionally efficient in the set up of their camps, pacing of their travel and remarkably skilled in what small battles they did have with the mountain wildlife.

He had even developed a rapport with the conjurer, having had to endure the Miqo’te pirate’s each and every attempt to bed what must be Eorzea’s most oblivious man in existence.

At first he thought perhaps it was some sort of cultural barrier, with perhaps the innuendo flying right over the man’s head, but Baldric is not sure how one could manage to misinterpret: ‘I love you. Let me show you all the ways I can say that with my tongue’ or ‘I’m sure we can work up a sweat together in your bed’ but the Raen man had managed it.

That apparently wasn’t even the worst of what Mitsu had managed to not get through those big horns of his, Malena Strongfist had informed him. The conjurer stated her opinion that she was certain the man was doing it on purpose. The other crew members had apparently had a talk with their white scaled member to no avail. He either was the Eorzea’s most clueless bard or a masterful liar.

Regardless, his opinion of the Quills had gone up, given that they were weeks ahead of schedule he was going to pay them in full with perhaps even a bonus. That was up until it turned out they were also reckless do-gooders who couldn’t leave well enough alone.

The weather had taken a turn for the rainy as they came down from the mountains, and given how they were weeks ahead of schedule, it had made sense to take a break.

Their choice of building had made sense to Baldric. Large, easy to see, mostly intact and thankfully nearby. It would also be nice to take a closer look at the now ruined Arkhitekton now that the Sharlayans were all gone.

Apparently the structure had been so nice that the goblin Illuminati decided to set up a base in it and they had apparently constructed a monstrous magitek vanguard. It was rather evident that the goblins planned to use said monstrosity on the Idyllshire community.

 Instead of making a swift, quiet retreat back out into the rain - and reporting the construct to the authorities in Idyllshire - the adventurers had drawn their weapons.

Before Baldric could so much as squeak out a protest, he found himself shoved unceremoniously into a corner with his goods and chocobo as an impromptu wall, and two adventurer chocobos as bodyguards.

“Hard to starboard’!” T’chev Tia calls out, as he disappears in a puff of smoke and the adventurer’s scatter as the vanguard’s attention is turned on them. 

“WHAT?” Mitsu shouts as he dives behind some goblin machinery to avoid an Illuminati goblin sniper’s fire. 

“HE MEANS GO RIGHT!” the conjurer shouts as a barrier forms around Baldric, and the bright glow of a spell begins to surround her as the goblins seem to decide to target her.

There is the sound of an explosion and a blindingly bright light, punctuated with the sound of goblin screaming. Any goblin that strays too close to Baldric is promptly dealt with by the thoroughly terrifying adventurer chocobo duo. He didn’t know that chocobos could cast spells like that! Further evidence that this Skittles was clearly some sort of voidsent.

“Round’em up Mally, I’ll keep the big one busy!” the Miqo’te pirate voice echoes through the room, as the sounds of battle begins to fill the air.

Baldric has to shield both his eyes and ears as the light and explosions continue for a good chunk of time. 

“YOU’RE LATE!” he hears the conjurer yell, and Baldric takes a moment to peek out to see a tiny black blur plummet from the ceiling and land atop of the giant construct. There’s a resounding crack and as he squints, he notes that it is a person , who is now standing on top of the goblin vanguard. A rather small person wielding a very large slab of metal as a sword. A sword they have wedged into the construct and are using as a foothold.

“Are they insane?!”  he breathes as he watches them step off of their foothold, to dodge a swipe from the construct, only to catch hold of the hilt of their sword, and with some sort of impossible strength, and a blast of aether rip it free with a flip from the metal it had been wedged into. 

The shimmer of a barrier seems to surround the small figure, and he looks over to see the Quill conjurer, staff raised with the most peculiar expression on her face.

“What is she even doing here?” she mutters before glancing briefly at Baldric and his chocobo protectors for injuries, and rushing back into the fray.

With all four adventurers focused now on the destruction of the goblin vanguard, it goes down alarmingly fast, which can mostly be attributed to the tiny greatsword wielding blur. 

Baldric sees the final blow and an unspeakable terror fills him. A pillar of darkness, aether as black as pitch had ripped the vanguard nigh in half and sent the goblins scurrying away screeching. What manner of monster was capable of doing that?

“You alright sir?” Mitsu asks him, obscuring his view of the battlefield and the other three with his bulk.

“Yes. I’m fine. Thank you.” Baldric says as he pushes himself to his feet and the rest of the adventurers approach. 

The Miqo’te pirate has his arm wrapped around the newcomer, a short Auri girl with silver hair and dark coloured horns in black and blue armour. 

She doesn’t look like much of a monster. Despite the blood and oil splattered over her, she looks like any other adventurer. 

“Right this is our client,” the Miqo’te informs the girl, gesturing at him. “Not that we don’t ‘preciate your arrival but what are you doing out here?”

“Those bastards made off with the key to Azys Lla. Bloody Allagans have a barrier around the accursed place - because they always do. We could probably have made it through easily enough if G’raha was...” the girl trails off, her expression shuttering into one of forced blankness. “The others are working out how to build what we need to get through. I… I needed to hit something.” she finishes softly.

The three Quills trade looks. 

“Well then, why don’t you help us finish this job Moxi?” the conjurer suggests lightly. “We’re to finish escorting Master Carver here to Idyllshire. Care to help clear the way?”

Moxi? That name sounds frighteningly familiar, Baldric thinks as the Auri girl simply nods and with two fingers betwixt her lips lets out an ear piercingly shrill whistle.

She is answered by the familiar kwehs and warks of a chocobo in the distance, and the silver-haired girl begins walking away.

“I’ll meet you at the Bigwest Shortstop. Dex and I will clear out the goblins.”

“West is that way Kahkol,” Mitsu points out.

The Auri girl gives the much taller man a flat look, before huffing in a pout. 

“I’m well aware. I’ve got some gathering requests to finish.”  she says, before a blue blur dashes by, and the girl disappears in a cloud of dust.

“Was that -” Baldric states as he remembers exactly where he has heard the odd name of ‘Moxi Kahkol’ before. 

“The Warrior of Light? Yeah.” T’chev Tia answers as if it was of little consequence. “We should probably let the Captain know what’s up.”

Baldric stares at where a legend stood but a few seconds ago.

“She’s smaller than I thought she’d be.” he manages to say.

“Auri women are not known for their large stature,” Mitsutake laughs, as he sets about loading up the chocobos. “Kahkol is on the shorter side for a woman of her age.” he concedes, before he turns to T’chev who has been oddly quiet.

“Is everything alright?”

“No. Definitely not.” T’chev says as he pulls himself into his chocobo’s saddle. “She hasn’t needed to ‘hit things’ since Whitebrim.” he tells them somewhat distractedly, before his gaze falls on Baldric. “Well we’d best get you and your shinies to the gobbiefolk of Idyllshire,” he grins toothily. “Hopefully with our little lizard on board, it’ll be smooth sailing the rest of the way.”

Chapter Text

The vaunted Warrior of Light never made things easy for them. A good portion of that trouble came from that good heart of hers. Even at her angriest and moodiest, she would always lend a hand to those in trouble  - whether the bastards deserved it or not. 

Sela tore the loaf in her hands apart with slightly more strength than needed, as she handed out portions to the kits around her. 

Moxi had come in and out of Idyllshire like a storm with the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. Something had definitely happened in Ishgard and unfortunately none of them had much of a clue. Whatever she was doing now had her not answering her linkpearl.

The only thing that they had managed to get out of the Ishgardians was that Ser Charibert of the Heavensward had near torched the Forgotten Knight, Ser Aymeric was in the infirmary, and the Archbishop had buggered off somewhere on an airship and was going to destroy the world. 

“Azys Lla,” T’chev reads out loud from a tome he has pilfered from somewhere. “An Allagan research facility of some sort where they worked on primal containment and such,” his tail swishing back and forth absentmindedly as some of the smaller kits chase after it giggling. 

Sela’s not sure why T’chev is in Gridania, much less in her childhood home with her. She had been headed back to the Black Forest to visit her overly large family and the Seeker man had tagged along. He had claimed Captain’s orders but all he’s really done the past week was disappear at dawn and reappear for dinner. 

At least he was helping with the chores, she thought grudgingly. She didn’t like the idea of a boy, much less a Seeker boy being around her family. She had had to box a few ears from the younger ones about her bringing home a Seeker of the Sun. A notion that had sent T’chev into hysterics. Once it had been cleared with everyone that she and T’chev were not an item, Sela nonetheless did not appreciate the way her sisters, cousins and even her mother had taken to eyeing the admittedly handsome Tia. 

She was worried enough that one of them might take up with some no-good Tia with delusions of becoming a Nunh and end up impoverished and destitute or worse - pregnant.

With the way they had started in on T’chev, who rebuffed any advances, she felt that these fears were somewhat justified.

Not that the Aliapoh family needed no-good Tias to get themselves into bad situations. 

“Well at least that explains why she brought up G’raha,” T’chev mutters to himself, which Sela’s keen ears twitch at.

“What?”

T’chev glances up at her, and seems to weigh whether or not to continue speaking. Sela levels him a flat look. She was not that volatile. She had nothing against G’raha, and it was not like she could do anything to the boy.

She had met the Seeker boy in passing before in Mor Dhona, before he had disappeared into the Crystal Tower. Scholarly fellow, cute face, weird eyes, not bad with a bow and a smile that was one hundred percent trouble. 

The story about how he had sent Moxi on a convoluted hunt across all of Eorzea for the aethersands had been actually kind of funny. That he and Moxi had been practically attached at the hip while she had run about with the Ironworks and the Sons of Saint Conach as they investigated the Crystal Tower had been less so.

Sela had seen the way the Tia had looked at the Warrior of Light with stars in his eyes, and more importantly she had seen the way said Warrior of Light shot shy looks at the red-furred boy when he spoke at length about some Allagan thing or other. He had seemed an alright sort - for a Tia. The angry popoto had mentioned that Moxi had been considering asking the boy to join up with the Quills after NOAH finished their investigation. Of course it had all come to nothing though.

T’chev shrugs before speaking.

“When we met up with Kahkol in the Arkhitekton, she mentioned something about a barrier around Azys Lla. She said that if G’raha Tia was around she and the Ironworks wouldn’t need to be running around for parts like they were.”.

“She never talks about G’raha.” Sela states flatly. 

“She doesn’t. Something happened in Ishgard, and it rattled her bad.  More than her and Estinien uncovering millenia-long hidden truths about the Dragonsong War.” T’chev muses aloud, before looking back at the little ones who have managed to grab ahold of his tail. 

Sela takes the information in silence, as she grabs one of her unrulier nephews by the collar. She is about to tell the kit off for failing to wash his grubby little hands when a pressure behind her eyes has her pressing her hand to her forehead. A motion she sees mimicked by her fellow crew member.


 

Her heart was a hammer in her chest, choking out the scream she wanted to let out as he fell. All thoughts of the Archbishop and the Heavensward gone as she saw the blood. She dropped to her knees, magic and aether in her hands as she tried desperately to knit him back together again. Her efforts are futile and he raised a hand, which she gripped tightly as he spoke the last words she’d ever hear from him.

“Oh, do not look at me so…” he had said. “A smile better suits a hero.”

 And it had taken all of her strength - strength that hadn’t helped at all when it mattered most - to force her face into an approximation of a smile. A smile he returned ever so briefly before the light left his eyes.

She had wanted to cry then. There have been many times that she has wanted to cry. 

She had been ten summers, and she could not find her way back home and again when she had gotten separated from the others during the raid at twelve. She never let herself cry though - she had no time for that. She had forced her feet to move. One in front of the other.

 The first time she had been cornered in a Kugane dockside alley at fourteen, she had wanted to scream and cry, but she had not. She had fought and left her assailants a bloody, broken and bruised pile. She had wanted to cry from the pain when the salt stung her rope torn hands as the ship fought against the typhoon through the Ruby Sea, but she had not. She had grit her teeth and climbed those damned sails and kept them on course.

She hadn’t cried when G’raha locked himself away in the Crystal Tower, never to be seen again. She had walked away with a small, strained smile with hundreds of thousands of words left unsaid and her heart breaking as he bid her and NOAH goodnight. 

She hadn’t cried as she and the Scions had escaped from the bloody banquet - she had needed to hold things together to get to safety, to see if any of the others had made it out. And with Alphinaud and Tataru looking to her - needing her to be a pillar of strength, she had not cried then either.

She does not cry in the face of pain and loss - much as she wants to, and with Haurchefant’s dying words and the title of hero, she does not dare to. Not with Ysayle’s aether scattering like snowflakes in the wind as the woman goes down in a blaze of Garlean fire and she being utterly incapable of helping her.

Her face is probably reminiscent of a nightmare, as she rams her sword through Ser Zephirin’s tempered black heart. She is not sure if the manic grin on her face is her own, or if it is Fray’s but there is a dark joy in her heart as she feels the Heavensward knight’s swing falter as he tries to knock her away.

She calls her astroglobe to hand and rapidly brings up a magicked barrier to block Ser Charibert’s flames, before flinging a spell with the energies of a burning star at his face. He wanted fire, he could have fire!

Noting Grinnaux’s raised axe, she tosses a smoke bomb in his face and  slides right between his legs to dodge the mighty blow. 

From the corner of her eye she notices the Archbishop, in all his monstrous glory stepping forward towards his sword that has been steadily collecting energy, and she brings her armour back around her, greatsword at the ready.

“Come to me my knights!” he roars, as he grips that monstrously tall blade of his. The floor of the Singularity Reactor lit up with light as all of the Heavensward move to surround her. Bursts of energy force her to go on the defensive to stay on her feet. They were channeling their aether towards that sword and Thordan. That could not be good

“I shall end your vain struggle!” the would-be god declares, as he raised the sword aloft. 

She reaches deep into the abyss, eyes closed and feels more than hears Fray’s voice as she concentrates on the faces of everyone she holds dear.

The greatest strength is born of the flame in the abyss. 

Listen to my voice. Listen to our heartbeat.

She slashes the air in front of her, and she watches with a slightly manic grin as darkness pours out from the gap, to cover the floor. Channeling her feelings into her blade she strikes the ground, and the magic of her soulstone surrounds her in a protective cocoon of darkness.

She hears the sound of something shattering, and she watches as Thordan has dropped to his knees, breathing heavily.

“Y-you survived my divine reckoning!? Impossible!”

“I do the impossible every bleeding day!” she roars, as she charges forward as the weakened primal staggers forward, swinging his sword wildly. The rest of the Heavensward have yet to regain their feet - so she needs to be quick. 

She switches her greatsword for her lance - and drawing on the power of the eyes of Nidhogg that are quite literally in front of her, she leaps high into the air, using his next wild swing and a small amount of aether to rapidly switch direction to ram her lance right through his rotten heart.

The rest of the Heavensward collapse to the ground the very moment she deals that decisive blow, dissolving into aether like all primals do - there would be no corpses to show the people of Ishgard.

“How… How can this be?” The Archbishop stammers, his form no longer monstrous and strong. An old, feeble elezen is on his hands and knees before her. “A millenium of prayer and the Eye’s power combined - and still you stand?!”

She lets her lance tip fall, as she moves out of a combat stance. She has nothing to say to this man.

“Who-What are you?” he demands as he collapses, shattering into a thousand motes of blue light.

Hell if she knows. Cursed more like than not.


 

Sela looks up, and she sees T’chev do the same.

“Well.” he starts when their eyes meet, his voice hitching in either a sob or a laugh. “That would put her in a maudlin mood now wouldn’t it.” 

Sela stares at her hands, blinking away Haurchefant’s blood that Kahkol so clearly remembered being present. Sela had not liked the man - he was far too forward with his affections - but he had been a good man. A good friend to the Quills. He had opened his doors for them and the Scions when they had appeared on his doorstep and kept them warm and fed. 

He had not deserved the ending he had gotten.

“You okay sis?” one of her sisters asks coming over, herding the children out of the kitchen and away from the two adventurers.

“Yes. I’m fine Meha.” Sela answers automatically, because her heart is not the one that has been broken again.

“You’re crying.” her little sister says kindly, pulling her into a hug. “Did you see something sad?” 

“No.” Sela lies blatantly but returns the hug tightly.

T’chev seems a little uncomfortable with the presence of the sister that was most disappointed that Sela wasn’t romantically involved with him and gets up from his seat.

“Right. I’d best be makin’ my reports to the Adders.” 

Sela turns to her crewmate, confusion on her face.

“What?”

“I didn’t come to the Shroud to meet your lovely family Aliapoh. I came because it’s cheaper than renting an inn room. S’been fun but I am here for a job.” T’chev informs her. “The Dutiful Sisters have been keepin’ an eye on the bastards that did business with that whoreson Poisonheart. Perimu tracked their work to Gridania. Jacke asked the Cap’n and I to do some digging - seein’ as the Sisters don’t exactly have the run of the Shroud.”

“Language.” Sela chides the Seeker with a pointed look at her younger sister who giggles.

“Sela I’m eighteen. I’ve heard worse.”

“Poisonheart was that slaver wasn’t he?” The one Moxi had beat the hell out of with her arcanist tome. 

“That’s the one. Well rumour has it that every other Keeper girl they grab ends up with that mangy bastard who calls himself a king in the South Shroud.”

Sela frowns. That sounded odd. 

“You think the Coeurlclaw King has a deal with Limsa’s slavers?”

There were not that many Keepers out in La Noscea - too sunny, not enough trees. While people went missing all the time in Limsa, the Keeper community there was pretty tight knit - girls going missing would draw quite a bit of attention.

T’chev lets a mirthless smirk form on his face. 

“Oh I don’t think he does. The whole operation is a mite bigger than Limsa. My money’s on Teledji having had a hand in it - they got significantly more reckless after the bloody banquet.”

Of course the lalafells were in on it. Evil bastards the lot of them.  

“Started branching out towards Gridania - which any pirate will tell you is bleeding stupid with the Elementals and all,” T’chev continues. “They’re probably strapped for gil - and apparently his majesty has coin to spare. Coeurlclaw bastard has the whole performance down to an art. The girls ‘escape’ their captors in the Shroud - but not after having been dosed with some sort of hallucinogen. They’re disoriented, hungry, confused and terrified.”

“I suppose his highness swoops in and rescues them and whisks them off to his Twelve-damned nest?” Sela says, as her hands clench into fists. 

T’chev nods.

“Usually finds a Wood Wailer for them to kill on the way. Most of them are pretty upset once the drugs wear off, but it’s too late once he’s got them there.”

“How’d you find out about all of this?”

The blonde Tia’s face breaks into a devious grin.

“Some folk don’t like the taste of their own medicine, and I like to think I’m as good at scarin’ folk as Greenie when he’s in a mood. Mythril Eye had an article about that horrible corpse found in the Bramble Patch. Those boars are rather nasty aren’t they?” he says, one of his many, many knives finding its way to his hands.

Meha’s hands go to her mouth in shock as she looks at T’chev like he has grown three heads. Sela hasn’t had a chance to read the paper in days. Given the state her mother had managed to put the Aliapoh household in that was hardly surprising. However knowing T’chev, his preferred methods of interrogation and his exceptionally low opinion of slavers, she has an idea what state that corpse might have been in. 

“Might want to be leery of any offers of employment from any start up taverns,” T’chev directs towards her sister, as he moves to leave. “That was how they lured in the last three girls.”

Meha makes a noise at that and the way her tail goes rigid has both Miqo’te adventurers attention, and Sela’s already going for her adventuring gear.

“Who and when?” Sela demands as she rises to her feet.

“Nahbi was talking about how she’d found a good paying job in a tavern in the South Shroud. Said she'd make enough to be able to pay back the money Ma borrowed in a few days.”

Of course it was Nahbi. The idiot. Just as gullible and airheaded as their mother.

“It’s not at Buscarron’s is it.” T’chev sighs, to which Meha shakes her head. The blond Tia he raises a hand and activates his linkpearl. “Oi, Cap we’ve got a situation here.”

Define situation T’chev.”

“Sela’s going to burn down the Black Shroud. Those slavers the Sisters were interested in might have grabbed her sister. Also the Heavensward killed Lord Haurchefant - and our lizard’s just finished killing the Archbishop and the Heavensward. They had turned themselves into primals.”

Sela can see the way the Captain’s whole body likely deflates as he processes what he’s just heard.

“Well, shit.”

 

Chapter Text

“I’m dreadfully sorry about that,” Ceceli Celi apologizes after introducing herself. “I thought you were one of our friends. Which is bloody ridiculous since you look nothing like her!” the dwarven woman laughs brightly. Ardbert is not sure if he’s ever going to get used to the dwarves of the Source. Lamitt was one thing, but these Lalafells walking about with faces uncovered and treated as any other Spoken is something that was more than a little shocking when they had come to this world. 

Her friend, a Hume man with vibrantly red hair and incredibly quick bladework shuffles awkwardly.

“Thanks for your help with that. They might have gotten away if it hadn’t been for you! Sela would never forgive us if we let the bastards get away with her sister in tow.” he says gesturing to the cart of newly rescued unconscious young women. Lamitt had reassured them all that they were all alive. Just heavily drugged.

“I’m Randal Hooper of the Quills. What are your names? Got to know who to let the Adventurer Guild know who to send compensation to!” he grins.

Ardbert is taken aback as he flounders for his alias. Thankfully Branden remembers his own - having been taken aback at the strangeness of the way the Galdjent named themselves on the Source.

“Blaenherz,” he says smoothly, as he introduces them all, sending Ardbert a knowing look. Of course Branden has noticed that he doesn’t remember the names they’ve taken. “The quiet one here is Naillebert. Lamimi, J’rhoomale and our fearless leader Arbert.”

“Well met Blaenherz,” the red-headed knight smiles brightly at them, while his friend starts rummaging about the slaver’s camp. 

“Looking to earn a bit more coin? We’ll need help getting them back to civilization.” Randal asks them easily. “We were supposed to be a four man team, but one of our friends got pulled into other affairs, and the other…” he looks about. “I’m going to assume he’s managed to get himself lost.”

“Which is rich, considering it’s Kahkol who’s got no sense of direction.” Ceceli says as she kicks over one of the slavers corpses and promptly swears.

“What?”

“I fucking hate it when T’chev is right,” the dwarven woman sighs, as she holds up a strange black metal device.

“What is that?” Ardbert asks, as the woman holds it up for his inspection.

“Garlean magitek,” she says grimly. “Looks like a transmitter. Guess we know where those that don’t get sold to the Coeurlclaws end up.”

Randal’s expression grows stern, as he promptly stalks over to the other bodies and starts rummaging through their effects.

“This is bleeding Laurentius all over again!” he snarls. He glances over at Ardbert and his friends. “Do you mind seeing if any of the others have any sort of documents on them?”

It is more habit than anything that they move to assist the other adventurers. He doesn’t know what these Coeurlclaws they speak of are, or what Garlean magitek is  - but like when they had moved to help these two, there were people in trouble and he’d been moving before he’d really thought about it.

They had not been lost - that was ridiculous. They had followed the man in white’s instructions to the letter. The bugmen were probably just right beyond that waterfall. 

They had stumbled on a tense situation with Ceceli and Randal in a stand-off with the slavers. It had taken them little more than three seconds to put things together, with the adventurer duo’s hands raised and the slavers having a knife to a defenseless woman’s throat.

As they had burst onto the scene, Ardbert had found himself assaulted with an accusation of “YOU’RE LATE!” - an accusation that Ceceli promptly apologized for once the dust had settled.

“Come to think of it, what were you all doing this far north of Tailfeather? Bear hunting?” Randal asks as he starts leafing through the documents they have managed to gather. “Ah well this one’s right incriminating.”

“North?” Renda repeats shooting Ardbert an amused grin. They were in a different world! Forgive him if his sense of direction is a little off!

“No we have business with the bugmen.” the Mystel huntress tells them.

“The Vath? You’re a ways away from their Adventurer Guild.” Ceceli remarks. 

“Pardon?” Lamitt states. To be honest they haven’t been paying much attention to the people of the Source. They had been told there was a primal that was going to be summoned by the mindless bugmen. An adventurer guild sounded - not very mindless. 

The two red-headed adventurers of the Source trade looks of shock.

“You mean to say you have business with the Gnath ?!” Randal exclaims. “Look whoever gave you that job is either insane or malicious. We can’t be antagonizing them right now. Not with Ishgard finally having some measure of peace for the first time in a thousand years.”

“It’s nothing bad!” Ardbert finds himself protesting - though by rights they are off to do exactly what these two fear. “Just gathering some plants, that’s all!” 

Nyelbert is giving him the side eye and Branden is trying very hard to keep his expression placid. They do not look like some fledgling adventurer group out on an herb gathering job. Not with their armour and weapons - not with the ease that Ardbert wields his axe, or the spells that Nyelbert and Lamitt fling about like they’re nothing. 

They have nothing against Ceceli or Randal but they can’t let anyone get in the way of their mission.

For some unfathomable reason the adventurer duo make absolutely nothing of their blatant lies.

“Knew you reminded me of her,” Ceceli laughs. “Chocobokeep did say he had asked the guild for help.”

The five of them heave a collective sigh of relief. 

“Well you’re headed the wrong way if you were headed towards Lost ast Gnath. How about you come with us back to Tailfeather and have a round on us Quills?” Randal offers.

“Also if there are Garleans around, there’s no way we can defend the cart with just the two of us.” Ceceli adds seeming to pick up on Ardbert’s reluctance.  “If you can’t stay to get piss drunk, we can at least point you in the right direction towards Lost ast Gnath. We’re unfortunately more than a little familiar with the Smoldering Wastes.” The dwarven woman sighs.

Ardbert directs a querying glance towards Lamitt who shrugs, and Branden nods his approval. They could use some directions.

“Fine by us.”

“Excellent!” the two adventurers grin. 


 

Their first encounter with the Scions of the Seventh Dawn and the Warrior of Light of the Source was - interesting to say the least. 

Having been caught on the backfoot they had seemed laughably weak. Then that twin dagger wielding comrade of theirs had shown up and then the aether seemed to boil as the Drahn girl pushed herself to her feet with a glare. 

From what they had heard of the fabled primal slayer, he wasn’t sure what he had expected. A seven foot-tall Galdjent who smote the wicked and healed the weak, perhaps? None of them had really expected a tiny Drahn girl with a sword that was bigger than she was and a glare that could sear the skin off your nose. 

Well with the bugmen’s - Gnath’s, they had called them the Gnath - primal defeated, there had been little reason to wait around and so they had relocated closer to the city of Ishgard to wait for their next instructions from the man in white. 

The worst thing about the Source was everything that was similar but not quite. This Ishgard place reminded them all too much of Voeburt - stone spires and the snowy mountaintops. Were it not for the fact that the place seemed to be run entirely by the elves or Elezen as they were called here, they could almost pretend they were home. 

The Forgotten Knight is a tavern like any other. Crowded, noisy and filled with the hustle and bustle of adventurers going about their lives. There is a board of requests and a put-upon innkeeper who tries his best to keep things under control.

This is a thing at least that hasn’t changed at all between worlds.

“Arbert?” a vaguely familiar voice calls out, and he glances around before his attention is drawn downwards and a familiar face appears.

“Aha! I knew i recognized that hat,” Ceceli Celi exclaims, motioning vaguely at Nyelbert. “Made it back safely from gathering those herbs then!”

Ardbert stares blankly before Lamitt elbows him subtly. Right.

“Yes! Job’s done.”

The red-headed dwarf grins brightly before turning towards the crowded inn.

“OI GREENIE! GET YER ASS OVER HERE!” she lets out in a bellow that has Renda clapping her hands over her sensitive ears. Why was it that dwarves always had voices like foghorns once you got alcohol into them?

A monstrously tall Galdjent with dark green hair, similarly coloured skin and a huge axe comes wading through the sea of people, closely followed by an equally tall Drahn with white scales. 

“We have a linkpearl for a reason Cece,” the Galdjent sighs heavily.

“Yeah whatever. This here’s them adventurers who saved our skins in Tailfeather. Arbert, J’rhoomale, Naillebert and Lamimi.” she introduces their aliases. “This here’s the Captain of our Free Company.”

“Loetstymm Fhrubryt. This is Mitsu,” the Galdjent introduces himself and the Drahn. “I hear we owe you our friends lives!” he says as the Drahn mutters something about how his name isn’t ‘Mitsu’.

“Where’s your Roegadyn friend?” Ceceli asks, noting Branden’s conspicuous absence. 

“He had something he had to look into,” Ardbert says, as he notes the absence of her red-headed Hume friend. “What happened to your friend Randal?”

The three adventurers of the Source heave a collective sigh.

“House Dzemael’s still sending assassins after him. So he’s in Idyllshire until things settle down.”

There’s a story there, but he’s not given a chance to inquire about it with the way a Mystel with golden hair has appeared from nowhere to sling an arm around his shoulders. He’s moving for his axe when his brain registers the friendly laugh. Ardbert notices the way his friends have also all reached for their weapons.

“Sorry. T’chev does that sometimes,” the Captain of the Quills states deftly reaching over and bodily lifting the man away from him like one would move an unruly cat. “He has absolutely no sense of personal space.”

“That’s a bleedin’ lie and you know it Cap’n.” the Mystel protests lightly. “Any friend of Cece’s is a friend of ours, and I’m a friendly guy!” he grins brightly at them.

“T’chev Tia!” he introduces himself with a jaunty wave. 

Ardbert is understandably wary of a man who had slipped right under his and his friends’ guards so quickly - but the man seems friendly enough. Nyelbert gives the slightest of shrugs, while Lamitt simply shuffles over enough to let Ceceli settle in next to her. Nothing for it then. They hadn’t heard anything from the man in white -  a few drinks wouldn’t hurt.

The Quills are hilarious - and Branden is going to be pissed he missed out on this.

Ceceli is a riot and seems to have made fast friends with Lamitt, while Renda and Mitsu are trading archery tips. Nyelbert is actually being drawn into a conversation with Captain Fhrubryt about magic. Ardbert watches his friends have a brief reprieve from the weight of their world on their shoulders. This is the most relaxed they’ve all been since… since everything. 

The Mystel waits for them all to be at least six drinks in before he decides to act.

“You know you lot ain’t that bad,” T’chev drawls as he thrusts another tankard into his hands, slinging an arm around Ardbert’s shoulders and leaning his head against him, which Mitsu looks over at with an unreadable expression on his face. Ardbert is quick to try and shove the Mystel off, but the man’s grip is surprisingly strong.

“I don’t know what game you Warriors of Darkness are playin’,” the Mystel with bright blue eyes says in a harsh whisper, his voice not slurred by drink at all. His expression is hard and serious and the slight prick of a blade at his throat has him frozen. There wasn’t a hint of killing intent or warning - and none of his friends seem to have noticed, not even Renda.

 “But you saved Cece and Randal, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for now.”  The Mystel whispers into his ear, his voice soft and his breath warm against his ear. The blade disappears and the blonde Mystel removes his arm from around Ardbert’s neck. “But touch our little lizard again, and I’ll bury you.” T’chev Tia smiles mirthlessly at him, before bounding away to throw himself at his Raen friend.

Well that was one way to ruin a mood, Ardbert rubs at his neck, unsurprised at the lightest of scratches there. Not that slitting his throat would have done much to stop them from their goal.

Thankfully the device they called linkpearls here in the Source decides to go off, which signals an end to this small reprieve. His friends all remove themselves from whatever conversations they were in.

“That was Blaenherz,” Lamitt says as she stands. “Got our next job all lined up.”

Ceceli and Captain Fhrubryt look disappointed, while Mitsu looks oddly relieved. 

“Well it was nice meeting you,” the Captain of the Quills smiles at them. “If you’re in any of the major cities, you can have any of the Guildmasters send us a message.”

The Mystel rogue looks at them neutrally, and Ardbert knows that they’ll never be seeing these people again. 

They could have been friends in another world.

Chapter Text

Despite the chaos and destruction that had just occurred, by some miracle the Forgotten Knight has managed to come through relatively unscathed.

Gibrillont is not one to brag, but his establishment has weathered more than it’s fair share of trials. That many of these trials seemed to have occurred in relatively quick succession since the Warrior of Light had come to Ishgard is of little consequence. The coin has been plentiful and steady since Ishgard opened to adventurers, and that Clan Centurio has settled on his inn being their central hub, the Forgotten Knight has been doing better than ever. 

Adventurers are a diverse lot  and the Temple Knights are good at keeping them from getting too rowdy - at least when they weren’t the ones causing the problems. 

But today is a day for celebration, high and lowborn, soldier and civilian alike are out and in full force as they celebrate the end of the Dragonsong War. The city is still standing - burnt and not exactly intact, but this is not quite the ending any Ishgardian had thought they’d live to see - much less fathomed.

Man and Dragon fighting together, Nidhogg slain - his soul put to rest by the Warrior of Light and his own brood brother - the Azure Dragoon who had been made his thrall saved - though grievously wounded. It is almost a fairy tale ending.

There is much to be celebrated.

A certain adventurer company pushes through the door to raucous cheers. The Quills have become rather well known throughout Ishgard. That Randal Hooper is one of their number had made many of the lowborn Brume folk hungry for news of them - that the Warrior of Light was one of them meant that the adventurers hardly ever had to pay for their own drinks.

The cheers turn positively deafening when it turns out the Quills are returning to the Forgotten Knight in the company of the Warrior of Light.

The Auri girl’s eyes go a little wide as the entire Inn has turned towards her and she appears to be rather taken aback.

“Blessed Halone!” one of the Temple Knights calls out. “It’s the hero of the hour! The Warrior of Light!” and the entire Inn erupts into a cheer.

A blush is beginning to creep up the Warrior’s face, and Captain Loetstymm sets a reassuring hand on her shoulder. The Xaela girl raises a hand in an almost timid wave, which promptly has some of the Knight’s more inebriated guests stumbling forward.

“Warrior of Light!” they shout, as they try to push themselves forward before being pushed back by some of her friends.

“Thank you! You saved my life!”

“You were incredible!”

“Halone bless you, bless you!” one elderly woman cries as she grabs hold of the Warrior’s hands. “You saved my boy - thank you! Thank you!”

Moxi isn’t sure why she thought this was a good idea. Even after having been told repeatedly over and over again to think of Fortemps Manor as a second home she didn’t feel like she could really, truly relax in that place. The Captain had suggested that if she wasn’t comfortable staying in the manor then she could take a well-deserved nap in the room the Quills had reserved at the Knight before she headed out to return Hraesvelgr’s eye.

She very much doubted she’d be able to sleep at all with the racket the Ishgardians were making.

And why shouldn’t they ? a voice at the back of her mind whispers. It sounds a little like Fray - but mostly like her. She pries her hands away from the sobbing goodwife, with a soft word of reassurance. There is much to celebrate . They are alive to see a brighter tomorrow.  

The memory of Haurchefant’s hands over hers is still fresh. His rueful grin, Ysayle’s smile as they had turned away after Estinien had been saved…

She doesn’t know what her face must look like, but her usual mask  must have slipped because Malena is putting a hand on her other shoulder.

“You alright lizard?” Mally asks her softly, to which she nods.

“I’m alright- this looks like much more fun than a nap.” she remarks as she forces a smile and it’s not long before she’s swept up and away into the crowd.

She knows that Sela is keeping an ever watchful eye on her from above as she is surrounded by Ishgardians of all shapes and sizes - though a good portion of them are Temple Knights and other soldiers. Many of them offering her tankards of ale that she politely refuses. 

She has learned her lesson about free drinks from strangers.

When one particularly drunk patron grows increasingly agitated at her refusal and right when Moxi is honestly considering forgoing politeness and kicking the man’s feet out from under him, T’chev manages to slip right in and deftly snatches the tankard from the man and draining the damn thing with a smirk before promptly vanishing back into the crowd.

The drunk stares at his empty hands for a good long moment, not quite understanding where his offering to the Warrior of Light has gone before some of his friends promptly drag him away, with quick looks over her shoulder.

Moxi follows their gaze to see Mitsutake standing there, glaring daggers at the men. He’s holding two cups and offers her one. 

“S’not poisoned is it?” she asks jokingly, to which the Raen gives her a small smile.

“It’s tea. I know you’re not much for ale.”

They stand together, simply watching the celebrations, Mitsu’s tall and imposing presence serving as a deterrent to those who would approach her. The Captain appears to be in the midst of a drinking contest that Randal has already lost and Ceceli is matching him drink for drink with a veritable crowd of Temple Knights egging them on. 

“Well when they drink like that…” she nods towards the rest of their Free Company, to which Mitsu sighs in agreement.

“Mitsuu!” T’chev practically squeals before reappearing from wherever he had vanished off to. The Miqo’te is rather flushed and quite clearly intoxicated - which is a rarity. One quick glance over at Mitsu’s face and they are of similar minds in wondering just exactly what that man had been trying to offer her.

“Mitsu! Mitsu!” he says, repeating the man’s name and tugging on the Raen’s arm like a child. “Mitsuuu! You haave to show them!”

“What?” the Hingan bard splutters, as the First Mate of the Quills starts dragging him towards a corner of the tavern where a sound very much like a mandragora’s screech is emanating from.

A fresh-faced Elezen youth is playing a string instrument incredibly badly. Moxi can hear quite clearly why T’chev is so offended. Mitsu is even more so, and intimidates the youth into handing over the offending instrument.

Mitsu has only played a few of the first few notes of a song that Moxi recognizes and she begins to mouth the words. It’s an old Hingan fishing song - a cheerful little thing about a day’s big catch. She smiles a little as she recalls the elderly sailor who had taught her the words.

She doesn’t realize that at some point she had gone from mouthing the words to actually singing them when a round of applause goes up, and there are drunken shouts for an encore.

“You’ve got quite the voice Kahkol,” Mitsu laughs, to which Moxi is certain her face is aflame. “Though I don’t believe I’ve heard such a cute version of that song.”

“Pardon?” she squeaks, and Mitsu launches into the song again, this time the lyrics that are being belted out into the air in his sonorous voice are decidedly more salacious than the one she had learned. Moxi is certain her face is as red as Randal’s hair as the Raen bard continues. 

Most of the Ishgardians obviously don’t have a clue, but any and all patrons that had either a passable understanding of the Hingan language or the Echo have looks of either amusement or growing horror. 

“Have you no shame?!” Sela screeches, as she comes flying down the stairs, presumably to try and wrest the offending instrument from the Auri bard - to which Mally moves to intercept her while the Captain simply continues to drink. 

Emboldened by Sela’s indignation, Mitsu starts up a particularly filthy Limsan tavern song - that every Temple Knight apparently knew the words to.

T’chev has simply taken to laughing like a madman, and jumps onto a table, his steps light and not spilling or knocking over a single goblet or cup as he starts to dance.

With a whoop and a laugh, Ceceli is suddenly on the table as well, though her steps are not quite as light as the rogue’s and cups go flying.  

They cut a comical image on the table as they dance. Cece is tall for a Lalafellin woman, but that is not saying much when compared to any of the other Spoken races. But their enthusiasm is contagious as some of the knights move to clear a space, and more begin to pair up and spin about the tavern.

Seeing the response he’s getting, Mitsu begins playing a fast-paced Gridanian reel to which T’chev laughs even louder before motioning for her to join them on the table with a laugh and a wink.

The last time she had danced at all had been in Mor Dhona - with G’raha, Rammbroes and the rest of NOAH. It had started off as most things did with an offhand comment about her time adventuring. She doesn’t quite remember how it had led to a competition with G’raha, but the Baldesion scholar had a way of making everything a competition. She won of course, and Rammbroes had laughed for hours at the way G’raha pouted for the rest of the night.

Of course T’chev knew about that - and he also knew about how much she loved dancing. Her brother in all but blood, she and the Miqo’te both shared a fondness for the arts. Back in the early days in Limsa, they had spent some of the time between jobs teaching each other notes and steps from their childhoods. She had taught him the kata and rhythms of the far East and he had taught her the featherlight steps of the T tribes harvest dances.

 A small silly smile makes its way across her face, as she kicks off her boots and jumps with a wholly unnecessary flip up onto the table to show these Ishgardians what real dancing was.

Everyone here would probably be too drunk to remember it if she ends up making a mess.

Chapter Text

While being an adventurer of no small amount of fame brought with it a measure of financial security, Cece is rather certain that Kahkol is nowhere near paid enough for the problems people bring her. That the poor child follows through on even the most ridiculous of requests has Ceceli Celi convinced that the Xaela girl was dropped on the head as a babe.

Cece glares murder at the Flames private who has brought the latest fiasco to their little lizard and Cece is of half a mind to shoot the blighter. 

She isn’t even a member of the Immortal Flames! Cece screams internally. That the uppity bastard had the nerve to approach them as the two of them were sitting in Cece’s favourite patisserie, eagerly awaiting their tea, has her nigh convinced to call up Rhoswen and have the Sirens disappear the man. 

The waiter is eyeing them warily, given that the Warrior of Light has decided to leave a whole stack of her weapons within easy reach as Cece gazes the handgonne on the table that the Skysteel Manufactory had gifted the Warrior. They had been discussing weapons and Cece had been taking notes before they had been so rudely interrupted. Kahkol’s handgonne is a well maintained work of art and Cece is certain she would be able to get three shots off before the annoyance could blink.

“I don’t see how this is my problem,” Kahkol states to the Flames private who’s almost pompous demeanour disappears entirely and he starts to flounder. Ceceli feels a grin form up on her face. Ah there was that adamantite spine and sharp tongue T’chev had spoken of before. She had only seen glimpses of it before the bloody banquet. The Xaela girl had admitted that some of her prior reticence had been related to culture shock and a fear of offending her new Eorzean friends. Now she didn’t give - in her words - ‘a moogle’s arse’  about offending anyone. 

“If the Flames are having internal issues, would this not be something to bring up with General Aldynn?” she states firmly but quietly as the man struggles to form a sentence. “That your commanding officer thought it appropriate to come to me speaks poorly of the Grand Company. Which likely explains why we steamrolled you in the last Seal Rock skirmish.”

Cece fights to stifle a giggle, though their neighbours a table away are not as able to silence their amusement. 

The papers had been almost gleeful in the way they detailed the way the Maelstrom had dominated the fields of the island - it was even by  the Gridanian accounts incredibly embarrassing for the Flames. The papers had even downplayed the Warrior of Light’s involvement - Kahkol’s own participation had been little more than an afterthought in the article - likely due to how unavailable the Storm Lieutenant was for interviews.

The Flames private reddens visibly as the silver-haired Xaela smiles and thanks the waiter as he brings over their drinks and their ordered platter of pastries.

“I will speak with Sela, as she is my friend.” Kahkol says as she sips her tea. “But I hope for your sake that she never finds you.”

“Thank you, Warrior.” the Ul’dahn soldier salutes stiffly before promptly making to leave the shop. 

Cece watches with half an eye as the shop staff harass the man at the exit for having the nerve to enter their store without so much as buying a coffee or a tart. Just because they had taken up baking didn’t mean that Limsan’s were not a band of cutthroats.

“Really?” Cece asks dryly. “After that you’re actually going to do the job?”

The Xaela’s limbal rings are a bright, piercing blue, and seem to shine with an almost otherworldly light as a smirk crosses her face.

“Well I’m not one to deprive Private Theodulf the privilege of having Sela roast him alive.” she grins mischievously. “Though I’m surprised it’s taken the Flames this long to notice Sela’s hiring practices.”

“Well that sort of keen observation is what let you snag three tomeliths from under their noses, isn’t it?”

Kahkol chooses to snag a pastry to stuff into her mouth rather than answer and Cece laughs as the Auri girl’s face bursts into childish glee at the flavour. 

“These are delicious !” she exclaims as she reaches for another - all thoughts of Sela’s apparent tendency to refuse to bring in perfectly qualified Lalafellin candidates into her Immortal Flames squadron forgotten.

One would think after more than half a decade of adventuring would cure most of any stereotypes and racist prejudices - but Sela was a stubborn one. Admittedly having to deal with the Coco brothers on a regular basis  was more than enough to drive anyone into a homicidal rage but Sela had apparently decided to paint all of their race with the same brush.

Randal said part of it was related to Sela’s mother’s distressing tendency to put the Aliapoh household into staggering amounts of debt - usually from ill-advised financial ventures in Ul’dah of which a high proportion of businessmen both dubious and decent were Lalafell. Sela needed to be angry at somebody, the Hyur had shrugged - and Sela was weird about her mother, so she decided to direct her rage at a whole race. Another part of her irrational hatred was probably because Sela was insane.

Why anyone would want to join Sela’s squadron was a question that Cece was not going to delve into.

Cece can see one of the chefs who has been not-so-subtly eavesdropping on them (like the rest of the establishment) puff up in pride at Kahkol’s enthusiastic praise of his work, while the Hyuran manager of the store appears to be scribbling down notes. 

This place was probably going to become inordinately busy in the next few days. Cece can picture the signboards already.

“So you were saying Stephavinien had made some modifications to the aetheroconverter?” she asks the Warrior who nods as she brushes some crumbs from her hands before fiddling with the device.

“Probably shouldn’t show you here, but it’s pretty spectacular!” the Xaela girl says excitedly before going ahead and activating the aetheroconverter’s enhancements.

 There’s the sound of mechanical whirring and Cece stares at the gigantic device that has unfolded from the rather diminutive aetheroconverter.

“Seven. Fucking. Hells.” is all Cece can manage to say as she stares at the monstrosity Kahkol has in her hands. The shop staff and their neighbours look more than a little concerned at the strange-looking weapon in the Warrior of Light’s hands.

“It’s got four functions. Right now the auto-crossbow and drill launcher are the ones that he says are perfected. The flamethrower and the poison blaster are disabled until he works out the overheating and containment issues.” Kahkol explains happily.

Cece hums agreeably as she sips her tea. She's not quite sure what else to say. She’s also not sure what Kahkol might need a flamethrower for.

"This one here is for you," the Warrior of Light continues blithely on as she collapses the weapon back to its box-like state to the shop staff’s palpable relief and pushes it across the table towards her. "And I have another  for Randal to tinker with."

“I’ll bring it to him,”Cece nods agreeably. “Now you mentioned something about manacutters?”

The conversation turns towards the Redbill Skypirates that the Warrior is apparently assisting in something that sounds absolutely ridiculous, involving remnants of Mhach and voidsent. Which per Kahkol is not the important part of her story - the sky pirates had a somewhat rundown airship that she was eyeing. They weren’t using it and she was pretty sure she could get it for a decent price from Captain Myste.

A company airship was what Kahkol  wanted to propose to Loetstymm. The big green idiot had been moaning about the rather prohibitive cost of outfitting the Quills with manacutters. With the expansion of the Eorzea adventuring scene to include Abalathia and the Sea of Clouds, a flight-capable crew was imperative. Somewhere between slaying voidsent, making friends with every beast tribe on the continent and ending the Dragonsong War Kahkol has apparently had time to think about how to solve this problem.

Kahkol’s relationship with the Captain was something that baffled Cece at times. The girl was the Warrior of Light - slayer of primals, saviour of Eorzea, terror of the battlefield and absolutely terrified of the Captain’s anger or worse - disappointment.

It was utterly adorable.

The part Cece loved most was how the girl would always - always go to Cece first before any of the others when she had an idea. She had come to her about that Allagan prince of hers after all. A fact she had lorded over T’chev for days until they got the news shortly after that G’raha Tia would not be joining them after all. He had gone and locked himself in the Crystal Tower and broken their little lizard’s heart. If the Ironworks did manage to get the doors open in this lifetime, she was going to punch that boy. 

As she peruses the wholly unnecessary documents that Kahkol had put together detailing the fuel costs and condition of the airship. The ship would need a significant amount of work - which she had accounted for in an interesting manner.

“Do you plan on sleeping at all?” Cece asks archly as she lowers the papers, to which Kahkol tries to hide behind her tea cup.

“There’s nothing going on with the Scions right now so…”

“Don’t you try that with me Kahkol. There is no need for you to do all of this .” she punctuates by slapping the documents onto the table. “T’chev is a perfectly good smith, and will have absolutely no qualms about ripping off that travesty he calls a shirt to try and impress Mitsu in a forge. Randal and I are more than capable of fixing up those engines and the Captain and Mally can fix the hull. I am also certain that Sela is perfectly capable of terrorizing Camp Bluefog into giving us a discount on cereleum.”

Kahkol looks a little abashed at that. 

“I like to keep busy.” she mumbles as she takes a bite of another biscuit.

“We’re well aware.” Cece notes as she reaches for her tea and a biscuit of her own. 

She wonders if Randal can convince the Bombardiers to start the Moonfire Faire early to force the girl to Costa del Sol and a vacation.

“But we are a team , little lizard. You don’t have to do it all on your own.” she tells her gently. It’s a terrible habit of the Auri girl’s that hasn’t been helped at all by that little gobshite Alphinaud and the other Scions, pushing it all on Kahkol’s shoulders. 

They had gotten a lot better about expecting the Warrior to pull miracles out of the aether and had actually started pulling their own weight. That was one nice thing about the bloody banquet, Loetstymm had said. It got the Scions collective heads out of their asses and realizing that their champion wasn’t invincible. 

“Captain always says if you want something done right you do it yourself,” Kahkol tries.

“If we’re getting a ship, it’ll be the Captain’s ship,” Cece says evenly. “He’ll appreciate the discount but the green bastard will insist on paying out of his own pocket. So it’ll be his ship - since he’s Captain after all.”

Kahkol’s face lights up as she recognizes that Cece has all but approved her work and that the Captain would like the idea. 

“Now given how nice and official like your papers are, would I be incorrect in guessin’ that your apartment looks like a Calamity hit?”

The not-so-subtle flinch the Warrior of Light makes confirms Cece’s fears that the Warrior of Light will not perish on the claws of a primal. She was going to be crushed by a stack of tomes falling on her or smothered in an avalanche of paper.

Chapter Text

“I don’t know how much longer I can put up with this,” T’chev whines as he lets his head flop back over the edge of the couch.

“How much longer you can put up with it?” Cece echoes indignantly as she brandishes her wrench at him. “What about the rest of us who have to bleedin listen to you ?!”

“ I’ve been pretty clear about my feelings for him haven’t I?” he ignores her as he asks the room at large.

“Very clear,” Moxi hums agreeably as she continues with her embroidery. Cece looks angry - but that was her usual state if anything. Greenie was asleep, or at least pretending to be, which was fine. 

“Abundantly so.” Sela mutters as she wanders past to dump a stack of papers in front of Randal. 

“Do you think I should be more direct?” he asks Moxi who is the only one who can really be counted on for anything if he thinks about it.

“Any more direct, and you’d be arrested for public indecency.” Randal mutters, to which Cece nods her assent and Loetstymm huffs out a poorly disguised chuckle. 

T’chev sighs theatrically as he rolls his eyes. Jerks.

“I can try and talk to him again,” Moxi offers. “Maybe I wasn’t clear enough when I told him you liked him.”

“You were pretty clear little lizard,” Loetstymm sighs, giving up the charade of slumber. “I think Mitsu is deliberately ignoring it.”

He probably was, T’chev thought dejectedly. He had delivered what he had thought had been an undeniably clear confession of his desire for a relationship closer than that of crew mates. Perhaps closer than friends? Only for Mitsu to seemingly misunderstand him entirely and then promptly leave the room with the particularly flimsy excuse of having left a kettle on.

Was it a Hingan thing to not flatly rebuff unwanted overtures? Those of the Far East did have a reputation for speaking in circles. Was the way T’chev spoke to him too familiar? Not familiar enough?

“It’ll be alright.” Moxi tries to reassure him - and T’chev unfortunately can’t find it in himself to believe her. Not with how fragile the smile she tries to muster up to him looks. 

She is too young to have gone through all that she has. T’chev is her elder by near half a decade, but he cannot claim to have near as many scars as she does. That she continues on, bruised but unbroken is a testament to her adamantine spine and that ferociously competitive soul of hers.

“He does care for you,” Moxi says as she turns her gaze towards her stitch-work. “Just maybe not in a rip your clothes off and fuck you senseless sort of way.” 

“I’m not only after him for his body!” T’chev protests indignantly, to which Randal throws a scrunched up ball of paper at him and Sela screeches at Moxi’s use of profanity.

“Bullshite!”

While yes he had initially been attracted to Mitsu for his looks, the Hingan bard had managed to prove to be far, far more than just an absolutely beautiful face. The man was kind, funny and an absolute joy to be around and T’chev really, really wanted to kiss him. 

“You sure make it sound like you are.”

Hmm. Perhaps that was the issue. He’d have to change his approach.


 

It takes little more than a week before Mitsutake cracks and turns to the Captain to try and solve this ever growing problem.

“Is everything alright with T’chev?” he asks, and the incredulous look he gets him tells him that Loetstymm is thoroughly unimpressed with his timing.

He plants his huge axe into the ground, bracing his back against the flat of the blade as a shield against the flurry of gunfire.

Really? his raised eyebrows demand of him and Mitsutake shrugs sheepishly before letting loose a flurry of arrows to try and put the Maelstrom pirate on the defensive. 

It works brilliantly and the Captain turns into a burst of movement the moment the gunfire stops. The Roegadyn rams himself into the Grand Marshal axe first. The battle is over with Loetstymm Fhrubryt’s axe edge at Mistbeard’s throat.

“Really?!” the Captain turns towards Mitsutake exasperatedly as he gets off Admiral Merlwyb’s second in command.

“It’s just - have I offended him?” Mitsu asks as he fidgets with his bowstring.

“Really?!” he repeats incredulously. 

“He’s been avoiding me,” Mitsutake says quickly as he goes over the events of the past week in his head. Where the Miqo’te would sit next to him, regardless of how much space there was at any other end of the table there was a distance. Where the First Mate would ask him for stories about his travels on this star, there were just polite nods acknowledging his presence before the man would vanish off to somewhere else. 

“I’m not sure what I should do to apologize, or at least get him to speak to me. You're his oldest friend  and-”

“Later,” the Captain cuts him off tersely and Mitsutake remembers the fact that the Admiral of and Grand Marshal are still there. And by all the kami, he’s gone and made an embarrassment of himself.

“If your company fights like that distracted, it’s no wonder they’re the terror of the Carteneau Flats.” Slafyrsyn laughs good naturedly. “You’ve got a good crew Fhrubryt.”

The two Sea Wolves trade pleasantries while Mitsutake tries his hardest to dissolve into the aether from abject mortification.

He is not sure what he might have done to cause T’chev to avoid him. He hasn’t been that obvious about the huge crush he has on the Miqo’te has he? 

He must have slipped up somewhere. Was it with those friends of Cece and Randal, when T’chev had gotten all cozy with that ruggedly handsome Hyur axe fighter? That was nearly a month ago - it must have been something more recent. 

Mitsutake is well versed in romance - more than half of the songs he knows and has memorized are love ballads after all. He was born in a brothel and grew up in the red-light districts of Kugane and Doma - he is not a novice in matters of love and lust. Except nothing he’s ever learned seems to apply to the handsome blond First Mate of the Quills.

Miqo’te were a very physically affectionate people, Mitsutake understood. The men very much more so than the women as he had noted from his own observations of the Miqo’te members of the Quills.

T’chev had a friendly air about him, with his easy contact and his penchant for flinging himself bodily onto his friends. He gave his touch freely,  always patting Kahkol and Cece on the head, slapping his hands in mirth against the Captain’s back and poking and prodding at Sela’s face. 

The well-muscled companionable arm around Mitsu’s shoulders, the weight of a comforting hand on his own, or his head pressed in close and breath warm as he leaned over his shoulder to look at whatever Mitsutake was working on... It didn’t mean anything, much like his peculiar turns of phrase and easy affection. That was just what T’chev was like around those he counted amongst his friends. 

He tells all of this to the Captain as he is dragged to a small tavern in Aleport, who stares and listens to him in an almost stunned silence.

“Menphina above, give me strength…” he groans before knocking back a tankard of ale. “Look Mitsu. T’chev likes you. Really likes you .”

And if he wasn’t talking to him, he must have done something especially egregious to sour the man towards him. 

“He thinks you, don’t like him back. And that he’s making you. Uncomfortable.” Loetstymm says extremely slowly, as if Mitsutake did not have perfect comprehension of the Eorzean language through the Echo. 

“Why would he think that?” 

The thought baffles. When had he ever displayed a dislike of T’chev’s company? Never. He practically craved the man's presence. Except... Well there was that incident a little over a week ago, where T’chev had been speaking to him about their friendship and being close like brothers. 

T’chev had been close. Physically very close. And particularly handsome that day, with his bright blue eyes looking up into Mitsutake’s own. With T’chev being a good deal shorter than him, Mitsu’s thoughts had turned towards the image of T’chev near certain parts of his anatomy and looking up at him with those beautiful blue eyes and he had had to excuse himself from the Miqo’te’s company before he embarrassed himself. He had all but fled the room to take a very cold shower. 

Something must have shown in Mitsutake’s expression and Loetstymm sighs as he signals for another tankard from the barkeep.

“Tell me exactly what he said.”

Under Loetstymm’s dark green gaze Mitsutake relays T’chev’s words to the Captain as best as he can recall, only for the man to sigh loudly.

“Gods this is terrible,” Loetstymm groans as he finishes his fourth tankard of ale. “And I thought he couldn’t possibly be worse at this. Look just… just invite him to the Moonfire Faire and, I dunno. Kiss him.” 

“W-What?!” Mitsutake’s voice goes embarrassingly high at the Captain’s suggestion.

“There’ll be fireworks and shit. It’ll be romantic. Hell, just bend him over a barrel or something,” the man continues on with his wholly inappropriate suggestions. “Pretty sure that’s what Quentin ended up doing.”

“Who is Quentin?” Mitsutake asks - the name is unfamiliar and odd sounding.

Loetstymm’s face looks suddenly very guilty, as if he had not meant to say that name aloud.

“Quentin was… Quentin was a friend of ours growing up. He and T’chev were close.” the Roegadyn answers almost reluctantly. “He died at Carteneau.”

Mitsutake feels his heart plummet to the bottom of his stomach. In all the stories he’s heard from T’chev about the Quills and their adventures, not once had this Quentin been mentioned. Loetstymm had called them close, and it does not take a scholar to read between the lines to see what he meant. 

That the memory of this man is too much for T’chev to even mention… 

Mitsutake has always known that the living could never compete with the dead. He had learnt that lesson multiple times throughout his life. It was a story he had heard and seen throughout the Far East, from the wide open plains of the Azim Steppe to the fishing villages of the Ruby Sea and the mountains of Dravania. 

Stories of grieving husbands and wives, forgetting about their own children until tragedy struck. Grieving parents neglecting those that survived. Mitsutake’s own mother had never forgiven him for being his father’s child. 

He knows better than to try and be whatever Quentin was to T’chev. 

He could be a friend. A good friend. A very good friend with the most embarrassing crush on the man - but a friend nonetheless.

At least the Captain had given him one good piece of advice - which did lead to one more question.

“What is the Moonfire Faire?”

Chapter Text

Loetstymm did not think his day was going to start off like this. It had all been going so well this morning. Kahkol had wandered off at some unholy hour early in the morning to go play with the Vath and the Vanu Vanu, with T’chev tagging along to make sure she did not return to Idyllshire until well past the evening meal. Loetstymm had even thrown near five  thousand gil at the man to make sure they stayed out late so that they could get everything organized.

Of course it had taken the rest of the crew nearly a whole bell to haul themselves over to their table in the Hard Place in varying states of consciousness, except for Malena who was almost vibrating with something.

He had barely managed to get out a good morning before the conjurer abruptly stated her intent to resign from the Quills.

“Is this a joke?” Sela asks her expression livid, and there is the smell of ash in the air as the Keeper woman’s hands clench into fists.

Malena shifts uncomfortably under the rest of their many varied gazes. 

“I never really signed up to fight primals,” she recites almost mechanically, as she shifts nervously. The anger and outrage on Sela’s face is hard to look at, and Malena cannot seem to bring herself to meet the Keeper’s eyes. “It was supposed to be just that one job in Quarrymill.”

“You hung around for more than a few jobs after that,” Randal states evenly, though there is something incredibly betrayed in his tone. 

Well there goes today’s and tomorrow’s plans, Loetstymm despairs internally. Though given how nervous and upset Malena is, Loetstymm sincerely doubts that her resignation is her idea.

The Ala Mhigan woman was an excellent conjurer and had always been exceptionally attached to the Quills. The first time they had met her she had been absolutely appalled at the Quills initial party of four. Three ex-pirates and a fledgling arcanist who - while exceptionally talented, seemed to be near their breaking point. 

Moxi hadn’t been at her breaking point. In the early days she didn’t really ever say anything. Just nodded gamely and did what you told her to do. 

That first trip to Gridania had been a godsend, in that it put Moxi in contact with the Conjurer’s guild where she promptly learned everything they had to offer of her own will.  Upon questioning from T’chev, she had done so because she was certain that ‘one day, Loetstymm is going to get his arm chopped off and a physick spell is not going to be enough.’

Having Malena for that poacher hunting job had been a godsend when Cece took a poisoned arrow to the leg.

“This have something to do with that letter you received last week?” Mitsu asks not unkindly. 

“No.” She lies poorly - Malena has never been a good liar - and Loetstymm can see how the tension visibly leaves the air much to Malena’s very visible panic.

“Does it have to do with the Griffin?” Sela prods, and they can practically see the sweat forming on Malena’s brow.

“Malena.” the Captain says her name firmly. “Is this because you don’t want to get her involved?”

Of course that was the real reason she was trying to distance herself from them. Malena’s personal problems were not the Quills problems and they were most certainly not the Warrior of Light’s problems. 

“It’s spite.” she admits finally as she visibly deflates. “If she gets involved, they get what they want. I refuse to be a chink in her armour.”

Loettstymm hums thoughtfully. 

“I’m going to guess that letter was from one of your lovely relatives?” Randal sighs - likely recalling her  absolutely awful aunt in the Shroud. “Presumably one involved with an Ala Mhigan resistance cell or this Griffin bloke.”

“I seen some of the lot that crowd blab about him in the Shroud,” Sela mutters darkly. “Iza’to wants to join the Resistance.”

You’re not Ala Mhigan. None of your family is Ala Mhigan. Iza’to isn’t even courting an Ala Mhigan!” Randal states the obvious as he looks over utterly confused at the Keeper woman who rolls her eyes. 

“It’s the ‘proper’ thing to do, he says. To free our ‘Ala Mhigan brothers’ from the yoke of tyranny,” Sela grumbles with no small amount of irritation.

Since the salvation of Ishgard at the hands of the Warrior of Light, Ala Mhigan refugees across Eorzea had begun to mutter amongst themselves about when the Warrior would liberate their homeland next.

What they expected one tiny Auri girl to do was something Loetstymm was not sure, but many seemed to think Moxi could just magic the Garleans away. Moxi’s heroics made for fantastic tavern room tales and songs but no one ever sung of how exhausted the girl was - nor her injuries.

Many adventurers had taken up trying to emulate the Warrior of Light, Iza’to being one one such example  but none of these would be heroes seemed to realize how terribly unlucky Moxi had been to end up in her situation.

While the Xaela did have an insatiable appetite for travel, her whole Warrior of Light thing started because she’d taken a bad job and been thrown into the Bowl of Embers as fuel for the fires of Ifrit. She would have been perfectly happy ferrying letters, delivering packages and slaying bothersome pests, poachers and slavers for the rest of her life. She had not asked for the hand she had been dealt. It just so happened that she was lucky enough to have been blessed with the Echo. Contrary to popular belief, Kahkol wasn’t quite a one-woman army.

“So I initially called this meeting  because Kahkol’s nameday is tomorrow.”  Loetstymm admits while Malena looks like she’s trying very hard to disappear into the floor, and the rest of them look somewhat abashed. 

Not a single bleeding one of them had remembered it seems.

“What?!” a child’s voice exclaims in indignation, and Randal has to promptly clap a hand over Cece’s foul mouth to prevent the string of curses that was about to be unleashed, lest innocent ears be soiled with her language.

Khloe Aliapoh and T’kebbe Morh have come running into the Hard Place and are now practically climbing onto Loetstymm.

“It’s Miss Moxi’s nameday?” the two little girls exclaim, tails twitching and fur fluffed up in excitement.

Sela promptly reaches over and pulls her distant cousin away from him while the little orphan Miqo'te girl settles herself on Loetstymm's knee.

“If you cleaned behind your ears like you’re supposed to, you’d have heard that it’s tomorrow.” she scolds the child.

“Yes. Her nameday is tomorrow. We were hoping to make her a surprise. Got any ideas little ones?” he asks, because while Loetstymm Fhrubryt knows how to sail a ship and kill monsters, surprise parties are outside of his expertise.

T’kebbe looks thoughtful.

“Well you’ll need a cake. Can’t have a nameday party without a cake. Oh and all of her favourite foods!”

Loetstymm nods agreeably. Valid points the child had. Which brought them to the issue of what sort of cake Kahkol would like and what exactly her favourite foods were. They all knew she was partial to sweets - but other dishes were a mystery. 

“Buuz would probably be good to make,” Mitsu remarks mostly to himself. “I doubt she’ll have had those in years.”

“Booze? The lizard hardly drinks!” Randal retorts as he pulls out ink and quill to start taking notes.

“Buuz,” the Raen repeats himself. “It’s a Xaelan dish. Adkiragh probably has the ingredients for it.” 

Loetstymm glances over at the barkeep dressed in gold wearing a gigantic golden pig’s head. Loetstymm suppresses a shudder at the sight of the man. Never could trust a man who wore masks. Especially not one like that.

“I like pineapple pudding,” Khloe offers from where Sela is fussing over the girl’s hair and scarf. Malena still looks uncomfortable as her whole resignation from the Quills appears to have been set aside for the moment to discuss the more important matter of Kahkol’s favourite foods. If they were going to be having this party here in Idyllshire, he supposed they'd best invite the rest of the city as well.

Randal sets his quill down, as he and Cece go over the list of ingredients they’ve made. 

“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Cece murmurs. “I can ask Melkoko’s boy for help to get some of these.”

“What are you getting for her present?” T’kebbe asks excitedly. “Miss Moxi loves our drawings!”

The look on each and every one of Loetstymm’s crew’s face is one of almost comical horror.

Cece is the first to recover in that since she’s going to be doing all of the cooking, the food was her gift to their little lizard.

Mitsu promptly throws his lot in with Cece in adding that he would be making whatever a buuz was - a taste of Kahkol’s childhood more like than not. That would be his gift to her - as well as a song of his own composition, he adds at Cece’s glare. 

Loetstymm has to smother his chuckles as he watches Sela, Randal and Malena flounder. Loetstymm is glad that he and T’chev had already worked out their gifts for the Warrior’s nameday weeks ago. It had involved working with that devil-woman Rowena but the Sharlayan style astrometer and tickets to see the dance troupe from Radz-at-han had been worth every gil and tomestone.

He hoped they could make this a nameday for the Kahkol to remember.

It’s not like the Scions would ever do it for her.

Chapter Text

People liked to tout the Warrior of Light and her associate’s as paragons of virtue and heroism. It was said that you could learn a lot about a person with the people they surrounded themselves with and while the Scions of the Seventh Dawn could attest to the Warrior’s generous and heroic nature, one could not exactly paint the Quills with that same brush.

They were an honest free company. They did the work they were paid for and generally only did work that one could call ‘good’ in that they broke no laws, and pretty much only killed the people they were being paid to - but it did not change the fact that Quills were quite literally in the case of their Lominsan members, pirates

A fact that Loetstymm Fhrubryt usually tried to keep under wraps when speaking with potential clients, but he’s mad enough right now to let the mask slip and it seems the rest of the crew is as well.

Malena is not punching the little shit near hard enough, is Loetstymm's personal opinion, but it was her brother she was beating the tar out of.

A compromise that she and the rest of them had arrived at after Malena had affirmed that she did sort of care about her shithead of a brother. 

From what Loetstymm and Cece have managed to pick up from some of the Ala Mhigans, Malena's family tree was a convoluted thing that had ties to the Mad King and some monk who had been very good at punching things. Something Malena appeared to have inherited. 

Mally was a more than decent conjurer, but Loetstymm feels like she may have missed her calling as a pugilist.

Herevard Strongfist is trying to dodge and block his elder sister's blows - which he is failing miserably at and he is presently more of a mass of bruises than a person.

He's getting off too easily, was T'chev's two gil on the matter, but the Miqo'te had wanted to carve a wound across his chest to match the one Kahkol had sustained. Had their little lizard not taken to wearing plate armour as she had, Loetstymm is certain that she would not be still with them. 

Sela and Cece had surprisingly agreed for once in their lives and had been enthusiastically bouncing ideas off of each other. When Loetstymm had checked in on them last they had settled on stringing the bastard from the top of the statue of Rhalgr, setting him on fire and then scattering his entrails across the Reach.

Randal had stated that Ishgardian Brume justice would demand that Kahkol have the first right to beat the shit out of Malena’s brother, but Mitsu had already smuggled the girl out of Gyr Abania to recover from her wounds. The Alliance and Scions were reassessing the situation and they did not need their weapon presently so her absence would likely not be too noticed. Any questions as to her current whereabouts was met with a disdainful stare from Alphinaud Leveilleur and backed by Loetstymm’s very big axe.

Those who were far more persistent and who had made attempts to track her down these past few weeks were dissuaded from doing so. Occasionally permanently. Loetstymm needed to find another dumping ground soon. The M tribe and the Garleans would probably catch on to the smell of ten rotting spies soon.

“Why are you so godsdamned stupid ?!” Malena roars, as she knocks her brother flat on his ass. “Did you and your friends even have a plan, beyond getting everyone killed?!” 

The Ala Mhigan resistance fighter is pretty resilient, as he pushes himself to his feet. 

“What is your problem?!” her brother yells back. 

“My problem?!” their violet-eyed conjurer demands. “You helped a madman summon a fucking primal !”

Loetstymm tunes out Malena’s ever growing list of complaints against her brother as his linkpearl pings.

It’s Mitsu reporting in and unfortunately it’s not exactly the sort of news he was hoping to get.

“She’s what ?!” Loetstymm groans as he listens to the Hingan man.

A friend of hers informed her of a tournament in the coliseum. She said she’d just be a minute - but I haven’t seen her in three bells.”

“You mean you lost her.”

Loetstymm has never been one to beat around the bush - it was a point of contention between him and those of the crew that weren’t from Limsa. Randal liked to moan and groan about the number of jobs they lost out on because Loetstymm didn’t mince words. Loestymm liked to point out that those jobs they missed out on were boring .

There’s a small amount of muttered grumblings from Mitsu before a terse and almost petulant ‘yes’.

An almost sickening crunch and the accompanying scream from Malena’s brother rings through the air before promptly being drowned out by raucous cheering from Sela and Cece.

What was that?”

“Nothing.” he tells Mitsu. “She’s friends with pretty much every guildmaster in Eorzea. She’s probably making her visiting rounds or something. She’ll contact us when she’s done whatever it is she’s doing.”

He turns his attention back to what the rest of his crew was doing to Herevard to warrant such a racket.

Malena is grinding her brother’s likely broken leg into the dirt. 

“Oh you think this is painful ?” she’s taunting the screaming idiot. “Why don’t you try and get yourself near cut in half by the viceroy? Then have some shit-for-brains Ala Mhigan bastard demand you to have done more for them.

“I can slit his throat if you want,” T’chev calls out in suggestion. “Should shut him up for a bit. Let it bleed for maybe a minute or so, would be about the same amount she lost.”

Knowing T’chev’s almost surgical precision with those knives of his, Loetstymm doesn’t doubt his friend’s statement, he does however doubt his friend’s regard for Malena’s brother’s life. Sela and Cece start throwing out their own ideas, and Loetstymm had known the Sanguine Sirens were particularly vicious towards men they didn’t like - but some of the stuff coming out of Cece’s mouth was making his blood run cold.

Malena seems to be considering taking up their offers when Yda or Lyse or whoever she was comes stalking up to them. Herevard's screaming probably got someone's attention.

“What in the seven hells are you lot doing?!”

T’chev makes a noise of irritation or disgust. He wasn’t particularly fond of any of the Scions. He had a certain amount of respect for Y’shtola, Urianger, Krile and the late Papalymo, but nursed a pretty one-sided grudge against Thancred for some unknown reason and he had never particularly liked Yda.

“I’m out Cap,” T’chev states before promptly vanishing to Twelve knows where. 

“Family argument,” Loetstymm informs the sort-of Scion jerking a thumb at the Strongfist siblings.

“This stops. Now.” the red-clad woman tells him, her hands clenched into fists. “And get that boy to the healers.”

“I am a healer,” Malena snaps irritably, as she plants her foot rather firmly on her brother’s chest. “And I don’t think my idiot brother’s quite learned his lesson yet.” 

There’s a glint in Malena’s eye as she glares at Lyse. Malena’s opinion of Ala Mhigans had always been low. With what had happened at Baelsar’s Wall and the way things were currently going with their lives, her disdain for her countrymen was probably on par with the Butcher’s.

The Ala Mhigan conjurer was probably irritated with Loetstymm for having brought them down into Gyr Abania, but honestly what had she wanted him to do? Leave their little lizard’s health and safety in the hands of the Scions

Malena liked to try and behave like whatever strange image of a conjurer she had in her head was supposed to be. Kind, gentle and soothing to any and all, but the woman had really missed her calling as a brawler. She would have fit right in with Rhoswyn and her Sirens. 

The Sanguine Siren  in his crew is giving him a look, and Loetstymm really hates the fact he was voted Captain of the company all those years ago. 

While it would be likely nothing short of spectacular to watch Lyse and Malena fight, it would not be good for business to draw the ire of one of the Scions. Alphinaud and Tataru would vouch for them, but the others probably wouldn't. 


 

Lyse doesn’t know very much about Moxi’s adventurer friends. Per Alphinaud they were a good band - eccentric, but good people who had helped a great deal in establishing the Scions reputation in Ishgard. They had been indispensable in keeping the Warrior’s health in good condition and had provided vital assistance throughout their stay in Ishgard, holding back any and all attackers as Moxi took on primals and other monsters of varying types. The boy had recounted an amusing story about how Moxi had caught one awful cold and how the Quills had rather literally sat on her to keep her from making herself even sicker. 

She had heard stories about the Quills from her time with Papalymo, and most of them are mildly entertaining anecdotes of ridiculous rescues and tales of a somewhat dysfunctional adventurer group.

That said dysfunctional adventurer group is presently torturing a man, has a taste that’s oddly similar to bile rising in the back of her throat.

“What do you think you’re doing?! What would she think of you doing this?!”

“Lass, we’re pirates . Us adventurers are not all paragons of virtue and heroism. We’re the ones who do the dirty work no one else wants to. Shoveling chocobo dung and slaying primals ain’t all we do. Your Warrior sailed on the Ahriman with Aster Bloodspur. Which, if you didn’t know, was as much of a merchant ship as the Kraken .” the Quill’s Sea Wolf leader sighs as he stands up. 

“Given Herevard’s most recent fuck-ups, the lizard would have gutted him. He’s lucky Malena’s such a nice sister.” the red-headed Hyur shrugs nonchalantly as he moves to stand between her and the alleged sibling fight. 

With the way the Ala Mhigan conjurer was grinding her foot into her alleged brother’s chest - nice is not what she would describe her as. 

“Thought he was one of them blasted Garlean spies the way he was sniffing around for Kahkol,” the Lalafell woman sighs. “I still vote for stringing him up from that bloody statue as a warning to his idiot friends.”

“I agree with the popoto.” the Miqo’te thaumaturge chimes in.

Lyse is incredibly outnumbered - and none of these Quills seem inclined to let her really intervene in this matter.

“If he is a spy, he needs to be taken into custody and-”

“Oh, he isn’t a Garlean spy,” the man’s sister snaps. “An idiot, is what he is. You would think having been rescued from his own stupidity would be enough to knock some bleeding sense into his head, but no .”

“Herevard here is Malena’s little brother,” the Captain sighs tiredly as he begins to explain. “Herevard is currently a member of the Ala Mhigan resistance. But before that he was at Baelsar’s Wall with the Griffin. He’s incredibly lucky to still be alive and not primal fuel.”

Lyse’s gaze turns to the young man on the ground. She doesn’t recognize him, but his face is like many of the youth of Little Ala Mhigo. Full of anger and frustration. Well right now his face is pretty banged up from the treatment he’s gotten from these adventurers.

“His most recent brilliant plan was to throw Kahkol into a Garlean trap and get her killed.” the Lalafell supplies.

Herevard makes a noise or groan of protest at that.

“No?” Malena snarls. “Then what would you call your plan to get you and your idiot friends purposefully captured and used as bait with the intent of having the Champion of Eorzea come rescue your sorry ass from  Velodyna? Because it’s shit like that that makes me think you want the Garleans to win.”

“I’m sorry what?!” Lyse demands as she hears this alleged plan. 

“She’s not invincible . I don’t care about those stupid stories you must have heard, she’s flesh and bone and she has bled far more than she should for idiots like you!” 

Well Alphinaud had the right of it when he had called them protective of the Warrior. Loetstymm Fhrubryt and his crew have taken it upon themselves - partially at the behest of the Maelstrom and from Tataru to keep an eye out for folk interested in Kahkol’s movements. They had also taken it upon themselves to dissuade those who would seek her out for their own purposes, in some cases rather violently and permanently.

Lyse looks at the faces of the Quills and then down at Herevard. She can’t fight them all, and they do have their friend’s and the Alliance’s well-being and best interests at heart. 

“I can’t condone torture,” Lyse tells them firmly. “This stops now. Fix his wounds, then toss him in a cell or something to rethink his life choices.”

The Twelve-damned pirates all trade looks.

“Top of the statue you said?” Malena inclines her head towards the Lalafell, who grins.

“I’ll get the rope!”

Lyse just hopes none of this ends poorly.

Chapter Text

“No - is a full sentence Gorgagne,” the dreadfully stubborn Roegadyn grunts as he ties off the ropes expertly.

The Captain of the Krakens smiles bemusedly at that. Did no one ever tell Fhrubryt that a prize that was out of reach just made it ever more so appealing? He had been somewhat peeved at having been strong armed into playing ferryman in taking the Scions to Kugane, but when the former First Mate of the Blackquill had come stomping up alongside two of his men and thrown a sack of gil at him demanding to be brought along - well that had his curiosity piqued. 

He had heard that Fhrubryt had stowed his sea legs and taken to adventuring after Carteneau - that he had somehow managed to pick up the Warrior of Light into his Free Company came as not that much of a surprise. 

Kahkol certainly fit in with Fhrubryt’s band of weirdos - he still recalled the very odd day the Xaela woman had turned up asking about Ishgardian soup.  She had even paid an exorbitant fee for said information - she had paid as if it were valuable military intelligence!

He follows Fhrubryt’s gaze to the masts where the Quills are racing through the masts of the Misery and putting his men to shame with the speed they navigate the rigging.

“Would your Tia friend not be amenable to returning to the sea?” Carvallain suggests lightly. “He is well  known for his love of seamen, after all.”

Fhrubryt’s blank look is answer enough as to what he thought of that joke.

“He hears that, he will kill you and make it look like Rhoswen did it.” the gargantuan Sea Wolf informs him bluntly, before motioning for Carvallain to move over. No sooner has Carvallain taken a step to the left, does the form of a silver-haired Xaela girl come to a landing from the rigging with a loud thump, right where he had been standing seconds earlier. 

“If T’chev hears what?” the Warrior of Light asks, before glancing at Carvallain. “Ah Captain de Gorgagne. Sails are fixed. My thanks for introducing me to the House Durendaire chef!”

Carvallain simply nods, and ignores the curious glance Fhrubryt sends Kahkol’s way. 

“Ask Cece if you want the more entertaining version of the story,” the girl grins mischievously at her friend, who shrugs. “Speaking of which with your permission, Captain d’you think I could commandeer your galley for a bell?” she continues, and Carvallain has scarce opened his mouth to ask her why has she bounded off, calling back her thanks.

“She feels bad about you not gettin’ to actually try any of the food at the Missin’ Member.” 

Carvallain glances over to find T’chev Tia grinning from atop Fhrubryt’s shoulders. How the man had gotten there was a mystery, but it took a little more than a rogue’s disappearing act to faze the Captain of the Kraken’s Arms. Why the Warrior would be concerned about his dealings with that harridan Rhoswen’s restaurant was something that baffled, but far be it from him to try and understand the Warrior of Light’s business.

“She also feels more comfortable eating food that she’s made herself,” the Miqo’te rogue adds, his expression fond. “She’s a fantastic cook, so you and the crew are in for a treat. You should look into fixin’ that crow’s nest of yours Gorgagne. I’d do it myself, but I ain’t as good of a carpenter as Randal.”

Carvallain thinks about how the Quills had fixed the sails and done the work of six deckhands with two people.

“Are you certain you and the rest of your crew don’t want to stay on with the Kraken’s Arms?” 

The Miqo’te has the temerity to burst out laughing, while his Roegadyn friend remains utterly unamused with Carvallain’s proposal.

“Mally’s a landlubber through and through. Can’t even abide the thought of being on deck,” T’chev Tia laughs. “And I’m certain Cece would rather blow her own brains out than be caught dead on the Misery .”

Ah, of course. The Lalafellin Sanguine Siren they had brought under their sway through mysterious means. Carvallain would sooner chop off his own leg than let one of Rhoswen’s harpies onto his ship.

“And Sela wouldn’t like not being able to pop off to the Shroud to keep her mother in line,” the Miqo’te continues on amusedly. “Disgruntled fire-happy thaumaturges ain’t the sort you put on any ship. And Randal doesn’t like you.”

Well of course Hooper wouldn’t. At least the man was not on speaking terms with any High House Lords, and had had the decency to keep his mouth shut about Carvallain’s circumstances and identity. 

At least the Seeker’s words explained why Fhrubryt hadn’t dumped his entire crew onto him . Being an experienced sailor, T’chev was a given - the Auri bard on the other hand was almost useless with anything. Carvallain surmised that they were bringing him along due to his familiarity with their final destination rather than his sailing expertise, though Fhrubryt and T’chev himself made up for the Hingan’s nautical shortcomings. 

“Where did the Champion learn to sail?” He decides to ask the two who had either taught her or at least knew the answer to that.

“She sailed on the Ahriman with Bloodspur when she was sixteen,” T’chev states simply. 

Carvallain is not sure if he managed to keep the surprise off of his face. The Ahriman had been a relatively small crew, headed by an eccentric of some notoriety. Aster Bloodspur had been a decently successful pirate and privateer in the years both before and after the Calamity. Then he and his ship had gone up in flames and his crew had scattered to the winds. Carvallain had met the Midlander a few times years ago. He had not left much of an impression.  Though the rumours about the man’s preferences were somewhat distasteful.

He is not sure how old the Warrior of Light is, but she looks young.

“We don’t ask .” Fhrubryt says firmly, practically looming over him. “Not unless you think you can take the Warrior of Light on in a fight.”

Recalling the way the Auri woman had utterly brutalized his Ymir at Hullbreaker Isle, Carvallain feels he might be outmatched in a duel to the death.

“Noted.”


 

“Whaddya mean, you don’t think I got a chance wit’im?” 

Mitsutake’s attention is brought away from Kahkol bustling about the ship’s kitchen - the galley, she had told him - and turned towards the small table where a few of the Kraken’s crew had gathered.

“He’s a right handsome bastard, but give it up Carter,” a tall, dark-haired Hyur smirks knowingly. “You ain’t his type.”

“Oh well of course you would know all about his type wouldn’t you!” the pirate woman snaps irritably while raucous laughter erupts around the table.

Mitsutake manages to catch Kahkol’s eye, and inclines his head towards that particular table. His question is clear and the Xaela girl glances over to them before her expression takes on a peculiar look.

Kahkol at times weighs the choice of speaking as heavily as the Qestir do. An admirable quality, except it’s incredibly annoying when Mitsutake is trying to get an answer out of the girl. She is obviously debating whether or not she’s actually going to answer him.

“They’re talking about T’chev,” she sighs finally. “Test this for me?” 

Mitsutake knows a distraction when one is shoved into his mouth. While it is delicious, he is now immensely interested in the pirates’ conversation.

What he hears however, sends ice running down his spine. 

He’s not unfamiliar with transactions of the flesh - he did grow up in a brothel -  but their conversation makes Mitsutake’s skin crawl. 

Sailors are wont to exaggerate - he knows this. Has listened to sailors and their fantastical tales that rarely had a kernel of truth to them. A slippery eel would be spoken of as if it were the Lord of the Whorl himself. 

Mitsutake feels his hands clenching into fists as one of the dark-haired Hyur - Hardwin- he thinks he was called - speaks crudely about T’chev’s hips and ass and comparing them to some other Miqo’te he had known intimately.

He’s not jealous.

He’s concerned. He’s concerned and upset that these sailors are talking about a very good friend of his like - like he was just some, some dockside whore.

“I mean, he’s got a clever enough tongue,” one of the Kraken’s men is laughing which is when Mitsutake apparently has hit his limit and moves to give them a piece of his mind about how they spoke about his friend.

“FOOD’S READY!” Kahkol bellows, loudly setting down the pot of soup she’d made in front of the pirates just as Mitsutake has grabbed one of the pirates roughly by the shoulder.

The pirates are a little startled, before happily and raucously diving into their meal. Kahkol has grabbed hold of Mitsutake’s arm and is not so gently dragging him away and above deck.

“It ain’t worth it.” She tells him firmly. “Half of’em are talkin’ outta their asses.”

“But-”

“If it makes you feel better, that batch of soup I gave them is boiled chocobo feed.”

That catches him off guard and Mitsutake splutters at that. If what she had shoved in his mouth was boiled gysahl greens, he is not sure how she had managed to make them red .

“Wait I thought-”

“The beet soup is for Carvallain. Idiot doesn’t realize that Rhoswen’s sweet on him, so apparently he didn’t eat a bite of what I made that time,” she stops dragging him and turns to face him directly. “Most of their talk is bullshite. Typical sailor bluster. And mostly related to stereotypes of Seekers in Limsa and male Seekers in general.”

Mitsutake has pieced together a bit of those stereotypes from derogatory remarks from Sela towards T’chev who threw his own right back at the Keeper woman.

“Adult Tias are usually looked down on in Seeker culture. Once you’re a grown man, it’s expected that they either start challenging the Nuhns and start siring children and such. Limsa’s nice in that no one gives two shits about that sorta thing. Those who ain’t interested in starting families or women are called eccentric and other names.”

Mitsutake nods. He’d picked up on that.

“Well the stereotype goes that Limsan Tias are all whores for the closest pretty face, bein’ that they ain’t getting any from Seeker women. The other Spoken like to say how you don’t even have to pay a Tia for a tumble, since they’re so desperate.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

He hadn’t spent very long in Limsa Lominsa, but even he had figured out that avoiding your debts was an easy way to get yourself a knife between the ribs or thrown off the upper decks.

“It’s a stereotype. They’re all ridiculous.” Kahkol tells him flatly. “T’chev has a reputation in Limsa for being easy - Captain says it came about after Carteneau and the Calamity.”

After Quentin died, Mitsutake’s mind helpfully supplies. 

“And T’chev has bedded a fair number of the Krakens and other pirates,” the Warrior of Light informs him, and Mitsutake’s breath catches in his throat.

Her expression turns sympathetic, and Mitsutake quickly rearranges his face into something less heartbroken.  

“Though I’m pretty sure he’s killed most of the ones he did. They'd broken the code.”

Mitsutake’s not sure what his face looks like right now, much less what he’s feeling. Relief? Horror?

He’s not a stranger to the idea of assassins and spies using seduction as a means to achieve their goals - one had merely to look at Yotsuyu to know how devastating the tactic could be. But the thought of T’chev using himself like that for some reason makes Mitsutake’s heart ache. 

Kahkol’s face takes on an almost embarrassed cast to it. 

“I’m… not helping at all, am I?” she sighs. “But anyway you can’t go ‘bout starting fights with the Kraken’s Arms, and ‘specially not on their own ship! It’s bad enough that Randal’s dodgin’ blades in Ishgard- Cap will have an aneurysm if you end up at odds with the squids!”

He nods sheepishly in agreement. A good majority of the Quills’ jobs came from out of Limsa and Loetstymm took great pains to remain on good terms with the three great pirate powers. He had never looked into how the Captain got them jobs that weren’t quite from the Adventurer’s Guild - the errands they ran for the Sanguine Sirens were relayed to them from Cece and now that he thought on it, most anything that involved the Krakens usually came from T’chev. 

So it was just business then. It didn’t really mean anything.

“If I tell you about how Thancred punched a cyclops in the face at the Grand Melee will it make you feel better?” 

Mitsutake bursts out laughing at that. She looks so nervous and concerned that he cannot help but laugh. So very much at odds with the confident and angry Xaela who had saved him in Ishgard.

“I’m fine Kahkol,” he smiles at her, though she looks somewhat skeptical. “Though I would enjoy the story.”

The story is everything Mitsutake loves in a song, and he’s already plucking out a tune on an imaginary harp as he works out how he would put this tale of the Warrior of Light to music. He promptly excuses himself from Kahkol’s company to quickly put his thoughts to paper. He thinks he’s got the perfect harmonies and words to capture the battle between the Warrior and the Bull of Ala Mhigo.

His thoughts are promptly thrown into disarray at the sound of T’chev’s laughter and Mitsutake rounds the corner to see the Quills’ First Mate chatting away happily with the tall dark-haired Hyur from the mess hall.

It is sheer luck that the cabin he shares with the Captain and T’chev is right there for him to promptly sequester himself away in before the handsome blonde Tia can notice him and he won’t have to see that brilliant smile directed towards someone else any longer.

The doors of the Misery are thankfully well oiled and as silent as a whisper and Mitsutake presses his back against the door as he breathes out heavily.

Who T’chev lays with is absolutely none of his business, he reminds himself as he presses his hands to his eyes. There was no room for him to criticize or condemn the man for who he takes to bed.

He presses his hands in harder to his eyes, hoping the pressure can force the heat away. He can’t help but recall the way that Hardwin had spoken of T’chev’s body with an intimacy that Mitsutake is not sure is all just the bluster of a sailor. His mind drifts towards T’chev’s laugh and the lump in his throat seems to only grow larger and his eyes are definitely watering. 

Mitsutake is just a colleague. A part of the crew. A friend. 

It’s none of his business, he tells himself as he sinks to the floor. It’s none of his business.