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Alas, I Know Not How

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Finn first meets Princess Lachesis of Nordion at Lord Sigurd's wedding, in Verdane.  He knows why they're still in Verdane castle, since Prince - or King, now - Jamke insisted, instead of going back to Chalphy.  Finn doesn't really mind, he goes where Lord Quan tells him to go.  He just doesn't know why here.  In Verdane's ballroom.  He tugs on his coat cuffs, uneasy.  Finn is not one for the court.  

"Ah!  Finn!"  Finn perks up to see Lady Ethlyn flounce over to him.  "What are you doing here in this dark corner?"

"I'm not one for dancing, my lady," Finn bows politely.  "Lord Quan taught me much about the lance, but not so much about the ballroom."

"You can't be any worse than my brother," Lady Ethlyn's eyes sparkle as they land on her newly-married brother.  "He never paid attention when we were children, and I can't imagine they taught formal etiquette at the military academy."

"Hm."  Finn sulks a bit.  Not that he'd ever admit it.  "Lady Ethlyn..."

"Yes...?"  Lady Ethlyn's gaze sweeps around the ballroom, as if looking for someone.

"Why am I here?"

"Why not?"

Finn groans.  "I can understand why we're at Lord Sigurd's wedding.  He's your older brother, and Lord Quan's best friend.  But why me?"

"Why not you?  You are Quan's squire, aren't you?  Thank you," Lady Ethlyn swipes a goblet from a nearby server and takes a sip.  

"I mean, yes, he is, but - "

"It's a complicated story," Lady Ethlyn sighs dramatically.  "Basically, my brother, my husband, and Eldigan all trade responsibilities for their weddings.  Eldigan was Quan's best man, Sigurd was Eldigan's best man, and Quan is Sigurd's best man.  So that's why we're here."

"But - I don't understand."

"I'm sure you will in time."  Lady Ethlyn resists patting his cheek.  He admires her restraint.  "But as for you, well, Quan sees great things in you.  We all do.  And maybe years down the road, when you take over the Lanzritter, you'll have a station befitting something like this."

"I mean - I'm only sixteen - "

"Relax, Finn," Lady Ethlyn smiles at him sweetly.  "It'll work out.  Now, where is she..."  She goes back to scanning the crowd.

"Are you looking for Lord Quan?"

"No, someone else.  An old friend of mine..."


The first time Lachesis meets Sir Finn of Leonster is at Sigurd's wedding.  She doesn't know how or when he met his now-wife, but she applauds his choice.  Deirdre seems nice.  The trip to Verdane had been relatively sedate, all things considered with Eldie's tensions towards King Imuka and Prince Chagall, Elliot's idiocy, and all the other problems he had to deal with.  Verdane's ballroom is nice enough, she supposes.  Nothing like Nordion's sweeping estate or even Castle Agustria's lavish setting.  She adjusts her stole, trying to pry loose the cool fall air.  

"Sister."  Eldigan slides up next to her, a content smile on his face.  "What keeps you to the shadows?"

"Brother," Lachesis nods.  "Taking in the view.  Quite sudden that Sigurd got married, is it not?"

"Hmph," her brother sighs, which is his way of telling her she's right.  "Sudden indeed.  All the years I've known him, he's never shown any interest in a woman.  And then, if you believe the stories, they just met in the middle of a forest and fell in love."

"Romantic," Lachesis says with no small amount of sarcasm.  "Do you believe it?"

"Sigurd told me himself.  He's never been a liar."  Eldigan shrugs, the fur of his coat rippling with the motion.  "Hm.  That's interesting."

"Oh, do tell me."

"It seems Quan brought his squire tonight."  Eldigan nods to a distant part of the ballroom where she sees bits of pink and blue hair.  It can't be Sigurd since he's still starstruck with his wife in the middle of the ballroom, but that must be Ethlyn.  "Finn of Leonster...I've heard promising things about him."

"Oh?"

"Just bits of what Quan wrote," Eldigan ruffles his hair.  "You know how awful he is at writing letters that have any semblance of content."

"Words I have oft quoted at you and your lack of detail," Lachesis raises an eyebrow, and Eldigan hides a quiet laugh.

"Too true, sister.  Too true.  Ah, here they come."  She can hear the smile on his face as she smoothes out her dress.

"Well, if it isn't the lovely Nordion siblings," Ethlyn approaches, the blue-haired man in tow.  More of a boy, really.  He looks so young.  And uncomfortable.  But there's something in his eyes... "Hello, Eldigan.  Hello, Lachesis."

"Hello to you as well," Eldigan says fondly, and bows stiffly.  "Congratulations on behalf of your house."

"That Sigurd," Ethlyn rolls her eyes.  "Never thought he'd settle down."

"Greetings, Ethlyn," Lachesis curtsies elegantly.  "What brings you to our side of the hall?"

"Making the rounds, as it were," Ethlyn leans forward with a twinkle in her smile.  "This is Finn, Quan's squire.  We have high hopes for him down in Leonster."

"The pleasure is mine," Finn bows, awkwardness flowing off him like water.  "I've been serving Lord Quan and Lord Sigurd in the campaign."

"Ah, yes, your campaign," Eldigan chuckles.  "I pray you do not turn to Agustria..."

"I - I mean - " Finn stammers, red in his cheeks.  

"Hah!  Just a bit of fun.  I know I'd never turn my blade against Sigurd, Quan, or their friends."  Eldigan holds himself high as he speaks.  

"Well put, brother," Lachesis's words are so dry they could wilt a flower.  

"Actually, Eldigan, might I talk to you for a moment?  Finn, I trust you to look after the lovely princess."  Ethlyn giggles and drags Eldigan away by the elbow, whispering quietly.  Lachesis sees Eldigan's eyes light up, and he departs with a nod.  Those scheming...!

"My apologies for my lady," Finn says nervously.  "She's quite...uh..."

"Boisterous?  That would be putting it lightly," Lachesis laughs.  "I've known her and her brother for many years.  She used to be much worse."

"Forgive me if I don't believe you.  But allow me to introduce myself properly.  I am Finn, of Leonster."  He straightens his back just a bit, and he looks older.

"Lachesis of Nordion.  Charmed, I'm sure."  She extends a gloved hand and he ducks to lay a chaste kiss to it.  "Care to join me for a dance?"

"Alas, I know not how," Finn's eyes tighten, and she feels her lip curl instinctively.  "I may prove to be a subpar dancing partner."

"And you'd refuse a princess's decree?"  She grins, and she knows she's got him.

"Then all I pray for is for your forgiveness," Finn bows.  "For your toes, and for your reputation."

"The former is easily healed, and the latter I give not a wit for," Lachesis extends a hand.  "Come."

"I...uh..."  Finn goes pale.  Lachesis rolls her eyes.

"Take my hand."  She raises her right hand and Finn takes it.  "And put your right hand on my waist.  Any lower and I shall draw my blade."

"Of - of course, Your Highness."  He hesitantly reaches for her and lightly touches her waist.  She uses a hand to press it down a bit firmer.  

"I do like the sound of that," she purrs.  Finn swallows thickly.  Nordion isn't the House of Lions for nothing.  "Alright, you've got the hang of it.  Just move your feet with me."  She leads them to the grouping of other dancing couples, and sees Sigurd almost do a double-take.  He whispers down to Deirdre.  She ignores it.  

The band starts up a waltz, and Lachesis recognizes the opening chords.  "Do you recognize this piece?"

"A thousand pardons for not knowing," Finn ducks his head, but she takes her hand off his shoulder to tilt it back up.

"That's quite alright.  This is a traditional Agustrian waltz.  Usually, the man leads, but I hope you'll let me take the lead."

"Of course."  They start moving and almost immediately stumble.  "Ah, I'm sorry - "

"Don't apologize," Lachesis smiles.  "Don't look at your feet.  Look at me.  The point of a dance is to make your partner feel like it's only you in the world.  Do you understand?"

"I'm starting to grasp the concept."  Finn smiles, confidence regained.  They stay silent as they continue to dance.  He's not a bad dancer, Lachesis thinks absently.  

"Now, at the end, there's a dip," Lachesis takes a deep breath.  "You do not need to dip me.  I would prefer you would - !"  She's stopped as the band crescendoes and Finn notices the other couples.  He goes to dip her.  Alas, his grip is not strong enough.  

Lachesis also knows that with her strength, she could tear his sleeves off if she holds on.  Which is better - falling on her rear, or tearing the sleeves off?  Gravity starts to pull harder and harder.  With a whirl of motion, he pulls her back up, and she stands there, flushed.

"I - oh, gods, I'm sorry - I - " Finn stumbles as the dancing couples start to clap.  Lachesis waits for him to get it out of his system.  "A thousand pardons, my lady."  He bows, and rushes off.  

"Thank you for the dance," she whispers as she goes to hunt down her traitorous brother and friend.


Finn looks up at the daunting Castle Nordion.  It bears the scars from Heirhein's assault, but there's still no sign of a leader.  "What do you think, Finn?"  Lord Quan rides up next to him, and he thinks.

"I think whoever's leading their forces is inside the castle.  If Princess Lachesis is still in there, they could be going after her as a hostage."

"Good thinking, Finn," Lord Quan grins.  "We've accounted for all their troops, so it's just the commander in there.  Go get 'em."

"What?"  Finn gasps.  "My lord, are you sure?"

"I have the utmost faith in you," Lord Quan pats his shoulder.  "And if you need anything, we'll be in there in just a moment."

"Is Lord Sigurd alright with this idea?"  Finn says nervously, sliding off his horse.  He grabs his lance tightly.  

"I'm hoping you get in and save the princess before he finds out," Lord Quan says furtively.  He then nods, twice.  

"Alright, I'm going," Finn sighs heavily and braces himself.  It's a lot of responsibility riding on his shoulders, but he makes his way through the castle.  There are a few servants in hiding, and plenty of bodies on the ground.  They look like Heirhein troops, which is cause for relief.  Logically, the safest place in the castle would be the top, right?  He sets off for the top, wary.  In the tight hallways he trades his lance for a sword.  He doesn't know what good it'll do him, but it's the thought that counts.  Eventually, he reaches the top of the castle, where a balcony watches over the rest of Agustria.  In the distance is a blonde figure with blood following her, leading to several bodies.  

"It seems when you're the only one left, you become extremely strong," the blonde whispers, and turns her baleful gaze at the man in front of her.  "Do you want to know what will happen when I throw your head into your camp?  A pity you will not."  She - Princess Lachesis - gets up, and settles into a stance.  Her sword shines in the light.  The man turns tail with a yell, running right at Finn.  His fist lands in the man's stomach, and he collapses with a groan.

"Your Highness?  Are you alright?"  Finn asks quietly as he steps around the man and towards Princess Lachesis.

"Finn?  Is that you?"  She wipes the blood from her eyes.  "I...you..."  She drops her sword and Finn walks a bit closer.  He legitimately has no idea what to do.  Tears well up in her eyes as she throws herself at him, landing in his chest.  Tears begin to seep into his shirt as he tentatively rests a hand on her back.  "Why...why did this happen?  Eldie..."  

"It's alright, Your Highness," Finn pats her back a few times, hoping she will regain her senses.  "I'm with Lord Quan and Lord Sigurd, and we'll rescue King Eldigan."

Somehow they go from standing to sitting, until Lachesis passes out on his lap.  

Thankfully a few minutes later, Lord Quan arrives.

Once she wakes up later, he's assigned as her bodyguard.


Finn's bones don't ache as much in Askr as they did in Jugdral.  Maybe it's the air, or the knowledge that if he dies, he'll come back thanks to the mystic power of the Summoner.  Maybe it makes him more reckless.  Who's to say.  

Maybe it's waking up in bed with Lachesis every morning, knowing that it's not just a dream.  They had splintered times back in Jugdral; the night in Silesse before he left, those soft months in Leonster before it fell and the hard years on the run before she left.  They never really got to talk about sharing blankets or rolling out of bed, or any number of things.  But he learns about Lachesis more now.  How the first thing she does when she wakes up is to grab his hand to make sure he's still there.  How she'll steal the covers in the middle of the night, push them off the bed, and then cuddle with him because of the cold.  The cat-like manner in which she blinks at him, slowly, when she's happy.  

Sometimes the Summoner will take some Heroes and change them.  He heard them joke once about 'alts' but he doesn't pretend to understand.

Which makes it odd when Lachesis walks into their quarters one day in a beautiful dress.  His jaw drops.  "Well?"  She spins, the fabric twisting around her legs.  "How do I look?"

"I don't have words to describe it," Finn says blankly.  "Beautiful.  Is there an occasion?"

"Well," Lachesis twists a lock of hair in a gloved finger.  "There's apparently a dancing festival and the Summoner asked for me, my brother, Sigurd, Deirdre, and Ethlyn.  Fitting, no?"

"It suits you.  It reminds me..."  Finn trails off.  "Do you remember Lord Sigurd and Lady Deirdre's wedding?"

"How could I not?  It's where we first met."

"And we danced, even though I did not know how."  Finn pushes himself out of his chair and approaches Lachesis.  "May I have the honor...?"

"Oh, my darling knight," Lachesis raises a hand, and he takes it.  She starts to lead him out of their quarters and down towards where he assumes the ballroom is.  "We have all the time in the world."