Tales from the Dragonsong War - Words, Deeds, Beliefs

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"When I set out to master the dragoon's jump, 'twas not to strike fear into the hearts of high-hanging fruit."
Alphinaud chuckled as he remembered Estinien's ennui.
In the days since the dragoon vanished from his sickroom, he had found himself with an overabundance of leisure. Catching himself mindlessly tracing the patterns on the ceiling of his room at Fortemps Manor, he closed his eyes and let out a sigh. Another sleepless night.
Resigned, he rose from his bed and walked over to the great oak desk. Sinking into the chair, he reached for the leather-bound journal he had begun writing a lifetime ago. When I saw my arrogance and vanity for what it was - then, in the very depths of my despair - he spoke to me.


"Are you content to remain a broken blade? Is there no flame hot enough to reforge you?"
Mayhap not. A flush crept up his neck as he closed his eyes and recalled the kind words Lord Haurchefant had spoken to him, and the brave face he had put on at the time. Old habits. And then they had left behind the Falling Snows and embarked upon the journey that would change everything. Even me - albeit slowly.
Though the whole of Eorzea looked to the adventurer as a hero, to Lord Haurchefant the great Warrior of Light was above all else a friend. And the feeling was plainly mutual. Kindred spirits. Like the Warrior of Light, the knight lived to serve. To protect. To sacrifice. For there is no greater calling.
Though he had welcomed them both with open arms, it was only later that Alphinaud came to understand the true depth of the knight's love for his friends and for his nation. How it would save them, how it would save him. Too late.
Accordingly, in the peaceful interlude following the war's end, he had returned to the memorial atop the cliff overlooking the capital, and there said to the north wind all he had failed to say before.

Opening his eyes, Alphinaud returned his gaze to the journal which lay before him and began to turn the pages. Instantly, his mind was transported back to the time when the four of them, each from different walks of life, had taken to the road on an impossible journey.

"How lightly you propose the destruction of this god. Has it occurred to you that you may be sending the Warrior of Light to his death?"
Estinien's words had stung more than a slap to the face. Only his grandfather or Alisaie could have been so blunt. What would you have said, dear sister, had you been there to hear me, the supposedly reformed commander of the Crystal Braves, blithely send another in my stead, having so recently resolved to fight my own battles?
And still he fought. And still he fought… And if he resented me for it, I would not blame him.
Alphinaud had found himself pacing while they waited for Ysayle and the Warrior of Light to return triumphant from Loth ast Gnath. In that eternity, Estinien had watched him, sometimes stone-faced, other times wearing a strange expression. He will come back to us. He always does…
Alphinaud Leveilleur. Words were his weapons - his intellect, his reason, his wit. Grandfather's gifts to me, like all else. Alphinaud Leveilleur. There but for the name did men hearken to him - respect him. What have you wrought by your own hands?
Alphinaud. Not a man who sacrifices his friends and family for a cause, but one who fights with them - fights for them. Anything less would be empty words and hollow promises.

"Master Alphinaud possesses a rare talent for the arcane arts. Should he continue to apply himself to their study, he will become a formidable mage in time."
Though he had trained in the martial applications, it had ever been purely as an academic exercise. But with Ysayle's encouragement, he had resolved to pursue a more practical education. Mayhap not today, nor even tomorrow, but one day…one day I will stand at your side.

Alphinaud turned the page, and his breath caught in his throat.

We have made camp in a clearing not far from Zenith, and on the morrow hope to meet with Hraesvelgr. Ysayle saw to our evening repast, and all agreed that her stew was the finest we had ever tasted. I, for my part, gathered the requisite firewood, taking care to remember Estinien's instructions…
Some part of me still labors to believe that we have come this far. That we have treated with dragons…and even a distant tribe of moogles! And that Estinien did not give the latter a thrashing. Then again, had he tried, the Warrior of Light would inevitably have intervened. Would that I had such strength and courage.
Until some few moons ago, I was supremely confident of my own abilities - convinced of my own superiority - only to be shown, all too clearly, how ignorant and powerless I truly am. I said as much, earlier, when we were gathered around the fire…
In the end, Ysayle received my confession rather more sympathetically than I had expected. "We all of us are guilty of a similar ignorance," she told me.
What matters, then, is that we strive to replace our ignorance with knowledge, while remaining true to our convictions.
If only it were that easy…

A soft rapping drew his eye from the journal to the doorway, from which a sliver of lamplight slowly widened.
"Master Alphinaud?"
Closing the journal, he rose and turned to acknowledge the former count.
"It seems I am not the only restless soul this night," Edmont smiled. "Personally, I find that a warm cup of herbal tea can oft work wonders at such times. Would you care to join me in one?"
"I would be honored."
As they made their way towards the kitchens, Alphinaud shared some of the thoughts born of his insomnia with Lord Edmont, who nodded understandingly. Upon arriving, the nobleman refused the assistance of the sole manservant present, instructing him instead to deliver extra blankets to the Scions' chambers. Lord Edmont then set about heating the water and preparing a mixture Alphinaud did not immediately recognize. When asked, he explained it was made from the roots of Nymeia lilies.
"A difficult plant," Alphinaud observed.
Lord Edmont smiled faintly and said nothing.
They enjoyed their tea in silence. Several times Alphinaud thought to speak, but found himself unsure of what to say. And then the cup was empty.
"I must thank you again for your most generous hospitality," he finally began.
"Full glad were we of your company," came the reply, with a promptness which took Alphinaud aback. "May the Fury watch over and keep you safe on your journey."
He knows.
Gently setting down his cup and saucer on the table, Lord Edmont met his gaze and smiled. "You are a good man, Alphinaud Leveilleur," he said, and left.
Alone, Alphinaud refilled his cup and took another sip. A bitter draught. Wincing, he reached once more for the honey, but stopped when the dancing fragments of Nymeia lily root in the tea chanced to catch his eye.

Seated at his desk once more, Alphinaud returned to his journal and the memories contained therein. At the sight of the words "Falcon's Nest," he shuddered. That I should live to see the emissaries of dragon and man meet - only for the promise of peace between their peoples to be torn asunder by the avatar of their vengeance.
The dragoon's crimson armor was unmistakable, as were the massive, twitching eyes fused to his arm and shoulder. In one fluid motion, Ser Aymeric snatched up the bow, drew, and loosed an arrow straight at the heart of his dearest friend. He knew what needed to be done and did it. And in that instant, I knew that I could not.
Nor could the Warrior of Light.
So we laid hands on those hideous things and pulled. Pulled with all our might, even as our bodies cried out in agony. And when our arms faltered, and our hopes faded, whence came the strength to wrench them free?
For those we have lost. For those we can yet save.

"Where once I craved vengeance, I now crave rest."
The sickroom was empty when they returned from Ser Aymeric's investiture, save for a vase of Nymeia lilies and the crimson armor Estinien had forsworn. For all his protestations, he had not the strength to suffer heartfelt thank-yous and tearful good-byes. And so it was that Alphinaud Leveilleur once more failed to say what was in his heart - failed to thank a man who cared not a whit for his name nor his station. A man who treated me harshly but fairly. A true friend and comrade. A brother.

In the morning, Alphinaud set forth, journal in hand, on a pilgrimage to retrace his steps throughout the north. Traveling alone, he was waylaid by bandits and beasts on occasion - but he was not the boy he once was, and easily defended himself with now well-practiced magicks.
After a time, he came once more to the peak of Sohm Al, and then to Zenith. He remembered the time he first stood before Hraesvelgr, how the earth had shaken when he descended from the heavens to weigh man's worth. He remembered the great wyrm's words and everything they had set in motion. The Aery. The Vault…
And so Alphinaud came again to Azys Lla.
There, at the landing's edge, he spied a bouquet of Nymeia lilies. Estinien. He had no way of knowing, and yet he knew.


We four, each from different walks of life, who took to the road on an impossible journey… Whatever else we may have been in the beginning - in the end, we were friends.
And we will meet again.

Closing his journal, Alphinaud finished his herbal tea and retired to bed. After taking a moment to stretch, he clasped his hands and rested them on his chest, turning his drowsy eyes heavensward. Before sleep claimed him, a thought came unbidden.
A bouquet of lilies for those we have lost. And for the living…
He knew.
As Alphinaud lay there, he could not help but smile.

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