Saving Ourselves: Ch. 3: Pursuit


Mari

All the old streets leading into the capital held up better than she guessed they would. Back when the first wave of smog rolled out of Garres City, people scrambling to outrun it, Mari figured they were done for. Then the Union broke out all kinds of new devices in a blink, and people held on. They farmed with small magic sunlight lamps. Worked around the beasts hiding out in the smoke. Everyone moved on.

No one found a way to maintain the roads like they used to, though. So the brick and stone had moss growing in places, and sometimes they were chipped, but a carriage could usually go over them. New paths cropped up over the years, wearing away barely living grass and leaving dirt roads behind. You could take either if you had to keep to pathways.

Mari liked it more her way. Standing on a wide branch in some stubborn, leafless tree let her see farther out without being seen herself. Watching and learning was a good chunk of her work as a Union scout. The enchanted map back at the Kagtan base was always updating with information from every scout in the field, and it really showed in your recon area if you didn’t measure up. The goggles in recon masks could filter out some of the smog, but that only helped if Mari traveled away from the spots where everyone already looked.

Anywhere far from people had more creatures—a few wandered around below her tree as she scoped out the hilly terrain near the Genoa Falls city-state—but Mari would take them over people any day. Beasts, she got. They attacked people on sight and didn’t give up easy. Simple. She knew where she stood and what the stakes were. But people? Figuring out what they had in mind was beyond her most of the time. With some people, that was a blessing as far as she cared.

Just like that, the sigil burned into the leather of her shoulder holster pulsed instead of its steady purple glow. Both in the way it lit up and how it thrummed against her chest like a frantic bird. Couldn’t miss a message from the Union if she tried. Pressing three fingers to the emblem, Mari took a seat on the branch and answered like she’d been taught. “Mari, Genoa.”

“Congratulations, you’re on a new assignment.” The butter upon bacon sort, mages in the Union didn’t have to introduce themselves to most people. Anyway, the less any random scout knew, the better. “The Mills-Falls carriages are off course, headed right for a shroud. Their assigned harvesters are gone. Investigate and report.”

Mari shook her head at the thin, waving branches. Gone. That didn’t give her much of an idea of what she was walking into. “They dead?”

“Focus.” It wasn’t a request. Scouting would have to wait, and she’d go into the latest task as blind as a dwarven bird.

Did answer her question about going to look for them, though. They were on their own if they were alive at all. Anyone working with the Union was used to it, especially after these four years waiting for the Union to clear the smoke. Each New Year Festival passed quietly and the people out doing the work mattered less and less each time. Hard to tell if they were getting close or getting desperate.

Not that it was Mari’s job to find out which was which.

“Where’re they?” She had her map in a hidden pocket, but she didn’t want to pull it out when she knew whoever this was had to be staring right at it in Kagtan. Maybe if she was lucky, this conversation would drain her two-way sigil and give her some peace. It’s not like she could use it to call for help, obviously. She was on her own as much as the others.

“Towards the valley city-state, Brook Mills.”

“That’s in the thick of the shroud now. Why go there?”

All artisans and farmers lived out there, typically trading with Genoa. That meant some must’ve moved there before it got too bad. But who would be mad enough to go into a shroud? As far away as Mari was, she could still make out the denser, darker purple-black gloom over their city-state. Mountains to the north of Brook Mills only made it harder for smoke to spread out and spare anyone caught up in it. Even with a horse-drawn carriage, there wasn’t enough crystal energy to make a round trip.

“You’re the scout. Investigate and report.”

The pulsing light dimmed again to a flat glow. End of conversation, then. Mari tightened her bun and started her climb down from the tree.


Become a patron at $1/story for exclusive content or buy me a coffee to support the story.

Always Ch. 2: Nightmare | FFXV Fanfic

Read Chapter 1 | Word count: 1170 (2 to 10 minutes) | Rating: G | Final Fantasy XV Spoilers| Characters: Ignis Scientia and Noctis Lucis Caelum


When making camp at a haven, Ignis was frequently the last to bed and first to rise. On occasion, Noctis may have stayed up later or Gladio rose earlier for a run at dawn. More frequently than that, to Ignis’ concern, Noctis would awaken in the middle of the evening. Not pleasantly so either.

His nightmares were understated on the surface: a white-knuckle grip, an oddly quiet interruption of his usual restful breathing, and then a sharp hiss as if caught off guard. After a moment’s pause, an impatient sigh would indicate if the nightmare woke Noct. He had been much the same in his warning signs since he was a child. Following his recovery and return from the disaster in Tenebrae, the instances of his sleeplessness had increased. Yet he rarely spoke of it or sought support.

Simply put, Ignis had years of experience in waking when Noct was troubled. That first startled inhale cut through his dreams perfectly in time to catch the sigh as the young prince maneuvered his way out of his sleeping bag in pursuit of fresh air. If he paced the restricted grounds of haven, Ignis knew to leave him be. But when the sound of a camping chair unfolding reached him, he likewise exited the tent to see Noctis seated by the low embers.

“Noct?”

He gave only a cursory glance and nod over his shoulder in greeting. Something in seeing him cast in silhouette, even without his spectacles, emphasized the burden placed upon him by his station and the Six. There was no one on Eos who deserved nightmares less.

“Hey, Ignis.”

Pulling a chair out himself, Ignis pressed it out to be a comfortable distance from Noct. He was not particularly tactile in his affections on a good day—Prompto being the exception, by and large. Intruding upon his space would do neither of them any favors.

“Was it a nightmare?”

His exhale was quiet and plainly displeased. The prince had yet to learn the lesson that the majority of healing procedures were less than soothing. He punctuated his distaste for Ignis’ observation with a half-shrug as stilted as it was tense.

“Yeah. Don’t worry about it.”

“Hm.” The answer wasn’t to his liking, but in fairness, the line of questioning wasn’t to Noct’s. The least Ignis could muster was being in his company for a while longer. The prince shouldn’t be forced to wait alone in the dark with the remnants of his fearful dream. Somehow, the nighttime chill made for a surprisingly crisp and refreshing atmosphere. His vision was not in need of so much correction that Ignis couldn’t see beyond the dim firepit to the moonlight cast over their forested surroundings. But it was the sky above that captured his attention above all else. In the hopes that a diversion would draw Noct back to slumber sooner, he made note of it aloud. “I find the views afforded to us in nature have an uplifting aspect to them.”

Noct looked to Ignis for direction, which never failed to instill a sort of pride in Ignis. To have his trust was a gift he could never bring himself to squander no matter how small the circumstance. He pointed to the stars in this case, and Noctis tilted his head up to see for himself.

“I guess.” He crossed his arms as his hair stood on end, but still held his attention on the stars. The chill didn’t agree with him, clearly, and he should return to the tent. Ignis similarly knew better what a pensive pause from Noct sounded like. “Where do you think she is right now?”

“Lady Lunafreya?” There were not many other women he might have referred to, yet assumptions were not known for paying off.

“Yeah.” He breathed the word more than speaking it. A testament to how near this conversation was to his heart.

“She is a highly intelligent woman with unwavering resolve.” Ignis himself had never met Lady Lunafreya in person before. In his role for the prince, he knew of her far more than their mutual unawareness would indicate. He knew his words to be true. Noct needed little else in the way of reassurance. “Wherever she is, I’m certain she’s safe.”

His response did appear to dissolve some of the tension from his shoulders. Ignis could not place the precise reason that he sensed there was more Noct had to share. All he could do once more was wait for him to be ready. That, too, was an honor Ignis gladly rose to accept.

“It’s not right.” He looked back down to the firepit, uncrossing his arms to rest his hands on his knees. “Nothing’s been right since we left. I get that my father sent me off to save me, but—” A frustrated sigh stole away the rest of his sentence while Noct rest back in his seat. “Forget it.”

“Noct,” Ignis implored him, speaking to the struggles had already been expressed indirectly. All part of his royal duty per His Majesty, and yes, a sort of hobby for him as well, as the prince preferred to refer to his stewardship. “Your father had every confidence in you when he sent you away for your own safety. He loved you.”

Turning away abruptly was a poor mask of Noct’s shaky inhale at those three words. Ignis pretended not to notice out of respect for his privacy. Sentiment was not a welcome aspect for him. He rather enjoyed having his emotions separate from his interactions with others as much as humanly possible. Where his father was concerned especially. Despite that, the truth that his father loved him dearly was a statement he should have heard more often in the years before King Regis passed so tragically. The Wall and the war occupied much of his father’s attention while Noct simultaneously came to realize what precious little time remained for them to share.

“He knew as I do that you will be ready for the road ahead. And whatever it may bring, you will not walk it alone.”

The three of them all supported Noct on his journey to kinghood. Prompto brought out a certain brightness in the prince that he’d only seen before his severe injury in his youth. Gladio inspired him to aspire, even as they warred over several subjects where their opinions differed. And Ignis himself took no small amount of pride in his steadfast service to Noct. Wherever their path lead, he would never suffer a time without their companionship.

“Thanks.” He’d reached his limit for emotional discussions. So soon. Ignis supposed he should be grateful he made it that far. Noct pushed himself out of the seat, circling around it in the direction of the tent. “I’m gonna—”

“Of course. Rest well.”

He received no answer aside from the zip of the tent doors opening. Ignis took the time to return the two chairs to their rightful place and wasn’t far behind.


Read on AO3.

Support your artists:

Become a patron | Buy me a Ko-Fi | Commission writing