Six of Wands

by llamajoy

Six of Wands: Conquest, triumph. Good news. Advancement. Expectation. Desires realized as a result of efforts. [inv] Indefinite delay. Fear. Apprehension. Disloyalty. Superficial benefit. Inconclusive gain.


"I don't think I heard you aright, General." Gabranth's helmet betrayed no sign of emotion, his shoulders martial steady. The general wavered enough for them both, sweating in his armor. "I thought you said that the prisoner /escaped/."

"My Lord," the man stuttered. "It is as you say."

They were walking, then, Gabranth's cape belling out behind him as he strode down the dusty corridor. With a gesture he beckoned two mages to follow. "That is not possible. I saw him, just now, with my own eyes." They reached the deepest dungeon door, sealed and sigiled tight. Something fluttered beneath his breastplate, something he did not permit himself to recognize as unease. Another signal from him, and the mages began their incantation, the tediously slow grimoire of opening. "Will you call me a liar, General?"

"Sir!" He was panting with the exertion of keeping up, and might have wrung his hands, but that it was strongly discouraged in graduates of the Imperial Akademy. The flanking mages intoned softly. "My knights say they heard an 'orrible clanging /boom/, sir, and when they ran in to check it out, the cage was--"

The cage was indeed gone. As the doors creaked open, the lack of anything to see was immediately apparent. All that remained was the gaping hole, beckoning to its invisible depths.

How could this be? Gabranth himself had tested those chains, the mechanism old but secure. A rising wave of anger-- and something older, a deeper burn-- welled in his chest. His breath echoed loud in his ears, caught and magnified in the metal shapes of his helm. Basch was /gone/. Somehow, against all odds, his brother had /escaped/.

The general, panicked now, was saying something about his men's report: hearing voices, muffled and indistinct, at the base of the tunnel. All Gabranth could think was: not alone. Even after two years spent a dead man, a traitor, a kingslayer, reviled-- even now, Basch had found allies.

Looking at his quailing subordinate, Gabranth found himself anticipating Lord Vayne's response. He clenched his fist. It was not an eventuality he had prepared for, and he had only the trip back to Rabanastre to ready himself for it now.

Had he stayed a moment longer in the prison cell, how might things have differed? Had he allowed himself to dwell, just a bit more, on today's interrogation-- No, he thought, had he cast those hagane chains with his own hand, he might not have held him. He swore, and drew no satisfaction from making the general startle. It seemed Nalbina was not prison enough to contain Basch fon Ronsenburg.

And the man who had been Noah stood with one armored boot on the ledge of the precipice, staring down into the bitter blackness.


"It seems you can yet stand. Good for a start, at any rate." The pirate spoke without looking at him, only at the shackles that still bound his wrists, his arms twisted painfully behind him. "Just give me a moment more, and I'll have these--"

He spoke the word "off" and away they fell, leaving Basch's shoulders afire with barely remembered movement. If it occurred to him to wonder just how this pirate was so deft with intricate Archadian lockwork, he held his tongue. Indeed, after so long silent, it was not hard to keep to silence. Two years had he kept his own counsel, repeating only the same phrases: For Dalmasca, he told his taunting captors and their needled whips. To silence Ondore's lies, he told his brother, and his brother's blades. For the Lady Amalia, he told the rats when no one else would listen, until even the vermin no longer heeded him.

He clung to justice, though he had never hoped for mercy. To fall through the darkness and land with his severed chains around his ankles was not an eventuality that had even occurred to him. For the first time in two years, the caged hope in Basch's breast fluttered its broken wings.

The pirate seemed to read his thought on his face, despite his continued silence. "Save your thanks. We're not out of this quite yet."

"If we are to make it through this darkness, it seems meet that we should work together." This from the Viera, who watched Basch with keen unblinking eyes. Weary to his bones, he held himself open to her scrutiny; he had nothing left to hide. The boy was livid, and his impatient anger felt as fresh as stinging blows on flesh not yet healed. But there was something indefinably different about the viera's silence than either of her companions' words-- and her argument seemed to compel the pirate. With an unspoken agreement, they moved to find their way through the electrick dark of the Barheim Passage.


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