King of Cups

by llamajoy

King of Chalices: Responsiblity and Creativity. Learned person. Professional. Businessman. Lawyer. Religious Person. Scientist. A considerate person, kind and reliable. Liberal manner. Artist. Interest in the arts and sciences. Generosity. [inv] Artistic temperment. Double dealing. Scandal. Loss. ruin. Injustice. A crafty person without virtue.

Vaan shrugged. They sat looking over the misty vales of Nabreus, the spectres of the past between them. "Yeah, I guess so," he allowed.

"You guess so." Ashe's annoyance was ill-contained, though she swallowed back harsher words. (What do you know, ratsbane? How could you speak thus, of matters so beyond your ken?) "He was a good man, and generous--"

Vaan cut her off, unapologetic, and if he noticed her anger he showed no sign. "Never knew the guy personally." He swung his feet over the edge of the defeated bridge, and scoffed as though she were the one being unreasonable. "Obviously. Making a living in the sewers doesn't get you invited to the Big House."

She worried at the rings on her fingers: the silver band from Nabradia, the white gold from Dalmascan mines. In kinder times, she might have spoken words of apology, but she had no heart for them now. "I spent a goodly portion of my days in the Garamsythe Waterways, too. You have him to thank that they are as clean as they are."

He stood abruptly-- and it ought not to have rankled her but /it did/; orphaned nameless child standing in the presence of the heir to the throne, and she chafed at his impertinence and hated herself for it. He was saying, "Maybe so. Dalmasca wasn't a bad place to live, until the sickness..."

Ashe rose, wishing she were taller, wishing for her father's height, or Rasler's voice-- or any authority at all, anything to wield. She forcibly reminded herself that Vaan was not an enemy, nor even an obstacle, unless she thought too hard on his propensity for lifting sacred artefacts from the royal trove. "Do not blame my father for the plague," she said quietly. "My family was hard hit as yours."

That startled him, and he met her eyes. "I didn't know. I thought," and here he had the grace to look sheepish. "Well, maybe Penelo said something about the royal family. I don't remember. I guess I had other things on my mind."

"As did we all." She wished she hadn't stood; Vaan was of a height with her and looking him in the eye made her feel strange and unmoored, nearly as much as the misted depths of the deadlands, and the giddy height of this seat, what had once been a bridge. How much of her Dalmasca was like this young man? How far did she have yet to go to prove herself?

"Seems like you still do," he said. He was watching her face, undistracted. She cursed his mercurial attention span.

"You saw him, too, did you not? My-- Rasler. In the Dynast-King's hall." She was touching her rings again, unconsciously. Silver from Rasler, a wedding gift. White gold from King Raminas, a gift for a princess, come of age. Two promises, one of which was already broken; the other which must not falter.

Vaan nodded, utterly serious. "Yeah. And just now, too. When you held up the Dawn Shard. Kind of... green. Like mist, only with a face."

And Ashelia B'Nargin Dalmasca surprised herself by feeling only gratitude.


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