Knight of Swords

by Tenshi

Knight of Swords: Concern. Miscarriage. Anxiety over a loved one. Despair. [inverse] Suspicion. Slanderous Gossip. Shame. Scruples. Timidity. Shady character. Reasonable fear.

Lowtown was a nest of whispers, each one more fearful than the last. Rumor whipped through the twisting alleys, and it dogged the steps of those who sought to avoid it.

"Are you sure we can trust this fellow?" Balthier asked, his voice muffled by the high collar of his stolen cloak.

"Well," Penelo said, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, and blinking in and out of the shadow of a hanging rug, "No. But he's more trustworthy than most, and I really don't want to worry Migelo any more. I've written a note for Dalan to give him, just to let him know I'm all right, and that's all he needs to know about for now." She gave the sky pirate the barest glance, and then looked quickly away again as though afraid of being caught at it. "But we need supplies and we need a place to stay, and Migelo would wear my ears out if he knew I was still keeping company with you."

"Hmph! Far be it from me to impugn the honor of a young lady," Balthier said, with a toss of his head that said exactly the opposite. "Come on then and take me to this Dalan. The others are waiting, and we'll just attract more attention loitering around like this."

Penelo dared one more furtive look down the alleyway, and then beckoned for Balthier to follow her, "All right, then. This way."

Too many eyes saw them pass, Penelo knew. Too many ears marked the sound of their footfalls. But Basch could in no way walk the streets of Lowtown unnoticed, nor could Ashe. A Viera would attract more attention than a kingslayer and a princess both back from the dead, and Vaan had about as much discretion as a lurid pink brothel placard.

And so Penelo and Balthier had to go, to fall on the hearsay of every gossip-peddler, and only so Dalan could camouflage their rumors with a few of his own.

A room they needed, not in Lowtown but somewhere tucked out of the way, where they could lie low and lick their wounds. There was no thought of contacting the resistance now, not after Vossler's actions. Not even Ashe had suggested they do so. She would not trust so readily again, she would not even trust enough to speak of how she would not, and Basch's eyes followed her silence with a strained, quiet desperation. The cuts were yet too fresh for anything more than that.

Penelo's heart got squished up in her chest whenever she thought about it. Vossler had been cool and aloof, but he and Basch must have been friends for years... and the way it had ended was just too awful. The worst of it was that Vossler had not exactly been wrong; he had only chosen a different path in search of a similar goal. And that was enough to make them enemies. Penelo's teeth clenched with the memory of a dull scraping sound: Vossler and Basch's swords grating together, the cold pain in their eyes. It wasn't supposed to work that way, Penelo thought. There was right and there was wrong, and Dalmasca was right and what the Empire was doing was wrong, and that was why they were supposed to fight. It was simple.

She thought of Larsa then, and everything got tangled up inside her all over again.

Dalan always knew something, she thought. He would have good advice, or at least know of a place to stay. He could lay a blanket of distraction over their presence, and divert the whispers of Lowtown elsewhere. They tugged at the end of Penelo's braids, and she moved closer into Balthier's shadow, uncertain shelter though it was.

Dalan might not be trustworthy, or sky pirates for that matter, but Penelo was not yet willing to stop trusting. She thought that really, it was the only thing that she could do.


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