Thoughts from the Otherworld

 
 
Ellanore wasn't quite certain if this was such a good idea after all. She would never hesitate to help a friend, but this time said friend might have been sent on a mission beyond his capabilities.
"Are you quite certain that..that ghost there will leave soon?" She whispered carefully to Grundan, the friend who she had promised to help. While he liked to stay in San d'Oria for great stretches of time when he felt like it, he called Bastok his home, maybe because San d'Oria wasn't too welcoming for galka.
"I'm sure. It can't hang around there all day, now can it," came the response. Ellanore nodded uncertainly and looked on worriedly as the disfigured apparition floated around the surface of the still water. This tunnel had apparently caved in at some point, and water had welled up to a pool at the very end of it. She wasn't quite sure if ghosts needed breaks from their haunting. They had been waiting for quite some time already, preferring not to disturb this potentially very dangerous apparition. The problem was that Grundan's orders had him come right here to kill some fish in that very pool that potentially could have what he was in need of. They couldn't just leave, it would reflect badly on his career as an adventurer.
The ghost floated over the puddle on the ground and peered into the tunnel ahead, and Ellanore tried to stay as still as possible. It felt like it was looking right at her. She wasn't a coward by any means, but ghosts didn't really fit well with her. She didn't relax until the ghost looked away again.
"I knew it was a mistake to come early in the morning..." Grundan complained quietly beside her. "Can't you think of anything to dispel ghosts?"
"None. I wasn't aware we were going to head to a place this heavily haunted in the first place." In fact, when she thought back on it she had agreed to help even before knowing what they would be doing. You always helped your friends, that was a given. Nevertheless, she had to admit, this wasn't one of her favorite places to be.
"Dammit. All this for one crummy fish..."
"I'm not sure if I'd bother to go this far for one fish."
The sudden new voice made Ellanore and Grundan turn around. There were five identical funnily-dressed people behind them. Ellanore blinked. They really were identical, down to the very same pose. And she hadn't heard a thing! How did this person get so close?
"..it's not really about bothering to go this far, in this case. Who might you be?" Grundan inquired with a little bit of  hesitation in his voice.
"I'm Grendel. Careful now, it comes." As far as Ellanore could tell, all the four of them said it. And even when saying it, the people were drawing out peculiar-looking knives, all synchronized. She didn't have more attention to spare to these peculiar apparitions, because she suddenly remembered the ghost. Sure enough, it had noticed them and was doing its floating thing, quite determinedly heading towards the little group. Ellanore exclaimed in disgust. All their careful waiting for nothing.
That was when the peculiar people who had all identified themselves as 'Grendel' ran past her, knives in their hands. "Prepare yourselves for battle, you two!" Ellanore felt like swearing. For these people to just barge in and take the lead - it was very rude. She supposed they might be alright with this many people, but nevertheless, it was rude.
"I suppose no helping it," Grundan sighed while loosening his big sword from his back. Ellanore nodded and started concentrating. It didn't look like these Grendel-people - maybe only one of them had said it after all? - knew any spells to hinder the enemy's movement, and since Grundan didn't know any taking care of that aspect of the fight naturally fell to her. Not that she was much good with it in the first place, she knew what was necessary and nothing more, but they were an invaluable help in a fight even so.
She had just finished casting Dia on the ghost when it happened. The ghost hit one of the mysterious Grendel-people..and they vanished. Caught in the act of drawing her own sword, Ellanore stared.
"Hah! Is all that you can do you pathetic little thing?" came the taunt from the remaining four ones. They danced around the ghost so skillfully it looked like a dance, and while their peculiar knives didn't appear to do much damage at all to the ghost in a single strike, they did stack up and there were places on its back where the ethereal body was torn to shreds. All this in the time it took Ellanore to cast one quick spell. She drew her sword the rest of the way, wondering what exactly was going on.
"Grundan..?" she inquired quietly.
"No clue. Let's just try helping..them. Or whatever." Grundan grunted, trying to find an opportunity to actually use his sword. While the little dance the remaining people did around the ghost was effective in evading its attacks, it also made it hard for other people to get close to the actual fight.
Ellanore nodded, trying to come up with the best way to contribute anything else at all to the fight. "Enwater!" It was one of her latest spells, and while she had originally been a little doubtful about this type of spells, they really did help in a fight. It enveloped her sword in an elemental aura that damaged anything it came into contact with. This way, even if your sword didn't actuall reach its target, the aura around it just might.
Finding a chance for her to get in reach of the ghost turned out to be easier than for Grundan - after all, he needed considerably more space to swing the giant sword he held, and it was considerably harder to wield in tighter spaces than the single-handed sword Ellanore herself had. She made sure to try stay at the ghost's back, although its constant going after one or another of these Grendel-people was making it somewhat difficult. She had just scored a square hit at one of its arms when another of these strangers disappeared when the ghost attacked it. This time she was closer, and could hear a short 'poof' sound when it happened. It was most confusing to her, and while she waited for her next chance she started thinking that maybe..somehow, this was all the same person and they had used some kind of a spell to make themselves into many. While she didn't recall any such spell straight out of hand, she was aware that her knowledge of magic wasn't too great, and this was the most logical and obvious explanation for this behavior. It also made her somewhat worried over their survivability, since their numbers had just fallen from seven to five, three if you counted only real people.
"Stop blocking my way, dammit!" Grundan roared from the background in frustration. Apparently considering that enough advance warning, he charged forward, these Grendel-apparitions easily scattering out of his way, and swung his sword at the ghost. The effect was immediate and devastating, one ethereal arm was immediately severed and disappeared in a wiff of slightly glowing mist, and its closer foot was almost cleaved in half by the blow.
"Nice one!" echoed the Grendel-apparitions in perfect synch. Ellanore felt like sighing. This would have happened much earlier if they themselves hadn't been in the way most of the time. Loath to let the opportunity to go in lamenting the stupidity of people with no sense of teamwork, she lunged forward and planted her sword firmly into the back of the ghost. It felt like her sword had cut through sponge, not quite firm material.
The ghost let alone a half-screeching, half-laughing sound, and slipped away. Normal wounds didn't affect ghosts much, you had to do some considerable damage before a ghost fell in battle. Even if you managed to defeat a ghost in battle through normal means, it was bound to come back sooner or later, once again intact. It was a ghost after all, material wounds didn't affect them for too long. This was exactly why Ellanore and Grundan hadn't wanted to fight it.
Even though its nature was resilient to material harm, this ghost seemed a tad bit miffed that it had just been sliced and skewered. It flew a ways up and disappeared.
"...did it-?" There wasn't time for any other reaction before it appeared again, right behind one of the remaining Grendel-apparitions, reachings its hands around its throat and choking. The apparition poofed with a small sound just like the previous ones, and the ghost disappeared, only to reappear right where it had started from.
"That wasn't very nice!" The two remaining Grendels shouted and jmped up, knives on the ready. The damage wasn't much, but it was enough to make the ghost fly out of reach again, circling at the roof of the tunnel above their heads. The tunnel was just high enough that it could do that.
"What were the miners back then thinking, making this damn thing so high," the Grendel-apparitions grumbled. "Oi, come down here and be vanquished!" The ghost laughed in response, and it echoed in the tunnel more than it should have. Then it quickly dove down, right towards Grundan. That might not have been the smartest move, as unhindered by obstructions, Grundan had no difficulty bringing his sword on the ready. Right as it came in reach, it was cleaved neatly in half. The two halves floated gently away from each other and evaporated into mist.
"Well. That was that."
"Hahah, invigorating!" The two Grendel-apparitions laughed. Then one of them poofed, leaving only one, neatly putting away - his? her? - peculiar knives. Ellanore suddenly realized that she had no idea if the person was a man or a woman. Neither their appearance nor their voice gave it away. "It is a pleasure to meet you two. As I said before, I'm Grendel."
"Ellanore Delouvien. Pleased to make your acquaintance." Even though she wasn't entirely sure of the last part.
"Grundan."
"Well then. You should take care of your business now. You're from Bastok, right?"
"I am," Grundan answered, warily eyeing the person. "What's that to you?"
"See, I got a little lost. Found this charming place and decided to come see. Boy am I glad I found a living soul in here, was starting to get a little worried. Mind taking me to the city after you're done here?" Ellanore could only stare at this individual. She wasn't even certain if it was a reasonable request, but something in its deliverance left her itching to refuse.
"..how could you get lost in Konschtat that much?"
"See, I've never been around this corner of the world before. Fresh out of south." Grendel laughed. "I suppose it might not have been the best idea to wander about without a map and only vague directions, but let it never be said that I was faint of heart."
 
 
It was a crisp evening in early spring. Ellanore warmed her hands in the small fire she had built to warm herself up. Recently, she had been feeling confined in the city, so she had come out here to La Theine yesterday to hone her skills. What skills, she wasn't quite certain, but supposed it had something to do with combat and survival.

Recently, she had found herself more and more relying on magic to make her way in combat. This, she hadn't expected when she first set out to be an adventurer, although she supposed it was just natural. After all, it was hard to make it by yourself if you didn't know how to heal yourself effectively, or cast a Sleep or Bind spell to get out of tricky situations. Items for this purpose existed for sure, but they weren't very cost-effective if you spent more than a little time out in the wilderness.

"You there, Ella?" The whisper brought her out of her thoughts. It came from her linkshell pearl, a small translucently green thing she had on a chain around her neck. Her friend Grundan had given it to her not too long ago.
She held up the pearl and talked to it. "I'm here. Greetings."
"Still in La Theine?"
"Yes. I met someone today." Ellanore looked thoughtfully into her small camp fire. She had met the mithra before, during the Starlight Celebration when she had first met Grundan. She had been a weird one, and had been weirder today. Although Ellanore supposed she had her reasons, many of which she had told her today. "Grundan. Galka do not have siblings, do they?"
A surprised sound came through the pearl. "No, we don't. What brought this about?"
"The person I met today. I've talked to her before, but she told me some things today that made me think." She supposed that the death of your twin sister would be enough to make just about anyone a little weird. Weird enough to pretend to be that twin sister? "Love makes us do strange things for sure."
"I would be inclined to agree more if I knew what this was about."
Ellanor enodded to herself. "Regretfully, I cannot tell you this. It is not my tale to tell."
"Naturally. Did you have fun with this someone of yours?"
"Yes. I can see now more than even the skills between a dedicated white mage and someone who merely dabbles. It was an enlightening experience. I think I really do prefer physical fighting."
Grundan laughed. "That sounds just like you. You hungry? I'm not too far and I have some fresh fish with me. We can share." Ellanore brightened up at the suggestion. There had been few enough opportunities to share her preferred lifestyle with others up to now, companionship like this was never to be spurned. Not to mention the free meal.
"I'd be delighted if you shared!"
"Got it. Hang in there, I'll be with you shortly." Ellanore tucked away the pearl and started rummaging around her bag. She was certain she had some spices that would really make the fish tasty.
 
 
Ellanore stomped her feet on the ground. It was getting quite chilly, and she was really getting quite annoyed at her one remaining Starlight greeting card. A galka. Seriously, a galka adventurer! In San d'Oria! She tried to remind herself that others had completed their card distribution with honor. Like that mithra from before, Rii Kalira. She had actually talked quite a bit with her before, although maybe that wasn't something to be glad over as now she still hadn't distributed all her cards. You could never know too many people in this line of business, though.

That was one of her shortcomings. She just couldn't seem to befriend enough people, and going out all by herself was quite dangerous at her experience levels. While she had learned a lot since autumn, there was still so much more left to learn. Traveling at farthest to Bastok and back wasn't exactly her idea of adventure, especially when she had mostly clung to the well-trodden paths while doing it.

Rii Kalira apparently adventured with a San d'Orian elvaan, and while she was a healer-type herself the man was good enough of a fighter that the two balanced each other out on their travels. Ellanore wondered if she couldn't do much better if she teamed up with a healer as well. She could heal somewhat, traveling long ways alone had taught her the necessity of that, but she wasn't too fond of using too much magic. She'd much prefer to physically fight her adversaries. It felt more honorable somehow, although she wouldn't for the life of her call fighting with magic dishonorable, exactly. It just wasn't something for her.

That was when she noticed a shape in the crowd, one bigger than the rest. A quick assessment confirmed the shape to be a galka, wearing full chainmail and heading out towards Ranperre's Gate. Ellanore felt so relieved she could cried if she was another type of person. She wouldn't have to give up after all, and could distribute all her cards.
"Excuse me!" She made her way through the crowd. "Mr galka there, please wait a moment!" The galka finally heard her and stopped when she was within a couple meters of him.
"Can I help you..?" The strong face was filled with polite curiosity.
"Yes, you've helped a lot in fact. Starlight greetings!" She smiled brightly and handed over the card. The confused galka took it from her.
"Ah, thank you." He looked at the card curiously. "Is this by any chance one of them moogle shenanigans of this year? Saw them making a ruckus earlier today."
Ellanore nodded. "Took me the whole day to track down a fitting recipient too. I keep wondering if it wouldn't be better for them to plan their events more cleanly beforehands."
The galka barked a laugh. "You don't say. No matter what the damn buggers do, it's always up to us to get their behinds out of trouble! Exactly why I was trying to avoid them this time."
"You have experience with this kind of events?"
"Do I ever. Guiding wayward actors and buffaloes filled up my tolerance for MHMU events for this year for sure." Ellanore nodded sympathetically. While she hadn't been around for either event, she'd heard rumors of wayward actors last summer, and the buffalo thing would have certainly been hard to avoid hearing about. "I'm Grundan by the way. Nice to meetcha."
"Ah.." Ellanore started and bowed lightly. "Forgive me my rudeness, I completely forgot to introduce myself. Ellanore Delouvien, at your service."
 
 
Ellanore wondered what she'd gotten herself into. This year's Starlight Celebration was a mess for her. It was her first since she'd left home and started adventuring - not that said adventuring had been all that adventurous for her - and a couple days before the event her moogle had hinted at her that the MHMU might have something for idle adventurers to do. She hadn't known what exactly it would be, but it had soon become clear enough the day before when she'd wandered into the Parade Square and gotten hooked up by Smilebringers to deliver gifts, and MHMU to deliver cards. She didn't even have clear instructions for either of these, just vague words in the effect of "make people happy". She looked at the four Starlight greeting cards she had left and sighed. At least the presents had been easy, kids were delighted to receive anything.

She looked around. The next card described the recipient as a fierce but beautiful mithra, and praised the glories of her bushy tail of all things. Ellanore looked at it, disgusted. Why did she have to find a mithra adventurer in San d'Oria? In San d'Oria, the city known for its inhospitality to other races! She was just pondering about the merits of giving up and returning the rest of the cards to the moogle when she saw it. A mithra skulking by the side of the road, her tail switching back and forth furiously.

Ellanore didn't waste any time. Annoyed that adventurer might be, but she wanted to get this card off her hands. And it's not like the mithra was annoyed at her, so it shouldn't matter too much. "Excuse me." The mithra turned around, and Ellanore had the card ready. "Starlight greetings!"
 
 

Nightingale sat at the edge of the Firewater Circle. For once, he wasn't here to perform. He was here to think. Recently, he had had the feeling that Bastok was simply too small for him.
He'd been here for over a year now, and this had never been meant to be a permanent solution. He looked at the mid-day buzz around the circle. It hadn't all been bad, not even close. He'd come here alone and friendless, but had soon been followed by Endahren. Nightingale smiled at all the memories that thought brought. The two of them had had a good year. It lacked the excitement his life in San d'Oria had had, but it also lacked the pain.

He closed his eyes. The air smelled of city and rain. Maybe it was time for him to move on. See the world a bit. Maybe write a song or two or three. There were bound to be many subjects for songs out there, with the numbers of adventurers he'd been witnessing in Bastok and San d'Oria these past few years. Already rumors of deeds done were reaching Bastok. Rumors of disturbing events, too, rumors of beastmen rising again and the number of monsters in the increase. What kind of a bard would he be, not going out there and finding those stories to make songs from? He'd only come up with melodies for now, never words. There was nothing to write about than his own life, really, and that did not make for good song material. For the kind of song he wanted, anyway.

Endahren had said a while ago that all his loves seemed to be eager to go out there. That was quite possibly true. Nightingale wondered sometimes how he would take it, him leaving too. He seemed to encourage Nightingale to leave if that was what he wanted. He'd encouraged Ellanore too, and he was engaged to her. He seemed to genuinely want for the happiness of the people close to him. Nightingale stood up. He still wasn't sure what to do, but he guessed that was alright. There was time, plenty of it. At least until Endahren finished his business in Bastok.

 
 

Ellanore looked up. The area was unfamiliar to her. Most the buildings here were either relatively new or recently renovated. There were normal houses too, but most of the buildings in the area were mog houses.
The Mog House Management Union was a relatively new thing in San d'Oria. They were a union representing moogles, and giving out housing and rental rooms for adventurers. Ellanore felt something she couldn't quite define, standing there. In the recent years, more and more adventurers had been appearing all over Vana'diel, fighting back beastmen and other threats where national armies wouldn't or couldn't go.
"Is the house to your liking, kupo?" The cheery voice came from beside her. She looked down. A moogle. She still wasn't quite sure how to treat them, she had never talked to a one before today.
"Yes, it appears fine."
"Let's go check the room then! I'm sure you'll be pleased, kupo!" She nodded calmly and marched in after the moogle. She wondered if they really didn't have any marks that defined them as individuals. All the moogles she had seen had looked the same. Or perhaps she just needed to look more carefully. She stared hard at the moogle's back and his - her? - flapping wings, trying to notice something that could be defined as an individual trait. She found nothing.
"Here we are, kupo!" The moogle flew excitedly around the empty room. Ellanore looked around. It didn't appear half bad. She wondered how much furniture cost. She had never paid attention to such things, she had never needed to. But if she was going to do this, she would probably need something here, at least a bed.
She walked to the window and looked down. There was a small garden yard below, green in mid-summer light. "Do you happen to know where one can buy furniture?"
"Oh yes, it's easy kupo. Just head to one of the auction houses." The moogle flew beside her. Ellanore got the sudden feeling that he - she? - looked like he was about to land on her shoulder. Then the moment passed.
"I think... I've decided. I want it. Starting next month. Is that good?"
"Absolutely-kupo!" The moogle started flying around the room again. It looked excited. "I'm so happy! If Master needs to know anything else, Master can ask me!" Ellanore looked at the moogle carefully. She wasn't quite sure if this had been a good idea after all. It wasn't as if she was afraid exactly - many adventurers left the details of their daily lives in the hands of the moogles, she'd heard - but all this excitement wasn't really inspiring any confidence in her.
Well, at least it was done now. She was leaving, no matter what her parents said. She glanced down at the yard again. There was a good chance they wouldn't even be able to find her, once she set out. She had been planning this for a long time now, and wanted it for much longer. She would have her own life now.

 
 

Nightingale closed his eyes and sang. The sun was setting, he could feel the last warmth on his body. He sang of desperation and hope, of courage to face the death of the night by yourself, and survive. When he opened his eyes, he could not see the arid city of Bastok, but the beautiful scene of desperation and hope that existed only in his mind.
Then the song ended. With the last notes, he closed his eyes again. When he opened them again, all he saw was Bastok. The gritty reality. He bowed to the several people who had stopped to listen to him. It had been the last song for now. No matter how much he might want to immerse himself in the soothing familiarity of the songs, he was still flesh and blood, and he needed to eat. He nodded and smiled friendly to the few congratulating words he received, and gathered the gil thrown into the box he had put out for the purpose. It was enough for now.

"You sounded more sad than before, when singing that song." The quiet voice made him quickly look up from what he was doing. He knew the person.
"Endahren..." So he had come, chasing his hare-brained idea of establishing a branch in Bastok. Nightingale had told him not to. Still he had come. He looked back down and finished gathering his belongings. He hadn't wanted that.
"Ignoring me now?" That Nightingale did. He didn't wish to talk to this person, no matter how good his intentions were.
"You won't get rid of me that easy, Nightingale. We have known each other for three years now. I can't just abandon you like that, even if you tell me to." Nightingale supposed that he couldn't, at that. Sometimes, he felt the two of them were from different worlds entirely. But he kept walking, increasing his pace. Maybe another night, he would have answered. The day had been rough for him. Not enough gil, he needed to work harder. He loved his freedom, but being independent came with its own set of troubles. He didn't want to meet Endahren today.
"I'll keep following you then." The quiet voice sounded sad. It hurt Nightingale to hear that tone in Endahren's voice, but he kept walking. He feared that if he talked with the other right now, he might start crying, and not be able to stop. He couldn't take this, not right now. He silently pleaded Endahren to go away, give him time to gather his composure.

They had last seen each other in San d'Oria, and Nightingale had thought he had made it clear that Endahren's presence wasn't hoped for. Back then, he had thought it a bad mistake to tell Endahren of his plans to go to Bastok. But now, he wasn't so certain anymore. The days were lonely and long. Perhaps it had been a mistake, but a deliberate one. Perhaps, deep inside of him, a voice had called out - let him come. Please track me down.

Nightingale staggered and bit back a sob. At least he had managed to reach a less frequently used road before breaking down. He leaned against the close-by wall and tried to prevent the one sob from becoming many.
"Nightingale..." He shied back from the soft touch on his shoulder. No, no, not now. But he didn't resist when he was drawn away from the wall and to a much warmer embrace. He laid his head against Endahren's shoulder and gripped him tightly.
"It's all right. I'm here. I won't leave you." The voice, so close, made him break down. He cried, holding the other man like he would never let go. He was dimly aware of the soothing voice and arms holding him tightly, but they weren't important. This presence, it was enough. To be able to be this close again, after all those lonely nights, afraid that someone would find him, someone from his past. He had been so afraid in this strange city, always attracting attention where ever he went. Elvaan weren't too common here, he had known that from the beginning, but somehow it hadn't occurred to him just how much attention he would attract like this.

Eventually, he managed to draw in his desperation enough to stop crying. And when he did, Endahren was still there, holding him. The sun had set, leaving them in almost complete darkness. This small street did not have lamps. At the end of this street was where Nightingale lived now.
"I want to go home," he whispered hoarsely. Endahren was silent. There was nothing he could answer to that, both of them knew that he hadn't meant any place in Bastok. After a while, Nightingale withdrew from Endahren's embrace and started walking down the street again. He didn't feel like going to buy food now, not when his face bore the signs of his bout of crying. He walked to the place he lived in, and Endahren followed him. It was a good thing he was so stubborn, Nightingale thought.

 
 

It had been a long day for Ellanore. It was her 17th birthday, and relatives had insisted on coming and congratulating her. She wished nothing but to be left alone. She drew in her feet and hugged them, leaning on the pillar behind her. She was sitting in a secluded corner where you could see out to the lake from. It was a hot August afternoon, and this place was far enough from where people normally walked that there weren't any now, either.
She just wished to leave San d'Oria, that was all. Was that too much to ask? Apparently so. But she could take care of herself, she was scertain of that. And Endahren wasn't against the idea no matter how many times her parents tried to use that as an excuse for forbidding her to leave. Endahren would probably enjoy the idea of a soldier wife, she thought bitterly.

It wasn't like she had anything against the idea of eventually marrying him. But not now. And currently, the engagement was being used heavily against her, her parents always talking of duties and obligations. They didn't want her to make her way fighting, they wanted her to grow up to be a proper housewife and raise children. Ellanore didn't agree with the idea. The mere thought made her feel weird. She didn't want to become a housewife, she wanted to become a soldier, a warrior - a hero!

She looked out to the distance. There were hardly any clouds. Birds flew above the water, catching fish, and she could see boats in the distance. It was a beautiful day, even despite her own troubles.
Endahren had come to congratulate her, too. He'd come early compared to his normal visits these days, right after lunch. He'd been supportive as always, even though he hadn't had much time for her. That had been happening a lot lately, not that it particularly bothered her. She still wasn't quite certain how she should treat him. Ellanore's thoughts flew back to a time a bit more than a year ago. He'd come to her that day, they had gone out to Ronfaure to hunt rabbits. They'd talked. Endahren had asked her what she would do if a friend of hers was being treated badly. The memory of that conversation had engraved itself to her head. After that day, Endahren had become somehow more distant.
It's not like she minded. Really. She hugged her knees to her chest.
She wanted out.

 
 

The first stars of the evening shone in the sky. The sun had not yet set, but it was getting cold. Even though this was south from Jeuno, the weather felt colder here. In the distance, getting ever closer, were the grey walls of the city of San d'Oria. It was his first time here since he was five. It had been twelve years since had left. Nightingale wasn't certain how he felt about that, or how he felt about returning. Jeuno had been nice enough, he supposed, and he didn't really remember anything about living in this city.

He shifted his attention from the approaching city to the back of Master Peridaut, the man who he had been apprenticed to at age five and who had taken him out of San d'Oria soon after, to the bustling city of Jeuno. Airships hadn't still been in use back then, not that they could have afforded to get on board one if they had. Even now, there was no airhsip route to San d'Oria, so they had traveled all this distance on chocobo-back. Not that they still could have really afforded to pay the airship fare if the route had been established. While they weren't poor anymore, it was much more sensible to just rent chocobos instead of use exorbitant amounts of gil on something as frivolous as a comfortable and quick journey on a warm airship.
Nightingale sighed bitterly. Oh, if only... It wasn't very comfortable traveling on chocobo in the dead of winter. He had developed a nasty cough that he hoped would fade when they arrived in San d'Oria and didn't have to spend all their time out in this cold air, at the mercy of the elements. He had asked Master Peridaut for funds to even search out a healer of some kind, since their livelihood depended on them looking good and performing well, not bogged down by sicknesses. People did not want to be reminded of the ordinary when expecting to be carried to a fictionary world with no troubles except the heroic kinds.

"Boy, still staying in your saddle?" It was Master Peridaut. Nightingale urged his chocobo on to ride alongside him.
"I am well, thank you. Although I cannot pretend I'll be much better when we get somewhere warm." Peridaut nodded in response.
"Try to take it easy. I already have a healer in mind, they'll cure you up no time. Just be sure not to do anything too taxing the first couple days, you understand that, right?" Nightingale smiled politely and nodded. He didn't for a moment fool himself that Master Peridaut cared for his wellbeing. What he cared about was his voice, which was a precious source of income. Nightingale wasn't shy to admit it, he was a very good singer. It brought some responsibilities with it, not being able to do whatever you wished. Your voice always went first.
He had brief flashes of times when he hadn't put his voice first, but pushed them quickly aside. Those had nothing to do with Master Peridaut, and with any luck he would never know of such things.

In a way, he was glad they were coming to San d'Oria. This could mean a new beginning to him, and while he would loose the freedom of being in a familiar place and knowing all the ways you could fool someone, it would be replaced by the freedom of not knowing everything, and having that protect you. Both had their dangers, and Nightingale welcomed the change.

 
 

Concentrate. Draw a deep breath. Raise the bow, draw the string. Hold. Release. Again. Concentrate. Feel the bow. Draw a breath, raise the bow. Draw the string. Hold.

Ellanore's breath misted in the crisp air as she worked on her archery practice. Just the basics. Just the very basics. But strangely, she felt much calmer than she ever had with the sword. This came naturally to her, it flowed out almost effortlessly. Mr Arandant said she had a gift for it, and had become much friendlier towards her since she had said she was giving up the sword. She supposed she had been the only one who didn't see how it did not fit her in the slightest. But this, this was her skill. She had found it, she was at peace. Even though it had been only three months ago she had desperately wanted to learn the sword, she now hardly ever thought about it. Even the rare instances she did, it was only to think how foolish she had been. Draw a breath, raise the bow. Feel it, feel the way the bow had enough power to send forth a deadly missile, small and light but made powerful by the force of the bow.
She sighed happily and lowered the bow once again.

"You look happy." She blinked and looked to the side. She hadn't noticed anyone had approached her, she had been too concentrated on her practice.
"I guess I am." The person observing her was Endahren. Lately, she had felt a lot more ambivalent towards him. Not that she had ever hated her, she was quick to correct herself, but sometimes, having him around had been bothersome. Now, though... Ever since he had given her that piece of advice about going on her own path and not being too caught up with dreams of grand swordsmanship, her thoughts on the matter had been more confused. She glanced above towards the window of her room distractedly. On that table, in a special box that also housed several of her other treasures, was the compound eye circlet he had given her that day. She had had to ask her father what it was exactly, if it had any magical properties. Just a slight little enchantment, barely detectable. Even so, she treasured it. It was a thoughtful gift. "You should not be hopping here all the time. Don't you have a store to look after?"
Endahren chuckled. "Father really takes care of it most of the time. My time to be busy will come yet, but it's not just yet. Mostly I just help out when it gets busy or he has other business to take care of." Ellanore nodded slowly. She hadn't really thought before of how he lived his life, what he did with his days. But this kind of arrangement made sense. Nothing could have two leaders, really, there was only one sovereign.
"Well then, what are you doing here?"
"Just felt like seeing you. And to ask if you would like to come to out family's traditional Starlight Celebration dinner, on the 25th. Lots of good food and all!" Ellanore stared at him. This was certainly new. She generally didn't have too much to do with the Merchells, and they not with her family.
"...Come on now, you don't have to be so shocked. It's a very simple question." She couldn't quite identify the emotion in his voice. He was looking at her earnestly, but there was something she could not quite place.
"Well. I...I suppose. Since there's the engagement and all." The thought filled her with confusion, still. She had always known the time for the two of them to get to know each other better would come eventually, but she hadn't thought it would be any time soon. A family dinner, now?
"Great! Well, I'll be seeing you then, if not earlier! Mother has the specifics, you should work it out with her." Endahren smiled brilliantly, turned, and left without even a goodbye. Ellanore stared after him. That had been...sudden. Then she frowned. Knowing him, it could be a prank. She growled under her breath and started packing away her bow. Dishonorable lout. Then she stopped. He had mentioned to get in contact with his mother. It didn't really sound like it was just a prank. Suddenly, Ellanore felt like crying.