Courage and Strength Chapter 2

Lindblum to Daguerro

By Meriko Robert

Freya leaned over the railing of the airship as far as she dared, peering out and about her at the clouds and bright, glittering ocean beneath. As of yet, there was nothing else to be seen, but for the occasional flash of white feathers or silvery scales, glimpsed upon the ocean surface for a brief moment, and then quickly lost in the speed of travel. Silver hair, kept at a servicable shoulder-length, fluttered around her head like small banners and streamers as she strode up the deck to the very forefront of the ship, looking yearningly at the horizon as if for a glimpse of the shore, and the mountains of Daguerro. There was nothing to be seen, of course, for they were about a half day's journey away, by her calculation of the hours. Closing her eyes to forestall any more vain searching, Freya consciously forced herself to relax, and to enjoy this respite from their travels.

There was no great haste in their Journey, as no known evil threatened Cleyra or Burmecia as a whole, and yet it would be sheer idleness to travel at a leisurely pace, as if they were merely traveling for pleasure. And so Sir Fratley and Lady Freya had set for themselves a rigorous pace whenever they traveled by foot. Until now, their travels had been exceedingly easy, as much of the miles had been accomplished by boat or airship. However, every time the two Dragoons found themselves on board a vessel, Freya had to consciously remind herself to take advantage of the forced rest, rather than spend all her time roaming the ship in restlessness. Their search and stay at Daguerro would pose no dangers nor strain, of course...however, the road that led from Daguerro could lead them anywhere, and into any danger. She ought to be grateful for even her boredom, for there would likely be little of it later on.

She breathed deep, reveling for the moment in the crisp, biting salt wind, so different from the mild breezes and hot desert air that swirled around Cleyra, or the chilled, rain-lashed gusts and occassional oppressive humidity of the kingseat of Burmecia. As she turned her head this way and that, letting the swift wind whip her hair all about her, she sniffed at the air, filling her lungs over and over again, as if to try and saturate her senses with the tangy scent. Some small shift in the air that blew about her gave her pause, and she instinctively knew what would greet her sight when she opened her eyes to see who was standing next to her, blocking the wind.

Still with her eyes closed, she sighed and said in a voice both resigned and amused, "Good afternoon, Sir Fratley."

Lifting her lids at last, she turned her head to find him gazing at her with a bit of surprise. "How did you know it was I?" the Dragoon asked.

With a rueful smile, Freya replied, "You always appear whenever I am doing something...odd."

Fratley gave her a grave nod, and replied with the utmost seriousness, "Such as shaking your head to no one in particular, and scenting the ocean breeze as if it were the warm air from a baker's kitchen." Then, with a lighter expression, but with as much gravity as ever, he observed, "Whenever you and I are apart, and I come upon you once more, you do seem..."

"To have taken leave of my senses?" supplied Freya.

"...unguarded," Fratley finished. "On this Journey, you have been quite the picture of sensibility, practicality, and my presence, that is. Am I stifling your true nature, Lady Freya?"

She replied matter-of-factly, "No, Sir Fratley, it is simply habit. I traveled alone for years, and when in the company of others kept mostly to my own council, and so even now I sometimes..."

"Forget that I exist?" asked her companion, feigning mild insult. "I am injured."

Rather than an answering banter, the older Knight received a cold look and a flat reply. "I never once forgot you existed," Freya nearly snapped at him. And then, flushing, she added in a softer, more apologetic tone, "But it is another habit of mine to think of you as lost. Perhaps I am more conscious of my manner when you are about, but it is only because I am unused to the company still."

A silence followed, during which Freya resumed her perusal of the clouds that rushed by the prow of the ship, and Fratley joined her in this idle pursuit, although with unseeing eyes and thoughts turned inward for the moment. No one else joined them in their uninteresting sightseeing, and indeed no one else was on deck at all, with the exception of that day's lookout, who was as silent and ignorable as the crow's nest he sat in. Letting the wind cool her cheeks and sweep away some of her tousled feelings - which, she found to her chagrin, were as unmanageable as ever in Sir Fratley's presence - Freya closed her eyes again, and only opened them when her companion spoke once more.

"If it is a comfortable habit of yours to be alone now and again," he said, standing close by her side so that the wind would not snatch away his words, "then I apologize, and will take care not to disturb you so often."

Freya blinked a few times as she repeated his words in her mind, and realized that aside from the hours in which they slept, he had indeed not left her alone for longer than an hour since departing Cleyra. Even when in towns and cities and ships, when errands would separate them for a while, or even when she simply wandered off for a bit to get air or chase thoughts, he would eventually appear by her side.

...and she would usually be doing something that required explanation, like scrutinizing a handful of nuts with great concentration, carefully shaving thin slices from an inoffensive plant with the blade of her lance, or - on one memorable occassion - singing an old Burmecian lullaby to an alley cat and her kittens. She had explanations for every occassion, of course, but...

"Why do you?" she blurted out, and then hastily added, "Not disturb me, as you said, but...seem to find me."

He had allowed her to accompany him on this Journey, no longer called her just "Lady," and seemed to find her company pleasant, but by no means had they regained the easy companionship of years ago that Freya remembered. If he now added her name to her title of Lady, still he had not called her by her name alone since the night before their departure. Conscious of the fact that Sir Fratley was having to renew their acquaintance from scratch, Freya tried not to lapse into the relationship she remembered, and thus quite possibly shock her proper and formal companion. Just now, she had nearly said, " me out," but as that implied that Sir Fratley desired her company, she bit it back, and changed the phrasing to something more innocuous. Her initial choice of words, however, turned out to be the more appropriate.

"Because I look for you," Fratley replied quite naturally. At Freya's blank look, he added as a sort of dual question and statement, "This surprises you."

Before Freya could think of something polite and yet true to say, he saved her the trouble by going on to explain. "You are both my companion on this Journey as well as one who stands in the stead of my past. I feel as if the better I know you...the better I could know my self."

After turning this over in her mind for a while, Freya offered, "Well, and if you ever wish for stories of your lost past, I will be ever willing to supply them."

The older Knight was looking out over the railing once more, and after nodding toward something far below them on the sea, noted, "I doubt we will have much time for idle talk for the rest of this Journey." Freya followed his gaze down through the scattered clouds and spotted the peninsula on which the mountain of Daguerro rose tall and majestic.

Fratley turned to her once more and suggested, "But perhaps when we return to Burmecia."

Smiling brightly, Freya replied with a bow, "At your service, Sir Fratley."

Chapter 3

Final Fantasy 9 Fanfic