Children of the War Chapter 3
Never Without Her
Igros, Beoulve Castle
Balbanes hobbled into the castle, half bent over. He paused momentarily to flex his right arm. "Ow." He winced, then quickly did it again. "Ow!!" He gave up, then leaned back against the wall, and sank to the floor. He just sat there as the minutes ticked by. Sure, he had won, but it hadn't been fun. It hadn't been a glorious victory. Perhaps this was why his Uncle Ramza had always been reluctant to use the power at his disposal. At least, that's what Cyran had told him. Ramza hadn't been seen in Ivalice for fourteen years.
He finally looked up as he heard the stomp of heavy boots in the hall. Looking up, he saw Cyran frowning down at him. However, the old Chaos Knight's glare quickly turned to a look of concern when he noticed all the blood on Balbanes' uniform. "You are wounded?" He asked quickly.
That first glare had been enough for Balbanes. He leaned against the wall and managed to push himself up with his legs. "I got hit pretty good in the right shoulder. Everything else is just minor."
"How serious is this?" Cyran peered in for a closer look at the gap in Balbanes' armor.
"Not too bad. Even now, I can still use the arm a little, so I shouldn't lose use of it." Balbanes flexed his arm, grimacing.
Cyran frowned again. "I wouldn't have thought a few thieves would cause this much trouble."
Balbanes grinned a little. Now that Cyran knew he would be okay, he was feeling free to goad him. "Not just thieves. Ninjas. And a summoner thrown in for good measure."
"Ninjas and a summoner?" Cyran's eyebrows rose in astonishment.. "I'm really surprised at that. Our sources predicted about four thieves, tops." He put a hand on Balbanes' left shoulder. "I'm sorry. You had to use her pendant to get out of there, didn't you?"
"Yeah..." Balbanes stared down at the floor. Despite all the armor he was still wearing, the black pendant was the only thing weighing him down.
"Is there anything I can do?" Cyran stepped back from him, suddenly feeling like an intruder.
Balbanes looked up, and turned to face him, a slightly unsure look in his eyes. "Yes... I want Tara to come with me, starting right now."
Cyran seemed taken aback by this, and frowned, mulling it over. "Normally, I'd never even consider it, and not just because she's my daughter. Fifteen is just too young of an age to risk your life at." Then he looked at Balbanes again. "But she's so powerful that there isn't much "risk," involved. If you two team up, I won't be worried at all."
"Yes! Thank you sir!" He grinned broadly, before he realized that Cyran hadn't really said yes yet. He tried to dampen his expression, to no avail.
"Of course, she still has to agree, you know." Cyran nodded at him.
"Well, of course." Balbanes said as Cyran turned and left. That was such a given, he hadn't even thought about it.
"Oh," Cyran turned back around. "You might want to check in with Alma. She received a letter from Ramza today."
"Okay." Balbanes turned and began walking down the hall, then stopped in his tracks. "From Ramza?!" He whirled around, but Cyran was gone now. Had he heard right? Ramza hadn't ever sent a letter, that he could recall. Puzzled, he hurried over to Alma's room.
When he arrived, she was sitting at her desk, staring at the letter where it lay. It looked like she had been crying earlier. "Hey Alma." Balbanes said tentatively. For all intents and purposes, Alma was his mother, but he had never called her by that title. Just as he had never referred to Cyran as his father, although that was pretty much the case as well. It seemed as though he had to reject his foster parents in some fashion, just as his real mother had rejected him. Alma turned to look up at him.
"Hello Balbanes." She sniffled a little, then dried her eyes. "I take it Cyran told you about the letter?"
"Is it really from Ramza?" Balbanes leaned over to get a look at it. "Why hasn't he sent a letter long before?"
"He explains. Here, you should read it yourself." She handed it to him. He held it up to the light and proceeded to do just that.
"My dearest sister,
You can't imagine how sorry I am that it has taken me this long to contact you. Unfortunately, this is the first time in nine years that I've lived in a place that has the capability to get a letter out. Before now, it would have been a very long journey that I was not able to make. As to why I didn't send any letters in the time preceding that... I truly do not know. Perhaps I was still unreasonably angry that you didn't come along.
At first glance, this land seems to be much like Ivalice. There is still war, still corruption, still greed. But there is a difference. Here, there are no "nobles." Leaders are selected by their ability to lead, not by their birthright. Corruption and greed are quickly supressed and dealt with. Even common soldiers are well paid for their efforts. Wars are swift and conclusive, and do not drag on endlessly. Yes, I have done my share of fighting here as well. I have learned spells and abilities that no one in Ivalice has ever seen. Rafa and Malak do their share of fighting too, but we don't have major roles to play in it.
I'm a family man now, and it doesn't leave much time for fighting. Rafa and I have three wonderful children, with a fourth on the way. My two boys take after me, and are constantly fighting with each other. But my daughter is more like our mother, and you. When I go out for a walk with her in the early morning light, it is easy to imagine that you are right by my side. I made mention of Malak up above. He ended up coming here too, and despite a rather uneasy start, he and I are now good friends, although it's probably due to the fact that we didn't have a choice more than anything else.
Sometimes I think of returning to Ivalice, but there is nothing for Rafa and Malak there. Truly, you are the only reason I don't move much farther south, and forget I ever lived there. It may sound cruel of me to say, but even that isn't enough incentive for me to leave my family for months on end. I hope you will come to visit me over here sometime.
There is one thing I consider important enough though. If Delita ever begins to truly overstep his bounds, if he ever becomes more tyrant than king, let me know. I'll be over there in the blink of an eye to beat some sense into him, and of course pay you a visit while I'm at it. I'll write you again soon. I promise-
"Wow." Balbanes set it back down on her desk. "Sounds like he's much happier over there than he ever could have been here." He remained silent for a few moments, then voiced the thought they were both thinking. "I wonder if the same would have been true for us."
"It might have been." Alma shook her head. "But then I would never have met my husband. Besides, I don't pretend to understand the nature of your bond, but I know you couldn't comprehend life without Tara."
Balbanes quickly tried, then shook his head. "You're right. If she was to be torn away from me now, I'd be like an empty shell. But I wonder what would have happened if I'd never met her."
Alma sighed. "Actually, even if I'd gone, you would have stayed with Cyran. I just felt that you should have some family here with you."
"Well, thank you for that." Balbanes bowed his head. "Although, I wouldn't have been completely without family... This castle bears our name. And in these halls where Grandfather Balbanes once walked, how could I not feel the spirit of the Beoulves?" She remained silent, and he spoke what he thought she was afraid to ask. "I'll be perfectly fine if you do go visit him for a few months, you know."
"Are you sure?" She asked, concerned.
"Cyran's still here, isn't he? Besides, now that I'm an active soldier, I don't know how much time I'll be spending at home anyway."
"I suppose you're right, at that." She sighed.
"Anyway, you think about it. I have something I need to take care of."
Balbanes opened the door to Tara's room without knocking, and found her sitting on her bed, polishing her Fire Brand. "Hey, Tara, you're coming with me on assignment from now on, okay?"
"Okay." She said, not sounding very surprised. He came around and sat down next to her. "Cyran seemed to think that it was some big deal that I ask you."
She held her sword up so the light reflected off of it. "That's an overprotective dad for you." Then she smiled. "Besides, I knew you couldn't handle it without me."
Balbanes merely nodded in response. "You're right. I know I couldn't make it alone until you're sixteen."
She put the Fire Brand in its sheath, then turned to face him. "You ever think that maybe we're too dependent on each other?"
"Oh, I know we are. That's why I need you around to look out for me." Balbanes smiled. Well, I'll see you later. I have to go get this wound taken care of.
"Never would have happened if I had been there." She called after him as he began to walk away.
"I know." He smiled.
"I don't care how dangerous it will be! I don't care as long as I can be with you!" - Rosa
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