Garnet pressed her ear to the door desperately trying to overhear what Kuja was saying. She could barely make out his muffled voice, but Zidaine’s anger was clear. Behind her she heard the black mage shifting uncomfortably and she turned to look at him. She wanted to ask why he was there; did he really believe Kuja would help them?
“Please miss, it’s best the master does not catch you listening at doors.” Garnet scoffed, if Kuja thought she would be addressing him as such then he was in for a rude awakening. I am a princess; she thought proudly but a stabbing pain her chest brought tears to her eyes. She wasn’t a princess. Not for much longer anyway. Once she returned to Alexandria she would be crowned queen, how much longer could she stay away for? I should never have left…how could I abandon my people when they need me? She sat back down and rested her hands in her lap, every so often she would glance at the black mage but he stood silently in the corner as deep in his thoughts as she.
“I want to see Dagger!” Garnet stood up at the sound of Zidaine’s voice and faced the door. “ Where is she ?” The door to the small room opened and Zidaine rushed in, looking Garnet over to make sure she was safe. As Zidaine opened his arms to her Garnet hesitantly stepped in to his embrace, her eyes stinging.
“As you can see her highness is quite safe.” Zidaine’s grip tightened on Garnet and she forced herself to smile reassuringly at him. “Now, choose your companions who will accompany you.”
“Dagger.” Zidaine spoke without hesitating and Garnet moved to detach herself, squeezing his hand gently. “I’m not leaving her with you.” Kuja laughed coldly and shook his head, stepping between the two he plucked Garnet away and wrapped his arm firmly around her waist pinning her arms to her sides.
“You let your emotions rule you, it makes you weak. Where I am sending you magic cannot be used, would you really put her highness at such a risk?” Garnet watched as Zidaine clenched his fists, she wished she could speak out to him and reassure him she would be fine.
“She will not be safer here with you.”
“I have already guaranteed her safety to her, and as you can see no harm has befallen her in my company so far.” Garnet nodded as Zidaine looked to her for confirmation. “When you return you will be reunited with the dear princess. Rather if you return. Now choose your companions and choose wisely .” Garnet could see it pained Zidaine and she opened her mouth to reassure him, remembering at the last moment that she could not speak. Noticing that Kuja’s grip on her waist had slackened she slid from his arms and moved towards Zidaine, squeezing his hands gently. She could see he was distressed, how could he choose whose lives to risk by bringing them? And what of those he left behind? Would they be at greater risk? “Your decision should not be difficult. I have already told you there is an anti-magic barrier around your location – even you cannot be stupid enough to even think on taking a mage with you.”
“Fine…I want to take Steiner, Freya and Amarant.” Garnet nodded reassuringly to Zidaine, she was sure she would be able to protect the remaining four. Vivi and Eiko were only children; surely Kuja would not harm them?
“Very well. Bid her highness farewell, I am doubtful you will see her again.” Kuja smiled cruelly and left the small room leaving them alone as he gestured for the black mage to follow him. Garnet rested her head on Zidaine’s shoulder, closing her eyes so she could be enveloped by his scent.
“I will come back for you,” Zidaine whispered reassuringly and Garnet wished that she could believe him. his gloved hand gently slipped beneath her chin so that he could tilt her head up. “I promise. I will not leave you with this demon.” A small smiled flickered across Garnet’s lips and she nodded, leaning in to his hand as he brought it to up to her cheek. She was aware of the closeness between them as Zidaine’s head tilted down, their lips almost touching. A rough hand grasped her just above her elbow and pulled her backwards. “Leave her alone!” Garnet tried to pull away from Kuja but his grip was possessive and she could see jealousy raging through his eyes.
“Her highness is not a common bar wench,” Kuja growled. “Now come. Your friends are waiting.” Zidaine glowered at Kuja, his fists were clenched at his sides and his legs slightly bowed in the stance he took before attacking. “Pitiful,” Kuja shook his head and flicked his wrist lazily, a gust of wind sent Zidaine crashing backwards into the wall. Garnet’s magic flared to life as she reached out to try and heal Zidaine. “No your highness, do not waste your energy on such low life.” Kuja turned her around to face him, his cool fingertips pressing against her forehead. “We will discuss the company you have grown accustomed to when you awake.”
Garnet’s surroundings were quite different when she awoke. Rather than the metal prison she found herself in a lavishly furnished room on a bed with rich coverings and furs. Kuja was sitting before a hearth lit with a roaring fire, at the sound of her stirring he looked over and smiled coldly. Ignoring him Garnet closed her eyes and focused on searching for her eidolons, she didn’t feel empty and nauseous like she had when they had been extracted.
“Your eidolons are safe my Canary. It was your mother who desired them for destruction, I desire something quite different.” I need to get away from here, Garnet thought seeing something frightening spark in Kuja’s violet eyes. But how could she get herself and her friends out safely without Zidaine? “I have had a bath prepared for you, I am sure after your travels you must be weary. After that you will dress and join me for dinner my sweet Canary, I have had some clothes prepared for you.” Sitting up Garnet caught sight of the folded garments on a chair close by to Kuja; she shook her head wanting to accept nothing from this man. “Must I remind you that only your full co-operation will protect the remainder of your friends in my custody? Are you really going to endanger them over a dress?” Garnet mustered her best regal face as she glowered at the man. Please hurry Zidaine, she had no doubt that he would return to her with whatever Kuja had sent him to retrieve. She just prayed it would not be long.
Standing up Garnet followed Kuja into a smaller chamber where a bath had been prepared for her. The bath was luxurious and welcome after trawling through the desert but Garnet wasted no time in washing, fearing the longer she took to bathe the more likely it would be before Kuja came to disturb her. She washed the grit and sand from her hair, feeling more like her old self as she washed away the dirt from her travels. If only she could speak then perhaps she could at least try to bargain with Kuja. Wrapping herself in a large sheet she was about to enter the main chamber when she realised Kuja would most likely be waiting for her.
“You cannot dress yourself sweet Canary,” she heard his voice call through the door and felt her cheeks flare with heat. “There is a screen for you to change behind, I am a gentleman.” Rolling her eyes Garnet clenched her fists and strode into the room regally. She spotted the screen and picked up the dress so that she could change, determined to do so alone. As soon as she slipped the dress on she realised she would not be able to lace it up herself and silently cursed Kuja. She tried her best to lace it from behind but knew it was futile. Kuja’s fingertips brushed across her bare back and Garnet flinched away refusing to look at him as he gently laced up the back of her dress. Garnet was surprised at his speed and expertise as he worked. She felt herself turned around gently as Kuja rested his hands on her waist; she met his violet eyes unflinchingly. “Come, let us dine.” Nodding Garnet walked forcing her body to remain aloof as Kuja’s hand remained on her waist as he guided her through his palace. H.is dining chamber was small and intimate with only a richly decorated circular table and two throne-like chairs furnishing it. Candles on the table and along the wall and Garnet couldn’t help but feel uneasy at the sudden romantic atmosphere within the room.
Two black mages entered the room, one carrying dishes of delicious smelling food and the other goblets and wine. Both bowed low as they set their wares on the table but Garnet kept her eyes focused on a spot in front of her, she was aware of Kuja’s eyes on her and eventually forced herself to meet his gaze.
“I have given your thief twenty-four hours to achieve the object I need. If he returns within that time then I have agreed to set your friends free.” And if he does not return? Garnet wanted to ask, the question was clearly in her eyes as Kuja smiled slowly. “Provided you do not displease me, your friends will be perfectly safe. They shall not be freed as promptly, but as you earn my trust I shall reward you with their freedom.” Garnet nodded to show that she understood, it irked her that she could not speak out and try to make him see reason. She could not trust him, no matter how much he vouched for their safety. A thick silence descended between the two as they ate; the food was rich and delicious but Garnet found she had no appetite and merely pushed morsels around her plate half-heartedly. As the black mages cleared away the plates Kuja offered Garnet his hand and she carefully rose. “It must be frightening to think that upon your return home you shall be queen. A heavy burden to befall one so young,” Kuja’s tone was one of casual conversation but Garnet felt the first tendrils of fear grip her belly. “Do you truly feel ready to take that responsibility, alone?” It is my duty, Garnet thought forcing her expression to remain calm. “A canary as sweet as yourself, as beautiful, should not have to bear such a burden alone.” Garnet almost choked as she realised where Kuja was going, at what he was suggesting. “Forgive me for being frank my Canary but your recent actions have been…” he trailed off and Garnet looked at him sharply. “Running away? Twice? Who is leading your people at this very moment?” Tears of guilt pricked Garnet’s eyes but she blinked them away rapidly; he was right. How could she have ever thought running away was the solution? She could have contacted her Uncle Cid another way, a messenger may have reached him faster than she had travelled and she certainly would have caused less trouble. What must the citizens think of me now? I have left them to rebuild Alexandria without me…I should be there leading them. “Sweet Canary you should not feel ashamed, you are young. You are too fragile to rule alone,” Kuja opened a door and Garnet recognised the chamber as the one he had brought her too when she had first awoken. She moved towards the metal grill desperate to see her friends but Kuja turned her gently to face him. He tilted her head up so that he could hold her gaze with his own, his free hand trailing down to rest on her lower back so that he could close the gap between them. “Sweet Canary, allow me to rule by your side. To guide you in times of crisis.” He lowered his head to brush her lips with his but Garnet found the strength to push him away.
“No,” She cried out emphatically but of course no sound escaped her.
“Think wisely,” Kuja’s voice hardened as he gestured to the grill. Pulling herself free from his grip Garnet swept across the room and peered in desperate to see that her friends were safe. They all still appeared to be asleep, even Mog had returned to his slumber. “I am not a cruel man; your thief has less than seventeen hours to return. I shall give you the same amount of time to make your decision.” Garnet refused to look up at him; instead she kept her eyes focused on her friends. There was no decision to be made. If she refused him then surely her friends would bear the brunt of the punishment. She looked down at the four sleeping; Vivi, Eiko and Mog were curled together while Quina was sprawled further back. Garnet frowned realising that someone was missing. Zidaine said he would take Steiner, Frey and Amarant…where is my uncle? She looked at Kuja accusingly but could see he was just as surprised as she by the number below. He scowled furiously and whirled around to face two of the black mages standing guard by the door.
“Find the frog immediately !”