Chapter 1: Alphinaud: The Arcanist's Request (Kholusia)
Meantime, while Fate allows, let us be one in love. Soon will Death be here with his head cowled in dark. Soon will steal on us the inactive age, nor will it be seemly to play the lover or utter soft speeches when the head is hoar. Now let...love be my pursuit while it is no shame...
To love a Scion is a dangerous thing; to love an Archon, doubly so. It's not just the implicit threat to life that they face in battle after battle, though after besting several Calamities together, Tetri figures that doesn't exactly help matters. It's that Tetri's become used to loss, used to losing the ones she loves, and she hates that. Hydaelyn didn't exactly give her a concise summary of what her duty as the Warrior of Light would entail when Tetri was given Her blessing, nor was she informed of the possible risks.
The years since in Ishgard, Doma, and Ala Mhigo, however, have proven to her the real cost of her title. The cost of caring about the Warrior of Light. When the Miqo'te dragoon chases sleep at night (or what passes for night underneath the accursed bane that is the Flood, anyway), she sees them in her mind, in the gossamer mist between wakefulness and slumber: Papalymo, Tesleen, Moenbryda, countless others. As the fallen parade past her, fixing Tetri with accusatory glances, it is always Haurchefaunt who brings up the rear. Her kind Elezen lover, the noble Ishgardian knight who died saving her life, always smiling, always bleeding from the corner of his mouth, his skin the ashen grey of the dead.
"Smile, my love," he tends to say. "A smile better suits a hero."
She awakened with a start, jolting upwards from her bedroll with a gasp. Her body was drenched in sweat underneath her blouse and leggings; only loose clothing would do, to ease her jumps into the skies while fully clad in her dragoon's armor. Still half asleep, she instinctively grasped for the spear laying beside her, its weight a comfort once it was gripped in between her clenched fists. She struggled to slow her breathing, to calm her racing heart, and looked about, seeing her armor kit on the ground beside her, and beyond that, a campfire filled with dying embers, warding off the chill of what passed for evening in Kholusia.
“Are you alright, Tetri?” asked Alphinaud, and she looked up at him where he sat on the other side of the fire. He was clad in his raggedy clothing, loose leather trousers and a long brown traveling tunic adorned with feathers like a village shaman, with his braided queue pulled over the hood. Beside him, his grimoire lay open, and sitting obediently next to it was his moonstone carbuncle, who turned its shimmering head and, seeing her, warbled in greeting. He smiled at her, and Tetri felt disarmed at the sight of her friend.
“I figured I would take the first watch,” he said. “You seemed tired after your journey here from the Crystarium, though I heard you muttering and moving about in your sleep. Do you want to talk about it?”
I thought you were dead, Tetri thought, looking at his azure gaze, feeling a pang of sorrow at remembering his seemingly lifeless body in Gaius van Belsar’s arms. I thought I had lost you forever, that I would never behold your eyes again. That I would never be able to tell you--
She shook her head, both to clear it and to answer him.
“Just nightmares,” she replied, looking down at the ground, her hands still about her lance, though she lay half in her bedroll. Alphinaud and Alisaie were both twenty summers old, now; they were most certainly adults, but that didn’t mean they deserved to be burdened by Tetri’s feelings, both for them and about them. She didn’t fully understand her own feelings, herself, so she shoved them down into the recesses of her mind where she could avoid treading, filling the space between with her many quests and battles. After all, she had her duty; it didn’t quite matter what she thought, or felt, about any of it. Besides, the Archons had been through enough, being stuck in a different world, confronted with all manner of horrors brought on by the sin eaters. They didn’t need the Warrior of Light’s ill-focused desires to distract them from the mission.
Lost in her dark thoughts, she missed Alphinaud gazing at her across their camp with his own thinly disguised longing. He stared at her, having thought of her nearly every day since his arrival in the First a year prior. Tetri seemed no worse for wear on the outside, as far as he could determine: same elfin, round cheekbones adorned with myriad brown and white facial markings, characteristic of most Miqo’te, same long purple ears and tail, same close-cropped purple and white hair. Same ruby eyes that he loved to lose himself in when she wasn’t looking. Alphinaud had worked hard to improve his skills as an arcanist and a healer in the year since his arrival, wanting to hold his own with Tetri once she had inevitably arrived, and he finally felt like he could do so. What he could no longer do, however, was deny how he felt about the Warrior of Light, now that she was mere fulms away from him.
They had more than several malms to cover to reach the shantytown outskirts of Eulmore, however, and the prospect of that long journey on foot, sans mount, plus the subterfuge necessary to get into Eulmore, required that they both had their wits about them. That meant they had to sleep. Alphinaud had slept deeply in the town of Wright during the previous bright evening. Though the light of the Flood was ever present, the people of Norvrandt still made sure to observe a sort of evening, regardless, for the sake of survival as well as preserving what semblance of normalcy available. He thus didn’t mind taking first watch, even if it was for most of the night; from the dark circles and bags around her eyes, he could tell that Tetri needed her rest more than he did at the moment.
“Tetri,” he said, and the Miqo’te startled at his voice, her hands shaking around her spear as she looked up at him, her long ears twitching with anxiety. Her ruby eyes were glassy, bloodshot from lack of sleep.
“You should rest, my friend,” Alphinaud said gently, allowing his regard of her to shine through in his voice. Just because he could not touch her, didn’t mean he couldn’t show his friend that he cared about her in some other fashion. He no longer wanted to deny his feelings for the Warrior of Light, this was true, but he also knew the time was not right to reveal them, if ever. They had their duty, as Archons, as Scions of the Seventh Dawn, and Norvrandt would never see the return of night again if they didn’t solve the ever-present mystery of the Flood.
Alphinaud watched as Tetri regarded him silently, blinking, before slowly lowering her spear to the side of her bedroll. She ran her hands over her face, then, groaning.
“Right,” she croaked, “you’re right, I’m exhausted.” The Miqo’te moved further into her bedroll, peering at him from across the camp.
“You have the watch, then?” she asked, and he nodded, gripping the edge of his grimoire, giving her a small grin.
“We have this, Tetri,” he said, wanting to reassure her. His moonstone carbuncle twitched its shimmering ears and warbled beside him, as if to echo the promise of its master.
“Please rest, for now,” he said, and was rewarded with a nod from his companion.
“Alright,” said Tetri. “Wake me in a few bells and I’ll take over then.”
She snuggled into her bedroll, turning over with a huff, and Alphinaud could see the movement of her long tail underneath as she attempted to get comfortable. Alphinaud hid a smile; he was glad that, after all they had been through together, through the Dragonsong War and beyond, the Warrior of Light trusted him to have her back. He was grateful for all his hard work over the past year at improving his magical combat abilities. No more would he be a nuisance to warriors like Tetri or Estinien, getting in their way while his allies turned back the tide. He was a Scion of the Seventh Dawn, and he could now hold his own! His carbuncle squeaked beside him, feeling an echoing surge of its master’s determination. Though not entirely telepathic, Alphinaud’s advanced aetherpact with his summon allowed him a modicum of mental connection, in order to direct his carbuncle without the need to speak aloud. It was a marvelous foundation devised by Eorzea’s mages, in order to free arcanists and other mages to cast incantations meant to turn the tide in battle.
His mind thus occupied, scanning the horizon for stray sin eaters with his trusty carbuncle at his side, it was some time before Alphinaud finally heard the soft sounds echoing from his companion’s bedroll across the camp. Blinking, wondering if his mind was playing tricks on him, he turned to glance in Tetri’s direction, watching as the Warrior of Light’s bedroll rocked slightly back and forth. Alphinaud swallowed, his mouth dry as sandpaper. Was she really--no, she wasn’t actually--
“ Ahhh --come on, godsdamnit-- hahhh! ”
Alphinaud immediately turned back towards the horizon, feeling his cheeks burning with embarrassment at his accidental eavesdropping of what was meant to be a private moment. He closed his eyes, feeling his face flush further in shame as a spark of pure lust settled low in his abdomen, and the Elezen could feel himself already half-hard underneath his smallclothes. Unfortunately, Alphinaud found that closing his eyes just enhanced his already keen sense of hearing, and soon he couldn’t drown out the Warrior of Light’s soft moans and gasps drifting across the camp. His carbuncle squeaked at him in a questioning manner, picking up on its master’s consternation, and Alphinaud opened his eyes, scowling at the horizon before him. Why now?! Why did he have to overhear her?!
A wave of fresh shame overtook him, then, and with it, guilt at the lust that was now burning him up from within. Alphinaud tightened his fingers on his grimoire. Of course, such an activity was a completely natural instinct, and he reasoned that Tetri likely was just doing so to relax. Alphinaud had lost count of the number of times he had made himself climax before sleep; he was a young man, after all. Having travelled together for years, he was certain Tetri had overheard him at least several times, as well, especially while camping closely throughout Dravania. There was nothing wrong with it. So why was Alphinaud still listening to her, and why couldn’t he stop?! The Elezen’s yearning for the Miqo’te grew, threatening to overwhelm him completely, his cock now fully hard and straining against the front of his trousers. He could hear the Warrior of Light’s gasps grow higher in pitch, though it was obvious she was trying to stay quiet. Alphinaud gritted his teeth as he heard Tetri whisper a colorful oath, her tone one of frustration; she was evidently having difficulty achieving release on her own.
At the overhearing of her whispered expletive, Alphinaud’s clever mind helpfully provided him with an insane idea. He’d had a lot of insane ideas over the years, in the course of saving Eorzea, but this one was perhaps one of the most outlandish. He bit back a groan as he heard more rustling behind him, running a hand over the front of his pants, willing his hardness to recede, to no avail. At this rate, Alphinaud would have to take his own pleasure in order to even think clearly once more. That insane idea rose up again in his mind, and the young Arcanist warred between his desire for the Warrior of Light on the one hand, and common sense on the other. As he heard the Miqo’te moan quietly once more, Alphinaud grimaced in resignation, his resolve crumbling as his years-long desire for Tetri pulled him under its steady tide.
He turned to his moonstone carbuncle, stroking its long ears gently.
“Keep watch for me, Moonstone,” he said quietly, and the carbuncle warbled an affirmative before turning back to scan the horizon before them. Barring any great use of his mana, his carbuncle would effectively stay summoned for several hours, or until he recalled it, and it would alert him of any wandering sin eaters, or anything else, for that matter. He hadn’t survived in the wilds of Kholusia this long merely on his wits, and his carbuncle had grown in strength along with him. He had every confidence in his summon, meaning he could turn his attention to other things--or, rather, other people. Namely one Warrior of Light. Alphinaud bit his lip, suddenly overwhelmed with nerves, but he knew something had to give. If they weren’t going to sleep, they may as well have an uncomfortable conversation, by which the Elezen thought he could practice his diplomacy to particular ends.
Gathering his courage, Alphinaud stowed his grimoire on his belt and turned about, creeping forward towards the campfire until he was sitting on the ground, half way to Tetri’s bedroll, which was still rocking back and forth. Alphinaud felt his cock twitch at the sight, imagining what she looked like underneath. He bit back his own groan of frustration, resisting the urge to take himself in hand. He ran a hand through his hair, tugging a bit at his plaited queue, before crossing his arms.
“Tetri,” he said quietly, his voice sounding unnaturally loud in the otherwise still air of the camp. Immediately, the bedroll stopped moving, and he thought he heard the Miqo’te swear under her breath. When she didn’t stir or reply, Alphinaud cleared his throat before speaking again.
“Tetri, I know you’re awake,” he said. “I can hear you. I know what you were doing, just now.”
His heart began to race twice as fast as soon as he uttered the words aloud, but now he couldn’t take them back, and his fear was quickly morphing into excitement. He prayed to the Twelve that she wouldn’t slay him with her spear for taking such liberties with her personal boundaries; at the worst, their friendship would be over, but perhaps they’d still remain comrades in arms. He resisted the urge to leap backwards as he saw the Miqo’te move underneath her bedroll.
“I--I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replied, sounding flustered. Alphinaud felt guilt rush through him, once more, but he had already made his choice. He clenched his fists at his sides.
“Yes, you do,” he said, but quietly, trying to make it a statement of fact rather than an accusation. “We traveled side by side for two years, Tetri. We slept next to each other every night. I know what you sound like when you’re pleasuring yourself.”
“W-what?!” she cried out. “I--I wasn’t--I wasn’t doing that!”
“We both know that’s not true,” he replied, his calm belying the anxiety and arousal warring in his body. He bit his tongue to keep from speaking more; he had to give her a chance to respond. Sure enough, he saw the Warrior of Light finally sit up in her bedroll, peeking over the top of the blanket at him. Her cheeks were flushed red, long ears back against her head in consternation, her purple and white hair in complete disarray, and she was breathing hard. Alphinaud didn’t think he had ever seen someone so beautiful, but he kept that particular revelation to himself. She glared at him, her ruby eyes burning into his as if to set him aflame with dragonfire, and Alphinaud thought he might just let her, to free himself from the lust coursing through his veins.
“Look, Alphinaud, I’m wired from traveling and I just thought it would help me sleep!” she hissed at him from across the campfire.
“It’s not a big deal,” she continued. “I’m sorry, alright?! I’ll stop, hopefully I’ll fall asleep eventually. Somehow.”
She huffed at him, crossing her arms underneath the blanket and turning away from him in a defensive posture. Alphinaud frowned; that would not do.
“You don’t have to apologize, Tetri,” he said, and shrank backwards a bit as she whirled about to glare at him once more.
“Then why bring it up at all, Alphinaud?!” she said, her body simmering with rage, and Alphinaud thought he could see tendrils of blue dragonfire starting to erupt from the surface of her skin. He swallowed.
Here I go, he thought.
“I could--I could help, if you want,” he said, proud that he didn’t stutter in nervousness. “If you’re interested, that is.”
Tetri reeled back from him, as if struck, her eyes comically wide, her ears standing straight up above her head in shock.
“You what?!” she cried, sounding utterly flummoxed. Alphinaud took a breath; he was expecting some surprise from her at his offer, but not this much.
“Only if you’re interested, of course,” he said, laughing nervously, feeling a blush rise on his cheeks, allowing her to see his true feelings, not that he could hide them from her in the slightest. Above all, Tetri was his best friend, and he didn’t want to lose her, his secret carnal desires be damned.
For her part, Tetri was now staring at him warily, her eyes calculating as she examined him. He fought the urge to shake as he felt her gaze drift down his body, and he caught her staring for a few seconds at his hardness clearly visible through his thin leather trousers, before drifting back up to his face. He swallowed again, his mouth dry; he had considered trying to cover himself, but there was no point. For years Alphinaud had yearned for her, was now burning with desire at having heard her cries, and he wanted her to see just how much she affected him, just how much he wanted her.
“Alphinaud, I--” Tetri huffed out a laugh of disbelief, shaking her head before looking up at him again, her ears twitching. She stared at him, and he stared back.
“Have you ever even--” she began.
“No, I’ve never had sex, not yet,” he interrupted, having anticipated the question, proud of himself for not stuttering over the word. “We’ve been too busy saving the world for me to entertain notions of courtship, or even a visit to a brothel, for that matter. Not that I’m interested in such...seedy establishments.”
“I was going to say ‘taken a lover,’ but I suppose that works, as well,” replied Tetri wryly, smirking at him, and it was Alphinaud’s turn to look away, feeling his cheeks flush anew with a combination of embarrassment and desire.
“How did you expect to help me, then? If you don’t really know what you’re doing?” she asked.
He shrugged, attempting to appear nonchalant and certain he looked anything but. He ran a hand through his hair as he looked back at his friend.
“I figure it would at least be more exciting for you than a solo activity,” he said, “and I certainly could use the practice. Once the time arrives, I’d rather not be caught lacking in my ability to please a partner.”
“Ah, I see,” Tetri said, her ears twitching, lips pursed in thought. Alphinaud shifted about nervously, crossing his arms, suddenly filled with guilt and doubt.
“If you don’t want to, that’s perfectly fine,” he said in a rush. “I would never want you to feel obligated to do something you truly don’t want to do! I know it’s a bit much--I mean, that it’s presumptuous of me to even ask, but--Tetri, you’re my friend, and I thought--”
“When did I say I wasn’t interested, Alphinaud?” asked Tetri. Alphinaud’s words died on his lips, as he was stunned into silence.
“Hmm,” said the Warrior of Light, a small smile forming on her face, her ruby eyes gleaming. Alphinaud gulped, wondering what he had just gotten himself into.
“So, no one has ever touched you?” she asked calmly, as if discussing the weather. “No man or woman has ever laid hands on you?”
“I--that is--no, not at all,” Alphinaud stammered out a reply, feeling a flush creep down his neck. Her no-nonsense tone of voice sent a rush of want straight to his groin, and he was now painfully hard underneath his smalls.
“What about kissing? Have you ever been kissed before, then?” she asked, and Alphinaud thought he could hear her voice drop an octave or two. He fought back a shudder.
“No,” he whispered, his mouth dry. “Nothing…”
“You said you knew what I sounded like, when I’m pleasuring myself,” said Tetri. “How long have you listened to me? Was it during our trek across Dravania?”
“Yes,” he said. “Dravania, and then whenever I had the chance.”
“Did you touch yourself while listening to me?”
“Ah, Tetri--yes, I did…” Alphinaud bit back a moan, clenching his fists to keep himself from palming his aching hardness.
“Did you make yourself climax while you listened?”
“Gods --Tetri, yes!” Alphinaud replied, and couldn’t hold back a moan of pure frustration.
“Go ahead, Alphinaud,” she said, her voice low. “You can touch yourself now.”
“Ah, but--” he started, but Tetri shook her head, her ruby eyes staring into his, and Alphinaud could see her eyes had darkened with desire, her pupils nearly fully dilated.
“I want to see this passion you’ve kept hidden from me all this time,” she said. “I’ll make it even, though. I’ll watch you, and you can watch me. How does that sound?”
Alphinaud trembled at the thought of her eyes on him while he stroked himself to completion, and he felt his cock twitch in interest, but the sting of doubt still ached in his heart.
“Tetri, before we--I mean, before we do anything, I need to know if--if you actually want something like that, with me,” he said, his voice shaking only a little.
“Well, I did offer,” she replied, “but I understand what you’re saying.”
She looked down, sighing.
“I do want to--explore this, with you, whatever this is,” she said. “But I don’t think we should necessarily rush into anything further, just yet. That’s why I suggested just watching each other, to start. See how we feel doing that. And then…”
She shrugged, looking up at him, and gave him a small smile.
“We can take this as we go, I suppose,” she said. “No pressure, on either of us, and if you want to stop at any time, we will. What do you think, Alphinaud?”
He nodded immediately, so quickly his bangs shook against his forehead.
“Yes! I--I mean, I’d like that a lot,” he said, blushing as the Miqo’te let out a small laugh at his obvious enthusiasm.
“Well then,” she said, smiling, then stood up from the bedroll, shuffling the blankets off of her, and Alphinaud’s mouth went dry as he saw that Tetri’s lower body was completely naked. He stared at the thatch of purple curls between her legs, the expanse of tanned skin across her toned stomach and thighs, and before his lust-addled brain could fully process the sight before him, she was swiftly pulling her dark blouse over her head, unclasping her brassiere and tossing both items of clothing onto the ground. Then the Warrior of Light stood before him, naked as her nameday, smiling at him, her cheeks flushed, one hand at her side, the other running through her hair. Her tan skin was adorned with various scars, a result of her numerous battles fought and won, but Alphinaud found that they only added to her allure, a sign of her strength and bravery as a hero. Tetri’s breasts were high and firm, with rosy nipples, and Alphinaud wanted to run his tongue across them until she moaned his name. He continued to gaze at her in awe, too stunned to even touch himself.
The Miqo’te laughed softly at him, her long purple tail twitching behind her in mirth.
“I’m guessing you like what you see,” she said, her voice thick with lust, and Alphinaud nodded.
“You’re so beautiful, Tetri,” he whispered, his longing increasing tenfold at the mere sight of her body before him.
“I’m glad you think so,” she said, sitting down to kneel on the bedroll before him, her legs tucked under her, her tail curled about her waist.
“But now, out of the two of us, I’m feeling a bit underdressed,” she said, gesturing at him pointedly with a hand, as he was still fully clothed.
“Oh, right!” said Alphinaud, and yanked his too-large shirt over his head with shaking hands. He stood up, yanking his pants and smallclothes down his legs and shuffling out of them before his nervousness could catch up with him. Then he was the one standing in front of her, his arms twitching at his sides as he finally stood bare to her gaze.
Tetri gazed at Alphinaud’s lithe form. Shorter than most Elezen men, he was thin but muscular, with the wiry strength of a runner’s build, and his chest was dusted with a line of white hair running down the center of his pectorals down to his waist. His nipples were small and pointed in excitement, and Tetri gazed lower, where his cock stood proud from a nest of white curls between his legs. Though not very long, he appeared quite thick, especially around the base, and Tetri felt another rush of moisture between her legs as she imagined taking his length inside of her, or against her tongue. She shifted her thighs together restlessly at the sight, missing how her friend’s nostrils flared as the scent of her arousal finally reached him. Alphinaud uttered a small moan, sitting down on the other side of the bedroll and finally reaching down to stroke himself lightly. He closed his eyes and shuddered with relief as pleasure rocked through him.
“Yes, that’s it,” she murmured, and Alphinaud heard Tetri shuffling about in front of him. He opened his eyes, and groaned as he saw the Miqo’te kneeling in front of him with her legs spread, her hand lightly stroking the glistening pink folds between her legs. The Warrior of Light began to pant, her long ears twitching, reaching up with her other hand to stroke lightly over her breasts.
“Do you like watching me like this, Alphinaud?” she asked, her voice unsteady, and Alphinaud nodded, gasping as he stroked himself harder, running his thumb over the head of his cock.
“Twelve above, yes, ” he hissed, fisting his cock even faster. “You’re the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”
Tetri groaned, and he watched as she moved her hand faster between her legs, inserting two fingers into herself, stroking the nub right above her entrance with her thumb.
“Oh, Alphinaud!” she cried, rocking her hips upwards so her fingers reached even deeper inside her, enjoying how her best friend watched her movements with hooded eyes, his face and neck flushed red. He continued to stroke his length quickly, trying to match her own movements.
“Slow down, please,” she said. “I want to keep watching you.”
Alphinaud gritted his teeth, slowing his strokes reluctantly, fisting his other hand through his hair and arching his back as he tried to obey her request. His plaited queue was becoming slowly undone, his hair messy and drifting over his neck and forehead.
“Ahhh--I’m sorry, Tetri, it’s just--you’re driving me mad!” he said in a sigh, unable to keep from stroking his length. The two Scions groaned, working themselves up steadily towards mutual climax. Tetri shuddered as she ran her thumb hard over her clit. She stared into the azure depths of Alphinaud’s eyes, which seemed to glimmer under the false radiance in the sky above them. He was painfully handsome to her, beautiful, even, and she fought the urge to mount him then and there.
“Sweet Halone,” she gasped. “You’re so fucking sexy, Alphinaud, did you know that? I can’t believe you’ve been keeping yourself from me, for so long!”
She uttered a low growl as her control over her dragon soul was steadily worn thin, her climax further in reach. Alphinaud watched, enraptured, as small tendrils of blue dragonfire began crawling over her skin. In the back of his mind, against the haze of pleasure suffusing him, he dimly remembered reading about the history of dragoons back in Ishgard, about how the blood of the dragon could change one’s soul, suffusing it with a dragon’s partial nature as they availed themselves of draconian power over time. The abject display of her magic, that dangerous strength simmering just beneath her skin, just made him want her all the more.
“Oh, Tetri, I’ve always been yours,” he murmured, his voice full of longing, running the hand in his hair down over his chest, imagining it was her hands on him, instead. “I would have given myself to you completely, if you had only asked me!”
Tetri growled louder in response to his words, and abruptly yanked her hand from between her legs, sitting up on her knees.
“Stop stroking yourself,” she ordered firmly, and he muttered a groan of disappointment, but took his hand away. The Miqo’te and Elezen stared at each other, flushed and panting, sitting ilms away from each other on the bedroll. Tetri grinned at him, leaning forward and offering him her hand, her fingers still wet with her arousal.
“You can taste me, if you want,” she said, her voice tinged with mischief. Then it was Alphinaud’s turn to groan at his good fortune, leaning forward and taking her fingers in his mouth, swirling his tongue around them.
Tetri let out a low groan as she was treated to the delicious sight of Alphinaud licking the juices from her fingers like a man half-starved. He moaned as her heavenly taste filled his senses, unaccustomed to such richness on his tongue. Tetri grinned as the Elezen's cheeks flushed, finally drawing his lips away from her hand, panting.
"What a good boy you are," she said, praising him and stroking his cheek, and he nuzzled into her palm.
"Yours," he said, looking at her with adoration in his gaze, and she swore, an ache of possession swirling through her at his words.
"Yes, you're mine," she agreed, letting out a draconic growl. "All mine." The dragoon Miqo'te then sighed and took his hand, stroking his palm gently.
"I must admit," she said, "the mere idea of someone else touching you, having you for the first time, instead of me--I don't like that idea at all, Alphinaud."
Alphinaud smiled back at her, his azure eyes glittering like sapphires beneath his ivory locks of hair. He was so beautiful that Tetri's heart ached to look at him, yet she lacked the ability to look away from him even for a moment. He had spellbound her, casting some hitherto unknown incantation of longing that she was powerless to resist, even as the Warrior of Light. Hydaelyn's blessing didn't work on infatuation, or against falling in love. To the affections of a Scion, Tetri was powerless, and she was alright with that.
"I just want you, Tetri," he replied quietly, leaning into her palm on his cheek. "You're the only one I want. I'm not interested in anyone else. I'm open to whatever you want to do--or if you don't want to, that's fine too. It would be enough for me just to be near you, just to be at your side again. I'd be alright with this as my only memory of--of this kind of closeness, with you, if that's all you can give."
He gripped her hand, as if to reassure her, and Tetri felt that ache again in her heart at the emotional maturity of his words. Alphinaud was so wise beyond his years, sometimes, that it was difficult for her to believe he and his twin sister were only twenty.
"Alphinaud..." she trailed off, her throat suddenly tight with a combination of emotions she wasn't ready to deal with. Still, she owed her best friend a response. She cleared her throat, then continued.
"Tell me what you want, right now, Alphinaud--exactly what you want--and I'll tell you if I'm willing to give it," she said finally, and stroked his palm gently. He took a deep breath, shuddering, and she saw tears gathering in his eyes.
"I--I want you to--m-make love to me," said Alphinaud, unable to keep his voice from shaking. Tetri gripped his hand tighter in hers, as she saw her Elezen friend weep with emotion before her.
"You're the only person I've ever wanted, Tetri," he gasped out, "the only one I've ever yearned for! I've dreamed of being this close to you, for years. I want my first time to be with my best friend, someone I truly care about. So, would--would you please be my first?"
The overprotective part of Tetri's mind panicked at hearing Alphinaud's heartfelt plea. She felt her ears twitch with anxiety. On the one hand, she wanted him back, nearly as badly as he wanted her, though she had buried and compartmentalized her feelings for him (and Alisaie, and the rest of the Scions) so completely, for so long, that unpacking that same yearning was causing her to feel just a bit insane.
We shouldn't, she thought. I shouldn't. I shouldn't love him, any of them! I could get them killed--just like the others. Just like Haurchefaunt...
They are Scions, whispered her dragon soul, the part of her merged in her dragon soulstone, in counter to her hesitation. They are warriors and heroes of their own. Not Warriors of Light, but heroes all the same, who've accepted the burden that is the cost of battle. To give their lives is their choice, not ours. And to give and receive love in turn, is our choice to make, as well.
Tetri resisted the urge to snarl in frustration, unable to find a sensible argument against the logic of her draconian nature. She was also unable to find a reason not to give in to her feelings, both of lust and love, for her fellow Scion before her. Alphinaud was still holding her hand, his cheeks wet with his tears, looking at her with awe in his azure gaze like she was the answer to his prayers. Looking back at him, the Miqo'te felt herself teetering on the edge of that joyous madness, that only arises with being in love. It terrified her more than the sin eaters, more than any vile creature of the world or void, for she could not fight love, nor defend against its possible loss. Not an onze of her fear was enough to vanquish her love, however; she felt it swell in her heart, instead, a tide of longing that demanded she answer Alphinaud's question.
“Yes,” she whispered, compelled to honesty. “I will be your first, Alphinaud, if that’s what you truly want. I want you, too.”
Alphinaud trembled all over at her words, choking back another sob, and raised her hand to his lips to press a kiss against her fingers.
“I’ve never wanted anything else so badly,” he whispered back, feeling both excited and terrified at the prospect of making love with the Warrior of Light. Tetri smiled at him, taking her hand from his.
“Can I kiss you, Alphinaud?” she asked, and at his nod she leaned forward, closing the distance between them and finally taking his lips with her own. Her lips were soft and plush, and he eagerly kissed her back, making up for his lack of experience with obvious enthusiasm. She brushed her tongue against his lips, and he opened his mouth to her, moaning as their tongues twined together. They kissed for what seemed like hours, savoring each other, before finally breaking away to gasp for air. Tetri stared at him, panting, her face twisted in want, before laying backwards against the bedroll, parting her legs. She reached out to him.
“Come here, dear heart,” she whispered, and Alphinaud felt his heart skip a beat at her tender endearment. He shuffled forward until he was kneeling between her legs, his cock still rock hard against his stomach. He hovered over her, feeling awkward and incredibly nervous.
“I--I don’t know what to do,” he said, feeling his face flush with embarrassment. Tetri shushed him, stroking his cheek gently.
“I know you don’t, and I don’t expect you to,” she said, trying to reassure him. “Are you nervous, Alphinaud?”
“Extremely,” he replied, hating how his voice shook. He leaned into her palm, finding her presence comforting. The Elezen felt himself be pulled deeper under the tide of love he felt for his best friend, wanting to kiss her body, to run his hands and lips over her skin.
“That’s normal,” she said. “I’ll take care of you, Alphinaud. You can’t fail at this, you can’t do this wrong. It’s just being together, sharing pleasure. I want to be with you, just like this, and I’ll show you everything you want. We can stop anytime you say so. Will you let me take care of you?”
“Yes,” he said, his voice thick with reverence. “Show me how to love you, Tetri. Guide me, please!”
Tetri nodded, her long ears twitching, then she moved forward underneath him, until they were mere ilms apart. She reached down, taking him in hand, and he hissed at the feeling of her warm fingers around him. She pulled him forward gently, until he had to lean down over her, his hands holding him upwards, and he jolted as she brushed the head of his length against her entrance. She rocked her hips up against him, so that he slid inside of her just an ilm, and was rewarded as Alphinaud uttered a loud gasp at the movement, his body tensing over hers. The Warrior of Light stilled beneath him.
“Are you alright?” she asked quietly, and watched as Alphinaud nodded, breathing harshly.
“Y-yes,” said the Elezen, “it’s just--overwhelming…” He felt his face blush at his current lack of eloquence, but Tetri just smiled at him, reaching up to run a hand over his cheek.
“That’s alright, take it slow,” she said, and Alphinaud nodded, feeling his instincts taking over. He made another cautious thrust forward with his hips, sinking deeper into her wet, tight heat, groaning as pleasure threatened to completely overwhelm his senses. Tetri sighed at his movements, enjoying the sensation of being filled. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a lover, after losing Haurchefaunt. That is, if she wasn’t counting the adorable Miqo’te barmaid in Hingashi whom she had helped through her heat while traveling in the East seven months ago, in the course of liberating Doma.
It had been during a rare respite from travel, and she could still count on one hand the number of times a female Miqo’te had asked her to share a heat. Despite the ubiquity of biology, it had just been rare for her to be propositioned by another female of her kind (and she tended to avoid Miqo’te men on matter of principle, another casualty of growing up under the narcissism of a selfish Nuhn). Frankly, Tetri had been flattered, being essentially an unknown in the East, unlike the fame of her title in Eorzea. The barmaid had been eager, easy to please considering her physical state, and Tetri had enjoyed the experience, but she had known then, as she did now, that it wasn’t love, not like what she felt for the young man above her and moving slowly inside her.
Alphinaud and Alisaie had been with her from the beginning, growing with her as she grew into her own power as the Warrior of Light. Inadvertently, they had helped her shoulder the great burden of being Hydaelyn’s chosen, and Tetri had felt herself grow closer to the Leveilleur twins, feeling confused and then guilt-ridden as her feelings of appreciation and pride had morphed into love for them. Tetri sighed as Alphinaud moved into her again, and she wrapped her arms and legs about him, running her tail over his lower back, feeling him shiver in her arms. Impatient, she pulled him down with her dragoon’s strength, pressing his shorter body completely into her as he buried himself to the hilt inside her.
“Ah! Tetri…” Alphinaud sighed at the heavenly feeling of her body tightening around his, jolting as the Miqo’te reached up to kiss him softly on the mouth.
“There we are,” she said against his lips. “How does that feel, Alphinaud?”
“Oh, Twelve, it’s--you’re incredible,” he managed to stutter out.
“Good, I’m glad,” she replied. “You feel amazing like this!”
The Warrior of Light started to pant as she rocked her hips up against his, and the two Scions groaned together in abandon.
Alphinaud’s clever mind whirled as his body was rocked by pleasure. There were no mage’s formulae, no magical theory, that could possibly encapsulate how perfect it felt to be united with her in this manner. He felt unmoored by the intensity of the moment, feeling like he could break apart with each movement of his hips into hers, with every ilm of his length buried inside of her, sending sparks of ecstasy up his spine. He struggled to regain control, gasping into the air, feeling himself on the edge of orgasm already.
“Ahhh -Tetri, I’m sorry, I can’t--” he managed to say, then leaned down and buried his face into her neck, groaning, sounding desperate and wrecked. Tetri stroked his sweaty hair back from his forehead, her other hand running down his back in a calming manner.
“Shhh, it’s alright, Alphinaud,” she crooned into his ear. “I’ve got you. It’s okay. You can let go, and I’ll catch you.”
The Miqo’te felt him shudder against her, moaning against her neck, and the warmth of his breath made her arch into him, tightening her hips around his. She gasped as he made a particularly hard thrust into her, moaning at the satisfaction of being filled by him. To think, they could have been doing this for years, instead of whatever tapdance of denial they had been doing. Well, that, and saving the world, but that hadn’t stopped them from doing insane things before.
“No, I--uhnnn --I wanted to please you…!” Alphinaud choked out as he continued to thrust erratically into her tight heat, gasping as he was brought closer to his peak, clinging to control.
“What--ahhh! --makes you--hahhh! --think you’re not pleasing me?!” she replied back in between grunts and sighs of pleasure, unable to keep herself from rocking her hips back to his and meeting him, thrust for thrust. Their skin was slicked with sweat, and the smell of sex was heavy in the air, the campsite filled with the lewd sounds of their joining. The two Scions continued rutting against each other in wild abandon, the Miqo’te and Elezen each competing to bring the other to their peak first.
Alphinaud leaned down, burying his face in her neck, licking the sensitive skin there, groaning as she whined and clutched him tighter, enjoying the feel of her slick heat tightening around him further. Encouraged by her reaction, the Elezen stroked a hand up her body as he thrust into her, cupping her breasts, stroking a thumb over her nipple, watching as Tetri gasped and arched into his touch, her face flushing a deeper red, her slit pupils blown wide with lust. He laved her nipples with his tongue, nipping her gently with his teeth as he caressed her, and grinned against her skin as she swore.
“Ah --damn--yes, Alphinaud, yes!” cried the Warrior of Light. “That’s it, give it to me!”
Alphinaud groaned in reply, his lips still closed about her nipple, and suckled her harder while increasing his thrusts, still trying to stave off his orgasm. Tetri hissed at the feel of his hot mouth on her, her tail flailing against his back like a whip. Two could play at this game! With a wicked grin, she leaned down to take the entire tip of his pointed ear into her mouth, grasping him harder against her as his entire body jolted from the stimulation. Alphinaud released her from his mouth, gasping harshly, arching his back.
“Oh--oh, Tetri, fuck! ” He moaned, shuddering and sighing as she ran her tongue along the delicate shell of his sensitive ear. Tetri held back a smirk, glad to have finally broken her best friend’s normally polite composure as she continued her sweet torture; as she had learned from Ser Estinien and Lord Aymeric, Elezen ears were incredibly sensitive. She had never even heard Alphinaud swear, though she had always known he had the capability to do so, much like she had known on some level he had the ability to keep up with her in bed, even despite his lack of experience. Tetri was pleased his ability to learn quickly on the battlefield adapted well to lovemaking, though she wasn’t surprised. Alphinaud’s clever mind and talented fingers had always appealed to her, and now she also knew the aspiring diplomat’s mouth was good for more than just targeted conversation with enemies and allies, if the pleasure of his lips on her body was any indication.
Tetri wanted to explore that further, feeling her slick folds tighten around his length as she pondered teaching the young Elezen how to orally pleasure a woman, but that would have to wait until later. She could feel the tension in Alphinaud’s muscles, his entire body arched against hers as he attempted to hold back from his climax. She was surprised he had held out this long during his first time, though she knew Alphinaud had always been tenacious, never one to give up easily on anything. Tetri stroked her hands down his back, clutching his ass, and he gasped another oath above her as his rhythm began to falter. She leaned upwards, coaxing his mouth open and kissing him hard, swallowing his moans, running her hands up his back and into his hair, scratching his scalp lightly. She took her mouth from his, gasping against his lips.
“Alphinaud, you can come now,” she whispered against his lips. “Just let go, and I’ll be here to catch you. I want to watch you come inside me. Do you want to come?”
Alphinaud shuddered, choking back a sob.
“Y-yes, Tetri--gods, yes, I want to…!” he managed to gasp out, his eyes closed and face twisted in pleasure. He opened his eyes, feeling his cheeks flush as he stared down at his Miqo’te lover beneath him. She smiled up at him, her long ears twitching.
“I want to watch you come, Alphinaud,” said Tetri, stroking his face before running her hands down his chest, stroking her thumbs across his nipples in a copy of his earlier actions on her body. He jolted at her touch, and she uttered a pleased growl low in her throat, sounding more like a dragon than a Miqo’te. She pinched his nipples, hissing as he gasped at the intense stimulation. His entire body tensed as he felt her inner walls flutter around him.
“Oh, oh fuck, Tetri, I’m--I can’t--!” he said, feeling his orgasm approaching.
“Yes, Alphinaud!” she said, clutching him tightly, rocking her hips up into him, kissing his neck. “That’s it, come on! Let me see you!”
Alphinaud arched his back, closing his eyes tightly and groaning loudly as he gave one final thrust of his hips and tumbled into the ecstasy of his climax, feeling himself release inside of her, pleasure suffusing his entire being as he shook above the Warrior of Light. Lost as he was, he missed Tetri’s look of rapt wonder as she watched her best friend reach the height of his pleasure above her. For a few moments he felt weightless, as if he was soaring above the clouds, then he was abruptly pulled back down to earth, gasping as he collapsed into Tetri’s arms. The Miqo’te held him gently while he shuddered from the aftershocks of his climax, stroking the hair back from his face where he rested his cheek against her bosom, pressing a tender kiss to his forehead.
Finally, Alphinaud raised his head, still breathing hard, and regarded her with a look of bewildered gratitude, his blue eyes shimmering.
“Hello there,” she said, smiling, and blinked as her friend leaned up to press a kiss against her lips. She hummed into the kiss, her lips parting as Alphinaud licked her mouth open, sighing.
"I love you," he whispered into her mouth like a prayer, and she sighed back, a high-pitched, needy sound, as if granting him the absolution he wanted.
Alphinaud pulled away from her, looking into her eyes, reaching up a hand and running his fingers gently down her cheek. Tetri felt tears burning at the corner of her eyes, cursing her own cowardice; she wanted to tell him those same words, she longed to return his feelings, for she felt the same! Yet how could she, when loving her was practically a curse? Shame welled up in her heart as she looked away from him. Though their bodies were still physically intertwined, the Miqo’te felt herself reeling from the intimacy of the moment, the love she felt for Alphinaud threatening to crumble all the emotional walls around herself that she had carefully constructed for years.
Am I truly this weak, she thought, to take my friend as my lover, and be unable to call him by the same? To love him with my body, but have my words fail me?! It was pathetic; she was pathetic! Tetri choked back the urge to cry, as she was overcome by a wave of self-loathing.
“Tetri,” he whispered, turning her face towards his once again. She took a breath, breathing harshly through her nose, and Alphinaud wiped her tears away with gentle fingers as they coursed down her cheeks. Tetri looked into his blue eyes, not sure what she was expecting to find, but felt the balm of relief fill her heart as she saw the Elezen regarding her with nothing but compassion and understanding.
“I know how you feel about me,” said Alphinaud quietly. “I know that you care for me, that you love me, Tetri. You wouldn’t have shared this experience with me if you didn’t. You wouldn’t have reached for me, you wouldn’t have said yes to my request. You wouldn’t have kissed me, you wouldn’t have held me in your arms and shown me how to love you with my body, like I love you with my heart. Like I’ve loved you with everything that I am, for years. You didn’t have to, but you did. So--you don’t have to tell me anything, alright?”
Tetri trembled at the perceptiveness of her lover’s words. He knew her too well; of course, he would see through her completely, and know just what to say to put her heart at ease. He always did. She found herself glad of it.
“Alphinaud…” she whispered, and pulled him against her, burying her face in the side of his neck, crying softly against his skin, only now she was smiling, grateful for the opportunity to finally be able to love him as she had longed to for so long, regardless of her ability to say so aloud. He wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling against the nape of her neck, and he laughed softly as he heard--and felt--a growl of contentment rumble through her. The Elezen knew she was feeling more comfortable with him, if she was this relaxed about releasing the instincts of her dragon soul out in the open.
“I’m all yours, Warrior Dragon of Light,” he murmured, and Tetri growled louder at his endearment, pulling him even tighter against her, her tail writhing down his back, causing him to twitch as it tickled.
“Yes, Alphinaud, you’re all mine,” she said, and Alphinaud looked up at her. She smiled at him, her ruby eyes gleaming, and he startled against her body as blue flames arose from the surface of her skin, surrounding them both in a cerulean blaze. Alphinaud looked around them in wonder as the heat of her dragonfire tingled on his skin, but did not burn. Far from terrifying, the blue flames were comforting, protective, a wall of magical elemental power, and through the fire he could see the scales of spirit dragons dancing and writhing in midair. It was power, the power of her dragon’s blood that was always simmering at the ready beneath her skin, waiting for the dragoon to call it forth.
“It won’t burn you,” the Miqo’te whispered, “you or anyone else under my protection. You have nothing to fear.”
Alphinaud chuckled, smiling down at her fondly.
“I know,” he replied. “Of that I had no doubt, my Warrior of Light.”
With that, he leaned back down to claim her lips once more with his, and at his kiss, Tetri let her flames dissipate, her claim on his heart now assured. The Elezen and Miqo’te lost themselves in each other for a time, and Alphinaud soon grew to wanting her again, having recovered from their previous session. This time, they slowed their pace, savoring each other, and Tetri showed Alphinaud how to bring her to her peak, which he did with his typical absolute focus. The campsite was soon filled once more with their shared cries of pleasure. Eventually, after one more bout of lovemaking (aided by Alphinaud’s generous use of Physick, to replenish their bodies of vital aether), they fell into a deep slumber on top of the bedroll, wrapped in each other’s arms, with Alphinaud’s trusty moonstone carbuncle keeping watch all the while.
Later that day, when they'd entered the lower levels of Eulmore and were bidden by the court jester women to shower, Tetri considered pulling Alphinaud in with her. She decided against it because it would be too conspicuous, and because of Alphinaud's shyness with public bathing, despite their no-less-public activities in camp. Still, she gave the young Elezen mage one last look of smouldering lust before closing the shower curtain behind her, smirking at Alphinaud's grimace of pure frustration. She'd just have to make it up to him later.
When Alphinaud introduced her to Mrs. Chai-Nuzz as his assistant, describing her as his inspiration, Tetri allowed herself a break in her tense demeanor, to smile at him in genuine fondness. For just as she was his inspiration, he was hers, as well.
Chapter 2: Alisaie: The Red Mage’s Regard (Amh Araeng)
The long-awaited second chapter is now complete! A big thanks to everyone who's read, commented, or liked this story so far, your support makes this story possible. I hope you enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After Tesleen was turned, Tetri waited to reach out until she heard Alisaie weeping alone in her tent. It was far enough away from everyone else at the Inn to be somewhat private, though it was necessary to stay within the perimeter of the camp anyway, in case of stray sin eaters seeking a meal of easy pickings. She knew it was coming, could see it in the Elezen woman’s azure eyes, the same shade of sky-blue as her twin, and she knew Alisaie had been valiantly holding in her tears until after dropping off the boy with other caretakers. Tetri was old friends with the bastard emotion of grief, though, and she understood how it crested over the mind and heart in waves, not needing a timetable or schedule to make itself known, to erupt out in tears or screams.
It’s not that Tetri wanted to intrude, truly she didn’t; she only wanted to help, if she could. She’d known Alisaie for less time than her brother, been through less with Alisaie than she had with Alphinaud. And yet they fought in the Ghimlyt Dark together, fought for the freedom of Doma and Ala Mhigo as a team, for over a year, and thus the Miqo’te still felt close enough to Alisaie to want to comfort her. Tetri wasn’t sure if Alisaie wanted that right now; gods know she didn’t want anyone to touch her, or even come near her, after losing Haurchefaunt, after losing Estinien to the rogue dragon soul inside him. Losing two lovers at once had stung Tetri raw with the pain of fresh grief, as the price of her duty had stolen yet more happiness from her.
No matter that her fling with Estinien had been mutually no-strings-attached, for loss was loss, and it always hurt, it just ached less with time. The first time she embraced Estinien was to help with her heat fever whilst stuck in the wilderness together, and then once more, after Haurchefaunt had declared his interest in formally courting her, perhaps to win her heart back from the Ishgardian knight. She had admitted to herself at that time that it was true: as the Azure Dragoon, Estinien understood her better than most. Being a dragoon was all she knew, and no one had forced her into that path, for she had chosen it, first as a lancer, then as a dragoon in the frozen snows of Coerthas. The path of battle made sense to Tetri in a way that submitting to a Nuhn didn’t, even in a way that being Hydaelyn’s daughter didn’t, for the path of a dragoon demanded only blood at the tip of her lance, not the surrender of her body, or the risk of losing loved ones.
The tall, distant Elezen had been cognizant of the burden of a dragoon soulstone that was carrying a dragon soul, and all it entailed: the cravings, the rage, the everpresent lust. Tetri had been willing to lose herself in Estinien, to let him take her apart with his lips, his hands, that coiled strength, and the passion of dragonflame that simmered always beneath his skin, just as it did hers. She had lost him to that fire, his soul stolen by Nidhogg’s eternal anger. By the power of her own dragonfire, she had won him back, but at the cost of losing the other man she loved.
Tetri sighed, shaking her head in an effort to clear her mind of dark musings, her ears twitching against her hair. Being sad or hearing someone else being sad brought all of this out of her, the echo of mourning. She turned her attention instead to her lance, which she had finished cleaning with an oily rag. The bronze metal of Liberator fairly gleamed underneath the light of the Flood, even in the cliffside shade of the Inn, and the last touches remained to be done.
Tetri dropped the rag, and bent to pick up the whetstone she used to sharpen the tip of the lance, when she heard a stuttering wail from within Alisaie’s tent. Tetri swallowed, her mouth dry, and her hands tightened on the handle of her lance. She wanted to go to her, but wasn’t sure if she should. Then she heard more wailing, steadily climbing in volume, as if her friend could no longer control her cries, and Tetri grimaced in determination. She laid her lance flat against the nearby cliff wall, her armor kit having already been removed and carefully placed in a pile there. Tetri then walked carefully to the entrance of Alisaie’s tent, pausing a moment before bending down and rapping her knuckles sharply against the tent flaps.
“Alisaie?” she called, trying to keep her voice down, not wanting to startle her friend, or making it seem like she was seeking to intrude. She heard rustling in the tent, then Alisaie spoke.
“Yeah?” she said, and Tetri felt a pang of sympathy at the croak in Alisaie’s voice, raw from crying.
“I’m just checking on you,” said Tetri, “just to make sure that you’re okay. I wanted to let you know that I’m here if you need anything. You don’t have to be alone right now, not if you don’t want to. I’ll be nearby.” The Miqo’te swallowed and nodded to herself, having reached out as much as she could to Alisaie without her input. She stood up to go back to sharpening her spear.
“Wait,” said Alisaie, in barely more than a whisper, but Tetri could hear it, her long ears twitching with worry for her friend. She stood awkwardly outside the tent, waiting, her tail thrashing behind her.
“I--I don’t want to be alone,” said Alisaie, her voice breaking, and Tetri let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding.
“I’m coming in now, Alisaie, is that alright?” said Tetri, bending down and pausing at the tent flap, giving her friend one more chance to back out.
“Yes, please…” she replied softly, and Tetri squared her shoulders, stooping down and crawling into Alisaie’s tent. It took her a few moments to adjust to the darkness, the thick canvas having been designed to block out even the light of the Flood. She crawled forward slightly from the entrance of the tent, kicking off her boots as she did so, and looked about. Alisaie was bundled up in a heap of blankets and bedrolls, hair messy and unkempt about her face, and her cheeks were red and blotchy, her beautiful sky-blue eyes bloodshot from crying. She was stuttering with every breath, as if that little movement cost her so much. Tetri’s heart ached at the sight, and she felt tears burn in her own eyes.
I will destroy the sin eaters, she thought, rage curdling in her gut as she remembered the cause for Alisaie’s grief, remembered Tesleen’s scream of agony as she had been forcibly turned. Every last one. I will end the blight of the Flood on this world. We will destroy them all! In her mind, her dragon soul snarled in agreement, encouraged by her righteous fury. Tetri pushed down her rage for the time being; there would always be time to fight her battles later. Right now, Alisaie needed her. The Miqo’te looked at her friend.
“I’m here,” she said softly, wanting Alisaie to choose what she wanted from her. She smiled lightly as Alisaie looked at her, the Elezen taking a deep breath, as if surprised Tetri was sitting in her tent before her. Alisaie huffed and wiped her eyes.
“Gods, I must look a sight,” she said, laughing without humor. “I’m sorry I’m such a mess right now, Tetri--”
“Now, now, none of that, please,” said Tetri, interrupting her. “You have nothing to be sorry about, so please, don’t apologize. I just want to be here for you right now.”
Alisaie stared at the Warrior of Light, before nodding, her gaze trailing off to the side, and Tetri felt another pang of sorrow as she recognized that blank look, as Alisaie revisited the moment of loss in her mind. That would not do.
“Alisaie,” said Tetri, and the Elezen jolted upwards, staring at the Miqo’te with wide eyes.
“You don’t have to keep going back there,” she said, and Tetri moved closer to Alisaie, climbing over a pile of blankets until she was sitting next to her friend. She put a hand gently on Alisaie’s knee, and felt Alisaie startle slightly, but she did not move away. Tetri found that an encouraging sign, and stroked Alisaie’s knee gently with a thumb.
“It’s over, now,” she said, “and it hurts, I know it does. I understand how much it hurts, Alisaie, how much it aches in your heart, to lose someone you love.”
Tetri swallowed, remembering the agony of her own loss, but she pushed it aside, meeting Alisaie’s gaze, willing herself to get through to her friend.
“And I’d never tell you not to feel those things,” she continued, “or how to feel them, or when you should stop feeling this way. But you don’t have to keep revisiting that moment, in your mind, wondering how you could have done something different, because that will make things worse, not better. That is something you can choose to do differently. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I--” Alisaie coughed, clearing her throat before continuing. “Yes, I think I do,” she said. Alisaie finally moved then, reaching out from underneath her bedroll to place a hand over Tetri’s where it rested on her knee.
“Tetri…” Alisaie began, hesitating, looking away before looking back up at the Miqo’te before her. She took the time to regard the Warrior of Light, and Alisaie felt her heart ache anew, for she had loved Tetri for years. At first, it had just been a crush, a deep admiration for the purple-haired Miqo’te’s prowess in battle and the excitement Alisaie had felt to wield her sword alongside her. The righteousness of their cause had only encouraged Alisaie to fight harder, to get stronger as a Red Mage alongside her friend, both to keep up with her, and perhaps to win Tetri’s heart along with her respect.
That hadn’t happened, of course. Alisaie had recognized Tetri’s habit of keeping her friends at arm’s length, preferring her solitude and silence to commiserating with Alisaie and the rest of the Scions. It had bothered her, back in Doma, and when she asked herself why, she had realized her deeper feelings for the dragoon. She had pushed down those feelings, for after all, Tetri was Hydaelyn’s chosen, and she had a heavy burden on her shoulders at all times. Alisaie didn’t feel like she could add to that burden further in good conscience. Plus, they were friends and comrades, Scions, and she didn’t want to ruin their friendship or make things awkward between them.
It’s just a crush, Alisaie had told herself, chalking up her feelings to the whimsy of her own youth. It will fade, with time. And yet, it had not, for the passage of time had only made her yearning for Tetri stronger. Then she had been torn from Tetri’s side on the eve of battle, the Exarch’s magicks whisking her soul away across the barren Rift to the world of the First, and in the year since she had meet Tesleen. The young Hyur woman had been instantly taken by Alisaie, showering her with affection and then, later, confessing her own feelings to her in private, once Alisaie had taken up temporary residence in Ahm Araeng.
Tesleen had been the same age as Alisaie, nineteen summers going on twenty, with long, strawberry-blonde locks, full lips, gentle curves, and a bright smile that could light up a room. Alisaie had found plenty to adore in her friend, and together they had taken the tentative steps of becoming lovers. Both women had been each other’s firsts, and they had fumbled and caressed each other with hands and lips, bodies intertwined, in Alisaie’s tent. Underneath Tesleen’s taller body, or in between her thighs, Alisaie had been able to forget about Tetri, for a time, for the Warrior of Light had been a world away. Tesleen had been real, and warm, and wet against Alisaie’s tongue and fingers, and the Hyur’s sighs of pleasure were the sweetest music to her ears.
Being Tesleen’s lover had brought Alisaie enough joy that she felt she could shoulder the burden of putting the First to rights, slaying as many sin eaters in the desert as she could, with or without Tetri. Deep down, she had known she would see the Warrior of Light again, but she finally had her own duty in the First, then, apart from Tetri, and Alisaie had felt a surge of confidence.
I can be my own woman now, Tetri, she had thought, as she had slain sin eaters with her sword during the day, and warmed Tesleen’s bedroll at what passed for night. I don’t need you. I can let you go, I can let my love for you go. After all, I have Tesleen.
But Tesleen was gone, now. Gone, turned. Turned into a sin eater. Just the thought made Alisaie’s gut curdle with rage and sorrow, making her want to retch. It was the greatest insult to a woman who had worked tirelessly to ease the passing of others who had been afflicted with the same fate, suffering the agony she had absolved others of. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right! Her lover was gone, suffering a fate worse than death!
Alisaie felt tears burn in her eyes, then, and felt them fall against her cheeks. She didn’t bother wiping them away. She looked at Tetri, who was real and sitting before her, long purple tail curled in her lap, looking at her with sympathy in her ruby eyes, and Alisaie felt a surge of gratitude for her friend.
“I loved her, Tetri,” she said softly, and watched as Tetri’s eyes widened at this revelation.
“Oh, Alisaie…” said the Miqo’te, and the hand on her knee tightened. “Gods, I’m so sorry…”
“We--we were--together,” she continued, hating the stuttering in her voice but now unable to stop the torrent of words flowing from her lips. “For over a year. At first, we were just friends, but then Tesleen told me she loved me, and I wanted to--to know what that was like. I had started to fall in love with her, for real, and it had felt like--like we could have had some sort of future together. And--and now--”
Alisaie couldn’t speak anymore, though, her breath hitching at the thought of how she had lost Tesleen, and then she was weeping again, wailing, and couldn’t stop. She jumped a bit as she felt Tetri move forward and enclose her in her strong arms, the Miqo’te guiding her to rest her head against her shoulder as one hand stroked her back gently, and the other threading itself through her hair, holding her as she cried.
“Shhhh, it’s alright, Alisaie,” said Tetri, rocking her back and forth in a soothing motion, and Alisaie allowed herself to gradually relax as she wept against the Warrior of Light’s shoulder, her tears soaking into the Miqo’te’s blouse. If Tetri was annoyed she paid it no heed, and when Alisaie’s breathing had slowed and she moved to place some space between them, Tetri tightened her arms around her.
“She loved you, Alisaie,” she said softly, murmuring into Alisaie’s hair, running a hand down her queue. “I know she did. I could see how she looked at you. It was horrible what happened to Tesleen, but I know you made her happier than anyone else could have. No matter what she is, now, that’s the woman we’ll avenge, the woman we’ll fight for, to free the First from the scourge of the sin eaters. I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’m so proud of what you’ve done here, while I’ve been away.”
She moved backwards a bit, and touched a finger to Alisaie’s chin, raising her head, so that Alisaie was now staring into the ruby depths of Tetri’s eyes. Alisaie stared as Tetri’s slitted pupils dilated slightly in the dark of the tent. Though her purple-and-white hair was lighter than most, Alisaie could tell that Tetri was every bit a Seeker of the Sun Miqo’te where it counted, and the eyes didn’t lie. Alisaie took a sharp breath as Tetri moved her hand from her chin to cup her cheek lightly.
“I’m so proud of you, Alisaie,” said the Warrior of Light softly. “I’m proud of the woman you’re becoming. You’re a fine Red Mage, a powerful warrior, and you’d make Tesleen proud, as well. I know you’ll honor her memory, and always cherish the love you had together. It will always hurt, inside, to remember her, but I promise you, that burden will become easier to bear, in time.”
Alisaie nodded, sniffling, enjoying her close proximity to the first woman she had ever loved, and leaned further into her Warrior’s palm. Although the Miqo’te was only five summers her senior, Alisaie could only imagine how much pain Tetri had suffered in her life, thus far, to talk so wisely and easily about the agony of grief. She trembled, wondering if she would ever be able to get as close to Tetri again as she was at this moment, with their bodies practically intertwined. Tetri’s other arm was still curled about her back, stroking along her spine, and Alisaie could feel her long tail brushing against the back of her thighs where she sat awkwardly in the Miqote’s lap, her tail tip brushing the edges of Alisaie’s skirt. A frisson of desire curled low in her abdomen, and Alisaie felt her cheeks flush as she felt herself growing wet between her legs. Warring between her fear and desire, the Elezen resigned herself to her wanting, giving herself over, for her greatest fear had already happened. Tesleen was gone, but in the midst of that agony of loss, Tetri was here, beside her, holding Alisaie in her arms, caressing her cheek, and Alisaie could no longer help her sheer yearning for the woman before her.
In an act of pure impulse, Alisaie turned her head into Tetri’s palm, placing a kiss there. She smiled as she heard Tetri gasp in surprise at the contact, and kissed the warm skin of her palm again.
“A--Alisaie,” Tetri murmured, and Alisaie gathered her courage, turning her cheek back into the Miqo’te’s palm to look at her. Alisaie thought she could see a light blush on Tetri’s cheeks, though perhaps it was just her imagination. She heard Tetri swallow, breathing harshly through her nose, as if readying herself to deliver a blow, and Alisaie sighed, half in desire and half in frustration.
“If this is the part where you tell me that you’re not her, and that I shouldn’t want you, don’t bother, Tetri,” she said. Tetri flinched at her words, and started to take her hand away, but Alisaie reached up with her quick Red Mage’s reflexes and held the Warrior of Light’s hand fast to her cheek, not allowing her to pull away entirely.
“Alisaie, you shouldn’t--” Tetri began, shaking her head, her ears back against her head in anxiety, but Alisaie was having none of it.
“No, Tetri, you will listen to me, now,” she said. “You don’t get to run away from this, not this time, not when I’ve been forced to deal with it every day and night. You don’t get to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do, what I should and shouldn’t feel! I’ve been in love with you for years, Tetri! I loved you before I got here, before Tesleen! I love you! ”
Alisaie stared into Tetri’s wide eyes, unblinking, and boldly placed her other hand directly over Tetri’s heart. The other woman gasped at the contact, as if Alisaie’s touch had scalded her, and the Elezen could feel Tetri’s heart racing underneath her fingertips. Alisaie leaned forward, until she was mere ilms from Tetri’s face.
“I know I shouldn’t have ever fallen in love with you,” she whispered, and Tetri trembled beneath her palm. “I know I shouldn’t have fallen for the Warrior of Light, or burdened you with my feelings. I know all of that, but I can’t fight it anymore, Tetri! I can’t, and I don’t want to!”
Then Alisaie closed the distance between them, and met Tetri’s lips with her own. Tetri’s lips were warm and soft, and Alisaie paused, resting her lips against her friend’s. Tetri was still as stone, her lips unmoving against hers, and Alisaie felt shame building in her gut, the sting of humiliation making her feel like she had just made the gravest mistake of her young life. She began to pull away when she felt the Miqo’te groan low in her throat, almost a growl, not unlike that of a dragon. Then she felt the dragoon’s strong arms close about her, gripping her firmly with strong fingers and pulling Alisaie even closer against her, and then Tetri’s mouth was moving against hers, kissing her back fiercely like her life depended on it.
Alisaie moaned at the heat of their shared kiss, opening her mouth, and Tetri deepened the kiss, licking into her mouth and stroking the Elezen’s tongue with her own. Alisaie moaned again as Tetri dragged her fingers upwards, tangling through Alisaie’s hair before stroking her long pointed ears. Alisaie shook, jolting against the Miqo’te as waves of pleasure coursed through her; as with all Elezens, her ears were incredibly sensitive and tended to be an erogenous zone for most of her kind. Alisaie was no exception, and she couldn’t stop her moans and gasps as Tetri continued her sweet torture, stroking the pointed tips of the Elezen’s ears with calloused fingertips. Alisaie fumbled, moving her hands up to return the favor, her hands closing over the Miqo’te’s long furred ears and stroking lightly, and smiled as Tetri gasped into her mouth.
So that rumor is true then, she thought with satisfaction. Miqo’te ears are just as sensitive as ours! She filed that information away for the future, continuing to savor the Warrior of Light’s lips against hers. Tetri finally pulled away from her mouth with a gasp, the two women breathing harshly inside the darkness of the tent. They stared at each other, noting each other’s flushed cheeks, their eyes blown wide with desire.
“Alisaie, I hope that answers your question whether I want you, as well,” said Tetri. “However, I need to ask you what you want, right now.”
“I want anything you’re willing to give me,” Alisaie said, but frowned when Tetri shook her head.
“That’s not an answer,” she replied quietly with her typical resoluteness. “I’m asking you what you want, Alisaie, not what answer you think I’ll like best. What do you want from me?”
“I want all of you,” Alisaie replied. “Your body, your hands, your lips on mine. I know it’s too much, too soon, to ask you for your heart, but the truth is that you already have mine. You’ve had it for a long time.”
For her part, Tetri felt tears gathering in her eyes, and blinked them away, letting them fall, letting Alisaie see them. She had already known of Alisaie’s feelings for her back in Doma, and had begun to feel stirrings of love in kind, but she had still been grieving, and with the spectre of grief came the fear to love again, lest a new love be stolen from her anew. So she had pushed them all away, pushed her feelings deep into herself, forced herself to forget in her ceaseless battles, and it had been enough for a time. Now, the twin flames of love and fear rose up in her heart to scorch the Warrior of Light, burning her worse than Nidhogg or Ifrit ever could. She took a breath.
“I want you too, Alisaie, but I can’t give you my heart, not right now,” she said, her voice shaking. Tetri took her friend’s hands and gripped them tight. “We’re in a war now, a war for the future of this world, and it’s not the Garleans we’re fighting, but a force far worse than them. I don’t know how this is all going to end, and I won’t lie and say I’m not afraid. But I am going to fight, even still, and we are going to win against the sin eaters, together.”
She leaned forward, and pressed her forehead against Alisaie’s, sighing. The women both closed their eyes, breathing each other’s breath.
“I can’t give you the future, but I can give you right now,” said Tetri. “And that’s all I can spare. Are you willing to accept that, meager though it is?”
“I am,” replied Alisaie, and the Elezen reached up and kissed Tetri’s forehead, stroking her cheek as she pulled back slightly to look at her. “It would be my greatest honor, for you to let me love you, to let me show you how much you mean to me.”
“Alisaie…!” Tetri groaned, sighing her name, then the Miqo’te launched herself into Alisaie’s arms, kissing her firmly and pressing her back into the bedroll beneath them. Alisaie kissed her back with equal fierceness, winding her arms around Tetri’s back, tangling one hand into her hair, running the other down to the base of her tail and stroking the fur there. Tetri tore her lips away from her friend’s with a harsh gasp, instinctually thrusting forward from where she lay in between Alisaie’s legs. Alisaie couldn’t hold back a small moan as she felt the Warrior of Light grind against her center, lighting up her whole body with desire. Tetri panted as she held herself up over the Elezen woman, looking down at her, her ears twitching.
“So, just for future reference, Miqo’te tails are extremely sensitive,” said Tetri, smiling at Alisaie’s huff of laughter.
“So I figured, judging from your reaction when I did this,” said Alisaie, giving the Miqo’te woman a hooded look of want, her blue eyes shimmering, and then she repeated the action, stroking the fur at the base of her tail before reaching down with her other hand to grope her ass. Tetri hissed, thrusting into Alisaie again.
“You little minx, ” she said, growling, her control over her dragon soul growing thinner, and she ran a hand up Alisaie’s leg, stroking her knee before dragging her fingers up the Elezen’s thigh, grinning, watching Alisaie begin to tremble as she began to push her skirt upwards.
“You’re playing with fire, my gorgeous Red Mage,” said Tetri, her voice low, and Alisaie opened her eyes, not even realizing she had closed them, looking up at Tetri, searing her with the same azure gaze as her twin. Alisaie spread her legs further in a blatant invitation, hiking up her skirt even more, leaning back against the bedroll and arching her back, baring her throat to the other woman.
“Good,” replied Alisaie. “Go ahead and burn me, then, Crimson Dragoon. I can take your flame.”
The Elezen watched as Tetri gazed back at her, expecting her friend to close the distance between them once again, but suddenly, the Miqo’te woman pulled back, kneeling before Alisaie on the bedroll. Tetri’s ears were flat against her head in anxiety, her ruby eyes hooded with worry. Alisaie’s mind whirled, wondering what she had done to push her friend away. Had she been too forward, after all?
“Is--is everything alright, Tetri?” she asked cautiously, sitting up, watching as the Warrior of Light sighed and ran a hand through her hair, her long purple tail thrashing behind her.
“Yes, I--I’m sorry, Alisaie,” said Tetri. “It’s not you--I mean, it’s not that I don’t want to continue. It’s just…”
The Miqo’te trailed off, staring at Alisaie as if she could see right through her. Alisaie tried to calm her own racing heart, the fear of rejection rising up to choke her. Even if Tetri didn’t want to be her lover, this night, or any other, Alisaie didn’t want to be alone so soon after losing her partner. She didn’t want Tetri to leave her side. She searched her mind for words that would possibly reassure the Warrior of Light, while ensuring she wouldn’t leave the tent, when Tetri spoke, filling the tense silence between them.
“Again, I’m sorry, Alisaie, it’s not you,” she said. “It’s about me, me and--and Alphinaud.”
Alisaie blinked and stared into Tetri’s ruby eyes, watching as a light blush formed on her cheeks. She said nothing, waiting for her to continue. Tetri cleared her throat.
“Alphinaud, back in Kholusia, he and I--I mean, we--”
“Oh!” exclaimed Alisaie, smiling gently at Tetri, giving her a knowing glance and a nod.
“Is that all?” she continued. “ Finally. I thought it might never happen, to be honest. So, he got you first, then. Can't say I'm surprised, I suppose.”
Alisaie watched as Tetri’s jaw dropped; she obviously hadn’t been expecting that reaction from her.
“Excuse me?” she asked.
Alisaie reached out and took Tetri’s hand, stroking her palm, watching as the blush spread further on the Miqo’te’s cheeks. Tetri stared at their linked hands, and Alisaie sighed.
“Tetri, look at me, please,” said Alisaie, and finally the Warrior of Light raised her eyes to Alisaie’s once more. Alisaie gripped her hand tighter.
“He’s my twin,” said Alisaie quietly. “And while we do get on each other’s nerves frequently, we’re still quite close. I know my brother nearly as well as I know myself. That goes both ways, too, with him and I. Part of the reason we find each other so infuriating, is because we know each other so deeply.”
Alisaie paused to stroke Tetri’s palm once more, watching as Tetri shivered from the touch.
“I know my brother, Tetri,” she said, “and I know he's been in love with you far longer than I have.”
“Do you, now?” she asked, trying to keep her voice nonchalant, but Alisaie could see through the defensiveness it was. She knew Tetri was embarrassed about having become lovers with Alphinaud, and now the Warrior of Light was growing closer with her, as well. Perhaps Tetri felt it was wrong, either the act, her feelings, or both; clearly, Alisaie had to divulge her of such a notion, for both her and her brother’s sake. She knew Alphinaud would be absolutely cross with her, if she allowed Tetri to feel like the own musings of her heart were unethical, simply because she loved both of them.
“I do,” she said.
“So...it doesn’t bother you that I slept with your brother?” asked Tetri, her ears twitching.
“Not only does it not bother me, Tetri, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least,” replied Alisaie, sitting up further and crossing her legs beneath her. “You could say I expected it, eventually, though I wouldn’t say it was necessarily inevitable. Just that it was a possibility I found quite likely, considering how close the two of you were already. I used to be jealous of your shared bond, to be honest.”
She smiled, looking away as she reminisced, though she didn’t let go of Tetri’s hand.
“We talked about you, a little, once we both arrived in the First,” she said. “Not much, mind, and nothing negative. Just enough to confirm how we both felt about you. But that's the thing, Tetri, about both of us.”
Alisaie looked up then, and took both of Tetri’s hands in hers. “We grew up together, and we shared everything. We know how to share the things that matter to us the most. And that includes you.”
She smiled at the Warrior of Light.
“As well as I know my brother, I know he knows me just as well, and I know he knows that I love you, too,” she said. “I doubt he’d be surprised if we became lovers, and I very much doubt he’d be so possessive as to demand exclusivity of your time and attention, at least between the both of us. So, I have nothing to be jealous of or bothered about, if that’s what was originally concerning you.”
Tetri let out a breath, and Alisaie sighed in relief as she saw the Miqo’te’s shoulders drop, her tension lessening.
“Alisaie, I--I have to say, that wasn’t what I was expecting,” said Tetri with an embarrassed huff of laughter. “I thought you would be furious.”
“Not at all,” the Elezen replied. “In all seriousness, I’m glad it was you.”
“Glad it was me?”
“That it was you that deflowered my brother, of course,” said Alisaie.
“Alisaie!” said Tetri with a scandalized gasp.
Alisaie snorted in derision, crossing her arms petulantly as she stared at the Miqo'te.
“Don't act all shocked at me, now, Tetri,” she said. “Clearly you weren't enough of a prude to not deflower my brother, as soon as the chance presented itself. Or do you deny it?”
“I--of course not,” Tetri spluttered, feeling her cheeks heat further in embarrassment. “It just--sounded crass to say it like that, that's all.”
“Oh, I see,” Alisaie said with a small laugh. “Does it sound better if I say you fucked my brother, then?”
Tetri groaned, putting her hands over her face as she felt herself flush even further in mortification.
“No, that's far worse,” she said, her voice muffled between her hands, before sighing and putting them in her lap, looking at Alisaie again.
“Look, I--I'm glad you're not bothered, and if you think it's alright with him--” she began.
“I know it's alright with him,” said Alisaie, taking Tetri's hands in hers once more. “We both love you, Tetri. One night together with each of us, or either of us, won't change that. It couldn't ever change how we both feel about you. We both missed you, you know. We both couldn't wait to see you again.”
Tetri trembled, and couldn't hold back a sob, moved by Alisaie's faith in Alphinaud, and in her. To know that both of her dear Leveilleur twins loved her, that the two brave, kind Elezen siblings whom she adored actually returned her feelings, made the Warrior of Light feel like her world was spinning out of orbit. She felt herself smile through her tears, gripping Alisaie’s hands even tighter.
“I adore you both, as well,” she said in a whisper. “I hope you know that, Alisaie, that you both know that. Even with all we’ve been through, all that’s happening in this world, that’s never changed.”
“I do know, Tetri,” replied Alisaie with a gentle smile. “We both do.”
“Good,” the Miqo’te replied, taking one of her hands away to wipe the tears from her cheeks. “Then I hope you’re alright with continuing what we were originally doing, despite that heavy interlude.” She looked at Alisaie, her cheeks flushed, purple ears twitching, and Alisaie squeezed her hand.
“There’s nothing I’d like more,” she said, and leaned back against the bedroll, tugging Tetri gently forward. “That is, if you want to.”
“I do, very much,” replied Tetri, her voice a whisper as she leaned down towards Alisaie’s lips.
“Then let me love you, you damn dragoon,” said Alisaie, her voice finally thin with impatience, and saw Tetri smirk at her before the Red Mage grasped the front of her blouse and yanked her down, claiming the other woman’s lips with her own.
Alisaie kissed the Miqo’te hungrily, winding her arms around Tetri’s neck and looping her legs about her waist, rocking her hips up to grind against her center. Alisaie’s short skirt drifted up over her thighs at the motion, revealing tantalizing bare skin, and the Warrior of Light groaned at the feeling of Alisaie’s smooth skin encircling her legging-clad hips. Tetri let out a low growl against Alisaie’s lips, kissing the younger woman back just as ravenously. She broke their kiss to trail her lips down the side of Alisaie’s neck, pressing featherlight kisses down the Elezen’s soft skin.
Alisaie shivered, feeling her smallclothes already drenched with desire, and squeezed her thighs even tighter around Tetri’s, rocking up into her again so that her core brushed against the juncture of the Miqo’te’s thighs, and the two women hissed as pleasure rocked through the both of them. She twisted her fingers into Tetri’s purple and white locks, reveling in its soft texture, unable to keep arching upwards into the heat of the taller woman’s body above her. Tetri slipped a hand up underneath Alisaie’s skirt and into her smallclothes, cupping her sex. Alisaie jolted, moaning Tetri’s name as the Miqo’te stroked her weeping slit, feeling herself growing wetter with every passing moment.
“You’re so wet, Alisaie,” murmured Tetri against her neck, not ceasing the gentle drag of her fingers against the Elezen’s slick folds, dragging her tongue up until she reached the pointed tip of Alisaie’s right ear. She leaned towards Alisaie, nibbling on the tip of her ear, grinning wickedly as the Elezen woman shuddered and shook beneath her.
“All this sweetness, dripping out of you,” said Tetri in a whisper, gently stroking her fingers through Alisaie’s sopping cleft before running them up to brush lightly against her clit. Alisaie shook and cried out as Tetri flicked her sensitive bud with callused fingers, the dragoon’s dexterity evident as she teased the Red Mage beneath her.
“Is this all for me, Alisaie?” asked Tetri, running her tongue up and down the length of Alisaie’s ear.
“ Gods , Tetri, yes, it’s for you--ah!” Alisaie gasped, crying out her name and trying to twist away in the other woman’s grip as she was overstimulated by the Miqo’te’s tongue on her ear, but Tetri held her fast.
“You’re a brave girl, aren’t you, Alisaie?” Tetri murmured, finally pulling away an ilm and stroking Alisaie’s cheek, her voice filled with admiration as well as passion. She tilted Alisaie’s face up, so she could stare into that azure gaze, so alike Alphinaud’s, yet burning with the fiery magic of a Red Mage, whereas Alphinaud’s roiled with a cool, misty aether of an Arcanist. So alike yet different, her darling Leveilleur twins!
“Lying beneath me,” said Tetri, “filled with the power of red magic, filled with veraero and verfire both. It’s beautiful, your magic, that dance of elements. I can smell it on your skin. I can smell the richness of it in your blood, through my dragon soul.”
The Miqo’te punctuated her words by nuzzling into Alisaie’s neck just beneath her ear, pressing a heated kiss there, enjoying the feeling of the Elezen shivering under her as she took a deep breath of her scent, feeling dizzy at the heady rush of elemental magicks thrumming through the Red Mage. Tetri’s dragon soul hissed in pleasure inside her mind, sending a pulse of possessive want through her.
She smells sweet, it said, sending a wave of aching instinct through the dragoon, and Tetri gritted her teeth at the overwhelming power roiling through her veins. Sweet, and powerful, and beautiful. She is perfect. Perfect like her twin, sweet just like him. Perfect for us. Make her our mate, make her ours!
The urge for her to claim Alisaie in carnal fashion was nearly indistinguishable from the hunger for food, a more inconvenient part of her draconic instinct that didn’t translate well to mortals. Tetri dismissed it, focusing on her love for the younger woman in her arms.
I know she is perfect, she thought, fighting the urge to roll her eyes as she felt her dragon soul hiss irritably at her. I have known that since I was a mere lancer. And if she decides to be ours, it shall be by her will.
Just so, it replied, hissing and coiling around her mind, satisfied that they were in mutual agreement over at least the first part of their wanting. Tetri pulled slightly away from Alisaie’s skin, looking at her face, enjoying the look of desire in the Elezen’s eyes. Knowing she still wanted Tetri back gave the dragoon another boost of confidence.
“You know, some dragons eat magic,” she continued, Alisaie’s heady scent still in the air about them, “the more ancient ones that were more aether than flesh. At least, that’s what I read in Ishgard, but who knows if that was real, full of lies as they were about dragonkind. My dragon soul likes how you smell, though, all that red magic simmering within you. I don’t always agree with that part of myself, but we are in agreement about one thing: you look good enough to eat right now.”
“Then--then what’s stopping you?” said Alisaie, her voice shaking only a little at the passionate gleam in Tetri’s ruby eyes. Tetri growled low in her throat, smirking down at her would-be lover.
“I want to taste you,” said the Warrior of Light, growling even deeper, her long ears twitching. “Would you allow me?”
Alisaie watched as tendrils of blue dragonflame began simmering on the surface of Tetri’s skin, coiling upwards in arcs of shimmering azure fire, casting a blue glow on the roof of the tent. Even as her control wore thinner, Alisaie noticed the Miqo’te move a bit backwards from her, giving her space between them, and Alisaie realized that Tetri was giving her a way to back out, a way to still say no, even after all they had done just prior. Alisaie found herself moved by Tetri’s thoughtfulness and courtesy, even amidst the depths of their shared passion. She reached out and took Tetri’s hand, which was awash in blue flames, feeling the power of dragonfire envelop her fingers as she did so.
Alisaie felt the rush of draconic magic move through her instantly, all scaled rage and roaring strength, the power to leap through the skies, to rend enemies to shreds by claws and lance! It wasn’t much different than her own crimson magic, veraero and verfire unleashed at the end of Alisaie’s blade. Alisaie knew they were both warriors, both masters of their respective magical arts, and that made them better together, instead of apart. A wave of love for the dragoon Miqo’te arose anew in Alisaie’s heart, and she raised Tetri’s flaming hand to her lips, pressing a gentle kiss against her knuckles. Tetri blinked back tears at Alisaie’s complete lack of fear at her dragonflame, even as it steadily enveloped them both, until they were awash in cerulean fire, her control over it nearly sundered as she fell under the tide of desire.
“Yes, Tetri, I want that. I want you, too,” she said, without a shred of hesitation in her voice. “Taste me, touch me, anything. I longed for you…”
“You longed for me, Alisaie?”
The Elezen bit her lower lip, feeling her face flush in excitement, and a rush of wetness drip against Tetri’s fingers still pressed against her folds. “ Yes! ”
At that whispered admission, Tetri couldn't hold back, and she bent down to kiss Alisaie again with a snarl, urgent and messy, more teeth clacking together than lips, but Alisaie kissed her back all the same, her body chasing more of the older woman's touch on her body, any way she could get it. Tetri pulled reluctantly away with a gasp, and took her hand out of Alisaie's smallclothes to tug insistently at her skirt.
"Take this off," said Tetri in a whisper, sitting up to yank her own blouse and braissiere up over her head, before undoing her leggings and smalls. She focused on undoing her own clothing with slightly shaking hands, not looking over at Alisaie. She would have done it herself, would have stripped the Elezen woman with haste, but she didn't want to rip or tear what appeared to be Alisaie's only functioning outfit, not having yet seen any evidence to the contrary that she owned anything else.
She let out a relieved sigh as she finally stepped out of her smallclothes, cool air hitting her heated skin. Her dragonfire still roiled off her skin in waves, making her sweat, but Tetri sent it away irritably with a downward gesture with her right hand, and her dragon soul allowed it as it settled in her mind, satisfied they were both going to get what they wanted.
Tetri turned back towards Alisaie, her mouth going dry as she glimpsed the nearly naked Red Mage pull her smallclothes down her body, finally baring herself to Tetri's gaze. She looked up, blushing at Tetri, her blue eyes shimmering with longing, her ivory hair drifting in ringlets about her face, her braided queue becoming undone. Alisaie was shorter than Tetri and lithe of figure, her breasts small and pink-tipped, her waist delicate, her legs toned from the leaping whirls of swordfighting that were the Red Mage's primary repertoire. Tetri dragged her gaze lower on the Elezen woman's body to rest at the thatch of white curls at the juncture of her thighs, and the Miqo'te swallowed as she felt her mouth water at the sight. She wanted to part Alisaie's thighs and lick her center until her friend had to muffle her screams with a hand.
The sight of Alisaie bare before her made Tetri recall a different pair of azure eyes as they had roamed her own body, made her think of Alphinaud crying out in her mouth as Tetri had taken him on the open plains of Kholusia, as he had taken her. Would Alisaie sound the same as her brother, would his sister cling to her as desperately as he had? Would Alisaie's mouth on her breast feel as hot as Alphinaud's, would the Elezen woman drive her as mad with wanting as her twin had?
Tetri took a shaky breath, trying to clear her head. It didn't matter if Alisaie was similar or wildly different from Alphinaud, for she loved them both with a passion bordering on madness. She would die for them, do anything for them. She would do anything to them that they asked, let them do anything to her that they wanted. The way Tetri figured, love was all or nothing to a Warrior of Light; it had to be. Shouldering the destiny of a world (or several) didn't allow for second guessing, and that had to apply to matters of the heart, out of necessity. As nervous as she was, Tetri was ready to love both of them, just as they were, just as she was. In turn, she knew she had to trust they'd accept her, with all her faults, all of her undoubtedly many flaws. She had given her trust, and her heart, for less, and if any two people had done more to win her loyalty, it was the Leveilleur twins.
Ignorant of Tetri's frazzled mind state, Alisaie lay back down on the mess of blankets strewn about the tent, smiling at Tetri and reaching out a hand to her. Tetri paused at the surreal quality of the moment, remembering how she had done nearly the same for Alphinaud as she had beckoned him to lay down with her in Kholusia, nearly a week prior to her arrival in Ahm Araeng.
"Come here and love me, Tetri," said Alisaie, and it was as much an order as a plea, one which the Warrior of Light could not help but obey.
"My Alisaie," whispered Tetri in reply, and then the Miqo'te took her offered hand, allowing herself to be pulled down into Alisaie's waiting arms. The two women kissed again as they steadily lost themselves in each others' impassioned caresses, but this time it was sweet and slow. The Warrior of Light fought her urge to immediately ravish the woman beneath her, but she pulled back once more, wanting to address the reason this was even happening. She didn’t want Alisaie to fall apart with her, or to be the cause of any further distress.
“Alisaie, I just--I just want to say, before we go on, I'm not her, dear heart,” she whispered against Alisaie's lips, staring into the Elezen's blue eyes, willing her to understand. “I'm so sorry, but I'm not. I'll never be her, and I can't ever take her place. But I will be right here, fighting by your side, as long as you'll have me.”
Alisaie smiled at her, reaching up to ruffle her ears, feeling them twitch as she ran her hands through the soft fur. Tetri bit her lip to keep from moaning at the touch, unable to hold back a shiver.
“I know you’re not Tesleen, Tetri,” she said. “As I told you earlier, I loved you before I even got to this world, before I was taken from your side. And yes, I will grieve for Tesleen, and I will mourn, and it will take however long it takes. But I also know she wouldn’t want me to mourn her forever. I told her there was a woman I loved before, and she knew of you our whole time together, though not by name. I doubt she’d be surprised I would pursue that woman’s heart, if I had the opportunity, as unfortunate a circumstance it would have been for her and I. And I know she wouldn’t be angry if I did. Hells, she’d likely even be happy for me. For us. ”
Alisaie then reached up and kissed Tetri sweetly on the corner of her mouth, not relinquishing her grip on the Miqo’te’s ears, enjoying how the Warrior of Light said her name in a sigh.
“Anyone who finds even a hint of happiness, in this broken world, is lucky beyond measure,” whispered Alisaie. “So calm your mind, my Crimson Dragoon. Lay here with me, and let me love you. And the only thing I want to hear from your lips, from this moment on, is yes , or some other sound of enjoyment, or my name. Is that clear, Warrior of Light?”
Tetri laughed softly, her ears twitching with mirth still in the Elezen’s grip, and it drifted over Alisaie like silk.
“Clear as crystal, dear heart,” she said fondly, and then turned her face, so that she could meet Alisaie’s lips with her own once more. Alisaie coaxed Tetri’s mouth open, demanding entry with her tongue, and the Miqo’te sighed as they twined their tongues together. Their mouths thus occupied with savoring each other, Alisaie dragged her hands down from Tetri’s ears to drift through her hair, over her neck and muscular shoulders, slim but still bulky from hefting an iron spear through the skies. Her hands drifted lower, over the small of the Warrior’s back, drifting teasingly over the base of the Miqo’te’s tail, just enough to make her shiver, before Alisaie reached down and grasped Tetri’s ass and squeezed. Tetri gasped Alisaie’s name, thrusting forward on instinct between Alisaie’s thighs until their cores brushed together, and the two women jolted in pleasure.
Tetri took Alisaie’s lips again in a bruising kiss, biting her lower lip, timing it with a slow and steady grind against her cleft, not separating their bodies even a moment. Alisaie moaned as waves of bliss rocked through her core and abdomen, drifting through her whole being, until all she felt was an absolute need for more of the woman in her arms. She gave a wordless noise of frustration as Tetri pulled slightly away, causing the Miqo’te to chuckle lightly.
“Be at ease, my sweet,” she said, “I will not leave you unsatisfied in such a manner. In fact, I intend quite the opposite.”
She punctuated her words with a string of light kisses down Alisaie’s neck, before drifting lower, pressing her lips into the warm space in between Alisaie’s breasts. Tetri groaned as she was overwhelmed at the sweet scent of her lover there; Alisaie smelled like sweat and red magic, like the dust that covered everything in Amh Araeng, like the jasmine oil she had bought from one of the traders at the Inn, and a unique scent that was all her own. The Miqo’te managed to pull herself out of her fugue state of desire, dragging her lips up to kiss Alisaie’s breasts instead, licking at the nipple on her left breast while caressing the right with her hand, savoring the gasps she wrenched out of the Elezen. She then switched sides, paying her right breast the same attention, biting gently before pulling away and moving lower, kissing across her abdomen, smiling as Alisaie twitched and blurted out a barely suppressed giggle.
“Sorry,” said Tetri as she moved between Alisaie’s thighs, not sounding even remotely apologetic.
Tetri spread Alisaie’s thighs apart before draping them across her shoulders, looking up at the Elezen, grinning as a deep blush spread across Alisaie’s cheeks. Without breaking her friend’s gaze, she nipped at Alisaie’s left thigh, dragging her teeth across the soft skin, and Alisaie gasped.
“Tetri, godsdamnit, stop teasing me,” said Alisaie, trying to sound demanding but unable to keep her voice from trembling at her lover’s proximity to her slick sex. She panted, running her hands through Tetri’s hair and across the fur of her ears as the Miqo’te bit and sucked at her thighs, using enough pressure to leave dark welts across Alisaie’s sensitive skin.
“Everyone’s going to be able to see those,” said Alisaie, tugging on Tetri’s hair until the older woman raised her head to smirk at her.
“I know,” she said with a low growl. “I want everyone to see that you’re mine. ”
“Including the Exarch?” replied Alisaie, arching her brows at her lover. She knew Tetri likely wouldn’t be bothered by her brother being aware of their newfound relationship, but she wasn’t sure where the Warrior of Light stood with the Crystal Exarch on such personal matters, as mysterious as he insisted on keeping himself. Tetri burst out with a laugh, her tail waving through the air.
“Including him, that secretive bastard,” she said, nuzzling her thighs. “So what if he knows? He dragged you all here, including myself, caught us all up in this mess. This war. We’ve seen it all before. Let him stew, if my lovers bother him. I don’t mind watching him squirm beneath his robes.”
Alisaie huffed out a laugh of her own at that, petting Tetri’s ears.
“Oh, he will,” she said. “You didn’t hear him talk about you, for months, but I did. He practically interrogated Alphinaud and I about you, while we learned about this world in the Crystarium. ‘We need the Warrior of Light,’ he said, over and over again, in so many words. He asked us both about you constantly, asked me what you were like in battle, in Doma and Ala Mhigo. About you fighting in the Dragonsong War. Even Alphinaud got tired of it, we were relieved to finally get away. He’s obsessed with you, Tetri. I don’t really know why.”
Tetri snorted, shaking her head slightly.
“He can get in line, then, I suppose,” she said. “If he has questions about me, he should ask me himself. If we didn’t need the Exarch to get us all home, I wouldn’t trust the man to tell me the truth about anything. He has too many secrets, Alisiae. I don’t like it. So let him know. I’ll enjoy watching him squirm, and you should too. In fact, I’m going to make you squirm, right now!”
The Warrior of Light finally looked away from Alisaie’s eyes, turning her attention to the Elezen’s alluring pink cunt, salivating at the sight before her. Tetri growled again, low in her throat, no longer able to restrain herself, and lunged forward with parted lips, making contact with her tongue.
Alisaie shrieked, barely managing to cover her mouth with a hand to muffle the sound as an afterthought. After all, it wasn’t like she’d never had loud sex in camp before, and this was no different (though she knew, at the same time, that circumstances were, in fact, quite different). She had become too tightly wound up, her mind and body worn by both grief and desire, and the mere touch of Tetri’s tongue between her legs had her near the brink of release.
Tetri groaned in abandon as her lover’s bittersweet taste flooded her senses, lapping up her nectar. The Miqo’te licked a hot stripe up Alisaie’s slit before closing her lips over the whole of her and applying gentle suction, groaning as the Red Mage yanked roughly on her hair.
“ Oh! --Oh, mmm, Tetri, yes, just like that!” Alisaie gasped, rocking up into her Warrior’s mouth. Tetri growled and clutched her hands tighter about Alisaie’s hips as she feasted on the Elezen. Her mind had become blank, drunk on the taste of Alisaie in her mouth, on the heat of her lover’s thighs about her head, her dragon soul hissing with contented wanting, coiling around within her mind, blocking out all conscious thought except a feeling of blinding need.
Tetri released Alisaie, dragging her tongue up to swirl over her clit. Alisaie gasped again, shaking as Tetri covered her sensitive bud in wet heat, rocking faster against the Miqo’te’s mouth until her entire body was buzzing with pleasure. The red-hot ache in her belly tightened further and finally snapped, and Alisaie bit her palm as she cried out in a stilted scream of release, her legs clamping about Tetri’s neck as she tumbled over the edge into bliss.
The Warrior of Light sighed contentedly as Alisaie’s legs finally loosened from about her shoulders and the Elezen slumped back onto the bedroll, her chest heaving as she fought to catch her breath. Tetri licked her lips, her mouth and chin still damp with Alisaie’s release as she sat up slowly, adoring the flush on Alisaie’s skin and her look of glazed contentment. She loved seeing both of her twins happy, and yearned to give Alisaie all the pleasure she could handle. A feeling of resolution swelled within her heart, along with her love for the Elezen before her; it was for their sakes, theirs, and the rest of the Scions, that she would work with the Crystal Exarch to restore this world. Together with the Scions, she would defeat the sin eaters, and get the Exarch to return them all safely home.
“Well, gorgeous,” she said, “how are you liking this, so far?”
“Immensely,” replied Alisaie, running a hand through her now-tangled hair, before sitting up.
“I’d like to return the favor,” she said, taking Tetri’s hands in hers and raising them to her lips, pressing a kiss on the back of each one. “Tell me what you like, Tetri.”
The Miqo’te smiled, long ears twitching, leaning in to kiss her slowly.
“I like nearly anything, and I’ll be happy to let you do whatever you want to me,” she said in a whisper against Alisaie’s lips, her heart swelling with devotion as she felt Alisaie smile against her mouth.
“Anything? Do you really mean that?” she asked, pulling back to look into Tetri’s ruby eyes, and Tetri’s lips quirked at the look of mischief on her lover’s face.
“I do,” she said, “but I don’t know whether to be nervous or not at the face you’re making.”
Alisaie just laughed, pulling Tetri forward, and moved aside to press the Miqo’te gently down until her back hit the bedroll. Tetri looked up at her, raising an eyebrow as she watched the Elezen move down to sit between her legs.
“Don’t worry, my love,” said Alisaie, still smiling as she stroked her hands up and down Tetri’s parted thighs. “What I have planned is something I think you’ll completely enjoy. It might even be something you’ve never done before. Do you trust me, Tetri?”
“With my life,” replied the Warrior of Light without an onze of hesitation, unable to stop a shiver of anticipation that rocked through her body. She did feel slightly nervous, but she had meant every word she had said, and was indeed fully willing to go along with whatever Alisaie wanted. Tetri swallowed as Alisaie looked down at her and fixed her with a look of pure desire, smirking wickedly.
“Well then,” said the Elezen, “let’s begin.”
Without another word, Alisaie bent down and closed her lips around Tetri’s clit, sucking gently, feeling a thrill of satisfaction run through her as she heard Tetri swear before moaning her name. Alisaie paused to slowly run her tongue up and down Tetri’s slit, darting her tongue inside before reaching back up to tease her sensitive bud, savoring the taste of her lover, salty-sweet and dusky and finally, finally hers at last. She stroked her fingers through the Miqo’te’s soaked cleft, sliding two of her fingers inside Tetri’s welcoming heat. She relished how the Warrior of Light moaned again and quivered around her digits as she reached deep, making the Miqo’te cry out. Alisaie released Tetri’s clit to look up at her, smirking at the look of passion on her face, at the red flush covering her tan skin, the deep red visible even underneath her dark facial markings. Her ruby eyes were glazed, her pupils nearly fully dilated, and she panted, thrusting herself further onto Alisaie’s fingers, her hands clutching the blankets surrounding them.
“ Ah! -Oh, Alisaie, yes!” she cried. “Fuck me harder, come on!”
“Oh, so this isn’t enough for you, Warrior of Light?” asked Alisaie, a hint of challenge in her voice. “You need more? You want to come?”
“ Yes, ” replied Tetri, panting, closing her eyes and arching her back against the bedroll, her ears twitching against the sides of her head, her purple tail thrashing beside them. “Yes, please, Alisaie, make me come…!”
Her eyes now closed, Tetri missed the utterly wicked grin Alisaie gave her. She thrust her fingers deeper into the Miqo’te, reaching even deeper until she found the hidden ridged spot inside her that would bring her to the heights of her pleasure. She brushed it lightly with her finger, watching in satisfaction as Tetri jolted up from the bedroll with a cry and tightened slightly around her fingers.
“Are you ready, Tetri?” asked Alisaie, her voice calm even though a thrill of power rushed through her veins at what she was about to do. “I’ll stop any time you say so, just tell me.”
“Yes, Alisaie--I’m ready, fuck me, godsdamnit!” said Tetri in a snarl, now blinded to anything except her need to come. She was covered in sweat, a side effect of holding back the dragonfire simmering in her blood. Alisaie laughed at her lover’s frustration, knowing what was in store for the dragoon writhing underneath her.
“Of course, love,” she said, “anything for you.”
Without warning, she touched her fingers to Tetri’s g-spot, curving her hand upwards, and summoned her red magic, feeling the cool and warm currents of veraero and verfire flow through her veins, the rush adding an extra dimension to the heady power of having the Hero of Eorzea at her mercy.
“ Vercure, ” whispered Alisaie, and watched as currents of green energy rose up from the surface of her skin, feeling her whole hand heat up from the healing energy enveloping it, including the fingers buried inside her lover. She smirked and pressed her fingers into Tetri’s g-spot, sending the healing enchantment into her, filling the Miqo’te with a rush of healing red magic.
“ Ahhh! --Alisaie, oh gods --fuck!” said Tetri in a choked cry, arching her entire body upwards as she felt currents of pure magic envelop her from inside her, pleasure tingling along every nerve. The magic rushed along her body, seeking places of injury, and, not finding any, returned to Alisaie as its caster, who sent them through Tetri again and again as she stroked her g-spot relentlessly. Tetri shook against the Elezen, overstimulated, and tried to move away, but Alisaie held her fast.
“Yes, Tetri! That’s what I’m doing,” said Alisaie, breathing hard, clutching Tetri’s hip with her other hand and thrusting her now-drenched fingers in and out of her Warrior, never ceasing her fast pace, keeping the rush of Vercure going. Tendrils of green healing magic surrounded them in verdant waves, billowing up towards the edges of the tent. Tetri gasped and groaned, overwhelmed by the healing energy coursing inside of her, the warmth of it clashing with the burning heat of her dragon’s blood, the combination of magics sending her body into overdrive. She felt her dragon soul strain against the edges of her awareness, and opened her mouth to moan, but a roar came out instead, which she just managed to stifle with a hand against her lips.
“Yes, that’s it, my love,” said Alisaie, and yanked Tetri up against her, rocking her fingers into the Warrior of Light at a fast pace.
“ Ahhh --gods, yes , Alisaie, please-- oh! ”
Tetri moaned in a string of broken sighs and gasps, rocking her hips forward and grinding into Alisaie’s hand. She didn’t even mind she was begging; at that moment there was nothing but pleasure, pleasure and the thrum of dual magics, curling low and thick at the base of her spine, emanating from Alisaie’s fingers thrusting fiercely into her soaked cunt. Tetri felt herself on the edge, felt her body tense as she neared the summit of her ecstasy, and then she was there, tumbling over into her own bliss, distantly hearing herself crying out Alisaie’s name as she shook and shuddered. Alisaie stared in abject wonder as the Warrior of Light came around her fingers, slowing the movement of her hand and letting the Miqo’te ride out the rest of her peak, until Tetri finally lay limp against the bedroll, panting. Only then did Alisaie withdraw her hand, sending her Vercure magic away with a whisper, the green tendrils still surrounding them dissipating until they faded completely.
“You’re simply gorgeous, Tetri,” said Alisaie, her own voice hoarse from her earlier cries. “I couldn’t take my eyes off of you.”
“Those are supposed to be my lines,” she heard Tetri mumble behind the arm she had draped over her eyes, and she saw that her Warrior was still breathing harshly as she recovered from her orgasm. “Twelve Above, I had no idea you could use healing magic that way…”
“Well, there’s no rules about it, really,” said Alisaie primly, licking Tetri’s essence off her fingers until they were clean, savoring the taste on her fingertips. “Though I doubt Urianger would approve. He has such strong opinions on the proper use of magic. A proper Studium-educated git, to the end, if there ever was one.”
She smiled at Tetri’s low laugh, watching her breasts bounce with the movement of her laughter.
“That’s not necessarily true,” said Tetri, moving her arm to level a look of fondness at Alisaie, her ruby eyes gleaming as she returned Alisaie’s smile. “I have a feeling about that one, Alisaie. Urianger may not be as much of a prude as he seems. Call it a Warrior’s intuition.”
“Hmmm. I’ll take your word for it, my Warrior,” said Alisiae, looking at Tetri’s naked body with utter satisfaction. Yes , she thought, we are definitely doing this again. And at the earliest, safest opportunity to do so. She wanted Tetri in a bed back in the Crystarium, a real bed, preferably after a two-hour bath to cleanse her body of all the dust in this damn desert. Alisaie took another look at her lover, admiring the Miqo’te’s relaxed demeanor as she slouched back against the bedroll. With her right arm up above her head and the other resting beside her, highlighting the elegant curves of her breasts, her tail curled about her thighs, Alisaie thought Tetri looked like a model, as beautiful as a painting, even in the darkness of the tent, though she could see the expanse of her Warrior’s body well enough.
Maybe I will commission a portrait of her from Alphinaud, she mused, nude, of course. After I make her look as satisfied as she looks right now. She wondered if her brother would grow jealous of their newfound relationship once they returned to the Crystarium, if he would insist on having Tetri that very night, as well. If that was the case, he would just have to wait until they were finished enjoying a plush bed in the Pendants.
I’m the oldest, she thought, and I get to have time with her first. He can wait. The thought sounded unnecessarily selfish even to her own mind, and Alisaie felt an ensuing sting of guilt. Here she was, saying they were fine sharing time with Tetri, and now she wanted to keep the Miqo’te all to herself! Although they both knew she had been born mere moments before her twin, so in reality, her claim as eldest amongst them was moot. In issues of disputes between them, however, the oldest always won, as was their unspoken rule, and she knew Alphinaud would eventually acquiesce if she said so.
Of course, Alisaie had never insisted on pulling her rank as older twin in regards to claiming a shared lover, so this was new territory for them. Somehow, though, she knew they would both manage spending their own time with the Warrior of Light. Alisaie knew she was stubborn, but she wasn’t stupid, not in regards to keeping the peace between her and her brother during another Calamity. Besides, Tetri loved them both. She owed Alphinaud as much time with their beloved as he wanted, and despite these private moments of personal greed, she would never truly insist on having their Warrior all to herself. They both knew Tetri would never agree to that anyway.
Alisaie mused further on that point. Months ago, while the twins had gained their bearings in the First, they had spoken at length and both agreed that Tetri likely had feelings for more than just the two of them amongst the Scions, though at this point it was only a hunch. Alphinaud believed it was a good one, however, and she agreed with him, for he had known Tetri personally for much longer than she had. The Dragonsong War had done a number on them both, emotionally and mentally, to say nothing of the physical battles Tetri and her brother had endured in Ishgard and the lands beyond, but Alisaie had seen it bring them closer together despite it all. In Doma she had seen the bond between Alphinaud and Tetri strengthened, the shared touches of comfort they exchanged, on a shoulder or hand, managing to ease their worries without a word exchanged between them. During the war in Ala Mhigo, she had subsequently seen the Warrior of Light give that same look, of longing and affection, to the other Scions in turn, and that had sealed the notion for her. Alphinaud had witnessed the same, and assumed it to be deeper than mere friendship.
Alisaie decided, in that instant, with the memory of their lovemaking fresh in her mind, that she would be alright with sharing Tetri amongst the other Scions, as well, should that be their Warrior’s desire. Not only were they her fellow comrades in arms, and the only other natives of Eorzea and the Source, but she trusted them with her life, and she knew she could also trust them with the one who now owned her heart. What was happiness, anyway, but love shared amongst kindred hearts, no matter the number of them? In such a broken world as the First, with its peoples menaced by demons, its cities in rubble, its histories turned to forgotten myths, and its very future in question, what else could happiness possibly be? Alisaie could fathom no other form for it, and just that thought alone was enough to quell any latent possessiveness or jealousy in her.
Feeling secure in her mind once more, the Red Mage turned to regard her lover. Tetri fixed her with a lazy smile, content just to gaze at her and say nothing, basking in the moment. Alisaie could not help but mirror the older woman’s expression with a smile of her own, as she felt the familiar, comforting feeling of her own resolve swell within her heart and mind. It was that same resolve that had led her to discovering and mastering her own path of the Red Mage, trading her grimoire for a saber, the same resolve that had led her back to Alphinaud and the Scions, that had led her to befriending and loving the Warrior of Light. The light of her own determination pierced the gloom of her sorrow, imbuing her with hope, and Alisaie knew it was now time for her to leave the desert, hopefully for good.
“I’m coming back with you, Tetri,” she said. “Back to the Crystarium. I’ve had more than enough of Amh Araeng for one lifetime, and I have a feeling it’s going to take all of us, together, to put this world to rights.”
She reached forward and took Tetri’s hand, placing a gentle kiss on her palm.
“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be, than by your side,” said Alisaie, and Tetri laughed softly, sitting up awkwardly on the bedroll to enfold the Elezen in her arms.
“And there’s no one else I’d rather have at my side,” said Tetri, “or in my bed, for that matter. Besides your brother, of course. I do have an entire suite in the Pendants, you know.”
She nuzzled Alisaie’s neck as she stroked the younger woman’s back, feeling her shiver as the Miqo’te pressed them closer, brushing their bare breasts together.
“An entire suite, you say?” asked Alisaie, running her hands up Tetri’s back to caress her ears as she placed a kiss on her shoulder. “That sounds lovely, just for the bath alone, so I can finally be rid of this ever-present dust. Though I do wish to take full advantage of that bed, with you in it.”
“Ah, yes,” said Tetri, shivering as Alisaie dragged a hand down her back to stroke her tail. “I imagine you would. Your brother would like the same, I’m fairly certain.”
Alisaie snorted in amusement.
“I’m quite certain of that, as well,” she said. “After waiting weeks to see you again, it’s going to take all the magic I can muster to pry Alphinaud off of you. Why, I might not see you for a month!”
“Gods, listen to you,” said Tetri, chuckling, pulling back to look at Alisaie, stroking her cheek. “You two are quite the handful, my Leveilleurs. Not that I mind in the slightest.”
“Mmm, your Leveilleurs. I do like the sound of that,” said Alisaie, grinning, leaning in to take Tetri’s lips in a heated kiss, the idea of belonging to her Warrior having reawakened her ardor. Tetri returned the kiss with enthusiasm, pulling Alisaie back down onto the bedroll and tangling the Elezen’s body with her own.
“Though-- ah! --I did want to ask you,” said Alisaie, gasping as Tetri ran her tongue over her silver earring before kissing the rest of her pointed ear, “did you have any thoughts on how to-- oh! --d-divide our--our time with you…?”
“You two can draw straws,” said Tetri, dragging her lips down the Elezen’s neck, “or duel, or enjoy some good-natured sibling bickering. As long as I get to love you both, in the end.”
“Of that, Warrior of Light, there can be no doubt,” Alisaie replied, and reached up to meet Tetri’s lips with her own. The two women then turned their attention to loving one another, worshipping each other’s bodies before falling into an exhausted slumber, wrapped in each other’s arms.
The next morning (or what passed for it), Tetri watched with crossed arms, dressed in her full armor kit, her now-sharpened lance at her back, as Alisaie bid goodbye to Halric and the others at the Inn. Watching her embrace the withdrawn Au Ra boy with a sad smile, Tetri felt another swell of admiration for the young woman she had grown to love. How strong was Alisaie, to not blame Halric for the loss of Tesleen! A wave of love washed over Tetri, so strong she nearly swayed on her feet. Wise, as well as powerful, those were the Leveilleur twins. Her Leveilleur twins, now that she thought about it.
Our pretty twins! her dragon soul rumbled, coiled contentedly in her mind. Ours!
“Yes,” she said in agreement, grinning under her breath. “They are ours.”
Alisaie gave her friends one last embrace, before dashing over to Tetri and grasping her by the arm, tugging her insistently to the Aetheryte.
“Finally,” she said softly, so only Tetri could hear. “Let’s get the Seven Hells out of here!”
Tetri laughed, and together they walked over to the shimmering, floating crystal, attuning themselves to the Crystarium. As the familiar hum of Aetheryte energy surrounded them and they both floated upwards into the air, Alisaie smirked at her.
“Have you ever been kissed during an Aetheryte journey?” she asked.
“No, but there’s a first time for everything,” replied Tetri, and the two women pressed their lips together just before they felt the familiar tug of Aetheryte transfer, a rush of energy and light before reappearing malms away in the Crystarium main plaza, floating down to the ground with their lips still locked together. Someone whistled at them, and Alisaie reluctantly broke the kiss, blushing until her flushed cheeks nearly matched the same shade of red as her skirt. She took Tetri’s hand, turning towards the crystal tower, where Alphinaud and the Crystal Exarch were surely waiting for their arrival.
Alisaie looked up at Tetri, smiling, gripping her hand firmly.
"Come on, Tetri!" she said, her blue eyes shimmering once more, but Tetri could see it was with happiness, with not even a hint of sorrow. She felt herself break out into an echoing grin, unable to help it, and nodded, squeezing the Elezen's hand. Alisaie let out a joyous laugh, and yanked her forward towards the Crystarium's Dossal Gate.
"Alisaie, wait!" she cried, laughing breathlessly as they both raced forward, towards the shimmering crystal tower that held the rest of their destiny. Yet, far from an oppressive weight, Tetri felt nothing in that moment but excitement, as they raced through the crowds of the Crystarium's throngs of denizens, who smiled at the pair as they pushed past them.
They don't see a Warrior of Light and a Scion, she thought with wonder at the looks they were given, only two people in love. And wasn't that a true wonder, perhaps more wondrous than anything Tetri had yet seen before.
She laughed again and gripped Alisaie's hand even tighter as they ran together, her iron lance clanking against her back, feeling a rush of love and gratitude at the woman in front of her. More than ever, the Warrior of Light felt proud to call Alisaie Leveilleur--Red Mage of Eorzea--her lover, and a keeper of her heart!
Thanks for reading! If you liked this chapter, feel free to let me know! Feedback is love.
Next chapter: "Urianger: The Astrologian's Confession"!
Chapter 3: Crystal Exarch I: The Watcher (The Crystarium)
The Crystal Exarch fights his growing obsession over the Warrior of Light, with little success. With every moment, his yearning grows stronger. As the Exarch works to put his plan in motion, hidden arcane forces stir behind the scenes, to challenge the deepest longings of his heart!
A/N, June 2020: Hi, friends! Due to a recent health issue (Not COVID-19, but serious) I unfortunately have to put this story ON TEMPORARY HIATUS. This work is not abandoned, as I have so much of it written, and I will pick it back up once I am suitably recovered. Likely after 5.3 launches, but you weren't here for canon, right? ;) Thanks for your patience and understanding! ~Draconic_Grace
A/N: It's been a while! I apologize for the long wait with this chapter. Each chapter is averaging around 40-50 pages, so it's taking me 4-6 weeks for each one. I have actually split this chapter up into two parts, and the second is nearly done, so part II shouldn't take nearly as long to post. I hope it's worth the wait!
For those of you who are here for smut, there is a bit of Slow Burn in this chapter, to be resolved in part II. Don't worry, I will make it worth your while! ;)
Spoiler Warning: MAJOR Spoilers for all of Shadowbringers 5.0 in this chapter. If you haven't finished that expansion, please don't read!
Content Warning/Trigger Warning: There is Non-Consensual Voyeurism and Non-Consensual Mind Meld/Telepathy in this chapter. It's not prominent enough for me to include an actual Non-Con warning, but relevant tags have been added.
Other than that--Please enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Crystal Exarch would have been lying to himself if he thought he wasn't spying on her. He didn't bother trying to convince himself otherwise. He knew he was spying on the Warrior of Light, and what's more, he actively enjoyed it. Not the lying part, he didn't like lying to her at all. The subterfuge was a necessary evil that brought him no pleasure, least of all to whom he was now lying to regularly--no, daily, at this point. It rankled him, ate away at his sense of self, both whom he knew himself to be, now, and the man he used to be centuries ago. He was many things, had been many things in his life--a passable warrior, a better scholar, and, finally, a powerful mage--but being a liar was a more recent development.
The Exarch didn't like it, of course, but neither did he like the worlds of the First and the Source being destroyed with its peoples annihilated. So he had justified his lies, and no one could convince him otherwise. He had no one to hold his counsel, and so he had to keep his own, out of necessity. No one could be trusted with the whole of his plan; the world in which the shared plan had been crafted no longer existed, and neither did its people, with a new future yet to be written, and he had to honor the sacrifice of those he had crafted it with, by being ultimately victorious. The Exarch knew he was on the right side of history, despite the fact that no one would remember him when he was done, but he was not doing this to build his legacy, only to ensure others had theirs.
As he would no longer be alive when his plan reached fruition, the Crystal Exarch took his pleasures where he could find them, and they mainly centered on watching the Warrior of Light. He was a fool for loving her, he knew that, but he couldn’t help it, not after several centuries alone. He cherished the moments he got to spend in his Warrior’s proximity, even though the Exarch knew he could not allow himself to truly get close to her, at least not in the way he wanted. Even physically, when he had to interact with her for the sake of his plan, he tried to keep his distance from Tetri as much as he could help it, keeping his phrases almost terse and with little substance, lest he betray any onze of indication that he knew her. He wanted her to know, that was the problem. The Miqo'te woman's presence near him strained his control on his best days. On his worst, it was all he could do to grip his staff and grit his teeth, fighting his urge to rip off the cowl covering his face, to show Tetri that he was not gone, that her dear friend was not dead or still in slumber beneath Syrcus Tower.
In his dark moods, when the Crystal Exarch avoided sleep in his Umbilicus chamber, hating the threads of Fate that bound him to his future demise, he entertained dark thoughts, thoughts of showing up to his Warrior's rooms in the Pendants, of begging her for her love. Of falling on his knees and pleading to have just one night with her, so that the memory of their love could follow him into the void of the Rift, comforting him as his soul was ripped apart. Those thoughts naturally led further, for his thoughts were all he had, and they were detailed. He would have her strip him, slowly, have Tetri unwrap his robes and cowl from him like he was her long-awaited gift for Starlight Festival, until he was finally naked and bare before her. He imagined the dragoon's callused fingertips on his flesh, tingling even where crystal had formed on his skin, imagined her fingers dragging downwards, low over his belly until they wrapped around his cock.
He always took himself in hand, at this point, shifting his robes over his hips to free his cock to the open air, imagining his soft palm was instead the rough, battle-hardened skin of his Warrior. He imagined she would be good at stroking him to completion by hand alone, her proficiency at the lance naturally translating to increased dexterity in the bedroom, but that was only an assumption. The Crystal Exarch would give nearly anything to learn the reality of having her, for real, even if it were just her hands on him, but he tried not to think those thoughts as he thrust into his hand, for his disappointment and frustrated longing easily destroyed his ardor. He would drag his palm along his entire length, slowly, sometimes licking the center of his hand first, imagining he was thrusting inside her wet folds instead, and that was always best, that was always what made him reach his peak. Nothing else did; the Exarch had tried for weeks, ever since he had successfully brought her to the world of the First.
Tonight was one of those nights where he watched her on his crystal screen in what passed for evening, yearning for his own release but holding himself back. He had been watching her sleep, watched her twitch in slumber in her bed in the Pendants. The Exarch rarely slept anyway; something about the Allagan magics that had kept him in slumber for centuries, plus the whole debacle of time travel, had apparently altered his mind for good, and he now hated sleep as it was. He much preferred this, watching over his Warrior on his crystal screen, imagining he could hold her in his arms, feeling the warmth of her body against him, inhaling her comforting scent, her breath mingling with his. He did not touch himself while she was like this, while she was sleeping peacefully, would not allow himself to, not when he knew the peace of sleep eluded even her. Unlike himself, the Exarch knew Tetri actually needed her rest if she was to fight her battles and win.
While he watched her sleep, it was easy for the Crystal Exarch to reminisce on their early days together. Even back when he was known as G'raha T'ia, and they had been just two adventurers exploring Syrcus Tower, he recalled that Tetri had struggled with frequent bouts of insomnia, a manifestation of the strain of her newfound duty as Warrior of Light. It was during their mutual inability to find sleep that they forged their bond of friendship, staying up late in each others' tents, drinking Gridanian wine and Ishgardian brandy, swapping tales like adventurers did.
It was during such times of idle pleasure that his Warrior of Light had given him the gift of her birth name, when they had both been deep in their cups and he had made an ass of himself by asking her questions about her upbringing in Thanalan that he knew she would rather not have answered. Yet, the purple-haired Miqo'te had honored his boundless curiosity, even still, entertained the folly of his youth while he had been a scholar, ravenous for any sort of knowledge, a hunger that served him well as a mage but not as a man. As a man, the Warrior of Light had inspired a different hunger in him, the hunger of the flesh, a lustful ache no food would quell, that no drink would stave away. G'raha had wanted her back then, too, had wanted to kiss Tetri, to taste the brandy on her lips, to swallow the gold of her laughter. He had wanted to be the Miqo'te man that could prove to her, once and for all, that they were not all as selfish and conniving as her Nuhn had been.
The Exarch put his crystal hand to his chin in thought, feeling himself fall deeper into his memories. Before joining the Circle of Knowing, G’raha had accepted the surname of T’ia without complaint or shame when he had come of age, uninterested in challenging his birth tribe’s own Nuhn. An intellectual and thoughtful person, even as an adolescent, G’raha had found the annual infighting over harem wives and Nuhn rulership distasteful and culturally backwards. The disapproval of his tribal members over his then-mismatched eyes was, he recognized in hindsight, just a further excuse to dismiss him from the tribe for good. It was an eventuality he had expected and, once it arrived, he found he in fact welcomed the opportunity to leave, in order to find his own path. Once he had declined the challenge from his own Nuhn, he had said his necessary goodbyes to his family and friends, taken his bow and quiver, and left with a spring in his step. Then his journey had led him to the Circle of Knowing, to Syrcus Tower, and, finally, to Tetri’s side.
Those first few days on the road by himself, G’raha had finally felt liberated from a warped tribal mentality that had never suited him. It was a feeling that had made him feel even closer to the Warrior of Light, for she, too, had left her birth tribe of her own accord, had struck out on her own, even claimed a new name for herself. More than that admiration, though, G'raha had wanted to love her, just as they were, with the springtime light of youth's first love blooming in his heart.
He had been with other lovers before, of course, and had even thought he was in love with some of them, men and women both. Yet it had not been this all-encompassing burst of passionate longing, so hot it felt like it seared him from within, making him burn with want to the tips of his ears and tail. G'raha had felt himself in freefall at the mere glance from the Warrior of Light, her touch on his arm or shoulder making him fight the urge to clutch the Miqo'te woman in his arms, to take her lips with his. If she had shared his sentiment (and if he had even dared to share it with her at the time), he would have thrown her to the floor of her tent and shared a mutually furious bout of lovemaking with her.
During the day he had busied himself with the demands of adventuring, savoring the group's discoveries in the Tower, but deep down he couldn't wait for nightfall to join Tetri in her tent, or for her to join him in his, to have that moment of cherished closeness with her, to savor the time she spent with him alone. G'raha had wanted to tell her he was in love with her. At night, when she left his tent for her own, when their heads were both still buzzing from the tartness of Ishgardian brandy, he tossed and turned in his bedroll, damning the confines of his personal destiny that demanded he follow the invisible currents of ancient Allag to their completion. To the secrets that he knew were his birthright, that damned crimson eye staring him in the face when he looked in the mirror, linking him to the inevitable. G'raha wanted to follow the Warrior of Light, instead! He wanted to follow her on her journey as her confidante, her comrade in arms, her lover.
To hell with destiny! he had thought, ears and tail thrashing as he fought to sleep, with a young man's logic, informed only by the frivolous logic of youth that has time enough left to make mistakes. I want to be with her! I love her!
Those thoughts of his were always followed by images of stuttering darkness, shadows closing upon his mind at the bridge between waking and slumber, and even back then he could swear he saw glimpses of a possible future, what would come to pass if he did not meet his destiny in the Tower. He saw Eorzea in ruins, its peoples dying, the jaws of sineaters closing around the distant, terrified peoples of the First. And so, G'raha had held his tongue and hid his feelings from the Warrior of Light after all, not because he wanted her any less, but because he could not bear to unleash that future upon them all by refusing to become what destiny demanded of him.
You have your duty, Tetri, he had thought as he made a final, bitter turn away from her, and I have mine. He walked up to the tower with a smile on his face that fell as soon as his eyes left hers, feeling goosebumps rise on his arms as the doors to Syrcus Tower gaped open to swallow him whole.
Knowing Tetri would live kept him from shaking as the great crystal and brass doors closed behind him, as he settled within the dead quiet of the tower's still walls, as the sleep of aeons enclosed his mind and body, with every vein and blood cell steadily filling with the magical power of the Allagan ruling family. Syrcus Tower became G'raha's chrysalis, and the butterfly of the Crystal Exarch was born the moment he awakened and emerged into the First, beginning the journey that would create the Crystarium and the long fight back against the sin eaters and their Lightwardens.
The Crystal Exarch grimaced as his mind resurfaced to the present moment, and he let his crystal hand drop to hang loosely by his side. He stared at his Warrior sleep, and felt his heart throb with longing that would never be fulfilled, full of love he could never share with the one he wanted most. He could not doom both of their worlds to destruction; he could not tell Tetri he loved her. The Exarch gripped his staff tightly in bitter frustration. If it had not been expertly made, of gold and brass and enchanted with a magic that was aeons-old, the weapon may have crumbled in his hand from how tightly he gripped it.
As the Exarch fumed in the bitterness of his centuries-long unrequited love, the temptation once again arose within him, to use his magic on the sleeping Warrior for decidedly unethical ends. He wanted to touch her mind with his magic, to touch her in some way, to dive beneath the surface of her sleeping consciousness, to experience her memories. By doing so, the Exarch could know Tetri further, know how she had grown and changed over the years, while he had slept in the tower, while the powers of Allag had created him anew. After all, as the Crystal Exarch he was not a friend to her, just a mysterious mage that had torn her friends’ souls from their bodies to the First, before taking her, too, across the Rift to his world by force. This was, perhaps, the only way he could touch her for real.
As soon as that thought arose, however, the Exarch choked down a wave of self-loathing, and he felt his ears fall flat against his head in revulsion. How could he want to do such a thing, to force his way into Tetri’s mind without her permission?! It was disgusting! He couldn’t do that to someone he loved, someone he cared about, his oldest and dearest friend! It was bad enough he watched her sleep, watched the dragoon move about the Crystarium and Lakeland while she completed the tasks he himself was asking of her! He was violating her privacy daily, spying on her, leading her on with his lies, in service to his scheme, and he wanted more from her, even still. The Exarch was certain that the younger version of himself would not recognize who he had become. And still, in his greed for Tetri, the Exarch could not force himself to stop, for he knew how it ended, even if she did not. It ended with his death.
Why can I not love you like this, Tetri, at least from afar? he mused, enjoying the look of deep relaxation on the Miqo’te woman’s face on the crystal screen before him, warring between his want to sink into her sleeping mind, and his sense of ethics and propriety. I’m going to die for you, soon enough. Can I not have even this?
He was a stranger to his beloved, though, a stranger in an even stranger world on the edge of complete collapse. She owed him nothing, least of all access to her mind and heart. He asked her to fight for him, to put herself and her friends, the Scions, in harm’s way in his battle to save the First (and, thereby, the Source and Eorzea) from the sin eaters. He knew Tetri was up to the task, that was not the issue. He had enjoyed battling with her in Holminster Switch, seeing just how vastly her fighting skills had improved, even as he had simultaneously mourned the massive loss of life as the village and its people had been annihilated by the sin eaters.
He did not get to battle often, but he had been at the crystal tower long enough to expend that much of his energy safely, and it had been worth it to unleash his wrath upon the infernal light demons, as well as to battle by Tetri’s side once more. Helping her slay the lightwarden had made the Exarch feel more alive than he had in years, watching her leap in the air, aglow with dragonfire, her deadly lance aloft and glistening with the blood of slain sin eaters. He had watched her land the final blow, killing the massive demon with a wild roar. He had watched as she had subsequently absorbed the lightwarden’s accursed aether, sending it upwards into the sky, rending the light of the Flood asunder with a mighty crack, returning the night to Lakeland once more! The sight had brought tears to the Exarch’s eyes; after centuries of scheming, his plan was bearing the fruits of hope for this blighted world! All it would cost to save them all, in the end...was his life, and Tetri’s respect for him.
At that thought, the Exarch frowned as he felt another wave of self-loathing rise up in his breast. He felt his ears flatten against the sides of his head in frustration, and his tail twisted behind him in muted anger as he revisited the memory of his Warrior’s recent return. When Tetri had returned to the Crystarium from Ahm Araeng just a few days prior, hand in hand with fellow Scion Alisaie Leveilleur, the Crystal Exarch had merely thought the two women to have a close bond of friendship, forged in the camaraderie that often naturally arose between comrades and adventurers, in war as well as exploration. Over the months since her arrival in the First, Alisaie had told him about the war to free Ala Mhigo and Doma from the Garlean Empire, a tale he had listened to with rapt attention. From her story, the Exarch had realized, with no small measure of satisfaction, that Tetri’s fighting spirit had not been diluted in the slightest by the struggle of the Dragonsong War in Ishgard. If anything, her experiences had only seemed to heighten her resolve during the subsequent struggle to free Doma and Ala Mhigo, as well as improving her skill with the lance and her leaps of dragonfire. It had encouraged his own determination to bring her to the First, certain that his Warrior was indeed the key to salvation of the First, and prevention of the Eighth Umbral Calamity.
So the Exarch had barely been able to fight the utter shock that had flowed through him, startling beneath his cowl as he had watched Alisaie pull the Miqo’te woman down for a passionate kiss, right in front of him in the Ocular! Tetri had startled, her long tail bristling, pulling away gently but insistently, blushing and squeezing the Elezen woman’s hand, and looking sheepishly at the Exarch, shrugging as if in apology for the two women’s brazen public display of affection. The Exarch had clenched his fists tight around his staff, his blood grown hot with jealousy and longing. Alphinaud had merely laughed, greeting his wayward twin with a hug.
“Dear sister,” he said, “it’s good to see you back, at last! Finally had enough of the desert?”
“Hello, dear brother,” Alisaie replied, returning her twin’s hug with a pat on the back before they separated. “And yes, I’ve had enough of Ahm Araeng to last several lifetimes, in fact. I especially won’t miss the dust covering every ilm of my person.”
“Indeed,” replied Alphinaud with a laugh. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, the open plains in Kholusia also left a lot to be desired. It was difficult enough to sleep on the open ground every night, let alone sneak into Eulmore.”
“Hmmm,” said his sister, looking him up and down with a mischievous gleam in her eye.
“Well, it seems like it worked out after all, Alphinaud,” she continued. “Not only did you get a nice new outfit on your journey, but from what I’ve heard from Tetri so far, it seems you had a good enough reason not to sleep well.”
Alphinaud blushed in embarrassment, his cheeks turning beet red. He rubbed the back of his head and laughed.
“Ah!--yes, well,” he said, stuttering and looking at Tetri, who smiled and shrugged at him, also blushing lightly, a light dusting of red covering her cheeks beneath her facial markings.
“Hello, Alphinaud,” she said, walking up to him and enveloping him in a tight hug. Alphinaud closed his eyes and clung to her, stroking her lower back lightly. The Exarch tightened his hold on his staff as he watched them embrace beneath his cowl, watching as Alphinaud dragged his fingers nearly to the base of her tail, before seeming to think better of it and taking his hands away as they stepped apart. The Exarch thought it was a familiar touch upon her, with a layer of concealed passion, more of a caress than the embrace of mere friends.
Did she take both of the Leveilleurs as her lovers, before they arrived in the First?! he thought, his jealousy simmering beneath his skin, unabated. Neither of them even so much as indicated such a possibility to me, in all the past year they have been here! Surely I would have known, otherwise! The Exarch seethed as he continued watching his Warrior’s tender reunion with her fellow Scions.
“I missed you, Tetri,” said Alphinaud softly, taking her hands in his, oblivious to the Exarch’s scrutiny as he looked deep into his lover’s eyes. Tetri smiled at him, her long ears twitching, and squeezed his hands gently, stroking the back of his fingers.
“I missed you too, Alphinaud,” she replied, leaning down to place a kiss on his lips. She startled again as Alphinaud deepened the kiss insistently, refusing to let her pull away, before relinquishing her lips with some reluctance, still holding her hands in his. The Miqo’te and Elezen smiled at each other, blushing and grinning like idiots. The Crystal Exarch fought an urge to scream, his tail thrashing beneath his robes. He took a deep breath as he watched Tetri let go of Alphinaud’s hands and turned to him, instead.
“Exarch,” she said, nodding towards him in polite greeting, her face still red, her lips swollen from kisses. The Miqo’te woman smiled at him, looking at him with a challenge in her ruby eyes, as if daring him to comment on her two exchanges with the Leveilleur twins, who also turned to look at him. The Exarch swallowed, choking down his angry jealousy. He forced a dry smile on his face, one that she and the twins could just barely see beneath his cowl.
“Tetri,” he replied, “welcome back to the Crystarium. I’m glad to see you’ve reunited with your fellow Scions.”
He nodded towards her, respectfully.
“I’m sure you’re tired from your journey, having been in Ahm Araeng for over a week’s time,” he said. “Your suite at the Pendants has been maintained in your absence. I’ve ensured everything is well stocked for you, and I’ve arranged dinner to be delivered to you later tonight. If you need anything, at all, please let one of the attendants know, and we’ll take care of it.”
“Oh, Tetri, yes, let’s go!” cried Alisaie, her azure eyes gleaming in excitement. She ran up and wrapped her arm around Tetri’s, looking up at her.
“You promised me that long bath, after all,” she said, and grinned wickedly at Tetri as she stroked a hand up the taller woman’s arm. “You also mentioned it’s big enough for two!”
“Ah--w-well, Alisaie, let’s--talk about this later, if you don’t mind,” said Tetri, stammering and blushing at Alisaie’s shameless flirting. Despite her previous words to Alisaie during their night together, it was clear Tetri was a bit shy under the Exarch’s gaze. Alisaie rolled her eyes.
“Alright, Tetri,” she said, “but let’s get dinner early, tonight, then! A hot meal beats dried rations out in the desert, any day!”
“Hey, Alisaie, I want to have dinner with Tetri, too!” said Alphinaud, running up to the pair and taking Tetri’s other hand in his. The Miqo’te looked down at him to find him grinning up at her beneath ivory bangs, his blue eyes gleaming at the excitement of seeing her again. “I spent the past week reading about the history of the Flood,” he said, “looking for clues about the use of magic in the First. I must say, as much as I enjoy research, I could sorely use a break from these past few days. Is it alright if I join you both?”
“Of course, Alphinaud,” said Tetri, squeezing his hand. “Dinner will do us all good, I imagine.”
“Great, that’s settled. Now let’s go!” said Alisaie, yanking Tetri towards the exit from the Ocular by the arm.
“Bye, Exarch,” she cried as she and her brother grinned at each other and rapidly hustled the Warrior of Light out the door so fast that her spear clattered against her armor.
“Hey, wait--you two…!” said Tetri, grousing in mild irritation, but it was clear she wasn’t as bothered as she sounded. She looked back at the Exarch apologetically as the three reached the doorway.
“Thank you, Exarch,” she said. “We’ll meet up soon to talk about our next steps!”
The Exarch nodded at the Warrior of Light.
“I look forward to it, Tetri,” he said, and then she was gone, as the Leveilleur twins pulled her through the doors, which slammed shut, leaving the Exarch alone once more.
The Crystal Exarch sighed as he focused once more on the present, raising his crystal hand to his chin in thought. Tetri had spent a few days on her own with the Leveilleur twins, having a well-deserved few days rest, and he had busied himself with his duties overseeing the Crystarium, in order to distract himself from thoughts of his Warrior. It had almost worked, and speaking with the citizenry he was responsible for protecting helped, but at night the Exarch had found himself once more consumed with his frustrated longing, as well as anxiety over his fate. Lyna stopped by most nights and ensured that he ate dinner, apt as he was to forget more often than not, as well as threatening him with a sleeping draught from Bragi if he didn’t sleep. He retired to bed, for Lyna’s sake, but tossed and turned, his mind endlessly racing. Then, at the same time Tetri and the twins met with him once more in the Ocular, Lyna had come bearing news of the attack on Holminster Switch, and the Exarch had found himself battling at Tetri’s side.
The battle had seemed to take a lot out of her, for once, and the Exarch had received reports from the attendants at the Pendants that Tetri was spending ample time resting from their ordeal in Holminster. From what he could tell from watching her at various times in his crystal screen since the battle, it was possible the Warrior of Light was experiencing additional physical fatigue from her absorption of the slain Lightwarden’s aether. As he watched her sleep deeply, the Exarch reminded himself to research effects of the Flood on personal aetheric fields in the coming days. As his plan progressed, he had to ensure Tetri’s aether remained intact enough to slay the rest of the Lightwardens. If there was some modification of his plan, he would need to implement it early enough to avoid suspicion by Tetri or the rest of the Scions.
The Exarch looked up, watching Tetri sleep on his crystal screen, snoring softly and twitching in her bed in the Pendants. Her face was smoothed out in relaxation, peaceful, without the weight of the world that her duty placed upon her shoulders. A strand of purple and white hair drifted across her forehead, almost covering the facial markings there, her hair messy from turning in her sleep. The Exarch walked up to the screen and placed his crystal hand on her image, his fingers itching to brush that lock of hair from her forehead. As he did so, he felt his magic press against her mind gently, the threads of his crystalline aether reaching out on instinct towards the Warrior of Light as his crystal hand came in direct contact with the tower. Tetri murmured wordlessly in her sleep at the touch, her ears twitching.
The Exarch yanked his hand back at once, as if burned. He had just told himself he would not do such a thing! It was bad enough the Miqo’te dragoon didn’t trust him completely as a result of his secrecy; he didn’t need to give her any additional reasons to refuse her trust, what portions were grudgingly given to him out of necessity. Yet, as the Crystal Exarch remembered watching Alphinaud and Alisaie kiss the Warrior of Light right in front of him, he felt his sense of propriety waver, his heart lurching with jealousy and the greed of his centuries-long yearning. The Exarch felt himself surrender to his wanting, felt his resolve crumble beneath it.
Perhaps just a moment or two, the Exarch told himself as he looked at her. This will change nothing, between us, if I touch her mind for a moment. He knew it was wrong, but he could not stop himself. His need was too great. As if in a dream, he felt himself walk forward on leaden limbs, reaching up with his crystal hand and placing it upon the image of Tetri’s face, once more. A surge of aetheric power flowed through his veins, rushing upwards through his crystal hand, and pressed upon Tetri’s sleeping consciousness gently.
The Exarch uttered a gasp of pleasure, closing his eyes and bending his head backwards, his ears flattening against the sides of his head as he felt his magic stroke gently against her mind. Her aetheric field shimmered in his mind’s eye, a kaleidoscope of colors, the intensity of her blessing of light shining through even the barest magical contact. Beneath it, the Crystal Exarch could perceive a roiling surge of magical heat, tinged blue and crimson, fierce and writhing serpentine across Tetri’s mind: her dragon soul! It was intoxicating, intriguing. Dimly, the Exarch felt himself shaking, his length hardening beneath his robes as he continued to touch her mind. He wanted more, he needed more of her!
He uttered a soft groan as he felt her aether reflected back to him at his insistent contact, as that same magical heat rushed through his mind and over his body, tingling over his skin, building his desire to a fever pitch. He thrust his hips into the air instinctually, now fully hard and throbbing within his smalls. The Exarch made no move to touch himself, however, overwhelmed as he was with his Warrior’s aether flowing over him. He thought, with distant awe, that this was the mere surface of her mind! What would happen if he pressed deeper?
He fought the impulse, briefly, before stroking once more against her mind, eager for greater contact between them. His ears twitched as he heard Tetri moan softly in her sleep, and the sound went straight to his cock, which twitched against his stomach in interest. The Exarch took a shaky breath, pressing his fingers harder against the crystal screen as he pressed his mind deeper into hers. He heard the Warrior of Light moan again as he felt the surface of her mind finally give, yielding to the insistent touch of his aether, and the Exarch moaned loudly as he felt her mind envelop his, his body resonating with pleasure as the aether of his beloved surrounded him. Heat and light surrounded him, washing over him with such intensity he thought he might come untouched, already near his peak from the sensation alone.
Then he was drifting along her mind, surveying her memories. Her recent trips to Kholusia and Ahm Araeng swirled about, images of her experiences shining like reflections in crystal. The Exarch reached forward for her memory of Kholusia first, wanting to feel what he had not glimpsed when he had watched her there. He touched that memory with his mind, sank into it--
-- Tetri sighed as Alphinaud moved into her again, and she wrapped her arms and legs about him, running her tail over his lower back, feeling him shiver in her arms. Impatient, she pulled him down with her dragoon’s strength, pressing his shorter body completely into her as he buried himself to the hilt inside her.
“Ah! Tetri…” Alphinaud sighed at the heavenly feeling of her body tightening around his, jolting as the Miqo’te reached up to kiss him softly on the mouth.
...the two Scions groaned together in abandon… --
--the Exarch jolted his mind back out of the memory as he heard himself gasp in dismay, the sound muffled as if hearing himself through a wall. So, she had taken Alphinaud as her lover, after all! The earlier feeling of self-loathing arose once more in the Exarch, his disgust with himself marring the pleasure he felt even as he remained immersed in Tetri’s mind. Even worse than feeling his Warrior’s enjoyment at making love to her fellow Scion, was the adoration the Exarch had felt from her towards the young Elezen. The Crystal Exarch had always wished to have that adoration turned towards himself, instead. Guilt and shame rose up within him, as he was starkly reminded of the love he would never have.
I deserve this, he thought, as he felt the sting of guilt dull the physical senses of his body, his ardor rapidly fading. I should not have done this, I should not have invaded her mind!
He loosened his hold on her mind, preparing to retreat, when he caught another reflection of memory, tinged red with the desert dust of Ahm Araeng. The Exarch reached forward despite his conflicting emotions, sinking into the memory, wanting one last glimpse of Tetri before he retreated fully--
-- “Everyone’s going to be able to see those,” said Alisaie, tugging on Tetri’s hair until the older woman raised her head to smirk at her.
“I know,” she said with a low growl. “I want everyone to see that you’re mine.”
“Including the Exarch?” replied Alisaie, arching her brows at her lover. Tetri burst out with a laugh, her tail waving through the air.
“Including him, that secretive bastard,” she said, nuzzling her thighs. “So what if he knows? He dragged you all here, including myself, caught us all up in this mess. This war. We’ve seen it all before. Let him stew, if my lovers bother him. I don’t mind watching him squirm beneath his robes.”
“He’s obsessed with you, Tetri. I don’t really know why.”
Tetri snorted, shaking her head slightly.
“He can get in line, then, I suppose,” she said. “If he has questions about me, he should ask me himself. If we didn’t need the Exarch to get us all home, I wouldn’t trust the man to tell me the truth about anything. He has too many secrets, Alisiae. I don’t like it. So let him know. I’ll enjoy watching him squirm, and you should too. In fact, I’m going to make you squirm, right now!” --
--The Exarch severed his aether from Tetri’s abruptly as he relinquished his hold on her mind, briefly checking for any lasting damage he may have caused, before yanking his consciousness out of hers as fast as he could. He found himself back in his body, panting, leaning on the crystal wall before him where he normally placed his crystal screen. He could feel his body covered in a thin sheen of sweat beneath his robes, and his stomach churned with nausea over what he had seen as the Miqo’te man regained his bearings. He felt the burn of tears building in his eyes, felt them drift down his face as his heart grew numb with shame and guilt at what he had done.
So, Alisaie was also her lover, then; the Exarch couldn’t say he was surprised, all things considered. He had expected as much from the two women’s passionate kiss on the day of their return, but still, he had wanted to deny the truth of what he had seen. He hadn’t wanted to accept yet more evidence of what he couldn’t have. The Crystal Exarch knew deep down that he shouldn’t have been jealous of the Leveilleur twins. They were Tetri’s close friends and comrades in arms, veterans of the same wars and battles as the Warrior of Light. They had been fighting by her side at every turn, while the Exarch had slept in his crystal tower awaiting the end of their worlds. They had a bond of love and trust he had never known with the dragoon, even as G’raha T’ia; his destiny had kept him from growing closer to Tetri.
No matter how he viewed his previous friendship with the Warrior of Light, it was now clear to the Exarch that he would never obtain her trust, let alone her love, especially not the kind she felt for the twins. The Crystal Exarch had done nothing to build trust between them, and Tetri had every right to be suspicious of him. Still, for all that her mistrust of him was well deserved on his part, her words she had spoken about him in her memory had wounded the Exarch to his core. He uttered a sob of anguish, then, the crushing loneliness he tried to keep at bay rising up to smother him, and with it, self-doubt.
Everything he had worked towards, thus far, for the very salvation of their worlds, rested on his ability to be strong enough to shoulder his personal burden of secrecy towards his Warrior and her Scions. The Crystal Exarch had never felt as weak as he did in that moment; in the past two hundred years, he had never felt more despondent. He took a shaky breath before stepping back, his grip on his staff steadying him, walking backwards until he could see Tetri still asleep on the screen before him. He could see she now had a small smile on her face, perhaps from the memories he had plucked to the forefront of her mind. The Exarch felt himself tremble, crying silently in guilt-ridden grief, gripping his staff even tighter as he stared at the woman he loved. He felt his latent jealousy and self-hatred bubble up into a tide of anger.
"Let me stew, Tetri?" he muttered, feeling his rage boil over, wanting to hurl his staff against the wall and see it shatter, shaking all over. "Stew over you and your lovers? Over your newfound 'love?' Why should I, when those two clearly have no idea what real love is?"
His voice growing louder, the Exarch was glad he had waited until the dead of observed evening to have his meltdown, knowing he could not deal with it any other way, could not help watching Tetri even still. Watching her sleep with a smile on her face, a smile he hadn't caused, could never bring about, filled him with rage, and the Exarch let it overflow.
"Let me stew. By the gods, the godsdamned nerve! I'm the one who loves you, Tetri!" he shouted at her image on the crystal screen, feeling his crimson eyes fill with tears.
"Don't you see that?!” he cried out. “Don't you hear it in my voice when we speak? I'm the one who's going to DIE FOR YOU! I'm going to die and you're going to be the last thing I see! And you're going to hate me for lying to you, that's all you'll remember, but you'll be alive, and I'll be dead, because I LOVE YOU , Tetri! Godsdamn it, godsdamn you! Why are you doing this to me?! "
The Crystal Exarch fell to the floor, letting his staff fall and clatter to the ground beside him, and crumpled over, weeping, his voice so hoarse he could no longer speak, let alone scream further. He folded his arms over his head, sobbing, his tears soaking into the folds of his cowl, the ache of his loneliness and unrequited longing making his heart throb with pain. For the first time, he longed for the abyss of the Rift, so he would be free of the misery of wanting someone he could not have. To be free of his personal hell that was loving the Warrior of Light.
* * *
The Exarch awoke alone on the floor some time later--approximately four bells from when he had collapsed into a stupor from his grief, from what he could tell from the thrum of the tower’s magic about him. In addition to being the seat of his power, his sense of time was most accurate when he was enclosed within the tower walls. Normally, this always brought him a sense of distinct empowerment, but as the Crystal Exarch slowly clambered to his feet, bending down once more to retrieve his staff, he felt nothing except completely drained, physically as well as emotionally. His eyes itched from crying, his throat hoarse from shouting. The Exarch sighed to himself in irritation, his red ears twitching as he straightened out his robes and pulled his cowl over his face, hiding his features once more.
The crystal screen was blank, having lost the connection with the Exarch and his magic when he had fallen asleep. He considered it a small mercy, having no desire to see Tetri’s face and be reminded of the violation he had inflicted upon her by entering her mind without her consent. She was likely up and about, anyway, perhaps even spending time with her Leveilleur twins. At the thought, the Exarch fought against another wave of bitter guilt at the memories he had inadvertently witnessed, and made for the Umbilicus where he kept his private collection of books. He had no intention of leaving the tower today, not after what he had done, and he didn’t want to see anyone else, especially the Warrior of Light and her Scions. More sleep was out of the question; his previous “nap,” while not ideal, had given his body enough rest for the meanwhile. The Exarch resolved to research the effects of accursed Light aether on personal aetheric fields, as he had reminded himself to. Once settled at his desk in the Umbilicus, surrounded by his tomes, the Miqo’te man began to feel more like himself.
Saving both of our worlds, as well as her life, will surely make up for it, he told himself, and the truth of that statement allowed the Exarch to refocus his attention, remembering the cause and meaning of his struggle, though his guilt remained, and he knew it was deserved. It was still a mistake-- his mistake--but Tetri was the only individual who could give him forgiveness for that particular slight against her, in addition to his lies. He had checked on her, quickly, before he had left for the Umbilicus, and she had been eating breakfast (or was it lunch?) with the twins, smiling and laughing with the two Elezen in her room. The Warrior of Light seemed none the worse for wear as a result of his illicit foray into her mind, and that made the Exarch feel a bit better, though not by much; the fault of violation was still his own.
I may as well earn her forgiveness, he thought, and concentrated on the task before him, opening a book from his pile of nearby tomes. Several more bells passed in such a matter, as the Exarch lost himself in scholarly pursuit of knowledge. He found he still enjoyed it, though his days in the Students of Baldesion were long over. Despite the appeal of his endeavor, this particular avenue of research had yielded little fruit: so few people of the First had survived the initial arrival of the sin eaters, that there was few observation by magical scholars on how the demons’ Light aether affected individuals who remained alive after such an encounter, save those who were summarily turned into sin eaters themselves.
In a different tome altogether (his fifth of the evening), the Exarch read of some mages, three centuries prior to his arrival in the First, that had observed a shift in aetheric fields after closely watching those lucky few warriors who were capable of slaying a sin eater. However, such a shift was concluded by those same mages to be due to the proximity of the person to the sin eaters’ warped aether, and the aberrant shift quickly cleared after the sin eaters had been slain. The Exarch grumbled to himself, biting the thumbnail on his hand not covered in crystal. It looked like, as he had surmised so long ago, that there was no way to otherwise clear the accursed aether of the Lightwardens from Tetri, once she had already absorbed it, besides taking it himself into the Rift. Such aether was simply too powerful, too corrupting, on the aether of the soul. He had hoped for otherwise, hidden in one of his books, but so far it was all for naught. The way forward remained the same: his death, for Tetri’s life. His end, for the survival of the First and the Source.
I am still in the right of things, he thought to himself. With Tetri’s help, we can still prevent the Eighth Umbral Calamity! The Exarch sighed in resigned exhaustion, closing his books and getting up from his desk. He didn’t regret the hours he had spent researching; on the contrary, despite the lack of findings that he had originally wanted, reading the recounts of the savage brutality and merciless hunger of the sin eaters had strengthened his will to see his plan through. As a result, the Crystal Exarch felt calmer than he had in the past day, his self-doubt nearly evaporated. All of this merely confirmed that this wasn’t about him or Tetri alone. It would take a concerted effort between his powers, the Warrior of Light, the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, and Lyna and their allies, to ultimately save their worlds.
As the Crystal Exarch walked into his bathroom and drew himself a bath in his large marble tub (being heir to the Allagan empire did have some perks, after all), he reminded himself that he was an adult, not a lovesick youth haunted by desire. His love for the Warrior of Light was unrequited, but that did not mean that loving her was wrong. The fact that he still loved her, at all, meant that his transformation into the Exarch had not erased his previous identity entirely, something he had always feared upon waking to see crystal embedded deep in his skin. That he still possessed the capacity for love, meant he would ultimately have the strength to hurl himself into the Rift. Loving someone didn’t always mean there was a happy ending; it would have to be enough for the Exarch to know that he loved his Warrior, and their worlds, enough to give his life to ensure their combined survival. He could do nothing else, had exhausted every possibility.
He stripped from his robes and entered the bath, hissing as the heat of the bathwater surrounded him, the crystal encasing his flesh amplifying the sensations as he sat gingerly on the bottom of the tub, his red tail waving behind him, his tail tip peeking upwards from the surface of the water.
Did I expect her to just wait for me to somehow be alive, he thought, to emerge from the tower unscathed at some future time, and take up our friendship where we had left off? The Exarch continued admonishing himself as he cleansed himself with sweet-smelling soaps he had bought from Bragi weeks ago.
Did I expect Tetri to refrain from taking others to her bed, forgoing the comfort of a lover, while she fought multiple wars and battles? Is the danger of the wilderness, the chaos of the battlefield, not just as crushing as my loneliness in this tower has been to me? Of course she will take love where she can find it! I have no right to expect otherwise!
The Exarch shook his head, feeling his ears twitch against the sides of his head, as he caught himself nodding off in the bath. He was thinking in circles, now, far too deep in his customary obsession over the Warrior of Light than he preferred to admit. The pleasure of touching Tetri’s mind, of being immersed in her consciousness, and the subsequent shock of experiencing her memories of loving the Scions, had drained the Crystal Exarch of most of his personal energy for the rest of the day. He managed to towel off finally and drag himself to his bed, suddenly feeling every one of his several centuries of age, and collapsed upon the cool sheets, leaving his robes on the floor. The Miqo’te man fell asleep in short order, too exhausted to even dream.
* * *
The next day, the Crystal Exarch awoke refreshed. He grudgingly admitted that perhaps Lyna was right that he did not sleep enough. He skipped breakfast after donning his robes, drinking a cup of the dried lavender tea that Lyna had brought him. As he steeped the leaves for a second cup, admiring their purple color, he was reminded of one Miqo’te dragoon’s hair, the shade of which was nearly the same shade of lavender and ivory. The Exarch sighed to himself, feeling particularly pathetic. He could not avoid her forever! It was time to simply get over his ill-warranted obsession with the fated savior of the First. He had taken Tetri and her friends here by force; he had a responsibility to ensure they got home. What she did in her bed was her own business; he should never have considered looking into her mind in the first place, let alone performed such a deed. The Miqo’te man took a deep breath to center himself, then drained his cup of tea before taking his staff and heading to the Ocular.
On his way, the Exarch’s red ears twitched beneath his cowl as he felt the arcane threads of his power suddenly thrum off-kilter, and he gripped his staff firmly, frowning, attempting to isolate the cause. The warp and weft of his magic thrummed in unease as it swirled through the tower, and subsequently in turn through the crystal embedded in the Exarch’s skin; something was up, though he knew not what. The ancient mages of Allag, in their quest to control the very chronological heart of time itself, had specialized in locating points of fate-changing events in spacetime, what the scholars of the day had termed “moments of novelty.” For those attuned to such magics, the Exarch included, a novel event could be felt in the present moment like an echo from a possible future, a discerned ripple in a pond from a stone that had not yet hit the surface of the water. Depending on actions taken in the present, the course of a timeline could be changed or adjusted by the one who discerned the novel event in the first place.
The Exarch grimaced as he walked briskly to the Ocular, applying his brilliant mind to picking apart the aberrant thrum of this new moment of novelty as he did so. He was not all powerful; he could not see the nature of the future event, only feel its impact from his present. In his mind's eye, the Miqo’te man could see the possible event only as a cloud of nebulous mist, devoid of form, but causing the crystal in his skin to thrum with the energy of the same temporal shifts he was working to control in his efforts to avoid a future Calamity. Whatever this was, it could not have come at a worse time. He wanted to reconnect with Tetri and the Leveilleur twins to discuss their next plan of attack against the Lightwardens, and he had hoped to get Tetri alone for at least a quarter of a bell, to somehow make amends to invading her mind. He was sure he could be abstract enough, but it was important to the Exarch to apologize, all the same. G’raha T’ia, the man he used to be, the man who had bonded with Tetri back at St. Coinach’s, would have wanted it to be so, and thus he wanted to as well. The Exarch wanted to heal the rift within himself before it was all over, and he knew the Warrior of Light was the key to doing so.
With his mind full of whirling thoughts, the Exarch rounded the corner of the Ocular in a hurry, his robes fluttering about him, intending to utilize his crystal screen to measure the threads of arcane spacetime to pinpoint this aberrant novelty, instead of spying on his Warrior. He came to a stop in front of the screen, raising his staff, feeling power rush through him, the crystal side of his body tingling with energy, when the doors to the Ocular opened. The Exarch startled at the sound, whirling about, his ears twitching beneath his hood, and on instinct he bent his head slightly, so that his cowl obscured the rest of his face from view.
Tetri strode in towards him, alone, clad in her full armor, the gleaming metal spear of Liberator at its customary place at her back. As was her habit, she eschewed a helmet or visor; Tetri had told him once, at St. Coinach’s, that she preferred to go without, so as to avoid any gaps in her field of vision whilst mid-jump. According to Tetri’s own account, the dragoon had trained extensively to adapt to a helmetless fighting style, both in the Lancers’ Guild and later with Ser Estinien Wyrmblood, the Azure Dragoon of Ishgard, as they had journeyed together in the wilds of Dravania. The Exarch forced himself to appear relaxed, his whole body tense beneath his robes and cowl at his close proximity to the woman he was not quite ready to see. Nonetheless, he forced himself to nod in greeting as the Warrior of Light closed the distance between them, until she was mere ilms away from him.
“There you are, Exarch!” she said, her ruby eyes bright with excitement.
“Ah, Tetri, good afternoon,” he said with some cheer. Nervous or no, the Crystal Exarch was always happy to see her, and it had been several days since he had done so. He could not help feeling the bolt of satisfaction that ran through him as she said his name.
She gave a small wave with a gauntleted hand, her purple ears twitching.
“I apologize for barging in without notice,” she said. “The Crystarium guard outside said you might have been busy, but as we aren’t connected via linkpearl, I wanted to stop by to talk directly, so he let me in.”
“It’s not a problem, Tetri,” said the Exarch good naturedly. “I had been performing some research here in the tower for the past few days, and I figured you and the Leveilleurs could use the extra respite after our battle in Holminster. I had meant to reach out to you and the Scions later today about meeting to plan our next steps.”
“Ah, yes, about that,” she replied, a frown appearing on her face, and the Exarch watched her ears fold against the sides of her head, a Miqo’te display of stress. “Lyna contacted me through linkpearl from the keep, out at the Ostall Imperative. It seems that Vauthry’s forces have taken a young girl that was traveling with Thancred, that new ‘partner’ you mentioned a few weeks ago. Her name is Minfilia.”
She sighed, running a hand through her close-cropped hair. No doubt she was pondering the connection between this mysterious girl, and her lost Antecedent of the Seventh Dawn, Minfilia Warde. The Exarch bit his lip; according to his overall plan, it was not yet time for Tetri to know more about the girl and her special role in the First’s collective fight against the sin eaters. More importantly, though, the Exarch believed it was not his story to tell. Thancred had been traveling with Minfinila for most of the five years he had been in Norvrandt, and he would surely want to inform Tetri about it in his own words once they were reunited.
After his experience in Tetri’s mind, after having felt her emotions regarding the Scions, he wanted to avoid getting between them, if he could. The Warrior of Light’s feelings towards the Scions--the Archons that comprised the group whose souls he had pulled to the First--were varied and complicated: affection, fondness, attraction, and a fierce protectiveness, wrapped in a thin web of denial. Nonetheless, the Exarch knew that Thancred, Urianger and Y’shtola were also important to Tetri, just as much as Alphinaud and Alisaie. The meaning of her mixed emotions was for her to figure out; the Exarch felt bad enough he knew such personal feelings from his Warrior, and was prepared for a more hands-off approach going forward.
“The twins have already gone ahead to meet Lyna at the keep,” said Tetri, oblivious to the Exarch’s musings. “They’re waiting for me. We’re going to stage a rescue and get Minfilia back, hopefully we’ll be able to run into Thancred in the process. I figured since Lyna and her squadron are coming with us, I should let you know beforehand.”
The Exarch nodded in acknowledgement.
“Well then, I thank you for coming to tell me in person, Tetri,” he replied. “Together, I have no doubt you will be able to retrieve Minfilia. My scouts at the Imperative will keep me apprised of the situation. In the meantime, I will continue my research here at the tower, to ensure we can gain an advantage over the Lightwardens.”
Tetri nodded at him, still frowning, regarding him with a serious look that she usually got right before a battle. The Exarch turned back to his crystal screen in dismissal, wanting her to leave so that he could continue examining the moment of novelty that still thrummed throughout the tower, making the crystal in his flesh tingle insistently. He could not allow anything to get in the way of his plan! He ran the fingers of his non-crystal hand over his staff, waiting for the telltale sound of the doors closing behind his Warrior to begin his spellcasting, but silence remained: she was still standing behind him!
The Exarch ground his teeth in annoyance. He wanted her to leave, he was not ready to see her! Would her tortuous hold over him never cease?! Before his anger could fester, he heard her speak.
“Exarch,” she said, her voice firm, and the Exarch knew it was a command to face her. He did so, turning towards the dragoon with no small measure of resignation, and looked at the woman he loved, that he wished he could just forget. Tetri narrowed her ruby eyes at him, tilting her head as she examined him from head to toe. The Exarch felt unnerved at her scrutiny, feeling her gaze like a physical touch on his body, and he bit back a moan at the sensation. It was the closest he had ever come to being touched by her directly, since his transformation, and he suddenly ached with longing. He took a shaky breath as she suddenly stepped nearer to him, and he gripped his staff to steady himself. What was she doing now?!
“Exarch, I--” she said, and stopped, peering into the darkness of his cowl. The Exarch stared back, unable to move, suddenly terrified she would see his face and put his plan to save them all in ruins. The two Miqo’te stood frozen for a few moments, then Tetri laughed softly, a blush blooming in her cheeks beneath her facial markings.
“I’m sorry, Exarch, I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said, shrugging at him, the movement jostling her spear lightly against her back.
“It’s just--lately, I’ve been concerned about you,” she continued. “I got used to talking with you regularly about what’s going on, and then you disappeared for a few days. I understand you rarely leave the tower, and after the battle in Holminster I was worried you had outdone yourself. Lyna has told me you rarely take care of yourself as well as you should--a habit we both share, by the way.”
She smiled, and the Exarch smiled back, a small thrill of glee moving through him despite his better judgment. She was concerned about him, thinking of him!
“Ah, yes,” he said, laughing a bit in response. “Although I have since fully recovered from the battle we shared, I will fully admit that Lyna is correct in that regard. I often get caught up in my research, and tend to forgo sleep. I...sometimes forget to eat, too, though please don’t tell Lyna I said such a thing. Otherwise I will never hear the end of it, upon your return!”
Tetri gave an undignified snort of laughter.
“Don’t worry, Exarch, your secret of irregularly skipping meals is safe with me!” she said, tapping her heart over her cuirass, and the Exarch’s heart ached in response. That was not the kind of secret he longed to entrust to her. Her abrupt kindness towards him was both a wonder and a torture, pulling the Exarch back towards Tetri just when he wanted to push her away. He opened his mouth, then, meaning to fill the space between them with something, though he didn’t know what, when he saw Tetri startle, giving him a look of concern, her ears swiveling towards him.
“Exarch, what happened?” she asked, a tone of worry in her voice.
“What do you mean, Tetri?” he asked, confused about the sudden change in her demeanor. Tetri sighed in frustration, closing the distance between them before the Exarch could even blink. He stepped backwards, but she reached out with lightning-quick reflexes, grabbing his crystal hand in hers, careful not to catch the pointed end of her gauntlets on him.
“What are you doing…?!” the Exarch cried in shock, her hold on him cementing him in place where he stood, terrified of accidentally knocking the hood off of his head if he moved any further backwards.
“Hold still, please,” said Tetri, pulling his crystal hand up towards her face. The Exarch felt his heart skip a beat; his crystal hand burned where she held it, and he could feel the heat of her fingers even through her gauntlet.
“Exarch, your hand,” she said, peering at the crystal on his fingers. “Here, along your knuckles, the crystal there--it looks...well, chipped. ”
Before he could ask what she meant, he watched her gently run the fingertips of her other hand along his knuckles, and the Miqo’te man shook at the touch, overwhelmed. He felt her fingers catch along a point, and--yes, it did seem like there was a small scratch there, a chip in the crystalline fibers that had woven over his flesh. The Exarch realized he must have scratched himself in his collapse on the floor the other night. He felt himself blush underneath his cowl, feeling stupid about his earlier outburst.
“Ah, so it is,” he replied, his voice shaking only a little. “My apologies for scaring you, Tetri. It is an accidental scratch, suffered in my customary forgetfulness during my activities. New crystal will grow over it, and my hand will be good as new. I will heal as well as anyone, I assure you, though I am aware it seems strange.”
Tetri nodded and swallowed, staring at his face, the sound audible in the quiet of the Ocular. She had not let go of his hand, though she let it drop until their hands were linked between them. She stroked the chipped knuckles again with her other hand, and the Exarch bit his lip to keep from gasping. He could not take much more of her touch on him!
“You really don’t take care of yourself, do you,” said the Warrior of Light, a hint of affection in her voice. “I’ll have to help you change that.”
She walked even closer to him, until they were mere ilms apart, and he could feel the heat of her body through her armor and clothing. The Exarch was now visibly shaking at her closeness to him, unable to stop. He turned his head to the side, unable to bear her look of affectionate concern any longer, lest he become lost in her eyes once more, and do something he would regret.
“You’re shaking, Exarch,” she said, and stroked his crystalline hand again. He took a shaky breath.
“Y-y-yes, I am,” he replied.
“Does it hurt?” she asked him, and he shook his head as well as he could while facing away from her.
“It is not pain that’s causing me to shake,” he said softly, feeling unburdened with the honest comment, and Tetri gripped his hand tighter.
“I--I’m sorry, Exarch,” she replied, “I shouldn’t have grabbed you like that. Not without asking you. I know that you’re wary of being touched, but--I got worried you were injured.”
She moved to let go of his hand, but he turned his palm upwards, linking his hand with hers so that she was unable to let go of him completely, feeling the metal of her gauntlet bite into his crystalline skin.
“It’s alright,” he said quietly, looking askance at their linked palms. “I--I liked it. I liked that you were worried about me.”
He hadn’t meant to say it, but now that he had, he didn’t want to take the words back. It was like Tetri’s touch upon his skin was unlocking the deepest yearning of his heart, cutting through his emotional defenses and subterfuge like they were made of paper.
“I’m sorry, too, Tetri,” he said, and dared to look up at her. Her face was uncharacteristically unguarded, a soft, vulnerable look on her face as she gazed at him.
“I’m sorry for all of this,” the Exarch continued. “Our world needed you, you and your friends. I needed you. I know this war was not your choice, that I've caused you more trouble when that was the last thing you needed, after everything that you had experienced back in the Source. I can only beg for your forgiveness, for any slights against you that I’ve committed, no matter what those may be. I promise you, I will do all I can to make this right.”
Tetri nodded at him, smiling gently.
“Thank you, Exarch,” she replied. “I know you will. Apology accepted, and all that. I apologize if I’ve been...distant from you. I’m finding it difficult to trust, especially when I feel like secrets are being kept from me. And you are one of the most mysterious people I've ever met.”
“I will consider that a compliment, Warrior of Light,” he said, and was rewarded with her laughter.
“Good, it was meant to be,” she said, chuckling. “But seriously, Exarch...if we’re going to win this war, we need to work together. Please don’t feel like you need to keep things from me.”
“I...will try, Tetri,” he replied. “That is all I can say. I wish I could promise more, but as you said, this is a war. Leaders must decide which information to share, and which to strategically withhold, until the time is right. I know you can understand that. I just ask for your patience. I will reveal all that I know to you, and the Scions, in due time.”
Tetri pursed her lips in annoyance, her displeasure plain, but she nodded, squeezing his hand.
“I suppose that will need to be enough, for now,” she said. “I must go, Exarch. I am already late to the Imperative, I expected to leave half a bell ago. Please, take care of yourself as best you can, in the meantime. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”
“I will, Tetri,” he said, and moved to pull his hand from hers, but she held him fast. He watched in slow motion, his breath caught in his chest, as Tetri raised his crystal hand to her lips. With agonizing slowness, she pressed a gentle kiss on the chipped part of his knuckles. The Exarch trembled at the contact, and just as he did so, a flash of light formed in his mind’s eye. He felt the aberrant energy caused by the earlier moment of novelty shift. In his mind’s eye he saw the novelty entwining itself into the threads of spacetime binding him and the Warrior of Light together, visible as strings of light, filaments of potentiality that were rapidly solidifying to his magical senses, merging into reality, becoming fated to occur in the timeline he was creating!
It’s us, he said, breathing shakily as Tetri finally pulled away and let go. The moment of novelty was our locations in spacetime merging together, a direct intertwining of destinies! What had changed in the timeline was them. There was a confluence between them, now, binding them together on a temporal level. He reached out with his magic and saw that the shift had fully evaporated, crystalizing into a future that had both Miqo’te inexorably linked, visible in his mind’s eye as a shimmering blue strand of soul aether connecting them both together.
Seven Hells, the Exarch thought as the Warrior of Light gave him a final wave and a bright smile, before running out the doors to the Ocular. He watched the great crystal and brass doors slam shut, leaving him alone once more. Only this time, his heart was racing with excitement, for he knew there was a deeper meaning to the arcane powers now binding him and Tetri together. The topic of confluences was one of the first elements of Allagan time magic he had studied, in preparation of implementing his plan of restarting the timeline and avoiding the Eighth Umbral Calamity. Every individual had their own location in the fabric of spacetime, leaving a sort of imprint caused by the resonance of their soul aether. A mage who used time magic, like the Crystal Exarch, could see these resonances, and could measure their path in their mind’s eye, able to see influences on one’s possible destiny. Normally, an individual progressed forward in linear time, with their resonance appearing in a straight line, and regardless of friends or family, this did not change.
A confluence, however, was a merging of individual resonances in spacetime: a definite merging of destinies, where a person’s path forward in time became locked with another’s, unable to be removed or altered. At a greater scale, with millions of individuals locked together in deliberate temporal spellcraft, entire civilizations could be nurtured, created, or destroyed with such magics. The time mages of Allag, seeing the potential for abuse by their Emperor, who had owned plenty of destructive magics already, had secreted away this knowledge in their libraries, the few tomes of which had survived the fall of their civilization and made their way into the tower, and subsequently into the Crystal Exarch’s hands.
On a large scale, confluences were not ideal, but for individuals, a confluence normally arose out of two possibilities: two people becoming spouses...or two people becoming lovers.
The Crystal Exarch’s future belonged to Tetri, and hers belonged to the Exarch.
She just didn’t know it yet.
For the first time in two centuries, the Exarch had no idea what to do.
Thank you for reading!
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