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Half a year had passed in a flash and with each passing day the Stormlands felt more and more like home to Arya. The North would always be her true home. Winterfell would always be the seat of her father's house, the place that would forever hold her heart. At least it is what she made herself believe. In spite of it all she had yet to return back home. All these weeks she had spent at Storm's End, falling asleep next to Gendry, waking up next to Gendry. Always telling herself that she would leave eventually and always delaying this departure. Gendry never asked. She knew he was content that she was staying so long and scared that she would leave one day. Yet he never bothered to ask and Arya appreciated it. It was some kind of unspoken agreement between the two. He would not ask when she would leave and she would not say that she would go. Instead they were living in the present, cherishing and loving each other in a tacit consent.

After each time that Gendry told her that he loved her, Arya had believed him more and more. And one day she had realised that Gendry felt like home. It was not the Stormlands, which she too had come to like, but it was waking up next to the man that made her feel like home. He was the soothing force behind her. He gave her strength and peace and reassurance. She felt calm with him. Accepted and loved. He was familiar, he was warm, he was her sanctuary amongst all the chaos.
Arya had long since stopped thinking continuously about revenge. She had stopped thinking about Cersei albeit she remembered that she had sworn to herself to kill her. All these nights she had been listening to Gendry, who had never stopped to mollify her, to mitigate the pain and ease off the anger and the wrath. She had listened to his words. She had felt his arms around her and his breath on her skin, when he had sworn to love her and to revere her until his final breath of life. Despite the fear she had believed his words. She felt the wounds in her soul gradually healing. It was Gendry who had helped her. Through him she had discovered that she was not broken beyond repair. Gendry complemented her. And Arya knew that she was complementing him. Gendry felt like home. He was her home and she was unwilling to leave him. He had been the one to mend her, to support her and to be by her side ever since she had returned to Westeros.

The realisation felt strange to her and at first she was reluctant to accept her change of heart. Nevertheless she was less averse to the thought than she had believed she would be. She knew it was what Gendry wanted and although she had opposed it all along, she had decided that she wanted it for herself, as well.

So one night she took him by his hand and led him to the godswood of Storm's End. She led him beneath the heart tree, never letting go of his hand. The weirwood tree was young and without a face but it was a heart tree all the same. It would suffice. Snowflakes were falling softly on the naked branches of the young trees. The pale moonlight the only source of light.

Arya watched the change in Gendry's facial expression when realisation finally hit him and she felt a tug at her heartstrings when she saw the love and thankfulness inside his eyes. It only served to reassure her in her decision.

“Who comes before the Old Gods this night?”, she began the ceremony. “Arya, of the House Stark, comes here to be wed. A woman grown, true-born and noble. She comes to beg the blessing of the Gods. Who comes to claim her?”

Gendry took one step closer to her and took her other hand into his before he answered, his voice thick with emotion. “Gendry, of House Baratheon. Do you take me, Arya of House Stark?”

Her father could not be there and no one else to present her, thus shortening the custom. It did not matter, Arya liked it better this way. No one there but the two of them. She did not need witnesses. No witnesses but for the old gods. She did not need a bridal gown. No wedding feast and guests and music. She was with him and it was all that mattered.

“I take this man,” Arya finally said and the ceremony was done. She was his wife now. Her name was Arya Baratheon, although she would always be a Stark.

“Arya,” Gendry breathed and took her face into his hands. He stared at her as if he had been starving all along and his hunger now had finally appeased. As if he had been a dying man and now had finally found salvation.

“And what comes after the wedding?”, Arya asked cheekily, before she put her arms around Gendry's neck and pressed herself against his body. My husband, she thought. It would take a while to get accustomed to the sound of it. Contrary to her expectations she felt good. Happy and almost light-headed.

Gendry then too wrapped his arms around her slender frame and placed a strong and firm kiss on her lips before he grinned into their kiss. “I would not want to miss out on that, m'lady.”

Gendry woke up with the first rays of dawn shining faintly through the golden curtains. He got up from the bed, carefully not to wake Arya who was still fast asleep beside him, and went to the window to greet the new day.

The black clouds had drifted away leaving a clear blue sky and the scent of wet soil was filling the air, giving Gendry a dream of spring.

He looked back to the bed where Arya was lying sprawled out, her hair a furious mess of tangled wisps. She looked calm, her face serene and pure. Her lips were parted slightly. He wished they could forever stay like this. He wished he could wake up every day to this face, to her warm body next to his. If only she would agree to marry him.

A few days ago he had taken her maidenhead and saying he did not regret it would make him a liar. Arya deserved better than this. Even if she did not see it that way, she was still a highborn lady. The daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, who had been Hand of the King. And Gendry, who was born a bastard, had lain with her out of wedlock, mayhaps filling her with a bastard of his own.

Then again lying with her had been the greatest pleasure he had ever experienced in his life. Sinking into her soft warm flesh, linking their hungry bodies, giving in into each other's desires.

He could not imagine being closer to anybody else, to share the same proximity he had shared with Arya. He knew it was her. So long as he was existing it would always be Arya.

Gendry envisioned the moment he was lying on top of her, when her grey stormy eyes were staring back at him. Their vividness would always fill him with euphory, with love, with lust, with vitality and with a sense of home.

He wanted her as his wife, as his lady of Storm's End. He wanted her to be the wolf of the Stormlands, the mother of his children. He could not help but imagine it. A girl with brown hair and blue eyes, wild and fearless like her mother. A boy with black hair and grey eyes, the wolf who would be his heir. He yearned so much for this idea, that he felt a clenching pain in his chest.

He had yet to express his wish, out of fear of being too greedy, out of fear of scaring her away and losing her for good. But the past few days had been the best of his life and with each new happy memory he was creating with her, the fantasies of what might be one day were increasing.

Arya stirred in her sleep and Gendry knew she was going to wake up soon. He sat next to her on the bed and savoured the last moments of her tranquillity, indulging himself in his visions of a future with her.

Her eyes opened slowly and as she caught sight of him her lips formed into a smile. Gendry felt the pain inside his chest yielding to a growing warmth as he saw her smiling so carefree. Last night she had told him of her experiences in Braavos. She had told him of everything she had done.

He could not deny that listening to the extent of her actions had shocked him. It was beyond belief how much blood were on her small delicate hands. How much her silver eyes had seen.

But he had loved her all the same, if not more for she had finally decided to trust in him. Whatever Arya would do, Gendry would love her, of that he was certain.

“Good morning,“ he said and brought the palm of her hand to his lips.

“Good morning,“ Arya replied, her voice still drowsy from the sleep. “Why are you up already?“

“I just woke up myself. The weather's nice today. I can show you the castle, the bay, the forest. We could ride out later if you want to.”

Arya scrunched her nose and reached for Gendry to draw him to the bed again. “Come back here,” she purred. “It's still early. There's plenty of time for riding out later. Until then I'd rather stay here with you.“

“If that's what m'lady wishes who am I to refuse her?”, he pulled away the bedcovers and lay himself down next to her. Arya giggled as he placed kisses on her neck. She was ticklish there and he adored the sound of her giggles, so he did not bother to stop.

“Why are you still calling me that?”, she asked with much less indignation than usually. “Would a lady lie with you out of wedlock?“

Gendry did not care if she acted like a lady or not. She would always be a lady for him, the highest of all. He considered calling her his lady as his own sweet prerogative. Calling her that made him feel blissful and proud. He kept it as his secret though and let his hands wander over her hips. She bit her lower lip and looked at him through her lashes, while she traced her fingertips over his chest.  Whatever duties he had could be delayed for another hour, Gendry decided.


The two of them had broken their fast and went to the courtyard. It did not seem like it would rain for another few hours and Gendry planned to show Arya around. He wished to show her the place where he lived. The place where she would hopefully stay.

Around them he heard raised voices and he realised that men had come to Storm's End. He recognised one of them as his castellan and went to greet him with Arya following behind.

“Davos,” Gendry said. He had not expected Davos to return for another few days. His early return made him feel nervous. Before Gendry could proceed to ask whether Ser Davos' assignment had been successful, a young man with black hair appeared next to Davos. He was staring past Gendry, his distinctive blue eyes fixed on the castle. The famous ears of House Florent and his sharp facial features were unmistakeable. From Arya's look he could tell that she too had recognised the boy for who he was. “You must be Edric then,” Gendry addressed him. “I am glad that you decided to go with Davos. I am Gendry, your half-brother.” It was odd looking at him. The mouth was the same as his, the nose as well. But the eyes were what really intrigued Gendry. It was as if his own eyes were staring back at him.

“I know who you are,” Edric finally said. Gendry flinched slightly with the sharpness of Edric's voice albeit he had suspected that their first encounter would not be easy.

“We sailed to Lys, as you instructed us to do, my Lord,” Davos began to explain. He laid his left hand on Edric's shoulder as if to soothe him. The tension left Edric's body and Gendry realised that he trusted Davos. “I knew where he was hiding and he and his protectors recognised me. They were aware of what has been happening the past few years. I told Edric that Lord Gendry, his brother, wished for him to return to Westeros, where he shall henceforth carry the name 'Baratheon'.”

“My words were true. You shall be legitimised, such as our sister Mya has been,” Gendry took another step towards his brother and offered his hand for a shake. To his surprise Edric accepted. “You're free to go wherever you want to but I welcome you to live here in Storm's End with us. You may take a wife if you like, whenever you like. You're not forced to stay but know that I bid you welcome here as a Baratheon, as my brother and my heir until I have sons of my own.”

Edric nodded and looked around the courtyard, an inscrutable expression on his face. “I grew up here, you know,” Edric began. “I've spent my childhood here in Storm's End, until Stannis came. Until Stannis and his witch killed my uncle Renly, who fostered me. Until they killed Ser Penrose. Until they took me, this castle was my home.”

Gendry pursed his lips, unsure of what to say. He had expected Edric to be discontented and angry that Gendry, the baseborn bastard that he was, was now Lord of Storm's End. He understood his resentment. Edric was, after all,  the one that had been acknowledged by their father. His mother had been highborn, as well. He was the one to grow up among nobles. He should be the Lord of Storm's End.

“So?”, Arya interjected before Gendry was able to reply. “The Lannisters had tried to kill Gendry, too. He survived. He fought, at the Riverlands, at the Wall, at Winterfell, while you were hiding in Lys. You're no better than him, just because you were wearing silk since you were little. Stannis decided to make him Lord of Storm's End. Also he's older than you.” Gendry had to restrain himself from kissing her in front of everybody. He took her hand in his instead, squeezing it to show his gratitude.

Edric glared at her but turned his eyes to Gendry when he replied. “I don't want to challenge you for your right as lord. I acknowledge you as my older brother and my Lord of Storm's End.”

“You must be Lady Arya then,” Davos said and bowed his head to her. “I apologise for not greeting you earlier my Lady. I am Ser Davos, Lord Baratheon's castellan.”

“Good to meet you, Ser Davos. I've heard a lot about you from Gendry. Jon also told me, that you were the one to go look for my brother Rickon.”

“At Skagos, yes. I could not find him, but I hear he has returned to Winterfell safely.”

She smiled then and Gendry realised that Davos had won Arya's favour. “That he has. The Starks are back in Winterfell.”

“Is she your betrothed?”, Edric interrupted their conversation and beside him Gendry saw Arya rolling her eyes.

“No. She is... Well,” Gendry cleared his throat. “This is Arya Stark of Winterfell and my friend. We fled King's Landing together when the Gold Cloaks were sent after me.”

It was apparent that Edric did not believe that Arya was a mere friend to him. It was apparent to anyone. However, he was thankful that Edric did not comment any further. Only Davos looked at the two of them, at their entwined hands, with a satisfied smile on his lips.

“Davos tells me that Shireen is Lady of Dragon Stone now. I want to visit my cousin soon. I've missed her,” as soon as he brought up Shireen, Edric's features softened. Gendry remembered that Shireen too had spoken fondly of Edric. They had spent some time together as children and despite their different nature Shireen had seen Edric as her brother.

Gendry nodded. “Of course. She sometimes visits here and you are free to visit her whenever you like.” Edric thanked him and gave a small smile. Involuntarily he smiled back at his little brother. He could not deny the joy of having kin inside his castle. Perhaps it won't be so difficult, he thought. Perhaps we'll be true brothers one day. “I hope Alester did well?”, Gendry asked Davos.

“He did, my Lord. He was very excited to see one of the free cities. He also did really well on the ship, although he told me he preferred the life of a knight to the one of a sailor. He's still at the harbour. Helping with the ships.”

“He admires you a lot,” Edric chimed in. “I taught him playing cyvasse on the ship. He would not stop talking about you.”

“Cyvasse?”, Gendry asked with surprise. “The boy learned to play it? I'm amazed.”

“He's smart, my Lord,” Davos said.

“Will you teach me, as well, Edric?”

Edric smiled again, less distant than the first time. “Of course.”

“You must be hungry and tired,” Gendry said as it occurred to him. “We have prepared your chamber. It's bigger than your old one. Will you show Edric to his room, Davos?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

Edric thanked him again and they left Gendry and Arya alone in the courtyard.


“Who is Alester?” Arya asked.

“He's my squire. Why? Did you fear I had a son?”

“No. You told me you had no other woman before me,” she watched as Edric and Davos entered the tower.“He's nothing like you. He shares your looks, but he seems different than you. I hope that he stays truthful to his words.”

“I believe you intimidated him enough to refrain from doing otherwise. By the way, thank you for that,” Gendry kissed her then. If only on the cheek. He still remained reluctant to show his affections openly. He did not want to disgrace her, even though he knew that Arya did not care about that. “I'm happy that he's here now. It feels strange though. Having a family I mean.”

“You'll get used to it.”

Her sanguinity made him chuckle. He offered her his arm which, to his surprise, she took for a change and they began walking around. Most of Storm's End was contained in the huge drum tower, however there were locations which could only be reached from the courtyard. He wanted to walk up the battlements with her, to show her the view over the Stormlands and the sea. Even after years the sight did not cease to captivate Gendry. He was sure that Arya would like it, as well.

“You remember when you said that you could be my family?”, Gendry smiled at the memory and the image of her scrawny and dishevelled appearance. “At the Hollow Hill. When you wanted me to smith for your brother.”

“I remember. And I'm also aware that we'd most likely be dead, if you'd accepted.”

He had never thought of it, but she was probably right. He recalled the way he felt when he thought that he had lost her. He remembered his dread and his anguish when he had believed that Arya was gone. But for once the gods had been merciful. She was alive. And she was here with him. “I might have a family now. Siblings and cousins. But you're more family to me than they could ever be, Arya.”

Arya suddenly stopped walking and furrowed her brows. She was staring at the small copse surrounded by walls. “That's a godswood. You told me it was burned down.”

“It was Stannis' doing, yes.” He followed her when she entered the sacred site. It was nothing like the godswood of Winterfell. It would take many years before the trees would grow tall enough to loom over the walls. Solely the weirwood tree with his red crown was visible from outside. As Gendry had ordered a heart tree was brought from the Isle of Faces and planted at the centre of the grove a few weeks ago. However, it was one that had no face carved in yet.

“You rebuilt it”, Arya stated. It was not a question but a conclusion. She stared at him with astonishment in her eyes. The disbelief and glee pictured on her face were endearing and as a response Gendry cupped her face in his hands and lowered his head to kiss her. Arya's lips immediately responded turning his chaste kiss into a demanding and fervid one. Her hands wandered over his chest, to the back of his neck and she pressed her body against him. When Gendry broke their kiss, he encased her small frame into an embrace. It pleased him to know that the godswood had made Arya happy. “Let's go away, Gendry,“ Arya murmured against his chest and put her arms around him as well. She turned her eyes up to meet his. “Let's leave Westeros. I want to go away with you. We could travel the Free Cities. I could show you Braavos. Show you the places where I spent these last years. We could travel across the red desert, to Yunkai, Meereen and Astapor. I want to see Valyria, I want to see Asshai. We could even travel to Sothoryos. We could take a ship and travel all the seas. There's so much more to see than plain Westeros. Let us leave, Gendry. Let us leave and go somewhere, where it's just you and me. Arya and Gendry. No lords and ladies, no titles and no castles. We'll be Arya and Gendry. We'll be free.“

Somewhere along her lines Gendry's heart had begun to tighten in his chest. Her words had stirred him up and had filled him with sadness. Gently his fingertips were caressing her cheek and his thumb was tracing along her bottom lip. If only he was able to fulfil her wish. If only he could leave everything behind and go with her. He wished for nothing more than to make her happy, than to spend his life with her in freedom. But they could never leave. She had family here and Gendry now had family, too. The both of them had obligations in this plain land they called home. Not for the first time did he curse his decision to become a lord. Arya would have accepted him as the baseborn bastard that he was. But a part of him knew that he would have never stopped deeming himself unworthy of her. He still did, although his title was the Stormlord. Her grey eyes were boring into his. Expectantly and hopeful.

“I wish I could,“ his voice broke a little. “I wish I could leave with you. But I can't, Arya. I can't just do what I want to do. Not yet. Perhaps one day.“ She huffed and rested her head against his chest where his heart was thumping wildly. “We could still leave, albeit not forever. We can travel, but we need to return,“ he waited before he continued, afraid to ruin the peace with what he wanted to tell her next. “If you would only become my wife, Arya. Davos is my castellan. He will stay while we can travel. Show me Braavos. Let's see Pentos, Volantis, Myr and Lys. It's possible.”

As Gendry anticipated Arya wriggled out of his arms and shot him an indignant look. “Don't you ever tire of discussing this? Why is it so important to you that we marry?”

“I don't want to father bastards, Arya. And don't tell me there is moon tea, I know there is. I want children. I want them with you. But they would be bastards, they would live without any claim.” Arya ignored his words and began to walk away. “Where are you going?”

“Home. To Winterfell.”

Gendry let out a growl, his frustration with her growing beyond all bearing. He grabbed her by the wrist and forced her to stop. “No you're not. You're not going anywhere.”

Arya turned around and stared at him wide-eyed. “What was that?”, she asked incredulous.

Gendry knew that his forcefulness would merely serve to spark her anger. However, he was running out of patience with her demeanour. He could not let her go. Not like this.“You really want to go and pretend that this never happened? You want to leave me and forget about me? Was whatever you told me a lie? Did whatever I tell you not matter to you at all, Arya?”

All at once the anger left her face and she looked to the side, chewing on her bottom lip. “Of course it matters, you stupid.”

“Then why do you want to go, Arya?,” he let go of her wrist and instead intertwined their fingers. She did not protest. “Are you not happy with me here?”

Arya met his gaze again and her lips formed into a sad smile. “I am. But you don't understand. I don't need all this. I don't need a title and gold and silk and featherbeds. Do you remember the song, Gendry? The song Tom Sevenstrings had played?” Of course Gendry remembered. He had brought up the song on the night when he had kissed her for the first time. He remembered every verse of it although Tom had played it only once. He had pictured them many times as the ones the song was talking about. Her as the forest lass and him as her forest love. He thought it funny that the words had become true. “You want to gift me things, that I don't need,” Arya continued. “I want to be with you. I want to be Arya and I want you to be Gendry. I don't want us to be lord and lady. I am here with you, am I not? Why does it matter if we marry or we don't?”

Instead of arguing against her words Gendry pulled her into another embrace and kissed the top of hear head. “Why is it that we always fight whenever we are in a godswood?”

His question made Arya chuckle. “I don't know. Might be because you're so stubborn.”

Her resistance hurt him. It hurt him that she refused to become his wife. It hurt him that she was denying his wish. But he knew that losing her would hurt him even more. He had her here, in his arms, in his castle, in his bed. She had told him she was his. And he was hers. Nothing was more important than Arya, thus he tried to be satisfied with what she was willing to give to him. “I can face everything as long as you're with me,” Gendry whispered into her hair.

“I will go home one day.”

“Just promise me that you will visit. That I will see you again.”

“I promise,” she breathed. A quiet pledge in front of the heart tree. Words that ought to be  the truth. She herself had told him, after all. She had said that no one can tell a lie in front of a heart tree. So he tightened his hold on her and breathed in her smell. She was his and he was hers.

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The mining town of Kirlsa was buzzy and bustling with people from both Aquaria and Airyglyph. Now that peace was concluded between the two kingdoms Kirlsa had once again become a place of trade and negotiations where people of both kingdoms were allowed to roam freely.
Ever since the war with Airyglyph had ended and Nel had returned to her kingdom from her journey with Fayt and the others, the continent of Gaitt had come to realise that the time of unity and cohesion had come. Nel who had seen what others never would be able to see, was thus assigned to operate as a diplomat rather than a spy. And it was such that had brought the crimson blade Nel Zelpher to the mining town that day. As an agent of Aquaria Nel had been ordered to attend a meeting which would take place on that afternoon inside the mansion of Count Woltar. There they would negotiate matters concerning trading prices as well as the fusion of the former Aquarian and Glyphian army.
Treading the path towards the manor of the former captain of the Storm Brigade gave Nel a bitter feeling. She would sit and dine within the walls of her father's murderer. She would dispute and discuss the prosperity of their lands with the man that had taken her father's life. The one who had forbidden Nevelle Zelpher to continue to live. Yet Nel had begun to come to terms with the fact. By now her anger had transformed into wistfulness and as she accepted her duty for the wellbeing of the realm, she realised that her father would have been proud of her. The peace treaty had not turned her father's death into a vain affair. He had fought for his kingdom. Such as Count Woltar and the Glyphian army had fought for theirs. They both had fought for their people to survive and now the fronts had made peace. The important thing was that the bloodshed had ended.

“Lady Nel,” the old man greeted her as she entered the conference room. “I bid you welcome. It is good to see you.”
“Count Woltar,” she nodded to him with a stern expression before she sat down at the round table where several traders from both realms where already seated. After a few pleasantries where exchanged the negotiations began. The traders compromised on new prices for their goods as well as new trade routes. It was shortly before dusk when Nel and Woltar finished their talk concerning the unified army of Graitt. Autumn had long since arrived on the continent of Gaitt, therefore the sun had begun to set early. She discarded the idea of travelling back to Arias before morning.
“Of course you are welcome to stay for the night, Lady Nel,” the Count offered her with a smile.
Although Nel appreciated the gesture to some extent, she preferred not to accept. “That's very generous of you, Lord Woltar. Unfortunately I have already paid for a room in the local inn, thus I fear I have to decline your offer.” It was only half the truth, for she had yet to book a room. The Count made it not obvious whether he noticed her lie or not. He merely replied with a seemingly genuine smile before he bid her farewell.

As Nel proceeded to leave the Count's property she spotted three figures near the entrance gate.
“Now return to your posts, maggots,” she heard a familiar voice hiss at the two soldiers clad in black armour. Although he was wearing trousers, black boots and a coat around his shoulders, Nel was immediately able to recognise the man a few feet in front of her. After all his two-coloured strands of hair and the gauntlet resting on his katana where hard to be confused.
“Nox,” Nel greeted her former ally with one corner of her mouth lifted upwards. “What are you doing here?”
Like Nel Albel had also returned to his kingdom where he continued to serve in a high position within the army. Nevertheless she had not seen him for almost half a year after they had parted ways when their joint mission had ended. As far as she knew he spent his days inside the Kirlsa Training Facility where he trained and prepared the troops.
Albel Nox gave her a sidewards glance before he dismissed the two soldiers. “I have every right to be here. After all I was born in Kirlsa.”
Nel crossed her arms in front of her chest and shifted her weight to the other leg. “As charming as ever I see.”
When she did not receive a further response  from him she let her arms fall to her side again and moved passed the man. “Well, it's good to see you're doing well. I'm heading to the inn. Good evening.”
“Zelpher, wait,” Albel quickly retorted. Nel stopped in her tracks and watched him seemingly pondering on what he was going to say next. A little confused Nel stared at him for a few moments. When she opened her mouth to speak again, Albel beat her to it. “Would you perhaps like to talk?”, he asked looking at a different direction. “If you have time to spare I mean.”
Talk? With Albel the Wicked? His suggestion was truly something unexpected. She was wondering what it was he wanted to talk about. She suddenly became aware of her own wariness and caution towards him. She reminded herself that the man in front of her was no more her enemy. In fact he had become an ally she had grown to trust during battle. A companion with whom she had saved their galaxy. So she relaxed her stance before she shrugged. “Sure. I don't really have anything to do anyway. It's getting dark already wherefore I decided to spend the night here. What did you want to talk about?”
“Not here,” he gestured with his head towards the town. “Let's head to the tavern.”
Although more than confused Nel agreed and the two of them headed to Kirlsa's tavern. Since the temperature was rather low, there were not many people on the streets, easing Nel's mind. It was not forbidden for her to walk side by side with Albel Nox, yet she was cautious to keep any rumours at bay which tended to spread like wildfire within the army.

The two of them reached the inn without having exchanged any words. Inside Albel ordered two mugs of hot cider while Nel chose a table in a corner so that the two would remain as unobserved as possible. Nevertheless the tavern was well attended. The place was filled with laughter and loud voices of the customers. Someone would most likely recognise her sitting there with Albel Nox. Nel tried not to care.
A few tables away she was able to listen to a discussion among Glyphian and Aquarian men disputing which realm offered the better women. Witnessing the cheerful mood Nel once again realised what the peace between the kingdoms was able to achieve. All the sacrifices both sides had made were in the end worthwhile as long as the people continued to live happily with each other and the continent could prosper.
Pleased Nel leant back into her chair and watched Albel approaching her table with the everlasting scowl on his face. He put her mug down in front of her in a brusque manner, spilling some of its contents. He sat down and took a sip from his cider without any indication to start a conversation. Nel began to feel irritated with his behaviour. After all he had asked for her company and now he was sitting in his chair glaring at the evidently drunken men at the table in the middle of the room. One of the men was telling a ribald story making his companions laugh throatily. While Albel was staring at them, Nel studied his features. He looked good. Although his brows were furrowed he seemed far more even-tempered than he used to. To her he seemed to have matured over the time. Until now he had not even call her any names but had treated her with respect. Almost as an equal. When Albel noticed her looking, he turned his gaze at her and narrowed his eyes. “What is it woman?”
At that Nel raised her eyebrows and sighed. Apparently she had made a hasty conclusion. She brought the steaming mug to her lips and drank before she spoke again. “What did you want to talk about, Albel?”
He turned in his seat to face her and cupped his mug with his right hand. His claw remained beneath the wooden table. “So, how are you?”
“Did you honestly drag me here to exchange pleasantries?” Nel snorted. A sound emitted from him reminding her of a growling dog. She tried to conceal her chuckle with another slug.
“I meant to ask how you're getting along with the experiences we've made in... space,” Albel elaborated.
Nel's initial irritation began to fade away as it finally dawned on her why Albel had wanted to talk to her.
Nel was a maiden of Aquaria raised in the belief of Apris. When she initially learned about the fourth dimension and their creator, it had shaken her world. Everything she had believed in until then had been a lie. Her faith was no more than a legend dating back to Elicoor's ancestors. A legend whose sole purpose was to explain their genesis.
Nel had seen it all. She had seen who had made her, the planet, the nature, the stars, everything and everyone she had ever known.
When she began to fathom the fact of her creation, she had felt devastated. Disillusioned. Sobered. She had lost the faith in her religion and yet had to continue living among the ubiquitous religion of Aquaria. She had to continue to live with religious duties and practices. She had to watch her fellow men worshipping statues that were mere tin gods. It had taken months for Nel to comprehend the importance of what she had learned. There were months of questioning her existence and her significance. Although a part of her accepted her world as the so-called third dimension, the world for whose existence she had fought with all her might, she could not prevent the growing doubts that had come with her awakening.
And Albel was the same as her. Although he had never been a devout man, what he had experienced must have made a huge impact on him as well. All this time Nel had secretly yearned to have someone to talk about what she had experienced. To some extent Nel had confided in Clair, but she had refrained from telling her the whole truth of their existence, for she wanted to spare her good friend from what she herself was going through. And after all Clair would never comprehend entirely, since she had not seen what Nel had seen.
Albel must have felt similar to her wherefore he had chosen to call upon her. In a strange way it was not odd of Albel the Wicked to have done so, albeit it certainly seemed unlike him. He and Nel had spent weeks together starting from the taming of the Marquis, where the two of them had become acquainted with each other. They had even shared a room on the alien space ship. During their time together with Fayt and the others they had eventually become trusted allies. A fact that she would have considered a sacrilege just one year prior. Yet when they travelled through the foreign worlds that were hidden in the night sky, he was the same as her. No Glyphian, no Aquarian. They were Elicoorian. Two warriors from an underdeveloped planet. Two outsiders in the midst of strangers. Bound together through fate. Among the stars they were the same.
And now, after everything that has happened, after everything was accomplished and peace had come, they were alone again. It was only the two of them sharing a knowledge unbeknownst to an entire world. A little incredulous Nel smiled to herself at the realisation of the bond between Albel and her. At the resemblance the two of them bore.
“I still try to cope with the knowledge of my existence. To say it was an easy task would make me a liar,” she told him, relieving her soul after months of cogitation.
Albel huffed and remained silent for a while. She watched him bite the inside of his cheek, probably contemplating on his next choice of words. Even though it was his choice to talk to her, she knew  that he must have been reluctant to give voice to his thoughts. “I accepted the fact that I was created,” Albel finally spoke. “Still, there are things that occupy my mind. If everything we know is created, what is true and what is not? The memories I have, are they real or is it how my mind was shaped? My father, I remember him. His face, his voice. I remember the pain I felt when the fire scorched my flesh and bone. When he died instead of me. Was it real? Did my father ever exist or is whatever I remember a mere creation? I can feel pain, I can feel sadness, I can feel wrath. Blood is circulating through my body, I must exist. But when I think, is it me who thinks? Is it of my own free will or is it just the creation Albel Nox, that was made to think what it thinks. This object is me. And yet I feel that I am not me.”
By the time Albel had finished talking Nel was utterly taken aback. For one with the length of Albel's speech. Never had she witnessed him this talkative. Somehow she felt flattered that he had chosen to entrust himself to her. To say she was surprised would have been an understatement. Another thing was what he had said. Nel had known that Albel was a smart man, but for the first time she understood how perceptive and reflective he truly was. He had asked so many questions. So many questions that Nel would never be able to answer. She drank from her by now half-empty mug until it was finished. She locked eyes with Albel, who was looking at her, probably waiting for her to speak again. Before she did so, Nel decided she would need another drink and thus ordered two more mugs from the passing waitress.  
“Everything you said just now are things to which I don't know the answer,” Nel then told him. “But what I know is that you are in front of me. I can see and hear you. You exist inside of my mind and in front of my eyes. To Nel Zelpher Albel Nox does exist.”
Albel chuckled at her reply and also finished his mug. For a while he seemed lost in thought until he spoke again. “I can feel the cider through my joints, the liquid on my tongue. I can smell the stench of those drunken worms inside this room, I can hear their bickering. I can see you. Therefore I must be alive.”
Nel could not suppress a smile as Albel once again had surprised her with his reply. “That's just what I was thinking a while back. I was confused and felt depressed as I was questioning myself for weeks whether I was actually alive. I've seen the stars, I've seen the 'gods' and yet I felt unhappy. But it changed one day. I realised that I felt the warmth of the sun on my face, the breeze upon my skin. I could smell the scent of grass and flowers. And that was when I knew that I was truly alive. Everything had become different. I had become different and also I had not. What really matters is that we're alive.”
Albel smirked at her. Not in a mischievous way as Nel was accustomed to. It rather seemed insightful, sympathetic. His face looked almost gentle to her. She regretted to have ordered the second mug of cider as she watched the waitress arriving at their table. She was already seeing things. And yet there was Albel Nox, still smiling at her.
“Perhaps you're right, Zelpher,” he said as he reached for his fresh mug. “What matters is that we're alive.”

They continued sharing their experiences of the past months and by the time they had finished their second mug, they were reminiscent of their time with Fayt and the others. Soon Nel felt her tongue loosened and her cheeks feeling hot. They had begun to joke and Nel noticed herself laughing much more often than she would have usually done. She was genuinely enjoying Albel's company.
It was not until they had finished their fourth mug, when Nel decided it was time for them to leave. Each paid for their drinks and when Nel got up from the table, she could not ignore the dizziness she was feeling. She tried to keep her composure but still could not help herself but stagger to the entrance, with Albel following behind. He too seemed intoxicated, albeit less than her. Or perhaps he was better in hiding his inebriation.
Outside Nel felt the cold air on her heated face, but she did not feel cold at all. Nightfall had long since come and the streets of the town were empty. She looked left and right, trying to remember the way to the inn.
“I think I'm drunk,” Nel said, pressing the heel of her hand against her temple and started to proceed towards where she thought the inn would be. “I need a bed.”
“I'll lose any respect for you if they found you tomorrow morning frozen to death in some back alley.” Albel's voice was serious, almost sinister. Nel was not able to determine whether he was being sarcastic or not.
“And here I was thinking Albel the Wicked was turning out as nice and kind.”
“Don't insult me, wench,” Albel snarled.
Instead of being offended by the name he called her, Nel merely sniggered. “You always act like this, Albel. Keeping people at arm's length, where in fact...”
Before she was able to finish her sentence he had gripped her lower arms and pulled her towards him. “At arm's length, eh?”
Nel was not able to reply. She stood there, staring into the deep red eyes, that were looking back at hers. Eyes darkened and yet blazing with something she could not explain. She was feeling a giddiness of which she was not sure whether to blame it on her stupor or the proximity.
How long the two of them were looking at each other, she could not tell. His brows were furrowed, giving him a look of uncertainty. Nel subtly raised her chin, a minuscule motion, barely perceptible. The tip of her tongue darted out slightly to lick her bottom lip. A gesture of nervousness, no more. She felt the grip of his hands loosen and wandering up to clasp her upper arms. Before she could register any further movements, she was crashed against his chest, and his mouth pressed upon her lips.
Nel's eyes went wide and her first instinct was to push the man away from her. She placed the palm of her hands against his chest and pushed, but not with enough force for him to sense an earnestness in her action. He did not move at all, his mouth remained locked with hers. Her rigid body soon betrayed her, as it slacked in his grasp and her fingers curled and clung into the fabric of his shirt. Albel seemed to have noticed her giving up the initial struggle, as he pushed her against the nearest wall. He let go of her arms, only to move his right hand behind her neck and bury the fingers into her hair. The other arm sneaked around her waist and held her firmly, so that she could not sidle off. His lips became more demanding, his tongue bidding for entrance as he moved it over her lips. Nel allowed her lips to part and a moan escaped her the moment their tongues met. Their breath was frantic, as were their hands. Roaming, gripping, caressing and clutching in a frenzy.
In the back of her mind, Nel was wondering what she was doing. Pressed against a wall in an alley in Kirlsa she was sharing fervent kisses with Albel Nox. A man who she once had detested. A man who she used to deem as cold and distant, solely capable of feeling fury and bloodlust.
She should be fighting him, and yet there she was, eagerly returning his touch and his kiss. She willingly gave into him, a part of her inculpating the liquor but in sooth content with the happenings. It was the first time Nel was being kissed like this. Her lips had once touched others, but never in this fierce and ardent way. Never had she experienced this fervour, this smouldering feeling within her core. She did not feel the cold as she completely blanked out her surroundings. She did not feel pain, as Albel bit her lip or pulled her hair. She only felt a need, an urge and her body's clamour for more.
As Albel's lips traced Nel's neck and sucked on the delicate skin, she felt a heat pooling in her belly.  She felt a strange sensation of a twinge between her thighs. It was when she unconsciously breathed his name into his ear, when Albel let go of her. He once again stared at her, gasping and in bewilderment. Although the light of the streetlamps was only feeble she could see his darkened eyes. His dilated pupils made them look almost black, like a predator's.
“I can't take anymore, woman. Come with me to the old man's mansion.”
Nel knew what he intended, but she was not sure, whether she did so as well. Kissing was one thing, but lying with her enemy would possibly overstep the mark. She had to remind herself that they were not enemies anymore. They were merely two warriors, both of a high position. Still she was afraid of discrediting herself due to her actions. She was afraid of being seen. Only then she realised that she had been kissing a man in the open street. Silently she was pleading that there had not been any witnesses. She had the chance to back away now. To keep her countenance and forget about what had happened. But in spite of her rational thoughts her body was still kindled and when she pictured herself lying alone in a cold bed that night, her mind had come up with a decision.
“Not the mansion. The inn.”
Despite her grogginess everything inside of Nel strived against the thought of going to Count Woltar's mansion. Albel did not think twice as he grabbed her wrist and pulled her with him, making Nel almost fall over.
“Wait, Albel,” she hissed. “We can't go in together. We can't be seen.”
At that he took of his hooded cloak and handed it over. “Put this on and hide your face. They won't care if I walk in with a woman. Let the maggots gossip on the morrow.”
Nel wondered if he did this a lot. Taking women to inns at night. She noticed a pang in her chest which she could not classify.  Perhaps it was annoyance at the fact, that she was one of many. Perhaps it was even jealousy. She quickly put on the cloak and tried to ignore her thoughts. Luckily the hood reached up to her nose.
They then resumed their way to the inn and Nel remained in the background as Albel paid for a room for the both of them. They impatiently walked up the stairs and as soon as the door was locked behind Albel, they began to kiss and tear off each other's clothes as if they were running out of time. Off went her cloak and her leathern waist belt. They took of their boots and fell onto the bed with Nel beneath him. They only interrupted their kiss when Nel pulled off Albel's shirt.
Before long both of them were left in their small clothes. Albel broke off their kiss and let his eyes wander over her body. Strangely enough the desire she could make out in his eyes made her feel proud. She too took her time to survey his body. He was still lean and slender, yet muscular. Against her bare thigh Nel could feel his tumescence and she felt the teasing insufferable. Her body was begging for release. “Albel,” she breathed once again. He caught her message and quickly released her of her brassiere and her underpants. She still thought it odd lying naked under Albel Nox.
But in that moment she felt as if it was appropriate just this once.
Her moans grew louder with every new sensitive part of her skin he touched. When he looked her in the eyes once more, she knew that he was asking for her approval. She propped herself up on her elbows and searched for his mouth, hoping he would understand her consent. When he finally entered her, she did not feel any pain, only lust. For a brief moment she thought of the Church of Apris and how she defied the laws as she was committing fornication. She did not mind for she did not believe in these laws anymore. She realised that the moment she had stopped being an individual she actually had become an individual. She was free to do whatever she desired, without religious restrictions. She was lying with the man to whom she was bonded through fate and now they were bonded through their bodies. It felt not immoral, it felt not wrong. If anything, she felt that everything was right.
When her long-awaited release came she felt a galvanizing feeling throughout her whole body. Her muscles twitched and she bore her nails into his back and her teeth into his shoulder. Moments later she felt a sticky hotness within her walls and Albel collapsed on top of her.
Both of them were panting and she watched the beads of sweat that had formed on his skin. Nel could not resist but to kiss the tender skin that she had bitten earlier. She felt Albel's arms tighten around her, surprising her with this act of endearment.
“Thank you,” she muttered, not sure what she was to say after the act. Albel looked up at her  with irritation, as if affronted by the thing she had just said. He sneered and wordlessly rolled off of her. He then claimed his side of the bed with his back turned on her. Nel shortly wondered what had gotten into him, but soon got distracted with the returning drunkenness and the sudden fatigue that had befallen her.
She closed her eyes and the last thing she thought before she fell asleep was how she finally felt alive again.
Bonds of Fate (Star Ocean: 3)
Hello people! 
A few days ago I started playing Star Ocean: 3 again and remembered how much I liked Nel Zelpher and Albel Nox and also pictured them as a pair. Thus I looked around for fanfiction of these two and was a little disappointed. I only found a few stories and most of them were cancelled ten years ago. :(
I guess the fandom has long since gone extinct. Nevertheless I decided to write a little oneshot about these two. I don't believe that anybody is going to read this, but it doesn't matter. Writing it was fun.

I hope the story is not too much out of character. I realise that I didn't use a lot of their typical character traits but I felt they were overused. I tried to make them look more mature and grown up. In the end each author somehow forms the characters, whether it's fanfiction or not (a little ironic considering what I actually wrote about in this story).

Nel and Albel were quite philosophic in the story. Perhaps it's out of character but it's how I would think and feel if I were them. I hope the little love scene wasn't too much (although it wasn't explicit I decided to rate it as M). 
I'm not really good at stuff like this, yet I decided to let them hit it off.

I have a few more scenes in mind. Perhaps I shall write another chapter one day.

Thank you to whoever read this.
Hello people!

Although I don't know what the Llama Badges mean, I want to thank you for giving me some. :D I always give the Llamas back, though I have no idea what I'm doing.

  • Listening to: Jeff Buckley
  • Playing: Mass Effect
  • Drinking: Red wine


Ellcyp's Profile Picture
Artist | Hobbyist | Traditional Art
I'm a law student. But I love the arts. I'm drawing, painting and writing. I have also worked on a professional level considering drawing and writing, but that was years ago. I suck and I've no time to focus on my hobbies since law school takes all my time and energy.
I still try sometimes. :)

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loraine95 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2015
Thank you SO MUCH for the watch!  You're fantastic!  Hugs hugs!  Hug 
Ellcyp Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
you're welcome ;) 
zulija Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you SO MUCH for the fav on Shattered Hopes and Memories Ch54
Ellcyp Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hey, no prob. I started reading your story on I haven't come far yet though, I think I'm still within the first game. :) 
Maximko Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2015   Digital Artist
~thanks for watching me :icononiononionplz:
Kivutar Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the fave. c:
Ellcyp Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for your Fanart :)
Chicky--poo Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy birthday~ :party: Hope it's wonderful. x3
Ellcyp Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
heyyy! :)) Thanks yes it was awesome!
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