CHAPTER 1—A LADY’S JOURNEY
Emaile slid her long, slender finger along the edge of the carriage curtain, drawing it aside to peer out the back of the chocobo-drawn carriage at the snowcapped valleys of lower Coerthas. Her warm breath puffed from her small nose into the cold air like the smoke of a dragon.
She was no stranger to the cold: plenty of that in the sky-piercing towers of Ishgard. But she still found the sight of all this snow surprising; she’d been told these lands had once been green and bright. Not so after the Calamity. Though it hadn’t only been the Coerthas Highlands that had suffered.
Emaile closed her eyes, enjoying the crisp air thanks to her warm furs; she’d packed well for this extended stay at Camp Dragonhead. Snowflakes drifted onto her eyelashes and her short brown hair, melting from the warmth.
Her body told her she was in cold Coerthas, but in her mind’s eye, she was far away from snow: in the southern regions of Eorzea, where the lands were still hot and green. What she wouldn’t give to see it all: the forests of Gridania. The sweltering dunes of Thanalan. The ocean roaring against the city of Limsa Lominsa. The towering chunks of distorted crystal that littered the landscape, remnants of the terrible war that had claimed so many Eorzean lives. And all the other things she so adored reading about in her precious spare time.
How silly of her to think she’d be reading during the trip, just because of a little snow. She was far too excited to finally see something beyond Ishgard’s walls, even if it was just snowy hilltops and bare trees.
And she’d have these and more for two blessed fortnights with Lord Haurchefant.
Haurchefant. She’d heard many rumors about the man but knew little about him. Eccentric, the rumors said: apparently a common quality of men stationed on the frontlines.
Though she supposed she would be too, were she forced to fight dragons day after day.
Lord Haurchefant was master of Dragonhead, Coerthas’s easternmost military camp. It, along with the fortress Whitebrim Front, sat on the border between Coerthas and the rest of Eorzea, in an area as equally likely to be assailed by dragons, the bird-like Ixali from the northeast, or in times before the Calamity, the Garlean Empire from the south.
Its master Haurchefant was also the illegitimate son of Count Edmont, head of House Fortemps—Yes, the Fortemps, one of the four founding High Houses of Ishgard.
Were a match between her and him to succeed, it would grant Emaile’s father status the Retois family had never yet achieved. So venturing to meet an eccentric illegitimate son on the snowy peaks of a military fortress was as nothing to Emaile.
It also did not hurt that it involved her first adventure outside Ishgard’s walls.
Emaile dropped the curtain and settled back in her seat, drumming her fingers on the book resting in her lap. She smoothed her skirts… and smoothed… and smoothed. Despite the cold, her hands felt clammy.
Anxiety? How silly. This was nothing more than an informal meeting. An introduction.
But… She caught a handful of fabric and twisted it in her fist. What if he doesn’t like me? It’d certainly make for an awkward visit. But she’d find a way to make the best of it. Deep breath… she reminded herself.
The groomsman called out, and the carriage came to a sudden stop—shaking her out of her thoughts and into a new realm of anxiety.
“We’ve arrived, m’lady!” came the fated call.
Deep breath… She inhaled through her nose. Exhaled the sharp, cold air from her pink lips. Released the balled-up fabric of her skirt and stood.
She drew the carriage curtain aside again, sweeping her skirts up in one hand and laying her book carefully on the bench as she alighted from the cart.
|Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn / 2013-2020|
Three figures stood in the open gateway of the mighty castle: one a Hyurian servant-woman in quaint attire; one a stalwart-looking soldier; and one a handsome albeit world-weary Elezen man in chainmail with the poise of a lord.
“Lady Emaile!” greeted the handsome man with a warm smile and a gracious bow. “Allow me the pleasure of welcoming you to Camp Dragonhead.” He straightened, extending his hand as their gazes met. She’d known almost nothing about him. Had come with almost no expectations. Yet the look in his eyes still managed to startle her: such an air of knowing mystery and glint of…
“I am Lord Haurchefant,” he said, “your humble host.” He offered her a charming smile.
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