But safety did not come quickly to Dragonhead; or at least, Lord Haurchefant did not.
Weeks passed, and weeks turned into months, and still no word from the young lord, and precious little news filtered through from Dragonhead, though Emaile snatched up every morsel of rumor that she could on the subject—listening in on a conversation between two patrolling Fortemps knights, or lingering perhaps longer than usual outside The Forgotten Knight. Anywhere that would give her a hint of knowledge.
Apparently the Dravanian scare had been precisely that, but it had spooked enough knights that travel had been limited somewhat to and from Ishgard, to better ensure proper protection for the most important passengers and cargo.
Still, with no impending attack, Emaile wondered at the lack of communication from Haurchefant.
Time and again, her mind would tumble to the words of Ser Drillemont, to the fact she was, in fact, “just one girl” in a sea of potential brides in Coerthas.
But every time, she would shove the thought from her mind as quick as it came. That is not what Lord Haurchefant would say, she would tell herself.
After all, he was a Fortemps. And a Fortemps was as good as his word.
So she waited… but with each day that passed with no word, her days at Dragonhead felt more and more like a passing dream as she woke more and more to her reality in Ishgard: each day dull as the last. Each street always looking the same. The same aimless bustle, the same sideways glances and hidden derisive chuckles at the slightest infringement of etiquette. The same nobles sneering and jeering behind the backs of those they found inferior.
Emaile had chosen to frequent The Forgotten Knight herself now to pick up any scrap of intelligence on the goings-on of Dragonhead. Today had proven yet another dry day for information, and her half-finished mug of spiced mead proclaimed how dry she felt as well.
Not so the nobles across the tavern, among whom sat her father. They spoke in drunken, over-loud voices that they certainly seemed to think were whispers among them.
“Have you heard about Margue de Jonnais?” The ever-pleasant Lord Farofant asked.
“The minor noble who lives down near the Jeweled Crosier?” One of her father’s so-called friends, Lord Marseilles, said as he stared down his empty mug of ale. “Yes, they found a heretic’s rosary in a chest under his bed.”
A grumble of uttered curses. “Stands trial tomorrow,” Lord Farofant continued. “They should throw his two boys in the Vault too; cut out the infection before it spreads to more fools in the lower houses.”
Her father swirled his drink. He’d been silent most of the night. But hearing these words, Emaile knew what was about to happen. She watched as he clapped his mug on the table. “Funny that. Wasn’t he defending that knight from House Haillenarte, the one brought in for questioning last month? Of course a heretic would question Inquisitorial methods…”
Oh no. Father, not now. Not here. Emaile rose from her seat, making her way toward his table. Don’t go after an inquisitor, please…
But of course, he didn’t see her. He kept on speaking, unabashed. “Shame about the knight. Found innocent, but he’ll never swing a sword again. Burns too bad.” He shook his head. “Ah, but at least our inquisitors are thorough in their investigations…”
The other nobles, including her father’s so-called “friends” Marseilles and even Garcon, were already at his proverbial throat, foaming and raving.
“The Inquisitor had every right to get the truth out of him, by any means necessary!”
“How else was he to know the knight was still faithful to the Fury?”
“Don’t you dare besmirch Inquisitor Charibert’s name!”
Her father chuckled darkly, shrugging. “Gentlemen, gentlemen, calm yourselves! I was only making an observation.” His smile vanished as he sullenly returned to his drink.
The other nobles glared… but slowly took their seats again.
And Emaile had reached the table at last. She could see fire still burning in her father’s eyes. If she didn’t intervene now, there was a veritable torrent ready to spout from his lips.
She set a hand on his shoulder. “Father, the shadows grow long. You’re meeting with your chocobo breeder Roch tomorrow, yes?” The meeting was not until the afternoon, but it was the only excuse she could think of to gracefully pull him away while saving face.
Fortunately, it was just enough to break his wrathful attentions and grant him a moment to compose himself. He gathered himself, nodded, and rose from the table with a bow. “By your leave, gentlemen,” was all he offered for a farewell before turning and heading for the stairs to leave.
Emaile smiled and offered a curtsy. “Forgive us for the abrupt farewell, my lords. May the Fury bless your evening,” she said before following her father out of the tavern into the chilly streets.
The temperature did nothing to cool her father’s temper, however. “Charibert,” he grumbled to her under his breath as she took his arm to guide him home, “is a monster in flesh. Everyone knows it. His own apprentices cower under his gaze; one can only wonder what he does to them when no one’s watching.”
“I know, Father.” Emaile shushed him, urging him to lower his voice.
“Yet the Holy See does nothing when every man, woman, and child he interrogates—with no real evidence against them, I might add—returns with burns like they were on the frontlines. Assuming they return at all!”
“I understand, Father.” He was right; Charibert was renowned as the Holy See’s most vicious and cruel Inquisitor. Though details of any interrogation were few, everyone in the city knew of Charibert’s inhumane methods.
“I wonder what they were attempting to hide,” her father murmured under his breath.
She clung to his arm tightly. “Father, please!” she whispered, darting her eyes around. Surely someone would hear. Surely someone would discover.
At last her words seemed to break through his rage. Her father glanced to her, releasing his pent-up frustration with a heavy sigh. Massaging his forehead, he gestured over the rail to Foundation below. “This isn’t the city children are taught it should be, Emaile.” He shook his head, following his gesture. “Those with no coin have no voices. Those with no voices are prey to the corrupt. And anyone the corrupt dislike become heretics. While all others allow by saying nothing at all. This is wrong.”
Emaile frowned. Gently, she took his gesticulating hand, pressing it to her cheek. “But surely there’s a better way to go about seeking the change you desire, Father. Proclaiming it to drinkers at the bar changes nothing.”
Staring into her eyes, her father’s gaze softened. But as he turned to stare down at Foundation, he shook his head. “Perhaps not,” he muttered, “but doing things their way has been less effective still. Someone must do something. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. I’ll stand alone.”
“You don’t mean that,” Emaile insisted as fear quavered in her heart. Don’t you know? Don’t you know that by saying these things, you’re dooming yourself to suffer the same fate, having accomplished nothing?
He turned back to her with a smile, patting her chin. “Emaile,” he whispered, “Ever my even-tempered girl. Of course I must temper my passion with intellect, and I thank you for being my constant reminder of that.” He tapped his temple. “But, on occasion, I do wonder if we in Ishgard are far too much about the smart thing and not nearly enough about the right thing.”
He nodded down below, where they could see children in tattered clothes throwing snowballs. “Their parents are begging not two streets away, I should wager,” her father whispered, “if they have them at all.”
He turned to Emaile, frowning. “It’s the job of any man with power to use it to better those who have none. Power, strength of any kind—it’s meant to be used for others.” He shook his head. “Power used for ourselves instead is no power at all—it is corruption. It is cowardice. And it is tyranny.”
His gaze flicked over her shoulder, to the Pillars beyond her. His gaze hardened. “And while our great and powerful are busy collecting resources and waging wars with enemies real or imagined—” he said, “there are people whose suffering goes completely unnoticed, ignored.”
He lowered his head, closing his eyes. “I can’t do much to help them,” he patted his bad leg, “Fury knows I cannot. But by Her grace, I swear I’ll do what little I can to make their lives better, even if I never live to see the day it helps. I’ll do what I can with what power I’ve been given.”
Emaile watched her father. And despite all the rants she’d heard, all the nobles’ laughs and jeers, all the disapproving stares she’d gotten—more and more with every passing day thanks to her father’s impassioned debates—
She couldn’t be more proud of him.
And she knew she was unworthy of being called his daughter, with convictions he had such as that. One day, she whispered in her heart, a quiet prayer to the Fury, may I have the courage to stand like him.
Her father sighed heavily once more, forcing a smile as he took her hands and squeezed them gently. “Well. I think it’s about time this old drunk wandered home. Would you mind assisting a doddering fool, my dear?”
“You’re no fool, Father,” she whispered as she helped him on his weak side and turned back home.
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