Title: Storms and Waves
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII
Spoilers/Warnings: AU Pairing: Seiftis
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII or its characters.Summery: A lost princess, a knight without a lady, intrigue, and a quest to return home.
Storms and Waves
Storms and Waves
Seifer paced. He couldn't help it. He absolutely hated this. What he wanted to do was storm into Oriana Carrente's rooms and demand that she produce Quistis. That probably wouldn't work, and it could put Quistis in more danger, but that didn't prevent Seifer from wanted to do something. But he didn't know what Oriana had done with Quistis, and this was a battle he probably could not win by force. This was more of a battle of wits and cunning.
And Seifer had to admit that it was not perhaps his best arena. Matron watched him with concern. They had not told anyone else about this yet for several reasons. For one, Seifer could not prove much of it without Quistis present, and given that Quistis being alive at all was likely to be a rather emotional subject for the Galbadian royals, it seemed prudent to try and get Quistis back before bringing in Rinoa and the others.
The message from Oriana had arrived just before the evening meal. Her demands were simple enough. She wanted him to marry Aurelia Carrente. In return, Quistis would be "safe". Though there were no details on just what that safety would mean. At the very least though, it was clear from Oriana's message that she had no idea that Seifer knew who Quisty Trepe really was. That would at least offer Quistis some protection. Seifer had the feeling that Oriana would have a very different reaction if she knew that Seifer was well aware of Quistis' identity. The woman could be tried for a number of crimes due to what she'd done to Quistis, and the fact that Quistis herself was royalty made one of those crimes treason.
"Seifer," Matron's voice made him pause.
He turned to her. "Matron?"
"You're wearing yourself out, Seifer. You won't do your lady any good that way. Sit. We need to discuss our options here."
With a sigh he slumped into a chair. Matron met his eyes with a steady gaze.
"You said that Quistis could reach some of her magic."
"When we were in physical contact. Yes."
Edea nodded. "That's good actually. What we need to do is get the two of you in the same room. With the two of you together, I can disrupt the gaes spell at least temporarily if not permanently. From what you've told me, Oriana is not going to bring Quistis any place where she could be easily noticed or that she could escape from. And she certainly isn't going to want me around. I should ask, does your Quistis seem to have any affinities at all?"
It wasn't a surprising question. Most sorceresses had some sort of affinity. But he'd never really seen Quistis work magic, and the only thing he could think of was the fact that she was always drawn to the sea. That didn't necessarily have anything to do with her magic though.
"I don't know."
"Pity." Edea pursed her lips. "Well, that's one thing we can't use. Now, what sort of reply do you think we need to make to get them to bring Quistis with them when you meet, and what are they expecting from you? I'd like to surprise them at least."
They spent several hours making and discarding any number of plans. This was a battlefield that Seifer was not familiar with, but at least the act of making battle plans was familiar. And focusing on that kept his mind from completely running wild with thoughts of what the Carrentes might have done to Quistis in the meantime. The biggest problem was one of timing. Matron needed some time to put together a few things, and Seifer did not want this to wait too long. For one thing, he was afraid that if he waited too long, the Carrentes might decide that he wasn't that interested in Quistis and do something else with her.
Matron's gentle voice made him look up. She caught his eyes, holding his gaze with her own.
"We will get her back. It just may take some time. Now write the note."
He nodded and sat down at the table. It took Seifer several drafts before he came up with something that both he and Matron agreed would do the trick. It was sent off to Oriana via a page, and all that was left was to wait for the appointed time. The gist of the note had been that Seifer wanted both to hash out the details of the deal in person and to see Quisty in person to assure that she was unharmed. He had set up the meeting for this evening; Seifer hadn't wanted to wait any longer than that. Besides, there was something about the timing that felt right. It was more of a gut feeling than anything else, but Seifer was going to trust it.
So after being ordered by Matron to stop pacing, Seifer found himself perched in one of the windows, watching as a storm rolled it. It looked like it was going to be a bad one, but Seifer couldn't bring himself to care. The storm fit his mood. Watching it approach was a decent enough distraction from waiting. Matron had disappeared back to her own rooms; she had wanted to prepare a few things. Seifer didn't entirely know what she had planned, but he trusted to her to have some sort of plan. It wasn't long before lightening and thunder could be seen and heard. A downpour started soon after. Seifer stared out the window, not really seeing what was in front of him.
Matron had returned. She held something in her hands.
"These will have to do for now. What we really need to do is get the two of you together long enough to properly form your bond. Once that bond is sealed, I'm not sure anything could really separate you. It will definitely disrupt her gaes to some extent. It could possibly completely break it as well." She held out a pair of simple pendants, struck on silk cords. "Shielding spells. Between those and you two in physical contact, it should disrupt things long enough to get her away from the Carrentes. I don't know enough about the gaes to figure out a permanent shield right now, but once you get her to me, I should be able to put together something more permanent."
"Thank you, Matron." He took the two amulets.
"I want you to be happy, Seifer." She kissed his forehead. "You have an hour before it's time. Get some rest. I think you are going to need your strength."
He sighed. He rather doubted that he was going to get any rest between now and then. Matron gave him a look.
"You won't do anyone any good if you're not at the top of your game. I don't think we're going to get second chances in this."
Seifer sighed again. Matron was right as usual. Still, he had the feeling that this was going to be the longest hour of his life.
Quistis was ready when they came for her. She didn't actually know why they'd come to get her, but she'd made plans of her own. She couldn't stay here. Not when she knew she was going to be used to blackmail Seifer into something. So she had made plans of her own. There just might be a window of opportunity when Oriana's guards came to get her. As long as none of them were Carrentes themselves, they could not use her gaes against her. Which meant if she could get away from them, she would be free for at least a little while. Maybe long enough to do something.
So she waited. It was something she was good at. When she heard the tread of feet outside her little cell, Quistis was ready. She let the two men pull her to her feet and take her out of the room. She let them lead her down the corridors without any resistance. The heavy rain outside the building was not something that Quistis was really expecting; she had heard the sound of rain earlier when it started, but she hadn't realized it was a storm in full force. Not that it really mattered. In fact, in some ways it made things easier for her.
She waited until they were out in the rain, crossing towards the servants' entrance. Then Quistis attacked. Her guards were not expecting that at all. Their surprise worked in her favor. And once Quistis was free of them, she ran. There was not a destination in mind. She just needed to get away and to lose her pursuers. Thankfully, between the fact that she had grown up around this particular palace and she had been working here for the past few weeks, she knew how to disappear amidst the various halls and corridors very well. She did not venture inside the palace though, sticking to the outer walk ways and corridors. A soaking wet servant girl would attack attention inside.
Her plan was to head to the beach. Given the storm that was going on, it was not the safest place to be, but that was its advantage. She knew that bit of coastline well enough to stay out of trouble, and she didn't think that her pursuers would risk it. Once she had lost them, she could make her way inside the palace and find Seifer. The stone of the terrace and stairs down to the beach were slippery, and she slid and nearly lost her balance several times before falling the last few feet to the beach.
Quistis' hands scrabbled at the wet sand as she struggled to her feet. She was bruised, but she couldn't stop now. She could still hear footsteps following her. Taking off across the sand, Quistis kept as far away from the water as possible. The waves were wild and far larger than normal. Spotting a stand of driftwood close to the bluff, Quistis made for it, ducking behind the wood and crouching down to be out of sight. Between the dark from the storm and the wild waves, she did not like that her pursuers would make a through search. With any luck, they would believe she had killed herself.
She didn't know how long she crouched on the cold, wet sand. She knew she had to be completely soaked to the bone, but she could not risk being caught when she tried to make her way back to the palace. Finally, long after the last of the footsteps had disappeared, she carefully crept out of hiding. The beach was empty. Quistis let out a soft sigh of relief and made her way towards the staircase. She was limping and sore all over, but she knew she couldn't give up now. Not when she was close.
It took her far longer than normal to climb up the staircase to the castle. The wind was working against her, and it hurt to move. But Quistis knew if she stopped now, she would never get to her destination. Oriana probably had some way to tell that she was still alive, and that meant there would still be people looking for her. Finally making it the castle, Quistis slipped inside into one of the servants' corridors. She took a moment to catch her breath and tried to make up her mind about what to do next. She could either run, try to get as far away from Oriana as she could and see if that would let her truly escape. Or she could go to Seifer and trust that he had figured out a way to break the gaes and risk failure and being used as a weapon against him.
Her head told her it would be safer to run. To keep going and not look back. It would be safer for Seifer as well. She could not be used against him if Oriana did not have her. Even if she was captured again, it would probably be too late to force Seifer into anything then. But that would also mean giving up Seifer as well. Because if she got cleanly away from Oriana, Quistis did not think it would be safe to come back. At least not until she found a way to break the geas herself. If she ever found a way to do so. Quistis hesitated. Running might be the smart thing to do, but she wasn't sure that she could bring herself to do so. Besides, if she ran, Oriana won.
And Quistis was not willing to let Oriana win this time. So once she caught her breath, she limped towards the Royal Wing. She was shivering now and had to bite her lip in order to keep her teeth from chattering. She was lucky not to run into any other servants. That definitely would have caused questions that she really did not want to answer. Her hand hesitated as she grasped the doorknob to Seifer's suite. She really should knock. She did not even know if he was in there. But she was afraid if she stopped now, she would run. Opening the door, she slipped inside.
Quistis started at the soft voice, her hands scrabbling for the doorknob. But the dark haired women sitting at the table in Seifer's sitting area was one her feet and reaching out for her before Quistis could get the door open.
"What have they done to you, sweetheart? Never mind," she shook her head. "Into the bath with you. You have to be freezing. Seifer should be back soon enough, and we can deal with things then. I'll find something for you to change into. The bath is just through there."
The next thing she knew Quistis had been hustled into the bathtub and was up to her neck in hot water. Seifer's foster mother, because Quistis didn't think that the woman could be anyone else, drifted in and out of the room. She was almost a soothing presence. Almost since while Quistis knew the woman wasn't going to hurt her, she was Seifer's foster mother, and she might very well decide that she did not approve of Quistis as a proper partner for Seifer. She seemed willing to help Quistis now, but that did not mean she approved of Quistis.
Warm and clean and wrapped in a warm robe that smelled like Seifer, Quistis found herself ensconced in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea in her hands. With a warm little fire burning in the hearth beside, Quistis was finally feeling warm. Edea had fussed over her quite a bit, and while Quistis did not exactly feel safe yet, she was no longer on edge and panicking. She was a little disconcerted by just how closely Edea Kramer was studying her. Finally, the older woman just shook her head.
"You look so much like your mother. Except for your eyes. You must have gotten those from your father." The woman sighed. "I wish I could have met him. It's good to know Idalia was happy though.'
Quistis started. "You knew my mother?"
Edea nodded. "We grew up together. When she disappeared, I was the last to give up searching for her. I always believed she was still alive some where."
She opened her mouth to ask another question about her mother when Seifer came storming in the door.
Furious at Oriana's stalling, Seifer practically threw the door to his chambers open. The first thing he saw was Quistis seated by the fire wrapped up in his robe. Without even thinking about, he crossed the room and pulled her into his arms, holding her tight.
"You're safe. I knew she had to be lying." He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I'm not letting you go again."
"Right then," Matron's voice cut through the moment. "We need to get to work on that gaes. Do you still have the talismans?"
He nodded, pulling them out of his pocket.
"Good. Put them on. Now."
It only took a moment to slip the silk cord over Quistis' head. He put the other one on himself. Seifer still wasn't sure why he needed to be shielded as well, but he wasn't going to question Matron on this. She nodded at them.
"Good. I'll have something hot sent up for the two of you. Quistis is clearly exhausted, and she'll need to be rested if we're going to try and break the gaes. With the shielding spells, you two should be fine for at least the evening."
Edea swept out the room before he could even respond to that. Then he was alone with Quistis. She leaned into his embrace, hiding her face against his shoulder.
"I'm all right." Her voice was muffled by his shoulder.
Seifer freed one of his hands so he could tip her face up. It looked like she'd been crying, but her smile was real. He leaned in to kiss her.
"How did you get away?"
Quistis' smile grew. "Oriana's guards aren't very intelligent."
Seifer steered the two of them over towards the couch. He tugged Quistis into his lap. He rather doubted he'd be willing to let her out of arm's reach for awhile. Quistis didn't seem to mind though. She snuggled into his arms and rest her head against his chest. Seifer couldn't think of anything to say. He had questions, yes, and any number of things that he wanted to tell her, but it seemed like none of that was important now. He just wanted to stay here in this little bubble where his Cariad was safe in his arms and they had nothing to worry about. At least for the moment.
Quistis let out a soft little sigh, but before Seifer could ask what was wrong, a servant arrived with a tray bearing dinner. The servant quickly departed, and the two of them separated and settled in to eat. It was a simple meal, a hearty stew and bread, but it was both warm and soothing. Seifer watched almost amused as Quistis practically attacked her food. He wasn't entirely sure what she'd been through since he'd last seen her, but he could tell it had been at least a bit of an ordeal. And the bruises on her skin worried him.
Once the meal was finished, Seifer decided that they weren't going to be able to accomplish anything more tonight. The storm outside was still raging full force, and his lady looked like she was about to fall over.
"Come on, Cariad. Bed time. We'll deal with the rest of this tomorrow."
Without thinking about it, she let him lead her to his bed and crawled in. It didn't take Seifer long to change into a night shirt and join her in bed. Quistis curled up beside him, cuddled up against his side her head resting on his shoulder. He slid his arm around her shoulders and closed his eyes. With his lady snuggled beside him safe and sound, sleep wasn't hard to find.
He woke to Matron standing over him with a worried smile on her face. Quistis was still fast asleep.
"Seifer? I need you to wake up. We haven't got much time.'
Beside him, Quistis began to stir.
"Oriana's changed her plan of attack. We need to start working on the gaes now."
That got his attention. Quistis made a sleepy noise.
He smiled at her and pressed a kiss to her temple. "Wake up, Cariad. We've got to get to work."
She sat up, frowning. "Oriana?"
It didn't take long for the three of them to assembling in the sitting area of the suite. Matron looked at the two of them.
"I don't know quite how complicated this will be. Gaes spells are rare, and I've never heard of a sorceress under one who wasn't already bonded. I am pretty sure that completing the sorceress-knight bond will at least lessen the gaes if not break it all together."
Quistis blinked slightly. "What do we need to do in order to complete this bond?"
Matron smiled. "Actually, it is simple enough. What takes time is having the bond settle between the pair of you. There really are no formalized words or set elements. It is mostly just an acknowledgement between the pair of you of the bond and your acceptance of that. The larger issue is that once the bond is accepted by both of you, it does take some time to, well, set is the best word to describe the process I suppose. And until that happens, you both are rather vulnerable to magical attacks."
Seifer nodded. "Right. Let's get this done, and then you can tell us what Oriana had done now."
He took both of Quistis' hands in his own and calmly met her eyes. He had known that this was coming sooner or later in their future. And he knew what he wanted to say.
"Quistis Cariad Serian, I pledge to you my services as your knight, your sword and shield. You have held my heart safe in your hands, and I pledge to do the same for you. I love you, Cariad, and I will not let you go."
Her grip on his hands tightened as she held his gaze. Quistis voice was soft, and Seifer doubted that anyone save himself could hear it. But it was steady and confident as she spoke.
"You won my trust and gave me back hope. You were the first person in years to actually see me not just the servant who I was supposed to be. You did not steal my heart, Seifer, I gave it to you, and I trust you enough to protect both it and me. And I'm stubborn enough to insist on protecting you just the same."
Seifer really did not know what exactly he was expecting. This was not anything like the time when Ultimecia had had tried to force him to become her knight. But there was a sense of rightness and an awareness of Quistis that had not been there before. A soft startled noise escaped Quistis' lips. Matron sighed softly.
"I would love to let you two bask in this for a while, but we simply do not have time. Quistis, could you take off the shielding talisman please?"
Quistis pulled the pendant over her head and handed it to Matron.
"How do you feel?"
His lady paused a moment before answering. "Better than normal. I can't feel the pressure of the gaes like a normally do, but my magic feels weak and sluggish. I can touch it though."
"Good. That's what I was expecting." Matron smiled. "I don't think you'll be completely free of the gaes' effects until your bond with Seifer is completely formed. Now, about Oriana."
Seifer had a sinking feeling. "What has she done now?"
Matron pursed her lips and looked at him worriedly. I do not completely know. I know that she is bringing a complaint at court today. I think we will need you both there."
Quistis looked pale. "She's going to try and force Seifer to marry Aurelia. She's got something she's going to use to make Uncle Caraway enforce that."
Seifer reached for her hand, holding it tightly. "That's not going to happen. I won't let it."
"I think we can prevent it," Matron said. "I need you both to wash and dress for court. I'll send my maid to help Quistis. Be as quick as possible. I don't think we have much time. If need be, Quistis can join us later, but you have to be there at the start of the court session, Seifer."
As she began to sweep out of the room Matron paused and looked at Quistis.
"Can you tell me your name? Your real name."
Quistis opened her mouth but then shook her head. "No. But I almost could."
Matron sighed. "We'll have to hope that the as your bond sets, you will be able to do more. I don't know how long we can stall today."
Seifer bathed first. He was quicker than she was, and if need be, that way he could leave for court before her. He left the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist.
"Your turn. There's a pair of court dresses hanging up in my closet for you." He leaned in a kissed her. "Don't look so worried, Cariad. Oriana is not going to win this time."
She wished she felt so confident. Not even the luxury of the bathroom could make her stop worrying so much. She had never fought Oriana and won. Her defiances had always been small things, won mostly because Oriana did not know about them. Even her relationship with Seifer had happened mostly because Quistis had managed to keep it a secret until recently. She did not know that she could do this. She was feeling better and freer now. That much was true, but she could not yet speak her true name out loud, and that seemed to be a distinct disadvantage. So she worried her way through her washing. It took some time, despite her efforts to hurry, but she was not about to face the Royal Court without feeling completely clean.
When Quistis left the bathroom, wrapped in Seifer's robe once again, she found Seifer dressed in formal court attire and looking far more imposing than she had ever seen before. But there was a familiar light in his eyes and he smiled when he saw her. He leaned in to kiss her once again.
"I've been summoned, so I have to go. But Matron's maid is here to help you. There's a court dress for you laid out on the bed and some jewelry. It's your mother's. I hope you don't mind." He held her gaze with his. "I love you, Quistis Cariad Serian, and I will never give you up. Remember that."
And with that he was gone, and she was left at the mercy of the maid. The woman was brisk and efficient, and she clearly knew what she was doing. It was just as well. She had frozen when she saw the beautiful dress laid out for her. The court gown was of a pale blue grey silk and was in the latest style. She had to blink back tears when she saw the gold and opal jewelry. She remembered her mother wearing it for the most formal of occasions. Before Quistis really knew what was happening, she found herself wearing the gown and the jewelry, with only her hands bare of any ornament. Her long hair had been dried and combed out straight, falling down past her waist and her mother's diadem sat atop her head. The woman who stared back at her in the mirror looked like a princess save for the expression on her face.
Quistis shook her head in disbelief. Now she could see why Edea had been so reminded of her mother. She had not realized just how much she looked like her mother. Edea's maid smiled at her.
"Now you look like a proper Centran sorceress, miss. No wonder Lady Edea and Sir Seifer were fussed over a proper introduction at court." The woman gave a satisfied nod. "Now, off you go. Sir Seifer was in a flap about making sure that you got to court on time."
The maid flapped a hand at her. Quistis gathered herself and then set off. At least she knew where she was going. She did her best to remember how to walk like a lady. If they were to succeed, she needed to present herself to the Royal Court as a princess, rather than the servant girl she had spent the past years being. It was harder to refute her claims when she looked and acted like a princess as well as claimed to be one. Her fingers crept up to grip the opal pendant that she wore. Her mother's pendant.
Quistis straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. She was Princess Quistis Cariad Serian, and it was about time that she acted like it. She was through with letting Oriana Carrente dictate her life for her, and for the first time in years, Quistis had the ability to fight Oriana in a meaningful way.
Despite all of this, Quistis still hesitated when she came to the doors that lead to the Great Hall. Once she stepped in to that room, there was no going back. Quistis had no doubt that even if she made a discreet entrance, her presence was going to attract attention. But she was more afraid of backing down now. So she slipped into the room doing her best not to attract too much attention. Not yet.
She wished she and Seifer had had a chance to discuss a strategy of some sort. She did not know what Seifer had planned, and he knew this court far better than she did. She did not want to make things more difficult unintentionally. Then again, for all she knew, Seifer expected her to make an unforgettable entrance. She just didn't know.
Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, Quistis did her best to blend in with the crowd as she made her way towards the dais where her uncle and cousin sat. They were not alone on the dais either. Selphie stood at Rinoa's side, looking concerned. A tall man stood behind her, Sir Kinneas if Quistis remembered correctly. Sir Leonhart stood at Rinoa's left, looking stoic and imposing. Seifer stood on the other side of her uncle and slightly in front of him. Seifer did not look relaxed, but he did not look all that defensive either. She took that as a good sign.
It took a little work, but Quistis managed to find a place where she was close to the dais and could see and hear everything, but so she was not standing in front of everything. Nor could she be easily seen by those on the dais which was just as well for Oriana and Aurelia stood there as well. She was not ready for them to see her yet. Oriana was speaking.
"Your Majesty, Sir Almasy has been sneaking around with Lady Aurelia ever since the Summer Court started without so much as a work to her family or any sort of promise on his part. I demand that he formally make an offer for her hand. He has already tarnished her reputation badly enough."
Uncle Caraway gave Seifer a serious look. "Do you deny these accusations, Sir Almasy?"
Seifer shrugged slightly. "I do not deny that I have been seeing a lady without a chaperone or observing proper courting behavior. However, the lady in question is not Lady Aurelia Carrente, and I have every intention of marrying her, though it is true that I have not proposed to my lady as of yet."
"Is there a particular reason for your lack of proposal at this time?" Her uncle wanted to know.
Seifer met the king's gaze steadily. "Yes. There are a few obstacles yet to work out before I can properly ask for her hand, and had I mentioned my intentions earlier, it is very likely I would have scared her off."
"I see." King Caraway steepled his fingers together.
"Lies!" Exclaimed Oriana, who sounded every inch the hysterical matron; Quistis knew it was an act. "You note how he does not give this lady's name or produce her. One of my house magicians has proved a truth potion. I demand that Sir Almasy take and speak the truth. See if his story stays the same then."
Quistis' mind immediately flashed to when she had been bound by the gaes spell. The idea of Seifer anywhere near one of Oriana's magicians or anything they made sent her into a panic. She did not know what the potion that Oriana had might do to Seifer, but she was not about to risk it, and she acted without thinking first.
"There is no need for that," her voice rang out in the room, causing those closest to her to look in her direction. "I am the lady in question."
Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward. The people in between her and the dais moved away as she walked toward it. Quistis had locked eyes with Seifer and was holding his gaze with her own. She was afraid to look at any one else. It would not take much at this point to send her in to a panic. Because once every eye had turned on her, Quistis had realized what she had just done and there was no taking it back. Seifer's eyes were warm and steady, which helped calm her, and the bond between them thrummed with reassurance. Those were the only things that kept her from bolting.
As she stepped on to the dais, there was complete silence in the room.
Seifer had barely arrived in the antechamber where Rinoa's court had gathered before he was set upon by his friends. All of them were concerned, and Seifer finally got a better picture of just why Matron had been in such a flap this morning. Oriana was accusing him of sneaking with Aurelia. She had not outright said that Seifer had been tumbling Oriana, but it was very clearly implied. She was going to force a marriage between the two of them by making a public outcry over Aurelia's ruined reputation and marriagability.
There were, of course, several problems with this plan of Oriana's. One of them was he could truthfully say that he had never spent time alone with Aurelia. Another issue was the fact that if she tried to force him to speak under a truth spell about what he had been doing, the results would be very badly in her favor. There were mages at court capable of casting a truth spell if Oriana insisted on an impartial party rather than Matron or Rinoa, and so either way, he was not all that concerned.
His main concerns about all of this were for Quistis. This was going to be very public and very messy most likely. His lady had been through enough without the added pressure of returning to her home and family with an audience. Seifer had no doubt that there would be quite a bit of uproar over her reappearance. There were going to be people that didn't believe she was who she claimed to be. There were going to be questions and long answers, and she would relay not have any sort of proper homecoming with her family until later. And throughout it all, Quistis was going to have to keep her composure. With the Royal Court, the front that she presented would make a large difference in how she was perceived.
It did not help that Seifer was well aware that his lady was still rather terrified of Oriana Carrente. He could not exactly blame her. The woman had controlled just about every aspect of his Cariad's life for years. And it was clear that she was not above using physical force in order to control Quistis either. She hid it well, but Seifer knew that she was bruised almost head to toe from her recent beating, though he did have the sneaking suspicion that Matron might have cast a slow healing on her. Quistis might be ready to fight her captor, but that did not mean that she was over her fear of the woman. And if Oriana caught on to that, she might be able to use it against Quistis.
As they entered the Great Hall, Seifer scanned the crowd of nobles, looking for his lady. He was fairly certain she would chose to blend in amongst the other nobles as best she could rather than making a grand entrance. He did not spot her immediately, which worried him. While Seifer knew that it took time to dress for court sessions, he would feel better once she was here. He did not like being separated from her, and while he could sense her slightly through their strengthening bond, it was not quite the same as being able to see that she was there in front of him and safe.
And unfortunately, Seifer was not given the opportunity to wait until she arrived before dealing with Countess Oriana Carrente of Aviemore. It seemed that she was not even going to give him the courtesy of letting court get under way before kicking up a fuss. She was going to make this issue the only thing that anyone at court was going to talk about today. Seifer bit back a sigh. But it was a battle he had been willing to take on from the start, so Seifer squared his shoulders and faced it head on.
He was not terribly surprised by the accusations thrown at him by Oriana, thanks to Matron's warnings, and he faced them with cool aplomb. He gave vague answers on purpose. For one thing, he was not going to out Quistis until she was there to speak for himself. For another, Oriana would know who he was talking about, but no one else did, and Seifer wanted Oriana to be very clear just where he stood on the matter, but they really did not need to air all of the dirty laundry publically. Some of that would be happening soon enough.
Oriana's truth potion came as a surprise. Seifer very much doubted that it really a truth potion, and he was not about to drink it until a mage he trusted had verified it was what she claimed it was, but Quistis herself decided to interfere at that point.
"There is no need for that," her voice rang out, calm and clear. "I am the lady in question."
Nearly every eye in the room turned on Quistis, with people craning their heads and jostling for a view of who had spoken. People were openly staring at her. Seifer didn't exactly blame them. Quistis looked every inch the princess she was and every inch the sorceress. At this point, the Galbadian Court knew what her diadem and pendant signified. They were probably all wracking their brains in order to try and figure out who she was. There were not that many sorceresses in the world after all and even fewer young sorceresses. Seifer caught Quistis' gaze and held it. He tried to send reassurance across their bond to sooth the nervousness he saw there.
The crowd parted and there was silence as Quistis walked towards him. Part of it was that everyone was curious as to who could have attracted Seifer's attention like this. But he also was fairly certain that older members of the court were remembering another young sorceress, one who had married Prince Derek all those years ago and whose daughter looked remarkably like her.
Oriana was barely keeping her composure. Her eyes were dark with anger, and Seifer had no doubt that things were about to get ugly.
"And just who are you?" Oriana demanded. "A common trollop dressed up in fancy clothes most likely."
Quistis gave Oriana a look that was cool and disdainful. "We both know that to be untrue, but I will indulge you. Not that it matters one way or the other. Sir Almasy is my knight, and being a sorceress confers its own rank. Especially being a Centran sorceress from the Llewellyn Clan."
And that was when Seifer realized just how dangerous a situation they were in. Quistis was an untrained or barely trained sorceress coming into her full powers for the first time in years in a situation where she would most likely feel threatened. It probably was not a question of if her magic broke out but when. And at this point, Seifer still needed physical contact with Quistis in order to help her control the magic when it broke out. And everyone here knew just how devastating the power of an out of control sorceress could be.
Seifer shifted a little closer to Quistis. Oriana was between them at this point, and he wanted to rectify that before the power that he could feel building. There were some soft murmurs amongst the rest of the nobles. Everyone here had heard of the Llewellyn Clan, though it was commonly believed that the line had died out with the disappearance of Idalia Llewellyn. Then again, the Galbadians had never realized that Princess Idalia was Idalia Llewellyn. Oriana glared at his lady.
"That does not tell us who exactly you are."
Seifer could see what Oriana was trying to do. She was trying to goad Quistis into trying to say her own name. It was clear that she believed that Quistis was still bound by the gaes. And there was the chance that she was. While their bond was growing stronger by the moment, Seifer was aware that it was not fully formed yet, and he did not know just how much Quistis could do until it was at full strength.
But Quistis smiled triumphantly at the woman. "I am Quistis Cariad Serian, daughter of Prince Derek Serian of Galbadia and his lady wife, Princess Idalia Llewellyn Serian."
There had been a catch in her voice when she spoke, and she had almost sounded breathless at times, but she had said. And that was what broke open the storm that had been brewing all this time.