F A V O R
Written on June 30, 2020 (♍)
It could not have been that Lionel was so different from Lesalia, but to Ovelia’s sight the world had undergone a thousand transformations. The weeds and flowers here were different—the birdsong slightly changed. There was a strangeness each morning in waking to some ceiling that was not Orbonne—to hear the clatter and giggling of domestics unused to conventions of monastic silence. It was as if one of the fishes Simon had kept in a great glass globe in the locutory had been loosed to swim the Bugross.
She wondered if soon the walls enclosing her would seem just as familiar as the last ones—if she would find herself used to a new sort of captivity by the time Ramza Lugria was to return to her. She wondered if he would still think himself under some obligation then—or if he would depart after this brief entanglement of their lives. That is what sellswords ought do with the princesses they guard, was it not? A moment’s daring surely didn’t make him some hero out of a fairy story.
When she came to bid him farewell, Ovelia told herself quite firmly that the meeting need not have any sense of gravity or finality.
He seemed in good spirits then, his pale hair caught in the breeze as he watched the castle's saffron banners twirl below. She realized as he greeted her that she had seldom seen him smile before they made it to friendly territory—that there was a sudden brightness to him that made it evident how long he had been touched by some melancholy.
“Well met, your majesty,” he said, bowing clumsily. “Do you find Lionel to your liking?”
“I cannot say. I like it better than the road and better than the danger on it.” She smiled. “How do you find it, Ser Lugria?”
Ramza blushed to hear his name spoken.
“I’m nobody’s knight, princess.” He ran a hand over the indomitable cowlick atop his head. “I never made it out of squirehood to be truthful.”
Ovelia furrowed her brow at that remark, feeling very suddenly the weight of something not to be spoken. She stepped towards him anyway.
“I could knight you if I wish, you know,” she smiled. “You certainly conduct yourself in the fashion of knights.”
“I thank you, your majesty...”
His voice hung in the air a moment, as if he were about to follow up the statement with a “but.” None followed. For a moment, he seemed much younger than he ought be.
“Is that your acceptance then?”
She laughed, but realized as she did so how strange the words were that had come to her. It was as if she were suddenly confronted with the absurd reality that she should someday be a queen and it would be her with the power to do things and bid men take up titles and stations. It was as if in that little hollow of space and sunlight between them, she suddenly had the first faint impulse of what it might mean to rule another.
She watched with delight as Ramza reddened again. Drawing still closer, she placed a hand lightly on his head as if to bid him bow. The cowlick, still uncowed, flapped over her fingertips as the wind caught it.
She had thought to make a playful show of the ceremony then, as she might have knighted Alma in all the courts they’d built for themselves in the vineyards and groves. She thought to have laughed and told him that he would be knight enough by her word. As Ovelia opened her lips to speak, however, she found herself drawing them to his forehead, upon which she left a simple kiss when he finally knelt again to her.
She blushed this time. He did not. The gesture was chaste beyond all suspicion, and she thought that a road weary mercenary would not have the presumption to consider otherwise.
Less so, did she think such a presumption of Ramza.
“You flatter me, your majesty...” His voice seemed to carry with it all the warmth of the sunlit stones of the balcony. “I might have to reconsider knighthood.”
He took her hand and returned her kiss to a finger in want of a signet ring, and Ovelia thought very suddenly about all the variations between this instant and the one where Delita Hyral had struck the first and only blow any creature had dared land upon her.
When the sun was set and he was gone, Agrias asked more than once if she was well, and Ovelia said little, smiling as she brushed out each long braid of her hair and looked down into the vast blue-green forests that stretched out towards the distant sea. There was something sharp in the night air, and she wondered if someday she might see Lesalia, where they told her she should be brought to power.
Ovelia tried, as any girl raised in a monastery must, to drown out all those impulses towards sin that flit about in the workings of a heated brain. She thought, however, that even as far as Orbonne it was carried that the queen of Ivalice did as she pleased and gave men titles on a whim. She thought of all those whispered rumors that Ruvelia Atkascha had a lover for each day of the week and changed out the knights in her favor as fast as summer gowns.
To imagine Ramza Lugria unplaiting her hair was a very small sin to reckon, she supposed. To consider all those circumstances and configurations in which they might kiss less chastely was near to nothing.
By the time she was ready to sleep, her greatest mortification about it all was to think of what a goose Alma Beoulve would take her for to be ensorcelled by the first man to show her kindness after capture.
It seemed the queerest thing, though, that she might care what Alma Beoulve thought of Ramza at all.