Title: The Eye of Age
Theme(s): #23 roses; daisies; carnations; water lilies; random flower
Disclaimer/claimer: Balthier and Ashe don’t belong to me. Property of Square.
Summary: He was constant fixture at the Sandsea.
Old Pirate Balthier was a constant fixture at the Sandsea. His usual table was on the upper deck, and no matter how loudly he complained about his knees and joints aching from the climb, he wouldn’t sit anywhere else. Years before, he’d order drink after drink, but nowadays, he only had one a day, usually bought by someone younger who would listen raptly to the tales he would spin in return.
If the listener was a woman, he’d flirt outrageously with her. The years had been kind to him; even though he wore spectacles on the bridge of his nose, he hadn’t been attacked much by time. There were crinkles around his eyes and laugh lines at his mouth, and even though his hair had turned completely white, it was still thick and meticulously trimmed, his silvery sideburns still shaved razor sharp to accentuate his high cheekbones.
Depending on his mood – and if his Viera partner was there to deflate his embellishments with a single eye roll – the person buying his daily drink would get a tale of high adventure, of battling enemies and plundering treasure, of hearts that had been stolen and villains that had been outwitted amid the freedom the skies offered.
And if he was in a nostalgic mood, he’d spin a yarn of his lady pirate, whom he often traveled with. She was sharp of tongue and obstinate to a fault, but her beauty was unrivaled by any other woman in Ivalice. Waxing romantic, he would describe her as the only woman capable of stealing his heart: the one thing that no other woman had ever been able to do previously, nor had done since.
“You may ask what I’m doing sitting here talking with you when I have such a woman,” he would say when someone invariably inquired. “The fact is, the fickle wench stole my airship and I’m waiting for her to come to her senses long enough so I can steal it back from her.” This always earned a laugh, then a new listener – Balthier always did draw a crowd – would ask about the notorious sky pirate Vaan. On cue, Balthier would groan and put up a fuss.
“Fine, if you truly wish to hear of him. I can remember a time or two I’ve had to rescue him from his own folly…” Then he’d proceed to regale his audience with tales of embarrassment. Sometimes, if he was in town, the aforementioned pirate would laugh uproariously with the rest of them. When asked to tell some similar tales, he merely shook his head.
“That is because unlike secondary side characters,” Balthier would say, elbowing his protégé, “that are there for the sole purpose of comic relief, leading men such as myself never have such mishaps.”
He would end his storytelling session for the day right before sundown. He did this every day, much to the disappointment of both his audience and the tavern owners, for they made a pretty gil during the day – listeners did grow thirsty, after all.
Balthier might have been slower than in his youth, but he still walked tall and proud, the familiar swaggering gait still firmly in place. He wound his way down the busy streets of the East End, stopping at a flower vendor for a single bloom. Walking with purpose, he stopped and sat at his destination.
“They always like the one where you had to rescue me from bandits,” he said, taking the day old rose out of the stone vase and putting the fresh Galbana lily in its place. “Especially the part where the both of us had to fight to escape and you blistered my ears for putting us in the predicament the entire time.” Of course, he had worded it differently when retelling the tale, putting him in the place of hero instead.
After spending the day amid the raucous noise of the tavern, the quiet silence soothed his nerves. Running a hand over the stone, his fingers dipping over the carved letters proclaiming the spot to be Queen Ashelia B’nargin Dalmasca’s final resting place, he sighed. “My pirate queen,” he said fondly, the stone under his fingers warm from the sun. “I still have a few years left in me, but whenever you’re ready to have me steal you again, I’ll be waiting.” He smirked at the last remark, much like she would have done if she were there with him. If anyone was going to be doing any stealing this late in the game, it was going to have to be her.
“I miss you, Ashe,” he whispered, wiping at his eye with his free hand, his fingers trembling slightly. He settled back on the bench and told her of the day’s events and of their son, who was running the kingdom as smoothly as ever, even while he tried to manage his numerous children, all of them hellions with aspirations of piracy instead of nobility. Balthier’s own namesake was determined to drive his father insane with begging for an airship, even if the boy was only five. Balthier had long since made certain that the Strahl would go to his favorite grandson. She was an old ship, but well made and sturdy, much like her current owner, even if she did spend more time in the aerodrome these days than out on the open air.
It was getting late, if he didn’t make it back to the palace soon, his daughter-in-law would worry. She was a jewel and he loved her dearly – the marriage of a Margarace to a Bunansa had ruffled Al Cid’s feathers some, especially since she was the Rozarrian’s firstborn – but she tended to fuss unnecessarily when it came to Balthier’s welfare. He was old; he wasn’t dead yet.
“Just a while longer,” he said out loud, watching as the sun set over the horizon. The last rays of light seemed to sparkle, turning the sands a vibrant red.