Tales from the Dragonsong War - A Malm in Her Shoes

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Leveilleur. Alisaie took immense pride in her name. It served as a constant reminder to the world of her connection to her grandsire, the great Louisoix Leveilleur - the man who spared the realm of Eorzea from the worst ravages of the Seventh Umbral Calamity. Needless to say, such noble heritage came with certain expectations, and she had worked tirelessly at the Studium to surpass them. Despite her many laudable academic achievements, however, Alisaie's tomboyish behavior and sharp tongue - honed through years spent bickering with her equally gifted twin brother - had earned her the scorn of her peers. But Alisaie took solace in the thought that Louisoix had himself been possessed of a mischievous streak, and had never been one to suffer fools gladly.
Having completed her schooling, Alisaie had traveled to Eorzea in a fever of expectation, eager to see the realm for which her grandsire had sacrificed so much. But what she found there was not at all as she had imagined. And so, after much soul-searching, she had resolved to explore the land in search of a cause for which to fight - a purpose of her own. She would travel alone, accompanied by neither servants nor adventurers - and certainly not by her brother - adamant that the impressions she formed be unsullied by the opinions of others.
And now, after many days on the road, she found herself in the barren lands of Thanalan. Having toiled for malms in the relentless midday heat, she relented and sought refuge in a wayside tavern.
"Stubborn bitch!"
She squinted towards the source of the outburst, her eyes not yet adjusted to the dim interior, and made out a burly man towering over a young lady. The girl─a traveler, judging by her attire - stood undaunted, even as the brute raised a meaty fist.
Alisaie sighed. She had grown weary of these barbaric people and their childish squabbles, but had not forgotten her grandfather’s old admonishment: "To ignore the plight of those one might conceivably save is not wisdom - it is indolence."
"It is far too hot for fighting," Alisaie announced loudly. "But if you insist on hitting something, then I would be happy to arrange a meeting between you and the floor."
Both quarrelers flinched at the sound of Alisaie’s voice, turning to meet her cold gaze with almost identical expressions of stunned surprise.

And thus did Alisaie make the acquaintance of young Emery, the traveling merchant.


According to Emery, her caravan was ordinarily accompanied by a guard, but after said sellsword had unexpectedly refused the offer of a new contract, she had been left at the mercy of a customer who thought to intimidate her into accepting a less than favorable trade. Having witnessed how effortlessly Alisaie cowed the man, however, the merchant now seemed determined to convince her savior to serve as the caravan's new escort.
Like all roving peddlers, Emery explained, her associates made their living trading goods between far-flung settlements. But, she claimed, the traders of her particular caravan knew all of the shortest routes, and were famed for the swiftness with which they brought new wares to market. In short, one could wish for no finer employers.
Despite the nakedness of Emery’s patter, Alisaie found that she was enthralled. Every aspect of the merchant's nomadic lifestyle seemed unspeakably fascinating. Though she took pains to hide her enthusiasm, lest she seem ignorant of the world, the grin on the merchant's face suggested that Alisaie's attempt to feign disinterest was less than successful. And so, after pausing as if to weigh the decision, she agreed.
In the days that followed, Alisaie studied the merchants’ ways, swiftly growing accustomed to their routine, such that when the caravan eventually pulled in to its next port of call - a village nestled at the base of the Sea of Spires - she felt like a changed woman. With new eyes, she appraised their destination. The settlement’s central bazaar was meager compared to the sprawling markets of Ul'dah, but the steady stream of visitors who came and went lent the place a kind of bustling energy.
Though her duties had thus far asked little more of her than to clear obstinate flocks of aldgoats from the road, she breathed a sigh of relief as the wagons trundled safely into the village. I shall never take caravan guards for granted again, she vowed, feeling utterly drained by the demands of constant vigilance.
For a time, Alisaie simply stood and watched as the merchants hurried back and forth in a flurry of preparation. Her silent observations were soon interrupted, however, by the arrival of a breathless Emery.
"There’s much and more to be done, Mistress Leveilleur," the young woman chirped. "We'll need your help with the selling."
"Selling? But I've no experience with -"
Seizing her hand, Emery dragged Alisaie towards the stalls her colleagues had erected in the village square. Residents and visitors alike were already crowding around the merchants, inspecting the wares that neatly lined the makeshift shelves.
Alisaie stopped short when she saw the swelling throng. This is a task for my brother, she thought with a twinge of panic. If Alphinaud were here, he would already be striding into their midst, sporting that infernal grin of his. Yet even as she attempted to back away, the merchant girl yanked her forward once more.
"You remember the talk we had about pricing, don't you?"
"Well, yes, but surely you do not expect me to─"
But Emery had already swiveled on her heels and begun serving a waiting customer, leaving Alisaie to talk to the breeze. She was still standing openmouthed behind the counter, entertaining thoughts of escape, when a matronly middle-aged woman thrust a bolt of cloth towards her.
"How much for this, then?"
Alisaie stared blankly at the cloth, her mind in disarray. And then she glimpsed Emery's brief backwards glance, and the mischievous smile that played on her lips. At least one of us is enjoying this. The noise in the square rose as the haggling began in earnest, and Alisaie permitted herself a sigh.

After a hard day’s bargaining, the caravan had sold much of its stock, and that evening the merchants retired to a dilapidated inn on the edge of the village proper. Exhausted, Alisaie sat down heavily on one of the two beds in her cramped room, and began flicking through the volume on arcane theory she had purchased during her stay in Ul'dah. Ever since her days as student, it had been a nightly ritual for her to open a book before bed and note down new findings in her journal. Should she discover any promising techniques, she would rise early the following morning and attempt to put her learning into practice.
But hours of unfamiliar work had taken their toll, and she was only a few lines into her current chapter when her eyelids began to droop. By the time Emery came in, she was all but asleep. The merchant girl stifled a laugh as Alisaie snatched reflexively at the tome that had begun to slide from her lap.


"Sorry for dragging you along today," Emery said, smiling. "I thought you might find it entertaining."
"'Twas certainly…an experience," Alisaie replied with a tired grin.
Emery sat down on the bed opposite, and glanced at Alisaie's book with interest.
"You never miss a day, do you," she said, shaking her head. "Trying to keep up with that brother of yours, eh?"
"Mayhap at first," Alisaie admitted. "But it was my grandfather who taught me the value of reading. And it is a habit that I am proud to have maintained."
"It is well that you respect your grandsire's teachings, Alisaie, but I doubt he meant for you to fall asleep sitting up," Emery chided gently.
With that, she took the still-open volume perched on Alisaie's knees, flipped the silk bookmark back into place, and snapped it shut.
"I hadn’t finished…" Alisaie managed, even as the girl dropped the book onto the pile of her belongings.
Emery stretched and yawned.
"It will still be there on the morrow," she said, and then her impish grin returned. "And it's not as if you didn’t learn a few things today - you made your first sale, for heavens’ sakes! I'm certain both Nald'thal and your grandsire would forgive you for missing a single night of study."
Ordinarily, Alisaie would not countenance such convenient excuses, but the warmth of Emery's manner had disarmed her. There was a familiar kindness in her words that set Alisaie's heart at ease.
Both girls readied themselves for bed, and Emery illuminated the room with another of her radiant smiles before reaching out to extinguish the lamp.
"Sleep well."

And that was the last night Alisaie would spend in her young friend’s company.

A sliver of sunlight fell across Alisaie's face, and she slowly opened her eyes. Pulling herself up to a sitting position, she spent a moment looking around before remembering where she was - in one of the private rooms of a Gridanian inn. The day had just dawned and she had been dreaming.

The journey she made with Emery had ended long ago, the vault of her mind the only place where she would ever see the girl again. On the day following Alisaie's debut as a merchant, the caravan had set off for its next destination during one of Thanalan's rare thunderstorms. The deluge made it hard to see, and still harder to steer, so the wagons were spaced out more than usual as they slipped and slid along a muddy path that cut through an otherwise impassable bluff.
A muffled rumble was the only warning they had before the cliffsides collapsed. In the space of a heartbeat, the carriages bringing up the rear and all who rode aboard them were buried beneath a mountain of sodden earth. And Emery was gone.
As fate would have it, Alisaie had been riding on the lead wagon, and emerged from the ordeal without so much as a bruise. She duly carried out her contract, escorting the surviving merchants to the next town before bidding them farewell. Mind still numb with shock, she was some distance away when she chanced to glance back at the caravan and saw how few of the wagons remained. Her chest constricted with sudden grief, and the tears finally fell.
After that, Alisaie had returned to traveling alone, filing the memory of each new meeting and parting away inside her breast, and taking none into her confidence. It was in the lonely days that followed that she chanced to hear rumors of an unknown band of heroes that appeared to be doing the work of the Scions. And thus, at long last, she found a purpose. The gossip in the ports made much of the recent events in Ishgard, but she doggedly followed the underlying thread of primal activity. Alisaie would learn the nature of these champions whose course appeared destined to cross that of her brother and his comrades.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed, stretched, and threw open the shutters. As she gazed out at the morning sky, a fragment of her dream rose unbidden: the image of Emery's smiling face. Alisaie recalled the girl's well-meaning words with an aching sadness.
Some things do not last until the morrow.

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