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Calm Before The Storm

Phang Ho Soon
aeri@bigfoot.com


Doma Infirmary: Room Two

It had been an hour or so since Rivenson was brought into the infirmary with a badly fractured arm and he was still cursing under his breath. After all, it had been an rookie that had broken his arm, judging from his unsteady stance and his woefully nervous expression. Yet, the Imperial soldier had broken through his defence, bringing down his shield heavily on Rivenson's arm in the process. Rivenson winced, remembering the impact of the Mythril Shield, the distinctive crack his arm made, the pain.... Damn, was he getting too old already?

No, that can't be right. RIvenson flexed his good arm. Yes, there was strength in his muscles yet. And after all, Sir Cyan was still dancing around with his sword in his middle age. Rivenson could not be any weaker than a man ten years his senior.

But then, Sir Cyan was in a class of his own...

The infirmary was iluminated by oil lamps and a cheerily lit fireplace. The flickering orange light cast shadows on the stone walls, lending the large room an atmosphere of coziness In the various beds, Doma soldiers with various injuries were chatting or resting while attentive nurses hovered nearby.

Rivenson could have just fallen asleep, could have just let himself take advantage of the relative comfort of the infirmary. He couldn't. Rivenson could still hear the sounds of Imperial soldiers and Doma knights clashing from the window. He knew he still belonged down there... among his friends, giving his all for Doma...

" Erm, RIv? Doma to Riiiiv... is anyone one at home?"

Rivenson shook himself out of his reverie. It was Emily who had addressed him, a newly transferred nurse from the Academy of Medicine. Only 21 years old, she had arrived at Doma unprepared for the horrors of war. But Emily seemed to bear herself well, although Rivenson knew she was still reeling from the shocks she had received over the last few weeks. He was once a rookie soldier himself, after all.

" Rivenson, I do believe you're not paying attention to me. Eh, Riv? Is this what I get for setting that arm of yours?"

Rivenson looked at the brown-haired nurse that was smiling at him. Silly as it might seem, Rivenson found Emily rather cute. If Doma was not under siege, well....

" I hear you, I hear you. There's no need to nag at me."

" There wouldn't be a need to nag if *someone* would only listen to me!"

" Okay, okay..... so, how goes the nursing business?"

" Gee, was that supposed to be a pick-up line? Must be the worst I've ever heard.."

There was a mock frown on Emily's face that made her look absolutely adorable. To Rivenson, at least.

" Oh, come on. Are you still sore at me for not noticing you?"

" No. Actually, I'm being sore at the wall torch. Riv, how can I not be sore at you if you haven't even apologised yet?"

" ... Okay. I, Rivenson Asinia, apologise to Emily Ferris for being a heartless jerk who doesn't know how to treat ladies right. Fair enough?"

" Yep, that's about right. Now, about nursing. Same as usual. No fatalities today, though. In fact, the most serious injury today was your broken arm... I wonder how it feels to know that?"

Rivenson could only manage a rueful smile. Since they had gotten to know each other, Rivenson and Emily had teased each other endlessly. They didn't really mean to hurt each other, of course. It was their way of lightening up after the slaughter that went on...and on... In a peculiar way, Rivenson and Emily had almost come to depend on each other to see themselves through the brutality of life at the front line.

" It feels just fine. Oh, yeah, just dandy."

" 'Dandy'? Now, that's a word I haven't heard for a long time. Sounds just like something that old codger Cyan would say."

" Sir Cyan would *not* have said something like that. And he's not a 'codger'. He's the best knight in all Doma!"

" Well, I'd call you an old codger if you spoke like him too! ' Phritee, hast thou perchance a cup of brown sugar with thee? Methinks I am in need of dozen eggs as well.' "

" That doesn't sound like Sir Cyan at all!"

" Oh, really?"

" ....well, maybe a little. But you really should not make fun of him at all. As a warrior, Sir Cyan's miles ahead of me."

" Of course I know Cyan's miles ahead of you. He would not have had his arm broken by some Imperial soldier's shield..."

" You saw him break my arm?"

" Of course. And you know that Imperial squad that tried to scale the walls of the castle? Oh, of course you wouldn't, since you were stuck in this bed long before it happened--"

" Hey, I sure didn't choose to be here!"

" No, some Imperial soldier decided that you had to be here and so broke your arm.....is that what you were about to say? Anyway, as I was saying, I saw this squad trying to climb the walls of the castle and blam! Cyan went and took the squadron leader and a few of his men out. Hey, Riv, you know Daral, the painter?"

" That bag of hot air? Of course. But why did you suddenly decide to talk about him? "

" You know how he keeps talking about his works being artistry in motion?"

" I always thought that was nonsense myself."

" His pictures, -- like they can be called art pieces at all --, are not 'artistry in motion'. *Cyan* is artistry in motion. For an old coot--"

" Sir Cyan is NOT an old coot!"

" Whatever. For a --matured, well-aged knight--, Cyan sure packs a lot of grace and power. I mean, the Imperial soldiers seemed almost like little kids carrying wooden swords next to Cyan. I honestly think if Cyan had not been a knight, he could have been a ballet dancer..."

" ....right. Sir Cyan as a ballet dancer. Now there's something one doesn't think of everyday. Especially if the person who thinks of it is sane."

Emily flashed that cute little grin at Rivenson.

" Thank you!"

She turned around and started to arrange the pastel-coloured blooms in an earthen pot on Rivenson's bedside table. She moved with an unconscious grace that quicken his ( aging ?) heart. Damn the war... damn the war... damn the war...

" Emily, if you've seen Cyan in battle, then surely you've seen General Leo?"

" I guess so. But, I couldn't really get a good look at him. One nurse actually saw him up close while dashing out to carry Baysern in a week ago. "

" And what did she say? That General Leo is a fine specimen of manhood? Or something close to that, maybe?

" Actually, she said she didn't think much of his hairstyle."

" Oh, really? I heard that General Leo's a superb general. One of the Empire's finest men. "

" Girls don't really go for that kind of stuff, you know."

" At least that gaggle of gossip-mongers you hang around with don't. They'd rather stare at bulging muscles, right?"

" ........Well, I kinda like the muscles bit too, you know."

" I'm rather disappointed in you, Emily. I always thought you cared more for brains than brawn..."

" Hey, do I detect a hint of jealousy here, Riv?"

" E-erm.. no. Of course not! Why should I be jealous?"

" Because...., General Leo can take care of his arms better than you can!"

" You...!!"

Rivenson spluttered, Emily giggling as he did.

* * *

Outside, a lone figure climbed up to the castle ramparts, a long blade hanging comfortably by his side. He walked with a dignified bearing, no, he was dignity personified. He reached the top of the castle as a soldier saluted him. The powerful swordsman surveyed the Imperial camp in the light of the late afternoon sun.

Afternoon, sir!

Good afternoon. How did thy day go?

Ah, fine, sir. I didn't get killed today. That amounts for something, doesn't it?

It does indeed....

* * *

Emily, meanwhile, had gone off to the far side of the Infirmary. She soon returned to Rivenson's ward with a rather large jug.

" Anywayyyyy.... I heard that General Leo left the Imperial camp today with a contingent of soldiers."

" What, are you saying he could be returning to the Empire? Hmmm.... It'd be great news. That would mean he probably left Kefka in charge, and Kefka is no match for Leo in battle tactics. Heck, Kefka is no match for General Leo in anything.."

" Kefka? You mean that loon with the ugly clothes and that wierd laugh?"

" Oh yeah. *that* laugh. Sheesh, it's definitely not something I'd like to hear on a dark night. Or any time of the day, for that matter."

" Kefka must have found something hilarious to hoot at today. He was laughing like crazy when I saw him walking back to his camp today."

" No big surprise there. He laughs so much, I'm almost surprised his jaw hasn't dropped off yet."

" He was hanging around the moat today. I wonder why our archers didn't take him out?

" Probably because they were too busy staring at his face. ' Oh, look, the hyena's out of his cage! And trying to pass off as a human too!' "

" Gee.... you don't like Kefka, don't you?"

" Not one bit. I heard he treats his soldiers like trash. Even forces them to lick his boots. And I heard he tried to burn up Figaro Castle, from the latest Chocobo relay."

" Well, he's kind of, odd, right? I mean, prancing around the moat like that."

" Odd? Psychotic is closer. I really wonder how many stairs he had to fall down as a baby to end up as such a blithering maniac.."

" That's not a very nice thing to say, Riv"

" Oh, and all those little comments about my arm here are?"

" Erm, no, but--"

" Heh. Got you there, didn't I?"

".Alright, Mr Asinia, sir. I promise never to be mean to helpless warriors who obviously could have done better while fighting by paying attention to their opponents instead of dreaming of a glass of strong ale and a warm bed--"

" Hey!"

* * *

Sir..?

Yes ?

The way you handled those soldiers today... it was first class work, sir. They didn't stand a chance.

I think not. I was just ridding Doma of her invaders, that's all. That is my duty, and as such, my actions today are not worthy of any special praise.

But, sir, you took them out like.. like you were swatting flies or something. I only watch.... I could never be like you.

.....That is not true. Thy actions are quite like mine. We perform our duties with a sense of responsibilty and loyalty to our liege. That is all that matters.

Sir....

* * *

Emily had started giggling again. As she did, she poured a glass of water into an empty glass.

" All this talking must have made you a little thirsty. Here."

Rivenson felt the cool water filling up his mouth, running down his throat. But... what was this... a faint aftertaste..?

" Emily, does the water taste a little strange to you?"

Emily poured a little water from the jug into her hands and sipped it.

" Hmmm... maybe. But this is water from the moat outside... You don't expect it to taste the same everyday, don't you?

" No, I guess not.."

* * *

Sir, how are your wife and son?

Owain's fine, running around, getting into the way of our men. You know how little children are.

Oh, yes. My daughter's at that stage too, you know. Sometimes she drives her mother absolutely nuts.

They're in Nikeah now, aren't they?

Can't be putting innocent women and children in the line of fire , you know. Your family, they decided to stay, right?

Elayne did. She wants to be with me at all times. And she could not find anyone to look after Owain.

Your wife's very brave.

I couldn't stop her from staying behind...

....

Yes... her steadfast love, and Owain, are the light of my life....

* * *

They had fallen silent for a while, in the glorious light of the dying sun. Then, Emily spoke.

" Hey, Riv. I'd better go now. If not, Matron will come looking for me. You've seen how Matron is like when she sees any one of her nurses goofing off."

" Goofing off? Nah.... I'l tell Matron if she comes that you boosted my morale by chatting with me. How's that?"

" And just how did I boost your morale?"

" Hey, I feel myself filling up with joy whenever I see you. How can you not boost my morale?"

" Is that another weak attempt to flirt with me?"

" No.... I'm being perfectly serious. Maybe, after all this, well, you know, fighting is done with, we could have dinn--"

There was a sudden call from just outside the Infirmary door.

" Oh, no, it's Matron! I have to go now!"

Emily started running to the door, where a rather large nurse with a stern expression on her face was waiting.

" Emily, wait...!"

She was gone. Rivenson felt rather.....sad, for some reason. It was illogical, his sudden sadness. Rivenson had , after all, never felt particularly lonely, or empty, whenever battle pulled him away from Emily while they were talking. He would surely be stuck in the infirmary for quite some time, right? Emily would be back tomorrow to see him.......right?

Tomorrow. Now that was a word Rivenson never really seriously thought about. After all, tomorrow was an uncertain thing for a wartime soldier. A soldier lived for today, knowing that every moment he spent on the battlefield could be his last. However, tomorrow suddenly seemed to be very important to Rivenson....

Anxiety rose in Rivenson's heart, but he fought it down. He was a soldier, not a philosopher. Sure, whenever one of his friends perished in combat, or whenever he saw an atrocity comitted in the name of war, he had ...thoughts at night. But, Rivenson always forgot about such thoughts when he got up the next day. Lost in the heat of the morning's battles.

No. Tomorrow would come. Rivenson told himself that. Tomorrow would come, and after that, another tomorrow, and another, and Doma would stand through it all...

Yes..... he was sure of that....

* * *

Sir Cyan! The Empire's base is bustling with activity! Something must be up!

Huh? The water looks odd....

.........


Author's Note: After rereading Calm before the Storm, I have to say I do not know what to make of it. I'll leave it to you guys to decide, huh? Anyway this is the second fanfic I've ever written, and comments can be sent to aeri@bigfoot.com...no flames please, as usual.

-- END --

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