ESCAFLOWNE WEEK 2017, Day 2: Survival/Loss

To Any God Who Will Listen

NOTE: This is such a fun prompt to work with even if it's painful and I knew immediately that I could work my OTP into this somehow. I haven't written a lot of FolkenxEries lately and though last year I shied away from shippy stories, I don't think I'll be doing that this time around. Well, this first part doesn't get into the shipping yet but you'll know how it leads up to it.

And I always enjoy writing about unusual character interactions like Varie and Eries. I have a feeling they would have gotten along.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a one-shot with three parts but I got carried away and I didn't have time to do justice to my idea. So I'm committing to a short, three-part story because I really want to cover everything that I thought about. And the next two chapters don't really match the rest of the prompts for this week so I can't use them there. So I guess I'll have to post the second and third chapters after Escaflowne Week.

But in the meantime, please enjoy and please let me know what you think!

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"You and your family are always welcome in our home," the queen said with as much warmth as she could muster, "I only wish we could have met under happier circumstances."

Grava Aston nodded somberly while his wife Therese immediately approached the grieving mother and took her hands in hers.

"My dear Queen Varie," Queen Therese said sympathetically, "Please know that we are here for you and we will do everything in our power to help you."

Varie nodded gratefully and gave the other queen a small, sad smile. It was a strange time to welcome guests, when the fate of her eldest son was still so uncertain after a seemingly failed succession ritual. She had objected to him facing the dragon at such a young age but the ministers had insisted upon it and even he had felt such a heavy sense of duty that he could not refuse.

But this had been a scheduled visit, supposedly to celebrate the coronation of the new king of Fanelia. And Varie had always been a gracious host so despite the painful situation, she still managed to show great hospitality. One of her guests, in particular, observed her carefully and admired how the queen carried herself with such dignity and composure even in the midst of emotional turmoil.

The second princess of Asturia, though still a young girl, was already as perceptive as people twice her age. Eries sensed how much all of this was costing the sorrowful queen of Fanelia when all her attention should have been focused on finding out what had happened to her son.

Eries felt the shame that her father did not when he had insisted that they proceed with this official visit despite the uncertain circumstances of the country. The princess was embarrassed about imposing on Queen Varie at such a precarious time, and she dearly wished that something could be done to ease the burden the queen was now carrying.

But what could one person do or say to ease such pain? Eries pondered on this as she took a stroll around the royal gardens of Fanelia. She spent the better part of the evening lost in thought, as she often was, and so distracted was she that she almost did not notice the solitary figure standing in a small clearing, gazing up at the two moons.

Varie Fanel seemed to be bathed in an ethereal glow as she stood there, and for a moment, Eries believed all the rumors that the queen was of an enchanted race. The princess stared at her for a few moments before remembering her manners.

"Your Majesty," the startled princess said. "Forgive the intrusion. I had no idea you would be here."

Varie looked a little surprised to see the young girl there but she smiled gently.

"You are not intruding, my dear," she said reassuringly, "I am grateful for your company."

Eries looked away timidly, unsure of what to do next.

"I am sorry about Prince Folken," she began nervously.

At the mention of her son's name, Varie seemed to tense but she said nothing. No body had been found at the site of the dragon slaying but this still did not rule out the possibility that the heir to the throne had perished during his trial. But any mother would hold onto even the slightest hope that her son was still alive somehow.

Being well-read and exposed to the activities of the Asturian court, the princess did not usually have to struggle with words. In fact, she was often praised for being extraordinarily eloquent for one so young. But when faced with the profound sorrow of the Fanelian queen, all conventions of consolation seemed hollow and even insincere.

She barely knew the prince, having only met him once and very briefly, during her family's last visit to Fanelia. He had struck her as quiet and thoughtful. And now that she thought about it, he did not seem like someone who approved of violence in any form. Then again, she barely knew him.

But she was moved by the queen's plight and she felt that she needed to say something, and the words that she spoke next surprised her.

"I will say a prayer for him," Eries said softly.

Varie looked at the princess with profound gratitude and it seemed to Eries that the queen's gaze saw more beyond her words. Varie approached the young girl and gently laid a hand on her cheek.

"Thank you," she whispered tearfully, "You are very kind."

That night, Eries prepared to keep her promise but found that it was not as straightforward as she had expected. She was not the most religious of people but she was dutiful so she and her sisters attended the religious services for the dragon deity Jichia as faithfully as they were expected to. She knew that the Fanelians worshipped other gods and she had no idea who the queen directed her own prayers to.

And even the form of the prayer had infinite possibilities. She had read countless hymns and psalms and litanies to sacred beings. Some could be sung, others recited with a certain rhythm. And she was no serious religious scholar.

But in the end, Eries Aston was a practical girl. And she decided that the effectivity of any prayer lay in the sincerity of the intention, not the eloquence of expression. So she chose her words carefully and then, she prayed with all her heart, to any god who would listen:

"Please save him."