Something Even More Valuable

Author: Afeni
Betas: Emmipon & Bitsy Fritzy
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Don’t own anything, would steal everything. Fran and Balthier will always have my heart.
Summary: It’s the darkest day of the year and four sky pirates are searching for a treasure in the northern parts of Ivalice. They will find something that change their way of thinking.
A/N: This fic was written as a present for Ierlix. I don’t know if I met your expectations, but I tried to write an adventure seasoned with a little bit of romance and Christmas spirit. English isn’t my mother tongue, so I’m sorry for any spelling mistakes and other errors I might have made while writing this.

Something Even More Valuable

The sky was wide open and so blue it made Fran draw a deep breath as the clouds scattered. This was where Fran really belonged. While the Wood had spoken to her when she lived among the other viera, the sky had told her stories of freedom. The freedom she had yearned so much that it had almost gouged her heart empty, until the day she had finally left the Golmore Jungle and wandered to the world. Yes, solitude was hard after growing together with the Wood. Never hearing the Green Word again was devastating but still… still Fran thought that she belonged to the sky.

And now there she was with her three hume friends. Balthier, who she loved more than anyone, and Vaan and Penelo, who were so dear to her. She had never told them that for those kinds of words were not exactly a thing a viera would say to one another, but she really cherished them. Surely they knew how she felt even though she never had spelled it out.

Clouds were beneath the Strahl, and Fran let her eyes rest on the scenery. She remembered the moment that had brought them here on this trip to the Northern parts of Ivalice.

Balthier had found an old scripture while studying his late Father’s research materials about the myths of Ivalice. The scripture spoke of a place in the far north where one could find something more valuable than they could imagine. Doctor Cidolfus Demen Bunansa had scribed “this has to be rubbish, just a bedtime story for children, might tell it to Fframran later” in the corner of the paper but that had not stopped Balthier from digging deeper. Fran had no idea how, but he had found even more information about the place with the treasure. And to Fran’s surprise, he had told Vaan who had told Penelo. Fran had always thought that Balthier wanted to keep treasures just for the two of them. But maybe the sky pirate treasured their friends as much as Fran did.


”What do you say? I think it’s worth trying…” Balthier asked and looked to the others.

“It’s the darkest time of the year and they say that it’s even darker in the northern parts of Ivalice. Doesn’t sound safe, does it?” Penelo said.

“It says here that the path will open only on the darkest day of the year,” Vaan said.

“And that would be tomorrow. If we leave now, we will be able to fly there in time,” Balthier said. “What do you think, Fran?”

The viera looked in the sky which was full of dark grey clouds. Wind was chasing them so fast it made her quiver.

“It’s an ominous day,” she said. “I think… the mist – what is left of it – is restless. The world is shifting.”

“After Feolthanos that doesn’t sound too bad, does it?” Vaan asked and looked at everyone. His hands were shaking in excitement as he held the piece of paper Balthier had given to him. “I say let’s go.”

Penelo sighed but did not look reluctant. Balthier had a small smile on his lips, which told Fran that he had known this whole time that they were going. It had been only a matter of time to get Vaan excited about the plan. Fran did not complain. Life had been quiet after the visit to the Lemuris, and even though she loved her quiet time, a sky pirate wasn’t really a sky pirate if she just stayed at home and read books. Adventures had waited for them long enough. It was time to answer the call.


The northern mountains spread out when Balthier steered the Strahl lower. The night had not fallen yet, but it was already dim beneath the clouds, which the sun painted pink and orange. The mountains were covered with snow and in the dull light the scenery rested in fifty shades of blue.

“Beautiful!” said Penelo and covered her mouth with her left hand.

“It’s like Paramina Rift and yet so different,” said Vaan. “Is that snow?”

“That would be snow, and what we are looking for is an ice-covered cave in the foot of the highest mountain,” said Balthier.

“That one peeks to the clouds,” said Fran and pointed out the mountain, which looked like it could reach the sky.

“Let’s land and see if there is an opening somewhere,” said Balthier and steered the Strahl lower once more.

It was even darker when they reached the bottom of the valley between the mountains. When they opened the door, cold air brushed against their faces and made Fran’s ears shiver. She was happy that she had chosen warmer clothes than she usually used. Soft fur coat against her body had never felt better, and the leather boots kept her toes warm and cozy even though her face was freezing.

They were in luck and there was indeed an opening in the foot of the mountain. It looked pitch-black and did not feel welcoming at all, but they had come too far to turn back now. As they walked into the cave, Fran noticed it was not as dark as it had seemed outside. The Walls glowed a faint blue light which reflected from the ice pillars. The snow crunched under the sky pirates’ feet as they wandered in. Their breath vaporized to thin clouds which reminded her of the mist.

Talking about the mist, Fran sensed it was thick and it lingered everywhere. As they walked deeper, she could feel how the mist surrounded them. And then it kind of closed. Fran stopped and turned to look back to where they had come.

“What is it?” Balthier asked and stopped too.

“I think the mist -”

Path to the entrance is now closed. You may leave when you have proven your worth.

The voice was unearthly and powerful. It reminded her of the way the Occuria had spoken to queen Ashe when the party had visited Giruvegan. Fran shivered. It was not that she hated the Occuria, she just did not want anything to do with them.

“Are you okay?” Penelo asked. “Did you hear that too?”

“Yes. The voice stirred something in me, but the mist is at ease, at least for now. I do not think it is dangerous here”, Fran said and hoped she was right.

“Just tell me if you cannot go any further. I am not going to lose you here. You understand, Fran? No treasure is worth losing you,” Balthier said.

Fran looked at the sky pirate and smiled. Her heart pounded a bit faster. Those words swam to her very soul and made her body warm.

“Oh, so romantic!” Penelo said and eyed Vaan, who was suddenly extremely interested in the nearest ice pillar.

“Maybe we should continue,” Vaan said and coughed.

“Saying nice things to a lady should never be a shame, Vaan. You still have much to learn,” Balthier said before taking the lead. He touched Fomalhault, but there was no danger in sight. Maybe this Northern part of Ivalice was so cold that nothing lived here.

Fran followed Balthier further in the cave. The snow was gone now but ice pillars were everywhere like there used to be free water, which had stopped flowing because of the cold.

“Maybe the treasure is a new Esper,” Fran heard Vaan whisper to Penelo.

“I hope not. I have had enough of those beings,” Balthier said. “I prefer a treasure I can count.”

They arrived into a chamber and in the middle of it was a pedestal. It looked like it was from the time of king Raithwall or even earlier. The ceiling was so dark it couldn’t be seen, but Fran noticed that the floor was made from tiles. Above the pedestal there was a floating blue orb. It made Fran think about the nethicite, but this was probably magicite. Manufactured perhaps? It was so perfectly round that it could not be natural. Or could it be deifacted like the Dawn Shard had been? Fran surely knew she did not want anything to do with those kinds of stones either.

Vaan on the other hand did not have that problem. He ran past Fran right to the pedestal and touched the stone which started to shine brighter. The chamber became full of blue light and it looked like stars had started falling from the ceiling.

You have awakened the spirit of the season. Now you must face the challenge.

Fran startled as she heard the voice in her head. It was not the same as the first one. From the faces of the others she could tell that they had heard it too. Vaan clenched the stone in his hand and stared at it like it could steal his soul.

“Never liked things that do not live but can talk,” Balthier said.

Are you brave? Do you dare? Or are you going to run away? the voice asked.

“I think you should answer, Vaan,” Penelo said.

“Easy for you to say. You don’t hold a speaking stone.”

“Well, how much trouble can one pebble cause?” Balthier asked but no one laughed since the answer was obvious. A lot.

Vaan swallowed and took a long breath. He raised the stone to the level of his eyes before answering.

“I dare! I’ll face the challenge.”

You must find the one thing you need for this eve. Your greatest wish, the one and only that makes you happy, the voice echoed in Fran’s mind too as Vaan stared the stone. That is the only way to find your way out and get the treasure of the longest night.

“That does not sound good,” Balthier said.

“You’re the one who wanted to come here in the first place,” Penelo said.

“Well, I was thinking gold coins and such, would not care for riddles so much,” Balthier answered. “So, Vaan, what is the thing you want most?”

“That one is obvious,” Penelo said. “An airship.”

“Then we are in trouble,” Fran said.

“Got that one right. I am fairly sure they did not hide an airship here,” Balthier said.

“Unless the treasure is an airship!” Vaan said and pocketed the orb.

“Optimistic, aren’t we? Should we continue? If I understood correctly there is no going back until we fulfill the very wish of your heart,” Balthier said.

“We are going to spend the rest of the eternity here…” Penelo said.

The cave started to go up as they walked in silence. The blue light might have been beautiful but there was something in it that made Fran feel restless. This was not just a regular cave; this was not anything like the Sochen Cave Palace or even the Zertinan Caverns. This whole place could be deifacted.

“I think I have invited the worst kind of trouble with us,” Balthier said as he stepped next to Fran.

“I think gods are playing with us once again.”

“I would say they are toying with us. I liked it better when they just used to ignore our existence.”

There had not been such time for Fran. At first there had been the Wood and even after leaving the Golmore Jungle behind, Fran had felt the Wood in her heart. And there was the sky. It was not really a god but close enough for Fran. But the gods of Ivalice, the Occuria, they were not the gods she wanted to know. Maybe Balthier was right after all.

“Come! There is another room with an orb,” Vaan yelled from further.

Fran followed Balthier and Penelo into another chamber in which the light was dim red. Other than that, it was similar to the first one. The pedestal and all.

“Who wants to be next? Penelo?” Vaan asked, and Penelo took a step back.

“Looks like it’s time for the leading man to do something her-“ Balthier started, but Fran did not let him finish. She strode to the pedestal before he could reach it and touched the orb. She did not even know why she did so. The orb was calling her even though it had not even said anything. Her fingers slid along the hard surface of the orb. It was slick but yet warm. Much warmer than the air in the chamber.

A brave soul. Are you ready for your challenge?

The voice was different this time, a bit gentler and more feminine than the other two. Could it belong to an Esper as Vaan had thought when they had entered the cave?

“I am ready,” Fran said.

Words alone cannot help you with this one. Underneath the right place you must face your fear and show your deepest desire.

What was that supposed to mean? Balthier had been right; the coins would win over the riddles anytime.

Into the next chamber you go. Answers lay there… if you can reach them.

Fran curled her fingers around the orb and put it into the pocket of her coat. The stone was surprisingly light.

“So, we are looking for Vaan’s greatest wish and Fran’s deepest desire. Talk about getting interesting”, Balthier said. “At least I know the latter isn’t being tied up.”

“You already told us that years ago,” Vaan said.

“Did I? Must have forgotten.”

There was silence once more as they continue their journey. Fran tried to think about her deepest desire, but it was hard to say. It had been freedom, but she had gotten that one already. She had everything she needed right here; her friends and Balthier.

Balthier, the orb whispered.

Fran looked around her, but it seemed that the others had not heard the word. Was Balthier Fran’s deepest desire? But what was the fear?

You should tell him when others are there too, the orb said.

But those kind of words were private!

You have not told him even when you are alone.

That might be true but… Fran could not. Not here, not now. This was not the place and time.

This is the only place and time to do so. If you cannot do that, your freedom is meaningless, and it is clear you deserve to stay and freeze here.

Fran did not say anything. She did not even think, just walked forward. She had gotten her freedom; she had fought to save Dalmasca and the aegyl. Confessing to Balthier should be an easy task and yet saying the words made her feel… fear? Why? She did not know, but what did she know was that Balthier had been right.; the gods were toying with them. Fran knew that and she hated that, but she was not going to stay in this cave for the rest of her life.

The shade of the third chamber was green. It made Fran think about the Wood once again. This light was brighter and merrier than the light in the Golmore Jungle, but there was something relaxing in it even though this was not the time to take it easy. She drew breath and readied herself for whatever would be coming to them.

The chamber’s ceiling was different from the earlier ones. There were plants growing that Fran had never seen before. It formed a ball like a bush around something that looked like roots of a tree. The plant’s leaves were light green and their surface waxy. Even though it was winter, there were white berries growing on its bush.

In the middle of the chamber there was a pedestal and a floating green orb. Balthier marched towards it but the voice spoke before he reached the pedestal. It was the same one that had spoken to them when they had entered the cave.

Welcome to the highest chamber. Now it is time for you to face your challenges.

The orb reflected a beam of light, which composed a form of a man with a red outfit and a big white beard. Definitely not an Esper. But who could he be?

So, boy, have you been nice or naughty? Do you have your answer?

Vaan straightened and turned white. The man smiled but there was something odd about him, like he did not really belong in this world. He looked like a hume but… Well, Fran could not put her finger on it. Something was just wrong here.

“My greatest wish is to own an airship,” Vaan said.

The man laughed so loud that the sound rebounded from the walls. His back curved backwards, and his beard jiggled. But suddenly everything went quiet.

Wrong answer, boy. So, you decided to be naughty this year. Then you get a bag of charcoal and lose the very thing your heart wished for yourself.

A large bag dropped from the ceiling in front of Vaan and for a moment there was so much black dust that Fran could not even see him. A loud roar shook the entire chamber, and Penelo cried as the floor under her started to rumble.

“Penelo!” Vaan yelled and bolted over the bag to reach his friend and not a moment too late, because she had nearly to fallen into the depth of the mountain. Vaan got her hand as she hanged over the newly formed excavation.

Now it is your turn, my lady, the man said. Are you naughty or nice? Did you figure out your challenge?

“Those things the orb talked about, they are a private matter,” Fran said.

So private that you are willing to sacrifice your friends and loved one?

Fran did not answer. She looked at Vaan who was trying to tug Penelo back up and then Balthier who was ready to use his Fomalhault if needed. This being, whoever he was, wanted them to show their weaknesses in front of others.

“The floor is failing them. We must help Vaan,” Balthier said.

You only lose yourself too. The lady is the only one who can save you now. Show and tell him under that mistletoe how you feel, and you will all be free.

Mistletoe? The man was pointing at the strange plant on the ceiling. Fran glanced at Vaan and Penelo. They both would soon fall, and she would not be able to live with herself if they died because of her. She took Balthier’s hand and darted under the plant with him. Without hesitation she put her lips over his and surrendered to the deepest kiss ever.

“I love you, Balthier. My heart was yours from the moment we met, and it will be until the day I die,” she said after their lips had parted. “I should have told you sooner, but the viera do not speak of such matters. But I am a viera no longer, it is time for me to live as a hume.”

“You are a viera, Fran. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise,” Balthier said. “I must say that might have been the best kiss of my life, and I love you too, but I still say, we must save the kids from falling.”

She already has, the man in the middle of the chamber said. You have found your treasure of the darkest night and now you are free to go with your hearts full of joy and love.

The air in the chamber began to spin like someone had just done an aeroga spell but even faster. Fran could not see anything. She just held Balthier’s hand and wished that everything would be fine. She felt how the floor disappeared under her boots and the wind took her into the air.

And then everything was still. The air was cold, and the sky was clear with stars. Fran stood in the snow in the valley between two large mountains still holding Balthier’s hand. Vaan and Penelo stood a couple meters apart from them hugging each other.

“So, we didn’t get any treasure,” Vaan said, and Penelo hit his shoulder. “Ouch, what was that for?!”

“The girl gets it. W dohy you not?” Balthier asked. “Even I know that love is even more valuable than anything I can count. Though I would not have minded a few gils too.”

“You should tell Penelo, it is not an airship that you want more than anything in this world,” Fran said. “I should know. Telling how you feel might actually save someone very dear to you.”

Vaan’s cheeks went all red and he mumbled something even Fran’s ears could not make out. But Penelo was smiling and hugging the boy again. Balthier embraced Fran and buried his face in her hair. The sun was rising between the mountains, and Fran knew that they indeed had found the treasure for love was the most valuable thing in the world.

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