The Dragon Lady?

The inquiry came the day after the celebration, called by Generals Walter and Hildegarde Randolph, and standing as consultants were Commanders Vincent and Josephine Valentine. It was short and to the point: how to prevent the exposure of unborn babies in combat.

In the case of the Battle at the Old Guard Ranch, both women (each cognizant of their pregnancy) were found at fault. For that matter, I, too, broke this common-sense rule when I healed Vincent in the battle against Buddy. On the other hand, there was no precedent to be found for it on the books; we needed a hard and fast law with specific procedures.

A new directive was issued: pregnant women were banned from front-line duty. Interim training and administrative work, to prevent a loss of skills and a sense of disconnection during the term, became mandatory for those who declined gestational leave. Our two friends were advised of the directive and warned away from active warfare. Personally, I hope that it will never again apply to me, but who knows?

The new ruling does affect Kulloden, inasmuch as we annexed the Junon fighters as a part of the militia. Since we had simply referred to ourselves as the Nibel Army, a new name would be needed for the outpost. Aika and Duane were invited to suggest or create a name, although their roles, either military or civilian, were not yet defined. They suggested Old Guard, to keep it simple. Final approval fell to our generals.

Despite our late night telecommunication, as commanders, we preferred to leave it to the Time Mage's discretion to take time alone to heal, and return to the militia on her own impetus. Adrianna Maestraeon, only a few months along in her pregnancy, was already a widow. She grieved publicly throughout, wearing black right up to delivery; Ken was her once-in-a-lifetime love.

Also left behind was an inconsolable Buddy, only recently trained to take his rider. While he willingly continued his alliance with the militia, he never related to another human as to Ken Woods. Instead, he built an entirely different relationship with the mercurial Sonny, who is always eager to enjoin battle, and immediately began to take him far and wide on quests. And so our Quartermaster got his wish; he does indeed ride a Great Northern Blue, sharing him with his likewise scrappy sister Desiree, both growing powerful on Buddy’s Akasha.

Buddy had also trained to take Adrianna, although it would be months before she would be able to ride. The baby will, of course, be raised communally at the crèche, along with Aerith and all the other children born to Nibel militia. However, Adrianna swore she would never again go to war, preferring to remain in the village near the tapestry maker and her little one. She and Lady Kameko had always been close, and would become even closer, her sweet disposition an interesting counterpoint to the feisty crone's acerbic tirades.

Our very first session with little Aerith readily unlocked the key to my latent abilities. It was foolish of me not to make the connection: healing is not only based on Recovery magic, but also on the ability to manipulate time. Simply put, as I understand it, I speed up the patient’s own somatic processes. Not really anything magical about it; many herbalists do the same with natural plants, and anyone at all can learn to use Restorative materia.

Simple, but not easy! It will take me a long time to fine-tune the new skill. Right now it is still only instinctual, but I am slowly gaining ground. Adrianna’s been patient with me, even while I’m being dense, and each new level of self-awareness opens more doors and windows into my own psyche. A bonus: no need to carry the extra materia; I hate all that armor, anyway.

It's all analogy really, and the toughest task is to try to anticipate just how my little monster intends to use it. When I am successful, I intercept her before she tries anything. When I fail, she surprises me with a previously unexpected reason to bend the time/space continuum.

Sounds like gobbledegook? Just remember that everyone often accomplishes that asleep, and transcendental meditation is all about distorting reality. Perhaps that is how the Lady Kameko achieved such a ripe old age; maybe that is how I will do the same.

If that is to be my portion.

Adrianna was the logical heir to Shinju's ongoing legacy; the powerful mage seems born to become the town's protector. She, however, pooh-poohed the idea, saying she wanted nothing more than to raise Ken's child in peace and security, and simply watch the flow of time. Sounds like a truckload of chocobo guano to me; once a road warrior, always a road warrior, even for our mournful Maestraeon.

Sheol was another candidate. She had the opportunity to watch the maturation of a dragon chick right from hatching, actually becoming what we used to call a “squire.” Through her, entirely new avenues will open to dragon-enhanced warfare; she is very tightly attuned to her charge and his abilities. It could be a long while before anyone else gets that chance, but, who knows? Dragon and rider are still both quite young, and will have decades together. With any luck, we are beginning a new dynasty of draco-human cooperation.

So who is the Dragon Lady of Nibelheim?

Damned if I know. Too soon to tell, although Vincent and I recently had a short conversation on the matter, while we were playing with our little Aerith G:

"So, Josephine, are you up to becoming the next Shinju Kameko of our busy little hamlet?"

"Geez, Vincent, we shouldn’t speculate on such things, not while she's still alive and kicking. Now that you mention it, though, I'm not so sure I want to fill the town with a bunch of bossy, self-satisfied males." The answer came right back, without missing a beat.

"Not to mention a bumper crop of flighty, opinionated females!" Humph. Always the last word.

No doubt that could be one result of our uneasy alliance.

Can we stand one another long enough to find out?