Part 19: False Friends
With Merlinus in tow, they set out for Laus the following day. Laus is located in the heart of Lycia, a territory ruled by the power-hungry marquess of Laus, Lord Darin. Preparations of the war of which the Pheraen magistrate spoke... The disappearance of Eliwood's father, Lord Elbert... The death of Marquess Santaruz... Do these all revolve around Lord Darin? In Eliwood's heart, the need for truth is drowned in fear...a fear of what that truth may hold.
: Yes, Father. We've just received word from our lookouts. He's still beyond that hill, but he'll be here before long.
: Lord Ephidel, what is the meaning of this?
: Perhaps when they reached Santaruz Castle, Lord Helman was still clinging to life. He couldn't have lasted too long, but...maybe he told them something.
: That's terrible! Our plan...it's all for naught, isn't it?
: No need to be so alarmed, my lord. Even if he told young Eliwood something of our schemes, Pherae no longer has any power. All Eliwood could do is perhaps inform Marquess Ostia.
: Ostia? That would be ruinous! Lord Uther may be young and new to the throne, but he's dangerous. That addlepated Helman! He was a coward to the end! To betray us now, when we're so close... We only need a little more time to complete our plans for rebellion!
: Then before Marquess Ostia becomes aware of any of this, you would do well to stop them here.
: Yes, you're right, of course. We do have a chance! They have to pass through Laus to get to Ostia. We can still silence them!
: They must not pass. No matter the cost.
: Let us make haste. Call up our finest troops.
: Erik! Tell me son, can you succeed?
: That clod Eliwood and I studied together in Ostia. He's a trusting fool. If he sees me, he'll lower his guard. And when he does, we strike!
: I see.
: I beg your pardon... Is this not too much for him? If, by strange chance, he fell, things could turn for the worse.
: No, I know I'm the lad's father, but Erik's quite clever, I tell you. Snuffing Pherae's whelp will be no trouble at all. It's settled! It's up to you now, Erik. Bring me the head of Pherae's darling son!
: Yes, Father! I will not fail you!
Well, shit has officially gotten serious.
: Marquess Laus! What is he scheming? Though...you don't much look like you want to go to the castle.
: If we go and learn the truth, we may have to go to war.
: That's fine with me!
: I... I've no love for war. If I concentrate on the foe before me, I'm fine. If I picture families, innocents caught up in our foolish politics? If I imagine them... All I can do is pray for a way to solve things peacefully.
Oh boy, here we go.
: A knight has ridden forth from the castle. Our scouts say it's Marquess Laus's son, Erik. He is asking to see you.
: Gah. Why did it have to be that buffoon?
: I will see him. Bring him here.
: I'm leaving. I never could abide him. I'll go for a ride and survey our surroundings.
: Erik... What is your business?
: My business? What do you mean? I heard my old friend was here in Laus. I merely thought I'd ride out to greet you! So tell me friend, what brings you to Laus? Are you...on your way to Ostia?
: Hm? Why would you think that?
: Well, you were always such good friends with Hector. He and I never...got along very well. For a noble, his behavior was crude, and his manner of speech... You would have thought him a peasant on first glance. You're still friends with Hector, aren't you? When did you see him last? How did you communicate?
: Eric... You're after something. What is it? Everywhere I look, Laus prepares for battle. What are you and your father planning? I will know the truth!
: Hm... I'd hoped to wait until you'd told me of Ostia; of whether you've spoken with the marquess or not.
: What are you talking about?
: Heh heh heh... Eliwood, I have always despised you. How I longed to smash you and your pathetic morality into pieces! I've dreamt of this day, and here it is at last!
: Y-You! Hector! You couldn't... Have you spoken with Ostia already?
: Maybe we have, maybe we haven't. Eliwood, this mongrel has troops lying in ambush all around us. Laus regulars, every one. We're in for a rough time.
: Heh heh... There's little point in fighting. You're trapped! My forces will overwhelm you, an unending torrent of soldiers! Laus's elite knights are ready as well. Heh heh... How long do you think you can survive?
: Craven cur!
Well that went well. Erik might have been a bit more successful if he had been a little more subtle about things, but he's only a Fire Emblem villain, we can't expect him to have mastery over small and unimportant things like subtlety.
: A world of trouble you've landed yourself in, yes?
: Who-! You startled me, old woman! You should get out of here. This is going to be a bad place to stay if you plan on living.
: I want to see the one searching for his father, Marquess Pherae's son.
: Listen up, old woman! You're close to death as it is! Quit your yammering and move on!
: Hector! You should mind your manners. I am Eliwood. May I ask your name, milady?
: Ho ho ho. What a polite young man. I'm Hannah, a fortune-teller. I came here to help you.
: Can you tell me where my father's gone?
: No...but... I can see other things...useful things. I can tell you what weapons to take into battle, as well as who should wield them. Things of that nature.
: Don't tell me you believe any of this.
: I have no reason to believe or disbelieve in Hannah's powers. But I'll not rule out anything if it helps me find my father.
And with that we now have access to the preparations menu once again. All 11 of our units can come on this mission, so no trouble there, but we do have some new options. Under Trade, we can now dump our items with Merlinus from the menu, eliminating the need to do so in battle. In addition, we can check out the Fortune menu which shows us our rankings and lets us get an Augery, which is a bunch of incredibly vague, incredibly obvious stuff. I believe her advice for this chapter is something like "Lots of cavaliers so bring axes, beware of pirates, and bring the pink-haired cleric" (paraphrased, of course). Just looking at the map would tell you two of those three things, so while it may only be 50 gold, don't waste it on that. On to the map:
Merlinus will popping up to the right of Serra once the chapter starts. Bartre and Matthew are going to be hanging out here to guard Merlinus.
There's a village to the west of our position, and we can also see Erik hanging out by the castle. Lowen, Oswin, and Rebecca will be heading out this way.
Erik has absolutely abysmal stats given his level, but Silver Lances have not stopped being painful since we last saw them with Lundgren. He's nice enough to give us his after he keels over.
There is a second village to the southwest as well. Marcus is going to be hauling ass down to here, because about the time he gets there, the enemies will start actively advancing on us, and there'll be rain incoming.
Finally, these fortresses out on water mean either Peg Knights or Pirates, and in this case it's pirates. Some will be heading toward the southern village, where Guy will be standing guard, and the others will go after Merlinus, where Matthew is waiting. The rest of the crew will be heading down the center to deal with Erik and the bulk of his army.
: There may be many of them, but numbers are meaningless! We are knights of Pherae. These mice of Laus will never defeat us!
Marcus has taken an appropriately stance. I approve.
: I'm sorry, but it's just not possible. If we disobey Marquess Laus, who knows what might happen to us?
: I understand. We'll seek our aid elsewhere.
: You'll find the same answer everywhere you go. Eventually, you'll have to do as the marquess orders. You would do well to tell your employer the same thing.
: Hm. Good day to you.
Well, look at that. It's our good buddy, Erk! You can recruit him a couple of ways, but the easiest is to have Serra talk to him, so that's our first priority. The faster you get to him, the better, because he has a bad habit of running off toward Erik and he gets overwhelmed pretty easily. The Goddess Icon is good for raising luck, so we'll be taking that off his hands fairly shortly.
Here's Merlinus's proper stats. He's not nearly as fragile now that he's got his tent and all, but he's still going to need a guard for a while.
Now then, let's get started. After murdering the pair of cavaliers that start behind us, Rebecca moves out and kills the soldier blocking Lowen's path to Erk, gaining a level in the process.
This is an excellent start to the level. Marcus starts murdering his way south, and we cut down to the southern village.
: Has your escort returned yet?
: No. He left yesterday in search of a way out of here. I just hope the soldiers of Laus haven't captured him.
: His search for help must have been fruitless. Marquess Laus has ordered that no aid be given to you. There's really nothing any of us can do. I apologize, but...
: No, no. You could turn me over to the marquess, yet you continue to grant me asylum. I'm grateful for that. Of course, if I simply went to the castle, this would all be over.
: Don't fret over that. None of us are overly fond of the marquess. He's always threatening us. He treats us like slaves. All of these war preparations? We want nothing to do with them. We may be divided into territories, but we're Lycians, one and all. We may be invaded by another country one day, but why does he want to start a war here at home? None of us understand what he's doing.
Well that's interesting, if a bit predictable given what we've learned of Lord Darin.
: Aha ha ha! Perfect! Time for a raid! Up and at 'em, mates! That village is ripe for plunder!
At the start of the third turn, the pirates start showing up. The first set of them is going to be heading for the south village, but we've got a huge head start and Guy will be waiting at the beach regardless. Also around this point, Lowen drops off Erk at the camp.
: What are you doing here?
: Oh...Serra. You're the last person I wanted to see.
: Oh, that's so sweet! You wanted to see me again! Hey, I know! This is perfect. Come with us and lend a hand, Erk.
: I beg your pardon?
: Come on! I'll even introduce you to Lords Hector and Eliwood! I know you. You're probably just wandering about without work.
: No, Serra. I'm afraid I am gainfully employed. However... If you're fighting Laus... This might work out after all.
: What are you babbling about? Make up your mind, will you?
: My employer is hiding in a village south of here. If you'll help me protect her, I'll join up with you.
And with that, Erk is back in the crew. On the next turn, Eliwood picks up a level murdering a cavalier.
Not too bad, I guess. Lowen drops in the north village next.
: Let me tell you, I'm on your side! My granddaughter... Marquess Laus took her away. He found her pretty, and forced her to the castle. It's not much, but please take this. It's a large sword, so you have to be strong to use it. It's a bit unwieldy, but it's a mighty weapon nonetheless. I hope you can defeat the marquess's son, Erik. It would make our lives more pleasant. Good luck to you.
Wonderful. The Iron Blade is slightly stronger than a steel sword, but a bit less accurate and much heavier. It also has the benefit of giving a lot more points toward sword levels.
After the fifth turn or so, Erik starts getting desperate.
: To the castle! I want all the reinforcements available, and I want them now!
: What? Ready the men.
: Unbelievable... These numbers cannot stop them.
: Ephidel? W-Where are you going?
: It seems that conquering Lycia might have been too much to ask of you after all. I must inform my master. The Black Fang will be leaving at once.
: No! You... You can't abandon us! Not at this stage!
: Who was it that said Ostia mustn't learn of our plans? Wasn't it you, Lord Darin? The marquess of Laus himself?
: Y-Yes, it was. There's no turning back for me. Not now! P-Please! One more... Give me one more chance. I assure you I will not disappoint Lord Nergal!
: Very well. Assemble your men. We will regroup elsewhere.
: Eh? You can't mean... My son...my home... Am I to abandon them?
: Would you fall into disgrace along with your son? Our master, Lord Nergal, is offering you the throne of all of Lycia. Surely a few sacrifices are not too much to ask?
: Yes... You're right. My destiny is greater than his. I was born to be king of Lycia.
: And as for an heir? You are still young, my lord. You will have time. You must not let a moment's sentimentality cloud your judgement.
Now that's fucking cold. Darin and Ephidel get the hell out of Dodge, leaving Erik to our forces.
: I've no choice, I must attack! You! To the castle! Find more men!
: Yes my lord!
Well, now the rain is coming down and Erik is going to be moving toward us. Thankfully, Marcus reaches the south village.
: Please, do not waste your time. I will not change my decision. Pardon? Marquess Laus did not send you? I... I beg your forgiveness. It was my mistake. Say... If it's not too much trouble, might I leave with you? I'm on a journey. Marquess Laus is barring my way and...I'm trapped. I am trained in the use of staves. Please, help me.
Priscilla is our second healer, and her extra movement from being mounted makes her very, very useful. (No, I totally didn't forget to take a shot of her stats until later, why would you think that? )
Priscilla and Marcus start heading back for camp, but it's slow moving in the rain. Guy levels up killing a pirate.
A very typical myrmidon level. Another batch of pirates appears in the south, this time heading for Merlinus's tent. After the rain lets up, Erik's men really start moving toward us, and Hector levels up.
Very nice. Very Hector-esque. Lowen's next, by killing a brigand.
Lowen, you are the best. Matthew levels up dealing with a pirate.
Typical thief level, sadly. Eliwood lands a critical on a cavalier, and absorbs some of the sheer awesome.
Bleh. Strength and defense are good, but we really need more than that. Guy, after managing to fail to dodge every single pirate that he came across, finally shows his stuff.
Ugh. Useless. Hector moves in to deal with Erik.
: No matter how hard I tried... You two garnered all the attention...all the praise. In the classroom, on the training grounds... Everywhere and everything!
: Erik. You always did care more about appearances than ability. If you had even a hint of skill, perhaps you'd-
: Hold your tongue! I will hear no more! No more!
Erik is nice enough to not scratch up the lance, and Hector retaliates by knocking off 23 of his 28 HP in a single blow. He finishes the job next turn.
Now this is a bizarre level for Hector.
: You... You peasants! You can't treat a proper noble like this!
: It's too late for niceties! Be thankful you're still breathing!
: Erik, you must tell me. Where is your father? We've searched the entire castle, and there's no one here.
: Don't be ridiculous! My father would not abandon... No! He'd never... Ephidel...
: Ephidel? Who's that?
: Speak, cur! Do you want to die here?
: Hector! Erik... Please. You must tell us everything you know. I... I just want to know where my father is.
: He came...and my father changed. Ostia's position had always bothered my father... He felt Laus deserved to rule all of Lycia. But he'd never gone so far as to speak of rebellion.
: Did you say...rebellion?
: Ephidel had something... With it, he convinced my father to set this plan in motion. My father then sent envoys to several other marquesses. Marquess Pherae, he approved of the idea.
: Never! My father would never agree to such a thing!
: Believe or disbelieve. That is your choice. First was Marquess Santaruz. Then Marquess Pherae's reply arrived. Lord Elbert visited here six months ago to seal his approval.
: That's not...possible...
: My father and yours argued vehemently that day. Marquess Pherae always distrusted Ephidel. He tried to convince my father to send Ephidel and the Black Fang assassins out of Lycia. My father would not be persuaded, and Lord Elbert left the castle. As you know, he then disappeared. I doubt he's still alive.
: Shut your mouth!
: Eliwood said he wanted to hear everything. My father... He is but Ephidel's puppet. He'll listen to anything that villain says. Even watch his own son...die... These are the sort of people you're dealing with. Marquess Pherae betrayed them. They would not let him live! Ha ha...ha ha ha ha...
: My father is alive... And... I cannot believe he supports...rebellion. There must be... There has to be a reason.
: I know. I don't believe any of this for an instant. My brother trusted Marquess Pherae more than anyone. First we'll find your father and discover the truth. We'll talk to my brother after that.
: Hector...I'm sorry.
: Don't look like that. Your father is surely alive. Right?
: Yes...of course. Marquess Laus... Black Fang assassins... Now this mysterious Ephidel... I'll find them all and prove my father's innocence!
Priscilla is the second and final dedicated healer, and usually the one that's going to end up being more useful. Her growths are more or less dead even with Serra's (with the exception of Serra's much lower skill growth, but that doesn't really matter since Serra picks up light magic after promotion), and she has moderately better bases, but the big advantage is that Priscilla is mounted. She'll definitely take a bit more work to get up to speed, since Serra will be coming off of Lyn's story already leveled and she's with Eliwood and crew for a few chapters before this as well, but Priscilla's movement advantage alone is enough to make her worth using. Unless she gets RNG-screwed or Serra has a huge level advantage, it's hard to not recommend Priscilla.