Part 23: Chapter 14 - Preamble
The Begnion Empire, the largest nation on the continent, is a theocracy dedicated to the goddess Ashera.
Reigning from the summit of the empire and guiding the world with the voice of the goddess, the apostle Sanaki rules Begnion. As Ashera's chosen vessel, the apostle is showered with love and respect from the entire nation. Seven imperial senators aid the apostle in the governance of her realm. This system of government has been the backbone of Begnion for many long centuries. After Ike and his company aid the apostle, her holy guard takes them to the imperial capital, Sienne.
The upper class of Begnion society live lives of pampered comfort and luxury. Known as the Sainted, these elite power brokers reside in massive temple-like homes whose spires dominate the skyline. The Guiding Tower overlooks all from the heart of the city. Here, Ashera holds her vigil, watching over the world. Surrounding the tower is a series of temples, both large and small, placed in an orderly, systematic fashion.One temple, however, is conspicuously larger than the others. It is the grand temple Mainal, home to the apostle. Ike and his company, used to the freedoms of Crimea, find the differences in culture and custom to be very confusing.
Now then, you have proclaimed yourself to be the orphan of Crimea's King Ramon. Princess Elincia Ridell Crimea, correct?
I have heard stories that King Crimea had a daughter in secret. My men have reported as much to me in the past. However, whether you are that princess or not is another tale. Do you have nothing that would lend credence to your claims?
Nothing at all. It took all my energy simply to avoid capture by Daein. I had no time to secure any proof of my claim.
Hmph. And with Crown Prince Renning also dead, there is no one who even knows your face. What am I to do?
My lord Ike!
I have no doubt that Princess Elincia is the true heir to the throne of Crimea.
Oh, really? And tell me, what gives you this strength of conviction? If we believe her story, this woman has not engaged with the outside world since the day she was born. So how is it that you, a lowly mercenary, dare to assert her authenticity?
The Daein army pursues her with bloody-minded determination. At every turn, they demand that we turn Princess Elincia over to them. What further proof do you need?
But you... You're a commoner. You have no surname, no documented lineage... You have nothing. I know commoners. They are poor. For a price, they will support any lie, no matter how outlandish.
Oh! Now, I suppose you will tell me you are the son of some noble house? No, of course not. But wait, perhaps you're a royal knight of Crimea?
I am neither a noble nor a knight. I have no connection with the palace whatsoever. And no matter how much gold I stood to gain, I would not betray my convictions. Elincia has paid us, yes, but nothing more than the standard fee to purchase our services as her escort. Nothing more. We have come this far only because we believe Elincia to be a woman of integrity. We would not sell our swords to a liar.
My lord Ike!
Guards! Guards! Seize this man! For his abuse of the apostle, the penalty can be only death!
Sephiran? That monk we rescued from the prisons?
A monk, was it? His disguises are always so clever. It never ceases to amaze me. As always, he remains an enigma.
He has been traveling the neighboring lands for months, trying to ascertain the condition of the people there.
So... you knew we were coming. You knew who we were all along.
Yes. I apologize for testing you. You see, life here in the palace is dreadfully dull. I am always so very bored. Thanks to the princess and her brazen little escort, this interrogation proved to be an amusing diversion.
Even your most loyal servant, Duke Oliver of Tanas, was on the verge of being completely fooled. I am humbled! Oh ho ho! Come, Duke Lekain!
Ah-ahem. It was all a ruse, was it?... Oh, Apostle, you do tease us so mercilessly! Still, it was not such a bad way to amuse ourselves, was it, Duke Hetzel?
Princess Crimea, it appears that you have put quite a smile on the face of our beloved apostle. What an honor that must be! Hoo hoo hoo!
... Ah... Um... Yes... I suppose...
"Well, duh. This is Begnion."
Oh, yes, I almost forgot in all the fun... Sephiran has already vouched for your identity as the true princess of Crimea. I require no further proof. You may rest easy.
I am... most grateful.
Wait a minute!
What is the meaning of this? You knew Elincia was Princess Crimea? And you continued to humiliate her for your own entertainment? For some stupid game of wits and words? This is no joke!
Elincia's homeland is lost to her! Her family has been hunted down and killed by the monsters of Daein! And with nowhere else to turn, she endures mortal danger and terrible heartbreak to reach your door. And then you... you laugh at her?! Where is the humor in that? Where is your decency?
My... My lord Ike, please--
Wretched peasant! You loose that treasonous tongue once more, and--
Duke Lekain, restrain yourself!
Now then, Ike. I fully understand your feelings. Your passion for your employer is truly a beautiful thing. Would that my own fawning vassals shared your commitment.
Raise your voice once more to me, and you will seriously damage the princess's already precarious position. Do you understand?
Not really. Why don't you fill me in?
Even if Elincia is truly Crimean royalty, she is at best heir to a dead country. Nothing more. Without Begnion's support, Elincia's claim holds no meaning. Am I mistaken?
Even if we harm her fragile feelings, for the sake of her country's future, she must stand by and say nothing. In fact, she is in no position to do anything but beg for Begnion's favor. Or... hadn't you noticed?
I have much to consider. For now, I shall take my leave of you. I will meet with my senators soon and discuss this state of affairs. Crimea's future will not be uncertain for long.
Well, that's just fucking wonderful. This is the person who will decide the future of Crimea. She makes us jump through hoops for entertainment. And I don't like the look of those Senators...
I don't care if she's the empress or the apostle or whatever! I can't stand her!
You insulted the apostle--the very symbol of their way of life. The fact that you are still breathing is a miracle.
I... hadn't realized.
And as her escort, your criminal behavior would fall directly on your employer, Princess Elincia. If you had truly angered the apostle, any hope of restoring Crimea would have vanished like a puff of smoke.
That's madness! They would sacrifice a whole country to satisfy their own egos?
The beorc divide themselves into classes. And with classes come prejudice. From the moment of our birth to our final dying gasp, we commoners know we are not allowed to defy the upper classes.
Princess Elincia... I... I'm sorry. My ignorance does not excuse my stupidity. ...I truly am sorry.
To see you so angry on my behalf... Your words filled my heart.
It wasn't as noble as you make it sound.
However, there is one point that I would contest. It is true that I've lost my family... and my home. But I did have people to turn to... People to rely on. My lord Ike, you and your company were at my side. For me, this has been a great source of inspiration and of happiness.
Huh? That would be improper, wouldn't it? I mean, you're our employer, and...
You called me so earlier.
I did? Really?
You didn't notice?
No, I... Oh. My aplogies. I'll be more careful. Well, I suppose we should go. They've prepared rooms for us.
Ehh, I can kinda see the logic here.
That means conversations!
There's a rumor going 'round that a tiger sub-human has been seen on the foggy banks of this very river!
Eh, wot? You don't seem surprised! All right then, how about this? That sub-human? They say it's ALWAYS in beast form! It can't change back! Right frightening, ain't it? The only way for us humans to fight them savages is to wait for 'em to change out of beast form. I mean, how can we kill 'em if they won't change?
Still no reaction, eh? What a bore! 'Owzabout this juicy morsel, then? Was saving it, I was, but... I 'eard from my darling in the army, that tigers, cats, and other four-legged sub-humans HATE fire magic. That's a useful tidbit, ain't it? Oh, I knows things!
Wha-what's wrong? Just saying 'allo to one of the new servants is all!
... Aye? ... Oy? ... Eh wot? Oh, crikey! Princess Elincia's escort...? A guest of the apostle...?!? Oh, ohnoohmygosh! Please... Please forgive me!
Poor maid... useful info though! But, believe it or not, this info is a lot more pertinent to the mission after the one coming up than it is to the one coming up...
Is that why you're out here, too?
No, I'm here for different reasons. I'm just... admiring the flowers.
Oh, right. Yes, they all seem to be in bloom this time of year. The large yellow ones are especially pretty.
Not those flowers... THOSE flowers!
...Gatrie, we're inside. There's nothing here but the temple handmaidens.
Exactly! It's like a whole new species of girl lives in Begnion! Everyone in this palace is drop-dead gorgeous!
Hey, Ike? Ike? Bah! He's still just a boy!
Here's to never changing.
Are you trying to clear your head as well?
Yeah, I guess so. I'm just walking and thinking about things. Begnion is so... odd. I don't understand this country at all.
Mm... I can see that. Everything's so wrapped up in form and tradition, it feels like Begnion has lost track of more important things.
You're some noble house's daughter, are you not? What made you decide to become a knight?
To escape my royal family... No, not to escape... but to confront it. I want my life to be my own.
How do you like being a knight?
I am still not satisfied. I may now be a knight, but my hands still shake when I draw my bowstring.
Commander Ike, the others say that you never give up, no matter how bleak the fight. That seems like true strength to me. Please, allow me to continue fighting by your side. If I remain with you, I will grow stronger from your example.
Your skill with the bow is spectacular. How could I possible refuse your request? We're pleased to have you.
Oh... thank you! Thank you very much!
Huh? Aw, nuts! You heard that, handsome? Sorry about that.
You've been behaving oddly lately. Something happen?
Pfff! I'm fine! It's just... Well, being here in Begnion is... difficult, you know?
Difficult? You were a member of the pegasus knights here, weren't you?
Aren't you happy to see some of your old friends?
I've told you why I resigned my knighthood, haven't I?
Yes, you're searching for your brother.
It's my brother's fault... I... I... Aaargh! That no-good chum bucket!
Um... maybe we should just drop it.
... Huh? Oh, no it's-- Don't worry. I'm fine.
Don't let it get to you too much. I don't want you distracted in a fight, all right?
Got it. Thanks.
Grrr! Lazy do-nothing!
We've also got time for some more supports!
Fire/Water: Hit +2.5, Atk +1, Def +0.5
Good morning! I'm Brom. I take it you're with the Greil Mercenaries?
Well, if it isn't the imprisoned papa! I'm Boyd. And I'm one of the original Greil Mercenaries.
Oh, that's swell! You know, you fight pretty well for someone so young.
Young? Ha! You're one to talk! I mean, look at you, pops! We had to bust you out of a prison, and you're STILL a big fatty! How do you fight with a body like that? Doesn't all the jiggling slow you down?
Aw, you're right... I know it could be trouble during a big battle. But this body has served me well! After all, you need a lot of girth to manage a mule and plow!
You're a farmer, pops?
That's right! But I hate to think that my big belly would be a burden on you... Aw, now I feel terrible! Sniff... Sniff...
Wha--? Hey, don't cry, pops! Look, let's start working out together! I'll whip you into shape in no time!
Really? Do you mean that? That would be great! Whip me into shape, Boyd! Oh, my wife will be so surprised!
Water/Thunder: Atk +0.5, Def +1, Avo +2.5
Oh, there you are.
Back again, Mist?
Uh-huh. Because you didn't join us for supper. Again.
No one wants to share the table with a Daein soldier. It would ruin the meal.
My brother says he doesn't care.
He says that.
And I'm just glad to have someone close to my age traveling with us! So come on, let's go eat something.
I.... I can't. Sorry.
I see. Well then... I'll just have to bring the food to you! I'll be right back!
B-but... Hold it a second!
Heaven/Thunder: Hit +5, Def +0.5, Avo +0.5
Can I help you?
I, I have a q-question. Is that all right?
It depends on what you're going to ask.
Why don't half-bree... No, that's not right... Why don't the laguz use weapons?
... We laguz are born ready to fight. Weapons are something that you powerless beorc created to counter our claws. We have no use for them.
I, I see...
Is that all you wanted to ask?
Um... no. There's more. Why do you detest us... humans so much?
That's a good question. But I would hear you answer first. Why do you beorc hate the laguz?
It's because the half-bree... The laguz are our enemy.
Enemy...? If that's the case, we hate you, too. As we hate all our enemies. We're done here.
Water/Wind: Atk +0.5, Def +0.5, Hit +2.5, Avo +2.5
Well, howdy. Nephenee! Isn't it a beautiful day?
Mmm-hmm. It sure is!
I bet your home town is real busy now, what with harvest season approaching and all.
Yeah, I bet. I'm sure my brothers and sisters are grumblin' at Ma for making them help in the fields.
Ho ho! All kids ever want to do is play. I should know! Say, how many people are in your family, Nephenee?
I have two younger sisters and three younger brothers. The boys are triplets. They just turned six years old.
That's too much for your mom to handle all on her own!
Yep, I'm sure Ma chews 'em out every day. What about you, Brom?
My kids are a little older. I hope they're helping Mother like they're supposed to...
Don't worry 'bout it, Brom. I'm sure they are.
Light/Earth: Hit +2.5, Def +0.5, Avo +5
Uh... Ilyana? What are you staring at?
Oh? Er... The bag on your hip.
It's nothing special. I just carry a vulnerary and some snacks in there. Why? Is there something wrong with it?
Oooh... It smells delicious...
Really? That's odd. It's just some dried meat.
Dried meat! So... savory... I'm just... you know. I'm hungry.
You're hungry? But I just saw you shoveling down some roast rabbit a few minutes ago! You may look frail, but you can sure throw down the chow! Well, I'm off. Talk to you later!
Oh... good-bye. What am I going to do? I should have told him I'm starving and nearly ready to collapse from hunger pains. Maybe then he would have given me some of his delicious-smelling snacks. I need food!
Fire/Wind: Atk +1, Hit +10, Avo +5
Oh, Rhys! What's wrong?
Hm? Nothing, Rolf.
Are you feeling sick? Are you gonna barf?
No, no. What makes you think that?
Don't lie! I can tell. Your hands and face always turn pale when you're sick! Let me see your hands!
Hey, stop that! I'm only wearing gloves because they're fashionable right now! Don't take those...
AHA! They're cold! Cold as ice! You're supposed to tell me when you're having a rough time of it!
... Sorry, Rolf. But I'm well enough to move around a battlefield, so I'll be all right.
You're talking about a battlefield, Rhys! Not some fort! Don't pretend to be fine if you're not! You'll end up dead if you keep doing stuff like that!
Rolf... I... I'm sorry...
I'm really sorry, Rolf. I wish.. Cough! I wish I wasn't so frail. It would be nice to be strong.
Well, I wish your staff could heal sicknesses and not just big gaping axe wounds!
So do I... sigh... I wish I had a better plan than just waiting for it to pass.
Well, I'll ask Ike to let us fight together. At least then I can keep an eye on you.
Fire/Light: Atk +1, Hit +10, Def +1
Oh, I remember you from the other day.
You're staggering again. Is there something wrong with you?
No... I'm fine. Really.
But you look sickly and ill. Why don't you go and see a priest?
I'm quite all right. The last time I saw a priest, he said I wasn't sick.
Hmm... Are you sure you weren't being bilked? Was he a real priest? You look like you're about to keel over.
Meh. Have it your way... Can you even walk?
Yes, of course... I'll see you later.
Where are you going? That's a dead end! Hold up a moment. I'll come with you! You'll never find anything without me.
Fire/Wind: Atk +1, Hit +10, Avo +5
Incredible! You hit the target twenty-six times in a row!
Well, my goal was thirty.
That's a lofty goal, and you came close! You're becoming an impressive archer, Rolf!
But I can't afford to miss a single shot in battle. The man who taught me how to fire a bow told me that once... I can't be happy with just twenty-six hits.
You push yourself hard, Rolf. That's admirable.
Aren't you strict with yourself, Marcia?
Hm? What, me? Pfff! Of course! I'm stricter than a poached egg on toast! "Be firm with yourself and others!" That's what the first officer in my old unit told me. But you're still...
A child? I'm not a child. Those days ended the instant I took my first life.
... I suppose you're right. You've had to grow up fast traveling with a group of hardened sellswords like this.
Do you worry about me because I'm young?
Well... sure. Who wouldn't?
Well, stop it. I can take care of myself. I've grown strong.
True enough. Sorry if I underestimated you.
Well, that's enough of that. Time for admin!
This level meets with my approval.
So does this one.
This one, not so much, but eh. Strength.
This is a bit odd, but it's Speed for Jill so I'll shut up.
Aimee has expanded her stock list again. She now sells Antitoxins (cures poison), Torches, and Torch staves (which do the same thing as Torches but can only be used by Staff users). Torch staves are one way you can have Mist grind EXP when there's no one to heal, so it makes sense to snap up at least one. Bear in mind they can only be used on Fog of War maps.
Y'know, not that their sudden appearance in the shop at this point is a hint or anything. No, sir.
Oh, and just as a side note, we can now forge Steel weapons of all varieties. You know what that means!
(bear in mind that although we can forge Steel and (much later) Silver weapons, we will never be able to forge anything beyond basic magic tomes. That kinda sucks.)
Well, let's see what the next mission has in store for us.
They gave me free reign to wander the temple, but I've seen everything! I'm tired of it!
I guess I'll get in some fencing practice...
Is there anything you find wanting?
There's nothing to do, and Mist is bored.
Ah, Ike! Why'd you say that!?
Weren't you just complaining about that exact same thing to me? You said you were bored and tired of everything.
That doesn't mean you should go spouting it to everyone! Oh, you're such an idiot, Ike!
My apologies... Neither of them meant any offense. They're just frustrated.
Yes, I understand that. I will pay it no mind.
Did you have some reason for coming to speak with us?
The apostle wants to employ us!?
Your reaction. I'd have thought that you would be spouting and fuming at the thought of working for the apostle.
If Princess Elincia can tolerate endless social gatherings to judge Begnion's mood and garner her favor, the least I can do is help her earn points by running an errand or two.
So we lay in wait for them here, right?
Yes. The apostle's orders were clear. "Stop the band of merchants traveling on the old highway, and seize their cargo." This does look to be the best spot for an ambush.
All right. I don't know who we're facing, but we're on the job. Let's do this right!
Cats, tigers, and a few crows... All we've got are laborers. We're not going to get rich with this.
I've been selling half-breeds for twenty- five years. The ones that fetch the highest price are the trophy herons. And if they're white-winged royals, the fanatics will empty their purses of every last coin.
Well, if that's the case, why don't we hit Serenes Forest next time? There might be a few of 'em left.
You've the brains of a dead wyvern! Why do you think herons are so expensive? It's because they're rare! It's been twenty years since that mob burned Serenes. The herons were all roasted like chickens! No matter how you look at it, that was utter lunacy. All that gold, up in smoke.
Oh... If they're so valuable, I'd like to see one with my own eyes. I'd catch it and put it in a cage...
Think what you could buy with all that gold. A new axe... Oh, and some furry boots, too!
Shut up, fool! Stop your daydreaming, and look over there!
Wh-what? Who are they?
Bah! Look alive, lads! They're not common travelers!
This fog makes it hard to see, but their numbers and appearance match our intelligence... It must be them.
Well, they've certainly seen us. They're readying their weapons.
Very well... Get ready to fight, everyone!
Well, here's a view of the battlefield, for all the good it's gonna do.
Well, here we are at another Voting Time!
I'm spoiling you all for choice this time! Ike is coming, natch, as are Oscar, Kieran and Astrid. It's been a while since we saw Gatrie, so he's invited for old time's sake. Mist is coming for heals, and Marcia is going to be making herself useful.
That leaves six spaces open for voting.
I am going to demand that we bring one of our thieves, simply because they're good for scouting. As such, if neither Sothe or Volke are in the top six, whoever's in the sixth position will get booted out in favour of whichever of the thieves has more votes. Otherwise, there are no restrictions.
Choose from Boyd, Rhys, Titania, Soren, Mia, Ilyana, Rolf, Lethe, Mordecai, Volke, Brom, Nephenee, Zihark, Sothe, and Jill.
See you in 48 hours!
And don't forget to vote on a Forge!