Part 27: Chapter 16 - Preamble
Oh... Ooooo... This is something everyone should see. There can be no doubt--I gaze upon the last living wonder of the Serenes royalty. Those golden locks! Witness how they gather in the morning sun and multiply its brilliance. The gentle lustre of those argent wings! Manifest proof of royalty, as sure as I am alive. Magnificent... Absolutely magnificent. A true work of art wrought in flesh and feather. All this beauty... Mine... The fortune I paid the raven king seems like a pittance compared to this treasure!
What? Naesala... sold me? To YOU?!
Oh ho ho ho! You are exquisite, even in rage! Now, if you behave yourself, I'll grant you a life of luxury...
My beauty, you mustn't be frightened. In time, you will come to see how kind and charitable a master I can be.
This is madness!
Oooh! S-so frightening! How delicious! But I fear that we must now be separated for a short while. Loyal servants! Attend my words! You must not raise a hand to this one. Prepare his meals with care, and do not disturb his rest. I would not see his countenance marred by displeasure. Herons, you see, are such delicate things. And then, at the proper time... Yes, the proper time. When will it be? I say to you, those haughty senators and their ilk have looked down their noses at me for the last time! I shall show them all! Ooooh, but I must have a grand stage. One where none can fail to see me. The Serenes royals are creatures of legend, and when I arrive with one at my side... I can hardly wait to see Duke Gados's face.
Well done, Ike. I shall see that you are well rewarded.
Where's your usual entourage? I see only two of your holy guard...
Oh, there was some sort of disturbance. I think they're clearing away the rabble. But on to business... Is that one there the ringleader of the thieves? Why, he's nothing but a child! Has he offered up any kind of defense for his deplorable actions?
We are no thieves! We are trying to free the laguz that these filthy aristocrats hold in captivity!
What manner of absurd fairy tale is this? In the year Begnion 624, Apostle Misaha, my honored grandmother, emancipated every last laguz slave. In accordance with her law, today there is not a single slave to be found in all of the Begnion Empire.
Countless noble houses even now keep laguz as servants or entertainment... or worse! And the senate! Those vast windbags grant tacit approval by doing nothing!
That's enough! I told you to keep a cool head.
Ike... Whyever would you bring such an ill-mannered rogue to meet me? What is it you're planning?
Really? And what could you possibly mean by that?
Your last mission showed us the slave trade, and now you've put us in contact with an underground emancipation group. From the very beginning, I found this whole arrangement a little odd. You have more vassals than you can use, yet you hire us for these missions? Your motivations have me puzzled.
Oh, I see. And have you solved this puzzle of yours?
You want to expose the depravity of the inner circles of power. But you don't want the general public to know that the majority of the senate is involved in slavery.
I didn't figure it all out by myself. I have companions whom I trust with my life. They helped.
Hey! Hold it! What in the world are you talking about? Would someone like to explain this to me?
The apostle is aware of the laguz slavery. On top of that, it appears she intends to do something about this problem.
Are you serious?
I am. However, whether I succeed or fail depends largely on what you do next.
So be it. I think it's time you told us about the next job you have lined up for us.
I've received reports that Bishop Oliver, the duke of Tanas, is up to something suspicious. Duke Tanas has a villa near the woods of Serenes. Go there, and return with irrevocable proof of... whatever he's doing.
We'll bring back whatever information it is you're looking for. Be ready for us!
I'm pretty okay with this.
Sadly, we didn't get paid this time around, but that's kinda alright - the treasure we picked up will account for our expenses just fine.
Little one! How... How was it? Were you treated roughly? Did they attempt to punish you?
No, it was nothing. And the apostle? I thought she'd be some mean old hag, but she's just a kid. Really, she's even shorter than I am.
Li-little one! You must lower your voice. And watch your tongue!
That is good.
Speaking ill of the apostle here is considered treasonous. Keep it up, and they'll kill you-- or threaten to.
Little one... While we are here, please choose your words with more care than you have shown. I beg of you.
Oh, right. I understand.
For a laguz, you seem to know more about the court etiquette here than my fellow beorc, Tormod.
That's 'cause...'cause I don't know much about any of this stuff. That's all!
It is no matter, little one.
For generations, my family... served as slaves to one house. They were wealthy and powerful, senators all. As a child, I was raised never to question my station as a slave. From the day that I was born, the most grueling physical labor was as natural as breathing. I knew nothing else. To ensure we were liked by our masters, we were drilled in the etiquette of polite society until it became second nature. We were slaves... We did what we could to live as long as we could. The most important thing was not to incur the wrath of our masters. If we displeased them, we were punished. If we were lucky, we were beaten. If we were unlucky...
Muarim! That's enough!
I am sorry. Lord Ike... If a former slave like myself is present, all of you will be judged, scorned, and looked down upon.
Why would you say such a thing? You were born a laguz slave... And you're not allowed to be free... That's not right! That's why we promised each other we'd change all of that. We made a promise! Laguz, like beorc, would build homes and plant fields! Families would live together in peace and freedom! That's the world we dreamed of...
That's a dream that belongs to us as former laguz slaves. We don't need the help of another beorc like you.
... Does it really warrant that much concern?
Since I first arrived here in Begnion, it's something that's been bothering me. If you're born into a noble house, you're a noble. If your parents are slaves, you're a slave. Do you think a person's worth is decided at the moment of their birth? That's... I can't understand a country where that passes for normal, I just can't.
Those don't sound like the words of someone working for Princess Crimea. Princesses are princesses because they're born into royal families, right? Are you going to deny that?
I don't think we've treated her with more respect than any other employer we've had, but... Heh. Funny. We've addressed her as "Princess" the entire time, but I've never really considered what it meant.
From where I stand, I think you've been blessed. You were born a beorc and raised in a country with a lenient social structure. That's an enviable life.
It's so hard... I... No matter how I try, I'll never fully understand your pain. But listen, I didn't treat Elincia any differently after I learned of her heritage. I'm not going to think of you or treat you differently just because you used to be a slave. It's not going to happen. You're... you. And I'm free to think of it that way if I want, right?
Muarim, there's nothing anyone can do about your past. About the burdens you carry.
He's dedicated to you, and being with you is his choice. It's part of his freedom.
... I see now. I will go... and find him.
If meeting those in the temple is uncomfortable, I can go and bring him back. What do you think?
No, I can do it. I have a good nose. Tracking the young one's scent while avoiding other beorc is an easy task.
May our friendship be true and enduring.
I share your sentiment. Our troop will have you for as long as you wish.
In any case, Tormod and Muarim have now joined our team! We'll see what they can do in just a second, but we've got one more quite profitable conversation to have with...
Commander of the Greil Mercenaries, ladies and gents.
I joined after the battle in the sands. My name is Stefan. I apologize for not introducing myself earlier.
Why are you here?
In part it's because I'm curious. But mostly, it's the guiding hand of fate that has led me to you.
In the desert, I watched the dance of your sword.
Luckily, your foundation is quite strong. Which is why I can be of service. Your technique... How powerful will it be when perfected? I would like to know.
Wh-who are you?
Don't ask stupid questions, game!
I understand. If you can help me perfect my technique, I will gladly accept an invitation to learn from you.
Then prepare yourself. Come! Attack me with all your strength.
Sweet. Free Occult scroll. So, yeah, you might as well know, there are four of these in the game, and now we've got two.
Now, our new recruits:
Tormod is a mage, and in case you couldn't tell, his specialty is fire. He's a tad underleveled compared to the rest of our team, but it's simple enough to train him if you're willing to put a bit of time in. His stats are pretty okay given his level.
Tormod's specialty, however, is his Celerity skill, which gives him +2 Move, no questions asked. He can zip all over the battlefield, chasing down fed kills or running the hell away, as appropriate. Having high Move is great, you see.
Then, there's Muarim. Muarim is just as powerful as he was when we last saw him - I've taken off his Demi Band so you can see his actual stats. Muarim is basically a higher leveled version of Mordecai and is notable for being pretty damn fast even for an untransformed Tiger. For lack of a better phrase, Muarim is a total beast at this point, even when using the Demi Band.
Light/Light: Hit +5, Def +1
You there, young lady!
Hello? Yes, you... the cute one!
Oooh, I get it. Playing hard to get, eh? Tee hee hee!
Um... Are you... talking to me?
Phew, I finally got your attention. Aren't you a sly little minx!
So... what's your name, cutie?
My name? Well... It's Ilyana, but...
Ilyana, eh? That's a cute name.
Oh... it is?
I'm Gatrie. But I'm sure you already knew that.
Um... well, actually...
Of course, I'm sure you've heard all about my victories on the battlefield. Oh, there was that business with the dragon...
Excuse me, I have to go.
I know she'll never forget me! Ilyana... You will be mine!
Earth/Dark: Avo +15, Atk +1
Do you have a second, Soren?
What is it, Ike?
What's wrong? You've been quiet and moody for days. What's going on?
Um... Well, it's...
... It's nothing. ... ... You've never worried about who you are, have you? You family? Where you come from?
Who I am...? Well, not really. No. I guess I don't understand what you're getting at. I had a father and a mother. I don't remember much about her, but otherwise, no complaints.
It must be... nice to have loving parents. You need people to experience your childhood. To help shape the person you will become. Without an adult around to affirm and support them, a child can't know which path to take. Or who he really is.
Don't you have any memory of your parents?
No. The woman who raised me was not my birth mother. And she wasn't all that fond of me, anyway... My earliest memories are of her saying. "Why me? The world isn't fair!" or "Stay away from me, child." No love. No affection. She took care of me out of some sense of duty that she didn't really possess.
When I was about four, a nearby sage came by and asked to take me in. He said I possessed rare magical talent. I remember the day clearly. my caretaker was delighted to give me up. In fact, she seemed almost delirious with pleasure. Smiling like a madwoman as she handed me over... The sage even gave her gold as compensation. Not that it was necessary.
Oh, Soren... I had no idea.
The sage was old, and knew that death would soon come for him. His only goal was to teach his art to an apprentice. As time was short, he put me through terrible rigorous magic training. We worked day and night, without cease. I didn't even have time to think about who I really was. But it was still a better life than I had ever known. When the sage died two years later. I had acquired much magical skill. Perhaps too much for a child of my age... At any rate, once I had eaten all of the food in the sage's hovel, I left and walked for days to find help. Upon reaching civilization, I came to another grim realization... I couldn't speak. Not a word.
Oh, I could read and write better than most of the villagers. And I could understand what they said. I just couldn't talk. I couldn't help it. The woman and the sage both used to hurl words at me. Unkind words, usually. But I never needed to answer, so--
Huh? Oh... I apologize, Ike. I should not have made you listen to such nonsense...
Soren, it's not nonsense! It's awful! It's the most terrible thing I've ever heard! Where did this happen? Was it in Begnion?
No... But, there's more. I haven't told you... About my parents... No, that's enough. I'm sorry. Excuse me...
Wait, Soren? Soren! Blast!
Fire/Water: Hit +5, Atk +2, Def +1
Ike! Brother! Where did he go?
Ike? Hey, Ike! IIIKKKEEEE!! Man alive, where did that guy get to?
Oh... Hi, Boyd.
Hey, Mist. Um... do you know where Ike is?
Nope. I was looking for him, too.
Huh. Well, he's been pretty busy lately. Maybe I should just give up and find someone else...
You need a training partner?
Yeah. I'm just not motivated unless I'm sparring with someone.
Can I... Can I be your partner?
What, you? Seriously? Why would you want to do that?
Because I want to prove that you're no match for me! Um... Actually... I need to toughen up, or I might not survive these next battles. That's why.
That's a good reason. Maybe you can be my partner, after all.
Well, it's better than hitting a scarecrow with a stick.
That's terrible! After all, I am Greil's--
Yeah, yeah, you're Greil's daughter. I know. You won't let me forget it!
Hey, listen... I'm sorry about the other day. I was too harsh on you.
No, it's fine. You were right. I was naive. You just opened my eyes a little... I'm grateful to you, Boyd.
Don't... Don't thank me for insulting you! Sheesh!
But it was a good thing! You're making me strong! You're so good to me... Huh? Why are you blushing?
Quiet! I'm not blushing! Uh... I gotta go!
Boyd! Wait! Where are you going? Aren't we going to train?
Fire/Water: Hit +5, Def +2, Atk +1
Huff... huff... huff... Phew! Hey, Boyd... I'm sorry... for being... phew!... being such a drag!
You can't help being a slow walker. Don't worry! You're doing fine.
You really think so? Aw, thanks, Boyd! You know, I may not be in the best shape, but I've got more tenacity than anyone. A farmer's work lasts all year 'round, after all. You've got to have patience.
All year, huh? Tell me, pops. Do you enjoy working the fields?
You bet! Sure, I've got my share of worries, like bugs and animals and bad weather... But it's all worth it come harvest time!
Oh, I was just thinking... The farming life is the complete opposite of what we mercenaries do. I mean, a farmer gets to bring life to the world, and his work keeps everyone going. But mercenaries? We kill people, and we break things, and... Well, we bring death, not life.
Aw, don't talk it down like that! You get to fight for what's right and protect people!
Hey, don't get me wrong. The Greil Mercenaries are my family, and I do my job because I like it. But... you know what?
Break time's over! Up and at 'em, pops!! Back to the training!
W-what? Wait, it's only been a... H-hold on! Aw, shucks! Phew... Huff... Puff...
Fire/Wind: Atk +1, Hit +10, Avo +5
Ah, Kieran. There you are.
Oh, hello, Rhys! What brings you here?
May I watch you train? I figured someone with a heal staff should be around, just in case an accident happens.
Ha ha ha! Aren't you a worrywart! But being watched is good! Now I can take my training to the next level! All right! Watch this!
Oh, er... I'm just here to see that you don't get hurt... Oh, do be careful... No! Don't juggle the lance, too!
Behold the awesome power of Crimean Royal Knight Fifth Platoon Captain Kieran! Now I call this little trick-- Nnngg...! Gaaaaa! Whaaaaaaaa! ... Ah, nuts.
Oh, dear heavens! Oh, this is terrible. Stay right there! Let me take care of you...
Ho, I'm fine! Don't worry about old Kieran! I just need to pull this axe out of my head here... Whooo, that's sharp!
Fire/Wind: Atk +1, Hit +10, Avo +5
Oh, hiya, Kieran. How's your horse?
Oh, he's much better! And it's all thanks to you! When he took ill, I didn't know what to do, but... Your first aid saved the day!
Poor guy was exhausted from the constant marching. We've been fighting everywhere. I don't blame him for collapsing. Let him rest until he gets used to this new land. I'm sure he'll get better.
I had no such knowledge, for I had never fought beyond the borders of sweet Crimea. I thank you with all my heart!
Pfff! Please! It's no big deal. I've seen much worse.
Nevertheless, I, Crimean Royal Knight, Fifth Platoon Captain Kieran, shall return the favor no matter--
Hey! Big fella! I told you, thanks aren't necessary. I'm sure that we'll run into something that you can help me with... Er... at least, I guess that might happen... So you can just help me out when that situation arrives. ... If it arrives.
Say no more! I will do so with my life!
Please! Keep your life! Oh, that reminds me... Didn't you want to ask me something the other day?
Oh, that... Well, with my horse's illness and all, I've forgotten what it was... But, by my axe, I swear that I will--
Keep your axe too! Good gravy, I can't deal with this guy!
Heaven/Thunder: Hit +10, Def +1, Avo +5
Oh, look what the cat dragged in... It's you again.
Jill... My name is... Jill.
Fine. Jill. What brings you here today? More stupid questions?
I've been thinking about things, and I haven't been able to figure out... See, in Daein we were taught that you attack humans indiscriminately and without mercy. That you are just savage animals.
Laguz attacking humans? Grrrrawl! What garbage! We dislike even the company of humans and want nothing to do with them. Even mauling you would be... unpleasant.
But in Daein, everyone believes that to be the truth! That's why... That's why I never questioned it. But when I saw you fight besides Ike and other humans on the South Sea, I knew that something was wrong. You were so different from what I imagined! Ever since I was young, they filled my head with tales of your terrible claws and teeth... But you stand on two legs. And you talk... You even make jokes! ...Sometimes... You're much closer to us than a beast!
So glad to hear it.
I wonder why humans and sub-humans started fighting in the first place? Maybe we're just destined for war.
Well, I don't know much about that. It's not for me to say if the goddess made us a certain way or if we're just two races that don't like each other very much. But I know that Gallia, Phoenicis, and Kilvas all have a reason to hate humans.
...Are you serious? I take it humans aren't interested in passing history down to their children... ...Typical. All right... Centuries ago, when Begnion was still a monarchy, the only countries were Begnion and Goldoa. Goldoa was as it is today: a reclusive nation inhabited only by the dragon tribes. All the other laguz lived in Begnion with the humans.
Humans and sub-humans used to live together in Begnion?! I had no idea...
A human was named as the first king, although the laguz's superior strength led us to rule more often than not. Despite the harmony that most felt about this arrangement, the senators wanted nothing to do with it. In the name of the "apostle," they claimed that only a human could be the true ruler of Begnion... and started a civil war. Like blind, mewling kittens, the laguz kings underestimated the situation... We never had a chance. Caught by surprise, my brothers suffered defeat after defeat in the face of superior human weapons and magic. ...That was the start of long, dark days... The start of laguz slavery.
After nearly 200 years, a small number of enslaved laguz managed to escape their human captors in Begnion. The beast tribes fled to the mountains and unexplored forest areas-places where humans were loathe to tread. The bird tribes, on the other hand, escaped to the distant southern islands. This is how our laguz kingdoms began. It took another eighty years, and the blood of many brother laguz, until we were formally recognized as nations. This is why we fight. Why we hate. Humans don't want former slaves to have countries and be treated as equals. Laguz carry the shame of the past deep in their hearts, and struggle still for the freedom that you take for granted. This is the true history of Tellius... No wonder humans would bury it.
I don't know wh--
What to say? Idiot! Think! Think about what I have said. Think about what you have seen with your eyes and heard with your ears. If you don't even have the guts to do that, never show yourself in my presence again!
Um... all right...
And now, BEXP! We've gotten a bit of a cache built up now, and a few units are close to the edge:
Yes! Strength! Strength for Marcia! And Defence!
All sorts of usefulness for Lethe, and a +2 HP! Always welcome.
Another very interesting Mist level. Whatever is she going to do with all this Strength?
A little disappointing, but his Speed is on the up and up. That's good.
Thank you, Jill.
Finally, we hit the shops.
In the absence of any pay from Sanaki, we'll just have to make do with hawking our treasure from the Desert. We've got the White Gem, of course, and the Statue Frag is basically only good for selling anyway. We've also got the Red Gem that Makalov bought us. That's 16,500G, all told. Not bad! Whatever shall we do with all this money? If only there were some sort of expensive but worthwhile equipment we could commission!
Oh, also, the Shop is now selling Pure Water. Something to keep in mind.
On we go!
Yes, it is. It's rather heavily guarded. Even so, I think a direct attack would be our best chance of gaining entrance.
Who goes there? What are you doing? This villa is the property of Duke Tanas, senator of the empire! No trespassing!
I am Ike, of the Greil Mercenaries. Under orders from the apostle, we've been charged with investigating the duke.
What? The apostle sent you? Wa-wait here a moment!
We have a letter here that bears her seal.
Hmm... Well... I see. It appears genuine. Very well. Am I in a position to ask what, exactly, I am suspected of doing?
Yes, Soren is actually making a smugface in this scene.
Oh! No, no, of course not. Never! I would never insult... Please, c-come inside...
Slavery? Me? The apostle would honestly accuse me of such an unfashionable thing as slaveholding? Oh ho ho ho!
Do you claim no knowledge of such a thing?
I've shown you every nook of my mansion, every cranny. I've been most thorough, have I not? And you saw no trace, not a single sign, of any laguz here, did you?
That is true.
To think that I, a bishop who serves only the apostle's will, would do anything to violate our country's emancipation act! Be certain that you tell the apostle everything! Tell her that Duke Tanas is upright and cleanhanded! There is not even a shadow of falsehood in my noble eyes! Look into them deeply, my boy, and tell me what you see...
Ugh! Hey, stop that! Back off!
We have little choice, do we... I think it would be best if we left for the time being.
Hey! Halt! You can't go in there!
Mist, what is it?
Ike, I saw him! In a room on the top floor of this building, I saw someone--I think he was one of the bird tribe! He looked like he was trying to jump out a window, but he was forced away from it and back into the room.
Wha-what? What is this... this child babbling about?
Someone from the bird tribe? Can you describe him?
Um, he had long hair! It was... sparkling, like gold. And his skin... it was so pale--almost translucent. Oh! And his wings! They were pure white!
It is. I saw him as well.
That can only mean there is a member of the heron clan in this place. According to books, only members of the royal heron family possess white wings.
It appears that there is at least one room we have yet to see. What is it going to be, Duke Tanas? You can cooperate and show us this room that you somehow forgot, or...
Kill them all! Don't let a single one escape!
So this is how you want to play it, eh? I thought it might come to this. Mercenaries! It's time!
Oh boy! A swarm of soldiers from nowhere!
Note Oliver in the gold robes, running the fuck away.
This is definitely not important. Nope. Not at all.
Oh come on.
Well, here's your battlefield. Note the not-insignificant quantity of myrmidons and mages, and also the chests and the locked doors. Might as well loot the place if we're going to be murdering everyone regardless!
So, how about that Voting Time?
Let's see now. Obviously, Ike is coming, as is Mist. Our low level recruits Tormod and Makalov are getting a turn in the guaranteed slots before being thrown to the votes. Hmm... seven votes is overkill, I think... so let's bring Astrid too. That leaves six spaces open to voting. The Thief Rule is in effect for this vote; which is a title I just made up for a system we've used before; if neither Sothe or Volke make the top six, whichever of them had more votes will be forced onto the team in place of whichever suddenly-former-frontrunner had the least votes. Remember that, because the only reason I gave it a name is so I don't have to type it all out again!
Choose from Boyd, Oscar, Titania, Rhys, Soren, Mia, Ilyana, Rolf, Marcia, Lethe, Mordecai, Volke, Kieran, Brom, Nephenee, Zihark, Sothe, Jill, Gatrie, Stefan, and Muarim..
You've got 48 hours, ish! Off you go! Don't forget the Forge!