Part 29: Chapter 17 - Preamble
Wait, there's more! It seems that Prince Reyson was able to escape Duke Tanas's villa and make his way safely to Serenes Forest. However... we have word that Tanas's men have entered the forest in hopes of recapturing the prince. We've not a moment to waste! Please, O king of hawks! Reach out your mighty talons, strike down these wretched humans, and rescue Prince Reyson. I implore you, Your Majesty, take wing at once!
Why is Naesala not here?
That... er... His Highness must not be seen here at this time... It's--
Well... how do I put this? Hm, it's all very complicated...
I care not for excuses. If anything happens to Reyson, blood will be spilled.
Oh, no! Please! There's no cause for worry. Duke Tanas treats his works of art with a delicacy so extreme that it could best be called... abnormal. He would never let any harm befall Prince Reyson.... He probably can't even bring himself to touch him. The king himself told me so. That is the only reason he accepted this proposal--
Ah! Um... What I mean is... Er...
Hold it! You crows set the prince up?!
S-set up? Set up? Oh, no, no! Well... not exactly. Um... Please don't hurt me!
So that's the truth of it, eh? Naesala treated Reyson like a piece of merchandise and sold him. To a human...
No, that's not... The only one who referred to him as merchandise was Duke Tanas. We never--
It doesn't matter! Claiming ignorance does not grant you innocence. You treated Reyson like a trinket in a public market!
If Reyson hadn't escaped on his own, perhaps the crow king would have rescued him when things cooled down.
That, I cannot forgive!
Your assessment of this old bird is correct. I am a worm, nothing more. But please, I beg of you... Temper your outrage. Let it cool.
You're unbelievable. What is it with you crows, anyway? Everything you do is so dirty and deceptive. We will never understand your ways. Do you hear me, greywings?
I hear you well, young hawk. But our nation... Our nation has... It has its own issues.
Please, this is not the time to yell at a tired old man. You must hurry to Prince Reyson's side! Once he is safe, you can punish me in any way that you see fit... Tear me limb from limb if you wish... But please! Go to Prince Reyson! I beg of you!
Return to Kilvas and report these events to your accursed king. Tell him that when this is over, King Tibarn of Phoenicis will be paying him a visit.
... Y-yes, Your Highness!
Ulki, use your ears to pick out the sound of Reyson's wings, then tell me the direction from which it comes.
Janaff, use your eyes to peer between the trees and find me a road.
You got it!
Ever notice how everyone except Ike seems to get the lines Ike is credited for?
Actually, I'm always awake at this time.
Yes. You're the one who's up earlier than normal.
I want to finish our mission today. I think my nervous energy woke me up.
Thankfully, IntSys were nice enough to do a timeskip of all this fruitless searching.
I'm sure he's in there somewhere, but...
I agree. And Duke Tanas's men are still hunting away. They must think the heron is there as well.
The only place left is the forest's heart. That's where we should go today. With luck, we may finally locate our target.
Ike, you have no idea.
This seems reasonable. Astrid was cleaning up both for herself and after Makalov. Don't know why she's bothering with him, really...
Also, holy payday, Batman! OK, so a big chunk of that was us selling our treasure from the Desert, but Sanaki appears to have matched that for us. Not bad!
So then. Base!
Yes? What is it?
I hear that you're searching Serenes Forest in hopes of capturing him.
And if I am?
Duke Tanas's property borders the forest, and he knows much about its layout. For quite some time now, he's been sending men into the forest to look for any herons who may still live there.
I see... So you're saying that his troops know the forest well.
I, too, have been taken into the forest.
You? Why take a priest?
But he didn't find any, did he?
No. And yet, this time... The joy he expressed after paying such an exorbitant price for the Serenes royal was aberrant. It was... not natural. The duke has gone mad. To think that he would dare to defy the apostle... He is damned.
And here you stand. You're going to tell me what you remember about the forest, even though it means you're betraying Tanas... right?
Hmm... You read me well. To begin with, the heart of the forest was divided into three large sections. Maybe more. It was nearly colorless, and difficult to see far. The muddy floor pulled at our feet, and progress was slow. Many of the soldiers around me were afraid that they didn't bring enough supplies. They said a person would need them if he got lost, because getting out again would be no easy task.
What can you tell me about Duke Tanas's forces?
There were a lot of them... He had soldiers of every type.
So at the very least, you should be prepared to deal with those two groups.
... My parents... They both participated in the Serenes massacre. They're nearing the ends of their lives, but even now they lie awake at night and beg the goddess for forgiveness. I became a priest in order to help my parents, but then I was assigned to work at Duke Tanas's villa... I knew of his terrible deeds, but his position as an imperial senator frightened me. I have been silent for far too long. Master mercenary... You must rescue that Serenes youth. I beg of you. May the goddess guide your hand.
Don't worry. I have no intention of letting that villain steal him from before my very eyes.
So, yeah, in case you weren't getting the hints, this mission is quite long, and you won't be able to resupply in the meantime. You'll want to bring lots of weapons, because running out would be... annoying. Also, cavaliers and mages!
Are you pretending to be our friend so you can lance us in the back?
... You have to understand... I... I didn't know anything. I was born and raised in the Talrega region of Daein. It's a very remote area. My father was a soldier, and I grew up thinking that I, too, would one day be a soldier. A soldier to make my father proud. My life was simple... I questioned nothing. Doubted nothing.
Do you know the first thing we're taught in Daein schools?
The army stages periodic sub-human hunts. We'd find refugees from Begnion hiding in our mountains and forests...
You don't get it! That's just how things are in Daein! No one taught me the word laguz! No one taught me that sub-humans could be... could be like this. No one cared.
When I saw the bird tribes at sea, I was convinced that the teachings were true. They were inhuman monsters. But later, I saw the dragons push your ship off of the reef, and it confused me. What if I had been raised to believe a lie? My heart pounded at the thought of it. And my doubts only grew with time.
So you decided to remain aboard in order to ascertain the truth. That's your true motive, isn't it?
How did you know?
I've known a lot of soldiers, and none would ever accept charity from an enemy. It would wound their pride. You obviously have pride to spare, so I knew there was some other factor at play.
Well, have you reached a conclusion? What will you do?
But I was wrong. And now things are different. The sub-hu-- I'm sorry, the laguz... I want to know the truth about them, and I need to base that on what I see, not what I am told by others.
In that case, you can stay as long as you like.
I appreciate it. I think meeting all of you... was a very good thing.
Oh, Captain! How are you today?
It's commander. Not captain. Well... you seem to be enjoying yourself.
That's because this garden is so pretty. Devdan loves all plants and flowers. How about you, Commander?
They're all right, I suppose.
That makes Devdan rather sad. All right is not a very strong feeling. It is boring. You should be a more emotional commander. Even things you're used to will show you something new if you look hard enough. And discoveries are exciting! That's what life is all about! At least, that's what Devdan thinks. Some disagree... and that makes Devdan upset!
...You may be on to something. In Crimea, when my father was still alive, I think I was more open to such things. But now... I just don't have the time. Honestly, all I can think about is defeating Daein. I've no energy left to spend on flowers.
What did you say?
The war is new. If you are already so focused on preparations, you'll wear out before the fighting begins.
"..." is right...
Well, let's do some more supports!
Wind/Thunder: Hit +2.5, Avo +5, Def +0.5
Good day, Sir.
Huh? Are you talking to me?
Yes, sir. My name is Astrid. May I ask you your name, good sir?
I'm not really a knight, so you can drop the whole sir thing. I'm Makalov. Nice to meet you.
The feeling is mutual, Makalov. By the way, you dropped these flowers.
Ah! I didn't even notice...
They are so pretty!
Not bad for some wildflowers growing in a ditch, right?
You picked them yourself? That's very sweet, Makalov.
Um... well... how should I put this? I picked them to butter up my sister.
You're such a thoughtful brother! I'd better give them back to you, then... There you go!
Go ahead and take a couple.
Some flowers? Are you certain?
It's my way of saying thanks for picking them up. Besides, they look good on you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to run along now...
Thank you! Oh, Makalov...
Light/Fire: Def +1, Hit +10, Atk +1
T-Titania!? I'm not slacking! I've done my training! Look, I'll do more! Hiiiyaaa! Kiyaaaaa! whaaaaaa!
Boyd, I haven't said a word.
Oh, yeah, I guess not. I'm so used to all our conversations starting that way...
I didn't come here to chew you out. You don't need that anymore. We're fighting intense battles now, and you can't let your guard down. But you know that, right?
I guess so.
Your training has become instinct. That's all you need to survive. You've learned that lesson, Boyd. You'll be all right.
W-what? Did I say something wrong?
This doesn't sound right, Titania. I feel like... like you're praising me.
Well, I am. You're a true warrior now. One of our best.
Oh, man, this is making my head spin... It's like a bad omen or something. I think it's scarier than being chewed out.
I see... So you want me to chew you out, huh? Great, I can do that.
Aaah! No, that's not what I meant, Titania!
Earth/Heaven: Avo +10, Hit +10
Lethe. What's up?
You fought pretty well the other day. Better than I expected.
You see anyone else?
No, but... I didn't expect that from you. You laguz have such awesome natural power, I figure beorc look weak in comparison.
Totally different styles of fighting. You don't have the reactions or control that we do, but you're actually kind of graceful. It must be tough to use a weapon that's not actually connected to your body. No wonder you train so much.
Without teeth or claws, we need our weapons to move like they're a part of us. So, yeah, that takes a lot of work.
Mmm... I see. I may have to train more, which reminds me... Do you remember our bargain?
Of course! Will you do it?
I should ask you. Laguz training is hard. You're going to hurt. And bleed. Are you ready?
Let's do it!
Thunder/Earth: Def +1, Avo +15
Hello, Ilyana. You're hungry again, aren't you?
No. Maybe. Fine... yes. I'm starving!
How can you possibly eat so much and still be hungry? Last night you swiped the chicken wing right out of my hands! Does casting a few spells really make you that hungry?
To be honest. I don't know why I'm so hungry. I'm never full. I always get hungry as soon as I eat. Normally, I eat about as much food as five people. Today was tough because I only got enough food for three.
What?! That's just... incredible! That sounds like a serious problem. Well... good luck with that.
Er... Excuse me? Can you wait for a moment?
Er... Haven't you forgotten something?
Now, let me think... Nope! Didn't forget anything.
Oh... my mistake, then.
See you later!
... Everyone gave me something to eat but him...
Earth/Earth: Avo +30 (!)
Oscar? What is it?
... Are you well, Ike?
Yeah... yeah, I'm fine. Why? Did I worry you?
No, no. It's nothing that you did. It's just that... our battles are intensifying. I never imagined that we'd be involved in clashes of this magnitude.
You're right. Ever since my father died, it's been one kind of chaos after another. It's a real challenge.
So... How are you doing? Well, I mean... are you as well as can be expected? Is there anything I can do?
Ah, Oscar. I give you enough grief as is. Just stick with your helplessly green commander. That's all I ask.
Will you continue to believe in me?
Yes, of course! As commander Greil said, we are family. This is my home. I will support you to the end.
Listen... I have an urge for your cooking. Think you can give Mist a hand tonight?
Ha! You don't have to ask me twice! I'll put all of my culinary skills to work. I hope you're hungry!
Light/Fire: Def +1.5, Hit +15, Atk +1.5
Hello, Titania. Could I join your training again today?
Sure, go ahead! Looks like you're getting your strength back. You look healthy.
Yes. Thanks to you.
Oh, I didn't do much... Say, Rhys? What do you think of Ike?
Ike? Well, I'm not the person to be judging another's battle skills, so I guess you want to know my take of the man... Ike... Well, despite his appearance... and the occasional angry outburst... he can be very thoughtful. Most importantly, he has doggedness, determination, and grit. He possesses the strength to turn ideal into reality. I think he is the right choice to lead the Greil Mercenaries.
I agree with you. But he is still young. He still has much to learn, and I wonder how those experiences will shape him. ... Frankly, I'm a little concerned.
Why is that?
Our company is only going to grow, and he will soon face many hard choices... and also some temptations. Oh, we'll make money... But we're going to get job offers that will result in people getting hurt. Or worse. And to feed and equip a group of this size, we'll need jobs with a certain amount of risk.
Commander Greil faced those same problems, didn't he?
He did, but Greil... He was different. The original Greil Mercenaries were famous for not being typical mercenaries. Sometimes we took on jobs for free... and we helped countless people at the expense of our own coffers.
I believe that Ike holds the same ideals as Commander Greil.
I'm sure he does. ... Yes, I'm sure of it. Ike will definitely find reasons for us to fight and live. He'll pick the right path. I won't have to tell him anything. All we have to do is believe in Ike and follow him... to the end.
Fire/Wind: Atk +1.5, Hit +15, Avo +7.5
You landed everyone of your shots!
Hitting the target isn't good enough. My instructor once told me that I should be able to strike the gaps between armor plates.
That's nearly impossible... but maybe you'll be that good one day. Hold on... Rolf, let me see your hands.
Oh, barnacles! Your hands are covered with blisters! And you're bleeding! Why are you still practicing like this? What's wrong with you!?
It hurt at first, but my hands went numb after a while... so I just kept plucking arrows out of my quiver.
Holy crow, Rolf... You're tough, I'll give you that. Hold still. I know I have a vulnerary around here... There, found it. This may sting a little.
Thank--YOOOOWWWCCHHH!!! Hey, that hurt!
That's nothing for a deadly mercenary like you. Right, Rolf?
A deadly mercenary? You really think so?
Yes, and it's not just your bowmanship. You're quite tenacious. You're so focused on hitting your targets that you don't even feel pain. Few people are that determined.
Does that mean I'll be able to make a difference? Will I be able to protect them when they're in danger?
I'll tell you one thing... the enemy better stay out of bowshot, or you'll turn him into a porcupine!
Thanks, Marcia. I promise to protect you, too.
Rolf... I'll look out for you, too. Why... Aw, nuts. ... Did you have to grow up so fast?
Fire/Wind: Atk +1.5, Hit +15, Avo +7.5
Rolf? What's up?
You're feeling better today, huh? I'm glad. You were so sick last time...
All I ever do is cause you to worry... Maybe I should just leave the mercenaries. I don't want to be a burd--
No! You're wrong! That's not what I meant at all!
I know, Rolf. But... It's hard for me. The fighting is difficult enough, but to cause everyone grief on top of it... And it's not just you, either. I cause Ike and Titania trouble, too. Maybe I'll just pack my things--
N-no! I don't want you to go! If you leave, I'll cry! I wasn't blaming you, you know? You can't help being barfy all the time.
Oh, that's not what I meant. Listen, just count on me, all right? I'll help you.
What did you say?
Fighting our enemy is really scary! In fact, once I almost wet my... Anyway! I don't want anyone to die. Before, all I could do was wait and pray, but now I can fight and defend everyone! That makes it easier to focus.
That's why I want to defend you, Rhys! If I know that I always have to defend you, it will make me less scared. And the more I do it, the stronger I get! So don't you dare leave us!
Rolf... You... You've really grown up. All right, it's a deal! I won't hide anything from now on. And I'll count on you, too! You can be my very own knight in leather armor!
Yeah, that'll be great! ... Um, hey, Rhys? Don't tell anyone that I almost... All right?
Now, for the Admin Phase:
Aimee has sourced Antitoxins and Restore staves. It's always worth keeping a Restore stave around; Status conditions aren't quite as much of a complete motherfucker as they were in the GBA Fire Emblems (primarily because there's no more Berserk), but that doesn't mean there aren't a couple you really don't want to be hit by.
Astrid continues to get small numbers of quite well chosen +1s.
I don't even know what to make of this anymore.
This looks a lot better than it is, really. Still, not bad.
Look, Ike was on 99 EXP, okay?
Well, let's see what's waiting for us.
I realized something a couple of days ago... Even in this forest, you always know exactly where you are, don't you?
How do you do that? I think it's the lack of color, but these woods are starting to look the same to me.
Yes, that's a problem...
Good idea. Even if we find the heron today, there's no need for them to tramp through the forest with us.
If we find the heron, we'll send for you immediately.
I understand. My lord Ike, everyone, please be careful.
... We're counting on you.
You've no need to worry. We will protect her with our lives.
Very well. Until later.
I've no doubt the poor thing is even now quivering with loneliness and cold.
Duke Tanas! I've just received word that the mercenaries who invaded your villa are in this forest!
Blast! Those wretches... They're here to steal my bird! Their souls are black with greed and jealousy! I have found beauty incarnate, and I will not relinquish it! Only I, Duke Tanas, can appreciate its worth!
Um... I'm... sure that's true, Your Grace, but what about the mercenaries? What should we do about them?
Hunt them down like dogs! Let none leave this forest alive! They will not rob me of my prize.
But, Your Grace, they serve at the pleasure of the apostle herself! Striking them would be--
Leave the apostle to me! I can deal with her once this is finished! All I need from you is silence and obedience. Is that clear?
Yes, Your Grace! I beg your pardon.
Slay them where they stand! Let none leave the forest alive, not man, woman, or child!
Oh, not the duke's soldiers again... I think it's about time we put an end to these fools. Listen up, everyone! Let's end this here!
Alright. This map.
This map is bigger than it seems.
Quite a bit bigger.
You might even say, much bigger.
I mean, seriously.
It time for voting, by which I mean it's Voting Time!
To begin with, we're allowed to bring ten units, although we'll be able to call reinforcements later. Our base team will consist of Ike, Soren and Mist, and since it's inevitable anyway, I'm also going to bring Mia and Nephenee.
That leaves you with five spaces to fill with votes.
Choose from Boyd, Oscar, Titania, Rhys, Ilyana, Rolf, Marcia, Lethe, Mordecai, Volke, Kieran, Brom, Zihark, Sothe, Jill, Astrid, Gatrie, Makalov, Stefan, Tormod, Muarim, and Devdan.
Since I can appreciate that it might be getting a bit hard to remember thirty-odd unit's various numbers, here's a handy reference. It doesn't list HP, but, sod it.
You've got 24 hours! Off you go!
What? Forge? OK, fine. Forge too.