Part 55: Chapter 24 - Preamble
The Crimean army defeats General Petrine, one of King Ashnard's feared Four Riders, and finally arrives home.
The princess's return is met with the jubilation and tears of the retainers who have managed to survive. "As long as we have Princess Elincia, Crimea will be liberated." These are the words that gave the people hope as they endured the harsh rule of a conquering country. The silent masses, who long for the restoration of their homeland, slowly begin to give voice to their dream.
Surely, they think, this chance to see Crimea freed will not be wasted.
There is no mistake in my words. The princess has returned to Crimea! Lady Lucia serves as her guide. They should be on their way here as we speak.
How long it's been since we've seen the princess... We have been living for the day where we steal the eyes from Daein's army and bring her home. And now it has come.
Indeed. For His Majesty, for the Queen, and..for Crown Prince Renning as well... We must act as one and support our beloved Princess Elincia.
Yes. If all goes well... our dearest wish will soon come to fulfillment.
There's no time to wait. If we wish to properly greet the princess and her retinue, there is much to be done.
Right! Let's let everyone know! We must divide the tasks and begin preparations for a feast at once!
And flowers must be prepared for the princess's chamber! Oh, we mustn't forget music and entertainment, either.
I suppose I shall have to polish the silver tableware I was hiding, too.
You? You possess such refined things? I figured a rustic boor like you would have sold them for a lamb shank.
I received the silver from His Majesty when I was awarded my knighthood... I have been saving it for just such an occasion.
Yes. In your absence, Princess, we used the cellars beneath the castle as a secret meeting place. It is from there that we contacted other retainers who were hiding throughout the land.
And no one was discovered?
We disguised ourselves as merchants or peasants, and Daein looked right past us. Their arrogance is without equal... However, now that we've heard of your return, we are bringing out our hidden Crimean armor and polishing away!
No one could. That's why he dressed as a street performer.
Now that, I can see! I'm sure it suited him perfectly. Did he juggle and gambol about? Hee hee!!
And Geoffrey... Never have you seen a merchant with such perfect posture!
Hee hee hee! That sounds just like him.
The princess seemed to be of good cheer when she was with us as well, but... I suppose she was putting on a brave face.
It's good to be home, isn't it? We've still many battles ahead, but for tonight, we should relax and let ourselves forget our cares. No one can continue under this much stress forever, right?
I suppose you're right.
And the award for "most egregious waste of expensive ranged weaponry" goes toooo...
Well, here we are again.
Stop whining you little baby! Get over here!
What's going on?
Listen to this, Ike! While I was changing my clothes, my dear brother here tried stealing from my purse again!
Don't do this here! You don't need to tell the whole camp about it, do you?
Who's created this situation in the first place! And here I was thinking that you'd finally turned yourself around... Even as we speak, Mother is at home weeping in her soup! You chowderhead!
Don't worry about Mom! Dad's there to take care of her.
You brainless eunuch! Gaaaaaa!!!
M-Marcia! Ow! Ow! My foot! You're crushing it! I heard something crunch! Help! I'm being crippled!
All right, all right. I think that's enough.
Hmph! It's one thing that you're a guppy-brained lout... But it's worse that you never, ever change! You're ALWAYS being chased by thugs, and I ALWAYS have to go looking for you. Do you have any idea how much I worry? Would it hurt you to think of others once in a while? You're my OLDER brother, remember?
I'll work hard and repay all of my debts! Please, you've gotta believe me!
Why not forgive him? He's the only brother you've got, right?
...Well, if Ike insists...
Only if you keep your word! This is the absolute last time!
I swear! I swear on Dad's grave.
Heh... That's not going to work, you twit! Dad's still alive.
Made you laugh! 'Bout time, too.
Straighten up and don't trouble your sister anymore.
What is it, Makalov?
You want to bet on how long I can keep my promise? I'll give you four-to-one odds!
It's time for another boatload of supports. Since we're getting close to the endgame, lots of new characters start unlocking conversations all at once, along with certain older ones getting their A-rank supports and even some of the original Greil Mercenaries (Trivia: the "hardest" possible support to get is Ike and Titania, who need 26 battles together to reach A-Rank). Hence the explosion.
Seriously, many of the characters we'll be getting from here on out take only 3 battles to reach their A-supports. Some take less.
Earth/Wind: Avo +7.5, Hit +2.5
Hey, Ike. Isn't it a little late to be training?
I haven't had a chance to train today. I try to swing a sword every day, even if it's just for a little while. It helps me focus and keeps me calm. Plus it's good practice. Haaaa! Kyaaaaa!
I see. So your strength doesn't just come from your bloodline. It's also a result of your persistance. No wonder you grow more powerful every time I see you... Nice. Very nice...
Haaaaa! And one and... Hiyaaaa!
Oh, sorry. I'm interrupting you. I'll see you la--
Wait. What do you want? I assume you came out here to tell me something.
Not really. I'm just being a mother cat... No matter how many times we tell you to take it easy, you're always working. I thought you might take a break if I came over and talked to you, but... I can see that you're still crazy. I'll go now.
You think I'm crazy? How so?
Well... a little crazy, yeah! I've never worked for a leader who's as blunt and straightforward as you. It's pretty shocking to have a commander who doesn't care what anyone thinks, no matter how powerful they are.
Well, that's just my style. I don't have to be like someone else, do I?
Why are you so confident? I don't get it. Normal beorc just do what people tell them and try not to make a fuss. But not you. I heard you even yelled at the apostle!
Yeah, that wasn't my brightest moment.
Then again, worrying about a beorc like this is definitely not normal laguz behavior. I guess I'm a fish out of water myself... Wait, did I just call myself a fish?
Wha--? Ha ha! You're a cat, remember!? I thought you ate fish. Ha ha ha!
Hey! I made you laugh! That's good. That's a good first step.
Fine, fine! I'll take a break. Um... so what do I do now? Am I supposed to drink tea or something?
Tea is good. And eat something. Oh, and maybe you should take a... catnap! Wha ha ha ha!
Heaven/Wind: Hit +7.5, Avo +2.5
Hey there, Lethe.
Ah, Ranulf. Glad you could finally join us.
Yes, the tide has finally turned. How are you holding up, Lethe? You and Mordecai have shouldered all of the burden until now. I'm glad I can finally take some of the responsibility.
Apologies are meaningless unless they are backed up with deeds.
Ha! I see you're as friendly as ever. By the way, have you finally warmed up to this band of mercenaries?
...In my own way. But there is still some occasional friction. I know they are beasts of habit, but must they always wear so much armor? They overwhelm our noses with the stink of iron and make it difficult to sniff out the enemy.
Well, there's nothing you can do about that. You could go to Ike and ask them to fight in the buff, but you won't have much luck.
And their eyes are so useless! I'm amazed the species has lived this long. Being blind in the dark is lethal.
There's nothing they can do about that, Lethe.
I suppose not. Still, they've done better than I expected.
I'm glad to hear they haven't completely let you down. You had quite the tragic look on your face when you first learned you'd have to travel with Ike and his merry band!
Pah! Can you blame me?
Water/Wind: Atk +0.5, Def +0.5, Hit +2.5, Avo +2.5
Hey, Mordecai! What's up, ya' big cat?!
Ranulf! It's been a while.
Yes, it has. Thanks for all your work. I heard about how fiercely you've fought alongside these mercenaries.
Is that so? I am glad to help. Ike is a good beorc... strong and loyal. He is worth fighting for.
Did you have a chance to get to know some of the other mercenaries?
Some. Grrr... I have a question, Ranulf. Do I speak well in this tongue?
You're fine, Mordecai. Sure, you have an accent, and you tend to growl a lot, but the beorc can understand.
These words are hard to me. As a cat, I need no hard words. One roar is enough for all the forest to understand.
That may be true, but the beorc can't begin to understand the nuance of our roars. We would only scare them.
Yes. You are right. There are good beorcs here. Scaring them would be... bad.
Earth/Thunder: Avo +15, Def +1
Uh... hey there.
We meet again! Ha ha! Haaa... Uh... sorry about the other day. I don't have much... experience talking to laguz, so... Hey, is there anything you don't understand about our company?! Maybe I can help!
No, not particularly. Why?
Well, I just thought... I mean, I have a young brother that's just about your age... ... Come on, Oscar, get it together... Um... Wow, you laguz are just so incredible! I mean, even a small kid like yourself can fight so--
Did you just call me a child?!
See here! I'm not a child! I'm over 100 years old!
Wha....? A hundred... years...?
I don't know how old you are, but no one calls me a child to my face and lives to tell about it! Don't you EVER call me that again! Got it, human!?
Oh yeah, got it! Totally! Look, I'm really... Darn it, Oscar! Stupid! So Stupid! Now you've really ticked him off! Man, what was I thinking? Now I have to go apologize. Again! Probably screw that up, too... Aaargh! So stupid!
Earth/Earth: Avo +20
Tanith, I must say, the charge you lead the other day was spectacular.
We are knights of Begnion, after all. Anything less than a direct charge, knight against knight, would sully the honor of our apostle and our motherland.
I'd heard stories of your bravery before, but to see you in action was incredible! To see so many pegasus knights swooping onto the battlefield at once, it was like seeing the sun break through the clouds.
You over-romanticize us.
Oh, no, milady. It was a sight to behold. But, and do not take offense at this, might I share an observation with you? It strikes me that your strategy works only if you have the superior numbers.
Admittedly, in most battles, Begnion has the advantage of numbers. I can't recommend this tactic in our current campaign.
I agree. Our army is constantly undermanned. Sometimes, it's a struggle just to get the basic necessities! It goes without saying that we'll never have access to all the resources that Begnion enjoys.
Well, you seem to understand how to fight well enough with few numbers. Tell me, what would you do?
We take advantage of our individual soldiers' strengths. Where you would overwhelm your foe with numbers, we cannot risk the losses. We cannot afford to lose a single soldier, even if his sacrifice brings us victory. After all, we might win a battle that way, but we will not be able to last out the war. Do not let honor drag you into a duel you cannot win. Dishonor is better than death if withdrawing means you live to fight again.
Retreating from a fight is not an easy thing to do, but I must admit, your words make sense given our numbers.
And I would hate to lose your strength to preserve something as intangible as honor.
But you know, the pegasus knights can be stubborn. I'm not sure even I can convince them to change their tactics.
Then I'll help you convince them. Maybe my experiences will be all the proof they need.
You'd do that?
Yes, of course. I don't have even half the experience you do, but if there's any chance I can help, I will.
Oh, I think you can be quite persuasive. You know, you're not what I expected from a mercenary.
I'm glad to have surprised you then, milady.
We should be going. You'd best keep up with me. I have no intention of waiting for you and your horse!
Well, perhaps I'll have to surprise you a second time!
Fire/Dark: Hit +5, Atk +2, Avo +5
Oh, my heavens! Tormod! Aaaah! Enough! That's enough! We're done for today.
Oh, come on! Teach me more magic! I won't catch the drapes on fire again, I promise!
No way! By the goddess, I'll be lucky to get out of here with my eyebrows still affixed to my forehead.
But I can do better! I know it! I already learned fire, thunder, and wind!
Yes, yes, I'll admit that you're a quick learner. And, truth be told, you have a lot of raw talent.
Yeah, I knew it!
But you lack discipline! You're impatient. And rash. You can learn new spells all day, but you won't truly master any of them until you know each one intimately.
You're just mad because I'm more talented than you! You don't want me to learn anything because you know I'm the best!
Oh, why did I ever agree to this... Now listen here, child. And listen well. If you keep up this half-baked spell casting, you're going to have a serious accident someday.
Magic doesn't react well when miscast. I've seen fingers get blown off... And you'll be lucky if it's just a finger! Sometimes it's an arm or a leg... And in really unfortunate cases, it can take a life!
Heck! I'm not afraid!
I didn't say YOUR fingers our YOUR life!
Me, Commander Ike, anyone! We can't afford to have you overshoot our enemies and rain death down on us instead!
Tormod, magic is unlike any other weapon. It does not forgive. If you lose concentration... If you hesitate... If you fail to respect it... People will die. Friends... will die.
Then study the basics. After all, you don't want to be a burden to your friends do you?
Fire/Earth: Hit +5, Atk +1, Avo +10
It looks like you've healed quite nicely from that wound you sustained in our last battle.
I don't mean to sound disrespectful, Your Highness, but I feel it's reckless for you to join us on the battlefield. Several soldiers from my retinue have complained that, when they try to protect you, you charge headlong into danger. Please, stay out of harm's way and allow us to guard you. Your behavior endangers us all.
I will remain on the battlefield until Commander Ike tells me he no longer has need of my powers. No one else may command me.
But, Your Highness--!
That having been said, I appreciate your concern. But again, I need no bodyguards. Now stop following me!
...If it weren't for that imperial order, he'd need a bodyguard to protect him from ME.
This feels strangely relevant somehow.
Earth/Dark: Avo +22.5, Atk +1.5
I've been thinking a lot about what you said the other day, and there's something I still don't understand. You survived. You're strong. Why would you feel insecure about who you are? Tell me. Tell me everything.
Curse you! Why can't you leave me be?! I don't have any friends, Ike! I don't have anyone else! If I tell you and you turn on me... I... I... I don't think I can survive it.
That's why you have to tell me, Soren. You'll never tell anyone else. And if you don't tell anyone, you're just going to keep suffering. Look at you! You're a mess! Come on. Talk to me.
Ike... I... I...
Soren, it's me! Trust me. I don't give two figs who your parents are! I'll stand by you.
Ike, I... sniff... No, I won't... ... sniff... Ah, Ike... ... I'm... Branded. I'm one of the Branded.
A Branded? What's that?
It's a cross between a beorc and a laguz. Such a taboo union violates every teaching of the goddess. And of society. We are untouchables. Abominations. Condemned to a life of hatred and shunning from both races.
Wait, wait. Hold it a second. Let me make sure that I follow you... You're part laguz?
Yeah. This mark on my forehead is the proof. I learned about it while researching ancient books at the Mainal Cathedral. I always thought it was a birthmark. Others thought that it was the mark of a Spirit Charmer.
What's a Spirit Charmer?
Magic comes from interaction with spirits. If you let one into your body, it will give you tremendous power... for a price. That's why the old sage was so interested in me. He thought I had struck a deal. But instead, I was just a filthy Branded.
All right. I understand. So?
...What do you mean, "So?"
So, you have laguz blood in your veins. So, you have a mark to prove it. So... What's the problem?
What's the problem...? Don't you find me repugnant!? I work beside you, eat beside you. I'm nothing! I don't belong anywhere! Doesn't that sicken you?
No. It doesn't change anything. You're still you, Soren! You're a capable officer of our army. And my friend. We can't keep going unless you are with us.
...Ike... I thought... I thought you...
It was Gallia. The sage lived in Gallia. A few beorcs had settled there and...
Gallia? Are you saying...
When the sage died, no one would help me. I couldn't speak. Couldn't find food. I was dying. You were the only one who helped. You and your father. That's why you're my friend. My... only friend.
This explains his conversation with Petrine, at least; and now we know that she's Branded too. And, wasn't there...
Fire/Fire: Hit +15, Atk +3
Don't sigh, Tormod. It will only make you more depressed.
Oh, hello, Devdan.
So Devdan did not startle you? That's a bit of a letdown!
It's just not fair. It's like you were born with a lance in your hand. How can I compete with that?
Don't be so hard on yourself. You've got a lot of talent, Tormod.
Please don't flatter me. I know how it really is. Maybe I'm not cut out for magic...
Everyone has a tough time learning.
Maybe I'm just not any good.
Learning something new takes patience. If you're always in a rush to get better, you'll overlook important lessons.
Think back on the first time you used magic. How did you feel?
How did I feel? I was happy... and excited. I'd never felt anything like it.
Devdan knows that it felt good when you started making progress in your training... Right?
Yes... it was fun.
Why do you think that was?
I was happy because... Well, because I was getting stronger. I had the power to protect people.
Never forget how that felt. Keep that attitude, and you'll continue to improve.
...Thanks, Devdan! You're always teaching me something important!
Mua ha har hee ho hee hoo! It is Devdan's responsibility to pass on knowledge to the next generation. And you know what? You give Devdan something in return, too...
Hope. There's always something worth fighting for.
Fire/Fire: Hit +15, Atk +3
Please, Reyson! You've got to help!
I know you can do it! I'm... begging you.
I'm sorry. I can't.
Is it because we're poor? Is that why you won't help us?
Are you suggesting that I'm only willing to help the rich?!
No... I mean... It was just incredible how you forgave the apostle like that and breathed new life back into the forest.
That was only possible under very special circumstances.
Why? I don't get it.
It was Serenes Forest. For my people, there is no more sacred a place. And the galdr I chanted was a part of an ancient clan ritual performed on a very holy altar. Most importantly, my seid magic succeeded because Leanne was by my side. That galdr holds little force when I chant it alone.
Then all we need is Leanne!
You're not very quick, are you? Even if both of us chanted the galdr until we collapsed from exhaustion, there's no way we could turn sand into soil. Even if the desert was a fertile valley eons ago, I don't have the power to restore it. Have I made myself clear?
What need do you have for such magic? Ike has told me that you are now under the protection of the apostle.
The apostle said she would do something about the slavery of the laguz. But the laguz still live among the beorc. It's bound to cause hard feelings. Think about it. Even if the apostle frees the laguz, the average beorc will still loathe them. I just don't want to see my friends live under a cloud of hatred, fearing for their lives.
Beorc and laguz living in harmony? It's hard to imagine that.
That's why I wanted you to do something about the desert. If I could build a village for the laguz there, they'd be able to get a fresh start.
This may be a long way off, but if Serenes Forest returns to our control, would you like to come live with us there?
Are you sure!?
This is... unbelievable news! Everyone will be ecstatic!
You should know that hunting animals for food is forbidden in the sacred forest.
It is? Then how will we eat?
Fresh stream water is plentiful, and there are more than enough nuts and berries.
But many of my friends are from the great beast tribes--they eat meat!
They'll have to get used to it.
I will talk to everyone. But they might decide the desert is fine with them. They do love eating meat!
Ahh... reality intrudes.
Now, let's give a load of people some BEXP!
Getting ever closer to 30 natural crit!
This time around, it's Bows and Axes whose turn it is to be available in Silver variants, and these have been added to the Forge as well.
Time to peek outside.
As you may have noticed, and as I pointed out last chapter, Bastian has a habit of breaking into iambic pentameter. Although sometimes it's ambiguous. He must have been fun to localize.
Say, Bastian... How far do you suppose the princess and her escort have come? Why aren't they here yet?
... Sigh. Listen, friend. You have asked me that same question fifty-eight times. And I have responded fifty-seven times.
I know, but--
It's only a little while longer. Make no mistake, our princess will arrive today. I understand your impatience, I really do. But you're the general of our little army. If you act so, the men will react in kind.
You, you're right...
A true knight is the essence of composure. Take a deep breath. Breathe in... and out...
... Sigh...... Woooooo...!... Whew...
See? Don't you feel better?
... Hmmm... Ah, blast! It's no good! I'm going to go... uh... Check on... stuff!
What am I supposed to do with him?
That's them, isn't it? The princess's army?
Where? Show me where you're looking. Geoffrey, that's not the princess... Those are... Daein troops!
What? No! Please tell me you're joking...
Speaking of which... here he comes now! I suppose he couldn't wait any longer and came riding to meet you. How sweet.
Princess Elincia! Lady Lucia!
Bastian! There's no need for you to rush so! I'm coming in your direction anyway--
It can't be...
Geoffrey's acting as a decoy. You must continue on this road to the southwest.
So the enemy's found us, eh?
Wh-what are you saying, Lucia? We must help Geoffrey! Bastian?
Luck was not with us, Princess. We have no choice. We'll have to abandon our companions in Castle Delbray.
No!! We will not!! Geoffrey and the others have survived so much already... I will not abandon them!
Princess, please understand. If we could do so without danger to you, we would gladly risk our lives to go back.
We cannot do this! Please, Lucia! We must go to the castle! ... Bastian! You must not do this thing!
Geoffrey is a knight. In the name of our friend's honor, Princess, you must escape.
No... No! They've survived this long! They're alive! NO!!!
While we stand here squabbling, Daein scouts may spot our position. Please move the army southwest on this road.
Pardon? What did you say?
We're going to the castle. If it's surrounded by Daein troops, we cut our way through and join the other knights. Understood?
Weren't you listening? I said we had no choice but to leave them behind! They were lost to us the moment the enemy discovered and surrounded them!
They're not so lost that we can't take them back.
You are the general of Crimea's army, are you not?... Even if only for the moment? I would hope that you would act more in accordance with your responsibilities.
I didn't choose or ask to be general. I was put here by matters of time and circumstance. But, as a mercenary, I have a contract with Princess Elincia that's still in effect. That means she's my employer. And right now, my employer says she wants to go and save the people stuck in that castle. Is that correct, Elincia?
So... we're going to help them. If you're so worried about the princess, I'll leave her here with you, and you can keep her safe.
My lord Ike...
Our goal is to rescue those knights near the castle!
We've got fifteen turns to arrive at the castle (because it doesn't matter if you kill every enemy present, the battle clearly can't be one unless someone's actually in the castle. Fire Emblem logic!).
Fortunately, Geoffrey is hanging around the front, and he's quite capable of looking after himself. He's accompanied by a few generics, all mounted.
Oh, and hey, look! There are valkyries besides Mist! I mean, sure, they pale in comparison but it's something!
We may wish to take some time out of our push to murder this guy here.
Other than that, it's a pretty straightfoward murder-your-way-through-a-horde-of-dudes kind of mission. Oh, and there's some houses and stuff.
This seems like an appropriate juncture for Voting Time!
We're allowed to bring a crack squad of 11 units, among which will be Ike and Mist, of course, and also Astrid and Nephenee by way of vote pre-empting and also because this mission requires badass motherfuckers. Reyson is coming despite not himself being a badass motherfucker but because everyone knows the best defence is a waste of time when you can cause everyone in your vicinity to become murdered.
All in all, there are, surprise surprise, six spaces to fill with voting.
Choose from Oscar, Titania, Soren, Mia, Rolf, Marcia, Volke, Zihark, Jill, Gatrie, Stefan, Tormod, Muarim, Devdan, Janaff, Ulki, Tanith, Shinon, Calill, Tauroneo, Ranulf, Haar.
Unrelated: I need a good axe name. Help?
Less unrelated: here are some numbers in a table.
Time limit to be made up as I go along. Get going!