Part 6: The Empire's ReachChapter 5: The Empire's Reach
Eirika's journey to find her brother, Ephraim, grows ever more perilous.
Still, she presses on despite the danger. Her will is strong.
The people of both countries have long used the town as a meeting place. It stands as a testimony to the friendship the two nations have shared these many years.
Now, however, Serafew is teeming with Grado troops.
: Say, is that a cleric? It is! And a gorgeous one at that.
: Ahhh! P-pardon me.
: No, pardon me. I never meant to startle you. May I offer my apologies....
: No, it's not necessary... It was my fault. Excuse me, I must be going... Good day to you.
: ...And there she goes. Not my lucky day... She was quite the beauty, too. Ah, such is life. I think I've time still to visit the arena, though.
A little later...
: I bring orders from His Majesty. Rumor has it that Princess Eirika of Renais is making her way to Grado. You are to find her and to place her in custody immediately.
: Yes, sir!
: One more thing... A traitor to the empire has fled Castle Grado. We've received reports she is hiding somewhere here in Serafew. I don't care if you have to tear this town apart. Find the turncoat.
: Yes, sir, General Glen! If she resists, do we have permission to execute her?
: ...Yes. Permission granted.
: Understood! Grado's will be done. The Grado Empire will repay the debt of betrayal with blood!
: ...His Majesty relies upon you, Captain. Be sure his trust is not misplaced. That is all.
: Yes, sir!
: If only I could hold such conviction in the righteousness of our emperor.
: Something troubling you, Brother?
: No...Pay no mind to me. Come, Cormag. Let's go. From here, we ride northeast, back to the fort.
: Very well.
: My brother and I used to pass through here en route to Grado. I remember the harmony in which the people of both countries lived. No walls divided our borders. No soldiers stood guard in high towers. The border town... It was to me a symbol of the trust between Grado and Renais.
: ...And now, it is firmly under the thumb of Grado's emperor.
: The peace I remember in this city... It seems like something from another time. It seems lost now... Forever.
: ...The city doesn't seem to be very heavily patrolled. They must feel it's not worth guarding with Castle Renais under their control. We must try to not draw attention to ourselves. The west gate is undermanned...
: I'm looking for someone. Have you seen a young girl with indigo hair?
: Indigo hair? No...Sorry.
: Hmmm... Thank you. Sorry to intrude.
: There was something very odd about that man, wouldn't you say?
: He did seem unusual. He didn't strike me as a Grado spy, but...
: Catch her! Don't let her escape! That way! She went that way!
: What's that?
: It's coming from over there.
: Let's see what the commotion is.
: Come quietly, and you may have the chance to explain yourself before His Majesty.
: Wait, please. You must listen to me!
: Take her.
: No, you must believe me! The emperor is not himself. You MUST be able to see that!
: Impugn the emperor at your peril! We've been ordered to execute you if you offer any resistance. But your words condemn you!
: What madness is this?
: Are you all right?
: Who are you?
: I'm from Renais. Why are these Grado men after you?
: You're from Renais...Oh! I have something I must tell you. It's about Grado--
: Wait--Grado soldiers are coming this way. We'll have to talk later. Now we must fight!
And fight we shall. But first, before the first turn can begin...
: First the girl, now the gold. It really isn't my lucky day.
: You there! Mercenary! What are you doing here at the arena? Get back to the staging area now!
: C'mon, why don't we both hit the arena? It'll be good training, If you're going to risk your life anyway, you may as well try to earn some gold.
: I'm reporting you to the captain! You'll be lucky if he just docks your pay! Don't forget--You can be replaced in an eyeblink, you filthy sellsword!
: Don't worry, little man. I won't forget. Work's work, but I don't like fighting women... Now then, what's the rest of the day got in store for me?
: ...Tails huh? That's nothing but bad luck and more bad luck...
: I must speak with one of the Grado soldiers. Oh, if only one of them will listen to my words... Please! Grant me strength.
And with those obvious hints, we begin.
Natasha is a worse healer than Moulder to start off with, but her growths theoretically will allow her to catch up. In practice...well, you'll see.
Joshua here is a living example of a common Fire Emblem archetype: the speedy myrmidon who starts out on the enemy side with a Killing Edge, a light, powerful sword with a high chance of scoring a critical hit. We're going to have to tiptoe around him until we can get Natasha close enough to recruit him, since he'll only hold back for her.
As for the boss...
Knights were dangerous back when we didn't have magic. At this point, a knight who isn't even standing on a throne or gate is effectively just target practice for Lute.
That said, the javelin will prevent him from having any blind spots, so we'll be taking a risk when we engage him.
Our first priority for this map ought to be securing all the red houses in the area. There's a lot of good stuff to go around in this map, and there's a bonus at the end if we get all of them.
: I'm sorry, but I just finished a few moments ago. Oh, by the way...Would you be interested in one of these items? A wealthy patron left me a small ransom in gifts after watching my performance. You can sell one for gold if you'd like or use them to improve your skills. I simply cannot carry all of this by myself, so please, take this one. Wealth is useless if you can't use it to bring happiness to others, right? Thanks for dropping my. Perhaps we'll meet again someday.
We're at the point in the game where we'll start to run into stat boosters. The Dragonshield, for instance, will give someone a +2 boost to their defense. I'll be sitting on them until we acquire a large number, then I'll be holding a vote as to who gets them. Right now it's too early to tell who needs the help.
While everyone else is going up the middle of the map, Gilliam is taking a little expedition up the west side. He's got a vulnerary and a boatload of defense, so he won't run into any issues.
: Cmon, lads! Let's join the fights and steal our way through this pathetic town!
As an added incentive for moving quickly through this map, brigands will start to appear from the east side, coming in from progressively higher locations. If you keep up a good pace, you should be able to reach the houses before they arrive, but you can't dawdle.
This one brigand is a little odd. His stats are higher than his fellow brigands, he's got a portrait like a boss, but his name isn't listed and he doesn't have any quotes in battle like a boss should.
While the majority of the fighting force is clearing the area around Joshua, Eirika and Neimi are going directly after one of the houses.
Neimi's first level. If she keeps up like this, she's going to be a real winner.
Not shown: more than half a dozen battles. This turn gets a little intense.
You've really gotta protect Natasha in this map. If she dies here, it's an automatic game over. Not that I'd be continuing on if she died anyway, but that's at least something to consider.
Ross's progress has been decent thus far. I could ask for something a little better...
But at least he's not Colm.
I thought thieves were supposed to be fast.
Once the coast is clear, we move on to our next house.
: Life in Serafew's been harder since the Grado occupation force took over here. Serafew's got Renais citizens as well as Grado, but it's been hardest on us. They've singled out families from Renais for the most awful atrocities. Please, traveler, take this sword. It's an armorslayer. It'll cut through even the strongest armor. Take it and strike down that blackheart, Saar. (Got an Armorslayer)
As he said, the Armorslayer is a very strong weapon effective against knights. It's a little heavy though, standing in at 10 weight, but its primary target (you know, knights) isn't fast enough that it becomes an issue.
While I'm on a visiting spree, I pop my head in to this store here.
Vendors supply magic tomes, staves, and miscellaneous items. We're running low on charges in our healing staves, so it's good to pick up a couple.
More bandits this turn, but they're too late.
: In my youth, I was a knight of some renown, I'll have you know. I've even crossed blades with one of Grado's most famous generals, I have. Ah, but I'm an old man now... I'm starting to worry... What if I die without passing on my techniques? So I decided to write down what I've learned in a book. I have it here. You seem like a strong warrior. I'd be honored if you would accept it. (Got a secret book)
A Secret Book raises Skill by 2. Not one of the most useful stat boosters, since skill's one of the more common stats, but it has its uses.
Now then, it's time to recruit the man himself.
: Are you here to capture me? You've been hired to silence me, haven't you...
: Yeah, Grado's paying the bill. They want you dead, you know? But don't feel bad. It's not personal.
: Wait, please... It doesnt matter what happens to me, but you must hear my words. The emperor of Grado is changed. He is not the man he once was. The other nations must be warned before he extinguishes all light from out lands.
: Hey, no offense, but I'm just a mercenary. I don't care about Grado or its emperor. Everything you say may be true, or it may be lies. I don't care either way.
: But that's...
: Even so...killing a beautiful lady like you would leave a bad taste in my mouth. Tell me, do you like to gamble?
: Gambling's what I live for. Even when I lose, I never want to stop. Let's have us a little wager. If you win, I'll believe you. Heads or tails, you call it.
: You can't... This is no time for games...
: Would you rather I get on with the job I was hired for?
: ...Um, heads... No! Tails!
: All right. So I'm heads, and you're tails. Here we go. ... ... ...
: ... Which...Which is it?
: What do you know?! It's tails. You win. Figures. I haven't won anything all day. Well, Lady Luck has spoken. Guess I'm on your side now.
: Are you serious?
: Yeah. Sure, I might cheat, but I never worm out of a bet. It's a rule of mine.
: Oh, thank heaven! Thank you, blessed light, for your protection!
: I got nothing against heaven, but Im right here if you want someone to thank... No? Well , get behind me then. I've got to take care of these fools.
Joshua is possibly the best myrmidon in the entire series, since he starts out so well. He doesn't need babying or careful training to be good. He just steps right out and commences kicking ass from the get-go. And then you play Hard Mode and...well, I won't spoil the surprise.
The fact that myrmidons do everything with such style and penache is just icing on the cake.
Speaking of babying people, Ross gets a not-great level. And now it's time for...drumroll please...
The arena works very simply. You wager a certain amount, and if you win, you double it.
Battles in the arena are to the death. You just keep taking turns until one of you is dead. If you feel the match isn't going well, you can back out and forfeit your cash while keeping the character alive.
Instead of chronicling my characters' adventures in the ring, I think I'll just show their levels.
I miss Moulder.
In other news, Gilliam's adventures up the west side come to a satisfying conclusion.
And for his efforts, he gets to be the one to visit the last house.
Let's see, I've got vulneraries, antitoxins... Oh! And I can't let myself forget torches for when it gets dark. Yep! I'm all set! Now I just need to get to the capital. I'll be the finest soldier the Grado army's ever seen! I swear it! *leaves*
: Hm? What's this... (Got a Torch)
So many guest appearances! We had the robed man at the start, the dancer in that one house, and now a soldier wannabe in red. Will we ever see any of them again? (yes.)
You might have also noticed that there's another armory here. This one sells steel weapons in addition to iron, so I get a few.
Rather than have Lute attack Saar on our own turn, I park her next to him so that she'll get attacked on the enemy turn instead.
: Enemy of the empire! Death's too good for you!
That way, I can have Ross run up and, over the course of the player and enemy phases, finish him off.
: Emperor Vigarde... Glory to His...Majesty...
And Ross hits level 10. What will happen from here? We'll just have to see.
: Yes, yes it was... Thank you so much. I don't know how to repay--
: You're from Grado, aren't you?
: Yes... My name is Natasha. I was a servant of the people at Grado's Imperial Temple.
: Then why the trouble with the soldiers? Would you tell us your story?
: Of course... A few days past, my mentor was arrested without warning. They executed him. They said he as a traitor... But those were false accusations. The emperor had him killed--a holy man!--to keep him silent.
: Keep him silent?
: Yes. My mentor told me with his final breath. The emperor plans to destroy the Sacred Stones.
: The Sacred Stones? Destroy them?
: As you must know, the Sacred Stones drove back the power of evil long ago. Even now, each of our nations is home to one of these legendary treasures. There's one in my homeland, Grado, and one in your Renais...
: Yes, the Sacred Stone of Renais is still housed in our royal temple.
: The emperor plans to destroy the five stones, one by one...
: Why would he do such a thing? Legend says the Sacred Stones are even now all that keep evil at bay!
: I cannot begin to guess his motives... You must know, our emperor was a gentle man. But one day, he changed. Utterly. Before my mentor died, he said the keepers of the Sacred Stones must be warned. I tried to slip across the border, but the soldiers spotted me...
: Is that what happened... What do you think, Seth?
: I think we can trust no one from Grado. Not in these times. Not without proof. However, if what she says is true, we cannot ignore the danger we face. Destroying the Sacred Stones... We cannot allow that to happen.
: I agree. If only we knew if there were some reason for the emperor's actions. I must tell you, her story chills me to the bone. I pray it is false...
As I mentioned, we get a special bonus if we save all the houses in this level. If we didn't, we wouldn't get this conversation.
: Princess Eirika?
: I am.
: Oh... Thank goodness you're safe! I can't tell you how happy I am. And please accept my gratitude for driving off that Captain Saar. That Saar treated all the citizens of Renais with such contempt and brutality....
: Not here...not in this city. My brother and I spent such happy times here with Lyon...
: I beg your pardon, but it will not be long before Grado sends more troops. Please, you must go quickly.
: I'm so sorry. There's nothing I can do for you now. Please forgive me.
: Do not be troubled. Princess Eirika... We will survive and wait for the day of liberation to come. There will be a day when you, Prince Ephraim, and all of Renais rise up... Until that day of glory comes, we will wait unbowed and filled with hope.
And for our trouble, we gain our first promotion item of the game. Guiding Rings promote people of all magical disciplines, from priests to monks to mages. We'll want to save this for until the magicians hit level 20 though, so that they can theoretically maximize their stat gains from their starting class.
So for the moment, this goes into storage. But soon, very soon, we will have use of this.
Next Time: We have a brief change of perspective in our first (and only) side chapter, Chapter 5x: Unbroken Heart
Weapon Ranks: D in staves
HP: 18 (50%) Lck: 6 (60%)
Mag: 2 (60%) Def: 2 (15%)
Skl: 4 (25%) Res: 6 (55%)
Spd: 8 (40%) Con: 4
Natasha's schtick is, ostensibly, that she starts out low but builds up her power through good stat growths. And indeed, she's got one of the best magic growths in the game, and since she's a female healer, she'll have access to a class with a horse when she promotes, giving her excellent movement speed. However, since her magic is so low upon starting, she's at the mercy of luck, which appears to be against me. It might be better to switch her out for a healer we'll get down the line or just stick with Moulder.
Weapon Ranks: C in swords
HP: 24 (80%) Lck: 7 (30%)
Str: 8 (35%) Def: 5 (20%)
Skl: 13 (55%) Res: 2 (20%)
Spd: 14 (55%) Con: 8
Joshua is the man. Plain and simple. His speed and skill are through the roof to start with, and they only rise even further. What's more, his very generous constitution means that he'll be able to use swords that myrmidons in other games wouldn't be able to even stare at without whimpering. If he does have a weakness, it's that his strength and defensive stats could be a bit better, but crank out some supports, and he won't even care about defense, because he'll just be sidestepping everything.