The Let's Play Archive

Rondo of Swords

by Einander

Part 58: The Lords' Trap

Chapter 25: The Lords' Trap
(Or, "A Little Piece Of Route B")

The proofreading here is atrocious.

There's an immediate branch at the start of the level. If you don't send either Margus or Kay, the conversation jumps to ???'s part below.

Sent Kay

The map is always at the top of the pre-map dialogue. This is one of the few times it actually moves during different parts -- Cale's encampment is a distance away from ???'s location. It's a nice touch!

Please withdraw your men! I don't want to fight you...
...Cale's only chance of survival was to throw our lot in with the Empire.
I couldn't let the town my father left in my care be destroyed.
We will lend you our strength to save Cale.
So, please... Stop this!

You and Margus both!
Alicia... That was...
It doesn't matter. I don't want to hear any of your excuses.
Alicia... I'm so--
Don't apologize! Just... don't...

Both Margus and myself regret that we couldn't be here in your darkest hour.
But Margus has NOT abandoned you. We haven't forgotten our vow that day... Not for one moment. You should know that, at least.
...And you? What are your feelings, Kay?

I want to hear it straight from you, Kay... your true feelings.

...I'll withdraw the troops. I couldn't very well face my father if I turned on Bretwalde.
Thank you, Alicia. I'm glad you understand.
I-It's not like I'm doing this for you. I'm siding with Bretwalde for the sake of my people.
Yeah, I know. Now let's hurry. We've got to meet up with Prince Serdic.

(Father... Please forgive my selfishness...)

There's a lot to say about this scene, but... Not yet. For now, notice that Kay never says why they left.

Sent Margus

Note that the words are the same but the puncutation is different. This takes place in the same place as the Kay conversation above.

Yeah, I'm the Bretwalde Army's designated envoy.
Their envoy...
And we could use your help, Ms. Governor of Cale.
...It's not mine to give now. Cale has allied itself with Grand Meir. Please inform Prince Serdic.

Reconsider? Are you asking me to tell my men that I've had a sudden change of heart? Are you crazy?
It's up to you to decide if it's worth it to you. I am only here to convey Prince Serdic's message.

Then the next time I see you, you're a Bretwaldean knight. Do you know what I've been through since the two of you left!?
...Your answer, then?
What if I say no?

You can do whatever you want, if you're not overly concerned with appearances.
...I'll... join with Bretwalde. You know full well that I could never point my sword at you.
I'm sorry.

We need to end this foolish war as soon as we possibly can.
You're right.
Very well, then... I'm going to get ready.

I wanted you to be stronger if you were going to inherit the city.
Is that so? Then we'll see if I lived up to your expectations on the battlefield.

Still a lot to say, but not yet. The three versions merge here. The map location returns to the chapter title location.

I didn't think you'd actually come...
We are willing to go to any place that will receive us.
Heh. I can't wait to see the welcome wagon.
I doubt they'll tell us to come in and put up our feet.

I'm not sure what happens if you don't recruit Owl or Ansom. Maybe it skips these two lines, or maybe it substitutes them with Sasha or the like?

Your lives will end here!
All units, stand ready!
The Imperial Army...! So they never had any intention to negotiate with us!

If you sent neither Margus nor Kay, the conversation ends here.

Sent Kay

(Sound of a neighing horse)

!? (Sound of an attack) Argh!

Sorry about that. I owe you one now.


Sent Margus


There is no attack sound here. The implication, therefore, is that Kay needed to attack someone to make them stop their attack, while Margus made them stop just by entering the room.
It looks like you're all right.
I owe you one.

Then the two "sent" paths merge here:

Hm? And who might this be?
Please excuse me for failing to introduce myself.
Think nothing of it. So you are Lady Alicia, governor of Cale?
Yes. From now on, the people of Cale are in the service of the Bretwalde Army.
My deepest gratitude, Lady. We are all counting on you!

And done!

Double selling, half selling. Not parity, since Shino was selling more stuff, but... Not bad. Let's backtrack for a moment and think about what we've learned. This is still a little premature -- we haven't seen her conversations in the level yet -- but now's the best time to cover it. Consider looking down at those, thinking a bit, then coming back for this.

So, what do we know about the complicated situation around Margus, Kay and Alicia? Despite all of those words and all that emotion, the majority is still left (as ever) to our inference. We can infer that no grand incident happened to spark their departure; no such event is ever mentioned, and a large part of Alicia's hurt seems invested in the fact she can't understand what happened. Margus simply up and left one day, and Kay came with him. We don't know how long ago, but... Marie left a number of years back (four, I believe?), and she hadn't seen Prince Serdic since then, but she still recognizes Margus and seems to know him fairly well. So they've been with Bretwalde for quite a while! Five years at least, I'd imagine, and the emotion here despite the length of that gap in time suggests they were all very close.

Margus is important to Alicia, but how? Her comments about him treating her differently than other women send mixed signals, but I think it's fundamentally a wish for him to acknowledge her. His comments at the end suggest that he relates to her as a father figure, especially considering that he's a decade older and he left when she was much younger. One of the in-stage conversations has her say he's always been very strict with her.
(You know, above and beyond the "showing off characters" concern, I wanted to 1) play Route A second 2) without using Margus. It only seemed appropriate after her conversation with Margus. I was really glad to see both of the votes go as they did.)

Her relationship with Kay is just as complicated. It's safe to say she has a thing for him. Considering how young she must have been when they left, plus the fact she's the daughter of his former lord... That also gives us a concrete reason for Kay to leave when Margus did: He was hoping her crush would go away, because it wouldn't ever work, even after she was older. A young crush would be an immensely awkward thing to deal with in his situation.

The Cale subplot feels a lot more like Route B than Route A. I'm fond of it, not least because we get Alicia here. Alicia is the Route A exclusive character, and she's a doozy.

The Violet Amulet is +15 defense, the Mango Ring adds HP equal to 7% of max HP, and the Dragon Medal adds a flat 10% accuracy.

Feudal Lord of Cale in the Central Plains,[sic] after her father's death. Her once-strong relationship with Kay and Margus has since become strained.

Card Ability: All counter attacks are criticals (6 Cards; I don't think you actually have enough time to earn this legitimately.)

That first sentence of the Bio is okay until the comma, which is probably pointless but instead makes it look like there's a second incomplete clause.

The best way to describe Alicia's Highlander class is Prince+. Better base stats, roughly equal growths, and her weapon is even exactly as strong as the Prince's Spanta, trading its +5 Accuracy for 7% critical. Her skills are pretty decent too...

...improved very greatly by her possession of Lateral Blow. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Lateral Blow is the second-best offensive skill in the game, just behind Fearlessness, and it combines with good bases to make her immediately useful. Like the Prince, she's on the beefier end of the cast, and Mount Guard helps. Her HP advantage alone ensures that she'll be a better tank than Arch Paladin.

Then she promotes. Remember how I said her Highlander class is Prince+? Hyperion is basically the lost triplet to the Cold Monarch and Arch Paladin pair, right between the two in power. Cold Monarch is far enough up on the scale that "near Cold Monarch" comes out to "really, really good," and like Serdic, her promotion is an immediate large boost to her utility. (She even has the red eyes!)

Alicia doesn't have Serdic's raw stats; she never learns Invoke Life, her growths are lower and her weapon is weaker, and she can't reach his damage, even with Lateral Blow. She never learns ZOC, and she doesn't have Seven Sins or his regeneration. What she does have are Frontal Blow, Melee Guard and Fearlessness. She seems to have one of the higher counter rates, has a decent critical rate (7%/10% before/after promotion), learns both the +counter and +counter damage skills, and has Sharpshot if you're worried about her accuracy. If you have a team that can make use of her OB transfer, she also learns Lion Strike. Finally, as the route exclusive character, Alicia learns Divine Seal, letting her half all incoming magical damage for three turns in an AOE, and can make better use of it here than Naji could in Route B. She comes with all of her skill points free to spend and on a route where Cold Monarch will never be available.

She isn't your best tank or best damage dealer (though she has a good shot at the latter if you're not using Ansom, Alhambra or Izuna), and her six range move is unfortunate, but she's a very sturdy unit that does very good damage. I need both right now! I've also designed the team with her OB transfer in mind -- ???, Selmer, Sasha, Marie and Izuna can all make use of it in different ways, especially Sasha and Marie. Union Soul transfers 20/50/90% of her meter by level, and unlike other OBs, it doesn't empty the gauge. This means that if, say, Alicia has exactly 2 OB when she uses Union Soul, she'll grant the other character one OB and keep one OB for herself. If she uses it at level 3, she'll give 2.70 meter and keep 0.30. Need full-party healing? Union Soul on Marie. Need one target dead? Union Soul on Sasha. Need to reduce spell damage while you close in on mages? Union Soul on Selmer. "Instant Brave Ray" or "instant Blade Blast" isn't too useful, but it's there. Union Soul has four range, and thanks to Lion Strike, her high MC, and her damage potential, she'll have it ready often.

My one regret is that Alicia and Naji can never be in the same party. Union Soul and Hero would be utterly terrifying together... I can understand not having her in the same party as Serdic, though. If you put that much Cold Monarchy in one place the universe just might explode.
Her first class is Highlander because there can only be one!
Hey, if I hadn't made that joke, someone would have. I have no regrets.
Why is she a Highlander anyway? Cale is part of the Central Plains.

Now that that analysis is done... Remember how I said I was cheating in Seals?

Owl's Seal is up this map, then Sasha. Sasha should promote two stages later than this. Or one, if I hadn't promoted Owl. Don't care! Seals are dumb anyway.

I'm probably going to promote Alicia next map if I can manage to get her three levels on this one. Selmer's 11 experience away from level 30, so I'd normally have him hit someone, retreat, and then go, but... Doing this level without Sedna Prison is a Bad Idea. It's the game's second-biggest force multiplier (after Faerie Fire, naturally), and this is a level where you need large force multipliers.

I decide that I'm not going to use Owl long-term, so I get him Sprint 5 to add to his immediate utility. Izuna learns Frontal Blow 4 and one more level in Invoke Life (3->4). She'll learn Vital Power at 30 and Fearlessness and Ten'i Slip (budget Holy Favor, with 60% the cost and one less range at equivalent levels) at level 36. After that it's all Invoke Might and Invoke Life and maybe a level or two in Lion Strike.

Alicia learns Lateral Blow 4 and Mount Guard 3 (-20 points); she'll have 34 points, so 46 points at level 33 and 64 at level 42. I need to reserve 21 points for Divine Seal 5 at level 42. 43 points to spend at level 33, so Melee Guard 4 (-13), Fearlessness 4 (-13, -26), Frontal Blow 3 (-7, -33), Retaliation 3 (-7, -40), and then Rook 2 (-3, -43). -21 for Divine Seal 5 and that's her points spent up to level 42. From there, I'll probably put the remaining points into Retaliation or Rook, depending on whether or not she needs more defense.

Three durable units! Alicia has +44 in amulets, ??? has +44 between skills and amulets, Izuna has +46 but 23 less base defense. Alicia also has the Yellow Ring instead of the Mango Ring, bringing her up to 396 HP. ???'s at 320, Alicia's almost to 400, Izuna is just above 500 HP. The latter two will take the majority of the fire.

Remember this level?

It's baaaack. And us without our Faerie Fire witch...

Do you see that conspicuous hole in the upper-left of the enemy formation?

If you don't recruit Alicia, then you have to fight her and three more Attackes. This can make things more complicated. That said, it's not as problematic as it may initially seem, due to the map's AI settings.

The top-middle War Mage has Storm Rave (X) and Talan Raioh (3x4/3x5 rectangle). The latter comes out to just reaching the closer side of your formation if he has level 4 or higher. The two Mages have Fire Raid. None of the bottom Attackers have skills, and neither do the Swordsmen or the one right-side Infantry.

This is the bottom Armor.

This is every armor except the two at the very top. Those two have different weapons, giving them 5 more attack.

The two Attackers at the top. Dazed turns you in a random direction at the end of your action.

Finally, the Guardian, or Tesserarius. Killing him will end the level. He's nothing exceptional, but there's no real way to blitz him. One way or another, there's a lot of killing to do this map.

The Route B version of this map throws everything at you all at once, forcing you to rely on Serdic's sheer power to push through. ??? can't do that, so they throw you two bones: 1) Fewer, less aggressive enemies, and 2) A powerful defector who can open a hole in their formation.

43 images in and I haven't even done the stage conversations. Oof. There's five of them this time, plus two before-attack conversations for Alicia. Let's cover those two first, because they're depressing.

Alicia and Kay

I can't. An arrow, once loosed, cannot be put back in its quiver.

I think this is an idiom in some language or another. Japanese, maybe? Another equivalent of, "the die is cast."

I understand why you left Cale... It's because I wasn't a ruler worth serving.

Alicia and Margus

No, not at all. If I'd been in your position, I may have allied with Grand Meir, too. But we can't afford to lose to you here.

But it's a relief to hear you say it like that. Now I can face you as an enemy. Thank you, Margus.
There's nothing to thank me for. I'm doing my duty as a knight of Bretwalde.
Heh... true enough.

Alicia's death quote, regardless of place or time, is, "Kay... Margus..." Now that you're thoroughly depressed, let's move on.

The first two here are mutually exclusive. If you sent Kay, then you can get the Margus conversation and vice versa.

Alicia and Margus

Ow! Why the sudden punch?
NOW I forgive you. Be grateful.
*sigh* Still headstrong, aren't you?
Are you after another punch?
I respectfully decline.

Alicia and Kay

? Oww! Wh-What was that for?
Are you saying you didn't deserve a good, hard punch?
W-Well, I...
Are you!?
No, I guess... I did.
Do you have anything else to say for yourself?

Which is, you'll note, not an apology for leaving.
Ow! Stop hitting me!
Well... I admit, this is so like you, Kay. From here on out, we're allies. I'm counting on you.

Marie and Elmer

Please don't blame my brother. He only wants to avoid needless bloodshed.

And you know, if you're that worried about your beloved brother... Why don't you keep him on a tighter leash?
"Beloved?" It's nothing like that!

Better hurry up and claim him... I'd hate to say "I told you so" if someone steals him away. Like the Pope... or that brat.
I trust my elder brother.
What's the matter?

Ahahaha... Owww! Quit hitting me!


??? and Alicia

Forgive me in advance if I have misread the situation, but... It felt as if you were knowingly walking into a trap. Is that the case?
I had my suspicions that not everything was as it seemed, yes.
Then why would you do such a dangerous thing?
They were... doubts.

A tiny part of me believed that they genuinely intended to surrender. And I thought it more likely that they were waiting for my arrival to decide.
Waiting for your arrival...?

Even if they had their doubts, they may not have been able to bring themselves to ally with us. So I thought that if I accepted their invitation, it could prove to be the deciding factor. ...Though in the end, it was indeed a trap.
I see. That's why they say that you're soft-hearted.

But no matter how much we cover for you...

...I will.

Just one more way to drive the difference between them home. The two iterations of our protagonist are very different people, and they approach this ambush very differently.

??? and Owl

It's not a great idea to get into a traitor's mindset, Prince.
Why not?


Them, you, even me.
Even you, Owl?
Yeah. So when you're in the thick of it, just remember the reason. You want to protect the Princess, right?
...I understand. Thank you, Owl.
Quit thanking me... It gives me the willies.

Battle prowess aside, Owl remains a great character.

Marie's position is at the very edge of bottom attacker's range and the bottom and left Swordsmen aroun the War Mage. Izuna will take two attacks this turn, but in return I'll have them all clustered around my group, which is right where I want them.

As it turns out, the enemies aren't quite as aggressive as the corresponding Route B stage. Only the bottom-left and bottom-right groups of three Armors, their Mage, and the upper-right detachment in front of the stairs move. The Mage moves up to six squares away from Marie -- he's probably got a level 4 or higher Fire Raid, then.

If you're doing this stage without recrutiting Alicia, her group isn't aggressive either; they move when the other passive groups do.

??? takes a counter and gets bounced off two squares above where I planned him to be. I'm not sure how I feel about this; Crazed is bad, yes, but it also means he's in a better position for next turn.

Owl landed a critical on the first enemy, doubling his damage. He didn't kill, though... Which actually works out, because I wanted Alicia to get these.

Lateral Blow: Still amazing.

Izuna's going to tank a hit or two. She'll be fine.

Contrary to expectations, Alicia took the Fire Raid spell, so Izuna ends the turn mostly unharmed.

Izuna also gets countered by the second Attacker. Thankfully, Alicia was only killing the two front Attackers anyway.

??? can't quite finish it off, thanks to his Crazed status. Failed to take it into account.

Owl makes an assist.

Then Marie pulls Alicia out of harm's way.

The enemies spread out their attacks this turn. Notably, Selmer is in the way of the War Mage's Storm Rave and takes about 49% of his life in damage (1 HP more and it'd tip over 50%).

Oh no, literally everyone's injured! How will I handle healing this turn?

With Union Soul and Maiden Prayer, of course!

Stand and fight me!

I think this was originally supposed to be an offensive OB or something? Her attack quote is "I'll make an opening"; to my knowledge, "Stand and fight me!" is used nowhere else, but it really doesn't fit an OB you use on allies.

It isn't a perfect solution, but it gets everyone fighting fit again... Except Alicia. Remember, Maiden Prayer doesn't affect people who have already moved. That's the one downside of this strategy!

(And it also works better once Marie's built enough meter for 2.70 to take her to full, of course.)

dammit Owl

He might survive! Maybe. He got pegged with a fireball last turn, so I think the Mages are set to low MC. The one to his right still has him in range.

I'm very glad the Prince class has Duelist... And that Crazed wore off.

dammit Owl

Okay, problem: How do I eliminate the top group? Owl would have probably been able to kill the War Mage with Lateral Blow, but Owl's dead now. Anyone going in needs to be able to take two Swordsman attacks, one Talan Raioh, and one Sniper arrow.

Thankfully, Selmer has at least one of those problems covered. Credit where credit's due: His OB is a hell of a lot more useful than expected.

I have Marie heal Alicia and send her in. She's the best tank I've got available this turn; Izuna's too far south and injured, so I can't both Holy Favor and heal her.

???, meanwhile, gets in position to Brave Ray the bottom Mage. The bottom group has been completely passive; if they stay that way one more turn, I can eliminate the magic threat next turn.

They don't!

They do, however, go somewhere that makes it still completely safe, so I go on regardless.

Alicia is very useful.

Making sure she survives is a good use of resources.

This was a little risky; I've taken a fair number of counters this map, and a Crazed Izuna in the middle of that group after my healer's turn would mean certain death. She survives it, though.

Alicia would have been fine without the heal or the spell, but I don't like risks.

Thinking about it, all three Fearlessness users -- Serdic, Izuna, Alicia -- also have Frontal Blow. If not for Kay (and ???, since it's a Prince ability), they'd be the only ones who had it.

Izuna is in position to take out at least one of the Armors with Blade Blast.

Events go roughly as planned.

??? is still a little under the level of the rest of the group. He's not awful, but everyone else (that isn't Owl) is better.

Alicia can't take down this Armor this turn. If, however, she uses a level 3 Union Soul on ???, who is just below level 3 OB, he'll be able to fire that off at the boss two turns from now, letting me end this fight a little faster.

OBs aren't very good in this game, but Union Soul is still one of my favorites. It's one of the few very good OBs that isn't just "kill this enemy."

Like this particular dumb plot.

I'm being excessively cautious because I don't want the Guardian to move. Alicia would survive three attacks easily.

I do some more assorted dicking around, but the only important thing is that Selmer comes up and kills the Guardian.

Forgot to buy amulets. Knew I was forgetting something...

I won't forget this fight, or the reason it happened.

This very short conversation is seen every time you play this stage "right." Which is tragic, because the following is the real conversation, obtainable only by finishing the stage without recruiting Alicia. It's not as good as the conversation with Owl's sister, but similarly, it's something you 1) won't usually see and 2) always should.

Don't be so mauldin, Serdic.

I'd hate to become so callous as to forget the people I've killed...
You've killed dozens of people thus far, haven't you? And before this is over, you will kill even more. You'll find that there's no end to it.
That's why I think it's strange to allow oneself to become inured to it.
And around and around we go...

Indeed... I won't forget them.

This is what I mean about this stage being like Route B. This conversation would have never happened there, but the tone of it is right out of that route: it sets ???'s idealism up as his tragic flaw, just as Serdic's single-minded obsession was his. It was a double-edged sword, and it made him as weak as it made him strong. And if ??? was presented as just as flawed, I'd like it a lot more. It'd make the routes feel like true mirrors.

Alas, we're not in Route B any longer, no matter how we detour. Onward and upward!

Total resets since chapter 20: 3 (+0)

Next time:
Red Lions Redux