Episode 3: Mercenaries, Part 2 Episode 5: Pherae’s Son
Derp derp derp, another tough random battle at the end here… This chapter came out a little weird. Rigel is not how I was expecting her, at all. But what’s really frustrating is that I keep writing more and more words, and I don’t seem to get any closer to the end of the story! : P
Also nope, can’t upload two chapters a night. They’re just too long and involved. I’ll be lucky to get to the end of Episode 6 or 7 before I have to abandon this temporarily to work on Sinterklaas and Christmas madness. Meine sterne.
Episode 4: Dragon’s Breath
“Nabata?” Ceniro asked, tilting his head in confusion as he stared at Pent. “Why Nabata?”
“That’s where I studied with Athos,” Pent said, as if it were obvious. “I… I have a hunch.”
“Nabata’s a really long way,” Ceniro said. “It’s spring, so the journey’s much more feasible than a couple months ago, but… with Louise so far along… I don’t know…”
“I will of course bow to her wishes and yours,” Pent said. “But I feel… it’s very important that I go study anything Athos left behind, particularly about the Legendary Weapons.”
“Oh. I see. Except I don’t. Is something wrong with them?”
“I think unforeseen circumstances are going to cause problems relating to them,” Pent said cautiously. “As in, I don’t know if something is wrong yet. But I want to know more about them.”
“That’s fair,” Ceniro said. “Now go talk to your wife.”
Pent laughed and did so.
“Well…” Louise said from within her armchair. “I have no objection to going…”
“But?” Pent asked, sitting across from her and holding her hands.
“I have no real wish to go, either…” She looked down. “I know it’s selfish, but… it’s still a few weeks before the baby is due, and even the short distances we travel now are… difficult…”
“I know,” Pent said. “And I’m sorry.”
“You should not apologize, Lord Pent. I insist on coming along, and while I can’t fight right now, I have no wish to be a burden, either.”
“You are no burden,” he assured her. “I, personally, am happy that I get to watch over you directly. If you were away, I would only worry over you. And Ceniro doesn’t need that.”
“And yet he doesn’t leave either of us behind.” Louise gave a little sigh and a smile. “He is almost as patient as you, Lord Pent.”
“I try,” he said. “So we should not go to Nabata yet.”
“Well, but… You really ought to go and learn whatever there is for you to learn. If you think it necessary, then of course it’s necessary. But like we were just saying… we shouldn’t be apart, either… If I was selfish and stayed here and made you go, you would only spend your time worrying – and then you wouldn’t be around for the birth of our child!”
“So I won’t go yet,” he said. “I definitely can’t miss meeting our child! And finding out if it’s a boy or a girl…” He grinned at her in giddy excitement.
“Klein, if it’s a boy, and Clarine, if it’s a girl,” Louise bubbled, meeting his excitement. “Oh, but… you really should go if it has to do with those Legendary Weapons… There might be some danger that you can prevent if only you know the right things…”
“Louise, please don’t worry about it. I’m going to stay here with you. This is more important.”
“No… no, it’s not…”
“Hnnn… I need a while to think about this.”
“There’s nothing to think about. It’s been decided.”
“No, it hasn’t!” she exclaimed, almost angrily. “Lord Pent…!” She caught herself and calmed down. “Lord Pent… I truly think you should go. I just need to sort things out with myself. Please wait for a bit.”
“As you like, Louise,” Pent said. “But don’t strain yourself, truly.”
She nodded absentmindedly and went back to thinking, staring out the window.
Lyn came up about half an hour later, bringing tea. “I heard you were making a big decision.”
“I am,” Louise said, smiling. “Thank you for tea.”
“Pent would have me believe that the decision’s already been made, but I know you better than that,” Lyn said with a wink. “He’s all ready to throw in the towel for you, but you wouldn’t make such a big decision so quickly, would you?”
“I would not,” Louise said firmly. “And I’ve almost come to a conclusion.”
“Which way are you leaning?” Lyn asked.
“I think we should go to Nabata,” Louise said. “I can ride side-saddle, as I’ve had to these last few months. We might not go quickly, but it’s better than not going at all until later.”
“I see,” Lyn said, a little down-cast. “I’d hoped the baby could be born here in the clear air of Sacae, but you’re correct.”
“Oh, Lyn…” Louise leaned forward as she could, the wise glow of motherhood about her. “You will have babies of your own someday! You can have all the Sacaean babies. But it doesn’t matter to me where my baby is born as long as its father is there.”
Lyn laughed. “I’m sure that when I have a baby, I will say the same thing.”
“Besides… it’s been so cold this winter. Nabata will be much warmer. I feel it’s time for a change…”
“Well, the plains do get hot in the summer,” Lyn said. “But you’re right about Nabata. I’m sure many of the others will cheer right up with a little heat.”
“Then I have made my decision,” Louise said. “We shall go to Nabata, and Lord Pent shall learn things from Athos’s writings. We should set out immediately. I will be as little burden as I can be, but I fear I must go slowly as we journey west…”
“I don’t think anyone will mind,” Lyn said. “Of course, there’s more chance of being attacked in the corridor south of the Sacae-Bern mountains, but they might have heard of us by now. And if not…” She shrugged. “We shall make short work of them.”
“We shall indeed,” Louise said, smiling. “I only wish I could still shoot. But it’s so uncomfortable right now…”
“Wil and George and I have it covered,” Lyn said. “We have plenty of archers. Shall I go tell the others?”
“Yes… Well, I should come and tell them. It’s my decision, after all. And it’s also my decision that we should go as soon as possible.”
“Right. Here we go!” Lyn helped up the other woman, and they headed downstairs.
So under Louise’s insistence, they packed up and headed west two days later, heading as directly as they could to the desert land. They didn’t even stop at Ostia to greet Hector along the way. They weren’t attacked much, despite Lyn’s concern about the Bern mountains, and the weather was definitely getting warmer the further southwest they got.
They had just reached the outer scrub of the Nabata Desert when Louise felt her dress grow wet. “Oh… Oh!”
“Louise?” asked Pent, never more attentive than he had been the last few weeks.
“I… The baby’s coming,” she gasped, and reached frantically for his hands, helping her down from the horse.
“Now?” Pent went slightly pale; they were far from their destination, a small village on the edge of the desert.
“It’s fine,” Lyn said. “Remember, I’ve done this before.”
“I’ll help too,” Fiora said.
“And I,” said Yens. “With six little ones at home, I should hope I know a thing or two.”
“All right,” Ceniro said. “Let’s set up camp here. Andy, Frank, get a tent for Louise. Kent, Florina, you’re on patrol. George, Caddie, Wil, Erk, we’ll set up the rest of the camp and stay out of the way.”
And then the farseer pinged.
Ceniro huffed. “Why now?” he complained at the innocent crystal screen. But it was all too clear; bandits were approaching from the desert dunes. “Andy, Frank, keep setting up that tent. Fiora, I’m sorry, but I need you out here. I’d like to keep the commotion away from our camp and that means hitting them in the desert, before they reach us.”
“So… I should…” Kent said. His horse would not do well in the loose sand.
“Fight on foot. You’re next to George. Lyn, Pent, don’t worry about anything. We’ll be right back.”
“This is certainly exciting,” Pent said, his voice strained.
“Don’t worry about anything,” Ceniro said again, and then shut the group in the tent out of the farseer’s communications so they wouldn’t hear him yelling orders at the others.
“They’re coming to pincer our camp,” Ceniro said. “So I want everyone on the south flank to the left. Erk, you’re in front. Florina, Fiora, loop around and harrass them from behind. Andy, Frank, once you’re done with that tent get on the north side and keep that group occupied. Once we’ve cleared away the south pincer we’ll join you.”
The bandits were tougher than they’d been facing on the plains of Sacae or the foothills of Bern. They were built more for the unforgiving heat and sun of the desert, and with more brutal weapons.
Surprisingly, once he got over the anxiety that came with the fact that he was defending a child’s birth, the battle wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be. That didn’t mean it was easy, though… with two of his best fighters unavailable, he was severely lacking in his usual firepower.
But that really only meant it was Erk’s time to shine. And Ceniro let him. The young mage’s powers and agility meant he could move lightly over the sand, more lightly than the fighters who faced him, and he could duck away from them when they came too close, and most importantly, he could unleash Thunder on them with no holding back.
Ceniro glanced down at the farseer in the middle of Erk’s display and froze. Four red markers were moving around to the north-east, coming to flank their camp further than he had anticipated. He began to run in that direction. “Pent… sorry to bother you, but they did an extra little flanking manoeuvre… If you can assist me for two seconds… Fiora! Florina! Need you here ASAP.”
“Where?” Pent demanded, sounding and looking frazzled and angry.
Ceniro pointed, and Pent cast, a magic circle flickering in the air in front of him before sending a massive blast of Elfire at the bandits; three of them were caught in the blast and went flying; the fourth was skewered by Florina as he reacted to the fire.
“That’s all,” Ceniro said. “How is it?”
“She’s fine,” Pent said, though there was a tightness around his eyes. “Just defend us.”
“I’m on it,” Ceniro said, and Pent disappeared back into the tent, just as Louise moaned in pain.
And as he turned back to the rest of the battlefield, Erk and George had just finished up with the south flank. Andy and Frank were being hard pressed on the north side, outnumbered and nearly surrounded, but still surviving back-to-back, and keeping the bandits distracted from the tent, which was all Ceniro needed. Ceniro whistled and gestured, and the rest of the company fell on them from the back and side.
“Geez,” Andy wheezed when they regrouped, “I’d almost thought you’d forgotten about us there.”
“I knew you could handle it,” Ceniro said mildly. “You did very well. Though I think the MVP award goes to Erk today.”
Erk snorted, healing a cut on Frank’s hand. “Only because Lord Pent wasn’t fighting.”
“We couldn’t have done it without you!” Wil said, clapping him on the shoulder. “Whether Lord Pent was there or not, you were magnificent out there!”
“I agree with them,” Kent said. “You should be proud of your magical ability, Erk.”
Erk began to blush. “Well… if you say so…”
“Let’s see… I know everyone will want to meet the baby right away, but… Kent, Florina, you’re on watch like before. Everyone else… let’s get back to setting up camp. Fiora, if they still need you…”
There was the shrill cry of a baby from the tent, and excited adult noises.
“I don’t think they need me,” Fiora said, smiling. “Let’s give them some time. I’m sure they will be happy to show us when they’re ready.”
The rest of the tents had been set up, and Ceniro was just starting a campfire, when Lyn pushed open the door-flap of the tent she’d been in. “You can come meet him now, if you like.”
“It’s a boy?” Fiora cried.
“It is,” said Pent, as they all carefully squeezed into the tent. “Everyone, meet Klein Reglay.”
Louise was holding a healthy-looking baby, cooing into the soft blonde fuzz on top of his head. She looked tired, but also thrilled to pieces, and Pent looked like he was going to start literally glowing from happiness as he supported his wife with an arm around her.
“Hello, Klein,” Ceniro said, and Klein turned enormous, serious blue eyes on him, sucking his thumb.
They journeyed to their destination village the next day and stayed there a few days, waiting for Louise to recover her strength. When Pent remembered that the others existed, he spent time with Ceniro and maps of the local area, trying to remember exactly where Athos’s oasis was.
He ran a hand through his long silver hair for the umpteenth time; it was sticking in every direction by now. Ceniro wondered how much sleep he was getting, despite the fact that everyone in the group had volunteered to help with the baby. “It would be much easier if we could get in contact with Hawkeye and just ask him to lead us there. But…”
“How did you find him the first time?” Ceniro asked.
Pent laughed, embarrassed. “A few years before I met you, I was out this way because I’d heard there were magical treasures in the desert… I was severely under-equipped, even for a mage, and I passed out… Hawkeye found me and brought me to Athos, who saw potential in my power, even if I had been rather stupid going out into the desert the way I did. He taught me an incredible amount… And that’s how when I returned, I became the Mage General at the age of twenty-four.”
“And every time you came back, Hawkeye was waiting for you?”
“I usually came at Athos’s invitation, so yes. But Athos isn’t there anymore, so Hawkeye will undoubtedly be in Arcadia, or wherever he lives… So we have to find the oasis by ourselves this time.”
“Can’t you… detect its aura, or something?” Ceniro asked stupidly.
Pent laughed. “If only I could… Its aura isn’t that strong. It’s outside of the barrier of Arcadia, certainly… I never even knew that Arcadia existed, and I certainly can’t sense the barrier. Undoubtedly it is designed that way.”
“So… where should we start?”
“We should start in this area,” Pent said, tapping the map. “Having two pegasus knights along will help a lot, certainly.”
“I’m very lucky,” Ceniro agreed. “All right. You get some rest. I’ll keep planning.”
“Don’t forget to rest, yourself,” Pent said, though Ceniro could have told him that Pent looked much worse than Ceniro did.
They set out into the desert the next day in the coolness of the dawn, and having pegasus knights in the group was the best thing that could have happened for them. They camped at midday, and traveled in the afternoon into the evening, and camped again when it was quite dark and the only light came from the stars.
It was late the next day when Florina spotted what they were looking for. “Um… I think it’s over there, due west from here… A low white building, just like I remember, and green.”
“Good work, Florina,” Ceniro said. “I don’t see any people around,” he said as they came closer and the farseer was able to see it better. “That’s probably good.”
“Why would there be people around?” Wil asked.
“Bandits will move into any structure they can find,” Frank said. “Even old ones, even beautiful ones. Is this one beautiful? I’d think it would be, with Lord Athos of the Eight Legends living there, right?”
“I recall it was beautiful,” Louise said. “It was cool and refreshing, with halls of carven stone. There was an abundance of water in the midst of this dryness.”
“Sounds good,” said Andy, laughing. “We’ll need it.”
They came to the entrance and went in; the knights stayed outside to tend to the horses and pegasi. Pent headed straight for the library, and Ceniro and Lyn and George began to figure out the way of the place to put their things and prepare food.
They were there for many days. Sometimes Ceniro would drop in on Pent, and tease him about getting sidetracked with all the other amazing research he was finding. Pent would laugh self-deprecatingly, and turn to look at where Louise and Klein rested in a corner. Klein was a fairly quiet baby, they were learning, and he was mostly interested in his mother’s long golden hair that was within convenient grabbing reach.
Ceniro also got to spend more time with Lyn, now that they weren’t moving about and now that they lived in such a large place. She liked to climb on the roof and gaze at the stars at night, while he preferred sitting by the haven’s water and watching the sun-reflected ripples on the walls.
And of course she never let up on his sword training. Every day, they’d go down to the wide open area in the front of the main hall and practice. First, half an hour of warm-up – though Ceniro thought he hardly needed it, here. Then, an hour of drills. Then twenty minutes of sparring. Sometimes she asked one of the other swordsmen to spar with him, for variety and so he didn’t get used to only fighting with her. Sometimes she asked Caddie to bring his axe, and sometimes she asked Kent to bring his lance.
Even though he’d been learning ever since he went to Sacae with Lyn, about eight months, he still felt unsure of himself, and certainly not like he could take on archers or cavalry or wyverns like he had occasionally asked his fighters to do in the past. “Now that I know more than nothing, this seems even harder than before.”
“That’s the way it goes,” Lyn said, blocking his attacks effortlessly and pushing him back with a mere flick of her wrist. It might have been discouraging, except he loved to watch her move, and even when she was holding back, her movements were full of grace and power. “You haven’t been fighting for fifteen years, though.”
Ceniro paused to wipe his forehead and barely blocked her next move. “When did you start again?”
“I was five when my father gave me my first wooden sword.” She smiled. “I was thrilled, as you might expect. My mother was a little apprehensive at first, but I begged her to let me give it a try. And I was good at it. So I kept at it.”
“And then I met you,” he said, smiling.
“Well, a few things happened in the middle,” Lyn said.
“A few,” he agreed. “For instance, you’re not five anymore.”
“I should hope not,” she said, and began to giggle. “Wouldn’t it be funny if Nergal was defeated by a five-year-old?”
“We should inform Eliwood and Ninian to get on that. Their kid can pull Durandal around even though it’ll be three times as big as him. I wonder if they’re married yet.”
“Probably. Let’s take a break.” Lyn sheathed her sword; he did the same. They bowed to each other, and he followed her back into the hall, heading towards a quiet, cool corner where they could drink their water and catch their breath.
“Hey, what do you think we should name our kid?” Lyn asked.
“What, are we only having one?” Ceniro teased.
Lyn blushed and giggled. “I don’t know, are we? Our first kid, anyway.”
“Well… I don’t know. I was going to leave it up to you.”
“Oh, come on. I know you have ideas. Who doesn’t?”
“I was thinking…” Ceniro said slowly. “Mark, for a boy, and Rose for a girl.” He glanced at her. “But they’re very Lycian names…”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, I guess, just…”
“Ceniro… I’m going to marry you, and you’re going to marry me. Right?”
“Our marriage will be a blending of our cultures. Just because I love my father’s culture and want to show it all to you doesn’t mean that Lycia gets no say in our future.”
He smiled. “All right. I understand. But I’m still wondering whether I should wear a deel or a shirt next time I visit my family.”
“From what you’ve told me…”
“The deel would drive my mother crazy, and at this point with her, I kind of want to do that… I’m a terrible son.”
“Why do you say that?”
Ceniro lay down on his back with his hands behind his head. “She hates my profession, and takes every opportunity to say so. I’ve told you that before… So I feel kind of rebellious about… her. And I just want to annoy her more until she leaves me alone about it. But that’s not going to happen. And… I’m kind of regretful about that, because I want to be good… I just…”
“Is that why you wander?”
“No… I wander because I like it.” He smiled up at her. “I like you.”
“That’s good, because I love you.”
“I love you too. Come here.” He reached up and tugged her to lie down beside him on the cool stone. The water reflections glinted off the ceiling above them.
“Hey! Ceniro!” they heard distantly. “Has anyone seen Ceniro?”
Ceniro groaned. “Meh…”
“Meh?” Lyn giggled. “Is that all you can say? Obviously Pent’s finally found out something important. Go along with you. I’ll be right here.”
“But I want to stay here,” Ceniro whined, before giving up and getting up. “I’ll see you in a little bit, then.”
“Ceniro! There you are!” Pent beckoned him urgently. “This is bigger even than I thought it was. Come here.”
“What is it?” Ceniro asked anxiously.
“The Legendary Weapons have the power to bend reality itself,” Pent said.
Ceniro blinked. “What?”
“It’s… a difficult conclusion to draw, certainly. But… when the Scouring occurred, humanity was so greatly outmatched by the dragons that they put all their power into these eight weapons. So much power, in fact, that it drew power out of the very existence of… everything.”
“That’s possible?” Ceniro said, still uncomprehending.
“Apparently it was! I wonder what it was like, back then, with even more energy floating around… And not only were these weapons powerful enough to fight dragons then, but the loss of this energy meant that dragons had a difficult time… just living here.”
“That explains what Nils said,” Ceniro said. “He said the air had changed since they left. He was talking about before the Scouring, wasn’t he?”
“I would assume so. So then… these weapons have an incredible power. We saw it first hand, but if all eight were gathered together… I’m not sure the world could stand it anymore.”
“So… we should keep them hidden.”
“Yes, we absolutely should. Durandal should not be left in Eliwood’s hands, nor Armads in Hector’s. They should go back to their hiding places, and…” Pent stopped suddenly.
“Pent?” Ceniro asked. “What is it?”
“When we were in Bulgar…” Pent said slowly. “The reason I came to you was because dark mages had felt the wave of energy that Bramimond cast, breaking the seals on the weapons.”
“Even I felt that,” Ceniro said. “But I was standing right there beside him.”
“I don’t think an ordinary person would have felt it from outside the Shrine,” Pent said. “Shaman would feel it most, but… I think it’s clear that the world is becoming aware of the existence of the weapons again.”
“And that’s bad,” Ceniro assumed.
“Probably. Also, if the seal is gone, then…”
“Hey! Let me go!” they heard ringing down the corridor outside, and Pent snapped his book shut as they both turned to the door.
Kent entered, holding a struggling person in a dark cloak. “Forgive the intrusion, but this person was sneaking around…”
“I was not sneaking around!” said the person defiantly. “I was being chased, and I…”
Pent stood and pulled back the person’s hood, revealing a cute young woman with light blue hair. “You’re a shaman, aren’t you?”
“I am,” said the young woman. “So what?”
“Are you looking for anything in this place?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” she said evasively. “But I tell you the truth – I’m being chased by bandits! Too many for me to fight alone, so I thought: I’ll hide here until they go away. I didn’t know you jerks were here too!”
“Well, we can’t have bandits getting in here,” Ceniro sighed, and brought out the farseer. “Everyone form up, we have more bandits incoming.”
“Who are you guys?” asked the girl suspiciously. “What are you doing here?”
“I think we can ask that question first,” Pent said. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“My name is Rigel,” she said. “As for what I’m doing here… I think we can talk about that later, right?”
“Unfortunately, she’s right,” Ceniro said. “Rigel, will you fight beside us against the bandits?”
“Me? Oh, all right. If it will make them go away quicker.”
“My name is Ceniro and I’m the tactician of this group, so just listen to what I say and you’ll be fine.”
“Can you get your knight to let go of me, then?”
“Kent, you can probably let go of her…”
Kent did so, though not without a doubtful look.
“Let’s go,” Ceniro said. “Louise, are you planning to fight today?”
“I… not yet,” she said, from wherever she was in the compound. “Is that okay?”
“That’s perfectly fine. I just have to decide what to do with…”
“Oh, Ceniro,” Pent said, “take this with you.” He tossed a small metal disc at Ceniro, who caught it.
“What’s this?” he asked, looking at it. It was perfectly flat and carved with runes.
“It’s a Light Rune,” Pent said. “It blocks the enemy. Well, actually, it blocks everyone. It’s like a barrier staff spell in object form. All you have to do is throw it on the ground. I found it while I was poking around…”
“Thanks, this will be useful…”
Rigel stared in wonder at the farseer. “What’s that?”
“It’s my tactical aid. It will let me communicate with you even across a battlefield, and it lets me see most things. So… Pent, Kent, let’s get down to the main hall.” He frowned at the farseer. “Are you sure these guys are bandits? They’re just marching up to the compound with no strategy whatsoever.”
Rigel turned a little paler. “Well… um… they probably don’t know you’re here either. Also… um… yeah, they’re actually slavers.”
“Right.” Ceniro wondered if he should tell Lyn that now or later. It didn’t matter, he decided, she hated both with an intense burning passion. “Everyone, they don’t know we’re here; they’re after one particular person. So here’s what we’ll do…”
“I don’t like this,” Rigel said, standing alone in the middle of the hall.
“Trust me,” Ceniro said. “We’re all right here.”
“But… you can talk across the battlefield. Who’s to say you didn’t ditch me here to slow them down for you?”
“I didn’t,” Ceniro said. “But you can’t look, you’ll give us away.”
“My arms hurt,” Wil complained.
“Deal with it,” Lyn said. “You’re the only other one who could get up here with me. There’s no room for anyone larger.”
“They’re going to scatter,” Ceniro said. “Andy, Frank, Kent, you’re ready?”
“Ready and waiting,” Andy said, and Ceniro heard the confident clank of weaponry. Frank shushed him.
“No one will get close to Lady Louise and little Lord Klein,” George said.
“I really don’t like this,” Rigel moaned, looking like she was going to bolt.
Ceniro sighed. “All right. I’ll come stand with you.”
He came out of his hiding place to stand next to her. “It’s not inconceivable that I’ve been living like a hermit here without them knowing, after all.” He felt that his sword was still there and turned his attention back to the farseer. “Thirty second warning.”
Silence fell inside and outside the hall.
“I really hope we don’t destroy this place,” Erk muttered.
“That’s why you and your anima magic are outside,” Ceniro said. “I’d rather not ruin this place either.”
“I see them,” Pent said. “Not a care in the world…”
“Ten seconds,” Ceniro said. “Five.”
“Hoy!” one of the bandits was through the door, blinking his eyes to adjust them to the sudden shade. “She’s in here!”
Rigel offered them a rather creepy smile, confident now that she was not alone. “That’s right. Now what are you going to do?”
“Who’re you?” another of them demanded of Ceniro.
“He’s rather pretty, if chubby,” said a big man who was probably the leader. “Take him along too.”
Ceniro checked to make sure that all twenty or so of the slavers were inside, then put the farseer away. “Normally I would give you the chance to leave, but I hear you’re slavers, and we can’t have that…”
“Hear that, lads? He called us slavers!” said the leader. “What a meanie!”
Another began to fake-sob. “What am I going to tell me mammy? I’m a dirty slaver, that I am!”
Ceniro rolled his eyes and threw the Light Rune hard over their heads. It smacked against the wall over the door and fell to the floor. There was a hum, and a blue-white rune-lined barrier sprang up against the door.
“What’s that?” they cried.
“You’re not getting out that way,” Ceniro said. “Sorry about that.”
“I’m not sorry,” Lyn said, appearing on top of a pillar with an arrow on the string of her bow. “I’m more sorry that it’s going to get a little messy in here. Goodbye.”
All hell broke loose. The slavers had no archers, and ran at Ceniro and Rigel, trying to get out of Lyn and Wil’s line of fire. Ceniro grabbed Rigel’s arm and ran for the right exit. In the original plan, he would have been outside and she would have led them away alone into the maze of passages with him guiding her from a vantage point where he could watch the farseer.
Instead, he was leading them to the second hall, where they’d arrive in twos and threes and either get attacked by Caddie and Yens, or, if they were lucky, make it to the inner courtyard where Florina and Fiora waited for them. Or, if they were unlucky, they would make it all the way back to the front courtyard, where they would get blasted by Pent and Erk, and charged by the cavaliers.
When they reached the second hall, Rigel pulled away from him.
“Hey, wait, where are you going?” he called after her. “That’s not in the plan!”
“Your plan is terrible!” she yelled at him. “I’m going to hide now that you’ve got this under control!”
“That’s not the way it works!” he yelled, frustrated. There was a scraping noise behind him, and he drew his katana just in time to block a slaver’s sword strike.
He backed into the main part of the hall. Caddie was there, but Yens was not. “Where’s Yens?”
“He went to go catch her. Lemme help here.”
“Please,” said Ceniro, although he was pleasantly surprised to find that he was holding his own against his opponent. But there were more coming in. “Yens, get back here! I’ll find her; you fight them.”
More of them were coming, and they began to follow him. Ceniro hissed in frustration and sheathed his sword, grabbing the farseer. Yens passed him on his way, charging to Caddie’s side. “Rigel. What’s your status?”
“Alive,” snapped the girl. “I seriously don’t want to be here. I’ve never been in a battle before, are you crazy?”
“Rigel! Can you use dark magic or not!?”
“Yes, but what’s the point? I-” There was a muffled squeak.
“Rigel!” There were three red figures all closing on her blue one on the farseer. Ceniro put it away to run even faster. “Fiora, you have the courtyard! Florina, come to my position – I’m-”
“I see you,” Florina said, and a moment later a white blur swooshed past him. “What do you need?”
“Rigel’s in trouble. We need to get to her…”
There was the sounds of explosions and screaming and cavalry from across the building, so some of the slavers had made it to the front courtyard. Florina reached down for Ceniro and he climbed up behind her, trying to be careful of her, even though she was less shy of him than she was of most men. “All right, head to the corner between those two buildings…”
He had to clutch at the saddle as Florina’s pegasus leapt forward.
“Rigel, hold on, we’re coming…”
They came to the corner, and Florina’s pegasus came to a landing, rearing back in surprise.
Ceniro stared too – there was a floating orb of dark magic, and tendrils reached out of it to snake around the men threatening Rigel. They screamed as they were pulled in inexorably. Rigel’s face was calm and cold, neither smiling nor frowning, which was perhaps creepier than if she had done either.
She certainly wasn’t anything like Canas.
“Okay,” Ceniro said, when he picked his jaw up again. “You could have told me about that.”
Rigel came out of her casting trance and huffed. “But then you would have made me do even more scary stuff. I didn’t want to even see these guys, let alone kill them.”
“Florina, you’d better go back to your sister and make sure she’s not overwhelmed over there. Although I doubt she is… she’s better than these guys by a long shot.”
“You’re really not worried for any of your people?” Rigel asked.
Ceniro looked around and saw a screaming slaver being chased by Lyn. He shrugged. “They’re all excellent fighters, some of the best in Elibe. I just put them where they need to be to do the most damage and support each other.” He looked at her, and she looked back at him.
“Don’t look at me like that, I get it. I’m just… not a fighter.”
“You’re a good one,” Ceniro said mildly. “What are you, then?”
“A scholar. I’ve only written two theses, but I’m really hoping this journey will give me my third thesis.”
“I think you’ll like Pent, then,” Ceniro said, growing more cheerful now that the stress of battle was over.
Rigel stopped where she was. “You mean… that was Lord Pent? The Mage General of Etruria??”
“Yes, it was.” Ceniro looked back at her. “Come on, he’s not scary.”
She followed him, and the whole group met in the front courtyard. A blonde giant had appeared out of nowhere, listening to Pent.
“Hawkeye?” Ceniro exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
“Investigating the disturbance,” Hawkeye said. “Well met, Ceniro. I am glad to see you are in charge again.”
“Er… I suppose I am. Thank you for coming; it’s good to see you. Did you get any of the action?”
“I split a couple heads,” Hawkeye said gravely. “They should not have come here if they wanted to live.”
“I agree entirely. Hello, Hawkeye,” Lyn greeted him, before turning to Ceniro. “Did they seriously call you chubby?” She cleaned her sword and sheathed it. “What awful liars. You’re thin as a stick even though we’ve been eating well.”
“It’s my face,” Ceniro said, deactivating and picking up the Light Rune from the main entrance. “It’s really round even though I’m skinny.”
“It’s not really round, just a little bit round,” Lyn said. “I’m still entertained and offended.”
“Don’t be,” Ceniro said. “I know I can’t match you in the looks department anyway.”
She laughed and patted his shoulder affectionately.
“All right,” Pent said. “Now that things have settled down a little, I’d like to know a bit more about Miss Rigel.”
“I second this motion,” Ceniro said cheerfully. “Let’s go somewhere we can sit – or eat. I’m hungry.”
They followed him into the kitchen and found chairs while he helped Frank prepare food. “So… Rigel. You were chased to this place?”
“Well…” She gazed at him appraisingly. “You seem a decent person.”
“I like to think so,” he answered. “I like to think we all are. We don’t allow any other kind of person in our group.”
She sat up straight in her chair, and her awkward, defiant guise was gone, replaced by something calm and knowing. “My name is Rigel, and I am a shaman from Kafti. I was sent here by the head of my chapter to investigate a peculiar occurrence last year.”
“Ah,” said Pent.
She looked at him. “I think I can safely assume you are doing the same thing, Mage General of Etruria.”
“I’m not exactly the General at the moment,” Pent said. “But I in my turn will assume you know of my reputation for scholarly study.”
“Indeed,” she said. “Perhaps I can help you. There was a wave that originated in Bern and caused ripples in seven locations across Elibe. I am starting of course with the closest one.”
“I see,” Pent said, with a twinkle in his eye. “I think I’ll need to get to know you a bit better before I share any of my research with you, Miss Rigel… but I’ll give you a hint. It’s to do with the Legendary Weapons of the Eight Generals of old.”
Her eyes grew wide for a moment before she regained control of her expression. “I-I guessed that! After all… it’s the right number!”
“Our group will be visiting all of them in turn, and you are welcome to come along with us…”
“Especially since you can fight,” Ceniro said. “We’re rather lacking in variety of magic, if not in power.”
“I am eager to join you,” she said. “I’d like to know what you know. How can I prove myself trustworthy?”
Pent and Ceniro looked at each other. “Well…” Pent began.
“This could be a very secret quest,” Ceniro said. “If word gets out about our goal, it could mean war across Elibe, war as bad as the Scouring almost a thousand years ago.”
“I understand,” she said solemnly. “I won’t publish a word.”
“So you can’t tell anyone, not even the head of your chapter,” Lyn said sharply.
Rigel bowed her head. “He will find out eventually. I’m sure we’re not the only chapter investigating.”
“That is true,” Pent said to Lyn, and turned back to Rigel. “But I think only we have the complete story, and that is something no one can know.”
“Tell me what you can, please,” she said earnestly. “The suspense is unbearable!”
Ceniro laughed. “The Legendary Weapons have been unsealed by Bramimond, and now we have to seal them up again before anyone finds them and uses them to start a war. They have power that distorts reality itself.”
Now Rigel looked properly astonished, and even Hawkeye looked concerned. “Whaaaat? But… Lord Bramimond is still alive? Why did he unseal them? How did you find out? Wait… were you there?”
“I think that is part of the tale that should be left untold,” Pent said. “You’d only think us mad, anyway.”
Rigel stood. “If what you say is true, then I must definitely join you. I don’t want wars to happen, and there are so few of you… Even though you’re powerful, you must need all the help you can get!”
“We told you because you were joining,” Lyn said impatiently. “What I would like to know is… if your people sensed this wave, and Pent met some people who sensed this wave… Does that mean that all shaman sensed it?”
“Most likely,” Rigel said. “It wasn’t strong, and the ripples even less strong. It’s taken us the better part of eight months to piece together that something happened in the first place. And my chapter only sent me.” She frowned. “I guess that’s odd. Why would they only send me?”
“I couldn’t say,” Pent said. “But you are welcome here. If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to talk to Hawkeye before he leaves.”
Hawkeye nodded and followed Pent out to the main hall, while the others stayed for dinner.
“Hawkeye!” Pent greeted the giant. “Good to see you. How is everything?”
“It was fine,” Hawkeye said. “But if you’re here… is everything fine on your end? It sounds like it is not.”
“It’s… a little less than fine,” Pent admitted.
Hawkeye nodded. “So you wish to hide the weapons again. It will be a long undertaking.”
“Yes,” Pent said. “But not only that. I was thinking about it during the battle, and… they must have magical protection as well. Forblaze is here with Athos. Anyone could just walk in here and take it, even though this place is hidden.”
“That is true,” Hawkeye said. “Let me take it to Arcadia. It is better hidden.”
“Well…” Pent said slowly. “I’m not the equal of either Athos or Bramimond. Athos is dead, and Bramimond will not be found. But I would like to place a magic seal of my own on the weapons. All of them.”
Hawkeye digested this for a while. “I… could take you to Arcadia. The people there will help you develop a seal. But you are right. You are not yet at Lord Athos’s level. Casting a single seal that covers the continent, like the one we saw last year, is beyond you.”
“I know,” Pent said, slightly annoyed.
“But they can help you come up with one that you can cast on each weapon individually. Would that be enough?”
“It will have to be,” Pent said.
“I must take you alone,” Hawkeye said. “Too many others would only bring trouble.”
“I understand,” Pent said. “But while you’re here, would you like to meet my son?”
Hawkeye smiled slightly. “I would be honoured.”
Pent left with Hawkeye and was gone for a week. When he returned, alone, he looked exhausted. But there was a light in his face. “I have it. The means to protect Elibe from ourselves.”
Episode 3: Mercenaries, Part 2 Episode 5: Pherae’s Son