Chapter 26 – Tip of the Spear
"Menedy welcomes you, Your Grace!"
Emmeryn smiled and waved for the kneeling noble to rise along with his household. "Thank you, Marquess Cassel. Your hospitality is always appreciated."
"Thank you, my Exalt," the large man said with a voice like rumbling thunder. "The maids will see to the accommodations of your entourage in the guest keep."
"Of course. Please, lead the way." The Exalt said, motioning for one of her assistants to take over the preparations. Phila and Angela took their place beside her as her escorts.
As she walked, Emmeryn took a moment to look at one of her most loyal lords. Marquess Martin Cassel held Menedy. It was one of the marches that made up the core of Ylisse's territories and one of the oldest. Being the closest stronghold to the Feroxi border made it a key to successful trade with their allies. It also made it the perfect place to rally once back inside Ylisse's borders. He was also one of her most trusted supporters amongst the nobility.
"How was your trip, Your Grace? We have done our best to keep the roads free of brigands. My scouts are keeping an eye for any suspicious movements from Plegia," he said. He guided their group through the castle's main gate.
"I am pleased to say your efforts have not been for naught. We encountered no trouble during our trip," she responded with a pleased smile. "The villages we passed along the way mentioned there had been no sightings of trouble. The guards are still vigilant and ready to report to your troops. A credit to your preparations."
"It eases my heart to hear you say so," the older man said, "My troops are eager to prove themselves. It's to our shame that we couldn't be of more help during the attack on Ylisstol or the assault on Plegia. We had a surge in recruits in the past two years and we have done our best to train them but nothing beats experience."
Emmeryn nodded. She was no military expert but she had trusted advisors in the area. Rebuilding their army to protect themselves was a sad but necessary priority. "True enough. I would prefer that our people had no need to prepare for war. But I am forced to see my folly on letting out defenses weaken over the years." Her voice became filled with determination. "I will never be like my father and strike first. But I swear Ylisse will never again be defenseless."
The marquess nodded in approval. "A good sentiment, Your Grace. I too would prefer that for my people." His expression hardened. "But we cannot ignore such attacks on our soil. Even if it means sending my sons to fight in another continent."
The idea of losing her baby boy made Emmeryn's heart clench. She knew there would be no time to visit Ylisstol before the meeting date, so that reunion will have to wait. "I am sorry for the necessity of it. I cannot imagine parting with my son."
Martin smiled reassuringly at her, easing her worries. "The fault doesn't lie with you, Your Grace. The soldier in me is proud of them for doing their duty, but the father in me cannot help but worry."
The Exalt placed a hand over his calloused ones in a gesture of comfort. "Do not fear. My siblings and their comrades will do their best to ensure the safety of our people." She tried to reassure him, but she needed to be realistic. "But we both know casualties will be inevitable."
"I know. I will have to pray it does not come to that and keep faith in our warriors."
The pair entered the marquess's solar. As per noble etiquette, Emmeryn took the main chair, while Martin took another. A servant quickly came in with a pitcher of cold water and refreshments. The small servings not enough to ruin their appetite before the main banquet. They certainly were not unwelcome by Emmeryn.-
"Now that we are comfortable, what information do you want to begin with?"
Emmeryn wasted no time in getting to one of her main concerns about internal security. "What news do you have from Samsooth? Has House Howe made any strange movements lately?"
Martin frowned in thought. "I don't know nearly as much as I would like," he admitted, tapping his fingers against his desk. "They haven't wasted the chance to endear themselves to you. Sending Nathaniel in command of their troops to Valm. Whether they are sincere or are waiting for the right moment to take revenge is unknown."
"I cannot take action against them at the moment. They were quick to denounce the hierarch's actions, despite being Marquess Howe's brother. And they might be sincere."
"Nathaniel Howe squired under me and he is a good man, but his father has always been ambitious. He might just be waiting for the best opportunity to make his move."
"Plegia may no longer be a viable option for them, but Valm is another matter. If Walhart offers them power over Ylisse if they help displace us as rulers. But at the same time, the dossier we have on the Conqueror shows that he would reward them as traitors deserve. Why would he trust someone that betrays their oldest ruling family, not once but twice?" Emmeryn asked, rhetorically.
Maybe it was foolish of her to keep House Howe in power. Many have voiced their disagreement. But she has no evidence that they assisted the Hierarch or that they were even aware of his plans. But that didn't mean she wasn't planning for it.
If they had to put a new House in charge of the march, her best option would be for Chrom or Lissa to start a new one. And they now had Rose and Lissa's children. Four young adults with exalted brands. That would help secure the integrity of Ylisstol and the line of succession. More houses tied by blood to the Crown.
She would not force her niblings into arranged marriages. Not after their harsh lives. But she could offer them the possibility to help while securing their positions. Maybe building new castles to protect the towns on the eastern part of the continent. Even after centuries, they were barely developed.
She really needed to do something about the stagnation of their development.
But all this depended on Emmeryn finding proper evidence to remove House Howe from power. They remained useful at the moment at least. Removing them now would weaken the war effort by dividing the nobility. There would be those that will try to claim Samsooth and the title of Marquess. They couldn't afford to display weaknesses for Plegia and Valm to exploit. Especially not with Grima lurking in the shadows.
Rose left them a list of her contacts tasked with assisting them. The amount of information she had gathered on the nobility was downright scary. She was thankful that House Cassel was clear of suspicion. They only had some minor scandals but those didn't threaten Ylisse's security. Houses Amell, Ducret, Cousland, Earhart, and Meade were also in the clear. These Houses remained her largest supporters, securing most of the power of the marches. She could afford to leave them alone for now.
The minor nobles could prove more problematic if they were ambitious. House Delaqua of Pyrathi and House Eremon of Deil could be more of a problem. They controlled the southern ports and the few warships Ylisse had. There was information that they had dealings with pirates to keep the peace. That couldn't go on. Maybe she could order them to send their troops to Valm. That way they can deplete their forces and have fewer soldiers to fight in case of a rebellion.
Emmeryn blinked in slight shock. It seemed that the talks with her retainers had made her more accepting of hard measures. She should control herself. Sacrificing her own people was not what she wanted.
"In any case, I have some plans in case House Howe presents a problem. I would rather we never reach the point where we need to act on them, though. Nathaniel and Delilah Howe remain unmarried and unbetrothed last I heard. Is that still the case?"
Martin nodded, stroking his beard in thought. "Yes. They tried to secure betrothals with Houses Eremon and Delaqua in the past years. But those plans fell apart once news of the Hierarch's treachery came to light."
All the more reason to keep an eye on Deil and Pyrathi. "I hate having to play games with their futures but it's a necessary evil. If Marquess Howe proves himself a problem, then I will have him removed. The problem lies in the succession. I don't want to give that House more power. Having his children marry minor but loyal nobles would mitigate the risks."
Martin tapped his finger against the desk in thought. "I would suggest my sons, but I would rather talk to them first. That would need to wait until we have a secure communication line with Valm," he said with reluctance. "Maybe someone from House Cousland? Their youngest son is not betrothed. He is set to inherit a minor port in their territory."
"Maybe, but that would still give the Howes claim to Highever..." Emmeryn said, mulling over her options when someone knocked on the door.
"Enter," Martin allowed, letting the familiar form of her retainer into the room.
"Phila, is everything in order?"
"Yes, your Grace. Our messenger returned from Themis. They will have a small flotilla of ships ready to sail to Caeda's Landing in six days and they will wait for us to arrive. That will substantially cut down our travel time. From there we will be able to make our way south to the meeting point."
"That reminds me," Cassel interceded. "I have arranged for an escort composed of my best holy knights and scouts to accompany you to this meeting. My castellan will give you all the information and supplies that you need, of course."
Emmeryn nodded, pleased with the quick progress made. "Excellent. See to it that everything is ready for our departure, Phila."
"At once, my Exalt. Marquess Cassel." Phila said, bowing to the nobles and leaving the room to fulfill her duties.
"I hate to question you, Your Grace, but is this truly a wise course of action? Can we trust this Plegian? Your letter mentioned he is the one that kidnapped you before," the man asked, doubt filling his voice.
"I understand your concern, but I feel this is the best path to take," Emmeryn said honestly. She knew this was a gambit, but she won't allow traitors to surprise her again. She would be ready this time. "My reign has been too reactive to threats and my people have paid for it. I will not change my beliefs, but that does not mean we cannot take a more proactive stance."
It would also help to consolidate her rule. Marches had rebelled in the past, even if they had not for centuries.
Howe had turned on her out of fear and greed. The title of Hierarch did not make him feel safe under her rule. And he did so despite knowing Emmeryn since she was a child. It was not out of the realm of possibility that other nobles would do so out of greed. If Valm offers them power for turning on House Lowell, it could spell disaster for them.
Marquess Martin Cassel and his family were loyal to her, that she was sure of. It eased her mind for the guardian of the frontier with Ferox. House Lowell would keep control of the central region of the continent. Their troops can move unimpeded while loyal Houses controlled the marches. House Ducret held Themis and House Cassels held Menedy. And Emmeryn had direct ties to the marches of Adria through Aedan and Lefcandith thanks to her mother.
More would have to be done to ensure the other regions remain in line. Samsooth would remain under watch, but Menedy and Highever.
Martin looked at her with respect in his eyes. "War has hardened you, Your Grace, but I can see it has not robbed you of the essence of who you are. I'm glad for it. Many would've allowed for treason such as Howe's to fill them with the desire for revenge. And yet, you still hold hope for a peaceful solution."
"If I were to abandon my ideals because of fear, then I would be a hypocrite," she declared, leaning on her chair. "This Mustafa feels trustworthy. He wasn't cruel to me when he captured me and I could hear the sincerity in his voice. But that doesn't mean I am not prepared for possible treachery this time."
The marquess nodded but he kept the frown on his face. "I'm worried that those Plegians can move in our territory," he admitted. He did give her a small smile after a moment. "But with all the troops you're bringing with you on that flotilla, he would've to be a fool to attack you. There is no way he can have a large enough force in our territory."
"I hope that is the case," Emmeryn said, reciprocating the smile.
"Speaking of ships… it should be about time for our troops to land in Valm, is it not?"
She nodded at that. "Indeed. I hope their journey has been pleasant."
"Wow, they are still at it? Damn!"
"Shut up and go back to sleep, Morgan!" Lucina hissed through the pillow covering her head. Marc just whimpered in his bunk, trying to disappear under a pile of spare clothes and pillows.
Rose didn't blame her children. She was about to smother herself with her coat. All in a vain attempt to ignore the sounds of her brother and sister-in-law fucking next door.
If only the walls on this godforsaken ship were thicker. She would accept a storm, but life wasn't fair. The weather was goddamn perfect. A boon to their fleet and torture to those that had the only room next to those rabbits in heat? Now she had to deal with Tiki relieving three millennia of pent-up sexual frustration.
The next day, Chrom and Robin were in the prince's cabin waiting for the grandmaster's sister to arrive. They had things to discuss before proceeding with more planning. When the door finally opened, they turned to welcome her. They stopped themselves after noticing the haggard look on Rose's face. The bags under her eyes made her look like she died and crawled out of her coffin for the meeting.
They would not voice that thought.
"Are you okay, Rose?" Chrom asked as the woman crashed on the seat next to her brother.
"I had a bad couple of nights," she said, rubbing her eyes. "Some… turbulence didn't let me or my children sleep."
The prince raised an eyebrow at that. "Strange, the sea has been calm. Was your ship rocking too much or something?"
"Something was rocking alright..." she mumbled.
Robin looked at her in surprise. "Really? I slept well these past few days. Maybe it's something in your cabin?" Robin offered, but the glare that Rose threw his way silenced him. The small potted plant behind him withered.
Now, Chrom wasn't a genius by any means, but he could put things together. That and Morgan had not spared any details once she spoke with him earlier. That girl was a ball of energy so he didn't think it was that bad.
Yeah, he was not touching that subject either.
The prince changed the subject before things could escalate from awkward to violent. "Well, hopefully, you can rest later today. For now, I want your opinion on something."
"Sure. What do you need?"
"From what you've seen so far, what is your assessment of the time travelers' capabilities?"
Rose hummed as she pondered the question. "Hmmm. Well, I've trained with my children plenty since we reunited. I've seen some of their friends sparing, but my knowledge of their full skill set is not through. I can only give you a general overview of a few of them. They are doing their best to avoid me."
Robin failed to hide his grimace at that information. "Yes, they are doing the same with me."
"It would be best to speak with their respective parents. You would have more luck talking with the most distrusting of our comrades at the moment, though."
Chrom sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I plan to do as such. The problem is that some of them don't share the same skill set as their parents. Such as Libra's and Tharja's daughter," he explained, thinking of the bipolar archer. "You two have a better eye for measuring their abilities. We need to decide how to best deploy them before any assignment."
"Well, they have worked together for years. That kind of makes them the second generation of Shepherds. Keeping them together as a unit makes the most sense. But we can also deploy them with other battalions as needed," Robin added, crossing his arms in thought. "From what Lucina told me, some have experience leading troops. But for the most part, they always follow Lucina's lead."
Rose shrugged, accepting the explanation. "Fair enough. It's not like they are regular soldiers. Their expertise is on fighting Risen. Having them follow leaders experienced in fighting living soldiers is important. But we need to explain their closeness to the Shepherds somehow."
"Yes. I hate to say it, but as for the moment, we are keeping the Grima situation secret from those outside the Shepherds. Our closest allies, it's best we make sure they don't let anything slip. We need to work on alibis. Especially for those with Exalted blood," Chrom said.
The two tacticians nodded in agreement. They needed to be ready if anyone caught a glimpse of their brands. Or if they heard them calling Rose or Lissa "mother".
"Okay, so let's start with..."
"How long have we been at sea?" Lucina asked, eyes glassed over as she gazed where Morgan was climbing the ship's mast. Her sister jumped to the rope net on the side with the agility of a monkey. An annoying monkey is high on sugar.
"Six days," Marc replied, focusing on counting the nails on the wooden deck to distract himself.
"Gods…" she groaned, ignoring the shouts of the crew that encouraged her sister.
"Yeah, and I had to be alone with her for a year until we gained passage to Ylisstol."
"At least she's burning her excess of energy," Lucina said with hope she did not feel.
"Don't count on it..."
"...I will go and check on the others. I heard the Pegasus Knights were training Cynthia and Severa," the elder princess said.
Marc snorted a laugh. "Might as well see if they haven't killed each other."
Lucina paused. "...I want to say they won't reach that point, but being trapped in the boat for days might actually push them that far."
The young man stood and stretched. "Well, I heard Kjelle was training Laurent and Yarne. I will see if they haven't died of exhaustion."
An extra pair of eyes was something that Chrom has learned to appreciate since that day in Southtown. The prince is not a bad strategist when he puts the effort into it, but he lacks the insight of his Plegian friends. At the same time, subterfuge is not at all his forte. Despite being a prince, courtly games were never something he indulged in. The insight of a trusty outsider would be beneficial in this complicated situation.
A knock on his door signaled the arrival of his expected guest.
"Come in," he called, allowing a young woman with blonde hair and green eyes into the room. She wore the standard battlemage dress of white gold cloth, with a purple scarf around her neck.
"It's been a while, Chrom," she greeted with a smile, stepping in to hug the prince.
"It certainly has been, Kas," the prince replied, returning the hug.
Lady Kasmeer Meade was the daughter of Marquess Duran Meade, holder of Lefcandith. Chrom's mother was the marquess's younger sister. He hadn't seen her in a few years. His trips around the halidom always clashed with her visits to the capital.
Part of the reason he called her was to reassure himself she was still alive. He might not have the closest of relationships with her but Kasmeer was still family. It pained him to know that she would've died had they not ordered the marches to fortify their lands. She had been present in Ylisstol at the time of its fall in the other timelines, and her fate was not a pretty one.
Breaking the hug, the pair sat down on their seats. "So, as much as I would love to catch up, I can sense you didn't call me here for a social visit. Do you have any specific missions for the Lefcandith troops once we land?" she asked.
"Right to the point. We can always catch up later," he said with a shake of his head. "I'm in need of an outsider's opinion on an issue currently going on with the Shepherds. You always had a good eye as well as experience with diplomacy and subterfuge. I hope you can help me with this."
Kasmeer leaned forward, arching an eyebrow in interest. "Well, color me intrigued, Chrom. What is the situation?"
"It's not something we want to get out to the rest of the nobility just yet, less so for the common people. The panic could jeopardize the stability we have achieved in the last few years."
"Well. That sounds serious enough," she said, straightening herself for he was about to tell her.
"To understand everything, I will need to tell you a long story. It starts when we recruited our current Grandmaster, Robin. It began almost three years ago in Southtown. It's quite unbelievable, so please save your questions until I'm done."
And so, Chrom launched himself into a long explanation of the situation. He really had to ask Miriel for a chart of the timelines to keep track. Kassmer could prove invaluable in keeping things together. She could mediate between the Plegian family and his more volatile troops. And since she's family, he could trust her to understand the importance of keeping this quiet. Gods forbid he had Lissa doing this task.
He finished his explanation waiting for Kasmeer to begin her questions.
He blinked dumbly at that. "What?"
"I believe you," Kasmeer clarified.
Chrom looked at her dubiously. "You believe me? Just like that?"
The Lady of Lefcandith shrugged. "Well. We live in a world filled with magic. Every few centuries one continent or another has a war against a mad dragon with a god complex. That or some despot with dark magic. In the past few years the dead started rising from their graves to fight us. And then there are the really strange things I saw during my travels." She raised a finger for each item she counted, giving the prince a cheeky smile. "Time traveling second cousins and a benevolent fell dragon from a parallel universe are not that weird with all the things that are out there."
Chrom stared at his smiling cousin for a minute before he found his voice. "...I'm both curious about your travels and at the same time I feel my sanity is safer not knowing."
Kasmeer shrugged. "Maybe. I will tell you someday, once you don't have so much on your shoulders." She then clapped her hands together and gave him a brighter smile. "So, what exactly do you need from me? Need me to babysit your kids? Oh! Does that mean I'm an aunt?"
"They are not my kids..."
"Don't you start too," he said, glaring at her smirk. "Look. I need you to keep an eye on the Plegian family and how they interact with my troops. You're already in charge of the Lefcandith troops. I will assign them under Rose for future deployments. Will you be able to work with her?"
"Well, let's see. I would be dead alongside your sister and most of Ylisstol if your own Fell Dragon hadn't intervened. I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for that," she said with a smirk.
Still, Chrom could see the idea disturbed her despite her nonchalant air.
Kasmeer continued, not letting her nerves control her. "I will keep an eye on them and try to mediate any problems that arise between them and the Shepherds. They're family... In a weird way. Can't be that different than saving my brother from his gambling problems."
Chrom smiled at her. "Thanks, Kas."
"Any time, Chrom," she replied, returning the smile. "Now, how about you tell me what's been going on in your life?"
"Are you still brooding?"
"This is not something I can deal with easily, Tharja."
His wife scoffed. "Your goddess and her daughter have no issues with Fellbloods. Why are you giving this more thought than needed?"
A crisis of faith is not something Libra had experienced in a long time. Not since he was young had he needed to deal with it. He had remained apart from the Fellblood family and barely left his room during their voyage.
"Do it not bother you that they had a part in the destruction of the future?" he asked the sorceress, who kept leaning against the doorway with a look of annoyance in her face.
Tharja shrugged. "We will all die eventually. But I admit I would prefer it if the future doesn't repeat itself."
"Is it easier to accept them as a Grimleal?" he asked without sounding like he was accusing her. An angry Tharja was never a pretty thing to deal with.
"I find their power interesting," the mage admitted easily. "But I was never particularly religious. The Grimleal priests always were such a bore to listen to," she added with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Sacrifice this. Darkness that. And knowing Grima is an artificial dragon makes him hardly godly."
"Naga herself can separate them from Grima. Rose killed and usurped the power of her Fell Dragon. Robin is married to Naga's daughter. He has no reason to surrender control of his body to Grima. And the time-traveling brats have Exalted blood," Tharja droned out. She glared at Libra with annoyance clear in her eyes. "At this point, you are allowing zealotry to blind you. The fact is that they might have the lineage but not the alignment of Grima. It's getting annoying."
"When you put it that way..."
"Glad you realize it," she snarked, glowering at him. "Now get out and spend some time with your daughter."
He flinched at her tone, but couldn't fault her. He hadn't spent time with Noire since meeting her. He was so busy dealing with his feelings as well as the actions of his alternate self to pay her any attention.
"How is Noire?"
"The girl is a mess," she said, turning her head and letting her hair cover her eyes. "I want to hex my future self for what she put that girl through."
The priest smiled at that. Despite her callous nature, Libra knew his wife wouldn't hurt their daughter. They had spoken about children before, and she swore never to let them dabble into the dark arts. She had fallen to the temptation for the power such magic held. That didn't mean she wished that her children followed in her footsteps.
"I will spend some time with her."
"Good. Being all maternal is not my forte and it's cutting into my research time."
Libra fought the urge to roll his eyes. He knew she wanted him to get out of the room. Might as well use this as an excuse.
"LAND AT LAST!" Yarne cried, running into the docks with energy "Taguels were not born to be at sea! Or heavy armor training!"
"Aww, but we were having so much fun on our boat trip, bunny!"
The poor boy stiffened, looking back at the cheerful Morgan with dread. "G-get away from me!" he said, before running deeper into the docks much to his mother's annoyance.
"What's up with him?" Morgan asked with a pout, walking down the plank with her brother.
Marc looked at her with a flat expression. "I will take a stab in the dark and bet it has to do with your plan in case we crashed the ship and end up on a deserted island."
"What's wrong with it?" Morgan said with a frown. "It's a good plan!"
"You said we should eat him first once we ran out of food," he snarked.
Lucina walked past them, doing her best to ignore Morgan for the sake of her sanity.
His twin looked offended for a moment. "If he transforms into a giant bunny there is more meat! It's pragmatic!" She defended herself, putting a hand over her heart. "It would break my heart, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make."
"You're such a noble person..." he said sarcastically, earning an agreeing nod from the mad tactician-in-training. "You know, most people consider cannibalism taboo."
"Technically it would be like… half cannibalism since he is a hybrid. Three-fourths at most." Morgan replied with a dismissive wave. She then took a real look at the country that would host them. "Wow! This is Rosanne? It's so beautiful!"
"You have got a great eye for beauty, Lady Morgan!" The ruler of the land said as he walked up to them. "Why, I dare say even fair Zofia is hard-pressed to match the beauty of our country!"
"I agree!" she said with a smile. "When we arrived, we landed close to Zofia and spent a lot of time in that area. It was beautiful, sure, but it lacked… character."
Virion appeared at the praise. "Hah! If there is one thing Rosanne has, it's character. I will arrange for a tour of the city for you."
Morgan's eye lightened up like a lighthouse on a foggy night. "Ooohhh! Are there any magic stores around? Do you think they have Explosion tomes?! I've been trying to find a copy since I lost my last one..."
Marc had a bad feeling about this. His mother and Lucina won't be happy if Morgan was unleashed upon the world without supervision. That would make their already precarious position worse.
Once again, he had to be the responsible one. Joy.
After two days of settling in, but they could finally start with their campaign. The officers of the allied army gathered in the seat of Virion's family, Ashurst's Keep. The messages from their forces and informants gave them an updated view of the conflict. The forces stood far more even than in Rose's timeline. Preventing the death of Chon'sin's rulers had snowballed into a change in the balance of power.
"So, House Montiel remains in control of Zofia," Rose said after finishing the letters. The rulers of Zofia still endure, not having to fight both the northern and southern forces. "Good. They are what keeps Central Valm united."
Virion nodded in agreement. "Yes. It's more fortuitous for us that they haven't been deposed. Their forces are currently engaging in skirmishes with the Valmese. The Valmese forces in the western front are larger than in the east as they were busy fighting us. They have yet to replenish their losses."
"House Montiel tried to repel the main invading force. Unfortunately, the Valmese routed them," Cherche said, taking over her husband. "The turncoat count of Redfield helped hide the true numbers of the invading army. The attack ended with the death of Lord Arden Montiel, heir to Zofia. He died trying to avenge the deaths of his wife and son who died when the Valmese took Izilmond. Only half the Zofian army sent there escaped the slaughter."
Rose grimaced at that. "I have heard of him. Alden was a good man. What about the rest of House Montiel?"
Virion nodded somberly, showing his respect for the fallen lord. "Indeed, he was. But thankfully, we haven't heard of any more losses on their family."
"That's good, at least," Rose said with a sigh.
Robin put down the letters and looked at the map. "According to this intelligence, Valm in control of both the Alm's Gate and Celica's Gate." He pointed at the two forts controlling the main paths east and west of the continent. "Zofia must be building another host with their remaining territories. Meanwhile, Valm must be fortifying their position in the west."
"That makes sense. Valm hasn't attacked the eastern territories yet," Chrom added. "Valm hasn't broken through Rosanne and we have no news from Estmond. They won't risk overextending themselves and leaving their supply lines vulnerable."
"Then we must make sure to keep the initiative. We must take Celica's Gate and push through the central route between the two mountain ranges. We can push towards the Wyvern Valley and Mila's Tree from there," Rose added, pointing at the center of the map. "Farther than that and we risk stretching ourselves thin."
Robin nodded. "I agree. Let's focus on taking Celica's Gate and making contact with Zofia."
"It won't be easy," Virion warned. "Celica's Gate is a strong castle built between the walls of a canyon. A mixed contingent of ours and Zofian troops are normally stationed there. As a sign of trust," he explained, pointing at the closest fortification to their territory.
"They wanted to engage us by pushing through the Mountain Gate. It's the only land entrance to Rosanne. It had us cut off the rest of the continent until the Feroxi assisted us. Thankfully, Chon'sin dealt with their Eastern Fleet. We haven't risked trying to land on their ports."
Yen'fay added his own point of view on the situation. "Chon'sin has its own issues. At the moment Cilentia is not letting anyone cross their borders. This means neither of our countries has made formal contact with the Zofians. They are being paranoid about who they trust at the moment since they had traitors in their lands."
"A fair stance to take, as they can't tell who is their enemy and who isn't. They don't know us and are more likely to sink ships and shoot messengers. They are most likely cleaning their own court of spies as much as possible." Chrom scratched his chin in thought. "Taking Celica's Gate should go a long way to earn us at least an audience with the Zofian forces. It would also remove the closest threat to our forces. What can we do to take the fort?"
"A siege is impossible. The walls and towers connect to the rocky walls of the ravine it's built on, so we can't go around it." Cherche shook her head as she said this. "We can try to land troops south and besiege them from both sides. Otherwise, they can always retreat through the southern gate. Even then, it will take at least a month and a half to march the necessary forces there from the closest landing zone."
"According to this report, the walls are fortified against magic. Teleportation won't be an option, and the walls will be resistant to magical attacks. At least from the outside," Robin said with a frown.
As Rose and Robin mulled on the best way to push through the fortification, someone beat them to it.
"I have an idea," a slightly nervous voice called. The leaders turned to look at Marc, who was taking notes alongside Morgan. He looked a little embarrassed at the sudden attention. His sisters glanced at him in surprise, which did little to ease his nerves. "If I may?"
Rose looked at her son with pride and gave him an encouraging smile. "Of course."
The young man steeled himself and described his plan. As he continued, it became clear that his idea was unorthodox and risky. Just as expected from a member of this family.
"Are you sure this plan is viable?" Virion asked dubiously.
Marc nodded, having gained a bit of confidence as his elders looked at him with interest. "We did it before to take Risen manned castle in the future."
"He certainly is your kid, Rose," Flavia said with a laugh. She slapped the young man in the back and nearly knocked him over, much to Basilio's amusement.
"Heh. And you said my idea of using the oil to burn the Valmese fleet was crazy," Rose said with pride in her voice. "I can't say I would've thought of that! But I have some suggestions to increase our chances."
"So do I," Robin added, ruffling his nephew's hair. They may have known each other for a short while, but the two had bonded over their respective annoying sisters. "We will need to speak with Miriel's mages and gather volunteers. They will be taking the largest risk, but I'm sure we can pull this off."
"We are in agreement to go with Marc's plan, then?" Chrom looked around and saw that the other leaders were not against the plan. "Very well. We will start marching as soon as our troops are ready."
Taking a long swing from his wineskin, General Linus Tusmore considered his situation. His troops remained safe inside the walls of Celica's Gate. Those Feroxi savages that were working with Rosannians had managed to push them back. They had dug in for a siege, blocking the northern road.
Not that it would work.
They still had the southern gate free. As long as the Zofians didn't coordinate with them, then his troops would have an escape route. It changed their plans, but it also kept these fools from attacking the rest of the Valmese army.
There was another Valmese host rampaging through the southern peninsula. The Zofians don't have the troops to spare regain control of the fort. As far as he knew, there was no communication between both sides. As long as they kept them from making contact, the Empire will keep their advantage. Divide and conquer.
If the two forces cooperated it would complicate things for the imperial forces. Not a likely thing to happen anytime soon. Not after the disastrous defeat the Zofians suffered in the west. Linus's troops will remain safe until a relief force comes and crushed the foreigners. Then they can proceed to punish the Rosannians for their resistance.
Still, he only had four thousand left of his original ten thousand. They lost four thousand assaulting the Mountain Gate that led to Rosanne. The other two thousand had been separated from his host and were unable to regroup. He hoped they had left for the Empire and were gathering more forces.
More than two damn years fighting on and off for this dukedom. He had to admit he underestimated the resilience of Rosanne.
As he gathered his thoughts, a soldier came through the open door of his solar, panting in exhaustion.
"Sir! The Feroxi troops are getting reinforcements!" the young man exclaimed.
Linus frowned. Had the savages received more troops from across the sea? That shouldn't be possible. Last he heard the Empire was sending troops there. He didn't understand why, though.
"Show me," he said and followed the messenger to the battlements. His command was gathering there already. He nodded at them and took a look at the field through the looking glass. Just as he was told, new troops were joining the Feroxi. They had also brought new siege weapons and were almost done setting them up.
"How did we not seem them move so many troops and materials?" he demanded of his soldiers.
His lieutenant bowed her head in shame. "Sorry sir, it's been foggy all morning. They used it as cover to move it through the trees and hills."
He scoffed at that excuse. "We will talk about punishment for our lookouts later. For now, tell the men to prepare for an assault from siege weapons. I want mages rei–"
"Sir! Above us!"
Linus quickly looked up to where the soldier was pointing. The sun's glare nearly blinded him, despite the curtain of fog present. After letting his eyes adjust, the general could make out a few figures trying to make their way through the sky. Too few to even put a dent on his troops. They weren't even a squad. Were the flyers trying to sneak through, using the new arrivals as a diversion? Foolish barbarians.
"Hmm, what fool thinks they can land so few troops inside our walls? Shoot them down!"
Archers obeyed and fired their projectiles to the flyers. The large number of arrows used would suffice to deal with a few flyers. The sun shone in their eyes, but it made no difference. He could still see three of the beasts trash and launch their riders towards the ground. He scuffed as the rider-less beasts fled. The bodies will crash inside the walls, so in a way, they succeeded in
But before they touched the ground, the bodies were enveloped in bright light. A warping spell?
The answer came moments later.
The cocoons of light burst three large dragons, larger than any wyvern. Green scales shone like gemstones, making them look like falling stars. Their roars rattled the nerves of even his most hardened troops.
Linus's mind raced as he tried to process what was happening. He couldn't believe it, but there was no other explanation.
"Gods! Those are manaketes! Archers! Shoot them down!" he bellowed at his troops.
His orders were for naught, as the smaller two spat torrents of blue fire on his archers and ballistae. But they were hard-pressed from the dragons' attacks and the enemy catapults. The surprise broke his men's discipline. Those few archers that escaped the attacks tried to hurt them, but their attempts were for naught. Their arrows failed to pierce through the scales of the beasts.
The worst came from the largest of the dragons. After crushing what few troops were in the courtyard, it turned to the gates. The spells weaved into the defense were old. They were meant to harden the stone and dissipate magical attacks from the outside.
Never from the inside.
The wood and stone collapsed, unable to bear the brunt of the dragon's fire. The walls crumbled into the moat creating a crude bridge. At the same time, the chains that held the main bridge snapped, lowering it. The portcullis still held in place but it was of little comfort.
The enemy trebuchets launched barrels of sand and gravel towards the broken walls. They formed small mounts, making it easier to climb. Their enemies rushed through the breach in a tidal wave of rage and steel.
A few of his men tried to engage the manaketes, but they took towards the skies again. His few wyvern-bane weapons they had were useless at long range. The manaketes flew to join the battle raging in the sky.
Linus gritted his teeth in frustration. In a matter of minutes, his enemies breached the walls.
"Valmese! Rally to me and push them back!" Linus shouted as he drew his sword and rushed to assist his men in battle. "Secure the inner gate and don't let them reach the main keep!" He turned towards his second in command. "Mirna! Go south and make sure we have an escape route!"
His lieutenant nodded and rushed to fulfill her orders. He dashed through the halls and saw through the windows that his troops were in disarray. Horses were running wild, trampling over his soldiers. The few wyverns they had were already engaged or dead. The rest of these soldiers were fighting for their lives.
Steel and magic moved through the fort in a chaotic dance of death and destruction. Cutting down one of the Feroxi, he clashed swords with a soldier clad in the blue colors of a Ylissean soldier.
Ylisseans. The bastards crossed the sea. That must mean the assault in their lands failed. Dammit! Why had the emperor insisted on attacking them before they secured their own lands!?
Pulling his sword out of the man's gut, he took a moment to check the situation. The manaketes were making another dive, evading the few remaining archers on his side. Animal instincts told him to dodge, but that cost him when a war-hammer crushed his chest.
"We will be arriving soon, Your Grace."
Emmeryn turned to the window of her carriage and smiled politely to the knight. "Thank you, sir. Please coordinate with Phila. Make sure none of our soldiers attack unless the Plegians attack first."
The knight nodded. "Of course. By your leave."
As he left, the Exalt turned to the other occupant of the carriage. "Are you sure you want to reveal yourself to them? As far as we know, we have succeeded in keeping your identity a secret from Plegia."
"If he is whom I believe him to be, then we should be good," Morgana said, but it was clear she was slightly nervous. She wrung her hands and looked to the window.
"You still have your reservations," noted Emmeryn. "Are you afraid of their reactions once they learn you are still alive?"
The older woman sighed. "My disappearance was part of the reason for the increase in Plegian casualties in that war. It would be only natural if they held hate towards me but I don't regret my actions. But that doesn't mean I don't want to make amends. I hope that I can help my people free themselves from the shackles of the Grimleal."
"Once this is over, Plegia will need a ruler," Emmeryn said, making Morgana frown. "I do not believe your children have any interest in taking the throne. And it is too soon for Plegia to accept someone with Exalted blood, so your grandchildren are not an option. And Robin's marriage to Tiki might provide the same obstacles. You are the best candidate for the position."
Morgana thought about her answer for a minute. "If needed, I would do it. But we should measure their reactions before offering such a solution." She then gave a wry smile to the Exalt. "But I'm sure I can convince my children to take the crown if necessary. Or my grandchildren. Having an heir with Exalted blood will not be much of a problem once we deal with Grima and the Grimleal once and for all."
"Fair enough," Emmeryn conceded. "It would be beneficial if one of your grandchildren were to take the throne. It would help mend the bridges between our nations."
They remained in silence until they, finally, arrived at the meeting point. The scouts had reported the area clear. Pegasus knights had swept the area from above, aware of possible archers hidden in the trees. They had three dozen knights protecting them. Morgana herself was no slouch either. Any attempts on their lives would be hard-pressed to succeed. It was still a risk for Emmeryn to come here, but despite her bad experiences, she insisted on the meeting.
Emmeryn looked from the window of her carriage to check the surroundings. Slowly, six Plegian walked out from the tree line. Their weapons remained sheeted and their hands visible. She recognized the leader as the same man that captured her. So far, the letter held true. Time to see how well this played out.
Emmeryn stepped out of the carriage flanked by her Phila and six menedian knights. She made her way to meet their contact, with Morgana remaining in the carriage for the moment. One step at the time.
"Your Grace, it gladdens me to see you well," Mustafa said, bowing to her and making sure not to provoke her guards.
The Exalt nodded and waved him to stand. "Rise, General Mustafa."
The man did so and he continued. "First, I must apologize for my actions during the war but, with my family taken hostage, I had no choice in the matter. And when you nearly died… I know words mean little but I truly am sorry for giving you to that madman."
"I can sympathize with the position you found yourself in." She pretended not to nice her soldiers tensed at the mention of her near-execution. "I came with the intention for us to move past that event and forge a new future together. As such, I am willing to listen to your plans for freeing Plegia of the Grimleal's influence."
"Thank you, Your Grace."
She looked at the other Plegians that followed the general with curiosity. "Are these all the people that will join us for our talks?"
Mustafa nodded. "Yes. The rest of my troops are at our camp, protecting our supplies and horses."
'Or to keep them safe from possible retaliation. Or as a backup force for a possible escape,' Emmeryn mused. Not that she could blame them for their precautions. This meeting was as much of a gamble for them as it was for the Ylisseans. It would be foolish of them to risk everyone without more options.
Nodding at his words, the Exalt turned to one of the knights standing at her side. "Ser Gerold, please have your squires bring the table, chairs, and canopy from the wagons. Oh, and some wine and food while they are at it."
"At one, Your Grace," the knight said with a bow and left to the back of the convoy.
At Mustafa's confused expression, she elaborated with a pleasant smile. "It's a nice, sunny day and I feel these talks would progress better if we sat down."
It would also help them relax and make the talks go smoother than if they were tense and thirsty under the sun. Phila had suggested doing the opposite to break them down mentally. Emmeryn denied her. That's not how she did things.
"That's much appreciated," Mustafa said, with his men echoing his appreciation.
Soon enough the table and chairs were set up under an elegant canopy. Engraved in the metal poles that kept it upright were arcane sigils and runes. With a small burst of magic, Emmeryn activated the sigils. Noticing the dubious reactions of her counterparts, she elaborated with a placating smile.
"These are simple privacy runes," she explained. "I believe it's prudent what we discuss today remains only between our inner circles. If any of your soldiers is knowledgeable on the arcane arts, he can verify that there is no trickery on our part."
Mustafa understood the show of trust, and asked a female soldier on his ranks, "Pallavi, if you could?"
The woman nodded. "Of course. With your permission, Your Grace," she said, gaining a nod from the Exalt. She began with a non-aggressive wave of her hand, well aware of the armed soldiers around her. The mage took a few minutes to analyze the canopy as well as the table and chairs. Finishing her inspection, she nodded at her superior. "It's as she says. Simple privacy runes. No secondary effects in the spell's core."
"Thank you, Pallavi," the general said. His posture relaxed and he turned to the Exalt with a smile "Shall we proceed?"
"Of course," Emmeryn said, motioning for them to sit on the side of the table. The squires placed six chairs on the Plegian side, and five on the Ylissean side. Emmeryn and Phila took their seats. Ser Gerold Cassel stood as the representative of Menedy, a knight and cousin of the marquess. Ser Kevin Trenol represented Themis as one of their most decorated knights.
They were all loyal and honorable men. As such, after consulting with Naga, she informed them of the time-traveling situation. Both the marquesses and their knights were dubious of her claims. Thankfully, the Book of Naga allowed the deity to easily corroborate her story. It was a blessing that Naga was taking a more active role in these plots. She needs trustworthy people and they were members of the most loyal marches in the Halidom.
Unbeknown to the Plegians, The Book of Naga under Emmeryn's control had another use. It allowed Naga to measure the intentions of those close to it. It was a useful trick that Emmeryn would use before she revealed anything.
"I trust these soldiers are loyal to you and can keep our talks secret? It would not do for what we discuss today to reach our enemies' ears."
Surprisingly, they were not offended by the implication. Then again, they must have expected harsher questions.
"Indeed. All of us have lost something either to Gangrel or Validar. We have known each other for years. We only wish for the prosperity of our country," Mustafa said, with the other nodding somberly.
The tome didn't detect any lies, but even Naga admitted it was not a foolproof tool. Still, it eased her mind.
After the introductions, Emmeryn saw how the Plegian glanced at the empty chair. It was time to show one of their cards. "Before we start, there is someone that will join us. I believe her input will be of benefit to your campaign. Her knowledge is also very valuable."
With that as her queue, the door of the carriage opened. Morgana came out with the hood of her cloak covering her head. Her steps betrayed none of the nerves she was feeling. She bowed to them and took her seat to Emmeryn's side.
"Allow me to introduce you to Lady Morgana Surana." Emmeryn. would be lying if a tiny part of her was not enjoying the theatrics. "But as sure some of you might recognize her by her birth name. Morgana Savill."
The mention of the name of the royal House of Plegia shocked the rebels. They looked at the woman whose face was now uncovered with bewilderment. But one of them was more shocked than the others.
"Can it be…?" Looking at her closer, Mustafa staggered back with a look of recognition in his face. "It really is you, Crown Princess Morgana," he whispered in awe.
Morgana looked amused at his words. "It's been a long time since I lost that title, Lieutenant Mustafa. Or rather, General Mustafa these days. Congratulations on your promotion." Her smile that showed none of the doubts she discussed with Emmeryn in their ride. "I'm surprised you recognized my face."
"Your Highness, any soldier that fought under your command would never dare to forget you! I could recognize you. You don't look like you've aged a day!" he said, freezing as he realized what he said.
Morgana chuckled at the slip. "Quite the charmer."
"Excuse my presumption," one of the older Plegians, Batuan, asked. "But milady, what happened to you? You disappeared one day and that nearly caused the collapse of Plegia!"
The rightful Queen of Plegia sighed. Emmeryn could feel the doubts and guilt the older woman shouldered in regards to her actions. "Circumstances forced my hand. I was personally involved in a Grimleal's plot. One that would have doomed Ylissean and Plegian alike. I took away a key piece and escaped." She then looked the Plegians in the eye, hoping to convey her sincerity with her words. "I am sorry that my disappearance led to higher casualties, the rise of Gangrel and the Grimleal. I truly am, but I couldn't let them succeed."
"There were rumors amongst the troops," another older Plegian woman said, Lona. She leaned forward with her hands interlocked and looked at Morgana shrewdly. "That the Avatar had been born. The vessel for Grima was ready and that was why Augustus attacked Plegia."
The Exalt kept her composure despite the underlying tension that permeated the air. This could make or break the potential alliance. It all depended on their feelings towards the vessel of Grima. The Grimleal had wronged them all but people could react any manner of ways. They had to be careful. She dearly hoped Morgana's next words could begin to ease their worries.
"...Those rumors were correct," Morgana admitted, earning hissings and grumblings from the Plegians. "My twin children. Robin and Rose were born with the strongest bloodline, but Robin is the perfect vessel. When the Grimleal ritual demanded my daughter's sacrifice, I had enough. I killed the priests and escaped with the babies."
A mixture of truths, if you consider the two timelines as one story. But aside from revealing Rose's existence, they gave no valuable information. They hadn't said anything that could get back to Grima and reveal the power Rose possesses.
He could always assume the baby that died was a decoy and Rose survived on this timeline. The arrogant dragon would blame her reappearance on the time travelers' meddling. It wouldn't last long once he learned of the discrepancies in their story. The bloodlines of the time travelers will be hard to hide. But any time they could gain would be to their advantage.
"Both are healthy and strong. They can manifest Ignis with ease and are aware of their lineage. They have been working with House Lowell to undermine Validar's efforts. We all agreed on fighting the Grimleal and stopping Grima's rebirth."
... Is Validar aware of their survival?" Mustafa asked, his face grave.
"I am afraid so," Emmeryn said in Morgana's place with a solemn nod. "We know he is aware of Sir Robin, as he is the Grandmaster of Ylisse and has met him in person."
"He also tried to use Grimleal magic to take control of my son but failed. We have taken measures to stop Grima's influence on my children."
"Rose took her own path but she too came to work under Ylisse, and so far, we are sure her identity is safe, as we faked her death. But we don't know how long that will last," finished the Exalt.
The Plegians talked amongst themselves for a minute, until Mustafa took control again. "Princess Morgana, your reappearance and the survival of your children change things. I believe that working together would be more beneficial for both sides now more than ever."
"I have to agree," Lona said. "I won't lie. There might be resentment amongst some for your disappearance. But we can spin the tale in our favor. The reappearance of the rightful ruler of Plegia. With the support of House Lowell could allow us to finally shake the yoke the Grimleal have over our people."
"Retaking the crown is not my goal," Morgana admitted to their surprise. "I'm quite content with my current life, but I know I have a debt to Plegia for my failure to you. My family allowed the Grimleals to grow too powerful. Despite the good some of them did to Plegia over the years, Grima's revival is not something we want."
The Plegian knew there was something the Ylissean delegation was not saying. Emmeryn understood they would need to reveal some part of the truth. Not everything, in case Grima had ears in their camp, but at least what they knew he would expect them to know.
"Ylisse is willing to help you regardless. Our goal is to establish a peaceful relationship between our nations." The Exalt gave them a serene and honest smile, trying to ease the worries of the rebels. "And as such we are willing to share with you some of the information we have gathered to help secure this alliance."
The Plegians looked at each other. Mustafa nodded and looked at the Ylisseans. "Well, then. We can't make plans with incomplete information. We are listening."
"Kid, if your mom doesn't remain as my champion, I'm hiring you!" Flavia said with a laugh as they watched their soldiers round up the survivors.
The Alliance had captured the fortress with little losses on their side. They had captured some members of the Valmese nobility. Interrogating them was a priority. After that, they would be imprisoned in Rosanne. They were minor nobles, so their loss would do little to impact the Valmese leadership. Still, fewer than a thousand soldiers survived the battle. The higher-ranking nobles were leading the host in the peninsula.
Deciding what to do with them was one of the many things they would discuss later. They couldn't afford to keep them as prisoners forever and put a strain on their supplies. They hoped Zofia would be able to take some of the prisoners into their dungeons. Otherwise, they would have a problem in their hands.
They could release some of the conscripted commoners if their towns paid ransoms. The gold would help fund the campaign, but it depended on how loyal they were to Walhart.
To release the commoners would both ease the strain and gain them some goodwill. But who knows how their leaders would react to their failure. They could execute the commoners or send them back to the frontlines.
Marc smiled nervously at the boisterous woman and turned expectantly to his mother. "Did I do well, Mother?"
Rose smiled at him. "You did fantastic, Marc. I'm so proud of you," she said, hugging the young man who blushed in embarrassment and happiness. "Your plan was ingenious. Using wind magic to protect the flying units was creative. Having our manaketes pretend to be the fallen riders was a great way to take advantage of their transformation abilities."
At her side, Robin chuckled. "Risky, but who would have expected them to be manaketes? Or to use them to destroy the wall from the inside? Much faster than sneaking tome bombs with our stealth soldiers, through the mountains."
Marc smiled at the praise and turned towards the one manakete present in their group. "Are you well, La– Aunt Tiki?" he added, blushing at the familiarity that the manakete had insisted upon. "You took some hits during the attack."
The green-haired woman chuckled and ruffled his hair with a smile. "I'm well, Marc. Thank you for your concern."
Besides him, Morgan puffed her cheeks and huffed in annoyance. "Hmph! I won't be left behind, bro! Consider this a challenge!" she declared, earning a sigh from Lucina but a determined nod from her twin.
Rose laughed at her daughter's miffed expression. "I'm sure you will have plenty of opportunities to impress us, dear. You have done well in your mock battles."
The girl beamed at that. "You will see, mom! I will make you proud!"
"I'm already proud of all my children," she said, plating a kiss on the girl's forehead, making her blush. They seemed to forget they were in the middle of a former battlefield, but they didn't care.
Basilio walked next to Morgan and put a hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry girl. I have faith that you're cut from the same cloth as them. If you do prove yourself, I will see you as my tactician and we will beat them in the Ferox Arena."
Morgan's face lit up like Anna's in front of a pile of gold. "That sounds awesome!"
"At this rate, the whole world will learn to fear their names," Lucina muttered.
Marc pretended not to hear her comment. "What is our next step now that we have the gate under our control?"
"The oaf and I will check for stragglers in the keep," Flavia said with a grunt of acknowledgment from Basilio. "Some of my troops will begin with the repairs."
Chrom nodded in agreement. "Meanwhile, Robin and I will check on the documents in the keep. I need the rest of you to help organize the troops. Check what information the Feroxi interrogators extracted from the high-ranking captives. Lady Tiki, please check on Nowi and Nah, and rest if needed."
"Good plan," Rose said with the others agreeing. She motioned for the children to follow. "Come on. The faster we finish, the quicker we can rest."
Chrom, Robin, and Yen'fay stayed up late into the night in the late commander's solar. They were pouring over the documents inside for anything they could use. It held a lot of missives about troops' movements and plans for their next assaults. It also gave the Alliance a clear picture of the state of things in this continent.
All in all, things looked both better and worse than in Rose's stories. In this timeline, this continent was not united against Ylisse. And those that resisted remained in a strong position. On the other hand, the initial conquest has lasted much longer. Years longer than it would've without Rose's and Tiki's interferences.
With Excellus dead, the Valmese lost a key asset. The toad no longer could blackmail or trick the nobility into obedience. Walhart had to resort to pure strength to subjugate the continent. There was hope that the continent won't fall into anarchy after the war. More deaths would happen in the short term. That was inevitable. But with stability, no civil wars or bids for powers would happen. It would save more lives in the long run.
"Hey, look at this," Chrom said, pushing a letter towards Robin. "According to this letter, another host is taking the Wyvern Valley. They are trying to capture wyverns and bolster their air troops. Then they would've moved to break the Feroxi siege."
Robin took the information in. "They must have finally depleted their wyverns. And this could mean they don't have the support of Estmond."
"What do you mean?" Chrom asked.
The grandmaster pointed at the map on the table. "There are three main points in this continent where wyvern breed. The Northern Desert near Duma's Tower, the deserts of Estmond, and the valley. Valm captures their wyverns up North and herds them to the mountains near Skyhold. They are not native to the surrounding mountains."
Yen'fay took over as Robin moved this finger to the Wyvern Valley. "The valley is the center of the continent. That's extremely close to Zofia and Rosanne. Moving wild wyverns would be too large of a task in the middle of a war. The newer Wyvern Riders will need to come here to train and bond with wyverns before being of any use."
Robin nodded in agreement. "Training alone will take them a few months to proficient enough. They might have gotten the time had we not come to Valm. The valley also has only one entrance. That leaves them at risk of being trapped."
Chrom took a moment to process this information. "They depleted the northern wyverns, then. That forces them to move to a vulnerable location to capture their wyverns. Since they are not using the desert, they don't have freedom of movement on Estmond's territory."
Robin smirked and nodded. His friend was getting better at deducing his plans. "Estmond must either be putting a resistance or at least remain neutral. They have a large number of farmlands despite being in the desert. All thanks to a network of underground rivers. But they will need to import other things eventually, like wood and medicines. That must be what Valm is counting on."
"It's risky to depend on a guess, though," Chrom added dubiously.
"Oh, I agree. But it's something that can help us see more of the bigger picture."
"Then we should contact them."
The grandmaster shook his head. "Let's deal with one alliance at a time. We are far from home. We can't afford to stretch ourselves too thin."
Yen'fay nodded in agreement. "We should secure the areas around us first before pushing farther. Crossing the desert is not an easy task. It's a different beast than Plegia. Nor is contacting them by the sea with the remaining Valmese ships patrolling that area."
"That's a fair point," Chrom conceded. That didn't stop him from scowling at the situation the map was painting. "What do you suggest, then? We need to protect Rosanne, hold this gate, and contact Zofia. Should we delay the parlay to deal with this host? Robbing them of their air units is too good for us to pass up."
"We can't stretch ourselves thin. That's not to say we can't divide ourselves to accomplish other goals," Robin said, moving pieces on the map. "The Feroxi army is still strong, not having pushed much further than this gate. Even after all these months, their numbers don't allow them for further pushes. But we have the numbers now. We also need to bloody our troops. Most of the Ylissean army are new recruits that have never seen a true battle."
"We can send most of the recruits with some of the veterans as leaders. Keep the bulk of our veteran troops ready to contend with the main Valmese hosts still in the west." Chrom divided the pieces representing their troops on the map. "We can secure our flanks and make a show of strength. And these will be recruits training with their new wyverns according to this report. It's the best way to let out troops gain experience."
"There is no way Zofia will not be aware of anything happening in the Wyvern Valley," Yen'fay added. He pointed at the castle built between the mountains. It also stood on top of the river running through the center of the continent. "The Four Towers is a fort built on top of Valentia's Spine. The Valmese collapsed the northern gates. It's making it impossible for Zofia to deploy troops through the river or their land gates. But that doesn't mean they don't have scouts checking on things."
"Show of force for Valm that will also show the Zofians the benefits of allying with us. Prove that we are a serious player in this war."
"Precisely," Chon'sin's heir said. "Say'ri will leave for Chon'sin soon. Once she gathers our armies, we will be able to push north if we get Zofia to allow us passage through Cilentia. Then we can push north with our armies and take the war into Walhart's territory."
"Who should be leading the attack, though?"
"I think Rose should do it," Robin said, earning curious looks from his comrades. "It will be good to separate her from the more volatile members of the Shepherds. And she has experience training troops."
"Rose won't accept to part with her children," Chrom warned. "But to have them all in the same place is a gamble. They are strong together but also present a single target. And Lucina is the leader of the time travelers, and she is keeping the peace with the more... vocal of them."
Robin frowned. He didn't like how this boiling pot of emotions was making things difficult. But a tactician was nothing if not adaptable. "I think we can assign Marc as a backup tactician in case they need to divide further. Virion and Yen'fay will represent their territories in the diplomatic talks with Zofia. And I would rather have one other Ylissean tactician with me, so Morgan would do. We will divide the Shepherds accordingly."
"...It's a good plan," Chrom admitted, but he still looked at Robin dubiously. "Do you think Rose will agree, though?"
The grandmaster grimaced for a moment but nodded. "It may annoy her, but I'm sure she will see the logic in this plan."
"Mother!" Lucina said, trying to placate her mother who looked ready to skin her brother alive. They were in the war room of the keep to hear Robin's plan and Rose was not at all happy with the suggestion. "It's fine. I will stay with Morgan and the others. Marc will accompany you."
Rose shook her head, barely halting herself from strangling her brother or storming out of the room. "No. I won't lose sight of you ever again. I already failed you once. If something were to happen and I'm not there..."
She couldn't believe the nerve. Asking her to let go of her children again. And in the middle of a war!
"I will be with them, sister," Robin said, gathering his courage. He hoped she wouldn't decide she was better as an only child. "And too will Chrom, Tiki, and the others. In fact, Marc will be at the most risk since you will be pushing into actual battle. Lucina and Morgan will be with the main portion of the army in, hopefully, allied territory."
"I don't see why we need to separate them," she insisted, calming herself down enough to let her brother explain.
"We have more tacticians now, so we should use them accordingly. You have the most experience, and Marc will be able to adjust well in case you need to divide your forces," Robin explained, trying to make her see the reason.
Chrom nodded, taking over the explanation. "The same reason Morgan will be working with Robin, helping him run the army in your place. Lucina will stay with the main army so they can be seen by our troops as we slowly start accustoming them to the presence of more Lowells."
"What about Owain? Won't he need to be visible too?" she bit back. Rose knew she was being unfair to them. It was a decent plan, but that didn't mean she liked it. She would take any excuse she could get, no matter how much of a hypocrite it made her.
"He will be going with Lissa and Henry to Chon'sin as Ylisse's representatives," Chrom explained. "It will be good to have Lucina with most of the veterans and nobles that came with us."
Rose nervously bit her lip. "Even so…"
Tiki finally spoke, looking at the mercenary tactician with sympathy. "I understand your trepidation, Rose, but they are not children anymore. You know that," the manakete said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "This is war and we all have our parts to play."
Despite having the power of the Fell Dragon at her beck and call, Rose felt powerless at that moment. But she couldn't deny it. Her children had grown and were strong warriors in their own right. She couldn't baby them forever, even if she hated the idea. And as much as she disliked the plan, it did have merit.
Rose turned to her children with a conflicted expression. "...What do you think? Are you willing to go separate ways for a while? It's your choice."
The young trio glanced at each other, sharing a silent conversation and seemingly reaching an agreement.
"I… I don't want us to separate again. Not after just reuniting. But we need to end this war quickly to focus on stopping Grima. It's the best for everyone," Morgan said, holding her mother's hand and giving her a shaky smile.
"I agree," Marc said reluctantly. "In that other world, you defeated Walhart in only a few months. We should be able to do the same."
Lucina closed her eyes, only to open them with conviction. "I swore never to lose sight of my siblings again after reuniting, but I understand the needs. And Marc will be with you, Mother. It pains me to separate from you so soon after reuniting but..."
Rose's expression remained twisted for a moment until, finally, her shoulders dropped in defeat. "I understand… I don't like it, but I understand. Dammit all," she said between a whisper and a curse. "Very well. We will go with this plan. I will take the Wyvern Valley and the castle of Rockspire. If that's not possible and we can't gain access to the Four Towers to meet you in Zofia, we will circle back to Rosanne and harass the Valmese."
"To reach the Wyvern Valley as they have, that means that at least Estaing and Rockspire have fallen or are unable to stop their movements. We can't push too far without Zofian support or our entire army."
"If we take Rockspire and bring down that bridge over Valentia's Spine?" Morgan suggested.
Marc frowned in thought. "Losing the bridge will be a blow to both sides. We will depend on Zofia allowing us movement through their lands."
Robin nodded and smiled at the twins. "We will hold on destroying the bridge depending on the outcome of the alliance. Taking it or destroying it will buy us time and stop reinforcements from the western bank. Walhart would then only have three ways to send troops to Rosanne. The eastern desert, through boats in the river, or from the north of the eastern bank from Gordes."
"The closest crossing after the bridge is a large set of roots from Mila's Tree connecting near Gordes. And if we control Rockspire we will be able to break any army that tries to move through there," Lucina said, adding her own input.
Rose took in how her family interacted and the sight eased her worries. Even Lucina, who was not dedicated to tactics at the same degree as her siblings, gave credit to her lineage. She could trust them to remain safe, as long as they had family to support each other. They wouldn't be alone.
It took a few days to finish the preparations for each group's task. Deciding who would go with each of the representatives was a delicate matter. They were dividing the Shepherds, but it was necessary to secure allies and to progress the war.
The ones who remained antagonistic to Rose would be going with Chrom and Robin. The Khans wouldn't separate at the moment and will be traveling to Zofia. Cherche and Lon'qu's family will go with Lissa's entourage along Maribelle and Ricken.
Stahl volunteered to lead the chevaliers under Rose, which she accepted. Cordelia and Sumia lead their squad to counter the Wyvern Riders. Luckily, they had other squadrons now to support Chrom's host. Their daughters would come with them.
Chrom would retain control of the bulk of the Shepherds, which would come in handy with the larger army. A good diversity of experience and leadership.
It was the best compromise they could reach and they hoped it would be enough.
"Tiki still has a tome to communicate with the Book of Naga in Emmeryn's possession," Rose said as Chrom finished saddling his horse. He had denied a squire's help, insisting on doing it himself. "I completed the modifications to my own grimoire to be able to interact with the two. This way, we can at least trade some information outside of battle."
Chrom grinned at that. "Good! That will give us a clear advantage in terms of organization."
"It's something alright," Rose conceded. "Not instantaneous and its draining, but it's better than using messengers. Something tells me we will run into nasty surprises in this war and I don't want to remain in the dark."
"I can agree with the sentiment," the prince said. Finished with his preparations, he turned to the woman. "Will you be alright?"
"Will I be worrying every second and demanding updates every day? Certainly," she snarked but deflated in defeat. "But yes. Not the first time I need to lead an army."
"Are you sure about taking those troops?" he whispered, eyes motioning to the banners of House Howe.
Rose nodded. "Samsooth has much to prove and this will let me get their measure. Nathaniel is not his father, and I doubt he will betray us, but I rather not have them with the core. Focus on the list of nobles and dynasts I gave you. Those that betrayed the alliance in my time. It might not be the same with the changes, but it's better than nothing."
"I trust your judgment. With any luck, Emmeryn made progress in her end." Chrom stepped forward and offered his hand to Rose. He pointedly ignoring Frederick's glare at his back. "Good luck, Rose."
"Good luck, Prince Chrom," she said, using his title, but with no bite behind it. Unlike the next words, she hissed into his ear. "Don't even think of betrothals for them or any other political shit while I'm not around. Anything happens to my children and Grima will be the least of your problems".
Shivering in dread, the prince nodded. A furious mother with the power of a dragon god at her disposal is not something they wanted to face.
"Glad we made that clear, my friend," she said with a smile carved from marble that promised pain if they stepped out of line. Rose then walked to Tiki and Robin, who were already mounted on their horses.
"Take care of my children," Rose said, giving a pointed look at her brother. "All of them."
"I will, my friend," Tiki replied with a chuckle, much to her husband's embarrassment.
Rose didn't know if they planned on revealing their relationship to the Zofian. It was bound to get out at some point. She had to wonder how they would react to the Voice of Naga being married to a Plegian-born tactician. Heaven forbid they learn the full truth. The alliance would eventually reveal the time travel part, but the rest was too much.
Nodding in acceptance, she walked to her daughters. Lucina and Morgan were already done with their goodbyes, hugging Marc. Morgan surprisingly didn't ruffle his feathers too much, from the lack of irritation on her boy's face.
"Mother," Lucina said, earning Morgan's attention. The youngest girl was biting her lip, nervous but always too eager to prove her maturity. She stood tall, but her nerves were clear.
Not saying anything, she engulfed both girls into a tight hug. Despite the abrupt action, the girls returned the hug eagerly. Taking in everything from her warmth to the smell of her clothes. It would be a while before they were together again. But they swore no one would stop them from being together again, be it god or mortal.
"I love you, my girls. Never forget that," Rose said, kissing their foreheads. It took all her willpower to let them go and not break down in tears. It reminds her of leaving them behind in Ylisstol just before Grima possessed her body. "Remember to sleep and eat well, and take care of your new armor. Behave for your uncle, and watch each other's back."
Both girls nodded, fighting the tears threatening and not trusting their words. They didn't need to say anything.
Not wanting to prolong the goodbyes lest they get cold feet, she let them go with the rest of the entourage. With a nod, Chrom guided the group to the front of their army. They began their march, hopefully towards a new alliance.
As the gates closed, the two remaining tacticians looked from the battlements at the retreating figures. They could do nothing more than place their faith in the hands of fickle gods. Something Rose hated to do more than anything. A tactician made plans, not prayers.
Marc moved and placed a comforting hand on his mother's shoulder. "They will be fine, Mother."
"They better, or I'm going to raze this continent to the ground," she muttered. They stayed up there until the troops disappeared behind the hills. "Come on, dear. We will have another practice session and then start our own preparations."
Weeks later, east of the High Dukedom of Zofia, a new army was being assembled. Their purpose was to push back against the Valmese incursion at the northwest. Lord Elden Montiel sat in his tent, looking at the missives he received that morning. His lords were good to their words and had trained new troops.
Zofia had retained a large amount of power even centuries after the Grand Schism. The central territories usually let the High Dukedom to act as an intermediary, but they retained a large degree of autonomy. Walhart's campaign had pushed many lords to pledge themselves to High Dukedom in full for protection. They have held off the invaders for two years, but it's taking its toll.
The eastern territories were mostly untouched by the war. They were sending what troops they could muster without leaving them defenseless. Only Bycrox and Zofia's Harbor to the east were of a large enough size to have standing armies. There were small holdfasts and villages sending their levies to support.
Not career soldiers, but some of them were militias. He needed to set up a training regiment for the civilians before they were of any use in battle. But at least their numbers replenished the losses suffered in the battle of Izilmond. Still, nothing could fill the void left at the deaths of his brother and his family.
He barely stopped himself from crushing the letter in anger. He would not give up until Walhart's head was in a spike and he had avenged them.
His ideas of revenge were interrupted when a soldier came into his tent, panting in exertion. "Sire! Riders coming from the north!"
The young lord stood up, looking at the man in shock. "What?! Is it the Valmese?" There shouldn't be any more armies north of their location. Had they conquered Rosanne or given up on them and sent those forces to them?
The messenger hesitated. "No, sir. At least we don't believe so," he said, earning a confused look from his lord. "The banners of Rosanne and Chon'sin are amongst the riders! There are others but the scouts didn't recognize the others."
Elden frowned at the news. Zofia hasn't had contact with Rosanne since the war started. They may not be sworn to any other power, but they were a trade partner. The Empire had taken Celica's Gate, cutting the main road connecting the two dukedoms. His imperial prisoners revealed they had an alliance with Regna Ferox. The problem was he didn't have a way to contact them to coordinate their plans. He didn't know why Chon'sin had troops north, either. Last they knew, the southerners were in a civil war. "Let's go to the watchtower."
As he climbed the stairs to the tower, he took a quick look at the distance. The riders had stopped in an open field a long way from the camp. At first glance, Elden couldn't see any large army anywhere close by. He couldn't risk to be unprepared, however.
"Tell the men to be on the lookout for any strange movements, but not to attack unless attacked. And bring me a looking glass," he commanded as they reached the top.
The soldier nodded, handing him his looking glass and leaving to fulfill his orders.
Elden used the looking glass and took a closer look at the new arrivals. He recognized the banners of Chon'sin and Rosanne, but it took him a moment to recognize the others. His teachers had drilled into him information on governments from all over the world. But he never expected to see those blue banners on this continent.
"What are Ylisseans doing in Valm?"
The hole in reality showed the Alliance meeting the Zofian heir, much to Janus's annoyance. Wearing Celica's face, the gatekeeper started pacing. The clicking of heels resounding through the void as a sign of her annoyance.
"They are meeting this visage's descendants," she pondered. Thinking of how this story should've played out, Janus scowled. "They should be dead. Killed by Excellus's plots." Pausing, she turned to scowl at the image. "And yet they live. Well, most of them."
With a swipe of her hand, the tear closed and a new one manifested in its place. This one showed Chon'sin and Valm. Human soldiers moved like ants, preparing for the oncoming battles. The Fell Dragon's little apprentice was guiding their movements from the shadows. More unnecessary bloodshed thanks to the outsider's meddling.
Valmese and Zofian blood will pay for the new prosperity of Ylisstol, Chon'sin, and Rosanne. Making Valm attack Ferox without consolidating its control of the continent. It was a horrible plan by regular human standards.
Brilliant for someone that wanted both sides to bleed. Even if they were aware of the strangeness of the actions, the plan forced their hands.
The green-haired brat enraged her as much as her father. The usage of her einherjar annoyed the gatekeeper more than anything. But then Janus saw what the manakete tactician was going to do with them.
Lips curled into a cruel smirk as Janus's anger gave way to amusement. "Oh, so that's your next move little Morrigan. Not pulling any punches. Very interesting. Looks like Rose will have her work cut out for her," she said with an uncaring shrug. "Well, you wanted to 'save this world', little flower. Let's see how you do with a different playing field."
She did not outright hate Rose. But having her challenges did give Janus some petty satisfaction. Regardless of her intentions, Rose was complicit in this mess.
Let the dragons tear at each other's throats. Janus could wait to make her move.
AN: It's been more than a year since I updated The Wrong Choice… Better get to that… I was thinking about changing it to "Choices and Consequences". Less "on the nose".
Well, I got fired from my job since the client didn't renew the contract with our company and I complained about my low salary, but now I have a new job that pays me nearly double! And I even bought a house!
I've been drawing some of the side characters of this story just to give people an image: On DA: fav. me/ddmxdp9 or just look for my account, santafer.
I've done a couple of small changes to the story, but not the plot.
I've changed the dukedoms of Ylisse to marches that endured since Marth's time, while Counts are the rulers of smaller cities and ports. Dukedoms are mainly in Valm, though that will change as the war goes on. I also went back and became more consistent with the names of places, since when I first wrote them, I only used them as throwaways.
Zofia and Rigel endured the Great Schism that broke the Valentian empire and branches of their families that retained the coloring of Celica and Alm, as well as the brands of Mila and Duma, retook control of their territories, but lost their kingships and became dukedoms on part with other territories. Rigel's core territory was divided into two smaller territories. Rigelus and Valm. Chon'sin was a small kingdom, isolated from the other countries, but now they annexed a lot of the dynast's territories after their treachery with Excellus was uncovered, consolidating the power in the Southern side of the continent.
Janus is genderless, but I use the pronouns based on the visage they use at the moment.
I'm still going back and editing old chapters. Been using the Hemingway Editor app lately, along with the improved Grammarly. The structure of the old chapters is… Ugh. Too many run-on sentences and repetition. I need to clean them up. I mean, they were amongst the first things I ever wrote, so I guess its to be expected.
Recommended FE Fics:
Interim by ClearlyInvsible: s/13242028
A cool Robin/Cordelia fanfic.
Unity by Remful: /works/18676453/chapters/44291767
An Emmeryn/Robin Arranged Marriage AU that changes a bit and it's interesting so far.
Thanks to BattleshipFusou for helping me with this chapter. Please let me know if you find any errors. I'm only a below-average human.